Ottawa Xtra

Out in Vancouver: March 23–29, 2017

22 March 2017 - 9:31pm
Thursday, March 23 TransGathering Community Roundtable TransGathering has a long history of providing support, services and connections to the trans community in our city. Anyone who identifies within the trans community, including friends and family, is welcome to come discuss the group’s needs and direction. The group would specifically like to extend an invitation to trans-identifying black, indigenous and people of colour communities. 5–7pm. Britannia Community Services Centre, 1661 Napier St.   Queenmunity: A Fundraiser For Qmunity Jane Smokr, as usual, is leading the pack; and what a pack it is. A plethora of queens and kings are gathering for a common purpose: to support Qmunity, BC’s queer, trans and two-spirit resource centre. Hosted by Dee Blew and Dust, with tunes by DJ Maxwell Maxwell, the night will come alive with performances of all kinds. With this many queens all in one place there is bound to be a bit of drama, so don’t wait to hear about it around the water cooler. Join in the fun tonight and support a great cause, the growing need for accessible mental health and well-being resources. 9pm–12am. Celebrities, 1022 Davie St. Entrance by donation, minimum donation $7.   Whatever Pool Party After Hours Anything after hours always gets me into trouble, and with “Whatever” in the title I’m bound to lose a few bits of clothing. Doing that at this event would probably get me 10 to 20 in the big house, however, and I don’t mean Joan-E’s place. This event is for the 13–18 LGBT crowd only. Once the pool has closed for the evening the fun really gets going at this after-hours, all-bodies swim which features a water slide, lazy river, hot tub and an inflatable aquatic obstacle course. Please note that parents, guardians, youth workers and other adult allies are welcome and will have access to a comfortable waiting area and refreshments. 10:30pm–12:30am. West Vancouver Aquatic Centre, 2121 Marine Drive, West Vancouver. Photo ID is needed for entry to this free event.   Friday, March 24 Sissy Boy If you think back a few decades ago to when this event took place at the original Odyssey, you may remember how successful and fun it was. Unfortunately, I’m too young to have been there but, luckily for all of us, Carlotta Gurl was, and she’s bringing it all back. Jules was the original DJ and, although he left us a few years ago, there is a smaller, hairier and gingerier DJ taking his place. DJ Gingerbear Todd will provide the tunes for dancing and performances by Mina Mercury, Mandy Kamp, Miss M, Alabama and the old doll herself Carlotta Gurl. It’s a night of bumping mixes from the 70s, 80s, and 90s with some sassy and sultry performances by the queens who reigned over the city then. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Cover $5.   Saturday, March 25 Coronation 46 Ball The night is finally here! It’s like the Oscars for drag queens, but without Jimmy Kimmel. If you are looking for pomp and circumstance with a few drag performances thrown in, then this is the night for you. Between the introduction of every court in the free world, and more speeches than Trump at a KKK gathering, you’ll have more than enough time for chit chat with your friends in the audience. One of the highlights this year is De De Drew’s 37-year walk, which is about how long it takes to get through the crowd to the bar. If you have never been to a coronation, you should go at least once or lose your gay membership card.  5pm—late. Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright St, Granville Island. Tickets $45 in advance at Top Drawers, 809 Davie St and Little Sister’s 1238 Davie St. $55 at Door.   Shaping Sound Under the artistic direction of Emmy Award winner Travis Wall, and co-created with Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson, this electrifying mash-up of jaw dropping dance styles and musical genres is brought fully to life on stage by a dynamic company of contemporary dancers. The men formerly associated with So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars bring their considerable acumen and choreographic charm, infused with a refreshing intelligence, into a smart blend of television, stage and screen dance. An evening not to be missed. 8pm. Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 650 Hamilton St. Tickets $51–$93 at or online at   Loli*Pop: Weeaboo Trash Whenever I see this event I think of the 1960’s hit “My Boy Lollipop,” which always sounded like a gay theme song to me. Come join Ilona and Coco, along with their special guest Dee Blew, to celebrate iconic anime and some of your favourite J-Pop and K-Pop stars. Performances by Anna May, Sherrie Blossom and the big Lollipop himself, DJ Del Stamp. Let them show you how to suck one the right way. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 West Hastings St. Cover $5.   Divine: Drag Disco Party Get ready for a new Studio 54-style vintage drag and disco party, and bring your furs and skin-tight pants. The headmistress of throwbacks — and throwing a few back — Shanda Leer will host alongside Jef Leppard and Trevor Risk, as well as majestic drag hostesses Cinnamon Winters and Poison Apple. Come dance to disco and extended dance hits the way the sleazy and the bourgeois danced decades ago. 10:30pm–2am. The Fox Cabaret, 2321 Main St. Cover $12 at door.   Sunday, March 26 Vancouver Art and Leisure Pop Up Market The Vintage Handmade Society, in collaboration with Vancouver Art and Leisure, presents a spring market for everyone. Take a look at products including skincare, art, jewelry, pottery, candles, clothing, blankets, vinyl, a tarot booth, live painting and more. 12–6pm. Gallery 1965, 1965 Main St. Admission $2.   Kegger Afternoon Had enough of drag shows and coronation chit chat? Just want an afternoon of hot, sweaty men and a DJ who knows how to party? This is the place to get it all: beer, booze, butts and Bertossi. Can’t go wrong with a combination like that. 1pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. No cover.   Sleepy Girls 3: Bad Influences Trust me, you do not want to fall asleep at the Sleepy Girls show. Between Carlotta Gurl, Alma B Itches, Sherrie Blossom and Rogue, you don’t know who will be on what part of you when you wake up. If you open your eyes and see a deep, dark tunnel, don’t worry, that’s just Carlotta taking a seat. What corrupted your innocence? Who was involved? Come listen to stories about corruption and general teenage debauchery, told through the art of drag. 8:30pm–12am. Displace Hashery, 3293 West 4th Ave. Cover $10 at door.   Monday, March 27 Answer Me How many guys, when they were young, used to watch wrestling to jerk off at the hot guys getting beat up. Hmmm, looks like just me. Here is a perfect night to put all that useless information to work for you: a night of classic wrestling trivia. WWF, WWE, RAW, WCW, in a room full of men and Shanda Leer. Five rounds with five questions each, no more than five people to a team, and the team with the most points will win first prize, the second team gets second prize, and you get where they’re going with this. 7–10pm. The American, 926 Main St. No cover.   B-Roll: Toy Story The girls are getting sacrilegious with B-Roll’s take on one of the greatest shows of all time, Toy Story. Drag out the box from your parent's attic and get ready to play with your favorite childhood memories, before they’re tainted forever. I can’t wait to see who has a woody. I mean, who is Woody. 9pm–1am. The Penthouse, 1019 Seymour St. Tickets $10 advance online on Facebook or $12 cash at door.    Tuesday, March 28 Anal Play For The Ladies Okay ladies, men can’t be the only ones getting down and dirty. I know you’re interested as well, and here is your chance to find out. Can women enjoy anal play? How do you get started? Presented by Robyn, this workshop and demo will explore anal play for women, and how to help everyone involved have a great time. And yes, there is a live demo. 7:30pm. The Art Of Loving, 369 West Broadway St. Tickets $50 and register online at   Peach Cobblah’s 150th I know after a long weekend of drag the old doll can look 150, but this is actually Peach Cobblah’s 150th Shame Spiral Show. I know, can you believe that sweaty, foul-mouthed, middle-of-the-road train wreck former baddest bitch of East Van turned West End sellout has done her little Tuesday atrocity 150 times? But it’s true, so come on down and celebrate, because you know every queen in town is going to show up and turn one out. 10pm–3am. 1181, 1181 Davie St. No cover.   Magic Mic With all the political Trump-Russia ridiculousness going on, one good thing to happen this year is the comeback of comedy and amateur nights. Come in and turn off your brain. You never know what’s going to happen, so just let it. Hosted by Steev Letts and Oil Maughan, with a roll of comedians, musicians and performance acts. Sign up starts at 7:30pm and pros, amateurs and first timers are all welcome. 7–10pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. No cover.   Wednesday, March 29 Slacks Join roommates Jackie and Taylor and their wacky friends as they navigate life, love and other stupidities in these new episodes of Slacks. Written and directed by Jacqueline Korb. Starring Jacqueline Korb, Taylor Stutchbury, Leigh Burrows, Kiri McGuire and Tara Wilson. 8pm. Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Dr. Tickets $18 at the door or online at Show runs Wednesday, March 29 until Saturday, April 1.

Why it may be time for me to kill Mike Miksche (Part 2)

22 March 2017 - 6:31pm
“Your uncle read your column,” my mother said as I watched her stir the lentil soup in the kitchen. “He asked me if I knew the sort of life you lived and whether I read your writing.” My mother was now learning who Mike was — intimately it seemed. But when she mentioned my uncle also knowing the details of my sex life, I blushed red and wiped the sweat from the creases of my forehead. I could only imagine the stories circulating among my extended family.  I began forming my response to her in my head, ready to defend myself. I have nothing to hide! Who cares what anyone thinks anyway?  “I told your uncle that I had read everything that you’d written,” my mother continued. “And I said that if I hear anybody saying anything bad about you, I want nothing to do with them.” I was dazed by the words as I watched her stirring the lentil soup. The metal spoon made a hypnotic sound as it scratched the bottom of the pot. I wanted to respond but felt like I might cry if I even tried to open my mouth. She was extremely close to her family so I knew those weren’t easy things for her to say, to come to my defence. She had never done anything like that before. I just continued to watch her with admiration. Coming out was as difficult as one might expect, given my upbringing. I came from a Muslim, Lebanese household; I used to pray five times a day, went to the mosque on Fridays and would fast every year during Ramadan.  Through a lot of sweat and tears, I eventually found common ground with my parents and we learned to respect one another. I’ve now been out to my family for 18 years.  However, being “out” is one thing; my family reading my column about sex culture and public sex was a whole different thing. It was an entirely new second coming out.  I didn’t think that this coming out needed to be as explanatory as the first; if I died and my mom never found out that I went to sex cinemas and dungeon parties, I would’ve been cool with that. The pseudonym was great for this reason; I could maintain privacy and anonymity — or so I thought.  With the post-9/11 tension, writing under a pseudonym was also a way for me to distance myself from the whole Muslim, Lebanese thing, which has always felt heavy. As with many major religions, homosexuality isn’t seen favorably by Islam. Also, although there is some hope for the future, homosexuality is still illegal in Lebanon. I didn’t feel guilty about abandoning my religion or ethnicity because I felt like they had abandoned me by not accepting who I was. It had felt easy for me to turn my back on them.   As my mom continued stirring, she laughed, explaining that she hadn’t actually read any of my work because she feared it wasn’t “mom friendly.” I confirmed that it probably wasn’t, so she asked that I let her know if I ever do write something more appropriate for her to read. For me, it not only meant that she cared about me, but cared about what I was doing with my life and my work. And my uncle? He told her he’d continue to love me no matter what I did. Not all my family was like him though. I slowly learned which ones disapproved by realizing which ones had unfriended me on Facebook.  After that initial falling out with my family over my sexuality early in my gay adult life, I learned that I didn’t need the approval of others to be happy with who I am. At the same time, I had always been close to my extended family growing up before coming out, so I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t nice to have the acceptance from my uncle. My mother jumped onto another subject after that, but ever since that afternoon I’ve thought a lot about our conversation. It made me second guess whether I actually needed to choose between my ethnicity — which I’d always felt had rejected me — and my sexuality, or whether it was even healthy to do so. My Lebanese and gay identities had always felt mutually exclusive, but maybe I was wrong. Although my allegiance is still to the LGBT community, I also find it necessary to stand up for people like my mother or uncle; progressive Muslims and Lebanese folks who have become the targets of the populist movements happening all over the Western world. In doing so, I’m coming to realize that I can be Canadian, Lebanese and gay all at the same time. The more I allow these three pillars of my identity to merge, the more my pseudonym, Mike Miksche, feels unnecessary. One of these days I’ll have to kill poor Mike off, but it’ll be the most fabulous death because I owe the guy a lot.

Community One’s rainbow grants have helped power queer programs and services in the GTA since 1980

22 March 2017 - 12:31pm
Since 1980, the Community One Foundation has been funding vital services and programs in LGBT communities across the Greater Toronto Area, including the Durham, Halton, Peel and York regions. Previously known as the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal Foundation until 2008, Community One has been instrumental in shaping the economic and cultural landscapes of the populations it serves by providing grants to underfunded groups and individuals. The foundation’s rainbow grants provide funding and support in the areas of health and social services, research, education and advocacy, as well as and arts and culture. They are are tailored to meet the needs of underrepresented populations within Greater Toronto’s LGBT communities and are also accessible to groups and individuals without official charitable status. Community One now hopes to cast a wider net and attract a greater number of applicants for its grants before the April 7, 2017, deadline. Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto (NEW) is a settlement agency that provides support and resources to immigrant women and their families and was a rainbow grant recipient in 2016. The funds allowed the non-profit to hire 20 youth to research and design a queer-positive curriculum for its free English language program. NEW’s executive director Maya Roy says the rainbow grant allowed the organization to facilitate a positive space for queer youth and made the organization attractive to other donors. “The idea was that we would hire self-identified queer, newcomer youth to develop a curriculum for our [English as a Second Language] school that we have. It allowed us to fundraise matching money,” Roy says. “So, when a community funder like Community One says they believe in you, then other people get interested and excited about the project, especially about having queer youth actually write ESL curricula.” NEW was able to offer the new recruits intensive training in communications and research, providing them with important job skills. “It was pretty amazing in the sense that I wrote the grant and got it out of the way and they just took the ball and ran with it. I came back for the graduation dinner and was listening to the young people talk about how important it was to have these kinds of spaces.” Roy says. “They also went to Glad Day and the [Canadian] Lesbian and Gay Archives to get a sense of how we are documenting our history and our community.” Throughout its decades-long history, Community One has not only provided crucial funding to community heavyweights like the AIDS Committee of Toronto, Black Lives Matter and the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, but has also focused on funding individuals and groups who face further marginalization within LGBT communities across the the Greater Toronto Area. Community One board member Steven Solomon says focusing on community groups and individuals who continue to face financial obstacles is part of Community One’s mandate. “In terms of queer, trans, ethno-specific agencies, we’re looking to support their efforts to meet the needs, again, of a variety of diverse populations within populations. From health and social services to arts and culture,” Solomon says. “So, looking at the diverse communities within communities, that’s what we do.” Rainbow Grant applications are open until April 7, 2017. Registered charities or groups trusteed by a registered charity are eligible for foundation rainbow grants, available for up to $7,500. General rainbow grants are available for up to $1,500 and are open to groups or individuals without charitable status. The RBC community rainbow grant, created in partnership with RBC Royal Bank, is available to a registered charity for up to $10,000.

Who was the real Tadzio?

21 March 2017 - 3:30pm
Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella Death in Venice contains one of the most famous scenes in gay literature. The protagonist is famous writer Gustav von Aschenbach who is suffering from writer’s block and goes to stay in the Grand Hôtel des Bains in Venice.  One night at dinner, the 50-something Aschenbach is alone in the dining room, waiting for dinner to start when he notices a Polish family at a nearby table. And, more to the point, the aristocratic family’s young son, Tadzio.  Aschenbach noticed with astonishment the lad’s perfect beauty. His face recalled the noblest moment of Greek sculpture—pale, with a sweet reserve, with clustering honey-coloured ringlets, the brow and nose descending in one line, the winning mouth, the expression of pure and godlike serenity.  And his inward rhapsodizing goes on from there. Aschenbach is immediately entranced by the beautiful 14-year-old youth, who is wearing an English sailor suit. Over the course of his stay at the hotel, he never touches or speaks to the boy, but begins watching him and following him around, obsessed (a typically neurotic Mann protagonist, which was also a character trait associated with the German author).  Aschenbach becomes so obsessed that he puts himself in danger, refusing to leave Venice even as a plague — a cholera epidemic — descends upon the city. Mann’s novella has since been made into an opera, a ballet and the 1971 film of the same name, directed by Luchino Visconti and starring the gorgeous Björn Andrésen as Tadzio. The book has become a staple of gay literature for a variety of reasons — because of its homoeroticism, because it was an early work to deal with same-sex attraction, and, at least for those aware of the fact, because of Mann’s own homosexuality.  The Nobel Prize-winning Mann had a wife, but as his diaries eventually revealed, he had difficulty dealing with his attraction to other men (or rather, boys, for the most part). And his homosexuality (or perhaps bisexuality) is also evidenced by the subject matter of some of his works of fiction — Death in Venice being the most famous example. Mann’s homosexuality is also evidenced by the fact that the novella is based mostly on fact. Mann himself travelled to the Grand Hôtel des Bains in Venice in the summer of 1911, and became fascinated by a gloriously beautiful boy he first noticed in the hotel dining room on his first evening. There was also a cholera scare, though there are some significant differences between the book and reality as well, including the fact that Mann was actually 36 and the boy was 10, and Mann’s wife, who was also on the trip, claimed he didn’t follow the boy around, but that “the boy did fascinate him.” So, who was the real Tadzio? Who was this real-life boy who Mann saw and made into such an important figure in gay literature and gay culture, almost a symbol of unrequited love and love between the generations?  Gilbert Adair traces the life of the real Tadzio in the aptly named 2001 mini-biography, The Real Tadzio.  For starters, the boy Mann saw was not named Tadzio, but Adzio (short for Władysław) Moes. He was born in 1900 in southern Poland to Baron Aleksander Juliusz Moes and Countess Janina Miączyńska. His wealthy, aristocratic family owned several factories in Poland and lived in a grand manor in a place called Wierbka. Adzio Moes’ family was staying in Venice that summer because a doctor had (in typically olde thyme doctor fashion) prescribed sea breezes and play for Moes’ chronic lung issues.   [[asset:image:309263 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Adzio Moes (left, centre) in Venice with his sisters and friend Jan Fudakowski in 1911, at the same time Thomas Mann first saw him."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Carroll \u0026 Graf\/Gilbert Adair\/Wikimedia Commons"]}]] Adair writes that Moes, who by all accounts was heterosexual, was often the centre of attention, and really milked it, even as a young boy. Mann may have first caught sight of the boy making a grand entrance into the dining room to show off a pair of new shoes he was particularly proud of. Later in life, Moes said he recalled that an “old man” stared at him wherever he went that summer in Venice.  Growing up at the time and in the place that he did, Moes lived a violent and eventful life. He was a sub-lieutenant in the Polish-Soviet War (a conflict that ran from 1919 to 1921), earning him a medal for valour under fire. In 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Moes mobilized as a reserve officer and was captured and sent to a German prisoner of war camp for six years. When the camp was liberated by the British in 1945 after the Second World War ended, he returned to Poland only to find that the newly installed communist government had confiscated all of his family’s businesses and wealth (a fate suffered by most of the rest of Poland’s wealthy as well), and outlawed his hereditary title of baron.  The impoverished but well-educated Moes had a series of jobs over the years following the war, including working as an interpreter at the Iranian Embassy in Warsaw. Moes and his wife lived in a small apartment until they had worked and saved enough to buy a small bungalow in 1954.  Life would gradually improve in Poland (though it would never again be like the good old days), but because of his aristocratic background he was under nearly constant surveillance by the communists for most of the rest of his life. They also repeatedly tried to persuade Moes to act as their spy at the embassy where he worked (being anti-communist, he refused).  Mann’s book, originally written in German, was published in many languages, including Polish, but Moes didn’t become aware of his contribution to the book until 1924. Moes’ cousin read it and noticed some parallels and brought it to Moes’ attention. Moes doesn’t seem to have cared much about it, probably too busy being rich and handsome and running the factories he’d taken over from his ailing father. When Visconti’s film adaptation was released in 1971, Moes took a greater interest. Then in his 70s, he watched it while on a trip to Paris (the communists had relaxed travel restrictions a bit by then). He doesn’t seem to have minded being portrayed in the book and subsequent film, and the film’s release sparked a surge of nostalgic letter writing between Moes and old friends and relatives. In the film, there’s a scene where there receptionist at the hotel says the name “Moes.” Suddenly, the world knew who the real Tadzio must have been, and German journalists visited Adzio Moes in Poland (and of course the communist party sent police cars to linger outside his small house for the duration of the visit).  Moes died in 1986 in Warsaw. A few years before he died, he planned to finally revisit Venice — to bring his life full-circle, in a sense. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make the trip. By some amazing coincidence, Venice was once again in the grip of a cholera scare.

What happens when a condom breaks? (Part 1)

20 March 2017 - 9:29pm
I continued to kiss Don while I put on the condom, mindful of the mood we’d created over the last 20 minutes. I pushed him back and lifted his legs up onto my shoulders, and slowly, at the same pace of his moan, got inside him. Once he had a moment to relax, he encouraged me to go harder, so I did, while muttering porn-like slurs.  He refused let me do all the work as we thrust our hips in unison. Not only was he a genuinely nice guy, but he was very talented too.   There’s nothing like that sort of sexual chemistry when there’s so much rhythm yet it’s effortless. I listened to his moans, felt the heat of his body and allowed my lips to hover over his own — there was something kinetic about it. With such moments, I often think to myself, just for a split second, I love being gay.   I coordinated it so that I came just as he did; I wanted to feel whatever he was feeling at the exact same moment.  “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I said.  Then silence.  “That was amazing,” I added, shivering one last time as I carefully removed myself from him. I held the base of the condom so that it wouldn’t slip off inside. Then I did a double take and just stared at my crotch.  I looked so stunned that Don asked me what was wrong. “Um . . . The condom broke,” I said, stuttering a bit.  This wasn’t the first time it had happened, which is why I’d been so wary of fucking strangers even with a condom on — I’d become paranoid. I had been dating Don for a few weeks so I at least had a basic idea of his sexual history and habits. It felt safer — at least in my mind — despite the condom failure.  It’s true that condoms are 98 to 99 percent effective, but that’s in a lab setting. And I did everything correctly: I pinched the tip of it as I rolled it on, I held it as I pulled out, I’d stored it in a cool and dry place. It wasn’t expired either; I’m still not certain why that condom broke.  The thing is, I thought condoms were supposed to be 98 to 99 percent effective. According to research, the rate of condom breakage or slippage during sex is low — only 0.4 to two percent. Since pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was first approved in the United States, we’ve heard PrEP detractors suggest that men should just wear condoms instead and forget about PrEP. Although I’m a huge advocate of condom use and have had wonderful experiences with them, they’re obviously not perfect. In terms of my encounter with Don, I was the top and circumcised, so the chances of me contracting the virus, if he was HIV-positive with a detectable viral load was 1 in 909. That’s only a 0.11 percent chance, to put that into perspective. Don, on the other hand, kept asking me questions like how safe I was in general and when I’d been tested last. His chances, if I were HIV-positive with a detectable viral load, were 1 in 70, or 1.43 percent, which was still very low — but obviously possible. However, during the acute phase — the 12 weeks following HIV infection, the rate of transmission is 26 times higher  when having anal sex. It had been over six months since I’d been tested and I was negative to the best of my knowledge. I don’t wear condoms with blowjobs and I like giving blowjobs, so I mean, you never really know. I hadn’t knowingly had condomless sex though and since I’d experienced a broken condom before, I was pretty careful. Dawn Smith of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported only one in six men who have sex with men actually wear condoms 100 percent of the time. Don claimed that he was one of those people though, always using a condom. He’d never had a condom break either but he was still very nervous about the whole thing. In any case, we decided to we would get tested together on the Monday after the weekend. We both understood that results from the incident wouldn’t show for another three months, but we figured if we got tested right away it would at least ease some nerves. We would then get tested in another three months after that just to be sure.  That was on the Friday and we spent that weekend together. We had more sex but it was lousy. We were both having trouble relaxing, and Don, in general, was distant. I hated how such a great sexual experience on the Friday had been erased by the scare of a broken condom. Condoms are still one of our best resources against STIs and HIV, and are 98 to 99 percent effective in a lab setting. But how effective are they for men who have sex with men in the real world? And are they more effective than PrEP?

How one dance piece is redefining cultural assumptions about India

20 March 2017 - 12:29pm
Hari Krishnan’s latest work, Holy Cow(s)!, was sparked over breakfast. While dining out with a colleague, the Toronto-based queer choreographer decided to order a fat, juicy burger.  His companion was shocked. But not because he considered burgers inappropriate breakfast food. Instead, he was floored to see Krishnan consuming beef. In keeping with cultural stereotypes, he’d assumed that all Indians revere the cow as a sacred animal. “I just laughed and gave him a brief primer on Indians and their food choices,” Krishnan says. “Contrary to the assumptions people might have about me, I don’t worship cows. I love burgers and poutine. I don’t like chai or kopi. I’m not a fan of Bollywood, but I love The Golden Girls.”  “The incident was comical at the time but it left a lingering aftertaste,” he adds. “It’s one thing for a casual acquaintance to say something like that. But this was a person I’d been working with for more than three years.” His creative flames were further stoked while in New York last fall. A friend dragged him (against his will, he insists) to an “India-inspired” dance piece by celebrated American choreographer Mark Morris.  “During the pre-show talk he told us, ‘Cultural appropriation is just called culture, airport gift shopping as I like to call it’,” Krishnan says.  “I was pissed. As one of the few brown people present, I was frustrated that the audience wasn’t allowed to give feedback. I needed to speak up. I wanted to perform re-appropriating the misappropriated.” From this white-hot rage, Holy Cow(s)! was born. The work continues his melding of classical Indian and contemporary dance forms, along with a healthy dose of his trademark humour; clown noses, Saturday Night Live riffs and something he calls “pussy hats” all figure into the work.  [[asset:video_embed:309254 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_credit":["indanceoutreach\/YouTube"]}]] Krishnan plays with clichés and tropes of South Asian dance, recycling and rejecting as his vision dictates. He also actively rebuffs what he terms “performing culture,” a tendency that some artists of colour sometimes have to fill their works with cultural markers easily identifiable to white audiences. But anyone expecting multi-armed gods, quaint fairy tales or parading elephants is going to be disappointed. Although Holy Cow(s)! was catalyzed by anger, the aim is to create an event that’s fun. It also comes with a healthy dose of politics, something South Asian dance typically shuns. The US election, the 2017 women’s march, and Hillary Clinton all serve as inspiration. “I’m STILL with her!” Krishnan proudly proclaims. As with many of his works, gender and sexuality figure prominently. In this case, Krishnan specifically confronts the normative notions of binary gender that Western society is obsessed with, and takes on the legal prohibitions against homosexuality in India. [[asset:video_embed:309257 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_caption":["The ensemble talks about of Holy Cow(s)!"],"field_video_credit":["indanceoutreach\/YouTube"]}]] “In the piece, we confront staid archetypes of masculine and feminine by butching up the women and feminizing the men. We see strong lesbians and proud gay boys, instead of victim women and patriarchal men,” Krishnan says. “Going against the grain of my South Asian genes in my personal and artistic life offers me a lot of comfort and excitement. It feels fucking great.” The show follows Krishnan’s 2012’s Quicksand,  which tackled homophobia in the ballet world and 2014’s Box, which was inspired by his experiences as a self-described flamboyant brown queer crossing international borders. Holy Cow(s)! continues his ongoing quest to push back against normative assumptions. With a combination of irreverent humour and exuberant queerness, he picks apart the stereotypes he experiences as a queer Indian immigrant and tears down the artificial East/West binary that shapes many people’s worldviews. “Even after 26 years of being Canadian, I’m still being boxed into these annoying, frustrating clichés,” he says. “It’s like being forced into a stereotype straight jacket. What’s different now is that I’m older, bolder and don’t give a shit anymore. I’ve had it with being the good little brown boy. It’s time to resist and persist.”

Conservative senator thinks residential schools were good, wants gays back in the closet

17 March 2017 - 6:21pm
Ever since Conservative MP Rob Anders — who ardently believed that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist and publicly speculated that Tom Mulcair may have killed Jack Layton — Canadians have been waiting with bated breath for who will emerge as Canada’s most repugnant Parliamentarian. Well folks, we finally have a winner. Lynn Beyak, the Conservative senator from Dryden, Ontario, has scrappily fought her way to the top of the heap, despite stiff competition from Maxime “Red Pill” Bernier and Kellie Leitch, the world’s least convincing demagogue.  “I speak partly for the record, but mostly in memory of the kindly and well-intentioned men and women and their descendants — perhaps some of us here in this chamber — whose remarkable works, good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part,” Beyak said about the priests and nuns who oversaw the system of genocide known as the residential school system. It’s an especially shocking statement coming from someone who sits on the Senate standing committee on Aboriginal peoples. Beyak, who portrays herself as a good Christian woman who is just so irked about taxes, is very pleased that many of the indigenous people who were kidnapped from their homes retained their Christianity after they left. “I was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in that it didn’t focus on the good,” she said. “The people I talk to are Christians.” She fails to mention the 3,201 children who didn’t have a chance to keep attending church since they died at those schools from abuse and neglect. To top it all off, Beyak said these horrific statements in front of Senator Murray Sinclair, who not only headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but has spoken publicly about the abuse his father and other family members suffered in residential schools. But that’s not all. Last week, Beyak, during a debate on C-16, the transgender rights bill, went on a bizarre rant bemoaning that the radicals of the gay movement expect “all of Canada to be their closet.” She continued to pine for a happier time when folks like her simply didn’t have to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that gay people exist because they weren’t flaunting their homosexuality in her face. “By living in quiet dignity, they have never had to face any kind of discrimination or uncomfortable feelings,” she said, without a hint of irony. “I would assert that is how the vast majority of the LGBT community feels.” I wonder if Beyak would have given the same advice to Christians in Rome who, if they just lived in quiet dignity, would never have faced any discrimination, lions or crucifixions? Regardless, her sentiment typifies Beyak’s total aversion to facts.  While stressing her love of the assimilationist 1969 White Paper that would have abolished the Indian Act, Beyak stated that it included a one-time payout of $500,000 to Aboriginal people in exchange for their status card. The only problem is that Beyak completely made that up. The only compensation included in the paper was $50 million for a development fund. Throughout her speeches in the Senate, Beyak is extremely polite and friendly, and gracious to the people she is questioning or criticizing. But niceness is not the standard by which we judge our political leaders. A parliamentarian must also have at least some grasp of reality, an understanding of history and some human decency in the positions and policies they put forward. Beyak fails on all of these counts. She doesn’t seek to understand Canadian history; instead, she fabricates it. She absolves Christians of genocidal actions because they had “good intentions.” She fights strenuously against the expansion of civil rights by gaslighting LGBT Canadians. Beyak represents the worst of our politics and our institutions. She should resign.

Is love born or taught? Maybe both

17 March 2017 - 3:20pm
In the past few years of writing on the science of sexuality, I haven’t met many questions so uncomfortable or thorny as the biological origins of same-sex desire. On one hand, many neuroscientists and psychologists I’ve interviewed feel crystal clear: people are born gay or straight, more or less, and how they choose to express that desire is just a little sociological icing on the cake. There’s a lot of good evidence for this; many studies show family values and culture have very little bearing on adult sexual orientation.  But start talking about genetics, fraternal birth order or twin studies — especially around young queer folk — and you’ll likely get a room full of uncomfortable stares. Isn’t sexuality, some might offer, more a socially-constructed phenomenon? Isn’t biological determinism a bit reductionist? And there are good reasons for this view, too. Western science has a miserable history of misinterpreting biology and using it to prop up conventional moral values. There’s a good reason why queer folk should beware biologist bearing gifts.  And yet, how do you explain sexual orientation without biology? If humans are all fully programmable tabulae rasae, why would anyone in a heteronormative society be gay at all? Somewhere, behind it all, biological machinery must be working. At the same time, this biological truth has to be squared with the important realization that every idea we hold is shaped by society, including what “gay” or “queer” mean to begin with. Into this uncomfortable strait between biological determinism and social constructionism, University of British Columbia philosopher Carrie Jenkins dives in her new book What Love Is: And What it Could Be. Jenkins’ book isn’t about sexual orientation, it’s about love, but it tackles many of the same core issues. Our study of love, she argues, has been divided into two oil-and-water disciplines. On one hand, some say romantic love is a bundle of neurochemicals and innate psychological drives designed over thousands of years by evolution. On the other, some say romantic love is a cultural invention, intended to reinforce and reproduce the heterosexual monogamous family.  Neither, Jenkins says, is the whole picture. We can’t really understand our biology without knowing how our basic impulses have been shaped by social forces. And we can’t understand why our society has built certain cultural institutions if we don’t understand our biological drives. The dichotomy is false; we need both sides of the story.  Much has already been written about What Love Is: And What it Could Be as a daring philosophical challenge to compulsory monogamy. But in the queer world, the option of non-monogamy — at least sexual non-monogamy — is not particularly revolutionary. Half the straight non-monogamists out there got the idea from reading Savage Love in the back pages of a university town arts weekly.  But there are two observations in Jenkins’ book that are desperately important for discussions of minority sexuality. The first is that biological and social understandings of love, bonding and sexuality don’t have to be at war. There is no need for endless, pointless duelling essays about who was really “born this way.” There’s far more value, as Jenkins writes, in locating “the hidden seams between love’s biological machinery and its ideological contours,” and figuring out how all the parts fit together.  The second important observation is that queer folk are not forced to either embrace romantic love, with all its heterosexist, mononormative, white-picket-fence baggage, or jettison it completely. The history of the gay movement in North America has often been a push-and-pull between those who would integrate into straight society, with marriage, children and lifelong sexual fidelity, and those who would rebel completely and ditch romantic love along the way. There is a third way, Jenkins argues. We can guide love’s social reality onto a more equal, expressive and inclusive path, making room for queer love, non-monogamous love, asexual love and everything else demanded by our complex biology.  Love, Jenkins wants to say, is salvageable.

New Brunswick government introduces trans-rights bill

16 March 2017 - 6:20pm
The New Brunswick government introduced a bill to explicitly protect trans people under the province’s human-rights act, making it the last province in Canada to do so. Bill 51 adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in New Brunswick. It also adds the category “family status,” intended to protect single parents from discrimination. It was introduced March 15, 2017, and had a second reading the next day. The province has also introduced Bill 37 to amend the province’s Change of Name Act and Vital Statistics Act. The bill removes the requirement for gender-confirming surgery in order for trans people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates and simplifies the process of obtaining a legal name change.  Bill 37 was introduced in December 2016 and had its second reading Feb 14. Together, the two bills would bring New Brunswick in line with how all other provinces, as well as Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, protect trans people from discrimination and allow them to access gender-confirming documents. Bills to make similar changes in Yukon have been proposed but not yet introduced. Michelle Laird, who founded the trans support group UBU Atlantic and is based in Moncton, says the big changes in New Brunswick are the culmination of two years of talks between the government and trans advocacy groups.  [[asset:image:309248 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Rob Salerno\/Daily Xtra"]}]] The New Brunswick government moved to include gender-confirming surgery in the provincial health care plan last summer in response to local advocate demands. It was the last province to do so.  “For a long time we haven’t had an organized request to have these things,” Laird says. ”I couldn’t possibly be happier because what we’ve wanted and asked for, we’re getting.   “Seeing this happen, with trans issues being more on the national stage, to the [New Brunswick Human Rights Act], it really legitimizes the situation for trans people in New Brunswick.” Laird also says that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s support for the federal trans-rights bill C-16 has also helped nudge provincial premiers along. “Once you see our prime minister say, ‘this is something I want to see happen,’ it makes the premiers say, ‘how long can we say no?’” Laird says.  With trans people soon to protected in all jurisdictions in Canada, the pressure increases on the Senate to pass Bill C-16, which adds “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the list of aggravating factors in the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code. A committee is expected to hold hearings on the bill in April before a third and final reading.

I fought the cops in the 1990s and I support Black Lives Matter now

16 March 2017 - 6:20pm
There’s a fundamental “us against them” flaw in the recurring argument that Black Lives Matter is somehow hijacking Pride. Just last week, former Vancouver Pride executive director Ray Lam accused BLM Toronto of hijacking Prides across the country, of “holding the queer community hostage” with its “bombastic” demand to ban police, of raining on “our parade” and “stealing our voice and power as a community.” Lam also points, in his Georgia Straight column, to pressing queer problems that he considers more worthy of attention, and notes that the petition to keep Vancouver police in the parade drew about three times as many signatures as BLM’s petition to remove police. But what Lam fails to grasp is that we’re all part of the same movement towards equality, and queers of colour have been in the front lines since Stonewall. BLM is part of our community. And they are telling us the privilege of a comfortable relationship with police does not extend to all of our members. I agree with Lam’s suggestion that we need queer community leaders, not party planners — parties are an essential part of the economy of Pride but they are not the reason for Pride. This is an opportunity for queer community leaders to support some of our most marginalized members, listen to what they’re telling us, and be part of an ongoing conversation with BLM and police. Leadership is not necessarily about doing what’s popular. Quoting petition stats is the weakest argument in a debate on social reform. Basing decisions on public polls serves only to support the privileged majority. While frequently mistaken for democracy, it’s the antithesis of “social reform.” If the Gay Alliance Toward Equality had petitioned Vancouverites in 1978, do you think the first Pride parade would ever have happened here? Even if GATE had only petitioned the existing LGBT population at the time, the results would’ve undoubtedly leaned towards maintaining the status quo and not making a fuss. And Pride has always been about making a fuss. Of course it’s terrific that the police have come as far as they have. I was on hand for the planning of demonstrations in front of Toronto’s 52 Division in the early ’90s with other Queer Nationalists. I have witnessed the encouraging developments within police departments across the country. But I only witness a part of the reality — the part that directly affects me. And certainly I want to celebrate those developments. But when a broader reality is brought to my attention — when I’m told there are still members of my community who are not enjoying the protection and freedom of those developments — why would I choose to celebrate a partial win at the expense of queer voices? Because to contemplate anything else is uncomfortable? And finally, as a devout Streisandian (who kneels at the altar of Merrill and Styne), I would like to put an end to the blasphemous use of the “raining on our parade” analogy. It doesn’t hold up and it’s truly tiresome. BLM has not performed a mystical rain-making incantation. They’re pointing out that while some of us are under the big tent enjoying the catering, others are still standing out in the rain. If we’re not willing to listen to the most vulnerable and marginalized voices within the complicated queer community, then “our” Pride is being regulated by easy choices instead of being liberated by hard truths.

Out in Ottawa: March 16–31, 2017

16 March 2017 - 3:20pm
Thursday, March 16 Hard Cover Book Club  The men’s book group is marriage-themed this time around. This session focuses on discussion of two books — Sylvain Larocque’s Gay Marriage (a history of the fight for same-sex marriage in Canada) and Kenji Yoshino’s Speak Now (about the legalization of same-sex marriage in California). This is one of the recurring Gay Zone events.  6:30–8pm. Centretown CHC, 420 Cooper St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Backwards Broadway Cabaret  Men sing songs written for women, and women sing songs written for men. According to this concert’s billing, it is a “celebratory evening for gays and lesbians to see their stories told through the great songs of musical theatre.” This is also the directorial debut of TotoToo Theatre’s Kraig-Paul Proulx.  Runs until Saturday, March 18, 7pm. Live! On Elgin.   Saturday, March 18 Geek Out! Third Weekend Meet-Up While everyone else is out shooting up saloons with Tommy guns and smacking themselves with dope, some wholesome queer geeks gather for a laid-back afternoon of chatting and possibly games. Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to bring board games (this can be a useful icebreaker).  2:30–6pm. The Blurry Pixel, 201 Queen St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Offbeat: Sweatin’ to the ’80s  Legwarmers, the Berlin Wall, Back to the Future, pants that for some reason have stirrups — The Queer Mafia’s dance party is 1980s-themed this time. Themed outfits are encouraged, but not required. DJ Dan Valin spins. Partial proceeds will go to The Ottawa Wolves, Ottawa’s inclusive rugby club. The venue is accessible. 11pm–2am. Babylon Nightclub, 317 Bank St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Friday, March 24  Throb With spring just around the corner, soon-to-be in-heat guys head out to the club for a night of sweaty dancing, flirting and general shenanigans. Montreal’s DJ Lachance headlines this edition of the recurring dance party with a rave feel. Ottawa’s own DJ Ashley Gauthier sets the tone with a raucous warm-up set.   11pm–2:30am. Club NVY, 295 Dalhousie St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Saturday, March 25 Venus Envy Sweet 16 Bash  The much-loved local inclusive sex shop celebrates 16 years serving Ottawa. The big bash features music by D-luxx Brown and DJs Sarita and del Pilar. This doubles as a fundraiser for the Venus Envy Bursary Fund. The venue is accessible (the accessible entrance is just to the left of the front door).  10:30pm–2am. The Red Lion Public House, 47 Clarence St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Tuesday, March 28 The Sexual Politics of Topping  What does it mean to top? Is it possible to top from the bottom? Is every top a masochist? This workshop at a local sex shop discusses the politics of topping, the different kinds of topping and bottoming, and some tips on enhancing your bottoming or topping skills. Everyone welcome. For a more detailed description, visit website.  7–9pm. Venus Envy, 226 Bank St.

Out in Toronto: March 16–22, 2017

16 March 2017 - 3:20pm
Thursday, March 16 The Book of Mormon When two young Mormon missionaries travel to Uganda to spread the so-called good word, they find the locals preoccupied with more important matters — AIDS, famine and warlords. Written by the creators of the cartoon South Park, this musical comedy mocks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information). Runs until Sunday, April 16, various showtimes. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St W.    The Bodyguard When bodyguard Frank Farmer starts protecting superstar Rachel Marron from a stalker, they both get more than they expected — in the love department. Based on the movie of the same name, this musical includes Whitney Houston power ballads and shirtless male backup dancers. The venue is mostly accessible (visit website for more information). Runs until Sunday, May 14, various showtimes. Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St.  [[asset:image:309185 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Bodyguard runs until May 14, 2017, at Ed Mirvish Theatre."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Paul Coltas"]}]] Friday, March 17 Gag by Pansy Ass  This fetish and gay culture-themed art exhibit features pieces produced by Pansy Ass Ceramics. For a few years now, Pansy Ass Ceramics’ Andy Walker and Kris Aaron have been producing china and other knick-knacks with a provocative, silly, raunchy twist. It’s a bit like your grandma’s tea cup collection if she were a leather daddy or John Waters enthusiast.  Runs until Saturday, March 25. DAIS, 1196 Queen St W. For more info, visit Facebook.  [[asset:image:309236 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The Gag exhibit by Pansy Ass\u00a0takes place on March 17, 2017, at DAIS."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Pansy Ass Ceramics"]}]] Björk Party III This annual dance party is dedicated to the icon from Iceland, the alien from the Atlantic, the rebel from Reykjavík — Björk! It’s a big squeaky, shrieky night when the music is only Björk hits. The bash features a performance by burlesquer Leelando Mitchell. DJ Phillippe spins. Appropriately-themed costumes encouraged.  9pm–3am. The Baby G, 1608 Dundas St W.  more info, visit Facebook.    Yes Yes Y’all 8th Anniversary Party  The queer hip hop, dancehall and R&B party goes all out for its eighth birthday. The music for the night is provided by Tasha Rozez, Lissa Monet and Matthew Progress. This inclusive party is open to all sexy boys, bois, studs, fly girls, grrls, gyals, gurls and more (you just need to really, really like hip hop).  10pm–3am. Nest, 423 College St. For more info, visit Facebook.    Kings and Classics Drag kings old and new strap on their best facial hair to put on a night of performance. Presented by Pretty Munny Productions, this edition of the new monthly show at Buddies includes performances by Cyril Cinder, Gay Jesus, Titus Androgynous and other kings. The venue is mostly accessible (visit website for more information).  10:30pm–2:30am. Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. For more info, visit Facebook.   Saturday, March 18 Can Con: Sticky Maple Special The super patriotic, Canada-themed dance party goes monthly with more butts and more syrup (or beavers or whatever) than ever before. It includes the go-go dancing styles of the men of BoylesqueTO, Toronto’s all-male burlesque troupe. DJ Orange Pekoe spins hits from the Biebs, Carly Rae, Drake and others. Lumbersexuals welcome.  10pm–2:30am. The Steady, 1051 Bloor St W. For more info, visit Facebook.  [[asset:image:309239 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["DJ Orange Pekoe spins at Can Con on March 18, 2017, at The Steady."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Ian Lawrence"]}]] Pitbull: 7th Anniversary  A recurring dance party for sweaty, shirtless guys celebrates seven years of fun and flirting. Spain’s DJ Jesus Pelayo headlines, and the party features aerial shows, dancers and displays. Includes two rooms, with different sounds in each. Billing promises huge beats, great memories and a packed dance floor.  10pm–4am. The Phoenix, 410 Sherbourne St.    Tuesday, March 21 Queer and Present Danger  The touring queer standup comedy show does a live tape of the show. The lineup for this special evening includes comedians Adrienne Fish, Phil Luzi, Paul Hutcheson, Brian Millward, Chantel Marostica, Ian Lynch, Kyah Green and Colleen Sibeon. The comedy is followed by a dance party that goes into the wee hours of the morning.  9pm–2am. The Rivoli, 332 Queen St W. For more info, visit Facebook. 

Out in Vancouver: March 17–22, 2017

16 March 2017 - 12:19am
Friday, March 17 Scene Queen 2: A Romy And Michele Evening We’ve all seen a few of our local queens cause a scene when someone steals their number or (gasp) shows up in the same outfit, but this is a scene of a different sort. Join Dee Blew and Amy Grindhouse for a special screening of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, followed by a special performance inspired by this classic comedy. Relive your glory days with two of the funniest queens in town. 6–10pm. Vancouver Art & Leisure, 1965 Main St. Cover $10 but also gets you discounted entry to the Jason Kending show following.   Countdown To Coronation Madness And so it begins, the week of endless in-town, out-of-town, should-be-run-out-of-town shows, the scent of every perfume imaginable mixed together in your favourite bar, and pieces of taffeta and boa feathers strewn all over everything, including the urinals. Tonight is the lead-in to next weekend’s Coronation 46 with Faux Girl’s in-town show, where, I am sure, every queen will be in green for St Patty’s. Host Empress XLV Sienna Blaze and guests will dazzle and entertain you to death. 9pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. Cover $5 after 9pm.   Wet & Wild I don’t usually write in the same event twice in a row, but when something special comes up that I don’t want to miss, I have to pass it on. Tonight Mr Stamp has procured Gogo Gent for the shower part of the evening. Gogo Gent is a hot, muscular male specimen who comes with a very impressive package. If you haven’t seen him work before, this is your chance. Note to self: don’t stand too close to the glass shower wall, because that thing looks like it will break through it if he swings it around. Doors 9pm, music 10pm, dicks out 11:30pm. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. Cover $5.   The Judy Show I guess Punch has been replaced, or else he’s in drag for the night. How many millennials know what I’m saying? Join Dee Blew, Dust, Amy Grindhouse, Karmella Barr and their guests for a night of stories, drag numbers and drinks. Take a look inside their friendship and watch them tackle songs they have chosen for each other! Duets, group numbers and maybe even a couple jokes. There’s even a request sheet for the DJ, unheard of these days. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Cover $7.   Saturday, March 18 Get Out And Vote The polls are open for the next emperor and empress today and, unlike most years when there has been a plethora of candidates to choose from, this year I believe there are two. Get out and support the candidates who are willing to work their asses off for our community all year raising money for local charities. There may only be two running but at least they have the balls to do it. Well one does; the other is tucked. 3–9pm. Little Sister’s Bookstore, 1238 Davie St.   Kick Off Spring: Queer Dance Party I know it seems like spring takes longer to come than Conni Smudge at a gangbang, but it does happen eventually. Shake off the winter clothes, get on your best spring outfit, hat and all, and shake your bootie at Not So Strictly Ballroom’s first social dance of 2017. All sizes, shapes, genders and ethnicities are welcome; just dance and have fun. Dancers and non-dancers alike have fun at NSSB's dances. Don’t worry if you don't know the steps. Make them up! 8–11:30pm. Harbour Dance Centre, 927 Granville St, second floor. Tickets $12–$15 sliding scale at the door.   Growlr RoughHouse Funny how words bring back long forgotten memories. When I was in high school, my friends and I had a code word for whenever we were out at the bar with a date. We would set up a prearranged “accidental” meeting, and if we put the word growler into any sentence, our friend knew the date was going badly and we needed an excuse to get out of it. Juvenile, yes, but very effective. Tonight, though, it has an entirely different context. This is the Vancouver debut of another American party for men and, from the looks of the poster, it will be a good one. DJs Del Stamp and Mateo Segade will provide rough, sexy beats to set the mood. Guest hosts, hot gogos and a full nude shower show will provide the heat. After that, it’s up to you and your own pick-up tricks 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 W Hastings St. Tickets $12 at Top Drawers, 809 Davie St.   Sunday, March 19 Out For Kicks There’s nothing better than men with awesome soccer butts in short shorts; well, okay, it would be better without the shorts. There will be men, there will be awesome butts and I know there will be a few short shorts — I’ve seen hottie captains Luke and Dave out shopping — at this year’s St Patrick’s Day indoor tournament. This fantastic, low-key and fun event will also be a fundraiser for OFK teams participating in IGFLA’s Gay Games Championship in Paris in 2018. Come out and watch the fun. 9am–2pm. 8 Rinks, 6501 Sprott St, Burnaby.   Remembering David Mackay David Mackay, a lifelong political activist, passed away Feb 15 of a heart attack after a decades long struggle with HIV/AIDS. Long-time friends describe him as a deeply compassionate human being, stubbornly committed to the fight for justice especially for marginalized communities. A memorial will take place today, and I hope all his friends and loved ones will drop in to say goodbye and share stories.  1pm. Gordon Neighborhood House, 1019 Broughton St.    Monday, March 20 MoMondays I would love MoSaturdays, can tolerate MoSundays, but MoMondays? Come on, isn’t the work week long enough as it is? Apparently not. This monthly night features five or six people telling their personal stories and sharing life lessons. Some are funny, some are thought-provoking, and all are inspiring. This is a great opportunity to socialize and interact in a fun, positive environment and meet some new, friendly people. Put in your speaker application to speak or grab some friends and get your fix of heart, humour and happiness. 7–10pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Tickets $15 and up at   Tuesday, March 21 Get Kinky With HIM By now your New Year’s Eve love has started to get stale and your Valentine’s Day fling is starting to feel monotonous, so get your big boy panties on and do something about it. Tonight HIM teaches you everything you need to know about bondage and rope play. At least if you restrain him with your new knowledge about knots and duct tape, he won’t be able to leave. A fun and informative night for all. 7–9pm. HIM, 1033 Davie St. To register email or call 604-488-1001.   Wednesday, March 22 Bingo For Life This weekly extravaganza for the Friends For Life Society is filled with brilliant prizes, cheap drinks and snappy drag queens, hosted by the snappiest of them all, Del Stamp. Come be entertained by a few of his closest drag queen friends. It’s never too late to grab life, or Del Stamp, by the balls. Bring your own things to decorate your table, because you are not touching my dabber. 8–10pm. Celebrities, 1022 Davie St. $10 donation get you in and gets you your cards.

Yukon moves to protect trans rights

15 March 2017 - 6:19pm
Trans activists in Yukon are cautiously optimistic after the territory’s Liberal government announced it was beginning consultations on amendments to Yukon’s Human Rights Act and Vital Statistics Act to be more inclusive of trans people. The new government was elected in November 2016, and had promised in its campaign materials to review all legislation to ensure it is compliant with LGBT rights. At this point, draft bills have not been tabled. The government is simply seeking input on proposals and asking the people for feedback through an online questionnaire. The government is proposing to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Yukon Human Rights Act.  All other provinces and territories in Canada except New Brunswick currently list one or both of those as prohibited grounds for discrimination under their human rights acts. Nunavut was the most recent territory to add the protections on March 13, 2017. Currently, the Yukon Human Rights Commission considers protections for trans people to be implied under the prohibited ground of “sex,” as does the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. It’s the proposed changes to the Vital Statistics Act that are causing some trans people concern. The changes would allow those with Yukon birth certificates to change their legally registered gender without having to undergo gender confirming surgery. Again, every other province and territory but New Brunswick has made this change, although the procedures to change one’s legal gender vary from province to province.  [[asset:image:309242 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_credit":["Rob Salerno\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Among the proposals for discussion are different procedures for adults and children (defined as being under 19 years old). While adults would only require a letter of support from anyone who has known the person for at least two years, children would require consent of all custodial parents, a letter from someone who’s known the child for two years and a letter of support from a professional. In the absence of support from the parents, children could apply on their own with a court order. Chase Blodgett, an organizer with All Genders Yukon, welcomes the simple process but says that the requirements are still unnecessary and burdensome, especially in cases where a trans child’s relationship with one or both parents is strained.   “There’s situations where parents are going through divorces, and there’s lots of cases where one parent is transphobic and doesn’t support the child, and the other parent does,” Blodgett says.  Although trans youth would have the option of seeking a court order, there are barriers to accessing the court and getting the required documents, he says. “We have some of those kids in our community. I support kids like that. I’m worried about them,” Blodgett says. “To get a court order, that’s a day off work or a day off school. There’s a lot of challenges to accessing a court order.” Blodgett says he’d rather the law allow trans people of all ages to simply self-declare that they’d like to change their gender. “Why do you need someone who’s known you two years to verify? Cisgengder people don’t have to have anyone verify that, so why should trans or two-spirit or non-binary people have to verify that?” he says.  The government is also proposing an “X” marker for those who choose to have their gender “unspecified,” and a separate marker that they do not describe for babies that are born intersex. While Blodgett says this is an improvement, he would prefer the government not collect gender information at all, and not display it on ID documents.  Complaints about the use of gender data on birth certificates have been filed with human rights commissions in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The Canadian federal government recently agreed to review its collection of gender data related to Social Insurance Numbers, and is considering gender markers on passports.  The government of Ontario recently announced plans to remove gender markers from OHIP cards and to include an “X” option on driver’s licences.  Gender markers on birth certificates are more complicated, because all other ID markers are based on them, and changes may have cross-jurisdictional impacts, for example, when applying for a passport or when boarding a flight.  Driver’s licences in Yukon did not have gender markers on them until 2011, after the federal government made changes to the Identity Screening Regulations used in airports, requiring airlines confirm that travellers’ gender presentation matches their ID. Blodgett says he’s since been denied access to flights because his gender presentation and documents do not match.  While he appreciates that the government is providing an option for non-binary people, he says the “X” is unnecessary and stigmatizing. “If you could get an ‘X,’ a trans person, an intersex person, a non-binary person, a cis woman, then what’s the point of having a gender on there? It doesn’t tell you anything, so just take it off,” he says.  “I find it offensive, ‘X’-unspecified. I know my gender, it’s trans or trans-masculine. Why do I have to put an unspecified ‘X’? I’m proud to be trans. Why can’t I put a ‘T’? Why can’t we all have things that accurately reflect who we are?”

Why it may be time for me to kill Mike Miksche (Part 1)

15 March 2017 - 6:19pm
I can still remember the weekend my mom brought up my column. For over two years I’ve been writing about sex culture and public sex but we had never discussed it, for obvious reasons, or even talked about why I was using a pseudonym. That weekend was like any other weekend where I’d visit my folks in Waterloo. I arrived in the early afternoon and knocked on the door.  “Who is it?” mom shouted.  “It’s me.”  “Are you alone?” She asked, to determine whether to wear her hijab or not.  “Yes, habibi, I’m alone.”  The smell of stuffed grape leaves and meat pies wafted out from the kitchen when she opened the door. She worked two jobs so she didn’t have the patience for cooking anymore, yet she still seemed to make a feast whenever I was over. Perhaps it was an incentive to get me to visit more often? She gave me a kiss and went back to the kitchen. I followed her and leaned against the L-shaped counter, watching her stir the lentil soup over the stove. She filled me in on family news, refraining from judgment, of course. Between me being gay and my brother marrying a non-Lebanese women, we’d been the subjects of enough gossip to make us humble. My extended family is extraordinarily large, and gossip was epidemic. I have more cousins than I can remember, and those cousins are having kids too. She filled me in on who was pregnant, who’d got a new job and who had moved where and when. Then she asked: “How’s the writing going . . . Mike?”  I’d always hoped to avoid this subject but I suppose you can’t run away from who you are. It was the first time she’d ever brought up my column or the fact that I was using a pseudonym.  Mike Miksche is obviously not Lebanese. My real name is James, but that’s not Lebanese either, to make things more confusing.  As a new immigrant to Canada, mom had liked James Bond — the Roger Moore iteration, specifically — so she named me James.  I’m the only person in my family without an Arabic name, and a lot of Arabs assume that I changed my Arabic name to an English one to fit in. That practice isn’t uncommon though, especially in a professional setting. It’s much easier to get a job with a name like James on your resumé than Muhammad or Mustafa. My dad uses a different name at work and so do some of my uncles.  Between my light skin and English name though, people are often confused about my identity. Some white folks think I’m brown and some people of colour think I’m white. When I’ve grown my beard too long, some friends and coworkers have said that I look like a terrorist. Needless to say, I trim my beard short before crossing the US border to avoid trouble at customs.  I’d spent a year in Lebanon wanting to get in touch with my roots, but a lot people there treated me like like a foreigner, which technically I am. Though both of my parents are from there, I was born in Canada. I’m not sure what I am. At times, it can feel  isolating, but I’m getting better at accepting it. I started using a pseudonym when I began my column, “Hole and Corner,” in 2015, which was pretty liberating — at first anyway. It was fun to take on a new persona which I could create and control.  The then editor-in chief at Xtra had suggested I should use a pseudonym since I would be writing about sex culture. I was reluctant; I wasn’t ashamed of what I was doing. I’ve been out to my family for 18 years, and I’ve published articles about things like Lab.oratory in Berlin and homosexuality in Lebanon under my birth name.  “Hole and Corner” was much more personal though, since I was not only documenting my experience at sex venues, but my sexual relationships with people like DH who introduced me to BD/SM. The other benefit I saw for using a pseudonym was that my family wouldn’t read about my sex life.  My pseudonym is based on a real person. Mike Miksche was a former air force officer from Texas (he had a Czech background), and a sadist who Alfred Kinsey had studied in the early ’50s. I’d first learned about him in the book Secret Historian by Justin Spring, a biography about sexual deviant-cum-superhero, Samuel Steward. Steward was a writer, university professor and tattoo artist with a legendary sex life.  Funny enough, the first Miksche had a pseudonym of his own: Steve (or Scott — people who knew Miksche had different recollections) Masters (“S/M”) for the erotic art he made. It was fitting given that Kinsey filmed him having brutal sadomasochistic sex with Steward, in the name of research. That’s not why I chose the name though.  At one point, Miksche seemingly fell into the trap of heteronormativity, and married. I can only assume he was ashamed of his sexuality, so much so that he ended up taking his own life by jumping into the Hudson River — that’s what Steward had said, anyway. According to Spring, another account claimed that he’d survived that attempt but later overdosed on pills.  I hardly ever shed tears, but I cried when I read that he’d killed himself. Some people have wonderful experiences coming out, but mine wasn’t one of them. It was a nasty experience, so I could relate to some of his conflicts. More than being Lebanese or being Canadian, I feel gay first and foremost. Reading about the original Mike Miksche was like finding out about a great-great-grandparent who I’d never known, but who had experienced the same tribulations. I chose his name as a way to honour him.   I’d always felt as though I had to choose between being Arab and being gay. I chose being gay and so my chosen culture was formed in places like Church Street, Greenwich Village and The Castro. Though the pseudonym was established years after I’d come out, it gave my decision a sort of finality.  Although my family knew I was gay, “Hole and Corner” wasn’t something I felt I needed to share with them. But I knew it was only a matter of time before they read it.

New anti-HIV pill Odefsey comes to Canada

14 March 2017 - 6:18pm
A new antiretroviral drug will soon be available to Canadian HIV patients, but it comes with a dose of controversy and likely a daunting price tag. Odefsey, the successor to the older Complera, is the latest in Gilead Sciences’ line of anti-HIV drugs. Gilead also makes Truvada to treat HIV and Truvada for PrEP to lower the risk of HIV transmission. Health Canada gave Odefsey its stamp of approval in February 2017.   Lower side effects, lower doses The new pill’s advantage is the compound tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), a new means of delivering the drug tenofovir. Compared to the tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) found in Complera, TAF boasts better “targeting,” delivering the drug efficiently to parts of the body where it is most needed. That means TAF drugs require much lower doses, achieving the same effect while reducing harm to the bones and kidneys. While Complera packs 300 milligrams of TDF, Odefsey contains only 25 milligrams of TAF. The new drug could be a boon to an aging population of HIV patients, many of whom are taking other medications and are hoping for long golden years on antiretrovirals, free from side effects. The rollout of Odefsey, however, comes with a big catch: patent law. Odefsey is hitting the market just as Gilead’s patent on TDF drugs is set to expire in December 2017. While the older TDF drugs are likely to plummet in price, Gilead has the patent on TAF locked down until 2022. The timing is suspicious enough that the San Francisco-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation sued Gilead last year, accusing the company of deliberately delaying the development of TAF to squeeze money out if its customers. The lawsuit failed, but HIV activists have pointed out that the timing is, if not conspiratorial, at least very convenient for Gilead. Activists also point out that Gilead has raised prices on its older drugs, in an apparent bid to convince patients to switch to the new TAF regimes before the company’s patent falls through.   Will provinces pay for Odefsey? For Canadian provinces, which will soon have to negotiate with Gilead over the price of Odefsey through the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, this raises two important questions: How much more expensive will TAF be than generic TDF, and is it worth paying for? There’s no question, says Dr Stephen Shafran, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, that TAF is the better drug. “I think any clinician would tell you, if price is not a consideration, why would we use TDF if you have access to TAF?” he says. Shafran says the most recent research shows TAF beating its forebears for better viral suppression and fewer bone and kidney problems over time. But money, unfortunately, is on the table. He says it’s likely that provinces will decide not to cover TAF for everyone with HIV, and health services or doctors will have to pick and choose which patients get access. “I’m hoping that government and industry will agree on a price that allows us open access,” Shafran says. “But if they don’t, then it will put us in a position that makes things more complicated.” In the best case scenario, access to cheap TDF drugs could drag down the price of TAF, and make it accessible to all. In the worst, TAF could remain a luxury for those with gold-plated insurance.   Is a new antiretroviral drug really necessary? Dr Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, says not all patients need TAF. The existing drugs already work perfectly well for nearly all patients, he says, and when rare side effects do appear, they are easy to detect. Unlike the switch from first to second generation drugs in the early 2000s — when the newer drug could mean freedom from crippling side effects and disease — the marginal differences between second and third generation drugs are slender. “The current treatments we have available are operating at a very high level of performance,” Montaner says. “We have the Cadillac of a treatment available. The question now is, is a Ferrari needed in every instance?” Montaner says he is confident the BC government will cover TAF drugs for the few patients who need them. In most cases, however, generic TDF drugs will do just fine. “The question is, how do we create a system that’s best for the patients, and not get distracted by the hype that the pharmaceutical industry is creating about every single new molecule,” he says. “What problem are we trying to solve here? Is there a clinical problem? Because I haven’t seen it. Or are we trying to solve a problem of income for the pharmaceutical industry?” Odefsey is not the first TAF drug from Gilead to arrive in Canada; the single pill regimen Genvoya was approved in 2015. Price and access have also been key issues for Canadians trying to take Gilead’s TDF-based drug Truvada, which is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Since PrEP drugs were approved in Canada, they have commonly been accessible only to people on certain medical insurance plans, or to those who bring generics semi-legally across the border.

Nunavut passes trans-rights law

14 March 2017 - 6:18pm
The Nunavut Legislative Assembly voted unanimously on a comprehensive trans-rights bill on March 13, 2017, making it the latest jurisdiction to acknowledge the need for explicit human rights protections for trans people.  Bill 31, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act, had just two clauses, which added the categories “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the territory. The massive Arctic territory includes 20 percent of Canada’s land mass and is home to about 35,000 people. Nunavut was created in 1999 as part of a land claims agreement meant to be a separate territory and home for the indigenous Inuit people.  Justice Minister Keith Peterson introduced the bill by speaking of the inclusive values of Nunavut’s people. “To include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination .  . . will make clear that Nunavummiut who are transgender have the same right to live a full and productive life as anyone else in the territory, free of discrimination,” he said in the Legislature. “This change will help . . . prevent discrimination and prejudice against people who are transgender in Nunavut.” Peterson also credited local activists Catherine Lightfoot and her son, Kieran Drachenberg, who is trans, who helped build support for the bill. “All parents want to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. Most take it for granted their kids’ rights will be protected and respected,” Lightfoot says. “That is what I wanted for [Kieran] and today with the passing of Bill 31, it happened.” “I am so proud of the Nunavut government for taking such an important step in recognizing transgender people are entitled to all the rights and protections of all Canadians,” Lightfoot added. Drachenberg says the bill is monumental for trans people in Nunavut. “[It’s] is a long overdue step forward in improving and catching up to the other provinces and territories of Canada. It shows that the people in our government are willing to do what is best for its people, regardless of how they identify, gender-wise,” he says. “It makes me feel safer, more protected and more like a proper citizen of Nunavut. It also makes me prouder to be one,” he says. The Nunavut legislature is non-partisan and typically works by consensus.  All provinces and territories except for Yukon and New Brunswick have explicit protections for “gender identity” in their human-rights acts. In Yukon and New Brunswick, protections for trans people are currently only implied under the category of “sex,” which trans activists say is not clear. Yukon new government announced its intention to add trans protections last December, but its legislature has not sat since it was elected in November. A bill to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes section of the Criminal Code has passed the House of Commons and is before the Senate. It is expected to be debated in committee in April before third and final reading.

Sex toy spying, tri-parents and American Bandstand

14 March 2017 - 6:18pm
[[asset:image:309224 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Sex toy company pays out for spying on customers The Canadian sex toy company behind the We-Vibe will pay out $3.75 million in a settlement for spying on its users without consent. The company collected data on how often customers were turning on their products, and what settings they were using. Read more at Vice.   New York grants trio parenting rights A court in New York has struck a blow for unconventional families by declaring all three members of a divorced trio legal parents to a child. The two women and one man raised the boy together and cared for him, the judge said, and should therefore share parenthood. Read more at Slate.   Bandstand revelation In the 50s and 60s, teenagers across America swooned over the romance of the dancing couples on American Bandstand. It turns out, however, that many of the teenagers were gay, and the show took great care to keep the secret. Read more at the New York Post.   Queer women aren’t getting pap smears Activists in the UK say that queer women are being passed over for cervical screening tests on the mistaken assumption that they don’t need them. HPV, for which pap smears test, can still be passed on by sex between women. Read more at The Telegraph.   Trans runner jailed for stabbing Trans woman and runner Lauren Jeska has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for stabbing a UK Athletics official. She attacked him, and two others, after her running titles were disqualified over her eligibility to compete as a woman.   Read more at the BBC.

Should private schools be allowed to discriminate against LGBT families in BC?

13 March 2017 - 9:17pm
Five months after BC’s ministry of education announced that all school districts need to protect LGBT students through mandatory anti-bullying policies, Xtra has learned that private school admissions policies are exempt from the ministry's order. At least two private schools, both of which receive funding from the provincial government, have anti-LGBT admissions policies posted online that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. Langley Christian School and Abbotsford Christian School both require parents to sign a community standards form that says marriage should be a covenant between a man and a woman. Both schools describe their communities as “a group of believers in and followers of Jesus Christ” who strive to honour their faith commitment in all aspects of life. Both say they expect “all persons with influence over our students to model behavio[u]r and lifestyle choices consistent with the Christian walk of faith,” and both require students and teachers to “refrain from sexual misconduct such as adultery [and] sexual relationships outside of marriage.” Both schools also receive money from the provincial government. The amount of their funding is based on enrolment numbers, and is equivalent to half of what the government provides each public school per student in the same district. (Though some independent schools receive just 35 percent of public school funding per student, if their operating costs are higher than the district’s average per-student grant amount. All independent schools receive the same funding as public schools for students with special needs and for online courses.) Advocates for LGBT students say they’re disappointed the minister’s order didn’t address private school admissions policies. Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, says it sends a mixed message to LGBT youth. “It’s very problematic because it’s inconsistent to on the one hand say we’re going to ensure, under the code of conduct order, a safe and inclusive environment for all identified groups under the BC Human Rights Code including LGBTQ youth — but at the same time potentially exclude those students through admission policies.” [[asset:image:309206 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["The introduction to the Abbotsford community standards form is almost identical to the Langley school\u2019s form."],"field_asset_image_credit":[""]}]] Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, says he’s not surprised the minister’s order doesn’t fully protect LGBT students at private schools. That was one of his first concerns when the policy change was announced, he tells Xtra. “Exclusionary policies like that don't make our province safer and in fact lead to greater divisions,” Chandra Herbert says. Public schools are about bringing communities together, he explains. They’re about “meeting your neighbours, people who are different from yourself,” which in turn creates a “united community of diversity.” The problem arises when private schools take public money but “only allow certain types of people to attend,” he says. “How is it somehow acceptable in this day and age [to say] that ‘you can’t come to our school if you're gay?’” he asks. “That seems to be what they’re trying to do here.” He says the BC Liberals’ order to support LGBT students was long overdue but still doesn’t go far enough to make sure kids have safe access and inclusion in “all the schools who receive tax money in BC.” The discrepancy between some of these admission policies and the ministry’s new LGBT order raises the question of where religious freedoms should end and where human rights begin. Education Minister Mike Bernier would not provide an interview for this article. Asked by email why his order did not extend to admissions policies, the ministry of education provided a statement saying, “we believe in safe, respecting and inclusive schools,” later adding that “the Human Rights Code provides exemptions for specific organizations or corporations to give preference.” While BC’s Human Rights Code protects LGBT people from discrimination, it also provides an exemption for non-profit religious or other organizations that exist to promote the interests and welfare of a specific group, such as a group with a common faith. Chandra Herbert says he’d like the government to take a stronger stance on independent schools. He recognizes certain religious freedoms, but doesn’t think the government should be supporting schools with exclusionary policies. “I think people are allowed to have their religions,” he says. “But once they start providing a public service, and get supported or subsidized through public money, they have a duty to do that in a way that includes . . . that whole human family.” Xtra phoned and emailed the Langley Christian School and Abbotsford Christian School to request an interview with each, but did not hear back before deadline. [[asset:image:309209 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Among Abbotsford\u2019s standards of conduct is to uphold heterosexual marriage."],"field_asset_image_credit":[""]}]] In a Jan 17 interview, Peter Froese, president of Federation of Independent School Associations in British Columbia, told Xtra that enrolment policies vary from school to school. Each school can set its own policy, he said, and these may vary from “open enrolment” to “restrictive enrolment that is specific to a particular faith.” Froese acknowledged that the ministry’s new policy requires BC’s private schools to protect LGBT students from bullying — “while remaining consistent with the school's faith values, cultural perspectives and philosophical values,” he said. Asked if an independent school’s “faith values” could override protection for some LGBT students, Froese said schools are allowed to set their own enrolment policies but once enrolled, students would be protected against gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination, no matter whether the independent school is faith-based, secular, special needs-based, or pedagogical like Montessori. Xtra examined enrolment policies of 15 private Christian schools in BC, as well as the BC Muslim School and a handful of private Catholic schools. While most schools require families to support their children in a religious practice outside of school, only the Langley and Abbotsford Christian schools contain explicitly anti-LGBT admission requirements. Some of the schools have enrolment forms that request contact information from a mother and a father (leaving no room for same-gendered parents), and the Duncan Christian School makes no mention of sexual orientation or gender identity as grounds for protection in its admissions procedure, but says no child will be denied admission on the basis of race, colour or national origin. Even as some admission policies raise questions, some faith-based private schools in BC have adopted a transgender inclusion policy. After a human rights claim was launched against the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese, the association adopted a policy in 2014 that says its schools will support gender nonconforming students and respect their chosen name and gender. However, the policy distinguishes this from “gender transitioning,” which it says is “contrary to Catholic teaching, and therefore the Catholic school cannot support any transitioning actions.” The association’s website also links to literature arguing against same-sex marriage. [[asset:image:309203 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Spencer Chandra Herbert questions whether private schools with discriminatory policies should receive any government funding."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Angelika Kagan\/Daily Xtra"]}]] The question of funding private schools is complicated. Some argue that providing independent schools with public funding keeps them accountable in other important ways because it ensures schools follow the BC curriculum. Jason Ellis, assistant professor in education at the University of British Columbia, suggests that a common curriculum for all students may benefit society at large. “If your view is that the BC curriculum teaches certain civic values and core types of knowledge and types of competencies that are generally required and beneficial to children who are going to grow up and live in a civil society in BC then . . . having everyone follow that curriculum is advantageous,” he says. Since funding for BC private schools is based partly on a school’s adherence to the provincial curriculum and teaching standards, Ellis says it can be argued that funding is a tool to ensure they teach the curriculum. Chandra Herbert disagrees. He says that in allowing schools to discriminate, their teachings are contrary to the BC curriculum. “The BC curriculum teaches that you can't discriminate against gay people yet these schools are discriminating against gay people by banning them from attending, so I think it’s something the education minister needs to take an immediate look at,” he says. Chandra Herbert says he would like to see the schools fund themselves and receive less public funding, or none at all. “If they want to shut the door to gay people then they can run it themselves and fund it themselves.” “You can't claim that your school is following anti-bullying behaviour and embracing diversity and the Human Rights Code on one hand, as the minister does, and then on the other, embrace them banning gay people from being anywhere on their premises,” he says.

Romance scammers thrive in the age of dating apps

13 March 2017 - 12:15pm
What happened to the days where you could go to your local bar on a Friday night and meet someone? Dating has changed, and more specifically, so has online dating. Now a billion dollar industry, online dating is one of the most popular ways for singles to meet a potential mate with a multitude of apps and hookup sites from Tinder, Grindr, Scruff and more. According to the Pew Research Centre, 15 percent of adults in the US have reported using an online dating site or a mobile dating app, at some point in their life because let’s face it — who has time to go out and meet people IRL anymore? But it may surprise you to know that beyond the winks, emojis, messages and potentially X-rated photos, the person you’re chatting with may not be the person you think they are. Xtra chatted with a private investigator from Cs2i to discuss how scammers woo their potential victims. What they explained was that while you’re at our most vulnerable, turning to the internet in hopes of love or companionship, the person on the other end could be playing off your emotions to potentially gain access to private and personal information to go after your money or identity. For these scammers, the explosion of social media has made it easier than ever to gather details and photos posted online in order to create false personas. According to the Pew Research Centre, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all romance scams originate on dating sites, with one in four originating on social media and one in 10 being initiated via email. Identity theft is nothing new, but it’s on the rise. In 2014, over 20,000 Canadians were victims of identity theft, an increase of nearly 20 percent in two years, according to the National Bank of Canada. Many people who have been the target of identity theft or fraud via dating apps often don’t report it because they feel afraid or embarrassed. But not reporting allows fraudulent behaviour to continue, and can affect others. Credited for over $12 million in losses to date, romance scams are the highest grossing in Canada. It’s time we put an end to it. So what can you do to protect yourself from fraudsters? The team at Cs2i have provided some best practices to proactively safeguard your safety and privacy online, which include but are not limited to: ●        Don’t overshare online ●        Don’t share personal details about your life online, such as your address or telephone number ●        Don’t post photographs that could potentially reveal your wealth, such as designer watches, bags or clothing ●        Avoid geo-tagging yourself or revealing where you’re going ●        Don’t send any money or gifts to individuals you have met online   Cs2i says that scammers or predators are often looking for some type of vulnerability, and they can spend days or often months grooming a potential victim. It’s also important to know that not all scams are created equally in the online dating world. While some people could be falsely using another identity to woo you, another could be preying on you for meals or even just using you for free emotional support. When speaking to someone you’ve met online, here are some warning signs that you might be getting scammed: ●        They will avoid meeting in person ●        They avoid visual chat apps like Skype or Google Hangouts ●        They often have serious or dramatic life events like medical emergencies or family deaths ●        They will always speak to you at the same time of day, online or on the phone ●        They ask for money or other gifts ●        Something just doesn’t add up   Online dating can be a very effective way of meeting new people, but no dating or hookup site is immune to scammers. It’s important to be on your guard and not be led by your emotions. It all comes down to how you can become proactive in your own safety and what you share online.