Ottawa Xtra

Final vote confirms Sam Sullivan wins Vancouver-False Creek

24 May 2017 - 8:32pm
The final vote count has been completed in Vancouver-False Creek, upholding BC Liberal incumbent Sam Sullivan’s victory over Morgane Oger of the BC NDP. “It’s good to get past the uncertainty,” says Oger, who would have been the first openly trans candidate elected to public office in Canada had she won the seat. In the end, Sullivan received 10,370 votes (42.16 percent of the vote) compared to 9,955 (40.47 percent) for Oger. Although preliminary results of the May 9 provincial election placed Sullivan ahead by 560 votes — more than the 100-vote margin typically required for an official recount — Elections BC authorized a recount due to an irregularity with one of the riding’s advance voting ballot accounts. The chance for a recount, coupled with the uncounted absentee ballots, created a small window of possibility that maybe the tide might just change in Oger’s favour. “It’s disappointing I didn’t outrun Sam Sullivan in the end. There was this hope that it might be possible, but adjacent to that was the unlikeliness of it as well,” Oger says. Still, she says, there is still a lot of good to be taken from the campaign. “My team and myself, we’ve proven ourselves to be a competitor. That I’m a candidate to be reckoned with,” she says. “I opened up a riding, that was great.” Oger was one of 15 openly LGBT candidates running with the province’s three main political parties this election, only five of whom — all incumbents — were elected. However, Oger remains undeterred. She says she plans to run in the next election if the NDP’s False Creek constituency chooses to nominate her at that time. Until then, she plans to continue her advocacy work, returning to her roles as chairperson of both the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council and the Trans Alliance Society. “I’m going to stay an advocate and I’m going to keep on advocating for my community, whether it’s this community [False Creek] but also the community of parents with kids in Vancouver and the LGBT community at large,” she says. Oger says she’s hopeful that more new LGBT candidates will be elected next time —and that they’re given opportunities to run in ridings where that’s truly a possibility. “With this experience I recommend to people who are thinking of getting into politics, to look into it,” she says. “It’s a contribution to society that we need more people. We need more different people than we have in it now.” Final results are expected in all ridings by the end of day May 24, 2017, barring the possibility of judicial recounts. Going into the final count, the BC Liberals hold 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens 3.

Five queer films you don’t want to miss at Toronto’s Inside Out 2017

24 May 2017 - 2:31pm
Now in its 27th edition, Toronto’s Inside Out brings the world’s best queer films to movie-hungry localhomos each year. From romantic comedies to gut-wrenching documentaries, there’s a little something sprinkled in for everyone. Xtra has perused the program to highlight a few tasty morsels for your cinematic consumption.   Free CeCe [[asset:video_embed:309857 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_video_credit":["Jacqueline Gares\/YouTube"]}]] Trans women of colour make up more than 50 percent of LGBT homicide victims. CeCe McDonald would have been one of those statistics, but when the Minneapolis resident was attacked on the street by a gang of four people late in the evening of June 5, 2011, she did the thing she wasn’t supposed to do. She fought back. The incident left one of her attackers dead and McDonald was charged with second-degree murder. A year later, she made headlines when she accepted a plea deal for a lesser charge, agreeing to 41 months in a men’s prison, rather than go to trial and risk a lifetime behind bars. Jacqueline Gares’ debut feature recounts the story of McDonald’s attack, legal battles, incarceration and the countless protests to free her. If that were the entire story, it would make for a pretty depressing film. But Free CeCe doesn’t stop there. We follow McDonald’s release from prison, her process of being accepted by her family, and her journey to activism. Though it starts with a horrifically dark incident, the film succeeds in an unexpected feat; turning a story of almost unbelievable oppression into a tale of tear-jerking empowerment.   Handsome Devil [[asset:video_embed:309842 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_video_credit":["EclipsePicturesIE\/YouTube"]}]] Cinematic portrayals of relationships between queer guys and straight dudes are frequently strained. Gays are often victims of violence (The Matthew Shepard Story, Milk) or aggressors themselves (Irreversible, Pulp Fiction). While we have plenty of examples of positive interactions between gay men and heterosexual women (Sex and the City, Mean Girls), stories of gay/straight friendships without sexual tension are a relatively new phenomenon.  Set against the mega-macho and highly-homoerotic backdrop of a rugby-obsessed boys boarding school, Handsome Devil makes a much-needed contribution to this fledgling genre. Irish director John Butler’s second feature charts the development of an unlikely connection between a sports-hating outcast and his hunky jock roommate. Equal parts laugh-out-loud comedy and poignant coming of age story, the film offers the next generation of both queers and straights a new template for how they can interact with the world.   Sebastian  [[asset:image:309848 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Inside Out"]}]] Each year, Inside Out selects a country to feature in its spotlight series. In 2017, the festival will turn that beam homeward to bathe the Great White North in its glow. Along with the documentaries Rebels on Pointe, about an all-male, all-gay ballet company and comedian Shawn Hitchins’ Ginger Nation, which follows his decision to donate sperm to a lesbian couple, the program includes Toronto-native James Fanizza’s debut feature Sebastian. Adapted from a short that screened at the 2014 festival, the film follows a disgruntled artist-cum-barista (Fanizza) as he embarks on an unexpected weeklong romance with an Argentinean tourist (Alex House). The wrench in the works is that the hunky visitor happens to be his current boyfriend’s cousin.  Set against a backdrop of familiar Toronto scenery (The Beaver and the intersection of Hallam Street and Dovercourt Road feature prominently), the film paints a nuanced portrait of 20-something queerness; that perpetual feeling of having what you want at the tip of your fingers, but not being sure if you really want to grab it.   Signature Move [[asset:image:309854 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Inside Out LGBT Film Festival\/Facebook"]}]] On March 29, 2016, actress Fawzia Mirza did what many aspiring filmmakers before her have done. She launched a crowdfunding campaign extolling the virtues of a new project she wanted to make, complete with heartfelt video encouraging people to donate. Unlike most other artists who embark on this journey, Mirza raised the necessary cash within less than a month. A year later, the resulting film is making the rounds at festivals.  Signature Move follows Zaynab (Mirza), a queer Pakistani woman working as an immigration lawyer and caring for her conservative Muslim mother (Shabana Azmi). When she meets Alma (Sari Sanchez), a half-Jewish half-Mexican free spirit, the tequila shots fly quickly and before long they’re hitting the sheets. While Alma is comfortable with her sexuality and open with her family, Zaynab is neither, and this clash of values proves an impediment to their budding romance. Full of subtly dry humour and genuinely touching moments, the film succeeds in re-envisioning the queer rom-com through a cross-cultural lens. Oh, and there’s lady wrestling.   Stumped [[asset:image:309851 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Inside Out"]}]] Will Lautzenheiser, for all intents and purposes, had it made. The Boston-born writer and filmmaker was about to begin a tenured job at Montana State University. He had a loving partner, a close-knit family and a promising career. Then, almost overnight, an aggressive bacterial infection forced doctors to amputate all four of his limbs in order to save his life. Finding himself a quadruple amputee at the age of 37, Lautzenheiser suddenly had to renegotiate his career, his relationship, and, obviously, his ability to navigate the world.  But that’s only half the story. In 2014, Lautzenheiser was selected as the second individual in US history to undergo a double arm transplant. Robin Berghaus’ debut feature film recounts Lautzenheiser’s story in all of its painful detail. Narratives of disability often aim to induce pity or create inspiration and Stumped, as much as it tries to avoid these tropes, ends up doing a little of both. But more than that, the film provides a touching portrait of a queer relationship and the power that comes with being able to laugh in the face of tragedy. 

Free CeCe

24 May 2017 - 2:31pm

The Canadian federal apology for gay arrests, firings is coming — by the end of 2017

23 May 2017 - 5:30pm
The federal Liberals are pledging to apologize by the end of 2017 for the Canadian government jailing and firing people suspected of homosexuality, after activists started decrying a lack of action. The Liberals will start community consultations shortly, but they’re leaving questions of compensation to ongoing class-action lawsuits. They also haven’t indicated how or when officials will review or expunge convictions for consensual gay sex. MP Randy Boissonnault, the Liberal government’s special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues, announced to reporters on May 17, 2017, that “our government will apologize before the end of 2017” for the “programs and policies that contributed to injustices and discriminations against LGBTQ Canadians.” “We're going to work closely with members of all facets from the LGBTQ community to make sure that our apology is comprehensive and that it takes into account a broad range of the stories and the lived experience of Canadians,” Boissonnault said.   Delays and concerns “It’s very important to separate the apology from what’s taking place with the class action suits and with other policy initiatives like pardons and expungements,” Boissonnault said. That separation concerns the We Demand an Apology Network, which has documented hundreds of people who were purged from the military and public service over suspected homosexuality. “This is a limited victory,” spokesperson Gary Kinsman said in a May 18, 2017 statement. “We are demanding a firm commitment to an associated redress process.” The group is now asking Pride committees across Canada to “to question the participation of the Prime Minister, or his representatives, in Pride parades given the delays in an official apology and the lack of action on a redress process and pardons. “Why should the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party get the free promotion that comes with marching in our parades when they have yet to come through on their basic commitments to the LGBT communities?” Boissonnault’s announcement came on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. But his remarks also followed Egale Canada advocates lamenting a lack of action since the group published its Just Society report on June 13, 2016, seeking an apology and compensation. When Boissonnault hinted an apology would come by the end of his mandate in October 2019, Egale switched from a cautious tone to outright criticism. In an April 24, 2017 open letter, executive director Helen Kennedy said “the government has had more than enough time to respond.” She noted that activists first demanded an apology in April 1998, and pondered: “How much time does the Government need to do the right thing?”   Class-action suit proceeding Meanwhile, class-action lawsuits filed in October 2016 are proceeding, seeking at least $600 million in compensation for LGBT Canadians pushed out of the military and public service. The Cold War-era purge continued into the 1990s, as police investigated public servants and soldiers suspected of being gay as threats for blackmail by communist spies. These campaigns persisted after the 1969 partial decriminalization of homosexuality. Constitutional lawyer Douglas Elliott, representing claimants outside of Quebec, tells Xtra that he’s discussing, with government lawyers, “a framework” for offering appropriate compensation, including how they’d find the right people, and if individuals and/or groups would receive the money. “It’s moving quicker than just about any other case I’ve been involved in,” Elliott says, but noted the Egale report had sought other things, like changes to police training and anti-discrimination policies in health services. “It’s kind of baby steps because we’re only going to be dealing with one issue.” In January, public servants in some departments received emails asking them to preserve documents that “relate to or refer to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” as well as employment records of people dismissed or harassed on those grounds. Meanwhile, a similar case filed by Halifax lawyers on Dec 7, 2016, was later merged with Elliott’s suit on April 11, according to court documents. None of the cases deal with people criminally charged for consensual same-sex acts. Documents obtained by Xtra in November 2016 suggest public servants have been ready for months to start clearing roughly 6,000 records, and estimated it would cost $4.1 million. Elliott also said an apology will resonate with the people he represents, but advised against an overly legalistic statement, like the one the Toronto Police Service offered in June 2016 over the 1981 bathhouse raids. “If an apology misfires, then it’s actually worse than no apology at all,” Elliott says. “What’s important is a real community consultation process, and that doesn’t mean photo-ops and selfies, which seems to have been a lot of what’s been going on since Mr Boissonnault’s been appointed,” Elliott says.  “This apology is too important to do it as a public-relations gesture. They need to get it right, and we’re here to help them. There’s lots of people in the community who are prepared to help them get it right — we want them to succeed.” Elliott suggests the Liberals should echo the Australian state of Victoria, which included victims and LGBT groups in the parliament for its apology. He wants the Conservatives and NDP to also apologize, as they held government or the balance of power while these policies persisted. “They failed to protect us from discrimination as well.” Elliott says the apology should include some sort of physical statue, research grant or documentary “as a warning to future generations.” He says that many people remain surprised that Canada imprisoned and fired people for being gay, with many initially expressing disbelief. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that sense of disbelief can over time can translate into actual disbelief, and people denying that these historical events ever took place.”

Didgeridoos, word choice and a premature celebration

23 May 2017 - 2:30pm
[[asset:image:309833 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Indonesian men publicly caned for being gay Two Indonesian men have been caned 83 times in front of a crowd of thousands after they were filmed having sex by vigilantes who broke into their house. While gay sex is not illegal nationally in Indonesia, the men were charged in conservative Islamic Aceh Province. Read more at the BBC.     What’s the difference between “gay” and “homosexual”? When it comes to how we talk about gay people, words matter. A researcher at the University of Minnesota writes that people who hear the word “gay” instead of “homosexual” are more likely to accept gay rights, especially if they are conservative or have authoritarian tendencies.   French TV host mocks gay men on air French TV host Cyril Hanouna is facing formal complaints and accusations of homophobia after making fun of gay men on air. The host posted a fake profile to a gay hookup app, and then chatted with respondents on live television in front of a studio audience. Read more at the BBC.   A premature celebration Britain is celebrating 50 years since its 1967 decriminalization of homosexuality, but that date has been overblown, says UK activist Peter Tatchell. Celebrating the anniversary, he argues, ignores the decades of gay persecution that followed so-called decriminalization.   Didgeridoo porn A gay porn site is under fire for posting a new video in which two white American men use a didgeridoo as a sex toy, in what some say is offensive cultural appropriation. Read more at  

How to tell if a sports league will welcome your queerness

23 May 2017 - 11:30am
The days are warmer, the evenings are longer and you might be thinking about playing some sports. Joining a league is a great way to get exercise, socialize and maybe even meet a potential partner, but with so many leagues out there, how do you choose the right one? Finding a good fit can require looking at a lot of variables beyond just the sport being played. For starters, leagues will vary in intensity, from the strictly competitive to the more recreational that that place a greater emphasis on having fun with friends. There’s also the choice between co-ed and single-sex leagues. “You want to choose a league that has similar values to yourself,” suggests Steev Letts, communications director for the Vancouver Gay Volleyball Association (VGVA). Letts adds that a good place to start is asking organizers about the events they host and the charities they support. “Learning what causes the league supports is a great way to figure out if they’re in line with your own values,” Letts says. “For VGVA, any event that we have always has a charitable component to it,” he continues. “Even something as simple as a 50/50 draw goes to a local food bank or, for our Christmas party, we raised money this year to bring a queer Syrian refugee over.” VGVA is part of Greater Vancouver Allied Athletics (GVAA). Letts recommends reaching out to anyone involved with the GVAA — or a similar organization — before committing yourself to one league. “A lot of our managing directors know and speak to each other,” Letts says. “They may very well know of someone out there able to point you in the right direction.” Michael DiPietro, communications co-ordinator for the English Bay Swim Club (EBSC) — which is also part of the GVAA — recommends looking for keywords on league websites. “They tend to be, ‘inclusive,’ friendly,’ ‘welcoming,’ the standard ‘LGBTQ’ and ‘allies.’” DiPietro says. “It can be difficult in non-major metropolitan areas to find teams or leagues that are geared specifically to the LGBTQ demographic. So if that is the case, it helps to seek out like-minded individuals and ask around. Be it on Facebook, at clubs, or in other social settings in your life.” Some sports organizations like VGVA offer multiple divisions that cater to different skill levels, while other leagues offer a single mixed division. “A single mixed skill division can be a little bit more intimidating for first timers,” Letts says. “But it’s actually great for socializing because everyone faces off against everyone at some point so you get a better introduction to the whole league.” If you’re a competitive player trying to improve, a single mixed division might not be the challenge you’re looking for. Accessibility to changing facilities can also play an important role and may require additional research. For genderqueer or non-binary folks, DiPietro suggests looking for policies specifically outlined on league websites. Some leagues, like the EBSC, “expressly encourage trans and gender variant swimmers to join,” DiPietro says. The Vancouver parks board, which runs the city’s parks and  facilities, including those used by the EBSC, established a Trans* and Gender Variant Inclusion Working Group in 2013 to help identify barriers people face in accessing parks and recreation services. The working group recommended five key areas for review: signage and literature, public spaces (including washrooms and change rooms), staff training, policy and working with the community. The parks board approved the recommendations in 2014 and launched a trans-inclusive campaign the following year to begin implementing  the recommendations. Whether or not you want to come out to your teammates is a matter of personal choice and comfort level. “If you want to play in a league that’s not specifically gay or queer-centric, then go ahead and do so,” Letts says. “I personally do play in straight leagues as well, and I just give myself a little time to see other people’s language and the way they communicate and interact. That sort of determines whether or not it’s friendly or if I need to mention anything to alter their language or behaviour.” Letts adds that he’s never had a serious or direct incident of homophobia outside of the occasional off-colour language in the changing room, but says it’s certainly something to watch out for. You can talk to coaches, organizers or players, and some leagues let you start with a trial before committing yourself to a team. However, Letts warns that leagues typically fill up very quickly, so it’s a never too early to start asking your questions and scouting potential teams.

Qmunity finally finds a new home and it’s in the Village

19 May 2017 - 5:26pm
It’s been a long and winding road but Qmunity has finally found a location for its new home, and one that isn’t outside Vancouver’s queer Village.  Qmunity — BC’s queer, trans, and two-spirit resource centre — offers year-round programming and services aimed at improving the lives of community members “through support, connection, and leadership.” It also helps individuals, families, businesses, schools and service providers learn how to make their spaces more LGBT-inclusive. Since its inception 38 years ago, the centre has been located on Bute Street. The new space will be at Burrard and Davie streets (the northeast corner, across from the community garden), and will be funded by $7 million in community amenities from the rezoning of Burrard Place, and also through a $200,000 capital grant from the city for the design and planning of the new facility.  The announcement came on May 19, 2017, at Qmunity’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia fundraiser breakfast. Mayor Gregor Robertson shared the news as part of his opening remarks at the event.  “Our council in very recent days made the unanimous decision to support a brand new home for Qmunity. It’s long overdue, we’ve been looking for a long time,” he told the audience. “We’re thrilled to be able to help provide a space for you and make sure you have a great new home right here in the heart of Vancouver.” [[asset:image:309827 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Mayor Gregor Robertson announces the future location of Qmunity\u2019s new facility. Robertson shared the news at the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia breakfast on May 19, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["James Goldie\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Robertson says Qmunity will have a nearly 1,000 square-metre space in the new building, which will be constructed on land purchased by the city two years ago. He said there will be over 100 affordable housing units above Qmunity.  He directly thanked Councillor Tim Stevenson for his work on the project. Stevenson, who was part of the group that first began organizing to establish Qmunity (then called The Centre) in 1979, has been pushing for a new LGBT resource centre since he was first elected to city council in 2002. “It’s been such a long, long road to get here. It feels wonderful and a relief to finally have it nailed down,” he says.  In December 2013, Vancouver city council voted unanimously to allocate $7 million in funds — obtained as part of a rezoning and development application — for the new centre. What followed was an extensive community consultation to find out what Vancouver’s queer communities wanted out of a new centre. There was also the challenge of finding the right location. Stevenson says it was important that Qmunity stay in the Davie Village. “Nobody was selling and of course the prices were going up through the roof. We could find locations outside of the Village area but we were all very keen that it should be in the Village,” he says. “[Davie] has been really the focus of the gay community. And to move out of there would have dissipated that.” Stevenson says that while the city purchased the Davie/Burrard location two years ago, at the time Qmunity was still looking into the possibility of renovating and upgrading their current location on Bute Street. He says he would like to see only affordable housing above Qmunity (as opposed to a mixed market/subsidized model) and that his dream would be for the housing to be reserved for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Qmunity’s executive director CJ Rowe says the news is has been a  long time coming.  “I’m on the edge of my seat ready to go,” Rowe says. “We are working with an architect, and now that we have council approval to move forward we will be engaging with a feasibility study and a design phase.” During its consultation process which began in 2015, the organization heard from more than 750 community members. CJ says one of the issues raised repeatedly was accessibility.  “It’s more than an elevator and wheelchair– and scooter– accessible washrooms. It’s about bringing physical accessibility into the built space as well as gender inclusivity,” Rowe says. “One of the things I’m interested in shepherding forward is [if] there’s a way to build two-spirit community, indigenous community elements into this space that are actually culturally relevant to here.” Rowe says the new centre will share the ground level with some commercial spaces and will also have rooms on the second floor as well. Rowe confirms there will be multi-purpose spaces for community members and groups to access. In terms of affordability, Rowe acknowledges there will be added costs to having a larger facility.  “It will come out once we engage with the city in terms of [next steps],” Rowe says. “This is why the ‘building a sustainable future for Qmunity‘ [fundraising initiative] is important because there will be some new levels of operation that we don’t currently have.” Neither Rowe nor Stevenson could confirm when construction will start on the new site.  “Well we’re hoping it’ll be done in a couple years so I imagine fairly soon,” Stevenson says.

How an X-Men character became my sexual conquest

19 May 2017 - 2:26pm
The first man I fell in love with wasn’t even a man. If we’re going to be exact, he was a mutant and beyond that, a cartoon character — a series of black lines and primary colours dancing across my parents’ Toshiba on a Saturday morning. But as a gay boy who had spent much of his youth playing with hand-me-down Barbies and (almost exclusively) female action figures, the way in which those lines came together was a revelation. The key details remain: an immaculately sculpted torso beneath a strong square jaw, windswept sandy hair above a yellow visor, muscular thighs framing a bulging Speedo. In Scott Summers, I saw change. A moment of recognition and an appreciation that went well beyond wanting to be the hero and saving the day — he represented something else, something much more carnal. I wanted to finger Cyclops from the X-Men.  Now, some context. Heroes had always bored me. The stories compel us to support them, and we inevitably find ourselves cheering along as they reestablish order and save the day. But it was the villains who remained the most interesting characters and, especially in those late ’80s cartoons, almost always vaguely queer. They obsessed over the hero and came up with elaborate plans to capture him or her. Occasionally, they longed to brainwash said hero and take control of their immaculate bodies. Death was rarely the goal, but more so a chance to hold the puppet strings. They wanted the hero on their team, fighting beside them. They wanted the hero. I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Kneel before your master! And I wanted the hero, especially this hero. Anyone familiar with the X-Men comics will know that Cyclops was about as dull as heroes come. In contrast to Wolverine, he was upstanding and uncomplicated. He was selfless and believed in authority. There were no moral shadings to him, and even his wife, Jean Grey, started to stray out of boredom. (It should be noted that in revisiting my feelings for him, my track record for boring, somewhat upstanding exes makes a lot more sense.) Still, there was something about him — that firm, unwavering air that made me long to be with him, to have him. It certainly didn’t help that he was also wearing one of the more revealing get-ups on team. The full-body coverage suggested modesty and propriety, but the tightness of it certainly did not. At least He-Man didn’t beat around the bush. And so there, on those Saturday mornings, I started to feel something very complicated happen within me that made the cartoon ritual just a tad unsavoury and most definitely forbidden. Adulthood announced itself in between commercials for Skip Its and Polly Pockets. The pink and blue gloss of childhood started to fall away, and all I wanted was him. His body. To be mine. And so it was that on a Saturday morning in the mid-’90s, I conquered Cyclops from the X-Men. Twice.

Uniformed police will march in Vancouver’s Pride parade

18 May 2017 - 8:25pm
After months of community consultation and debate, the Vancouver Pride Society has decided that police will march in this year’s Pride parade, some of them in uniform. In a statement released May 18, 2017, the VPS says members of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP are invited to march with the City of Vancouver’s parade entry. Officers will be mixed together with staff from the city, fire department, emergency health services, parks board and public library. The statement says about 20 percent of the police contingent, including those who are “visible in the community,” will march in uniform. The rest will wear T-shirts. In an email clarification to Xtra, the Pride society says the exact number and identity of “visible” officers in uniform will not be known until volunteers sign up, but reiterates that the contingent won’t exceed 20 percent. Last year, about 110 police officers signed up to march in the parade, according to the VPS. This year, the VPS has asked police not to use sirens and not to bring any marked law enforcement vehicles in the parade. The RCMP will still have its purple diversity bus, the VPD will have an unmarked vehicle, and Correctional Services of Canada will have a white van with a logo on the door. “The steps that the VPD and the RCMP have agreed to take in response to community concerns must be the beginning of an inclusive, ongoing process to building new relationships and a new way forward,” the VPS says in its statement. The decision to reduce police presence follows last summer’s sit-in at Toronto Pride, when Black Lives Matter activists asked Pride uphold its principles of diversity and equity, fully support more community spaces, especially for marginalized groups within the community, and remove police from the parade. Since then, Halifax police have voluntarily withdrawn from this year’s Pride parade and the Toronto police force says it will respect Pride Toronto’s decision to ban uniformed police from the parade too. “We recognize that the conclusions we have come to this year are not going to make everybody happy,” says VPS co-executive director Andrea Arnot. “We feel like our process has been solid. We have taken our time to reach these decisions, we have listened to many voices on this topic on all sides, and in the middle.” Arnot says the work Black Lives Matter groups in Toronto and Vancouver have done to bring the issue to the forefront remains an ongoing conversation. “This is a step we are taking this year, and by no means do we think this work is done,” she says. But, she says, in its consultations the VPS heard more people ask not for police removal but for some kind of gesture to change police participation, hoping to see the conversations continue throughout the year, not just around Pride. “It’s not about a majority or a popularity contest, it’s about listening to different voices,” Arnot says. “BLM in their original open letter said last year they would be content with an entry like this, so we have based our work partially on that letter. The goalposts were changed later on. In recent meetings with BLM, our board and staff have felt that they don’t want to be banning police entirely from the parade, so this is our way through and our compromise for this year.” Banning groups may make them unlikely to cooperate in future, she adds. “When you ban someone from something they are probably not going to want to work with you. What we want is to hold police accountable 365 days of the year and have them do this work on a daily basis, so that’s why we have allowed them to be in the parade this year.” According to the Pride society, police and RCMP have agreed to participate in listening circles organized and facilitated by the VPS before and after Pride — “where community members can share their stories with police in a supportive and accessible space, so that we might learn more about each other and find a path to breaking down barriers to trust.” When asked how police will be held accountable for engaging in the listening circles, Arnot says community members who attend will evaluate the experience and officers will provide feedback on what they might have learned. Black Lives Matter Vancouver member Jabari Cofer says while a reduced police presence is a step, BLM wasn’t given an opportunity to offer feedback on the VPS’ police strategy. “They’re claiming this was a dialogue but it hasn’t been. They haven’t talked to us since the meeting in February,” Cofer says, where BLM alleged their concerns were disregarded by both the VPS and the police department’s LGBT liaison officer. Cofer says Pride’s policing decision appears cosmetic, and obscures continuing police brutality toward people of colour and a lack of meaningful work to change. “It just looks different from the outside without changing anything,” Cofer says. “Having the VPD and RCMP in the parade is pinkwashing these violent institutions and it seems like the whole purpose of having the cops in the parade in the first place seems to be a PR move to make it seem like they’re so supportive of LGBT people, when in reality they just aren’t.” Fatima Jaffer, founder of the South Asian queer support group Trikone, believes the blame lies largely with the Vancouver Police Department. “It’s the VPD that isn’t listening,” she says. “If this is the extent of what the VPS has managed to negotiate with the VPD, it’s shame on the VPD that they haven’t listened to the calls that say, ‘step back right now, this is the best way you can be an ally or listen.’” While she believes the Pride society is accountable to some degree as representatives of the queer community in conversation with the police, a voluntary police withdrawal is the appropriate response to such a fractious issue in a community they claim to want to support. “Their persistence in being in the parade is for me the appalling thing about this. The fact that the VPS has left it open and said the conversations will continue is a step in the right direction.” Jaffer warns that racism is on the rise in Canada, including activities by Soldiers of Odin, which shares a name with a European neo-nazi group and whose members allegedly attacked anti-racism protesters at a rally in March. Jaffer alleges police stood by and watched while queer people of colour cried out for help, and did not intervene until violence erupted. “There is a nationwide rise of these right-wing groups but the police are not making those links. It is tied to Pride in that the bodies that are not being protected in this country are the same people who don’t feel included at Pride.” Cofer questions the VPS’ listening circle plan, saying there seems to be no way to hold police accountable for practicing better community relations, even if they attend meetings. Marginalized people may feel unsafe talking honestly to police about assaults and negative experiences, potentially fearing retaliation, Cofer points out. “I hope that wouldn’t happen, but that could be something that’s a barrier to them participating in these circles.” Cofer says they are unsure how BLMV will participate in Pride 2017, but the group will continue pressing the VPS for action. “We’re not pleased and this definitely isn’t over, it’s not final by any means and we are going to continue pushing for the removal of police from Pride,” Cofer says. “We think Pride needs to return to its roots. At Stonewall it was the queer, trans, Latinx and people of colour who started the riot against police that led to Pride, so it’s ridiculous to have an institution that has been oppressing folks for decades stand up and say, ‘we’re okay now.’” Imtiaz Popat, who founded the queer Muslim support group Salaam and last year organized a Pride march for queer people of colour, says he boycotted the Vancouver Pride parade last year. The 2017 plan changes nothing, he says. “Their desire to march is an act of pinkwashing,” Popat says, referring to police. “The police have not been accountable or accepted their actions against all of our communities, including two-spirit communities, and they certainly have not engaged the queer and trans people of colour who are more harmed by their actions, so we are not pleased.” Popat agrees with BLM that police should be uninvited from the march, rather than simply asked to reduce their presence. He says while the VPS decision is a step in the right direction, Vancouver police have not done enough to deserve a spot in the parade. “It’s causing friction in the community, the rise of racism in the community. Things haven’t gotten any better, they’re actually getting worse,” Popat says. “The community loves the police more than they love queers of colour and trans folks. They don’t feel welcome in the parade.” “People want the police more than they want us,” he says. “They can have their white Pride parade then, that’s what it’s turning into and we don’t want to be any part of that.” Like Jaffer, Popat points to the anti-racism protest in March, where he and other members of visible minorities allege Vancouver police stood by while people of colour were assaulted by the group Soldiers of Odin. Popat says police, city council and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson have all been idle about growing racist sentiment. Last week, former VPS directors Chrissy Taylor and Tim Richards called on Robertson as police chair to support a voluntary withdrawal of police from the parade. Robertson welcomes the VPS’s decision to work with police to keep them in the parade. “I’m pleased to see the Vancouver Pride Society and Vancouver Police Department work constructively to reach a mutual decision regarding police participation in this year’s Pride Parade,” Robertson tells Xtra in an emailed statement. “The VPD has made tremendous progress in building bridges with Vancouver’s diverse communities, but I understand that many marginalized communities do not feel comfortable around police,” he continues. “This is a global, systemic issue that we collectively need to address as a community, and continually strive for legal and lived equality and inclusion.” “I strongly support VPS and VPD’s listening circles where marginalized voices will be able to safely voice concerns,” he says, “and I encourage residents to use that channel to participate in constructive dialogue before and after the Pride parade.” In a statement from Vancouver police, Sergeant Randy Fincham says, “supporting Vancouver’s LGBTQ2S+ community goes beyond just the parade. We will continue to enhance our existing outreach, education, and awareness efforts year-round to help the community thrive and feel safe.” Fincham cites the police force’s LGBT liaison officer, mandatory transgender sensitivity training video for new officers and “safe place” program where businesses post a window decal to display their willingness to assist victims of hate crimes, as examples of “a significant amount of work to support Vancouver’s LGBTQ2S+ community.” “Our members and volunteers look forward to participating in the Pride parade each year, and we’re pleased that we can keep that tradition going,” Fincham says. In its report on its consultations, the VPS highlights a few other key issues also raised, including concerns about the corporatization of Pride, too much emphasis on partying, trans exclusion, erasure of femme and bi community members, people of colour inclusion, diversity in representation, and costs to participants. The full report, and its proposed strategies to address these concerns, can be read here.

Out in Toronto: May 18–24, 2017

18 May 2017 - 2:25pm
Thursday, May 18 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:309818 {"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"]}]] Friday, May 19 Kings and Classics  This night of performance is all about drag kings — old kings, new kings, everything in between kings.  Presented by Pretty Munny Productions, this edition of the new monthly show includes performances by Kelsey Slammer, Mike Hunt-Black, Quinn and others. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 10:30pm–midnight. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook [[asset:image:309311 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Spencer Munny (left) and Pretty Riikkii (right) put on the new monthly Kings and Classics event at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to help new and emerging drag kings get their start."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Saturday, May 20 Arabian Knights: Slick Saturday  This queer Middle Eastern dance party adopts a new theme: Slick Saturday. What this means in practical terms is that there are oil-covered go-go dancers wrestling each other (why not?) and shaking their glistening butts to Arabic house music. Everyone is welcome. Wrestling singlets encouraged. The venue is not accessible.  10pm–3am. The Black Eagle, 457 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook    Cherry Bomb: Queer Your Long Weekend Part 2  One of the city’s longest running dance parties for queer women and their friends helps you chill out for the long weekend. As always, the lovely DJs Cozmic Cat and Denise Benson are at your service all night, tag teaming back-to-back sets of the best beats.  10pm–3am. Round, 152 Augusta Ave. For more info, visit Facebook    Sunday, May 21 Screen Queens: Spice World  Drag queen hosts give live and potentially drunken commentary for this screening of the classic — yes, classic — film Spice World. Starring The Spice Girls, this lighthearted film features cameos from everyone from Elton John to Bob Hoskins, and the lovely Stephen Fry plays a judge. Features drinking games, special guests, performances, surprises and debauchery.  7:45–11:30pm. The Royal Cinema, 608 College St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Go Hard: All White Everything Video Party  The immortal DJ Blackcat returns with another of his poppin’ dance parties and this time the theme and dress code is all white. Taking place on the Victoria Day long weekend, this event features a soundtrack of hip hop, soca, house and dancehall tracks from the 1990s to today. The venue is not accessible.   10:30pm–4am. Club 120, 120 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook.   Tuesday, May 23 Condo Heartbreak Disco Launch  Queer artist and comic book creator (and former illustrator of a Daily Xtra column) Eric Williams launches his new graphic novel, Condo Heartbreak Disco. Features music by DJ Schramm and a performance by drag queen Allysin Chaynes. The venue is mostly accessible (there are no buttons to open the front door or accessible washroom door).  7:30–10pm. Glad Day Bookshop, 499 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309821 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Launch of Eric Williams\u2019 graphic novel, Condo Heartbreak Disco takes place on May 23, 2017, at Glad Day Bookshop."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Eric Williams"]}]] Hollywood Games Night: A Fundraiser for Rainbow Railroad  Drag performer Heroine Marks and event promotion group Mojo Toronto present a night of celebrity impersonations and unique takes on the classic game shows The Match Game, Hollywood Squares and The Newlywed Game. This night of performance raises funds for Rainbow Railroad. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). 7:30–10pm. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook.   Wednesday, May 24  Altered States: A Naughty Comedy Hypnosis Show Las Vegas-trained hypnotist Brandon Dean’s monthly hypnosis show is a surprising, goofy and sometimes dirty peek into the subconscious mind. During his show Dean calls adventurous (or perhaps foolish) volunteers up on stage and guides them on a journey through imaginary environments for the amusement and delight of the audience. 8–11pm. Tranzac Club, 292 Brunswick Ave. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:309488 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Hypnotist Brandon Dean\u2019s show takes place on May 24, 2017, at Tranzac."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Alex Hill"]}]]  

Out in Vancouver: May 18–24, 2017

17 May 2017 - 8:24pm
Thursday, May 18 Key West Cocktail Classic Like twins separated at birth but following the same path, these two are both writers, comedians and media stars — and one of them is even funny. Decide for yourself which one. Ryan Steele and Bruce Vilanch perform at the fourth annual Stoli Vodka event, the largest LGBT bartender competition in the world. Come see the reigning champ James Rawlings, co-host Patrik Gallineaux and homoculturist Brian Webb as you sample delicious cocktails, vote for your favourites, and have a chance to win a trip to Key West. 7–10pm. Numbers, 1042 Davie St. No cover. First 100 RSVP’d guests receive a Stoli drink ticket plus a wristband to sample all the cocktails and vote.   Speed Friending: A Rainbow Refugee Community Event I may be a bit forward with speed dating, so this may be the way to go; at least I won’t get a drink thrown at me. Join in for a unique night marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Using the method of “speed friending,” Rainbow Refugee members will share their stories with small groups in timed sessions, moving from table to table. There will also be a short film and a chance for further activities and conversations.  7–9pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Free admission.   Bling: Luscious Moov When Patricia Raye and Nick Apivor launched the project Luscious Moov, they were inspired to make a room full of people feel sexy and loved. The versatility of the vibes, keys, drums, bass and smoky vocals deliver fresh and exciting arrangements of standards with an added twist of soul, funk, and electronica. Sounds like a perfect way to escape the Top 40. 9pm–1am. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Tickets $10 at Info at   Friday, May 19 Qmunity IDAHOT Breakfast This event sounds like a great name for a drag queen, but is actually Qmunity’s benefit breakfast for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Stories are important for queer, trans and two-spirit people and communities, to find escape, new meaning and connection; join Qmunity and guest speakers as they share stories of our community, presented by Vancity. 6:45–9am. Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, 900 West Georgia St. Tickets $100 at More info at   Bianca Del Rio: Not Today Satan A woman after my own heart, this hilariously hateful comic is known for her foul mouth and unapologetic humour. A self-professed “clown in a gown”, Bianca Del Rio (aka Roy Haylock) continues her worldwide stand-up comedy tour, Not Today Satan, for a second round across North America. If you missed it the first time, you have a second chance to redeem yourself. 8–9:30pm. The Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St. Tickets $50–$250 at Info at   The Enchantment of the Arch It may sound like a convention for podiatrists, but this is actually the Surrey Coronation XIII, which — naturally — takes place in New Westminster. Yes, I do drink a bottle or two of wine doing these listings, but I assure you this is all factual. This night is the Out Of Town Show, Saturday is the Ball, and Sunday is the Victory Brunch. 9pm Friday. Columbia Theatre, 530 Columbia St, New Westminster. Tickets for Out Of Town Show, $15. 5pm Saturday. Columbia Theatre, 530 Columbia St, New Westminster. Tickets for the Ball, $60. 11am Sunday. Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia St, New Westminster. Tickets for the Victory Brunch $20. All tickets at Event info   Backdoor: Last Chance Some places come and go, replaced by something new, but this time one of the most unique venues in the city will be closing its doors for good. Backdoor was Matt Troy’s special baby, the party that changed everything. This is your last chance for a little Backdoor fun, and if you’re like me, the last chance to go after that hottie Matt Troy’s own rear entrance. Everyone is welcome, daddies, grannies, freaks and treats, to enjoy deep penetrating bass with three rooms of dancing. Organizers promise crazy out of this world art installations to make you gag, and wild, hidden intimate spaces to keep you gagging.  9pm–3am. Vancouver Art and Leisure, 1965 Main St. Tickets $30 at with limited tickets at door.   Saturday, May 20 The Chair If you were at Red last week and saw David C Jones on stage, you’ll find it hard to imagine someone that energetic just sitting in a chair performing (unless it’s a rim seat, but that’s a different show altogether.) This concept is hilariously dramatic, at times shockingly surreal, but one of the best nights of unexpected entertainment you will experience, organizers promise. Eight actors get The Chair and bring John McGie's words to life, sometimes with wild comedy sketches, sometimes with touching short dramas.  8–11pm. Seven Dining Lounge, 53 West Broadway St. Tickets $10 at door.   Bears Night Out Hibernation is over; bears are hungry, horny and on the hunt. If you’re looking for unpretentious, unadulterated, in your face fun, then this is the place to be. Twinks, muscle, daddies, grand daddies, boys, tall, short, hairy or smooth, there is a horny bear just waiting to feast. Head bear hunter DJ Del Stamp keeps the pace going and the dancing bears grinding on stage. This is the night I get to feel like a hunk of meat just waiting on the buffet line to be eaten. 9pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. $5 cover after 9pm.   Tease: Alyson Calagna And Del Stamp If the event is called Tease then you know two things: Del Stamp will be involved, and somebody will be on their knees in the DJ booth. The tease is, will it be you? Love and Freedom Events is excited to bring DJ/Producer Alyson Calagna back to Vancouver with DJ Del Stamp for a very special opening set, inspired by Alyson's sound. Expect infusing house, tech house and more into sets that are groovy, bouncy and fun! Some people called Alyson’s set during last year’s Big Pride Weekend the musical highlight of Pride. 10pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Tickets $15 and more info at   Sunday, May 21 Absolut T-Dance; Out For Kicks BBQ Back in the day — yes my day: I’m old get over it — T-Dances were the best parties around. They were so popular and fun that we would even drive to Seattle just for the Sunday Timberline T-Dances and they would be packed. It’s time to get that tradition back. The Out For Kicks Soccer club starts us off right, and hopefully they will be in full gear, including Luke and Dave’s famous short shorts. Come support the club and meet some of the hottest jocks around, you know they can go for hours, running or anything else you might want to do. 3—7pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. $10 entry gets you a drink, Absolut of course, and a burger.   Diva’s Den This isn’t for me, but I can’t let my followers miss out on this annual women-for-women strip show fundraiser for the Vancouver Dyke March. Wanda and June will be your hosts for this show that encourages amateur and professional performers to get on stage and let loose for charity in a safe and supportive environment. Diva’s Den and the Vancouver Dyke March are trans-, gender-nonconforming-, intersex-, and queer-inclusive. They encourage each person to decide for themselves if they belong in a “women for women”-centred space. ID checked for age, not gender marker. Transphobia will not be tolerated. 7:30–11pm. The Penthouse, 1019 Seymour St. Tickets $20 at Little Sister’s, 1238 Davie St, JQ Clothing, 2120 Commercial Dr or $25 at the door.   Ruff At The Pint If you haven’t been to a Ruff party yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s always a room full of hot, horny, shirtless, sometimes pantsless, handsome men just waiting to have some fun. Air thick with so much testosterone even Conni Smudge could grow a beard. MN events always knows how to throw a great long weekend party, and you do have Monday off to recover so what are you waiting for? With performances by Mr Ruff 2017 Jesse, Colin, Anuar, Quincy, Chris and Addison, if your shorts aren’t soaked then better have your Cowper’s Glands checked out. DJs Nick Bertossi and Nark keep the action moving and the men sweating all the way to the after party at Steamworks, just up the street. Because after all that, you’ll definitely need a shower and a blow dry. 9pm–3am. The Pint, 455 Abbott St. Tickets $20 at Top Drawers, 809 Davie St and online or $25 at door.   Aja Live: Saturday and Sunday Shows If you couldn’t catch Aja on Saturday night then don’t let this night pass you by. Tommy D may now be queen — oops emperor — of Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his rather large laurels. OUTtvGo and TFD Presents are bringing you even more drag fantasy featuring fan favourite Aja of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9. She’s carrying, henny — don’t miss out on what will be the true gaggarini of 2017. And if that isn’t enough to get you here, a double show with Legends and Shequel follows after that. Thank god there is an ATM in the bar. 9pm–4am. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Tickets $25–$35 at Info at   Babes on Babes: Von Kiss Babes on Babes is a collective of artists, DJs and promoters who showcase and celebrate local and international queer talent. Von Kiss is a DJ who can move the masses. Based out of LA with residencies in Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco, she has talent that comes from years of rocking shows all across the globe. Frankie Teardrop is a DJ, producer, and promoter in Montreal's underground queer party scene. With these two along with DJs Jane Blaze, O-Show, Angle, Ethan, Cho Cha and Leahbabe, the three rooms promise to be rocking with everything you like. 9pm–2am. Fortune Sound Club, 147 E Pender St. $15 at door.   Hershe Bar Okay, Hershe Bar has definitely come a long way since the old days, and good on her. I heard a rumour that tonight there will be shower dancing and, if coaxed enough, Leigh Cousins may take a spin on the shower pole. Go for it, doll! DJs Soulfunkee and Miss M will keep the dance floor, and other things, bouncing to your heart’s content. 10pm–2am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Tickets $12-15 at More info at   Spanglish A night dedicated to the modern art of mixing two languages together. If there is Spanglish, is there also Franglish, Italglish or Polglish? Caliente Nights’ resident team will be joined by your reigning Miss Gay Latina BC, Rebecca Wolf, and Ms Gay Vancouver 37 Casha Only to bring you performances that celebrate the collision of languages. If you can understand the words then you have had too much to drink. 10pm–3am. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. $5 cover.   Monday, May 22 Holly Near and Tori Trujillo Holly Near has been singing for our lives for over 45 years, and is still speaking and singing out about the times we live in right now. As an acitivist and a skilled performer, she puts on a great show reflecting on the world in which we live, and the complexities of love and integrity. Tori Trujillo was raised on everything from Motown and Carole King to Mexican band music and Bob Seger, with a heavy influence of gospel greats like Mahalia Jackson. Put the two together and you have a show that will raise the roof. 7pm. St James Community Square, 3214 W 10th Ave. Tickets $30–$45 at   Wednesday, May 24 WE Arts: Dance In Transit Looking to show off the goods? Dance in Transit has come up with free outdoor dance events this spring and summer in four amazing downtown venues: Robson Square, Jim Deva Plaza, Queen Elizabeth Plaza, and Plaza of Nations. They’re meant to build community involvement, expand social networks, ease people away from their digital devices, and get back to face-to-face connection. It’s a free event open to the public. Join to volunteer, participate, or just hang out and watch. 8pm–11pm. Robson Square Rink, 800 Robson St. Details and sign up at   The Princess Show This is right up Alma B Itches’ britches. A sequined and bearded Princess Edward who journeys into a world where anime heroes, bass guitarist rock stars and pop epics meld into a music-filled thriller. Princess Edward is an alter ego of Aaron Collier, former keyboardist for The Jimmy Swift Band and founding member of the electronic duo Scientists of Sound. This show is a mashup of Dungeons & Dragons, Attack on Titan, Zelda and RuPaul’s Drag Race. The setting is fantasy but the problems the Princess encounters are very real to all of us. Show runs until Saturday, May 27. Various times, 7pm to 9:45pm shows. Vancouver Culture Club, The Cultch, 1895 Venables St. Tickets $15–20. Showtimes and tickets at

How a revealing book on my mom’s nightstand gave me my first orgasm

17 May 2017 - 2:23pm
So, I was that kid whose mother had Nancy Friday’s Men in Love on her bedside table. A book and study on men’s sexual fantasies. No matter how strange or weird the ideas might be, they were in this book, and with no male role model in my home, there was really no one to ask about Penis Things: Do I actually pull the foreskin all the way back? Is my dick ever going to get bigger? And if I am ever to come, where am I supposed to put it? I mean, I was a horny kid. I thought about dick all the time, and whenever my mother would head out to buy cigarettes, Nancy Friday beckoned me to the bedside table. If I never got caught, Nancy would be my gateway drug to sexual self-discovery. There were stories of men fucking their girlfriends, men fucking their wives, men fucking other men’s wives, but I knew exactly which pages had the gay stuff. The stories were frank and hot and real. They told of men’s real experiences and explained in detail about sex and masturbation.  Masturbation. One of my favourite things in life. I had been actively trying to ejaculate since I was nine, but orgasm had eluded me thus far. The book described an erection. Yes, I had that. The book talked about it feeling good. Yes, that works. And when it came to masturbation it described an up-and-down motion and then orgasm. Up and down? What, like just rubbing your hand up and down? Like rubbing your arm? See, I am uncut, and so far, pulling the skin back had been slow and sort of painful, so sliding the skin on my cock made absolutely no sense to me. But this day was a little different and I had taken the book to the bathroom with a big mirror, which made it like there was someone else there. The story I was reading detailed a similar situation. A young man is hot for his friend; they compare dicks and then one asks the other if he knows how to jack off. It’s a common story and apparently a common occurrence. Not so common in Bond Head, Ontario. I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to listen. I was reading and seeing myself in the mirror, and I was in bliss. The car had pulled in, the front door was open, the keys were on the kitchen counter, and I was ripped from my fantasy and slapped with reality. Being in the bathroom was fine, but the book was in the bathroom. What do I do with it? How do I get it back to the room? I am going to get cau-augh-aughtohmygodit’shappening!!! In the heat of the moment, I guess the tension in my body grew and finally,finally, I was having an orgasm. My entire being was split in two. The fear of not only getting caught playing with my dick, but the wrath I would face having broke and entered into my mother’s room while massive pulses of ecstasy came over me was too much. I caught my own reflection in the mirror, of this kid on the verge of fight or flight while his face and body displayed the most exquisite kind of pleasure. My dick flexed and a tsunami of cum shot out of me. Like a rocket. Like 1,000 rockets — on the book, on the wall, on the mirror, on the floor, wherever there was a surface, I came on it. It was like a horror movie. Every time I would redirect there was another target that I was bulls-eying. Nobody told me there would be this much! Is this normal? This was going to become a problem. And panicking, and smiling because today I was a man.  I quickly cleaned up the bathroom with wads of toilet paper and Kleenex. I am sorry for all the trees that died to become tissues for my delugent spunk. Counters are easily cleaned. Paperbacks not so much. The book was ruined. Whole sections of the book were soaked, but the wettest spot was where I was reading. I could never put it back like this. It gave way too much away.  Tucking the book in my shirt, I made for my room, where I quickly and carefully removed the damaged sections of the book, found a book of my own of comparable size and ripped that apart and replaced the pages. Luck would have it that Nancy Friday was back in her place before bedtime, and I got to keep all the juicy (no pun intended) sections in my room forever. I should have learned my lesson . . . but sometimes you might not realize that you’re that close to the edge, and an orgasm will just sneak up on you. And you might not have prepared for the point of no return or moved the MacBook out of the way, and for months you have to explain to people why you have a shitty keyboard plugged into the side of your snazzy MacBook, and it’s because the keyboard is shot coz you spilled eggnog on it.  Generally, I masturbate once a day. When it’s May, I like to honour the occasion more. I use a towel now. Way tidier.

Five films to look out for at Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival 2017

16 May 2017 - 5:20pm
Back for its 19th year, Calgary’s annual Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival is one of Canada’s largest queer film festivals outside of Vancouver and Toronto, and features dozens of features, shorts and special events. To help navigate the tightly-packed festival schedule, a few of the folks that helped put it together have chosen some of their top picks for this year’s fest.  [[asset:image:309800 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center"}]] PYTOR495 James Demers, executive director This film is an outlier in that it is a heavily political horror movie. While the film is Canadian, it makes clear reference to the abuses suffered by LGBT people currently in Russia and takes its horror movie twist from real life events. Classic to the horror genre, the foreshadowing and symbolism is right on point — as is the excellent music score. A strong 15 minutes that will stick with you.   [[asset:image:309803 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center"}]] Two Hard Things, Two Soft Things Erin Jenkins, operations manager This documentary follows the first-ever Pride celebration in the Canadian arctic, held in the remote and isolated community of Nunavut. This film tells an unknown history, one that has been largely silenced and erased. The courage and tenacity of the activists, artists and politicians working to reclaim this lost identity is truly inspiring. A must-see for every Canadian.   [[asset:image:309806 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center"}]] Places of Fear and Hatred Mel Fisher, intern This Brazilian short film documents the stories of five people that have been discriminated due to their sexual orientations and gender identities. As a lusophone person, this movie affected me emotionally since it depicted cultural elements that I am very familiar with. I think this film is worth seeing, notably for the diversity of its cast but also because it raises international awareness about the situation of queer people in Brazil, a country in which churches accept pedophiles but still repeal homosexuals. Since Brazil is growing to become a potential superpower, laws must be changed in every Brazilian state to protect queer citizens from discrimination and ensure their safety.   [[asset:image:309809 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center"}]] Check It Kennedy Enns, festival assistant I’m most excited for the documentary, Check It. It’s a film about a gang of 14 to 22 year olds in DC who have created this friendship in order to defend themselves. I think the screening is going to be such an amazing experience. Plus we're screening Bound right after and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night!”   [[asset:image:309812 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center"}]] Girl on Girl Kerry-Leigh Fox, volunteer and social media coordinator I really enjoy the documentaries! This festival gives us a glimpse into content made by, and for, queer people. The storylines that Hollywood feeds us have grown stale: background figures who end up isolated and dead. The films we have programmed this year give us characters at the centre of their own diverse stories, and nowhere is it more profoundly felt than in the documentaries offered up! Girl on Girl in particular, highlights the emotional consequences of feminine lesbian invisibility— the phenomena in which, due to their feminine or “passing” appearance, countless LGBTQ women are rendered invisible and assumed to be straight by the outside world and to each other. What’s beautiful and captivating about documentaries is that it combats some of that isolation we may feel in our own lives, perhaps when we cannot live them as openly and fully as we deserve. Seeing real people, seeing ourselves on screen is what continues to draw myself, and many others to the festival.

Pink Dot, football and the International Criminal Court

16 May 2017 - 5:20pm
[[asset:image:309797 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Chechnya complaint taken to International Criminal Court Three French human rights groups have lodged a complaint against Russia at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, following reports of a crackdown on gay men. Any investigation would have only until November, when Russia will withdraw from the ICC’s jurisdiction. Read more from the BBC.   Singapore Pink Dot must ban foreigners New laws in Singapore mean that Pink Dot, the city-state’s LGBT pride event, must ban anyone not a citizen or permanent resident. Non-citizens, which includes nearly 30 percent of Singapore’s population, are not allowed to protest publicly. Read more at the BBC.   Cuban activist banned from meeting While President Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela led a gay rights march through Havana, a gay activist says he was detained and barred from meeting with US counterparts. He also says his partner was harassed by police and threatened for taking photographs. Read more at the Washington Blade.   UK Churches divided over marriage Some steps towards consecrated same-sex marriage within the Church of Scotland are expected at an upcoming general assembly, but traditionalists are still blocking progress. Meanwhile, insiders in the Church of England warn that the debate over same-sex relationships could tear the church apart.     Football chairman: Players won’t come out The chairman of the Football Association, the governing body for soccer in England, says he has spent months unsuccessfully trying to get a gay player to meet with him to discuss coming out. The Premier League says it is struggling to fight homophobia, but none of its players has come out as gay in 27 years. Read more at BuzzFeed.

How history seduced me into loving an older man

16 May 2017 - 11:19am
I was very young and he was very old. Just how young and how old will probably be revealed in my eventual gritty memoir. Suffice it to say, a relationship between the two of us was unlikely. But he was retired and had the time and resources to make a project out of me.  George (that’s what I’ll call him) wanted me to love him, so he bought me gifts, gave me advice and showed me his silly side (stumbling and rolling down the occasional hill, walking around with his fly undone, accidentally brushing his teeth with hemorrhoid cream). But he also decided he needed to get me used to the idea — he needed to normalize the idea — of a relationship with someone so much older.  So, he introduced me to gay history, which, for better or worse, is full of examples of relationships between older and younger (often much younger) men.  He gave me my first taste of someone I would go on to develop a lasting obsession with — Oscar Wilde. Sitting in George’s living room, drinking too much gin (yes, gin), we watched the wonderful 1997 biographical film Wilde. I saw a portrayal of Oscar Wilde’s disastrous relationship with the young and awful Bosie Douglas, and experienced for the first time the famous speech he made at his 1895 gross indecency trial when asked by the prosecution to describe “the love that dare not speak its name.”  The speech that Wilde, played in this case by the glorious Stephen Fry, makes is a defence of homosexuality in general, but defines it as “such a great affection of an elder for a younger man,” and says of it: “It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection.”  The speech refers to, among others, Plato, so George told me about ancient Greece and how it was acceptable, particularly in Athens, for older men and younger men to have intimate relationships with each other (usually provided that the connection was not just physical, but intellectual). He was describing a practice to which, through later studies, I was able to apply the label “pederasty.” Talking about the ancients led to some discussion of the Roman emperor Hadrian (who took power in 117 CE), and Marguerite Yourcenar’s 1951 book Memoirs of Hadrian, which George would eventually give me a copy of.  Yourcenar’s book is a sort of fictionalized (though fairly true to the facts) account of the life of Hadrian, including his relationship with the young and beautiful Greek boy Antinous. Hadrian loved Antinous so much that when the boy died, Hadrian built a city and named it Antinoöpolis. He also minted coins with the boy’s face on them.  I remember reading the touching scene when Yourcenar describes Antinous' death. In her telling, Hadrian reflects, “That body, once so responsive, refused to be warmed or revived.” And later: “I had lost everything at once, the companion of the night's delights and the young friend squatting low to his heels to help . . . with the folds of my toga.” When Edmund White’s biography of the 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud came out in 2008, George immediately got me a copy. I read about the precocious young poet’s tumultuous, short life and how it influenced everyone from Jack Kerouac to Patti Smith to Bob Dylan (whose song “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” includes the line “Relationships have all been bad, mine have been like Verlaine and Rimbaud’s”). It also details his relationship with the older poet Paul Verlaine, who responded to a flirtatious letter from the teenage Rimbaud with an invitation to Paris: “Come, dear great soul, we call you, we await you.” The resulting strange, drunken and violent affair would result in Verlaine shooting Rimbaud in the wrist.  On another gin-soaked movie night, we watched the 1971 film version of Thomas Mann’s 1912 classic novella Death in Venice. We watched as the fictional 50-something Gustav von Aschenbach lusted after the teenage Tadzio from a distance at an opulent hotel in early 20th-century Venice. George told me that the author Mann had been gay and that Tadzio was based on a real boy.   While watching Death in Venice, George held my hand and got a bit weepy talking, as he often did (he was dramatic that way), about unrequited love and how he wasn’t sure I would ever love him the way he loved me.  But he was wrong — I did love him. I don’t know how hung up on his age I actually was, but the history he taught me, among other things, helped me get over that. He spread his history campaign out over several years, but I was in love with him from early on, and our unusual relationship ended up lasting 10 years. I loved him for many reasons, including the joy of learning so much from him.  People I’ve talked to over the years have cited many reasons for caring about gay (or, as I prefer to think of it now, queer) history. Some want to understand why people were the way they were in a given era, or they want a historical role model. Maybe they want to legitimize our existence by showing we’ve been around forever.  One of the biggest draws for me is that queer history reminds me of a lovely chapter in my own life, spending time with a man who didn’t know what toothpaste looks like, and who won my heart and took good care of it.

Out in Ottawa: May 16–31, 2017

15 May 2017 - 2:18pm
Wednesday, May 17 Rally for Trans-Rights Bill C-16 Folks demonstrate their support for a bill that, if passed, enshrine gender identity and gender expression within the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. The rally is also in opposition to University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson speaking to the Senate committee about the legislation.  3:30–4:45pm. Parliament Hill, 111 Wellington St. For more info, visit Facebook.   International Day Against Transphobia and Homophobia  This annual, international event is all about drawing attention to the plight of LGBT people struggling around the world, and to promote activism around LGBT rights. All of Ottawa’s queer and trans folks and their allies are welcome to attend this event. To make inquiries and to RSVP, call 613-233-4443 ext. 2100.  5:30–7:30pm. Centretown CHC, 420 Cooper St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Adapted from the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, this musical tells the hilarious story of two drag queens and a trans woman’s adventures traveling to do a drag show in a remote Australian town. This production is put on by TotoToo Theatre, Ottawa’s local queer theatre company.  Runs until Saturday, May 27, 7:30pm. Academic Hall, University of Ottawa,  135 Seraphin-Marion Pvt.   Thursday, May 18 Hard Cover Book Club Alan Turing, the man who led the team that cracked the Enigma codes in the Second World War,  was prosecuted for homosexuality and charged with “gross indecency” in 1952. Men gather at this recurring event to discuss Jim Ottaviani’s graphic novel, Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded.  6:30–8pm. Centretown CHC, 420 Cooper St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Friday, May 19 Throb with DJ Ashley Gauthier  One of Ottawa’s hottest (and few) dance parties for guys into guys returns with another night of (hopefully) shirtless antics. This edition of the monthly event features the musical stylings of Ottawa’s own DJ Ashley Gauthier. Billing for the event promises “special guest” go-go boys.  11pm–2:30am. Kavali Nightclub, 34 Clarence St. For more info, visit Facebook.   Saturday, May 20  Offbeat: Strictly Dance  DJ Kitty Funk spins at a wildly-inclusive dance party. The party is thrown by The Queer Mafia, a local organization dedicated to promoting Ottawa’s queer community, and full proceeds from the night go to the Ottawa Wolves. The venue is accessible (for more information, visit the indicated Facebook event page).   11pm–2am. Babylon, 317 Bank St. For more info, visit Facebook. [[asset:image:308326 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Offbeat: Strictly Dance takes place on May 20, 2017, at Babylon."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Alexandre Brault"]}]] Saturday, May 27 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.   Sunday, May 28 Queer and Trans Yoga People of all skill levels are welcome to partake in an hour of relaxing yoga. Just gather up your gear — comfy clothing, water bottle, yoga mat (mats provided for those who don’t own one) — and head over. Followed by tea and hangouts. The event is open only to people who identity as LGBTTQ2A+. To register, visit website. 6:30–7:30pm. Venus Envy, 226 Bank St.   Tuesday, May 30 Up Yours! The Anal Sex Workshop Sex in the butt can be intimidating if it’s your first time. This workshop covers the ins and outs (and in-out, in-out, in-out) of anal sex, including how everything works down there, safety, toys, positions, common problems, and, of course, the importance of always adding more lube. Everyone welcome. To register, visit website.   7:30–9pm. Venus Envy, 226 Bank St. 

Life expectancy, a royal ally, and a trans police chief,

13 May 2017 - 8:14pm
[[asset:image:309791 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Argentinian woman appointed South America’s first trans police chief An Argentinian police officer who was forced to resign after 20 years of service because she is transgender has now returned to the force as a deputy police commissioner. Argentina has become an LGBT rights leader in the region, legalizing same-sex marriage in 2010 and no-questions-asked legal gender reassignment in 2012. Read more from the Associated Press.   Mariela Castro leads LGBT rights march The niece of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Mariela Castro, led a march through Havana this weekend celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Mariela Castro has emerged as an LGBT rights leader in the country, where gay people were long imprisoned and persecuted by her uncle. Read more at the Washington Blade.   Study: HIV life expectancy “near normal” Advances in HIV drug treatments mean people who become HIV positive today may have little or no reduction in life expectancy, say researchers at the University of Bristol. Researchers say the majority of HIV-related deaths are now among those who do not know they have the virus. Read more at the BBC.   British LGBT Awards name Prince William “straight ally” of the year Prince William delivered a video message to the British LGBT Awards this weekend after receiving an award for straight ally of the year. William has focused in recent years on fighting online bullying and promoting discussion about mental health. Read more at the Independent.   Tennessee woman granted “husband’s rights” A court has ruled that a lesbian woman in Tennessee deserves the rights of a “husband” over her child, who was born through artificial insemination. The state legislature has rushed to fill the legal gap, passing a bill insisting that the word “husband” be defined by its “natural meaning.” Read more from USA Today.  

Former Vancouver Pride directors call for police to withdraw from parade

12 May 2017 - 8:12pm
Two former directors of the Vancouver Pride Society are calling for police to voluntarily step out of the 2017 parade, just days before the VPS plans to announce its long-awaited decision on the matter. In a letter emailed to Mayor Gregor Robertson and police Chief Constable Adam Palmer, a former president and vice-president of Pride’s directorial board say “police involvement in the Vancouver Pride parade has created significant division both within the community and between the community and law enforcement” and heightened anti-black racism against members of the queer community. “While serving with the VPS we heard from members of the LGBTQ2S community in Vancouver that the police presence in the parade was a barrier to their participation,” write Tim Richards and Chrissy Taylor in their letter dated May 11, 2017. “In 2013/2014 the VPS held talks with members of the trans community. We heard accounts from people who did not want to participate because of the police involvement in the parade,” they continue. “Members of the black queer community are asking to create a space that allows them to be included in Pride.” A spokesperson for the mayor told Xtra by email that Robertson will comment when the VPS announces its final decision, expected next week. Sergeant Randy Fincham, speaking on behalf of Palmer and the Vancouver Police Department, says the decision is up to the Pride Society and says he has nothing further to add. Taylor and Richards served respectively as vice-president and president of the VPS from 2012-2016. Taylor says they wanted to offer their input now, in time to encourage the police to voluntarily withdraw. “Since the Black Lives Matter petition came out this year, and especially since the increase of the anti-black racism came out after the counter-petition, we thought it’s a crucial time now, before there has been an official decision,” Taylor says. “We wanted to give our input to the police to hopefully make a decision to take a step back.” Richards says police withdrawing could be seen as an opportunity to reassess their engagement, rather than as a step back. “It provides an opportunity for more dialogue. It’s a step to build some trust and I think it would be a great first step to show trust and willingness to listen and understand what the issues are and then start to build plans to make things better,” he says. Taylor acknowledges that many members of the queer community see police in the parade as a symbol of progress, but says many trans people and people of colour say their voices are erased if police are included. “When someone is seeing a problem with that, you really need to listen and reflect on what is being said,” Taylor says, “and in the policing situation, that’s potentially making it less possible for queer people to access Pride.” “You can’t necessarily call yourself an ally; that’s for someone else to do,” Taylor says. The timing of their letter has ruffled feathers at the Vancouver Pride Society, which is planning to announce its final decision next week on police involvement in the parade. VPS board co-chair Michelle Fortin questions why Richards and Taylor are acknowledging feedback they received from the community in 2013 and 2014 now, when they had opportunity to take action at the time. “It’s curious to read about the recognition that leadership at Pride have experienced this feedback from the community and yet when Chrissy and Tim were in leadership, things were status quo and the police footprint was bigger,” she alleges. Fortin says she is disappointed that Richards, who remains on the parade working group, and Taylor, who participated in this year’s community consultations, would leverage positions they no longer hold with Pride to preempt the careful planning going into the coming announcement on police presence. “When you’re on a current board and past board members start leveraging that relationship without speaking to you, that’s a real struggle,” Fortin says. “I run a non-profit and if a former board member were to speak on behalf of my current board chair, that would be just incredibly disrespectful. It’s disheartening to put us in this position when we’re five days away from an announcement, when you’re really proud of the work and you really care about the community.” Fortin says the VPS announcement will acknowledge that members of the police are queer and that many types of groups walk in the parade — but not necessarily in uniform. “The reality is, and police know, there is lots of work to do, but suffice it to say that where we’re moving to is a recognition that police and their place in our community is valuable, and that the power they carry is sometimes not experienced positively,” Fortin says.

How I taught a bottom to top

12 May 2017 - 5:12pm
I know bottoms. Since I mostly top, most of my lovers are bottoms. And as I’ve had more than my fair share in my bedroom — well not just the bedroom — I’ve come to figure out what makes them tick. There are roughly two types of bottoms, in my opinion: those who prefer to bottom after trying it both ways, and those who haven’t been able to top successfully and think they’re not made for it. I became vers (versatile) because I felt I was missing out on sexual connections with far too many top guys. But there was another reason. If I’m going to have a genuine long-term sexual connection with someone, sticking to one role just isn’t adequate. And, I’m not going to lie, if I am going to feel fulfilled with someone, we need to exchange semen.. This dilemma arose last year. I’d been conversing with this guy, Jake, online for a long time — upwards of two years. We were finally going to meet; he was going to come visit Vancouver for a couple of weeks. Our conversations had been sexual, of course, and he was a 100 percent bottom.  When Jake arrived, he was as gorgeous as I expected him to be: lean, smooth and tattooed with flowing dark hair and olive skin. I picked him up from the airport, took him back to my place, and we were naked in three, two, one — penetration.  For the next few days, we stuck to our respective roles; I topped and Jake bottomed. I even took him to the bathhouse one night, got us a room, blindfolded him, wrote “cum dump” in Jiffy marker on his ass, and brought guys in to fuck him. His ass could take anything you threw in it. My ideal man.  As we got closer over those few days, however, we talked more about him topping. It wasn’t that Jake didn’t want to top; it was that he’s never been able to. So we talked through the issues. He told me when he tried, he didn’t stay hard enough to remain inside a guy. We both deduced this was likely related to anxiety about his ability to perform — the pressure to stay hard made him soft.  The great thing about being with someone you actually know, instead of a hookup, is having the patience and time to work through something like this. There were two things we needed — to enjoy pleasuring each other’s bodies without the need to focus just on sex, and the pharmaceutical miracle Viagra.  We had all the time in the world. We were in a cabin on a lake together, just the two of us, with nothing else to do but focus on each other. We could relax and enjoy the journey. Box one: ticked.  As for the second box, I had just what we needed. A few years ago, I’d had a couple of incidents in which I went soft during sex. It was frustrating, particularly as a top. So a friend told me I should get Viagra. At first I was aghast — that’s what old men use when they have medical problems! But he assured me it wouldn’t be a problem to get from a doctor. He was right, and I began taking it regularly. The bonus: I often stayed hard long after I came, to the delight of many bottoms.  I gave Jake half a pill of Viagra and we began making out. We both became rock hard. Jake realized it was now or never, so I laid on my back and he lifted my legs over his shoulders. He put some lube on his cock and on my hole and started to push in. Unfortunately for Jake, I don’t bottom much so I was tight. He pushed and pushed and went soft.I grabbed his dejected face, pulled it towards mine, kissed him and told him to stop worrying and to get back to making out. As he stopped worrying about what had just happened, he began to get hard again. He took a deep breath, returned me to the same position, added a bit more lube and tried again. This time he managed to push in a bit but, as he slid in deeper, I could feel him softening. Again, I told him not to sweat it. We stayed in the same position, kissed some more, and then tried again. He pushed in and this time penetrated down to the base of his cock. A wave of confidence overtook his face. He began to thrust. I’d seen him as a submissive bottom the last few days, but he looked different now. I was glad I was on my back so I could see him. He looked tough, sure of himself and full of enjoyment. He was the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen. He told me he was about to cum and I looked into his eyes and told him I wanted it inside me. I could feel his dick pulse as he shot his load into me.  He stayed inside me as he leaned down to kiss me. Jake had never ejaculated inside someone. I was happy to be his first; he was elated. Over the rest of his trip I still mostly topped, but Jake topped me a couple more times. Jake has also topped since he went back home, so I’d say he’s at least vers-bottom now. As is often true with sex, it took some trial and error, patience and an understanding partner. Oh, and Viagra. We mustn’t forget the Viagra. 

Gay tennis players from across the globe face off in Toronto

12 May 2017 - 11:12am
Tyrone Andres lives for tennis. The 36-year-old Australian who has been playing for the majority of his life, describes his practice as “religious” and works for Tennis Australia, the organization responsible for the Australian Open tennis tournament. And this spring, Andres will be bringing his passion to Toronto to play in the largest gay tennis tournament in Canada. “I’m doing what I love,” Andres says. And he isn’t alone. From May 19 to 22, more than 170 LGBT tennis players will gather in Toronto for the 23rd annual Canadian Gay Open (CGO) presented by Babolat. “From a North American perspective, we are definitely in the top tier,” says Tommy Trinh, director of the tournament. The sold-out competition is sanctioned by the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) World Tour and is one of close to 70 similar events around the world. Over the course of three days, players compete in singles and doubles matches, showcasing their talent in an inclusive setting. “We give an environment that feels safe and welcoming for like-minded people who love tennis,” Trinh says. Homophobia in sport is well-documented, from slurs in the locker room to outright physical assault. Out in the Field, the first international analysis on homophobia in sport, found that 81 percent of gay men surveyed had witnessed or experienced some form of homophobia in sports. Additionally, half of the gay men and a third of the gay women interviewed said they kept their sexuality hidden from their teammates. This inherent fear built into organized sport has also been identified as a barrier to many — especially queer youth — from participating in athletics. But events like the CGO strive to remove these barriers. “It then doesn’t become about the fear of discrimination; it becomes about the sport itself,” Andres says. This creates an arena where people can be truly competitive without focusing unnecessary attention on hiding or navigating their sexuality. With five divisions based on skill level, participants can find a place that best suits their mastery of the game: from the open level — reserved for the best, to the D-division — jokingly referred to as the “boyfriend division” since many of these players come along to support their partners and primarily play for fun. And while some come to these tournaments with partners, many find love on the court in more ways than one: both Trinh and Andres met their current partners playing in GLTA tournaments. “There’s a huge social component,” Trinh says, with many participants forming strong, lasting bonds over their shared love of the sport. There is also a deeply philanthropic aspect to the CGO. Since 2003, over $8,000 has been raised and donated to the Doug Philpott Inner-City Children’s Tennis Fund, which provides free tennis lessons to children in need. This year, proceeds from the banquet’s charity raffle will go to the AIDS Committee of Toronto. According to Trinh, CGO is more than just another athletic competition; it’s a transformative experience that pushes LGBT individuals into an arena to make it all their own. “It’s about lifelong friendships, physical challenge and cultivating a global network around a unifying passion.”