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November 2005 - Posts

November 30, 2005 3:18 PM

Trying to rent the church hall

I get worried when everybody starts to agree with me. Orthodoxy, even when it's my own, leads to an atrophying brain. Thus the concern: it seems that the biggies are on board when it comes to giving the religious folk their right to say that homosexualists are yucky, yucky, yucky. This Xtra did here, and a recent queer lobby group Egale press release does here, in which the group opposes a human rights complaint filed against some bigot in Alberta.

Aaaah, but what about when the argument goes one step further? A British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled yesterday, Nov. 29, that gay rights trump religious rights when it comes to renting a Catholic-owned hall to two lesbians celebrating their wedding.

It's a decision that's well worth reading.

Tracey Smith and Deborah Chymyshyn, a couple of five years, "decided to marry after same-sex marriage became legal in British Columbia, in order to take their commitment to a deeper level." The big day was Nov. 1, 2003. A few weeks before, one saw a sign on the door of a hall, and the two initialed a contract and rented the place. When they said wedding reception, the church lady didn't realize they meant they were marrying each other.

Smith and Chymyshyn both say they missed all the religious paraphernalia during their tour ("the crucifix, a picture of the ascension of the Virgin Mary, a picture of the Pope and pictures of the leaders of the Knights"), because they were focused on practical things like kitchen facilities and the number of chairs available.

Whatever. The important part is this: The hall is owned by the Archdiocese of Vancouver (the overseeing parish church is right next door, but a fence separates the buildings). And the space is administered by the Knights of Columbus: "one must be a male, a practicing Catholic, and over the age of 18. When a man becomes a Knight, he is given certain materials, including a book called These Men They Call Knights, setting out the philosophy and requirements of being a Knight. The book sets out the services and benefits available to Knights, the commitment of the Knights to the Catholic Church and its teachings, and the various activities undertaken to support this commitment." And of course the Catholic Church considers same-sex marriage -- whether the actual ceremony or the celebration thereof-- to be a Very Bad Thing.

The Knights found out -- causing some paranoia in the newlyweds, who went through their guest list trying to finger the stoolie.

Everybody, including the complainants and the three-member tribunal panel, agrees that religious beliefs are protected under the constitution, and that "discrimination" is allowed under certain circumstances. In fact, the three-member tribunal even agreed that "the Panel accepts that the function not only includes the simple dimension of renting the Hall, but that the Hall could only be rented and/or used for events that would not undermine the Knights’ relationship with the Catholic Church. For these reasons, the standard, given its purpose, is rationally connected to the function."

My initial reaction is that the decision should end there. Homos should butt out. Leave'em be.

But the problem is that the church hall appeared to be available to the public, not just to religious pals. A public service is, er, a different hall full of guests. So the tribunal went on to decide whether renting to a lesbian married couple would "cause undue hardship" to the Knights, their consciences, and their relationship to the Catholic Church. And also whether canceling caused "undue hardship" to the married ladies. Not hardship itself, as some is legally acceptable. It's the "undue" that's the issue.

The other big thing in law is "accommodation," as in, did the religious folk try to "accommodate" the lesbians in order to reduce the hardship?

The ruling notes: "In this case, the Knights could have taken steps such as meeting with the complainants to explain the situation, formally apologizing, immediately offering to reimburse the complainants for any expenses they had incurred and, perhaps offering assistance in finding another solution. There may have been other options that they could have considered without infringing their core religious beliefs. The fact is they gave no thought to any option other than canceling the rental. In the circumstances of this case, including the fact that the Hall was not solely a religious space, and the existence of the agreement between the parties for its rental, the Panel finds that the Knights should have taken these steps, which would have appropriately balanced the rights of both parties.

"Although it is true that the complainants quickly found another hall to rent, this does not answer the question of whether or not the Knights met their duty to accommodate them. Had the complainants not successfully searched for their own solution, the consequences to them would have been significant; they would have had no place to celebrate their marriage, a marriage that they had the constitutionally protected right to solemnize and to celebrate. This should not be taken to mean that the Knights were required to find another hall for the complainants, but they were required to consider whether they could assist the complainants in that process, if necessary.

"Only after the complainants sent a demand letter were the Knights prepared to compensate the complainants for the expenses they incurred but, in return, they wanted a signed release. Introducing the need for a release, although it may have been legally prudent, only served to escalate the issues between the parties.... The Knights, if they needed this legal protection, could have provided the form of the release in advance, without a meeting, and allowed the complainants to consult a lawyer, another step that would not have required them to act contrary to their core religious beliefs and may have resolved the issue between the parties."

Doing these things would not have truly hurt the Knights, but their lack did cause undue hardship to the lesbians. And this is where the Knights got smushed.

The tribunal ordered a payment of $1,000 to each of the two women, "for injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect," plus the reimbursement of some $450 in extra wedding reception expenses.

As much as reading about this in the media got my dander up, the ruling itself is an interesting effort to slice a baby in two. Being a thoughtless idiot is one thing; pretending a signed contract didn't exist at all is another.


ADDENDUM Friday, Nov. 1: So the point I wanted to make (but as I read back, I kinda petered out) is that this is really a contract law dispute. The finding of discrimination is problematic -- these religious folk were responding to the ridiculous misunderstanding by canceling the contract, as is quite understandable. But they did behave badly by refusing to pay the extra expenses incurred (unless the dykes signed some friggin' legal crap -- screw that). So the Knights are legally liable. I just disagree with the tribunal about what they're guilty of. Not illegal discrimination, but a contract law violation.

November 30, 2005 1:35 PM

All together now: But she'll never be truly free...

Convicted killer Karla Homolka won in court today: the 14 rules imposed after her release from jail (after serving her full 12-year term) have been lifted. "Justice James Brunton overturned those restrictions, meaning Homolka will no longer be prohibited from associating with criminals, working in a place where she would be in a position of authority over anyone under age 16, possessing a controlled substance and contacting her former husband, convicted killer Paul Bernardo.

"She is also permitted to contact the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, the two Ontario teenagers she and Bernardo were convicted of kidnapping, torturing and killing in the early 1990s." This one is particularly weird. I mean, she'd only be contacting these people if she's a complete lunatic -- or desperate for forgiveness. Time will tell....

"The ruling means Homolka does not have to tell police where she lives or works, or notify them if she plans to move."

How obsessed are Quebeckers with Karla Homolka? The Montreal-based Editions Voix Paralleles published the Lynda Verronneau tell-all, "Dans L'Ombre de Karla," about two weeks ago (the background's here). The publisher's flack says it's too darned soon to know what sales figures are (and, in the nicest way possible, tells me she wouldn't give me the stats, anyway).

She does say that more than 10,000 copies were printed, though. I'm betting those sales numbers are pretty darned low, even with Xmas on the way.

November 30, 2005 11:29 AM

Put the sculptor in a walk-in freezer. Yeah, that'll fix it

The National Film Board launched its Citizenshift project a while back -- and within it, all the good and bad of true democracy: the shallow mixes with the very thoughtful. New this week: Sierra Club of Canada executive director Elizabeth May blogs the 11th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1st Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. Worth reading.

November 29, 2005 11:16 AM

I claim Alexander Wood, I claim Emily Carr, I claim... Mazo

Heh heh. Mazo de la Roche! Mazo de la Roche! Feels good to mention La Roche again. I missed her.

So, why does the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives have in its collection materials related to the much debated maybe-she-is, maybe-she-isn't auteur of a gazillion Jalna books?

Cuz somebody gave it to them, of course. "Collecting has been a fairly passive kind of process," archives president Mary MacDonald told me in a telephone interview a couple of weeks ago. "They call and say, do you want it?" And in the archives' first few years ('twas founded in 1973), it's not like anyone would say no, git that crap outta here. Says MacDonald: "You collect what they want to give you."

But of course, space is not infinite. Who deserves to be included? "Those are things that have to be figured out," says MacDonald. "We are not in the business of deciding who's gay, lesbian, bisexual... it hasn't been an issue." After all, if someone thought X and Y (or should that be X and X?) deserved to be in there, then it probably did: "If they have a place in that archive, then that's true for them." There are closet cases who've worked for the community, ditto straights....

MacDonald adds that a person's hold over the collective queer imagination must also be taken into account. Alexander Wood, run outta Toronto in 1810 for allegedly fondling penises, has become an icon in Hogtown's gay village. "We know what that's representing, but I'm not in the business of saying yes he was gay," says MacDonald. "There's no branding going on."

I just did a quick e-search of archive files and there's not a dag-nabbed thing on Emily Carr.

Carr is the terribly famous British Columbia painter (dates are 1871 to 1945, and she's even got a school named after her). "One of Canada’s best-known personalities," it sez here, "Emily Carr was famous for her well-documented eccentricities such as her yearning to be surrounded by numerous dogs, cats, birds, a monkey called Woo and a rat! [...] Emily Carr was an independent woman and a 'westerner' who was gaining a prominence at a time when independent women and western Canadians were not well-known internationally. Carr wrote, painted, hooked rugs, made pottery, ran a boarding house and spoke her mind.... Fifty-five years after her death, Carr can be seen as an environmentalist who painted insightful images of both lush forests and clearcut mountainsides, a person aware of cultural diversity who found something intrinsic in native northwest coast art, and a nationalist who was always drawn to Canada, its natural beauty and power and its important First Nations presence."

I rediscovered Carr on the weekend by reading 1942's "The Book of Small," a delightful collection of short prose about her childhood. I should call it poetry, actually. Beautiful writing.

And of course, Carr is suspected of being a lesbian. As here: "She never married and is listed as lesbian in several authoritative works." (Er, I couldn't find any of those authoritative works... [anyone?])

Lesbian? Dunno. Should be in the archive? Well, why not? Alex Wood and de la Roche are. Heck, get'em all in there. As long as we actually remember that Wood and de la Roche and Carr might have been appalled at their inclusion.


More on the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives tomorrow.

November 29, 2005 11:10 AM

The Christ in U, too

U2 is a Christian rock group. Deal.

At least Rolling Stone mag managed to fit it in ("Chatting to Rolling Stone founder and editor [and reluctantly out] Jann Wenner, catch Bono musing on growing up in Dublin, the early days of U2, the first rehearsals in Larry's kitchen the subject-matter of early songs, faith in God... the conversation wanders all over the place and it's a great ride"): you can download the podcast here. But it's rare for reporters to mention it. S'not just U2, either. There's a fear or distaste about mentioning religion.

Take the media love-in for Habitat for Humanity. They're the bunch that gathers volunteers and builds houses which are sold at cost to "deserving" poor. H for H makes no bones about its Christian base, either. But I've never seen reference to religion in the coverage. And it's something a donor or potential volunteer might well want to know: "Habitat for Humanity is an independent, non-profit, ecumenical housing program dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing by building homes in partnership with families in need. The ministry of Habitat is to provide simple, decent, affordable housing to those who would not qualify or be able to afford a conventional mortgage. The Habitat program is about home ownership, a long-term solution designed to break the poverty cycle."

Also from the FAQ: "What can I do to help? Pray for the work of Habitat for Humanity." Harumph. Reads pretty up front to me.

November 28, 2005 3:03 PM

The wabbit is dead, la da da da, dee da, the wabbit is dead

Ripped from the headlines (or at least, from page 91 of the December issue of the queer travel mag, Passport): "Like some of the campier roadside attractions along America's highways and byways, an enormous pink bunny has been erected on an Italian mountainside. Flopped across the terrain, the 200-foot-long toy rabbit lies, as if cast aside by a giant, on the side of the 5,000 foot high Colletto Fava Mountain in northern Italy's Piedmont region.

"The lapine landmark, entitled 'Hase,' was designed and executed by Viennese art group, Gelatin, known for their edgy and often nude art 'happenings.' The group says it was knitted 'by dozens of grannies out of pink wool.' The hope is not only to inspire smiles and gawking, but for hikers to climb its 20 foot sides and picnic on its fuzzy belly.

"Don't, however, think this is all pastoral child's play... those who make the trek will also discover that snaking from one side are its flowing heart, liver, and intestines. The giant rabbit corpse is intended to remain on the mountainside until 2025."

November 25, 2005 10:10 AM

Something to cut that gin?

My crazy busy three weeks is finally coming to an end (read: no freelance work booked for next week), and as such I'll have time to blog more thoughtfully veddy soon. In the meantime, Montreal's alt weekly Hour recalls Doudou Boicel's Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club, destroyed by fire in 1990. A tidbit: "Big Mama [Thornton] drank her gin with milk."

November 24, 2005 3:44 PM

Potter's Demonolatry and Hexes, Inc.

Via Bookninja: Hermione is inundated with Bibles as Christians try to save her immortal soul from the wickedness of sorcery.

November 24, 2005 10:35 AM

Tippy galore

Today I confirm every waiter's belief of lesbians: I hate tipping.

Nonetheless, I have never avoided tipping altogether. This is because of the nasty little rules for restaurant workers. By law, their minimum pay is lower than the hourly cash grossed by the rest of the poor slobs who work for minimum wage.

So I can't bring myself to leave absolutely nothing. Given industry pay averages, and without tips, a waiter could afford a nice, empty refrigerator carton as a home. (Stack a few together and you could create a charming little shanty town, where resto managers could pop by and offer day jobs to a select few.)

Tipping used to be a reward for a job above and beyond the call of duty. Now it's a requirement.

In Quebec, where I live, the tax department demands an accounting of food receipts and calculates an automatic percentage of tipping revenue. Servers must hand over the cash regardless of whether they actually got that much money from each table.

So avoid leaving a decent tip and the waiter is actually losing money by serving you. Quite the catch-22.

The scheme was instituted because so many waiters were believed to be concealing tipping income. (Note to politicians: people cheat on their taxes because they don't believe you deserve all that money. All we see are politicians with their monster expense accounts and "fact-finding" trips to Jamaica's five-star hotels to avoid the winters, and piggy civil servants steering millions of dollars in contracts to friends in exchange for kickbacks; run government better and you'll instill a sense of civics in the populace.)

So tipping is just a cash grab by the state. But it's also become an institutionalized subsidy to restaurant owners. They can pay out less money and the customer tops up the salaries. Not because the consumer had a lovely time and thinks the cash is deserved, but because she feels obligated.

I resent the whole damned scam. Quite simply, tipping should be banned.

November 22, 2005 10:11 AM

Bip, bip, kaboom!

Nobody I know bought a $500 Xbox 360 at midnight. (Planned shortage, anyone?) And I sure won't purchase until the PlayStation2 I picked up for an already exorbitant price a couple of years ago conks right out. (Why bother? Some little brat came over and got to level 22 in one afternoon. I was still at level 4, after a month. And this is a kiddie game -- okay, make sure the little penguin doesn't fall over the cliff and become encased in a block of ice! I wouldn't get past the first minute of Halo 2, much less its successor.)

Gaming is really the land of teen boys and very young men. It's the world of "gay" as insult. Do a quick search for "Xbox 360" and "gay." You'll find this, where "Jose Ramirez" posted "I know that X-BOX 360 is going to be 100% times better than ps3 because ps3 is gay and retarded. PS3 is a down syndrome bear F***er. [sic]" Riposts "superfabulouslol": "The fact that the "NEW" console is still called XBOX is super gaytard. Sega 32x called.. he said you are a stooge if you buy the 360."

Or here: "All you ****s are gay, You think your going to buy them all my ass. Xbox 360 might have a gay name but a will destroy everything. The Revolution will just sit on the shelves. Ps3 will and the Xbox 360 will be in competion. Xbox 1 will sell more than the Revolution. So farewell and goodbye ****gots, Xbox 360 Rules!!!!!"

And on and on. It's sickening to read, and it's our community's greatest failure: There's a whole generation we haven't been able to reach and teach. (Though what they seem to need is some sense smacked into 'em.)

Queer gamers could try GayGeeks.org.


ADDENDUM 7:53 pm: After posting on GayGeeks, I got some interesting replies on the gamer usage of "gay" -- read it here.

November 21, 2005 12:51 PM

Finally! My need for angst is fully assuaged

Advance warning: if you can't get enough of Important Canadian Television, Degrassi: The Next Generation goes lesbo on Mon., Nov. 28. That is all.

November 21, 2005 12:17 PM

The Rule of engagement

Is it unethical to recommend that you all buy a book without having read it myself?

I say no, because reading is good on principle. Even reading the bad stuff.

Now that I'm off the hook, I confess that I'm now 50 pages from the end of Jane Rule's 1977 tome, "The Young in One Another's Arms." It's very much a period piece, a story that examines how different generations of gay men and lesbians cope with society's rules and their own desires. It's sometimes a bit self-consciously smart, but that also makes for some interesting language and characterization.

While it's set a few generations ago, many of the games we play with each other remain the same. We live joyously confused lives as young adults, later become haunted by tragedy, and as we get older, hope to choose acceptance instead of regret.

I only wish the author's essays aged as well. Rule blew me away when I was in my teens, arriving periodically in a plain brown envelope as one of The Body Politic magazine's featured columnists. She wasn't trying as damned painfully hard as some of the younger, hipper chicks to be oh-so-cool-and-out-there-just-like-the-gay-guys. I remember her as saying quite radical things with carefully argued logical steps. Perfect for a confused young'un.

Those issues of The Body Politic, by the way, were found in my closet, hidden in the bottom of a large box, by my snooping mother. I must have been 17. My father dutifully calmed his hysterical wife, put the box in the trunk of the car, and drove it to school, where he tracked me down and said, quietly and without fanfare, to store the stuff elsewhere.

The intellectual and emotional contents of that magazine were essential to my early life, such that when the staff announced its collapse, I wrote in dreadful anger to demand a refund of my outstanding $3.28 in subscription fees.

Many of Rule's collected essays are reprinted from The Body Politic. To a now much older reader, those works, while still incorporating fascinating ideas, also drip with an arrogance that make Rule a much less convivial companion. I think I'll stick to the fiction from here on in.

November 19, 2005 1:59 PM

Boycott bigots

The Future Shop speaker-for-hire told me Nov. 9 that the problem would be fixed. I popped by the store last night, NINE days later, and it isn't. This is the filing system the 460 St. Catherine Street West store (in Montreal) has set up in the "Rap" section: Kanye West, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Wu Tang Clan and Xzibit.

Mixing up the rap with the R & B. All black music is the same, eh? Smells like racism to me. Fuck you, Future Shop.

November 18, 2005 12:18 PM

When it comes to books, ignore Buy Nothing Day

Ah, books. Which brings me to the Little Sister's Classics series. LilSis is the book shop in Vancouver that sells lots of sex aids and videos in order to survive -- making it no different than Indigo, really, with its own ever-expanding collection of knick-knacks and bottled water and stationery. Except that LilSis one of a rapidly disappearing breed of queer haven.

LilSis is best known to those From Away as the shop whose employees keep poking at the eyes of Canada Customs agents and their political overseers. Because those with a little bit of power can't stop staring at queer sex -- and deciding that no one else should be allowed to see it.

What? You thought border censorship was over after the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2000? Not. Shipments to Little Sister's are still regularly stopped, and SM/bondage comic books and a couple of gay erotic fiction collections have been seized. And there's a great investigative report on a nasty little policing campaign against the store here (thank you, access-to-information laws that actually work).

And so Little Sister's is going to court all over again.

This is costing megabucks. Support Little Sister's by purchasing the Classics. We're talking "historic" filth -- I mean, heartwarming stories of queer community.

There's Isabel Miller's 1969 "Patience & Sarah." And John Preston's 1983 "Franny, the Queen of Provincetown." Plus "Song of the Loon" by Richard Amory. And numero uno is Jane Rule's 1977 "The Young in One Another's Arms."

Rule is now 74, living on an island in British Columbia. But she still speaks out periodically (against gay marriage, for example), and is a true Canadian treasure (even if not listed in the top 100 tomes).

Buy these Little Sister's books.

November 18, 2005 10:45 AM

The importance of being earnest

In amidst a number of government-mandated royal commission reports (seriously), the homos don't do too horribly in the list of the 100 most important Canukistan books, as chosen by a panel of experts (of course) for the Literary Review of Canada.

The queer round-up:
Number 44. "A Season in the Life of Emmanuel" (1965), Marie-Claire Blais
45. "Combat Journal for Place d'Armes: A Personal Narrative" (1967), Scott Symons
48. "The Beautiful Sisters" (1968), Michel Tremblay
72. "The Wars" (1977), Timothy Findley
83. "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing" (1989), Tomson Highway
90. "The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation" (1995), Charles Hill
91. "The Jade Peony" (1995), Wayson Choy.

There've been suggestions about Lucy Maud Montgomery (the 1908 "Anne of Green Gables") and -- oh no, not her again -- Mazo de la Roche got in at number 15 for "Jalna" (1927).

There. Did I miss anybody?


Yes I did.
50. "White Niggers of America" (1968), Pierre Vallieres

November 17, 2005 11:26 AM

Be afraid, be very afraid

As you know, your humble servant is good with spending five hours in nice long line-ups. Really. It says so right here.

And good thing, too, since that's what attending a taping of Canadian Antiques Roadshow is all about: Obediently standing in line after line ("You said go slow -- I fall behind. The second hand unwinds--".)

But this is not a tale of waiting. No, because Canadian Antiques Roadshow -- broadcast Thursday nights -- is really about paranoia. Not smart safety, but about actual eye-bugging hysterical fear. "No one at the Roadshow is authorized to buy or sell any antiques brought for evaluation and we advise you not to discuss your items with other visitors."

That's right, come out one afternoon in May (as I did -- but I won't tell you what city, you slimy thief) and regard your neighbours with state-sponsored suspicion. More from the handout: "In your own interest, we advise you not to reveal your name or address to other members of the public or press. You are responsible for the safe keeping of your possessions in transit to and within the event and we advise you not to part with your valuables to anyone except authorized Roadshow staff (wearing Roadshow ID).... Please do not leave any articles unattended....

"Members of the local police force are present...."

Ah, the CBC, our national broadcaster. Bringing people together through a shared culture of distrust.

November 17, 2005 10:38 AM

Someone needs to suggest Martha-hubba-Stewart

A site recommendation from a reader: "Dyxploitation: Entertainment for Lezzies and their Pals."

"I especially like the unlikely couples section -- check out Miss Piggy," she sez. Click on "Departments," then "Odd Couples."

And because it's practically the weekend anyway, spend some time using your work computer to read this.

November 17, 2005 10:35 AM

HIV, blogging, me

"Rules" about HIV transmission have become mythical standards, repeated over and over. Reporter Rex Wockner has saved us all the time of finding and actually digging through the new POZ magazine (my local Multimags outlet doesn't carry it, though it's worth reading the whole thing for the lingo alone) by excerpting from its piece on HIV transmission.

Highlights: "And for straight people, if you're positive and you are the inserter in penile-vaginal sex, there's a 1 in 111,111 chance you'll infect your partner. If it's the woman who is positive, then the chance is one in a million she'll infect you.

"It almost makes you wonder how so many people became HIV-positive if the virus is so damned hard to transmit.

"One interesting tidbit I learned a couple of weeks ago at a California state AIDS meeting in Long Beach was that they now believe that a huge percentage of all HIV transmissions occur in the months right after the transmitter gets infected." That would be when you don't even know yet that you're infected. "Apparently that's when an individual has tons of virus to spread around. The risk of infecting someone apparently drops significantly thereafter -- even when you're not on treatment.

"One thing I appreciated about this POZ piece is that it acknowledged that taking HIV-positive semen into your mouth carries perhaps the same risk as being the inserter in anal sex with an HIV-positive partner."

The complete Wockner column is here. It's followed by a quick blurb on why blogging is stupid...? I'm the Eleanor mentioned -- and I still say that blogging's writing requirements are good. Unless I'm really darned busy..... like this week....

November 16, 2005 9:08 AM

Watch those members rise

Blog traffic always shoots up when certain key words appear together in a post. Words like "women" and "fucking." Or "lesbians" and "one-on-one" and "sex." Or "Oprah topless." Suddenly, Oples gets attention!

Yes, you could call it fraud. Or you could call it... culture jamming.

November 15, 2005 9:01 PM

The FiC (fag in charge)

The gay guy is more acceptable than the woman.

Out homosexualist André Boisclair has just been elected leader of the separatist Parti Québécois by its assorted members -- and that's a party that actually has a chance of forming a government come the next provincial election.

Boisclair picked up 53.7 percent of the vote. Opponent Pauline Marois pulled in 30.6 percent.


POSTED 9:30 p.m.: Acceptance speech is over. Boisclair welcomed the thousands of new members who joined the Parti Québécois during this leadership campaign -- which would include hundreds that his team signed up during Montreal's Pride celebrations. Still, the word "gay" did not pass Boisclair's lips.

It'll still appear in tomorrow's headlines.


POSTED WEDNESDAY MORNING: Oh, I think I'm such a smarty pants. Prepare for the gay references, I snarked yesterday. Well, the word "gay" is no where in La Presse -- it's all so self-consciously liberal. And "gay" appears in a Gazette story (but not in any headline) that deals with orientation in the "are we ready for this" stuff (then says it didn't become an issue, but cocaine, cocaine, cocaine), instead of mentioning gayness as a simple part of Boisclair's identity. I hate that, too.

I don't want sexual orientation to overwhelm Boisclair's victory; I don't want it ignored. I want it all, dammit. Whatever "it" is.

November 15, 2005 2:50 PM

The pressures on the new kid

The fortunes of the first out lesbian head of a "major" political party took a downturn yesterday. I put "major" in quotation marks because I'm talking about Allison Brewer, leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party. Until yesterday, the NDP had a mere one member elected to the legislature. Today, it has none.

The Tories are in charge of the whole provincial kit-n-kaboodle, and the opposition Liberals picked up the Saint John seat in the Nov. 14 by-election. The Grit won in a landslide, with the Conservative coming in "a distant second." The New Democrat was... who?

For 14 years, the riding had been held by a New Democrat -- Elizabeth Weir, whom Brewer succeeded as party leader a scant few weeks ago.

It's all a bit weird, really. You'd assume the top dog would want a seat right off, and benefit from the PR of being a party leader. But Brewer announced she was more interested in rebuilding the kinda hurtin' party around the province than in being geographically stuck (my words!) in one riding right off. I can see the merit.

Scuttlebutt has it that the Saint John NDP riding people nixed the idea of Brewer jumping in, as they weren't certain the seat was immediately winnable (which would only make Brewer look like a loser). The relatively unknown local candidate they went with was setting the scene -- garnering some name recognition -- for a more serious run in the next general provincial election. And Brewer's power base is in Fredericton anyway, not in Saint John. (In the interest of full disclosure, I don't believe that I've ever met Brewer, but she did contribute a couple of stories when I was editor of Xtra a few years ago.)

But back to the perv stuff. It sometimes seems that the sexual preference of any local celebrity -- such as Brewer -- becomes a flashpoint for both the bigots and the social liberals. And for us homos, too.

Queer (and NDP) activist SarahRose Werner had a letter published in a Saint John daily last month that touched on the complicated politics of identity: "Everyone -- including me -- responded to the headline in Monday's paper as if it had read, 'NDP chooses lesbian as new leader,' instead of, 'NDP chooses lesbian activist as new leader' (Sept. 26, 2005).

"[Letter writer] Alcide LeBlanc wrote that Allison Brewer 'should not have been described according to her sexual orientation since we naturally don't mention the sexual orientation when it comes to heterosexuals.' But the adjective 'lesbian' was used to describe not Ms. Brewer herself but rather the focus of her activism on issues of lesbian rights. The headline could equally accurately have described her as a reproductive choice activist, women's rights activist, labour activist or environmental activist. She could have been described as a disability activist -- even though she herself is not disabled -- because of her advocacy for people with disabilities.

"On the other hand, Elsie Wayne (to pick a random example) could not be described as a "heterosexual activist" because heterosexuals have never been denied human and civil rights on the basis of their sexual orientation. There are no issues of heterosexual rights for anyone of any sexual orientation to be active about.

"Funny how in our eagerness to dive into a discussion of Allison's sexual orientation, we all missed this point."

November 14, 2005 10:03 AM

S/M creates axe murderers

In the best case scenario, Karla Homolka ex Lynda Veronneau is naive and slightly thick. But I'm afraid the truth is probably that Veronneau is naive and slightly thick.

Last night's television appearance was memorable for how non-sensical Veronneau sounded.

The first possibility has Veronneau being truly dense without an ounce of self-awareness whatsoever. This convicted thief knows nothing of the world and has the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old.

Veronneau set herself up as the victim. Homolka manipulated her. Strung her along for a few months when she was already dating someone else. Lied. Etcetera. Uhm, welcome to bad relationships. This is shocking how?

Veronneau said she was disgusted that Homolka left her for a guy who killed his girlfriend. Yes, sickeningly, Veronneau was dumped for a murderer. Except that Veronneau was in love with Homolka for three years, who is a convicted... murderer.

I dunno.

Continuing with the what's-wrong-with-Homolka jag, Veronneau said the ex girlfriend's a menace to society because she sometimes reverts to infantilism. Because she's at times kinda weird. For Halloween one year Homolka suggested placing a fake body in a fake graveyard. It's too gross, Veronneau said, for a killer to suggest such a thing.

That's what Halloween is about, honey. Hello?

Homolka allegedly likes her sex spiced up with violence and even faked rape. It made Veronneau nauseous and causes her to believe Homolka is an evil person.

Really? Veronneau's never come across S/M in her whole life? Re-enacting rape scenes is so textbook -- a practice of (some of) those who've survived sexual abuse. Admittedly I'm merely a pop-culture-educated shrink, but I can't imagine what this has to do with murdering your baby sister in the family home.

If this is what passes for informed debate on the real concern about Homolka's potential for recidivism, we should all give up and go lock ourselves up in our houses.

Actually, now that I think about it a bit more, the sex-rape thing does relate. In the second version of naive and thick, we have someone who lies likes a rug and assumes no one will catch on, cuz Veronneau is soooo much smarter than all us stoopid dull normals. Veronneau thinks she can say anything and we'll lap it up. But there are limits: does a masochist torture and kill people? I'm just thinkin' of the definition of masochism, dontcha know.

So, Veronneau. What are we to do with you?

And what will the media do with you? At any other time, with any other story, Lynda Veronneau would be a freak in the mainstream. She was well treated on last night's talk show, relatively speaking. Some teasing, a couple of tough questions, but no vicious finger-pointing or outright nastiness. Yet Veronneau showed up in a dapper suit and tie, short hair, and said he preferred to be known as Dany. Publicly trashing Homolka rehabilitates even the most marginal.

After being called gay a few times, Dany eventually said: "I don't consider myself gay. I'm a guy in the body of woman." The breasts are going soon, he said. But getting a working penis makes for complicated and iffy surgery, and Dany Veronneau isn't sure about taking that step.

There may well be some social good to come of Dany's Homolka- book-slash-his-life-story . We're going to get a good mainstream dose of gender-switch. In the Sunday La Presse excerpt, we read how Dany and his girlfriend Julie get nabbed by the coppers in a stolen car after a nasty chase through downtown Montreal. Here's my quickie translation of the joual:

Dany realizes he's not the only one with the adrenaline pumping. The cop is hyper and pissed. "He's gonna fuck me up, I'm gonna get really worked over." There are times in life when you gotta play yer winning card. Dany yells out as loud as he can: "I'm a girl!"

The police officer grabs Dany by the collar, picks him up half way off the ground. Doesn't believe it: "You're a woman?"

Dany pulls his shoulders back, pushes his chest forward to show off the bumps. The police officer lets him drop to the ground, and Dany falls face down. "Guys, it's a fucking woman."

Hands are pulled back, cuffs slapped on -- not gently, but no one's hitting him. Dany realizes that for the first time ever, the 36Cs he despises have served him well.

End o' direct recitation. In newspaper headlines and photo captions and book title, Dany's referred to as Lynda. Someone -- publisher? editor? -- chose the female gender. Or maybe Veronneau just found some easy comfort in the birth name of his childhood.

The book comes out Wednesday. We shall see what we shall see.

November 13, 2005 5:51 PM

How I love my ex

Can't get away from her. Tonight on channel 2 (in Montreal), the Radio Canada show "Tout le monde en parle" runs an interview with Lynda Veronneau, Karla Homolka's lover of three years. Or so Lynda claims, anyway.

The Sunday La Presse features a two-page excerpt promo-ing the Wednesday release of a whole book about it. Called "Dans l'ombre de [in the shadow of] Karla."

Because every three-year relationship deserves a book. Hell, I have three books coming out next month alone. (They're part of a Young Adult reader series, titled "Adventures in Serial Monogamy." In January, the next three appear, under the rubrique "Famous Grrrls I have Fucked." Scheduled for February release is ".... More than Once." It's short.)

I look forward to tonight's 8 p.m. telecast, sure to dwell on how nasty and horrid Karla Homolka is. From La Presse: Lynda explains how Karla demands to be assaulted and tied up during sex. Lynda, of course, is a little angel who finds all this to be a horrible difficulty. I'm sure the fact that Karla dumped Lynda has nothing to do with Lynda's take.

November 11, 2005 9:01 AM

Ha ha ouch

Today's find: Fake Gay News. "Because real gay news is too damn depressing."

Sample headlines: "Hitler Youth, Aryan Nation, and Vampires Come Out to Support [anti-gay law] in Texas."

Also, in response to the latest gosseep, news of a press release: "Laila Ali and Queen Latifah Say 'We're Not Dating.'"

That is all.

November 10, 2005 1:50 PM

You've been warned

Police in some areas pay particular attention to fag bars. From a behind-the-scenes piece on Toronto's gay boozeterias and the never-ending efforts to keep the cops at bay: "To keep drugs out of the bar during Pride, staff at The Black Eagle coat all flat surfaces in the bathroom with lube. 'You should hear the screams when a guy sees his line of coke dissolve before his eyes,' says [manager Ed] MacNeil. 'It's a wonderful old custom that smart bar operators have revived.'"

November 10, 2005 12:45 PM

Are women dealing themselves out?

I was chatting with a longtime queer volunteer who noted that many homo community groups -- even if offering important and essential services to all -- are overwhelmingly male-run.

Getting women involved is an uphill battle. Why is that? And is it always for the same reasons (or because of the same perceptions)?

A reader's angry letter in the current (November-December) issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review suggested the magazine be renamed "The Gay Male Review," or "The Gay & Token Lesbian Review." "I was stunned and insulted by the lack of any real discussion of poetry by gay women in something calling itself 'The Poetry Issue.' One piece on one lesbian poet out of seven articles, and one consideration of a 19th century woman actor's memoir among nine book reviews (six written by men) is even less inclusive than the abysmal record of 'The New York Times Book Review'.... I think you've topped them in unfairness. What could you have been thinking?"

Male editor-in-chief Richard Schneider, Jr., had a go at answering: "Sigh. Where to begin? ... Your letter implies that there was somehow a deliberate policy to exclude women, which is far from the case. What it reflects is the situation that I've faced from day one: a large number of enthusiastic men competing to have their work published, and very few women coming forth save those that I proactively contact, invite, cajole, or whatever it takes.

"But also, the fact is that the Review has been publishing for 12 years now, so it's not as if people don't know we're here. For years I've been announcing forthcoming themes in our Bulletin Board, and I began to announce the poetry issue last winter. So why don't more women submit articles and proposals? I've asked some women this question, and they usually say it's because they see the Review as predominantly a male publication, while they're looking for a female readership. At which point we're caught in an old vicious circle that comes to no good end. (For the record, women comprise about 22 percent of our subscribers.)

"You gave us a pass on the poetry we publish in each issue, which I hope is merited. We receive eight to 10 times as much poetry from men as from women. [Our poetry editor] does a fine job of selecting worthy poems by women, and most issues have one in three works by a female poet -- which means that women who do submit poetry have much better odds of being published than do men."

Schneider continued to touch on the issue in the same edition's regularly appearing note to readers. "The 'youth issue' comes as close as I like to cordoning off a demographic group for special attention. Over the years people have proposed that we do a women's issue, a race issue, a transgender issue, a bear issue, and so on, and I've always resisted the suggestion. I suppose the reason is that it implies a ghettoization of what we like to call the gay 'community', and risks alienating some readers while catering to others." (The magazine does consider race or fill-in-the-blank; one of this month's features is titled "What we can learn from the black activism of the 50's and 60's.")

Wrote Schneider: "I've especially resisted the idea of applying any sort of quota system such that x percent of contributors have to be female or minority or under 30 or West Coast-dwelling. There are just too many squares to fill; instead, my approach has been to develop themes and select articles that would potentially appeal to any one of our readers. Of course, I've also strived and at times struggled to achieve diversity, and have worked especially hard to find a balance between men and women, with mixed success over the years....

"But this is the youth issue, and targets a group that seems relatively immune from this kind of tribalism... perhaps because it's such an ephemeral state, not one you're born with or one you keep for long."

I'm also reminded of American journalist Jeff Epperly, disliked by some for his news priorities back when he edited Boston's Bay Windows many years ago. At the time, Epperly thought "precious space and time were better used covering issues that affected everyone with an interest in sexual orientation topics," and listed violence, discrimination, and government as issues that bring all readers together. As such, the paper didn't cover bears or the gay party circuit, either.

"Of course, everyone wants to see themselves reflected very specifically in a paper, and if they are not they tend to see it as exclusionary. I saw it as covering topics in a broad enough manner so as to include everyone."

Thoughts?

November 9, 2005 7:10 PM

Stop the presses

Holy smokes. The California-based PlanetOut Inc., already a hefty queer media group (it also owns the monster Gay.com and a handful of consumer websites), went public a little while back. Not the firs t queer company to go public in North America, but the only successful one.  Today P-Out announced that it's bought LPI Media, the conglomerate that publishes The Advocat e, Out Magazine, HIVPlus and Out Traveller.

The cost? US$31.1 million. The details are here. This is going to change the queer media landscape. More later..


POSTED THURSDAY MORNING: Yep, queers have arrived, triumphantly buying into the current economic hoopla that bigger is better. (Media nuts can read the basics here (oh, this need to refer to gay companies as getting married is haha tedious, izzenit). In any case, P-Out had some serious debt in past years, and needs the revenue that LPI can probably provide -- LPI was a private company, so I haven't seen its balance sheet. A critique of LPI/P-Out bigness is here. (Each business model has its pluses and minuses. While Oples offers absolute editorial freedom, for example, the implications of $10 a month in ad revenues are depressingly obvious.)

The North American queer print media market has a handful of large players. In Canada, there's Pink Triangle Press, which publishes "Xtra" papers in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto, plus associated websites and annual yellow pages; the company has at least one stand-alone Internet project (a men's dating/sex site), and also runs dating phone lines in various cities.

In the United States, PlanetOut now has a stranglehold on national print media. There are competitors in each sector -- 365gay.com, the national Instinct mag -- but the new P-Out is the giant. The country's other large media co. is Window Media, which has focussed on local acquisitions. It owns directly (or indirectly through sibling companies) the Washington Blade, New York Blade, Houston Voice, Southern Voice (Atlanta), Express Daily News (Florida), and the national men's glossy, Genre. Plus nightlife guides in Miami and Atlanta.

Whether monster publishers are balancing potential political might with readability and entertainment is up to each reader to decide.

BTW, the first queer media company to hit the North American stock exchange was G Society. Its initial incarnation went bust. Hard to say exactly what happened, as no one's really talking (see the first and second stories here. Some sort of legal kerfuffle placed the day-to-day running of G Society's portfolio in the hands of new management, Hyperion Interactive Media. (H.I.M.'s Matt Skallerud administers the e-mail subscription list for the queer media trade publication Press Pass Q, which I edit. He declined to discuss the legal details when I asked a while back.) H.I.M.-slash-G-group continues to grow, with an ever growing collection of queer sites (like the huge Gaywired.com and the national GayWebMonkey magazine). HIM -- also American -- is the other big queer print/Internet media company on the continent.

November 9, 2005 10:39 AM

White retailers can't dance

Popped into Futureshop last night, the one at 460 St. Catherine St. W. in Montreal. In the rap music section, we found Bow Wow (né Lil), Tupac, Ludacris, and the kaput NWA. We also found Lionel Richie, Angie Stone, The Platters, Ray Charles, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Mixing Destiny's Child and Patti LaBelle in with the rappers could be considered problematic. As if all them blacks are the same.

I'm sure this ghettoization into the "rap" section is a local error made by some poor goof who has never listened to MuchMusic in their entire life. Right? (Do pop into your local Futureshop retailer and check out the rap section, then e-mail me the playlist....)

I'll post Futureshop's response when it comes in.


POSTED 4:50 pm: It was all a zany error. Yeah. From Futureshop Communications Specialist (that's her job title!) Pamela Saunders: "Thanks for your voicemail this morning. I had a chance to follow up with my music department and have determined that this was a case of mis-filing some music. We have a section for Rap and a section for R&B, which in this case, have simply become a little mixed up. We are currently in the process of connecting with the store to ensure that they rectify the mistake as quickly as possible."

Misfiling. That's the ticket. I'll check to see how "fixed" it is in a couple of days.

November 8, 2005 12:02 PM

It's great, now get rid of it

Today's big news: "Using just a drop of blood, the Insti HIV test can tell whether a patient has antibodies to the virus that causes AIDS within an average of 60 seconds, said Richard Galli, director of research and development for the product's manufacturer, Biolytical Laboratories of Richmond, B.C." And it's now available to doctors and hospitals for purchase.

Today's prediction: AIDS groups will freak. Maybe not publicly, though they may quite rightly complain that the test is not perfect: "It is not considered a diagnostic test for HIV. In other words, any positive on a screen has to go for confirmatory testing. The patient would be getting a presumptive positive result."

But here's what AIDS groups are really afraid of: home HIV testing. As of now, no test kit is licensed for home testing in Canada -- and AIDS groups like it that way. They've lobbied long and hard to keep it so. Now that a quickie kit is available, it's only a matter of time before it starts being lifted from the supply cabinet, and eventually, become available at the local pharmacy.

The argument against home testing has some merit: people discovering there're positive may panic or refuse to believe. They're high and dry and seriously screwed without a doctor to work things out with -- physically in terms of meds and lifestyle choices, and emotionally, too. Death sentences are like that.

But that's just not enough to keep a simple diagnostic tool out of the hands of the peoples. Or at least, out of the hands of hookers, drug users, sluts and faggots. Not to mention people who are just plain worried about a cheating spouse who never met a condom they could tolerate.

Anonymous testing means you have to go back; I know gay guys who've never returned for results. And a family physician can be tough to talk sex with -- especially if yours is a moralistic prig. Or if you're just too damned shy to bring it up.

Citizens need more options to look after their own health, not less. And women and gay men, especially, who've found themselves particularly hard done by when it comes to the medical profession, need to push for greater access to diagnostic tools, and for more opportunities to take our own health into our own hands.

Those who work in the AIDS industry and hate the idea of home testing kits undoubtedly believe they're working toward the greater good. In truth, they're being condescending and controlling. Mommy can't do everything. She shouldn't: Back off, but tell the kiddies you're there when needed.

Sure, some homo home-testers might ignore positive results or panic; such is the price of treating people like grown-ups. That doesn't mean we must force-feed everyone as though they're five years old. Friends or doctors will find those big babies, and eventually give them the help they need. And no amount of counselling will stop a psychopath from willfully infecting the naive and stupid, so don't try to tell me a counsellor always has to be about when a positive result is unveiled. Those who need a professional pal will get one; those who don't won't need to suffer through a passive-aggressive social worker sing-song that drives one to inappropriate aggression.

We also mustn't forget that there are those who work in the HIV counselling industry who want to be indispensable. Professional AIDS workers long ago stopped working toward abolishing HIV and their own organizations; now they're all about keeping their jobs and their massive funding.

I'd love to be proved wrong.


ADDENDUM Feedback so far: "So you sort of pissed me off with your blog, but you're probably right, so whatever."

POSTED 9:15 pm, from Mark: "Great blog, you're right. It's annoying and paternalistic (parent-istic?) to think that we can't be trusted with the information we'd gain in a home test kit. The ones too afraid to do anything about it are only likely to be the ones who wouldn't go to clinic to get tested in the first place. The fact that they have gotten a test might start a process in their heads that could result in them doing something about it. Much harder to bury your head in the sand about your sex practices if you actually KNOW what's on the beach (to kill a perfectly good metaphor)."


POSTED WEDNESDAY And this'un: "I think health is a bureaucratic concern simply because most modern disease is the result of fucked up capitalist opportunism (read poverty, crooked pharmaceutical companies ge'ed food, alienation/moral panic/disinformation which leads to unsafe attiitudes towards our own bodies). So therefore, our health care system has an OBLIGATION to respond to the going healthcare concern of the age. Back in the 15th century it was the bubonic plague and now it's a hiv and other random air-borne baddies.

"By taking health care into our own hands we may well be empowering ourselves, but we're also letting our social structure off the hook. I say make the health care industry take some responsability for the fact that illness isn't just random it's usually the product of some form of cultural stimulus.

"For example to cite the plague, I believe that one got around due to rats, but was helped immeasurably by a set of priests and medical professionals who thought washing helped spread the disease. We need to get people in positions of power to actually take ownership over the kind of effect they have on the populations who need their services."

November 7, 2005 10:32 AM

Respect for the dead (if bucket recently kicked)

Aaron McGruder, the creator of the daily strip "The Boondocks," who's bragged about what an asshole he is, has limits: McGruder deleted a satirical reference to Rosa Parks from his new television 'toon after the civil rights activist died. The scene "showed her scuffling with fans of alleged child pornographer R. Kelly," it sez here.

As far as I know, the thing doesn't have a Canadian timeslot. "While the series won't tackle current events (the 15-episode order took 18 months to complete), it's certainly not lacking in irreverence. In one show, Granddad starts dating a younger woman, oblivious to the fact that she's a prostitute, which leads to a discussion between [kids] Huey and Riley on whether all women are 'hos.'"

Another episode centres on the resurrection of Martin Luther King Jr., whose nonviolent message is ridiculed in a post-9/11 world by media outlets such as Time Warner's CNN and Time magazine (and yes, Cartoon Network is a division of Time Warner)."

McGruder says: "Ultimately I think everyone draws their own line of what's shocking and what is inappropriate in different places. For you, some 10-year-old kids talking about hos may not (be) that big of a deal. But someone out there is gonna flip. There's no way to know. So I just try to deliver an amusing and decent story and leave the shock and the awe to whatever people have in their own heads."
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