Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services

Connor Yuzwenko-Martin

Undergraduate University of Alberta Student
Camp fYrefly: A Reflection Fostering, youth, resiliency, energy, fun, leadership, yeah!

Before fYrefly, I didn’t know what it meant to be gay.

When I came out on my 15th birthday, all I knew about being gay was what a relatively sheltered and naive boy would. I did know that I was a member of a sexual minority, born the way I was. My parents happily accepted me, but had little in the way of advice for a gay adolescent. Thus my ideas of gay love were infected by the dominance of online yaoi communities, which dictated my expectations of relationships for the next few years. For those of you who don’t know, yaoi is an immensely popular genre in Japanese literature - spilling over into the rest of the West - that features gay male romance in extremely stereotyped roles and idealistic scenarios. Fortunately for me, a a brief relationship brought me closer to reality before I began university.

At the University of Alberta I found OUTreach, the group for sexual minority and gender variant students. I met people and learned about different lifestyles and experiences. That was when I began to understand gay culture and the issues and blessings that I had been born into. The lessons I had gained from fighting for my rights as a Deaf kid and teen began to be ignited by the struggles of the sexual minority community to find an identity - to even agree on what to call itself. GLBT? Queer? Simply gay? Here, I’ll refer to it as the queer world.

The fires of political passion blazed in me and I sought out those who seemed to know what they were doing. The ones who had an agenda. Those who had faced the kind of hatred that I have been fortunate to escape so far. I wanted connections and I wanted to influence for the better. I wanted my name to be known - controversial or heroic. I was determined to create change over the years of my lifetime. Please keep in mind this was two years ago - even so recently, I was still Connor pre-fYrefly.

Then along came said Camp. Yellow shirts, Happy Note boxes, workshops, talent showcases, gender neutral bathrooms, yeah!

Let me tell you about those bathrooms. I had always liked the idea. It was hard to be opposed to such a blatant symbol of gender equality. But that’s the thing. It’s not equality. It’s neutrality. It’s right there in the name.

Equality and neutrality are two very different things. Bear with me for a moment while I attempt to split this proverbial hair.

Equality is a constant conscious effort to maintain a balance between opposing and colliding forces. It’s basic physics that applies to a lot of things, including social strife. Newton was more of a prophet than he ever anticipated.

Right now in the 21st century we’re seeing a lot of opposing and colliding forces in play, awakened or born anew in this age of near-total freedoms. It’s the first time in human history that any significant region on the planet has allowed the sorts of freedoms we enjoy in Canada. Kings are no more and God is one of many driving passions. This is the first opportunity in human history for equality to occur between peoples and societies.

My aim isn’t to bore you with political analyses. My point is, equality is not what is ultimately going to happen to the queer world.

Neutrality is the endpoint of the resolution of these forces. When all has been said and done; when a space has been created where all are permanently and irrevocably equal; that’s where the passions die down. There’s simply no need for them anymore.

Back to the bathrooms. When I walked into that gender neutral bathroom at the Bennett Environmental Education Centre on my first day at Camp fYrefly 2011, I saw a girl.

Girl. Boy. In the same bathroom.

And what happened? Nothing. I didn’t care.

That’s the thing. I didn’t think, “This is great. We’re equal and being respectful.”

I didn’t care. There was no conscious effort to maintain this balance. I only realized this in retrospect. At the time, in the heat (or cold?) of the moment, there was nothing to be said or done. We just got on with our business.

Between me and that girl, in our minds, we had already said and done everything. It was taken care of. We were free to live our lives and coexist without so much as a thought to our differences.

That is the ultimate objective of the struggle for equality. We are different. We are in conflict with many other values out there. And one day, sooner or later, these conflicts are going to be resolved. There will be a period of conscious maintenance and adjustment of that resolution. Tiptoeing around each other, then walking quietly, then strolling and even running around each other as if it doesn’t matter anymore.

And it really won’t matter. The point isn’t to celebrate diversity forever and ever. As much as it may make many people want to shout at me, I say that diversity will cease to matter at some point in the future.

Rather, the point is to celebrate peace.

So to be gay, to be lesbian or transgender or two-spirited or straight or bisexual or cis-gendered and so on through the rainbow, isn’t to advocate or fight or stoke fires of passion.

It’s to draw down those infernos inside all of us to the point where we become calm and cool ash mixed together.

Before fYrefly, I didn’t know what it meant to be gay.

Now I think what it means to be gay, is simply to be.