Thank you for confirming in last week’s editorial that you were unable to verify the identity of “Nicole Sheppard”, the named author of a letter critical of Borderland Pride, which appeared in your June 17 edition. We take from this that the true author remains unknown. We appreciate the Times’ clarification, and that this was an honest mistake.
However, after conferring with members of our community, we are compelled to push back against any lingering characterization of “Ms. Sheppard’s” letter as holding a legitimate point of view, or one that was presented in good faith. Some read the June 24 editorial as suggesting that the writer’s opinion was sincere, but merely submitted under a pseudonym. Yet it is clear from the letter’s content that the entire presentation was manufactured to give life to some of the most vile and hurtful tropes about queer and trans people. This was not simply a matter of an assumed name, but of an invented identity and opinion meant to delegitimize Pride and resurrect tired myths about LGBTQ2 people.
While we hesitate to speak for all LGBTQ2-identifying people in every circumstance, it is simply beyond comprehension that there is any queer or trans person who would spread far-right propaganda about Pride organizations trying to “recruit” people or turn people into homosexuals. No one who has ‘come out’ as LGBTQ2 could reasonably believe that “turning people gay” is possible or would ever be a goal of a Pride organization.
Sexual orientation is immutable. In fact, LGBTQ2 people are only now making political progress in Canada to ban the harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapies”. These are abusive programs that attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation and can result in life-long damage. As such, it is unfathomable that a member of the LGBTQ2 community would openly present such a sinister argument, even under a pseudonym. The only plausible conclusion is that this letter was maliciously crafted, and motivated by homophobia.
The Fort Frances area is fortunate to continue to have strong local media for the exchange of ideas about issues of public interest. We appreciate that, and that the positive and inclusive message of Pride continues to benefit from local news coverage. Likewise, there are many aspects of LGBTQ2 identity, equality, inclusion, and law which are worthy of dialogue, discussion, and even some debate.
But giving a platform to fringe theories contributes nothing of value to our public discourse, and in fact endangers and trivializes vulnerable people. We believe strongly that responsible media must avoid presenting an over-sanitized account of harmful and homophobic content in the name of free speech.