Anne + is a web series where Anne (Hanna van Vliet) has just moved into her first grown-up apartment after graduating university in Amsterdam. While out on an errand, she runs into her ex-girlfriend and first love Lily (Eline van Gils). The encounter makes her ruminate on her ever-evolving dating life since their break up four years earlier.

Split into six stories running about ten minutes each, the episodes explore how all of Anne’s relationships have helped define the person she has become. While the main character is queer, the relationship issues she experiences are universal; your first big romance fizzling out, falling in love with someone who just wants to be casual (or the other way around), being attracted to someone’s wild personality but then getting overwhelmed by it.

The series is run by Maud Wiemeijer and Valerie Bisscheroux, two Dutch lesbians who wanted to create more authentic media for queer women. And in that goal they absolutely succeed; although your window into each of Anne’s relationships is brief, they feel real and lived in. And each episode builds off the last so, by the end, you really feel like a world has been created.

My personal favourite episode was Anne+ Esther, where she has an affair with an older boss. After a devastating infatuation with a woman who didn’t love her back, Anne is giddy sleeping with Esther (Kirsten Mulder). She’s getting off on the secrecy of it all and assumes Esther just wants to keep things casual. Especially since she’s already in an open but committed relationship with someone else. But when she discovers that’s not the case, now it’s Anne’s turn to let someone down. 

The series really works because of the appeal of its lead, Hanna van Vliet. She’s a character you immediately root for, even when she dumps sweet Lily for wild Janna, or feels no shame about sleeping with her married boss.

While there are a few supporting characters that show up throughout the season like her friends Casper (Alex Hendrickx) and Jip (Jade Olieberg) it’s mostly Anne who carries this show, and van Vliet does easily. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Anne’s exploits (they’re currently filming season two) in the future. 

You can watch all of the Anne + episodes (some of the episodes already have subtitles, other episodes you have to fiddle with the settings) on the show’s official English website

Swedish filmmaker Levan Akin’s third feature And Then We Danced is about sensitive dancer Merab (real-life dancer Levan Gelbakhiani making an impressive acting debut) coming to terms with his homosexuality in the conservative, hyper-masculine world of Georgian dance. While that may sound like a giant bummer, the film manages to retain a sweet optimism throughout. 

When we first meet Merab, his dance instructor is chastising him for being ‘soft’. It’s clear that while Merab is extremely passionate about dance, he doesn’t quite fit in this world. He’s too expressive with his movements, too sensual.

But still, Merab is desperate to please. He comes from a long line of dancers and despite his father’s warnings that the profession can destroy you, wants to take it seriously.

Merab’s life changes when newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishivili) arrives. Irakli is brash, talks back to the instructor, and immediately becomes a rival for dance numbers.

They eventually do become friends, and then more, when members of the dance troupe go away together for the weekend. I mean who wouldn’t want to experiment with their sexuality when you’re drinking wine and dancing to Robyn shirtless in the woods? 

Lesser films would have focused solely on the melodrama of Merab and Irakli’s ill-fated romance. Yes, Merab is devastated at how it works out, but the story isn’t focused on that.

The real focus is about how that experience helps him become the man he’s truly meant to be: He meets some new like-minded friends and has an epic night out. He’s able to come clean to his longtime dance partner/sort-of girlfriend Mary (Ana Javakishvilli) about who he really is.

But most importantly, Merab dances the way he wants to dance, not the way his instructors have tried to drill into him. There’s no big Flashdance moment where Merab impresses the dance company so much they completely change their minds about him, but as he walks offscreen for the last time, you can’t help but feel it’s off to a much better future.

An adaptation of Fiona Shaw’s novel, Tell it to the Bees has plenty going for it. There’s a strong cast, led by Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger, beautiful Scottish countryside locations, and dreamy period costumes.

While there’s nothing revolutionary here (small-town people were prejudiced in the 20th century!), for most of the film the story works. That is until the unfortunate third act, where the screenwriters lean into the outdated cliche that a story like this can only end in tragedy and sadness.

At the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to a grown-up Charlie (voiced by Billy Boyd, heard but never seen) as he reflects on growing up in Scotland in the 1950s. There we meet young Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) who’s being bullied at school. After a fight with his schoolmates, Charlie is brought to the local doctor by family member Annie (Outlander’s Lauren Lyle).

It is here Charlie meets Dr. Jean Markham (Paquin) who has just inherited her father’s medical practise and estate. Sensing that Charlie needs more than just medical care, she befriends the young lad, eventually becoming friends with his mother Lydia (Grainger) as well.

Both Lydia and Jean aren’t new to town gossip: Lydia is in the middle of splitting up with Charlie’s dad Rob (Emun Elliot) and Jean left town many years earlier after she was caught kissing another woman.

As Lydia and Jean’s relationship progresses, especially after Lydia becomes Jean’s housekeeper and she and Charlie move into Jean’s house, the town becomes increasingly hostile towards them. But even so, the two women find themselves falling in love.

Paquin and Grainger have excellent chemistry together; their scenes are without a doubt the highlight of the film. When they do finally consummate their relationship, it’s a moment that both feels earned and is very sexy without getting too Blue is the Warmest Color.

And then the unfortunate third act arrives. A film that spent most of its time being a gentle love story suddenly has moments of rape, domestic violence, and a scene where Annie is forced to get an abortion after her family discovers she’s gotten pregnant by a coloured man.

There was no reason for this horrific scene except to ramp up the melodrama and it feels really forced. Eventually, Jean and Lydia are separated for good, and as an audience member, we’re left wondering why we spent time investing in this relationship in the first place.

Tell it to the Bees plays at Université Concordia Cinéma Alexandre de Sève on November 24th as part of IMAGE+NATION and is available to watch on Netflix.

Returning for its 32nd edition, the LGBTQ Film Festival Image+Nation will be running from November 21st to December 1st in downtown Montreal.

“As we live through times of social change in the world, image+nation 32 proudly brings new films from countries that share stories through LGBTQ cinema’s newest voices,” states Programming Director, Katharine Setzer, “with an emergence of exciting Eastern-European filmmaking, the cream of local talent, and even a pioneering Guatemalan production, this year, more than ever, we’re bringing the best new and innovative storytelling to Montreal.”

Below are five films that I’m looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival.

This is Not Berlin

Hari Sama’s semi-autobiographical epic of adolescence in 1980s Mexico City. Outsider Carlos (Xabiani Ponce De León) finds his life changed when he gets swept up in a punk-filled world of sexual liberty and drugs. Navigating the storms of his sexual awakening in the process, Carlos finds himself faced with a choice; the comforting inclusiveness of popularity, or being true to himself.

Tell it to the Bees

Charlie, a young boy in 1950s Scotland befriends the new doctor in town, Dr. Jean Markham. Concerned about this relationship, Charlie’s recently single mother Lydia confronts the doctor.

When she subsequently falls on hard times, Dr. Jean invites her to come work for her and live in her home. While Lydia begins as Dr. Jean’s cleaning lady, the relationship quickly becomes something more when the women realize their undeniable chemistry.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

This documentary explores how 1980s horror films, in particular Nightmare on Elm Street, were in part a backlash against Reagan conservatism and the terrors of the AIDS epidemic.

The Prince

Based on a pulp novel, this 1970s homoerotic prison drama follows Jamie, a new inmate who gets the nickname “The Prince” by an older inmate he forms a friendship with.

Vita and Virginia

A fictionalized version of the real-life romance between London socialite and popular author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf.

Image+Nation runs November 21 through December 1, tickets and full schedule available through image-nation.org

Pride has become many things over the years. For some it’s a great party – a chance for peoa ple of all genders and sexual orientations and identities to bust out the rainbows and costumes and dance in the street. For others, Pride celebrations are political acts – assertions that people of all genders and identities have a right to live their best lives.

For many others, mainstream Pride celebrations have become too corporate and too much of an opportunity for cis straight white people, particularly politicians and major corporations, to solicit LGBTQI votes and business while doing nothing to help them. Some people have fought this by organizing resistance movements within Pride, while others have opted to stage their own separate protests.

I had the privilege of speaking with those who attended the parade and those who organized counter protests within and without.

Before I go into that, we need to discuss the history of Montreal Pride as there are still some (idiots) who wonder why the LGBTQI community needs a celebration at all.

The gay pride movement as we know it began with the 1969 Stonewall riots. True to the assertion that Pride started as a protest against police brutality, the riots were in direct response to police raids of establishments catering to the gay community.

The Stonewall Inn was a mob-owned bar that primarily served gay men in Greenwich village in New York. In June of that year police conducted a raid and in response to it and years of persecution, a riot erupted. It was this riot, led by black transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson and others that sparked Pride marches and the mobilization of LGBTQI rights around the world.

The first Pride parade in Montreal happened in 1979 on the tenth anniversary of Stonewall. What started as a fifty-two-person march has now become an eleven-day festival with over two million participants.

Our local gay rights movement really got off the ground following the Sex Garage raid of 1990, which you could call our Stonewall. This led to the formation of Divers/Cité, the group that ran Pride until 2006.

This year the festival was marked by scandal. This is partly due to the announcement that Quebec Premier and critic of minority rights Francois Legault would be marching in the parade, as well as a recent CBC news story about how Sophia Sahrane, a black woman, was fired from Montreal Pride within an hour of submitting a report to them saying that they had not done enough to include visible minorities.

Many people objected to Francois Legault’s participation in Pride. At the head of this movement was Sam Kaizer, an activist behind the “Let go of Legault” petition calling on Montreal Pride to rescind its invitation to allow the Premier to march in the parade.

“When I started the petition, I was mostly concerned about the rights of our religious minorities, especially Muslim women,” he said. “But I was informed that the CAQ has done nothing towards the recognition of trans identities (and) the CAQ has not contributed anything to the advancement of LGBT+ rights.”

Unfortunately, though Kaizer’s petition got over three hundred signatures, Legault marched in the parade anyway. For Kaizer, this was not a total loss because Legault was booed almost the entire time and Kaizer’s petition helped spark important discussions about Pride. His hope was to raise standards for participants in the parade.

“I think only members of the community and allies should be permitted to march, not people who just want to look good in the media,” he said.

One person who marched in the parade was Jodi Kazenel. She was invited to march with her mentor, Dr. Laurie Betito, a phycologist with a specialty in sexuality and radio personality for CJAD. For Kazenel, the parade is about being part of a celebration of love and diversity and bringing awareness to how much more must be done for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights around the world and across Canada.

As for the criticisms of Pride Montreal as being increasingly corporate, racist and transphobic, she feels that if Pride helps raise awareness of these issues, then it’s a good thing. That said, she does have reservations about corporate participation in the parade:

“Corporations must ensure that their outward portrayals of inclusion and acceptance are reflected inside their workplaces, policies, medical allowances, and the like. Transphobia and racism have no place in Pride. Pride Montreal, all organisations, all corporations, all individuals must do their part to be inclusive of the entire 2SLGBTQIA+ community, which includes trans folks and POC.”

Sadly, there are many in Montreal who feel that Pride Montreal does not represent them. Among them are Adrienne Moohk, co-founder of GRIND’HER – a group that seeks to create pro trans, pro sex, pro sex worker lesbian cruising spaces, and Naomi Champagne. They are the organizers of the Pride is a Protest March which took place on the same day as and followed the Montreal Pride parade.

For them a major problem with Montreal Pride is the lack of black transgender women, ironic given that one of the leaders of Stonewall was a black trans woman. For them the firing of Sophia Sahrane was proof of the organization’s refusal to include or represent people of colour.

“Now, pride is centred around mostly white drag queens… Pride does not include black transwomen, nevermind does not centre them – and in fact, doesn’t seem to have much room for black people at all. or trans people!” Adrienne said, adding that many black and transgender people have walked away from Montreal Pride feeling traumatized.

In their eyes, Pride owes black, brown, and transgender communities representation and the fact that the event has become so corporate is also a problem.

“Pride started as a protest, but now is a corporate institution, that is actually quite dangerous to the lives of the most marginalized and while they def 100 should figure out better representation, all they do is appropriate people and their movements, instead of bring about real positive change which is quite dangerous,” Adrienne added.

For artist and transgender woman Candi Krol, attending the march over the parade was about feeling represented:

“(Montreal) Pride doesn’t speak for me or many others from marginalized communities under the LGBTQ+ banner, queer, trans, POC… pride has become an overly corporate white cis gay male thing that actively excludes us. Banks, politicians, corporations etc. pretend to care, but they are clueless. The gay rights movement was started by mostly drag queens, trans and queer POCs who lived on the fringes of the gay culture. They not only seem to forget this, but actively try to erase our history. I haven’t felt like pride supported or represented me in years.”

As to what Montreal Pride can do to better include people of colour and transgender people, Adrienne and Naomi feel that financially supporting marginalized groups would help. Pride in their eyes has so much money they could be handing out to community organizations to better support transgender people and people of colour.

They also feel that Montreal Pride doesn’t hire enough black, brown, and transgender people when Pride should be made up of a majority of them. Despite demands for inclusion, the organization doesn’t listen.

“There is an organization in Montreal called Taking What We Need, who fundraise for broke ass trans women who need it. They should have given them serious money, maybe room on the program.”

That said, the rights of LGBTQI people have a long way to go before equality is achieved. This is not just about homophobia or transphobia, but about racism, sexism, trans misogyny, police brutality, and corporate greed.

We owe it to ourselves as a society to actively scrutinize people who claim to support human rights, but actively undermine them when in a position to help. In the meantime, Montreal Pride will continue and so will all the other protests and rightful demands for change.

Images courtesy of Candi Krol

I am sobbing reading about Danica Roem’s victory in Virginia. She not only is the first Transgender woman to be elected into Virginia legislature, she beat a shitty republican asshole who REFUSED to use her proper pronouns and only spewed hate for half a century. This man was about to overthrow a law protecting trans students from using the bathroom of their choice and then he was beaten by a trans woman!

She is also vegetarian and the singer in a metal band! I love her so much.

YES THERE IS HOPE! I am so proud of her. I agree that the government is flawed AF and needs to be overthrown with real direct change. This is it. We take over by winning. We get out and vote, we support those who are just and those who will represent US.

We are trans, we are queer, we are black, we are women, we are immigrants, we are disabled, and we are only strong if we are all together holding each other up. Danica has totally inspired a generation of kids who have never seen someone like them succeed. She gives them hope that it can change.

She is 33 years old, I am about to be 31, I have a lot of work to do. I can change the world too! We all have to. Right now!

It starts with home, it starts with letting people we love that it is not okay to hate! Families have been torn apart because people are refusing to accept racists and bigots into their homes. How can I serve a Trump supporter a vegan Thanksgiving feast?

My generation will not accept that bullshit. I recently ended a lifetime friendship over just this. Enjoy this song from the band The Specials. If you have a racist friend this is the time for the friendship to end!

Knowing that someone actually supports Trump is a deal breaker. His hate is so transparent that they have no excuse of ignorance.

Local elections are so important, the school board, the sheriff, the fucking mayor, why would people not want to have a voice? It has been 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the US.

The current run of old white men who are hate mongers is actually just a catalyst for the revolution. They are finally getting SO bad that people are getting up off the couch and taking to the streets.

It is November 9th, my mom’s birthday, and one year since Donald Trump was elected President. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Three more to go. Fuck! Will we make it? Nobody knows.

Facebook Memories showed me the photo I posted one year ago. It was the band of the Titanic playing as the ship sank. I felt hopeless.

Shortly after I felt extreme feminine rage and made my photo Xena Warrior Princess. Lucy Lawless is so hot and powerful. A true badass female, like Danica Roem, I would rather be her than a band playing as the water crushes those around them and the planks snap one by one. I know an icy death awaits but I am not going down without a fight, none of us are!

The race for Sheriff in my home county was a tough one. Many people I know got out to #FIREHOWARD and I really hope we succeeded. (Former( fingers crossed)) Sheriff Howard has been there for way too long, he is an open racist and Trump supporting scumbag.

Sheriff Howard (image: DailyPublic.com)

He wore his uniform to a Spirit of America rally and was surrounded by confederate flag waving assholes. People keep dying in the holding center and we need someone to stop it.

Bernie Tolbert , a black man, ran against him in an election so close that we still have to wait for the absentee ballots to be counted. Tolbert was the head of the FBI in Buffalo as well as the former head of security for the NBA. I just know that he is a big step in the right direction.

We must empower those who have always been put down. Now is the time for people of color, transgender humans, queers, and all of the others who have been oppressed for so long to take office and change this bullshit from the inside out.

It’s a long and epic boss battle. This is a multiplayer game folks, don’t put down that controller just yet!

How do I deal with the everlasting crush of the world crumbling down around me? I stay in my bed hole and cuddle with someone cute and my three cats. Wake up, bong, vegan yums, then maybe dye my hair blue. Plan the next show, listen to music, write as much as you can, and paint like humans are going extinct and all that will be left is the art we leave behind.

Politics really stress me out. This is a privilege, I know that. I can turn off the TV and chose not to read the newspaper. I can drown out my first world problems with hair dye.

I do not live in a war torn place. I am not beaten or threatened because of my skin or religious beliefs. I am free. I have a place to be warm and a person to hold, I have purpose and I need to help others rise up.

I live in a world where I can run around in half drag and scream because I feel like it. I expose myself and make people laugh. In other parts of the world I would be dead. Women can’t play music or even show their faces without being beaten or killed. People of color, transgender humans, and others do not have the luxury that I do.

I use my body as a tool, my burlesque is a voice. I will never be quiet about my politics.

My best friend told me that she almost didn’t have time to vote, but knew she needed to use her voice. She went. I am proud of her!

She voted in a room full of people of color and women. I held the door for an old white man with a Make America Great Again sticker on his car. At lease my vote cancelled his out.

That’s all we can do, show kindness even to the enemy, know the power of our collective voice, and push back when oppression strikes its poisonous hateful tendrils at those we love. Rise up motherfuckers, the revolution has already begun.

Montreal Pride is upon us and with it the sights and sounds of people celebrating sexual diversity in an environment that is supposed to be safe and welcoming. Though in Canada we pride ourselves at our enlightenment on issues of sexuality and gender identity, we have still have a long way to go. Before we can move forward, we need to look at our past.

This article will look briefly at the history of LGBTQ struggles in Quebec and Canada, conduct a quick overview of current legislation, and do its best to present a picture of the status quo and what needs to be done to make our country safer and more inclusive.

During the British colonial period, homosexuality, known as “buggery” or “sodomy” was punishable by death. In 1861, the law was eased a bit and the penalty was changed to ten years to life in jail. Anti-gay laws almost always targeted men and the language of laws was kept intentionally vague in order to give huge discretion to law enforcement.

Starting in 1890, gays were generally charged with “gross indecency”, and between 1948 and 1961 changes to the Canadian Criminal Code were made, creating the categories of criminal “sexual psychopaths” and “dangerous sexual offenders”. Instead of persecuting rapists and pedophiles, the changes were disproportionately used to target gays. In addition, Canadian immigration law considered homosexuals an inadmissible class of immigrants.

The gay rights movement in Canada didn’t really gain momentum until the 1960s, when George Everett Klippert, a mechanic from the Northwest Territories, admitted that he was gay and had sex with men. In 1967 he was charged with “gross indecency” and sent to prison indefinitely as a “dangerous sexual offender”.

His conviction was sadly upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

While Klippert was rotting in jail, the British government opted to decriminalize certain homosexual acts. Taking a cue from our Mother Country, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, at the time Justice Minister for Prime Minister Lester Pearson, began pushing the omnibus bill, a bill that would amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize homosexual sex, legalize contraception, and increase access to abortion. When asked about it, Trudeau told the press:

“It’s bringing the laws of the land up to contemporary society I think. Take this thing on homosexuality. I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter.”

The bill passed in 1969, and two years later, Everett Klippert was released from prison.

In 1977 Quebec passed its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, a quasi-constitutional bit of legislation and the first of its kind to openly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Applicable to both private and public parties, the law bans discrimination in access to public spaces, contracts or refusal to enter into them, housing, and employment on the basis of many grounds including sexual orientation. The Quebec Charter also grants equal recognition, and bans harassment, and the distribution of discriminatory notices, symbols, or signs.

In 1978 Canada’s immigration laws were modified so homosexuals are no longer inadmissible.

In 1992, the ban on gays in the military was lifted. A few years later, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that same sex couples are entitled to the same benefits and under the same obligations as opposite-sex couples for the social programs they contribute to.

In the summer of 2005, Paul Martin’s government successfully passed Bill C-38, the Law on Civil Marriage, allowing same sex couples the legal right to marry. Attempts by Conservatives to reopen the marriage debate have failed and continue to do so to this day.

Over the years the Canadian Criminal Code has evolved to include “sexual orientation and gender identity or expression” in its definition of hate crimes. The inclusion of gender identity or expression is a recent addition by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Hate crimes include public incitement of hatred, advocating genocide, and willful promotion of hatred, which carry penalties ranging from six months to five years in prison. In addition, sentencing guidelines for the courts now include the obligation to consider aggravating circumstances that could add to a sentence, including evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on factors that include sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

As it stands, life for Canada’s LGBTQ people is far from perfect. Many members of the LGBTQ community are still denied access to proper health care in Quebec and people are still being fired for being gay or transgender. Though the election of the orange bigot and the rise in hate crimes south of the border has bolstered support for LGBTQ groups, it has also given hatemongers in Canada the confidence to be more open in their hate.

Some Montreal institutions have to deal with homophobia in their recent past. Several groups have been calling on the City of Montreal and the Montreal Police (SPVM) to apologize for violent raids on gay clubs and parties in the 70s, 80s and 90s and just this year Projet Montreal City Councillor Richard Ryan and his party joined them. The raid on Sex Garage in 1990 was what sparked the movement that would ultimately lead to Montreal Pride.

Quebec launched initiatives in 2013 to fight homophobia, however queer people are still glared at in public for simply being themselves. Unfortunately, the one law that would firmly entrench LGBTQ rights – our constitution – still does not include protections for them, and partisan politics and the Quebec notion of us vs them where the rest of Canada is concerned will keep these protections from ever happening.

Protections for LGBTQ people are there but they could be a whole lot better.

This Pride, let’s do what the haters hate most – be out and proud and open and fabulous, while still firmly pushing for those changes Canada so desperately needs.

When I think of the word pride I automatically think of the LGBTQ community, I think of the Stonewall activists, I think of my gay, lesbian, transgender and queer warriors that have paved the rainbow brick road for me to love as I see fit. The stone dykes and sweet twinks who have danced and marched to overcome stigma. These sparkly strong freedom and equality yearning hearts beating broken down by a society meant to be straight and white. The fallen brothers and sisters who have been left dead in dumpsters due to crimes of hate.

Denial of rights and basic necessities or even your life due to who you take to bed at night or which bathroom you use? There is nothing easy about this life. How can anybody accuse someone of choosing to be tortured or forcing physically healthy people into cruel, painful conversion therapy to normalize them.

I can’t believe in some ways we have come so far but still trans women of color die by the handfuls each week. Still LGBTQ youth are targeted, still people cannot even take a piss safely. If we can pee in peace we can be in peace.

Pride is a word that has been appropriated by a disenfranchised community of misfits and perfectly fits where hearts and not parts are what matters, love is love is love is lovely. Pride is seeing the Gay Straight Alliance that you helped start in high school with your friends (because there wasn’t one) march in the Pride parade. Pride is knowing that a silly little club is actually a safe place that saves lives. Pride is knowing two trans women that needed to be there.

I know that I am meant to be part of great things. I am proud that I can be part of things that help others. My pride is in my community. We promote visibility, self-affirmation, dignity, accessibility, and freedom from the binding of heteronormativity.


Pride is standing up for what you believe in, it is not backing down when faced with unjust adversity. I will not live in a world where being honest with yourself and simply telling the truth is impossible.

Censorship and evil gender expectations within a racist capitalist system of oppression that dates back to the dawn of government. Pride is a celebration of diversity. Pride should be about love and not about hate.

Many groups fight for their proper slice of humanity. Pride can be used to describe the Native Americans at Standing Rock, being beat down for protecting the water. We should all have more pride in our Earth.

Pride is a single mother surviving and making sure her children are safe and warm. Pride is the immigrant family who didn’t stand down when the brick was thrown through their business, they have seen a lot worse. Pride is connected to culture and struggle, to diaspora and overcoming oppression.

Black Pride is a movement encouraging people to take pride in being black, Asian pride is a positive stance on being Asian, and White Pride is a slogan used by white supremacists, neo-nazis,and racists.

Isn’t it interesting when pride becomes one of those mortal sins that everyone with Christian guilt is so afraid of? Good ol’ american pride is always taken too far, these are the same folks who voted for trump (I am purposefully not capitalizing his name and spell check gives it a pass because trump is a real word).

The American dream is exclusive to those who came here willingly. The American dream excludes those bonded by slavery, those who were raped and pillaged, their hopes and dreams burned to the ground.

White is not something to be proud of. I am proud of my Polish, Irish and Scottish roots for sure, but not proud of what the color my skin represents. Raping Natives of their land and stealing others from their native lands and forcing them into slavery, and then a history of oppressive behavior and supremacy, nah, no pride in that ,bro.

I was always taught to be proud of myself and my accomplishments, but also to practice humility and be humble. The spotlight needs to shine on others once in awhile, but bask in it when the heat is on your face.

Praising and supporting others is crucial. We need each other to survive. Love and a deeper connection to all humanity is the only answer. I am proud to be pansexual, I used to be bisexual but not I do not believe in the gender binary, hearts not parts!

Last year I went on a adventure alone to California. I couch surfed and then eventually ended up at San Francisco PRIDE. It was magical, so much beauty and talent, but I was missing something, MY FRIENDS!

Pride is about lifting each other up and feeding off of the positivity of the ones you love. Pride was dead inside, it was cold without the warm embrace of my people. Pride means standing up with and for others. It means taking off your hat to a diverse and ticking world.

I am pissed that the Buffalo Pride celebration is going to cost $10 to get into. This festival was always free, then last year it was $5, now this? I do not understand how capitalism and gentrification always ooze in and taint the fun. A reminder that we have so much more to fight.

This festival is now not all inclusive. It is a direct disrespect to the poor, to those who already lack in privilege. So lets take the streets!

Get ready for the party, I have 5 shows this week. My boobs are going to be sore from all the tassel revolutions.

I love riding my trike through the sea of bliss. A safe place in a scary world. Pride weekend is like Christmas only better, I love everything that this time represents, rainbow flags and smiling fags, dykes on bikes and queers with booty shirts, unicorns and drag queens, trans men and non binary beauties. This is the time to let your freak flag show.

There will be the haters saying we will go to hell, but I bet hell has a better DJ anyways. There is no conversion therapy here, only a celebration of what makes us unique and the differences that connect and suppress us. Even if it’s sunny this parade always gets rained on, which is fine because we love rainbows.

Chelsea Manning, the American soldier jailed in 2010 for leaking information to Wikileaks, is finally free after serving seven years out of her 35 years sentence.

Barack Obama had announced the shortening of her sentence back in January after years of campaigning by multiple civil rights defense groups, including the ACLU and Amnesty International. This Wednesday, Manning’s legal team confirmed that she was safely released from the US military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now–which is exciting awkward, fun, and all new for me.” Manning said in a press release.

Manning leaked more than 700 000 documents to Wikileaks, revealing various instances of misconduct by the US in the Middle East. Among the most shocking leaks was an infamous video of two American soldiers bantering about perpetrating an airstrike that killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists, as well as evidence that the US military summarily executed a number of Iraqis and deliberately concealed the true civilian death toll of its attacks.

At the time, Chelsea Manning was only 23. She had not yet come out as transgender and she was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad, under the name of Bradley Manning. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence ever given to an American whistleblower.

Manning was detained with the male prisoners in a military jail and denied hormone therapy and treatment for gender dysphoria. The impacts on her were devastating and she had to be put on suicide watch. Four months ago, Obama commuted this sentence to time served plus 120 days in one of his last significant decisions as president.

While advocates for transparency and for LGBTQ+ rights rejoiced, others fumed, calling her a traitor who put US lives at risk. Then President-Elect Donald Trump was quick to tweet his displeasure:

(For those wondering, he was referring to a column in which she argued that the Obama administration should stop compromising their progressive stances)

According to the Obama administration, the four months delay between the announcement of a commutation and its effect is meant to allow detainees to prepare for life outside. Manning’s entourage started the “Chelsea Manning Welcome Home fund” for the same reason. Within three months, the GoFundMe campaign raised more than $163 000 US.

Surprisingly, Manning is still a member of the US army “on active duty”  until her criminal appeal is over. The Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces both have to issue an official decision on her dishonourable discharge before it can take effect. Until then, she is on “involuntary excess leave” which means she is on unpaid leave, but subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

*Featured Image: Torbak Hopper under creative commons.

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

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

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

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

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

Demands trans march1in the press release include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pride and Representation: The Ongoing Saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montreal Pride runs from August 8th to 14th.

Fredua Boakye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 7.54.37 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gender neutral bathroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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.

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

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

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

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

Memories of Jackie Robinson

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

jackie-robinson-montreal
Jackie Robinson of the Montreal Royals

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

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

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

Montreal Helps Break Barriers that Need to be Broken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

memories pizza
Memories Pizza website hacked

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

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

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

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

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

cat gay pride

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

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

FUCK HATE! FUCK THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT!