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

Election Kills Trans Rights Bill

March 30th, 2011

A School House Rock bill gets trampled by election-happy politicians.

Canada will be heading to the polls on May 2nd to hopefully vote out a government that has made repeated attempts to deny equal rights to GLBT Canadians.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, though, it has a disappointing side effect: Bill C-389, NDP MP Bill Siksay’s private member’s bill that would guarantee the equal rights of trans Canadians, has been killed on the table. The bill, which previously passed all three readings in the House of Commons (despite near-unanimous opposition from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives), had not yet passed the Senate when this spring’s election was called.

It’s a little sad, particularly since this was Siksay’s last term as an MP, so he won’t be around to personally re-introduce the bill in the next parliament or see it passed on his watch. There is a good chance it will be re-introduced, though—and private member’s bills often resume where they left off after an election, so it’s basically just a question of who’s going to sponsor the bill.

To make it fun, I’ll be accepting Vegas odds on Stephen Harper. Takers?

Sign The Petition To End Exodus’ Charity Status

March 29th, 2011

Exodus Global Alliance, a U.S.-based “ex-gay” organisation, is acting as a registered charity in Canada. Sign the petition and help end phony charities!

Jason Kenney Announces Fund For Gay Refugees

March 28th, 2011

A man mistakes his life-sized Disney villain cutout for Jason Kenney.

Less than a day before the Canadian government was (expectedly) defeated in a vote of non-confidence, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that $100,000 would be available to the Rainbow Refugee Committee, an organisation dedicated to assisting gay refugees.

Canada’s record is not good when it comes to accommodating refugees persecuted in their home countries simply for their sexual orientation. Many of these refugees are fleeing nations that imprison gay people—or worse, leaving very few avenues for escape other than through the refugee system.

Thursday’s announcement was a welcome surprise, but also a suspicious one. Jason Kenney has an atrocious record when it comes to recognizing the equal rights of GLBT citizens. Just last month, for example, he voted against a bill that would forbid discrimination in housing and employment for trans Canadians. He also repeatedly ignored pleas regarding individual gay refugee cases despite numerous concerns about the procedures that these refugee seekers have had to endure. It’s not unusual, for example, for adjudicators to require impossible proof that a refugee is gay, even though claimants had to hide such evidence at all costs in their home countries. It’s doubly unfortunate that claiming they’re gay as part of the refugee process also leaves them vulnerable to severe punishment should they be deported back home instead of accepted as a refugee.

The Rainbow Refugee Committee deserves the funding that was announced, and I hope they get it—no matter which party forms our next government. That said, a single token announcement doesn’t make up for Kenney’s past actions.

Considering that this announcement is probably the result of months-long talks that easily overlapped with Kenney’s vote against equal rights for trans Canadians last month, this is likely just a token gesture—a sad example of electioneering to get some GLBT votes for a party that doesn’t deserve it.

Apple Pulls Exodus’ iPhone App, But They’re Still A Registered Charity in Canada

March 25th, 2011

Electrifyingly Simple. Whenever you remember that you're gay, tap the pink button. A high voltage current with travel through your headphones, delivering holy pain. Only from Exodus International.

Exodus International, an “ex-gay” organisation that subscribes to the rejected notion that being gay is a disorder that can be cured through therapy, has released a “Gay Cure” iPhone app.

The application availability didn’t last long, though, after an online petition gathered over 150,000 signatures and caught the attention of Apple, who decided the application did not follow their content guidelines.

Yep, there’s no longer an app for that!

That’s pretty nifty, but there’s something about Exodus that I think needed even more attention than an iPhone application…

Exodus is a registered charity in Canada, enjoying numerous tax benefits for promoting their unscientific and dangerous therapies for “curing” gay people. I started a letter writing campaign back in September to help bring this to the attention of the Canada Revenue Agency, but they’ve stayed silent on the matter for months. That’s no good.

To get the CRA’s attention, there’s a brand new petition on the Slap Into Action Page with—as of right now—zero signatures. Let’s bring that number up!

If 150,000 people were outraged about the Exodus iPhone app, how many do you think will be upset that Exodus is posing as a charity, reaping tax benefits, and accepting tax-deductable donations from the public? The answer to that question is up to you! Tell your friends to sign the petition, and then get them to to tell their friends. Let’s demand more than silence from the Canada Revenue Agency!

And Now, Some Stupid Celebrity Homophobia

March 23rd, 2011

Victoria Jackson with a Glee "loser" sign over her head

Victoria Jackson, a comedian and Saturday Night Live alumni, had some not-so-nice things to say this week after watching an episode of Glee wherein two of the show’s gay characters finally got an on-screen kiss.

Gay affection (very much unlike its straight counterpart) is a rarity on primetime television, so I was happy to hear we got some representation last week. Jackson, though, was less pleased, calling the sweet scene “sickening” before spouting a bunch of stuff about muslims and Hollywood agendas that I don’t find particularly realistic or interesting.

Screeds like Victoria’s aren’t exactly rare, but hearing it come from a comedian without a wink or other hint at satire is bizarrely off-putting. I hadn’t heard about it before, but apparently Victoria has decided to join the PR nightmare that is faded-celebrity-turned-political-commentator, just like Ferris Bueller’s teacher and Sideshow Bob.

It’s disappointing, because I actually quite like Victoria. (UHF may not be high art, but its abundance of spatulas is something magical.)

Still, no matter who espouses them, views like Victoria’s are fast becoming those of a wacko minority.

Come around soon, Victoria. We’ll still vaguely remember you.

Florist Refuses Flowers To Lesbian Couple

March 18th, 2011

Every day, I work surrounded by flowers... And they fill me with SO MUCH HATRED!

A New Brunswick florist is refusing to provide flowers to a couple on their wedding day because they’re lesbians.

Kim Evans, owner of the Petals and Promises, wrote a letter to the couple declaring that she would, under no circumstances, sell them flowers. “As a born-again Christian,” she wrote, “I must respect my conscience before God and have no part in this matter.”

So, God forbids selling commercial products to gay people now?

Well, I guess everyone’s free to horribly misinterpret their religion—except it’s illegal in New Brunswick to deny business to anyone based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation. And that’s just as it should be, otherwise society can just go back to putting up “no coloreds,” “no Jews,” and “no pansies” signs in their windows. (Well, unless a shop happens to be sold out of pansies.)

The couple’s wedding planner, Mario Bourgeois Leduc, has brought Ms. Evan’s behaviour to the attention of the media because he was particularly disturbed by the incident. “Even though people think discrimination and homophobia is almost nill, that is not the reality,” he told QMI agency yesterday. “That negativity is there from Day One if you’re a same-sex couple planning the most important day of your life.”

Indeed, gay people put up with a lot more nonsense than most people realize. Under no circumstances should anyone be afraid of being denied public services—be they flowers, an apartment, lodging, or anything else—simply because of who they are. Yet it remains a real fear for gay people.

So, to Ms. Evans:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
You’re a douche
A giant douche.

Have a great weekend, kids!

Thanks to everyone who sent me this story!

Citizenship Guide Finally Acknowledges Gay Canadians

March 16th, 2011

A man with a magnifying glass announced "I think I just got a shout-out. Woo!"

Canada’s immigration guide for newcomers, as you may remember, has been a little sparse when it comes to any mention of equal rights for GLBT citizens. In fact, the guide didn’t contain a single mention of these rights; that information was deliberately nixed in 2009 by the office of Jason Kenny, the Conservative minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

The omission was surprising, as many countries still harm people simply for having a different sexual orientation. It’s important that new Canadians are under no impression that Canada will tolerate the importation of that sort of prejudice.

It comes as welcome news, then, that the latest edition of the new citizenship guide includes a new, single sentence about the equal rights of gay and lesbian Canadians. “Canada’s diversity,” the guide notes, “includes gay and lesbian Canadians, who enjoy the full protection of and equal treatment under the law, including access to civil marriage.”

OK, so it’s a far cry from the entire section that was eliminated two years back, which reportedly included a history of these rights and acknowledgements of the struggles of GLBT Canadians, and there’s still no mention of Canada’s trans population. Still, it’s clearly better than the old guide, and considering that Jason Kenney has voted against equal rights on multiple occasions, getting any mention at all is more than I would have assumed.

(Thanks to Slap readers Viki and Premee for the story!)

Edmonton Schools Adopt Anti-Homophobia Policy

March 14th, 2011

In 2028, the city of Edmonton, having finally broken free, sailed the world.

Let’s start the week with some good news, why not?

The Edmonton Public School District has voted 8-1 to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward homophobia in each of its schools, making it the first city in the province to officially take such a stance.

The new policy, which will now be researched and drafted by a committee, will ensure that GLBT students in Edmonton will have the support systems they need, and that GLBT staff cannot be discriminated against for their sexual orientation.

Edmonton has always been a little more forward-thinking than other cities in Alberta when it comes to equal rights for the GLBT community, having elected the provinces’ first gay politician (Michael Phair) in 1992, and generally supporting equal rights earlier than elsewhere in the province. It also produced me, Mark, which is very foward-thinking, if I may say so.

At any rate, congratulations Edmonton for supporting students’ rights and helping put an end to homophobic bullying! Here’s hoping other school boards follow suit.

Not One GSA Available In Ontario Catholic Schools

March 11th, 2011

Giant Squid Association

None of the 29 Catholic schools in Ontario have a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar support program for gay youth, according to an investigation by Xtra.

GSAs are recommended by the Ontario Ministry of Education as a means of offering support to gay students, who are frequently victimized by homophobic bullying. The publicly-funded Catholic school boards, however, have chosen to ignore this recommendation along with the needs of their students.

While school board officials deny there is a ban, some were very clear as to whether a GSA would be allowed to form in their district. “The answer would be no,” declared the superintendent of education for the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board.

Well, that sounds an awful lot like a ban to me.

Julien McArdle—a young activist from Gloucester, Ontario—agrees. He started an online petition earlier this month to help catch the attention of school board officials and turn up the pressure.

Good!

And if that doesn’t work, students can always request the formation of Greek Salad Aficionado clubs. Only 48% of the bishops find feta cheese morally offensive.

Toronto Mayor Threatens To Pull Pride Funding

March 9th, 2011

Queers Against Llamas

Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, has announced that he will deny $100,000 in funding for this year’s Pride Week celebrations—unless the parade portion of the festival excludes a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from marching.

For some time now, Toronto Pride has been entangled in a ridiculous controversy that I don’t particularly care to understand. On one side, there appears to be people like Rob Ford, who feel privileged enough to decide which segments of the GLBT community can and cannot participate in their own parade; on the other side there’s QAIA, who is using an event intended to be a celebration of GLBT culture, struggles, and achievements as a venue for an unrelated political message.

Such drama. Such dumb, dumb drama. Is there a side that doesn’t deserve a slap?

Either way, now that I’ve officially touched this landmine, I believe I will start a new group: Queers Against Unrelated Issues And Douchey Mayors.

Religious University Blocks Gay Student Website

March 7th, 2011

A man angrily screams, "An outrage! With God's fury, I banish thee!" and then sheepishly figures out the user interface of his computer's website filter.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that gay people, from all different walks of life, are everywhere, including some not-so-gay-friendly places. Take, for example, Christian universities in the middle of Arkansas. But if you still demand proof, visit this heart-tuggingly amazing website by the gay students at Harding University: HU Queer Press.

Well, visit, unless you actually go to Harding University, in which case you’ll notice that the above link doesn’t work. You see, one week after going live, the university has blocked all campus access to the website—a direct order from the campus president himself, David Burke.

Speaking to the press about his decision to censor the private website, Burke expressed his immense displeasure with the site’s very existance: “I won’t even publicly speak the web address—not because I think I can keep it from you, but because the address itself is offensive to me.”

huqueerpress.com

Scandalous!

I can only imagine what Burke actually thinks of his queer students if he finds just the title of a website about them to be so terrible as to be… unmentionable.

Hmm… I wonder if Slap is blocked there? If not, I guess I mustn’t be working hard enough.

Texas School Blocks GSA By Turfing All School Clubs

March 4th, 2011

A guy wearing an "Everything's Bigot in Texas" shirt.

Flour Bluff Intermediate School—a high school in Corpus Christi, Texas—has shut down all its extracurricular clubs after a student requested the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance, a peer support group that encourages tolerance and anti-bullying initiatives.

The insane move, which has effectively terminated otherwise unrelated clubs such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was taken by the school administration as a means of banning GSAs without penalty from the Equal Access Act, which would have required the school to provide equal opportunities for student-run clubs, “regardless of their religious, political, and philosophical leanings.”

Well, I guess banning all extracurricular clubs is one way to ensure equality, Texas style!

Help Stop Phony “Ex-Gay” Charities

March 3rd, 2011

Exodus, an “ex-gay” organization, is reaping tax benefits as a registered charity in Canada, and they’ll keep doing it unless you (yes you) help put an end to it. Slap into action!