It was like being at a playground with no bullies, an island where the mean kids were eaten by the piranhas in the mote. Human centipedes and oversized drag queens ran wild, smiling half naked fat people covered in glitter howling at the moon, everyone was queer, penises had goggly eyes, dildos were flying free, dog shit was on the menu, size 13 heels digging into the dirt as we followed a trail of Tiki torches, whip it remains, discarded wigs, and plastic pink flamingos towards true freedom, the safest safe space, a revolution, true freaks united to exist in a place of pure bliss. Welcome to Camp John Waters.

I drove to Kent, Connecticut from Buffalo NY, stopping to steal a kiss at 4:20 and send my roomie/bestie/ride or die/ down AF off to the NY Burlesque Festival for the weekend (because YES, Camp JW is even more important than THAT).

I remember months ago a few of my friends shared a link about the camp and I knew right away that I needed to be here. Born to wander solitary, I love going places alone, you never know what you will get into or who you will connect with.

I had my costumes ready months ago, we did a show at The Buffalo Infringement Festival called Don’t Go Chasing John Waterfalls. It was a tribute to John Waters.

All of my costumes were shoved into black trash bags and thrown into my HHR. This weekend was going to be the biggest audition of my life! When I read the description I imagined Divine on a zipline, Edith Massey on water-skis, or Mink stole with a flaming bow and arrow. I couldn’t wait to do boondoggle with weirdos and tell sexual horror stories around the campfire.

My first look was strong. I considered breaking it out for the costume contest but am glad I chose how I did. I wore the perfect Aunt Ida black jumpsuit. A thriftstore find, I remember putting it on excitedly after finding it on the pajama rack without panties on.

Labia to the crotch of the most perfect vinyl 90’s fetish wear, that was DEFINITELY worn. I inadvertently had sex with that person’s old crusty juices. The dust of ancient crabs couldn’t keep this perfect item of clothing off of me.

That is the kind of commitment I have to a life of true filth. Filth is my life, filth is my politics, filth is freedom and revolution.

I strutted toward dinner, this was a party that everyone arrived late to. The tent felt like a wedding, I sat alone, and then was joined by beautiful people, who would quickly all become my trashmates.

I watched John Waters eat. That felt strangely stalkery, so I then just shoved bread dipped in red lipstick and glitter in my mouth and looked everywhere else. People lined up to talk to him while he was eating. AMATEURS, I thought.

He told us some camp stories, motivated us all to be a little more political, inspired some circle jerks, and made me happy that I came. Where will I be at 71? John Waters has done it, and still fucking does it!

Bad taste is my fetish. That dream lit tent was overflowing with creative juices (and other juices too I am sure). Everyone was sensational, it was a totally empowering celebration.

The meet and greet was incredible, but strangely anti-climatic since I knew my real chance to shine was the costume contest. John asked me if my name was spelled with a C or a K, I told him C but that I would literally change my name if he spelled it the other way. Then he asked me if my mom was a stripper or a hippy. I said both, naturally. My polyester floral dress looked perfect next to his blue toned blazer.

Quickly drunk off of my new friends’ wristbands and whatever the drug fairy was handing out. The music was awkward at times, but the Camp Getaway staff made up for it!

Bluto was our jolly host, he partied harder than all of us. His wonky Edna Turnblad tits were on point. Color wars involved team building exercised like bouncing on a horse, tossing water balloons, and breaking balloons with a pelvic thrust. Team red baby, I bounced us to victory that round. Lunch with Pissy was brilliant, I fucking loved her blue sequins, crowd humping, and flawless mashups.

Except for this DJ. He didn’t get it. This was his reaction while I ate shit on stage. His fucking face is all the justification I need. Shocking, disturbing, out of control, yet still artful and smart.

Beautiful women with boners, vagina dentata, ALL OF THE LEOPARD, sky high drag queens with rubber tits and wigs that touch the ceiling, dykes with frizzed mullets, hand painted shirts, pencil thin mustaches, and pubic hair galore! I even saw a real live tea bagging!

I hear there was a blow job contest too! Does anyone know who won it? Was it in our dreams? Can we also talk about how spot on The Corny Collins Show in the boathouse was? It was perfectly decorated. The staff looked straight out of the 60’s. Integration for all!

They told us to just say our name and who our character was. I could not do that. This is my stage and I have layers on. I was right after the trash can. I ferociously grabbed the mic, put my gun in the air, and screamed KILL EVERYONE EAT SHIT I AM DIVINE!

Then I ripped off my perfect red sequin fishtail dress to reveal white fringe, and lifted the stuffed dog I was carrying, squeezed it, and as the “shit” plopped onto my face I knew that I had achieved my goal. As I bent over to reveal my giant skid mark I could hear him laugh and the crowd roared. I stormed off stage. History was made.

When he announced the winners I was ready. Third place was the best Hatchet Face, he was so good! The makeup, the movements, orgasmic! Then Number 2… THE STRIPPER THAT ATE SHIT! He commended me on giving a whole act.

The 1st place winner was the most spot on Aunt Ida in white, with the bloody hook hand and perfect hair. She looked like Edie back from beyond the grave. He ended with FUCK YOU MISS AMERICA!

Fuck yes! It was such an incredible moment a lifetime in the making. However, it had to end quicker than I wanted. I had to take a horrible shit the entire time I was on stage.

My biggest fear is that my chocolate stain would be an actual dihaerra stain dripping out of my tighty whities. I pooped myself in a Dollar General once while wearing a dress. Luckily it was a long dress and I got out of there before anyone saw.

This was not going to be one of those days. I rushed by my idol to go explode in the shitter. It could not have been more appropriate. In the end, it was all for a lousy t-shirt. That was what I officially won.

I want to call out all of the incredible people I met and experienced, but the list is too long.  A man painted a landscape with his cock and also fucked a stuffed chicken during the costume contest! Thank you, sir.

There were so many wonderful costumes, everyone was truly a star! So many quick changes, every meal was a new look. I was honored to be there.

I also won an audience with the Pope of Trash himself. I am a memory in his mind, hopefully a highlight from his inaugural camp. I knew very well that I really didn’t look like Divine, but I am a method actor like he was. I am an only child weirdo turned glamour queen.

My life changed when I first saw Hairspray and Pink Flamingos. I finally knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up” or whatever you want to call it . My color scheme was set.

I was obsessed with drag queens and all things subversive as a child. It was a definite sign of things to come. I was never afraid to be myself. Just like this night, I had only just begun.

We lingered outside for a long time after the party ended. My new friends sang and I did an impromptu burlesque number down to bare nips. The lights went out, then the real party began deep in the woods (just kidding it was like the first cabin)… it was MORTVILLE!

Our Queen made us all put our clothes on backwards and drink illegal liquor. There soon was a giant Plush Papa Smurf and Moose, that really spiced things up. The goggly eyes from my nipples ended up on the tip of a cigarette smoking dick. At one point there was a sphincter twirling the hypnotist wheel.

Debachery levels were high and so were we. There was so much sequins and lack of fucks. I could live in that time and place.

The Glam Gam gang from Montreal gets my vote for the Filthiest Campers! Especially my bizarro sibling, Michael J. McCarthy. Until this weekend, these wonderful creatures were just something I had seen on the internet.

I wrote a piece about their Odorama show at Cafe Cleo last year and fate brought us together. I can’t wait to perform with them in the future, look out for my triumphant return to Montreal!

I hated to go to sleep, but I had a burlesque class to teach in the morning. Wait, WHAT? How did that happen? I was in the right place at the right time. They had advertised burlesque and the instructor bailed. I jumped at the chance to teach TRASHLESQE right after a late breakfast to a bunch of hungover John Waters fans, my people.

I started off with some Divine into Iggy Pop I Wanna Be Your Dog. During the number I took a jar of chunky peanut butter out of my underoos. That was obviously homage to when Iggy Pop smeared peanut butter all over himself and his fans at a live concert. I saw Iggy for the first time this summer at Burger Boogaloo.

When I was done with my performance I asked if anyone wanted to clean off my cock. Nobody jumped at the chance. I was disappointed to say the least. Nobody lived up to my standard of filth that morning. I then proceeded to take two pieces of bread, wipe of the dick, and made me a sammich.

I then told the class to all remove their shirts and gave them a golden shower (glitter of course). LOVE YOUR BODY… touch yourself like you want to fuck yourself, own your sexuality, flaunt your flaws because they are perfection.

I asked people what they wanted their burlesque name to be, danced with them, and taught a few peeps how to spin tassels (it’s all in the knees). Burlesque is for everyone, just like the whole weekend in general. It doesn’t matter if you are big or small, young or old, male/female/trans/non binary, you have the freedom to express yourself and people will feed off of your positive energy.

Treating life as a stage will transform you to new states of being! You are powerful. Confidence kills all fear. THERE ARE NO BULLIES HERE!

Oh, Camp John Waters, how I loved you so. I was a lifeguard for awhile, floating on the giant inflatable flamingo  with my mullet, magnum condoms in my sweatband, just keeping people safe.

Sadly I am still too big for the zip line (250lb weight limit). Bloody Mary Bingo and Cards Against Humanity for the win.

Next year how about Divine and wine paint party? Make merkins and pasties? Adult balloon animals? Porn collages? Drag makeup workshops?

Yoga should be called Learn how to suck your own cock, Zumba should be called MILF Bod 101, booze should be served 24 hours, the bonfire should be a giant lobster effigy, and the end, there needs to be a Dirty Dancing-style talent show so all of the spectacular weirdos can strut their stuff and show the world that we are unstoppable.

I don’t have the heart to unpack. My car is still full of costumes and there is still crusty peanut butter on my pretty pink strap-on.

It is impossible to come down from such an incredible high. I met my idol AND impressed him. What next?

All I know is that I will be there next year! I am already signed up to perform and teach another Trashlesque class. Dreams to come true!

See you next year campers, I love you all. Stay trashy.

Last week local Montreal collective Qouleur hosted a one week festival featuring screenings, workshops, and an art exhibit for the LGBTTQ community. The collective aims to celebrate and provide space to radicalized queer identities and experiences.

Qouleur supports two artists in residence, who were featured at this year’s festival. Beginning the week was also keynote speaker Kim Katrin Milan, co-founder of The People Project who gave a speech on the theme legacies.

Forget the Box and Dragonroot Media had the chance to chat with Alan from the Qouleur collective on last week’s festivities.

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On May 3, one day after Trans Pride Day in Montreal, the Centre for Gender Advocacy launched legal action against the Superior Court of Quebec to invalidate legal discrimination against trans and intersex individuals in the province.

This is not the first time gender markers have been debated about in Quebec. Last spring the PLQ challenged the then Bill 35, which sought to strike Article 71 and 73 from the Quebec Civil Code. Both articles required prerequisites to changing gender makers.

Later that year, Quebec’s National Assembly passed the bill, now known as Law 35, striking down the previous amendment that required name and sex changes to be publicized. However the prerequisites to change gender markers were not amended.

Despite the adoption of Bill 35 in November 2013 by the Quebec National Assembly, trans and intersex people still must undergo modification surgery that leads to sterilization in order to change their gender marker on identification, according to Article 71 of Quebec’s Civil Code.

“We’re asking the court to see, based on the Canadian and Quebec Human Rights Charter, to say that those requirements are discriminatory against trans and intersex people,” Gabrielle Bouchard, Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy explained in an interview with Forget the Box.

“Not only would people not have to be surgically modified, but they would be able change their gender marker before the age of 18, which is hugely important.”

Bouchard added that it would also strike the requirement of being a Canadian citizen. “You have people who are leaving their country and trying to make Quebec their home, and it makes it very, very difficult for them to meet the citizenship requirements when you’re stuck with social and structural barriers that prevent you from being a true participant in this society.”

The case aims to end mandatory gender assignment at birth, instead hoping to make it optional for parents to assign a child’s gender at birth.

When asked why the Centre is bringing the lawsuit forward at this date, Bouchard explained, “It’s because people are dying – if you want something longer, it’s because it is necessary, because conversations with the government hasn’t lead to any significant changes yet.”

“We know that the suicide rate amongst trans people is over 40 per cent […] that’s huge, those [suicides] are always about structural and social barriers, never about the gender identity, but through the difficulties to be able to be who you want to be.”

After a 2012 ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal which found such legal requirement to be discriminatory, Ontario is still the only province that does not require surgery to change gender markers.

Bouchard explained that Ontario was forced to strike the surgical requirement from gender marker changes after losing a human rights case, adding that British Columbia was also taking action e to change the requirements.

The Centre has been at the front of the fight for trans rights in Quebec. Back in August 2013, the Centre filed a complaint against the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, stating that these gender articles were discriminatory.

The Commission ruled in favour of the Centre, however Bouchard stated that the Commission followed this by stating, “Yes we see your case is valid, we can see there is a need but technically we can not do anything because as a centre you cannot ask for something without having someone who has lived the discrimination.”

“We would have had to represent someone who had lived [through] discrimination, and we can’t do that for all trans and intersex people in Quebec. We had to have a case and we didn’t feel comfortable actually asking someone to put their life and their privacy and their identity on the line to be able to do this – which is why we are doing this case right now as a Centre, so no one has to be the sole bearer of the cost,” Bouchard explained.

When asked what the next steps were for the case, Bouchard explained “we’ve just started a marathon. Let’s say it this way, those court cases can last up to two years,” adding that a hearing date would be set in October.

There have been many illustrious and influential figures who have brought their stories and work to Concordia’s H110 auditorium for the Lecture Series on HIV and AIDS since its inception in 1993. Singer Diamanda Galas, dance legend Margie Gillis, General Idea surviving member AA Bronson, AIDS hero Steven Lewis, activist writer Sarah Schulman, South African documentarian Khalo Matabane, and recently, adult film actress Lara Roxx, to name only a few that come to mind. Fittingly, the Lecture Series team (Profs Thomas Waugh and Viviane Namaste) has chosen to invite a figure who was active at the height of the AIDS crisis for their 20th anniversary lecture and have gone somewhat far afield of the global AIDS celebrity and international NGO milieu to bring us a fierce grass roots activist who started the radical, up-hill task of doing HIV prevention in 1980s Columbia, South Carolina. Meet DiAna DiAna, the hairdresser who knew too much.

DiAna DiAna Concordia HIV poster
Curlers and Condoms playing Thursday at Concordia

“It was in 1986 that I became aware of HIV and AIDS,” DiAna tells me over the phone as she prepares for a day of cutting, styling, listening and teaching at her salon in a primarily black neighbourhood of Columbia. “I just saw [AIDS] on the front of a magazine. Nobody wanted to talk about it because it was all sexual and needles and of course nobody in South Carolina does any of those things,” she tells me, her beautiful Bostonian accent still intact after decades of living and working south of Dixie.

In 1991, DiAna’s then-unorthodox methods for talking about sex and condoms were documented in Canadian-born Ellen Spiro’s short film DiAna’s Hair Ego, which will also be screened on Thursday. Today, Columbia has the forth-highest rate of HIV infection per capita in the United States, she says, and according to one Center for Disease Control study, HIV infection is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25 to 34, the same age of many of the women who visit DiAna’s salon. Black heterosexual women remain one of the populations most affected by HIV in the USA, disproportionately so.

The magazine DiAna read that day, perhaps Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire or one of the more liberal magazines of the period, had a cover headline about a woman who had contracted HIV from her boyfriend and DiAna got thinking about how this could and would affect her community. “Both of them were ‘straight’ she yet she still got infected. I started to get curious because it was something that nobody really knew about… So I got the information, and people started sharing the articles that I was getting. It snowballed from there, and I eventually started doing presentations and going into churches where they didn’t want to talk about sex or AIDS or anything, especially in the Bible Belt. They were quite shocked that I was able to talk about HIV and AIDS,” she tells me with the fluid verbal arc of someone who has talked about her activist beginnings many times, with concentration and generosity.

“I had to figure out a way for people to start using condoms. So I started wrapping them up in wrapping paper so that clients would start taking them home. You didn’t have to be a client, you could just come and get condoms and information and see videos on HIV and AIDS,” she says with a smile her voice.

DiAna DiAna (Photo still from DiAna's Hair Ego, 1991)

She knew she was onto something: she had found a way past the sexual shame that prevented women from asking their male partners to use condoms and eventually men would come into the salon and elaborately ask for condoms for their “friend,” or more sadly, to demand that DiAna stop giving out condoms to girls who would ask for them. She went on to found the South Carolina AIDS Education Network (SCAEN), which then spun off into the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, a drastically underfunded charity run by her friend and one-time trainee Bambi Gaddist.

DiAna's Hair Ego video still

“I asked her ‘Do you wanna be the VP of a company that pays nothing?’ And she said yes,” DiAna laughs warmly as she recalls inviting her BFF to helm the organization that started in a salon and went on to do workshops in schools, and safer sex outreach with sex workers and with men in cruising parks. She would do HIV saliva tests in her salon, but found that people were reluctant, as they still are, to come in for their results. And don’t even get her started on the cruising grounds! Or rather, come to the lecture and ask her about the truck stops…

“I gave the whole thing [until] 2000: by then everybody should be cured and we should know what AIDS is, right? It was very difficult to deal with agencies that didn’t want to give any money. Some of the politicians didn’t want to talk about AIDS at all because it would be bad for their election, and they gave no support,” she tells me with more than a hint of despair.

Many of the men who opposed her grass-roots prevention methods are still in power in the heavily Republican state and continue to defund and oppose her and Gaddist’s efforts to provide prevention by and for their community. In the years since DiAna has stopped working on the front lines of radical sex ed in Columbia, South Carolina’s bureaucrats have shown even less support for initiatives that she and her peers have tried to create, even though grass-roots prevention and peer support has proven to be more effective than top-down methods.

“I’ve had clients come in and ask me ‘Is the AIDS thing still going around?’” she laments. The lessons DiAna learned go deep. The effects of misogyny, homophobia, religious conservatism and bureaucratic public health policies lead inevitably to more illness, less knowledge, and a crisis that may never end unless we stop it ourselves.

DiAna DiAna “Curlers & Condoms: Grassroots Prevention Then and Now” Thursday March 21, 7 p.m. // Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest. FREE, followed by reception with DiAna DiAna and former guests of the Lecture Series

A few weekends ago, I trekked all the way to Parc Extension to Café Artère to meet with spunky rockers Zinta Avens Auzins and Kate Bass of Ruff Talons, a local band topping the charts at CKUT 90.3 FM.

“If there was a zombie apocalypse,” Zinta says, “I’d put together a bike army with a base out in the country. We’d wear sweet fanny packs, stocked with weapons and snacks, and we’d throw glitter at the zombies. No one’s tried that yet, so who knows what it could do!”

As for Kate, when asked about her zombie apocalypse plan, she says she’d join Zinta’s bike gang. After spending some time with Zinta and watching her rock the stage live, so would I. Time to buy a fanny pack.

Ruff TalonsIn January, Ruff Talons released their debut EP Tuff Stuff, which they recorded in two days at CJLO  1690 AM recorded and mixed by Dorian Scheidt (Cinema L’amour). I started hearing buzz about their recording and decided to have a listen for myself. A fun, get on your feet and bob your head and sing really loud treat, this 7 track EP boasts gems like “Milkshake Sugar Rush” and “Put You in A Box”. Their sound is recognizably post-riot grrl punk rock and reminds us why this kind of music is so fucking fun and brilliant.

Zinta (vocals, guitar), Kate (bass) and their current drummer Lisa Gamble, met through mutual friends. Their line up is complete with Max Halparin (“fancy” guitar) of Debt whom Zinta met at The Flat Collective, a bike collective in the city. As for the name for the band, it had been bouncing around Zinta’s creative mind-studio for a few years. Zinta, who is also a graphic designer, liked the idea of a having a “tough bird thing that could look like feminine claws” and the silly spelling of the word Ruff brings in an almost antithetical element. The name of their EP, Tuff Stuff, is a quirky play on the silliness of words.

ruff talons-033In terms of their musical journeys, Zinta started playing music when she was quite young, earning her chops at the piano and eventually the guitar. She started writing songs within a year of playing guitar starting with the acoustic and moving towards an electric sound. As for Kate, she started with the guitar on and off, playing in a riot grrl cover band at fundraisers for Rock Camp for Girls, an initiative that both Kate and Zinta hold in very high esteem. Through taking part in cover bands, Kate was reminded of the greatness of playing music with others. She then decided to try her hand at playing the bass for Ruff Talons and looks towards pop punk bass lines that are complex as well as the band Jawbreaker for inspiration. As for Zinta, she describes her songwriting as being based in how the personal is political, crush songs, straight up fun, and cute love songs. In terms of musical influence and inspiration, Ruff Talons are inspired by riot grrl bands like Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill. They are also inspired by punk and rock bands like Xray-Specks, Buzzcocks, Ramones, and the Stooges.

I recently saw Ruff Talons play at Brasserie Beaubien, a venue I have mixed feelings about where I managed to injure myself whilst playing pool, and had a blast dancing and bobbing my head to their tunes. Forget The Box photographer Chris joined us for the punk rock fun and took some photos. For the full lot check out ForgetTheBox on FB.

Catch Ruff Talons on March 24th at La Brique 6545 rue Durocher #402 where they’ll be playing with Poof Pony, Doppelbanger, and others in collaboration with Radical Queer Week.

Aside from Russia and the American “Bible Belt,” few places in the world have seen such virulent debate (and hate) around the treatment of LGBT people than the East African country of Uganda. Like a nightmarish extension of the colonial battlefield that Africa has long been treated as in the West, the trials and tribulations of Uganda’s sexual minorities have become the focus of global media and political attention. In 2009 Uganda’s parliament started considering a bill that even Stephen Harper’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called “abhorrent.”

Known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, the proposed legislation would make being gay and HIV positive a criminal offense punishable by death and imprisonment, in addition to numerous new offenses for “aggravated homosexuality” and failing to report “known homosexuals” to police. Currently shelved, the bill hangs over Ugandan LGBTs like a suspended death warrant invoked by conservative religious leaders and the tabloid press. The homophobic furor would lead to the brutal death of prominent activist David Kato, in 2010.

Call me Kuchu, the multi award-winning documentary by US-based filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, tracks the small and resilient group of activists for SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) over almost two years, a process which involved numerous visits, and extended periods of living with one of the film’s participant subjects, Noame. Increasingly embedded in their participants’ lives, the filmmakers would submit testimony to immigration authorities about the risk of being an out queer woman in Uganda, which eventually allowed Naome to claim asylum in Sweden.

Already shown to much acclaim at numerous major film festivals – including Hot Docs and Image + Nation – the heart-rending feature will be screened twice in Montréal, at Cinema Politica on Feb 25 and at the Massimadi Festival of LGBT Afro-Caribbean Film on Wednesday, Feb 27 at Cinéma du Parc.

2012 IDA Documentary Awards at the DGA Hosted by Penn Jillette“The factors feeding into homophobia in Uganda are so complex,” Zouhali-Worrall tells me via Skype from her home in Brooklyn. “It does seem like evangelical leaders have done a lot to inspire it – religious leaders in the Catholic and Anglican Churches have fuelled it.” Souhali-Worrall cautions viewers not to draw conclusions or generalizations about “Africa” or the Global South from watching what her subjects live through in this lightening rod country. “People often want to talk about the situation in Uganda as if it’s a very different and separate type of persecution… While there are probably some aspects of the situation in Uganda that are unique, it seems more helpful to see what’s happening there as an extension of what’s going on all the time in the US, Canada, or Europe.”

Fairfax WrightFor Fairfax Wright, who is based in Los Angeles, “there are so many parallels between homophobia in the US and elsewhere. Even the rhetoric, stretching back to the Harvey Milk days; it’s astounding. It’s the same phrases being thrown around, that [LGBT people] can’t reproduce and therefore they recruit… So many of the tensions at play and the tactics are so similar,” the documentarian says, evincing the journalistic objectivity that is as much a part of the film as the compassionate character treatment for which it has been praised.

“Right now the Anti-Homosexual Bill is brought up by parliamentarians as a political football. The idea of ‘homosexual terror’ is also a convenient way to distract people from more pressing issues in society,” she adds.

Behind the agit-prop and the harrowing political drama lies an elegy to Uganda’s gay rights hero, David Kato, who was beaten to death halfway through principal shooting in 2011.  “We are consumed by these people’s story, perhaps even a little more than we would like to have been,” the documentarians admitted, reflecting on the intimacy with which they treated their film’s subjects, and their responsibility to promote the Ugandan LGBT cause. “Every time the film wins an award we try and remember that David isn’t there for that,” Worrall concludes, certain that the battle for gay rights in Uganda, and elsewhere, is far from over.

Call Me Kuchu @ Cinema Politica, Monday Feb. 25  7 p.m., Concordia University, Room H110, 1455 de Maisonneuve West

For more info:


@ Festival Massimadi, Wednesday Feb 27, 6pm discussion (in French) on lesbians and HIV; Screening at 7pm, Cinema du Parc, 3575 av du Parc


This Halloween their is a big ol’ costume party happening at Apollon/Katakombes (1450 Ste-Catherine), and the drinks will be deadly! (1.50$ beers & 2$ shots)

For the first time ever some of Montreal’s best talents will be coming together to throw one hell of a party and raise some serious money for ACCM (AIDS Community Care Montreal).

Oct 31st 2012, Disco Dungeon takes over Apollon for a night of dancing, drinking and freaking.

For one night only Katakombes will be transformed into a haunted dungeon with shocking sights and fearful frights lurking around every corner. While Apollon upstairs will relive some studio 54 glory as dead celebrities take back the night and the dance floor. So be there dead or alive but don’t miss Hallow’s Eve Disco & Dungeon!

Music by:






I’m terrified to open my computer.

Whenever I do, my anxiety rises. I become edgy, frustrated, and sad. All hope for a bright future dissipates as I scroll my news feed for the umpteenth time.

The root cause of this despair? America, and the amount that I’ve submersed myself in its politics.

As a young, naïve Canadian, I used to think of America as we’re supposed to think of America. That is, a land of proud, freedom-loving people—a people who epitomize democracy!—whose rich and diverse culture was the envy of the world.

But right now, with every article I read about rape-apologists and queer-fear mongering and voterdisenfranchising and cutting social services in order to give more to the rich, I no longer think so highly of them. Hell, from what I can tell, they’ve forgotten what the words freedom and democracy even mean. I mean, how misguided does one have to be to equate the ability to own a gun with freedom, while healthcare for all citizens is an infringement thereof?

Of course, I don’t actually think 300 million+ people have given up on these ideals. But it does appear that way, which is what really matters to those whose only ideas on the state of America come from the media. And despite how much I tell myself that this existential angst I feel for them is something that every generation feels, I can’t help but think it’s different this time, that this is something more than fleeting.

With the help of the Citizens United ruling, combined with a shameless corporate media, and a wealth gap that spans to the moon, a perfect storm has formed on the horizon of the Great American Experiment. When this storm hits—yes, it’s a matter of when, not if—and the toxic policies of the mega-rich are fully unleashed, Americans can kiss goodbye to any ideas they may once have had about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sorry, I need to stop for a moment. I’m having trouble taking a full breath. …

Okay. Here we go…

If it’s not already obvious, the ideas of the modern Republican are the antithesis of those of the founding fathers. What’s disturbing is that, despite being called-out left, right, and centre for the sheer absurdity of the beliefs they harbour, the Republicans are serious contenders in this election.

No amount of bad press hurts them. Despite blatant racism (Obama removed the welfare work requirement) and sexism (they’re against making it easier to sue for pay discrimination), outright lying (Obama is a Muslim), or even bluntly stating the cold-hearted truths of their philosophy (rape is just a method of conception), they continue on their path undisturbed.

Big Money has been chipping away at legislation that provides a more equal footing for citizens for years now, and they’re so close to almost-absolute power that they can taste it. Nothing is going to stop them.

That is unless the American people wake up—something that I doubt will happen until it’s too late. This is not because I don’t have faith in Americans, but because I’m a believer in human nature. And, as humans, we have a tendency to push ideas (in this case, laissez-faire capitalism) to the max, and don’t stop until we hit a dead end.

Don’t believe me? Just take look at the big ideas that have failed in human history, like fascism, slavery, and communism. None of these ideas were stopped because those in power relinquished to the people, or because the legal system intervened—in fact, legal systems were used to justify the advances of these disgusting ideas, just as is being done now with capitalism.

Now, I’m not suggesting that there’s going to be war, as was used to settle the previous failed ideas. But I am suggesting that laissez-faire capitalism is probably not going to have a peaceful resolution.

I’ll leave it here for now—I obviously have no idea how things are going to work out, and there’s no point in speculating any further.

I’m going to close my computer and step outside for some air before the storm gets here.

Moments before publication, the author of this post caught wind that Obama is calling for a constitutional amendment to the Citizens United ruling. The author is feeling a lot better about the world—for the moment, at least.

* Image by MJM, Creative Commons Liscence

Today marks the opening night of something new in the nation’s capital—the likes of which the city has never seen before. This year in conjunction with Capitol Pride, the Cirque Bizarre boutique festival will boast four days of events, most of which will be taking place in the infamous Ottawa Jail Hostel. The House of SAS team have occupied this historic site and are turning it into a 1930s circus-themed extravaganza.

The real surprise of this mini festival will happen on Friday night as the miscreants of the Montreal nightlife institution GAYBASH will descend upon Ottawa for the first time. In fact it will be the first time Tyler and Sal take their glamorous dumpster baby of a party beyond the borders of Quebec. Anyone who has had the pleasure/horror of attending one of the terrible twosome’s parties can only help but wonder if such glorious madness can exist off the island of Montreal or if it will just crumble into sparkly dust like a unicorn no one believes in.

GAYBASH will be an injection of the truly bizarre that Ottawa doesn’t know it needs—much like an unexpected enema washing away the endless boredom of day to day life. We believe in unicorns and we believe in Tyler & Sal.

The lineup for the night brings together some of Montreal’s biggest names such as SHAY DaKiss and B’UGO. Headlining the event is international sensation Cazwell, who is making his way from NYC. Tyler & Sal have also decided to fill a few vans full of their loyal followers, and ship them over.

A rumour is even spreading that Roze and Rhonda (the internationally ignored celebrities )of STILL NOT FAMOUS will somehow make an appearance. This will be difficult—but not out of character—for the pair as they are never invited anywhere important, and seem to miss the party even when someone forgot to take them of the e-vite list. If it does happen, we will be surprised they got their act together enough to leave the house, let alone the province.

Either way, nothing can ruin this night of d-botch that many are waiting for with gin-soaked baited breath. It promises to be something new for Ottawa, something of an adventure for the GAYBASH crew, and definitely not something to miss for the rest of us. So dust off that top hat and we’ll see you in Jail.

For full event listings and tickets, check out their website.

Photo by Chris Zacchia. For photos from previous GAYBASH events, check out our Facebook photo gallery.

Happy Pride, everyone!

Seeing as how it’s New Queer’s Day (at least in Montreal), I think it’s only appropriate to take stock (an unexhaustive one, at that) of what happened in the world of LGBT Canadians this past year. (Yes, I’m compiling this because I’m too tired after a week of Pride festivities to write my own original article.)

So let’s backtrack first to last August when Canadians were collectively mourning the loss of LGBT hero and newly-minted Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton. Canada’s queer newspaper of record, Xtra! published an excellent summary of the role Layton played in Canada’s queer history.

In September of last year, the National Post landed itself in hot water when it ran a transphobic ad featuring a picture of a young girl with the text “Please don’t confuse me. I’m a girl. Don’t teach me to question if I’m a boy, transexual, transgendered, interesexed, or two spirited.” After an uproar from queer activists and organizations around the country, the National Post issued an apology and said they would donate all funds to an LGBT organization.

October saw the country again galvanized by another tragic event—the suicide of teenager Jamie Hubley. Hubley suicide was one of many by queer teenagers being highlighted in the media at the time. What made Hubley’s story all the more heartbreaking, though, was that he documented his depression online in the weeks leading up to his suicide.

November was a more positive month for LGBT people as the Université de Québec À Montréal created a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada research chair to study and fight homophobia. The chair’s role “will allow the sexology department to bring together experts on the subject of homophobia and develop tools to intervene and prevent the behaviour.”

In December, a federal government policy stating that trans people must undergo sex reassignment surgery to change the sex on their passport came to light and caused an uproar. The long-standing policy highlights the everyday legal struggles still faced by transgender Canadians. There is still no word as to whether this policy will change anytime soon.

The start of 2012 was marred by the realization that foreign same-sex couples who were married in Canada were not legally entitled to get divorced here. The Conservatives were accused of reopening the marriage debate, and general pandemonium swept the country. At the end of the day—after journalists bothered to check their facts—it turns out that the Conservatives were just enforcing actual laws on the books. But, instead of opening up the debate, the Cons swiftly vowed to bring the law up to date, thus affording everyone their god-given right to divorce.

A light month (from my memory), February saw the creation of Canada’s first gay fraternity at McGill University. Supposedly it’s not as porn-like as I’d originally wished it were.

A major campaign to combat homophobia in sports, You Can Play, was launched in March by general manager of the Toronto Maple Leaves Brian Burke and his son Patrick Burke. The campaign is in honour of another of Brian’s sons, Brendan, who died in a car accident in 2010 less than a year after coming out. The campaign has drawn both big names and little-known teams from the hockey world in the U.S and Canada and is growing in popularity.

In April, transgender beauty contestant Jenna Talackova was booted from the Miss Universe competition after it was discovered that she isn’t a “natural born” female (whatever that means). After much a fuss in the press with barbs being thrown by both infamous lawyer Gloria Allred and so-called real estate mogul Donald Trump, Talackova was allowed back into the competition. Though she didn’t end up winning the crown, she did win over the hearts and minds of Canadians.

In May, Rob Ford surprised many-a-queer in Toronto by reading a statement against homophobia—his first action in defence of Toronto’s queer community (to my knowledge). Here’s my entirely cynical take on the whole thing.

June was a fantastic month for queers, at least in Ontario, where both a transgender human rights bill and an anti-bullying bill were passed in the legislature after long battles. A transgender rights bill is also currently advancing in the House of Commons after receiving support from some Conservative parliamentarians after watering down the wording, much to the chagrin of activists who’ve been long-working on the bill.

Closing out the year of big news, in July a federal court ruled that Canada’s refugee workers should not “not rely on stereotypes to determine if a person is gay.” It’s been a tumultuous year for refugees in Canada as the Conservatives implement measures that immigration activists say are unfair and unnecessary.

So, as I said before, this list is not exhaustive. Don’t get angry with me for leaving something out or for outright forgetting. It’s been a long-ass week, guys, and my memory ain’t too hot right now. If you think I’ve left something off this list, leave a comment down below, and I’ll update the article if need be.

(Check out our photo gallery from pride here.)

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

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

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.