Ottawa Xtra

What does gay male loneliness look like?

12 June 2017 - 9:10pm
Thursday night’s Together Alone event in Vancouver, a community conversation about gay male loneliness felt anything but lonely with more than 100 men in attendance. Though loneliness was the subject of the evening on June 8, 2017 at XY, panellists and audience members made it clear that loneliness among gay men isn’t necessarily about the number of friends you have or whether you attend social functions — it’s much more complex.  The discussion was co-sponsored by the UBC Men’s Health Research Program and the Health Initiative for Men (HIM), and was sparked by writer Michael Hobbes’ Huffington Post article “Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness,” which struck a chord with queer men around the world when it was published earlier this year.  “This issue was hiding in plain sight for quite a long time,” Hobbes told the audience.  Hobbes’ article explores the fact that despite the rapid advances in gay rights and broader social acceptance, gay men are still more likely than their straight counterparts to take their own lives, have a major depressive episode, suffer from anxiety, abuse drugs or alcohol, or have risky sex.  “We are in the midst of a crisis. This is a real crisis,” he said, citing research that found suicide among Canadian gay or bisexual men results in more deaths than HIV. “All of us go through the closet with damage that’s profound but also invisible,” he added. “It was only when I started interviewing people for this story that I realized, ‘Oh. I’m still carrying that.’” Hobbes was joined on stage by Travis Salway, a researcher at the BC Centre for Disease Control; Brian O’Neil, former professor at UBC’s school of social work; Darren Ho, Mpowerment program manager at YouthCO; and Aaron Purdie, a registered clinical counsellor and program manager at HIM. [[asset:image:309983 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Together Alone community conversation included panellists Michael Hobbes, Travis Salway, Brian O\u2019Neil, Darren Ho and Aaron Purdie who discussed the persistent issue of loneliness among gay men.\u00a0"],"field_asset_image_credit":["Tallulah Photo\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Among Purdie’s roles at HIM is conducting intake interviews, and he says he quickly discovered that when asking “Do you feel lonely?” the answer was invariably “Yes, and it’s pretty bad.” “That happened whether they had a partner, that happened whether they had several partners, that happened whether they were alone, whether they hadn’t had sex with someone for several years, whether they were hooking up almost every night,” he says. “That feeling of loneliness is omnipresent.” Vancouver in general has a reputation for being lonely, a city in which people can be cold and friendships difficult to forge. In 2011, the Vancouver Foundation learned that a growing sense of social isolation was one of the most pressing issues identified by area residents. “I’ve been here for 14 years and it’s been extremely hard to make connections and make friends,” says audience member Otto Von Bischoffshausen. “I used to connect with so many men when I was in South America and then I come up here and I’m invisible.” Salway, whose research focuses on whether specialized health clinics can address unmet mental health needs of queer adults, has not compared data between cities so he can’t say whether or not Vancouver’s gay men are experiencing loneliness at a higher rate than other Canadian urban centres.  “What we’re seeing locally is, as with other places, we’re seeing high rates of these markers of struggles associated with loneliness — things like depression, suicide — but really just not the level of health services that we need to address it,” he says. [[asset:image:309986 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Travis Salway, a researcher at the BC Centre for Disease Control, underscores the importance of having more spaces where gay men can meet and connect as one way to address gay loneliness."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Tallulah Photo\/Daily Xtra"]}]] In response to the Vancouver Foundation’s findings, in 2012 the City of Vancouver launched its engaged city task force to enhance how the city engages with citizens and to enable community connections at the neighbourhood level.  Salway says cities can definitely play a role in creating opportunities for people to come together and address some of gay loneliness’ root causes.  “We need more spaces where we can have groups or counselling or we can get people more connected to different forms of healthcare that are meeting their needs,” he says. “I think what the city of Vancouver is doing to invest in the new LGBT centre is fantastic. I think that’s sorely needed and couldn’t come a minute sooner.” Audience member Michael Ianni expressed a desire for more spaces where gay men could meet that aren’t centred around alcohol consumption or sex.Hookup apps like Grindr and Scruff have arguably made it easier than ever for gay men to connect and meet; however, the question of whether they alleviate or exacerbate loneliness generated much discussion at the event. According to Ho, who coordinates the Mpowerment drop-in program for youth who identify as gay, bisexual, or queer, while a small number of guys are able to use mobile apps to meet people and make friendships, for most it simply isn’t enough. “What we find is guys do have experiences going online and using these apps but they come [to Mpowerment] because they want the physical, face-to-face, in-real-life connections,” Ho says.  [[asset:image:309980 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Audience member Michael Ianni expresses a desire for more spaces where gay men can meet that aren\u2019t centred around alcohol consumption or sex."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Tallulah Photo\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Some audience members shared experiences of the discrimination they’ve encountered through such apps — “no fats, no femmes, no Asians” — and the sense of alienation it creates. Several pointed to a study from Hobbes’ article that found 90 percent of gay men interviewed wanted a partner “who was tall, young, white, muscular and masculine” and how such ideals perpetuate loneliness in the gay community.  “I wish I had a cure for this or to make us less looks-focused,” Hobbes says. “This idea that if you’re not physically attractive to me you’re somehow worth less is really pernicious, and I think a lot of that does come from the fact that we’re interacting with each other in a primarily sexual way.” As the eldest member of the panel, former social work professor Brian O’Neil, described coming of age at a time when same-sex sexual relations were still criminalized, and how “that does kind of shape your life and you don’t just forget about that.”  This sentiment was reflected in Hobbes’ article — how the passage of same-sex marriage laws or the appearance of positive gay role models on TV still haven’t been enough to shake the daily stresses the come with living as a minority or the lasting impact of being in the closet, no matter how many years ago that may have been.  Like Hobbes, none of the panellists had a prescription for how to cure gay loneliness, but if the event’s turnout is any indication, there is an eagerness among gay men in Vancouver to address this issue and work towards its solution.

One year after Pulse, Orlando’s gay clubs come together

12 June 2017 - 6:11pm
As the music pulsates and men kibitz in the pool while sipping from spill-proof vessels, joy, love and lust wafts in the humid air. It’s GayDays Orlando at the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld, a property known for families, but this week it’s taken over by men in speedos. Across town at the B Resort and Spa, rival multi-day event One Magical Weekend attracts the even heartier circuit partiers. The mood is a massive departure from the shock and horror in Orlando on June 12, 2016, when Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people at Pulse night club.  The celebrations here demonstrate that members of the local LGBT community embrace life even with last year’s tragedy.  “There was a sense of camaraderie and coming together,” observes GayDays entertainment director Steve Erics on this year’s event compared to previous iterations. “Sure, we collectively remembered but it was also a celebration of life and a sense of how to we get to where we want to be.”  This year, the event included a variety act of local performers which benefited the OnePulse Foundation. Erics says five GayDays staff were killed in the shooting. Organizers increased security with additional police and security officers on the property and bag checks were performed before entry to pool parties. “We wanted to let people know that we know what is going on and we want to ensure everyone’s safety,” Erics says. Throughout the local LGBT scene, the tragedy’s impact continues to be felt.  “Many, many people were affected by it,” says Dana Tetreault, food and beverage manager at Parliament House, a popular gay club in the city. “[The shooting] was a horrible tragedy that should not have happened. It has absolutely impacted business throughout the community.” Raymond Burton owner of downtown neighbourhood gay bar Barcodes, agrees. “Business is not as busy as it was since the shooting but people are still coming out,” he says.“People aren’t as afraid as they were a year ago but I think more people are cautious and maybe choose and decide, ‘do I need to go out?’”  Since the shooting, Burton says that bar staff are vigilant about inspecting bags and monitoring security camera footage to ensure the safety of patrons. “We get a lot of customers very appreciative of the security checks because we are trying to make the environment safe,” he says. Burton, 54 and old openly gay, has undergone his own recovery from the tragedy. “I was in shock,” he says of the shooting. “We are all just like ‘Wow can this be happening?’” Burton says the shooting has changed him. “I live like every day is a little more important than it was. I don’t know if I will be gone tomorrow so I am not letting the little things bother me anymore. It’s not worth it.” The lesson transcends into his staff’s approach to business at Barcodes. “We want to share the love and throw hate out the door. We are staying open and being strong and making the world work regardless of what has happened to us.”

Six LGBT events you won’t want to miss at Luminato 2017

12 June 2017 - 6:11pm
Luminato always gets a lot of attention. The gargantuan arts festival stands out for scoring superstars like Robert Wilson, Pina Bausch and Matthew Barney — something outgoing artistic director Jörn Weisbrodt (aka Rufus Wainwright’s other half) prioritized over his five-year tenure. This year, with newly-minted AD Josephine Ridge at the helm, there is a clear shift in focus. International celebrity talent is less of a priority. Instead Canadians, and in particular indigenous artists, make up a substantial part of the program. Xtra has perused the catalogue to find you this year’s stand-out events.    Bearing Mainstream society has only just begun the conversation around Canada’s history of residential schools. But when it comes to facilitating the discussion about this shameful part of our past, theatre artists such as Corey Payette’s musical Children of God and Tara Beagan and Andy Moro’s play Reckoning are leading the way. This edition of Luminato brings us Bearing; a dance-opera tackling the subject. It’s co-created by director Yvette Nolan, choreographer Michael Greyeyes and librettist Spy Dénommé-Welch. As Canadians begin to unpack these histories, their lasting impacts are slowly revealed to us. These events may have happened decades ago. But their profound impacts are still very much alive today. [[asset:image:309959 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Marion Newman, mezzo soprano in Bearing. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Liz Beddall"]}]] Boner Killer Erin Markey’s performance style has all the makings of cabaret: singing, chatting with the audience and even the occasional hint of dance. But the Brooklyn performance sensation usually eschews the C-word, calling her work “intimate musical conversation” instead. And maybe that makes sense. While conventional cabaret aims to transport you away from the world’s problems, Markey invites us to do precisely the opposite — sit in the muck and contemplate it all. Blending Whitney Houston’s lesbian mythologies, parts of Pretty Woman and (of course) some of her own life, Boner Killer will definitely make you laugh at the same time it leaves you a little uneasy. And if you manage to get an erection, good for you. [[asset:image:309962 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Erin Markey in Boner Killer."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy John Keon"]}]] En avant, marche! Belgian director/choreographer Alain Platel often works with communities who don’t get much representation in mainstream theatre. Badke (2016) saw him collaborate with Palestine performers working with traditional folk dance . In Gardenia (2011) (later adapted into the film Until the Last Curtain Falls) he brought together seven septuagenarian drag queens for one final performance. En avant, marche! marks his collaboration with a marching band. The dance-theatre hybrid tells the loose story of an aging trombone player who’s been reassigned to the percussion section after throat cancer takes his ability to play. Anchored by strong performances and Platel’s keen eye, the show offers a moving meditation on mortality that will have near-universal appeal. [[asset:image:309965 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Cast of En avant, marche!"],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Phile Deprez"]}]] Ghost Rings When Tina Satter and her sister were kids, they had a band. They didn’t have real instruments and they didn’t write many songs, but they imagined themselves jamming together for the rest of their lives. Now that they’re grown up, they don’t even speak. Ghost Rings melds this story from Satter’s own life with a tale of two women in a tempestuous relationship who are hoping to have a baby. A hybrid rock-concert-experimental-theatre piece, the show will leave you puzzled if you go in searching for a clear narrative. But if you sit back and let the piece wash over you, you can expect a moving examination of what love and commitment truly mean. [[asset:image:309968 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Ghost Rings follows the story of two women in a tempestuous relationship hoping to have a baby."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Maria Baranova"]}]] Notes of a Native Song James Baldwin’s queerness was inseparable from his work. The American author and social critic addressed homosexuality in his writing long before it was acceptable to do so, including 1956’s Giovanni’s Room and 1968’s Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone. While his identity was no secret during his life, discussions since his death in 1987 have often glossed over his sexuality or outright ignored it. On that level, Notes of a Native Song may be a little disappointing for queer audiences since this critical aspect of Baldwin’s life is barely mentioned. But to be fair, Stew and the Negro Problem’s show isn’t supposed to be a biography. Instead, it serves as a celebratory riff on Baldwin’s legacy that aims to inspire people to create art defying genre and expectation. And what could be queerer than that? [[asset:image:309971 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Stew and the Negro Problem\u2019s Notes of a Native Song is a celebratory riff of James Baldwin\u2019s legacy."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Luminato Festival"]}]] Queer Songbook Orchestra Fans of Veda Hille were pretty bummed when it was announced that the multitalented Vancouver musician had cancelled her Luminato gig. But the upside to Hille’s absence is that it made space for the Queer Songbook Orchestra to perform. Founded in 2014, the ever-fluctuating ensemble (current membership sits at 10) digs through the canon of pop for known works by musicians whose queerness has been obscured as well as works by straight artists that have a particular resonance when viewed through a queer lens. You can expect new spins on The Mamas & The Papas, Nina Simone and Tori Amos, as well as more obviously queer names like Ani DiFranco and kd lang. It’s a moving and unexpectedly empowering romp through queer history. And if the mood strikes, you can also sing along. [[asset:video_embed:309974 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_credit":["Ottawa Showbox\/YouTube"]}]]  

Chelsea Manning, Malta and a queer parliament

10 June 2017 - 12:04am
[[asset:image:309953 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Record number of LGBT MPs elected to UK parliament Forty-five LGBT politicians were elected to parliament in the UK’s general election this week, more than in any previous parliament. A full fifth of the Scottish National Party party MPs were LGBT, but one trans candidate failed to be elected. Read more at the Independent.   Chelsea Manning’s first interview In a conversation with NBC News, trans woman Chelsea Manning spoke for the first time after being released from prison. Manning was imprisoned for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, but her sentence was shortened by Barack Obama shortly before he left office.   Bulgarian right-wing group organizes against Pride Right-wing counter protesters in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia are urging people to show up at Pride with improvised weapons to “cleanse” the country of “garbage.” Human Rights Watch is urging the government to protect Pride marchers.   Re-elected Maltese PM promises equal marriage The prime minister of Malta has won a second term in office, and promised to legalize same-sex marriage in his campaign. The tiny island nation already boasts one of the best human rights records for LGBT citizens. Read more at NBC News.     Malaysia pulls gay “prevention” competition The government of Malaysia has cancelled a competition for the best video showing how to to “prevent” homosexuality. Activists successfully campaigned to have the contest taken down, even though being gay is illegal in the country. Read more at the BBC.

How the Toronto Queer Film Festival is shaking up Pride Month

9 June 2017 - 9:03pm
When Kami Chisholm announced the first edition of Toronto Queer Film Festival in 2016, no one — including her — was really sure how it was going to go. Was there an appetite for an event that screened queer and activist short films during Pride? Was it possible to do the entire thing without any government or corporate support? Could it become an annual event? The answer seems to be a resounding “Yes.” This June, TQFF returns with an expanded program and a venue more than twice the size of last year’s. It also raised more than $10,000 to cover production costs and artist fees through crowd-funding. The crew has also swelled to include a programming posse of seven, plus additional folks to help out with social media, marketing and postering.  So has increasing the size of the team made it easier or harder to get things done? Chisholm says it’s a bit of both.  “We’re really open to everyone’s perspective and we try to talk as a group and operate by consensus, but with very firm grounding principles,” she says. “What’s not up for debate is the mandate to show boundary-pushing queer and trans film and video that isn’t getting screened elsewhere, and our political and cultural stake in this. We invite people to join on that basis, and once they’re part of the group, everyone has their say.” June is a tough time to present events in Toronto — there’s already so much going on that new projects can struggle to get attention amid the glut of rainbow-drenched activities on offer. But despite the overwhelming number of entertainment options, TQFF has secured an audience by providing something that’s still rare during the month long celebration — an art event that connects with Pride’s activist roots.  Though the festival is clearly filling an important void within Toronto’s queer community, it started from a very personal need.  “I always used to get really depressed around the beginning of June,” Chisholm says. “It’s supposed to be this time to go out with friends and participate in culture and activism. But I just wasn’t finding things I wanted to go to. It was like being a queer at Christmas with no family to go home to.” Finding Pride oversaturated with corporate interests and lacking in real politics (a subject she discusses at length in her documentary, Pride Denied), Chisholm decided to create the kind of space that she wanted to be in.  “You could think of the film as a critique of this move by Pride away from its activist roots and the festival as my affirmative answer to what we really should be doing,” she says. This year’s program includes eight screenings, primarily shorter works with a few longer things mixed in. The opening night includes a program of refugee and migrant-focused films. Along with that, there are two porn programs. (“Some are straight up porn, others are porn-adjacent,” Chisholm says.) Also on offer are a few films addressing sex work, including a rare screening of Janis Cole and Holly Dale’s 1984 film Hookers on Davie, a look at women working on Vancouver’s lower east side. The fest also includes a workshop for women and trans folk new to filmmaking. Though it’s only celebrating its first birthday, the organizers already have ambitious plans for expanded programming and educational initiatives geared especially towards emerging artists. “We’re looking for ways we can provide this cultural and activist space that we think is appropriate for Pride on an ongoing basis,” Chisholm says. “An annual festival in June is great. But providing access to these kinds of films for audiences and offering a platform to artists making them is something we want to be able to do throughout the year.” When TQFF was announced last year, Chisholm was clear that she had a bone to pick with larger gay non-profits like Pride Toronto and Inside Out. She felt they had lost their way, becoming too concerned with increasing revenue through corporate donations to allow for expansion. (She was also an active participant at the Pride Toronto AGM in January 2017, when the board voted in all of Black Lives Matter Toronto’s demands.)  Though TQFF is highly activist in nature, Chisholm stresses it shouldn’t be considered revolutionary. “We’re just trying to create a space where people can be queer and fabulous and watch films and dance with their friends,” she says. “In that way, what we’re doing isn’t really radical or even new. This is what Pride and Inside Out used to be, so we want to create those kinds of spaces again because the need for them has not gone away in the last 30 years. If anything, it’s even stronger.”

Toronto is on the way to making a plan to fight discrimination against trans youth

9 June 2017 - 9:03pm
Toronto city council is taking the first steps to creating a plan to provide equal access and services to trans youth. On June 7, 2017, the community development and recreation committee adopted a recommendation from city staff to create a working group made up of various city departments that would work with a trans youth advisory council to create an action plan. The motion will go on to city council for approval. It’s a tentative step to address the deep inequities faced by trans Torontonians in accessing city services. “There’s a lack of structural networks in the city to provide holistic care and support,” said Danielle Araya, the coordinator of the trans youth mentorship program at The 519. A city staff report noted some of the issues that trans youth face in Toronto. Trans people face higher levels of violence and harassment, and face very high rates of discrimination in employment and housing. According to the report, Toronto is home to around 57,600 trans people, which is about 32 percent of all trans people in Canada. “The experiences of transgender people have traditionally been grouped with lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues,” it read. “However, this conflation silences the specificity of the trans experience defined by gender identity and gender expression, as opposed to sexual orientation.” Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam worried that creating specialized services for trans people may not be the right path in the long-term. “In some ways I fear that we are actually creating an appendage-style services to what the system already has,” she said.  She pointed to the shelter system as an example. In 2015, Toronto City Council voted to provide funding for shelter spaces dedicated to LGBT youth. “That was a Band-Aid solution because we’re not going to be able to transform the system all together,” Wong-Tam said. “What would be a more appropriate solution is for us to transform the way we deliver services to Torontonians so they can access those services regardless of barriers.” The proposed working group would complement other steps taken by city agencies to address transphobia and give trans people greater access to city services this year. In April, the city released new guidelines on accommodating people of all gender identities and expressions. A trans youth advisory committee was also created and later this month, the city will launch a public education campaign on transphobia.

The political rebellion of being black and non-binary

9 June 2017 - 3:02pm
I am black and I am non-binary. I have been these things, in some ways, all my life. In other ways, these are pieces of my identity I have only just come to understand and claim.  The world we live in is often split up into binaries: black or white, gay or straight, man or woman. Most of the time, we are forced or socialized into these categories which can be at best irrelevant and at worst harmful to who we are. As a mixed-race, non-binary queer person, these categories with only two opposing options just don’t make space for me. I spent a lot of my younger years grappling with being mixed race; I was too black for white spaces but not black enough for black spaces. Race is a continued struggle for all people of colour, but ultimately something I have come to own and embrace.  My gender identity, on the other hand, is something I am still navigating. At birth we are assigned a gender; from that moment we are thrust into subsequent years of being read as that gender. It works for cisgender people; they experience the privilege of identifying as the gender they were assigned. But for everyone else, it’s a series of fiery hoops in healthcare, education, social circles, the law and so on.  I am lucky that growing up, my mum was an advocate for gender-neutral child-rearing. Perhaps she wouldn’t put it in those terms but she understood the importance of not forcing me to fit into societal expectations of girl children. She enriched my passion for action figures over Barbie dolls and sweatpants over pink dresses. However, as it does to everyone, high school swallowed me up in a gulp of patriarchal nonsense and I was shaving my legs and wearing mascara by the age of 12. I went to a silly British high school that forced girls to wear skirts yet monitored how much leg we showed or how shiny our shoes were or what colour bra we were wearing to avoid distracting boys.  Similarly, growing up mixed race was a complicated experience. Due to having an absent father, I grew up with most of my family being white. I knew, that just like my mum, I was mixed race; part Jamaican, part Gambian and part white, but aside from that I had very little connection to the black side of me. I remember telling my mum that I wished I was white because a teacher at school asked me if I could “wash the mud off” in the shower. Small yet glaring moments of racism made me realize that regardless of how I felt about myself or what I wished I was, the world would always see me as some form of black.  Until I went to an international school at 16, I didn’t know how to love the colour of my skin while being surrounded by whiteness. This manifested in many different ways; chemically straightening my hair, speaking the “Queen’s English,” identifying only as “British” and even pretending to be anti-immigration in debate club. I didn’t realize it at the time, but white-washing myself was having a serious impact on my self-esteem and also the way I saw and treated other black people and people of colour. Creating black communities, reading black authors and absorbing positive black imagery changed all of this for me. However, I then began grappling with what gender and queerness meant to me on top of the existing complexities of my identity.  I describe my own experience of being non-binary as a political rebellion. For me (but not for everyone), not conforming to the gender binary is a necessary form of survival and personal exploration in a world that strives to oppress black women. Within black communities, there is little room for gender non-conformity. Not in the sense that gendered or genderless possibilities are not open to black bodies, but in the way that blackness is perceived. This is often in rigid gender binaries (man/woman) as opposed to seeing gender as a spectrum or a galaxy of possibilities. Black bodies have consistently been divided by gender in a way that benefited white supremacy throughout history. For example, the subjugation of black women’s bodies was and continues to be used throughout colonization and slavery. Black people had no rights under slavery because they were “property,” therefore black women could be continually sexually assaulted and were never able to report it. Similarly, throughout the colonial period, rape and dominance of black women were used as tools of invasion and colonization. From women indigenous to Africa or Turtle Island, sexual violence was a tool used for genocide.  In contrast, black men were savage, barbaric, strong and lascivious. Their carnal desires were a threat to seemingly innocent and pure white women. Their only purpose was to do physical labour. Separating black communities by gender was a mechanism that was essential to the “success” of white supremacist projects like colonialism, slavery and segregation.  Gendered anti-blackness has manifested in many different ways throughout history. Sarah Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman known for being paraded around as a spectacle for white audiences in the 1700s. They stared at her body; the way her bottom and her curves were so voluptuous and wide and the way she seemed so alien to thin, pale Western notions of beauty. In 2016, Patrice Brown’s photos went viral because her clothing was deemed inappropriate for a fourth-grade teacher. Really, what people were commenting on was her curvaceous figure. What wasn’t said, though implied, was that her very body — the body of a black woman — was inappropriate.  Three hundred years apart and these two women are subject to the same gaze. They are both over-sexualized just for the shape of their bodies yet given no sexual agency. These strict gender roles for black people, which come with damaging stereotypes and perceptions is what led me to reject the gender binary. It is the fact that the gender binary only exists to oppress women and femininity and furthermore, places black women in an inescapable paradox of racialized sexism. I will always have a close connection to black womanhood, but I identify as non-binary. Just like Patrice Brown, people will see my body, my makeup, my clothes and immediately place assumptions and judgements on me. I can never truly escape these narratives but I can find inner peace and strength in rejecting these judgements of black women. As Ashleigh Shackelford says in her famous piece on being a non-binary femme, having a body that was fat and black often gave older men license to oversexualize her from a young age. Simultaneously, black femininity is often masculinized because it is loud, strong, brave and aggressive. She felt that her gender could never be “neutral” (with which she justifies the use of she/her pronouns) because of these experiences but she is still non-binary because “the mixed signals and stringency of binary gender performance became hard to reason with internally.” She ends with, “my gender has a journey, a depth of trauma and a world of resilience behind it. Every moment I am able to tell someone my gender before they assume it is a community act of power.” Shackleford’s words have always been a source of inspiration to me because her article was the first time I read about the experiences of a non-binary person who wasn’t white, skinny and androgynous-presenting. I was able to frame my own understandings of being non-binary that weren’t scripted within whiteness.  A lot of people dismiss non-binary voices because they are resistant to changing their outdated views on gender. But the undoing of a gender binary does not only benefit those who live outside of it: anyone can, and should defy the gender binary because it is a socially constructed template that holds us all, but particularly women, to restrictive and violent standards.  The gender binary is an essential part of true decolonization of the black body. It allows black boys to cry and be vulnerable. It allows black men to be free from over-criminalization and presumed predation. It allows black boys to be effeminate without stigma or homophobia. It allows black women to be single mothers without being irresponsible or “ratchet.” It allows black girls to explore their sexuality without being vilified by double standards.  Non-binary people are real and they exist; their experiences are varied and complex. For a lot of black non-binary folks it is only through self-decolonization that many of us are able to truly claim this identity. Society does not allow space for black folks to be alternative, to be nerdy, to be weird, to be queer, to be different from the narrow boxes created for us throughout history.  Even though the narrow gender roles for black people stem from slavery and colonization, they can be internalized within black communities. Therefore, black queer and gender variant people often find themselves seeking and creating new communities. For me, the Black Lives Matter movement has become a space for unconditional acceptance and validation of the black body. It is a movement that is unapologetically supportive and uplifting of queer and trans black people. The Black Lives Matter website lists being “trans-affirming” and “queer-affirming” as two top priorities of the entire movement. Being an organizer with Black Lives Matter Vancouver is so rewarding to me as a black non-binary person because unlike the civil rights movement, we are able to place women, femmes and queer and trans black folks at the forefront of our work.  The black liberation movement of the 21st century must include a gender rebellion to be successful and inclusive. I am a living embodiment of my politics. 

Why I love cum dumps

9 June 2017 - 12:02pm
I walked into the bathhouse and handed the man my membership card. I was all confidence, Jake all nerves. Grabbing our towels and a key for the double room, we walked downstairs, searched for our door, went inside, and closed it behind us.  Jake began to hyperventilate.  “I don’t think I can do this — I’m having a panic attack,” he said.  I held him close and told him it was okay, we’d just lie on the bed together for a while. We lay down, holding hands, enough space between us so he could breathe. Jake hadn’t been to a bathhouse or even had group sex since he’d quit meth a couple years ago. He was desperate to enjoy wild sex again, but the space triggered his anxiety. “It’s totally okay,” I said. “We can go. Just walk up and leave. You aren’t going to disappoint me — I’m just as happy spending a night together, just the two of us. You’re all I need.” Jake took a deep breath. He wanted to do this and now was his opportunity, with someone he trusted. We lay there for a little while longer, Jake taking deep breaths, me just holding his hand.  Well, it was now or never. We both got up and stripped down to our jockstraps. I placed my lube beside the bed, and told Jake to kneel at the edge. As he did, I took out my Jiffy marker and wrote the following words on his ass cheeks:  “CUM DUMP”  Seeing those words written on his ass turned me rock hard. I grabbed my blindfold and covered Jake’s eyes. I asked him if he was ready. He took a deep breath, and said yes. I turned and opened the door halfway. I grabbed the lube, poured some on my cock, and plunged deep into Jake’s hole. As I fucked him, I kept my eyes on the door. Some men walked by, stopped, looked, then kept walking. One man walked into the room for a closer look. After a minute, I asked if he wanted to take a turn, but he declined, watched some more, then walked away.  A couple minutes later, two guys who seemed to be together, one in his 40s, the other in his 20s, walked into the room. They watched for a little, and when I offered Jake’s ass the younger one took the bait. I pulled out of Jake, and the guy took over. He seemed to enjoy himself but didn’t say a word. He grunted a little, breathed heavily, thrust faster, then let out a big sigh. Jake had gotten his first load of the night.  After the younger guy finished, the older guy took over and fucked Jake. Again, no words were exchanged. Once he had shot his load, the two guys left the room and I shut the door behind them. I took the blindfold off Jake and brought him onto the bed with me. “How are you feeling now?” I asked. Jake told me he was doing just fine. After a few minutes of chilling, I suggested we take a walk around. We cruised the corridors and walked down to the dark room. Jake took some more cock there before we returned to our room. After several loads, we had had enough. We got dressed, grabbed our belongings, and checked out. We went back to my place, I fucked him one last time, and we fell asleep cuddling. A week later, we hosted a group play party at a B&B we were staying at. There was no more anxiety. In fact, Jake has been taking part in more group sex back home. He’s starting to fulfil his desires all on his own. I’ve written about why I enjoy being a cum dump on occasion. Not often, but sometimes I get the strong urge. But what do I get out of making someone else into a cum dump? Why are so many of the guys I date or have romantic feelings for cum dumps? Well, for one, I’m a vers top and have a pretty insatiable sex drive. I like a partner who is ready to get fucked at a moment’s notice, and guys who are insatiable vers bottoms are also very likely to be cum dumps.  Second, cum dumps tend to enjoy wild sex, a trait I share. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy passionate, vanilla, one-on-one sex with lots of cuddling. But I also like to be more adventurous: private orgies, public orgies, park sex, alley sex, exhibitionism, piss play, role play, bondage. If a guy is into being a cum dump, he’s likely into a lot of that too. Third, I usually prefer being in control when it comes to sex. I’m going to put you into the position I want you to be in, I’m going to tell you what to do in bed, I’m going to control your body and hold you down. And being in control of someone’s ass — who can enter, who cannot — gives me a sense of power.  Finally, ego. That’s my guy everyone is breeding. They’re into him and he’s mine. Seeing him take all the dick like a cum-addicted bottom just turns my crank. Jake doesn’t live in the same city as I do, unfortunately. But I’ve been fortunate to meet others like him all over. Some may be surprised to find out how many guys are into it. My great uncle used to have a lady in every port, so I guess I’m carrying on a family tradition of sorts — I have cum dumps in cities around the world. And perhaps one day I’ll settle down and have a cum dump I can call mine.

Out in Toronto: June 8–14, 2017

8 June 2017 - 12:00pm
Thursday, June 8 Strictly Ballroom: The Musical Based on the much-loved Australian film by Baz Luhrmann, this musical adaptation follows ballroom dance champ Scott Hastings’s adventures on the dance floor and in love. Features classic songs from the film, including “Love is in the Air” and “Time After Time.” The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). Runs until Sunday, June 25, various showtimes. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St W. mirvish.com [[asset:image:309818 {"mode":"full","align":"null","field_asset_image_caption":["Strictly Ballroom: The Musical runs until June 25, 2017, at the Princess of Wales Theatre."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Alastair Muir"]}]] True Colours Party 2017  Pride is definitely political when it comes to this bash. The provincial NDP of the Toronto Centre riding host a Pride party complete with drag king and queen performances, drinks and finger food. The venue is mostly accessible (there are no buttons to open the front door or accessible washroom door).  7–10pm. Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.   The Lavender Railroad  Set in a world in which homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death, Lawrence Aronovitch’s Rideau Award–winning play explores themes of hope, redemption and impossible choices. Described by the CBC as “Bladerunner meets the Counter-Reformation,” the play is a sort of cautionary tale: it warns us to never take our rights for granted. Runs until Sunday, June 18, 8pm. The Box Toronto, 89 Niagara St. itmtheatre.com    Friday, June 9 2017 U of T Pride Pub  Pride gets an academic feel at U of T’s annual celebration. Snuggled in Hart House’s elegant quad, folks enjoy a barbecue, community fair and drinks. Revellers stay until nightfall to enjoy performances (including taiko drumming) and shake their butts to hot beats by DJs Cozmic Cat and Sammy Royale. Everyone welcome (not just U of T students).  4pm–1am. Hart House, 7 Hart House Circ. For more info, visit Facebook.    Toronto’s Queer Slowdance: Snazzamatazz Pride Edition This event focused on slow dancing is a welcome change of pace for those uninterested in the usual drink-and-sweat-and-fall-over club scene. Gently sway while socializing with friends old and new. In terms of dress code, attendees are encouraged to “snazz it up” with fabulous and inspired outfits. The venue is accessible.  10pm–3am. The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St W. For more info, visit Facebook.    Saturday, June 10 Queer and Trans Family Event: Family Pride For all its varied attractions, Pride generally has very few family-friendly activities. This rare family extravaganza is a chance to spend a few hours with other queer and trans families in a fun, safe environment. Includes a dance party, water play in the splash pad, a mini parade and more. The venue is accessible.  10am–1pm. The 519, 519 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.    DND Sixth Anniversary ft Derek Parker  Daddy Next Door, the popular bi-monthly bar night all about daddies and their admirers, celebrates six years of catering to your daddy issues (and we know there are many). Features a special guest host, the sexy and butch Derek Parker. DJs Dwayne Minard and Mikey B spin all night long. The venue is not accessible.  10pm–3am. The Black Eagle, 457 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.  [[asset:image:309899 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["DJ Dwayne Minard spins at DND\u2019s sixth anniversary at The Black Eagle on June 10, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Jason Stead"]}]] Boner You gotta love branding that gets straight to the point — no quibbling, just boner. Presented by Nigel March, this new penis-themed monthly dance party includes a clothes check. Guys just strip down to whatever feels comfortable (which can mean wearing nothing at all) and dance and flirt (and who knows). The venue is not accessible. 10pm–3am. Club 120, 120 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:308773 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Boner takes place June 10, 2017, at Club 120."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Nigel March"]}]] Sunday, June 11 MSM (Men Seeking Men) LemonTree Creations presents a dance theatre piece inspired by online conversation between men who are into men. The result is a lot of sexy dancing to electronic music. The piece, which had its world premiere at WorldPride 2014, has been nominated for six BroadwayWorld Toronto Awards. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 8–9:30pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Wednesday, June 14  Nuit Rose Opening Reception and Group Exhibition  Nuit Rose, an annual festival focused on queer art and performance, kicks off this year with a group exhibition and party. Come early for the art — painting, drawing, photography, video and sculpture — and stick around for the DJ and dancing. For information on the rest of the festival, visit website.   7–10pm. Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St E. For more info, visit Facebook.    Ryan G Hinds: On Parade  Glamorous cabaret star Ryan G Hinds sets the stage for Pride with his signature blend of music, humour and political commentary. With a gusto that could have something to do with his glitter-encrusted lips, Hinds sings everything from Wham! to vintage Disney tunes. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 8–10pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309947 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Ryan G Hinds will sing everything from Wham! to vintage Disney tunes on June 14, 2017 at Buddies."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Greg Wong"]}]]  

Out in Vancouver: June 8–14, 2017

7 June 2017 - 11:58pm
It’s June and Pride is only nine weeks away. What’s that thing bothering you in the back of your mind? It’s that you haven’t sent me your Pride listings or Pride pictures! Don’t wait another day. If you have anything associated with Pride, a party, AGM, march, dance, group or get together, send it along to me at oitc.vancouver@dailyxtra.com. Don’t be one of those people who remembers the day after your event!   Thursday, June 8 Together Alone: A Conversation About Loneliness In Queer Men You’d think Pride would be all about parties, people and fun, but to some shy and introverted men, it can be the most difficult time of year. Why are many queer men so lonely? And how does loneliness contribute to depression, drug use and suicide? Discuss these trends and how to help men in our own circles in a panel discussion with Michael Hobbes, author of the recent Huffington Post article “Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness.” 6:30–8pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Free. Donations to HIM and Still Here are welcome. facebook.com/events/419558658429425/   LOUD Gala 2017 LOUD — one of the most important programs around as it supports our youth — says it saw four times more scholarship applications this year, demonstrating a growing need for support. The LOUD Foundation is the philanthropic arm of BC’s LGBT business association, and gives scholarships to budding community leaders. This year, the eighth annual gala will recognise some outstanding young people for their volunteering and community activism. 7–11pm. Queen Elizabeth Salons, 630 Hamilton St. Tickets $60–$70, including tasty canapés from catering sponsor The Lazy Gourmet, and a welcome drink, available online at loudbusiness.com/networking/events/#event|loud-gala-2017|705.   Friday, June 9 Nanaimo Pride Need some practice before Vancouver Pride, or just an excuse to go see hotties from another city? Friday is the Pride flag raising ceremony as well as the Pride art show opening. Saturday is the Pride parade down the centre of town as well as the Pride festival and after-party dance. And you don’t even have to stand in line. Just watch out for any glory holes you find; this is Conni Smudge’s old stomping grounds. 5pm, Friday. Pride art show, 78 Wharf St. Show. Runs until Sunday. 6–8pm, Friday. Flag raising, Nanaimo City Hall, 455 Wallace St. 12pm, Saturday. Pride parade, downtown Nanaimo. Trust me you will find it. 1–4pm, Saturday. Pride festival, Maffeo Sutton Park, 100 Comox Rd. 10pm–2am, Saturday. Pride after-party, Evolve Nightclub, 241 Skinner St.  $20 at the door. nanaimopride.org/   To The Movies Remember the old days — the really old days — when you planned your Saturday night around the drive-in movies? But you never saw a movie because you were given head all night? Relive those moments with the Vancouver Men’s Chorus Goes to the Movies. It will blow your mind. Just don’t blow anything else; it’s in a roomful of people. Unwind and reel-lax at their Technicolor cabaret salute to the silver screen. Tonight is the first of six concerts. Doors 7:15pm, show 8pm. Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright St, Granville Island. Show runs Friday to Sunday this week and Thursday to Saturday next week. Tickets $37 and $77 available online. vancouvermenschorus.ca/   Eva & Friends Drag queen birthdays are so unfair to the rest of us. With the products, makeup and hair pieces, they always look much younger than we ever could. Take Del Stamp and Raye Sunshine; you’d never know they were both 21. Come out and help celebrate the birthday of Eva Scarlett, Vancouver’s Bratz doll. They'll be partying the night away with music, friends, goodie bags and amazing queens. Hosted by Alma Bitches with performances by Eva Scarlett, Ilona Verley, LUX, Molly Poppins and more. 8pm–3am. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. No cover. facebook.com/xyvancouver/   Finish A novel concept for a night with a bit for everyone. Combining drag, installation and off-beat performance art, Finish is inspired by the European nightlife scene and various installation artists of New York City. Finish will create spaces that last for one night only with lighting, motion, sound and materials. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Cover $8. facebook.com/TheOdysseyBar/   Queen Please Joan-E is away this month (pleasure, not rehab, people) so Valynne Vile will be trying to steal — I mean host — the show along with Misty Meadows and Celestial Seasons. A drag queen named after a tea company sounds so calming; maybe she should rebrand as “Dirty Chai” with her backup dancers “the Tea Bags.” 9:30pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover $5. junctionpub.com/events/queenplease-2017-06-09/   Reunion: Dickey Doo & Todd Omanti Underground Reunions always sound good until you start to get ready to go and then the panic sets in. How do I look? How do they look? But a reunion of two DJs you used to get down and party with brings a whole lot of other questions. Who is he? Did I sleep with him? Did I dance like that? My only advice is start drinking at lunch. Tonight is a reunion 10 years in the making. If you went out clubbing in the 1990s and 2000s you were definitely one of the many moving bodies that got down to the swinging house sounds of the legendary duo of Dickey Doo and Todd Omotani. This is a night for a dance floor family reunion that is not to be missed. 10pm–3am. Celebrities Underground, 1024 Davie St. $15 cover. facebook.com/CelebritiesNightclub/   Saturday, June 10 Red Umbrella March Our community has its fair share of sex workers and this march lets them stand together with allies, family and friends in the fight against unjust prostitution laws in Canada. As in previous years, dress up. The theme is red, so bring your red umbrellas. And learn the lyrics to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (okay, that part isn’t true but it would be funny to march to.) The march will end at Crab Park again this year where refreshments will be served. 2:30–5pm. Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby St. facebook.com/TripleXWorkers/   A Wet Summer Night’s Dream Get ready for the summer heat wave with the fabulous femmes of Boutique Cabaret, a whimsical troupe inspired by Bob Fosse and Broadway Musicals with a heavy sprinkling of sex appeal. With performances by Miss Georsha Cutie Pie, Ann Narky, Manda Stroyer, Scarlet Delirium and many more the room is going to get humid! A lesbian dream come true. 8–11pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. $20 at door. facebook.com/boutiquecabaret/   Myria & Friends What is it they say about putting something past its prime out to pasture? This show may be out in the middle of hundreds of pastures, but this gal is definitely not past her prime. She’s just warming up and will be going strong into her 70s, just like the original. Myria Le Noir does one of the best impersonations of Cher you’ll ever experience. Tonight is a return to the Disco era featuring special guests Spencer Justice, Hailey Adler, Silvana Fox and a surprise guest that will knock you dead. OMG, maybe Cher herself! 8pm. Wilde Oscar’s Pub, 45886 Wellington Ave, Chilliwack. Cover $20 at the door. facebook.com/wildeoscarspub/   Pump With all the estrogen around the Village, I bet you thought I forgot about the guys. Never! Tonight is Pumpjack’s signature Vancouver Men In Leather night. Dress up, strip down and everything in between, as long as leather is involved you are in to stay. Spinning the decks is the DJ we’d all like to see in leather and less, Landon James. 9pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. Cover $5. pumpjackpub.com/   Lick Queer Jam Sounds more like a night at Steamworks than a once-a-month community queer bar. Free pool, arcade games, board games and pub vibes on the upper level with dancing and party vibes on the lower level. Sounds by DJs T and Skylar Love spinning house, hip hop, top 40 club, ’90s and more. 10pm–3am. The Hindenburg, 23 W Cordova St. Cover $8. facebook.com/groups/lickclub/   Sunday, June 11 Italian Day On The Drive You can probably tell by looking at me that I love this day. For me, this is like Christmas but with much better food. And the hot Italian soccer players filling the streets don’t hurt either. Italian Day on the Drive represents the largest one-day cultural street festival in the city, drawing over 350,000 attendees of all cultures and ages. This year’s theme is amore, which means love.  12—8pm. Commercial Drive, which will be closed to traffic all day. italianday.ca/   Kegger Madness The best place to go after a day of Italian fare and just relax with hot, hairy, muscle bears having fun and cocktails. You may have found an Italian Stallion at Italian Days but bring him here and they will eat him up like prosciutto on a cracker. The beer is cold, the men are hot and the DJ is Nick Bertossi. Need I say more? See you there. Ciao Bello. 1pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. No cover. pumpjackpub.com/   Queers & Beers: Summer Edition It’s been a while, but they’re back and with their very first summer edition. If you want all-day-drinking dreams come true, they are here to provide. There aren’t just 26 BC beers on tap but also a full bar plus ciders. Now I have your attention. Special casks, exclusive brews, pool, pinball, video games, food trucks, and vintage-vibes spinning, all just for you. Plus, afterwards there is dancing and drag with the Man Up crew at the after party. 5pm. The Cobalt, 917 Main St. Entrance sliding scale $6–$15 but nobody turned away for lack of funds. facebook.com/queersandbeersYVR/   Tuesday, June 13  Lights! Twelve of Vancouver's hottest improv comedians present back-to-back short sketches that have never been rehearsed or performed for an audience before. Sounds just like two virgins going at it for the first time; I’m not sure which would be funnier, but I’m always game to watch and find out. Comedy is born here. Funny. Weird. Best. Worst. Unforgettable. Killer Karaoke follows. 7:30–9pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. $10 at door gets you into both Lights and Killer Karaoke. facebook.com/LIGHTSimprovisedsketchcomedy/   Wednesday, June 14 Bear Hump The tastiest, juiciest meat there is has to be bear meat. This afternoon, find out for yourself. You deserve a mid-week bit of pampering, pounding and penis — the three P’s of bear hump. Every Wednesday, Steamworks is flooded with furry men and the guys who crave them. Get in, get off, get out or stay and have some fun, workout naked or find a cub to soap you up in the shower. 3–9pm. Steamworks Baths, 123 W Pender St. Rates start at $15. steamworksbaths.com/event/bear-hump-38

Sergius and Bacchus, the queer saints

7 June 2017 - 5:57pm
There were rumours swirling around the Roman soldiers Sergius and Bacchus before they were confronted by Emperor Galerius in the early fourth century. Sergius was primicerius, a guard in the imperial palace. He had enough sway with the emperor to aid his friend Antiochus to become governor of Barbalissos in the Roman province of Euphratensis, now in modern-day Syria.  Jealous functionaries in Galerius’ Serdica palace (in modern-day Bulgaria) attempted to incriminate young Sergius and his second-in-command, Bacchus with a grave charge: They were secretly Christians. In writings on the mythological figure known as Christ, there are instances of the messiah brushing up against the homosexually-rife world of the Roman empire, enough that it made it into the Gospels. “At Capernaum, a Roman centurion begs Jesus to heal a sick servant ‘who was dear to him,’” writes historian Graham Robb in his book Strangers. “Marvelling at the centurion’s faith, Jesus performs the miracle at a distance. Matthew calls the ‘servant’ pais (boy); Luke calls him doulos (slave). Both Gospels were probably written in Antioch of Syria, where the exceptional concern of a Roman centurion for a sick slave-boy would have had clearly erotic overtones.”  That Sergius and Bacchus are devotedly in love is not contested. They are described at the beginning of the 19th-century Latin-to-Greek-to-English text recently translated by gay, Christian historian John Boswell, The Passion of SS Serge and Bacchus: “Being as one in their love for Christ, they were also undivided from each other in the army of the world, united not by the way of nature, but in the manner of faith, always singing and saying, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’” However, it was noted in court that they did not worship and make sacrifices to the pagan temples of the Roman empire. According to accounts in The Passion, the emperor couldn’t believe rumours of their Christianity, but resolved to invite them to the temple of Jupiter with him. If they didn’t sacrifice or eat holy offers, said Galerius, they shall incur the penalty appropriate for their impiety. For the gods would not have the shield-bearers of my empire be impious and ungrateful.” The rumours proved well-founded. When he summoned them they would not enter the temple until commanded, but commands for them to sacrifice and worship were denied: “The emperor’s countenance was transformed with anger; immediately he ordered their belts cut off, their tunics and all other military garb removed, the gold torcs taken from around their necks, and women’s clothing placed on them; thus they were to be paraded through the middle of the city to the palace, bearing heavy chains around their necks. But when they were led into the middle of the marketplace the saints sang and chanted together, ‘Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, Lord.’” Back at the palace, they were summoned before the emperor, who called Christ “son of a carpenter, born out of wedlock of an adulterous mother.” Galerius compared unholy Christ and his trials to those of the more palatable Hercules. The Christians would not relent, so they were marched to Duke Antiochus, who owed his success to Sergius. While his treatment of Sergius and Bacchus was mild at first, he soon grew angry of their “accursed and unholy superstition.” He had them separated and Bacchus flogged to death. Upon dying, a voice from heaven welcomed him to kingdom prepared for him, and when the Duke had his body disposed of to feed animals outside of the city, a holy power compelled birds to protect the body from ravenous scavengers until it could be borne away by hermits and buried properly. According to The Passion, Sergius found himself alone and heartbroken in prison that night when Bacchus appeared, “face as radiant as an angel’s, wearing an officer’s uniform, and spoke to him. ‘Why do you grieve and mourn, brother? If I have been taken from you in body, I am still with you in the bond of union . . . Hurry then, yourself, brother, through beautiful and perfect confession to pursue and obtain me, when finishing the course. For the crown of justice for me is with you.’” That’s the unfortunate thing about being sainted martyrs, isn’t it? You have to suffer and die to become one. Still, a beautiful thought. Thus began the trials of Sergius. The Duke had shoes with nails in the soles fashioned for him and made Sergius run nine miles from Syrum to Tetrapyrgium. When Sergius did nothing but sing psalms and have his feet miraculously healed, the process was repeated, another nine miles to a castle in Resafa. Still unrepentant, the duke had Sergius gagged, bound and taken for beheading. The Passion says that after a great deal of bewailing from gathered men, women, children and inarticulate, becalmed beasts, a heavenly voice spoke, welcoming Sergius to heaven and a chasm formed where his blood touched, miracles abound “wherever his holy relics were.” Another win for Christianity. “It is evident . . . that the passion of Sergius and Bacchus cannot be accepted at its face value,” wrote classics studies historian David Woods in an essay on the tale. “Angelic visitations, supernatural healings, voices from heaven, a miraculous chasm and tame wild-animals, all serve to undermine our confidence in this text as an accurate historical record.” “There are a number of serious anachronisms also which must further contribute to any scepticism in this matter,” Woods continued. “The result is that this passion has often been dismissed as an ‘epic passion,’ a total fiction.’” Whether fiction or a somewhat true story passed down through time, some analysis puts Sergius and Bacchus as married in the eyes of their faith at the time, but other religious scholars and historians have contested this. The gay Christian community has glommed onto the pair as symbols of tolerance in the Church — Robert Lentz’s famous image of two beautiful, haloed, pink robed pretty boys was the first time I’d ever heard of them. The heartbreaking aspect being, at the time, that homosexuality was celebrated more under Roman rule than the growing cult of Christianity and the many sexual neuroses the faith developed early on. There’s also an implication in the passion; the inevitable move from heathenism to shining, benevolent, superior Christianity, one that rankles the sensibilities of this queer atheist. As romantic as it is to seek out queer saints and their place in Christendom, who were Sergius and Bacchus to say that one god was better than another? That one way of life was the right one? Christians, apparently.

How one Toronto artist is on a mission to arouse our city’s buried sexuality

6 June 2017 - 5:55pm
Major cities exist across the globe that are home to sex-positive, progressively-minded venues that offer safe spaces for queers to express their sexualities without inhibition or fear of judgment. While Toronto has a handful of bathhouses and fuck-friendly bars that continue to survive despite relentless gentrification, the city remains devoid of the large-scale, sex-positive parties associated with cities like New York City, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. Playwright ted witzel has been an artist-in-residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre since 2014 and hopes to make a dent in Toronto’s staid sex scene with his new project. The next instalment of his multi-part theatre series LULU — inspired by queer German playwright Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays (Earth Spirit, Pandora’s Box) — returns to Buddies with a full-facility warehouse-style party in the vein of Berlin’s Berghain and Kit Kat clubs for one night during Pride Month. LULU v6 All The Fucks I Never Gave is a continuation of the experimental theatre series and is presented by witzel’s theatre company the red-light district. The artist, who divides his time between Berlin and Toronto, hopes the event will give the local queer community the jump-start it desperately needs. “Torontonians aren’t notoriously great at letting go and not giving a fuck,” witzel says. “People give a lot of fucks here and I wanted to create a night where people would feel free to step in and lean into an experience, like sex-forward. That doesn’t mean you have to be banging someone in the bathroom, although you could. Who am I to say you shouldn’t?” With the lion’s share of Toronto’s nightlife scene aimed at providing men who have sex with men venues in which to socialize and hook up, All the Fucks I Never Gave is focused on providing a space for trans people and queers of every stripe a night of pure indulgence and inclusion.[[asset:image:309941 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Helen Yung"]}]] Parts of the theatre will be repurposed as dark rooms and for peepshows and the emphasis is on creating a safe, consensual space for people to observe and engage in a sex-positive environment. The playwright wants to bulldoze through the withdrawn, polite atmosphere he says is prevalent in Toronto’s local queer scene with his event and encourage people to glance up from their cellphone screens. “People tend to hide in their phones when they want to hit on people,” witzel says. “In Berlin, someone will look you in the eye when they want to fuck you and I wanted to create a room where people could, you know, quite possibly go home with someone. If not, they’re also in an environment that’s asking them to encounter it with their sexuality.” Top-tier DJs Denise Benson, Dre Ngozi and Karim Olen Ash have worked closely with the red-light district team to design a soundscape more in line with Berlin’s early-morning queer warehouse parties.   With oyster bars and on-site tattoo artists and stylists at the ready to primp up looks in need of an extra sparkle, All the Fucks I Never Gave looks to be the Pride party Toronto never had. While there is no dress code in effect, people are strongly encouraged to put some thought into their outfits, even if that means showing up naked. Witzel hopes to emulate the infamous Berlin KitKatClub's approach to wardrobe. “Put some duct tape on your nipples and wear a spiky belt, or you could create a whole outfit out of saran wrap or you could show up wearing nothing at all, or you could just string a chain from your earring to your nose ring to your dick ring to your toe, and that would be your outfit,” says witzel. “And if you don’t come in an outfit, some bossy person in a fishnet onesie is going to come and be like, ‘take off your pants.’ And then you just have to check your pants, and that’s your night.”

Here’s where underhoused trans folks in Ontario can recover from surgery

5 June 2017 - 8:53pm
It was Lesley’s last day at Sherbourne Health Centre’s Acute Respite Care (ARC) program. She made a chocolate cake to celebrate the occasion. “I recently got rebuilt,” she told a crowd of people gathered to celebrate the program’s expansion. “I’m predictably really looking forward to going home,” she said. “But at the same time, I haven’t been in a hurry to go home because this place has been marvelous for recuperating.” ARC, formerly known as the “Infirmary,” is a short-term care program that provides patients without permanent homes with 24/7 nursing care and support. Its clients have chronic conditions such as HIV or diabetes, are undergoing cancer treatment or are recovering from gender-confirming surgery. It’s the only program of its kind in Canada.  Sherbourne Health Centre recently unveiled an expansion of the program that provides more beds for patients and allows them to provide better care for trans patients in particular. “We’re really now trying to create a space that’s inclusive and welcoming for everyone,” says Melanie Oda, the director of ARC. “There’s a need for medical respite for homeless and underhoused, and clearly there’s going to be a need for people undergoing transition-related surgeries.” [[asset:image:309935 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The launch party for Sherbourne Health Centre\u2019s Acute Respite Care was held on May 31, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] The upgrades, which were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, have allowed for the creation of four new beds in addition to the 10 beds previously available. Gender-markers were removed from the suites and a bathing facility was installed specifically with the needs of people who have undergone gender-confirming surgery in mind. One of the spaces includes a plaque recognizing the work of trans activists. “One of the things that came up in that process was acknowledging people, activist leaders, people who have been working for years and years to increase access to care for trans folks,” says Graeme Imrie, director of corporate affairs for Sherbourne Health. [[asset:image:309932 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["A look at the Sherbourne Health Centre\u2019s Acute Respite Care (ARC) facility."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] The Infirmary opened its doors in 2007 to patients with chronic conditions. In 2011, it began to serve people undergoing cancer treatment and in 2016, people recovering from gender-confirming surgery began to be served.  What hasn’t changed is the commitment to a harm reduction model and an emphasis on addressing the social determinants of health. “Their health issue is going to be tended to,” says Oda. “But we also want to see if there’s anything we can do to support them in their recovery to health and wellness in their other domains.”

Ireland's PM, polling questions and a Muslim in leather

3 June 2017 - 8:49pm
[[asset:image:309926 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Ireland’s next Prime Minister will be gay Leo Varadkar, the gay son of an Indian immigrant, is expected to become Prime Minister next month after he won the Fine Gael Party leadership contest Friday. Varadkar came out as gay in 2015, the same year Ireland legalized same-sex marriage by referendum. Read more The Guardian.   A Muslim in leather The New York Times profiles Ali Mushtaq, a Pakistani-American Muslim man competing at International Mr. Leather in Chicago who is challenging what it means to be Muslim, visible and gay.   Malaysian governments offers prize for “gay prevention” tips The Malaysian government is offering cash prizes for the best video with tips for “prevention, control and how to get help” for gay or trans people. Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and widely seen as a disorder. Read more at Deutsche Welle.   LGBT numbers depend on polling questions How people identify their sexual orientation in polls depends highly on the questions asked, how they are asked, and by whom, say two statisticians at the Boston Globe.  

Vancouver police have yet to fully protect trans people, more than a year past deadline

2 June 2017 - 8:47pm
Two years after the Vancouver Police Department was found to have discriminated against trans people, activist Catherine Mateo is frustrated with the lack of action within the VPD. “The reality is that VPD as a department is behind, and they’ve been behind for years,” Mateo says. In Dawson vs Vancouver Police Board, the BC Human Rights Tribunal found the VPD had discriminated against Angela Dawson, known in Vancouver as Roller Girl. According to the 2015 ruling, Dawson alleged six separate incidents of discrimination, and argued that together they demonstrated that the VPD systemically discriminated against trans people. The tribunal, which heard that Dawson was abused as a child, left home at age 16, has a criminal history and lives with several complex health issues, found that police intentionally misgendered Dawson on several occasions and denied her necessary medical care while in custody. The most notable incident of discrimination occurred in 2010 when police arrested Dawson and held her in custody overnight for parole violations. This occurred shortly after her gender- confirming surgery. Not only was Dawson misgendered in the police reports, she was also denied necessary post-operation medical care, despite asking both officers and the jail nurse. In her ruling, tribunal member Catherine McCreary emphasizes that Dawson was “very concerned” about missing her post-surgical care. “It was at the top of her mind. There were serious long-term consequences for non-compliance. She seems to have spoken about it to everyone with whom she came in contact in the jail.” But her medical needs were not met. In a statement submitted at the hearing, the nurse on staff, Cheung Kwok Sun, consistently referred to Dawson as “he” and explained that he didn’t know whether Dawson was telling the truth about her surgery because she would not allow him to examine her. “Without checking his ‘vagina,’ I did not know whether inmate had a ‘real’ surgery or not,” Cheung says in his statement. A couple months later, Dawson was held in jail for several hours for a separate incident, and again did not receive necessary care. The tribunal ruled that by denying post-op medical care on two separate occasions, police discriminated against Dawson on the basis of her gender identity. The ruling also documents other incidents where officers referred to Dawson as “he” and “she” interchangeably, as well as testimony from one constable on when to respect gender pronouns:  “If a person has male genitalia, they are male and, that if they have female genitalia, they are female . . . A person who is born with male genitalia cannot be referred to as female until they have had gender-reassignment surgery.” In all, the VPD was found to have repeatedly misgendered Dawson during both her stays in the jail, and on one other occasion, each of which amounted to gender-based discrimination. The tribunal gave the VPD one year to create a policy to “recognize and prevent discrimination” against trans people, and to train its officers to be culturally sensitive to the trans community. That was in March 2015.   [[asset:image:309917 {"mode":"440px_wide","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Morgane Oger, seen here as a candidate on BC election night, says the VPD\u2019s first draft was late and insufficient."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Wulfric Odinson\/Daily Xtra"]}]]   The chair of the Trans Alliance Society, Morgane Oger, followed the Dawson versus Vancouver Police Board ruling and the VPD’s progress in implementing it. During her time as a member of the LGBTQ+ advisory committee for the City of Vancouver, Oger formed a subcommittee with the sole purpose of ensuring the ruling was implemented. The VPD had until March 24, 2016, to make the changes. However, according to Oger, the VPD’s draft “initial contact” policy was insufficient and prepared without consulting the community it was meant to serve.   The VPD “were prepared to hand in a policy document that did not meet the standards of the community,” Oger alleges. According to Oger, when the subcommittee finally managed to meet with the VPD to discuss its draft, it was close to the one-year policy change deadline. “We came to an arrangement in which we agreed that the LGBTQ+ advisory [sub]committee would have the opportunity to assist with the rewriting of the policy they were putting forward to make it more sensitive and more compliant with the expectations of the transgender communities,” she says. “The finished product is much, much better than what was originally proposed,” she says, referring to the VPD’s “initial contact” policy passed in June 2016. The policy instructs officers to refer to trans and non-binary people by their chosen name and pronoun. And the VPD did provide training to its officers on time, Oger adds, noting that police brought in organizations to help with “significant amounts of training” and launched a video last June. But two other related policies — on how to transport and hold trans people in police custody, and on a person’s right to have an officer of the same gender conduct a body search — still need work, Oger says. Though the tribunal did not specifically name which policies the VPD needed to change, Oger says she and the advisory subcommittee identified these two policies when they began working on the first policy. When Oger was first interviewed for this story in April, she said she’d received an email from someone at the VPD saying the two remaining policies were set for implementation by the end of May. On May 31, Oger told Xtra the VPD would miss its promised deadline. “These policies were written and finalized by the group some months ago now, and you know our understanding was that it was simply a matter of going through the process and getting them done. But they've decided to make more changes,” she says.   VPD spokesperson Sergeant Randy Fincham doesn’t know when the search policy will be finalized. When asked about the delay on May 18, Fincham suggests the search policy’s lateness is the result of how closely the VPD is listening to community groups and stakeholders. He did not specify which groups were consulted. “We continue to work with a number of community groups to make sure their interests are represented,” he told Xtra by phone. “We will take the time that it needs to make sure that is done professionally, correctly and properly,” he continued, later adding that "unfortunately that does take time to listen to the concerns of the community and make sure there aren't any community groups left out of that consultation.” Fincham also provided some details on the trans sensitivity training for VPD officers. “We have a number of ongoing training initiatives in the VPD specific to the transgender community. We are actually just finishing up three of the last training initiatives with our staff, cultural awareness sessions with our police department, where we have members of the transgender community coming in and speaking with our officers,” he says. Xtra asked for copies of any handouts that officers may have been provided with, or documents from the presentations, but Fincham said he was unable to send any documents. Instead he referred Xtra to the VPD’s “Walk with Me” training video. Xtra spoke with Angela Dawson about the tribunal ruling and her experiences of the police since. She says she wasn’t contacted about the policy. She says she still doesn’t feel safe around police and that some of the personal information revealed in the ruling has actually made her feel more vulnerable.   [[asset:video_embed:309920 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_caption":["The Vancouver Police Department\u2019s training video, \u201cWalk With Me,\u201d was released June 16, 2016."],"field_video_credit":["VPDtv\/Youtube"]}]]   Trans activist Catherine Mateo alleges the VPD’s lateness in implementing its new trans policies is part of a larger pattern of inaction and delays by the VPD. Mateo has researched the VPD’s trans-specific policies and has read the 57-page Dawson ruling. What she learned from reading the case surprised her. A close reading of the the ruling reveals that in the years before the incidents of discrimination against Dawson, the VPD had intended to implement trans-inclusive policies but failed to do so. In fact, the VPD had engaged in community consultations on how to interact with different segments of the LGBT community, and published its findings in a 2008 report called “The Aaron Webster Anti-violence Project,” named for the man fatally gaybashed in Stanley Park in 2001. The consultation process and report were the product of a partnership between the VPD and Qmunity (then The Centre) which received special funding from the BC Ministry of Public Safety and the solicitor general’s safe streets and schools initiative. The project’s stated goal was to strengthen relationships between the VPD and LGBT communities to address the fact that LGBT communities under­-report both hate crimes and spousal violence. The recommendations that emerged from the consultation focused on providing more outreach and support to LGBT people subjected to violence, and on training officers on how to interact respectfully with trans, two-spirit and queer people of colour. The recommendations also encouraged the VPD to keep these communities updated on the LGBT-specific trainings it would provide to its officers. But after the report was released, the VPD didn’t implement its own recommendations, something it readily admitted to the Human Rights Tribunal during the Dawson hearing. In her ruling, tribunal member Catherine McCreary writes: “Inspector de Haas testified that none of these recommendations have been implemented. . . .  It seems to me that the VPB [Vancouver Police Board] has virtually no policies or training of officers on how to appropriately deal with trans people without discrimination.” Xtra asked Sergeant Fincham about the VPD’s failure to comply with the Aaron Webster report’s recommendations, and why the force didn’t provide any trans-sensitivity training to its officers between 2008 and 2015. He said he could look into the matter further. “When you're looking at recommendations to provide training through an agency as large as the VPD, you know it does take time to work with the community, consult with the community, develop and deliver training that meet the needs with the community,” he said. Mateo was disappointed to learn that the Aaron Webster report was not implemented, and that the Dawson ruling hasn’t been fully implemented either. “Community and the police at some point need to have a healthy relationship and I think that's the goal that everyone should be pushing for,” she says. “But when you have the police department spending a great deal of resources in obtaining this [2008 Aaron Webster] report and obtaining a partnership with community and a whole bunch of other organizations and then kind of just ignoring everything — it sucks.”

How one Toronto choir is giving gay men a place to sing their hearts out

2 June 2017 - 11:45am
For folks who have been historically marginalized or oppressed, music is one art form that can be vital for creative expression but also to their everyday mental and emotional health. Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers. Queer performers can find themselves oftentimes seeking out groups that will welcome them to collaborate and participate, which is exactly what the Forte – Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus does. The group has been actively performing since 1997. Through performances and social events, Forte members have the opportunity to both share their voices in perfect harmony and  free themselves from certain stresses they face in everyday life. Christopher Brown has spent a good portion of his life on stage, with a background in theatre and the arts. It wasn’t until he joined Forte that a void in his life was filled. “There’s a great sense of connection, community and brotherhood in the choir,” he says. “When you sing with a choir, you feel on many different levels.” People like Brown are not alone. For many it comes down to finding the right outlet to best express themselves. Many performers lack the safe spaces they need to feel welcomed, encouraged or better yet supported “There is a connection that is felt within everyone at the choir,” says director of membership Nick Green. With sixty permanent singers in the chorus, the network and bonds they have created reach far outside the walls of Forte’s performance space. “I didn't realize I’d end up with a crew of people that are always on-call to hang out,” he says. The uprise in the choral movement has seen new voices give light to stories and social justice issues through music. Green recalls that after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, the choir quickly came together and within a week had added “Pulse” by Melissa Etheridge to their 2016 Pride performance which was dedicated to the victims and survivors. “It was very fresh and emotional, and that shared experience really brought us all together,” Green says.   The choir hopes that each performance will inspire audience members. “It’s quite moving because when you realize the work that you’re doing or the music that you’re creating told a story and these people are able to relate to that story so well that they were absolutely moved, I think it’s something that all of us find very enriching about the choir,” Brown says. And the choir hopes to help a community of gay men feel comfortable about themselves. “I can say it still feels amazing to open your mouth and make beautiful music with people that you share so much with,” Green says. “Our rehearsal hall is a safe place for sharp notes or poor timing, so don’t be afraid.”

What I learned about myself during an encounter with a disabled married client (Part 2)

2 June 2017 - 11:45am
I shift slightly, so our faces are in front of each other, and press my lips to his. He grasps my body and I move so that I’m slightly on top of him, letting him feel my weight. We continue to kiss, our hands running up and down each other’s body. By this point my cock is getting hard and pressing into him. I reach down to his groin but he’s totally flaccid. “It doesn’t always work,” he says. “That’s okay,” I say. “It’s not mandatory.” He pushes me off him playfully and then tries to twist himself around so he can suck me. He struggles to manoeuvre himself so I swing around, bringing my dick as close to his face as I can. Fortunately, the king size bed means there’s enough space that my head and shoulders aren’t hanging off the edge. His head bobs up and down on my cock, with surprisingly good technique. I try to ease off my orgasm, not wanting to come too quickly since we still have a lot of time to fill. But he brings me to the edge faster than I would have expected and I shoot into his mouth.  It’s always a little awkward when you come too early in a session. Assuming you aren’t going to get hard again, which I probably won’t with the 30 minutes left, it sort of signals that things are over. But he doesn’t seem unhappy with my premature ejaculation and just lies contentedly with his face in my crotch. After a few minutes, I gently lift his head and swing myself back around to our original position, wrapping my arms around him. I’m so curious to know more about his situation. But also I’m not sure how much I can ask. People’s secrets often fall out very easily after they’ve had an orgasm; but since I’m the only one who came, that’s not going to have any effect on him. I decide to tread cautiously.  “So you and your husband . . . ” I start. “It must be difficult since the stroke.” “Yes,” he says. “Before we were able to go out places, to travel. We can still, but it’s a lot effort, so we don’t as much as before.” “And . . .” I say, struggling with the question. “Do you still have . . . intimacy?” He smiles. “Sex,” he says. “Yeah.” “Not anymore.” “Not since the stroke?” “No,” he says. “It made things different. But in a way it’s not that strange. For gay couples, when you’ve been together a while it’s normal you stop having sex — with each other at least.” “He obviously knows you’re hiring escorts?” “Yes.” “And is he . . . doing anything?” “I’m sure he meets people sometimes. We don’t really talk about it,” he says. “For me, I really only want to have people here, at my place. It’s too complicated otherwise. But he goes off to do his own thing. With me, he knows who I meet because he’s normally here. With him, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. We have a good life in other ways.” We lie together for a few minutes, silent. I’m rolling his situation over and over in my brain. Is his a happy story or a sad one? A couple fall in love, only to have their sex life end a few years in, but decide to stay together regardless.  Maybe he’s right that it’s not that strange. The disability element is obviously specific, but he’s right that many long-term gay couples end up seeking sexual release outside their relationship. So perhaps, as he says, the outcome is actually to be expected, even if the trigger is something different. “And what about you?” he says, breaking the silence. “What about me?” “Do you have a partner?” I can’t see my face. But I feel myself get ever so slightly red. “No,” I say. “Have you ever?” “Well, I’ve dated a few guys, but never for longer than a year. And not since I started . . . doing this.” “How is that for you?” It’s not unusual for sex work to turn into a therapy session, but it’s always me playing the role of therapist. I share certain details of my life with clients, usually things about travel and my writing work. But I never talk about my dating life. “It’s . . . ” I pause, wondering what I want to say and whether I even want to say it. “I guess I’d like to have a partner someday. But I don’t really think about it that much. I really don’t expect it to happen while I’m . . . doing this . . . And I’m not planning to quit any time soon, so . . . ” I trail off and we lie there silently. I’m not feeling upset exactly, but maybe my voice betrays more emotion than I think, because after a minute or so, he give me a little squeeze and kisses my neck. “Don’t worry,” he says. “You’ll meet someone when the time is right.” I notice the clock is ticking towards the end our appointed time, so I excuse myself to the bathroom to wash my dick. When I return, he’s sitting on the side of the bed and I suddenly realize that, even though I doffed my clothes at the beginning of the session, his shirt and shorts have been on the entire time.  Sex work often means people reveal things about themselves to me, while at the same time I’m working to keep my own secrets guarded. And yet here, it’s me who’s gotten naked, both literally and metaphorically.  When I’m dressed, we begin the slow journey downstairs, him leading and me following, as before. Once we’ve reached the bottom, he’s out of breath, again. We stand together, staring at each other and pondering the connection we just made. I don’t know how often or in how much detail he talks about his life with other escorts, but I almost never share this much of mine with clients.  The moment breaks when his husband opens the office door and steps into the hall.  “Nice to meet you,” he says quickly, before bounding up the stairs. We turn back to each other and smile. I give him a kiss on the lips and he wraps his arms around my waist. As we part, he turns to a little table next to the door, opens the drawer, pulls out a little stack of bills, and hands them to me. I stuff them in my pocket and kiss him again.  “Until next time,” I say with a wink, turning towards the door. “Until then,” he says.  I step outside and walk down the driveway. I glance over my shoulder as I step into the street and he gives me a little wave before closing the door. I stick my hand in my pocket, fingering the cash inside, and start making my way towards the bus stop.

Trans flag raised at Toronto Pride flag raising 2017

2 June 2017 - 8:45am
On a sunny afternoon, dozens of community members, activists, journalists and politicians gathered outside of Toronto City Hall for the annual Pride flag raising. The mood was celebratory on May 31, 2017, and the speeches all touched on themes of diversity and inclusion. The only sign that a divisive vote on defunding the Pride festival had taken place only days before was a lone protester and a few veiled references to “necessary conversations.” “We will come together this year and work through our differences,” said city Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. “We will listen to each other, not just with our ears, but our open hearts.” Unlike his predecessor, Mayor John Tory has shown up at every Pride flag raising. “I’m not going to stand here and pretend that the work in Toronto, the work in addressing those issues is done,” he said.  But the one word that Tory didn’t say — nor did any of the other speakers — was “police.” The controversy over the ban on uniformed police officers marching in the Pride parade continues to be the backdrop against which many people are viewing this year’s march, but no one was interested in dampening the mood by addressing it directly. “Pride was a catalyst for conversation about belonging, about representation, about inclusion,” said Alica Hall, co-chair of Pride Toronto’s board. “It invited discussion about our shared experiences and our differences.”  She said she considers last year’s festival a success, and noted that Pride has always jumped into talking about important issues like the HIV/AIDS epidemic or same-sex marriage. The implication was that anti-black racism and police violence were issues of similar urgency, though she never said it outright. Two of the councillors who voted last week to defund Pride Toronto — Justin Di Ciano and Gary Crawford — came to the event itself, along with 11 who voted to maintain funding. But John Campbell, the Etobicoke councillor who brought forward the motion, was nowhere to be found. The trans flag was raised along with the rainbow flag on the same pole, a symbolic gesture indicating the importance of trans rights. “We raise both flags today recognizing that there are members of our community who continue to struggle for recognition and for acceptance,” Hall said. But the one message that all the speakers had, was that Pride is political. Tory acknowledged that Pride’s “political roots” still exist, even if most people experience the festival as more of a celebration. “We will march in the trans march, the dyke march and the pride march because Pride is political, Pride is intersectional,” Wong-Tam said. “Our marches and parades remind us that Pride was, is and continues to be a political movement,” Hall said.

Out in Ottawa: June 1–15, 2017

1 June 2017 - 2:44pm
Friday, June 2 Friends Bar Grand Opening After a long winter of riding dirty buses and flicking the icicles off of your earlobes, it’s time to settle into a new queer hangout spot for the summer. While billing details for the grand opening of the simply-named Friends Bar is sparse, it is bound to be, umm, friendly. And a bar. So, it can’t be all bad. In any case, all LGBT folks and their friends are welcome.  9pm–2am. Friends Bar, 330 Kent St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Ain’t No Party Like a Westfest Party 2017  This party is a queer complement to this year’s West Fest, an annual celebration of art and culture. Presented by The Queer Mafia, an event promotion and advocacy organization, the bash features DJ D-luxx Brown spinning hip hop, dancehall and R&B. Proceeds go toward an event taking place during Capital Pride  11pm–2am. Elmdale Oyster House and Tavern, 1084 Wellington St W. For more info, visit Facebook.    Friday, June 9 How to Have a Threesome So, you want to have a threesome, but how do you stop it from becoming a mess of tangled arms and legs and hurt feelings and recriminations? Luna Matatas’ workshop is all about making threesomes happen. It includes discussion of how to find a third person (a “unicorn”), how to broach the subject with potential playmates and more. People of all genders and relationship statuses welcome. Registration required.  8:30–10:30pm. Venus Envy, 226 Bank St. venusenvy.ca   Shade Nyx’s Theatre Macabre Presents: Sassy’s Sci-Fi Birthday Extravaganza Sassy Muffin hosts a science fiction-themed night of burlesque and boylesque performances. Some of the burlesquers are Bella Barecatt, Randi Rouge, Mimi Violette Lucky Dubloon and Canary Quinn; and the boylesquers include Oliver Eszy, Tricky Ricky and Wett Willy. And there’s drag. And belly dancing. There’s everything. Billing even promises a “spanking space booth.”  9pm–2am. House of TARG, 1077 Bank St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Saturday, June 10 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.  Every Saturday, 5–8pm. The Odawa Native Friendship Centre, 250 City Centre Ave, Bay 102. kindspace.ca/manajiwin   Thursday, June 15  Hard Cover Book Club: Mouthquake  Men gather at this recurring event to discuss Daniel Allen Cox’s Mouthquake. It’s a coming-of-age novel, where a boy with a stutter uses sound to remember the past. For a more detailed description of this unconventional work, visit the website of its publisher, Arsenal Pulp. The Hard Cover Book Club is one of the ongoing events at the AIDS Committee of Ottawa’s Gay Zone.  6:30–8pm. Centretown CHC, 420 Cooper St. For more info, visit Facebook.

Out in Toronto: June 1–7, 2017

1 June 2017 - 2:44pm
Thursday, June 1 Strictly Ballroom: The Musical Based on the much-loved Australian film by Baz Luhrmann, this musical adaptation follows ballroom dance champ Scott Hastings’s adventures on the dance floor and in love. Features classic songs from the film, including “Love is in the Air” and “Time After Time.” The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). Runs until Sunday, June 25, various showtimes. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St W. mirvish.com [[asset:image:309905 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Strictly Ballroom: The Musical runs until June 25, 2017, at the Princess of Wales Theatre."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Alastair Muir"]}]] A Dramatic Reading from A Queer Love Story  Written during the age of AIDS, the letters between writers/activists Jane Rule and Rick Bébout are full of spirited intellectual debate and affection. This event is a dramatic reading of sections of the book A Queer Love Story: The Letters of Jane Rule and Rick Bébout. The venue is mostly accessible (there are no buttons to open the front door or accessible washroom door).  7–9pm. Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.    June First Thursday: Official Pride Month Launch  Pride Toronto 2017’s multifaceted launch party includes DJ sets by DurtyDabz and Craig Dominic, a performance by hip hop artist Junglepussy, art installations, pop-up talks and more. The event is also one of the AGO’s First Thursday events, a party that takes place on the first Thursday of every month during the summer. The venue is accessible.  7–11:30pm. Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St W. For more info, visit Facebook.    Inside Out 2017 Local Heroes Party  Following a screening of the 2017 Inside Out LGBT Film Festival’s Local Heroes program, a local heroes-themed party features performances by Vivek Shraya and Casey Nicole Mecija. DJs Sadziky and Sigourney Beaver provide the soundtrack for the evening. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 9:30pm–12:30am. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook  [[asset:image:309911 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Vivek Shraya is one of several performers at the Inside Out 2017 Local Heroes Party on June 1, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Tanja-Tiziana"]}]] Friday, June 2 Inspire Awards 2017 It’s time once again to honour various people, organizations and businesses for their contributions to the queer community. The night includes a cocktail reception, awards presentation ceremony, performances by Adam McMaster, Tasheka Lavann, Forte – Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus, The Yes Men and others) and a dance party in a garden.  6pm–1am. Hart House, 7 Hart House Circ. For more info, visit Facebook.    Cream Farewell Party  Don’t worry, this is not the end of this particular party for queer women and their friends. But it is the party’s last time at its usual venue. Cream says goodbye to Club 120 with a night packed with music by DJs Recklezz and KLR and lots of sexy lady dancing. The recurring event’s new venue has not yet been announced.   10pm–2:30am. Club 120, 120 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.  [[asset:image:309908 {"mode":"full","align":"","field_asset_image_caption":["Cream takes place at Club 120 on June 2, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Chantelle Wright"]}]] Saturday, June 3  Forte Turns 20  The gay men’s choir looks back on 20 years of wailing and warbling with an eclectic, nostalgic shindig. Includes a cocktail reception, performances by the choir and stories from wise ol’ choir alumni. The organization also gives out awards to its biggest supporters. The venue is accessible.  7–10:30pm. The 519, 519 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.   Sunday, June 4 Daddy Issues with DJ Nyte Hawk  The community’s new sports bar hosts a party for a good cause. DJ Nyte Hawk spins disco and house, guys dance and socialize, and, given the name of the event, maybe there are even a few daddies in attendance too. Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.  8–11pm. Striker, 31 St Joseph St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Wednesday, June 7  QueerCab: Pride Queer and trans folks who adore the spotlight — come on, you know you do — show off their special talents at this open mic night. The monthly event welcomes youth up to the age of 25 to take the stage and do their thing (whatever that may be) for five minutes each. To sign up to perform, contact leelee@buddiesinbadtimes.com. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 9–11:30pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook. 

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