Montreal’s summer festival train continues chugging along with the bold, brash and always fabulous Divers/Cite festival. Running from Monday, July 30th to Sunday, August 5th, the 20th incarnation of the multidisciplinary LGBT festival features a wide variety of live music, DJs, films and art that “celebrate the value of diversity in a spirit of sharing, solidarity and openness with the world”.  The two outdoor main stages have moved from their usual home in the Village to the Old Port’s Quai Jacques-Cartier.

Some within the city’s gay community view the move as considerable progress towards mainstream public acceptance. “It has become like a festival occasion where, in the beginning, we were like Barnum and Bailey – the circus. Now, we’ve become banal,” local gay activist Michael Hendricks told the CBC.

Most of the programming is free and outdoors, and open to people of all genders and sexualities. Get out your rainbow flag and neon short shorts for this weekend’s highlights:

If you’re looking to start your party on Friday afternoon, look no further than the inaugural edition of Ohh La La, especially if you’re into cyclists in spandex biking shorts. At 4pm, a crew of about 400 cyclists from the Friends for Life Bike Rally will roll into town to complete their 600 kilometer ride from Toronto to Montreal to raise awareness and funds for people living with HIV/AIDS. Their arrival will be followed by DJ sets at the Grande Place from Toronto’s Shawn Riker and the Dutch duo Chocolate Puma. Closing the night is the influential, high energy house music of the charismatic Brazilian DJ Ana Paula.

Friday night there’s tough party competition from Apocalipstik, another first-time event that aims to unite the city’s best alternative queer partiers together for an all-out celebration of alternative and electropop music. Starting on the Loto-Quebec Stage at 6pm, the night features the gorgeous strings of Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre), the insatiably catchy urban rhythms of French songstress Fanny Bloom, and the self-proclaimed ‘Dirty Pretty’ glory of Toronto’s Dirty Mags, among others. Rounding out the night is a performance by Glam Gam Productions, which if you’re keeping score, you’d know is my ridiculous burlesque family. We’ll be performing a very sexy, special number choreographed by the amazing Gabrielle Coulter. Needless to say, I’m getting a little wet just thinking about stepping out onto the biggest stage I’ve ever been on!

Apocalipstik is being presented in association with Montreal’s hottest new queer bar & venue, the Royal Phoenix, and is being hosted by the bar’s owner and artistic director, Val Desjardins, along with the infamous duo behind the city’s Gaybash parties, Sally & Tyler.

On Saturday night, get your glitter on for the Mascara Drag Night, hosted by Montreal drag legend Mistress Mado at the Grande Place. With a planned homage to Whitney Houston and a tribute to Dalida as well as performances from local luminaries and newcomers to the scene, the 15th anniversary of Mascara promises to be a glamorous night of gender-bending glory.

As if you weren’t already partied out, there’s a full-on, 10-hour long dance party to close the festival on Sunday. Starting at 2pm at the Grand Place, this non-stop house music marathon features the likes of Spanish superstar DJ duo CHUS & CEBALLOS and celebrity remixer and producer David Morales. Bonus points if you can dance your way through all 10 hours without developing any blisters on your feet or passing out due to heat exhaustion.

Afterwards, you’ve only one full week to recuperate until the start of the Montreal Pride festival, which features the city’s most brightly-colored parade!

For a full schedule and map of the site, visit http://www.diverscite.org.

Deanne Smith

Deanne Smith
DeAnne Smith – Photo Chris Zacchia

Within three minutes of meeting DeAnne Smith, it was clear that she’s easy to like. I met up with the comedian at ComedyWorks, an old club whose dim lighting masks the sweat and blood from years and years of great comedy. At the top of the stairs I found a bathroom to wash bike grease off my hands, and incidentally, found DeAnne getting ready for that evening’s show. Looking up and inquiring if we were “doing a thing,” she set the tone for the super chill interview.

Stopping to say hi to a woman on the way out of ComedyWorks, and waving to the bartenders as we entered Grumpy’s, it was also clear that these neighboring spaces are her stomping grounds, places she feels comfortable in and has spent a lot of time at since she started on the scene in 2005.

Deanne Smith
DeAnne Smith – Photo Chris Zacchia

“When I started there was just two English speaking clubs, ComedyWorks and Comedy Nest, and there was a time when one of them didn’t even have an open mic, so there was really nowhere for comedians to get stage time. So I started coming here, to Grumpy’s, and crashing their open mic which was a hodgepodge of stuff. There was never comedy here then, there was just music and spoken word, and then I started doing comedy here and telling other people ‘hey let’s do it,’ and now the open mic here is at least half comedy.”

It’s with this self-sufficient, get-shit-done attitude that DeAnne’s created her own opportunities and accomplished an impressive amount in only a few short years. Responding to the lack performance opportunities, DeAnne created new stand-up shows at different venues, which came and went as she built her career. Comedy On The Main was the first of these shows, which she started with three other local comics. When the bar that hosted it shut down, they moved around the corner and the show continued for a few more years as Comedy Off The Main.

“It was just a weekly Wednesday night show” she says, “we had a really good time there. And it was fun, because a lot of us were coming up and didn’t have stage time anywhere else, but were getting stage time there. And then we were getting better at comedy outside of the clubs, and then we all kind of busted back onto the scene better comedians, and nobody knew how that happened.”

Stand Up Strip Down and Royal Riot are the most recent of DeAnne’s comedic inventions. Like its name cleverly implies, Stand Up Strip Down combines comedy and burlesque, while Royal Riot is a monthly stand-up show at the Royal Phoenix.

DeAnne’s travelled to some really cool places, doing stand-up in Edinburgh, London, Reykjavik, the Yukon and all over Australia. When I asked her how these opportunities came up she answered in the most modest and matter-of-fact way, “I just went after them.” Bam!

“This year was really crazy because I realized I was riding a camel in the desert in Australia, and then I was like whoooaa, in less than six months –”

“Australia has camels??” (I really need to stop interrupting my interviewees)

“Yeah, they have a huge feral camel population. They’re not even sure what the estimate is, but possibly up to a million or more camels roaming around in the desert.”

“Nooo waay, a billion??” (Sigh. It came out before I could stop it)

“No, a million. Not a billion. So realized in less than six months I went from dog-sledding in the Yukon to riding camels in the desert in Australia, all in the name of comedy, which is amazing.”

DeAnne’s latest show, Living The Sweet Life, has already been around Australia in a five festival/three and a half month tour, and is about to start its five night run at Just For Laughs. “Playing Just For Laughs is great. Because it’s the hometown, you know, I get to see friends from around the world that I don’t usually see and all my friends from in town” says DeAnne. “I know a lot of the guys from doing stuff in Australia and stuff in the UK, so it’s nice to be in your hometown. It transforms into something a little bit special. It feels like Christmas or something; like when mom and dad rearrange the furniture and bring in the Christmas tree and you’re like ‘wow! This is amazing!’”

Part sarcasm, part sincerity, the title “Living The Sweet Life” plays with the concept of how life is sometimes a wee bit pathetic, but actually pretty damn good when we stop and think about it. “The title came out of a joke that I do about this one time that I bought a weekly bus pass, and I was like super psyched that I had the weekly bus pass. And then the little voice in my head was like ‘living the sweeeet life’ and I was like oh my god, seriously? Let’s have bigger goals and dreams DeAnne.”

Deanne Smith
DeAnne Smith – Photo Chris Zacchia

Continuing on, she explains “life is a tiny bit pathetic in those ways, but on the other hand we all live in Western society and we’re all doing really really well by global standards. So I sneak in some social commentary, but it’s maybe camouflaged among the ukulele tunes and dick jokes.”

Excellent, who doesn’t love uke tunes and penis jokes? Adding to the fun and debauchery, DeAnne chooses an audience member at each show to give “sweet life treatment” to for an extra special experience. She’s leaving the details of what this all entails to our imaginations, but stresses that it’s not a bad thing to sit in the front row.

Well, that all sounds great to me. I’m scraping together some bus money and getting there early for my front-row-center, cause baby, today’s been a bitch and I need some sweet life treatment.

Her shows (part of Zoofest) are July 23rd, 24th, 25th 27th & 28th at 8:30 at Underworld

Tickets: DeAnne Smith Zoofest

A modern-day witch hunt is underway in Canada. The hunted: not terrorists, but fetishists.

The RCMP is investigating the conduct of one of its officers who posted pictures of himself on a fetish website. The most shocking aspect of the story is not the photos, though, but the fact that people are outraged by them.

The media, instead of questioning the legitimacy of the claims made against the officer, grants almost all of its resources to perpetuating lies and misinformation based on long-outdated values.

“I don’t know any woman who’d want to work alongside someone who was into that sort of stuff,” said former RCMP officer Sherry Benson-Podolchuk in a Globe and Mail article. “It raises too many questions. I think it brings the whole force into disrepute. I think he should be gone, no question about it.”

Replace “that sort of stuff” with “gay sex” and we could easily be reading an article from the 1950s. At that time the Canadian government was engaged in a witch hunt for gays in the public service, and they used the latest technology to find them: the dreaded Fruit Machine. (I kid you not.) Suspected public servants—as well as members of the RCMP and military—were made to view gay porn while the machine checked the dilation of their eyes, which would somehow prove arousal. Anyone whose eyes dilated was likely fired.

Of course, the technology was bunk and was eventually cast aside, but the effects of the anti-gay policy sent a chill through queers across the country. The same chill, in fact, that is now being sent through a different group of so-called “sexual deviants”—fetishists.

One essential fact, which should not have to be said half a century after the sexual revolution, is that everything this man did was 100 per cent legal. For those who’ve been whipped into a frenzy, take a breath and think about these following statements:

– engaging in consensual sex is legal—no matter how intense—so long as age requirements are met,
– taking photos of said sex is legal, so long as both parties are above the age of 18, and
– posting said pictures online in a place made for such photos is also perfectly legal.

So, keeping these facts in mind, we should not even be having this discussion. Think about it: a man is having his professional and private life destroyed by moralists who are uncomfortable with what this man does in his private time. These so-called “concerned citizens” feign a desire to protect fellow citizens from “perverts”, but are actually just imposing their Victorian morals on people long-freed from the constraints of that time.

And, it unfortunately needs to be said, at no time was the integrity of the RCMP compromised. You know why? Because there are fetishists everywhere in society—right now—doing their jobs just fine. You know how I know this? Because these people are still employed.

But, this is more than just a legal issue or a privacy issue. This is also an issue of what we stand for as a society. At the heart of the matter, this is not a story about a man in trouble for posting explicit photos online, but, rather, about the behaviour occurring in the photos. But what concern should anyone’s fetish be to anyone else, so long as it falls within the law?

Of course, if you post online, the whole world can see it, but it shouldn’t mean that you sign away your life if you’ve done nothing illegal. These photos were posted during the man’s private time, completely away from his work-related duties, and the photos do not depict the man in RCMP garb. There is no reason for the RCMP to be investigating them or for the media to be reproducing them.

Pride London, 2010

Moralists claim that the man showed “poor judgement” in posting the photos. But how did he show poor judgement? The only thing this man should have expected was possible embarrassment if they were found. Nothing more. In no way should this man have expected to be kink-shamed by Canada’s highest police body and all mainstream media organizations.

When Pierre Elliott Trudeau said that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, he surely meant more than just the place we sleep. Otherwise, gays wouldn’t be tolerated holding hands or kissing on the street. What he was saying was that all aspects of the private lives of citizens are of no business to anyone else.

If one thing has been made apparent from this debacle, it’s the importance of a loud and proud fetish brigade at Pride each summer. The moral purists among us need to know that these people exist and are a large part of the fabric that make up this eclectic country. But, judging by the mainstream ops pieces this past week on both Pride season and the RCMP “scandal”, it seems there are a lot of minds that need to change.

For example, in the same breath that Barbara Kay in the National Post tells us how much she loves us gays, she also laments the “exhibitionistic priapism [at Pride] that is nothing anyone, gay or straight, should be proud of.”

Her words are the same as those used 50 years ago against gays busting down closets, letting the world know that they’re here and they’re queer. Here’s to hoping fetishists don’t wait another half-century before they can live in peace and bondage.

All photos courtesy of Flickr

Each year, evils abound at Pride celebrations around the world. Sodomites hold hands, kiss, and even express the gruesome desire to wed, despite their shared chromosomal make-up. But of all the evils one could possibly fathom, no one could have expected a one-hundred-year-old cookie to take the cake. That’s right, a cookie.

Last week, as part of the Oreo’s centenary celebrations, Kraft Foods released a picture of a rainbow-coloured version of their famous cookie. Comments poured in from thousands of cookie lovers either praising the company for supporting love or blaming it for the demise of Western civilization.

In light of last week’s article in which I denounced the use of Pride to sell a product, I was left conflicted in the face of the colourful treat. Is there really anything so wrong with the Pride-cookie, as my previous article would make it seem?  No, there isn’t. The difference is in whether queer rights are being used to sell a controversial product or whether the motive is to affirm the existence of a marginalized group, as it is with Kraft.

The simultaneously overt and ambiguous nature of the ad is pitch perfect.

What could possibly be ambiguous about about a towering, rainbow-bright cookie, you say? Well, take a look at the ad and what it actually says. One giant cookie next to one boldfaced word: “Pride”.

In its simplicity, Kraft has allowed the ad to have a wide variety of meanings to many people, without actually having to directly say anything. The only message from Kraft’s spokespeople was that the poster was in line with the company’s history of “celebrating inclusiveness and diversity.”

The relative ambiguity of the ad allowed the company to appeal to a huge swath of the Western world that is generally pro-gay, while maybe not pro same sex marriage, without appearing to sidestep the issue.

Of course, there are those taking on the task of fighting this message of love, despite the odds. And yes, One Million Moms is the group leading the charge. “Moms are aware that Kraft manufactures a long list of popular products,” the group said in a (not-so-threatening) threat. “But Kraft needs to know that there are competitors that make similar products.”

“[Kraft] announced to American consumers where it stands on the controversial ‘gay’ marriage issue,” OMM went on to say. The only thing is, though, that this isn’t true. At no point did Kraft say anything about marriage, but rather that people should be proud of their love. Of course, it wouldn’t make a particularly effective campaign to attack love, so the specter of marriage was brought into the equation.

OMM stopped short of calling for a boycott, because they’ve probably realized that Kraft foods manufactures a significant amount of cheap products their members consume and won’t go without.

They’ve also undoubtedly realized that another of the other largest food manufacturers, General Mills, has taken an even more overt stance than Kraft by coming out against a same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota.

I almost feel bad for these so-called “conservative activists”. It must be difficult to wake up every morning to have the sky fall around them. But, then again, there’s something perversely enjoyable about watching world fall apart.

What’s going to happen to these people as it becomes more acceptable and less risky for companies to acknowledge their gay customers as legitimate human beings? Will they retreat into the woods to hide from the pro-gay capitalist society?

I hope not, simply because they’re so entertaining.

In any case, twenty years from now, this won’t be an issue. Companies won’t have reason to take a stance either way, because our rights will, for the most part, be fully enshrined in Western countries—at least I hope so.

Of all the feelings I thought I’d have at a memorial to gay Holocaust victims, shame was the furthest from my mind. Yet it’s exactly what I felt.

While on a walking tour in Berlin recently, my boyfriend and I stopped at the breathtaking Holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg Gate.

A graveyard of towering grey pillars overwhelms its guests as they work their way into the grid. And as city sounds give way to silence, the sheer madness of the Holocaust, the demented logic of fascism, and the utter bleakness of World War II are brought to bear on those who enter.

The absence of identifiable symbols or colours—religious or otherwise—strengthens the inclusive nature of the monument. So when I found out the memorial was not actually for all victims of the Holocaust, but only for the Jews, I felt shameful.

I felt shame that my own community’s suffering was deemed unworthy of inclusion in a most important Holocaust memorial. Was the pain felt by a gay man somehow lesser than that felt by a Jew?

Enough people felt the suffering of homosexuals was worthy of commemoration, though, that a monument was eventually built for them. But after seeing it, I’m not quite sure what to think.

Coming from the immense Jewish monument, the ‘Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism’ is underwhelming, to say the least. It stands as but a single, towering, unmarked block of concrete, nestled away in a nondescript enclave of the famous Tiergarten.

The juxtaposition of the two sites—one impossible to miss, the other hard to notice—only added to my initial shame of exclusion. Why is the monument for gay victims hidden in the bushes?

Maybe it’s a fitting place, I thought to myself. Maybe a memorial planted in the forest, where those it commemorates were once shamed into seeking discreet sex, is appropriate. Or maybe not. In any case, the jury is out on that decision, so I’ll continue with the tour.

The shame of homosexuality is further explored in a video, seen through a window in the giant block, that features short clips of same-sex couples caught kissing in public. Despite hesitancy from the couples, all continue embracing their partner. The act, though hardly remarkable today, was once enough to end the lives of those caught under Germany’s anti-homosexual law.

Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, initially passed in 1871, criminalized sexual behaviour between men. Upon taking power, the Nazis intensified the law, allowing for the detention of homosexuals in concentration camps without any legal trial. Of the 5,000–15,000 gay men placed in concentration camps, up to 60 per cent perished.

Those that survived the camps were faced with further injustice after the war. Many of those “saved” were placed back in prison to finish the remainder of their sentence, since paragraph 175 was technically not a Nazi law. And even though the law was modified after WWII, it was not fully repealed until 1994.

Walking out of the woods and back on the main drag, I tried to make sense of the memorial. I realized I hadn’t even kissed my boyfriend in that most perfect of places. Caught up in the politics of the memorial, I’d lost sight of what it was all about: the ability to celebrate one’s love.

So I leaned in and, after a moment’s hesitation, we embraced—shame no longer on my mind.

The memorial may not be perfect. It may not be in the best spot and it may lack the power to inspire awe. But where it succeeds is in its simplicity with the message that love prevails.

Photo courtesy of Julian Ward

I never expected to say this, but for the first time during Stephen Harper’s reign, I’m happy he has a majority.

You see, last week, while we were all focused on Harper’s undemocratic budget bill, the Conservatives were busy strengthening our democracy.

Conservatives voted unanimously to repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act with no help from the opposition, save one Liberal. The move was celebrated by the right and met with fear and fear-mongering by the left.

The removal of Section 13 is important because it limited the free speech of every Canadian by banning the communication of “hatred or contempt” over the internet or by phone.

Yes, that’s right. Before the Harper government’s bold move, it was against the Human Rights Act to express hate or contempt for people in Canada. If this weren’t absurd enough, the law was upheld by quasi-judicial bodies comprised of people with possibly no legal training.

These organizations have the power to hand out steep fines and ban people from communicating certain ideas. And, regrettably, they have become the stomping ground not of people with legitimate human rights concerns, but of those whose cases would be laughed out of a real court.

For those concerned with what I’m writing about, I highly recommend the book “Shakedown”,  Ezra Levant’s passionately-written and occasionally-offensive testament to the absurdity of our “human rights” legislation.

Levant aside for the moment, I’ll continue with the queer angle of this subject, as is my sworn duty for Forget the Box.

In the same week that section 13 was repealed, a bill aiming to provide protections for trans people under the CHRA and the Criminal Code successfully passed its second reading. Liberals and New Democrats gave speeches in support of affirming the rights of trans people, and were eventually joined by some Conservatives to pass the vote (I don’t mean to make the trans-recognition legislation appear perfect and all-pretty—it’s certainly not—but I won’t get into that in this post).

Human rights laws were originally crafted to deal with rights violations as serious as those currently faced by trans people. If there’s one thing for which they were not intended, it’s preventing people from being offended. Yet that’s exactly what was being done.

Just as an example, in 2002, a Red Deer, Alberta newspaper ran a letter by Pastor Stephen Boissoin in which he condemned all things gay. “Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them,” he said, “are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.”

Boissoin used the letter as a rallying cry, pleading with readers to “stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn.”

Despite not having committed a crime under the criminal code and never being charged in a court of law, Boissoin was fined $5000 (this, in addition to legal fees) and then banned from speaking out against queers by the Alberta HRC. He was actually forbidden from speaking what he believed to be the truth. In Canada. In the 21st century.

That people actually accept money as remuneration for offense they claim to have felt is insulting to those whose rights have actually been violated; they should be ashamed of themselves.

It might just be this shame that caused the plaintiff in the Alberta case to give the $5,000 to Egale, a leading gay rights legal group, instead of pocketing it himself. Quite tellingly, however, Egale refused the money. They had previously stated in an editorial that “while it is difficult to support Boissoin’s right to spew his misguided and vitriolic thoughts, support his right, we must.”

“If Boissoin was no longer able to share his views, then who might be next in also having their freedom of expression limited?” they asked.

To further Egale’s point, governments should not be in the business of censorship, regardless of how vile their citizens can be. Pushing potentially dangerous ideas—and the people who harbour them—underground does not make for a more tolerant society. It only disenfranchises these “potentially dangerous” people, removing the safety net that is the public gaze—a prospect radically more threatening than the possibility of being offended.

The repeal of section 13, however, is not the end of the road for regaining our free speech. Provincial governments still have their own human rights legislation with their own respective “section 13s” that must be removed.

Unfortunately, this won’t happen any time soon, given the widespread support by Liberals and New Democrats for these antiquated laws. How can we support these politicians who simultaneously tout their support for LGBT people while voting against our right to free speech? This hypocrisy must be brought to light.

For now, though, let’s celebrate our new found rights, afforded to us by a party so often found to be prescribing their limits.

* Images: National Post, Sun Media

As the gayest week of summer slowly sashays our way, organizers of Montreal’s pride festivities may have more to worry about than how many thousands of condoms to order.

Fierté Montreal is the target of a new Facebook campaign, “No Pride Under Law 78”, organized by queers upset about the organization’s close ties to the Liberal Party, which less than three weeks ago enacted Law 78, legislation that has been called Canada’s most regressive since the War Measures Act of 1970.

Ironically, on the same night that the Liberals unanimously voted the contentious law into effect, Fierté honoured Ministers Jean-Marc Fournier and Kathleen Weil (both in absentia) at the annual Gala Les Bâtisseurs for their efforts in fighting homophobia.

“No Pride” is calling on Fierté Montreal to revoke the awards given to the Liberal ministers, saying, “Members of the National Assembly who supported this draconian legislation have no place of honour in our community.”

They are also demanding that Fierté join in the legal battle against Law 78 and use all funds raised at the gala to fight the law in court. Lastly, and most symbolically, they want Fierté to name les Carrés Rouges—the student strikers—as the leaders of this year’s Parade.

Let’s stop for a moment, first, to think about what exactly Fierté is and what is really being asked of it.

Fierté Montreal is an organization whose biggest partners include the provincial and city governments, a major bank, and a pharmaceutical company. As sad as it is to say, Fierté now exists only to throw a week-long party, hand out some awards, and make a wad of cash for the city—all the while toeing the party line.

Long-gone are the days when the parade was a political act of asserting your right to live as you are, free from discrimination. As mainstream acceptance of gays grew—and with it a larger cash payout—Fierté was able to cut itself off from the very roots on which it was founded.

Sure, political statements can still be made at the parade: for example, the anti-capitalist contingent is allowed to march. Any action, though, that directly threatens Fierté’s current base will not be accepted easily, which is why members of “No Pride” will have to push hard.

Montreal’s Pride Parade is not the only one suffering from this apolitical blight. In 2010, organizers of Toronto Pride banned the overtly political group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, whose members take issue with Israel using its own tolerance of gays to brand itself as a haven of freedom despite its continued occupation of Palestinian territories. QuAIA was eventually allowed back into the parade after extensive backlash from other parade participants.

Just as Toronto Pride was forced to backtrack, Fierté needs to be forced to take a stand against a government that is trampling the rights of others in the name of “democracy and citizenship“. Any organization which claims to represent people historically marginalized by governments and police must not stand idly by while regressive laws are enacted against fellow citizens.

Fierté’s members need to be reminded of their organization’s roots in the bathhouse and gay-party raids of decades past—specifically, the history of the Sex Garage Raid, which directly paved the way for Montreal to become the queer haven it is today. (Click here for an excellent, if not brief, history of the Sex Garage Raid.)

At the very least, Fierté needs to take back les Bâtisseurs—“The Builders”—awards from the Liberals who so clearly have no understanding of what queers have been building all along. That being, a more just and tolerant society, something to which Law 78 is antithetical.

The other demands of “No Pride” might not be so easy for Fierté to heed, though. Firstly, financially supporting those charged under Law 78 with money raised at the Gala, while admirable in principle, might be an impossible task. If the money was raised for a specific purpose, Fierté can’t rightfully spend it on something else. If, however, they can use the money to fight the constitutionality of the law, then they would do well to remember that it’s not just students whose right to protest is being limited—its theirs as well. And protesting, as previously stated, is how the gay rights movement started.

As for “No Pride’s” final demand of inviting Les Carrés Rouges to the front of the parade, it doesn’t seem necessary for Fierté to take a stance on the strike given that they represent all queers, not just those with pro-strike sympathies. Of course, Les Carrés Rouges should be allowed to march in the parade, but “No Pride” fails to make a strong enough case for them to be at the front.

Ultimately, what’s important right now is that organizers of Montreal Pride festivities take action directly against Law 78. By getting in touch with its roots and defending the principles on which it was founded—democracy, freedom, and equality—Fierté will once again have purpose.

If, however, organizers of Pride refuse to speak up and act out, then I suggest the event’s name be changed to Vanity, since that is all that will be left.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a whole lot about comics. I’ve seen the movies and read some of the more popular titles (Archie and Watchmen included), but that’s the extent of my comic knowledge.

So when the cover for Marvel’s latest “Astonishing X-Men” issue, featuring a same-sex couple kissing at the altar, made the rounds on gay blogs last week, I did a double-take. Not to be outdone, DC Comics also announced they would be outing one of their long-standing popular characters. Since when had comics become so explicitly, instead of implicitly, gay?

Originally, I wasn’t going to write this piece—I don’t know nearly enough about the topic, and the people who do are savage in their passion. But comics are important to more than just the people who read them. They have the power to influence the mindsets of children and to change the attitudes of adults. And with the barrage of superhero films in the last decade, comic book characters have been reaching a wider audience than ever before, thus increasing their potential for impact.

This impact is not lost on One Million Moms, an offshoot of the American “Family” Association, which opposes gay rights, pornography, and workers’ rights, among other fabulous things. Advocating a boycott of the two comic publishers, OMM released a statement saying,

“This is ridiculous! Why do adult gay men need comic superheroes as role models? They don’t but do want to indoctrinate impressionable young minds by placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light. These companies are heavily influencing our youth by using children’s superheroes to desensitize and brainwash them in thinking that a gay lifestyle choice is normal and desirable. As Christians, we know that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27).”

Puh-lease.

Of course, like recent boycotts of gay-related products, this will likely be a boon for both DC and Marvel who will revel in the spoils of their sinful ways—and so they should. Just look at what happened to sales at Starbucks after they took a pro-gay stance. Cha-ching!

One Million Moms does make at least one good point, though. Introducing gay people (superheroes and non-superheroes alike) into the lives of children and teens probably affects their future respective attitudes toward gays. But whereas OMM sees this as an affront to all that is holy, I see this as a healthy acknowledgement of the diversity in our society—a diversity that is only growing. It goes without saying that this is not “brainwashing”, but is, in fact, educational. As for convincing children that there’s a magical man in the sky who judges them for touching themselves…

Anyways, back to the action. These latest steps by Marvel and DC, while significant in the grand scheme of things, are not the first to be taken. The X-Man Northstar—the superhero who marries his fiancé in the latest Marvel comic—smashed out of his closet in 1992, and in 2006, Batwoman came out as a lesbian, an event that was voted the number one most important gay moment in comic book history.

Northstar’s wedding to his non-superhero boyfriend, it should be noted, is not the first same-sex ceremony to take place in the world of comics. Earlier this year, Archie Comics’ newcomer Kevin Keller married his boyfriend. (I, myself, was more surprised to know that people still read Archie. To each their own, I suppose.)

Of course, the best thing to come from these developments is the potential for gay superheroes to appear on the silver screen. The steps taken by the comic world giants thus far are important in their own right, but bringing them to life on the silver screen will have the greatest effect on changing the attitudes of bigoted people while telling youth that even gay people can be heroes.

This seems unlikely, though, given that these films are heavily marketed toward the “bro” market, members of which I imagine would be put-off at the sight of their male superhero passionately kissing his boyfriend as the dust settles after an epic battle. (If it were Batwoman and her girlfriend, well, that’d be a different story.)

I guess we’ll just need to wait to let the gay-brainwashing take effect before we can expect to see these characters 50 feet tall and in full 3D glory. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the fact that superheroes are busting out of closets to let kids know that it’s okay to be gay (and pissing off conservatives in the process).

Canada’s most irritating mayor, Rob Ford, spoke to Toronto’s queer community for the first time ever when he read a proclamation against homophobia and transphobia last week.

Who knew that the straight-laced Ford was an ardent supporter of queer rights all along? But seriously, the mayor’s proclamation may have won praise from some, but his words rang hollow in the ears of this queer.

Why? For one, the man has ignored Canada’s largest gay population for years. Unlike his three immediate predecessors, Ford has attended Toronto’s Pride Parade—the largest in the country—a total of zero times as a public figure. That’s right. Zero. Instead, he takes refuge in his queer-proof cabin—a fortress of purity and virtue—for a Brady-Bunch-worthy weekend with the family, not to return until the assless chaps are out of sight and the glitter is cleared from the streets.

Now, it’s no crime to prefer camping over campy, but to feign tolerance is unacceptable. Toddling up to a microphone for 77 seconds to conduct a piss-poor reading of a proclamation does not constitute positive change. For the love of Lady Gaga, the man is the mayor of a veritable gay mecca!

His disdain for queer issues was made all the more evident when he scurried to the exit as quick as he could, answering no questions from the press about his supposed change of heart. This is because Ford’s last-minute participation is nothing more than a cold-hearted, politically-calculating move for the sole purpose of stymying controversy this summer when he yet again skips out on Pride week. If he’d stuck around, he may have realized how insulting his actions really were.

If Ford actually gave a damn about the queer community—if he’d “evolved” as Obama has—he would have taken the time to tell us. He’d have told us what it means for him to stand there and denounce hate. He’d have explained the importance of embracing those who are different. And he’d have talked about his personal struggle to accept queer people. But he didn’t. And he won’t. You know why? Because Rob Ford does not care about us.

No honest person should accept Rob Ford’s proclamation against hating queers until Rob Ford himself stops hating queers. Torontonians are not better off because of the mayor’s appearance. Gay Torontonians are no safer now than they were the day before. And not one bigot has changed his or her mind about gay or trans people because of him.

Those who praised Ford for his words—including gay city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and PFLAG president Irene Miller—should be ashamed that the man took only 77 seconds out of his day for them. Rob Ford should not be celebrated for his cowardly actions. No, he should be chastised every day until his views actually evolve or he is voted out of office—preferably the latter.

* Image: Toronto Star

Cheers from queers and their allies were heard around the world last week when American President Barack Obama publicly declared his support (albeit limited) for same-sex marriage.

In the media circus that followed, one man, Tony Perkins, led the charge against Obama’s “evolved” views. (Perhaps because he himself does not believe in evolution.)

Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, an ordained hate group in the US that actively promotes bigotry in the name of Jesus Christ. Though I usually scoff at the hateful words spewing from Perkins’s mouth, something he said the other day gave me reason for pause.

When asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN if he thought gay people should be allowed to be on their partner’s health insurance policy, Perkins replied, “If [that benefit is] available to all couples who want to do it… [for example] if a brother and sister are living together and they want to be able to be on one another’s insurance, that’s fine.”

What’s interesting is that Perkins, without intending to, highlighted the quandary of people in all sorts of relationships not visible in today’s society. It seems that in our quest for rights, we queers have forgotten to include other equally deserving parties.

If I can build on what Perkins said, just why shouldn’t people who live together, who support each other every day, and who are similar in most ways to the married couple across the street, be afforded the same rights and benefits as their neighbours?

I’m talking about the single mom who lives with her parents to raise a child. I’m talking about two best friends who live together in a non-sexual capacity but support each other in every other way. I’m talking about the polyamorous trio who are in every way just like a married couple—except that their sex life may be more dynamic.

It seems odd to say this, but there is no good reason to disallow people from simply declaring who they want to share their rights with. Hospital visitation rights, joint tax-filing, and shared social security benefits should not be the luxuries of holy matrimony.

If we strip away the rights and benefits that come with marriage and afford them to everyone, then what’s left for marriage? Would the institution wither and die? Of course not. At least surely not at any faster pace than it is already.

At its heart, marriage is not about affording a select group of people certain rights or benefits, nor is it about producing and raising children. Today, at least in the West, marriage is about declaring your undying love for the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. If you don’t have someone to do that with, or simply don’t want to, you shouldn’t be punished for it.

Advocates of equality should enjoy this moment in our history—a moment when the most powerful man in the world affirmed our existence—but we should also take pause to think of those still waiting in the wings.

transgender airplane

transgender airplane

Last week, the transgender blogosphere exploded in response to the July 29, 2011 changes to the Canadian Identity Screening Regulations. The focus of this attention was section 5.2 (1) of the regulation, which reads: “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if […] (c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.” The regulation is notable for two reasons: first, many Canadians have finally found something about airport security that breaks through the fabled ‘mildly annoying’ barrier, and; second, it absolutely smacks of social conservatism. Many are calling the regulation out and out discrimination against transgendered individuals (a sentiment held by trans activist Christin Milloy).

Of course, not everyone agrees with this. An acquaintance of mine recently attempted to defend the change, claiming that it was designed to combat an increase in passport and identity fraud, and furthermore, that calling the regulation discriminatory is an overreaction. I am willing to concede that this is probably not a convoluted, conservative conspiracy to systematically discriminate against transgender people. However, it is sign of either gross negligence or an entire disregard for the issues that trans people face every day.

First, I challenge anyone to justify the necessity of visually confirming an individual’s apparent gender with a letter on a passport. If someone is attempting to board a flight with fraudulent documentation, there are many other fields on a passport that will set alarm bells ringing (false name, false or doctored photo, incorrect age, invalid passport number, and on and on).

Second, lawmakers are, or ought to be (ignorance is no excuse) aware of the legal restrictions involved with changing one’s gender identifier on a passport. Most commonly, a signed letter is required confirming that the person has received SRS (sex reassignment surgery). Not only are the requirements for SRS quite stringent, but there are a large number of trans people who do not want SRS, and still others who identify as neither gender.

Besides all of these very real concerns, there is the problem of the actual visual confirmation itself. The regulation is essentially asking a CATSA employee to decide what an ‘M’ or an ‘F’ ought to look like. Should Janet be barred from her flight if she likes to dress as a lumber jack? All that this sort of check will accomplish is to reinforce an already prevalent and problematic gender binary.

There is a sub-clause in the regulation that allows for exceptions to be made if a person does not match their identifier, yet has a doctor’s letter, identifying them as a trans person. This isn’t much of a solution however, as it assumes trans individuals have the time and foresight to obtain a letter prior to travel – something not required of any other minority in Canada. Moreover, some trans people do not seek consultation from a medical professional during or after their transition.

A recent Xtra article cites a Transport Canada representative as saying “the regulations are the same as before, since they are those of the International Civil Aviation Organization that are in place in all countries”. This statement is both interesting and false, as the ICAO calls for participating countries’ passports to have M, F or X gender designation options [ICAO document **PDF file]. Hmm, I wonder why I failed to notice the X option while filling out my passport application?

To add insult to injury, the Xtra article goes on to note that while the oppositon was questioning the regulation, Conservative MPs could be heard snickering in the background.

To date, I am not aware of any trans person that has been barred from their flight due to section 5.2 (1) (c). However, what the regulation does or does not do in practice is not the issue. There is no distinction drawn between the gender-nonconformance of a trans person and the gender-non-conformance of someone trying to get away with something. In essence it is the nonconformity itself that may be punished. That the Canadian government deems it acceptable to amend a regulation in such a way as to allow for potential discrimination, is entirely unconscionable.

Two male friends want to spice things up in the bedroom by wife swapping, and decide to go away for the weekend with their wives. They check into a log cabin and after a nice meal the two couples pair off and head to the bedrooms. After an intense night of wild sex, the two friends meet in the kitchen the next morning.

“That was awesome,” says the first guy. “We must do that again!”
“Yeah,” says the second. “I wonder how the girls got on!”

Breaking news from the scientific community: male bisexuality is no longer a joke! Yes, it does exist, at least according to a team of researchers from Northwestern University.  Really, there are men out there who are turned on by men and women?! I’m more shocked by the fact that they needed a scientific study to prove this. I mean, Freud knew this and wrote about it almost a century ago.

The new study  from the same university refutes their previous findings from six years ago when they declared that “men who identified themselves as bisexual were in fact exclusively aroused by either one sex or the other.”  And in three quarters of the cases from back then, bisexuals were four times more turned on by men, reinforcing the stereotype that bisexual men are actually closeted homosexuals in denial. Naturally, this conclusion outraged bisexuals of both sexes, since attempting to use science to negate human emotions, particularly sexual arousal, is downright insulting.

For the new study, the research team narrowed the search criteria for participants. They recruited from online venues that catered specifically to bisexuals, and required participants to have had at least two sexual experiences with members of each sex, and to have been in a romantic relationship of at least three months with a person of each sex.

It's not gay when it's in a three-way

To mirror the first study, they subjects watched erotic videos depicting male and female same-sex intimacy. The first time around, it was one or the other that tickled the subject’s fancy. This time, the subjects were aroused by both sets of videos, physically and in subjective reporting. This indicates that there are bisexual men out there who exhibit a distinctive pattern of sexual arousal, one that is mirrored in female bisexuals.

At least this time around, the research team thought to include footage of a man having sex with another man and a woman at the same time… and then patted themselves on the back when the bisexuals were aroused by it.

The major flaw in these types of scientific studies comes in the lack of accurate method of measuring arousal. In these particular studies, the subjects wore genital sensors that monitored their erectile responses. These utterly clinical conditions make me shudder.

Furthermore, there’s more to being turned on than just what’s going on in your genitals. As psychology professor at the University of Utah, Dr. Lisa Diamond observes, “Simply interpreting results about sexual arousal is complicated, because monitoring genital response to erotic images in a laboratory setting cannot replicate an actual human interaction.”

 

Photo credit- William Duke(http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/health/05sex.html?pagewanted=1)

 

I am definitely the type of person who craves new experiences. I’ll try almost anything once, which has led me into some very interesting, questionably legal and often downright ridiculous situations. So when two good friends and founders of my burlesque troupe invited me to join them at the Midnight Naked Bike Ride last weekend, how could I resist?

After all, I have been known to ride commando in a flowing hippie skirt during those dog days of summer, savoring the warm breeze as it caresses my nether regions. And while that certainly feels liberating, I would come to learn that it doesn’t hold a candle to biking in the buff, greeted by the hooting and hollering of random strangers expressing their intrigue and titillation.

I missed the annual World Naked Bike Ride back in June. There was a little nagging voice in the back of my head warning me that biking around in my birthday suit wasn’t the greatest idea on a chilly, misty morning while fighting off a nasty head cold. This time around, the ride started at midnight on a Saturday and traversed some of the city’s busiest streets at that hour, including St. Denis and Crescent.


There are three main goals to the Midnight Naked Bike Ride: to reduce pollution and vehicle-dependence, to promote urban cycling and to celebrate personal freedom and diversity. They maintain a “bare as you dare” dress code, where nudity is an option to those who feel comfortable with it, and no one is discriminated against based on their choices regarding clothing, costumes or body paint.

As I cannot turn down an invitation to don a costume, I opted for a colorful paper-maché cat helmet and eyeliner-drawn black whiskers. I meowed my way through the ride, curling my fingers and the tip of my nose. When we were stopped by the police at the corner of St. Laurent & Rene-Levesque, I meowed at the cops and even managed to crack a few smiles.

Not surprisingly, a sizable majority of the participants were male, unashamed of their floppy dicks of varying sizes. I suppose it has something to do with how male and female brains are wired, with men possessing more of the bold, exhibitionist inclinations that would drive one to hop on their bike nude or nearly so. For those who didn’t have bikes of their own, Bixi was the next best thing, though I wouldn’t want to rent that Bixi next!

As if this humble columnist had ever contemplated a career in politics, the amount of naked photos of me out there is sufficient fodder for generations worth of scandals. It seems that technology has enabled everyone to have a camera in their pocket to snap those once-in-a-lifetime (or, in this case, once per year) photos, just to prove they weren’t hallucinating those hundred or so nude cyclists.

What impressed me most about this ride was how much the public was impressed. I knew the ride would feel physically liberating, but it was also very psychologically liberating. People, especially the inebriated who dominate Montreal’s downtown core after midnight on a Saturday, are impressed with titties and skin. I took the sheer volume of hollering, whistling and car horn honking as a flattering ego boost. In response, I rang my bell proudly and often.

While there was a minor snafu with the police that held us at the corner of St. Laurent and Rene-Levesque for what felt like an eternity, it couldn’t damper the mood of the riders. Eventually, they let us finish our ride, and I beamed all the way home, even after putting my clothes back on. There’s quite the rush from breaking the rules and deviating from the norms of society in such a brazen, blatant way. I’ll definitely be there next year to take my place atop my metal steed and greet the streets with my tits and twat!

Here’s a short video made by Xtra.ca columnist and exhibitionist extraordinaire Michael J. McCarthy of the World Naked Bike Ride which took place on June 12th.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkoWZwNMqeM\

 

Photo courtesy of Adrian Parlog via Amelia Mensche

People get ready, rummage through your closet and get out your Sunday best and your Friday worst because Montreal is about to witness a once in a life time opportunity. This Saturday A Night At the Races is gonna rock your world.

At Espace des Arts (9 Ste-Catherine Est) the dream team of promoters, producers and artists are coming together for the first time ever. Three rooms, 17 dj’s,live performances and every hip to be square queer personality that Montreal has to offer.

All of these legends have come together to support the cause of L’equeerie and to prove that the village does not hold the monopoly on fierte, fun and fabulous. A Night at the Races is also the official afterparty for the bounce booty shakin Garden Party at Club Soda featuring the one and only Big Freedia.

The powers of POMPe, GAYBASH and Forget the Box have come together to show this city a night it will never forget. Get there early to enjoy the spectacle in its full glory 6$ before 3am 12$ after. Prepare to be
unprepared for this much crazy.

For more info, please check out the Facebook page

As fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims unite to attempt to “get rid of these people in the society,” a statement both ugly in composition and in sentiment, the small and mostly silent homosexual community in Ghana finds itself on the brink of persecution. It is for this reason, that while I still maintain that violence is not the property of any single group of people, I must admit that if religion is not a necessary cause for violence and oppression, it is at the very least a sufficient one.

It was sufficient for many in Uganda, including the truly reprehensible David Bahati, just as it was for the Taliban in it’s war against women and schoolchildren. Of course unlike Uganda, the situation in Ghana is going unreported. Even Ghanian human rights groups have remained relatively silent, if not out of fear then out of apathy.

The point that I feel needs to be made, is that moderation is the property of the individual, and not of religion. In fact, any praise for “religious moderates” carries with it the implicit statement that their religion is better off being “moderated.” As for the “progressives” among the religious, I will say readily that their support for the separation of church and state is one of the best kept secrets the church has going at the moment. The problem however, is that when it comes to situations like Ghana, progressives tend to feel sorrier for themselves than for the actual victims of oppression. If they were half as adamant about opposing the horrific situations in Ghana and Uganda as they are about distancing themselves from the perpetrators, then the difference would be shown, and there would be no need to tell. I’m not saying that progressives of both monotheisms aren’t every bit as opposed to theocracy as I am, but rather that I would very much like to see the same outrage and indigence that boils over whenever they’re linked with their more extreme brethren, directed at those brethren themselves.

Forget the atheists/agnostics, if Christians and Muslims become the foremost critics of their own extremists, then there’s no need for  outside commentary, as it will be a self correcting mechanism. When the message of the church changes from “we’re not like them,” to active and vociferous opposition, then there will be no need for people like me to worry about the possibility of theocratic infringement.  A certain number of ‘crazies’ will always be a given, however just because they are prominent, doesn’t mean they are necessarily representative. On the other hand, it is up to believers who wish to be distinguished from the fanatics to prove it – and not just give it lip service.

The other question I feel I need to ask with all seriousness, is now that we’ve seen what it looks like when a nation is run even partially by religious law, how can the humane and gentle believers among you continue to embrace a text which claims that these are the laws of love personified? Does it not at the very least gnaw at you?

Ghana, as Uganda before it, now stands on a knifes edge. I can think of no more important duty for those committed to human rights, than to stand with our Ghanian brothers and sisters regardless of our religious beliefs. Let Ghana serve once again as an example of the dangers posed by theocratic infiltration of the government, and let the condemnation of it be whole and without qualification. To stand for Ghana’s gay community, is to join in the stand against violence and oppression by religious fundamentalism. It is one that is necessary both for the believer to re-take his faith, and for the nonbeliever to continue to live in a free society. It is at its heart the battle against cruelty, savagery and tyranny, and the oldest and perhaps most poisonous of totalitarianisms. It is time that the world know that hate has been exported to Ghana, and that Ghana know we won’t forget, and that we won’t stay silent.

File this one under “ideas that Howard Stern wishes he’d thought of first”. Calgary radio station Amp Radio is giving away a breast augmentation to the person who receives the most votes in their online contest dubbed “Breast Summer Ever“. But before a disapproving sneer can escape your lips, know that there’s nary a ditzy stripper-lookalike in the bunch.

Amp Radio has selected 10 finalists who each have a short video up on the station’s website, where they tell their story and why they deserve the $10,000 surgery, with personal motivations ranging from noticeable lopsidedness to scars from a 3rd degree burn covering one woman’s entire right breast.

The contest generated some controversy when it was announced back in June. The CBC ran a poll on their website where they asked if breast augmentation surgery was an appropriate prize for a radio contest, and readers were split exactly down the middle between “no objection, people should be free to enter if they want” and “I think it’s inappropriate”.

Amp listener Cara Casey told the CBC, “I think actually posting a photo of yourself and making your plea for fake breasts is a bit over the top… to have people vote on your chest, essentially, is quite degrading.”

In reality, the photos of the contestants are cropped just above the chest so the public’s voting decisions are made on the stories of the 10 finalists, many of whom experienced changes in their body after losing weight or giving birth. Amp also explicitly prohibited contestants from sending in nude photos.

Only one of the finalists, Lindsey, a stay-at-home mom of three is seeking a breast reduction down from double FF. “It’s hard to exercise with them and to find a bra to fit them in,” she laments, noting that her bras are about 4 times the price of normal bras. While breast reduction surgery is covered by all provincial health plans, the criterion for approval varies from province to province.

Given that the contest takes place in the province affectionately known as “The Texas of Canada”, the biggest surprise in the bunch is Avery, a transgendered musician and teacher. In her passionate 2-minute plea for votes, she highlights some of the issues facing transgendered people in Canada, including financial burdens and facing discrimination at their jobs.

“All these other girls had the luck of being born with breasts… getting breasts would help complete me as a person,” says Avery.

I found it quite fascinating just how much of a woman’s sense of self-confidence and femininity comes from her breasts. Almost all the finalists insist that while they accept their bodies, having bigger breasts would give them more confidence and make them feel more comfortable in their skin. While they insist they’re doing it themselves, I can’t help but wonder about the pressure society places on women to fall into this narrow definition of femininity. Then again, it’s really hard for me to place myself in their shoes, as there isn’t a thing I would change about my fabulous breasts!

One contestant, Diana, sums it up in her video:

“A lot of people out there assume that we’re trying to give ourselves the Barbie doll look. That’s not the point of this. I’m doing this because I want to feel more comfortable and proportioned in my body. I’m not gonna go for double DDs because that’s not natural.”

Hate to break it to you Diana but breast implants aren’t exactly natural either.

Voting for the contest ends on Sunday July 17th, and the winner is announced on Wednesday July 20th.

Photo credit: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20110623/breast-implants-study-fda-110623/