You need to know that Trudeauphobia has its roots in the fear and loathing of straight males who are closing in for the kill.
MOST OF US, HAVING SEEN Sophie-Grégoire and Justin Trudeau caught in a candid moment gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes, or photogenically romping around with their three children; or having seen Justin’s confident swagger in the presence of women who’ve momentarily lost their composure—there’s a photo somewhere of Ivanka Trump, crazed eyes two feet wide, looking as though she’s about to take her knife and fork and throw him onto her plate—most of us will understand that our guy in Ottawa is without question enthusiastically heterosexual, bless his trendy, eye-popping socks.
So I wanted to emphasize that, though I use the word “homophobia” in this essay as an explanation for conservative animus against Justin Trudeau, I am not suggesting that Justin Trudeau is gay; I am theorizing that his political rivals and a big cohort of typically homophobic Canadian male voters—oh, and, of course, Jordan Peterson— react to him as though he were.
Most gay men my age (in the late-boomer phase I reference as “missed the original cast of Hair, but front row centre for anything by Sondheim”) will have experienced homophobic abuse, even as children. The perpetrators were adults—teachers, relatives, parents—and they were our peers.
Adults have a duty of care towards children which few adults fully commit to, and children see what actions are rewarded. (The Sondheim number for this is “Children Will Listen,” from Into the Woods.) This is why I blame my peers slightly less than the adults.
(It’s also why, when I see a little bit of intimacy or authenticity crawling towards me, I open my mouth and blast it with humor, the RAID of the psychically damaged, until it dies.)
When I recall these episodes, I recognize that the intensely negative emotions my existence seemed to provoke were invariably contempt, disgust, and rage.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, LIKE HIS ILLUSTRIOUS father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, inspires devotion or loathing, either of those two extreme responses, with no half-hearted dabbling at attempts to compromise or to seek consensus. Love or hate, or perhaps, just occasionally, both at once.
That’s because the elder Trudeau, who gave us our one brief shining hour of a groovier, kinkier, more intellectual, extrovert and, hell, grown-up national persona, set the intensity levels for devotion or loathing so high that we still feel the aftershocks forty years later.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau — caustic, flamboyant, patrician, lusty, arrogant, no tolerator of fools, friend to Castro, autocratic liberal, male midwife to a repatriated constitution and a truly independent Canada, the adulation of whom attained such a frenzy it was dubbed “Trudeaumania” by the press — the elder Trudeau virtually single-handedly saved this nation from disintegrating in the 1980’s; held on tight with both hands and would not let go until we were safely through the crisis of warring regional interests and the impending separation of Québec.
We progressives, the true believers in the Canadian project, never stop loving him for this.
But our conservatives, ever more extreme, favoring ever closer political, economic and cultural ties with the U.S. and denying the validity of the multicultural, compassionate, liberal Canadian experience, can never forgive him for it.
The conservative element in Canada is explicitly scornful of the idea of Canada as an example to the world and dedicated to the concept that Canada is nothing more than a second-rate, wannabe U.S.A.; an embarrassing fake with delusions of grandeur, like that PVC handbag defiantly labeled “Louis Vuitton” that you buy from a huckster.
We’re the kid brother who hasn’t learned to hit the ball out of the park. We’re not who we are out of idealism, reads their script, but out of the failure to understand how much we fall short.
As for the son, the apple that doesn’t fall far from the tree, at least when it comes to the arrogance and the adulation, a few basic points:
Justin Trudeau, a child of privilege who cut his teeth on the workings of the Canadian federal government, and sat on Nixon’s knee, unlucky boy, is not the most transparent, or even articulate, man.
Justin Trudeau is so quick to admit his faults, and so slow to defend himself, that the boys in the smoky rooms, the cigar-chomping, glad-handing wheelers and dealers of carnival-barker conservatism, are able to flesh out whole soap operas of corruption and criminality simply by leveraging his own reticence.
Justin Trudeau, and it kills me to say this, does not help his case, or ours, by failing to take account of optics and by acting in ways that create the appearance of entitlement, and worse, conflicts of interest; his reticence is too easily read as “something to hide.”
IF YOU’RE AN AMERICAN wondering why Canadian scandals are so “a cup of Ovaltine, a documentary from the National Film Board and — it’s beddy-bye for me!” and based on ethical scruples or niceties of legalese pushed to the limits of their stress tolerance: well, yes. That’s what you end up with when you try to cook up scandals with the basic ingredients missing.
But because Canadians still believe in peace, order and good government, we are rattled by even the hint, the slightest possibility, of corruption. We’re purists that way. Show us a Prime Minister’s mother who once accepted a speaking engagement from the same charity that was recently contracted to fund summer intern positions for students, and we’re tearing the plaid lumberjack shirts from our backs.
We’re so primed to gasp in dismay that we’re ready to condemn the charity for having invested in properties that gained in value (what else would be the reason for investing?), or for telling corporations that partnering with them would give a boost to the company’s brand.
It’s deliciously ironic to hear conservatives on the rampage cite the everyday workings of capitalism as proof of criminal intent.
It doesn’t help to stem the current flow of vile innuendo from the right that the mother in question, Margaret Trudeau, née Sinclair, the fairytale commoner hiding inconvenient levels of intelligence and an independent streak (and, as it turned out, an undiagnosed bipolar disorder), and married to a man thirty years her senior, upped the sophistication level by becoming restless and bored, chafing at the duties imposed on her and the paparazzi clinging to her ankles.
Sound familiar? Yes, in fact, she “pulled a Diana” (though Maggie holds the copyright, and Diana should, by rights, have been “pulling a Margaret.”)
Margaret had dutifully got with the program of providing princes, excuse me, heirs, blessing the Canadian public with three new Trudeaux, two of them, Justin and Alexandre, born on Christmas Day two years apart. (The third son, Michel, died tragically at twenty-three when he was swept into a frigid lake by an avalanche while on a skiing trip; some attribute Pierre’s final decline and death to his heartbreak at that event.)
Then, true to the beautiful but errant flower-child script, off Maggie trotted to dance, and, we assumed, more, with Mick Jagger et al. at Studio 54, and to perform all the other acts of youthful drama and defiance listed under “married for love, got Parliament instead.”
We were all pretty young, back then.
So, the love of Canadians for government and our dismay when confronted with the possibility of corruption. Contrast with the U.S., where Americans, barely tolerating government as a necessary evil, expect, even perversely celebrate, rampant and obvious corruption as proof of that evil.
I mean, what else would there be to pass the time with, what would you guys talk about if government wasn’t evil? “Poor people?” Oh, puh-lease, little socialists, where’s your ambition? You didn’t die in the jungles of ‘Nam, overthrow democratically elected governments in South America or permanently destabilize the Middle East so you could talk about poor people!
Consider the “Citizens United” decision of the Supreme Court, which all but stated:
“Our elections are bought, so, good start, but not bought obviously or big enough. Let’s make it much, much easier to buy election results with fistfuls of the profits we haven’t got a clue what to do with now that we have five yachts (shout-out to Betsy DeVos)! Go big or go home, guys!”
There you are, turbo-charged corruption gleaming under Klieg lights, government so evil. Phew! That was close. Americans might actually have begun to respect the political process, even vote, but — SCOTUS to the rescue!
Consider obnoxiously obvious Republican gerrymandering:
SCOTUS: “That’s fine, none of our concern about your evil, partisan ways!”
It’s an outrage — you do realize that, right? That it’s an outrage that no other lip-service democratic country would tolerate? — but Americans need great, big, obvious, rampant, stinking corruption, the bigger and rampanter and stinkier the better, so they can sleep at night knowing that their government is pulling out all the stops doing what it does best: proving how evil government is.
SO LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE and talk homophobia and Trudeau, shall we? Teaching drama, speaking gently and responding with care, ceding power and responsibility to women, choosing a diverse, gender-balanced cabinet, showing compassion — we’re out of traditional “real man” territory without a map, and conservatives have been in a perpetual state of befuddled outrage since 2015.
Assessments of the Trudeau government by other nations are positive. CNN does a piece on our appropriate and co-operative response to the pandemic. Those commenting on CNN’s report, mostly Americans, express envy at our country’s pulling together, our solidarity, our respect for science and each other. All modeled by the prime minister, Justin Trudeau.
The New York Times online is in twice-yearly raptures about our liberalism, for example, our accommodation of Syrian refugees, our model for the world. Justin Trudeau opened Canada’s arms and affirmed our welcome. More recently, a piece in The Guardian again compares Canada’s pandemic response and results with the U.S. Pulling together and doing what is necessary: All modeled by Justin.
Admiring pieces in the LA Times cover Chrystia Freeland, our deputy prime minister, impressed by her firm, even hawkish, stance about the necessity of defending liberal values worldwide, and breathlessly listing her accomplishments in journalism and as a respected author. Appointed by Justin.
In fact, the American and British press survey the political landscape and recognize Canada as the last example of a nation standing apart from the populist crowd; the sole shining light of unrepentant, compassionate liberalism that remains.
The last election, which gave the Liberals a minority government, is viewed by the international community, correctly, as a referendum on the far right, represented by the odious People’s Party of Canada (PPC), whose anti-immigrant, climate science-denying platform was roundly rejected. The PPC lost its only seat, making it unique as a party with “people” in the name, but none in the actual party.
All seems rosy with maple leaves and beaver tails from sea to shining sea—you’d think.
But spend a little time on Twitter — the toilet that’s also a megaphone — and soon your head will swim from the unrelenting vicious Trudeauphobia. Dig a little deeper and discover a real, deep-seated revulsion towards Trudeau on the part of a certain class of Canadian men, including the leaders and members of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), especially its de facto leader, Andrew Scheer, and the PPC. This class of Canadian men is monolithically white, heterosexual, libertarian or conservative and deeply, unapologetically homophobic.
(The CPC is currently without a leader, in fact; I call Scheer the de facto leader because, although he was forced to resign as party leader after he admitted to dipping into party funds to pay for his children’s private schooling, he has hung around for months as Chief Scandal Cooker Upper and proud recipient of the honorary CPC Donald Trump Chair in Twitterbation. Well done, Andy.)
The attacks on Trudeau are as relentless as they are empty. He’s slow to act. When he acts, he’s reckless, his actions misguided. He “gives in” to the U.S. in allowing a Huawei executive to be arrested in British Columbia; China, enraged at Canada’s actions, takes two Canadians hostage, setting out terms for their release. When Trudeau refuses to acquiesce, he’s “putting lives at stake,” except he’s also “weak.”
Trudeau kneels in solidarity with victims of anti-black racism. Wrong! An insult to suggest that good, ordinary racist white Canadians are racist! What effrontery!
Comes the pandemic. His response is “too late,” (though no later than any other nation on earth trying to take the right path with little information to go on.) He is “appeasing the WHO,” which apparently means appeasing China. This is straight from the American playbook.
Trudeau saves the economy by swiftly moving to provide substantial aid to Canadians affected by the pandemic. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), tabled and passed in record time, provides two thousand dollars per month for any employee or self-employed individual whose job has been affected by the Covid-19 response.
On day one of CERB, close to one million Canadians go online and apply.
Result? Our economy weathers the storm, Canadians keep their homes and pay their rent and buy food and start talking UBI. But to the CPC? He’s “wasting taxpayers’ money” and “creating a huge deficit.” (Though a week earlier, Scheer was screaming that “Canadians need action!”) Trudeau is “encouraging people not to work!” (Contempt for the non-wealthy and their lazy ways is a big conservative thing up here, too.)
These are great conversation starters for anyone who hasn’t a clue about economics, forgets that the benefit will be taxed back at up to 50% for the highest tax bracket, and who believes there is such a thing as taxpayer money, a quaint myth promulgated by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and which has had no meaning since the gold standard was abolished except for those who never heard of double-entry bookkeeping. That “huge government deficit,” the red in the government’s ledger is a “huge economic surplus,” black in the public sphere, without which the economy would have nose-dived.
How’s Trudeau doing? Incompetent, dithery, floundering.
What next? Parliament adjourns for the summer as it always does. But no, this year it means that Trudeau is avoiding oversight. What is he hiding?
A terrorist, possibly primed by the negative coverage, drives his car through the gates of the prime minister’s residence. The driver has weapons which he clearly intended to use. Not a word of solidarity or sympathy from the CPC, in effect, tacit approval of the would-be attacker. Is Andrew daydreaming of assassination, a sudden election, his resurrection as party leader?
Andrew Scheer continues the onslaught. Trudeau’s every sentence is parsed, every act dissected, taken out of context and construed in the worst possible light, then fancied up with manufactured outrage, outright distortion, and, when even that level of subtlety fails, straight-out lying.
Comments caught on a hot mic? An embarrassment, a scandal. His twenty-second pause? Weakness. The hashtags read “#worstPMever, #Trudeauresign, every day on Twitter a new iteration, trending.
Now Trudeau pulls a Justin. A Canadian charity is offered a contract to subsidize a summer intern program for students. Trudeau’s mother, Trudeau himself, Trudeau’s wife, brother and a member of Cabinet have all at various times had speaking engagements with the charity or otherwise financially benefited from the association.
Trudeau, contrary to basic standards of ethics, or even of common sense, fails to declare his connections or those of his family and fails to recuse himself from meetings about the contract, creating the impression of conflict of interest and of shadowy dealings.
Andrew Scheer is on this like a pit bull on a squirrel. There is, in fact, no personal gain to Trudeau from this project, and all the other connections are years in the past. But it looks like he’s dealing them a nice quid pro quo. To Justin, it’s just a good cause in aid of another good cause.
Justin doesn’t get that it’s not just corruption that lowers public confidence in government. It’s even the appearance of corruption.
Once again Justin has made fools of his supporters because of his arrogant refusal to play by the onerous rules. Once again we are making excuses for him; once again we don’t come to the table with clean hands. Our claim to be Canada’s progressive conscience and moral authority in contrast with the CPC once again sounds embarrassingly hollow.
As I write this, Scheer, in full “Ride of the Valkyries” mode, is calling for a criminal investigation.
WHATEVER SHALL WE DO ABOUT Justin? His misstep acts as camouflage for Scheer’s true agenda. Meanwhile, the atmosphere is one of continual crisis, an ever-present subliminal emergency. It’s obvious that Scheer is engaged in a concerted attempt to render our duly elected government illegitimate—and it’s personal.
Because it’s not the Liberal Party of Canada that is being attacked, or even just “liberals”. Not at all. It’s Trudeau himself. Something about him just sticks in every manly conservative throat.
We are meant to understand that Justin Trudeau is incompetent, weak, hiding something; worse than that, sinister. What’s missing, what is unspoken but hinted at?
Girly man, wearing traditional Indian clothing. Effeminate. Eye lock with Obama. Pandemic lockdown is proof he’s under house arrest, wearing an ankle bracelet (pedophile). Drama teacher (what kind of man…!). How would a drama teacher know anything about running government? How would a homosexual know anything about running government? Why would a homosexual ban assault weapons? Because he’s not a real man.
Andrew Scheer’s tweets rain down like missiles. I think, “This is beyond outrage. It’s pathological, an obsession.”
He doesn’t ask how we Canadians are doing, he doesn’t share what he and his family are doing. There’s no human interest, nothing to relate to, nothing that’s not angry opposition and fire and brimstone.
Scheer doesn’t post a homey picture of the barbeque, or of him and his wife — who I hope is named “Shirley,” but he’s never introduced her — shopping wearing masks, or of him and the kids washing the car, or playing, or laughing…. He gives us not a single reason to like him, and, Canadian to the core, we comply.
He tweets, literally, about nothing else but Trudeau, no other content seems possible for him. I begin to sense the electricity, feel the thwarted admiration, the bromance that never was and never can be, in Scheer’s hysterical baiting of the man who plighted his troth to another. I feel his utter emptiness, his sociopathic indifference, to anything but his desire to bring down the fury of the closet-case scorned on the man he loves.
Now comes the Centralia mine fire of homophobia that burns perpetually under the surface, that no stream of logic or evidence can ever extinguish.
“Justin’s friends caught in pedophile scandal…”
“Flocculent Canadian president [sic] Justin Trudeau takes time to meet with accused sex pervert Joshua Boyle, whilst children of the Canadian tundra starve in frozen death agony….”
“True Detective shows Trudeau foundation logo as a symbol for child sex trafficking.”
All my life, as a gay man, I’ve endured the bullying, the contempt, the assumptions about my emotional life, the judgments about my character, and, most traumatically, the unspoken assumption and disgusting lie that, as a gay male, I’m a pedophile, a corrupter of youth; all of these indignities perpetrated mostly by straight men.
And now a self-selected group of heterosexual males, “social conservatives”, is stirring into life these atavistic fears in an attempt to oust Trudeau, ostensibly for “corruption,” just not the fiduciary kind.
Looking through the correct lens brings everything into focus. Looking through the lens of white supremacy and anti-black racism made it possible for me to understand Trump’s loony presidency, to explain his election and why his egregious almost daily criminal acts trivial and terrifying alike are brushed off, justified, or even admired. White men can do whatever the fuck they want.
Looking through the lens of homophobia, transphobia and rigid gender role orthodoxy has made it possible to understand how the boy wonder is becoming one of the boys in the band, not a real man, unfit for office.
My mother would have said, of a closeted gay man, “He’s that way,” and we all knew what way “that way” was. There was no need to spell it out then, and no need to now.
“Sissy.” “Corrupt.” “Queer.” Hey, what else would you expect from Castro’s love child?