Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during October, 2009

Gays Now Protected From Hate Crimes in U.S.

October 30th, 2009

Yeah, I couldn't think of anything to draw...

The United States has passed and signed into law The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The new law carries stiffer penalties for anyone who intends to terrorize the entire gay community by selecting and violently assaulting gay people at random.

Canada added sexual orientation to the list of minority groups protected from hate crimes in 2004—just five years ago.

Hear that, all my stateside friends? You’re not far behind! In fact, at this rate, you’ll have equal marriage rights nationally by 2011. Go, push for it!

Update: Slap reader David writes in with a correction. It turns out that Canada’s 2004 amendment dealt with protection from hate propaganda, and not violent crimes. The equivalent of the Matthew Shepard Act was actually added to Canada’s criminal code in 1995. So, it turns out that my stateside friends are pretty darn far behind after all. Keep pushing, though; you’re on your way!

Canada’s Equal Opportunity Military Turns 17, U.S. Lags

October 28th, 2009

It's an explosion of gay!

Yesterday marked 17-years since the reversal of CFAO 19-20, Canada’s shameful equivalent of the United State’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Before October 27, 1992, members of Canada’s armed forces suspected of being gay were put through internal investigations and fired, even if their service records were exemplary.

The United States has yet to follow suit. Despite a shortage of soldiers and an ongoing war, the U.S. continues to turn away—for no good reason—capable soldiers willing to risk their lives for their country. Canada, which still has combat soldiers on duty in Afghanistan, has 17 years of proof that all those crazy, crazy claims about sex-crazed soldiers and declining troop morale just aren’t a reality.

Here’s to 17 years of military equality, and to the ray of hope that the U.S. military will follow suit!

(Hat tip to James at Gay Persons of Color for alerting me to this important anniversary!)

Anti-Gay Canadians Are A Fringe Minority

October 26th, 2009

Doug from Trading Spaces and Moving Up seems angry today, doesn't he?

Last week, I said that people who hold anti-gay views were a small and shrinking minority. Behind their loud and obnoxious rally cries, there just isn’t any real support.

I’ve cited polls before, but most were conducted around the time of the same-sex marriage debate. I didn’t cite anything in my last post to back up my claim that Stephen Harper’s new speech writer (who believes that same-sex couples shouldn’t even be able to share each others benefits let alone get married) is part of a fringe group, so let’s see if we can put this to rest once and for all.

As it turns out, the most recent poll about equal marriage rights was conducted just five weeks ago by Angus Reid Strategies. They polled over 4000 people across three countries, including 1,006 Canadians. The result: 84% of Canadians believe that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as straight couples. Of those, 73% support full-on same-sex marriage and the remaining 27% support civil unions with all the same legal rights.

The anti-gay side—Canadians who believe that gay couples should have no legal rights whatsoever—polled at 11%, a segment rapidly approaching the single digits. The remaining 4% were “not sure.”

Basically, Canada is leading both the United States and Britain in support for equality for gay people. It just looks like the staffers with which our Prime Minister surrounds himself aren’t among those supporters.

Anti-Gay Columnist Hired To Write Harper’s Speeches

October 23rd, 2009

(Furiously hiss toward camera while raking podium top.)

One of the hardest things about the whole same-sex marriage debate back in 2005/2006 was simply picking up the newspaper or turning on the television and feeling attacked and maligned every day. It was relentless: The gays are destroying this, the gays will undermine that, they’re worse than X, they have no right to Y… Unless you’re LGBT, I think it’s hard to understand exactly how that affects human spirit.

At the time, I was living in Calgary—home of Stephen Harper’s own riding and the heartland of Canada’s social conservatism. If you asked me to make a list of all the crazies in the media that irked me the most, there’s a columnist that would be near the top. Now, I didn’t exactly frame Nigel Hannaford’s delightfully panicked columns for posterity, but Xtra found some typical examples of his, uh, scribery:

Leave gays alone? Fair enough. But, let ’em be Boy Scout leaders? Have each other’s benefits? Adopt kids? Marry each other? Ridiculous. Anybody seeking political office who suggested it would have been laughed off the hustings. Yet, the Liberals are ready to legalize gay marriage. How did we get to this point?

Well, guess who’s been hired as Stephen Harper’s new speech writer?

You know my email address, right? I’ll wait here for your guesses.

(So… Chilly weather we’ve been having, eh? That reminds me, I ought to buy a pumpkin for Halloween before it’s too late and all the good ones are taken. There’ll only be ones with squished sides totally caked in dried soil, I just know it.)

OK, I’ll just say it: It’s Nigel Hannaford!

He’s not the first anti-gay extremist to be given a top PMO gig, and won’t be the last. Still, this is an unusually visible position to give a writer whose opinion is held only by a small and shrinking minority of Canadians—and particularly from within a party that desperately needs to paint itself as moderate in order to win majority support.

If Hannaford’s speeches are any bit as unmeasured as his columns, well, we’ll see what Canadians think. He won’t just be speaking to the Conservative heartland anymore, after all; it’s the whole country.

(A big hat tip goes to Montreal Simon for alerting me to the story!)

Vatican Welcomes Anti-Gay Anglicans Into Fold

October 21st, 2009

File photo

As far as religions go, I suppose you could do worse than the Anglicans. They at least entertain discussions about how to best integrate their doctrine with reality. They bless gay couples, for example, and extend to them the same dignities as any other parishioner—including eligibility for ordination.

Of course, all this love and tolerance doesn’t sit too well with churchgoers who miss the unity that only old-fashioned judgment and condemnation can bring. Priests and bishops have split, some have been fired, the locks on church doors have been changed to keep out congregations with differing perspectives—they’ve even started suing each other. Yet, all this kicking and moaning hasn’t stopped the church from trying to stay as relevant as it can. What are bitter coots to do?

Well, the Vatican has a proposal: Join the Catholic Church! Be as rabidly anti-gay as you like! Heck, they’ll even overlook the events that caused the Anglicans to split from Catholicism in the first place (it was a disagreement over King Henry VIII’s denied divorce in 1534, for what it’s worth) and recognize differing Anglican traditions by creating a new legal entity.

Aw, isn’t that just the most adorablest thing ever? There’s just nothing like a common dislike of us gays to mend a 475 year old religious rift.

Toronto To Host World Pride

October 19th, 2009

Also, Canada will now be known as Gaybonia.

Good news! Toronto has been chosen to host the 2014 World Pride celebrations, an international gay rights and cultural event. Toronto will be the fourth city to host the event (joining Rome, Jerusalem and London) since it started in 2000. The event includes outdoor concerts, festivals, a large parade, and is expected to contribute an estimated $680 million to the city’s economy—five times more than the city’s usual Pride income.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and has recently been doing a lot to welcome and nurture its gay community, which makes it a great choice for the festivities. Not too many other cities have the guts to brand themselves “as gay as it gets,” for example!

The federal Tories will purportedly offer negative funding in exchange for enjoying the economic benefit.

Wherever They Burn Books…

October 16th, 2009

There was a hot shirtless guy in the middle.

Earlier this year, a Wisconsin Christian group sued the American Library Association for the right to burn a library book entitled Baby Be-Bop. The book is a charming young adult novel about a gay boy struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation after being attacked by a homophobic gang. Totally unacceptable, according to the religious extremist group who—backed by legal aid from the Christian Civil Liberties Union—demanded not only the rights to burn the book publicly, but also sought $120,000 in compensatory damages because the elderly plaintiffs’ “mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library.”

Robert C. Braun, the president of the Christian Civil Liberties Union branch, made his intentions quite clear: “We don’t want it put in a section for adults,” Braun told the press, “we want it out or destroyed.”

I haven’t heard what became of the lawsuit (which likely means it failed miserably), but the story stuck in my mind due to the sheer insanity of the situation. These kooks would absolutely burn this website if they could.

I had written off the situation as being hopelessly beyond response, when I came across another story this week that I found to be a wonderful inspiration. And it has a Canadian twist.

Peter Bernier, operating out of his Toronto home, is the founder and sole operator of Rainbow Link. Since 2005, Bernier has donated boxes of GLBT-themed books to small town libraries, helping stock the shelves with stories that people like him can relate to. Recalling what it was like reading his first queer novel as a gay person, Bernier explained his motivations to Xtra: “I wanted to read gay love stories. It was a long time before I found anything that reflected my desires or made any sense of them.”

Essentially, while some people are trying make books unavailable through symbolically violent means, one man is making them available through hard work and generous donations.

GLBT books offer guidance, advice, consolation, and entertainment to millions of gay people. To find out more about Rainbow Link and help become part of the exact opposite of a book burning, write to “culture” at RainbowLink.ca, or send something the old fashioned way: Rainbow link, P.O. Box 111, Station F, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2L4.

Lobby Group Angrily Demands “Grandma” Ad Pulled

October 14th, 2009

GRANDMAS ARE EVIL! BOYCOTT ALL GRANDMAS!

Catholic Vote Action, a religious political group based in Chicago, is demanding that an ad supporting equal marriage rights in the state of Maine be pulled off the air.

The ad, which features a real family including a Catholic grandmother who supports her gay son and his adopted child, was produced by Protect Maine Equality in response to an upcoming ballot initiative that would take away the existing right of gay couples to marry in the state. “I’ve been a Catholic all my life,” the grandmother says in the ad, “my faith means a lot to me.” She continues, “Marriage to me is a great institution that works, and it’s what I want for my children too.”

Essentially, it’s a real-life example of how it’s possible to harmonize one’s faith and family, supporting the loving relationships in which families can flourish.

Unacceptable, of course, according to Catholic Vote Action, who released a press release on Monday declaring that all Catholics do not support “counterfeit marriages” and demanding that the ad be pulled immediately. Because, as we all know, loving and supporting your family throughout hardships and mean-spirited attacks just isn’t a value worth keeping.

But back in the land of reality, for all my stateside friends who have a say in the matter, remember to support equality and vote NO on Maine’s Question 1!

Update: Slap reader Alan points out that you don’t need to live in Maine to help out with the No On 1 cause. With only a couple of weeks before the ballot, and with polls showing a statistical tie in opinion, now is exactly the time when volunteers and donations are needed the most! Visit ProtectMaineEquality.org and volunteer to phonebank from home or donate for more ad airtime.

An extended hat tip goes to Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin for the story.

Happy Thanksgiving

October 12th, 2009

Well, it’s Thanksgiving in Canada today, so I’m taking the day off. For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian Thanksgiving, or are only familiar with the rather unusual United States holiday of the same name, I’ve prepared some Canadian Thanksgiving trivia from previous years. For the rest of us, as you enjoy your meal of boiled grouse and gaze upon the soft light from each of the three, traditional bougies d’écureuil faché, be sure to stop and reflect on everything you have to be thankful for. I know I’ll be thinking of all of you on the hour of thanks, 7 pm (7:30 pm NFLD).

Until Wednesday, Happy Thanksgiving!

Mr. Sub Fires Marketing Firm Over Negative Gay Ad

October 9th, 2009

Although, in all fairness, I don't like subs.

Mr. Sub, a moderately popular sandwich chain in Canada, has gotten themselves into a tangy, sliced pickle over one of their new television spots. The ad was one of three to be aired over the next year, and I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to be sitting around the boardroom table during the pitch…

OK, I’ve got this great idea for your new ad. Picture this. An entire family is sitting around the dinner table about to eat, when the father taps his glass with a spoon. “I have an announcement,” he declares softly, with a smile. “I’m gay!” We cut to a shot of the family staring agape in shock, before his daughter asks disapprovingly, “You mean gay gay?” The father responds “Like, super, super gay!” Then we end with our new tagline: “Not everyone likes surprises, so count on Mr. Sub!

Gosh, what a laugh riot! What will they think of next? “Mom, dad: I’m marrying outside my race!”

“Not everyone likes surprises!”

Ah ha ha, brilliant!

Mr. Sub has since fired their advertising agency, BOS Advertising, over the spot (which is, of course, available on YouTube), despite having approved the ad themselves. A representative for BOS expressed their disappointment, but offered no acknowledgement that the ad could be seen as tasteless, instead lamenting “it is most unfortunate that others have interpreted this commercial [that way].”

Strangely, they even tried to paint the ad as a social catalyst for gay rights:

We stand behind our work. We hope that the debate and controversy that looms over this ad will bring about positive change and a greater tolerance and understanding of a person’s sexual preference.

Boy, that’s an even worse sales pitch than the actual ad. Particularly since they just declared that being gay is a “preference.” BOS is so clueless, that if a gay organisation ever hired them, they’d probably prepare another sandwich ad. (“Try our new, mouthwatering GLBT, made fresh to order!”)

All that said, the ad doesn’t particularly offend me as a gay person. Still, I’m happy BOS was sacked. Any decision that spares me from suffering through more terrible advertisements is a good decision in my books.

And with that, have a tasty long weekend, kids!

Russian Court Says No To Same-Sex Marriage

October 7th, 2009

Nuff said.

A Russian court has blocked what would have been the country’s first same-sex marriage. Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko were told that they couldn’t get married like other couples because of their sex. Shipitko has now told the media that they will fight the decision:

We are a family already. We live together and share household chores. We also would like to have children; that is why we want legal recognition of our union.

Irina and Irina are now planning to come to Canada and wed. They’re hoping that a marriage license obtained elsewhere will carry the same legal rights back home.

Good on you, gals! And good luck!

Teacher Fired Over Gender Identity

October 5th, 2009

So very tragic.

The St. Albert Catholic School Board has fired a transgendered substitute teacher for being, well, transgenered.

The teacher’s union representing Mr. Jan Buterman has filed a human rights complaint over the firing, with incontrovertible evidence of workplace discrimination. “Since you made a personal choice to change your gender,” a letter received from the school board to Mr. Buterman reads, “we have to remove you from the substitute teacher list.” The letter adds that “the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender.”

Gee, they sure go through a lot of trouble to make sure students never have contact with any GLBT role models. I mean, can you imagine what would happen to the students if that were to happen? Surely one shudders at the very thought!

Say… You know, the name of the school board sounds awfully familiar to me… Oh, that’s right! It’s the one in which I spent my entire grade school education. Funny, I still turned out gay.

Now, normally religious institutions are exempt from following human rights laws, but the St. Albert Catholic School Board is publicly funded which throws a bit of a kink into that argument. I don’t know how this human rights complaint will turn out, mind you. Alberta technically does not recognize transgendered individuals in its human rights legislation (and consequently tramples over them whenever possible), but I would hope that either the board follows the same, respectful antidiscrimination laws that other publicly funded institutions are required to follow, or find private sources of funding.

(Hat tip to Mercedes Allen for the story. Read more over at Dented Blue Mercedes.)

Gay Travel Options Are Limited

October 2nd, 2009

Next time try Escaped Convict Murder Land instead.

Xtra is covering a vacation horror story experienced by a Canadian gay couple this summer. A one day stopover in Dubai turned nightmarish after the couple was targeted for a full security search, then jailed for possessing a bottle of prescription arthritis medication.

Stephen Macleod and Rocky Sharma spent 27 days in an Arab prison, much of it without any contact with each other. Terrifyingly, they were instructed by the Canadian embassy to never hint that they were a couple, as being gay in the United Arab Emirates is punishable by death.

Lucky for them they were eventually declared innocent and released, avoiding the much more dire charge of being gay where it’s not allowed. Speaking of the experience, Sharma told the media “we’ll never go back to that country.”

That’s good advice for everyone. You know, to maybe stay out of countries that want to kill you.