Ottawa Xtra

Morgane Oger is Canada’s best chance at electing a trans person in 2017

21 April 2017 - 10:25pm
“Maybe this was a mistake,” Morgane Oger says with a laugh, referring to her necklace. It’s not about the jewelry itself — a simple pendant on a fine silvery chain — but rather the chain’s tiny clasp, which has become caught on her orange scarf. She manages to untangle it from the fabric, though not before tugging a single thread out of place and leaving a small ripple in the material. She’s unfazed. “Now where were we?” Oger, 49, is at a JJ Bean on Davie Street in the heart of Vancouver-False Creek, the riding she hopes to win in this May’s provincial election. As her orange scarf suggests, she’s running for the BC NDP, a candidacy that made headlines when she won the party’s nomination last November because of Oger’s gender identity: “BC NDP nominates transgender candidate Morgane Oger in Vancouver-False Creek”  “BC’s Morgane Oger first transgender woman to be nominated by major party”  “Transgender candidate Morgane Oger makes history in Vancouver-False Creek”   Now more than four months later, her campaign is well underway. Even while waiting in line for her cappuccino, Oger strikes up a conversation with the couple standing in front of her, introducing herself as a local candidate and asking about the issues that matter most to them. It’s a role that appears to come naturally to her, but according to Oger it all still feels a little surreal. “It’s very strange for me because I’m not a politician in my heart. I’m doing politician things, but in my heart I’m still an advocate,” she says. Born in France, Oger moved to North America at age 10 when her father — a professor of neuroimmunology — took a position at the University of Chicago. It was there, in a racially diverse neighbourhood and at a public school that mixed students from lower-income areas  with more privileged children like her, that Oger got “a big dose of social justice” that she carried with her when the family relocated to Vancouver five years later. She says it’s stayed with her in one form or another ever since. Oger studied mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia, worked for years designing submarine and space robotics, then moved to Europe with her partner, settling in Switzerland and working as a freelance software engineer for financial institutions. In the late ’90s, she also became involved with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, setting up a server farm from her home in Switzerland and acting as webmaster for the group as it worked to distribute photographic and video evidence of abuse suffered by Afghan women. In 2009, Oger and her family moved back to Vancouver. By now she was married and had two small children. There were a number of factors at play in the decision to move back — career options, a car accident, disadvantages that come with being a foreigner in Switzerland — but one of the biggest motivations for Oger was a long-held desire to transition. “My gender identity was starting to leak. I was starting to have a really hard time with staying inside the suit,” she says. “Switzerland was not the best place to be if you were, say, ‘gender creative’ let’s call it.” [[asset:image:309581 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Morgane Oger chats with a passerby during a canvassing event at Emery Barnes Park. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["belle ancell\/Daily Xtra"]}]] When Oger came out as transgender in 2013, she dove headlong into advocacy work, both for trans rights — she chairs the Trans Alliance Society, helped add protection for gender identity and gender expression to the BC Human Rights Code, and is now pushing the  federal government to pass its trans-rights Bill C-16 — and in education. As the parent of two elementary school age children, Oger chaired the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, a body that oversees more than 50,000 students, until she stepped down to run for politics. Only recently did Oger start to seriously consider provincial politics as an option. As an advocate she had always preferred the grassroots to the machine. She joined the BC NDP’s executive in 2015 because she wanted to see if the party would “put its money where its mouth is” on trans rights. It did, she says.    “As I become part of this establishment I realize it’s actually an incredible tool for social change, and having people in the ‘establishment’ who really actually represent the people that we govern [matters],” she says, half-interrupting the thought to admit it feels weird use the word “govern” in relation to herself. But if Oger manages to unseat BC Liberal incumbent Sam Sullivan in False Creek, governing is exactly what she’ll have to do — potentially making history in the process as the first openly trans person in Canada to win an election for any level of government. The significance of such a win is not lost on Oger. “We need representation, we need diversity, and by having a trans lawmaker in power you will have one more person who understands what systemic discrimination and stigma are,” she says.   Oger’s campaign has had the feel of history being made since its very beginning. Some have pointed out she’s the first transgender woman to run for a party with seats in BC’s legislature, while others argue she is the first trans person to be nominated by a major political party in Canada. (Running with the Ontario Libertarian Party in 2011, Christin Milloy was the first person in Canada to publicly identify as trans and run for office at the provincial level, and Jamie Lee Hamilton was the first openly trans person anywhere in Canada to seek public office when she ran for Vancouver city council in 1996.) Since announcing her nomination, Oger has been joined on the campaign trail by three additional trans candidates seeking seats in the BC legislature — the Green Party’s Nicola Spurling (Coquitlam-Maillardville) and Veronica Greer (Surrey-Panorama), and the BC Liberals’ Stacey Piercey (Victoria-Swan Lake). [[asset:image:309593 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Morgane Oger explains the BC NDP\u2019s affordable housing petition to potential voters in April."],"field_asset_image_credit":["belle ancell\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Hamilton says her campaign team decided to prepare voters early for a trans candidate, announcing her plan to run a full year before the 1996 municipal election. “We developed a strategy that it should be introduced to the voting public on my terms and not by the media outing me,” she remembers. “We decided to announce a year ahead of time to give people an opportunity to get used to the idea because once the actual campaign rolled around I wanted to speak on the issues I’d always been speaking on. I didn’t want my gender identity to be the issue of the campaign.” Hamilton says she was concerned about how people might react to her. Headlines from that time used the terms “transsexual” or “transgendered” to describe Hamilton, and she remembers participating in radio talk shows in which the hosts only wanted to focus on her gender identity. “I think I was treated, personally, as a novelty. They were erasing part of who I was, which was an activist, a very well-known activist in the Downtown Eastside,” she says. “Some really wanted to sensationalize my life. So I was trying to balance the right of the public to know about me but also the serious issues happening in the city.” Although Hamilton lost her run in 1996, she says she felt “generally well received” by constituents she met along the way. Hamilton ran for council again in 1999, then in the 2000 federal election (with the Green Party of Canada), and then in two unsuccessful bids for the Vancouver parks board in 2008 and 2011. In the years since her first run for office, Hamilton thinks society has progressed, and she’s proud to see more transgender candidates running for office. “I ran 20 years ago and I like to think that now it shouldn’t be an issue,” she says. Nicola Spurling of the Green Party initially spoke to Xtra on the condition her name not be published. While she’s not ashamed of her gender identity, she says, it’s not something she wanted others to make a big deal about. “I want to be focused on the issues and I know that when you introduce something like gender identity, which is still a big story in the news . . . that there’s the risk that it will overshadow the issues,” she told Xtra in late March. This was before Global BC aired a news story outing Spurling as one of four trans candidates in this May’s election. In a subsequent Facebook post, Spurling noted the potential risks of outing trans people but attributed her inclusion in the story to a miscommunication between Global and the Greens’ communications department. Her colleague, Veronica Greer, says campaigning openly as a trans person is difficult but “no more than being any other type of minority.” She has some concerns about potential transphobia on the campaign trail but believes that running will help bring gender identity and its attendant political issues to the forefront. “Running brings it out into the open more. And that’s what’s needed,” she says, adding that while they may support different political parties she reacted positively to news of Oger’s nomination to the BC NDP. “Any person who paves the way like that, it takes immense courage.” [[asset:image:309587 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Morgane Oger rallies her volunteers at a canvassing event at Emery Barnes Park."],"field_asset_image_credit":["belle ancell\/Daily Xtra"]}]]   Leaving JJ Bean, Oger heads up the street to Emery Barnes Park where she’s meeting a dozen or so volunteers from her campaign. It’s April 2, 2017, the first truly sunny day of spring, and the sidewalks are bustling. Perfect for an afternoon of canvassing. When Oger arrives, most of the volunteers are already there, some decked out in BC NDP T-shirts. Her campaign manager, Todd Hauptman, has set up a table at the south side of the park with orange balloons and promotional materials. “We couldn’t have picked a better spot,” Hauptman says. And it’s true. Their display is situated under a cherry tree that has just come into bloom. As passersby stop to take photos of it, some also make their way to the table and peruse the election literature. At one point, a Translink bus stops and the driver steps off to take a selfie with Oger. In addition to the info booth, today’s activity is collecting signatures from people who feel something needs to be done about housing affordability in BC. After volunteers receive a brief tutorial on canvassing, they disperse in pairs to different parts of Yaletown. Oger and Hauptman are among those who stay at Emery Barnes Park, with its crowds of noisy children on the playground equipment and dog-walkers meandering along the paths. The park itself is surrounded on all sides by tall condo towers — a perennial challenge of the downtown riding, where advertising with lawn signs is not an option. While landlords and strata corporations cannot prohibit tenants or owners from displaying election signs in their windows, there’s little uptake in the towers surrounding Emery Barnes Park, possibly due to an Election Act prohibition on election advertising signs within 100 meters of a building where voting is conducted. That most constituents live in condo buildings also means door-knocking is impossible throughout most of the riding. “People love her as soon as they meet her. The challenge is just to get her in front of people,” Hauptman says. As the cherry blossoms drift through the air around Oger’s table, she approaches people on the sidewalk. She soon introduces herself to a couple who have stopped to take photos of the tree. “Do you think housing is too expensive?” she asks them. “Rental or real estate?” “Either. Both,” she says. “Which is important to you?” The couple seem friendly and engaged, although they ultimately decline to sign the BC NDP’s affordable housing petition. Later on she approaches a man sitting on a park bench but he shakes his head, refusing to even look at her. [[asset:image:309578 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Morgane Oger talks to her campaign manager, Todd Hauptman (left)."],"field_asset_image_credit":["belle ancell\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Oger says despite her years of activism, she finds it hard to solicit support in person. And this has nothing to do with her gender identity. She doesn’t automatically assume someone has declined to sign a petition or chat with her because she’s transgender, although she admits that as a trans woman there is an elevated risk for her when approaching people on the street. “But then again, it’s a sunny day, I’m under the pink cherry blossoms, I’m at a busy intersection, I’m at a busy park with a hundred people nearby. It is very low-risk here,” she says. After receiving the party’s nomination last fall, Oger needed to collect 100 signatures from constituents, so she went door knocking in some of the neighbourhoods south of False Creek within her boundaries. Oger says that was the only time during the campaign she truly felt threatened, when she was greeted angrily at one of the homes she stopped by. “He came out aggressively,” she says. “He was sweating and red in the face — and I stayed way out of his way. He came out six feet, I backed up eight feet, and there was a wall, so it was pretty scary.” It had been a gloomy night in December and Oger was door-knocking by herself. She made it out of that situation shaken but unscathed, and says other women candidates later scolded her for going canvassing alone like that. “I was really taken aback that this person exemplified the phenomenon that my life could be put at risk,” Oger says. “But I learned from that lesson . . . Rookie mistakes get made and that was my rookie mistake.” Of course trolls aren’t new to Oger. As an openly trans activist, she has encountered her share of “poorly socialized people sitting in their underwear in their mothers’ basements” — and some scarier people as well. “The people who talk about harming me, people who talk about my children. Really really scary,” she says. “When the [candidacy] happened, the nature of the troll changed. I immediately caught the interest of the leaders of the anti-trans movement. Specifically the TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] leaders. . . . I got a shower of anti-trans messages.” Now Oger and members of her team simply mute the trolls who come after her on Twitter. She says she would much rather be meeting constituents. [[asset:image:309590 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Morgane Oger takes down a constituent\u2019s information for the NDP\u2019s affordable housing petition."],"field_asset_image_credit":["belle ancell\/Daily Xtra"]}]]   As the afternoon wears on, Oger leaves the sidewalk and moves through the park, saying hello and striking up conversations. “It’s very nice that she comes to the playground to actually meet people and talk to the families,” says Maija Wiik, who’s there with her grandchildren. “She probably knows that everybody’s in trouble. Everybody’s trying to make ends meet. It’s tough.” Wiik says she was not aware that if elected Oger could be the first openly transgender person elected to public office in Canada. “Kudos to her. But I think it really depends if she’s a good person and she has the values that many people do. It sounds like she will represent everybody, so kudos to her.” Oger acknowledges that her campaign has required her to shift gears, to go from focusing predominantly on gender identity and human rights to showing that as an MLA she’d be there to represent the needs of everyone in her riding. “It’s not lost on me how important it is that I get elected for my community, as a trans woman,” she says, taking care to point out she wouldn’t be where she is today if not for Jamie Lee Hamilton and other trans trailblazers who came before her. She wants to be elected because of her education policy, her housing policy, her human rights advocacy. “That’s much more important than the fact that I’m transgender,” she says. “Because that will mean a trans woman can get elected on the basis of her skills and her contribution to society rather than on the fact that she’s trans.” As the canvassing event winds down, Oger thanks her volunteers for their support and takes a seat for the first time since leaving the coffee shop earlier that day. She almost seems tired, until a troupe of five-year-olds dressed as Disney princesses hurry past towards the playground, their parents not far behind. “Now here’s an exercise in gender,” Oger says, animated once again.

Korean conspiracy, the Champs-Élysées and gay Devonshire

21 April 2017 - 4:24pm
[[asset:image:309575 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Murdered french policeman was gay rights champion A French police officer killed in a terrorist attack in Paris’ Champs-Élysées on Thursday was a proud defender of gay rights. As a member of France’s association for LGBT police officers, he protested against Russia’s ban on “homosexual propaganda”, and was also known for volunteering to help Greek police handle immigrant refugees. Read more at the Guardian.   Korean army hunting down gay soldiers After a video of two gay soldiers having sex was uploaded to the internet, the Korean army is reportedly working to trick other gay soldiers into revealing their sexual orientation. Military service is mandatory in Korea, and homosexuality is illegal under the military code of conduct. Read more at the Chicago Tribune.   Nigeria arrests 53 over gay wedding Nigerian police have say they have arrested 53 men who attended a gay wedding for “belonging to a gang of unlawful society.” The men who were being married — a crime in Nigeria — managed to escape. Read more at Deutsche Welle.   Chechen men flee gay crackdown The New York Times and the BBC have fresh reporting from Chechnya, where men suspected of being gay are being hunted down by authorities. A crackdown on gay men in the Russian region has turned into two weeks of entrapment, detention and torture.   Mapping gay Britain The UK’s Office of National Statistics has, for the first time, mapped the country’s gay population. The map reveals surprising details, such as apparent enclaves of gay people in some rural areas.

Why LGBT Bajans can’t sue the government to end anti-gay laws

20 April 2017 - 7:22pm
Barbados, like many other English-speaking Caribbean countries, continues to criminalize homosexuality through buggery and sodomy laws. These laws, which were instituted by colonial British governments, continue to be challenged throughout the region. The Bahamas decriminalized gay sex in private in 1991 through legislation. Last year, Belize’s top court struck down the country’s sodomy law for violating the right to privacy, equality and freedom of expression. Similar legal challenges have been launched in Jamaica and in Trinidad and Tobago. But the Barbadian constitution makes it essentially impossible for citizens to challenge the buggery law through the courts. When Barbados became independent in 1966, a “savings” clause was included in the new constitution that saved any pre-independence laws from judicial review. In other words, if a law was in place before 1966, citizens can’t challenge it in the courts. “The whole purpose of the savings law was they thought there was going to be this rush of people litigating everything before the court that was unconstitutional,” says Stefan Newton, a director of Equals Barbados, an LGBT advocacy organization. But unlike other countries with similar clauses, Barbados never removed it. "Therefore the law is just there, we can’t fight it,” Newton says. "It’s an unbreakable barrier." Barbados is one of a handful of countries that recognizes the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In 2007, the court found that the death penalty, which was similarly saved from constitutional challenge, violated the right to life. The Barbadian government pledged to comply with the ruling and scrap the mandatory death penalty as well as remove the savings clause from the constitution. While they did the former, the latter never happened. “There seems to be no political will on the part of this current administration to uphold their international obligations or to affect rights in the constitution by removing the savings law clause,” Newton says. So now, LGBT Bajans are stuck. A challenge could be made to the Inter-American Court, but there’s no guarantee that Barbados would comply. “There is the complicating factor of finding a complainant in a small society like Barbados,” says Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican-Canadian attorney who is challenging Jamaica’s anti-gay laws in court.  “If you are a claimant in such a challenge, you will be exposed to backlash, your family would victimized. So people are not likely to come forward to challenge it.”

How one book wants to get Canada talking about the challenges faced by LGBT youth

20 April 2017 - 7:22pm
Author and queer activist Christopher Gudgeon has never shied away from themes of isolation and loss in his work, and his latest book is no exception. Encyclopedia of Lies is a collection of short stories about the enduring prevalence of suicide in LGBT communities, underscoring the dire need for support and resources for at-risk queer youth. It’s an issue close to Gudgeon, who recently became executive director of It Gets Better Canada, an international affiliate of the American organization focused on suicide prevention amongst LGBT youth and anti-bullying initiatives through the use of social media. In The Encyclopedia of Lies, Gudgeon has stitched together a web of narratives from Buenos Aires to West Hollywood. While Gudgeon has written in several genres throughout his career — 2016’s compilation of poetry Assdeep in Wonder topped Amazon’s Canadian poetry bestseller list and was shortlisted for the Canadian League of Poets’ prestigious Gerald Lampert Memorial Award — he says he’s most at home crafting short stories. “I don’t know where I’m going, ever, until I get to the end and realize I have to start all over again,” he says. “And poems are more — even though they take a long time — they’re more spontaneous. But short stories, I think I understand the craft better than any other kind of writing. It’s because they’re short.” One of the stories in The Encyclopedia of Lies is The Widow, a Chilean woman learns that her deceased fiancé lost his virginity to his cousin in a pigsty and later enjoyed a tryst with a “perfumed sodomite in a Buenos Aires Turkish bath.” The story underlines the inevitable disappointments of intimacy through its grim, disquieting humour. Gudgeon’s penchant for conjuring vulnerable, dynamic characters is clear in The Encyclopedia of Lies, perhaps most vividly in Jericho — a bewildering tragedy about a burgeoning friendship that recalls Gus Van Sant’s queer cult classic My Own Private Idaho. The story, which takes place as the Orlando massacre unfolds live on a TV screen in a gay bar in West Hollywood, provides a chilling insight to the realities of queer suicide. Told from the first-person perspective of the narrator, Jericho describes a frightening scenario that continues to play out for some LGBT youth: “I tried to keep my mind occupied, but I kept going back to the note and the fact that Jericho was in the room beside me in whatever condition he was in. I wished I was one of those guys who could do something in a situation like this, like administer CPR or something, and I wished I could have done something to help him before it got to this. I don’t know what I could have done, though. All I could have really done is talk to him and I did that all the time. I shut my eyes and placed my hands on my knees. I thought I should cry or something, that that would be the appropriate thing to do. But I didn’t. I just sat there, hands on my knees, cigarette still pinched between my lips, breathing in smoke and distant conversation, wishing someone would come and turn off the light so I could be alone in the darkness,” Through his work with It Gets Better Canada, Gudgeon hopes stories like this will become less common in our cultural narrative. The organization aims to link queer youth with better access to community resources, such as better mental health support. Gudgeon believes challenges facing Canadian queer youth are unique and complex. He says many LGBT youth continue to struggle with isolation, both socially and geographically, especially since Canada’s relatively few urban centres are far-flung.   “We have, I think, much less clear lines of support,” he suggests, comparing services available to LGBT youth in Canada to services available in the US. It Gets Better was started by columnist Dan Savage in 2010 in response to a string of queer teen suicides in the United States. Since then, the organization has gone global and provided critical support to LGBT youth and their families. Gudgeon hopes It Gets Better Canada will achieve a similar goal by building more content and conducting further research on how to best serve vulnerable LGBT youth. “We also want to engage other youth, LGBT, two-spirit, allied, unaffiliated, undecided, to do an education around what the issues really are and also to engage them in developing those really positive messages and developing content,” Gudgeon says.

Federal politicians spoke out against bullying on Day of Pink

20 April 2017 - 4:22pm
Queer and trans activists, federal politicians and allies gathered in Ottawa on April 12, 2017, to take stock of the successes and the challenges still facing LGBT people in Canada. The annual Day of Pink started when two Nova Scotia high-school students chose to wear pink in 2007 to support  a classmate who was being bullied over his shirt. This year the day was marked on Parliament Hill through a morning session in the Senate chamber, where Senator Mobina Jaffer invited elementary school children wearing pink T-shirts to hear about the dangers of bullying. Senator René Cormier, who is gay, spoke about being picked on as a closeted child, saying that life is still not easy for many young Canadians despite a rapid increase in societal acceptance.  “Silence is intimidation’s best friend,” he said in French. [[asset:image:309551 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Senator Ren\u00e9 Cormier addresses students gathered in the Senate for the annual Day of Pink anti-bullying campaign on April 12, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Dylan C Robertson\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Later that evening, about 250 people gathered for a gala in downtown Ottawa run by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), including environment minister Catherine McKenna and members of Parliament from the three main parties. At the gala, MP Randy Boissonnault, the prime minister’s special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues, urged people to phone senators to tell them to support trans-rights bill C-16, which is scheduled for hearings at a Senate committee for four days, starting May 4. “There’s still work for us to do,” Boissonnault said. “We need some lesbian members of Parliament; we need trans members of Parliament; we need two-spirited members of Parliament.” Multiple speakers mentioned the reports of gay men being rounded up and killed in Russia’s Chechnya region. Some, like NDP MP Randall Garrison, explicitly called on the federal government to demand Russia investigate the situation (which Canada’s foreign minister did in a statement three days later, but still won’t say whether Canada will take more refugees). Garrison also raised the government’s “unfinished business,” like apologizing to queer people arrested for their sexual orientation and those purged from the military. [[asset:image:309554 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["NDP MP Randall Garrison (left) presents an award to Karen Benoit, in honour of her deceased wife Lori Jean Hodge, at the Day of Pink Gala hosted by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Ottawa on April 12, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Dylan C Robertson\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Jeremy Dias, head of CCGSD, said any donations collected at the gala will go to Russian activists. He said the gala made a point of starting with an indigenous circle dance to recognize two-spirit people. “Intersectional, diverse communities are really starting to speak up louder, which is incredible and awesome,” Dias said. “Our job is to make the LGBTQ community stronger and better.” The gala also awarded advocates, including elementary-school students, Toronto trans activist Susan Gapka, and Lori Jean Hodge, an Ottawa musician and activist who died last year from cancer. “For me to see youth coming up like that, it's a real hope for the future,” said Karen Benoit, who accepted the award on behalf of Hodge, her late wife. Andrée Cooligan, Canada’s ambassador to Finland, was in town on a vacation. “It was proud and loud and really well represented,” she said, adding that the gala could be a model for countries bordering Russia. “We have to support them,” she said. “Those countries are really struggling with their human rights these days.”

Out in Toronto: April 20–26, 2017

20 April 2017 - 4:22pm
Thursday, April 20 Brown Rice: Potluck  Brown Rice, the recurring party focused on queer and trans people of colour, hosts a very apt 4/20 celebration: a potluck. Munchies-plagued party people come early to snack and then stick around to dance to the music of Ace Dillinger, Wei Back and others. Allies welcome. The venue is mostly accessible (there are no buttons to open the front door or accessible washroom door).  10pm–2am. Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook  [[asset:image:309569 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Brown Rice, the recurring party focused on queer and trans people of colour, features music by Ace Dillinger (pictured) and takes place on April 20, 2017, at Glad Day Bookshop."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Yannick Anton"]}]] Friday, April 21 Arabian Knights Spring Party One of the Village’s newest recurring dance parties celebrates spring with some Middle Eastern heat and amazing music. Nominated for the a 2017 INSPIRE Award for Inspiring Organization of the Year (the ceremony is in June), this queer Middle Eastern event is all about dancing, drinking, flirting and enjoying Arabic music. Everyone is welcome. DJ Louay spins house beats and pop tracks. 10pm–3am. Club 120, 120 Church St. arabianknightslgbtq.com    Saturday, April 22 El Convento Rico 25th Anniversary Show The much beloved bar celebrates 25 years supplying fun and big beats with a Latin flare. This huge party takes place outside, across the street from the club. It has just about everything — food, hot dancing men from Magic Male Revue, lots of music (by DJ Kno, La Firma Santana, Natalie Castro and others) and drag performances (Courtney Act, Derrick Barry and many others).  2–11pm. El Convento Rico, 750 College St. For more info, visit Facebook   TO Chechnya with Love  The community gathers to express its outrage and grief at Chechnya’s recent persecution of gay men. According to recent news reports, Chechen officials has begun detaining gay men in camps, and there have been reported cases of torture and even murder. The event includes a rally, several short speeches and a march. To ask questions or to volunteer, contact tochechnyawithlove@gmail.com.  2–4pm. Barbara Hall Park, 519 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Beef Curtains: Children of Yasss Gawd  Dottie Dangerfield’s new, vagina-inspired night of burlesque and drag returns for a third installment. It’s all about providing a space for diverse performers who aren’t always welcome at other venues and events. This edition of the party features performances by Igby Lizzard, Helena Poison, Boa, Tanya Cheex, Jacklynne Hyde, Lilith Cain, Atmos Fierce, Dolly Berlin, Aura Nova. DJ Johnny B Goode provides the soundtrack for the evening.  10pm–2am. The Steady, 1051 Bloor St W. For more info, visit Facebook.  [[asset:image:308779 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Drag performer Dottie Dangerfield\u0027s Beef Curtains: Children of Yasss Gawd\u00a0takes place at The Steady on April 22, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Dottie Dangerfield"]}]] Sunday, April 23 Ten Oaks Project Acorn Prance  This annual dance-athon raises funds for the Ten Oaks Project. Folks are invited to raise take pledges — this year’s goal is $30,000 — and come and prance the afternoon away for a good cause. Based in Ottawa, Ten Oaks Project provides programming (including a camp, called Camp Ten Oaks) for children and youth from LGBT families, identities and communities. To register to dance, visit website.  2–5pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook.

This LGBT group just made history in Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade

19 April 2017 - 10:20pm
The 17 members of Sher and their allies are smiling as they get ready to walk in Vancouver’s Vaisakhi parade on April 15, 2017. Their participation in this year’s Sikh New Year celebration marks a historic moment. It’s the first time that organizers know of an LGBT South Asian group being invited to join the parade. Tears well up in Kayden’s eyes as he embraces another Sher member. A college student in computer science in Vancouver, Kayden (whose real name Xtra agreed not to publish to protect his identity) was born Sikh in Punjab, India. He says his parents disowned him after he came out last fall. He was cut off financially and thrown out of the Surrey home where he was staying with relatives, and beaten by a cousin, he tells Xtra. Kayden says he reached out for help but found none until, desperate, he emailed Alex Sangha, Sher’s founder, through the group’s website. Sher, an LGBT support group for South Asian people founded in 2008, helped Kayden find a temporary residence and started a crowdfunding page for his tuition. The pain is still raw, but the invitation to participate in the Vaisakhi parade helps, Kayden says. “There are people who are accepting of who we are and how we feel. It’s just one step forward for me. I feel grateful and it’s definitely emotional.” Sangha calls Sher’s open presence at Vaisakhi a first and says he’s not aware of LGBT South Asian groups participating in Sikh celebrations like this one elsewhere in the world. [[asset:image:309557 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Sher members and allies march in the 2017 Vaisakhi parade."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Janet Rerecich\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Sangha was invited to bring Sher to this year’s Vaisakhi parade by the Khalsa Diwan Society, which operates the gurdwara on Ross Street, one of the largest Sikh temples in North America. Pall Singh Beesla, outreach coordinator for the gurdwara, told the Georgia Straight in March that he reached out to Sher because love and compassion for all people is a key component of the Sikh faith. “Our faith teaches us to fight against injustice, very boldly and courageously,” he told the Straight. Xtra contacted Beesla after the parade to ask how it went, but he declined to comment further, replying only by email to say, “Vaisakhi is an inclusive event open to all.” Sangha says Beesla’s invitation, though historic, required navigating public opinion cautiously. Sangha opted for a subdued presence in this year’s parade. Tucked in discreetly between a marching band and a huge semi truck with a colourful flatbed float, the 17 Sher marchers wore black shirts with the group’s pink logo visible underneath their jackets. They carried no banner (Sangha says he wanted to bring it, but it was dirty). “Even though there is nothing homophobic in the Sikh culture or the Sikh bible, the culture hasn’t caught up to that,” he says. “Change is baby steps, if you’re yelling and screaming in their face a lot of people get their backs up,” he explains. “We didn’t want to alienate ourselves, or otherwise it never happens again. Different groups take different approaches, but we decided to do it this way.” [[asset:image:309560 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Janet Rerecich\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Sher marched only the Marine Drive portion of the six-hour parade route, from the temple at Ross Street to Main Street at 63rd Avenue (a 19-minute walk according to Google Maps), missing the vast majority of onlookers and tents on the more pedestrian-friendly Main Street where the festival was concentrated. Along the way on Marine Drive, several community members approached Sangha to congratulate him, and some walked partway with the group. One event photographer noticeably stopped shooting when Sher walked by, then resumed once they passed. Otherwise, the group saw no aggression or open disapproval. “There’s support for us in the Sikh temple but I don’t know if it’s 100 percent support,” Sangha says. “I’m not sure how we’re going to go forward, but this is one step.” “There are many areas where we can work together to reduce suicidal ideation, depression, educate our community about HIV and STDs,” he suggests. “There are a lot of areas the Sikh temple can partner with us to promote the health and wellbeing of the community.” Sangha says the media attention on Sher’s participation and the fact they were invited by an influential gurdwara has meaning for queer Sikhs, even in India where the government reintroduced anti-LGBT legislation in 2013, making it once again a crime to be gay. “If gay Sikhs can march in Vancouver, this gives hope to people in India. We can set an example and be role models,” he suggests. [[asset:image:309563 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Alex Sangha says he was warmly received at Vaisakhi 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Janet Rerecich\/Daily Xtra"]}]] But one Sikh queer activist, who asked to remain anonymous for safety concerns, says the anti-gay Indian government benefits from shows of acceptance by influential gurdwaras in countries like Canada. “Our concern is that there is some pinkwashing going on,” the activist told Xtra, suggesting that both the gurdwara and the Indian government might benefit from progressive-seeming distractions. But Jaspal Sangha, Alex’s mother, says she feels grateful to the gurdwara for being a leader in following the true tenets of Sikhism. “Just one father is the supreme soul, God, and we are all the children, in humanity we are all brothers and sisters with many paths to the destination. This is the message from Guru and now, they practice on it,” she says. For her, seeing her son feel equal to the rest of the congregation was a moment long overdue. “I’m feeling so happy and comfortable and peaceful,” she says. “I was kind of worried about how people might react, but it took 25 years for me to go through that type of life with my son and finally we accept him like we do all the other congregation. It’s a very big personal achievement for me that they see my son and he is recognized.”

Out in Vancouver: April 20–26, 2017

19 April 2017 - 7:20pm
Thursday, April 20 Connect: The Gathering Place’s Annual Art Show Looking for a diamond in the rough? Some of the talent in this show will floor you. Connect showcases artwork from some of the area’s most vulnerable populations alongside established artists who live or work in the community. Over 200 works of art will be displayed, including paintings, photography, sculpture, pottery and mixed media. Proceeds go to The Gathering Place, which helps GLBT street youth. The show opens tonight, then runs every night until Sunday, April 30. 6–8pm. The Gathering Place Community Centre, 609 Helmeken St. vancouver.ca   Sidekicks Returns This is a duos-only sketch comedy show — and what better duo than the amazing, beautiful, sexy and vivacious Amy Goodmurphy (and, oh yeah, Ryan Steele.) Ten duos will make you LOL so hard they’ll be selling panty shields in the lobby. 8pm–12am. The China Cloud, 524 Main St. Cover $10. facebook.com/events/1901196503486865/   Friday, April 21 Spring Fling 55+ I’ve always wondered, are these LGBT seniors parties are just coffee, cake and chit chat, or do they all throw their keys and Life Alert buttons into a free-for-all bowl and have some fun? Qmunity’s Spring Fling is a social soiree where seniors and older adults in the LGBTQ community toast the brightening days, the budding freshness of spring, and the early flirtations of summer, among friends, family, and community. Come enjoy an evening of light refreshments and entertainment. 5–8pm. Haro Park Centre Penthouse Suite, 1233 Haro St. This is a free event but please RSVP to eventbrite.ca/e/spring-fling-tickets-33436134378. More at whatsonqueerbc.com/event/spring-fling-55/.   Eye Roll: Another F$%&ing 90s Party It’s been a quiet couple of weeks on the Cobblah front, but she’s back — and that does deserve an eye roll. Peach Cobblah returns with the 4th edition of this 90s messiness. Along with Peach are Misty Meadows and DJ Jef Leppard. Sweat out that puffy vest, rock out your man capris, and hyperventilate wearing hypercolor. If you’re looking for Peach, she’ll be at the front door eating egg rolls, because she can never get the name of the party right. 10pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Cover $6. facebook.com/events/283183932119723/.   Faux Girls Coronation may be over — big sigh of relief — but now the events all need a bit of royalty in attendance to make the soiree special. This is Empress XLVI Jane Smokr’s first Faux Girls benefitting the DMS charities, HIM, Zee Zee Theatre, Rainbow Refugee and WAVAW. Maybe you will get to touch the crown, unless Tommy D is playing with it at home again. 10:30pm–12am. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover $5. facebook.com/events/807078056115929/.   Saturday, April 22 Mabel League Kickoff Tournament None of that West End slow-pitch for this league. This is down-and-dirty fastpitch that will keep your eyes glued to the field. Spring is here and that means the Mabel League is underway with their yearly kick-off tournament. The Mabel League is a softball league for lesbians, bisexual women, queer and trans folk and women allies in the Vancouver area. Come out to the kick-off celebration to play mini ball games with all levels of players, get free t-shirts, and win lots of prizes. 1–8pm. Connaught Park, 2390 West 10th Ave. $25 drop in fee to cover insurance for women not on a team. facebook.com/MabelLeagueFastpitch/.   Gay Music Bingo If our bingo was like this, we’d have Del Stamp and Robin Graves singing all night with a little Conni Smudge thrown in — that’s when you appreciate alcohol, my friends. Join Mission's gayest bingo callers for an evening of fabulous music bingo, great prizes, fun and lots of laughs! Stay after bingo for dancing till late. 7pm–12am. The Stage in Mission, 32998 1st Ave, Mission. $5 cover. facebook.com/events/209535969521790/.     Fundraiser For WAVAW You don’t have to be a woman to support Women Against Violence Against Women. Help the cause by joining Tantra Fitness for a night of intoxicating and empowering performances featuring 14 of the most talented performers in dance, pole and aerial artistry. Please help an amazing cause. 7:30–9:45pm. The Odyssey, 686 West Hastings St. $25 at door. facebook.com/events/1489094034473972/.   Evilyn 13 Birthday Bonanza Most people age gracefully, a few wrinkles here and there, a few grey hairs, mostly pubes, but I swear Evilyn 13 gets younger every year. Like a fine wine, she just gets better with age. Celebrate this alternative model, fashionista, cosplayer and DJ’s special night. 9pm. No cover. The Hindenburg, 23 West Cordova St. facebook.com/events/1730082297283183/.   Glitter & Skin I told you Peach is back, and when the Cobblah is around you can count on a lot of nudity — not hers thank God — but other guys. She just has this control over them; the music plays and things start to drop. All amateurs, all bodies and builds, all rhythms, and a lot of smiles. Tonight features a whole new crop of cuties, who will dance, or fumble, or just plain streak to their hearts, and your eyes, content. The makeout corner has returned, just make sure Peach is finished “auditioning” in there. 10pm–2am. The Odyssey, 686 West Hastings St. $7 cover. facebook.com/events/1300614213392405/.   Sunday, April 23 Sing! With Little Shop Of Horrors I can get into a lot of things, but I just never caught on to a giant singing Venus flytrap. It must just be me, since it keeps coming back. Now you can sing along with the plant and unleash your inner monster, with a sub-titled movie and an entire bar to join in. 6–10pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Entrance by donation. facebook.com/events/699173926936927/.   Investiture 46 Their Most Imperial and Sovereign Majesties Emperor XLVI Tommy D and Empress VLXI Jane Smokr will be announcing their beneficiary charities for the year, and will be bestowing titles to community members and welcoming title holders into the 46th Imperial House of Vancouver — The House of Delusion. Though he would tell you otherwise, when you see his majesty Tommy D out around the village you do not have to bend down on one knee and kiss his ring, or anything else he puts in front of your face. That would be the Pope. 6:30–9:30pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover $5 with all proceeds going to DMS charities. facebook.com/events/240714946400629/.   Monday, April 24 QueerProv Workshop Think you’re funnier than me? Well, that’s not hard to do: just watch my friend Syd play pool. Drop-in workshops open to the community, facilitated by QueerProv performers and guest teachers, will help heighten and expand your improv skills. Everyone is welcome, and after classes there will be a QueerProv show at XYYVR. 5:30–7pm. Qmunity, 1170 Bute St. $10 drop in fee every 2 weeks. facebook.com/events/1451951268157292/.   Tuesday, April 25 Sounds Like Fire: Femme4Femme In this femme-focused showcase, witness brilliant magic born of community and coven, care and creativity, among four radical, vulnerable, and fiercely capable femmes: Amber Dawn, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Kama La Mackerel, and Kai Cheng Thom. Thom’s book, a place called No Homeland, launches in Vancouver at this event. 8–11pm. The Cultch, 1895 Venables St. Tickets $15 advance at thecultch.com or $20 at door. facebook.com/events/247455729058321/.   Wednesday, April 26 Flirting With Fido Every gay guy needs a dog. Large, small, medium, they all attract guys on the seawall if they are cute, cuddly and trained — the dog, that is. Imagine if your cute pooch were trained to go after the cutie you were looking at and tug on his sweats until you came to get him. Dogs have a better track record than eHarmony, and you don’t have to fill out a dozen questionnaires. This non-profit saves and adopts out dogs. Because some of these dogs require training and extensive vet care and new homes, they are throwing a fundraiser to help. TVs will be displaying a list of dogs that are currently looking for home! That home could be yours. 5pm–1am. The Capital, 1178 Davie St. No cover. More info at facebook.com/events/251126665295286/.   Surviving To Thriving This is a 10-week support group for self-identified lesbian, bisexual, trans, two spirit and queer women who have experienced or are experiencing violence and abuse, including intimate partner violence and childhood sexual abuse. Topics will include forms of abuse, impacts of abuse, personal values, relationships, sex and sexuality, emotions, community, and more. Before registering for this group, all interested participants will be invited to an initial meet-up with the facilitators to assess safety concerns and how they can best ensure safety, support, and confidentiality. 5:30–7:30pm. Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver. For confidentiality purposes please call 604-687-1868 ext. 315 to obtain the address. bwss.org/surviving-to-thriving/.   End Of The Rainbow Back in the days of The Castle and The Royal, drag shows and numbers were classy. No Britney, no Gwen, no Christina, but instead Judy, Barbara, and Patti LaBelle. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Willie Taylor do Patti better than she could herself. This show promises just that, the life of an icon. Electrifying, intense and real, this production will leave you breathless. End of the Rainbow is a true account of an all-too-mortal goddess on the eve of her destruction. End of the Rainbow surrounds the events of Judy Garland’s last comeback attempt in 1968. 8–10pm. Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery St. Tickets $25 general, $20 senior/student at brownpapertickets.com/event/2875967. Show runs until Saturday May 20. aceproductions.ca/category/current-shows/.   Gossip Anniversary Not only is it the third anniversary of Davie Street’s only ’90s/’00s/R&B/dance/hip-hop night, but also the double-header birthdays of DJ about town G-Luve, and the hottie we all want to take home, Todd Hoye. Come wish the boys happy birthday; you may just get a smooch. 10pm–3am. 1181, 1181 Davie St. No cover. facebook.com/events/1444114835887820    

What does Barbados’ prime minister have to say about the country’s harsh buggery laws?

19 April 2017 - 4:20pm
Xtra asked Barbados’ prime minister, Freundel Stuart, about his country’s buggery law when he spoke at an open town hall meeting at the University of Toronto on Sept 25, 2016. Some of this interview was used in a recent Xtra feature on LGBT Bajans and their experiences of discrimination on the island, where fundamentalist forms of Christianity are spreading homophobic rhetoric.   Xtra: Prime minister, thank you for being here and for giving us this opportunity. Despite progress on acceptance of LGBT people and on fighting HIV, Barbados still has the harshest buggery law in the Western hemisphere. Now I know that the laws around buggery and serious indecency are rarely enforced, but over the past decade, over 300 LGBT Barbadians have left the country and applied for asylum abroad, including over 100 in Canada. Will your government commit to decriminalizing buggery, and if not, why not?   PM Stuart: Thank you very much for telling me about life in Barbados, I didn't know much about it.  I have been a lawyer for the last 34 years now. And I am not aware that we have what you call harsh buggery laws. If the offence of buggery, it is an offence on the statute books of Barbados. But if the offence of buggery is committed, the prosecutor needs to have somebody push the case. If the prosecutor doesn't have somebody to push the case [inaudible] he has no buggery charge. If the patient, the language of the law uses the agent and the patient, if the person buggered does not go and complain to the police, or if he's a consenting person, there's no issue. The law of buggery has to do with abuse, where A abuses B without his consent. Which is the equivalent of the law of rape, where A has sexual intercourse with B female without her consent. But in terms of Barbados being a place where if two men or two women are seen together, any presumption can be made that they’re involved in any improper relationship and we try them before the courts, none of that exists in Barbados.  I want you to just equate in your own mind, buggery with rape. Rape is the offence committed against in a heterosexual relationship and buggery is the offence committed in a same-sex relationship. At the kernel of both is the absence of consent and therefore a protesting party who wants to ensure that he or she gets justice through the courts.  There is a lobby that is trying to get the government, trying to get successive governments in Barbados to decriminalize as they say homosexuality. But you can only decriminalize something that is already a criminal offence. As I say, if buggery is an offence, then buggery takes place if A has anal intercourse with B without B’s consent. But as far as I’m aware, homosexuality is not criminalized in Barbados. So there is nothing to decriminalize. Those people who feel that we should create an environment where they can practice their lifestyles in public on high noon on a sunny day, or whatever, want even the very limited controls we have, removed. We have not reached a stage yet where we think that we want to do that. But we allow people to conduct their lives in accordance with their orientation or practices. Those people who have decided, I don’t know, went abroad and said, and made untrue representations of Barbados in this regard, about people being in prison and being persecuted, that has not happened in the country over which I preside and it didn’t happen in the country over which any of my predecessors presided. Barbados is a safe place for that, we don’t believe the state should be any policeman in anybody’s bedrooms. I want to make that very clear. But having said all of that, Barbados is still a predominately Christian society. They are values that have helped to make Barbados the strong country that it has been over its entire history, but certainly over the last 50 years as an independent nation. And we are reluctant to discard things that have worked for us over the last 50 years, for the better part of our history. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? And therefore, we will continue to monitor the situation and if further intervention is required, we will do it. As far as I know, and I think I know a little about Barbados, in practically every family, not in all but in practically every family, there is likely to be somebody challenged by that kind of orientation. And I don’t know that Barbadian fathers or mothers or uncles or aunts disown nieces and nephews and children because they have those orientations.  We respect that as long as you don’t become too evangelical about it and want to convert all of us to it. But just enjoy your own orientation.

How were lesbians affected by the anti-LGBT Lavender Scare?

19 April 2017 - 10:18am
In the United States in the 1950s, thousands of homosexual men and women lost their jobs or had their lives ruined because of McCarthyism.  A response to the fear of Soviet influence and Soviet spies in the period following the end of the Second World War, McCarthyism (named for its most memorable proponent, Republican senator Joseph McCarthy) was a Communist witch hunt. Often with little evidence, this movement saw many people including teachers, government workers, Hollywood film stars and screenwriters ousted from their jobs or sent to prison for supposed Communist ties.  McCarthyism also targeted homosexuals working government jobs or serving in the military, or persecuted them in other areas of their lives. Proponents of McCarthyism argued that homosexuality and Communism were in some way linked. They said that homosexuals were inherently subversive. They said that because homosexuality could get you fired from a government job, homosexuals could be blackmailed and controlled by Soviet spies.  The arguments for a link between homosexuality and Communism were all dubious at best (the blackmail concern loses its force when you consider that all the government needed to defuse the supposed  threat was to make it a policy that nobody could be fired for being gay). What’s more likely is that the momentum of McCarthyism was seen as an opportunity to persecute an unpopular group.  Homosexuals — “sex perverts,” as they were called at the time — were considered mentally ill in 1950s America. And many considered homosexuals a threat to so-called American values and the traditional American family structure. Whatever the justification behind it, the trumped-up homosexual threat was known as the Lavender Scare.  More gay men than lesbians lost their jobs and had their lives ruined because of their sexual orientation in this period, but that’s only because there were more men working the types of jobs that were targeted. Lesbians were hunted with just as much zeal. Lillian Faderman discusses how lesbians suffered in her 1991 book, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers.  Since many schools wouldn’t allow women to study to become doctors or lawyers in the 1950s, many middle-class lesbians who wanted to maintain their social standing had little choice but to take government jobs like teaching or social work, making them a target of McCarthyism.  Government employees were investigated for signs of homosexuality, sometimes using a lie-detector test. A lesbian could be fired based on accusations alone, and had little to no recourse. And of course she then had to cope with bigotry once the world thought she was a lesbian — whether she actually was or not.  It was nearly impossible to put up any kind of resistance to this treatment. Even the American Civil Liberties Union did not oppose the federal government’s firing of gay and lesbian employees.  A 1954 issue of Jet, an African-American magazine, said this about lesbians: “If she so much as gets one foot into a good woman’s home with the intention of seducing her, she will leave no stone unturned . . . and eventually destroy her life for good.”  According to Faderman, some lesbians, who were expected by their families to marry and settle down, felt the need to arrange to marry gay men so that both parties could have a cover, hiding their true orientations from their parents, employers and nosey acquaintances. According to Daniel Rivers, author of Radical Relations: Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II, two women living together was less suspicious than two men, making it was easier for lesbians to pursue non-traditional relationships and live with other women or alone with their children. However, there was some small pushback in the form of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), one of the first lesbian organization in the US. Founded in the mid-1950s as a private social group for middle-class lesbians, the organization became an activist group dedicated to promoting lesbian rights. It had several chapters across the country and a magazine called The Ladder. The DOB kept member identities secret for safety, but it wasn’t long before the CIA and FBI had informants sneaking into meetings. Many less affluent women chose a career in the military because there they could get training they wouldn’t otherwise get and travel the world. Unfortunately, the military was one of the most dangerous places for a woman to work if she was a lesbian — she could be kicked out without notice or even benefits.  According to Faderman, women in the US Navy were regularly given anti-lesbian lectures, and encouraged to inform on peers they thought were lesbians. Even military doctors and chaplains were supposed to help find and boot out lesbians.  Women in the Air Force were subject to similar treatment.  They were routinely questioned, and some women had their possessions routinely (and without warning) searched for evidence of “homosexual tendencies.” You got in trouble even if you only had one encounter with another woman and even if it was years before joining up. Even being the friend of a lesbian was enough to get you in trouble.  Entrapment was routine in the military. Faderman says that during the Korean War (a conflict that ran from 1950 to 1953), women from the criminal investigation division were sent into lesbian bars as bait. Female agents were also put on military softball teams to catch lesbians.  Faderman’s book includes several firsthand accounts from women who lived and worked during the McCarthy era. The most brutal case she relates, from 1954, involves an army nurse and her lover. An officer accused them of being lesbians, and then, according to the nurse, the officer raped the nurse’s lover “to teach her how much better a man was than a woman.” He was not punished.  In January 2017, then-US Secretary of State John Kerry apologized for the persecution of LGBT State Department and foreign service officers who were gay. The McCarthy era was traumatic for many lesbians. So much so that decades later, when Faderman was talking to people and gathering information for her book, she had to promise anonymity (and even with that promise, many were still afraid to speak). But Faderman points out a bit of an upside to it all. It forced women to band together, helping to create a subculture. And the persecution, awful though it was, gave publicity to lesbian desire, letting more women know that a lesbian life was possible.

Bisexual men, Tribeca and virtual reality

18 April 2017 - 10:16pm
[[asset:image:309542 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Reaction to Chechnya After reports of the arrest, detainment and torture of gay men in Chechnya, the US Ambassador to the United Nations says the human rights violations “cannot be ignored.” Meanwhile, the reporter who broke the story says she fears for her life, and may have to flee Russia.   Pain and vindication for bisexual men In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, UK reality star Ollie Locke spoke about being ridiculed for coming out as bisexual. Meanwhile, an Australian researcher presented evidence that bisexual men in relationships with women were less misogynistic, and more sexually exploratory.     A gay game designer turns to VR Video game designer Robert Yang has been known for exploring gay sex and culture in his games. Now he’s enlisting virtual reality for even more depth. Read more at Kotaku.     The queer films of Tribeca The Advocate surveys this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, from whodunit investigation of the death of legendary “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, to the story of the gay artist known as Tom of Finland.   The disappearing lesbian bar At the New York Times, Krista Burton grieves the disappearing lesbian bar. With more LGBT people out than ever, she wonders, shouldn’t there be dedicated spaces for them to go?

Abbotsford’s new LGBT policy doesn’t go far enough, says educator

17 April 2017 - 1:14pm
After missing the deadline to protect LGBT students in schools across BC, the Abbotsford school district has now passed a policy that is raising concern with one of Vancouver’s longtime gay-education activists. BC’s ministry of education ordered all school boards to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) language to their codes of conduct by Dec 31, 2016. The Abbotsford school board was scheduled to meet about the SOGI policy on Nov 1 2016, the same day 13-year-old Letisha Reimer was fatally stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary school. Shirley Wilson, chair of Abbotsford’s board of trustees, maintains the school board was always in compliance with the ministerial order because the code of conduct had a link to the BC Human Rights Code. “It was never out of compliance, we just took the extra step to completely add all of the language from the Human Rights Code,” she says. The board also decided to create an administrative procedure to help guide schools, she adds. James Chamberlain, a Vancouver vice-principal who has been pushing for LGBT-friendly schools for 20 years, says Abbotsford’s record of supporting its queer students has been questionable. He points to the school board’s decision in 2008 to withdraw a Social Justice 12 elective course after parents complained about the content. “They wanted the LGBTQ portion of Social Justice 12 removed,” Chamberlain says. “They didn’t even want to run it as an elective in their schools unless they could brand it in their own way, which basically flew in the face of the provincial curriculum — and it still does.” After students protested the withdrawal, the school district relented and decided to offer the course but only with parental consent. Chamberlain, who went to school in Abbotsford, says the district’s current policy and administrative procedure pale in comparison to policies passed by other districts. “Other policies lay out that there need to be safe contacts in schools, [that] the board explicitly supports the formation of gay-straight alliance clubs, that counsellors will be trained on LGBTQ issues, that they’ll examine school libraries from an anti-bias lens around materials that would be deemed homophobic or transphobic or outdated. None of those things are in this policy.” Chamberlain says the policy doesn’t mention parent and teacher education which he calls a “glaring omission.” “The education of parents is huge in a very conservative school district like Abbotsford.” Chamberlain notes. “The faith-based beliefs of some families will butt up against the equal rights of LGBTQ people. The human rights protection is one thing but changing people’s hearts and minds is about education.” But Wilson says the school board has met the ministry’s requirements. “There was no requirement to do anything other than change the policy,” she  says. “We took the extra step to add the AP [administrative procedure].” Chamberlain contends that the policy and administrative procedure don’t give explicit support to teachers to teach about LGBTQ issues, either. “Unless teachers have the permission to teach in conservative districts, they’re often fearful,” he notes. “The status quo, which is basically silence or omission in Abbotsford, can continue,” he says. Wilson says the school board is working to ensure that no student feels isolated in Abbotsford schools. “We care about each student individually and their success,” she says. Caleb Boulter, who left WJ Mouat Secondary School after Grade 10, thinks the new SOGI language will help LGBT students in Abbotsford schools. “If there had been a policy when I was in Grade 9 or 10 at Mouat, it would have basically saved my life,” Boulter says, adding that access to a gender-neutral washroom would have helped a lot. “At that point, gender-neutral washrooms weren’t even something I was thinking about let alone fighting for because I was closeted,” Boulter explains. “I ended up missing a whole bunch of school in my Grade 10 year because of how uncomfortable I felt there.” Boulter says the new policy is a good sign but there is much to be done for queer students in Abbotsford. “Do training with teachers,” Boulter urges. “Listen to what the students actually need. Hear their voices, their perspectives, their stories in the school district and prevent further damage, as well as giving queer students a step up in coming out and being in a safe environment in school.”

Out in Ottawa: April 16–30, 2017

16 April 2017 - 4:12pm
Sunday, April 16 Embassy Q: The Show  Meghan Murphy and Angus Wright are two comedians who want to make space for, and meet, queer talent in Ottawa. This new recurring event begins with a drop-in improv workshop (for those who want to come early and try it out), followed by a variety show (featuring stand-up comedy, improv, music and more). Takes place the third Sunday of each month.  Drop-in improv workshop at 6pm; variety show at 7pm. The Improv Embassy, 176 Rideau St. www.improvembassy.com  [[asset:image:309494 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The new recurring comedy event takes place the third Sunday of each month at the Improv Embassy."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Embassy Q"]}]] Thursday, April 20 Hard Cover Book Club: Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara  Four friends decide to dive into life and make the big move to New York City. They have no money, but they have each other. Over the decades, their friendship deepens, and, in some cases, darkens, as the friends experience success, failure and addiction. At this book club, men gather to discuss Hanya Yanagihara’s novel Little Life, about love and life in the 21st century. 6:30pm. Centretown CHC, 420 Cooper St. For more info, visit Facebook   Saturday, April 22 Oh My Jam: Spring is Here, Lettuce Turnip the Beet  Love hip hop? Love strange vegetable-themed dance parties? Then this one is for you! The Queer Mafia, a group that throws events and supports causes in Ottawa, hosts a big queer party. Features D-luxx Brown, Yes Yes Jill and Sammy Rawal spinning hip hop, dancehall, R&B, reggae and more. Proceeds go to Westfest, the three-day celebration of arts and culture. The venue is accessible. 11pm–2:30am. Babylon Nightclub, 317 Bank St. For more info, visit Facebook  [[asset:image:309500 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Oh My Jam, organized by The Queer Mafia, takes place on April 22, 2017, at Babylon Nightclub."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy The Queer Mafia"]}]] Monday, April 24 Knotty Fun: An Intro to Rope Bondage Whether you’re actually dominant in bed or just like to pretending you’re a proper olde-tyme melodramatic villain tying people to train tracks, this workshop is for you. It covers all-things basic bondage, including topics such as safety, buying gear and the best knots. It includes hands-on practice (attendees are provided with a length of rope to practise with.  6:30pm. Venus Envy, 226 Bank St. venusenvy.ca   Saturday, April 29 Written in the Body: A Performance by Jan Andrews Written in the Body is the story of a woman’s lifelong struggle with gender issues — from growing up in England in the 1940s and 1950s to coming out as a lesbian in her late 40s, to turning 70 and seeing friends transition and wondering “what if?” Jan Andrews gives a live performance based on her book Written in the Body. Books are for sale at the event. 2pm. Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks St. For more info, visit website   Manajiwin: LGBTTQ+ Fitness Space The gym is one of the most intimidating places — especially for people from marginalized communities. That’s why Kind Space and Odawa Native Friendship Centre provide an exercise space for queer people. Folks can get workout tips from on-site volunteers (if they want), and work out in a pressure-free environment. This takes place every Saturday. 5–8pm. The Odawa Native Friendship Centre, 250 City Centre Ave, Bay 102. kindspace.ca/manajiwin   Show Tune Showdown 2017  The LGBT choir Tone Cluster hosts its annual musical theatre-themed extravaganza. Performers on various teams compete by singing songs from Broadway and off-Broadway musicals for a panel of celebrity judges. This year’s judges are China Doll, Robert Fillion and Alan Neal.  This is a massive event (the venue has nearly 1000 seats) that usually sells out.  8–10pm. Centrepointe Theatres, 101 Centrepointe Dr. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309503 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Show Tune Showdown 2017 takes place on April 29, 2017, at Centrepointe Theatres."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Jay Dee Photo"]}]] Sashay Spring: DJ Stephan Grondin The massive (as in, it’s probably the largest queer dance party in Ottawa outside of Capital Pride) seasonable LGBT dance party returns. Montreal’s DJ Stephan Grondin is back once again to provide a thrilling soundscape for the evening. Ottawa’s own DJ Ashley Gauthier opens. Features drag performances by Markida Brown, Kiki Coe, Koko Shennel and Jasmine Dymond.  10:30pm–2:15am. Barrymore’s, 323 Bank St. For more info, visit Facebook.

Earning my red hankie — two fists at a time

14 April 2017 - 5:39pm
There I was, on a Saturday night in Washington, DC, just days away from Trump’s inauguration, surrounded by a few thousand guys in leather, feeling depressed and a bit lost. I’d had a fight earlier with the guy I was seeing. He’d stormed off and wasn’t replying to my texts. So I started messaging guys I knew in the area to see if anyone wanted to hang out. I got a reply. A Facebook friend from the Midwest, Paul, asked how it was going and what I was up to. I told him I wasn’t up to much and asked if he wanted to hang out. His reply: I’m looking for someone to fist me! Okay, this guy is super hot, lean but toned, always a big grin on his face, and I’d wanted to get my dick in him for some time. But fist? I’d only fisted someone once before. It was certainly an interesting experience. A group in Vancouver had organized a fisting event at Steamworks. I was friends with a lot of the guys at that party and I spent much of it observing as they explained their techniques. After some observation, a big daddy friend of mine called me over to the sling his boy was in. Daddy was six foot three and built like a boulder. His hands were slightly smaller boulders. He explained he’d been working on his boy for months, but that he hadn’t managed to take a whole hand yet. Apparently, that’s where I came in. The boy would like to say he’d taken a whole hand, and since my hands were slender and gently tapered from my wrists to forearms, daddy asked if I could fist his boy. I spent the next 20 minutes learning what to do, the daddy explaining everything as my slippery gloved hands slid inside the boy. It was certainly an interesting experience but I wouldn’t say I got a lot emotionally out of it. I was so focused on listening to the daddy and making sure I did everything he told me that I wasn’t able to really enjoy the time. But, as I say, I’ll try anything three times. Not once, three times. You can’t tell if you like something sexual if you only do it once. And DC was my opportunity to try a second time. I was determined to earn that red hankie. So I told Paul I’d be into fisting him. Then he said a friend of his also wanted to get fisted, if I were game to do both of them. Well, why not. I was on the verge of crying at this point, so I might as well get my mind off it. I didn’t come to DC to mope. I got up to their room and Paul introduced me to his friend Taylor, an attractive bearish guy with a trimmed red and grey beard. We chatted for a bit, then they took turns going into the bathroom to make sure they were still clean for some deep penetration. The three of us went upstairs to another room that was apparently set aside for fisting action over the weekend. We knew when we got there — a red hankie dangled from the doorknob in place of a Do Not Disturb sign. About seven guys were lounging around inside the room when we got there — they had been fisting for much of the evening and were taking a break. We grabbed some drop cloths and I put on gloves. Paul and Taylor got on their knees at the edge of the bed side by side, their butts in the air facing me, Paul on the right, Taylor on the left. One of the guys began pouring J-Lube on my hands and I made sure he added plenty. I coated my hands with the thick stringy lube. Paul said he was newer to this than Taylor so I thought I’d start with Paul as he’d likely be tighter. I started with two fingers in Paul’s ass, getting his hole nice and lubed up. Then I pulled them out and worked my three middle fingers in. Then four. I was pulling them gently in and out, twisting my hand around and feeling his cavity. I started to work my thumb in alongside, gently, slowly, twisting. Paul’s moans got louder, almost straining. I asked him if I could just leave my hand in so I could begin working on Taylor with my left hand. As my right hand remained inside Paul, someone applied more J-lube to my left. I did much the same with Taylor as I had done to Paul. However, all of a sudden, I felt a cavity left of my hand, so I began to explore in that direction. SLURP! My hand was sucked in without any effort. It was as if his insides dragged my hand deeper without my even pushing. Taylor moaned loudly and pulled his head back. I asked him if he was okay and he moaned what I heard as a “Yes.” With my left hand now deep inside Taylor, I could pay attention to both my bottoms at the same time. I began working both my hands together, twisting, pulling out, slipping back in. I was doing it. I was riding the chariot. I’d heard the term before, but didn’t imagine I’d be doing it only the second time I fisted. We went on for some time before they asked if they could take a break. I was getting tired, and it was late, so I said I’d probably call it a night. I left their room feeling a sense of accomplishment. Red hankies had always been the most intimidating of all the fetish colours to me. I felt something this time, though, that I hadn’t felt the first time. When my hand was drawn into Taylor, it felt like we were attached, more than any feeling you get from a cock in an ass. It is incredibly intimate to explore someone’s insides, to see your arm engulfed by someone’s body. I’m now dying to do it more often. I didn’t need to try fisting three times to find out I enjoyed it — only two. Once I’d gotten over the anxiety about injuring someone, I could just let the moment take me, get lost mentally inside someone’s cavity. I’m hoping to see these two guys again in a couple of months. I’d certainly like to try again with them, particularly because I feel so comfortable with them now.  Maybe one day I’ll even get fisted as a bottom. It won’t happen any time soon, but I know a cute pup in Seattle with small hands who I might be calling upon.

Trans education, Chechen retribution and reality television

14 April 2017 - 2:39pm
[[asset:image:309536 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Trans man outed on Survivor A contestant in the reality show Survivor was unexpectedly outed as trans on television in an episode this week by another contestant, in an attempt to vote him off the show. The tactic backfired, and the outer was voted off instead. Read more at the New York Times.   World calls for end to Chechnya crackdown The United Nations, as well as various nations and international organizations, have spoken out against the Chechen crackdown on gay people, in which men have been reportedly rounded up and tortured. Meanwhile, the Russian newspaper that first reported the violence says it fears retribution for its reporting.   Indian university offers free tuition to trans people Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has announced it will offer free tuition to transgender students. The university’s vice-chancellor says educational opportunities will help to raise the position of transgender people in Indian society. Read more at The Hindu.   Study: Same-sex marriage good for health A study at the University of Washington shows that gay people who are married are healthier and better off than singles. Part of the result may be because married gay people are more likely to be out.   Orlando police release Pulse report A report on the Pulse Nightclub shooting from the Orlando Police has revealed more details of the attack, which killed 49 people. The report did not answer whether any of the victims were killed by friendly fire from police officers. Read more from the Orlando Sentinel.

Battleground Barbados: LGBT activists face off against North American homophobes in the Caribbean

13 April 2017 - 8:38pm
On a sunny day in April last year, at an ocean-side resort just steps from one of Barbados’ famous white-sand beaches, a hate group was hosting a conference. Dozens of neatly-dressed church and community leaders, including a Barbadian senator, packed into meeting rooms and diligently took notes as speakers opined on the evils of abortion, contraception, sex education and LGBT rights. The World Congress of Families, one of the largest and most influential anti-LGBT networks in the world, had invited a murderers’ row of homophobic speakers. Scott Stirm was there. He’s an evangelical missionary from Texas who was one of the most virulent critics of the effort to decriminalize homosexuality in Belize, arguing gay tourists come to the country to corrupt children. He also believes that Haiti made a pact with the devil 200 years ago when it broke the bonds of slavery. So were Phil Lees, a Canadian who travels the world condemning the evils of Ontario’s comprehensive sex education curriculum, and Theresa Okafor, a Nigerian LGBT opponent, who claims queer and trans advocates are conspiring with Boko Haram. Philippa Davies, who perpetuates the false belief that homosexuality and peodophilia are linked, provided lessons learned from the fight to maintain homophobic laws in Jamaica. And Don Feder, who inveighed against Harriet Tubman going on the US $20 bill because “American history was made by white males,” gave a lecture to the mostly black audience about the fast-approaching “demographic winter.” The World Congress of Families was using the playbook it had perfected in Russia, Nigeria and Uganda, where it is credited with helping pass some of the world’s most vicious anti-gay laws.  The message was clear: unless Christians in the Caribbean draw a line in the sand, their countries would become havens for feminism and gay rights, just like the United States and Canada. It wasn’t exactly the kind of company Ro-Ann Mohammed, a queer woman, is used to keeping.  Mohammed, a co-founder of Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination (B-GLAD), one of Barbados’s few LGBT advocacy groups, had snuck into the conference with a handful of other activists.  “It was the worst thing I have ever been to, honestly,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it was happening in this day and age.” And Mohammed couldn’t shake the sense that  history was repeating itself. “It was mostly the white American men speaking to a crowd of predominantly black Barbadian people and telling them what to do,” she says.  “We have these attitudes that were brought to us through imperialism and colonization. And then there are these people coming from North America telling us that we’re too progressive.” Mohammed grew up in Trinidad, but moved to Barbados to attend university. There, she and Donnya Piggott co-founded B-GLAD in 2011 as a queer students’ organization. When people from outside the university began to join, Mohammed and Piggott realized they could do more good if they expanded to the rest of the island. Before B-GLAD, the LGBT movement in Barbados was centred around HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, catering mainly to gay men. Queer women, homeless LGBT people and trans youth had especially few options. “We realized that these people don’t have anywhere to go,” she says. “And people wanted help.” B-GLAD became a country-wide LGBT advocacy organization and Mohammed decided not to return to Trinidad. “I found that if nobody else wanted to pick up the mantle in this space, I didn’t see why I wouldn’t be able to do so,” she says. And now, five years later, she was sitting in a room at a seaside resort, watching influential Bajans lap up homophobic and misogynistic propaganda from wealthy North Americans. “It was fear-mongering at its best,” she says.   [[asset:image:309509 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["An intersection in Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados."],"field_asset_image_credit":["westend61\/Getty Images"]}]] Barbados, a small, windswept island-nation on the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, has had a history of outsiders coming in and causing trouble. First, it was Spanish slavers, who decimated the indigenous Taino and Kalinago inhabitants in the 16th century. Then came waves of British settlers, who brought with them sugarcane, West African slaves and the racial hierarchies and puritanical Christianity of imperial Britain. But throughout the colonial years, Barbados was much more permissive of homosexuality than the mother country, owing to the fact that it was overwhelmingly single men who came to settle. And the West African slaves came from cultures where there was spiritual and social room for relationships between men. This all changed in the Victorian era, when panic around moral decline led to the British Parliament passing harsh laws against gay intimacy. But despite the statutes, which remained on the books when Barbados became independent in 1966, people who didn’t fit into the restrictive sexual or gender norms still found a country where they were often tolerated, and even occasionally celebrated. Visibly queer and gender nonconforming people carved spaces for themselves, as rum shop owners, jewellers and dressmakers. Gay men would socialize together in semi-private events in rented rooms or backyards. And the Queen of the Bees pageant, an annual drag show where all segments of society would dress up in their finest, was a social highlight and was even held at the National Stadium at the height of its popularity. [[asset:image:309512 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Barbados is an island nation in the Caribbean. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["TUBS\/Wiki Commons"]}]] But the 1980s brought with it drugs and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and with them an increased interest in fundamentalist forms of Christianity, such as Pentecostalism and Seventh Day Adventism. The tolerance that LGBT Bajans had enjoyed was tested, and some people began to flee the island.  Today, Barbados continues to criminalize buggery and gross indecency, two provisions that essentially refer to gay sex. The punishment for buggery is life imprisonment, the harshest sentence for this charge of any country in the Western hemisphere.  Though the law is rarely enforced, its very existence stigmatizes LGBT people and turns them into unapprehended felons, say activists. And while violence against LGBT people is not as high as in other English-speaking countries in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, advocates say that discrimination and harassment is common.  There are no anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT Bajans, and the handful of political victories that have been won over the past few years continue to come under assault from a resurgent fundamentalist Christian movement fuelled by North American homophobes. As Barbados celebrates a half-century of independence, queer and trans Bajans feel they’re still not being afforded the respect and recognition they deserve as citizens of a free nation. And some fear that things may be about to get worse.   [[asset:image:309515 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Freundel Stuart, who leads the Democratic Labour Party, has been Prime Minister of Barbados since 2010. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["OEA\u200a\u2014\u200aOAS\/Flickr Creative Commons"]}]] In September 2016, Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart came to Canada and held an open forum at the University of Toronto as part of the festivities around the anniversary of independence. Dressed in a powder-blue Tommy Hilfiger shirt, the 65-year-old attorney addressed a lecture theatre without a microphone, fielding questions from members of the Barbadian diaspora who had come to hear him speak. In a professorial tone and with a penchant for historical tangents, Stuart went into the weeds on issues such as Barbados’ debt burden, how to enhance the tourist economy and the ins-and-outs of obtaining building permits.  But when Xtra asked him if his government would commit to repealing Barbados’ harsh buggery laws, Stuart reverted to the sharp-witted attorney, rejecting out of hand the question’s very premise. “I have been a lawyer for the last 34 years now,” he said. “And I am not aware that we have what you call ‘harsh’ buggery laws.” Stuart maintained that the buggery laws were merely the same-sex equivalent of rape laws. “Rape is the offence committed against in a heterosexual relationship, and buggery is the offence committed in a same-sex relationship,” he said. “At the kernel of both is the absence of consent.” First, there must be a complainant who can bring forward the allegations so that a prosecutor can push the case, Stuart said. Therefore, if the sex is consensual, there can’t be a case.  “There is a lobby that is trying to get the government, trying to get successive governments, in Barbados to decriminalize, as they say, homosexuality,” Stuart said. “But you can only decriminalize something that is already a criminal offence.” He acknowledged that almost every family includes people who are LGBT, but stated that the country’s Christian character precludes any further steps to change the law. Stuart then launched into a condemnation of many of the aims of his country’s LGBT rights movement. “Those people, who feel that we should create an environment where they can practise their lifestyles in public on high noon on a sunny day,” he said, “want even the very limited controls we have, removed.” “We respect that — as long as you don’t become too evangelical about it and want to convert all of us to it,” Stuart said, prompting a round of laughter in the room.    [[asset:image:309518 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Parliament of Barbados, the country\u2019s seat of government."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Flavio Vallenari\/Getty Images"]}]] While the prime minister argues that the buggery laws are about consent, he’s contradicted by a prosecutor who actually brought forward charges last year. Elwood Watts, principal Crown counsel in a buggery case, said in no uncertain terms that buggery does not require consent. “As long as the penis enters the anus, and there is a complaint, it is an offence,” Watts explained. “It does not matter if you claim the person consented or did not consent.” And according to LGBT activists, the prosecutor’s views reflect how the law is viewed by everyday people, the police and the courts. Speaking on the phone from Barbados, Shari Inniss-Grant and Stefan Newton, both directors at Equals Barbados, an LGBT-rights group, say they’re disappointed, though not surprised, by the prime minister’s stance on buggery. “What he said about the law is a misstatement of the law,” Newton says. “And he’s an attorney — he should know better.” “It’s clearly understood around the world, in the Commonwealth and particularly in Barbados, as something that’s criminalizing homosexuality,” Inniss-Grant says. “And it has the effect of stigmatizing individuals who are queer and really promoting discrimination against them.” The text of the law itself is clear and makes no mention of consent. “Any person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life,” it reads. And when someone is charged with buggery in a rape case, the result can be a conflation of homosexuality and peodophilia.  When a scout leader was charged with buggery for raping a 12-year-old boy, the chief scout commissioner didn’t speak out against child predators, but against gay men. “My organization will not tolerate any practice of homosexuality in its ranks, whether boy scout to boy scout, leader to leader or leader to boy,” he said. And the laws can sometimes lead to vigilante violence. “Some persons perpetuate violence against LGBTQ individuals because they even think they’re privately enforcing the law,” Newton says. The prime minister’s denial that the buggery law is “harsh” is absurd, Newton says, considering that it comes with the most severe penalty for any sexual offence.  As for his comments about people “practicing their lifestyles in public on high noon, on a sunny day,” Newton is perplexed.  “I don’t think two men are going to be out and buggering each other in the middle of the road,” he says.   [[asset:video_embed:309521 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_credit":["Barbados GLAD\/YouTube"]}]] About a month after the World Congress of Families conference, the gossip writer for the Nation, Barbados’ leading newspaper, gleefully recounted the public rape and humiliation of an LGBT Bajan. “She has been a good ‘man’ to many women,” the column began. “Her habits are no secret and she prefers to be referred to as the masculine sex.” “You see, she had one too many drinks in a farming community recently, and while out cold, a man had his own way with her. He even left the evidence on her body.” The victim, who hadn’t been seen for days because of the humiliation, had photos of the aftermath of their rape distributed online. “Some fear ‘my gentleman’ may never be the same after being emasculated,” the writer concluded. The LGBT community and its allies were horrified and demanded a retraction. The piece was pulled by the paper, which issued an apology to “right thinking members of our community,” but not to the victim. Though violent hate crimes against queer and trans Bajans are less common than in other parts of the region, harassment, discrimination, property damage, verbal abuse and occasional episodes of violence are a reality for many LGBT people on the island. And there’s no guarantee that police will help. A recent study showed that 75 percent of LGBT Bajans who went to the police said they were denied assistance.  Sometimes, the police themselves are accused of being the perpetrators. In September 2016, Raven Gill, a 25-year-old trans woman, complained that she was verbally abused, publicly humiliated and forced to strip in front of male officers after she was arrested for causing a disturbance. Gill claimed that officers repeatedly questioned her gender and placed her in a male holding cell. Gill, along with René Holder-McClean-Ramirez, a director of Equals Barbados, filed a complaint with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who promised to look into the matter. According to Holder-McClean-Ramirez, many LGBT people are wary of any interactions with the police. “You’re not treated as a person reporting a crime,” he says. “There’s always this other layer where you’re guilty of some behaviour, or encouraged what happened to you.” “And sometimes the same policemen are the persons who are inflicting violence on LGBT persons,” Newton adds. B-GLAD has hosted multiple sensitivity training sessions with Barbadian police officers. Mohammed says that while she doesn’t think that the police force is resistant to change, there’s still a long way to go. Discrimination, especially in housing and employment, remains far too common. Mohammed and a former girlfriend were evicted from their home by their landlord for being in a relationship. “She didn’t want lesbians living in her apartment building, and we had to leave,” she says. “And in Barbados, there’s no way for us to challenge that.” The lack of recourse is one reason why Barbadian activists have made an anti-discrimination law one of their top priorities.  “It just makes daily social interactions hard if you are a member of the LGBTQ population,” Newton says.    On Nov 6, 2016, hundreds of Christians adorned in the national colours of blue, gold and black held a rally to decry sexual immorality for the second year in a row. Amid the festivities, which included gospel music and dancers, speakers made the case that LGBT Bajans represented a moral and demographic threat to the soul of the nation. Johanan Lafeuillee-Doughlin, a local lawyer and pastor, said Barbados should not decriminalize gay sex, and begged the crowd to not give into the cultural imperialism of developed countries. But despite the nationalistic rhetoric, Americans featured prominently in the night’s proceedings.  Charlene Cothran, a once-prominent LGBT activist and publisher who became ex-gay in 2006, said that no one is born gay, a fact she claimed to be certain of because she had previously chosen to become a lesbian. “I gave myself fully over to it,” she said. “The lesbian spirit saturated every part of my conscious and subconscious mind.” Judith Reisman, a conservative activist who claims that homosexual “recruitment techniques” rival those of the US Marines, and that Nazism was a “German homosexual movement,” delivered a powerpoint presentation from the stage. She went on a conspiratorial rant about Alfred Kinsey, the influential sex researcher, claiming he was a sado-masochistic psychopath, beastiality enthusiast and pedophile, whose work is responsible for many of society’s ills. “He actually was involved in the sexual torture of 300 to 1,000 infants and children,” Reisman said, matter-of-factly. She argued that comprehensive sexual education would turn children into “little sexual deviants,” bedeviled by substance abuse, AIDS and venereal disease.  After the event, Steve Blackett, the minister of social work, told a Barbados’ newspaper that he wholeheartedly agreed with Reisman’s presentation.  Barbados must stand firm against the foreign evils and foreign values that threaten the country, he said.    [[asset:image:309524 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Mia Mottley, the head of the Barbados Labour Party and the Leader of the Opposition."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Barbados Labour Party\/Facebook"]}]] In 2003, then–attorney general Mia Mottley spoke out in favour of decriminalizing buggery and prostitution. “Law, which seeks to discriminate in a society whose history has been scarred with the cancer of discrimination, has in fact, to be reformed,” she said.  But even after a government report recommended reform the following year, change didn’t come. Since then, support for the buggery laws has fallen significantly, though a majority of Bajans still support them. Today, no one in government is speaking about decriminalizing homosexuality. Some government ministers have spoken out against discrimination, while others remain firmly fundamentalist.  But recent comments from a high-ranking government official presage that politics in Barbados may take a homophobic turn.  Speaking at a constituency meeting for the ruling Democratic Labour Party in November 2016, Chris Sinckler, the minister of finance, said that his party would make morality a key issue in the next election, which will take place sometime before early 2018. “In my mind, if it is not in other people’s minds, that the next election is also going to be fought for the moral heart of this country,” he told the crowd. “When you lay down at nights and you get up with the Grace of God in the morning, think about the ethics and morals that underpin this country.” Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the government is thinking about making this push when Mottley, who pushed for decriminalizing homosexuality, is now the leader of the opposition and poised to form the next government.  One clergyman heard the dog-whistle loud and clear. “His reference to morality is restricted; it would appear to refer to sexual issues surrounding homosexuality,” Canon Wayne Isaacs, a senior Anglican cleric, wrote on Facebook.  “We must not allow our thinking on moral issues to be influenced by a ‘right-wing’ form of Christianity coming out of North America that is not in our interest politically, socially nor morally.” A few months later, government Senator David Durant viciously attacked a comprehensive sex education curriculum aimed at fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS, calling it “one of the greatest assaults on the health and innocence of children.” That was followed by an HIV/AIDS counsellor arguing the curriculum was turning children gay.  To Maurice Tomlinson, this rhetoric is all too familiar.  The Jamaican-Canadian lawyer who is challenging Jamaica’s anti-sodomy laws in court, says that the Jamaica he grew up in was considerably friendlier towards LGBT people than today.  “We had ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ — everybody knew who was gay,” he says.  But things started to change.  “In the late ’80s and the early ’90s, we ignored the rising rhetoric of the churches, when the evangelical North Americans started to come down to Jamaica with their hateful rhetoric,” he says. “After the religious rhetoric started to rise, we started to see the attacks.” The combination of well-financed outside organizations like the World Congress of Families and the politicization of homophobia is a dangerous cocktail for Barbados. But Tomlinson, who lived on the island while he was attending law school, thinks it’s not too late for the nation. “I’m hoping that in the case of Barbados, we can be more proactive, we can nip it in the bud,” he says. “We can call it out, we can prevent it from escalating.” “Because I don’t want to see us lose Barbados, the way we’ve lost Jamaica.” [[asset:image:309527 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Queen Elizabeth II, Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the leaders of other Commonwealth nations gather in Malta for Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in 2015."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Matt Cardy\/Getty Images"]}]] During a trip to la Francophonie summit in Madagascar last November, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke up for LGBT rights to the assembled leaders, which included 10 who lead countries where homosexuality is illegal.  “Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities suffer in too many countries, including certain members of la Francophonie who are here today,” Trudeau said. “We owe them the same respect, the same rights and the same dignity as all other members of our society.” Barbados is the third-largest destination for Canadian foreign investment. Canadian banks have a strong presence in the country and Canadian tourism dollars contribute greatly to the economy. The Canadian government isn’t above using that klout to pressure the Barbadian government around LGBT issues. On April 11, the Canadian High Commissioner raised the issue of Barbados’ buggery laws to Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, who denied that LGBT Bajans are persecuted.  To B-GLAD co-founder Ro-Ann Mohammed, that smells like colonialism all over again. “It creates more problems than anything when entities from the global north come and say, ‘This is what you should do,’” she says. “‘We left you with these laws, but now you’re wrong and you’re backwards and you’re savages.’” Much of the opposition to LGBT rights in Barbados is galvanized by what they see as imperial bullying from countries like Canada, the US and the UK. “That’s a huge part of their argument — pushing back against any sort of progression for the movement,” Mohammed says. After then–British prime minister David Cameron threatened in 2011 to cut aid to countries that continue to criminalize homosexuality, there was significant pushback in Barbados.  That doesn’t mean that foreign entities don’t have a part to play in the struggle for LGBT recognition in the Caribbean. “Instead of going above them, try reaching out to community leaders,” she says. “What resources can I provide you with? How can we be of assistance? How can we strengthen or fortify your movement?” Despite the increasing influence of North American Christian fundamentalists in Barbados, organizations like B-GLAD, Equals Barbados and their predecessors have made significant progress over the years. Acceptance for LGBT people in Barbados is growing, though most people still think the buggery laws should be maintained. And even while some members of the government appear to be on the verge of adopting more hateful rhetoric, others are approaching the issue with compassion.   B-GLAD is helping organize sexual education seminars, and Equals Barbados is fighting back against police mistreatment. As Christian organizations host pro–family values rallies, LGBT people are now holding counter-rallies. Queer and trans activists from across the eastern Caribbean are partnering together to advocate for their rights. And there’s more visibility for LGBT people than ever before. “We can slowly see that there’s a shift and a change,” Mohammed says. And though LGBT Bajans must contend with a suspicious public, a sometimes-hostile press, vacillating politicians and well-financed North American homophobes, the progress made over the past few years speaks for itself. “We weren’t always homophobic — this was brought to us,” Mohammed says. “But we have the burden of trying to reverse it.”

Liberals’ superficial Criminal Code reform betrays sex workers and queer artists

13 April 2017 - 8:38pm
Did you know that it’s illegal to sell Superman comics in Canada? According to Section 163 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, anyone who “makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells” a “crime comic” – defined as any comic book that depicts a real or fictitious crime – is guilty of an offence. That would include any comic where Lex Luthor kidnaps Lois Lane.  It’s also illegal to sell or advertise Viagra, the morning-after pill, any cure for a “venereal disease,” or any other medicine or service that claims to improve virility, cause an abortion, or cure a sexually transmitted disease under S163 (2) (c).  Other parts of s163 criminalize the creation and distribution of obscene written matter and photos, exhibitions of a “disgusting object or indecent show.”  Despite the obviously unconstitutional impingement on free speech , it’s not one of the provisions that’s targeted by Bill C-39, an “Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions,” that justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced into the House of Commons on March 8, 2017.  Among the provisions that are under scrutiny here are several clauses struck down by the courts related to the definition of murder, how breathalyzer tests can be administered, vagrancy and publishing fake news. And the sodomy law repeal, which has been stalled in Parliament since Wilson-Raybould introduced it in November 2016, is folded into this bill as well. The bill was timed for release on International Women’s Day to call attention to the formal repeal of the abortion law struck down in 1988. (Bizarrely, the ban on advertising abortion services would remain. Nobody mentioned that when Trudeau used the same day to announce a new global fund to provide abortion services in developing countries.)  It’s all well and good that the government is finally doing what the Supreme Court ordered, in some cases, several decades ago.  But why do they have to wait for the court to rule on laws that are obviously unconstitutional, or flat-out stupid, to change the law? A close review of the Criminal Code could probably find a dozen other unconstitutional provisions,, including vague provisions related to public morals and obscenity that have come under Supreme Court scrutiny for their use against LGBT people and businesses. Chief among them ought to be the provisions added by the Harper Conservatives’ “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act” — the sex work law.  The Conservatives introduced the law after the Supreme Court struck down the previous provisions on sex work. The new law got cute with the Court’s ruling, by criminalizing the clients rather than the sex workers themselves, and also struck new ground in offence to free speech by criminalizing the placement of ads for sexual services. That included criminalizing anyone who works at a newspaper that places such ads. Although a Supreme Court challenge is years away, it doesn’t take much analysis to recognize that the current sex work laws recreate exactly the same dangers for sex workers that the Court found violated the right to their security of person. Indeed, shortly after being sworn into office in December 2015, Wilson-Raybould committed to “reviewing the prostitution laws and making sure that we’ve adequately addressed the concerns expressed by the Supreme Court.”  As a candidate for office, Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan went further.  “It concerns me substantially that the federal government would take steps that put free speech at risk,” Vaughan said back in June 2014. “When Charter issues are abridged, it’s something all Canadians need to worry about.”  Indeed, these sections of the Criminal Code are not just insulting to sex workers and queer artists. They directly impact fundamentals of free speech and the free press.  That the government tabled this incomplete review of the Criminal Code betrays its superficial commitment to upholding our Charter rights.

‘How many months can we stay alive?’: Meet the Iranian-Indian couple abandoned by Canada

13 April 2017 - 5:38pm
Alireza and Kiran eat one meal a day.  Since the gay refugee couple arrived in Turkey in November 2014, they’ve struggled to find paid work.  “Every day we think: ‘This is our budget, how many months can we stay alive?’” Kiran says before their Friday evening meal. He has a notebook listing the cost of each vegetable and grain from the shops around town, because some ingredients cost a half-lira less (18 Canadian cents) at the supermarket across town. Xtra previously reported on Canada selecting scores of LGBT Iranians for resettlement before abandoning their cases. But immigration department data suggests the UNHCR Canada Fundraising Office (UNHCR) stopped referring almost any cases to Canada in 2016, instead opting for the United States, which has ceased virtually all resettlement since late January 2017. That’s left people like Alireza and Kiran languishing in deteriorating conditions in Turkey after fleeing violence in Iran and India, where the former is punishable by death, and the latter is illegal. Shared struggles The pair met online in 2010. Alireza was a student in Iran who made documentaries and blogs about LGBT issues, while Kiran worked as a fashion designer in his native India. They bonded over their art, as well as shared experiences of their families rejecting them and trying to force them to marry women. Alireza’s problems started in the summer of 2004 when his family got wind of the low-key social events he occasionally held with other gay men in Tehran’s Mellat Park. Alireza’s parents drugged him and admitted him to a mental hospital for a month, he says. Then they kept him locked in his room, with visiting doctors that used counselling, pills and injections trying to make him straight. He pretended it worked, but occasionally dated men discreetly. But problems persisted, especially after the country’s 2009 Green Movement protests, which Alireza photographed. When spies tracked Alireza’s friends, they asked about him. When a man he’d dated was charged, they put allegations of sodomy in Alireza’s criminal record. In Mumbai, Kiran’s homosexuality led to bullying that made him drop out of college in 1998, while coworkers blackmailed him for money. When his mother suffered a paralyzing hematoma, Kiran’s siblings blamed him for the stress his homosexuality caused, leaving him as caretaker for her last four years. He says he was lured by men who mugged him for cash and kept his identification card, warning that if he complained to police they would out him. Once, when he had gay friends over, police knocked on the door and threatened to charge him under the penal code. They took him to the police station. “I was slapped several times, and the duty officer pulled me by my ears and took me to a room, kicked and hit me with his baton on my buttocks, saying ‘Now do you enjoy it?’” he recalls. His sister bailed him out with a bribe, after police made him sign a promise to not engage in homosexual acts. Kiran moved across the country to a friend’s family home in Jammu for six months in 2010. But they too figured out he was gay, and started taunting him. In December 2010, Kiran visited  his other sister in Iran for two months and attempted to find work. He took the opportunity to meet in person with Alireza, who talked of moving to India, yet Kiran pushed him away. “I said, ‘let's live our separate lives.’” But Alireza was growing increasingly paranoid. Friends were getting arrested, while a hard drive disappeared from his private office. He moved to India to live with Kiran in 2011, earning an MBA in media management. But their gay friends were extorted and mugged, and Kiran started seeing psychiatrists for depression and anxiety in 2013. When Kiran’s sister sued her husband for domestic abuse in 2014, he retaliated by  following and harassing Kiran and Alireza. The man threatened to have both arrested, after India’s highest court upheld the country’s law against homosexuality in 2013. The two fled to Iran, where things felt just as unsafe. On the advice of non-profit groups in both countries, they left for Turkey in November 2014. Deteriorating conditions Upon arrival, the UNHCR told them to wait 21 months for their first interview — a process that used to take less than a year. Like a lesbian couple who spoke with Xtra, the UN placed the pair in the conservative city of Denizli. When they arrived, landlords turned them away, saying too many foreign “friends” turned out to be homosexuals. They heard the same complaints when they applied for jobs at textile factories, so they found part-time work at a café. They’ve tried to find small gigs for money. Recently, Alireza and Kiran both ruined their pants while unloading furniture for a showroom manager, who disappeared without paying them.  They’ve switched apartments multiple times, such as when their landlady burst in with her son threatening to beat them. She evicted them without returning three months of paid rent. Because millions of Middle Eastern refugees have fled to Turkey in recent years, the country has struggled to issue social insurance cards. Alireza, now 34, and Kiran, now 39, waited 16 months for access to doctors, treating flus and colds with home remedies.  “This is our life. We are not like two young gays who are being supported by their families to migrate to Canada and live a gay and happy life in Canada,” Kiran says. “That is not who we are.” Turkey allows Syrian refugees to move around the country, but all others are assigned a host city where they must report to local police every week. The couple make a point of alternating their routes and timing ever since Alireza’s family started trying to locate him in Turkey.  While he doesn’t know if they want to harm him or bring him back, Alireza’s friends back home say his family figured out he’s living in Denizli. And though the couple read articles about other LGBT refugees in their city, Kiran says they’re hard to spot and ask for advice. “It hurts me more when I meet them and see the conditions they are living in, the food they are eating, the way they are surviving. It’s terrible,” he says. “They really are depressed; it will take a lot of time for them to come back to life.” When Kiran tried continuing his treatment for anxiety and depression, the UNHCR booked appointments, but with a counsellor who doesn’t speak English. When he found one in Ankara who does speak English, he was denied a permit to leave Denizli. It’s lonely there, Kiran says, because no one speaks English among the local Turks and the foreigners from neighbouring countries. ‘We’re being forgotten’ The pair provided UNHCR documents showing the agency granted them refugee status in spring 2016, and selected them for third-country resettlement on the grounds that they were particularly vulnerable in Turkey. The couple asked to be referred to Canada, where they have a few friends, on the advice of Arsham Parsi, who runs the Toronto-based Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. But the UNHCR told the couple that Canada was only taking Syrians — that Iranians and Iraqis might make a waiting list, but not for a few years. Since arriving in Turkey, they’ve watched others arrive in Denizli then go abroad. “We are being forgotten because many other issues are happening in this region,” Alireza says. “What did we do, to be forgotten in this land?” In September, the US took on their application, starting interviews and scheduling medical checks. But  America has twice tried to suspend all refugee resettlement, before being blocked by courts. With uncertainty from American officials, Kiran has written to Canadian lawyers, MPs and private-sponsorship groups. Those who respond say they can’t help. Recently, the couple withdrew their US application, hoping Canada or another country would take their case. [[asset:image:309533 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Alireza (left) and Kiran\u2019s (right) UNCHR documents showing their case had been submitted for third-country resettlement to the United States."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Alireza and Kiran"]}]] Kiran is perplexed by a discrepancy between media images of Canada as a welcoming haven and the quiet shutdown of a program that brought hundreds to safety.“We want equal rights like other humans. We don't want to be scared that we cannot go out of the house,” Kiran says.  He admits the problems have put a strain on their relationship — but he also says their bond is a source of strength. If they make it to Canada, they plan to get married. “The best thing is that we are together,” he says. “We wouldn't have survived long if we'd not had faith in God, not believed in Him, that one day this will all be over,” he adds. “I am trying my level best to fight and not give up.”

Out in Toronto: April 13–19, 2017

13 April 2017 - 2:37pm
Thursday, April 13 The Book of Mormon When two young Mormon missionaries travel to Uganda to spread the so-called good word, they find the locals preoccupied with more important matters — AIDS, famine and warlords. Written by the creators of the cartoon South Park, this musical comedy mocks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). Runs until Sunday, April 16, various showtimes. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St W. mirvish.com  [[asset:image:309188 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Book of Mormon runs until April 16, 2017, at the Princess of Wales Theatre."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Joan Marcus"]}]] Buffy Made Me Gay! Buffy the Vampire Slayer just turned 20 (the TV show began in 1997), so why not kick off the Easter long weekend with a big queer dance party celebrating the life (and resurrection?) of Buffy Anne Summers? There will be a costume contest with 1990s/early 2000s fashions suggested. The venue is mostly accessible (there are no buttons to open the front door or accessible washroom door). 10pm–2:30am. Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309491 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Queer dance party Buffy Made Me Gay takes place April 13, 2017, at Glad Day Bookshop."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy 20th Television"]}]] Friday, April 14 Kinky Jesus: The Second Coming Back and more blasphemous than ever, the Toronto Sisters (those whacky, charitable drag nuns) host a pageant where the title of “Kinky Jesus” is up for grabs. Folks compete in a variety of categories to see who will be the new Kinky Jesus and save us from the tribulations of vanilla sex. The venue is not accessible. 3–5pm. Club 120, 120 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309482 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Kinky Jesus: The Second Coming takes place on April 14, 2017, at Club 120."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtest Twisted Fister"]}]] Saturday, April 15 Hot Damn It’s a Queer Slam: Finals with Queen Sheba Seven slam poets compete, but only one will be named the champion. At this edition of Hot Damn It’s a Queer Slam, the recurring event where folks get on stage and express themselves earnestly and loudly, this year’s champion will be chosen. Features a special performance by Queen Sheba, a renowned slam poet from Atlanta. 7:30–11pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook.   Cherry Bomb: Queer the Long Weekend Spring has sprung, love is in the air and queer women and their friends are dancing the weekend away in Kensington Market. One of the most popular and longest-running parties for queer women in the city returns, with, of course, DJs Cozmic Cat and Denise Benson spinning club hits old and new.    10pm–3am. Round, 152 Augusta Ave. For more info, visit Facebook.   Tuesday, April 18 That’s My Drag! Fundraiser for ACT  The now-and-then drag fundraiser with all proceeds going to the AIDS Committee of Toronto returns. It’s a night of fun and frivolity (and screaming and wigs and glitter and big shoes) for a good cause. Features the drag styles of Sapphyre Poisone, Nikki Chin, Devine Darlin, Ivory Towers and others. For more info, contact admin@troyboyentertainment.com.   8–11pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook  [[asset:image:309485 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Devine Darlin will be performing at the That\u0027s My Drag fundraiser on April 18, 2017 at Buddies."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy David Hawe"]}]] Wednesday, April 19  Altered States: Naughty Comedy Hypnosis Show Las Vegas-trained hypnotist Brandon Dean’s monthly hypnosis show is a surprising, goofy and sometimes dirty peek into the subconscious mind. During his show, Dean calls adventurous (or perhaps foolish) volunteers up on stage and guides them through an entertaining journey into imaginary environments for the amusement and delight of the audience. 8–10pm. The Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309488 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Hypnotist Brandon Dean\u0027s show takes place April 19, 2017, at The Tranzac."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Alex Hill"]}]]  

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