In the queer community, gays and lesbians fall along a spectrum that makes them “identifiable” as a gay person.

Lesbians can be anything from very feminine to extremely masculine, as can gay men. Very effeminate gay men are flamers and really masculine women are butch.

These people exist on the extreme of the spectrum and it is not difficult for them to be identified as queer.

I lived in Winnipeg for four years as a teenager and my best friend was a very effeminate boy named Daniel. He was so effeminate that he even made femme girls seem less so.

I was a tomboyish girl, so we made an interesting pair.

I don’t remember really noticing how effeminate Daniel was, I just thought of him as hilarious. He would put on his mother’s bathrobe and put curlers in his hair and do a bang-on impression of her that had us rolling on the floor.

I don’t even remember him getting teased much about how he was, although if I asked him now he probably had a different memory of that time. I do remember a teacher sarcastically referring to him as Danny in a sneering way. The derisiveness was all in his tone of voice.

Daniel’s father was very distant with him. His father was an educated man but he treated his son like a stranger. He must have known his son was gay; this was as undeniable a fact as his son’s brown hair.

It was the late 70s and acceptance of homosexuality was nowhere near what it is today. I am sure his father was deeply disappointed that his only son rivalled his sister in flamboyant femininity and perhaps he also feared for his son’s safety.

The world is full of Daniels.

Matthew Shepherd was one of these boys and he was murdered because of it.

Someone recently said to me that they didn’t mind gay people and then came the inevitable “but.” The next sentence was “but I hate those flamer guys, why do they act like that.”

To believe it is all an act is idiocy. Who could keep up such an act indefinitely?

The Daniels and Matthews of the world are sensitive, vulnerable souls who cannot help the way they are anymore than they can help what colour eyes they were born with.

They need to be protected, not vilified.

The violence against gays will not end until people’s ignorance about such individuals is changed.