Come See Us At The AGO, Wednesday at 7pm

PLEASE to join us at the AGO this Wednesday at 7pm for a legendary performance by KEITH COLE, featuring gay porn star Ryan Russell, drag sensation Maria Delmonte with cinematic landscaping by queer filmmaker Raymond Helkio. This commissioned work is part of TORONTO: Tributes + Tributaries which explores the work of Canadian artists active between 1971-1989 through modern day performance art.

TWO SHOWS ONLY:
Wednesday, October 26, 7pm (FREE)
Saturday, October 29, 2 pm (Free with gallery admission)
#HashTagGallery Slut
Art Gallery of Ontario

Tributes + Tributaries featured artists also include Michael Snow, Barbara Astman, Andy Fabo, John Greyson, Johanna Householder, Robin Collyer, Robert Houle, Carol Conde, Carl Beveridge, June Clarke, Ato Seitu and Lillian Allen.


Keith Cole #HashTagGallery Slut
COLE
HELKIO
HELKIO
Maria Delmonte #HashTagGallery Slut
DELMONTE
RUSSELL
RUSSELL

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#BlackLivesMatter Is The Best Thing To Happen to Pride Toronto Since The Orlando Shootings (An Open Letter To Mathieu Chantelois, Pride Toronto)

When I heard that 49 of my Orlando brothers and sisters died as a result of the one man’s hate fuelled rampage I felt sick because I know it’s caused by a culture that rewards homophobia, sexism and oppression. Sometimes I wonder if we are no longer in modern times but have gone back in a time machine to more barbaric period and we just can’t see our own barbarism.
The real crime was not that Omar pulled the trigger on those innocent people but that our entire city jumped up in unison exclaiming ‘How can something like this happen given all the progress we’ve made?!” Yes we have made progress but the crime of this statement is that anyone saying it gets to remove themselves from what is actually happening. Adding further fuel to the fire was the media and public who went scrambling to make sense of this situation but instead of looking inwards at the pressure cooker of a culture we have created, people tried to make the situation about some extraordinary circumstances like how he was a product of ISIS, his father brainwashed him, he was mentally ill, etc. This is a problematic way to view a mass murder because now there is nothing we can learn if we dismiss their actions as highly unusual. Take a look at Omar Mateen’s face, he is not crazy. In fact I was bullied, picked on, tormented and harassed all the way through grade school by guys just like Omar. He’s not ill, he’s a product of this culture and is just one of many that make up the majority. Look at him. I’m serious, take a hard look at his picture and let’s not pretend that we are seeing something other then what it is. An arrogant boy who is as homophobic as he is a misogynist just like all the other bad boys our culture is supporting. Sure he made himself a connection through ISIS but I’m pretty sure he was an asshole before he sought to align with them. This is not the face of a killer, he is in fact the boy next door and that we should be very afraid of.

When the news of those 49 victims hit Toronto weeks prior to our biggest LGBT celebration it was an opportunity for the city to take a hard look at itself. And we did. At The 519 candlelight vigil the next evening the speeches were filled with rage, sadness and talk of being political once again. Suddenly Toronto remembered that while we may have won the battle, the war is far from over and most importantly we all learned that the world only appears safe to those who live in relative privilege. It’s sad and deeply tragic that we had to wake-up as the result of these deaths but at least these people will not die in vain. Even Pride Toronto delivered speeches that resembled something a leader who cares for the future of our planet would say.

And then Pride kicked in and the city partied, danced and completely forgot that we shouldn’t be having a party when we have so much work to do. Enter Black Lives Matter (BLM) who took Pride’s invitation to ‘Come Sit With Us’ quite literally and during the 30 minute sit-in protest gave this city a much needed gift: the gift of self-reflection but we still haven’t collectively proven that we are up to the challenge. Instead we are still arguing about whether the police should march in Pride or if #BLM tactics were fair or not. We’re all missing the opportunity for some self-refection because what we should be arguing about is how much we need to do with the police and the communities they are supposed to serve. What BLM did was morally courageous because they took an honoured position and used it to expose back the imbalance and injustices they experience including from organizations like Pride Toronto who instead of being inclusive has lost touch with it’s roots. BLM looked right into the whites of our eyes and demanded that we see and hear them. I see you, I hear you and I’m so sorry for the pain we keep causing. We are all a part of the problem and we need to join forces in pursuit of a solution. I know many people who have busy lives and it’s hard to talk about such difficult subjects for long stretches but please, please, please if you are tired of working this out remember the 49 dead people in Orlando.

So many people have to die in order for Canadians to wake up but this is the price of apathy. There’s also a secondary level of institutionalized discrimination on the part of Pride Toronto that needs to be addressed even before we tackle the issue with the cops. Dishearteningly many people in this city think it’s okay to discriminate one group over another as long as the group we’re repressing can be labeled a ‘terrorist’, ‘hate group’ or other such nonsense. We do need to safeguard again hate but that’s not what Pride Toronto has been tampering with. In 2010 Pride Toronto spent lots of money and resources trying to force the community to pre-approve all parade signs and banners before they set out to on a witch hunt to ban QuAIA. Last year they successfully banned the men’s group CAFE because they didn’t like their politics. Why is it that we allow Pride to decide what is okay and what is not? How about we get to make our own mistakes and if you don’t like a particular group shut up about it because you have not been appointed the morality squad. As long as you are taking cash from floats like Viagra and The Pickle Barrel you have no business telling others who they should be or what or how they can speak. Pride Toronto is publicly using words like ‘inclusiveness’ to defend the police being in the parade. It should never be up to Pride to decide who marches anyway and someone needs to call them out on this banning business because it’s only at the whim of the committee du jour.

Mathieu Chantelois, you have a wonderful opportunity to stand up and take our entire city into a whole new direction. One that is marked by leadership, innovative thinking and moral courage. Some of the major media outlets have already predicted or called for the resignation of the entire Pride staff but I would argue there’s a rainbow lining in this cloud, a catalyst to making serious change within our police system all while supporting those in our community who are the most vulnerable. Mathieu, some people may not like you if you listen to the needs of BLM but I and many others will back you up. Yes there are some good cops and some queer ones but can we stop focusing on the tiny bits of progress that we have made with them. Let’s stop pretending they lead us through a process of community reconciliation. Let’s remember that what little goodwill that exists is there becasue it came out of them harassing us on the streets, in our clubs, shops and even our homes. So we demanded action. We can congratulate the police for the progress, thank them for their dedication and then insist that we do some serious talking with our black and trans family. This is not a right/wrong paradigm, it’s shades of dirty grey that is getting more tainted the longer we turn our backs on taking action. If the Metropolitan Toronto Police were a business they would be sued into oblivion over just the last year’s worth of horrendous behaviour. Yes there are good cop stories but this is about the gestapo we have come to believe has been serving and protecting us. I was at the bathhouse raid ‘apology’ and anyone else who was there should be deeply offended by both the presentation of the circuit party style event to the delivery of the most insulting non-apology I have ever heard. Who are you people and why aren’t any LGBT cops standing up in disgust?

Mathieu please stand tall and support BLM, the police and the community in a long overdue dialogue. We need you to fight for us more than we need a parade that reinforces Pride Toronto’s irrelevance as a leadership organization.

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An Open Letter To The Orlando Shooter

You’re a fucking asshole. With that out of the way I can tell you what’s really going on for me. I am raging mad at you and my heart is literally melting in my chest because of what you did. It’s not the shooting which is so horrible but it’s the intention from which you carried it out.

I want to reverse this situation, to go back in time and smack your stupid face until it bleeds but I cannot do that. What’s most disturbing is that we’re going to see much more of this so while I hate your guts I have to believe that you represent the beginning of the end of the war to the queer communities fight for acceptance. You are nothing more than a historical pawn and while your deeds are unforgivable you give me strength and serve as a reminder for why being queer matters.

As gays fight for the rights to be just like everyone else, people in other parts of the world are being murdered. I do not want to be like everyone else, that’s not a good or bad thing it’s just that being queer provides me with a perspective worth sharing. And then there’s you, a shallow representation of homophobia and I say ’shallow’ because you put your opinion out there by force. You literally took away my brothers and sisters as a way of changing what you didn’t like. It’s tragic how your life must have spilled into such a dark and narrow world or maybe you were always like that and this is just the fruit of your life’s work. In any event I hate your fucking guts.
Historically, as one group gains power and mainstream acceptance the remaining opposition is forced to react, much like a rat trapped in a corner. I am so lucky to live in Toronto because it gives a platform where I can live openly and free from consequence and therefore I see it as my duty to be as visible as possible. The war for acceptance is far from over and as a community our strength is in our numbers. I’m using this horrific tragedy to remind myself that while the battle for acceptance may feel like it’s already been won, it’s far from over.

This is Pride month in Toronto and the most honouring thing we can do for the people of Orlando is live loud, proud and be unapologetically queer.

Image: REUTERS

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Closet Case: New Web Series Premiering on theBUZZ

From Toronto’s East End to New York’s East Village we take you on an uncensored journey into the closets and behind the alter egos of our communities most beloved queers. Welcome to Closet Case.

From Toronto’s East End to New York’s East Village join us as we go behind the alter egos and into the closets of our communities most beloved queers. Thursdays on theBuzz.

Episode 1: Inside D’yan Forest, an 81 year old internationally recognized cabaret singer, actress and stand-up comedian. This ‘bisexual Betty White’ has been dazzling audiences for more then seven decades with her one-woman extravaganza and slight-of-mouth comedy.

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Karma Condos: What Goes Around, Comes Around

The “Karma Condo” construction workers at 21 Grenville Street are still at it: teasing, name calling, whistling, gawking and tormenting people who live in the neighbourhood. They don’t pick on everyone mind you, just the meek, overtly gay or visibly out. Take Enza Anderson, she’s been directly battling these bullies for over two years and the situation is not much better. Condos are going up at a rapid pace in this city and developers need workers but at what price? There is no excuse for hiring people who think it’s okay be an asshole while on the job and when complaints are filled why aren’t these men dealt with swiftly and harshly? Probably because these complaints are being made to people who value money over neighbourhoods.

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Complaints to SkyGrid Construction, meetings with Centre Court Developments and police complaints have resulted in little progress. There’s some bad karma growing at Yonge and Grenville, so we’ve started a poster campaign to let them know what unwanted attention can feel like.


Join our Facebook page
Company hashtags #SKYGRiDCONTRUCTION #CENTRECOURTDEVELOPMENTS #KARMACONDO

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Toronto: Less Bullies, More Ambassadors

While waiting for a bus in downtown Toronto, Enza Anderson looked up because two City of Toronto workers in an orange and blue truck were snickering and taunting her. When she didn’t respond they drove their large city-issued truck up along side of her and called out ”Look at the batty bwoy!”.  This is pretty terrible behaviour from what once was “Toronto the Good”. What happened to Enza is not an anomaly and since the majority of LGBT-related hate crimes go unreported we know it’s happening with greater frequency than Metro Hall is claiming to be aware of.

City Of Toronto employees

Photo: Enza Anderson

Enza wanted to make a formal complaint in person so last Wednesday we met with the Director of Transportation Services at Metro Hall to formally complaint about the harassment. Metro Hall is a big building that feels a bit like stepping onto the Star Trek enterprise where everything is beeping, humming and churning along inside while out in space a shit-storm is brewing.

We are met in the lobby and escorted up in the elevator to the seventeenth floor. The ride up was filled with over-cordial, enthusiastic conversation which did serve to distract us from the giant elephant that was squished in with us. In this polite country we call Canada it would be unheard of to direct our anger and frustration at him so instead we all make small talk as if we’re all aligned on next steps, which is doubtful. We are at this meeting because city employees think that it’s okay to drive up along someone and call out degrading and threatening comments. If you worked at a bank and did the same thing to someone while wearing your bank name tag – you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re harshly and swiftly penalized. Toronto cannot afford to celebrate diversity while supporting a culture based on fear, hate and intolerance. It doesn’t matter if a woman wears a short skirt or if a person’s gender isn’t apparent, none of it is relevant to doing their job.

Toronto Metro Hall signThese men only see themselves as employees, accountable to their boss, as opposed to ambassadors of our city, which is why after-the-fact tactics like sensitivity training are like scratching at an open wound because it suggests that the problem is lack of knowledge or ’sensitivity’ to a particular culture or ideology. We don’t need written policies to tell us that driving up along side anyone so you can tease them is way, way, way out-of-line.  These men were fully aware that what they were doing was wrong and it’s only going to inflict more pain onto the situation by forcing them to apologize or show compassion. It’s like forcing a bully to make an apology to his victim, sure it might feel good to watch him squirm and spit out an apology but in the end he’s not really going to be sorry. In most jobs it’s just understood that you are a representative of the company, so why do so many guys think they can act like complete assholes while at work? Partly, because they’ve been getting away with it for years.

Raymond Helkio

We get off the elevator, walk through the glass doors and into the office area to be greeted by one of his colleagues. As we enter the corner office with its impressive view of downtown, we’re offered sincere apologies for the situation, an assurance that they are taking this seriously and suggests that these situations are pretty rare. If you are trans, it’s not rare. A cis gender woman, it’s not rare. A visible gay or lesbian, not rare. Having the same rights as everyone doesn’t mean we have to be like everyone so it’s imperative that city workers reflect and respect that diversity.

Sitting around the table, it’s explained to us that the there are strict policies in place and employees are bound by. It’s all well and good to have a policy, but if your employees don’t see themselves as ambassadors for the city then it’s just another piece of paper. After Enza explained the tormenting and belittling behaviour from people who are getting paid to do a job. Right off the top our expectations were capped when they told us that the two men in question have already been pulled aside and spoken to and since the city is unionized the outcome of any disciplinary action will be kept confidential but could be a letter on file or up to ten days suspension. Or nothing at all.

This sounds like a slap on the wrist compared to the City of Toronto’s Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy which underscores the seriousness of their offence “All employees are responsible for respecting the dignity and rights of their co-workers and the public they serve. Discrimination and harassment are serious forms of employee misconduct which may result in disciplinary action up to and including discharge.”

In other jobs I don’t have to be told that it’s not okay to harass others so when it happens with regular occurrence perhaps the problem might be happening the moment the person is hired. The construction workers and city employees I personally know are highly functioning and intelligent people so this is not a capacity issue. Working in a public capacity carries the same, if not greater, responsibility for respecting the basic human rights of the people who also live in this city.


THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 10TH: We haven’t heard anything further from Metro Hall. Earlier today Enza placed a formal complain with the city’s Human Rights office.

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How To Social Media

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it” -Erik Qualman

Posting to social media from your website means that your charity gets to keep the counts (likes, shares, retweets), drive traffic back to your website and earn credibility as an information source.

It’s not frequency that counts, it’s the brevity of your content. Keep them short, interesting/informative and newsworthy. Most of your posts should give people ‘new news’ or insights into your event or the charity itself. Donors, and volunteers want to hear more about their favourite charities not endless requests for support. Give your audience more about you; tell them about your volunteers, facts about your organization or insights from other departments. And do most of it from your website so you can enjoy what’s working, adjust what’s not and measure engagement in a meaningful way.

How To Social

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The Year That Pride Died

Pride 2015 Poster

My heart’s broken. I am a card-carrying homosexual who wears his politics on his sleeve. I do this out of respect to the queers before me who stood up to injustice, fought back and won. These are the people of moral courage and they are responsible for much of the freedoms we enjoy today.

How dare you use oppressive tactics against your own community. Pride Toronto’s dispute resolution process (DRP) has created a high state of anxiety and fear for me. As an active member and advocate with Toronto’s queer community I am concerned about who is going to be banned next.

The thing about free speech and human rights is that you can’t pick and choose who gets it. Pride Toronto is now in the practice of exclusion which is contrary to your stated values and endangering the lives of the community in which you are to serve.

Pride Toronto is not welcome at my march on Sunday June 28, 2015 as your organization fosters a culture of fear by promoting exclusion. Toronto deserves bold and boundary-pushing leadership, I’m confident you can do better.

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities” –Ayn Rand

“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” –Oscar Wilde

Now Magazine Pink balaclava: Raymond Helkio

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Is PrEP Making Us Sick?

 

PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is the use of anti-HIV medication (a blue pill by Gilead Sciences called Truvada) which keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected.

This is not a smart strategy for STD prevention because it’s is only effective against HIV and so while our community watches HIV rates decline, we are now facing soaring rates of Syphilis and other STDs. Is this trade-off really worth it? Taking PrEP to avoid HIV is like holding up an umbrella to the rain while facing oncoming traffic. Yes, you’ll stay dry.

If you use PrEP instead of a condom you risk other, potentially more serious diseases like Syphilis, Hepatitis A, B and C, HPV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. This partial list should scare you because many of these diseases still hold the potential to shorten or your life. Is taking PrEP the responsible choice or is it just a game of “see no evil, hear no evil” for the lazy gay man. Consider that getting an STD is not about you, but about the other people YOU might infect. If you are not going to use a condom, get your ass to the doctor after unprotected sex. It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you aren’t going to pass on.

Today, the vast majority of people living with HIV respond well to treatment, most living a relatively normal life. Many will even live longer then our HIV-negative counterparts because HIV requires blood-work every six months and so the constant doctors visits means problems are uncovered before they become a problem. Perhaps it’s time to rethink our fear of HIV.

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The Silencing of Dissent: Harper’s Clampdown on Free Speech

Untitled-1There continues to be a nationwide crackdown on charities who participate in political activism yet there has been virtually no public outcry. It’s not for lack of interest as much as there a lot fewer organizations that are able say something about it.

Charitable organizations have been restricted from spending more than ten percent of their resources on political activities and while this prohibition on charities has been on the books since 1985, it’s only been in recent years that we’ve seen the Harper government use it as a weapon (think: gag order) against charities. It’s not just random charities either, our government takes particular offence to environmental agencies (read: oil), development groups (read: poverty), human rights organizations and charities who receive donations from labour unions. Seem suspicious at all?

With the charities who are closest to the issues now ball-gagged, the government is free to do what it wants without the dissent. Just this month The Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists (TKWFN) – who publicly defend the Endangered Species Act – were flagged by tax auditors about their political activity and warned that they could be in for a tax audit which for a charitable organization is devastating at best. It’s worth noting that TKWFN has an operating budget of about $16K which hardly seems worth all the feathers they are ruffling. It’s no coincidence that this news was delivered to TKWFN days after the environment minister responded to their complaint over government approved chemicals destroying bee colonies.

Other charities who are currently under scrutiny include Pen Canada, Tides Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Canada Without Poverty, United Church of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy alternatives. And this list will continue to grow. Even more horrifying is that many of these audits resulted from complaints lodged by oil company lobbyists about the charities’ political activity (read: corporations having bareback sex with our government).

Not unlike the gag order placed over Canadian scientists, the Harper government is keeping the public in the dark by keeping charities silent on issues that conflict with their interests. It’s important that our charitable organizations are allowed to manage themselves, as they see fit, not how an oil company, pharmaceutical giant or government thinks it should be done. A government should govern the nation and not get involved in the day-to-day operations of how our organizations spend their resources.

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