trans march 3

The trans march kicked off Montreal’s Pride week yesterday in Place de La Paix. For its third edition, the event chose to focus on the rights of trans migrants. Organizers called attention to the additional obstacles faced by transgender migrants, especially when changing their gender and name on official documents.

“It’s completely sad that trans migrants have to wait up to seven years in order to be able to change their documents while trans Canadians can easily do that, thanks to Law 35 and the Law 103,” explained Dalia Briki, spokesperson for the event.

Law 35 was passed in 2013 to allow transgender people to change their legal gender without having to undergo surgery and removed the obligation to publish their transition in the newspaper (which was actually a thing). Law 103 recently extended that right to minors.

However, this much applauded update of Quebec’s Civil Code has little effect on trans migrants since immigration procedures do not allow them to change the gender they were assigned at birth.

“We feel trans migrants have been left aside. The government did not help them, the government only helped trans Canadians,” deplores Briki, who identifies as a trans immigrant and woman of colour.

Demands trans march1in the press release include:

  • Removal of Canadian citizenship from admissibility conditions for a change of name and sex in Quebec’s Civil Code
  • That documents of immigration authorities at the provincial and federal levels recognize the actual current gender of migrants
  • That deportation of trans people cease
  • More funding for organizations specifically aiding trans migrants

Around 150 people of all ages and genders gathered in Place de La Paix around 2 PM. A couple of transgender people of colour spoke to the crowd and a short march started, followed by a pick-nick.

A special effort was made to ensure that people of all origins, economic backgrounds and abilities were included. French and English translations, as well as a sign-language interpretation were available. Organizers provided snacks and bus fares.

Speeches particularly focused on the lack of accommodations in immigration services and procedures, the disproportionate rate of violence against trans women of colour and the deportation of trans immigrants despite obvious risks to their safety.

Studies conducted in Canada and the US found alarming rates of violence against trans people, and especially trans women of colour. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 55% of victims of hate homicide documented in the US in 2014 were transgender women. Almost all of those were women of colour.

“You don’t talk because you’re scared, you’re afraid to be in trouble. Migrants don’t say anything. Well, I’m talking now,” declared one speaker as the crowd cheered.

Pride and Representation: The Ongoing Saga

Euphorie dans le genre organized the event on the eve of the official start of Montreal’s Pride week.  Pride activities across the world have often been accused of failing to properly include both the transgender community and cultural minorities. The feud between Black Lives Matter and Toronto Pride last month brought a sudden spotlight on this issue.

Dalia Bikri is “quite worried” about the lack of representation of both communities in the Montreal chapter as well. The trans march, she says, wants to fill that void.

“I feel that trans people of colour are not involved in the organization of the big events of Pride as much as they should be. On the other side, at least in our trans march, trans people and migrants are on the front line.”

The distinctly militant aspect of the march also sets it apart from the usual Pride events, believes Bikri:

“Pride tends to be more celebratory. Our march is more militant. Our needs have not been fulfilled; our demands have not been fulfilled, that’s why we are marching.”

According to co-organizer of the march Gabrielle Leblanc, “there is not quite enough” representation of the trans community in the overall organization of Pride yet, but it’s “getting better every year.”

Montreal Pride runs from August 8th to 14th.

Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

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I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

Pulse Victims

Instead of sitting down I chose to ride my tricycle in the sun. I love my trike, it doesn’t have gears, it is clunky, it is beautiful, chipped pink spray paint lace, imperfect, and it squeaks like an oversexed bed.

pride trike

Sunday my beloved tricycle broke, the back axel snapped and the wheel fell right off. Normally I would have gotten upset, but I didn’t, there was WAY more on my mind. Then later I reached into my fanny pack only to find out that my favorite rose tinted heart shaped glasses had broken. Two things that bring me to my happy place.

I realize now that I didn’t care about these “things” like I would have even a couple days ago.

There was a mass murder at a Gay nightclub on Sunday in Orlando Florida. A man conducted the largest mass shooting carried out by a single perpetrator in American history at a gay nightclub called Pulse in Orlando Florida.

This was an act of terrorism and blatant hate. It is an unfathomable tragedy. What motive could a human have for slaying innocent people?

The 49 Orlando Victims and Their Stories, from The Advocate, they were dancers, lovers, friends…

Omar Mateen was the gunman. He claimed he did it for Islam. The reality was that he was gay, and his religion wouldn’t have it. He was a regular at Pulse and regularly messaged other men on a gay dating app. He beat his wife and hated his life so much that he had to kill the people he wanted to be like the most. The free spirits, the ones who were proud and out about their homosexuality. Not chained in a closet like this deranged gunman. We need to talk about gun control and domestic violence.

Even days later all of the hairs on my body on are on end, tears welling thinking about this tragedy.

My heart shattered into a gazillion shards of sadness. Blood and glitter. Act of terror and a hate crime- terrorists vs gays? Its like predator vs alien for the horrible Republican ignorance, I could not even click the sound on what Donald Trump had to say about this, I was already sick enough at the reality.

People just going to dance at a safe place to have fun. Gay clubs exist because they must. It is a family for people who may have been rejected by their birth families, It could have been Club Marcella or The Underground, it could have been here, my clubs, my friends.

miss pulse anita waistline

Anita Waistline is Miss Pulse 2015, she is a Buffalo gal, home for Pride. I have heard there were other Buffalo Drag Performers that were performing at Pulse that day, all of whom were ok. That literally brought it home to me.

There is no reason for hate, there is no reasoning with evil, violence and oppression is now. It happens and the world stops for only a moment. We listen to accounts of gun shots that lasted the whole song. People bleeding and crying, dying, molten red on the dance floor, broken dreams of people who had already gone through so much.

The frantic mother trying to locate her son who was in the club hit me hard. She proudly told the camera with tears that he had set up a Gay-Straight Alliance at his high school. When I was in high school we did not have a gay straight alliance so we started our own, we fought for it and made it happen.

I am proud to say that the Frontier Central High School Gay Straight Alliance still marches in the Pride parade. I cried when I saw them a couple years ago. It was a necessary place. I do wish it was LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transgender, Queer). Having that letter to identify with, feeling included, is so important, especially when coming out as a young teen.

Direct action is the only way to a revolution, even a personal one. If people are hungry, feed them, if they are sad give them a hug, and if they need a safe space make it happen.

When I went to put my deconstructed trike in my car I noticed a giant Silence of the Lambs style moth crawl out of it, as if it opened its wings for the first time. A transformation, a metamorphosis. I road my trike and wore my glasses in the Buffalo PRIDE Parade last week with a giant rainbow flag flowing strong.

gay pride america tricycle

We marched because others could not. We marched because our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are still dying and being targeted. We march for Orlando because we know it won’t stop there, a beautiful candle light vigil taking over city hall, the Peace Bridge lit up rainbow, the world lit in rainbow solidarity, flags half mast, it could have been us. It could have been my friends. It was. 49 members of my extended family dead, 53 others hurt, the rest of the world suffering, wondering who’s next?

Life is too short to be someone you aren’t, sounds simple enough. A close friend of mine helped me disassemble and paint my trike before she sadly passed away. Chelsea Lee Jones changed my life. She was more than just a friend. She was a transgender woman who finally became her true self, and then was tragically taken from all who loved her so dearly.

She fixed clocks, enjoyed swing dancing, and brought women like her out into the world who were too scared to go alone. She inspired her community and made me a better person.

Life sometimes only gives you a lovely creature such as Chelsea for a short time, but their impact resonates beyond their body. I will forever wear the ring she made me. It takes a lot of guts to be exactly who you are without fear, and that was the essence of her, fearless beyond comprehension.

chelsea cyclist

We lose too many people who are fearless, unafraid, targeted for their unbridled beauty and raw uniqueness.

In the US and Canada it is normal to be different, we take that for granted, but there is still obviously a long way to go. Don’t let fear win. Love wins always. Strength in numbers will gain equality for all.

Be kind to others and take care of yourself. Hold your special ones closer, tell people you love them everyday, that stuff is small but everlasting. Stand stronger and hold your head high with pride, never forget the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub, what happened in Orlando will be a lingering scar on our hearts forever.

Honor and Donate to the victims of the Pulse Shooting

pulse

 

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Despite every difference – real or imagined – between human beings, there’s one thing we all have in common: the need to pee and poo. This may seem like a juvenile introduction to a very serious topic, but it’s a point politicians often miss or ignore when discussing transgender rights.

On May 17, 2016, the International Day Against Homophobia, the Trudeau government introduced Bill C-16, a Federal law that would extend human rights protections to all Canadians regardless of gender identity. Not to be outdone, Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée introduced Bill No 103 which would amend Quebec’s existing legislation to include gender identity as one of the prohibited forms of discrimination and make it easier for transgender teens to change their names and gender on their official documents.

Federal Bill C-16, also known as An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, would amend the Federal Human Rights Act to include “gender identity or expression” among the prohibited reasons for discrimination. The law would also modify the Criminal Code’s subsections on hate propaganda and hate crimes.

The current law on hate propaganda defines it as advocating or promoting genocide against any identifiable group based on “colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability.” C-16 would expand the definition of identifiable group to include gender identity or expression. The law would also force the courts to consider evidence that a crime was motivated by bias, hate or prejudice against transgender people as an aggravating circumstance of the crime when sentencing offenders.

The proposed Quebec law is a little different because provinces cannot impose criminal sanctions. Bill No 103, also known as An Act to strengthen the fight against transphobia and improve the situation of transgender minors in particular alters the Civil Code of Quebec and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to extend protections to transgender people.

Inspired by the case of David James Lazure, a fourteen year old transgender teen who had to switch to homeschooling because his McMasterville high school would not recognize his gender identity, the law would make it easier for minors age fourteen and up to get their name and gender changed on their official documents provided they have the consent of their guardian(s). The law would also amend the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to include “gender identity” as one of the forms of discrimination prohibited by law.

According to Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, the National Assembly is in agreement about the law going forward. Unfortunately, Quebec’s transgender community is going to have to wait for the bill to go through for on May 31, 2016, Vallée tabled the legislation, most likely because the National Assembly breaks for the summer on June 10th.

At the federal level, there’s a lot more opposition. This is the seventh time a bill granting equal rights to transgender people has been brought before the House of Commons. Nearly every time, the laws, previously introduced by the NDP, were killed by a mostly conservative Senate.

The arguments used by Conservatives against granting transgender people equal rights are eerily similar to those raised by bigots in the US and like those arguments, are never backed by any numbers and most revolve around bathroom use. They claim that abused women will be uncomfortable sharing a washroom with trans women and that pedophiles will use transgender protections to gain access to bathrooms so they can assault children.

gender neutral bathroom

In 2013, former Conservative MP Rob Anders said right before a commons vote that his objections were all about safeguarding “our children.” Conservative Senator Don Plett who had blocked previous trans rights bills talked about the discomfort his granddaughter would feel sharing a bathroom with a biological male.

While middle-aged male politicians are ranting about protecting children, if you ask the children what they think about transgender bathroom access, you’ll see a stark difference of opinion. As it turns out the opinion on transgender rights isn’t just split politically between liberals and conservatives, it’s also split generationally.

Gen Yers and Millenials are not quite as closed-minded as their conservative parents and are a lot more apprised of actual facts regarding transgender people in Canada.

Rachel is a nineteen year old recent high school graduate from Montreal. When asked about the bathroom issue, she said that they (transgender people) should go to the bathroom that they identify with.

In an article posted on May 24th, 2016 CBC News spoke to teens across Canada about it and the results were the same: no one saw the big deal about letting people use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. One Toronto teen even went insofar as to say that if you check the numbers, transgender students are far more at risk of harm than their cisgender peers.

“I don’t know or care what your genitalia, use the bathroom that matches your gender identity,” says Chantal Nathaniel, a thirty two year old Montrealer.

Many businesses in Montreal are showing their support for the transgender community because, as one 33 year old business owner said:

“The washrooms are spaces that don’t functionally need to be gendered.”

The transphobic arguments pushed by Conservatives are not backed by any facts. The eighteen states in the US with transgender protection bills have not seen a rise in sexual violence and there are no statistics confirming that transgender people commit sexual assaults in washrooms.

Arguments that transgender people would make cisgender people uncomfortable if they had to share a bathroom are about as worthless as advocating for racially segregated bathrooms due to xenophobia. They claim to be in the public interest when what they really are is another form of bigotry likely to die with the boomer generation.

caitlyn-jenner

“I’m not stuck in anybody’s body — this is just who I am as a human being” – Caitlyn Jenner

I could not even imagine what it feels like to be existing in a body that doesn’t match how you feel on the inside. Told from childhood that you have to be a certain way. Boys on one side and girls on the other. No acknowledgement of the in betweens. Pink or blue! Well I like purple.

I have always celebrated my femininity and given strength to my masculine side as well. All people are a mixture of both, gender and sexuality are not cut and dry. They are both fluid terms that have been influenced by societal standards and cultural norms. Nobody fits in a box.

For the haters out there – just stop! It takes a lot of courage to do what she is doing and your ignorant trolling is not welcome. This is 2015, we live in a world where people should feel safe sharing themselves and not tormented by hate mongers. The media pisses me off by putting the pronoun she in quotation marks and still calling her by her former name, Bruce. Have some fucking respect.

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Have some fucking respect, New York Post

Caitlyn Jenner is in an interesting situation of privilege. She is in the spotlight during a very private point in her life and she isn’t hiding any intimate details. Her former self was the pinnacle of masculine achievement, winning all the Olympic medals and being the patriarch of a famous reality TV family.

She spent her whole life hiding inside of that success. In the 70’s Jenner wore a bra and panty hose under a suit, now she is able to strip out of that unnecessary layer.

She is now on the cover of Vanity fair with loose curls, flawless makeup, and a white corset. It took a lot of courage to reveal her true self. Her position and celebrity status has thrust her into becoming one of the most recognizable and talked about trans-women ever. Fame is a big responsibility, she has chosen to use that to her advantage and be honest about her body for the first time in her life. She looks spectacular.

At 65 years old, Caitlyn Jenner is also the oldest woman ever to grace the cover of Vanity Fair. She shattered multiple cultural hurdles with her bold cover shot, she is now a revolutionary icon.

Being a woman is hard enough in this society, being a trans-woman is exponentially more difficult. Suicide and hate crimes are both sadly very prevalent in the trans community.

Ageism is also a real problem. When even cisgender women reach a certain age they become desexualized and forgotten by the media at large. Caitlyn has proved that beauty has no age limit.

With this simple “Call me Caitlyn” she is finally seen for who she is and not who she used to be. This is a hard task for someone who has been famous for decades. There is no way that her public transformation would not create a spectacle – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I am proud of her for not hiding this and going on her whole life with inner torment. She was unapologetically honest with herself and the world, shedding positive light on a minority group that is often discriminated against even in the LGBT community, never quite being understood, always marginalized.

By talking to Diane Sawyer on 20/20 and allowing the world to listen Caitlyn has opened up a really important dialogue about transgender acceptance and understanding. We should celebrate her extreme visibility and openness with her journey as a win for all people who have been marginalized or dehumanized by being transgender.

Hopefully by talking about it the world as a whole will have a better idea of what transitioning really means. I knew that things were changing when the topic of transgender folks came up at the family dinner table the other day. It was refreshing to have this conversation openly with them.

Some people are judging her, saying its all for publicity. Those people are idiots. Who would change their gender for a stunt? It’s not an act of vanity, she hid inside her body until she was 65 years old because she didn’t want to disappoint her family or fans.

She didn’t need the attention. Especially being someone who is already rich, famous, and doesn’t need any more justification.

Personally I hate reality television, it’s a superficial circus. Jenner’s new reality show on E! is definitely going to be a little different than anything we have seen before. I hope they keep it classy.

No more lies or hiding, Caitlyn is finally free – especially when the camera is there, she will have no choice but to be real.

chelsea
Chelsea Lee Jones

I only wish that my dear friend Chelsea Lee Jones was able to see this story unfold. Chelsea was a trans-woman that I was lucky enough to be friends with. She illuminated the world with her grace, style, and compassion.

Her story was very similar to Caitlyn’s. She was successful and married with a family, then later in life came out as trans. Chelsea was so important to her community, she made sure that everyone felt safe and fabulous, often leading the charge and inspiring other trans-women to be themselves in public, which is scary as fuck.

Tragically Chelsea was taken from us only a week after she finally received her new drivers license with her true identity on it. I remember the joy in her face when she proudly showed it off. She had finally become the person who she always was on the inside, and she was so lovely.

I remember once she showed me a photo of her mother and I commented on how they had the same beautiful smile. I will never forget the happiness in her eyes upon receiving that compliment.

She changed my life forever, her courage inspired me to be myself no matter what and her legacy will always live on in the hearts of all who knew her. I miss her every day. Every dance is for you girl! Chelsea would have been proud of Caitlyn and her inspiring public transformation.

At the end of the day Jenner is a rich woman who can pay for the thousands of dollars of gender affirming surgeries. To the public eye this transformation might seem quick and easy (we got to see the before and after). For most trans people this journey will take years of engaging in risky procedures, poor health care, and lack of understanding and support from their families.

It’s often a long and lonely struggle to become who you feel on the inside. I hope someday that everyone will have the same access and acceptance as Caitlyn. We have a long way to go, but this is a step in the right direction. Nobody should be afraid to let their true light shine.

Sam26.jpg

The Montreal Alouettes have gotten accustomed to making headlines with major signings, like last year’s arrival of Chad Johnson and Duron Carter. This year the Als are making headlines for another reason: they’ve signed the first openly gay professional football player, Michael Sam.

The CFL has become a breeding ground for some of the best, most intuitive defensive players, à la Cameron Wake. Up here defenses have to step it up in to cover the large backfield, and for defensive ends this usually means the increased difficulty of coverage develops them into solid NFL players.

So it is no surprise that after exhausting all options, Michael Sam is giving the Canadian game a shot. If Sam plays well here, he could have a real chance at getting back into the NFL. That would make him the first openly gay athlete playing in one of the big four (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA).

Of course this will really depend on whether are not Sam plays with heart in the CFL. It is expected that he will.

Memories of Jackie Robinson

The Alouettes’ signing of Michael Sam continues the story of Montreal being a gateway to acceptance in pro sports. Our great city, it seems, has always been at the forefront of breaking barriers.

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Jackie Robinson of the Montreal Royals

Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, who played for the Montreal Royals in 1947,  and who would become the first African American to play in the baseball in the National League. Both Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette and Michael Farber of TSN brought up the city’s history when talking about Sam this week.

Is Michael Sam the new Jackie Robinson?  Well, yes and no.

While Michael Sam has faced adversity due to his sexual orientation just as Jackie did due to race, a few of the commenters on Michael Farber’s post called it an unfair comparison, arguing Jackie Robinson had a much better skill set. While that may be true—symbolically it’s similar because it is the first gesture, the first opening of real acceptance.

Montreal Helps Break Barriers that Need to be Broken

To realize its importance all you have to do is think of the about all the men and woman that play sport and have to keep their identities secret. They might have the talent to play hockey, soccer or football but are too afraid to pursue their career because of how their orientation may be viewed by fans and teammates.

Shouldn’t sport represent the public. A portion of our population is gay, yet how is it we know of no current professional athletes playing team sports who are? Obviously it is not really possible to continue this culture of secrecy in sport, because now we know so much about the personal lives for sports celebrities in the internet age.

We don’t ask heterosexual players keep their lives secret, why do we do so for athletes who are members of the LGBT community?

Hiring and playing the first openly gay professional football player not only adds to Montreal’s reputation as a gay-friendly city, it also shows the kind of reception we give to  high calibre athletes regardless of colour, creed or sexual orientation.

As for Michael, he chose the right place to play. He just wants to keep this signing in perspective: “I’m just trying to help the team win some games so we can bring the Grey Cup back home,” said Sam speaking at an Alouettes press conference on Tuesday.

For now, while he might be breaking barriers, Michael Sam just wants to be seen as a regular football player. Just as Jackie Robinson wanted to be seen as a regular baseball player, and did so in Montreal, so many years ago.

mike pence answer the question

I am a human being and a citizen of the United States, and more importantly a citizen of the Earth. I live in a free country, which is part of a free world, right? I am allowed to love who I love and live in peaceful harmony, right?

Daily I find reasons to doubt that my rights, freedoms, and civil liberties mean anything at all. For the last week I have been reading all about Indiana and Governor Mike Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act… this act gives business owners the right to deny service to anyone who goes against their religious point of view. Therefore any Christian run business can openly and legally discriminate against same sex couples and those who are transgender or do not fit into the “good Christian” box.

Religious rights are more important than rights given to a human being who was born LGBTQ. WOW-all I can think is that we have entered the fucking Twilight Zone… this is absolutely ridiculous, so many people (from Stonewall to the Human Rights Campaign and every person who has spoke up against LGBTQ oppression in between) have spent lifetimes fighting for marriage equality and human rights, this is even more demeaning- its a gadzillion steps back. It rationalizes injustice in the name of Religious right. You are doing it wrong Indiana.

Many people and celebrities are calling to boycott the entire state of Indiana. The NCAA championship in Indianapolis is even cancelled due to this. While I do agree with the ban on travel and boycott of Indiana, at the same time I want to go there and say it to his face that we will not sit back and take this.

Action needs to be taken now. This whole situation is infuriating. I am angry for all the steps that we must reclaim and agree that a convergence of protestors would be absolutely awesome but would also have to be self sufficient / rely on the Indiana LGBTQ community to help support or it would be counter productive.

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Protestors would have to take steps to not support any of the businesses who are openly in favor of this preposterous act . Bringing food, sleeping in your cars, and making sure that all amenities are procured across state lines are a must.

Although some businesses have openly come out in praise of this new act, there are still many who will suffer unjustly. There are many non-Religious, LGBTQ friendly businesses in Indiana who do not support this act.

My only hope is that they do not unjustly suffer for the idocracy of their government. Thousands of businesses are now donning stickers that say “This business serves everyone” and registering to be part of the list of businesses who openly disagree with the act. In a time where all small business is suffering, why would anyone want to turn away willing customers?

Memories Pizza is one of these businesses that openly celebrates the new act. They have openly delclared that they would deny service to any same sex couple who would want pizza at their wedding.

A local Indiana television station spoke to Crystal O’Connor, the owner of this pizzeria. She says that they are a Christian establishment and that she and her family have beliefs and others are entitled to their own.

“We definitely agree with the bill.” She doesn’t think the bill targets gays or discriminates but instead protects businesses like hers who have a religious belief.

ABC Channel 57 also spoke to her father: “That’s a lifestyle that you choose, I choose to be heterosexual, they choose to be homosexual–why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?” Ignorance is really special.

There has been a public outcry against Memories Pizza in response to their intelligent statements on social media and review sites such as YELP. My only question is, who cares? What respectable/ fabulous Gay or Lesbian couple would ever have pizza at their wedding? Especially pizza made by hate mongers. Come on now.

memories pizza
Memories Pizza website hacked

This whole situation just all beyond reason and morality- whenever we have to ask ourselves “WTF?! Aren’t we past this?” LOVE IS LOVE, people are born gay or straight or in between, we have no choice in the matter, and all love should be respected and diversity celebrated.

It makes me wonder what else is going on in Indiana that they are trying to put the wool of Hate over our eyes… there is clearly some other shit going on there. Its unfathomable to think that this asshole wants to run for president. Even some Republicans are embarrassed and outraged believe it or not.

I said “some” Republicans. Then there is the Bush family tree. “I think Governor Pence has done the right thing,” Jeb Bush said in a radio interview on Monday, “people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all” and that the facts have not been established – wow he’s so smart, just like his broski, former “President” George W. Bush, infamous for his intelligence (or lack there of).

Palm to face. The fact that anyone supports this travesty is also astounding to me and really speaks volumes about how this world is run.

For the most part the far right has lost the battle against marriage equality, but there is clearly work that needs to be done. There must be international backlash to this act, the world showing support for every human on this planet, discrimination is unacceptable always and forever.

cat gay pride

The religious veil is thin, it does not hide the hate. We cannot go backwards. Arizona vetoed a similar act last year, there will be more instances of this if we all do not band together and stop it.

Bigotry is unacceptable and it will be stopped. This act affects ALL of humanity. Love one another and support human rights by speaking up against injustice.

FUCK HATE! FUCK THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT!

qouleur logo

Last week local Montreal collective Qouleur hosted a one week festival featuring screenings, workshops, and an art exhibit for the LGBTTQ community. The collective aims to celebrate and provide space to radicalized queer identities and experiences.

Qouleur supports two artists in residence, who were featured at this year’s festival. Beginning the week was also keynote speaker Kim Katrin Milan, co-founder of The People Project who gave a speech on the theme legacies.

Forget the Box and Dragonroot Media had the chance to chat with Alan from the Qouleur collective on last week’s festivities.

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trans flag

On May 3, one day after Trans Pride Day in Montreal, the Centre for Gender Advocacy launched legal action against the Superior Court of Quebec to invalidate legal discrimination against trans and intersex individuals in the province.

This is not the first time gender markers have been debated about in Quebec. Last spring the PLQ challenged the then Bill 35, which sought to strike Article 71 and 73 from the Quebec Civil Code. Both articles required prerequisites to changing gender makers.

Later that year, Quebec’s National Assembly passed the bill, now known as Law 35, striking down the previous amendment that required name and sex changes to be publicized. However the prerequisites to change gender markers were not amended.

Despite the adoption of Bill 35 in November 2013 by the Quebec National Assembly, trans and intersex people still must undergo modification surgery that leads to sterilization in order to change their gender marker on identification, according to Article 71 of Quebec’s Civil Code.

“We’re asking the court to see, based on the Canadian and Quebec Human Rights Charter, to say that those requirements are discriminatory against trans and intersex people,” Gabrielle Bouchard, Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the Centre for Gender Advocacy explained in an interview with Forget the Box.

“Not only would people not have to be surgically modified, but they would be able change their gender marker before the age of 18, which is hugely important.”

Bouchard added that it would also strike the requirement of being a Canadian citizen. “You have people who are leaving their country and trying to make Quebec their home, and it makes it very, very difficult for them to meet the citizenship requirements when you’re stuck with social and structural barriers that prevent you from being a true participant in this society.”

The case aims to end mandatory gender assignment at birth, instead hoping to make it optional for parents to assign a child’s gender at birth.

When asked why the Centre is bringing the lawsuit forward at this date, Bouchard explained, “It’s because people are dying – if you want something longer, it’s because it is necessary, because conversations with the government hasn’t lead to any significant changes yet.”

“We know that the suicide rate amongst trans people is over 40 per cent […] that’s huge, those [suicides] are always about structural and social barriers, never about the gender identity, but through the difficulties to be able to be who you want to be.”

After a 2012 ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal which found such legal requirement to be discriminatory, Ontario is still the only province that does not require surgery to change gender markers.

Bouchard explained that Ontario was forced to strike the surgical requirement from gender marker changes after losing a human rights case, adding that British Columbia was also taking action e to change the requirements.

The Centre has been at the front of the fight for trans rights in Quebec. Back in August 2013, the Centre filed a complaint against the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, stating that these gender articles were discriminatory.

The Commission ruled in favour of the Centre, however Bouchard stated that the Commission followed this by stating, “Yes we see your case is valid, we can see there is a need but technically we can not do anything because as a centre you cannot ask for something without having someone who has lived the discrimination.”

“We would have had to represent someone who had lived [through] discrimination, and we can’t do that for all trans and intersex people in Quebec. We had to have a case and we didn’t feel comfortable actually asking someone to put their life and their privacy and their identity on the line to be able to do this – which is why we are doing this case right now as a Centre, so no one has to be the sole bearer of the cost,” Bouchard explained.

When asked what the next steps were for the case, Bouchard explained “we’ve just started a marathon. Let’s say it this way, those court cases can last up to two years,” adding that a hearing date would be set in October.

flying dildo

Following a weekend where two female Russian athletes kissed on the podium and a Swedish high jumper painted her fingernails the colours of the rainbow flag (she has since been forced to repaint them), both seemingly protesting Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law (though one of the relay kissers has since denied it), a new video has surfaced, well, actually, it has resurfaced. This video of a flying dildo interrupting a Russian press conference was originally posted in 2008, so it can’t be seen as a protest against the new law, just maybe against the climate that led to the draconian bill in the first place.

Still, it could be a good indication of the kind of guerilla protest to come in Russia leading up to the Sochi games. Regardless, it’s gutsy and funny to watch:

Vladimir Putin's 2012 Inaugguration

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin passed anti-gay legislation, the free world has responded with outrage. Organizations such as Pride House International have demanded boycotting the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and restaurants and nightclubs owners have poured Russian vodka down the drain in solidarity with the LGBT community. Meanwhile, US-Russian relations have sunk to their worst levels since the relationship between Kennedy and Khrushchev, which culminated in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Recently Obama announced he may not attend the next major summit with Russia. Though this mainly theatrical move is designed to protest Russia granting America’s most sought after spy, Edward Snowden, temporary asylum, it also addresses a series of cold winds blowing in from Moscow, the incarceration of female punk trio Pussy Riot, Putin arming Syrian rebels and the anti-LGBT law among them.

Putin Pussy Riot portrait.

Obama may have miscalculated. Despite America’s own deficiencies upholding LGBT rights, the US represents the most powerful state partner of LGBT communities. Severing dialogue with Russia will not resolve the issues.

Russia is a global superpower. Its government operates with near impunity, is heavy-handed in subverting dissent from its citizens and censoring and suppressing free media. This perpetuates Russia’s tyranny indefinitely. Therefore, without US dialogue, there is no negotiation or solution. Russia’s LGBT community would be voiceless.

Unless the world boycotts the Sochi games (no country has done so officially yet), asking individual athletes to sacrifice their place to compete would be asking them to sacrifice the prime of their youths. Like governments ending diplomacy, individual athletes not appearing at the games to protest would end the conversation. Olympic coverage of the issue would drift or be silenced, like Tibet’s protests at Beijing 2011.

Economic sanctions and cutting US tourism to Russia is also insufficient. Though Russia’s economy is export-based, many countries rely on its iron umbrella to support their own illiberal regimes and even Ukraine, its staunch Soviet-era opponent, depends on Russian oil.

Putin would have also anticipated lost tourism revenues from Americans due to the LGBT ban. However, China is expected to surpass America in global travelers and is likely to boost Russia’s tourism industry. Xi Jinping’s first foreign visit as China’s new leader was to Russia, renewing relations between former Cold War allies.

Obama and Putin meeting.

The US will need to negotiate with Russia if it truly stands behind LGBT rights. For this to happen, Obama’s LGBT base will need to apply pressure on a presidency in its last term.

Since both Russia and the US remain on frosty terms, mediation between the two giants could work with a neutral third party acting as a buffer. A UN mediator either from a neutral state or the private sector could facilitate talks. The US and Russia could even send representatives instead of Obama and Putin themselves.

Canada, with its longer history of LGBT rights and the US’ closest ally, historically and geographically, could be an influential middleman. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama’s relations are lukewarm. This would have to change by whatever legal means necessary.

Putin anti-gay ban protest in Netherlands.

Ultimately, to safeguard Russia’s LGBT community, the US must give in to Putin in some areas. Unless the global community boycotts and ceases economic trade with Russia completely, the talks will have a secondary effect, perhaps one affecting the Syrian rebels.

If this doesn’t work, Obama’s reputation as the Lincoln of LGBT civil rights movement will be tarnished. Even worse, Russia’s LGBT community will suffer through its longest winter yet.

DiAna's Hair Ego Learn About AIDS

There have been many illustrious and influential figures who have brought their stories and work to Concordia’s H110 auditorium for the Lecture Series on HIV and AIDS since its inception in 1993. Singer Diamanda Galas, dance legend Margie Gillis, General Idea surviving member AA Bronson, AIDS hero Steven Lewis, activist writer Sarah Schulman, South African documentarian Khalo Matabane, and recently, adult film actress Lara Roxx, to name only a few that come to mind. Fittingly, the Lecture Series team (Profs Thomas Waugh and Viviane Namaste) has chosen to invite a figure who was active at the height of the AIDS crisis for their 20th anniversary lecture and have gone somewhat far afield of the global AIDS celebrity and international NGO milieu to bring us a fierce grass roots activist who started the radical, up-hill task of doing HIV prevention in 1980s Columbia, South Carolina. Meet DiAna DiAna, the hairdresser who knew too much.

DiAna DiAna Concordia HIV poster
Curlers and Condoms playing Thursday at Concordia

“It was in 1986 that I became aware of HIV and AIDS,” DiAna tells me over the phone as she prepares for a day of cutting, styling, listening and teaching at her salon in a primarily black neighbourhood of Columbia. “I just saw [AIDS] on the front of a magazine. Nobody wanted to talk about it because it was all sexual and needles and of course nobody in South Carolina does any of those things,” she tells me, her beautiful Bostonian accent still intact after decades of living and working south of Dixie.

In 1991, DiAna’s then-unorthodox methods for talking about sex and condoms were documented in Canadian-born Ellen Spiro’s short film DiAna’s Hair Ego, which will also be screened on Thursday. Today, Columbia has the forth-highest rate of HIV infection per capita in the United States, she says, and according to one Center for Disease Control study, HIV infection is the leading cause of death for black women aged 25 to 34, the same age of many of the women who visit DiAna’s salon. Black heterosexual women remain one of the populations most affected by HIV in the USA, disproportionately so.

The magazine DiAna read that day, perhaps Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire or one of the more liberal magazines of the period, had a cover headline about a woman who had contracted HIV from her boyfriend and DiAna got thinking about how this could and would affect her community. “Both of them were ‘straight’ she yet she still got infected. I started to get curious because it was something that nobody really knew about… So I got the information, and people started sharing the articles that I was getting. It snowballed from there, and I eventually started doing presentations and going into churches where they didn’t want to talk about sex or AIDS or anything, especially in the Bible Belt. They were quite shocked that I was able to talk about HIV and AIDS,” she tells me with the fluid verbal arc of someone who has talked about her activist beginnings many times, with concentration and generosity.

“I had to figure out a way for people to start using condoms. So I started wrapping them up in wrapping paper so that clients would start taking them home. You didn’t have to be a client, you could just come and get condoms and information and see videos on HIV and AIDS,” she says with a smile her voice.

DiAna DiAna (Photo still from DiAna's Hair Ego, 1991)

She knew she was onto something: she had found a way past the sexual shame that prevented women from asking their male partners to use condoms and eventually men would come into the salon and elaborately ask for condoms for their “friend,” or more sadly, to demand that DiAna stop giving out condoms to girls who would ask for them. She went on to found the South Carolina AIDS Education Network (SCAEN), which then spun off into the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, a drastically underfunded charity run by her friend and one-time trainee Bambi Gaddist.

DiAna's Hair Ego video still

“I asked her ‘Do you wanna be the VP of a company that pays nothing?’ And she said yes,” DiAna laughs warmly as she recalls inviting her BFF to helm the organization that started in a salon and went on to do workshops in schools, and safer sex outreach with sex workers and with men in cruising parks. She would do HIV saliva tests in her salon, but found that people were reluctant, as they still are, to come in for their results. And don’t even get her started on the cruising grounds! Or rather, come to the lecture and ask her about the truck stops…

“I gave the whole thing [until] 2000: by then everybody should be cured and we should know what AIDS is, right? It was very difficult to deal with agencies that didn’t want to give any money. Some of the politicians didn’t want to talk about AIDS at all because it would be bad for their election, and they gave no support,” she tells me with more than a hint of despair.

Many of the men who opposed her grass-roots prevention methods are still in power in the heavily Republican state and continue to defund and oppose her and Gaddist’s efforts to provide prevention by and for their community. In the years since DiAna has stopped working on the front lines of radical sex ed in Columbia, South Carolina’s bureaucrats have shown even less support for initiatives that she and her peers have tried to create, even though grass-roots prevention and peer support has proven to be more effective than top-down methods.

“I’ve had clients come in and ask me ‘Is the AIDS thing still going around?’” she laments. The lessons DiAna learned go deep. The effects of misogyny, homophobia, religious conservatism and bureaucratic public health policies lead inevitably to more illness, less knowledge, and a crisis that may never end unless we stop it ourselves.

DiAna DiAna “Curlers & Condoms: Grassroots Prevention Then and Now” Thursday March 21, 7 p.m. // Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest. FREE, followed by reception with DiAna DiAna and former guests of the Lecture Series

Edgy Lucha-054

When I was a kid my brother used to hog the TV in our den all the time so he could watch WWF wrestling. I hated it. I found the theatrics transparent, the “fighting” ridiculous and the machismo and obviously fake beefs nauseating.

So when I showed up at the Blue Cat Boxing Club for the final event of this year’s Edgy Women Festival and realized that the show I had been sent to cover would be a female version of the same thing, I died a little inside. That is, until the action started. With a hot dog clenched in one fist and a coke slushie chilling the other, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, cheering, booing, gasping and moaning along with the rest of the crowd.

Edgy Lucha-008I don’t know if it was because the fighters were women, or because the action was live instead of on a TV screen, or because of the creamy cleavage and bouncy booty encased in sparkly outfits, but when fighters Angie Skye and Mary Lee Rose started throwing each other around the ring, all of my reservations went right out the window.

As the ladies fought, commentators Morgan Sea and Robby Hoffman kept the crowd in stitches while sign girl Dayna MacLeod walked around the ring in varying degrees of undress. In between matches announcer Guizo la Nuit introduced the next fighters.

Edgy Lucha-120The second match was between the only two male fighters of the evening, La Momia and The Wonderful Jesse Champagne. La Momia’s costume was awesome and I could tell that these two had some experience in the ring. Also, I find mummies incredibly creepy, so watching one in the ring was thrilling.

Edgy Lucha-180For the halftime show Mia Van Leeuwen and sidekick Laura Beeston kept the crowd entertained with a pretty disturbing burlesque-cum-weird theatre piece. In her kind-of-boxing-outfit and kind-of-dead-geisha-girl make-up, Van Leeuwen danced around the front of the ring licking a lollipop, stuffing her face with intestine-looking licorice and then drooling what I suspect was raspberry jam out of her mouth. Apparently it was supposed to “explore the tension between good-girl behaviour and the fierce, feral antics of a woman wanting to fight”, but I really didn’t get that at all. I thought it was ok…and kind of creepy.

The second half of the show sported some pretty heavy hitters with a match between Kalamity and Kira and then Sweet Cherrie and Lufisto. These ladies really beat the crap out of each other and it was SO GREAT! People were thrown out of the ring, someone beat someone with an old VCR and I think one of the ladies even defeated the other with her vagina.

Edgy Lucha-349The show ended with a kind of royal rumble where all the fighters got into the ring and beat each other, and the goalie, up.

I can’t remember who was crowned the winner of the night, but I will always remember how much fun I had that night. I can’t wait for the next match. Move over burlesque, there’s a new show in town and it wants to kick your sexy butt.

Photos by Chris Zacchia. For our complete photo set check out the Edgy Lucha Photo album.

dont say gay

There is a preposterously detrimental bill brewing in Tennessee, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This bill is a revived and modified version of the bill Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield proposed in 2011, which threatened to bar teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom in grades K-8.

Originally this bill had been put to rest by the House after making it past the Senate, but has now since been put back on the table with a malicious new twist: teachers could be forced to out homosexual students, or students who are even just suspected of being gay.

Stacey Campfield’s modified Bill S.B. 0234, which he dubbed the Classroom Protection Act, targets LGBTQ youth and could result in devastating and irrevocable consequences for the affected students.

There are a few key phrases to note in this bill:

The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home. Because of its complex societal, scientific, psychological, and historical implications, human sexuality is one such subject.” [Bold added]

[…] “At grade levels pre-K through eight (pre-K-8), any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.” [Bold added]

Given Stacey Campfield’s track record we don’t have to read between the lines too much to assume that “inconsistent with natural human reproduction” directly targets homosexuality. Just wait folks, it gets worse…the newly concocted version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has been adjusted slightly to incorporate this section:

“LEA policies and procedures adopted pursuant to this section shall not prohibit”[…]”A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal from counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person; provided, that wherever possible such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student’s parents or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred”.

How can we assume that Campfield is including homosexuality as being “injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student”? Well, Stacey Campfield isn’t very subtle, and was quoted as saying: “The act of homosexuality is very dangerous to someone’s health and safety.” [See video at 1:09 minutes in]

This all would imply that faculty members cannot acknowledge the existence of homosexuality…unless, of course, a student is suspected or engaged in homosexual behaviour, and that, of course, warrants immediate parental notification. This bill does not prohibit the counseling of students, but a complete breach of student-counselor trust will be enforced. This sounds like a grossly blatant disregard for common sense and civil rights!

Stacey Campfield
Stacey Campfield

If this bill passes it will undoubtedly create an environment of constant fear and apprehension for LGBTQ students. I cannot stress enough how psychologically damaging it will be if these kids cannot seek confidential counseling, discuss and pose questions about their sexuality and feel like they are a part of a supportive environment. School should be a place where students can feel safe to learn and explore knowledge.

So, what’s going on Tennessee? Despite the growing number of anti-bullying campaigns that have been prevalent in the U.S over the past few years, gay teen suicides are a major issue. The Southern states aren’t known for their inclusivity of homosexuality and this bill will only instigate bullying and further alienation of LGBTQ students. Somehow, segregating a demographic of youth and instilling the belief that their sexuality, or questioning of their sexuality, is fundamentally wrong, doesn’t seem like a productive way to get teen suicide figures to decrease.

The state of acceptance for the LGBTQ community is volatile in the Southern states and a measure like this would only cause regression and devastation to the gay community. This bill would actively work on destroying progress made by anti-bullying campaigns, essentially giving bullies a green light to single out students suspected of homosexuality and consequently land them in the dangerous situation of being prematurely outed to their parents.

Unfortunately, being outed can come with grave consequences, often resulting in rejection from the home. Recent studies done by The Williams Institute, the Palette Fund and the True Colors Fund, have found that 40% of homeless youth in the shelter system identify as being LGBT.

It is a horrifying thought that this bill could actually pass, and we can only hope that the erroneous and harmful implementations contained in this bill will never come to fruition.

* Top image by Jason Pence McBroom, Out & About

transgender

The youth of today is faced with a large variety of pressures to define themselves, and the journey of coming to a comfortable place, in regards to personal identity, is a monumental task. When questions about one’s gender and sexuality are also mixed in, things can get more and more complicated.

As trans youth, whether you are an FtoM (female to male), an MtoF (male to female), or waiver somewhere in the grey zone of gender identity, it is an arduous personal struggle that can be quite exhausting. Trans youth face a variety of trials and tribulations, and as the number of transgender youth increases, it is helpful to have access to support and information regarding sexual identity.

Imagine waking up each day and attempting to stifle the relentless, gnawing voice inside your head telling you that this is not your body…this doesn’t feel right. No matter what you do, the same undeniable discomfort halts you. These feelings, in themselves, are very intimate. There is no denying that it takes a strong will to try to work around the body that you do not have.

Unfortunately, many transgendered people are subject to the public’s scrutiny; often having the question of their gender publicly assessed. Many transgendered and androgynous people inevitably experience this in their lifetime from an insensitively curious member of the public: “Hey, are you a girl or a guy?” This question can feel like a direct attack on your personal and public identity. So where can trans people get some support?

Throughout Montreal, there are more and more resources becoming available to the LGBTQ community. The population of transgendered youth is growing and with growth comes understanding and support. Montreal harbours many excellent resources for LGBTQ youth; these resources are easily accessible and a blessing for many. For example, Concordia University gives trans students the option to use their preferred name and sex on their identification cards; the process is quite simple and the staff who facilitate this are friendly and supportive.

The university also boasts a wonderful gender advocacy centre available to Concordia students and the public. The 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy is located at 2110 Mackay street downtown and they offer a wide range of trans resources such as: a varied resource library, a binder program (to bind one’s chest), needle exchange for hormone therapy, peer counseling and info/referrals.

head and handsAnother great resource is the Head and Hands Centre in NDG: a youth-oriented resource centre offering counseling services, legal aid, a drop-in clinic, tutoring, workshops and an emergency food pantry. This organization’s small medical clinic is the only place in Montreal in which you can initiate hormone therapy without a psychiatrist’s referral. The clinic operates on what is referred to as an informed consent model and the waiting list for hormone therapy is approximately one year. Head and Hands gives transgender youth the opportunity to sit down with their health coordinator and discuss the effects of hormone treatment in a supportive and informative environment.

Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec is another fantastic resource-rich organization. Also known as Quebec Trans Health Action, they are an organization run for the transgender community and located at 300 Ste. Catherine East. ASTTQ hosts a weekly drop in on Monday evenings from 7-9pm for anyone questioning their identity as well as family/friends of trans people. They provide one-on-one counseling and are very accommodating; even offering free metro tickets for your visits to the centre, or home visits!

p10_blackIf you feel like staying in and avoiding the frigid snowy Montreal weather, there are two queer support lines that are also available: Project 10 Helpline and Montreal Gay Line/ Gai Écoute. Project 10 is a helpline open to LGBTQ youth between the ages of 14-25. This line is open from Monday to Thursday from 12-6pm and can be reached at 514-989-4585. Montreal Gay Line/Gai Écoute (for service in French) is reachable every evening between the hours of 7-11pm at 514-866-5090.

In the face of all the adversity trans and gender-questioning youth face, there are options and a supportive community here in Montreal. As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, the best advice I can give is to just hold your head up, acquaint yourself with some of these great resources and surround yourself with a supportive friend group and community!

Subjects in Call me Kuchu hold tabloid that outs "suspected homosexuals" in media and religiously enflamed homophobic terror

Aside from Russia and the American “Bible Belt,” few places in the world have seen such virulent debate (and hate) around the treatment of LGBT people than the East African country of Uganda. Like a nightmarish extension of the colonial battlefield that Africa has long been treated as in the West, the trials and tribulations of Uganda’s sexual minorities have become the focus of global media and political attention. In 2009 Uganda’s parliament started considering a bill that even Stephen Harper’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called “abhorrent.”

Known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, the proposed legislation would make being gay and HIV positive a criminal offense punishable by death and imprisonment, in addition to numerous new offenses for “aggravated homosexuality” and failing to report “known homosexuals” to police. Currently shelved, the bill hangs over Ugandan LGBTs like a suspended death warrant invoked by conservative religious leaders and the tabloid press. The homophobic furor would lead to the brutal death of prominent activist David Kato, in 2010.

Call me Kuchu, the multi award-winning documentary by US-based filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, tracks the small and resilient group of activists for SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) over almost two years, a process which involved numerous visits, and extended periods of living with one of the film’s participant subjects, Noame. Increasingly embedded in their participants’ lives, the filmmakers would submit testimony to immigration authorities about the risk of being an out queer woman in Uganda, which eventually allowed Naome to claim asylum in Sweden.

Already shown to much acclaim at numerous major film festivals – including Hot Docs and Image + Nation – the heart-rending feature will be screened twice in Montréal, at Cinema Politica on Feb 25 and at the Massimadi Festival of LGBT Afro-Caribbean Film on Wednesday, Feb 27 at Cinéma du Parc.

2012 IDA Documentary Awards at the DGA Hosted by Penn Jillette“The factors feeding into homophobia in Uganda are so complex,” Zouhali-Worrall tells me via Skype from her home in Brooklyn. “It does seem like evangelical leaders have done a lot to inspire it – religious leaders in the Catholic and Anglican Churches have fuelled it.” Souhali-Worrall cautions viewers not to draw conclusions or generalizations about “Africa” or the Global South from watching what her subjects live through in this lightening rod country. “People often want to talk about the situation in Uganda as if it’s a very different and separate type of persecution… While there are probably some aspects of the situation in Uganda that are unique, it seems more helpful to see what’s happening there as an extension of what’s going on all the time in the US, Canada, or Europe.”

Fairfax WrightFor Fairfax Wright, who is based in Los Angeles, “there are so many parallels between homophobia in the US and elsewhere. Even the rhetoric, stretching back to the Harvey Milk days; it’s astounding. It’s the same phrases being thrown around, that [LGBT people] can’t reproduce and therefore they recruit… So many of the tensions at play and the tactics are so similar,” the documentarian says, evincing the journalistic objectivity that is as much a part of the film as the compassionate character treatment for which it has been praised.

“Right now the Anti-Homosexual Bill is brought up by parliamentarians as a political football. The idea of ‘homosexual terror’ is also a convenient way to distract people from more pressing issues in society,” she adds.

Behind the agit-prop and the harrowing political drama lies an elegy to Uganda’s gay rights hero, David Kato, who was beaten to death halfway through principal shooting in 2011.  “We are consumed by these people’s story, perhaps even a little more than we would like to have been,” the documentarians admitted, reflecting on the intimacy with which they treated their film’s subjects, and their responsibility to promote the Ugandan LGBT cause. “Every time the film wins an award we try and remember that David isn’t there for that,” Worrall concludes, certain that the battle for gay rights in Uganda, and elsewhere, is far from over.

Call Me Kuchu @ Cinema Politica, Monday Feb. 25  7 p.m., Concordia University, Room H110, 1455 de Maisonneuve West

For more info: cinemapolitica.org/concordia

+

@ Festival Massimadi, Wednesday Feb 27, 6pm discussion (in French) on lesbians and HIV; Screening at 7pm, Cinema du Parc, 3575 av du Parc

www.massimadi.com