Ottawa Xtra

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 The playwright wants to bulldoze through the withdrawn, polite atmosphere he says is prevalent in Toronto’s local queer scene with his event and encourage people to glance up from their cellphone screens.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.   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.   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. [[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 The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 9–11:30pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook. 

The masturbation misadventures of a sex toy reviewer

31 May 2017 - 8:42pm
One afternoon last summer, a shoe gave me an orgasm. Okay, there’s a little more to it than that. A company called Ainsley-T sent me their product, a pair of pumps whose heels are shaped like butt plugs. I’ve been a sex toy reviewer for over five years, so I was up to the task of testing the shoes —on my feet, sure, but mostly in my butt. Shortly after receiving the shoes, I bumbled my way through a sweaty masturbation sesh. It took a long time to find a position where the shoe didn’t slide out of my ass every 10 seconds, and even longer to bring myself to orgasm with a wand vibrator while remaining perfectly still so as not to dislodge the fickle heel. I was essentially in a predicament-bondage scene with a shoe. When I finally came, I let out a garbled moan that was equal parts regular orgasmic pleasure and the sheer relief of being allowed to stop jerking off. My butt jettisoned the shoe as if in protest, and I collapsed on my bed, dripping with sweat, vibrator pinned under one arm and shoe heel jabbing into my thigh. Many frazzled thoughts crossed my mind as I lay there catching my breath and trying to regain my dignity. This sure is a shoe-merous story. If porn star Tina Horn fucked me with a shoe, she’d be “shoehorning” me. But mostly, I just thought about how weird it is to be a sex toy reviewer — and how different it is from what most people think. I’ve been asked countless times in the five years I’ve been reviewing toys, “So you just, like, masturbate all the time? That must be nice.” And yeah, I get where they’re coming from. But there’s so much they don’t know. They don’t know, for example, how many orgasms I’ve had to intentionally ruin by testing shitty toys. The alarm-clock vibrator that dug into me uncomfortably while I tried to sleep, the vibrators so buzzy they numb my genitals (and my hand) so I can’t even feel what’s happening, the tiny hot-pepper-shaped dildo that tried so hard to be funny it forgot to be pleasurable. I do my due diligence when writing reviews, and that means eking orgasms out of toys I test whenever possible — often at the expense of my pleasure, comfort and satisfaction. Woe is me, right? These people also don’t know how many times I’ve subjected myself to toys that are painful or literally unsafe. There was the Fifty Shades of Grey-branded butt plug with a base so flimsy it could’ve landed me in an emergency room for an embarrassing extraction, the surprisingly stabby $200 couples’ vibe that made me scream in pain every time I used it, and the glass Kegel egg that got accidentally lodged in my vagina for a few terrifying minutes. These experiences were made slightly more palatable by knowing they were for a greater purpose — reviews and education — rather than just senseless suffering, but the pain and fear were still very real. Sex toy reviewing sometimes stirs a different type of pain in me too: an emotional one. I’m just coming off a long stint of singlehood, and in that time, it seemed everyone wanted to send me toys that required a partner — and a steady one, at that, if I wanted to test them sufficiently. My inbox filled with offers for vibrators to use during intercourse, positioning aids meant to enhance intimacy between sweethearts and bondage products I couldn’t wrangle my way into (or out of) on my own. Again and again, I declined these offers because a “couples’ toy” lingering in my to-review pile would only highlight what already weighed heavily on my mind: the lack of a consistent romantic partner in my life. Sure, you can test weird sex toys with casual bangs — as many friends insisted when they advised me to enlist hot strangers from Oasis Aqualounge as guinea pigs for my latest wooden paddle, pair of cuffs, or We-Vibe — but there is something so embarrassingly uncool about that. One-off hook-ups are supposed to be white-hot and fleeting; there is no room, I worry, for the dorky earnestness required to ask, “Hey, wanna put something strange and possibly uncomfortable on your junk, for science?” But despite all these complaints about sex toy reviewing, it’s ultimately served a purpose far greater than just racking me up dozens of toys: it’s made me truly appreciate masturbation. The process of testing toys demands careful attention — are these vibrations buzzy or rumbly? How does the texture of this dildo feel against my G-spot? Is this plug too big for my butt, or just right? At times, it’s akin to mindfulness meditation, the Buddhist practice of nonjudgmentally noticing the sensations in your body as a way of finding calm and contentment. Sex educator Annie Sprinkle calls this “medibation”: where masturbation meets meditation, and creates something even more beautiful and life-affirming than either of those things on their own.  Reviewing toys has also taught me that I am truly self-sufficient — sexually and otherwise. Why wait by the phone for a too-cool suitor to text me back when I can pick up my Magic Wand and buzz my anxiety away? Why pine for the good sex I’d have with a hypothetical partner sometime in the distant future when I can have great sex with myself right now? Why crave pleasures I don’t currently have access to when there are so many equally good pleasures right at my fingertips? Toys or no toys, partner or no partner, sexual pleasure can be a deep, sweet source of joy in one’s life — and I’m not sure I would’ve learned that if I hadn’t started my blog all those years ago. This is what I think about when people say, “You’re a sex toy reviewer? Must be nice to get to masturbate all the time!” because yeah, sometimes it is. All those shitty orgasms “for science” were worth enduring, because they deepened my understanding of what it means to make yourself happy, and how wonderful it is that I always can.

Out in Vancouver: June 1–6, 2017

31 May 2017 - 8:42pm
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 Don’t be one of those people who remembers the day after your event!   Thursday, June 1 Clean as a Whistle Thursdays are like Superman’s Bizarro world at the O. The men in the shower are shaved, waxed or plucked from chest to nethers, including the crevices and dangly bits, while the queen of the roost, Alma B Itches, has enough hair in her beard to keep a small village warm in winter. But it works! With Alma around you know there will always be surprises, and they will usually fit in a shower stall. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Cover $5.   Spin with DJ Mental Metric Summer is here and the best patio on Davie is open — and it’s high above the street to keep you safe and uninterrupted, if not sober. DJ Rafael Calvente is spinning in the back lounge and this week is joined by special guest DJ Gia Metric. Wake me up on the patio when it is time to go home. 11pm–3am. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. No cover.   Friday, June 2 Scene Kid: Emo Dance Party An EMO party brings back thoughts of the softcore punk of years past, unenthusiastic melodramatic 17 year olds who don’t smile, high pitched overwrought lyrics and inaudible guitar riffs, tight wool sweaters, tighter jeans, itchy scarves, ripped converse high tops, black square rimmed glasses, and ebony greasy unwashed hair. This time though, for me anyway, alcohol is going to play a big part of the night. Sad boy DJ Harris will be on deck for this black parade with Rose Butch, Dee Blew and Grimm waking us up inside with some sad performances. Motto for the night: Expect sins, not tragedies. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Cover $7.   Wet & Wild For those of you who like your men on the opposite side of the spectrum from the other shower nights in town, you’ve come to the right place. Big, hairy, muscle daddies who look like they’re going to jump out of the shower and ram you in one thrust: all before you put down your drink. Go-go bears and cubs with packages so big at eye level you’re lucky to leave with both eyes intact. With tattooed DJs and bartenders whose butts you can bounce a loonie off into the tip jar, this is a one stop shop with something for everyone. Especially me. 9pm–3am. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. $5 cover.   Frisky Friday If you are only frisky on the first Friday of every month, chances are you’re married, so leave the spouse at home and get frisky with Sienna Blaze and Kendall Gender, the girls who never say no (to doing a drag number). DJ Miss M will hit the decks, the floor will be packed and your mojo will kick in. Maybe it will even stay a few days. 9:30pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. $5 cover.   Saturday, June 3 Strut All guys should wear heels from time to time; you’ll finally be tall enough to kiss me. Plus your thighs get larger and your butt sticks out. Save on gym time and start strutting! What better way to start than with this fundraiser that lets you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes for a change? Strut is an annual walk-a-thon that raises funds to support sponsorship groups and charities that assist LGBT+ refugees and newcomers. 12pm. Sunset Beach, 1050 Beach Ave. Register as a walker here or pledge to a person or team and just go watch the guys strut by.   June Mosh What’s almost as good as a stripper in heels? A Van-Pah puppy in heat. The temperature is supposed to climb this weekend, and it’s perfect mosh-time. Those pups will need belly rubs aplenty, and you know what heat and belly rubs bring you — a humping good time. Everyone is welcome from pets to handlers to the curious. Enjoy some time on the mats or get to know your fellows in the pets and handlers community. You’ll find pups romping around, playing with toys and having an all-around blast while handlers socialize and play with the pups and kitties and all the other pets. Always remember gear is admired but never required! 2–4pm. The Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. No cover.   Vancouver Rubbermen June Moon If you are one of those guys who only gets laid in a blue moon, you’d better stop and reevaluate your habits, since the next blue moon isn’t until January, 2018. June moon will have to do, so get on your rubber and let’s get lucky. Have some fun rubbering up, getting in bondage gear and enjoying some other surprises. Come and talk about the direction of the club with Reid and the other regulars. 2–5pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. No cover.   The Drag Show I have a soft spot for the quintessential drag queens who work nonstop for the community through rain, sleet, snow and heat: just like the mailman. Mailmen don’t have the same pitfalls, though, since heels just aren’t that safe in all weather. As for the heat, I have seen many a queen look like they are melting away. But it’s not all bad; sometimes the melting fills in the crevices like putty. That reminds me, how is Myria doing? Tonight, enjoy some time away in the burbs as Mz Adrien and guest divas bring you comedy and female impersonation like no others. 7pm–1am. The Stage, 32998- 1st Ave, Mission. Tickets $10 advance online or $15 at the door   Ladies Summer Party in the Burbs Don’t wait for another Hershe Bar to find your summer fling. Head out to the burbs where the ladies don’t know you, but want to, at this summer-themed women-only party. Get out your summer wear and flip flops. Come out and enjoy the evening with friends and dance the night away to the fantastic spinning of Wicked Wanda—I dare you to ask how she got her name. 7:30pm. Wilde Oscar’s Pub, 45886 Wellington Ave, Chilliwack. Tickets $15 at the door or $10 advance at More info at   FuKR Jock/Harness Dance Party Why is it that when the heat comes out so does all the leather? I know it’s great to wear and to feel against the skin, but heat, sweat, leather and more than two guys and it gets kind of funky. You can’t really break out the spray bottle of leather “Smell Be Gone” and start spraying it around like a Febreze fairy, so maybe a few of those well placed pine tree hanging deodorizers will be the fix. Sex-toy shaped deodorizers? Cha-ching! Tonight is the perfect butch night to try it out. Music this month is by DJ Jeff Dority of Pure Noise from Seattle along with John “Bubba” Hanley in the shower for a win-win scenario. 10pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Tickets $10 at   Sunday, June 4 Queer ASL Bowling Join in or volunteer at this night of bowling for the deaf queer community and Queer ASL students. Queer ASL is an anti-oppressive, trans and queer positive environment with a focus on creating an accessible, affordable, safer space for ASL learners. 6–8pm. Grandview Bowling, 2195 Commercial Dr. More info through the week at   Cher & Friends After 50 some years of Cher performing, what could any drag queen show us that would be new? How about if this version of Cher performs live? What if this Cher isn’t a drag queen at all but a baker and owner of Fairy cakes and Chomp Vegan Eatery? Find out who does it better at this fundraiser for the BC SPCA, complete with drag, comedy, a silent auction, live impersonations, and so much more. Hosted by the Whoopsie Daisy, featuring Cera Rivers live as Cher, and with many special guests. This is going to be the most fun you have all year. 7:30pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Tickets $15 at door or $12 advance at Fairy Cakes, 3586 Fraser St.   Monday, June 5 Queer Prov Workshop With so many comedy shows popping up around town, especially in the village, why not try your luck and see if you can be the next Ryan Steele? Learn the art at this drop-in workshop open to the community, facilitated by QueerProv performers and guest teachers to help heighten and expand your improv skills. This week's workshop will be instructed by the wonderfully hilarious Jamie Chrest. 5:30–7:30pm. Qmunity, 1170 Bute St. All are welcome, $10 drop-in every two weeks at Qmunity, before the QueerProv show at XYYVR.   Tuesday, June 6 Coming Out and Outcomes Everyone has a coming out story. Learn from others, take their lead and advice to make sure you get the outcome you desire. It’s a moment in time you will always remember so let’s make sure it’s a good memory. The topic this time is coming out, and how doing so or not doing so has affected your life. Share your thoughts at this discussion night. Snacks provided. Mpowerment events are planned by and for young men who are gay, bi, or queer. They invite all guys who like guys and their friends to attend. 6:30–9:30pm. Mpowerment Headquarters, 205–568 Seymour St.   Cock And Ball Play: Live Demo Picture it, your date has been great and you are about to have what you imagine will be the best sex ever. He reaches into your shorts and grabs Joe and the twins, and you feel nothing but pain as he fumbles and squeezes, mistakes your moans of agony for pleasure and goes at the family jewels again. If he’s cute you may take it. If he’s handsome you may take him to this workshop. In this live demonstration-based workshop, you’ll explore fun and sexy ways to tease, please, and play with cocks—and their buddies, the nards of doom! Toys, tools and techniques with hands — Oh my! Sign me up. 7:30pm. The Art Of Loving, 369 west Broadway St. Cost $50 for workshop, please register in advance online.   Shame Spiral Peach Cobblah is on safari in Africa, and while she’s gone Alma B Itches has been left in charge. So be afraid, be very afraid. Joining Alma tonight is living legend Carlotta Gurl, who thankfully hasn’t hit anyone (yet) with an 1181 cartwheel. Throughout the show, audience members pull songs from a blender and the results has been entertaining audiences for over three years. See if you can find the most outrageous song of all to put in the blender. 10pm–1am. 1181, 1181 Davie St. No cover.

Five reasons why you won’t want to miss Girls in Wonderland 2017

31 May 2017 - 8:42pm
Girls in Wonderland is arguably one of the world’s largest lesbian gatherings, taking place this year from June 1 to 5 in Orlando, Florida. Now 17 years in the running, it attracts thousands of lesbians each year who partake in the festivities to celebrate the LGBT community. The event was founded by Pandora Events, a powerhouse promotions team consisting of Alison Burgos, Amy Alonso, and Yesenia Leon. Each year, GIW hosts a series of exciting entertainment acts, pool parties, comedy shows and after-parties. It’s considered a central destination for lesbians in North America and boasts visitors from all over the world. For many, the signature show at the House of Blues is the ultimate celebration of the LGBT community. Here are five reasons why you won’t want to miss GIW this year.   Girls in Wonderland is a celebration of life and the LGBT community in the wake of Pulse As the one-year anniversary of the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting approaches, the Girls in Wonderland event will honouring and celebrate the memories of everyone who was affected by the shooting. The tragedy didn’t just shake the gay community in Orlando, it shook the entire world.  “This year, the most important thing we want to do is to honour and celebrate the community,” says Alison Burgos, founder of Pandora Events. There will be several Pulse survivors attending the event and proceeds from the signature House of Blues performance will go to The Center Orlando, an LGBT centre that offers counseling programs for the Orlando community.” Pulse owner Barbara Poma and former entertainment manager Neema Bahrami will be present at GIW this year alongside survivors. In May 2017, Poma announced that Pulse would remain as a permanent memorial and museum to commemorate the people who lost their lives in one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history.   Stephanie Rice from the Voice headlines the House of Blues event The daughter of a pastor, Stephanie Rice began her musical journey in grade school by performing alongside her mother in church. When her parents found love letters she had written to girls, they disowned her at the age of 18.  This year, she told her story to the world as a contestant on the hit NBC show, The Voice. Now engaged, Rice has become an inspiration for the lesbian community. “Stephanie Rice is a real powerhouse and has such a courageous story,” Burgos says. “Her history and her strength just made her so compelling and powerful that we really wanted to have her on board this year.” Stephanie Rice will be performing at the House of Blues with Madison Page, who also played last year. “Everyone fell in love with Madison,” Burgos says. “Her charm touches everyone.”   Pumps vs pants — the ultimate way to throw a pool party Hosted by the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista resort, GIW puts on daytime pool parties with some of the hottest lesbian DJs to get the summer vibes going. This year will feature a special ’90s-themed pool party to celebrate all those great throwback tunes.   Dykes with Mics comedy show Queer icons Jen Kober and Nikki Levy will be performing a live comedy show called “Don’t Tell my Mother” — an anthology of true stories and personal accounts they’d never want their mothers to know. The show initially began in Los Angeles in 2011 but has since picked up in popularity after being covered by the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.   AM after Hours, Afterglow and Rabbit Hole The party never stops! From 2–5am, the party continues back at the hotel with guest DJ Nela, DJ ZEHNO and DVWEZ throwing down the best in today’s house music in the Bud Light Disco. Complimentary shuttle service is available for safe transportation of all guests.

Why one Toronto city councillor wants to bring back the LGBT advisory council

31 May 2017 - 8:42pm
Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam wants to bring back the city’s LGBT advisory council. Wong-Tam, Toronto’s only openly gay councillor, believes the move is essential to bring diverse LGBT voices to council. “The challenge that we see here is that there is not full understanding of who this community is,” she says. “This is not a monolithic group; we are hyper-diverse.” Wong-Tam announced her intention to bring forward the issue at the annual City Hall Pride flag raising on May 31, 2017. “Sexual liberation and human-rights work needs to happen each and every single day, and not just when we come together once a year,” she said. Wong-Tam says that the debate around Pride funding demonstrated the need for a greater understanding of LGBT issues at city council. “What I would have gleaned from this entire sort of situation is that if we have ongoing dialogue, and if there’s a proper venue for the community to bring forth their concerns, we would be in a better place to respond,” she says. Toronto has operated without any sort of LGBT advisory council for over a decade. The community advisory committee on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues was created in 1999 and was chaired by Kyle Rae, Toronto’s first openly gay councillor.  The committee’s mandate was eventually folded into the roundtable on access, equity and human rights, which hasn’t been active since 2006. Wong-Tam hopes that an advisory committee would allow LGBT communities to have greater input on funding for public health programs, arts and cultural activities and economic development. “I would much rather be proactive and have the discussions ongoing year-round as opposed to once a year during the symbolic and busy time of Pride, when we’re all pulled in many different directions,” she says.