Image Description: A simple drawing of a heart behind bars
I was 14 years old the first time I heard the name Evert George Klippert. I didn’t remember his name, or his story, or the impact of his life on mine, until I heard the news a couple days ago. By the age of 14 I was keenly aware of my difference from other boys, I was equally aware that my difference was dangerous. It was reviled. And, I understood that in the small world of the playground, it was punished, first by name calling, second by fists, third by excommunication from everyone and everything you knew. But it wasn’t until I’d heard of Evert George Klippert that I truly understood something important.
It wasn’t just something that children did to children.
I was headed for a lifetime of living in secret, hiding my heart and guarding my soul.
I was a criminal.
I was deviant.
I was the dangerous one – not those who tormented me.
Evert George Klippert in 1966 was jailed for consensual sexual acts, in private, with other men. He was deemed a dangerous offender because he was judged to be an incurable homosexual with a likelihood to engage in further homosexual behaviour should he be released. So, he was given a sentence without end in our prison system.
The impact of his story was immediate. I felt absolute terror. I too, I knew, was incurably homosexual. I knew because I had tried, desperately tried, to be what I wasn’t. I had prayed, I had cried, I had wished on every shooting star, but my heart didn’t change, it knew what it wanted and while my mind raged my heart simply kept beating it’s own unique rhythm.
Now, years after his death, Prime Minster Trudeau, the son of the man who decriminalized homosexuality in Canada and declared that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation, is going to posthumously pardon Evert George Klippert. I’m glad of this of course. It is a symbolic gesture, and an important one.
But with that pardon needs to come an open acknowledgement that what was done to him was wrong. That the impact of his sentence of the gay community, and on gay kids growing up, was devastating. Evert George Klippert’s imprisonment must have been experienced, by him, as excruciatingly cruel. I wonder if he knew that his story, his incurability, would have his community shaking in terror.
For it was an act of terror, at least in my life and in my heart, and it did what terror does. It drove shame deeper into my heart and soul. It drove shame to hide in places that are still undiscovered. It hurt me.
I thank Prime Minister Trudeau for decriminalizing homosexuality and I thank Prime Minister Trudeau for now pardoning Evert George Klippert who lived during a time where the government felt free to sneak into our bedrooms with handcuffs at the ready.
But while I applaud the gesture.
It’s not enough.
I pray that now, he, Evert, can now finally rest both in peace but also, and more importantly, in innocence.