Gay men share personal experiences of stigma.
There are many kinds of fences that define our territory. Weathered wood and ancient stone, beautiful fences but that are uncomfortable to perch on. Other fences that block us: barbed wire and spikes. Invisible fences that we construct and maintain ourselves. Metaphors for the role of stigma in gay men’s lives.
Pervasive stigma that might say we do not exist, unless we are oh-so-obvious. Then there can be an icy continuum to negotiate: stereotypes, prejudices, engrained discrimination and persecution. There is also internalized stigma, the barriers of shame on which all other stigma can be built.
Olivier Ferlatte is the Director of the Resist Stigma project at the CBRC. He recently completed his PhD in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, with the thesis topic: Exploring Intersectionality as a Framework for Advancing Research on Gay Men’s Health Inequities. Craig Barron is a Canadian playwright and writer with many years of involvement in the HIV/AIDS movement. Craig recently interviewed Olivier about his research and involvement in gay men’s health.
Where are you from?
I was born In Sept-Iles, Quebec. I grew up in Montreal and moved to Vancouver in my early 20s.
What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
There was a river that ran through a small town in Southern Ontario. It led to a network of warm summer lakes. Behind a house on the outskirts there was a beautiful pasture; there are photos of a young adolescent boy surrounded by horses, completely at ease.
A brand new brick bunker up on a hill, my first high school, overlooked the lovely river. I knew the river view well because I usually sat gazing at it from behind the cafeteria's wall of picture windows. I’d have my fine lunch, alone: always fruit and something fresh-baked brought from home. An uncomfortable home - a place that I didn’t want to return to at the end of the day.
As a 16 year old in 1969 what I mainly remember is being obsessed with a particular boy. I took no notice of the historic events like Stonewall, or just months before, the decriminalization of homosexual acts in Canada’s criminal code. The landscape as I saw it in a small Kawartha Lakes town, there were no homosexuals around and as a gay person I simply did not exist.