Thursday, March 03, 2016

Pardon Me

Image Description: A simple drawing of a heart behind bars.

I was 14 years old the first time I heard the name Evert George Klippert. I didn't remember his name, or his story, or the impact of his life on mine, until I heard the news a couple days ago. By the age of 14 I was keenly aware of my difference from other boys, I was equally aware that my difference was dangerous. It was reviled. And, I understood that in the small world of the playground, it was punished, first by name calling, second by fists, third by excommunication from everyone and everything you knew. But it wasn't until I'd heard of Evert George Klippert that I truly understood something important.

It wasn't just something that children did to children.

I was headed for a lifetime of living in secret, hiding my heart and guarding my soul.

I was a criminal.

I was deviant.

I was the dangerous one - not those who tormented me.

Evert George Klippert in 1966 was jailed for consensual sexual acts, in private, with other men. He was deemed a dangerous offender because he was judged to be an incurable homosexual with a likelihood to engage in further homosexual behaviour should he be released. So, he was given a sentence without end in our prison system.

The impact of his story was immediate. I felt absolute terror. I too, I knew, was incurably homosexual. I knew because I had tried, desperately tried, to be what I wasn't. I had prayed, I had cried, I had wished on every shooting star, but my heart didn't change, it knew what it wanted and while my mind raged my heart simply kept beating it's own unique rhythm.

Now, years after his death, Prime Minster Trudeau, the son of the man who decriminalized homosexuality in Canada and declared that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation, is going to posthumously pardon Evert George Klippert. I'm glad of this of course. It is a symbolic gesture, and an important one.

But with that pardon needs to come an open acknowledgement that what was done to him was wrong. That the impact of his sentence of the gay community, and on gay kids growing up, was devastating. Evert George Klippert's imprisonment must have been experienced, by him, as excruciatingly cruel. I wonder if he knew that his story, his incurability, would have his community shaking in terror.

For it was an act of terror, at least in my life and in my heart, and it did what terror does. It drove shame deeper into my heart and soul. It drove shame to hide in places that are still undiscovered. It hurt me.

I thank Prime Minister Trudeau for decriminalizing homosexuality and I thank Prime Minister Trudeau for now pardoning Evert George Klippert who lived during a time where the government felt free to sneak into our bedrooms with handcuffs at the ready.

I'm thankful.

I am.

But while I applaud the gesture.

It's not enough.

Even so.

I pray that now, he, Evert, can now finally rest both in peace but also, and more importantly, in innocence.


Belinda Burston said...

I was glad and deeply sad to hear the news on the radio--glad because punishing someone for who they are in body and soul cannot be anything but wrong and this feels like the best attempt to right that--but sadly too late for him. He represents all the men, women and children wrongly and devastastatingly shamed for something that was not their fault and was no fault. I am only just understanding how much ignorance and injustice prevailed and how it isn't over yet . I am grateful for the courage of Pierre Trudeau and the heart of his son, and proud that at a time when our nieghbouring country has a terrifying bigot running for president, we have a leader who is determined to right past wrongs towards more than one group of people.

leslie sobel said...

As a neighbor to the south who is working as hard as possible to prevent any of the bigots getting elected I can only weep reading your post Dave. I fear for everyone and for all the strides towards a better, kinder society that have been so hard-fought.

Andrea S. said...


Andrea S. said...

Leslie Sobel, I too fear for the US if Trump (or anyone like minded) gets elected here. But I especially fear for all populations already experiencing marginalization, exclusion, discrimination, isolation.

clairesmum said...

You have a wise leader for your country. You eloquently describe the impact of the shame.