Monday, February 10, 2014

At the Cross-Quarter

We’re way past February 2 now: a cross-quarter between Solstice and Equinox; Groundhog Day; Candlemas; Imbolc. A week ago, in Toronto, locked deep in the most tenacious winter I remember since the early 1980’s, it was hard to visualize any promise of spring. The small shrine in the corner of my back garden lay long since buried, the Shiva Lingam’s sanctity sleeping under six inches of snow and marked only by memory, the small, bronze Buddha visible from the shoulders up. (Since then, he too has vanished.)

Today is a another, happier, story—bright with the intensity of light slanting down on us from a dramatically steeper mid-day angle, flowing with rivulets melting off snowbanks , the snow itself intensifying the sun. It’s a hit of what I’ve longed for since the first week of January: the signal that it’s safe finally to stick my nose out and sniff the air, that it’s not completely insane to imagine my shrine reappearing; or even green exploding around it, six weeks further along, from the tips of waking branches. Nine days after a conscientious Wiccan would have celebrated, I can finally believe that today marks the birth of a new season.

Maybe it's not a bad idea to apply this lesson to the experience of life as a queer man in the world today. If you pull the focus back from the relative freedom of middle-class gay life in a much of the West, we’re still in the grip of a long, cold winter. India has recriminalized homosexuality. Gay men in Nigeria are subject to brutal legalized thuggery. The regime in Russia deflects attention from its homophobic witch hunts with the mass hypnotism and overblown elitist waste of the Sochi Olympics. Closer to home, violence against trans men and women hardly even makes the mainstream news.

So to sustain ourselves, to keep hope for the future, to give ourselves courage to fight for a better world, and not to rest until we see it, we need to look for those first signs of a new season's birth: Canadian cities flying the rainbow flag for the duration of the Olympics, in protest against what Putin wants brushed under the rug till the rest of the world goes home; two members of Pussy Riot speaking out against the Russian regime at a press conference in New York; activists of the South Asian diaspora protesting against India’s step backward; African activists, heroically defying personal risk, preparing to attend a conference on queer human rights, along with their fellows from all over the world, as part of World Pride in Toronto this June.