Sunday, 20 May 2012

Is Infrastructure Gay?

Like many people who spend a lot of time on the intertubes, one of my favourite modes of procrastination is posting and sharing light-hearted-yet social-commentary-ey images on Facebook. This one, from Wipe Out Homophobia, caught my attention recently.

Amusing? Highly, but it also brings up and interesting - and perhaps unintended - question. Why is it that those people who are dead-set against according any type of human rights to non-heterosexuals also, almost without fail, also oppose any increases in public spending in infrastructure projects, like roads, schools, subway systems, museums etc.? Is it simply a case of these being selfish people who are unable to see any value in contributing to the overall well-being of society, or is there a deeper force at work? In other words, is there something intrinsically gay about infrastructure?

To most, this will sound like a pretty reaching notion - at least at first. After all, construction work is generally considered one of the most manly professions, and the archetypal image of the construction tradesperson - the Village People notwithstanding - is generally unquestionably heterosexual, with a wife at home who washes his work shirts, cleans his boots and goads him into taking wussy, unmanly safety courses. This is the construction industry, isn't it? Or is it?
(Source: a very real construction company in Brisbane,
Australia. Look 'em up!)

(Source: Leslie/Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art)

While the industry itself may well be as macho as it claims to be, the stuff it builds isn't always so manly. I live in the province of Alberta, a place where potholes are as much a part of the culture as pickup trucks and western alienation. It was here that the stolidly heterosexual provincial government of Ralph Klein froze infrastructure spending across the province for over a decade, while during the same period made Alberta a holdout on same-sex marriage and other LGBT human rights issues until the federal government forced its hand. The province's roads crumbled and planned light rail systems were stalled while gay and lesbian Albertans were being held in a time-warp. The government's slogan might as well have been "Multi-lane expressways are for faggots! We Albertans like our potholes and low taxes!"

The AGA(y)
Is infrastructure gay? Look at the infrastructure developments we've had in the post-Klein years here in Alberta. The new Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) here in Edmonton? Very gay - in a weird bondage-y sort of way. The Bow Building in Calgary? Curvilinnear, sleek, and with an argyle girder pattern - definitely gay! The Southgate LRT Station? Hel-LO! A smooth train-ride away from the fruity downtown to designer clothing stores with a carpeted skywalk that won't dirty your shoes. It couldn't be any gayer if you had Liza Minnelli collecting the tickets! It even has the sound 'gay' in its name. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
"It's fun to stay at the Tai-Pei One-Oh-One!"
And what about overseas? The Taipei 101 Tower is probably one of the fruitiest structures every built (built in, of course, one of Asia's most progressive countries on the LGBT front). And what about Bullet Trains? Does anything scream homo more than sleek, phallus-shaped wannabe Orient Expresses with cherry blossoms emblazoned on the side and fruity names like Hikari and ICE, with smartly dressed attendants using poofy words like 'vestibule' and 'Romance Car'? That and the fact that apart from Canada, Argentina and Iceland (which has a fabulous road system and lots of hot springs), every single country that has thus far granted gays and lesbians the right to marry has also invested in high speed rail. Even South Africa has one now, with its World Cup-year launch of its much-vaunted Gautrain, connecting Johannesburg and Pretoria, giving them Africa's first high-speed train. This in the only African country where gays and lesbians can marry.

Clearly not all infrastructure builds are gay. The military-industrial complex isn't particularly gay, although with the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' in the US all bets are off. And there's definity nothing even remotely gay about the oil sands operations in the vicinity of Fort McMurray, which would explain why this was about the only infrastructure project that Alberta's right-wing Wildrose Party did not target in its election manifesto - the same party that sought to defend the rights of wedding officiators to refuse to bless same-sex marriages under the banner of 'conscience rights' while one of its Edmonton candidates was quoted as stating that gays were doomed to perish in a 'lake of fire' on his blog. In other words, infrastructure is great as long as it's straight infrastructure.

Next time you're feeling thankful about your jurisdiction's forward-thinking views on LGBT rights, thank a construction worker, those burly men who are out there day after day, putting your gay tax dollars to work making your world gayer, one steel girder at a time. He might even take you dancing if you're lucky!

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