Ottawa Xtra

Experts scheduled to testify on trans-rights bill in April

9 March 2017 - 11:11pm
Experts will be called to testify in April 2017, on a bill aimed at encoding trans rights in Canadian law, after the Senate delayed the bill’s deliberation over the course of 13 weeks. Bill C-16 is likely to pass a committee study without major amendments that gutted similar legislation in 2013, according to senators, despite some of their colleagues opposing the bill’s potential costs and espousing theories that it will lead to a crackdown on free speech. On May 17, 2016, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould tabled Bill C-16, which would enshrine protection from discrimination based on gender identity and expression into Canada’s human-rights and hate-crime laws.  The House of Commons passed Bill C-16 on Nov 18, 2016, after the government fast-tracked the bill’s committee phase in the House. The Senate then took up the bill, starting its second reading Nov 28, 2016. But the bill has languished through six weeks of Senate breaks and 23 sitting days in the chamber, 16 of which saw the bill postponed without debate. In the same time frame, two other bills started and completed their second-reading phase. A Senate committee has now invited the justice minister to testify on Bill C-16 in the first week of April. Her appearance should be followed by four two-hour sessions of testimony by experts, such as human-rights lawyers, activists that support and oppose the legislation, and psychologists. The committee will then study the bill clause by clause. Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell, the bill’s sponsor, notes that the House passed a similar bill back in 2009, only to see it die in the Senate. “It’s been eight years. It’s way past due; this is a human rights issue, and every day that it’s not passed is a day that injustice is perpetrated.”   The debate  Four Conservative senators have spoken against Bill C-16. Some cited the controversy surrounding University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson. Others took aim at campaigns for and against the bill. Meanwhile, 13 senators spoke in support of the bill, including new senators like André Pratte. “Gays and lesbians have made great strides in their fight against prejudice. Transgender people are just beginning their journey. By passing Bill C-16, we can help them take a crucial step,” he said. But minutes later, Conservative Senator Lynn Beyak warned the bill would lead to higher taxes to fund lawsuits and public-awareness campaigns, and force businesses to buy new bathroom signs. “There is simply not enough taxpayers in our nation to pay for everyone’s preference or choice,” Beyak said. She praised John McKellar, a ’90s activist who founded Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism “to prevent the radicals of the gay movement, who expected all of Canada to be their closet, from setting the agenda.”  “My other gay friends” agree, Beyak said, that “by living in quiet dignity, they have never had to face any kind of discrimination or uncomfortable feelings.” Beyak added that “sex education is better left to parents,” because the topic takes up scarce classroom time. She also said her northwest Ontario district would be best left to make its own choices on bathroom signs. “We do things differently in Rainy River than they do in Vancouver or Montreal, and we certainly know our needs much better than folks in Ottawa or Toronto,” Beyak said. Beyak’s comments prompted outcry and mockery from trans people and allies. Mitchell says the debate was “a juxtaposition of where the society had been and where it is going,” noting that many senators spoke about discrimination they had witnessed. “There wasn’t one that wasn’t moving.”   The delays Conservative and Liberal-leaning senators blamed each other for the bill’s delay, with Mitchell noting that Senator Don Plett — who opposed a similar previous bill on the grounds of perverts allegedly assaulting children in bathrooms — repeatedly left the chamber around his scheduled time to speak. In a response, Plett noted that the government had set six other bills as a priority.  Because Bill C-16 is a government bill, Liberal head Peter Harder could have invoked time allocation, ruling that enough debate had taken place. Harder’s office did not respond to Xtra’s interview request. But Mitchell says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to make senators independent means the Liberals can no longer force them to vote along government lines. He also says it’s a measure of last resort. “Time allocation is just the flipside of those who oppose delaying by adjourning.”   Committee likely favours bill Bill C-16 has now been assigned to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee, where 15 senators will closely examine the legislation.  It was at this stage that the same committee gutted similar legislation in 2013. When a Senate committee studied Bill C-279, Plett amended it to exempt trans protection in jails, women’s shelters, bathrooms and change rooms, warning “it allows for pedophiles to take advantage of legislation.”  As a non-government bill, C-279 spent 20 months in the Senate, whose committee was preoccupied with tough-on-crime bills at the time, before Parliament ended with the summer 2015 election call. But on Dec 14, 2016, the Senate reshuffled its committee seats for the first time since the election.  Bill C-16 is facing a committee with six senators appointed by Trudeau, three members of the Liberal caucus and six Conservatives, just half of whom voted for the 2013 bathroom amendment: Denise Batters, Jean-Guy Dagenais and Paul McIntyre. In an Xtra survey in November 2016, Batters’ office said she’d have to study Bill C-16 before deciding whether to support it, while the other two did not reply. Mitchell says the committee’s new structure, along with evolving popular opinion, give Bill C-16 a much better chance than its predecessors. “The public society really has evolved, and is much more supportive of the plight of trans people,” he says. “We are fair and we are just. Sometimes it takes society a while to get there, but we get there.”

Out in Toronto: March 9–15, 2017

9 March 2017 - 2:10pm
Thursday, March 9 The Bodyguard  When bodyguard Frank Farmer starts protecting superstar Rachel Marron from a stalker, they both get more than they expected — in the love department. Based on the much-loved movie, this musical includes Whitney Houston power ballads and shirtless male backup dancers. The venue is mostly accessible (visit website for more information). Runs until Sunday, May 14, various showtimes. Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St.  [[asset:image:309185 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Bodyguard runs until May 14, 2017, at Ed Mirvish Theatre."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Paul Coltas"]}]] The Book of Mormon When two young Mormon missionaries travel to Uganda to spread the so-called good word, they find the locals preoccupied with more important matters — AIDS, famine and warlords. Written by the creators of the cartoon South Park, this musical comedy mocks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information)  Runs until Sunday, April 16, various showtimes. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St W.  [[asset:image:309188 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy written by the creators of the South Park."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Joan Marcus"]}]] Friday, March 10 The Man Who Married Himself A man who is unwilling to marry a woman creates a lover for himself out of the left side of his own body. Inspired by an Indian folk tale, this “masque” (a performance that combines dancing and acting) is billed as an allegory of “the female and male at war within.” It features dancers Jelani Ade-Lam and Sze-Yang Ade-Lam. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information).  Runs until Saturday, March 11, various showtimes. Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Ave.  [[asset:image:309191 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Man Who Married Himself starring Jelani Ade-Lam (left) and Sze-Yang Lam (right) runs until March 11, 2017, at Crow\u2019s Theatre."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Kakuma Mori"]}]] Bent Beauty Supreme: A Busted Beauty Pageant Actor, performer and man-about-town Keith Cole hosts a queer beauty pageant when folks of every stamp compete to win $500 in cash. Burlesque performer Dolly Berlin, drag queen Allysin Chaynes and others compete in three categories: beach wear, talent and formal wear. All proceeds go to LGBT refugees. The venue is accessible for most people with disabilities.  9pm–2am. The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St W. for more info, visit Facebook.    Saturday, March 11 Trade: Centaur Party  A recurring dance party for horny guys gets all mythological with a centaur theme. Why? Why not. So, oil up your torso and strap on your best horse half-body and gallop on over. DJs Joshua Reid and Scooter McCreight spin. Go-go boys dance. A clothing check is available for those who want to strip down because, as billing says, “all sluts welcome.” The venue is not accessible. 10pm–3am. The Black Eagle, 457 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Brown Rice Gets Glittered  Sequin tops, shiny tights, glitter and anything else that sparkles is encouraged at this edition of a dance party for queer and trans people of colour and their allies. DJs Ace Dillinger, Wei Back and others spin. The venue is mostly accessible (there are no buttons to open the front door or the accessible washroom door).  10pm–3am. Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Sunday, March 12 No More A#%&!: Operation Soap Revisited  A panel discusses how the relationship between the queer community and the Toronto police has (or hasn’t) evolved since the 1981 bathhouse raids. Panelists include The Rude Collective’s Mark-Che Devonish, playwright Alec Butler, Black Lives Matter’s Alexandria Williams, and others. To register, visit website. The venue is accessible for most people with disabilities.  2pm–5pm. The 519, 519 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.

Out in Vancouver: March 9–16, 2017

8 March 2017 - 8:09pm
Thursday, March 9 Bratpack What better way to start the weekend than with a show full of trashy party girls and a beefy hunk DJ. Throw in liquor and it sounds like my prom after-party, except the hunky guy screwed all the trashy girls and I got to film it. That was the start and end of my porno film career. It was before shake proof cameras, and I hadn’t been taught the evils of lemon gin and tequila shots. Starring Gia Metric, Jane Smokr, Kendall Gender, Synthia Kiss, Valynne Vile and the always delectable DJ Nick Bertossi. Showtime 11:30pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover $6.   Friday, March 10 Spring Forward To avoid confusion, yes, the clocks do go forward this weekend, but no, not tonight. I guess people are busy on Sunday, so Saturday is the Gordon Neighbourhood House 75th Anniversary: Spring Forward, featuring live performances, a local DJ, a silent auction, and delicious canapés by Chef Chris Whittaker of Forage Restaurant. 7—10pm. Gordon Neighbourhood House, 1019 Broughton St. Tickets online are in three tiers: $25, $50 (comes with one drink and one raffle ticket) and $75 (comes with two drinks and two raffle tickets).   Wet & Wild This is the way I like to start my partying these days: beefy shower strippers, hunky go-go men, a hot DJ and a room full of drooling, horny, shirtless men ready for anything or anyone who will say yes. Every week I go to see Addison Reed and his tightly packed jockstrap — that thing has to explode soon, it’s stretched out tighter than a snare drum. Join me in the front row in case I faint. Nick Bertossi spins and some of the sexiest staff in town is at your command. Always a fun night to entertain friends and tourists. 9pm–late. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. Cover $5.   Queen Please Believe it or not, the queen is back on Davie Street. No, not Bill Monroe, the younger one. Joan-E is back with a vengeance at her new monthly show, a night of decadent drag and salty stories that would curl your mother’s ears. Every second Friday of the month join Joan-E and her special guests as they transport you to a bawdy Las Vegas show lounge. The show starts a bit later because Joan-E volunteers as the shower fluffer across the street, so get the girl a drink, she deserves it. Doors 9:30pm, show 10:45pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover $5.   Eye Roll: Another F%&+NG 90’s Party This should be called another F%$+NG Peach Cobblah party. Just when you thought the old gal had disappeared, turns out she was just sleeping it off. Peach has been working that gigantic booty off in Elbow Room: The Musical, which I know you all saw. Tonight she’s back for a bang up show with Carlotta Gurl. They were both born in the 90’s — right, the 1890’s. Crack out your best Hypercolor shirts, puffy vests and seashell necklaces. Like, oh my God. 10:30pm–3am. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Cover $6.   Saturday, March 11 Draft Day Party Spring is in the air, and WESA softball is right around the corner. Can’t you just smell last year’s jockstraps? Come meet, be social and find out what team you’re on this year as the yearly Draft Day Party takes over Numbers. Whether you are a player, supporter or just have a fetish for balls, this party is always a huge success. Season opener is Sunday, April 30. 3pm. Numbers Nightclub, 1042 Davie St. No cover.   Sailor Moon Burlesque If you’ve ever watched Sailor Moon, you know it’s not Shakespeare. It’s girl power, fluff and skimpy little costumes — a cosplayer’s dream. You either like it or you don’t. Personally, I feel a bit like a dirty old man if I watch it. But now Moonage Kingdom Live brings us Sailor Moon-inspired theatre and burlesque, where queer feminists merge their magical girl power and love for geek culture into entertainment for you. Somehow I feel the audience will be a sea of men, all dressed as their favourite character. 7–10pm. The Rio Theatre, 1660 E Broadway St. Tickets $30–$50 available at   Leather Social & Gear Night Join the Vancouver Men In Leather at their monthly social, catch up with old brothers and meet new ones. Bring some experienced or curious fetish-friendly friends; fresh meat is always welcome. To help kick-off Rubbout at the end of March, you are encouraged to don rubber, leather, or anything that makes you feel sexy. Do you sigh when you look at your boots? Is your puppy hood looking worn? Sounds like you need to sit for a bootblack! Come out to the social and let Figaro love your leather while you wear it. Stick around after for PJ’s monthly pump night; after all, you’re already dressed for it. 8–11pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. $5 cover kicks in at 9pm.   Score 18 I look forward to this party as much as my friend Sydney, as a young boy, looked forward to the Sears catalogue. Growing up in the boonies, all the boys waited for the Sears catalogue to come, ran to the bathroom and flipped to the underwear pages. Those men in the ads had pieces of bread shoved in the crotch to stop VPL, but not the boys of Score. Those bartenders in jockstraps are a sight to behold. I think I drink more at this party in hopes of a ball or a tip falling out. This year featuring a best jockstrap photo contest with live voting. Some even dare to ice skate in them; now that is a winner. 8:45pm–1am. West End Community Centre, 870 Denman St. Tickets $25 at or   XY White Party Palm Springs Kickoff The part I hate — well one of many things — about the Palm Springs White Party is that I look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy all in white. Not the cute one on the side of the package, either, but the giant mother in Ghostbusters. And then flying home with the circuit party drug hangover is not fun at all. Some of us are getting a bit long in the tooth for that, not that we would admit it. Here is your answer: TFD brings you the Palm Springs White Party kick-off right here at home, steps away from your own bed or, even closer, the bath house. DJ Rafael Calvente on deck all night long and a two performance night from one of the most exciting performers in the scene, Coco Klein. There’s even White Party swag! 10pm–3am. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Tickets $10 at or on Facebook at   Lucky FuKr It may be a week early, and the only leprechauns are the tiny folk who come out when you’ve had one too many, but Man Upp has crossed the border, hopefully, with their hot harness and jockstrap party for St Patrick’s Day. Those Americans always trying to get one up on us. The best DJ of all is Canadian Nick Bertossi, and that is one hot FuKr. 10pm–3am. The Hindenburg, 23 W Cordova St. Tickets $10 at or on Facebook at     Sunday, March 12 Youth Unleashing Power An amazing fundraiser to help with the costs of bringing HIV- and Hepatitis C-positive youth to connect with each other at Lake Cowichan for a symposium. Doors 6:45pm, show 7:30pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover suggested $5 with all proceeds going to Y.U.P.    Sanctuary: Romeo And Juliet Tonight, Alma B Itches and her daughter Rich Elle pay tribute to one of the best movie soundtracks ever: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. Set in the modern-day city of Verona Beach, the Montagues and Capulets are two feuding families whose children meet and fall in love. It’s still the same timeless story of “star-crossed lovers.” All I know is if Alma is Juliet, that balcony better be reinforced. 11pm–2am. 1181, 1181 Davie St. No cover.   Monday, March 13 Red One of, if not the, best shows of the year, supporting Positive Living BC. An event featuring an all-star cast of local Illusionists, dancers, models, designers, fashion retailers, hair stylists, makeup artists and many more who are uniting to support the 5,700 HIV-positive members across BC. Another fabulous Dean Thullner show produced by Volume Studio Productions. 6pm–12am. Harbour Event Centre, 750 Pacific Blvd. Tickets $60–$100 at or   Tuesday, March 14 Tax Workshop For Sex Workers An excellent workshop for a group I never really thought of filing tax returns. But they have the same questions as anyone: what can be claimed as a deduction, how can I claim taxes if what I do is illegal, and what are the pros and cons of filing? Join for a tax workshop and Q&A with a qualified tax specialist, and put your mind at ease. 5–7pm. Pace Society, 148 W Hastings St. Please RSVP with your tax questions at as space is limited.   Wednesday, March 15 Mail A Card To Trump Day I’m sure all the suggestive naked male postcards will be flying off the shelves at Little Sister’s for this. Gays everywhere are tired of being Trumped, and here’s a chance to show him the world of gays are watching and demanding change. Mail a postcard to Donald Trump, and overwhelm him with opposition from all corners of the world. Show the media and politicians what standing with him — and against us — means. Most importantly, bury the White House post office in pink slips, informing Donnie he’s fired. A must do. President (for now) Donald J. Trump The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Ruth Ellis created space for gay and lesbian African Americans in the 1940-1960s

7 March 2017 - 8:07pm
In 1899, African Americans had enjoyed 34 years since the final ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation. However, only three early,  the Plessy v Ferguson case had upheld racial segregation in railway cars, dictating that black passengers were required to use separate accommodations from white passengers, legitimizing state laws that required racial segregation. The US Congress had also amended a law to punish “all public prostitutes, and all such persons who lead a notoriously lewd or lascivious course of life,” deleting the word “notoriously” and making the law gender-neutral to widen its scope, punishing sexual wrongdoers as “vagrants.” On the cusp of a new century, on July 23, 1899, Ruth Charlotte Ellis was born. Ellis was born in Springfield, Illinois, to Charlie and Carrie Farro Ellis. Her father was a self-educated man who’d been born into slavery and ended up becoming the first African American mail carrier in Illinois, though her mother died when she was 12. At 16 years old, Ellis realized she was attracted to her school gym teacher. She later got her hands on Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness and researched the term “homosexual” in a psychology book, stating in lesbian magazine Curve that, "My mother died just about the time I started menstruating, so she showed me that, but from then on nobody told me anything.” She had no lesbian role models and little sex education — her father conveniently laid a book on sex education on his desk, assuming she’d “be meddlesome and look in to read it.” Ellis never had to come out of the closet, as she never felt the need to hide her sexual identity from her brothers and father, and she often had girlfriends over. “Nothing ever happened,”   Ellis reportedly told one interviewer, according to an obituary. “Except one night I had this girlfriend stay and we made a little too much noise. The only thing my father ever said to me was, ‘Next time you girls make that much noise, I will put you both out.’” One of these girlfriends was Ceciline “Babe” Franklin — some sources say they met in the early 1920s, one biographer says in 1936 — a woman 10 years her junior. “Because I was 10 years older than she, I almost shut the door in her face,” Ellis said. “She told me if I ever left Springfield she’d come to where I was. I don’t think it was real love. I just think it was time for me to get away.” They would remain together for over 30 years. Ellis’ brother encouraged her to make the move to Michigan, Detroit where she could earn more money, so in 1937, Ellis and Franklin moved, eventually buying a house together. Franklin worked as a cook, while Ellis started taking care of children, then got a job at a print shop. “I was working for a printer and I said to myself, if I can do this for him, how come I can’t do it for myself?” Ellis started a print shop in one of the front rooms of her house, producing stationery, fliers and posters, making her the first woman in Michigan to own a printing business. To the wider world she was a successful businesswoman but behind the scenes she was a community organizer. Throughout the 1940s to the 1960s, Ellis and Franklin’s home became a Detroit “gay spot” for gay and lesbian African Americans. She became a parental figure to young gay and lesbian adults that ended up at her home. The couple separated amicably in the 1960s when Franklin moved out to be closer to her work and Ellis moved into a senior citizen’s centre. "We were just two opposite people,” Ellis explained. “She liked to drink, go to bars, gamble. I never did all that. Mine was concerts and things like that, going to church and church things." Franklin passed away in 1973, and she was Ellis’ last relationship. Less than a week after her 70th birthday, riots at the Stonewall Inn shook New York City and launched the modern American LGBT movement. This sudden surge of larger community and visibility made Ellis something of a celebrity in the community. She was often invited as a speaker at events nationwide and became a fixture at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Journalist Kathleen Wilkinson describes in Curve how Ellis led San Francisco’s dyke march in 1999, on her hundredth birthday, “where thousands of Bay Area women sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, the first of many birthday celebrations over the summer.” Ellis would also see her 101st birthday before quietly passing away in her sleep, but not before, less than a month before her death, she helped dedicate the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit, a social services agency caring for homeless, runaway and at risk LGBT youth. Even in old age, Ellis remained socially and physically active. In a documentary on her life, Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100, friends spoke about her love of dancing and described how people would line up to dance with her, and she would stay on the dance floor while younger people had to sit down to take a rest. After her appearance in San Francisco she decided to remain at home in Detroit, despite invitations from overseas, presumably to LGBT events, saying, “No, I’m not crossing no ocean, no way.” She requested a memorial service rather than a traditional funeral, and her remains were cremated, spread in special places at the Womyn’s Festival. Some of the ashes also crossed the ocean to be spread in the sea in Ghana. Ellis’ life spanned three centuries, 101 years of change for black, LGBT people and women, and she is considered the oldest known lesbian and LGBT activist. Despite this, she remained humble to the end. “Who would want to read a book on my life? I’m nobody! I’m just Ruth!” she said in the Living With Pride documentary. “Yeah . . . who would want to read it?”

Small town, big Pride

7 March 2017 - 5:07pm
Sara Hamil strolls through downtown Jasper with her partner, admiring the preparations underway for this year’s Pride Festival. “One thing we do every year for Pride is a window decorating contest,” says the festival’s co-chair. “[The] downtown core is very warm and welcoming. Most, if not all, businesses have rainbow stickers or flags all year round. We take that extra step to make sure the LGBTQ community knows they’re welcome.” Now in its eighth year, the festival was created to showcase Jasper as a safe, welcoming, and inclusive destination for LGBT people. The festival’s growth each year is due in part to Jasper’s tight-knit community members. Lynn Wannop loves seeing her community come together. As banners and rainbow stickers continue to pop up on the eve of the festival. Wannop says she’s honoured to be an integral part of it all. As a Pride board member and as the owner of Coco’s Café (which proudly shows off its rainbow sticker year round in its window), Wannop gets to both experience and help foster  the festival’s welcoming warmth. “Businesses are a big part of Pride here, and it’s so nice to see them put stickers up,” Hamil says. Despite Jasper’s small population of about 5,000 people, its Pride festival is widely embraced and any hurdles that creep up are addressed together. Hamil notes that big festival spaces are in short supply because development is limited in the national park surrounding the town. To remedy this, the Pride board has worked with businesses and sponsors to create spaces for some of the festival’s events like the Saturday party, for example, which was moved from a small bar to Jasper’s activity centre, which can accommodate up to 400 people. Festival manager Tucker says the celebration’s expansion would not have been possible without the generous support and sponsorship of Jasper’s local businesses. This year’s festival will also feature a new event specifically for youth, after students from Jasper’s gay-straight alliance asked to be included in the celebrations. Last year’s gala, hosted by the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, was for adults only, but this year the lodge, working with the Pride board, is hosting a second gala specially for teens. Hamil is excited  to see how far Jasper Pride has come in just a few short years. She recalls meeting a couple from the UK last year who were visiting as many Pride festivals as they could. “We’ve been to a lot of festivals around the world, but Jasper is the warmest we’ve been to because we feel like we are leaving with friends,” Hamil says they told her. Stroll around its main streets dotted with  rainbow stickers and banners nestled among the Rockies and you too could experience the hospitality of Jasper’s small-town Pride.  

Ten things you might not know about the Vancouver Pride Society

7 March 2017 - 2:07pm
I started working as the co-executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society in March 2016 and it has been a whirlwind ever since. Diving into planning just four months before last year’s Pride celebrations was a hectic, mammoth challenge that felt overwhelming at times. But we made it through, and as soon as our 2016 season finished our staff sent surveys to our suppliers, volunteers, performers, community partners and the general public to collect feedback about our events. Overall, the feedback was extremely positive, not just about the organization of our events, but our follow-through on commitments, our integration and appreciation of volunteers, and the changes we implemented, like adding interactive art installations to our Davie Street Party or creating the Pride Patrol volunteers who roamed our events talking about consent and safety. So many people offered us respectful critiques and gave us many helpful suggestions to consider for our 2017 season, such as seeking  performers who better reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ2+ community, further supporting other events organized by community groups during Pride week, and how to make our events safer and more inclusive for everyone. We also embarked on a community consultation process to engage with groups who might face barriers to attending Pride events. Through all of our feedback gathering, I have learned that there are some myths or misunderstandings about the Vancouver Pride Society, or things that the general public just doesn’t know. To help break down some barriers of communication, I would like to share 10 things you might not know about the VPS:   10. Even though the VPS produces multiple large-scale events, we are a small operation with just 11 staff from May to August, and only four staff during our “off season.” We work in a small office space that definitely gets cozy during our busy season. (The space may be cozy but it’s  full of rainbows, unicorns and sparkles that you can’t miss if you come visit!) [[asset:image:309170 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["VPS staff share the rainbows in their cozy office."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Andrea Arnot\/Daily Xtra"]}]]   9. Speaking of staff, the VPS board of directors decided to appoint two executive directors in March 2016 to help lead the organization, each ED with a different function. Kieran Burgess brings years of working large events with the Ironman organization. He just finished his very last assignment for his MBA program on Feb 19, and definitely brings his knowledge of budgets and finance to his role in managing the organizational operations. As for me, throughout my entire career, I have worked to create positive social change in the areas of diversity and inclusion. I have been successful at creating safer spaces for community dialogue and opportunities for groups and individuals to work together, often using interactive arts-based methods. I think combining my leadership style with Kieran’s at the helm made for a Pride season last year that was efficient, fiscally viable, more organized and intentionally interactive. We hope to do it again this year!   8. Regarding the community consultation that I mentioned earlier, the results to date have indicated that a large percentage of people think our board of directors is not diverse. Let’s introduce you to our board: Co-chair: Charmaine de Silva Co-chair: Michelle Fortin Secretary: John Whistler Treasurer: Darius Maze Directors: Alan Jernigan, Nicola Spurling, Azza Rojbi, Catherine Jenkins Kieran and I also share a seat on the board. [[asset:image:309167 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Clockwise from top left: Kieran Burgess, Nicola Spurling, Alan Jernigan, Michelle Fortin, John Whistler, Andrea Arnot, Charmaine de Silva, Azza Rojbi, Darius Maze, Catherine Jenkins. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["Photos supplied\/Vancouver Pride Society"]}]] At our board meeting on Feb 26, 2017, we were delighted to appoint Catherine Jenkins to our board. Meanwhile, Alan Jernigan stepped down as co-chair because his business is taking off and he doesn’t have as much time to devote to the organization. We are all happy that he will remain a director at large. Michelle Fortin was appointed to replace Alan as co-chair.   7. Did you know that all Pride parade entries go through quite a vigorous process to be accepted into the parade? The VPS parade working group is made up of myself and community members. We meet monthly to adjudicate parade applications using a matrix to score each one. Each parade applicant is evaluated based on what initiatives they’ve taken to support the LGBTQ2+ community internally and externally throughout the year, as well as how their values align with those of the VPS, and if they have a policy around anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Before any parade application is accepted, our working group also does some research to see if the organization or business has any history of homophobia or transphobia, and if so, whether it’s recent and has been resolved. We feel that vetting all applicants helps us have parade entries that are either serving the LGBTQ2+ community or that are truly allies who walk the walk the other 364 days of the year.   6. In addition to the Pride parade through the West End, the VPS also produces East Side Pride on the weekend anniversary of the original Stonewall Riots in June. This small, fun, low-key festival is held in Grandview Park on Commercial Drive in East Van, and features local bands and performers, artisan vendors and community group booths. [[asset:image:309173 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["East Side Pride takes place on Commercial Drive in June."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Photo supplied\/Vancouver Pride Society"]}]]   5. The VPS also provides financial support to a number of community events, like the Dyke March, Aging With Pride, Queer Prom, Untoxicated Sober Dance and the Trans and Genderqueer March. We believe the folks organizing these events are the experts at creating spaces that specific communities want and need. We offer support with funds, marketing, volunteers and staff time.   4. This year, the VPS is offering small bursaries to small or vulnerable community groups to assist them with participating in Pride week, either to attend VPS events or to help them create or produce their own. Any group who is interested can email or call the VPS office at 604-687-0955 to discuss an informal proposal.   3. Last year, the VPS  worked with the Consent Crew to help us create safer spaces for people at our larger events. Creating a culture of consent at our events is extremely important, especially when there are vulnerable community members who might want to attend. The Consent Crew meanders in pairs through event spaces and engages in conversations with people about how consent is based in respecting each other’s wants and needs, and asking for permission to engage with someone (such as asking someone, “May I give you a hug?”). This year, the Consent Crew will be back and we are pleased to be working with Karmik. Karmik is a West Coast harm reduction initiative, focusing on harm reduction strategies while promoting health and safety in nightlife/festival communities. Karmik volunteers joined the Consent Crew at our Unicorn Ball on Feb 18, 2017, and will be at our larger events like the Davie Street Party and the Sunset Beach Festival this August. [[asset:image:309176 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Participants strike a pose at the 2016 Davie Street Party. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["C Bowman\/Vancouver Pride Society"]}]]   2. Through our community consultation process, we have also heard that people feel like there aren’t enough opportunities to learn about the history of the Pride movement in Vancouver. In response to this critique, we are curating a “Living Library.” The Living Library will consist of knowledge holders and storytellers who can share small slices of history in 10-15 minutes with individuals or groups. This initiative will be present at all of our 2017 events. Participants will be able to “check someone out” like a library book! If you enjoy engaging in conversation with others, have a slice of Pride history to share and would like to be part of this project, please contact us!   1. Our staff, board and volunteers are all wonderful humans who care deeply about the LGBTQ2+ community. We all work really hard to create celebratory, fun, interactive, meaningful, safe events for the LGBTQ2+ community and allies to enjoy. We are always open to critiques and suggestions. We aren’t always perfect, but we do our best to be responsive to feedback. Contact us at to share yours!

Fire Island, Northern Ireland and ageing while gay

6 March 2017 - 11:06pm
[[asset:image:309179 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Political maneuvering in Northern Ireland A resounding political loss by the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party could open the door to same-sex marriage, but DUP politicians are already rounding up small-party support to continue blocking equal marriage. Northern Ireland is the last party of the United Kingdom without equal marriage. Read more at the Belfast Telegraph.   What is gay loneliness really about? Michael Hobbes’ essay last week made waves, claiming that social problems inside the gay community were contributing to loneliness and depression. While some reactions were predictable anti-gay rhetoric from religious conservatives, others, such as Ben Miller at Slate, presented more nuanced arguments about the political realities behind gay loneliness.   Researchers study gay ageing At the University of Washington, researchers have released the results of research into what they say is the understudied topic of LGBT ageing. They found that LGBT seniors are at greater risk for diseases from cardiovascular problems to social isolation, but that good relationships and being out of the closet can diminuate risk.   Half of Japanese gay students bullied A Japanese professor of social epidemiology is calling for better supports for Japanese students, who his research shows are frequently bullied in school. More worryingly, students say very few teachers stepped in to help. Read more at The Mainichi.   Fire Island series announced The gay entertainment world is discussing Logo TV’s new docu-series Fire Island, in which a group of well-muscled New York gay men frolic for a summer at the legendary gay getaway spot.

Protesters challenge New West pastor on anti-trans campaign

6 March 2017 - 8:06pm
More than 50 protesters gathered silently in the snow outside New West Community Church on Sunday, March 5, 2017, to mark their opposition to Paul Dirks, the church’s lead pastor. Dirks spearheaded a campaign against Bill C-16, the federal bill that would protect trans people from discrimination across Canada. Dirks’ campaign gained attention in January when anti-trans posters appeared in the Davie Village, but Dirks insists that his campaign is misunderstood. “This is something that needs to be really clear about our campaign: we’re not saying that trans people are more of a risk; we’re saying that predators will take advantage,” Dirks tells Xtra. “My view is based on women’s rights campaigns and protections. There’s women both in my immediate family and my faith community who don’t feel that it’s safe to have no criteria around them when they are vulnerable or unclothed.” Protesters say that’s a red herring. “It’s something that people who object to extending trans rights trot out as a way of justifying their own bigotry,” Mary Ann Saunders says. “When he talks about the discomfort of women, he’s not talking about all women, he’s talking about a small number of women. And he’s not taking into account the needs and comfort and rights of trans women.” [[asset:image:309155 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Mary Anne Saunders attended the March 5 protest in New West. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["Hannah Ackeral\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Saunders transitioned while a member of a church community, and says her church has always been a safe and welcoming environment, both during and after her transition. She wants people to know that Dirks’ way of understanding faith and Christianity is not the only way. “It’s really important to counter misinformation and fear with factual information about the implications of Bill C-16 and about whose lives are actually in danger,” she says. “We know that it’s trans people that are more in danger than anyone Pastor Dirks is talking about.” Protester Hazel Plante is concerned about the apparent disconnect between Dirks’ words and his campaign. “He says things like, ‘I love trans people,’ and then I see the actions and it’s clearly designed to make trans women look like predators,” Plante says. “I think it's really important to protect trans rights, and to make attacking someone who is trans a hate crime. Seems pretty fundamental and obvious to me,” she says. “If you want us to be a part of society, then we need to be able to use the washroom,” she continues. “It’s really not about the washroom at all. It's about what spaces can we enter? Where can I be a fully functional human being?” [[asset:image:309158 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Pastor Paul Dirks says his church welcomes everyone, including trans people. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["Hannah Ackeral\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Dirks allotted an hour to meet with protesters and create a dialogue before his sermon. Though some protesters engaged, many turned their back on him and refused to interact, instead chanting, “Love thy neighbour.” “I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t feel like he’s created a safe space,” explained one of the protest organizers, Lorne Gille. “I don’t want to dialogue with Paul, I don’t feel like it’s helpful or productive. We’re just here to voice our dissent against him.” “We had some fears around not wanting to give him more air time,” adds Gille, who says he joined the protest as both a trans man and a Christian, after reading about Dirks. “I just think this gives a really negative connotation to Christianity and religion,” he says of Dirks’ campaign. “There’s just no place for this.” Dirks maintains that he loves everyone, including trans people, and that his church “welcomes anyone who wants to worship Jesus.” [[asset:image:309161 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["\u201cI\u2019m not hiding anymore, and I\u2019m not going to let anyone else push me back in,\u201d says Candace Boer, who attended with her husband."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Hannah Ackeral\/Daily Xtra"]}]] In a crowd made up predominantly of trans people and their families, many protesters expressed fear that Bill C-16 might not pass in Parliament. The bill is now headed to the legal affairs committee for review, having finally passed its second reading in the Senate on March 2. “As a transgender woman who came out later in life, I don’t want the younger generation to have to go through this hatred, this violence and dissociation from society,” says Candace Boer, who attended the protest with her husband. “I’m not hiding anymore, and I’m not going to let anyone else push me back in.” “That’s all I’m asking — just to live like any other normal person. I don’t want to be someone that’s considered less human.”

Beauty and the Beast, incarceration and gay loneliness

4 March 2017 - 2:03am
[[asset:image:309149 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Beauty and the Beast promises “gay moment” The director of Disney’s upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast has promised a “gay moment” for one of the characters, prompting protest from conservative movie theatres and a discussion of whether or not this will be Disney’s first gay character.   Minority stress and gay loneliness At Highline, Michael Hobbs asks why, even after most gay men are out of the closet, so many feel desperately alone. From stress to masculinity, what’s getting gay men down?   US sexual minorities disproportionately incarcerated A new study from the American Journal of Public Health finds that sexual minorities are three times as likely to be incarcerated as straight people, and the situation is even worse for women. One researcher said that lesbian and bisexual women may be seen as dangerous because they defy gender stereotypes. Read more from NBC News.   Chinese LGBT groups protest video censorship Chinese LGBT groups are crying foul after a popular online streaming site banned videos involving gay people as a “wrong concept of love.” The site, LeTV, later removed any explicit mention of homosexuality, but the videos remained banned. Read more at the Global Times.   Saudi police attack trans meeting According to Pakistani news agency News 92, police in Saudi Arabia attacked a meeting of trans people in the capital city of Riyadh, killing two. The police attacked the meeting based on a law criminalizing cross-dressing.

Why do we stigmatize STIs like syphilis, but accept other illnesses as normal?

3 March 2017 - 5:03pm
I hadn’t been feeling well all morning. I sat at my desk at work, feeling nauseated. Every 30 minutes I needed to run to the bathroom. But I was sure it was only momentary, nothing serious. At lunch, I met up with some coworkers and we headed to the cafeteria. As I sat down with my tray, one of my coworkers said I didn’t look so great. I was pale, sweating, and my eyes were glossed over. Whatever it was, I needed to get out of there. I went back to my desk and told my boss I needed to go home. As I left the building, the vomiting began — all over the front lawn. For the next two days, this was my life. Even after the symptoms ended, the dehydration left me exhausted for several days more. It was norovirus. A highly contagious virus I could have caught anywhere — from dining out, from the bus, or just about anyplace else. And no, I didn’t catch it from sex. Norovirus is an illness I don’t want to get again, though it’s likely I will. We get all sorts of illnesses throughout our lives — many regularly. Norovirus left me unable to go to work or be meaningfully productive; so too does the common cold at times. Illness is a consequence of living. Yet we stigmatize some illnesses, and accept others as normal. One day, a couple of years ago, I lay on my sofa watching porn. I lay there naked, stroking my cock. As I worked my hand up and down my shaft, I noticed something strange. There was some sort of sore on it. At first I thought I might have been getting too much action. Had I fucked or jerked my dick to the point of abrasion? Then I remembered something. I paused the porn, opened Google, and did a search. As I scrolled through the pictures I realized this sore could be something else: a chancre — a symptom of primary stage syphilis. Aunt Phyllis had never paid me a visit before. However, I was aware of her. Considering how sexually active I am, I knew it was only a matter of time before I caught it. I’d already had gonorrhea and chlamydia several times, so it was time I pulled a hat trick. Fortunately, I had already booked a regular appointment at the HIM clinic for the following day — I go every two months to get tested for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. I got the ever-gorgeous Nurse Alex as usual. His milky smooth skin, dark hair, soothing and soft voice, and emotional detachment always made me enjoy my visits. I told him I’d spotted a sore on my dick and was concerned I could have syphilis. He told me to drop my trousers, which I dutifully did. He grabbed the head of my penis and stretched it out. Hmmmmm, yes, this could be syphilis. He grabbed a swab, wiped it around the sore, then broke it off into a plastic container. Next, he took my usual blood and urine samples. He told me he guessed there was a fifty-fifty chance it was syphilis. Otherwise, it was just a sore from too much friction. I cancelled all my dates for the upcoming week, just in case. This wasn’t something I wanted to spread. Not only is that unethical, but I know others aren’t so diligent with their testing. I’m lucky I’m mostly a top — a sore is easy to spot on your dick but not so easy in your ass (or mouth). Four days later, I got a call from Alex. The test had come back positive for syphilis. I was actually kind of relieved. I had known this moment would come someday, so I was glad I no longer had to wait in dread. Syphilis was the one I’d feared the most, for a number of reasons. I wasn’t too worried about HIV — I was on PrEP, and I knew lots of people living with HIV. Syphilis, however, has an almost mythical quality to it due to its history of driving people mad. He gave me some treatment options that would fit around my work. One was to go to the bathhouse Friday night to see a nurse there. The other was to go to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) clinic on Saturday morning. I liked the idea of getting treated at the bathhouse but, unfortunately, that nurse called in sick, so I was pushed back to the CDC clinic on Saturday. As I sat in the waiting area, I noticed a cute guy sitting across from me who I recognized from Scruff. Damn, I could’ve asked him out but, ya know, syphilis. Eventually, my name was called and I accompanied an older female nurse down the hall. She asked me a few standard questions and got a colleague to join her to help with the procedure — two long needles, one in each upper ass cheek. They would do it simultaneously to minimize the pain. I laid ass up on the bed as the thick fluid was injected into my ass. I got up, they reminded me not to have sex for two weeks, and I left. I headed down the hill to my favourite noodle house, since I was in the neighbourhood. I walked in and saw my friend Steve sitting there. He waved and asked me to join him. As I sat down, I muttered, “Ow.” “Syphilis shot?” he asked. “Yep, how did you know?” I replied. “Cuz we’re two blocks from the CDC and I always come here after I visit the clinic too,” he said. Steve has much the same attitude as I do about sex. Free-spirited, debaucherous, accepting of risk. I was glad I ran into him, since sometimes I think my views are too far outside the norm and need a little confirmation bias. I went without sex for the next two weeks. It was the longest I’d abstained in over a year. I lined up my dates for when my penile quarantine ended and I went back to living and having sex just as I had before. My strategy worked. Frequent testing and treatment when needed prevented any of these STIs from ever becoming a serious issue. Gonorrhea? Take a couple of pills and it goes in a week. Syphilis? Get a couple of shots in the ass and it goes in two weeks. Furthermore, they had no impact on my quality of life. Okay, the no sex does affect my quality of life, but I could still go to work, hang out with friends, go to the gym and eat normally. And yet, we freak out about STIs. Many guys feel dirty. We worry about notifying our partners and the reactions we might receive. And we do whatever we can to avoid getting one, to the point of obsessing over STI prevention. It comes down to the shame we feel around sex. But I’m not going to play that game. I’m not going to freak out about getting an STI — I’m going to just shrug my shoulders and get the treatment. I’m not going to do everything possible to avoid them; I’m going to accept them as natural, minor inconveniences associated with enjoying the sex for which our bodies are intended. As for norovirus, however, I’m going to avoid that like the plague.  

A client wanted me to hold a knife to his throat (Part 2)

3 March 2017 - 5:03pm
It seems like forever before he appears. The light has been steadily fading since we met at the restaurant and for a second I’m not totally sure it’s him.  But his head-to-toe denim uniform gives him away. There’s also his gait. He’s walking very slowly, like he’s worried that the ground is unstable and might break apart under his feet.  I wait until he’s a few paces past my hiding spot, then stand and walk silently towards him. From the location, to what I’m wearing, to the dialogue, we’ve gone over nearly every detail of the scene. But as I’m approaching, I realize that we haven’t discussed the most dangerous part, namely how to choreograph holding the knife to his throat. He’d been very clear in advance that if the knife was fake the scene wouldn’t work for him. He needs the feeling of it against his skin. I’d done a bit of research and, at least according to some paramilitary and end-of-the-world message boards, the amount of pressure it takes to sever the jugular is actually pretty minimal. Calling an ambulance while I wrap my T-shirt around his neck is not part of the fantasy, so caution is going to be key. When I’m about a metre behind him, I lurch forward and clap my gloved hand over his mouth, pulling him towards me. He inhales sharply as if he’s going to scream but doesn’t say anything. Gingerly, I apply the knife to his neck, just under his chin.  “Do exactly what I say, otherwise I’m going to cut your fucking throat,” I whisper in his ear, as I pull him backwards with me, behind the bushes. Satisfied that we’re sufficiently hidden, I begin running my hands over his body. There’s a wad of cash in his back pocket, exactly where we’d agreed it would be, and I pull it out. “This all you got?” I ask hoarsely. He stammers a yes, through my gloved hand, which is still clamped over his mouth.  “That’s not gonna be good enough,” I growl. “You’re gonna have to give me something . . . more.” “I don’t have any more,” he whispers. “I’ll do whatever you say though. Please just don’t kill me.” “What are you willing to do?” “Anything you want.” It’s not specifically called for here, but I decide to take a little pause in the script to let the tension build. I keep one palm clamped over his mouth and let the other hand holding the knife trail down his body. I pause over his groin, resting the knife directly over the spot where I can feel his cock hardening in his jeans. He inhales sharply through my gloved fingers. I briefly contemplate trying to take things in a new direction. But in the eight pages he sent me, he never once mentioned threats of genital mutilation as a turn on, so I decide to go back on course and return the knife to his throat. “Get on your knees,” I say. He moves as if he’s going to kneel, but struggles with his balance a bit. I quickly release my knife-wielding hand from his throat and extend it in front of him so he has something to hold onto as he lowers himself to the ground.  Once he’s there I realize we need to adjust our position. He’s currently facing out towards the field, which means if I walk around in front of him I’ll have my back in that direction. Part of my task in the situation is to be lookout, so I need to turn him around. There’s also the issue of my dick. I’ve never been one of those guys who can just whip it out and be hard right away. I need something to turn me on. I can always find a way with clients — a little kissing, a little cuddling. But it’s not going to get hard by itself without some kind of stimulation. The scene is written so that I’m already hard when he takes me in his mouth, so I need to sort that out.  Keeping one hand clamped over his mouth, I release the knife from his throat, tuck it in my back pocket, and slide my hand down my pants and start fumbling with my junk. I rotate through a few different fantasies, my eyes slightly closed, trying to get hard. But the adrenaline of the situation and the fear that we might get caught is drawing blood away to more important places, and I can only manage a semi.    “Turn around,” I say. He struggles on his hands and knees to reorient himself to face me. His eyes are closed, but I clamp my hand over them anyway as he instructed. I unzip my jeans, pull my dick out, take the knife from my back pocket and place it against his throat again. He opens his mouth without me saying anything.  Looking down at him, he seems so . . . small; this tiny little guy on his knees, with a knife to his throat, waiting to suck me off so I don’t kill him.  I don’t tend to think too much about where clients’ fantasies come from. Our sexual imaginations are always a complex combination of influences and experiences, gleaned from different phases in our lives. But I’m suddenly struck with a strange, sad affection for him. What exactly happened to you that brought you here to me like this? It’s not a question he’s going to answer in this moment,  and frankly, it’s not my place to ask. I just stick my mostly-limp dick in his mouth, and he starts sucking it hungrily. I glance back and forth across the field.  It’s getting dark, but I can still see clearly in both directions. I give a little start when a plastic bag suddenly blows across my field of vision. But other than that, the space is totally dead.  I don’t know anything about his previous sexual experiences, but it’s obviously not the first time he’s had a dick in his mouth and his technique is surprisingly good. I manage to get fully hard and then  slowly began fucking his face. “Suck that cock or I’ll cut your throat,” I murmur. The last part of the scene is for me to come in his mouth, which has me worried, since I often find it hard to climax just by getting sucked. The situation itself isn’t a turn on or a turn off. It’s oddly neutral, non-sexual almost. I glance down at him. He’s got his eyes closed as he mouths my dick. What’s going on in his mind? He hasn’t said the safe word, so I’m assuming things are going fine. But is he getting what he wants from the scene?  Getting as much detail in advance of a roleplay scenario is an asset. But at the same time, the more precisely laid out the scene, the harder it is to get it right. In this case, he’s already given me more details than any of my other clients, which gives me a lot to go on, but also a lot of ways in which it can go wrong.  I can’t tell whether I’m giving him what he needs and there’s not really a delicate way to pause the scene and ask. But the blowjob is unexpectedly good and after a few minutes, I shoot in his mouth and withdraw. I tuck the knife in my back pocket, shove my dick in my pants, and quickly walk away, exactly as I’d been instructed. I pull off the balaclava as I walk and clench it in my hand. I feel like Lot escaping Sodom and Gomorrah, straining not to look back over my shoulder.  I imagine him lying in a heap, sobbing on the ground, and it’s taking every ounce of self-control not turn around and go back to check on him. But I just keep walking, the power lines buzzing above me, until I emerge back onto the street and head towards my bike.