Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during January, 2011

School Cancels Dress-Up Day Over Gender Fears

January 31st, 2011

Charles McVety scolds a young child "You thought dressing up would be fun? Do you have ANY idea how confused my confusing reaction will make you kids?"

A public elementary school in King City, Ontario has cancelled “opposite gender day” over concerns that it would result in gender identity issues or turn the students gay.

The day was proposed by the elementary school’s student council as a fun idea where kids could dress up as the opposite gender, if they wanted to. However, opponents, including Charles McVety—head of Canada’s largest anti-gay lobby group, the Canada Family Action Coalition—were infuriated with the concept.

“If this was so innocent, then why did the principal not stop this right away?” McVety asked the press rhetorically. “This was part of a greater agenda to teach gender identity and to confuse our children at a young age, and to tell them they can’t be truly happy until they discover their inner identity.”

In reality, this “greater agenda” was the idea of elementary school students, including Ripley Antonacci, an eighth grader and president of the student council. “We just wanted to have a fun day and came up with the idea,” he told a reporter. “A lot of people do it for Halloween and we just thought it would be a cool idea.”

“We didn’t mean to offend anyone,” he added apologetically. “I was a little confused because I didn’t know why people would say those things.”

And that’s how the kids at King City Public School were taught that taking a lighthearted look at gender roles, even in the context of a fun dress-up day,  is never acceptable.

Magazine Featuring Gay Family Covered With “Family Shield”

January 28th, 2011

Harps, a small grocery chain in the southern United States, issued an online apology this week after using a “family shield” to cover up copies of Us Weekly featuring a photo of Elton John, his husband David Furnish, and their newly adopted baby.

The shield, a piece of opaque plastic about the size of a magazine cover, is labeled with the words: “Family Shield: To protect young Harps shoppers.”

To protect them from… photos of families? Well, I can’t say they didn’t name it appropriately.

Still, what a marvelously stupid concept! It gives me an idea.

Are your children being exposed to reality? Protect 'em with the Slap-certified FAMILY SHIELD.

Toronto Gay Village Under Slushie Siege

January 26th, 2011

An atlantic cod is hurled at a terrified young man.

Toronto’s Gay Village is a little on edge recently after a rash of slushie attacks.

Groups of teens from a nearby school, Jarvis Collegiate, have apparently been trolling the neighbourhood during lunch hour, picking anyone strolling along Church street and hurling slushies at them, à la Glee. Unlike Glee, they’re also hurling some nasty slurs.

Paul Winsor, a local florist and slushie victim, said that the slurs happen often, but didn’t think the attacks are specifically targeting the gay community. “In my mind, it’s a bunch of teenagers behaving badly all around,” he told the Toronto Star. “I think it’s general hooliganism; it’s a crime of opportunity—whoever happens to be around.”

Considering that Jarvis Collegiate is right in the middle of the Gay Village, and not all the victims have been gay, I’m inclined to agree. Although the slurs and general behaviour is certainly revealing of a larger homophobic problem in schools. After all, if this is the stuff that leaks out of the school into the general public, imagine what it must be like inside for students who are gay or perceived to be gay.

As for the slushie-slinging squad, may they all get brain freeze.

U.S. Finally Allows Hospital Visitation Rights For Gays

January 21st, 2011

A man wonders what kind of doctor would forbid him from visiting his partner in the hospital. In the corner, a picture of Doctor Evil hangs on the wall.

The United States effected new regulations on Tuesday that finally allow gay people to have the hospital visitation rights as straight partners.

Until Tuesday, hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicade federal programs were free to deny hospital visitation rights to gay couples because they weren’t considered family members. With the new regulations, patients are allowed to designate whomever they choose as visitors. This means that people like Janice Langbehn, who was forbidden from sitting beside her partner of 17 years as she was dying of a brain aneurysm, will no longer be separated from their loved ones when they’re needed the most.

Well, this was unquestionably the right thing to do. How embarrassing that it wasn’t done sooner.

Anti-gay lobbyists, in the meantime, are reportedly employing teams of the world’s top creative writers in an attempt to reveal this change as COMMUNISM!

Library Covers Gay Artist’s Statues With Bedsheet

January 19th, 2011

A bust of a man with his arm over his face with the label

With all this silly hoopla over the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council requesting their stations to play a version of “Money for Nothing” that has been edited for radio to replace a homophobic slur, I think it’s time to remind ourselves what real censorship looks like.

Before the holidays, a library in the town of Tillsonburg, Ontario, put three sculptures on display by R Bruce Flowers, a retired teacher turned full-time artist. They’re phenomenal. One depicts two older men in a playful headlock, another is of two hands grasping each other. The last one depicts a man with his arm over his eyes, entitled “Dreamer.”

The artwork was a big hit, gaining a favourable review in the town’s local newspaper. When the article mentioned the artist was gay, however, the mood surrounding the sculptures changed.

“The local Baptist church took great offence to the work as soon as they found out I was a gay sculptor,” Flowers told Xtra in an interview last month. “It seems to have contaminated the work; suddenly it was all negatively eroticized.”

Shortly after the article’s publication, the display case that featured the sculptures was covered with a bedsheet, hiding them from view.

John Friesen, a pastor in Tillsonburg’s New Hope church, said that he hadn’t seen the sculptures, but found them to be against family values. “It’s not portraying family values,” he told the media. “Do you see a man and a woman and children?”

Do I see a man and woman and children? Well no, actually. I imagine all I’d have seen is a bedsheet, but thanks for asking.

Friesen’s son, Greg, also got a word in with the media: “When I go to the library with my children, I don’t want to be seeing, let alone explaining, homosexual intimacy to my children,” he said.

It took a meeting with the town’s mayor before the sheet was finally removed. While the artwork is now available for admiration again, the artist is shaken. “It’s not like they came and studied the work, analyzed it, and then were offended by it,” he said. “No. It’s just because I’m a gay sculptor.”

Homophobic Lyrics Addressed By CBSC

January 17th, 2011

Characters from the Dire Straits Video wonder aloud if they've been deemed obsolete.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council announced last week that the song “Money for Nothing by Dire Straits was found to be unfit for broadcast, containing lyrics in violation with the industry’s code of ethics.

The song (and its crazy, Nintendo-era video) is a cultural staple from my childhood years, but I mustn’t have paid attention to the words, because I was shocked to learn that they’re actually pretty bad:

The little faggot with the earring and the make-up
Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair
That little faggot’s got his own jet airplane
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire

In context, the lyrics represent the words of a working class man, watching MTV with disdain over the fame and rewards that many rock stars enjoy for very little effort and talent. The homophobic slurs—even more powerful in the 80s—insult the effeminate style of these rock stars as being like that of gay men.

With the CBSC’s decision, broadcast members are asked to play a version of the song edited for the radio, which replaces the word “faggot,” with “mother.”

Sounds like a reasonable decision to me. Hateful slurs have no place in popular culture, certainly not in their intended pejorative sense. Gay people—particularly gay youth—are hurt by this word enough already, and having it played by public broadcasters in this context gives it legitimacy.

My opinion doesn’t appear to be very popular, though. A lot of people are furious with the CBSC, decrying the decision as censorship and against freedom of expression. A quick look on the  iTunes music store shows that “Money for Nothing” is inching up the charts, with commenters encouraging others to buy the song in protest.

First, I think it’s important to clarify some misinformation: Despite sensationalist headlines, “Money for Nothing” has not been banned in Canada. As iTunes protesters have easily discovered, you’re free to buy the song on iTunes (or an old timey record store, if you still know of one), set your iPod to repeat it indefinitely, and flood your ears with concentrated eighties essence until your eardrums sag with age, if you’re so inclined.

The song hasn’t even been banned from the public airwaves. The CBSC is the Canadian broadcast industry’s self-regulatory body. It is not a government organisation, membership is voluntary, and only members are asked to adhere to its code of ethics. Violators can’t even be fined. In fact, two Canadian radio stations have already played the unedited song nonstop for an hour on Friday as some kind of crass protest. The worst that will happen to those stations, if they’re even members of the CBSC, is that they’ll have to issue an on-air apology or leave the CBSC—and only if someone complains. (As an aside, I’m pretty sure I’d complain if a radio station played the same song over and over for an entire hour, but that’s just me.)

I don’t even see this decision as effective censorship. The full song is still available for purchase to anyone who wishes to hear it, its distribution channels are unaffected, and the artist’s funding and royalties haven’t been cut. On top of that, it’s standard practice for songs to have special versions created for broadcast radio. You’ve all heard them—versions that awkwardly blank out swear words and cut out offensive verses. Slurs are far more hurtful than common swears, so if one type of F word is fair game for editing, why isn’t the other F word? The “mother” version of “Money for Nothing” has existed for years, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask CBSC members to play that version instead over the public airwaves.

Malarkey for nothing, I say.

Ministry Blames Gays For Mysterious Bird Deaths

January 14th, 2011

A gay man laughs as he shoots birds out of the sky with laser beams shot out of his eyes.

As some of you may have heard, around two thousand blackbirds have died mysteriously, literally falling from the sky in Arkansas. Although dubbed the Aflockalypse by the fear-loving media, scientists are reassuring people that mass bird deaths (which sound more impressive than they are, considering a single roost can contain several million birds) are actually fairly normal, caused by any number of mundane reasons.

Scientists’ explanations aren’t enough for everyone, though. There are people like Cindy Jacobs of the Generals International Ministry who have an entirely different explanation.

“According to biblical principles,” Cindy announced in an online video, “marriage is between a man and a woman, so we have to say ‘what happens when a nation makes a decision that’s against God’s principles?’”

Yes, this is going exactly where it sounds like it’s going.

The reason that two thousand blackbirds “just fell out of the air,” according to Jacobs, is a combination of the United States’ increasing acceptance of equal marriage rights and the recent repeal of the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask,Don’t Tell policy. But don’t take my word for it. Let her explain it herself.

Yeah, I know.

Anyway, Cindy may have discovered our little secret—but know this, Cin-dee Jay-Kobs! Our bird killing powers can be used for more than just blackbirds! Soon, we will move on to pigeons! Then emus! And so on in that fashion… So if you don’t deliver a box of ten assorted Timbits™ to my doorstep before sundown, you will feel the wrath of our Gay Aflockalypse!

Conservative MP Blasts Court For Equal Rights Ruling

January 12th, 2011

Maurice Vellacott declares: "Not being able to treat gays as second-class citizens makes me a second-class citizen!"

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that civil marriage commissioners—individuals licensed by the government to perform non-religious civil marriage ceremonies—cannot refuse to marry same-sex couples.

Saskatchewan’s government, under premier Brad Wall, had asked the court for advice on two proposed bills. One would have allowed marriage commissioners to deny public services to gay couples, and the other would have allowed only marriage commissioners licensed before the legalization of same-sex marriage to do so. Both proposals were ruled unconstitutional.

This decision was expected and right. Marriage commissioners are there to perform non-religious, legal ceremonies and are not representatives of their privately held religious beliefs. Allowing a public service employee to refuse their duties based on the sexual orientation of their clients would have been unprecedented, opening a can of writhing, slimy worms as to what other services can be denied to the public.

Not everyone is content with the court’s ruling, of course. Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP (who has been on this site before, imagine that), angrily blasted the court decision on Tuesday. “The Court has hereby belittled religious faith or any faith for that matter,” he announced, hereby, in a press interview. “It sets up a hierarchy of rights saying these same-sex rights are more important than freedom of consience and religion.”

Utter nonsense, of course. No one, not even gays, are allowed to deny public services to anyone legally entitled to those services. That right never existed, and this ruling hasn’t changed it. Religious freedom, also, still exists in Canada. Everyone is free to worship whichever religion they choose.

So, if you believe that a gaggle of motley-clad deities mandates that all moral humans must get their left nipple pierced by an 84-year-old former acrobat upon graduating high school and have it fastened with a pewter-cast triskaidecagon, then by all means, go for it. But that doesn’t mean you get to go around denying boating licenses to anyone who has their pewter-cast triskaidecagon through their right nipple instead of their left.

At least, I think so. Technically, that court decision is still pending.

Catholic School Board Bans Gay-Straight Alliances

January 10th, 2011

A student suggests a new club, the "God-Loving Blackboard Teamsters," GLBT.

Gay-Straight Alliances—student-run support groups—are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the American Psychological Association to provide visible support to gay youth, encourage safer schools, and help curb recent gay teen suicides. The Halton Catholic School District School Board isn’t too fond of them, however. They’ve forbidden the formation of GSAs in their schools.

Alice Anne LeMay, chair of the Catholic school board, explained the ban bluntly: “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she told the press. “If a gay student requests a gay-straight alliance they would be denied.”

Wow, eh?

I wonder, what must it be like to play word associations with Ms. LeMay?

Me: Gay.
LeMay: Hitler!
Me: Rainbow.
LeMay: Holocaust!
Me: Same-sex mar—
LeMay: (bursts into song) It’s Springtiiiime for Hiiitler and Geeermany!

All this aside… To the students in the Halton Catholic School District, I’m sorry to hear about your exceptionally stupid administration, but things will improve. Keep up the good fight; you’re not alone.

Immigration Rules Tightened For Gay Couples

January 7th, 2011

A woman stands over a gay couple, saying "You must consummate your marriage in front of a CIC agent as proof. To help you along, I'll now hum Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 'Relax.'"

Gay Canadians who were married to foreign partners in embassies will only be able to sponsor their spouse for Canadian citizenship if the host country recognizes same-sex marriage, according to recent changes in immigration policy.

Immigration officials said there was a high demand for same-sex sponsorships in 2010, which required a tightening of the policy to close a “possible loophole.”

This change is a little odd. For one, marriage isn’t a requirement for a Canadian to sponsor their partner for citizenship. According to Canada’s immigration guide, common-law partners, even gay ones, are fully recognized. All that’s required is to be in a codependent relationship for a year, and whether or not a spouse’s country of residence has equal marriage rights doesn’t change that.

Moreover, what “loophole” exists here that doesn’t for straight couples? Marriages of convenience are undoubtedly a problem, but this policy change just thwarts gay short-term marriages of convenience while leaving the door to straight ones wide open—and surely the latter is the bigger problem here. I mean, sure, we gays are fond of mail order catalogues, but the return policies are far too limited to find fiancés that way.

Update, January 13th: According to some sharp investigation by Xtra, the CIC’s embassy marriage rules are not recent at all, having been in place for ages. There’s no explanation as to why the Toronto SUN reported the change as recent, nor as to why they attributed the change as a means to close a “loophole.” Nevertheless, I still think the specific mention of same-sex marriage legality in the CIC’s rules is bizarre. Inconsistent, too, considering that straight marriages are legal everywhere. After all, if the benefit of sponsoring a married spouse over a common-law partner is to take advantage of a shorter codependency period, then straight couples can use (or abuse) this advantage more readily than gay ones.

Alberta Delists Homosexuality As Mental Disorder, Québec Still Has It

January 5th, 2011

A dinosaur with the head of Alberta's premier, Ed Stelmach, muches on leaves.

Well, it’s better late than never: Alberta removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders that doctors can charge the province for treating late last month.

The American Psychological Association delisted homosexuality as a disorder 38 years ago, but Alberta tends to fall a tad behind the times. (A metric tad being 38 years, for those who don’t know.)

Unusually, some doctors in the province had used the code as recently as 2005, and I’d be very interested in finding out who these doctors are.

Fortunately, Gene Zwozdesky, the minister for Alberta Health and Wellness under Ed Stelmach’s Conservative government, removed the classification as soon as it came to his attention. “I ordered the immediate removal of something I thought was incorrect, unacceptable, rather ancient in its thinking and otherwise demeaning,” he told the press. And good for him; that was exactly the right course of action.

I interned for Alberta Health and Wellness briefly between my undergrad and masters degree. And let me tell you, if I had known about this… Well, I wouldn’t have had any semblance of authority to change things, but you can rest assured that I would have brewed the weakest pot of coffee that the Health Accountability Division had ever tasted.

Update: As if this story wasn’t already incredible, Slap reader Kevin has informed me that Québec, my own province, is even further behind Alberta and still lists homosexuality as a billable mental disorder.

Franchement!

I looked through the French media and couldn’t find much attention to the story, but the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec has indicated that they’ll be fixing the oversight after the holidays, which should be any day now. According to an interview with Le Journal du Québec, The RAMQ says homosexuality has been listed for all these years because they’ve got an old computer system and couldn’t update to the World Health Organisation’s latest codes.

Gee, I’m sympathetic. Except the WHO removed homosexuality from their IDC codes back in 1992. I guess that means we’ve got some old computer system here in Québec!