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

Lesbian Couple Forced to “Unmarry” Before Entering The States

August 31st, 2011

Two lesbians discuss entering the United States: "Just think of it as taking a trip back into the distant past."

A married lesbian couple has complained to the media after being forced to declare themselves as non-family members in order to enter the United States for a vacation.

Karen-Mary Perry and Andrina Perry were married back in 2008, and typically fill out a single US customs form whenever they travel. The forms indicate that “only one written declaration per family is required.” This time, however, they were forced to fill out the forms separately.

A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection said that they’re legally prohibited to recognize any same-sex marriages on official government forms due to the bizarrely titled Defense of Marriage Act, which passed in 1996. Canadian customs forms indicate that up to four people who live at the same address can share a form.

Personally, I find travelling to the states is a little like visiting a slightly slow relative. It’s generally nice to see them, even if they’re kind of backwards and a bit crazy. You just need to make a few concessions here and there because they’re genuinely catching on, albeit at a, uh, relaxed pace. (The latest statistics show slight majority support for equal marriage rights down there, and the number of states that recognize same-sex marriage is growing.)

Still, until they’re fully caught up, just add separate customs forms to the long list of other inconveniences you have to take care of when entering the US—like having to purchase temporary health insurance; opting for physical pat-downs or being bombarded by X-ray scanners upon entry; and just tolerating the overall atmosphere of paranoia.

Think of it as living like a local, or—if you prefer—travelling backwards in time. Also, considering we sent them Celine Dion once upon a time, it’s probably not that bad of a price to pay, right?

Vancouver’s Gay Housing Discrimination Problem

August 29th, 2011

A landlord with a cigar, monocle, and top hat, addresses his gay, potential clients: "Thank you sirs. I'll let you know shortly. I am quite particular over who gets to pay my mortgage."

Housing discrimination has always been a little difficult to measure. Yet, even in a city as diverse and vibrant as Vancouver, it’s reported to happen. While it’s illegal to deny a gay couple housing simply because of their sexual orientation anywhere in Canada, proving this kind of discrimination is not easy; landlords don’t normally admit to such prejudice. (At least, not the cowardly ones.)

This is what makes a recent experiment conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia so interesting.

Two professors and 34 students designed an experiment around some housing application letters. The letters were all identical except for a small detail. Some letters indicated a heterosexual couple was interested in the property, while others indicated a gay male couple, a single parent, or a lesbian couple. The letters were then sent to 1,700 different landlords in the Vancouver area.

The results are unfortunate.

Letters that were from the gay male partners were 25% more likely to be rejected than letters from the straight couples—more than any other group. The next-most discriminated group, single parents, were 15% more likely to be rejected.

The results, naturally, depended on the neighbourhood in which the property was located. Vancouver’s West End, for example, which has traditionally been an area favoured by gays, had a much higher acceptance rate of all family types than elsewhere in the city.

Now, considering that Vancouver is a pretty a diverse city, it probably exhibits less discrimination than elsewhere in Canada. In this sense, 25% is a pretty worrying statistic, wouldn’t you say?

The results of the study have been published in the August edition of the academic journal Social Problems.

Australian MP Wants His “Gay” Back

August 26th, 2011

Slap Upside The Head Presents: The Visual Bigot Test. Is this man a bigot? (An old man with a cowboy hat scowls.) Answer: By the HAMMER OF THOR, YES!

Same-sex marriage has been a fact of life in Canada for so long now that many of us have long forgotten the silly hysteria that led up to it. Yet, alas, anyone reading future history books will find that the mere discussion of allowing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples had prompted all kinds of vitriol about homosexuality in general throughout media and politics.

And so I draw your attention to Australia, which is currently entering the same silly throes that inevitably lead up to our equal rights.

Bob Katter, an independent MP, made all sorts of attention for himself last week when he declared that same-sex marriage deserves to be “laughed at and ridiculed.” An odd assertion on its own, but it was his comments on English semantics that elicit some very special ridicule today.

Speaking to supporters in front of the media, Katter waxed nostalgic about the time when the word gay meant “cheerful.” Quoting some old poetry, Katter called it “one of the most beautiful words in the English language,” before finally lashing out at gays: “No one has the right to take that word off us!”

Poor, poor Katter. Such trauma. Such injustice. What words are left for him to use in place of gay? Besides happy. And nice. And cheerful… Jolly, chipper, glad, jaunty, upbeat, lively, merry, pleasant, sunny, rosy, perky—you know what? I’ll just refer him to a thesaurus.

You see, no one has actually taken the word gay from anyone. There weren’t any regulating body offices for us gays to storm, after all. And dictionaries only ever report on existing usage patterns. No, the meaning of gay, like many, many other words, changed organically, evolving from popular usage. Gay people might have started using the word as a secret code in the 1960s to refer to each other, but it was the heterosexual majority that popularized that code into its full, modern meaning.

Of course, all this sentiment for the old meaning of gay is disingenuous to begin with. We clearly haven’t lost any expressive capabilities in this specific instance (again, please consult your thesaurus), and I highly doubt anyone could argue that changing words are inherently problematic. (When’s the last time you saw anyone lament that “terrific” no longer means “terror-inducing?”)

Here’s what Katter’s real beef is: The man resents homosexuality and doesn’t want any “nice” words to refer to us. People like Katter thinks they should be the ones who should decide what to call us. Well, tough beans, Katter. You already have an ample selection of nasty words for us at your disposal. I assume you’ve used them in private, and would be very interested to see if you’re ever brazen enough to use them in public.

Not to suggest that word gay will never change meanings again. English evolves, after all, but I expect that’ll only happen to “gay” again when gay people are finally fully accepted for who they are. One day, when there aren’t old coots like Katter around who are afraid of being associated—even fleetingly—with all things gay simply by using the word in other contexts, perhaps, then, other contexts will emerge. Until then, here’s a very special word that accurately describes Katter, and whose meaning has also changed radically within the past few decades: Douchebag.

Calgary Mom Launches Anti-Homophobia Campaign

August 24th, 2011

Bus Ads: "You probably have Lupus." "Crappy Community College" "Gum!"

A Calgary mom has launched a new anti-homophobia campaign that will be gracing various public transit vessels in the city starting this September.

The campaign was originally conceived after the mother, who wishes to be identified only as Gail, became fed up with the harassment her teenage daughter has had to endure. Having worked on the campaign since May with help from Calgary Outlink, Gail said she thinks the message will pay off. “Calgary isn’t always known to be the most accepting city,” she told the media. “But there is this section of beautiful people that are coming up; we have to honour that part of our society.”

Personally, I think this is a wonderful little example about how one person, no matter where you may find yourself, can help make a difference. Transit ads might not instantly rid the world of homophobia, and they might not open up closed minds on the spot, but they will add an extra dose of daily visibility. Gay youth will get a quick reminder that they aren’t alone, and people whose minds are still clouded with homophobic sentiment will find themselves with another challenge.

Plus it’s something nicer to look at in the mornings than mobile phone ads. And everyone can appreciate that.

Religious Entitlement For The Rest Of Us

August 22nd, 2011

Do unto others as is personally convenient unto you.

I originally wrote the following article—rated the greatest article of all time by an independent body that I just formed—for the July 2010 edition of Outlooks magazine. Despite being published under the Slap banner, I never actually posted it on this site. Practically unforgivable, I know. But it’s here now! So, enjoy!

I’m thinking of starting a religion. The climate seems right for it. Catholics are shaken by their church’s sexual abuse coverups, Anglicans are on the verge of an unreconcilable split, and Scientologists have been facing a credibility crisis ever since the release of the secret Xenu sex tapes.

Now, I don’t expect the First United Church of Slap will be very popular on the outset, but I’m optimistic that people will overcome their initial hesitations. For one, Slapelicans won’t be required to accept quite as much dogma as other religious followers. As a non-prophet organisation, FUCS won’t promote any particular mythology about the origins of the universe and meaning of our existence. The big selling point of FUCS, rather, is its central, culturally-relevant tenet of personal entitlement.

The entitlement tenent generously extends existing religious rights to cover pretty much anything. This not only gives each Slapelican an automatic importance over all non-members (and even members that you don’t agree with), but you get to practise it in the form of everyday discrimination without the threat of legal consequences. Just imagine it: Are you a vegetarian working at a government registrar’s office? With the FUCS entitlement tenet, simply refuse to issue hunting licenses. Come from a background where women just don’t traditionally handle finances? Deny them a bank account. Do the reserved clothing styles of Conservative Party members offend your sense of style? Kick them off your bus. Don’t worry about any feelings of guilt or personal responsibility; another bus will probably come along soon, and I’m sure other people will probably be willing to fill in the services for you. Of course, the best part about all of this is that the legal paperwork is already being taken care of by existing religions.

Don’t be skeptical; Even though Canada has, since the 1960s, garnered a reputation of tolerance and equality even beyond those of many other leading constitutional countries, work on the legality of the entitlement tenet is noticeably progressing.

Just last month, the Human Rights Commission heard arguments from a Christian couple in Grand Forks, British Columbia who claimed they have the right to turn away gay customers from their business. As Christians, they argued, it violated their personal religious freedoms to accommodate gay guests at their bed and breakfast. A decision in this case is still pending, but—for the sake of all Slapelicans and the entitlement tenet—the tribunal will hopefully accept the famous biblical precedent about turning people away from inns and rule in favour. If not, persistence will pay off eventually; an identical case from Stratford, PEI in 2001 had ruled in favour of a gay couple who were denied lodging at the Beach View Bed and Breakfast, but that hasn’t stopped this case from being heard nine years later.

Bed and breakfasts aren’t the only battle front, either. This summer, the province of Saskatchewan drafted and submitted a bill that will make it legal for civil marriage commissioners in the province to refuse to perform marriage services for gay couples. The bill was proposed after a Christian civil marriage commissioner was fined for refusing to perform his duties for a gay couple; the government, overcome with sympathy for the poor marriage commissioner who can no longer able to discriminate as he sees fit, even presented the bill to the Supreme Court to obtain advice on how to implement it without facing pesky legal challenges from Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If it passes, civil marriage commissioners—and perhaps all other regular citizens providing non-religious services—will be able to pick and choose for whom who they can offer their public services based solely on their privately held prejudices.

So, things are looking up for FUCS and Slapelicans. Once these cases make the entitlement tenet a legal possibility, the church will be ready to operate, tax-free. And with other religions footing the bill for the legal groundwork, FUCS will be ready to pass the savings directly to you in the form of reduced initial membership fees.

Unless you’re grey-eyed, Harper-faced, or from Moose Jaw, of course. I don’t think I’d care to serve your types.

Ottawa School Board Criticized Over Pride Parade Plans

August 19th, 2011

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board will be marching in the Capital Pride Parade for the first time this weekend. It’s a great way to send a message to all the board’s GLBT students and staff that it takes their unique issues seriously, but not everyone is happy with the gesture.

Amidst a load of the typical, thinly-veiled homophobic arguments ostensibly concerned about “wasting tax-payer’s money” and “supporting lewd public acts,” board trustee, Donna Blackburn, spoke to the media in support of the Pride participation: “My number one priority is student success,” she said. “When kids feel safe and secure in their learning environment, they do better.”

“The cost is minuscule,” Donna continued. “Everyone has to remember I’m a taxpayer, too, as well as the supportive parents whose children are gay.”

Donna also took the time to point out something that would be obvious to anyone who has actually, you know, attended a Pride parade: “The vast majority of people who attend the parade are fully-dressed,” she said. “You don’t put photos of normally-dressed people on the front page of a newspaper.”

Now, I’ve only been to about seven Pride parades or so (and mostly here in Montréal), but I’m convinced that if everyone who insists the parades are lewd, full of nudity, and contain “simulated sex acts” were forced to watch one from start to finish, they’d be positively bored with the reality compared to what their imagination must’ve been anticipating. It’s fairly tame, and particularly so when compared to… say, Mardi Gras. (An event that I think I’ll start using to judge the entire straight community.)

So good on you, Ottawa-Carleson District School Board! Thanks for sending the message that you respect student safety more than the opinions of a handful of small-minded parents that like to belittle an already-harassed segment of your student population.

Czech President Condemns Canada Over Gay Support

August 17th, 2011

Vaclav Klaus, the president of The Czech Republic lashed out at Canada and twelve other countries for having taken the “unprecedented step” of signing an open letter in support of the country’s first gay pride festival.

The letter, which was signed by diplomats from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, states that “Everyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled.”

Forgive me for not having warned those with a weak constitution to stop reading before re-printing such a controversial statement. If you happened to fall from your chair in shock, or collapse to the ground with smartphone in hand, I’m pleased to announce that Slap-branded helmets will be available shortly to protect from injuries related to such incidents. In the meantime, please be advised that all liability rests with Mr. Klaus and the Czech Republic for being ridiculous.

Pride Break

August 12th, 2011

It’s Pride Week here in Montréal—the second GLBT festival of the summer—so I’m taking a short break to enjoy the festivities. A quick thanks goes to my awesome husband for preparing the above picture so that I could take it easy today. Regular posts will resume shortly!

Catholic Sect Threatens Children Over Tolerance Policy

August 10th, 2011

A man sits at a dark table with poker chips: "Very well then, I'm betting 5000 children's futures."

The Coptic Orthodox Church has threatened to somehow withdraw 5000 schoolchildren from the Toronto Catholic District School Board unless the board scraps its plans to implement the government’s required tolerance and anti-homophobia policies.

Jeremiah Attaalla, a spokesperson for the sect, explained the bizarre hostage tactics to the press. “In these young grades, we don’t want teachers talking about God creating Adam and Steve; it’s Adam and Eve.”

A gross mischaracterization and a cliché all rolled into one. Impressive!

Indeed, schools adhereing to the new equity policy will not be “teaching homosexuality” as Attalla fears, since inherent traits like that can’t be taught or learned. Rather it’s about improving student life through programs proven to reduce bullying, such as gay-straight alliances.

Of course, Attaalla isn’t pleased about this prospect either. “Our members do not want gay-straight alliance groups in our Catholic schools,” he said. A strangely un-Catholic stance, since these programs have demonstrated a reduction in student distress, physical violence, and suicide.

Thankfully, it’s tough luck for Attaalla, because the Ontario government recently clarified that all decisions regarding whether or not to form LGBT support groups in publicly-funded schools rests solely with the students. The same students that he presumes to speak for.

Of course, there is another option. “We are a rich church,” Attaala continued, “so we’ll fund a new school if we have to.”

Brazil Ponders Heterosexual Pride Parade

August 8th, 2011

People in traditional and business attire, hold a Straight Pride banner, featuring a brown, beige, and grey rainbow.

The city of São Paulo approved legislation last week that would bring a heterosexual pride day to the city, if the Mayor approves it. Carlos Apolinario, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation was “not anti-gay,” but rather “a protest against the privileges the gay community enjoys.”

“I have no trouble coexisting with gays as long as their behavior is normal,” Apolinario told the press.

That’s OK, I don’t have a problem with heterosexuals—so long as they act gay in public.

At any rate, this interesting development in the world of straight pride parades reminded me of a story I wrote last year for Outlooks Magazine. Since it was never published on this site, you can read it for the first time in digital form after the jump.

Enjoy!

Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Archie Character Gets His Own Series

August 5th, 2011

Jughead

When I heard that Archie Comics was getting its first openly gay character last autumn, I was floored… that Archie Comics was still around. Not that I have anything against the series, mind you; I just assumed, somehow, that it was like Bazooka Joe, wherein the publishers continually reprint issues created sometime in the 1920s.

As it turns out, not only are new issues being printed regularly, but the gay character, Kevin Keller, is a hit! In fact, he’s proved so popular, that he’s getting his own monthly series.

The new series, entitled Kevin Keller, will highlight Kevin’s interest in joining the military, as well as his term as class president. He actually sounds like a pretty good role model—particularly for GLBT youth, who don’t often have role models that they can relate to in popular media.

As for what will happen to the series’ old gay character, Jughead, I’m not too sur—wait, what? Straight, you say?

Really?

Huh. Go figure.

PR Campaign Uses Gays To Clean Up Tar Sands Image

August 3rd, 2011

A man plants a rainbow flag in a disgusting tar sands pit. "This oughta pretty the place up a bit!"

Well, here’s a very special way to have your struggle for equality used by large corporations!

The Alberta tar sands, condemned internationally as one of the most environmentally harmful projects in human history, is having some understandable difficulties with its public image. Presenting the sands as an environmentally responsible project or merely downplaying its harm is an obvious non-starter, so hired PR firms are instead pointing to Canada’s record of human rights compared to other oil-producing nations in an attempt to re-brand it as “ethical oil.”

And cue our cameo!

Oil producers have created a video promoting Canada’s tar sands, contrasting images of gay men being executed by hanging in Iran with a gay Pride parade here in Canada. The comparison shows a clear improvement in civilization and human rights, but is utterly unrelated to oil production—and certainly no excuse for the irreversable environmental damage caused by it.

Still, as a metric to mark gay acceptance in the country, I suppose this is an interesting development. We gays are now officially considered more acceptable than tar sands in the public eye.

Yay?

And while I’d rather the money used for this campaign go toward developing, say, cleaner energy sources, I guess this is as close to flattery as you can get from large, morally void corporations. So, uh, cheers to that… I guess.

Gay Teens More Likely To Be Homeless

August 1st, 2011

Santa arrives with a bag. "Here's the loving, supportive parents you wanted."

One in four GLBT high school students in Massachusetts are classified as homeless, according to a new study from the Children’s Hospital Boston, published in the American Journal of Public Health last week.

Students who identified as GLBT accounted for only five percent of all respondents, but nineteen percent of homelessness. That’s a full 25% of the GLBT-identified sample, and a hugely disproportionate number compared to straight teens. Heartbreakingly, these teens are either found on the streets, or switching between friends’ houses—without any regular place to sleep and call home.

This isn’t an outlier study, either. The results closely match those conducted elsewhere, repeatedly showing a higher incidence of youth who are kicked out of their homes—or who run away from home—in the GLBT community than other groups.

This is really sad, but not very difficult to explain.

When parents discover that their child is gay, some react with extreme negativity in hopes that expressing a zero-tolerance reaction will convince the child to change their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation, however, is innate and unchangeable—a fact accepted by all recognized medical and psychological associations. This means that such youth will either have to endure immense hardships (such as being kicked out of their home, ostracized, or being forced into quack therapy) or run away on their own. It’s a little like demanding that a fourteen year old girl either grow a beard overnight, or face hourly showers of turpentine until she smartens up and pushes some curly bristles worthy of ZZ-Top. The demand is outrageous, and can’t be met.

The solution, of course, is common sense: Ensure that all gay youth have a loving environment where they can feel accepted for who they are and thrive. Ideally this will be their own childhood home with loving parents. If parents decide to withhold such necessities, however, then the only other options are supportive friends/family or a safe shelter, such as those created by the True Colors fund.

It’s about time to end the discriminatory nonsense that is driving GLBT youth to homelessness and suicide, so I have a task for you. The next time you hear or read some homophobic nonsense, challenge it. Call it out. Don’t let homophobia be the dominant message for struggling gay youth. Perhaps someone that overhears your support will really need it.