trans march 3

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

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

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

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

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

Demands trans march1in the press release include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pride and Representation: The Ongoing Saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montreal Pride runs from August 8th to 14th.

Pulse Victims

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

pride trike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

miss pulse anita waistline

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

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

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

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

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

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

gay pride america tricycle

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

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

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

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

chelsea cyclist

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

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

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

Honor and Donate to the victims of the Pulse Shooting

pulse

 

gay pride unicorn

“Where Have All The Good Straight Men Gone?” ask many would-be subservient wifeys hopelessly scrolling through Tinder guys holding fish and deer carcasses posing on their 4 wheelers with TRUMP signs in the background.

They might be lurking around, holding doors, and throwing overcoats over puddles.

cage dancersLookin’ for a sweet innocent girl to put in a cage, change her name, make his claim, put on the apron and take off your shoes, silly little ditzy dame, you don’t have a mind to blow, spread those perfectly shaved legs, slow, lips, hips, the bump after the hump, it grows, like college tuition and your aging body dips in value. Again to be marginalized. A slave to society, the bondage of she, shhh just deny it, hide it, nobody cares about her anyways. Misguided feminists, and nontraditional warriors. Trapped indefinitely.

Maybe “traditional” stereotypical basic straight men don’t like me because I just don’t like that outdated notion of a straight man. I prefer people who know about their fluidity and are not rigid in the ways of how a man or woman should be, based on some shitty gender normative handbook handed out at birth to the illiterate new born masses.

I’ve had it up to here (points to the sky). Everyone should just admit they are queer. Never a straight line, there are always curves in the road, sensual, wonderful twists of reality and revolution. Being rigid in gender standards divides us, its perfectly fine to be a man, or a woman, or whatever in between there is. Nobody needs to be a wife beating manly man, bros disturb me – anyone who watches ultimate fighting and subscribes to Hustler and wears nothing but camo to hide his deep seeded insecurity.

Whenever I meet a cute guy who is fun, interesting, and seems genuinely interested in what I am saying, I instantly assume he is gay. I often check their bumpers for rainbows or look at who they are looking for on Facebook like a stalker (just to be sure), only to be a little disappointed. I have been falling in love with gay men my whole life. One of my first crushes is now a drag queen. He was a real jerk and called me out for having a crush on him. Drag Queens are my ideal women. Everything! Extreme hyperbole of a woman. The most femalest conclusion of taboo societal definitions. I love it all, with sequins on top.gay bestie and ronald

Ultra flamboyant gay men are my favorite creatures – my friends in college called me the Premier Fag Hag of Buffalo. I have always been entranced by feminine males (and masculine females). they can walk better in heels than I ever could imagine. I read a quote from someone on the internet saying that Prince and David Bowie basically reinvented manliness – they showed the world that there are different ways to be men, and that was ground breaking.

I should throw in the towel chancing boys completely and just go after adorable Asian women who roll joints really well, or curly haired artists with art dirt under their fingernails, dancers, poets, musicians, singers of drunk karaoke, activists, vegans, full of more kindness and smiles than anything, no aggression, no hate, only softness, tender sweet lush moments of confusion.

But god dammit I want to get it on to the angelic roar of Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” blasting on high at 4 am too.

And all the girls I think are cool are totally straight.

drag king walterI know that I am a weirdo, parts male and female, the ratios change based on my outfit and mood. You must have respect for yourself as well. If you hold your head high, no man can tear you down. This violent anti-woman power struggle we exist in is not right. We need to take back our piece of the pie. I do not want to hold anyone’s hand.

Let’s just say I have lost faith in most straight identifying males. Zero faith. None. “Men care more about what is going into my mouth than what is coming out of it,” my roomie said about her love life. A slew of one night stands who sleep with you and never call you back, or even worse, they just don’t bother to take your number to begin with. One foot out the door as soon as the condom is off. Texting some other girl while “talking” to you. Sex and romance is something that is taken for granted and not respected.

OK so maybe saying I have ZERO faith is a little much. Obviously there are exceptions to every generalized statement, good straight men do exist somewhere, I know girls who have found them. My best friend found her prince charming on Tinder and they are about to get happily married. It’s a success in a world of other people’s/my own epic love fails.

I see them, the good men, in their natural habitats, volunteering, riding bikes, reading books, eating vegetables, saving the world. They do exist, but I haven’t found the right one, just a lot of asshats posing as perfection. Apparently my confidence is intimidating. Perhaps its my fault for also holding them on such high pedestals. Who could live up to my ideal awesomeness? I think someone will defy that ideal and even surpass the awesome factor, blow my mind wide open.

The magic 8-ball says not tonight. I am just going to have to ride out this storm.

Cakes da Killa at PHI center in Montreal

Last Saturday, FTB  went to see the 25 year old Jersey rapper  Cakes da Killa at PHI Center. The show opened with WASIU ft. Dear Lola & KD II Times.

It started off with a small crowd until Cakes took over, dressed in Rad Hourani and ready to turn the heat up. His performance was strong, carefree and intense and featured some of his old tracks such as Serve it up, Goodie Goodies and Truth Tella.

The crowd got the chance to vogue with him. When he finished, the crowd was left wanting more!

Click on the image below to open the gallery:

Cakes Da Killa @ Centre Phi

*Photos by Bianca Lecompte

radio microphone

Panelists Jerry Gabriel, Cem Ertekin and Drew Bell discuss Just for Laughs and the concept of comedy, a week that could define Barack Obama’s presidency and what it means to be Canadian. Plus the Community Calendar and an interview with Gilbert Gottfried

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

 

Panelists

Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Drew Bell: FTB contributor

Gilbert Gottfried interview by Jerry Gabriel (FULL INTERVIEW AVAILABLE)

FTB PODCAST #7: Gilbert Gottfried, Obama, and O Canada by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

caitlyn-jenner

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

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

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

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

jenner newspaper
Have some fucking respect, New York Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chelsea
Chelsea Lee Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

radio microphone

In our fifth FTB Podcast, we discuss school lunch shaming, the first openly gay pro football player Michael Sam joining the Montreal Alouettes and new PQ leader PKP. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

    Panelists

 

Josh Davidson: FTB food columnist

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor & Als fan

School lunch shaming report by Josh Davidson

FTB Podcast #5: School Lunch Shaming, Michael Sam Joins Alouettes and PKP by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

mike pence answer the question

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

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

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

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

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

equal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

memories pizza
Memories Pizza website hacked

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

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

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

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

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

cat gay pride

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

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

FUCK HATE! FUCK THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT!

Out in the Night header

Every year, Cinema Politica brings some of the most important, relevant and powerful political and social documentaries to Canadian screens. This year, one of the most anticipated films is Blair Dorosh-Walter’s Out in the Night, which tells the stories of four African-American lesbian women who were incarcerated after an altercation outside a New York theatre, labeled as a ‘ruthless lesbian gang’ despite clearly acting in self-defense. In the spirit of films like The Thin Blue Line, Out in the Night methodically deconstructs the case against these four women, as well as shedding light on their lives before and after their prison sentences.

Out in the Night insertFormally, Out in the Night uses the same set of tools as other socially-conscious documentaries. Talking heads, inter-titles, archive footage, you know the drill. Expanding or playing with the limits of representation and documentary form aren’t really the concern of the film as much as communicating information in as direct a manner as possible.

Out in the Night succeeds in this goal, telling the story of these four women and laying out the many holes, inconsistencies and outright fabrications in the case laid against them in such detail that it becomes almost impossible to doubt their innocence. Simply as an example of documentary journalism, Out in the Night is a very strong film.

However, like many films of this nature, Out in the Night doesn’t quite go far enough. Although the story of these women and the many ways in which society and “the system” failed them are laid out, the larger questions, and any attempt at answering those questions, are only slightly touched upon. It isn’t enough, for me, to simply say -how- these women were wronged so spectacularly, but -why-.

What are the systems of homophobia, male entitlement and racism that created a world where these events could even happen? How has the media, whose sensationalist coverage of the incident and subsequent trials is a focus of the film, become so skewed and dependent on hyperbole and exaggeration? What social and political systems are responsible for what happened, and most important of all, how can we combat them?

The film does an excellent job at raising awareness of the many failures of the American justice system and the adversity faced daily by African-American members of the LGBTQ community, but raising awareness is step one. Step two is aiding the audience in putting that awareness to good use, how to channel the outrage at this and similar incidents into real social change. How to recognize the systems, both political and social, that made this happen, and ensure these mistakes are not repeated.

Out in the Night is ideal for festivals like Cinema Politica, and group viewing in general, in that may be at its strongest when accompanied by group discussion. Monday’s CP screening, in partnership with Black History Month Montreal, will include a group discussion with special guest speakers.

Simply watching the film isn’t enough. Talk about it, discuss the questions the film didn’t bring up or answer. Use it as a catalyst, a jumping-off point for discussions of social change and reform. Because although it is very good, it can’t function on its own as a tool for inciting the change in the world that will prevent incidents like the one shown in the film from occurring again.

* Out in the Night plays at Cinema Politica Concordia Monday, February 2, 7pm. 1455 deMaisonneuve Ouest, room H110

Mary Ann Davis

This is part of an on-going series putting the spotlight on local candidates, electoral districts and municipal politics in Montreal. It is our intention to interview candidates from all parties.

As to the style of this and other interviews, the answers are not direct quotations. Who wants to read a transcript besides NSA analysts anyways? I prefer to paraphrase, though I’ve been careful to fully capture the spirit and content of each response. Ergo it’s not verbatim but as close as I can make it. I hope you enjoy.

***

Mary Ann Davis has lived in Verdun for over twenty years, having moved to Montreal as soon as she could get out of Thetford Mines. As a child, her father had taken her to Montreal on a business trip and in Phillips Square together they sat munching on ice cream cones. She vividly recalls taking in all that was around her, enjoying the comings and goings of so many people and deciding that this was the city for her.

Ms. Davis is a union organizer, LGBTQ activist and Projet Montréal candidate for Verdun borough mayor.

West Vancouver Park on Nun's Island in the borough of Verdun (photo Wikimedia Commons)
West Vancouver Park on Nun’s Island in the borough of Verdun (photo Wikimedia Commons)

What’s the big issue, for you and the people you wish to represent, that will define this election?

Nun’s Island needs a new school. The current primary school on the predominantly residential and upper-middle class island is the largest in the province with over 900 students. A new school has been officially required since 2007 but there’s been too little movement on the issue.

The biggest problem is that there’s little available land left on the island and all of it is in private hands waiting to be developed into townhouses and condo complexes. With more than 22 000 residents living on the island, we believe a new school is a major priority.

The current borough government wants to place the school in a park, adjacent to two of the island’s major thoroughfares. The site is too small to accommodate the large new school which is required to serve residents’ needs, meaning if the current plan goes ahead, we’ll be right back where we started, needing another school, in but a few years’ time.

We think this is profoundly irresponsible. Moreover, Nun’s island will soon need a secondary school as well, given current demographic trends. We feel it’s far better we plan for those future realities now rather than deal with the consequences later on.

What has the current administration done about this issue?

The current Union Montreal borough administration has not handled this well. They made it a needlessly divisive issue; people are being harassed, tires have been slashed. Keep in mind that the Verdun borough mayor’s office has been raided by UPAC three times; it’s clear to me someone may have some significant real estate interests.

There’s enough undeveloped land on Nun’s Island for between eight and ten thousand more apartments or condos. That’s a lot of potential tax revenue. But Projet Montréal has thoroughly studied this issue, has analyzed the OCPM’s 71-page report and we’ve come to a different conclusion: private land should be used for new schools.

It’s ridiculous to put a too small school in the middle of a park. Other lots have been offered by private developers, so we’d really like to know why the current Union Montreal government is so insistent on the location the OCPM deemed insufficient.

How has Verdun changed since you moved here?

Well, the first week I lived here there was an arsonist on the loose.

So it has improved?

Ha! Yes, by leaps and bounds. There were parts of Verdun you simply didn’t walk around late at night by yourself back then, today Verdun’s nothing like that. Real estate speculators keep indicating it’s one of many ‘next Plateaus’ in our city. There’s certainly been some gentrification, but this has been problematic as well. Verdun is an affordable inner-ring suburb and I’d like to keep it that way.

Wellington Street in Verdun (photo by StudyInMontreal.info)
Wellington Street in Verdun (photo by StudyInMontreal.info)

Tell me about the community you wish to represent, what are their needs?

Verdun is now a very multi-cultural community, with large Chinese, Haitian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Rwandan communities. We also have a surprisingly large Latino community.

But all too often I find these diverse communities living in silos – I’ve been walking around visiting apartment buildings where only one ethnic group can take up an entire building. That needs to change.

Further, many immigrants feel completely disengaged from civic politics, some have even been incredulous when I told them that they had the right to vote in our municipal elections. Can you believe it?

What do you want to accomplish if elected borough mayor?

Aside from solving the public school problem in Nun’s Island, I want to revitalize our main commercial arteries with more locally-owned small businesses. We also need to avoid a ‘condo ghettoization’ of Verdun and secure low-cost housing.

I’d also like to get citizen committees up and running on specific issues, be it new schools or what our needs are vis-a-vis the Champlain Bridge replacement. Ultimately, we need a far more engaged citizenry, so that we can resuscitate Verdun’s greatest single characteristic – its community spirit.

Is Montreal a gay sanctuary?

From my perspective, yes, absolutely, but we need to be aware of how recent this is. When I first moved to Montreal I did so because small-town Québec wasn’t terribly interested in being open and inclusive towards homosexuals.

But we absolutely must remember that, even as recently as twenty years ago, gay-bashings were far more frequent and the Montreal police even had a ‘morality squad’ which was all too often employed in raiding underground gay clubs, beating the shit out of people, and/or patrolling Mount Royal ticketing men for ‘cruising.’ It’s probably very surprising for young people today to hear such things.

What changed on a local level?

About twenty years ago the gay community in Montreal got organized and began pushing for reforms. It helped that there was a human rights commission set up to investigate anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, not to mention all the bad press the Sex Garage raid produced. But things really picked up when the gay community began concentrating in what is today the Gay Village and local politicians realized that the LGBTQ community as a whole was increasingly wealthy and far better connected.

Once politicians realized we were organized and resourceful (not to mention swimming in disposable income), they became sincerely interested in ‘the gay vote.’ The rest, as they say, is history.

***

Montrealers go to the polls November 3rd 2013. For the love of all that’s good and holy, please go vote. Make sure your name’s registered by calling Elections Québec.

Vladimir Putin's 2012 Inaugguration

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

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

Putin Pussy Riot portrait.

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

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

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

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

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

Obama and Putin meeting.

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

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

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

Putin anti-gay ban protest in Netherlands.

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

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

dont say gay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stacey Campfield
Stacey Campfield

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

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

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

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

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

* Top image by Jason Pence McBroom, Out & About

transgender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more info: cinemapolitica.org/concordia

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@ 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

scalesofjustice

The issue of HIV-status disclosure has been a hot topic recently in Canada. Yesterday, 31-year old Steven Boone of Ottawa was charged with three counts attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault after not disclosing his status to his sexual partners before having unprotected sex. Two charges were ultimately dismissed, while more have since been filed in Ottawa and Waterloo.

The case first became news in 2010 when Boone’s picture was released to the media after a then-17-year-old came forward and he tested positive after having had unprotected sex with Boone several times. Several other victims came forward, and more charges were filed. During the trial, the Crown brought forth transcripts of online chats where Boone lied about his status and sought out HIV-negative men to have sex with, leading to the higher charge of attempted murder.

AIDS activists worry that the criminalization of non-disclosure will cause people who might be infected to remain in the dark about their status. “This just sends a terrible message. Why would you want to know if you could be criminalized, if you could end up in prison for the rest of your life?” asked Dr. Mark Tyndall, who testified as an expert during Boone’s trial.

Boone’s conviction comes only a month after the Supreme Court ruled that people are not required to disclose their HIV status if the “realistic possibility of transmission is negated”, which in this case refers to a low viral load and proper condom use.

This is an update to the landmark 1998 decision that established that failure to disclose one’s status combined with failure to use protection constitutes “significant risk of harm”, and could result in a charge of aggravated sexual assault. The maximum penalty for aggravated sexual assault in Canada is life in jail, although no one has received the maximum sentence so far.

The Canadian Aids Society spoke out about last month’s ruling, calling it unjust and “a major step backwards for public health and human rights”.

They point out that the arbitrary notion of “significant risk” blatantly ignores scientific evidence that is even more apparent now than the original ruling in 1998. They are worried that people who exercise responsibility and take the proper precautions could still be prosecuted under the new law.

“People living with HIV need more health and social supports; they don’t need the constant threat of criminal accusations and possible imprisonment hanging over their heads. Similarly, people not living with HIV need to be empowered to accept responsibility for their own health, and not proceed under a false sense of security that the criminal law will protect them from infection,” they wrote in a media release.

Intentional transmission of HIV can also lead to criminal prosecution in the United States as well as most European nations. By contrast, in the areas of the developing world where rates of HIV and AIDS are more widespread, there are no laws regarding knowingly infecting someone with the virus.

 

Photo credit: File photo, Abbotsford Times