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

Gay Man’s Bank Card Cancelled Because Of His Voice

June 29th, 2011

A Robot Monster gets a bank account. "He sounded human over the phone," an employee says.

A gay man found that his bank card was cancelled last week for a very unusual reason: His voice has a higher than normal pitch.

Jeffrey Hare phoned TD Bank to get some information about his bank account when the agent on the other end decided that he was an impostor.

“This [agent] decided that I was a woman and didn’t ask any questions and cancelled everything on me,” Mr. Hare told Xtra. “There was no way for me to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is my voice; I am genetically a man and this is what my voice sounds like.'”

Banks normally have security questions to verify identity over the phone, so it’s pretty strange that agents would rely simply on the sound of someone’s voice. I imagine that trans people experience this kind of thing a lot, too.

The bank, thankfully, has since apologised for the “bad service.”

And Now, A Warning From Canada

June 27th, 2011

A man stares at a rainbow warning sign.

So, I hear that New York State has finally legalized same-sex marriage. That’s fantastic news!

Throughout the debate, however, many people were wondering aloud about the consequences—both direct and indirect—that should be expected. Some of the predictions are downright dire.

I think I can chime in here. The first legal same-sex marriages in Canada happened in 2003, eight years ago—and it’s been nearly six years since Canada legalized same-sex marriage nationwide via parliamentary vote. In that sense, looking at Canada is a little bit like looking into the future. I think, therefore, that I should warn all you New Yorkers about the consequences that same-sex marriage will bring.

For easy reference and discussion, I’ve compiled each consequence into an exhaustive, numbered list. New York will experience each of these consequences, and I encourage other states to think long and hard about each of the items on this list before deciding to go down the path of same-sex marriage as well.

So, without further ado, if you’re ready, I present the complete of consequences of legal same-sex marriage:

  1. Same-sex couples can marry.

There you go. Now no one can say that they haven’t been informed.

Congratulations, again, to all my friends in New York. Keep fighting, and all the other states will follow!

Public Schools Move Forward, Catholic Schools Move Back

June 24th, 2011

The Flying Nun Returns: Rapidly redistributing homophobia from public schools into Catholic ones during times of postal lock-outs!

The Burnaby School Board unanimously adopted its anti-homophobia policy last week, after months of debating and church-organized protests. A crowd of about 400 students and supporters cheered outside the Burnaby School Board offices when Kaitlin Burnett, a supporter of the policy, emerged to announce its passage.

The new policy means that public schools in the region will be made safer for any student who is—or is perceived to be—gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Toronto Catholic School Board introduced several new, gay-unfriendly amendments to its equity policy. Included among them is one that explicitly enshrines the board’s religious doctrine as taking “precedence over human rights protections,” and another that states the board will “approve only clubs which have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings” (which, in Catholic-speak, is a direct strike at the growing support for Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools—important peer support groups statistically shown to reduce bullying and increase student safety).

Having spent my entire grade school education in the Catholic system, I can vouch that it’s survivable—in the same way that Vegemite is a breakfast condiment—but things could be improved, particularly since these schools are tax funded. Until that’s no longer the case, I foresee a difficult road ahead for these sorts of amendments. What might seem like a step backwards now, could be the final straw and signal the end of this kind of nonsense for good!

NDP Resolves To Revoke Ex-Gay Charitable Status

June 22nd, 2011

Meanwhile, at the gays-in-boxes-of-spiders charity headquarters, a man ponders hiding in his own boxes of spiders.

I’ve got some particularly cool news today!

The federal New Democratic Party, Canada’s official opposition, unanimously adopted a resolution over the weekend to revoke the charitable status of unscientific “ex-gay” organisations, including Exodus Global Alliance.

The resolution, which was presented and adopted the NDP’s 2011 policy convention in Vancouver, should be welcome news to anyone, but it’ll be music to the ears of most Slap readers. The resolution’s introductory speech, prepared and delivered by Matthew McLaughlin, the party’s outgoing LGBT co-chair, explains it nicely.

He begins:

Delegates, an investigation published in September 2010 by [the] LGBT news blog Slap Upside The Head revealed that Exodus Global Alliance, an ex-gay organisation, enjoys registered charity status with the Canada Revenue Agency. Ex-gay organisations claim that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people can be made straight. They take advantage of LGB people, often in vulnerable family situations or at grips with depression and self-hatred, and browbeat them—saying that LGB people never live happy lives, that we are unhealthy and unwhole, and that we never experience love and that the only hope lies in their therapies. […] We see that they are selling snake oil with benefits given to them by the Canada Revenue Agency at present.

Indeed, a plea to take action against Canada’s phony ex-gay charities has been a recurring theme on this site ever since I heard about New Zealand’s rejection of Exodus’ charitable status; I discovered that not only had Canada granted it, but that Exodus has been enjoying registered charity status in this country for years.

Ex-gay organisations, like Exodus, abuse already troubled gay people, often for political means, telling them that being gay is inherently dangerous and can be “overcome,” like addiction. The idea that sexual orientation is changeable, however, is rejected completely by every professional medical, psychological, and psychiatric organisation without dissent. This includes the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and many more. In fact, they’ve all gone on record to state that ex-gay therapy—attempts to change sexual orientation from gay to straight—is psychologically harmful and should never be practiced. This well-studied conclusion, based on mountains of evidence, is also supported by simple common sense. Ex-gay organisations simply teach gay people that their inherent traits are evil, scolding their “patients” for not being able to overcome it, resulting in serious psychological harm that often leads to depression or worse. Organisations that ex-gay advocates trot out as dissenting opinion are usually religiously-funded organisations with either explicit or guarded political ties.

Luckily, people have caught on to this important issue. hundreds of letters have been sent to the Canada Revenue Agency, emails have been delivered to MPs across the country, and a petition has been launched to help add a visible metric to this important issue—all in hopes that things would change.

And the NDP has heard us—in a big way.

Applause broke out during Matthew McLaughlin’s speech when he mentioned that New Zealand had rejected Exodus’ charitable status; the NDP’s new LGBT deputy critic and sitting MP, Dany Morin, stood and urged all delegates for their support; finally, Kaitlin Burnett, a member of the party’s LGBT caucus, spoke passionately in favour of the resolution, which passed unanimously to great applause. Everyone who worked hard to bring this resolution forward within the party deserves a great deal of thanks.

But we’re not done yet!

If the CRA doesn’t adhere to their own policies and pull Exodus’ charitable status immediately (and there hasn’t been any word that this is happening), legislation will need to be introduced. The NDP is clearly willing to make this happen, but they need to hear from you. Let them—and all other MPs that would have to vote on possible legislation—know that this is a priority for you. If you haven’t already signed the petition, or written a letter to the CRA and your MP, please do! It’s more important than ever right now.

Something’s definitely happening here, thanks to all of you. Let’s keep it up!

UN Finally Backs Human Rights For Gays

June 20th, 2011

We at the UN are pleased to release this list of places you must flee from immediately.

The United Nations, for the first time in history, endorsed the equal rights of GLBT people worldwide, condemning any country who discriminates or harms people for their sexual orientation.

Well, it’s about time!

The resolution passed only narrowly, with 23 votes in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions. Nonetheless, it’s solid evidence that the world is becoming more tolerant. Countries that voted in favour were: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

If you’ve noticed that Canada is not on this list, don’t panic! Canada simply isn’t on the UN’s Human Rights Council this year.

Speaking of membership, though, here’s a neat little list of countries that have—as far as I’m concerned—announced themselves as basically having no business being on the UN’s Human Rights Council to begin with: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Uganda.

So, if any of you are planning a summer vacation to Nigeria, I’d like to suggest that you perhaps consider somewhere like, maybe, France instead.

Hate Crime Reporting Improves

June 15th, 2011

A cement truck buries a person who ponders reporting the incident.

More and more hate crimes are being reported across the country, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In 2009, the number of hate crime reported in Canada went up by 42%, and police are optimistic. “It’s not that the hate crimes are actually increasing,” explained Ken Smith from the Edmonton police department’s hate crimes unit. “People are feeling more comfortable reporting it.”

Indeed, hate crimes have been historically under-reported. According to a Statistics Canada survey from 2004, 60% of hate crime victims claimed that they didn’t bother reporting the incidents to the police. A change in this number is welcome news because it allows for more opportunities to catch the people who commit these crimes. This is particularly true with respect to GLBT victims, who are finally feeling safe enough to out themselves to the police and more confident that the police will help them.

GLBT victims, incidentally, need to report these incidents the most. The severest hate crimes—violent assaults—were committed against members of the GLBT community more often than any other identifiable minority, a disturbing trend.

Obviously there’s a lot of work to be done to improve things, but the most important step—reporting hate crimes when they happen—is already happening. So, while I’d be most happy if hate crimes stopped altogether as of last night (one can hope, right?), I take the latest statistics as an encouraging move toward a safer life for everyone.

Tories Raise The Spectre Of A Same-Sex Marriage Ban

June 13th, 2011

En nomine Harperus, matrimonium gayus invitamus resurgere a moruis! Lorem ipsum!!

Well, that didn’t take very long, did it?

Just weeks after Canada’s federal election, delegates at the Conservative Party Convention have raised a dead social issue over the weekend, discussing and voting on a resolution to ban same-sex marriage in Canada.

While a same-sex marriage ban had already been official Conservative Party policy, delegates readily voted to re-affirm it, adding in new measures that would let religious organisations deny facilities and services to same-sex couples. The resolution also included a wording change to clarify that this is Conservative Party policy, and not necessarily official government policy. The latter change was likely the government’s attempt to distance itself from contentious social issues early in their mandate, although it’s now perfectly clear what the party’s goals are overall.

So, what does all this mean for the GLBT community in Canada? First, that Canada’s governing party is not here for you. This is hardly a surprise, considering the party’s history of hostility toward GLBT citizens, but with Stephen Harper’s attempts to paint the Conservatives as Canada’s new, natural governing party, a lot of people have forgotten the party’s social conservative roots.

More worryingly, though, the overwhelming support of this resolution from within the party suggests that a backbencher’s bill to ban same-sex marriage, if introduced, would easily find the numbers required to pass, even if the government would rather keep it off the agenda.

Now, with nine consecutive provincial court rulings affirming that equal marriage is a right guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a bill to rescind these rights would face some—shall we say—difficulties. So, let’s put on our cowboy boots for a moment and imagine what, exactly, would be required here.

First, it’s important to note that the Supreme Court of Canada has never ruled on the constitutionality of a same-sex marriage ban. The government is in a position to appoint judges that could dissent from the individual provincial courts’ longstanding consensus, and could conceivably do just that. Perhaps weirder, even if the Supreme Court sided with the nine earlier court rulings in favour of equal marriage rights, an obscure constitutional clause could be used by the government to strip them away anyway in five-year intervals without legal recourse.

This isn’t unheard of. In late 2000, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government, under the leadership of Ralph Klein, invoked Section 33 of the Charter—the Notwithstanding Clause—to ban same-sex marriage in the province. By using this clause, the government effectively acknowledged that their law violated the Charter of Rights, but allowed it to remain on the books completely immune from court challenges for a period of five years (at which point they would have had the option pass it again). The only reason the government didn’t invoke the clause a second time in 2005 was because marriage is federal jurisdiction and by that time Paul Martin’s Liberal government had already granted equal marriage rights to citizens nationwide.

Today, Canada’s federal government is formed by a party in support of banning same-sex marriage, and the Notwithstanding clause is available at their discretion. So, despite challenges, they could absolutely take away your right to marry if they wanted.

Now, are any of these doomsday scenarios likely? I’m going to say no. If I had to bet on it, I’d say the government’s desire to stay in power outweighs the cries from their base to force the wedding ring off my finger. Use of the Notwithstanding clause would likely appear mean-spirited and unpopular to the Canadian public, and it would be unusual for the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn nine consecutive lower court rulings—certainly a phenomenon for the history books.

Nonetheless, the fact that there is landslide majority support within Canada’s governing party to venture down this path re-confirms what I’ve always suspected: The Conservative Party is full of giant douches. So hold on to your hats, kids! Even if all this party policy nonsense turns out to be the idle threats that I suspect they are, I still foresee four years of obnoxious barium saline suspension waves coming our way. Yuck.

Gay Conservatives Promote Fabulous Blue Tent

June 10th, 2011

A blue tent sits in the middle of a very scary forest

Yesterday marked the start of the Canadian Conservative Party’s national convention. Canada’s only right-wing party has been celebrating their recent 39% majority government victory, so it promises to be a fun-filled weekend of military strategies, handshakes, brutalizing criminals, and tight public relations control. Enjoyment all ’round!

I don’t particularly wish I could be there because I intensely dislike this political party, but if I did want to go—and I don’t—I might almost be tempted to stop by the Fabulous Blue Tent, an unofficial side-event for gay Conservatives to mingle.

There’s no reason, of course, that gay people can’t hold traditionally conservative principles, particularly when it comes to economics and such, but considering this particular party’s near constant hostility toward gay people and their equal rights, it strikes me as an odd one to affiliate oneself with if you’re gay.

On the event’s Facebook page, one invitee lamented “Would like to [attend], but it’s my anniversary.”

Yes, please by all means enjoy your anniversary. Particularly if you happen to be gay, because you wouldn’t have one to celebrate if the Conservatives had a majority in 2006.

Anyway, I’m not sure what sort of events are planned in the Fabulous Blue Tent, but I like to think I can help advertise all GLBT organisation activities. So, if you’re a masochist GLBT community member with backwards, well, backwards political leanings who’s in the mood for free Harper-style haircuts, a complimentary snack platter of dried apricots and Neo-Citron, and a ragtime rendition of The Sound of Music (probably)—then head on down to the Westin Hotel in Ottawa today at 10:00 PM!

Almost no details can be found on their official website.

Have a great weekend, kids!

Ontario Catholic School Bans Rainbows

June 8th, 2011

And as a symbol of his covenant to never again flood the earth, God summoned to the sky a beautiful rainb---IRREDUCIBLY COMPLEX BACTERIAL FLAGELLUM. THE END.

An unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario has been forbidden from displaying any rainbows at their information booth.

The school board had already banned official Gay-Straight Alliances—important peer support groups to help reduce incidences of bullying—in their schools (thus the “unofficial” nature of this group), but apparently that didn’t go far enough. “They said rainbows were associated with Pride,” Leanne Iskander, who founded the GSA, told Xtra this week. “There’s so many other things a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”

Nevertheless, the group managed to sneak in some hidden rainbows by baking cupcakes with batter in all of the rainbow’s colours. They weren’t allowed to donate the proceeds to GLBT charities like LGBT Youth Line, mind you. Instead they were forced to choose a Catholic charity. (Thankfully not Exodus, an “ex-gay” organisation which is still a registered charity in Canada, cough sign-the-petition cough, cough.)

At any rate, congratulations to Leanne and the amazing GSA! Despite the artificial and ridiculous hurdles being tossed in your way by a terrified school board, you guys rock. Keep it up!

Pope Pleads For Couples To Marry (Except Gays)

June 6th, 2011

A now a word from your exceptionally creepy pope.

Pope Benedict XVI appeared before an audience in Croatia yesterday to plead for couples to marry instead of simply living together as common-law partners. In his anticipated homily, the pope lamented a “secularized mentality which proposes living together as preparation, or even a substitute as marriage.”

So, to all you young couples out there: Do not, under any circumstances, live together before marrying. Just trust that all your quirks will be perfectly compatible, legally combine your lives and finances, and start having children right away. Don’t adopt; that robs children of their natural, unfit-by-admission parents. And take this advice to heart. After all, how could recommendations from an 84 year old celibate who has no personal experience with romantic relationships be wrong?

Still, it’s nice to hear the pope come out in vocal support of marriage after dedicating years to preventing me from getting married. I wonder what made him change his heart so quickl—oh, wait, my mistake; his speech still implied that gay families aren’t real families, our relationships are unnatural, and that we somehow rob children of their rights.

Ouch. And given all his years of wisdom, he must have a point; the pope lifestyle is far more natural. I mean, why else would popes emerge so readily in nature?

Food for thought, I guess…

World Becoming More Gay-Friendly

June 3rd, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes look under their cardboard Transmogrifier, confirming that the globe they put under it is changing

For anyone who feels like equal rights have been regressing, here’s a bit of encouraging news. According to a report from the University of Chicago, the world is steadily becoming more and more gay-friendly.

Virtually every country studied has reported a greater acceptance of people with different sexual orientations over previous polling periods, with only four exceptions: Russia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, and Latvia. Encouragingly, the growth of acceptance in other countries outpaced the decline in these four.

The top five countries in terms of GLBT acceptance (which doesn’t include Canada, sadly) are the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and Belgium. The bottom half of the list was unsurprisingly largely East Asian and Latin American countries, along with Cyprus, South Africa, and Turkey.

South Africa, incidentally, recognizes full marriage equality, which proves that popular acceptance isn’t a prerequisite to offering equal rights. So, even if you’re experiencing some local setbacks in equal rights thanks to alarmist politicians and widespread misinformation, keep your chin up! The trend line is still on your side, and will be for as long as you keep fighting for it!

Anglican Church Finally Approves Same-Sex Blessings

June 1st, 2011

A stained glass image depicts the sacred flogging of the homosexualicus.

The Anglican Church in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island approved a motion last week that would allow for individual churches to bless same-sex couples.

The Anglican Church offers blessings for various things, including weddings, births, graduations, and even inanimate objects like boats and pets, but until now same-sex couples had been an issue of particular contention.

I’m happy that gay couples have advanced to the same level of respect as Rover and the H.M.S. Slapafore within the Anglican hierarchy, but it sure took a lot of kicking and screaming to get there. At least one participant in the vote was reported to have become so distraught with the results as to have fled the scene entirely.

Still, I take this as a good sign that things are moving forward, even within the religious community. Why, at this rate, the Catholic Church will be offering same-sex blessings in only several hundred thousand decades!