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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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.

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:

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.

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

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.

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

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!

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

When activists founded AIDS Community Care Montreal in 1987, they hoped that one day we would see people live with HIV and not just die from it. Twenty-five years later, community org ACCM celebrates survival and success with a fabulous cabaret hosted by Antonio Bavaro, with Toronto’s Ryan G Hinds, and performance artist Danny Gaudreault + friends this Sunday, February 3 at the Sala Rossa. (See details for our ticket contest below!)

Active in the Toronto and Montréal cabaret scenes, a beloved writer for Xtra and all-around fabulous personality, Ryan G Hinds (featured photo by Georges Dutil) will be making Cabaret87 the highlight of a whirlwind weekend such as he’s so notorious for in Montréal. Winner of the 2011 Steinert & Ferreiro Award for LGBT commitment to the arts, Hinds is diva with enough soul for two cities, and will doubtless be a show-stopper on Sunday night.

In terms of my art, AIDS means honouring the past, celebrating the present, and charting the future. Every time I step on stage, I bring ghosts with me: artists and story tellers like Craig Russell, Sylvester, Peter Allen, and Liberace inspire my work. For ACCM’s 25th anniversary I wanted to tell a story of looking back with affection (without denying the tough moments) and remaining hopeful for tomorrow, and I dedicate it to our absent friends and present comrades.” – Ryan G Hinds

Known for his triple (goddess) threat performances as Connie Lingua (or Hedwig, or Frank-N-Furter more recently) Antonio Bavaro is a Concordia theatre student, and so much more! Hailing from the Court of the Wild Rose, and soon to be featured in his own 10th Anniversary show (Cabaret Cochonne), Bavaro is a fixture of the alt-drag scene in the 416, 780 and 514 who is sure to serve more than lip sync at this special event. He’ll be thinking about Sticky Vicky (the late Vincent Richards) when he takes the Sala Rossa stage to host Cabaret87.

Antonio Bavaro as Frank-N-Furter at the Mainline Theatre, 2012

My first friend/mentor to pass away from AIDS is an Edmonton legend: the electro-punk Broadway club kid coat-check queen by the name of Sticky Vicky, Vincent Richards. They were the first drag queen to be nice to me when I was still under-aged, and they were always supportive of my charisma, uniqueness, nerve & talent once we started performing on the same stage. (Supposedly she was the #1 blow-job groupie of punk band SNFU). You never really understood what she was saying, but you always knew she cared. Thank you, Vicky.” – Antonio Bavaro

Inexplicably moving performance interventions are Danny Gaudreault’s calling card, whether at Radical Queer Semaine events or at numerous art festivals like Visualeyez and Écho d’un fleuve. His work evokes loss and alienation with a decidedly theatrical approach. Inspired by clown and nightmarish Edward Gorey-esque motifs, Gaudreault is unflinching and always awesome.

COHÉSION et autres tentatives – Performance #4 from Danny Gaudreault on Vimeo.

My art practice is about affirming a hybrid identity by adding several layers of perceptible references. Similarly, HIV/AIDS is not an identifiable motif, but is present when I make reference to my own vulnerabilities: I am potentially affected and therefore concerned. I am also engaged in looking at ‘the other’ in an empathetic way, the same mode in which I consider the past, the present and the future: with hope.” – Danny Gaudreault (translation by JA)

Coral Short and Deanne Smith round out a stellar line-up of queer artists who will help ring in ACCM’s silver anniversary in style. See you there!

Cabaret 87 – ACCM’s 25th anniversay

Hosted by Antonio Bavaro w/ Ryan G Hinds, Danny Gaudreault, Coral Short, Deanne Smith + friends (Cocktail hour hosted by Lady Gaza + Mini Maul, with lots of prizes and an auction!)

Sunday, Feb 3, 8pm – $15

@ La Sala Rossa, 4848 boul. St-Laurent, Montréal

WIN 2 FREE TICKETS TO CABARET87 by adding a comment below and liking our Facebook page. The winning commentator/liker will be selected randomly on Saturday, Feb 2 and announced on Forget the Box’s Facebook page (go ahead and like ACCM‘s too).  Good luck!

 

Yes!

This Halloween their is a big ol’ costume party happening at Apollon/Katakombes (1450 Ste-Catherine), and the drinks will be deadly! (1.50$ beers & 2$ shots)

For the first time ever some of Montreal’s best talents will be coming together to throw one hell of a party and raise some serious money for ACCM (AIDS Community Care Montreal).

Oct 31st 2012, Disco Dungeon takes over Apollon for a night of dancing, drinking and freaking.

For one night only Katakombes will be transformed into a haunted dungeon with shocking sights and fearful frights lurking around every corner. While Apollon upstairs will relive some studio 54 glory as dead celebrities take back the night and the dance floor. So be there dead or alive but don’t miss Hallow’s Eve Disco & Dungeon!

Music by:

►►B’UGO◄◄

►►THOMAS PROMISE◄◄

►►WHY ALEX WHY ◄◄

►►JNNBNNRCK◄◄

►►HEIDY PINET ◄◄

I’m terrified to open my computer.

Whenever I do, my anxiety rises. I become edgy, frustrated, and sad. All hope for a bright future dissipates as I scroll my news feed for the umpteenth time.

The root cause of this despair? America, and the amount that I’ve submersed myself in its politics.

As a young, naïve Canadian, I used to think of America as we’re supposed to think of America. That is, a land of proud, freedom-loving people—a people who epitomize democracy!—whose rich and diverse culture was the envy of the world.

But right now, with every article I read about rape-apologists and queer-fear mongering and voterdisenfranchising and cutting social services in order to give more to the rich, I no longer think so highly of them. Hell, from what I can tell, they’ve forgotten what the words freedom and democracy even mean. I mean, how misguided does one have to be to equate the ability to own a gun with freedom, while healthcare for all citizens is an infringement thereof?

Of course, I don’t actually think 300 million+ people have given up on these ideals. But it does appear that way, which is what really matters to those whose only ideas on the state of America come from the media. And despite how much I tell myself that this existential angst I feel for them is something that every generation feels, I can’t help but think it’s different this time, that this is something more than fleeting.

With the help of the Citizens United ruling, combined with a shameless corporate media, and a wealth gap that spans to the moon, a perfect storm has formed on the horizon of the Great American Experiment. When this storm hits—yes, it’s a matter of when, not if—and the toxic policies of the mega-rich are fully unleashed, Americans can kiss goodbye to any ideas they may once have had about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sorry, I need to stop for a moment. I’m having trouble taking a full breath. …

Okay. Here we go…

If it’s not already obvious, the ideas of the modern Republican are the antithesis of those of the founding fathers. What’s disturbing is that, despite being called-out left, right, and centre for the sheer absurdity of the beliefs they harbour, the Republicans are serious contenders in this election.

No amount of bad press hurts them. Despite blatant racism (Obama removed the welfare work requirement) and sexism (they’re against making it easier to sue for pay discrimination), outright lying (Obama is a Muslim), or even bluntly stating the cold-hearted truths of their philosophy (rape is just a method of conception), they continue on their path undisturbed.

Big Money has been chipping away at legislation that provides a more equal footing for citizens for years now, and they’re so close to almost-absolute power that they can taste it. Nothing is going to stop them.

That is unless the American people wake up—something that I doubt will happen until it’s too late. This is not because I don’t have faith in Americans, but because I’m a believer in human nature. And, as humans, we have a tendency to push ideas (in this case, laissez-faire capitalism) to the max, and don’t stop until we hit a dead end.

Don’t believe me? Just take look at the big ideas that have failed in human history, like fascism, slavery, and communism. None of these ideas were stopped because those in power relinquished to the people, or because the legal system intervened—in fact, legal systems were used to justify the advances of these disgusting ideas, just as is being done now with capitalism.

Now, I’m not suggesting that there’s going to be war, as was used to settle the previous failed ideas. But I am suggesting that laissez-faire capitalism is probably not going to have a peaceful resolution.

I’ll leave it here for now—I obviously have no idea how things are going to work out, and there’s no point in speculating any further.

I’m going to close my computer and step outside for some air before the storm gets here.

Moments before publication, the author of this post caught wind that Obama is calling for a constitutional amendment to the Citizens United ruling. The author is feeling a lot better about the world—for the moment, at least.

* Image by MJM, Creative Commons Liscence

Today marks the opening night of something new in the nation’s capital—the likes of which the city has never seen before. This year in conjunction with Capitol Pride, the Cirque Bizarre boutique festival will boast four days of events, most of which will be taking place in the infamous Ottawa Jail Hostel. The House of SAS team have occupied this historic site and are turning it into a 1930s circus-themed extravaganza.

The real surprise of this mini festival will happen on Friday night as the miscreants of the Montreal nightlife institution GAYBASH will descend upon Ottawa for the first time. In fact it will be the first time Tyler and Sal take their glamorous dumpster baby of a party beyond the borders of Quebec. Anyone who has had the pleasure/horror of attending one of the terrible twosome’s parties can only help but wonder if such glorious madness can exist off the island of Montreal or if it will just crumble into sparkly dust like a unicorn no one believes in.

GAYBASH will be an injection of the truly bizarre that Ottawa doesn’t know it needs—much like an unexpected enema washing away the endless boredom of day to day life. We believe in unicorns and we believe in Tyler & Sal.

The lineup for the night brings together some of Montreal’s biggest names such as SHAY DaKiss and B’UGO. Headlining the event is international sensation Cazwell, who is making his way from NYC. Tyler & Sal have also decided to fill a few vans full of their loyal followers, and ship them over.

A rumour is even spreading that Roze and Rhonda (the internationally ignored celebrities )of STILL NOT FAMOUS will somehow make an appearance. This will be difficult—but not out of character—for the pair as they are never invited anywhere important, and seem to miss the party even when someone forgot to take them of the e-vite list. If it does happen, we will be surprised they got their act together enough to leave the house, let alone the province.

Either way, nothing can ruin this night of d-botch that many are waiting for with gin-soaked baited breath. It promises to be something new for Ottawa, something of an adventure for the GAYBASH crew, and definitely not something to miss for the rest of us. So dust off that top hat and we’ll see you in Jail.

For full event listings and tickets, check out their website.

Photo by Chris Zacchia. For photos from previous GAYBASH events, check out our Facebook photo gallery.

Happy Pride, everyone!

Seeing as how it’s New Queer’s Day (at least in Montreal), I think it’s only appropriate to take stock (an unexhaustive one, at that) of what happened in the world of LGBT Canadians this past year. (Yes, I’m compiling this because I’m too tired after a week of Pride festivities to write my own original article.)

So let’s backtrack first to last August when Canadians were collectively mourning the loss of LGBT hero and newly-minted Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton. Canada’s queer newspaper of record, Xtra! published an excellent summary of the role Layton played in Canada’s queer history.

In September of last year, the National Post landed itself in hot water when it ran a transphobic ad featuring a picture of a young girl with the text “Please don’t confuse me. I’m a girl. Don’t teach me to question if I’m a boy, transexual, transgendered, interesexed, or two spirited.” After an uproar from queer activists and organizations around the country, the National Post issued an apology and said they would donate all funds to an LGBT organization.

October saw the country again galvanized by another tragic event—the suicide of teenager Jamie Hubley. Hubley suicide was one of many by queer teenagers being highlighted in the media at the time. What made Hubley’s story all the more heartbreaking, though, was that he documented his depression online in the weeks leading up to his suicide.

November was a more positive month for LGBT people as the Université de Québec À Montréal created a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada research chair to study and fight homophobia. The chair’s role “will allow the sexology department to bring together experts on the subject of homophobia and develop tools to intervene and prevent the behaviour.”

In December, a federal government policy stating that trans people must undergo sex reassignment surgery to change the sex on their passport came to light and caused an uproar. The long-standing policy highlights the everyday legal struggles still faced by transgender Canadians. There is still no word as to whether this policy will change anytime soon.

The start of 2012 was marred by the realization that foreign same-sex couples who were married in Canada were not legally entitled to get divorced here. The Conservatives were accused of reopening the marriage debate, and general pandemonium swept the country. At the end of the day—after journalists bothered to check their facts—it turns out that the Conservatives were just enforcing actual laws on the books. But, instead of opening up the debate, the Cons swiftly vowed to bring the law up to date, thus affording everyone their god-given right to divorce.

A light month (from my memory), February saw the creation of Canada’s first gay fraternity at McGill University. Supposedly it’s not as porn-like as I’d originally wished it were.

A major campaign to combat homophobia in sports, You Can Play, was launched in March by general manager of the Toronto Maple Leaves Brian Burke and his son Patrick Burke. The campaign is in honour of another of Brian’s sons, Brendan, who died in a car accident in 2010 less than a year after coming out. The campaign has drawn both big names and little-known teams from the hockey world in the U.S and Canada and is growing in popularity.

In April, transgender beauty contestant Jenna Talackova was booted from the Miss Universe competition after it was discovered that she isn’t a “natural born” female (whatever that means). After much a fuss in the press with barbs being thrown by both infamous lawyer Gloria Allred and so-called real estate mogul Donald Trump, Talackova was allowed back into the competition. Though she didn’t end up winning the crown, she did win over the hearts and minds of Canadians.

In May, Rob Ford surprised many-a-queer in Toronto by reading a statement against homophobia—his first action in defence of Toronto’s queer community (to my knowledge). Here’s my entirely cynical take on the whole thing.

June was a fantastic month for queers, at least in Ontario, where both a transgender human rights bill and an anti-bullying bill were passed in the legislature after long battles. A transgender rights bill is also currently advancing in the House of Commons after receiving support from some Conservative parliamentarians after watering down the wording, much to the chagrin of activists who’ve been long-working on the bill.

Closing out the year of big news, in July a federal court ruled that Canada’s refugee workers should not “not rely on stereotypes to determine if a person is gay.” It’s been a tumultuous year for refugees in Canada as the Conservatives implement measures that immigration activists say are unfair and unnecessary.

So, as I said before, this list is not exhaustive. Don’t get angry with me for leaving something out or for outright forgetting. It’s been a long-ass week, guys, and my memory ain’t too hot right now. If you think I’ve left something off this list, leave a comment down below, and I’ll update the article if need be.

(Check out our photo gallery from pride here.)

 If Pride is the well-mannered, well-dressed and well-manicured stereotypical gay, then Pervers/ Cite is its bratty, punk-ass younger sibling: apologetically political, not afraid to stand up for what they believe in and looking for a sweaty good time with like-minded individuals.

Now in its sixth year, Pervers/ Cité remains firmly rooted in the activist community from which it sprang. What started off as a series of workshops by queer activists on a variety of topics such as labour unions and immigration support has blossomed into a diverse 10-day festival with a goal of “making links across social justice groups, queer communities and radical visions of pride.”

“We try to recognize that our history and our place is alongside other social movements, and as gay rights move ahead, sometimes with government support, we have a responsibility to not just be the progressive gloss on a government who’s implementing a really regressive social agenda,” said Joshua Valentine Pavan, one of the volunteer organizers of Pervers/ Cité.

He pointed out that Montreal Pride recently gave a community builder award to Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier, one of the architects of Bill 78.

All Pervers/ Cité events are organized by volunteers with a focus on accessibility, and money is raised by a series of fundraising parties throughout the year. Keeping down overhead costs allows them to plan and throw events without a looming corporate sponsor.

“I think one of Pervers/Cité’s important roles is in reminding people that there are alternatives, there are other ways of doing things outside of the logic they seemed trapped in that actually are much more reflective of the way the initial Prides were organized, ” noted Pavan.

This year for the first time, Perverse/ Cité is being run in parallel with the 2-qtpoc festival that is dedicated to 2-spirted, queer and trans people of colour. Together, they will present “Self/Lust: queer performance and art show” on Saturday August 12th at 8pm at Studio XX (4001 Berri, #201). The show will focus on empowered self-definition, self-narration and self-expression associated with being marginalized both within a community and society as a larger whole.

If you’re looking to dance for a good cause, on Saturday you could also check out No Homos Are Illegal, a benefit for Manuel Sanchez, a Mexican refugee whose claim to remain in Canada was rejected last month after nearly four years of living here. Music stars at 7:30pm, DJs around 11pm at L’Envers (185 Van Horne).

Whether you choose Birkenstocks or high heeled pumps, you’ll fit right in at the Radical Dyke March. The first of its kind in Quebec history, it was inspired by the spirit of the Lesbian Avengers, the team of the first Dyke March in Washington almost two decades ago. The organizers hope to fight “lesbophobia” by recognizing the different types of oppression that are specific to the lesbian community that have existed throughout history and persist into present day. The group meets at Parc Emilie-Gamelin at 6pm with the march to follow.

If you’d like to learn more about the local history of the city’s queer community, try the walking tour on Friday August 18th. Highlights include the site of the infamous Sex Garage and Montreal’s earliest cruising grounds. It departs from the Ritz Carlton (1228 Sherbrooke W) at 3pm.

Queer bookworms will be in heaven at the 5th annual incarnation of Queer Between the Covers, a collectively organized book fair that offers materials otherwise unavailable in the city since the closing of long-standing queer bookstore L’Androgyne. Its tables will be populated by local and international bookstores, publishers, and zine authors at the Centre St-Pierre (1212 Panet) from 11am to 6pm.

Unleash your inner lunar libertine and join the nocturnal dance floor apocalypse known as POMPe, the monthly queer electro dance extravaganza by The Heart Is A Pump Events Collective. Profits from this month’s event will go to benefit the Legal Defense Fund 2012, a group that supports the arrestees and student unions that have been hit hard with Bill 78. This all-night, booty shaking dance party features The Salivation Army, When Hairy Met Salope, Like The Wolf and birthday boy Jnnbnnrck at Katacombes (1635 St. Laurent).

For a full calendar and more information about any of the events, visit  here.

Montreal’s summer festival train continues chugging along with the bold, brash and always fabulous Divers/Cite festival. Running from Monday, July 30th to Sunday, August 5th, the 20th incarnation of the multidisciplinary LGBT festival features a wide variety of live music, DJs, films and art that “celebrate the value of diversity in a spirit of sharing, solidarity and openness with the world”.  The two outdoor main stages have moved from their usual home in the Village to the Old Port’s Quai Jacques-Cartier.

Some within the city’s gay community view the move as considerable progress towards mainstream public acceptance. “It has become like a festival occasion where, in the beginning, we were like Barnum and Bailey – the circus. Now, we’ve become banal,” local gay activist Michael Hendricks told the CBC.

Most of the programming is free and outdoors, and open to people of all genders and sexualities. Get out your rainbow flag and neon short shorts for this weekend’s highlights:

If you’re looking to start your party on Friday afternoon, look no further than the inaugural edition of Ohh La La, especially if you’re into cyclists in spandex biking shorts. At 4pm, a crew of about 400 cyclists from the Friends for Life Bike Rally will roll into town to complete their 600 kilometer ride from Toronto to Montreal to raise awareness and funds for people living with HIV/AIDS. Their arrival will be followed by DJ sets at the Grande Place from Toronto’s Shawn Riker and the Dutch duo Chocolate Puma. Closing the night is the influential, high energy house music of the charismatic Brazilian DJ Ana Paula.

Friday night there’s tough party competition from Apocalipstik, another first-time event that aims to unite the city’s best alternative queer partiers together for an all-out celebration of alternative and electropop music. Starting on the Loto-Quebec Stage at 6pm, the night features the gorgeous strings of Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre), the insatiably catchy urban rhythms of French songstress Fanny Bloom, and the self-proclaimed ‘Dirty Pretty’ glory of Toronto’s Dirty Mags, among others. Rounding out the night is a performance by Glam Gam Productions, which if you’re keeping score, you’d know is my ridiculous burlesque family. We’ll be performing a very sexy, special number choreographed by the amazing Gabrielle Coulter. Needless to say, I’m getting a little wet just thinking about stepping out onto the biggest stage I’ve ever been on!

Apocalipstik is being presented in association with Montreal’s hottest new queer bar & venue, the Royal Phoenix, and is being hosted by the bar’s owner and artistic director, Val Desjardins, along with the infamous duo behind the city’s Gaybash parties, Sally & Tyler.

On Saturday night, get your glitter on for the Mascara Drag Night, hosted by Montreal drag legend Mistress Mado at the Grande Place. With a planned homage to Whitney Houston and a tribute to Dalida as well as performances from local luminaries and newcomers to the scene, the 15th anniversary of Mascara promises to be a glamorous night of gender-bending glory.

As if you weren’t already partied out, there’s a full-on, 10-hour long dance party to close the festival on Sunday. Starting at 2pm at the Grand Place, this non-stop house music marathon features the likes of Spanish superstar DJ duo CHUS & CEBALLOS and celebrity remixer and producer David Morales. Bonus points if you can dance your way through all 10 hours without developing any blisters on your feet or passing out due to heat exhaustion.

Afterwards, you’ve only one full week to recuperate until the start of the Montreal Pride festival, which features the city’s most brightly-colored parade!

For a full schedule and map of the site, visit http://www.diverscite.org.