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.

Deanne Smith

Deanne Smith
DeAnne Smith – Photo Chris Zacchia

Within three minutes of meeting DeAnne Smith, it was clear that she’s easy to like. I met up with the comedian at ComedyWorks, an old club whose dim lighting masks the sweat and blood from years and years of great comedy. At the top of the stairs I found a bathroom to wash bike grease off my hands, and incidentally, found DeAnne getting ready for that evening’s show. Looking up and inquiring if we were “doing a thing,” she set the tone for the super chill interview.

Stopping to say hi to a woman on the way out of ComedyWorks, and waving to the bartenders as we entered Grumpy’s, it was also clear that these neighboring spaces are her stomping grounds, places she feels comfortable in and has spent a lot of time at since she started on the scene in 2005.

Deanne Smith
DeAnne Smith – Photo Chris Zacchia

“When I started there was just two English speaking clubs, ComedyWorks and Comedy Nest, and there was a time when one of them didn’t even have an open mic, so there was really nowhere for comedians to get stage time. So I started coming here, to Grumpy’s, and crashing their open mic which was a hodgepodge of stuff. There was never comedy here then, there was just music and spoken word, and then I started doing comedy here and telling other people ‘hey let’s do it,’ and now the open mic here is at least half comedy.”

It’s with this self-sufficient, get-shit-done attitude that DeAnne’s created her own opportunities and accomplished an impressive amount in only a few short years. Responding to the lack performance opportunities, DeAnne created new stand-up shows at different venues, which came and went as she built her career. Comedy On The Main was the first of these shows, which she started with three other local comics. When the bar that hosted it shut down, they moved around the corner and the show continued for a few more years as Comedy Off The Main.

“It was just a weekly Wednesday night show” she says, “we had a really good time there. And it was fun, because a lot of us were coming up and didn’t have stage time anywhere else, but were getting stage time there. And then we were getting better at comedy outside of the clubs, and then we all kind of busted back onto the scene better comedians, and nobody knew how that happened.”

Stand Up Strip Down and Royal Riot are the most recent of DeAnne’s comedic inventions. Like its name cleverly implies, Stand Up Strip Down combines comedy and burlesque, while Royal Riot is a monthly stand-up show at the Royal Phoenix.

DeAnne’s travelled to some really cool places, doing stand-up in Edinburgh, London, Reykjavik, the Yukon and all over Australia. When I asked her how these opportunities came up she answered in the most modest and matter-of-fact way, “I just went after them.” Bam!

“This year was really crazy because I realized I was riding a camel in the desert in Australia, and then I was like whoooaa, in less than six months –”

“Australia has camels??” (I really need to stop interrupting my interviewees)

“Yeah, they have a huge feral camel population. They’re not even sure what the estimate is, but possibly up to a million or more camels roaming around in the desert.”

“Nooo waay, a billion??” (Sigh. It came out before I could stop it)

“No, a million. Not a billion. So realized in less than six months I went from dog-sledding in the Yukon to riding camels in the desert in Australia, all in the name of comedy, which is amazing.”

DeAnne’s latest show, Living The Sweet Life, has already been around Australia in a five festival/three and a half month tour, and is about to start its five night run at Just For Laughs. “Playing Just For Laughs is great. Because it’s the hometown, you know, I get to see friends from around the world that I don’t usually see and all my friends from in town” says DeAnne. “I know a lot of the guys from doing stuff in Australia and stuff in the UK, so it’s nice to be in your hometown. It transforms into something a little bit special. It feels like Christmas or something; like when mom and dad rearrange the furniture and bring in the Christmas tree and you’re like ‘wow! This is amazing!’”

Part sarcasm, part sincerity, the title “Living The Sweet Life” plays with the concept of how life is sometimes a wee bit pathetic, but actually pretty damn good when we stop and think about it. “The title came out of a joke that I do about this one time that I bought a weekly bus pass, and I was like super psyched that I had the weekly bus pass. And then the little voice in my head was like ‘living the sweeeet life’ and I was like oh my god, seriously? Let’s have bigger goals and dreams DeAnne.”

Deanne Smith
DeAnne Smith – Photo Chris Zacchia

Continuing on, she explains “life is a tiny bit pathetic in those ways, but on the other hand we all live in Western society and we’re all doing really really well by global standards. So I sneak in some social commentary, but it’s maybe camouflaged among the ukulele tunes and dick jokes.”

Excellent, who doesn’t love uke tunes and penis jokes? Adding to the fun and debauchery, DeAnne chooses an audience member at each show to give “sweet life treatment” to for an extra special experience. She’s leaving the details of what this all entails to our imaginations, but stresses that it’s not a bad thing to sit in the front row.

Well, that all sounds great to me. I’m scraping together some bus money and getting there early for my front-row-center, cause baby, today’s been a bitch and I need some sweet life treatment.

Her shows (part of Zoofest) are July 23rd, 24th, 25th 27th & 28th at 8:30 at Underworld

Tickets: DeAnne Smith Zoofest

A modern-day witch hunt is underway in Canada. The hunted: not terrorists, but fetishists.

The RCMP is investigating the conduct of one of its officers who posted pictures of himself on a fetish website. The most shocking aspect of the story is not the photos, though, but the fact that people are outraged by them.

The media, instead of questioning the legitimacy of the claims made against the officer, grants almost all of its resources to perpetuating lies and misinformation based on long-outdated values.

“I don’t know any woman who’d want to work alongside someone who was into that sort of stuff,” said former RCMP officer Sherry Benson-Podolchuk in a Globe and Mail article. “It raises too many questions. I think it brings the whole force into disrepute. I think he should be gone, no question about it.”

Replace “that sort of stuff” with “gay sex” and we could easily be reading an article from the 1950s. At that time the Canadian government was engaged in a witch hunt for gays in the public service, and they used the latest technology to find them: the dreaded Fruit Machine. (I kid you not.) Suspected public servants—as well as members of the RCMP and military—were made to view gay porn while the machine checked the dilation of their eyes, which would somehow prove arousal. Anyone whose eyes dilated was likely fired.

Of course, the technology was bunk and was eventually cast aside, but the effects of the anti-gay policy sent a chill through queers across the country. The same chill, in fact, that is now being sent through a different group of so-called “sexual deviants”—fetishists.

One essential fact, which should not have to be said half a century after the sexual revolution, is that everything this man did was 100 per cent legal. For those who’ve been whipped into a frenzy, take a breath and think about these following statements:

– engaging in consensual sex is legal—no matter how intense—so long as age requirements are met,
– taking photos of said sex is legal, so long as both parties are above the age of 18, and
– posting said pictures online in a place made for such photos is also perfectly legal.

So, keeping these facts in mind, we should not even be having this discussion. Think about it: a man is having his professional and private life destroyed by moralists who are uncomfortable with what this man does in his private time. These so-called “concerned citizens” feign a desire to protect fellow citizens from “perverts”, but are actually just imposing their Victorian morals on people long-freed from the constraints of that time.

And, it unfortunately needs to be said, at no time was the integrity of the RCMP compromised. You know why? Because there are fetishists everywhere in society—right now—doing their jobs just fine. You know how I know this? Because these people are still employed.

But, this is more than just a legal issue or a privacy issue. This is also an issue of what we stand for as a society. At the heart of the matter, this is not a story about a man in trouble for posting explicit photos online, but, rather, about the behaviour occurring in the photos. But what concern should anyone’s fetish be to anyone else, so long as it falls within the law?

Of course, if you post online, the whole world can see it, but it shouldn’t mean that you sign away your life if you’ve done nothing illegal. These photos were posted during the man’s private time, completely away from his work-related duties, and the photos do not depict the man in RCMP garb. There is no reason for the RCMP to be investigating them or for the media to be reproducing them.

Pride London, 2010

Moralists claim that the man showed “poor judgement” in posting the photos. But how did he show poor judgement? The only thing this man should have expected was possible embarrassment if they were found. Nothing more. In no way should this man have expected to be kink-shamed by Canada’s highest police body and all mainstream media organizations.

When Pierre Elliott Trudeau said that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, he surely meant more than just the place we sleep. Otherwise, gays wouldn’t be tolerated holding hands or kissing on the street. What he was saying was that all aspects of the private lives of citizens are of no business to anyone else.

If one thing has been made apparent from this debacle, it’s the importance of a loud and proud fetish brigade at Pride each summer. The moral purists among us need to know that these people exist and are a large part of the fabric that make up this eclectic country. But, judging by the mainstream ops pieces this past week on both Pride season and the RCMP “scandal”, it seems there are a lot of minds that need to change.

For example, in the same breath that Barbara Kay in the National Post tells us how much she loves us gays, she also laments the “exhibitionistic priapism [at Pride] that is nothing anyone, gay or straight, should be proud of.”

Her words are the same as those used 50 years ago against gays busting down closets, letting the world know that they’re here and they’re queer. Here’s to hoping fetishists don’t wait another half-century before they can live in peace and bondage.

All photos courtesy of Flickr

Each year, evils abound at Pride celebrations around the world. Sodomites hold hands, kiss, and even express the gruesome desire to wed, despite their shared chromosomal make-up. But of all the evils one could possibly fathom, no one could have expected a one-hundred-year-old cookie to take the cake. That’s right, a cookie.

Last week, as part of the Oreo’s centenary celebrations, Kraft Foods released a picture of a rainbow-coloured version of their famous cookie. Comments poured in from thousands of cookie lovers either praising the company for supporting love or blaming it for the demise of Western civilization.

In light of last week’s article in which I denounced the use of Pride to sell a product, I was left conflicted in the face of the colourful treat. Is there really anything so wrong with the Pride-cookie, as my previous article would make it seem?  No, there isn’t. The difference is in whether queer rights are being used to sell a controversial product or whether the motive is to affirm the existence of a marginalized group, as it is with Kraft.

The simultaneously overt and ambiguous nature of the ad is pitch perfect.

What could possibly be ambiguous about about a towering, rainbow-bright cookie, you say? Well, take a look at the ad and what it actually says. One giant cookie next to one boldfaced word: “Pride”.

In its simplicity, Kraft has allowed the ad to have a wide variety of meanings to many people, without actually having to directly say anything. The only message from Kraft’s spokespeople was that the poster was in line with the company’s history of “celebrating inclusiveness and diversity.”

The relative ambiguity of the ad allowed the company to appeal to a huge swath of the Western world that is generally pro-gay, while maybe not pro same sex marriage, without appearing to sidestep the issue.

Of course, there are those taking on the task of fighting this message of love, despite the odds. And yes, One Million Moms is the group leading the charge. “Moms are aware that Kraft manufactures a long list of popular products,” the group said in a (not-so-threatening) threat. “But Kraft needs to know that there are competitors that make similar products.”

“[Kraft] announced to American consumers where it stands on the controversial ‘gay’ marriage issue,” OMM went on to say. The only thing is, though, that this isn’t true. At no point did Kraft say anything about marriage, but rather that people should be proud of their love. Of course, it wouldn’t make a particularly effective campaign to attack love, so the specter of marriage was brought into the equation.

OMM stopped short of calling for a boycott, because they’ve probably realized that Kraft foods manufactures a significant amount of cheap products their members consume and won’t go without.

They’ve also undoubtedly realized that another of the other largest food manufacturers, General Mills, has taken an even more overt stance than Kraft by coming out against a same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota.

I almost feel bad for these so-called “conservative activists”. It must be difficult to wake up every morning to have the sky fall around them. But, then again, there’s something perversely enjoyable about watching world fall apart.

What’s going to happen to these people as it becomes more acceptable and less risky for companies to acknowledge their gay customers as legitimate human beings? Will they retreat into the woods to hide from the pro-gay capitalist society?

I hope not, simply because they’re so entertaining.

In any case, twenty years from now, this won’t be an issue. Companies won’t have reason to take a stance either way, because our rights will, for the most part, be fully enshrined in Western countries—at least I hope so.

Of all the feelings I thought I’d have at a memorial to gay Holocaust victims, shame was the furthest from my mind. Yet it’s exactly what I felt.

While on a walking tour in Berlin recently, my boyfriend and I stopped at the breathtaking Holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg Gate.

A graveyard of towering grey pillars overwhelms its guests as they work their way into the grid. And as city sounds give way to silence, the sheer madness of the Holocaust, the demented logic of fascism, and the utter bleakness of World War II are brought to bear on those who enter.

The absence of identifiable symbols or colours—religious or otherwise—strengthens the inclusive nature of the monument. So when I found out the memorial was not actually for all victims of the Holocaust, but only for the Jews, I felt shameful.

I felt shame that my own community’s suffering was deemed unworthy of inclusion in a most important Holocaust memorial. Was the pain felt by a gay man somehow lesser than that felt by a Jew?

Enough people felt the suffering of homosexuals was worthy of commemoration, though, that a monument was eventually built for them. But after seeing it, I’m not quite sure what to think.

Coming from the immense Jewish monument, the ‘Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism’ is underwhelming, to say the least. It stands as but a single, towering, unmarked block of concrete, nestled away in a nondescript enclave of the famous Tiergarten.

The juxtaposition of the two sites—one impossible to miss, the other hard to notice—only added to my initial shame of exclusion. Why is the monument for gay victims hidden in the bushes?

Maybe it’s a fitting place, I thought to myself. Maybe a memorial planted in the forest, where those it commemorates were once shamed into seeking discreet sex, is appropriate. Or maybe not. In any case, the jury is out on that decision, so I’ll continue with the tour.

The shame of homosexuality is further explored in a video, seen through a window in the giant block, that features short clips of same-sex couples caught kissing in public. Despite hesitancy from the couples, all continue embracing their partner. The act, though hardly remarkable today, was once enough to end the lives of those caught under Germany’s anti-homosexual law.

Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, initially passed in 1871, criminalized sexual behaviour between men. Upon taking power, the Nazis intensified the law, allowing for the detention of homosexuals in concentration camps without any legal trial. Of the 5,000–15,000 gay men placed in concentration camps, up to 60 per cent perished.

Those that survived the camps were faced with further injustice after the war. Many of those “saved” were placed back in prison to finish the remainder of their sentence, since paragraph 175 was technically not a Nazi law. And even though the law was modified after WWII, it was not fully repealed until 1994.

Walking out of the woods and back on the main drag, I tried to make sense of the memorial. I realized I hadn’t even kissed my boyfriend in that most perfect of places. Caught up in the politics of the memorial, I’d lost sight of what it was all about: the ability to celebrate one’s love.

So I leaned in and, after a moment’s hesitation, we embraced—shame no longer on my mind.

The memorial may not be perfect. It may not be in the best spot and it may lack the power to inspire awe. But where it succeeds is in its simplicity with the message that love prevails.

Photo courtesy of Julian Ward

I never expected to say this, but for the first time during Stephen Harper’s reign, I’m happy he has a majority.

You see, last week, while we were all focused on Harper’s undemocratic budget bill, the Conservatives were busy strengthening our democracy.

Conservatives voted unanimously to repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act with no help from the opposition, save one Liberal. The move was celebrated by the right and met with fear and fear-mongering by the left.

The removal of Section 13 is important because it limited the free speech of every Canadian by banning the communication of “hatred or contempt” over the internet or by phone.

Yes, that’s right. Before the Harper government’s bold move, it was against the Human Rights Act to express hate or contempt for people in Canada. If this weren’t absurd enough, the law was upheld by quasi-judicial bodies comprised of people with possibly no legal training.

These organizations have the power to hand out steep fines and ban people from communicating certain ideas. And, regrettably, they have become the stomping ground not of people with legitimate human rights concerns, but of those whose cases would be laughed out of a real court.

For those concerned with what I’m writing about, I highly recommend the book “Shakedown”,  Ezra Levant’s passionately-written and occasionally-offensive testament to the absurdity of our “human rights” legislation.

Levant aside for the moment, I’ll continue with the queer angle of this subject, as is my sworn duty for Forget the Box.

In the same week that section 13 was repealed, a bill aiming to provide protections for trans people under the CHRA and the Criminal Code successfully passed its second reading. Liberals and New Democrats gave speeches in support of affirming the rights of trans people, and were eventually joined by some Conservatives to pass the vote (I don’t mean to make the trans-recognition legislation appear perfect and all-pretty—it’s certainly not—but I won’t get into that in this post).

Human rights laws were originally crafted to deal with rights violations as serious as those currently faced by trans people. If there’s one thing for which they were not intended, it’s preventing people from being offended. Yet that’s exactly what was being done.

Just as an example, in 2002, a Red Deer, Alberta newspaper ran a letter by Pastor Stephen Boissoin in which he condemned all things gay. “Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them,” he said, “are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.”

Boissoin used the letter as a rallying cry, pleading with readers to “stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn.”

Despite not having committed a crime under the criminal code and never being charged in a court of law, Boissoin was fined $5000 (this, in addition to legal fees) and then banned from speaking out against queers by the Alberta HRC. He was actually forbidden from speaking what he believed to be the truth. In Canada. In the 21st century.

That people actually accept money as remuneration for offense they claim to have felt is insulting to those whose rights have actually been violated; they should be ashamed of themselves.

It might just be this shame that caused the plaintiff in the Alberta case to give the $5,000 to Egale, a leading gay rights legal group, instead of pocketing it himself. Quite tellingly, however, Egale refused the money. They had previously stated in an editorial that “while it is difficult to support Boissoin’s right to spew his misguided and vitriolic thoughts, support his right, we must.”

“If Boissoin was no longer able to share his views, then who might be next in also having their freedom of expression limited?” they asked.

To further Egale’s point, governments should not be in the business of censorship, regardless of how vile their citizens can be. Pushing potentially dangerous ideas—and the people who harbour them—underground does not make for a more tolerant society. It only disenfranchises these “potentially dangerous” people, removing the safety net that is the public gaze—a prospect radically more threatening than the possibility of being offended.

The repeal of section 13, however, is not the end of the road for regaining our free speech. Provincial governments still have their own human rights legislation with their own respective “section 13s” that must be removed.

Unfortunately, this won’t happen any time soon, given the widespread support by Liberals and New Democrats for these antiquated laws. How can we support these politicians who simultaneously tout their support for LGBT people while voting against our right to free speech? This hypocrisy must be brought to light.

For now, though, let’s celebrate our new found rights, afforded to us by a party so often found to be prescribing their limits.

* Images: National Post, Sun Media