Ottawa Xtra

Vogue, Chechnya and free PrEP

11 April 2017 - 8:36pm
[[asset:image:309470 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Chechnya’s “concentration camps” New reports from Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta suggest gay men in Chechnya are being rounded up and detained by authorities in what some are calling “concentration camps.” Observers at Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say they have evidence corroborating the detentions, but that the phrase “concentration camps” may not be accurate.   Scotland to make PrEP free The National Health Service of Scotland will make pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs free to those at high risk, the government has announced. England notably refused to cover PrEP. Read more at the Guardian.   North Carolina proposes equal marriage reversal Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have proposed a bill to reverse same-sex marriage in the state, in the face of a ruling by the US Supreme Court. The bill says the court overstepped its authority in the ruling, and violated “the decree of Almighty God.” Read more at the Hill.   United Airlines victim’s gay history After a Vietnamese born doctor was dragged off a United Airlines flight, a secondary scandal is igniting over his past. Some news outlets are reporting on the passenger’s “troubled” past, including a gay link, while others have criticized those reports for inappropriately putting the victim in the spotlight.   Gay man hired as editor of British Vogue Ghanaian-born fashion writer and gay man Edward Enninful has been hired as editor of Vogue in Britain. Enninful was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2016 for his contributions to fashion. Read more at Attitude.

Why is Canada silent on the reported Chechen deaths?

11 April 2017 - 8:36pm
The federal government faces mounting pressure to respond to reports of gay men being rounded up and killed in Russia. On April 1, 2017, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that as many as 100 gay men in the Chechnya region had been detained “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” according to a New York Times translation. The paper, known in Russia for its investigative clout, named three men purportedly killed by Chechen officials. The region’s leader denied the reports by claiming gay people “don’t exist” in Chechnya. “Some news reports outside Russia have referred to the secret prisons as ‘concentration camps,’” notes fact-checking website Snopes.com, “but it is unclear from the evidence at hand to what degree the comparison may be apt." On April 7, the US State Department expressed concern about “numerous credible reports” while Britain’s foreign minister called on Russia to investigate the situation. In Ottawa, two gay NDP members of Parliament asked the Liberals to follow suit. MP Sheri Benson asked the Liberals on April 7 to formally condemn the reported “torture, humiliation and abuse.” On April 11, MP Randall Garrison accused the government of using “symbols and platitudes” instead of calling for an “international investigation” of the arrests and torture. The government responded by noting it appointed an LGBTQ advisor, MP Randy Boissonnault, though Boissonnault has yet to issue any public statement on the Chechen reports. Xtra asked foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland about the situation in an April 11 media conference call. “I’m extremely concerned about these reports that we are hearing from Russia,” she said. “Canada strongly stands up for those rights, in Canada and around the world.” Freeland noted that she visited queer groups in Ukraine last summer, where groups are gaining more acceptance and visibility “in a region that has been hostile to LGBTQ rights.” “I do really want the LGBTQ community in Russia, including in Chechnya, to know that it has Canada's strong support,” she said. “And we will be looking into ways that we can make that support further manifest.”

Richmond NDP candidate’s statements on LGBT rights don’t all add up

10 April 2017 - 8:35pm
Since attack ads targeted him in Chinese-language newspapers last week, Richmond South Centre NDP candidate Chak Kwong Au has sent mixed messages about where he stands on what he calls “moral issues.” In an interview with Xtra on April 10, 2017, Au affirmed his commitment to human rights and equality, but his statements to the English and Chinese-language media over the past week leave a puzzling trail. Last week, ads appeared in two Chinese-language newspapers, Ming Pao and Sing Tao, calling on Au to oppose same-sex marriage, safe-injection sites, gender-neutral washrooms and early sex education, lest Richmond become “another Downtown Eastside.” The ads were taken out by a group calling itself the Richmond Community Development Concern Group, which has not responded to calls from Xtra or other media. They accuse Au of turning away from his constituents to join the NDP, and giving up his principles in favour of the party’s alleged moral evils. At this point, the narratives in the English and Chinese-language media sharply diverge. English-language media such as CBC and CTV reported the ads largely as attacks on Au as an NDP candidate. The CTV story says the ads criticize Au for his support for same-sex marriage, something they never actually say. Instead, the ads criticize the NDP for supporting same-sex marriage, and suggest Au is betraying his principles by joining them. In an interview with CTV April 8, Au sharply criticized the ads, saying “This kind of biased, anonymous attack should have no place in Richmond, and in BC.” A few days earlier on April 4, however, in an interview with Cantonese-language Fairchild Radio, Au says he thinks the ads are “reasonable” and not really an attack on him at all. He also says his moral views on these questions have not changed, and that NDP leader John Horgan promised him he could vote his conscience on “sensitive” moral issues. In an interview with Sing Tao on April 9, Au reiterates that his moral positions have never changed, and that Horgan has promised him the freedom to vote how he likes. “If the NDP in the future bring up in the legislature policies or positions that do not benefit voters, or are contrary to my faith or beliefs, I will not go along with them,” he says in Chinese. “[The NDP] agreed I could vote my conscience on these sensitive questions. This was a condition of my joining the NDP.” To the English-language South China Morning Post, Au sidesteps the question, saying the issues in the ads are “not the focus of my campaign.” In a phone interview April 10, Xtra asked Au what he meant when he said his positions had not changed on moral issues. Au replied that he supports “human rights and equality for all people in British Columbia.” Asked if he supports same-sex marriage, Au said yes. Au also said the attacks on him have been hypocritical, since the policies attacked in the ads — such as same-sex marriage and gender-neutral washrooms in schools — have also been supported by BC Liberals. On his agreement with Horgan, Au said the NDP leader expects him to vote for the benefit of his constituents, like any other MLA. Au would not give examples of when he might vote his conscience on moral issues, and did not explain what he meant by his unchanged moral positions. When pressed on what moral positions he discussed with Horgan, Au said, “They haven’t come up.” A representative for the BC NDP told Xtra that “John Horgan tells all candidates he expects NDP MLAs to stand behind the commitments they make to voters, and to honour the NDP policies and values they run on.” Au also published a statement on his website on April 9, replying to the ads: “I want to be clear about where I stand. I believe in the human rights code and I support the law of the land. I believe in human rights for everyone, including those in the LGBTQ community. My goal is to work with all communities to build an inclusive and accepting society where everyone can be free of discrimination.” A family therapist and former professor from Hong Kong turned politician, Au has not stuck to one political party. As a city councillor in Richmond, he is a member of the BC Liberal-founded Richmond Community Coalition. In the last federal election, he supported Conservative MP Alice Wong. According to the Richmond News, documents show he flirted with candidacy for the BC Liberals before eventually joining the NDP to run in the upcoming provincial election on May 9. “I have never been a partisan,” he told Sing Tao. “I have always looked out for the interests of the voters, policies and positions. I will cooperate with whatever party fits those positions.”

Why drag kings deserve more spaces in Toronto’s LGBT community

10 April 2017 - 2:35pm
In October 2014, Cyril Cinder was on Facebook raving about a drag show he had just seen. “If I was a man I would be a drag queen, because drag queens are amazing,” he posted on Facebook. A friend commented on his post. “Well, have you heard about drag kings?”  Cinder hadn’t, but after doing some research, he was immediately interested in performing. Two months later, Cinder he was on stage for the first time. “I’m not sure I would be out today if it weren’t for drag,” Cinder says now. “It was this very queer space about very queer expression and I had never experienced that in my life before.” Cinder (who uses male pronouns in his drag king persona) went from cosplaying only male characters to performing as a drag king, but the whole time he identified as straight. He was attracted to men and women, but dismissed or disregarded his attraction to women for a variety of personal reasons. And then drag came along and gradually coaxed him out of the closet.  “It was the fact that drag was a space where exploring those kinds of ideas was so openly and overtly encouraged,” says Cinder, who now identifies as bisexual.  Cinder started performing drag in Ottawa in 2014, but now lives in Toronto. In Ottawa, he was able to perform regularly at a couple of local venues, including Swizzles, a bar that hosts a drag night every Thursday, and Rainbow Bistro, which has a twice-monthly variety show that welcomes kings. “But it was very much a shock to go from that in Ottawa, where I was doing at least three shows a month, to Toronto where I didn’t perform for the first three months I lived here, because there are no shows like that here,” he says.  He attributes the difficulty of new kings finding gigs in Toronto in part to the rigours of competing with established kings in a small market. “When you have a roster of talented, established, reliable drag kings in a city, it can be hard to also get your name added to the list,” he says. “When there’s a show that wants a drag king, you’ve got a pretty good pool to pull from, and you say ‘I know this person . . . let’s bring them on’ and that’s that.”  [[asset:image:309287 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Cyril Cinder, who started performing drag in Ottawa in 2014, now lives in Toronto and says one reason there may be less shows for kings is that the LGBT scene is dominated by gay men, who typically perform drag as queens."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] And yet in the Toronto scene, Canada’s largest LGBT hub, drag queens have steady gigs at bars all over the Village and across the city while new and emerging kings struggle to find opportunities to perform. Dozens of venues in Toronto (including almost every bar in the Village) have weekly or monthly shows, parties or other events focused on, hosted by or featuring drag queens. You can catch queens on a regular basis at Woody’s, Crews and Tangos, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Pegasus, O’Grady’s, El Convento Rico, Blyss, Glad Day Bookshop and Garage — just to name a few.  Cinder says one reason he thinks the market is so small for kings relative to the market for drag queens is that the queer community has been dominated by gay men for a long time. And since it’s generally gay men who perform as drag queens there are more drag queen shows. Cinder also says there’s a belief that drag queens necessarily put on a better show — which he strongly disputes.  “Femininity is viewed as inherently more performative than masculinity,” he says, in reference to how men don’t usually put on heels and makeup and wigs and all. “We see women as putting on a show and men as existing the way they naturally are, so when thinking of which presentation will put on a better show, we look toward the female presentation.” “But I bind my tits and pack my underwear with a big penis, and completely change the shape of my face — tons of things happen.”     *** Kinging, a verb used to describe the act of performing, has a long history and its own culture. Books that discuss drag kinging include Judith Jack Halberstam’s The Drag King Book and Dianne Torr’s Sex, Drag and Male Roles. The BBC series Tipping the Velvet and the film Victor Victoria are also part of drag king heritage.  The International Drag King Community Extravaganza (IDKE), an annual drag king conference, ran for 13 years after its inception in 1999. The Austin International Drag Festival picked up the torch in 2014 and continues to draw loads of kings and queens each year.  Online, New York City drag king Wang Newton hosts Wang TV, a web series where he interviews a variety of performers, including kings. Beginning in early 2017, kings are now starting to compete on the newly minted King Me: Rise of a King.  Lou Henry Hoover, Spikey Van Dykey, Goldie Peacock, Ken Vegas, Murray Hill and Toronto’s own Flare are just a few of the internationally known kings.  With 20 years of experience, Flare has seen some things change in the drag king world, and some things stay the same.  [[asset:image:309290 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Flare, a Toronto-based drag king, has been performing for 20 years and says that kings are still facing the same issues today of not finding consistent gigs."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Tania Anderson"]}]] Based in Toronto, Flare has performed all across North America and founded several drag king troupes. In 2016, he headlined at the Austin International Drag Festival. He was even an Elvis impersonator on one episode of the American version of Queer as Folk.  Flare was one of the directors of the 2008 documentary A Drag King Extravaganza, which covers the first 10 years of IDKE. He says the academic version (there’s an academic version and a shorter one for film festivals) is now used in gender studies classes in universities.  Flare says there’s a consistent lack of opportunities for kings to perform in Toronto.  “It’s interesting to me that it hasn’t changed very much,” he says, adding that one show would usually end as another was beginning. “[Recurring drag king shows] do exist, they have existed, but do we have two going at the same time? Not normally, no.”  Until Zipperz closed in the summer of 2016, its Wednesday night drag show, organized by the troupe The Toronto Kings, was the place to go for kings who wanted a regular place to perform.  With the bar’s closure, now there’s very little. A new king’s best bet is to try to get on the lineup for Kings and Classics, a monthly show at Buddies that launched in January 2017.  “[Kings and Classics] coming in now is great timing,” Flare says. “But it has only so many slots for new kings each month.”  The other option is to try to get booked to perform on a live, on-stage variety show event, like Butch Femme Salon, a recurring party very popular among women and trans folk, and dedicated to, as its Facebook page says, “femmes and butches of all stripes.” There are also occasional opportunities to perform alongside The Yes Men, a Toronto-based troupe that formed in 2013, at one of its larger shows.  “Our community needs more,” says Flare, who encourages kings to start their own events to fill the gap. “It would be good for new kings to be able to have a weekly thing where people could just come and try it. Everybody should be able to — if they have the urge to — try and perform.”    *** Johnny Ryder’s first performance as a drag king was at the now-defunct bar Zipperz in summer 2016, back on its Wednesday nights. Wearing what he calls “Justin Bieber pants” (drop-crotch trousers from the men’s section at Zara), a black button-up shirt with a chest binder underneath (a garment used to hide the breasts), a goatee and some contouring makeup to emphasize his jawline and cheekbones, he lip-synched as he danced to the pop song “Wrong” by Max. The sound system faltered halfway through, but he still came off the stage with a grin on his face and a new love of performing. [[asset:image:309296 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Johnny Ryder recently had his second performance at the Kings and Classics show at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in February 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Johnny Ryder"]}]] Ryder recently had his second performance at the first Kings and Classics event at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in January 2017. Drag provides Ryder with an important outlet: it allows him to explore and express his boyish side in a supportive environment.  “I do identify as female, as a lesbian, but this is kind of a way to be a different me,” he says. “It’s like an alter-ego version of me — the man version of who I am.”  For Gay Jesus, who started doing drag in June 2016, performing is important for a few different reasons. Their bold name choice, coupled with tutus or dresses, a beard, and “as much glitter as I can find in my house,” makes their drag persona a challenge to both Christianity and gender norms.  Gay Jesus was raised Roman Catholic, but stopped believing in part because of the church’s lack of support for the queer community. “In many ways, [being Gay Jesus] became a protest,” they say. “Drag for me personally is an act of protest against the conditioning of gender, and against religion.” [[asset:image:309293 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["\u201cDrag for me personally is an act of protest against the conditioning of gender, and against religion,\u201d says Gay Jesus, who has had a few performances since doing drag, but wishes there were more shows in Toronto so they could meet other kings."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Gay Jesus, who performed at the Kings and Classics show in March, says they have been lucky enough to find several gigs in their short career as a king, but regrets that the scarcity of king events in Toronto means they don’t get to see other kings perform as much as they would like.  “There aren’t a lot of drag kings I can go see, which is very big for me,” they say. “Because part of being able to do it is being able to have the community, is being able to scream when it’s great, is being around people who are like you and do this thing you do.”  For them, drag is also a way for them to connect to the queer community and try to keep its history alive. “I think of it as passing on of tradition,” they say. “We have huge chunks of generations missing because of violence and because of illness, and it’s very hard to be able to even have things like this to pass on.”   *** As early arrivals to the first Kings and Classics event froze their butts off in the late-January weather while waiting in line outside of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a king with a soul patch, vest and arm tattoos jogged out through the venue’s side door and down the ramp to share passionate, forceful kisses with a girl who’d just walked up Alexander Street. [[asset:image:309308 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Dylan Dix gets dressed to perform at Kings and Classics on March 17, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] When the doors finally opened, a diverse group of high femmes, butches, trans folk, cisgender women and men, older people and younger people trooped in. There was even a contingent of bears (who promptly stationed themselves in a clump near the staircase in the middle of the room). King fans are enthusiastic and usually go the extra mile to make it to the rare king shows that pop up now and then.  The event took place in Buddies’ cabaret space, the smaller of the two rooms in the complex, and was a standing-only event. Local luminaries abounded. Flare was there, dapper in a brown blazer and flat cap. Burlesque performers Belle Jumelles and Kelsey Slammer made the rounds, both wearing leopard print outfits (and loudly claiming it was a coincidence, but we know better). [[asset:image:309314 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Johnny B Gud, who lives in Ottawa, gets ready to perform at Kings and Classics at Buddies on March 17, 2017. "],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Spencer Munny and Pretty Riikkii (who together make up Pretty Munny Productions) hope their Kings and Classics shows will help new and emerging kings (known as “baby kings” or “princes”), in part because established kings don’t need the help as much. “One issue with the Toronto drag scene is that there is little or no platform for new performers in the king community to get their start,” Munny says. “The kings that are now active in Toronto — they have their contacts.” Munny and Riikkii also want to give new kings the mentoring that the producing duo didn’t get when they started out. [[asset:image:309311 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Spencer Munny (left) and Pretty Riikkii (right) put on the Kings and Classics event at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to help new and emerging drag kings get their start."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Nick Lachance\/Daily Xtra"]}]] “I started off duct-taping my chest as a binder,” says Riikkii, who’s been performing for seven years (Munny has been performing for six years). “I came off the stage the first time and almost ripped off half my skin. I had cuts all around my body. My ribs were bruised. I didn’t have anybody to help me.”  Each show will feature both new and more established kings. They plan to offer drag king 101-style guidance for new kings as well. That means tips on facial hair, songs, binding, packing, costumes, choreography, how the Buddies stage is laid out — the works.  “To say that we’ve created space for performers like us when we were younger but didn’t receive that nurturing — where it was like sink or swim — it’s really important to us,” Munny says.  Munny and Riikkii also plan to promote an expanded definition of drag kinging. “We’re trying to nurture performers that aren’t centred in that one masculine type of drag,” Munny says. “You can wear glitter beards, can have long hair, can decide not to bind if you don’t want to, can decide not to pack — whatever you want. Drag is an interpretation of your own art.”  To them, working to build up the drag king community in this way is about more than just helping performers perform.  “[Drag] helps a lot with feeling comfortable with yourself,” Riikkii says. “I know for me, I struggled a lot with who I was. So, to be privileged enough to offer that space — to be like ‘come and be whoever you want to be on our stage,’ and the fact that this show is happening for the reasons we want it to happen — I could almost cry.”  While queens continue to dominate the stages of Church Street, kings are still struggling and competing with each other for the few spots that exist. And if you’re a new king, it’s even harder. For many, kinging is about putting on a good show, but it’s also about something deeper — performing as a king can be an integral part of some people’s experience of being queer, an art worth preserving.  “Drag kings are super underrated. We’re overshadowed,” Munny says. “Drag kings can hit it just as hard as drag queens, it’s just that there’s not any space for them to grow in Toronto, specifically to that level.”

Barry Manilow, gay skeletons and Dutch solidarity

8 April 2017 - 8:33pm
[[asset:image:309434 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Barry Manilow comes out Surprising few, singer Barry Manilow has come out publicly as gay. Manilow says he has been in a relationship with his manager for 39 years, but kept the secret to avoid “disappointing his fans.” Read more at the Guardian.   Dutch men hold hands to support gay couple After a Dutch gay couple were attacked on the street while holding hands, Dutch men across the Netherlands and the world have taken to holding hands in solidarity. Read more from CBS.   The gay skeletons of Pompeii DNA tests show that two bodies found embracing in the ancient volcano-buried town of Pompeii were both male, drawing speculation that the two were “gay.” Not so fast, says one academic: Calling ancient Romans “gay” is an inappropriate projection of our own culture onto the past.   Court ruling turns tide on US gay discrimination A Chicago federal appeals court’s ruling that a lesbian woman should not have been fired could be a legal turning point for discrimination cases in the United States. The judge ruled that LGBT people are covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Read more at the Washington Post.   Indonesian men face caning for gay sex Two men in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province could face caning after being recorded having gay sex. The men were reported by their neighbours. Read more from the Associated Press.

When sex work is unsexy (Part 2)

7 April 2017 - 8:32pm
I stand naked in front of him. He’s initially motionless, but then lurches forward for the kill. This time I’m ready for him and I have a hand on his cheek to guide his face. I push back slightly then kiss the edge of his waiting open mouth, delicately brushing my lips against his. “Isn’t that better?” I say. He says nothing and just stares back at me with his jaw hanging open. When I first stepped in the door, I recognized that he had some mobility issues. But does he also have limited mental capacity? I’ve had plenty of clients with physical or intellectual disabilities but I normally always know in advance, either because they specify it or because I can just tell from the way they communicate.  His English was certainly broken when we’d talked on the phone to plan the session. But there was nothing to indicate he might have diminished capacity. The whole situation feels off, but I decide to just got with it. In the event things go sour, my bag and my clothes are in a pile right next to the door; an easy grab if I need to dash. “Do you want to show me the bedroom?” I ask. “Take shower first,” he barks. I’m not clear on whether it’s an offer or a request. But since I’m going to be here for a few hours, it’s good to find ways to eat up time. I clock the bathroom just off the hallway near the front door and gesture to it. He nods and I walk towards it, with him trailing behind me.  I’m not sure whether he just wants me to take a shower alone or it’s intended as a communal activity. But when we get into the bathroom he quickly doffs his shirt and begins removing his pants.  As his clothes come off, the reality of his body becomes clear. His torso is twisted, his right shoulder angling across his frame. His left leg seems hyper developed and muscular while the right one is considerably smaller. Since our session is going to include a massage, it’s important to know what’s going on with his body so I decide to ask. He explains to me that he was born with one leg shorter than the other, something that became more pronounced as he grew into a teenager.  The twist in his torso and the hyper muscularity of his left leg are compensations for his right leg, which always remained abnormally small for the size of his body.  When he goes out, he has custom made shoes to wear; the kind with an extra platform on the short-leg side. But around the house he just wears a pair of Crocs, which leaves him unbalanced.  Naked, we step into the spacious shower together and he turns on the water. There’s one of those plastic chairs attached to the wall that old people use, but he remains standing.  Once the water is warm, he pushes me roughly under it and begins soaping me up with some kind of generic ocean-scented shower gel. As the owner of fairly sensitive skin, I tend to avoid unknown bath products, for fear of allergic reactions. But I don’t bother to protest as it’s too complicated to explain with our limited communication abilities. As he soaps up my ass, one finger pushes aggressively through to my hole and I can feel the nail, digging in at the edge, causing me to wince with pain. I grab his wrist and pull his hand away, deciding to show a bit more force. “It hurts when you dig your fingernails in like that,” I say. He’s unresponsive, but leaves my ass alone. We both rinse off and he steps out, handing me a towel from the shelf next to the sink. He stands, his body turned away from me, drying himself off. The asymmetry of his frame is even more pronounced from behind, like halves of two different bodies stitched together.  Sufficiently dry, he drops the towel on the floor and makes a motion to follow him into the hallway. As we exit the bathroom, I grab two extra towels from the shelf for use during the massage.  I follow him down to a room at the end of a wood-panelled corridor. There’s a single bed with a pink knitted blanket in the centre, a floor to ceiling wall of books behind it. A small desk with a computer sits in one corner in front of the window. Next to the bed there’s a table with stacks of crossword puzzle books and three empty plastic water bottles. The session he’s requested is supposed to start with a massage and gradually work up to him fucking me. We haven’t decided on the specific ratio of massage to fucking, but I’m figuring two thirds to one third. He’s booked me for a full three hours, which means a lot of time to fill. A glance at the clock next to the bed reveals I’ve been here just over 20 minutes . . .

Japanese rope bondage taught me that kink bonds last forever

7 April 2017 - 11:32am
Even when Evie tells me I have great breasts, I don’t clock that we’re on a date.  It’s been a long time since I went out with a beautiful woman, and a longer time since a beautiful woman noticed me. I’ve been dressing like a boy lately, which makes me feel like I am who I am, but it also makes me feel invisible. I grew up watching late ’90s Britney Spears music videos. Recognizing that I have tits and a cunt, the lesson I took away from that media was that for me to be sexy, I had to play up my anatomy.  In high school I was the queen of push-up bras and low-rise skinny jeans. Dressing femme was my responsibility because I believed it was the only way I could be desired. I wanted to be wanted so badly.  So when Evie tells me my breasts are great, I don’t clock that a gorgeous woman is flirting with me. I clock the difference between us. She’s not the most ornately femme woman — in the years I have had a crush on her, I’ve heard her describe herself as a tomboy femme. But she is certainly feminine. I’ve watched men get on their knees to talk to her at bars. When she comments on my breasts, I think about how I haven’t worn a bra in years. Sometimes I forget I have breasts at all.   She is a goddess of a woman. I’m a genderqueer who’s trying to figure out how to dress like a boy and be sexy as a boi, but really having no idea how to do either. It’s a quiet night in May 2016. I meet up with Evie in Toronto’s Chinatown neighbourhood with faint hope and the nerves of a 15-year-old virgin, my body full of vague desire that feels as urgent as it does inactionable. If I had a dick it would be small and rock hard, and if I was invited to put my small hard dick anywhere near Evie I’d bust my load in three seconds. Evie is a professional dominatrix. Being creatively and violently graceful is what she does for a living. She sees people for who they are. She sees the desires they ball up deep within themselves because they’re afraid to be judged and knows how to prod, spank and pull those desires to the surface. Years before our first date, I watched Evie dom another queer at a public play party. Her sub was leaned over, face down, on a spanking bench.  Evie turned away from her sub, we locked eyes for a moment, and then Evie rubbed her own ass against the spanked-red ass of her sub. I remember thinking how unusual Evie’s impulses were, how they felt unscripted, unrehearsed, outside of what she had seen anyone else do. Authentic. Inherent, rather than learnt. Where did she get these gorgeous ideas? What music videos did she grow up watching? My years-long crush on Evie stems from two things: her aforementioned grace, and the fact that Evie is a rope top.   *** In the public Shibari scene — aka Japanese rope bondage scene — you’ll hear specific terms beyond just the Japanese names for certain ties and positions. The person doing the tying is generally referred to as the rigger or rope top, and the person being tied is referred to as the rope bottom — the rope bunny, the model, the rope slut. I’ve been a rope bottom for a few years.  A lot of the public rope scene enforces, rather than subverts, the societal status quo: there’s a lot of highly gendered language, a lot of talking about women like they’re dolls, a lot of young, petite women being tied and photographed for the acclaim of older, cis men. It’s frustrating because for me, rope is about filtering out the noise of everyday existence. Rope is about feeling. About doing nothing but feeling the moment. Rope is about being present in your skin. One of the most significant rope tops in my life is a man named James, who learnt how to tie while living in Japan. James and I meet while he’s living in Toronto in 2014. He teaches rope bondage for a living in a deliciously grungy studio above a bar on Queen West.  One day, I tossed out to the Facebook universe that I was looking to get tied more regularly, and a friend suggested I contact James. Although I’ve been fucking men for as long as I’ve been having sex — way longer than I’ve been sleeping with women and other queers — I’d never been tied by a man. But my friend vouches for him, so I message him on Fetlife and he writes back cordially, no creepy cis-male condescension, just an offer we grab a drink and chat.  James is not casual about rope, a quick internet search on him reveals. He lives it daily, professionally. I’m intimidated. I have a caesar and he has jasmine tea at the 24-hour cheap-and-available diner James eats most of his meals at.  He asks me how flexible I am, what my fitness regime looks like, how long I’ve been a rope bottom and who I’ve been tied by. He asks how good my circulation is. I feel like I’m interviewing for a position. I’m aware of the power dynamic at play, but I answer anyway. He’s tall, lanky, with long hair down his back and chipped black nail polish on his rope-calloused fingers.  “Why rope? he asks me.  “In rope, I don’t have an age, or a gender, or a sexual orientation, or a history, or a bank account balance,” I answer. “I’m just energy. I’m free.” A week after caesars and tea, James and I tie for the first time. It’s one of my favorite rope scenes, all grappling on the floor, him untying and retying me, my skin scraping and bruising against the jute bonds and his tatami floor mats. We don’t have sex after we tie on that night but we do have sex almost every time we see each other afterwards, way more often than we tie.  A man I thought I would know for the purposes of getting tied becomes a lover, a friend and in many ways, the older male mentor this little boi never had. Over and over I show up at his place, his hand reaches down into my boxers in the stairwell of his building, we fuck like banshees, and then we talk about how to get what we want out of life.  We talk often about women we want to fuck, women we think are sexy, women James is fucking, women I wish I was fucking. When we’re out together and I see women I’m attracted to, James encourages me to hit on them. He says, “Here’s your pick-up line. ‘Hi. I’m Katie.’”  James stands me naked in the mirrors of his rope studio and says, “You’re perfect.” He never makes me feel weird about the fact that I wear boxers, always makes it clear in front of students and colleagues that I’m his lover, even though my short hair and the men’s T-shirts I wear hang so loose on my frame that I look like a boy whose parents are buying clothes they assume I’ll grow into. He’s the first man I’m a boi with, the first cis man I don’t costume myself as a woman for. “You’re perfect.” We talk occasionally about his rope students, never breaching confidentiality. Most of them are strangers to me, but one isn’t. He says one of his best students is a really pretty woman. I know who he’s talking about. Her name is Evie.    *** There’s a particular way in which kink makes the world smaller. Because of the complexity and danger involved in Shibari, there is a level at which rope bondage is the intersection of lust, fine art skills and knowledge of anatomy. Because this knowledge is so specific, specialized and stigmatized, proportionally there aren’t many people in the world who possess it. Which means that if you tie with one rigger who ties publicly, that rigger likely knows other riggers you’ll play with at some point.  As the people who are your kink network move around the world, you have intimate contacts worldwide. I know rope tops across three continents. Three of those rope tops, I am close enough to that we’ve had sex and are permanently in each other’s lives, even if we only touch base once a year. They always have a place to crash at in my home and I always have a place to crash at in theirs, whether that’s in Australia or Toronto’s west side.  These are relationships based on the fact that their bonds have been written in my skin. After a tie, their ligature marks all over my body — they’ve turned my body into land sculpture and have carved roads in my calves and torso towards the innermost iteration of identity.  They’ve seen what I look like outside of all the societal roles I decide to play and all the ones I can’t opt out of. They’ve seen me outside of gendered costuming. They’ve given me the moment of clarity about existence: I’m alive, that’s it. That’s all that’s really at stake. I’ve let them see me without any artifice. But I’m not tapping into that elemental self at dinner in Chinatown with Evie, two years after meeting James. I’m insecure. I want to be what she wants. If she told me to grow out my hair, put it in pigtails and wear a kilt-and-blouse school girl outfit, I might do it. I’m bad at knowing who I am in the face of who I want. Then I look at her hands. Everything about Evie is feminine and smooth, except her hands, which look like they’ve toiled in farms pulling up potatoes. There’s something about the strength, solidness and coarseness of her hands that remind me of James. I remember that he taught her how to hold rope in her hands and turn her fingers into agents of freedom. They share esthetic sensibilities through the passing of training.  I picture James teaching Evie how to tie, in the studio I fucked in so many times, and it relaxes me. It makes me think that maybe they’ll also share attraction to the frenetic tension in me between being a boy and being a woman — the tension in me that I am secretly afraid is the thing that makes me unlovable.  We order dumplings. Evie tells me Japanese words and their translations. I grin. James always used to tell me Japanese word meanings. I wonder if this is something she picked up from him, or if they both just obsess about what they love in the same way. We date each other slowly. We don’t dive into sex, kink or rope right away.  The first time we play she ties me, face down, into a spanking bench and tortures my labia with two tiny clamps linked by a chain. She has me walk around with the clamps biting into my labia. The weight of the chain pulls the clamps downwards so that I feel weight pulling down on my cunt, in a place where I don’t have weight, but would if I had been born with a cock. She stands me in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror. I see the length of the chain, like the outline of the cock I wasn’t born with but have just the same.  The pain from the clamps digging in and pulling down on my labia is specific and excruciating. She cups the chain in her hand, raises and lowers her hand so that the pull on my cunt decreases and then increases again. It feels like she’s jerking me off. I can feel my cunt and my cock all at once.  She releases the clamps. She picks me up and places me on her kitchen counter. She finger-fucks me. I spurt fountains. I come longer, harder and wetter than I ever have. She makes my body land sculpture and I pour a lake onto her counter.  I quiver. I laugh. Maybe I am the world. Maybe I am just a small thing, held by a lineage of lovers whose hands speak a particular language.  Over dumplings, Evie had said that the Japanese word for having an orgasm is ‘iku’, but that iku actually means to go somewhere. So while we, on this continent, come, on the other side of the world, our lovers go.

Queer Vancouver teen’s death a mystery five months later

6 April 2017 - 11:30pm
Nearly six months after queer teenager Oliver Zamarripa disappeared off the streets of Vancouver, his friends are still looking for answers. Zamarripa went missing on Oct 15, 2016. His body was found two weeks later, 260 kilometres away in Lytton, a tiny town where friends say he had no reason to be. He was 19 years old. Since then, the RCMP, who are handling the case, have said nothing. They would only tell Xtra that the investigation into Zamarripa’s death is ongoing, and that they have no reason to believe he was targeted because of his sexuality. “We have no information to suggest that Oliver may have been targeted because of his LGBTQ lifestyle,” RCMP representative Sergeant Annie Linteau says. “We have absolutely no information to suggest that. But we cannot discard any theories.” The RCMP have not said how Zamarripa died, but say they consider his death suspicious. He was last seen alive, police say, in the early hours of Oct 15 on Vancouver’s Granville Mall. To Zamarripa’s friends, the silence is becoming unbearable. “Nobody’s talking about it,” says Chase Fervent, lanky and restless in a team Germany baseball cap, smoking beside the JJ Bean on Commercial Drive. “It makes people awkward and sad, I think,” Amanda Bloomfield says, sitting nearby.   “They don’t want to deal with it,” cuts in Fervent (who also goes by Porter). “Nobody knows what to say about it,” Bloomfield continues. “There’s nothing to say.” “A lot of us are going to counselling now,” Paul Bear muses quietly. “We’re on medications. It’s too real, man. It’s too real. It’s very traumatizing just to talk about.” Fervent, Bloomfield and Bear were all close friends of Zamarripa. They put up posters around the Davie Village when he disappeared, flooded internet forums with questions about his whereabouts, and sat through hours of police questioning. Now they feel deserted, by the police and the gay community. “When it all came out, there was almost no media coverage,” Bloomfield says. “Just a little scroll at the bottom of the TV screen when he went missing. And then he was found. And I do believe that was because he was a young queer kid in the party scene, and they just want to hide it. They just pegged him as a young party kid.” Zamarripa’s friends held a birthday party for him at Jim Deva Plaza, his old stomping grounds, a few months after his death. Few people came. “Davie Street made me feel good,” Fervent says. “But it doesn’t make me feel good anymore.” “It used to be a place where we felt safe to be ourselves,” Bear murmurs. “I’d just like justice for what happened.” Zamarripa’s friends say news about his case might bring some sort of closure, but also a renewed feeling of safety on their own streets. “We have no idea what the hell’s out there,” Bloomfield says. “How can people say they feel safe?” Safety concerns over Zamarripa’s disappearance were to be a major topic in a meeting between the Vancouver Police Department and the LGBT community in February. The meeting was cancelled at the last minute due to controversy over the VPD’s participation in the Vancouver Pride parade. Local politicians in Lytton told Xtra they were unaware of Zamarripa’s death, let alone any connection to the tiny rural community.

Why these two LGBT YouTubers say ‘restricted mode’ hurts young people the most

6 April 2017 - 8:30pm
Some YouTube personalities say the company’s apology for filtering and blocking LGBT videos isn’t enough. The company is facing backlash after LGBT creators noticed that most or all of their videos were flagged under the platform’s restricted mode.  According to YouTube, it introduced restricted mode in 2010 to restrict what it considers mature content, like content containing profanity, violence, discussions of sexuality, addictions and eating disorders. Some parents, schools and libraries also use restricted mode to filter out content that they consider inappropriate for users under 18. Viewers using their personal accounts have the option to turn restricted mode on and off in their personal settings. [[asset:video_embed:309428 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_credit":["uppercaseCHASE1\/YouTube"]}]] Around March 17, some YouTubers started noticing their videos were missing under restricted mode. Chase Ross, a transgender YouTuber with over 80,000 subscribers, says that over 60 percent of his videos had been flagged under this restriction, despite containing no mature content. Many YouTubers from the LGBT community are facing the same censorship, according to Ross. “A lot of my videos that are made for trans men, families and allies aren’t seen under restricted mode. This means that many people under 18, people who aren’t logged in, people who are in libraries or other public places can’t access these videos,” Ross says.  “This is the population that needs to see these videos the most,” he says.  [[asset:video_embed:309425 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_video_credit":["Stef Sanjati\/YouTube"]}]] Stef Sanjati, a transgender YouTuber with over 400,000 subscribers, says she noticed that 35 of her videos were restricted. After addressing the issue in a video, which garnered over 100,000 views, Sanjati says the number of restricted videos on her channel increased to around 50. “You can access videos from white supremacists, videos about Nazism and all of this awful stuff while on restricted mode . . .  but you can’t access videos on my transition and on being transgender,” Sanjati says.   The Importance of YouTube for LGBT Youth If she hadn’t found videos by young queer people on YouTube when she was in middle school, she would not have found her true self, Sanjati says.  “I would have still been unhappy, and I probably wouldn’t have found out I was trans.” She began making her own videos in her first year of high school because she felt isolated and rejected by her peers. “When you’re a kid, like 12 or 13, how you get to know yourself is through other people, and I didn’t have that,” she says. “YouTube is how I learned to talk to people, how to be comfortable, and it was so important for my personal growth.” Sanjati says it’s important that these resources are accessible, especially to young people under 18. “In my hometown, there were no resources for trans people. Kids aren’t always comfortable going to an adult or a person of authority and saying, ‘Hey, I’m uncomfortable with my entire life,’ so it’s important that they have resources they can access without fear of backlash, and YouTube is a great platform for that.” GLAAD’s third annual Accelerating Acceptance report found that 20 percent of millennials identify as queer, and more millennials are identifying as transgender or gender nonconforming than in any other generation. For this generation, who grew up with the internet, YouTube videos about coming out are an accessible resource. Ross says there are few safe spaces available in person for some LGBT youth, leaving many of those youth without support. “All of these young people have found a safe space online where they can remain anonymous and still get educated,” Ross says. “They can interact with others from the comfort of their home without feeling judged or afraid.” “I was scared and confused as a teenager, and when I found videos by transgender people, I found myself,” Ross says. “I was able to be more confident and express myself. I am who I am today because of [that] content.”   YouTube’s Apology YouTube (which is owned by Google) posted an apology to the LGBT community via its YouTube Creators Twitter page and on its blog, admitting that some LGBT videos had been “incorrectly labelled,” and would be fixed. Sanjati and Ross both say they aren’t satisfied with the apology. YouTube says it will use the input from its creators and viewers to train its systems and improve its algorithms.  “There’s nothing more important to us than being a platform where anyone can belong, have a voice and speak out when they believe something needs to be changed,” YouTube wrote on its blog on March 20, 2017. A message to our community ... pic.twitter.com/oHNiiI7CVs — YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) March 20, 2017 Xtra requested comment from both Google and Google Canada, but communications staff said no one was available for an interview. “I think they can do much better and they should be more explicit with their support of the LGBT community,” Sanjati says. Ross says that while he is glad the company didn’t fully ignore the backlash, he doesn’t believe YouTube realizes how much restricted mode affects LGBT content creators and how important it is for these problems to be fixed quickly. “The algorithm is all off and someone needs to change it. LGBT content is needed and necessary in this toxic society that teaches people that being different is bad,” Ross says. “YouTube is a place to show how being different is special and that people who are different are wanted and valid.”

Out in Toronto: April 6–12, 2017

6 April 2017 - 2:30pm
Thursday, April 6 Jack Charles V The Crown A child of Australia’s Stolen Generation, 70+ year old queer artist Jack Charles has lived as an addict, actor, cat burglar, and been in and out of prison in Australia. He recounts his extraordinary life in Jack Charles V The Crown, a play spanning years of Australian social and political history. The venue is accessible (visit website for more information).  Runs until Saturday, April 8, various showtimes. Berkeley Street Downstairs Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. canadianstage.com [[asset:image:309413 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Queer artist Jack Charles recounts his life in Jack Charles V The Crown."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Courtesy Bindi Cole"]}]] 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. mirvish.com    Friday, April 7 Music for Lesbians  Canadian rockstar Carole Pope puts on a concert all about women and the female gaze. In an April 2017 interview with NOW magazine, Pope explained that the world is “too penis-y,” so this concert is about “art through a woman’s perspective.” Pope is joined by award-winning musician Rae Spoon and DJ Betti Forde. It’s music for lesbians, but everyone is welcome.  8pm–midnight. The Phoenix, 410 Sherbourne St. thephoenixconcerttheatre.com  [[asset:image:309416 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Carole Pope performs at Music for Lesbians at The Phoenix on April 7, 2017."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Carole Pope\/Wikimedia Commons"]}]] The Anvil  It’s about time somebody made one of the early gay references from The Simpsons into the theme for a gay dance party (the episode where Homer and Bart are in a factory and a big burly guy says “we work hard, we play hard” and the place transforms into a gay club called The Anvil). Dresscode: “industrial gear encouraged.”  10pm–2:30am. The Black Eagle, 457 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook   Fit: Speedo Time Guys get wet and wild at this water polo-themed dance party. According to billing, lots of gay water polo players from across North America are in the city right now to swim and dance with no shirts, and this bash is a celebration of that (and hopefully enough to lure some of them out to play). DJs Kris Steeves and Phil V spin.  10pm–3am. Blyss Nightclub, 504 Church St. For more info, visit Facebook   Saturday, April 8 Newbie Gay Rock Climbing Day  The TO ‘Mo Climbers, a group of gay rock climbers (and straight climbers who the gay climbers have given fanciful nicknames), host a day for indoor rock climbing novices. People of all skill levels are welcome to try climbing some walls. Attendees must pay a fee in advance (for more information on how to do that, see indicated Facebook event page or this Facebook fan page). 2–6pm. Toronto Climbing Academy, 11 Curity Ave. For more info, visit Facebook.

Five things I wish I’d known before coming out as genderqueer at work

6 April 2017 - 2:30pm
The first time I came out as genderqueer at work, I made a snap decision on my first day of a new job. I was feeling bold, partly because, at the time, Bill C-16, a new federal bill to protect trans people from discrimination based on gender identity and expression, had recently been  introduced in the House of Commons. While the bill, which is still inching its way through Senate hearings nearly a year later, does not specify details around pronoun use, the Ontario Human Rights Commission states that misgendering is a form of discrimination, especially in social areas including school, housing and work.  I was just beginning to come out as genderqueer (a gender identity that acts as an umbrella term for genders that exist outside of the male-female binary) to my friends, so it seemed like as good of a time as any to come out at work and assert my pronouns (they/them). Hearing people address me with she/her pronouns is frustrating, since femininity describes only part of my gender identity, not all of it.  I was ready to be recognized by my coworkers as my true self.   On my first day on the job, the human resources manager and the office manager gave me a formal hiring run-through which included an office tour and introductions to my coworkers. Not wanting to have to go through the introductory process hearing incorrect pronouns as a closeted genderqueer, I decided in, a split second, to come out to the two managers, who would be leading my introductions.  My heart hammered away as horrible scenarios flashed through my head. I imagined being immediately thrown out onto the street, my job over before it even started.  What actually happened was far less severe, yet equally disheartening. I was met with confusion and a blank stare by my two managers. They asked me what “genderqueer” meant. I hadn’t prepared for this.  Incorrectly, I assumed that the word “genderqueer” would incite knowing glances. It was 2016, after all. At best, I hoped for immediate acceptance of myself and my pronouns, and at worst, the aforementioned street scenario. I didn’t expect to be thrust into the emotionally exhausting roles of educator, caregiver, and office genderqueer activist — a role I didn’t want.  Suddenly, I had to fight for visibility when all I wanted to do was learn the ropes of my challenging new job.  Immediately after teaching my managers how to use “they” and “them” to describe a singular person (I explained that it’s the same way you speak when describing plural groups, eg “they like food, I’ll bring food to them”), the office manager introduced me to the rest of the staff as genderless, omitting pronouns entirely during my introductions. As time passed, I noticed that my coworkers were cleverly able to modify their speech to omit pronouns entirely when referring to me by using my name only, but they were incapable of using “they” as a singular pronoun. Many still referred to me with she/her pronouns, while others omitted pronouns and referred to me solely as “Katy”. When I brought this issue to my manager, I was told it would take time. Silently, I asked how much time.  I’m lucky to live in Manitoba where workplace discrimination based on gender identity is prohibited by provincial law. I kept this knowledge in my back pocket for months, hoping I wouldn’t have to use it. I was wrong.  A few months into the job, when little to no language modifications had been made, I reminded HR that I was afforded this protection and that the language of the office staff needed to change. While HR was supportive and in agreement with me, I was again told that it would take time.  I waited for change to happen. In almost a year of working there, I heard “they” used only a handful of times, and “she/her,” nearly every day. It was a stark contrast to what I frequently felt was a generally supportive, familial office environment. I wasn’t an outcast, but I was invisible.  Even if the Senate comes through to pass legislation protecting our rights via Bill C-16, change moves slowly and we still have to manage our day-to-day lives. For some, that might mean coming out at work.  Here are five things I wish someone had told me before I came out as genderqueer in my workplace, and what I learned from my experience.   You might break a glass ceiling A gender that exists outside of the commonly understood gender binary of male and female is still new for many people. Outside of queer circles, it’s easy to find people who have never heard of the term “gender binary,” let alone a gender that exists outside of that. It’s very possible that your coworkers have never met a person who identifies as genderqueer.  Becoming the first out genderqueer person at my workplace was not at all something I expected. Be prepared to carve out a path of your own, because you might be the first.    Misgendering will happen daily The colloquialism “Nothing happens overnight” may be voiced when you point out misgendering. It’s a cop-out. I truly believe that if our peers made an effort to be more mindful of their language, they would find it is a relatively quick process to learn. If your experience is like mine, many of your coworkers will not make an effort to modify their language. Many will make a small effort in their own way that intends to be supportive while still misgendering you (like mentioning their queer friends around you while still misgendering you).  If you feel comfortable to do so, it’s helpful to remind coworkers immediately or shortly after they speak in error, as they may not notice their mistake. Saying, “I use they/them, not (insert wrong pronoun here)” is definitive and firm without being antagonistic.  Incorrect pronouns sound like nails on a chalkboard. It might be a good idea to get headphones.    You will be placed in the role of caregiver for other people’s feelings Some coworkers who misgender you will notice their mistake immediately, then feel ashamed. They will want you to know how horrible they feel. They will send you apology emails and then apologize profusely in person. You will unintentionally become a caregiver for their feelings.  It doesn’t matter how many times you say it's okay and ask to move on, you will still be made to feel like it’s your job to take care of them and make them feel better. This has the dual effect of reassuring you that your coworkers do care, while also causing you to expend unnecessary emotional energy.  The best way to deal with this is to come up with a catch-all phrase to use regardless of the coworker or situation, such as, “Thank you for your apology. Let’s move on,” or, ”Water under the bridge.” Avoid phrases that minimize your feelings, like, “It’s no big deal.”    You will have to fight for your right to be seen People tend to avoid the things they fear, and fear is often rooted in lack of knowledge. Your coworkers might decide that it’s okay to refer to you by name only, without pronouns. This is confusing, because it’s only half correct. It doesn’t misgender you, but it purposefully ignores and minimizes your gender through avoidance of your pronouns. You are more than a name, and you deserve to be spoken to and about through language that reflects who you are.  This invisibility might be forced on you, and you must force your way out of it. You exist, and you deserve to be seen. If the law is on your side provincially, correct people whenever possible. You deserve to show up to work and be referred to and treated as your true self.    You will find solace in other coworkers The second a coworker uses your correct pronoun for the first time, your heart will sing, and the validation that results can carry you through another day of misgendering and excessive apologetics. Near the end of my time at that workplace, one of my coworkers began using they/them, though irregularly. This coworker’s recognition proved meaningful and significant after months of misgendering by the rest of the office.  Even in a sea of fearful, confused or otherwise unsupportive coworkers, there will be some who renew your faith in the world. As Bill C-16 sits in parliamentary limbo it is essential, now more than ever, that we fight for our visibility. We exist, and we cannot be silenced.

Out in Vancouver: April 6–12, 2017

5 April 2017 - 8:27pm
Thursday, April 6 Utopia You don’t see the man for months — and think he’s off to some sex camp — but John Ferrie is really delving into that secretive mind to bring you amazing art. His art always tells a story, with the history of the city inside it. Much like himself, John’s lines are curvy, kinetic and sinuous, and never straight, and his candy-bright colours radiate an alluring sensuality. Along with his dramatic landscapes, Ferrie has earned recognition for his ongoing series of vivid floral works. Grab a friend or two and check out this not-to-be-missed show. You know one will look great on the wall. 6–9pm. Mainspace, 350 East 2nd Ave. Show runs until Sunday, April 16. No cover. facebook.com/events/2235666319991981/   Super Gay Thursdays Super gay DJs, divas and drag: Throw in a couple of towel boys and it’s like a Thursday night at Conni Smudge’s place. But unlike Conni’s, you can leave with your prostate intact. This is a monthly event where some of the village’s best entertain you for hours. With hosts Matthew Page with DJs Del Stamp, Skylar Love and My Gay Husband, what could possibly make it better? Ilona, Coco Klein, Eva Scarlett and Molly Poppinz performing, for a start. 10pm–3am. Celebrities, 1022 Davie St. Free entrance with RSVP to celebritiesnightclub.com. More info at facebook.com/events/262632650851999/.   Friday, April 7 First Annual Peak Pride Festival Yes, I’ve had some wine, but is this a Pride listing already? The season is starting, and what better way to get your Pride on than to get out of town? Get in on the ground floor at the first Peak Pride Festival. Imagine being at the first Palm Springs White Party in 1989 — although after 27 years of white party drugs, I’m sure I’d look 102 by now. Peak Pride is Canada’s newest winter Pride destination, and this year’s headliner is Alyssa Edwards. Peak Pride runs until Sunday, April 9, Big White Ski Resort, Kelowna. For more info and event tickets, with full weekend passes from $149: peakpride.ca.   Spencer Chandra Herbert One of the best things to happen to the West End was the day this little fellow got elected, not once, not twice, but three times — and here we go for round four. As the West End's MLA, he stands up for everyone in our unique little city within a city, and fights for our neighbourhood’s stability. Some of his future goals include affordable housing, good jobs, great healthcare, new schools, and a healthy environment. Come celebrate the opening of his campaign office and show your support. 5:30–8pm. Campaign Office, 990 Denman St. facebook.com/events/824970650987609/.   Molly’s Comedy Cabaret If you’ve never been around Molly Wilson, let me warn you now, if you stand too close, get ready to lose an eardrum. That lady is a vocal powerhouse. From Broadway to pop to Motown, there is never a dull moment. This month's guest star is Dayton Pagliericci. This just might be the best entertainment value in town. 8:30–10pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. Tickets $15 at door. facebook.com/events/1378691082176359/   Saturday, April 8 Duelling DJs Spring Dance For Women It’s a duel, and the winner gets to be DJ for the night. Think of it as a musical MMA fight. It’s been a rough winter, so come on out, kick up your heels, and dance your body into shape for summer. Take a short jaunt out of the downtown core and meet a new flock of people to lust over. A trip out of town is always a good excuse to stay over after a few cocktails with the town hottie. 7:30pm. Aldergrove Legion, 26607 Fraser Hwy, Aldergrove. Tickets $20 at dueling-djs.com. Info at whatsonqueerbc.com/event/duelling-djs-spring-dance-women/.   Wipeout For an event called Wipeout, it seems fitting the DJ is none other than Del Stamp. I drink so much when he’s playing that I’m surprised I don’t wipe out more. Tonight is the big party extravaganza of Peak Pride, with queens Alyssa Edwards and Jane Smokr — although if it had been called Whiteout I’m pretty sure I could have named a few other queens who would be there. This is one of the biggest venues in Big White and they are going to blow the roof off. 8pm–1am. Big White Resort, Kelowna. Info and tickets $59 at facebook.com/events/1527878493918932/.   Carnival Of Kink One of the most colourful parties Sin City Fetish Night throws each year, and also one of the biggest: Think American Horror Story with Fetish gear. Let your inner perv come out at the custom kink visual installations. Chill out in the lounge spaces. Indulge your wild side in the various play areas, including suspension and rope play and a full-size kink play dungeon. Singles, couples, straight, GLBTQ+, cross-dressers, regulars and newbies are all welcome. Sin City is a safe and welcoming perv party and play space for everyone. 9pm–3am. The Odyssey, 686 West Hastings St. Tickets $15 before 10pm, $20 after at the door only. facebook.com/events/119953355165163/   Pump So I, like some of you, didn’t get my Rubbout ticket in time, and the big play party was sold out for Saturday night. I could tell who had the problem as me because we all ended up at PJs in Rubbout-approvec clothes with nowhere to strip off. Tonight we can make up for that in spades at this monthly night. A different venue, different men, and hopefully a different outcome, since I’m guessing you don’t want to spend another evening with your right hand and a bottle of Gun Oil. Dress code is in effect. 9pm–late. Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St. Cover $5. pumpjackpub.com/.   FuKr Jock and Harness Dance Party In case you didn’t get enough at Rubbout, or maybe not enough of Rubbout got into you, then here you go. Joe Whitaker comes back to town with one of the hottest jock and harness parties around. DJ Bret Law, this year’s Palm Springs White Party DJ, will heat up the dancefloor until even your jock will feel like too much to wear. In case you were worried about leaving with blue balls, there will be an improved dark area. 10pm–3am. The Hindenburg, 23 West Cordova St. Tickets $10 at eventbrite.com. Info at manupp.net/.     Sunday, April 9 Queers & Beers: Spring Edition What to do during the wettest spring ever? Another reason to get off your butt and join a group that loves craft beer tasting parties. Turn off your Netflix, put away your sweaters, and come soak up the liquid sunshine of Vancouver with some fellow queers. This is the spring edition of Queers & Beers, a perfectly balanced and thirst-quenching afternoon of meeting new folks, catching up with old friends and enjoying a nice frothy pint of the best damn beer or cider around. 5–10pm. The Cobalt, 917 Main St. Sliding scale entry $7–$15. facebook.com/events/711306842380986/   Man Up Amateur Hour You may have had your fill of queers for the afternoon, but as my friend Megan says, with her brunch beer and eggs, there’s always room for another beer. There will be more queers, but these are drag kings at Man Up. It’s amateur hour, so pack it, strap it, tape it, tuck it, bind it, boost it, paint it on and then take it all off (or don't!) Calling all kings, queens, things, humans, creatures, gender breakers, celebrators, and you. Queer performers of any gender, race, colour, size, age, ability, and experience level, come get your bits wet in the wonderful world of DIY queer performance art. For more info or to get on the bill, email manupdrag@gmail.com. 9pm. The Cobalt, 917 Main St. Entrance $7 but free if you have the afternoon’s Queers & Beers wristband still on. facebook.com/events/262148254195441/.   Monday, April 10 Del’s Extended Weekend Party He’s done Peak Pride, he’s done Wipeout, he’s done every guy at both, and now he’s back in town to pull off his own night of, not recovery, but extended weekend. Yes, Del Stamp, the man who metabolizes tequila like it’s holy water, hits the decks to bring you one of the busiest Monday nights around. Cheap drinks, no cover and a hot DJ who can be had for a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner. 10pm. The Junction, 1138 Davie St. No cover. junctionpub.com/events/dels-extended-weekend-2017-04-10/   Tuesday, April 11 Lights! Improvised Sketch Comedy Inspired by The Holy Fuck Comedy Hour — and I don’t mean watching Peach Cobblah get out of a tight dress — this sketch show from New York is the breeding ground for YouTube videos and polished comedy sketch shows. Their mantra is, “Comedy is born here. Funny. Weird. Best. Worst. Unforgettable. Unforgivable.” Twelve of our city’s hottest improv comedians are performing back-to-back original sketches. Come down and maybe you will see a star in the making. 7:30pm. XYYVR, 1216 Bute St. $7 at the door. facebook.com/events/1899820143597080/.   Generation Post Script Up and coming queer playwright Mily Mumford sets this play in the future, two generations from now, when what is left of humanity survives in space stations in orbit around our planet. Interstellar travel is not yet possible and Earth is uninhabitable. A misfit group of college students of the "post script" generation — the first to be born in space — bond over their shared anxieties and a desire to reconcile what happened to the rest of their species. 8pm nightly with 2pm matinees Saturday and Sunday. Studio 1398, 1398 Cartwright St, Granville Island. Show runs until Sunday, April 16. Info and tickets $23–$28 at theatrewire.com/.   Wednesday, April 12               Bears, Bears And More Bears Trump may have signed an order allowing hibernating bears to be shot, but only in Vancouver can you find bears to shoot on. Every week Steamworks brings you Bear Hump, a weekly gathering of furry men and cubs to enjoy. Come on down, stroll around and find a nice furry bear rug to lie on or better yet, under. 3–9pm. Steamworks Baths, 123 West Pender St. Entrance rates start at $6. steamworksbaths.com/event/bear-hump-38/?instance_id=321319   Annual Mr/Ms Cobalt Drag Competition Either the months are going by faster or I’m blacking out more, but it’s already time to crown the royalty of The Cobalt at the sixth annual competition. East Vancouver’s finest drag performers vie for the title of Mr/Ms/Mistermiss Cobalt, and a Grand Prize of $500. Do you have what it takes to represent your favourite little homo corner of East Van? Tonight starts the preliminaries leading up to the finale on Friday, May 5. To enter contact Peach Cobblah at facebook.com/peach.cobblah. 8pm–12am. The Cobalt, 917 Main St. Cover $7.  facebook.com/events/209181819560226/.

Judge hobbles class-action lawsuit against ‘gay zombies’ that crashed Toronto Pride

5 April 2017 - 5:27pm
An Ontario judge has ruled that a $104-million lawsuit against a notorious anti-gay activist and his allies who crashed the 2016 Toronto Pride parade can’t go forward as as a class action, but individuals could sue if they wished. But Bill Whatcott — who has a history of crashing Pride parades across Canada — will have to reveal the identities of the other people who snuck into the parade with him, as well as their financial backers. Whatcott is one of Canada’s most notorious anti-gay activists and was found guilty of distributing hate literature by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013.  During last year’s Toronto Pride parade, he dressed in a neon green bodysuit and distributed anti-gay literature to the crowd as part of the Gay Zombies Cannabis Consumer’s Association, a group fabricated in order to sneak into the event.  Former Ontario MPP George Smitherman, who plans to seek a city council seat in 2018, and Christopher Hudspeth, the owner of Pegasus Bar in Toronto’s gay Village, had filed suit on behalf of members of the federal and provincial Liberal parties, and the 500,000 estimated people who participated in the parade, for defamation, conspiracy to injure and inflicting mental distress.  [[asset:image:309404 {"mode":"media_image_style_width_728px_","align":"center","field_asset_image_caption":["Lawyer Douglas Elliott (left) and former politician George Smitherman (right) at an Ottawa press conference announcing a class action lawsuit against anti-gay activist and Pride crasher Bill Whatcott."],"field_asset_image_credit":["Claire W\u00e4hlen\/Daily Xtra"]}]] Judge Paul Perell concluded that the suit can’t go forward as a class action because only individuals who have been specifically harmed can sue on those grounds. He suggested that the plaintiffs were trying to act as “public prosecutors for a hate crime,” which isn’t appropriate for a civil court. “Criminal law responds to crimes against the community,” he wrote. He also noted that some individuals who may have been defamed in the anti-gay pamphlets may have grounds to sue, and the case could continue if they came forward and if the plaintiffs submitted new pleadings. The individuals mentioned in the pamphlets include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, former Liberal leader Bill Graham, and Benjamin Levin, a former Ontario Liberal deputy minister convicted of making and distributing child pornography. Neither Pride Toronto nor the federal or provincial Liberal parties participated in the lawsuit. The judge did grant a motion that will force Whatcott to name his associate  marchers and their financial backers, who are currently anonymous. Throughout his ruling, Perell chided both sides for making improper pleadings, noting that they submitted “jeremiads, diatribes, ad hominies, polemics, and propaganda pieces far removed from proper pleadings and proper legal argument.” He specifically cited a press conference held by Smitherman, Hudspeth and their lawyer Doug Elliott when the suit was announced as improper.  “It is lamentable that the Plaintiffs have pleaded and argued in the fashion that they did and that they are making a public spectacle of their antipathy to Mr Whatcott and what he stands for,” he wrote.

Same-sex love in the saddle: the homosexual world of the American frontier

4 April 2017 - 11:26pm
Forget Brokeback Mountain — what if our perceptions of cowboys as macho, invincibly heterosexual, homophobic manly-men are all wrong?  The 19th-century American frontier was one of the the gayest periods in the country’s history, sexually speaking. Scottish-born adventurer and noted homosexual William Drummond Stewart knew what he’d find in the untamed west. Born on Dec 26, 1795, Stewart was the second son of a Scottish baronet. His family’s seat was located at Murthly Castle, about a day’s journey north of Edinburgh. Stewart had the unfortunate position as a second son only meant to inherit a modest allowance, so when he was 17 his family bought him a position in the British Army’s cavalry— a way for the somewhat foppish adolescent to make a name for himself.  Stewart would see combat in the successful Waterloo campaign against Napoleon Bonaparte and was eventually, through familial connections, raised to the position of captain in 1820 before the young man retired on half pay soon after.  Although it’s undocumented if he ever consummated his homosexual feelings in these early years, Stewart was certainly aware of them, and of the dangers they posed in a society on a moral crusade. He wrote two autobiographical novels, but named his narrator “Edward Warren.” In the book, Warren describes his inner struggle with his desires.  “However I may be alive to surprise or admiration, or to those mysterious sympathies which are electrically conveyed by the touch as well as by the sight, I have never been conscious of betraying it by outward emotion,” he writes. After his military career, Stewart split his time between his family’s estate in Scotland and their London home in the Belgravia district. He learned quickly that a moral campaign against sodomites and increased police prosecution throughout the early 19th century made the UK a less than ideal place for the homosexually inclined. Perhaps to prove he could, or at least throw off the scent, Stewart managed to impregnate a young servant girl, and they had a son. Stewart’s family fabricated a marriage to her, conveniently nine months before the birth, and he then set up a household for his new wife and child in Edinburgh, though he never lived with them. He maintained a distant but amicable relationship with his son, but had little contact with his wife.  In Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade, author and historian William Benemann muses that it would have been an enviable set-up: a lowborn mistress and a bastard child, proving the still unmarried man’s heterosexuality. Stewart’s fantasies for an all-male world untainted by female contaminant did not include a “beard,” like his fake wife. He would soon find this masculine utopia in the American west. The American West was literally a man’s world. According to the Annenberg Learner’s article, “Paradise of Bachelors,” the 1850 California census showed that more than 90 percent of the state’s population consisted of men, which likely reflected the rest of the fledgling territories’ population. This was just before the explosion caused by the Gold Rush, when the population would double within the span of two years. Life for African-American, Chinese, Latino, European and Anglo-American immigrants in the American frontier consisted of mining, cattle herding, ranching, hunting and trapping, or the military — work that mostly excluded women. Annenberg Learner’s article cites historian Susan Lee Johnson, who says this homosocial society necessitated “drastically altered divisions of labor in which men took on tasks that womenfolk would have performed back home.”  Groups of all-male units would build little homes together, working their mining claims, sharing a common fund of money divided equally with men who had never cooked, washed or mended clothing before learning to do so for their newfound familial unit. “Paradise of Bachelors” notes that “household intimacy inherent in camp life could also transcend racial difference. White men amicably shared tents, food, and economic responsibilities with Chinese, African American, and Latino miners.” In this all-male society, lines between emotional and sexual relationships blurred easily. Depending on the racial group each labourer came from they may have had their own ideas about men who have sex with men, but there was no concept of “homosexual” or “heterosexual.” The article notes:  As traditional notions of “normal” gender roles were challenged and unsettled, men could display both subtly and openly the erotic connections they felt for other men. When the miners at Angel Camp in southern California held dances, half of the men danced the part of women, wearing patches over the crotches of their pants to signal their “feminine” role. Men routinely shared beds in mining communities and on the range, and cowboys and miners settled into partnerships that other men recognized (and sometimes referred to) as “bachelor marriages.” Colonists making a life in the so-called “New World” also had role models — societies who had lived there for thousands of years. While the term “berdache” is now considered a pejorative, more than a hundred North American nations and communities had words or roles for people who expressed unique gender and sexual identity beyond the male-female or man-plus-woman binaries. Our Scottish dandy, William Drummond Stewart, first arrived in America in 1832, when he was  36 years old. He began his new life in St Louis, Missouri, where he accompanied a pack train west to an 1833 “rendezvous” of hunters and trappers in the Green River Valley of Wyoming. At the rendezvous he met a renowned French Canadian-Cree hunter named Antoine Clement, who became his lover.  As Benemann notes from Stewart’s autobiography, Warren (Stewart’s narrative stand-in), meets a “seductively handsome American Indian, and indeed it was not uncommon for a European who had carefully repressed his homosexuality at home to find it blossoming — to his dismay and to his wonderment — once he encountered Native Americans so strikingly handsome that it became almost a cliché to compare them to a naked Adonis or Apollo.” The couple would stay together for a decade, even travelling to Murthly Castle in 1839 after the death of his childless older brother, to take up his position. They lived in Dalpowie Lodge on the estate, and he presented Clement first as a valet, then as a footman. Clement was apparently unhappy in Scotland, and so they spent a significant amount of time traveling, including a visit to the Middle East, before eventually returning to America together. Stewart had a dream of recapturing the glory age of the frontiersman rendezvous, although with a twist. Benemann describes a group of hunters at the time finding “a rollicking medieval market faire magically transported to the American West. Festive pennants waved above a jumble of colorful tents. Here and there naked men crawled out from beneath striped canvas and ran to a nearby lake, where they hooted and splashed in the morning sunlight.”  The revellers, around 80 of them in total, were “mostly young men in their teens and twenties, and those who were clothed could be seen sporting the most fantastic and colorful costumes,” that being authentic medieval costumery at best, or simply the styles of Broadway dandies at worst. Essentially a big, gay, medieval-themed orgy. Stewart was at the centre of it all, literally, where his “large striped marquee stood in regal splendor, a white pennant waving from its peak.” Stewart’s infamous rendezvous ended in his leaving the country after the expedition returned to St Louis, soured by “camp tensions turned into nasty rumours”— Benemann doesn’t specify what these rumours were, but we can certainly guess. Stewart was forced to leave America and his lover behind. America was being tamed under the steady march of European heterosexuality, and Stewart lost his paradise of bachelors.

Vancouver Pride’s co-executive director to resign after 2017 festival

3 April 2017 - 11:24pm
Vancouver Pride Society co-executive director Kieran Burgess plans to step down after this year’s festival season wraps up. Burgess has been working and living in Canada on a two-year visa from his home country of Australia, but his permit will expire this fall. “I wanted to start the search now,” Burgess explains. “The Society has had transition issues in the past so we are trying to make it as smooth as possible this time.” Burgess will step away from his VPS position in mid-September. He currently shares the executive director position with Andrea Arnot; Burgess focuses on operations, administration and finances, while Arnot focuses on all aspects of event planning. The VPS hopes the new person will start in July so they can share a “crossover period” with Burgess and get some training time with him. Burgess says he loves Canada and has enjoyed his job with Pride, but after four years away from Australia he is ready to be home. “It was an amazing opportunity for me and a different opportunity from what I’ve done in the past,” he says. He previously organized the international Ironman Triathlon, while living in London. Burgess says he is proud of the changes made by the current Vancouver Pride administration. “I think the progress we have made from where the Society was last year, when I started, has been really positive and that’s at the board and staff level. They had their issues in 2015 and that was interesting to come into,” he adds. The VPS faced controversy in 2015 after some staff and community members questioned what they saw as a partisan, uneven implementation of the trans pledge that all parade participants had to sign. Several staff and board members resigned or were fired that summer, including the volunteer coordinator, who filed a human rights complaint against the VPS for allegedly failing to accommodate her at work after she was allegedly assaulted. That complaint has since been settled in mediation by the Human Rights Tribunal, though the terms of the settlement have not been disclosed. Former VPS executive director Ray Lam resigned at the end of that Pride season, in fall 2015. After Lam’s departure, and after several months of searching for a new ED, the VPS split the position in two and hired Burgess and Arnot in March 2016. Burgess says he is announcing his departure early to help ensure a smooth transition for the VPS this time. He believes that in the past year he and Arnot have established a stronger foundation than the VPS has previously seen. “I think just in terms of organizational health, the board has transitioned to a governance board and a large part of that has been looking at staff to have more say and decisions at an operational level,” he explains. “And I think Andrea and I have built a really good corporate culture here. We have really happy staff and are proud to deliver a surplus with our financials,” he says. Burgess will be involved in choosing his replacement. “I think someone coming into this has to value a strong culture, a positive culture,” he says. “They have to be very aware of the financial challenges of running a non-profit, and they also need to be very passionate about social justice and the LGBTQ2+ community in general.” Alan Jernigan, a VPS board member who, while serving as co-chair in 2016, hired Burgess, says Burgess’ contribution will leave the Pride Society stronger than before. “Kieran has been fantastic,” Jernigan says. “You can really tell the discipline and focus he brought from a big international organization like [Ironman] and that degree of professionalism has had a really big effect on us.” Jernigan says the VPS is now looking for someone equally capable around finances and administration. “Because the parade and festival are such important events, the person we find needs to be as passionate about the work that we do as we are,” he says. “So it’s a really cool opportunity which doesn’t come up often because it’s a chance for somebody to play a really direct role in an event that brings so many people together.” The VPS is now grappling with the question of police in the parade, as some community members feel unsafe and silenced walking alongside uniformed officers, and have asked that police be excluded.

What happens when a condom breaks? (Part 2)

3 April 2017 - 8:24pm
After fucking this guy, Don, who I’d been dating for a few weeks, we noticed that the condom had broken. Up until that point the sex was great, but needless to say the incident ruined the good vibes. Instead of cuddling afterwards, Don wanted to know how safe I was with my own sexual health. I told him that I always wore condoms for anal sex but not for oral. Mind you, the risk of contracting HIV by blowing another dude is only zero to one in 2,500, or zero to 0.04 percent.  Don said that he always wore a condom too, so I felt much more at ease. Still, he became kind of distant in the following days.  I hate how a scare like this can ruin perfectly good sex. It also bugs me that I’ve become more paranoid as a result, making it difficult to relax during sex. We are told that when used correctly, condoms are 98 to 99 percent effective, but that’s in a lab setting. What about in the real world? And what about men who have sex with men (MSM), a group that continues to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS? A 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that for men who have sex with men and use condoms every time, they’re 70 percent less likely to acquire HIV than guys who never use condoms at all. In the instance with Don, none of those things applied but the condom still broke. In 2014, a Canadian study looked at 92,963 HIV-negative MSM who had anal sex with and without a condom. Of the 693 new HIV infections, 51 percent of them were wearing a condom during anal sex.  A 2016 study on condom breakage during anal sex among MSM claimed that the estimated failure rate of condoms was between 0.5 percent to eight percent, and this failure might be more common for younger men, men who drink or take drugs before sex, and men with a higher number of sex partners.  With all these studies we begin to see that it’s not exactly evident the extent to which condoms prevent new HIV transmissions. How does all of this stack up to the level of protection that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) offers when comparing it to condom use? Despite three known PrEP failures, using Truvada for PrEP is 92 to 99 percent effective in reducing HIV transmission risk for HIV-negative people. It’s recommended you take it every day to get the maximum protection; for every dose missed, your protection decreases.   That’s what I’d loved about being on PrEP for that short time. For the most part I still wore condoms during sex but if a condom slipped off or broke, who cares? It was the first time in my life that I truly experienced carefree sex — and pleasure should also matter.  On the Monday, Don and I went to get rapid HIV tests. We were taken to separate rooms at the clinic. Despite how confident I was that things were going to be okay, I felt the same nervousness that I used to get when I first started getting HIV tests back in my late teens.  In my head, I replayed all the sex I’d had since my last test, having to convince myself that everything was okay even though I knew that it was. It then struck me that I’d had some nights where I’d gone home with someone after the bar but couldn’t remember all the details because I’d been drinking; I don’t remember not using a condom, but I don’t necessarily remember using one either.  The nurse started explaining the whole “reactive” and “negative” part of the rapid test, but I didn't catch whether one dot was reactive or whether it was two; my mind was still replaying those drunken nights in my head, trying to determine whether I had been safe or not. “Sorry, one dot is reactive?” I tried to confirm. “No, one dot is negative. Two is reactive,” he said. When he poked my finger for blood, it felt like time had stopped. Not only did I have to remind myself to breathe, but to exhale as well.  The nurse left the room. Why do they always leave the room? He finally came back in, made some silly joke, which I didn’t catch, but I did hear him say “It’s one dot. Negative, non-reactive.” Large exhale.  I met Don in the waiting room. Fortunately, he too was non-reactive.  We lasted a couple of months after that but the sex was never quite the same.   None of this is to discredit condom use in any way. This is more to discredit those who try to discredit PrEP. We have several tools now to help curb new HIV transmission rates and some are more powerful than others, but they all contribute to eventually making HIV a non-reality. So the next time someone suggests that men should forget about PrEP and wear condoms, you might want to remind them of the effectiveness of PrEP.

Chechen crisis, rainbow flags and progesterone

3 April 2017 - 5:24pm
[[asset:image:309398 {"mode":"full","align":"center"}]] Chechnya arrests and kills gay men According to a Russian newspaper, police in the predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya are rounding up and killing gay men in a “prophylactic sweep.” Government officials denied the report, and denied that there were even any gay people in Chechnya. Read more at the Guardian.   Rainbow flag creator dies Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag as a gay symbol in 1978, has died at the age of 65. Baker created the flag after it was commissioned by gay rights legend Harvey Milk. Read more at the New York Times.   Mothers treated with progesterone more likely to have non-straight children A new study from the Kinsey institute suggests that mothers who were treated with the hormone progesterone during pregnancy are more likely to have non-straight children. The finding could lead to more answers about how sexual orientation is formed in the developing brain. Read more at INews.   Two gay men attacked in the Netherlands A gay couple returning from a dance party were attacked and beaten with bolt cutters in the Netherlands. The men say they were targeted because they were holding hands. Read more at NL Times.   Asian companies lowest on LGBT benefits According to a report by global consulting firm Mercer, Asian companies lag significantly behind North American and European companies in offering benefits to LGBT employees. Companies often cited local laws or social perception for their lack of coverage. Read more at Human Resources.

Black Lives Matter say they feel betrayed by Vancouver police and Pride

31 March 2017 - 11:18pm
Members of Black Lives Matter Vancouver say they’re feeling discouraged and betrayed after police officers failed to protect them from a group of men who pushed their way through an anti-racism rally, allegedly throwing smoke bombs and provoking violence until a skirmish broke out. Coming on the heels of a disappointing meeting with police and the Pride Society two days earlier, BLMV members say the officers’ failure to intervene sooner and more decisively at the rally confirms the strained relationship between the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and the city’s racialized residents. A video shot by a photojournalist at the anti-racism rally on March 26, 2017, shows members of Soldiers of Odin, a group linked to anti-immigrant groups internationally, swaggering through the crowd and antagonizing speakers, before violence breaks out and police intervene to briefly detain some of the alleged attackers on site before releasing them again. [[asset:video_embed:309389 {"mode":"full","align":"center","field_video_caption":["Photojournalist Fatima Jaffer shot this footage at Victory Square on March 26, 2017."],"field_video_credit":["Courtesy Antiracism Vancouver"]}]] After the rally, several queer and trans people of colour say they were followed and harassed by the released Soldiers of Odin but police did not intervene. VPD spokesperson Sergeant Randy Fincham says the officers on site made a judgment call about when to intervene while upholding citizens’ rights to counter-protest. “Where it comes to a challenge is you may have two groups with opposing views who both have a legal right to have their voice heard, even though their voices might not match, even though their agenda might not be the same,” Fincham says. This is why Black Lives Matter doesn’t want the Vancouver Police Department walking in the Pride parade, says Daniella Barreto — the officers’ response demonstrates the institutionalized racism that BLMV objects to celebrating alongside. “We do know that the police have a lot of systemic issues that influence that discretion,” Barreto says. “When the attack happened the counter-protesters had already thrown a smoke bomb, were already engaged in threatening conduct harassing the crowd. That, to us, should have been the point at which the police intervened, if their job is to prevent harm and criminal acts from taking place. They should not be waiting until harm has happened, when there were clear instances that these people were there and harassing us.” Fincham says people are generally detained when they have criminally breached the peace, and are either held on-site or taken to jail until the event is over to preempt further disruption. Whether they are removed depends on the size and duration of the event, he says. In some situations, officers may decide to step in sooner to prevent an incident, he adds. “To de-escalate a situation, quite often the police will step in to separate those groups and, if necessary, apprehend or separate those groups so it doesn’t get violent or escalate the problem.” Two days before the incident at the anti-racism rally, members of Black Lives Matter met with the VPD’s LGBT liaison officer, Constable Dale Quiring, and directors of the Vancouver Pride Society to discuss policing, racism and the Pride parade. But in a Facebook post, BLMV alleges that Quiring “shut down the conversation, refused to acknowledge the relevance of racism and police violence and ended the meeting prematurely with hostility.” BLMV member Joy Gyamfi says Quiring wouldn’t entertain the suggestion that the Vancouver Police Department could do more to support queer people of colour. “When we were in the meeting with the VPS and VPD, Constable Quiring would talk about all the good things he’s done with the LGBT community,” she says. “It’s great that that they are doing these things, but when we brought up Solomon Akintoye, who was recently assaulted by police on a case of mistaken identity, feeling that it was a relevant example of institutionalized racism, Constable Quiring shut that down and said it isn’t relevant.” Akintoye’s case is currently awaiting a verdict from the BC Supreme Court. He is suing the VPD for allegedly beating him after mistaking him for a crime suspect. Akintoye’s case is relevant, Gyamfi says, because “that is happening to a black man in the city. We aren’t just queer; we are queer and black and it seems like VPD only wants to focus on the black community and the queer community separately.” Quiring declined to comment for this story and instead referred Xtra to the VPD media email address, through which Fincham responded: “We are continuing to work with our community partners with the Vancouver Pride Society and Black Lives Matter, to ensure that we appropriately recognize the interests of all persons involved, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual identity.” Gyamfi says BLMV members were starting to feel tentatively hopeful, after a few positive meetings with Pride, that the parade organizers might be supportive — but the meeting with Quiring changed that. “It was disappointing because when we met with the VPS and the board in February, it felt that they were on our side, that they understood where we were coming from, and it seemed like they were going to help us get to that end goal,” Gyamfi says. “But at the [March 24] meeting, it felt that had flipped. For example, we were discussing the possibility of having police out of the parade forever and a board member asked, ‘Are you prepared for the backlash that would happen?’” Gyamfi says BLMV members heard this question as more of a threat than a potentially well-intentioned note of caution. “We took offense to that because we get backlash every day for being black, being BLM and doing what we do,” she says. “It felt like a threat. That approach didn’t seem helpful to us at all. What about, ‘We are worried for you when the police step out of the parade?’ What about, ‘We will back you up when you do get backlash?’ It felt instead like saying, ‘This terrible thing could happen if you pursue this path.’” Gyamfi says it’s hard to believe the comment came out of a real concern for BLMV members’ safety. “It’s almost saying, ‘Are you okay with bad things happening?’ instead of saying, ‘I’m an ally and I’ll be there and have your back when bad things happen.” The VPS’ co-executive director, Andrea Arnot, says the events of the meeting and the protest are being somewhat misrepresented. “We disagree with some of the account of what happened on Friday night [at the meeting], as well as at the march against racism on Sunday, but we are not going to get into details,” she says. Arnot says the door remains open to talks with BLMV, and all offers around Pride participation remain on the table. “We’ve offered support with getting venues or gift cards to do their events, and any support they might want, and they still have the right to critique us. That support is offered with no strings attached,” she says. “We will continue to reach out and invite BLM to participate in things that we are doing, as well as any community groups that wish to,” she says. “We just feel like getting into defending ourselves is not fruitful.” No future meetings between VPS and BLMV are presently scheduled. Arnot says consultations around police participation in the 2017 Pride parade are still in process and should yield concrete decisions in the coming weeks.

When sex work is unsexy (Part 1)

31 March 2017 - 8:18pm
It’s a tricky balancing act. But it’s not like you’re going to lie on the floor the way you would at home. So the best way to do it, at least as far as I’ve discerned, is to curl into the fetal position and lie horizontally across the toilet seat, with one hand bracing yourself against the wall and the other squirting the water into your ass. The art of douching in a public washroom is a boon to any whore’s curriculum vitae. At the moment, I’m performing this delicate act in a kebab shop in a small town in the north of Germany. The floor is streaked with mud and clumps of toilet paper. A tiny but persistent stream of water flows from the tap. The space is brightly illuminated with a single bulb, hanging from a wire.   Normally, anus-related preparation would be done at home before leaving to meet a client. But in this case, it’s been close to a two-hour journey to get here, so I want to be sure my ass is in tiptop shape on arrival. I fill up my rectal syringe with water from the tap, drop my jeans to my ankles and curl up on top of the toilet seat.  There’s considerable debate among anal aficionados about the proper way to douche. But I’ve always had the best results with a single injection of water followed by a wait of four to five minutes, instead of repeated fast injection/expulsions.  When using the waiting method, I also highly recommend having some music to pass the time. In this case, I’ve already mounted the toilet before remembering that my phone is in my backpack, perched on the sink, so I decide to forgo the tunes and just zen out, staring at the tiled wall. Exiting the toilet, I glance back at the guy behind the counter to see if I’m about to get a dirty look for the fact I just spent an inordinately long period of time occupying his washroom. But he doesn’t look up from his phone and I head to the door, my backpack in one hand, a  bottle of water costing one euro in the other; the price I had to pay to make use of his facilities. The eventual recipient of my hopefully-spotlessly clean ass lives in a low-rise apartment a short walk away. It’s set about 50 metres back from the road, behind the buildings of the main street. I find the alley he’d told me to look for, between a lingerie store and something that I think might be a defunct Irish pub.  At the end of the alley, I make a right and come to a white metal gate with an intercom system. He buzzes me in, the gate clicks open, and I continue around the corner to the door of his building. After being buzzed in a second time, I take the stairs up to his third-floor apartment. I rarely ask for any info about what a client looks like in advance of meeting. But when he opens the door, I’m initially a little shocked by his appearance. He’s mostly bald, with a large hook nose, and a mouth full of stained teeth. He’s probably a good three inches taller than I am but his back is severely hunched and his right shoulder is twisted across his body.  He stands wordlessly, looking at me over a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and I wonder if he’s about to tell me to leave. But he glances quickly up and down the hallway, and then with an irritated flick of his hand, ushers me inside. We’ve established from our communication that he doesn’t speak English very well and my German is non-existent, so I’m not expecting much negotiation. I smile and step closer to him. His expression doesn’t change and he just continues to stare at me over his glasses, breathing heavily.  It’s unusual for me to be intimidated by a client. But there’s something serial killer-esque about his demeanour. I can also tell from his shuffling to close the door that he’s struggling with some kind of mobility issue, though I’m not sure exactly what.  In determining whether someone is a potential threat, size, age and physical ability are all going to play a role. In this case, even though there’s something off about his demeanour, it’s unlikely he’s a physical match for me in the event that things get rough. I step in closer to him, place my hands on his chest and stare into his eyes. He’s motionless for almost 60 seconds, then all at once makes this strange snarling noise and moves in for a kiss at the same time he roughly grabs my ass. His mouth is open wide, like he’s trying to take a bite out of my face and his tongue rubs roughly against my lips. He’s specifically requested that I arrive without underwear and his finger presses aggressively through my jeans against my asshole. Even through the denim, I can feel the sharp edge of his fingernail. The whole thing feels strangely violent and I push him gently away. “Easy there,” I say, trying to compose myself. “We want to go slow.” He continues to stare wordlessly, then abruptly orders me to drop my pants.  A fact you learn early on in the sex business is that people love watching whores get undressed. It’s always better to strip down in front of the client and to take your time with it, letting the process linger.  He doesn’t seem interested though, and begins grabbing roughly at my belt. I take a step back and remove my jacket, laying it over my bag sitting next to the door.  Slowly, as I stare into his eyes, I pull my T-shirt over my head. If he’s enjoying it, he doesn’t show anything; his expression remains unchanged. I slowly unbuckle my jeans. I slide them down and leave them in a heap next to my bag . . . 

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