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Earle Ratcliffe

January 1998

An update on my boring little life...went clothes shopping for the first time in way too long. God it feels good! No bf yet *pout*, but I'm looking... Exams are over, and I have 3 weeks to do absolutely nothing! Wheee! Um, I didn't put my email address in my last article, but I love to receive email (I get anywhere from 40-100 a day! Mostly junk, though). I'll answer anything (except flames), so e me at <eratcliffe@kermode.net>

Last month was all about my coming out. This is an extension, really. Where last month's article was my coming out to the people close to me, this will be about my coming out to the general public.

It all started when the NDP (New Democratic Party) came to power in my province. They represent the left side of politics. Anyway, they introduced positive legislation for gays, including benefits for gay couples (who now receive the same benefits as hetero common-law couples. Hey, it's a start) and an addition to the school curriculum which teaches gay tolerance (especially towards the young gay students in high schools). This last piece, especially, raised a few hackles. The local newspaper, the Terrace Standard (we only have two newspapers, each running once a week. It's a very small town), has been running many anti-gay letters to the editor, and I felt I had to say something.

At that point, I was out of high school for about a year. I wrote to the paper relating my experiences in high school, how words like fag, faggot and queer were tossed about with little regard to who heard them. I wrote about how it made it very difficult for me to concentrate on my school work (I never did actually graduate. One credit short, but I'm still taking first year university course. Go figure.). Basically, I tried to get the people of this tiny little burg in the middle of nowhere to see another point of view, one that they never knew existed. Well, the feedback was enormous! Whenever I saw someone I knew in high school, they commented on my letter (usually calling it an 'ad'). I didn't actually get any negative feedback (to my face, anyway. Fine by me). I guess this town is very abnormal for a small town in the middle of nowhere. We seem to be split pretty evenly down the middle, half NDP (left wing) supporters, half Liberal (that's Capital 'L' Liberal. That's the right wing party in BC. Weird, huh?) supporters. Then again, for a small town, we've always been progressive (we even have a sex toy shop).

In August, we had our first gay rights rally. It was in response to an anti-gay tolerance (remember the legislation?) rally being held. There were a few speakers. Afterwards, when the floor was open, I stood up and introduced myself. I got a standing ovation. I'm not kidding. I just about died! I guess that was one of the defining moments of my life. For the first time ever, people were hanging on my every word, like I was some sort of visionary. Before that moment, I was a shy kid, unsure of himself, afraid to speak up. Not anymore. I've written more letters to the newspaper, all relating to gay rights. The Women's center here has been very helpful and supportive, and our tiny gay community is finally organizing. I guess this shows that we're everywhere, in every walk of life, in every town on the planet. Now all we need to do is let everyone else know we're here.

I'm setting up a support line for gay youth in Northwestern BC. It'll probably be email only for now. If anyone from Terrace or nearby reads this, email me. There will be something more 'official' set up soon, but it will take some time.

<eratcliffe@kermode.net>


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