Mz. Rhonda wants to Stop the Madness.
"I feel that schools, churches, and the workforce, need to hear the message that gay people will not tolerate bullying, bashing, homophobia and discrimination anymore," states Calgarian Ron Eberley, better known as Mz. Rhonda in drag.
"I feel that my schtick is to do it as Mz. Rhonda and not as Ron, though it might be a deterrent to some opportunities to speak. But I think it will add character to the presentation."
"I know this [abuse] is going on out there, but I think the [straight] world is ignoring that fact, that a lot of people think Calgary and Alberta is free of gay-bashing, etc. I disagree."
Mz. Rhonda tells us she has been busy promoting her campaign: she has contacted and provided commitment forms to the city (including councilor Farrell and mayor Nenshi), the province (education minister Johnson and premier Redford), and educational institutions (the Catholic school board and Rundle College).
These pledge forms that she is asking them to sign and display are pretty clear: "I hereby pledge to speak out against [bullying, bashing, phobia and discrimination]; Gay people have the right to live and work in our community; We must love one another, not hate; I also pledge to live in peace with all people." Some might feel that such sentiments don’t need to be written out and signed so obtrusively, yet at the same time, the same problems wouldn’t exist today if everyone already behaved this way.
As an ordained minister (formerly of the Rainbow Community Church in Hillhurst) she has a direct connection not only to the secular challenges faced by the community, but also the spiritual ones. "As a church worker, when you look at scripture, it’s a love story not a hate story. So I think churches need to be awakened to the stronger sayings from scripture being used today. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Well, if you don’t love me as a gay person, you really don’t love yourself all that much. Even if I’m your enemy as a gay person, you’re meant to love your enemies. So I embrace my faith."
She also mentions LGBTQ difficulties in senior homes: "This is the end of your life, and you should be comfortable... I just want everyone to realize that we have the right to be who we are, because they certainly have the right to [do the same]."
Of course, as any former member of the Imperial Court System, Mz. Rhonda has seen many of these different aspects firsthand; from a young man growing up in Northern Ireland and the faith that he developed, to the family he and his former wife raised here in Canada. Unfortunately, his discovery of his gay persona caused the end of his family relationships, but after entering the drag community and meeting Wayne Eberly, he eventually re-married. In fact, he claims they were one of the first gay couples in Canada to do so, after lobbying long and hard for the right.
So Mz. Rhonda is familiar with the bullying, bashing, homophobia and discrimination in all of its forms, and she wants to do what she can to Stop the Madness.