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January 2005 - Posts

January 31, 2005 9:38 AM

Activism vs. journalism

A friend testily asked why I had originally written that two Montreal women had "claimed" they'd been bashed. The friend supposed I'd been playing "journalist," in essence placing the commands of mainstream career over the bonds of politics and community.

I had indeed been playing journalist. But I was also enforcing a personal rule that everyone should consider: Don't believe everything you're told.

The e-mail announcing the assault became a sort of electronic virus, inundating mailboxes within hours. It was a stunning show of the web's power. It was also the sort of story that everybody wants to believe... it was almost too perfect. An unseen assailant attacking two unnamed women while they kissed. It was important to bring the story to the attention of readers, but I did not have the time that day to research it myself. And I wanted to make that clear in the post.

The two women did identify themselves and speak out, one has an obviously broken nose, the media followed the story, police are taking the report seriously, and the kiss-in did occur. The community came together to support the women and make a statement. All these are good things.

But that doesn't change the need for skepticism. I don't believe something just because it's appeared in my inbox. Neither should you.

Regular readers of this blog will note that I didn't, for example, question whether Focus on the Family nutbar James Dobson had indeed called SpongeBob SquarePants a homo: I referred to it as fact. I just believed it when I read it on the wire service. Some stories really are too perfect to question.

January 30, 2005 10:47 AM

If you can't say something nice...

The flick Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) is out on video. Sienna Guillory is some cute. Euh. That's it.

January 29, 2005 9:36 AM

I grok Spock

Canada's broadcasting regulator, the CRTC, has ruled that the American men's channel, Spike TV, can continue to beam its signal into our country. Thank gawd.

Number of times an episode of one of the Star Trek franchises is shown on Fridays on Spike TV: two.
Number of times Star Trek can be found on Fridays on Men TV, the Canadian men's channel (duh) that had a third party unsuccessfully try to ban its U.S. competition: zero.

January 28, 2005 10:38 AM

Drinking buddies

Canuck shareholders have spoken, and Canada's Molson will indeed merge with the American Adolph Coors Co. Now queer beer boycott activists will go into overdrive.... U.S. shareholders vote next week on the scheme, and it's a slam-dunk.

January 28, 2005 10:05 AM

Asking the question

Am I seeing internalized homophobia where non exists? But why else are there so few portrayals of real affection between women in the pages of the queer media? Of men touching each other with actual tenderness? My analysis can be found here.

January 27, 2005 10:07 AM

Fear of polygamy

Conservative politicians and religious groups are using fear to sow panic over how same-sex marriage will lead to the legalization of polygamy. We must make fun of the logic here, because there is none. But lesbians and gay men must also beware: let's not trash polygamy just so we can score cheap points with the mainstream public. Here's why.

January 26, 2005 12:13 PM

134 Susans agree

The continuing hysteria whipped up over same-sex marriage by Canada's opposition Conservative Party is going to turn us into a carbon copy of the United States. We will lose our healthy multiple party system -- one that provides real representation for ideas from all over the political spectrum. Instead, faced with what appears to be loony extremism from the Tories, voters will be too afraid to cast ballots for smaller parties: It'll be the Liberals, currently running a minority government whose time is limited, or nuthin'. Cuz no one else has a chance of beating the bad guys.

The latest wedding broadside, an open letter chastising Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, is signed by 134 testy lawyers telling him to smarten up.

January 26, 2005 10:27 AM

In an octopus's garden

The Protestant Rev John H. Thomas, president of the 1.3 million member United Church of Christ, has announced that the animated SpongeBob SquarePants is welcome in his congregations' churches. Jesus, it turns out, loves everybody -- even a sea sponge who holds hands with a boy starfish. (See also my original SpongeBob post.)

This brings back the efforts of Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign back in 1995, asking the folks at the far right Christian Coalition for the chance to speak at their annual conference. She was told to buzz off. Instead, she went to the host hotel, rented a conference room, and gave a talk (to an audience consisting mostly of reporters) seeking to find common ground between homosexualists and religious extremists.

Excerpts: "The character of prejudice, of stereotype, of demagoguery, is to tear down the respect others might otherwise enjoy in public, even the respect they would hold for themselves in private. By taking away respectability rhetorically as well as legally, we justify the belief that they are not quite human, not quite worthy, not quite deserving of our time, of our attention, of our concern. And that is, sadly, what many of your children and colleagues and neighbors who are gay and lesbian have feared is the intent of the Christian Coalition. I have launched this conversation to ask you to join me in a common demonstration that this is not true."

It didn't work then. Won't work now. But if nothing else, talk is good PR.

January 25, 2005 10:27 AM

Manly, yes, but I like it too

Law professor Robert deKoven (California Western School of Law) looks at gayness in athletics: "Manly men, of course, associate sports such as gymnastics, diving, and body building as 'gay' sports. Ironically, wrestling, which involves the most intimate bodily contact two males can have short of oral or anal sex, is a 'manly' sport."

"As we all know, athletes spend hours in the locker room before and after games. They need to be naked all the time so they can shower, get massaged and taped up, and talk to reporters. It's impossible for a male athlete to respond to a question from reporters unless he's naked. (This is apparently not a problem for female athletes, who seem to be willing to talk to any reporter who is willing to write about them.)"

January 24, 2005 10:01 AM

Polygamy

As the Supreme Court of Canada pondered the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, religious folk demanded their right to deny the church's wedding sacrament to gay men and lesbians if they so desired. The judges duly agreed, reinforcing the concept of religious freedom in their Dec. 9 decision -- and quite rightly so. Now we have the religious right and politicians like Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, still trying to scuttle gay marriage, screaming that it will lead to legalized polygamy.

The acceptance of gay marriage is based on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms' prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Polygamy's got nothing to do with sexual orientation. It is -- in the main -- a lifestyle that's based on religion and religious belief (Mormons believed in polygamy, for example, before constant state harassment forced church leaders to retract the commandment). The end result of all this wailing is that anti-gay-marriage religious activists could force restrictions on religious freedoms in order to stop the possibility of legalized polygamy.

January 24, 2005 9:01 AM

A live show, a local hero, a kiss-in

* I will be a guest on tonight's Dykes on Mykes radio show (somewhere between 7 and 8 pm) on Montreal's CKUT 90.3FM -- or on cable, 91.7. With Real Audio or some other streaming software, you can also tune in online.

*Local Montreal writer Gail Scott was just nominated for a 2004 Lambda Literary Foundation Book Award in the non-fiction anthology category. The book's called "Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative," and is edited by Mary Burger, Robert Gluck, Camille Roy and of course, Gail Scott. Click here for the complete list of nominees. (There's a good selection of Canadians!)

* At 4:15 p.m. on Friday, January 28, there'll be a kiss-in at the corner of Mont-Royal and St. Denis streets in Montreal. The claim is that one woman's head was smashed from behind as she stepped towards another to share a kiss. The two heads hit with such force that one's nose was broken.

January 23, 2005 2:11 PM

On the "Pandect of C.L.D."

A pandect is "a complete or comprehensive digest" (Webster's New World Dictionary). The pocket-sized hardcover "Pandect of C.L.D." is more interesting for its concept than for its actual content: it was a hoax. American Morris L. Ernst entertained himself by fabricating a text he attributed to Charles L. Dodgson, the creator of the bravura "Alice in Wonderland" (written under the pen name of Lewis Carroll).

Morris-slash-Carroll wrote: "I became the matrix of the sport of finding out what hidden deep meanings underlay the Alice adventure." In a postscript, Ernst recounts that his holiday entertainment was taken to heart by at least two important editors: "I confess it was an attempt to get back at the expert nit pickers who have used our Alice as an outlet for super-sophisticated research.... I know we must hire myopic specialists even though they are less than rounded folk and even though specialists retard progress in many professions." A funny idea, though I confess I soon began skimming over whole sections.

The joke was later privately published in this book form in 1965 by a charmed friend.

January 23, 2005 2:09 PM

On blogging

I'm of the arrogant but insecure variety, a common affliction among journalists. Am I going to run out of ideas? Write endlessly about my poor sleep, my splitting headache and my striped PJs?

Like every other pontificating scribbler, I repeat to all comers that they must write, write, write. Then I avoid it myself. Write, dammit. Writing forces me to think.

I ask readers to forgive this narcissistic post: it's the first test for the Review category.

January 23, 2005 2:07 PM

Owning the medium

The site OpinionatedLesbian.com went live yesterday. Yippee!

January 21, 2005 5:38 PM

Being out wasn't important

The late, great smarty pants Susan Sontag speaks, in an unpublished interview with Out magazine (some small bits have been released): "I grew up in a time when the modus operandi was the 'open secret.' I'm used to that, and quite OK with it. Intellectually, I know why I haven't spoken more about my sexuality, but I do wonder if I haven't repressed something there to my detriment.... Maybe I could have given comfort to some people if I had dealt with the subject of my private sexuality more, but it's never been my prime mission to give comfort, unless somebody's in drastic need. I'd rather give pleasure, or shake things up."

January 20, 2005 6:23 PM

Laugh, cry

In the run-up to today's inauguration of George W. Bush as Head Grotesquerie, the American right-wing Christian group Focus on the Family attacked SpongeBob SquarePants. A new children's educational video includes Bob the Builder, characters from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, and... wait for it... SpongeBob SquarePants doing a remake of the Sister Sledge hit "We Are Family." Somehow, I don't think five-year-olds know it's a gay anthem. Nonetheless, Focus on the Family leader James Dobson said the video is an attempt to brainwash little kiddies. (Further proof: SpongeBob and his male starfish friend Pat hold hands, presumably in the way only perverted toddlers do... James obviously missed the movie, where Pat goes gaga for a girl.) In a deeply mean way that I'm a bit ashamed of, it's very satisfying that James Dobson and his followers truly believe we're taking over the world.

Hey James: Boo!

January 20, 2005 6:22 PM

Bada-bing!

Yesterday's "Dilbert" syndicated daily newspaper 'toon has a gay punch line. The Pointy-Haired Boss says: "Tina, this is your new supervisor, Nelson. You'll be training him to be your boss. There won't be any bonuses this year because I gave it all to Nelson. He's a man, so he needs to support a family."
Nelson says: "I'm gay."
The Pointy-Haired Boss's response: "Um... civil union and adoption, right?"
Gay Guy replies: "I'm dating a rugby team."

I'm sure there'll be much angry squawking at the evil portrayal of gay men as promiscuous.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams makes fun of everybody, including and especially straights. We deserve to be teased, too. That's true equality. Right?

ADDENDUM: THIS was edited for posting on Jan. 20, but was intended for yesterday. The site went down, though -- a rare occurrence!

January 18, 2005 4:15 PM

Death on TV

A tragic story on the TV talk show Oprah yesterday: vacationing American Nate Berkus lost his partner, Fernando Bengoechea, during the tsunami. Berkus felt his lover's hand losing its grip on the back of his shirt, and Bengoechea was gone. Truly horrible, and our hearts go out to him. (The good will of thousands of mainstream viewers also puts to rest the lie that all Americans are bigots).

But the heart and the brain are two different organs. I can feel for Berkus, but still be critical of him. He also said: "I was spared for a reason." I know that we need desperately to create grand narratives for ourselves in order to save our sanity in the face of horror. But there is no such thing as fate. Nate, God did not look down at you and decide that you were more important than anyone else. Think that through and you'll see how offensive it is to say that the tens of thousands of others who died somehow did not deserve to live as much as you do.

January 18, 2005 4:14 PM

The other side of the coin dep't

Big shot Saudi cleric Sheik Fawzan Al-Fawzan blamed us last week for the grisly tsunami that killed more than 100,000 people in Asia in December. "These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities and even entire countries are Allah's punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims. The fact that it happened at this particular time is a sign from Allah. It happened at Christmas, when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to [resorts to] commit fornication and [homo]sexual perversion. That's when this tragedy took place, striking them all and destroyed everything. It turned the land into wasteland, where only the cries of the ravens are heard. I say this is a great sign and punishment on which Muslims should reflect."

Don't be appalled. Be happy that yet another monster has shown his true colours for all to see. We can only fight them when they advertise their horseshit.

January 16, 2005 12:13 PM

Me and Yasser

Mahmoud Abbas, the newly elected president of the Palestinian Authority, was sworn in yesterday... and the vicious mess that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (a media euphemism that handily disguises the fact that people are dying) continues on its merry way. Now lost to the mists of time (in journalism, that's five days or more) is the question of how predecessor Yasser Arafat died in November in a French hospital. Information about the underlying illness that caused his death was never released, yet two theories from overseas persist. The first blames poisoning (an Israeli government minister suggested assassination as an option in 2003). The second whispers "AIDS." The Canadians who picked up on the AIDS talk fastest included yucky-heads like Conservative Party MP (and former Canadian Alliance Party leader) Stockwell Day. Their fascination with the scuttlebutt revealed the likely source of those rumours -- enemies of Arafat only too happy to add in their and their society's homophobia to the mix.

Gay Palestinians are treated worse than dirt by their brothers and sisters. (And the AIDS gossip sure isn't suggesting that a blood transfusion was the culprit.) Still, we need to set aside suspicion over the agenda and look at the facts themselves. Er, there are no facts. "Even now, a month after he was pronounced dead in a military hospital on the southern outskirts of Paris on November 11, the cause of Arafat's death remains unknown," noted The Guardian on Dec. 16. "Why was it that a parade of doctors - from Palestine, Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and France - could produce no definitive diagnosis?" Certainly fear of a homophobic backlash might have, ahem, encouraged Arafat's colleagues and his medical team to avoid a final diagnosis. Some of Arafat's symptoms could be attributed to AIDS-related complications (though of course, they could also be attributed to other illnesses).

Some of us have questions. For others, Arafat's AIDS and homosexuality are the absolute truth -- as gleefully propagated by the hate-spewing pigs of the far right both here and abroad (a Google search will bring up a few sites filled with vitriol the likes of which will leave you breathless). But what strange bedfellows indeed: some gay people, suffering from a desperate need to find "famous" homosexuals to validate their own lives, also have decided that Arafat's AIDS and homosexuality are fact.

January 15, 2005 2:21 PM

Who needs fiction?

I didn't post this yesterday because I assumed it was a hoax. A funny. A hiccuping editor hit the wrong button and sent it 'round the world in error. 'An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato....' But no, it's in all today's papers. "The Pentagon tried to develop a bomb that would turn an opposing army 'gay,' according to newly declassified documents." During the Bill Clinton presidency (a Democrat who left office only four years ago), the Pentagon tried to create "an aphrodisiac that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other.... the Pentagon believed that 'provoking widespread homosexual behavior' among troops would cause a 'distasteful but completely non-lethal' blow to morale."

January 14, 2005 3:21 PM

We are not worthy

Have happily discovered another out Canadian journalist. In a Dec. 30 column, Steve Bergeron, at the French-language daily La Tribune de Sherbrooke, wrote: "J'ai beau etre gai, je reste un gars" -- "I'm gay, but I'm still a man," a prelude to criticizing a woman claiming to be a feminist who said the sky-high school drop-out rate for boys is because the so-much-better girls are upping the bar and depressing their XY counterparts. The boys, she said, aren't interested in the hard work it would take to get better grades. Bergeron noted -- dryly -- that he worked hard in school for himself, not because of girls.

Other out mainstream reporters in Canada? Most famous is the feature writer, political loudmouth and prostitute, Gerald Hannon. At his best, he's a lovely writer, a holder of interesting viewpoints that alternate with the severely noxious, and as a prostitute -- alas, I cannot review his performance. Gerald was banned at one point from teaching journalism at Toronto's Ryerson University when his politics and extracurricular bedside activities were publicized in the mainstream media.

Other out mainstream reporters in Canada? Gerald is so far out that I -- and perhaps the rest of us homo journalists? -- sometimes feel closeted no matter how loud we're yelling. So... never mind....

January 13, 2005 10:06 AM

Howzabout a drink?

The weirdly pitched battle over the soul of "I am Canadian" brewery Molson, as embodied by its proposed merger with the American beer biggie Coors, continues apace, with gay activists in the middle yelling into the wind. Here's the background: Coors used to be a company of pigs. In the early 1970s, management demanded that would-be employees hook up to a lie detector and fill out a little quiz that included a question asking whether they were homosexual. Big boozer gays boycotted, and the company soon fell all over itself to be gay-positive. In fact it's now a company so goodie-goodie that to list its gay achievements becomes tedious.

But some members of the Coors family are still odious. Former Coors chair Pete Coors, a wannabe politician, supports banning gay marriage (because of bigotry, not because of a principled rejection of the institution itself). Petey is also vice-president of the Castle Rock Foundation (four out of the five directors of this private group are Coors'), which throws gazillions of dollars at anti-gay causes. There's more, but it's a mess of foundations and donations and machinations that'll leave your head a'spinnin'.

So Coors profits go to these nasties. Yet members of the Coors family own only a 30 percent chunk of the brewery. So, should we boycott or not? Some say yes, punish the gay-positive company as well as the filthy part-owners. These activists slag Coors yet uphold Molson's purity, conveniently forgetting that Molson already brews Coors and Coors Lite in Canada, and has for years -- for decades, even. And guess what? Manager Dean Odorico tells me that Coors Light is one of the top-10 sellers at Toronto's Woody's, one of the city's premier gay bars. Precisely because, I would suggest, the Coors company has been such a trailblazer -- offering same-sex spousal benefits in the U.S (!), gay employee groups, and financially supporting Pride and other queer community events. I'm afraid the issues are tougher than our "leaders" would have us believe.

ADDENDUM, January 14: Molson brewery higher-ups, desperately concerned that the deal will be voted down by shareholders, have sweetened the pot with extra cash incentives and moved the vote from the 19th to January 28th.

January 12, 2005 5:17 PM

Cherry Ames, nurse

There are so many evils related to hospitals and medicine. Remember the horrible tales of longtime lovers banned from the bedsides of their mates, who then died alone of AIDS? Only 20 years ago, this. Sadly, these days our interest in health care pales by comparison to our community's single-minded nuttiness about marriage rights, which truly has overwhelmed other homo-related activism.... In any case, yesterday's health care annoyance was so minor: The attendant, noticing that I was waiting for my common-law spouse to finish up a medical test, asked brightly if we were sisters. I simply said "no" with a frown.

My partner deals with these things so much better than I. She breathlessly confirmed to my dentist's receptionist, calling last month about an appointment, that yes, we were sisters. Then laughed for hours.

January 11, 2005 10:06 AM

Deep thoughts

The first issue of the Canadian Online Journal of Queer Studies in Education is up, ... any good? Too earnest? Desperately needed?

January 11, 2005 10:01 AM

Marriage-a-go-go

The Groucho Marx-like Canadian federal government response to same-sex marriage continues apace. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler is in charge, a lawyer and academic who obsessed with the Charter and Rights and Freedoms yet who spouted off before his election about equal rights for all except when it came to homos who want marriage. Cotler now finds himself trapped by his boss the prime minister into legislating same-sex marriage. Cotler's announced that a bill (that will include Divorce Act amendments --more laughter from the peanut gallery) will be introduced into Parliament in early February, and should be law by the summer. "If the bill does not pass, the likelihood is that the constitutional development will continue in the other provinces, and we will likely see this issue being arrived at one by one in the courts," he burbled. The whole thing is a mess: some provincial courts have ruled that same-sex marriage is a must, others have avoided the issue, but will eventually be stuck with lawsuits that demand resolution. In the middle of all this, the government of Canada appealed the rulings allowing same-sex marriage. Then it withdrew the appeal. Then it asked the Supreme Court of Canada for an opinion, but not a binding judgement. The top-most justices in the land ruled that same-sex marriage was acceptable (but didn't say whether it was required under the Constitution's equal rights sections). Meanwhile, everything was on hold.... Cigar and funny eyebrows, anyone?

January 10, 2005 11:54 AM

Elementary, my dear

Ah, Sherlock Holmes. The smarty-pants detective (who never liked women much) is always portrayed as tall and agonized and youthful (see Christopher Plummer in the [bad] movie Murder By Decree, for example). His sidekick Dr. Watson is always older, kinda dumb, and protective. Watson is daddy, really. (Daddies desperate to take offence who want to think I'm saying they're all as stupid as a box of rocks should get over it.) Mind you, Watson "biographer" Michael Hardwick, in his 1983 book "The Private Life of Dr. Watson," makes Holmes into daddy. Watson states: "Least of all did it dawn upon me then that in finding him I had discovered the father substitute for whom I had been so long and unwittingly seeking." I'm sure there's lots of Watson Holmes slash fiction somewhere out there, but no, I'm not spending a hour of Internet time running it down; I rely on the kindness of strangers. Urls, anyone?

January 9, 2005 12:14 PM

Sex columnists make it all seem so easy

Curve magazine's February "sex! sex! sex!" issue is mostly about the lack thereof. The month's Dyke Drama column is penned by Michele Fisher, who makes satisfying sport of that hoary "lesbian bed death" study of the '80s. "These so-called 'experts' asserted that lesbian couples have the least amount of sex of all when compared to gay male couples and straight couples... by the time a lesbian couple celebrates three years together, they're having sex twice a year." Fisher makes fun, but her stiletto sinks through the heart: too many lesbians, she claims, do "marry" their best friends, wrongly giving up desire for comfort. Fisher also believes that you cannot make yourself want someone. And her analysis presumes monogamy. On the other hand, the bisexual agony aunt Sasha, a syndicated sex columnist, notes (Jan. 6 Montreal Mirror) that she has less of a sex drive than does her partner. "I am the one who turns off and still proclaims love, whose lack of consistent desire 'makes' someone feel like shit, who ends up with the sniveling runny-nosed partner begging for it in such a way that compounds my indifference." Sasha chose non-monogamy as a solution, and demands that others choose it, as well. Both women refuse to allow alternatives to the sex thing. Sex? No sex? It's a more complex discussion, no?

January 8, 2005 4:29 PM

Enquiring minds (and noses with fingers stuffed into them)

I let my National Enquirer subscription run out months ago (too expensive to get it shipped up here to the frozen north), but I always pick up the "Who's gay... and who's not" edition, baybee. I'll save you the dough. Yes, she's gay or bi: Cynthia Nixon, Megan Mullally (married to a guy), Jillian Armanente and Alice Dodd (married to each other), Heather Matarazzo, Anna Nicole Smith, Cher (an experimenter), Sara Gilbert. Rumoured: Martha Stewart, Tatum O'Neal, Paris Hilton, Jorja Fox, Cindy Crawford, Queen Latifah (though not so lesbian friendly in her book....). Has shown herself to believe in the art of acting by so courageously (ha!) playing a dyke or bi gal on TV: Eva Longoria, Kim Cattrall, Debra Messing, Laura Innes, Mischa Barton, Charlize Theron (though being Aileen Wuornos was extra tough because the murderer was not a glamor gal). That's it, eh.

January 8, 2005 4:26 PM

RIP Susie S.

In today's Globe and Mail, columnist Heather Mallick goes on an entertaining rant about the obituaries for Big Thinker (TM) Susan Sontag. The Associated Press originally sent out a quickie that attacked Sontag for being a mouthy broad, dintcha know. Thank goodness for Mallick's take -- I was tired of reading the queer media whining. To whit: Sontag was portrayed as hetero by a bigoted mainstream media, when in fact she was a lesbian; no, she was bisexual, you pig; no, she was closeted and outed by the holier-than-thou homos. The he said, she said is so confusing I don't know what to think, and her ladyship's intellectual legacy is falling by the wayside. As such, I promise to read both On Photography and Illness As Metaphor. And as I gaze at a recent portrait of Sontag's, I realize that I will soon have her jowls.

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