Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bothwell and the Gay Couple. Part II

About a week ago I wrote a post about a gay couple who complained that they had been terrorized by a bunch of homophobes in the small town of Bothwell, Ontario.

And although I admit I had to look up the town on Google Earth ....I've learned quite a bit about Bothwell ever since.

As you can see in the comments...I have been engaged in an interesting... and respectful.... discussion with some Bothwell residents who feel their town has been unfairly portrayed as a hateful place.

I promised them I'd keep an open mind and update the story as soon as I could. But there have been no follow up stories in the two papers that ran the story. So I have been following the debate in the letters to the editor pages of the local media. Like this one.

From what I've read quite a few residents seem to suggest that the Hamiltons were the authors of their own misfortune:

The saying goes, if you want to have good neighbours, you need to be a good neighbour.When these men moved into Bothwell, they met people with, “Hi, I’m Terry (or Ryan) and I’m gay.”Who cares?They made sure people knew they were gay, like they were more special than others. I have never met anyone with, “Hi, I’m Lori and I’m heterosexual.”

And Erin has more to say about that in a long comment you can read at the bottom of my last post:

i have been doing investigations into this matter and there are several more instances this has come about including the owners of two businesses that were approached within the first week of the hamiltons living in town about if they would serve the couple because they are gay.. now is that somehting most homosexual people would do i don't think so it sounds to me that they were digging...

...the spray paint incident happened on October 16th only two weeks before the hamiltons moved (which was planned before the event happened) tell me they felt threatened before then guys come on nothing happened before then except a couple kids stole their lawn orniments and out them on the roof of the building besonde them give me a break look at the facts ....

Others are outraged that the whole town has been smeared:

It sickens me that the Hamiltons have succeeded in portraying Bothwell as some gay-hating, redneck town that runs people out. Secondly, this isn’t news, it’s libel.This story has destroyed the credibility of many wonderful people, who have worked and continue to work hard to make Bothwell a wonderful little town in which to live. If they Hamiltons think they’re upset, just think of how the volunteers and business people feel to hear that they’re rednecks and anti-gay. Many residents didn’t even know this couple existed.

And then there's the former resident who worked at the local paper:

Does this latest incident surprise me? No. Regrettably, during my time at The Spirit of Bothwell I would hear derogatory comments being made in the community about a variety of groups -- be it because of their nationality, sexual preference, race, etc.

So is Bothwell the exception to the rule? Not at all. This sort of narrow-minded attitude is prevalent in other small towns and, for that matter, every big city you can think of. But the idea of ‘just leave us alone, other places are like this as well’ is moot. While it is true such bigotry happens elsewhere, right now, Bothwell, you’re in the spotlight and you must address what has occurred.

By simply saying ‘oh well’ and hoping the storm subsides is not going to accomplish anything. The odious and abhorrent thoughts of a few have, unfortunately, tarnished what so many in Bothwell have worked in trying to accomplish for decades regarding their town -- to be an appealing, quaint place to raise a family.

After reading all of this I'm not going to even TRY to judge who I think is right or wrong. Firstly who am I to judge? Secondly..... I have no reason to believe anyone isn't telling the truth as he or she sees it. And of course I haven't heard a word from the Hamiltons.

But I will say this: In the original newspaper article the Hamiltons said most of the hate came from a "handful" of residents. So it's not fair to blame the whole town for the actions of a few. And I think most people understand that so the town should relax a bit.

On the other hand.... whether or not the two gay men were prickly neighbours... or whether or not some incidents may have been blown out of proportion...nothing can justify the attack on the Hamiltons the night the lights went out .....or the "Die Fags" scrawled on their house.

That's a HATE crime and the person or persons responsible should be charged ...or severely reprimanded whether they are juveniles or not. And the fact that nobody has so far is troubling.

As the former resident who worked at the local paper wrote:

So while I am personally bothered by the latest incident, what’s troubling is that I’m not actually shocked.What will shock me, however, is if those residents of Bothwell who are ill at ease over what has happened simply shrug it off.

The good news? The people of Bothwell ARE standing up for their town. They have a facebook page called "Bothwell--not full of homophobic people we deserve the right to a rebuttal" If you have a facebook account you should check them out.

And the best part is...whether they intended to or not ....they ARE sending out a powerful message of tolerance. Homophobia or any kind of hate stinks. And we don't want it in our town.

At least I hope that's the message people hear.

Because it's a good one.

And judging by Google Earth.

It does look like a pretty town...


JJ said...

Interesting story, Simon. I'm not sure what to think -- I find it hard to believe that a gay couple would go out of their way to grind peoples' gears. They bought the house, they obviously wanted to live there, so why would they antagonize their neighbours? That part of the story kind of has the aroma of BS. I've known a lot of gay people, in a lot more friendly surroundings, and they still don't walk up and introduce themselves like "Hi, I'm John, I'm gay." Huh? I'm not buying it.

Anyway, even if they did, what's so bad about it? It's kind of weird, but hey. Whatever. For people to respond with a hate crime is over the top and unacceptable.

But small towns, eh. One of my exs was from a little hick town out that way, and they are pretty narrow minded.

Unknown said...

for me it's not so important whether the hamiltons were prickly or not, or whether it was just a handful of people.......ultimatley the hamiltons were the catalyst for a town to seize the opportunity for itself to look at the problems that do exist there, and that no matter what, what we do at a community level affects the whole globe.

so let's hope bothwell is getting on with things in a new way with more tolerance for gays and less tolerance for homophobes and vandalism.....and that the hamiltons have learned that introducing yourself as gay , no matter where, can have repercussions, just the same as saying , 'hi, i'm kelly and i'm weathly'.

sassy said...

Scout - I agree and, also think that Simon has provided his readers with an opportunity to consider that all may not always be at it appears - a good example of honest communication at work.

Bothwell - I may or may not ever get there but if I do pass through, I will make a point of stopping for a coffee.

Simon said...

Hi JJ!! I'm not sure what I think either. When I'm feeling charitable I blame it on a cultural clash...on the fact that small towns aren't changing as fast as our cities. So they don't think that while a man and a woman might not even have to introduce themselves as a couple...two men might just have to explain that they aren't just friends. When I'm not feeling charitable I think that they should just get with it and concentrate on making sure that the police charge the people who attacked the Hamiltons. Because attacking people for who they are is NOT just mailbox bashing...

Simon said...

Hi Scout!!! yes I hope that it all works out and that the people of Bothwell turn their indignation into something positive that will benefit everyone. I wish them luck.
As for the Hamiltons...I know a gay couple that drive me absolutely batty by saying "We're MARRIED" over and over again...sort of rubbing it in me and Sebastien's face. And I have to bite my tongue and say "Oh yeah (yawn) I'm so sorry..." :)

Anonymous said...

being a resident in bothwell i must admit this town can get a little crazy, but if you don't know anyone from bothwell, i'll say for most of us, we like it.
and i can say for sure that no one would bother these men for no reason. there stories are exagerated.. i remember someone telling me who lived close by the stories that the one man would tell her about there sex and very disgusting things he said to her.
its ttue, theres alot of us who probably don't favour gay people as much as most because we ARE behind in the times, but they shouldn't have rubbed it in everyones face. bothwell has never changed, same familys same generations same things going on all the time, it balances out pretty well. and when 2 men come here and do that sort of thing, stir things up, make up nonsense..
and they say we are so mean, but they ahve the right to call us hicks and heartless rednecks and blah. this is ridiculous. for the people who said "maybe bothwell will learn there lesson" .. there not going to.
its plain and simple, we like things the way they are, and when 2 guys come in here and act like a couple creeps, small town people aren't into that , we aren't as comfortable with very in the open gay people as bigger towns are. measures were took but some pretty ignorant people with the spray paint and the blackout night, if the stories are true, i will agree with that
for the record when the house was for sale, the owner put up a sign that said "dicks for sale" and go figure these 2 gentlemen moved in shortly after, there wasen't even a for sale sign, just "dicks for sale" and it wasen't there "dreamhome" .. take a trip to bothwell and come see how much of a ****hole it really is.
party hard bothwell.

Simon said...

Hi Nick....thanks for your comment.All opinions count.And I can understand what you're saying. I came from a small town too. However the question I still have is were the Hamiltons as annoying as you make them out to be.They are only two people after all. Did they really go about talking about their sex lives? I wouldn't like that either but are you sure the people in Bothwell didn't just want them not to even acknowledge that they were a couple? Because that's a small town or a big city. I also understand that feeling of wanting things never to change. But you know that not possible...everything changes that's the way life is. It's coming slower to Canada's smaller communities but it's coming nonetheless. My advice to everyone is keep the good things you really treasure but embrace change and make it something positive because in the end that works out best for everyone.

P.S. I am glad to hear though that Bothwell is a party hard town!! :)

Anonymous said...

I live ten minutes from Bothwell and attended elementary school there. While the people of Bothwell may be behind the times, they would never alienate a member of their community and especially not because of sexual orientation. As far as the vandalism goes, Bothwell is well know for petty crimes and usually for no reason other than boredom. By no means is this an excuse for the acts the gentlemen had to endure, but I personally know the people that are accused to have refused service to the men because of their orientation, and they are in no way homophobic. There are 7 people from my graduating class of 60 that are homosexual and they are no less excepted than anyone else. I dealt with these gentlemen, and while they are personable they did in fact introduce themselves the way that has been noted in this article. Hope this has helped to remove some of the stigma that Bothwell has felt through this incident.