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

Another Russian Gay Pride March Ends In Violence

May 30th, 2011

Circle the date on the calendar: Annual Russian gay-bashing.

For the sixth consecutive year, Moscow has forbidden a peaceful gay rights demonstration from happening within the city, and for the sixth consecutive year, equal rights advocates have defied the ban—with violent consequences.

Sadly, this isn’t a surprise. Homophobia runs very deep in Russian culture, so the same story returns year after year. An otherwise peaceful demonstration is met by violent counter protesters from radical right-wing organisations, and the end result is that the peaceful demonstrators are arrested by the police.

Banning peaceful protests is never a good idea, so I’m grateful for the bravery and dedication these men and women show year after year.

It may seem like Moscow has a long way to go, but attitude only change with visibility. When I was a teen growing up in Edmonton in the 90s, I remember a news story about the city’s first gay Pride march. A small handful of protesters stood in front of city hall with handmade signs. About one in three had their heads covered by paper bags with holes cut out for eyes. They were afraid of being identified, afraid of losing their jobs or being outed to their families. This was in Canada, only about 15 years ago. Things have changed a lot since then, and it’s happening all over the world—just at different paces.

I’m looking forward to the year, guaranteed to come, when I’ll post about the first march in Moscow without arrests or violence.

Toronto Approves Pride Funding, With Caveats

May 27th, 2011

Rob Ford marches in a Pride parade.

Despite threats from Toronto’s mayor to pull its funding, a city council committee has unanimously voted to continue supporting the city’s annual Pride festival.

Toronto Pride is Canada’s largest Pride celebration—a massive tourist draw, and one of the city’s largest festivals overall. Mayor Rob Ford had threatened to pull all city funding from the festival, however, due to a stupid controversy over a minor participant in the parade portion of the festival’s weeklong events. That participant, a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, had already indicated that they would not participate this year, but Rob Ford still refused to provide funding, saying that he may grant money after the festival was finished and there was proof that QAIA had not participated.

Now, this committee decision doesn’t really change Rob Ford’s douchey antics—the city will still only pay money after the festival, and only on condition that the group doesn’t march, but at least there is some formal assurance that the money is coming. Committee members have also provided assurance that having a single rogue member of the group wearing a T-Shirt during the parade, or some other unauthorized minor participation, would not result in funding being pulled; only full participation would make the council reconsider the funds.

I guess Toronto Pride needs to find some new drama now. Personally, I suggest the Montréal approach: Foster a silly internal rift until the event gets split into two competing weeklong events, making the summer twice as gay!

Help Keep Alvaro Orozco In Canada

May 20th, 2011

Alvaro Orozco for Senate

Alvaro Orozco, a gay Nicaraguan who unsuccessfully attempted a refugee claim in 2007, was arrested late last week in Toronto while waiting for a bus on his way out to dinner with a friend. He’s now being held in detention without bail, and can be deported at any moment—unless he gets some serious community help.

I had posted several stories about Alvaro before he went into hiding, including a guest post (by proxy) from Alvaro himself. His story was typical for gay refugee claimants in Canada: He fled a country where homosexuality is illegal, but was denied refugee status because he wasn’t deemed gay enough by the adjudicator. Many refugee claimants are asked to provide impossible proof that they are gay, despite having to have hid all such evidence in their home country. In Alvaro’s case, the adjudicator questioned why he hadn’t actively sought out sexual partners while he was travelling up to Canada through the States. He was 14 at the time.

Since arriving in Canada, Alvaro has established himself in Toronto as a photographer, artist, and activist. Now 25, he has been hiding from immigration while awaiting the status on his last-resort Humanitarian and Compassionate application. This arrest puts his entire future in jeopardy, particularly since his story has already reached mainstream Nicaraguan newspapers and homosexuality, while now legal there, is widely not accepted..

Alvaro’s future can be influenced by community support, but we need to take action now. If you have a few seconds right now, please sign this online petition to Let Alvaro Stay in Canada. (Believe it or not, in refugee cases, community support like this can actually have a strong influence on the outcome.) Also, you can join the Let Alvaro Stay Facebook page where information about events and other avenues of support are posted. A lot of his personal friends are there too, so you can learn more about Alvaro’s story, his artwork, and community activities while you’re there.

Me, I’ll be pushing for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to give Alvaro a seat in the Canadian Senate. As you already know, many Canadians who have run into trouble with the law or have been rejected by voters (and thus society in general), have been appointed to the senate where they can safely sleep serve until they reach the age of 75—with a generous salary to boot. Normally I’d say this would be a long shot but, considering recent senate appointees… Alvaro’s head and shoulders above the lot of them.

Of course, whatever happens, we’re thinking of you, Alvaro!

The Rapture’s This Saturday; Gays Partly Responsible

May 18th, 2011

A man stands in a destroyed city, lamenting: "Our buildings are destroyed... On the plus side there's no bigots!"

Sad news, everyone. Harold Camping, an 89 year old pastor and expert on the Christian bible, has discovered the date of the rapture. And it’s this Saturday, May 21st.

Well, bummer.

Unfortunately it looks inevitable, too. Camping, who previously said the end of the world would occur on September 6th, 1994, has since spent many years studying the bible and has stated without any uncertainty that the bible “guarantees” this Saturday as the rapture—for real.

Sadder still, it looks like we gays are at least partly responsible for earth’s destruction. “The emergence of the ‘Gay Pride Movement’ and the complete disregard of the Bible in all of society today” are some of the very few primary factors that Harold included in his calculation of the date.

So, unfortunately for a lot of us, at around 6:00 pm California time, a massive earthquake (a phenomenon which, as you already know, is caused by homosexuality) will destroy everything on Earth, opening graves and calling all Christian believers—both deceased and living—into the sky toward heaven, somewhere in outer space. The rest of us will be left behind on a ruined planet until October  21st when God will apparently destroy the place entirely.

While a few months without any bigots actually sounds quite nice, the inconvenient timeframe means I’ll have to schedule my annual Halloween party a little earlier in the month before Earth is finally destroyed. Also, the earthquakes don’t sound very pleasant. Luckily I think I’m insured for that.

Anyway, I’m not yet sure if I’ll continue updating this site after the rapture, but stay tuned just in case.

Being Gay’s A Choice, Says Conservative Leader

May 16th, 2011

John Cummins declares, from his rear end, that being gay is a choice.

John Cummins, the only candidate for the leadership position of the provincial Conservative party in British Columbia, has declared that being gay is a choice and that the Human Rights Code in the province should therefore exclude gay and lesbian citizens.

“In my view it was not necessary to add another category,” Cummins told the press last week. “I’m not a scientist, [but] some of the research tells me that there’s more of an indication that that’s a choice issue.”

Well, no credible research says that, actually. And while my M.Sc. would happily indicate that I am a scientist, I won’t presume—as does Mr. Cummins—that I have any authority to speak about this subject on an academic level since this isn’t my particular field of science.

That said, I have plenty of experience in research methodology and can recognize credible peer-reviewed studies when I see them. In the medical and psychological community, there is no controversy. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association (and so forth ad nauseam), have all concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice, and that it’s not changeable.

(Or, you know, Mr. Cummings could have just asked a gay person, like me, if they chose their sexual orientation. I didn’t, in case he’s wondering.)

Still, I’m curious about something…

In addition to prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the B.C. Human Rights Code also prohibits discrimination based on religious affiliation. Since religious affiliation is clearly a choice, and since I’m sure Mr. Cummins uses consistent and sound logic in making important leadership decisions, why does he feel that religious protections should be stripped from all BC citizens?

I’m still awaiting his response, but will surely let you know when he gets back to me. (Chortle.)

Study Finds Homophobia Rampant In Schools

May 13th, 2011

A threatening-looking man startles a student: "Leave this place. You are in grave danger! ... Seriously, don't hide from bullies in the chemistry lab's storage closet, OK?"

A new study being released today by the University of Winnipeg has found that homophobia has become a normal part of school life in Canada, with a direct impact on student safety.

Homophobic harassment and comments, sometimes even uttered by teachers, is commonplace. 64% of GLBT students actually report feeling unsafe at school. 21% have even reported being physically harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation.

The study also revealed a bit of hope, though. Both verbal and physical harassment were found to be significantly reduced in schools that have explicit anti-homophobia policies compared to those that did not. A clear majority of straight students, 58%, also reported homophobic comments to be upsetting, meaning that most students you meet will be an ally.

Anti-homophobia policies are finding organized opposition from church groups, as was seen in Burnaby this week, but academic research like this certainly outshines any imaginative misinformation and demonstrates a clear need for programs to make schools safer.

So, to all you guys having a rough time in school, hang in there! Things are getting better!

Anti-Gay Parents Protest School Non-Discrimination Policy

May 11th, 2011

Protesters hold signs including "I'm angry for some reason," "Why am I here?" and "Think of the children!"

A group of parents, organised by a handful of churches, rallied yesterday to protest a non-discrimination policy introduced by the Burnaby school district. The draft policy, which has yet to be finalized, addresses the unacceptably high levels of bullying that GLBT students face in comparison to other students.

This doesn’t sit well with some people, though. James Gray, one of the protest organisers, explained his objections to the press: “I have two young children in the school system and I don’t want any adult to look at them in a sexual way. Whether or not my daughter is heterosexual or a lesbian in none of their business.”

Whoa there, tiger!

I’m not sure what Mr. Gray thinks he’s protesting, but he won’t get very far with this sort of hyperbole.

Mr. Gray should try a thought experiment and imagine growing up in a world where everyone—his teachers, his principal, his parents—assumed that all students, including him, were gay. As a (presumably) straight male, would he have had a problem with this? Would he feel sexualized? I suggest this experiment, because any objections he has should be identical to those of gay people growing up in today’s school systems.

You see, the new policy has nothing to do with “sexualizing” schools, but rather the reverse. With respect to teaching staff, it trains them to remove the assumption that all boys will end up falling in love with girls, and vice versa. Students are not assumed to be either way, because the assumption would inevitably be wrong for some of them. With respect to students, it means that bullying and harassing students for being (or appearing to be) gay will not be tolerated; being a “fag” will no longer be a focus in the schoolyard.

The policy also means that staff will be better trained to deal with crises. Today, GLBT youth have the highest rate of suicide and depression of any other identifiable group, and proper support systems have demonstrated clear improvements to this statistic. If a student discovers that he or she is different and needs to discuss anything, the school will be prepared to lend any special support that student may want. Students can feel safe with the knowledge that teachers and councilors have not made any assumptions about them and will be open to helping.

Larry Hayes, the Burnaby school board chairman, put it best: “It’s all part of creating a safe, caring and respectful environment for all of our students.”

Social Justice Elective Case Will Go Ahead

May 9th, 2011

Super Helicopter Mom! Assuming the authority to hover over ALL students and regulate their elective studies.

The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that a pending human rights challenge regarding a cancelled, optional high school course can go ahead, despite concentrated lobbying efforts by a few parents and lobbyists.

Now, this is a strange and convoluted tale, so please grab a chair, unplug your computer, disconnect all its cables and power supply, and reposition everything next to a fireplace while I regale you with the exciting details.

It starts back in the year 2006.

Social Justice 12, an elective course that includes a unit on the rights and struggles of the GLBT community, was proposed as part of a human rights commission settlement. A ruling found  that the B.C. curriculum was unfairly suppressing information beneficial to gay students, and an optional course that offered this missing information was deemed to be a nice, quick fix.

This did not sit well with the anti-gay lobby. These lobbyists became infuriated by the thought of any information about gay struggles in schools. In a concentrated effort, they called on parents to complain to the school boards. Their efforts worked, at least in one place. Officials in Abbotsford, a small city near Vancouver, panicked and cancelled Social Justice 12 just three weeks before it was scheduled to begin.

(May I re-emphasize at this point that this course was an option, available only to students who elected to take it?)

Now, Abbotsford may be small, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s small-minded. Students, having learned that their selected course was cancelled (and that they’d have to obtain credit elsewhere on very short notice to boot), complained to the schoolboard en masse. Realising the scope of their earlier decision, the board eventually decided to react to the students’ demands, but with a caveat.

Social Justice 12 would be re-introduced, but, unlike other options, each student would require parental permission to take it. Now, that’s all well and good if you’ve got a supportive family, but what about students with unsupportive parents? Particularly students whose parents had lobbied the board to turf the course in the first place, or gay students who haven’t outed themselves yet and feared a harsh reaction?

Essentially, a handful of lobbyists had still decided that no student should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to take this course. This didn’t sit well with Murray Coren, one of the community activists who helped launch the original human rights complaint in 2006. With support of students and parents, an expanded human rights complaint was launched, arguing that instating formal restrictions on the course availability undermines the settlement of the original human rights complaint.

(Hold on a second, I need to throw another log on the fire here. Poke it just a bit… Meh, good enough.)

So, a renewed human rights complaint is now pending with a good chance at success. This sent the anti-gay lobbyists into a rage. If all went as expected, students in their last year of high school would soon be able to take a course about Social Justice at their own discretion. In a pre-emptive strategy, the lobbyists appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that the human rights case should be dismissed on technicalities. The complainant isn’t a parent, they cried! (Although he was once a student). The complainant doesn’t even live in Abbotsford, they wailed! (Although school curriculum is provincial jurisdiction). But the Supreme Court would hear none of it. As of last week, it was decided that the complaint will go ahead.

It’s not over for the students of Abbotsford, and certainly not of any more relevance to the grade 12 students that have already graduated or are soon to graduate, but a brand new group of students are coming, and soon, this very silly tale will get a new chapter.

So, stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to Holy Crap, What’s The Big Deal?! Also available on audiobook.

British PM Plans To Ban Gay TV Kisses

May 6th, 2011

Next on BBC TWO: David Cameron Kisses Another David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron will unveil a plan to ban same-sex kisses on prime-time television, according to multiple media sources. The gay kiss ban, an amendment to existing television censorship rules, is part of a Cameron-backed inquiry into stopping children from “being exposed to indecent images.”

Funny… I always thought that limiting exposure to the media was the job of parents, but I guess not. British government. Go figure!

Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mother’s Union and person responsible for heading the inquiry, told the media that exposing children to adult themes, such as a famous gay-kiss scene that aired on Brookeside back in 1994, will “take away their innocence.”

Yes, it’s most unfortunate. One day these innocent children are out playing, running in loops and chasing insects in a field of posies, then they come inside to say the rosary and BAM! A gay person is kissing on the TV. Their innocence, lost forever, is replaced with soul-crushing guilt. Disillusioned with life, they tumble into an irreversible sorrow. Many die. It’s terrible.

Luckily, the public is taking notice. Brooke Vincent, a young actress who plays a lesbian character on Coronation Street, chimed in on the ridiculousness: “If same-sex kisses are what [Cameron] is prioritising and concentrating on changing, our country’s in trouble.”

Well put, Brooke. Lets call out Cameron on this silliness, lest it give the Harper Government™ some ideas here in Canada!

Election Day

May 2nd, 2011

King Harper

Last summer, I got married. To the greatest husband in the world, I should add! We were surrounded by family and friends, outdoors on one of the most beautiful days of the year. I wish I were poetic enough to describe it, because I had never experienced so much joy in a single day, but those of you with an Emotion-o-tronic 5000 can attach their USB BrainLink™ connector and click here to experience my wedding day memories via a direct brain emotion transfer.

Anyway, my wedding day was important to me, but it might not have happened had the political landscape been different. On the very first day of campaigning for the 2006 election, Stephen Harper promised to have a Conservative-controlled parliament re-vote on my right to marry. If he had sufficient numbers, it would have damaged my life intimately. I wouldn’t be wearing a ring right now.

Well, it’s election day again, and Stephen Harper is now asking Canadians for a majority, which would give the Conservatives complete power over Canada’s laws and policies.

Before voting today, remember that Harper is not a moderate. He has voted against equal rights for GLBT citizens at every opportunity, and is not done with us yet. Just months ago, he personally voted against protecting trans Canadians from workplace and housing discrimination. And with the party’s clear voting history, it would only take a single backbencher member’s bill to successfully strip away existing rights, such our hard-fought right to marry.

Today, vote. And vote strategically. It affects you more than you might think.