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

U.S. Military Begins Gay Acceptance Training

April 29th, 2011

Military report: How to Treat Gay Colleagues in the Marines. Page Two: Just like everyone else.

The United States Marine Corps has produced some new training material in anticipation of the official revocation of the country’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy later this year.

Parts of the documents are spot on. It’s a good idea, for example, to prepare authority figures within the military on how to put an end to homophobic harassment and remind recruits that it’s not appropriate to discriminate against or berate their colleagues.

Amusingly, though, the training documents also include expected responses to some hypothetical situations. This includes what should be done if you discover two men from your battalion kissing in a shopping mall, or if you see a fellow Marine marching in a Pride parade on TV.

While the document’s suggested responses are exactly right, (i.e. act like it’s none of your business), I find the situations amusingly alarmist—as if all gay Marines will instantly start making out and flying banners on television. Better prepare the troops so they know exactly what to do if—nay, when—it happens!

At least this is all a little less silly than all those surveys asking how military personnel would feel about showering alongside gay colleagues. Not by much, mind you.

The 2011 Gay Candidate Breakdown

April 27th, 2011

Jack Layton, in the style of Professor Layton, says that a gentleman always gives everyone a fair shake, Luke.

So, there’s an election happening in Canada. If you live here, I’m sure you’ve been following it very closely and consequently have lost most of your hair due to exasperated tugging. If you live outside of Canada, you’re probably still up to speed since the international news media incessantly reports on Canadian politics, just like they do for the United States. (Snicker.)

Now, with 308 seats up for grabs and most of the major parties running a candidate in each riding, there should be some queer representation out there. And, indeed there is! According to Xtra, here’s how it adds up:

At the top of the list, we’ve got the New Democratic Party (led by Jack Layton) which has 10 openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual candidates. Next up is the Green Party (led by Elizabeth May) with 5. The Liberal Party (led by Michael Ignatieff) comes in third place with 3. And, to the surprise of no one, the Conservatives (led by Dillwad McHamsterface) are dead last with zero.

These numbers are exactly what I’d expect. The NDP have always had a pretty good record in supporting equal rights for GLBT Canadians, alongside the Greens who also include equality in their platform. The Liberals are mostly supportive, with some division within the party, and the Conservatives, bafflingly, fight against equal rights with clockwork consistency, often even trying to strip these rights away. It’s no wonder then, that GLBT Canadians with political aspirations are largely associating themselves with the NDP and Greens.

Will any of these translate into seats? That’s a different question—and it’s up to you. Yes, you. Well, unless you don’t have Canadian citizenship, in which case please don’t vote in this election. That’d be illegal.

Happy Easter

April 22nd, 2011

Hey kids! I’m taking a short break for the holidays, but I happened upon some new information about where Easter eggs come from. So, without further ado, let me leave you with this. (You’re welcome.)

The easter bunny lays some easter eggs.

Catholic School Tries To Muzzle Fired Trans Teacher

April 20th, 2011

In a scene like the matrix, an agent threatens to silence a trans teacher

Jan Buterman, a transgender substitute teacher, was fired from the St. Albert Catholic School Board back in 2009 for, well, being transgendered. “Since you made a personal choice to change your gender,” a termination letter delivered to Buterman stated, “we have to remove you from the substitute teacher list.”

Jan didn’t take this lightly, as you might imagine. Under threat of civil action, the school board has since offered a substantial settlement to avoid bringing the case to the courts or human rights tribunals. Included with the settlement, however, was a confidentiality agreement which would have forbidden Buterman to speak about his firing and the circumstances surrounding it.

Money in exchange for shutting up, eh? I wouldn’t have thought that was consistent with Catholic teachings, but there you go. I spent my entire grade school education within this very school board and they’re still teaching me new things. (Go, uh, Skyhawks, was it?)

Anyway, if it’s not already obvious by the mere fact we’re hearing this story, Jan is sticking to his principles and has soundly rejected the muzzling settlement. As a prominent trans activist, he said, it would be unacceptable to not be able to speak about the injustices people like him face.

It’s expected that Jan will now be off to the Alberta human rights commission next to have his case heard. Alberta’s human rights legislation is a little iffy in this area, as trans rights are not explicitly protected, so something tells me this won’t be the last time this story is featured on this site. Stay tuned!

Toronto Mayor Holds Pride Hostage

April 18th, 2011

Rob Ford, with Bambi eyes, declares "Trust me."

Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, has decided to cut all city funding to Toronto Pride, Canada’s largest gay pride festival (and one of biggest and most popular festivals overall) unless a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is disallowed from marching in the parade portion of the weeklong festivities.

A bizarre (and stupid) controversy surrounding QAIA has been going on for a few years now, but this is the first time that the city council has taken to micromanaging Toronto Pride’s activities. In response, QAIA decided over the weekend that they will take the high road and voluntarily withdraw their group from the parade and seek an alternate (and more appropriate) venue—a good idea. Not good enough for Ford, though, who says that Toronto Pride’s funding is still off the table and will only be provided after the parade, once there is definitive proof that the group isn’t marching.

I wouldn’t take his word for it. Ford has wanted to cut Toronto Pride’s funding for years—well before he became mayor, and well before QAIA was ever in the public consciousness. In leveraging a stupid controversy over a minor participant in just one of Toronto Pride’s weeklong events, Ford has found a convenient way to achieve his goal without it seeming like the plain homophobia it is.

In the meantime, Pride organizers are now left with the difficult task of planning one of Canada’s largest festivals without knowing their own budget. And with no help from the feds (we all remember what happened after the last time they decided to help the festival), I think we’ll be seeing Pride Toronto—one of Toronto’s largest tourist draws—scaled back substantially in the years to come.

Are You Silent?

April 15th, 2011

DOS: Disk Operating System (official sponsor of the Day of Silence)

Today is the Day of Silence, an annual awareness event aimed at eliminating homophobic bullying. The daily name-calling, harassment, and bullying that GLBT students experience creates fear—and when afraid to speak out about it, they end up silenced. Participants in today’s event choose not to speak throughout the day (except in class—the intent isn’t to be disruptive) as a way to mirror this silence and get people to think about the voices they aren’t hearing on a daily basis.

I think this is a great event, and although it faces organized opposition from anti-gay groups and lobbyists, I think that can be taken as evidence that the message is definitely getting across. So, to everyone participating in today’s event, let me just say this:

 

Democracy Break

April 13th, 2011

I was watching the leaders’ debate last night, tempted by “the bling and everything else,” so there’s no slap today. Actually—strike that. A really quick slap goes to Stephen Harper for, uh, gosh there’s so many reasons… let’s say for what he thinks of your rights.

Gays To Blame For Roman Collapse: Historian

April 11th, 2011

A gladiator.

As many of you know, we gays possess supernatural powers capable of untold terrors. Religious ambassadors have identified gay people as the source of everything from mass bird deaths to Earthquakes (and even more mundane things like the widespread implementation of airport security patdowns). Until now, though, I don’t think we’ve ever been blamed for the collapse of world empires.

But, lo!

Professor Roberto De Mattei, the head of Italy’s National Research Council, declared last week that the “abhorrent presence of a few gays infected a good part of the Roman people,” introducing a “contagion of homosexuality and effeminacy” that made the empire susceptible to attack from hordes of manly, barbarian invaders.

Yes, it appears the culture that brought us gladiators and near world domination was defeated by the “presence of a few gays.” Clearly, our powers are doubling by the minute! With these capabilities as leverage, perhaps we ought to start making better demands than just equal treatment in law and to be left alone from discrimination?

Catholic School Boards Introduce Decoy GSAs

April 8th, 2011

A SIDE Space meeting room has a giant bear trap in the middle of the floor.

Catholic schools in Ontario are continuing to fight gay-straight alliances from forming, despite pleas from students to allow them.

GSAs are an effective means of reducing homophobic bullying, improving student safety and decreasing the number of gay teen suicides. For this reason, the Ontario Ministry of Education has strongly recommended that all publicly funded schools include GSAs if the students request one. This recommendation is meant to include the Catholic school system which, despite being a religious organisation, is still publicly funded.

Understanding that outright bans on GSAs generate bad press, however, Catholic schools have begun adopting a new strategy to avoid acknowledging their GLBT students. When requested by students to allow the formation of a GSA, these schools launch a replacement club: One that teaches about all kinds of tolerance and diversity instead of focusing on gay issues.

Gosh that sounds just lovely and—RUN, KIDS! It’s a trap!

You see, rather than accept the most effective means to increase student safety for GLBT students, these ostensibly inclusive groups just re-enforce the discrimination that makes gay students feel so isolated in the first place.

At a GSA meeting in Mississauga, for example, the school’s principal entered unexpectedly and drew a big umbrella on the chalkboard to indicate that their club will have to talk about issues that affect everyone instead of homophobia, effectively silencing the entire school’s GLBT student body. Separately, and more troublingly, training documents for the Halton Catholic School Board’s new GSA replacement called “SIDE spaces,” declares that “gay is not an identity,” and that gay students are “immoral and sinful.”

Most of these kinds of stories aren’t even making it to the media. I’ve now received several emails from students across the country who have had their requests for a GSA turned down. An email I received just yesterday from an Ontario student highlights exactly the same sort of ineffective replacement club that these schools are foisting upon students to silence them:

Our school’s nun decided to be our [GSA] leader, but we had to change the name of the group to be inclusive of all aspects of discrimination.

Project CAT (Project Creating Awareness Together) was what our GSA became. That would have been totally fine with me, had it not been obvious that we weren’t to speak too much about homophobia in the group.

SIDE spaces, Project CAT, and large umbrellas. I could be greatly mistaken here, but something tells me this isn’t quite what the students had in mind when they requested the formation of a GSA.

The good news, though, is that students are fighting for safety, visibility, and inclusion. I like the way that Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the program director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, put it: “This issue is not going away,” she told the Halton Catholic School Board during their April 5th board meeting. “Students are empowered. Students know their rights. Students want gay-positive groups in their schools, and they will fight for them.”

Students are already proving Noa right. So, if you’re hoping to get a GSA formed in your school, keep fighting for it! Government organisations such as the Ontario Ministry of Education is on your side, and as long as you guys know your rights and keep up the pressure, these schools will eventually have to comply with their recommendations if they want to keep their public funding.

Impressionist Painting Attacked In Gay-Bashing

April 6th, 2011

Due to a recent attack on this illustration, we ask that you please keep a distance of at least seventy centimetres from your monitor at this time. Thank you.

“Two Tahitian Women,” a painting created by French impressionist Paul Gauguin in 1899, was attacked during an exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington last week. The work of art, worth an estimated 80 million dollars, depicts two native Tahitian women, both topless, with mango blossoms.

I happen to think the painting is magnificently executed, but one woman was slightly more critical. Startling gallery visitors with a loud shriek, she marched up to the painting and began screaming “this is evil” before attempting to pull it from the wall, pounding its protective plexiglass shield with her fists.

The assailant, identified as Susan Burns, was eventually detained by security and has been charged with attempted theft and destruction of property. Her court documents offered the following explanation:

I feel that Gauguin is evil. He has nudity and it is bad for the children. He has two women in the painting and it’s very homosexual.

Oookay.

Personally, I hadn’t assumed the painting depicts a lesbian relationship, but part of the beauty of art lies in its interpretation. I guess Susan just isn’t very impressed by impressionists.  She’s more into surreal expressionism, I’d say.

And Now, Some Tory Electioneering Hypocrisy

April 4th, 2011

Maria Aragon announces her next number, "The Ballad of the Duplicitous Prime Minister"

Canadian Internet sensation and all around sweetheart, Maria Aragon, was paid a visit by Stephen Harper last week to help kick start his election campaign for the Conservative party.

Surrounded by the media, the 10 year old sat beside the Prime Minister and performed Lady Gaga’s “Born this way,” the song that made her a viral hit online after it caught the attention of Gaga herself. Even with the added pressure of performing before reporters and cameras, Maria played magnificently. I particularly like the confidence with which she sung this verse:

No matter gay, straight or bi
lesbian, transgendered life
I’m on the right track baby
I was born to survive

Such a nice affirmation that GLBT people, despite facing discrimination simply for how they were born, have worth and value.

It reminds me of something Stephen Harper once said in the House of Commons:

Sexual orientation or, more accurately, what we are really talking about here, sexual behaviour […] was not included in the Charter of Rights when it was passed by parliament in 1982. It was not included, not because of some kind of accident or oversight, but deliberately and explicitly.
–Stephen Harper

Wait, sorry—what I meant to say was that it reminds me of the opposite of something Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons. How silly of me.

You see, from listening to what Harper has had to say about GLBT Canadians over the years, I’d say that he doesn’t think gay people are “born this way” at all—and his actions are even worse than his words. In late 2006, for example, Harper attempted to revoke the rights of same-sex couples to marry equally in Canada. And in February of this year, he voted against a bill that would have protected transgendered Canadians from discrimination in employment, housing, and public services.

But, yet, here he is—sitting beside Maria and smiling at the cameras while she so wonderfully affirms the inherent worth of GLBT citizens. Yes, clearly, the adorable Maria has changed Harper’s mind.

A quick tap, followed by a booming sound and some metallic, resonating clatter!

Uh, that was supposed to be a rim-shot. They don’t come across very well in writing, do they?

(A very special hat tip to Montreal Simon for the story)

New Gay Blood Ban Case Heads To Court

April 1st, 2011

First, a quick announcement: Since the launch of this site in 2006, you’ve no doubt noticed a gradual change in my illustration style. While I’ve been pleased with the artistic direction that my illustrations have taken over the past several years, I feel that they have lost a certain charm of the originals. That is why, starting today, I am returning to—and keeping—my original illustration style. Additionally, to keep the site’s look consistent, I will be removing and re-drawing all of my illustrations from the last few years. This is a pretty exciting project, so I hope you’re as pleased as I am!

Update, April 2: For anyone who doesn’t like to check calendars on a regular basis: Yes, this announcement—and the accompanying terrible illustration—was an April Fools joke. The rest of the post is real though, so good luck to Mr. Lomaga with his blood ban case!

A terrible illustration.

If you’re a gay man in Canada and have had sex even once since 1977, you are permanently banned from donating blood in the country. If you’re surprised by this, you likely haven’t tried donating blood for a very, very long time. This policy has been on the books for about thirty years now, despite having organisations like the Red Cross come out against it.

Nonetheless, Canadian Blood Services has rested stubbornly with the policy. The organisation even launched a successful court case against Kyle Freeman, a gay man, for having donated blood against the organisation’s policy two years ago. While that case ultimately ruled in favour of CBS because they were not a government organisation and therefore not subject to Canada’s charter of rights, the policy is about to be tested again.

Adrian Lomaga, a Montréal student, is challenging the gay blood ban policy of Héma-Québec (which is more likely to be ruled as a government organisation) on April 4. In response, Héma-Québec is suing Health Canada (clearly a government organisation), saying that if they lose this case, it’s the fault of their parent organisation for forcing the policy on them.

I’ve always been confused by the gay blood ban. Defining the exclusion group as haphazardly as “gay men” is likely considerably more harmful to the blood supply than other proposed alternatives. For one, it perpetuates the myth that all gay men have tainted blood. On top of that, it fails to catch heterosexuals who may engage in far riskier sexual practices than a monogamous gay man. A wiser system would shift the focus on the number of partners a donor has, as well as whether or not the donor engages in risky sexual practices—such as not using condoms. HIV and other blood-borne infectants don’t care about the gender of their host, after all.

So, good luck to Adrian Lomaga! May you soon have large needles inserted into your veins, and your blood removed in large quantities!