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Bernie Farber is not gay

He is just in an open relationship with the truth.

On Saturday, the Toronto Star’s Public Editor, Kathy English, launched an attack on journalistic freedom, upbraiding columnist Antonia Zerbisias for a comment she made on her own blog post about Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber’s participation in Toronto’s Pride parade.

To state the facts:

  • Bernie Farber, who is straight, showed up to Toronto Pride wearing a t-shirt saying “Nobody Knows I’m Gay”.
  • Antonia Zerbisias, in a comment on an earlier blog post of hers, ironically remarks that she did not know he was gay, and this is the first time she’s seen him in Pride. (This comment is probably seen by very few people, as the blog post is already a few days old.)
  • Farber and the CJC executive actually discuss this in a meeting and lodge a complaint with the Star, which English then picks up, apparently with a highly inadequate investigation of the surrounding facts and context.
  • Despite the fact that Farber was the first to misidentify himself as gay, and despite the fact that Zerbisias’ comment was very obviously ironic, English describes it as “distasteful” — almost too distasteful to repeat — that Zerbisias suggested, even ironically, that he was gay.

What, exactly, is disasteful about it, if there’s nothing wrong with being gay? The only way it could be distasteful is if being gay itself was distasteful. And that’s homophobia.

Nothing in Antonia Zerbisias’ blog or comments breached any journalistic ethics. The only column that requires a retraction and apology from the Star is English’s. English catered to an oversensitive, high-profile individual — Farber — at the expense of the paper’s journalists and its reputation. Left and right can see English’s editorial for the folly that it is.

The Toronto Star owes apologies for two things out of this column. One, the homophobic suggestion that it was distasteful, almost too distasteful to reprint, to ironically suggest that Farber was gay. And two, the obvious injustice to Zerbisias. Farber is a public figure who misidentified himself as gay at Pride for political reasons, and it’s fair comment to take that on. Zerbisias was just doing her job. And the Star owes her an apology.

Corvin Russell

Corvin is an activist and writer based in Toronto. Read more by Corvin Russell.

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