Sometimes friendships can bloom in the most unusual places.
Sometimes people can look beyond their own biases and see a person, rather than a prejudice.
Sometimes people can change and do things you never expected from them.
And so it was a few weeks ago, as I sat outside the Pink Cherry speaking with Ryan Clayton, a gay man and anti-homophobia activist, and an educator. Clayton has started a Purple Letter campaign, encouraging gay, lesbian and transgendered people, and those who care about them, to write letters to the government calling on them to develop a province-wide anti-homophobia policy.
As we sat, I noticed our MP, Colin Mayes and his wife Jacquie, walking hand-in-hand on Hudson Avenue towards us.
What I didn’t expect was for them to stop.
After all, my last contact with Mayes about gay rights was while he was mayor. Citing his Christian religious beliefs, Mayes refused to proclaim Gay Pride Week, and instead, developed a new city policy where council refused to sign all requests for proclamations. This got around potential litigation or human-rights complaints for discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.
But stop they did. Not only that, they joined us.
When I questioned Mayes and Clayton about this, they both spoke of how they met — the right-wing Conservative parliamentarian and the young, outspoken homosexual — both filled with stereotypes about the other. And yet, during the course of the conversation, they managed to connect. Mayes said the pair began to chat, and he found himself sharing some things about his personal life and his family. Suddenly the gulf between the two men didn’t seem as wide.
Later on, after a particularly gruelling all-candidates meeting in Vernon, Mayes was feeling pretty beat up.
“Ryan came up and he told me I didn’t deserve that kind of treatment,” said Mayes. Soon after, when Mayes won the election, he got up at 5 a.m. to start reading his emails.
“Ryan’s was the very first email I got congratulating me. That has always stuck with me.”
Despite his message of tolerance and respect for diversity, Ryan admits to harbouring prejudice about Mayes’ conservative views.
“I was just as guilty of jumping to conclusions about people. I make no assumptions about anyone now,” he told me.
What Mayes’ own purple letter might have said is between him and the government. The MP didn’t volunteer to share, and I didn’t ask. But, in many ways, Mayes didn’t have to. His being there said enough.
The Purple Letter Campaign is still going on until Oct. 20. A drop-box for local letters remains at the Pink Cherry, or they can be mailed to #376-3495 Cambie St., Vancouver, B.C., V5Z 4R3.