Surviving in the straight world

Loud and proud young activist Bonte Minnema gets called “faggot” a lot – and he’s worried about whether he’ll be able to get a full-time job because of it.

“To be honest, I’m pretty frightened about that,” says Minnema. “Who wants to hire someone as gay as I am? That’s a big question for me. I know lots of people are out in their workplaces, but they’re not quoted in national newspapers about queer things.

The activist is graduating from the University Of Toronto later this year with a degree in women’s studies (it was the closest to gay studies available when he started), but doesn’t have a clue what to do after that.

“I know that I can be out in the workplace and I know that I can have a great out job, but I also want a job that can make a lot of money,” says Minnema, who’s worried about how he’ll pay back his $45,000 in student loans.

Minnema is famous. Most recently, the media throughout Canada and the United States have called on him to comment about the gay Scout troop of which he is a founding member.

Because of this popularity and the fact that he is very open about his sexuality, he has personally experienced a great deal of harassment.

During a recent trip to Sudbury he was called “faggot” across the lobby of a hotel. He fears that incidents like that are only going to make his future work life more difficult.

“Shit like that happens and it’s happened to me just about every time I’ve gone to do something outside of Toronto,” says Minnema. “It makes me furious. It offends me. In a workplace or in a job where I have to travel or meet new people I am afraid it will happen and yes it will interfere with the job.”

He’d love to work in rural Ontario. “That’s where I grew up and I love it out there. But I can’t imagine myself getting a job out there. I can barely imagine myself spending more than two or three or four days a year where I grew up, visiting my family, because what’s there to do? Who am I going to talk to?

“Because every time I am back there it still happens. I used to have fairly long blond hair that I would curl and put up in just about every direction and wear scarves and hats and things. But I think I’ve butched up a little bit. I’m not as screaming flaming as I used to be. But [the homophobia] hasn’t changed. It’s still there. It’s not stopped.”

Minnema regrets that he will likely enter the private sector instead of sticking with the activism he cares so much about. He says society needs to do more to recognize people who work for community organizations that strive to make a difference. And that recognition, he says, needs to comes with salaries that are comparable to the private sector.


“I think we should value work and pay it fairly,” says Minnema. “It’s very difficult to do that in community organizations.”

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