Tagged: LGBT

HANDY DANDY GUIDE TO PRIDE CONVERSATIONS

Don’t fight about Pride, arm yourself with facts. Mainstream media, and to a large extent the larger non-LGBT community, have helped to perpetuate a few myths about BLM and Pride and the reasoning behind it all. Below are some common statements you might hear concerning Pride and a suggested answer.


Divisive or Connective?
How a person chooses to view the world impacts how they interact with it. If you see Pride as creating a divide than you are right, that’s what it is for you. Conflict exists as a function of communication which can make things better, or for some it’ll create fear. Either are okay but it’s when we are not in touch with our emotions, we essentially put ourselves into a bubble.

If I told my aunt I had a cold or a bad encounter with a bully at school she would discount my entire experience, trading my feelings for how she wanted to see me. “Oh you just need some rest.”, “Ignore them, they don’t matter.”, “But you can do everything they can, you’re just letting them get to you.”. While I admire her ability to maintain an aura of peace around our family I started to notice that what she was doing was protecting herself from having to get involved and possibly experience the pain the comes from identifying with my powerlessness. She loved me dearly so her comments were meant from a place of love, yet their effect was profoundly dismissive. She was right, Maybe I should try harder, be less loud or try ignoring the situation. But is this helping to solve my problem? It does make my aunt feel better and affirm to her that she’s on the outside looking in. In reality she’s now complicit in the problem, confirming that my bullies are right.

Tolerance is being with others whose life experiences are different from yours and not trying to change that. Don’t think there’s a problem? That’s okay, but anything you contribute to the larger conversation, is still a contribution. The world has never gotten along and while it’s a nobble goal, it’s perhaps a naive one. Peace and goodwill are concepts, not ways of life. Peace cannot exist in a vacuum, it comes with non-peace. We can pretend it’s otherwise, but the wars still rage. If you find yourself asking ‘What’s the problem?’, that’s a good start. If you don’t want to get involved that’s your right.

While concentration camps are being built in Chechnya, Torontonians could ask themselves what has been their contribution to the Pride/Police debate? What you experience is directly related to how you experience the world. Some see conflict as destructive while others use it to be constructive. ‘I have better things to do’, ‘this is all nonsense’ is a contribution. Albeit, not a very constructive one.


Statement: The police union claims this is discriminatory because everyone should be allowed to march.
A:
 With friends like these, who needs enemies? Instead of curiosity about what’s wrong, they try and out-victim the victims. By police logic the Boy Scouts, women’s only hours and seniors homes who prohibit one group in favour of another are therefore discriminatory because they are restricted to those it was created for. The gym I go to is owned by a university who close it daily for a women’s only hour. Imagine if the school threatened the gym’s funding, because they were prohibiting men. It’s fantastic if men support the space but insisting they are allies and therefore be able to work out with them misses the point entirely.

Making space’s safe by prohibiting others from taking too much space is how an unhealthy balance can be restored, even if only temporarily. By police logic our allies are picked for us, like it or not. It’s nice to have allies but since when did we imbue them with this much power over our parade? A local politician who comes to your annual house party is not an ally in the same way as the straight friend who calls you up periodically to see how your doing. The police are that once a year politician.



Statement: There are better ways to achieve change within the LGBT community.
A: What happened this past Pride might only news to some, it’s been ongoing for decades.


Statement: How is banning cops going to help bring people together?
A: The cops have not been banned. Their guns, tasers and uniforms are. The cops that are there in an official capacity are not at question. Just the ones who want to march with us.


Statement: BLM tactics are too aggressive.
A: To put things in perspective, our current parade is the result of over 1,000 LGBT people marching down Yonge Street in 1981, no permits, yelling “Fuck-you 52!”. When a handful of black people organize a peaceful sit-in for 20 minutes they are branded aggressive. Hmmm.


Statement: Pride is for everyone, we all should be included.
A: This would mean all of our allies should feel safe before we do. Pride has never been for all human rights, you’re thinking of the Santa Claus Parade. All parades stand for something but that doesn’t mean they against everything else.


Statement: All Lives Matter.
A: No, actually they don’t. Not equally. That’s what this is all about. If all lives mattered, there wouldn’t be a parade in the first place.


Statement: Why is everything in the LGBT community about sex and gender?
A: Because that’s the definition of LGBT, who and how we choose to love. Let’s not confuse it with fashion sense or any other ‘lifestyle’ choice.


Statement: They’ve taken over Pride.
A: Who then should get more space? Viagra, The Pickle Barrel, TD, Trojan, Fido, Bud Light, Stoli, Air Canada, Truvada or Toyota? While making room for the general public and importing high-priced talent from the US (and elsewhere) they were simultaneously striping the communities longest running stage, Blockorama, of half its operating funds, then axed the black queer youth and south asian stage. Meanwhile the cost to participate in Pride has become inaccessible to much of the community. Does your community event want a listing in the Pride Guide? Pay up.


Statement: But what about the funding?
A: In recent history TD demanded all plackets and banners be pre-approved by them (at first ask, Pride obliged), Trojan demanded that NO other condoms be used or sold at Pride (Pride obliged, banning ALL competitors condoms and forcing AIDS organizations to strike a deal with Trojan) and then some of our ‘allies’ at city hall threatened to cut funding based on who we decided was allowed in our parade. Do you really want our funding to be used to control us? Here, let me give you $100 to support you being you. Just keep yourself small and don’t cause a fuss if you want to see another $100 next year. It’s the golden rule of fundraising, don’t set up a conflict where you allow your sponsors to dictate what you do. That’s not an ally.


Statement: What’s the big deal, the cops are our friends.
A: Not to everyone. Shree Paradkar of the Toronto Star puts it like this “the power dynamics between an armed, uniformed, institutionalized force and a grassroots grouping of pariahs would have made accusations of reverse discrimination laughable. One was formed out of protest to the other. The inherent tension did not warrant an inclusion of the perpetrator and executor of inequality.”

Imagine having grown up in the residential school system where many of your teachers regularly beat you and many of your peers. There’s no one around to help and so the abuse continues year after year. One day there’s a march for of Freedom From Residential Schools, a celebration of aboriginal freedom. But there’s a catch. Residential teachers from every single school in the province are going to show up and march alongside with you as your allies.


Statement: BLM lost an opportunity to get outsiders onside.
A: Read the Salon article Black People Are Not Here To Teach You


Statement: Cops are great people, some are even identify as LGBT.
A: Yes, the same goes for any industry. The people are not in question as much as the institution. As far as organizations one doesn’t have to look far to get a sense for the corruption. It’s one thing to have a bad or rouge cop but the bigger problem is that bad cops are often protected while the people they are paid to keep safe, are not.

Statement: They are dividing Pride.
It doesn’t have to feel like that. What if we all take a step back and ask ourselves, is this what we really want? Surely there’s always room for improvement and dialogue. The same goes for the police. Wouldn’t it be something if Pride uses it’s position for the betterment of our city? The conversations with the police is about making relations better. We will all benefit from that, even the cops.


Statement: Why can’t they just ask, instead of forcing the issue.
They have been, for years. BLM is not a group unto itself. They represent many groups throughout the city and use their actions to tackle shared problems. Not too long ago AIDS forced an entire generation to demand change in the same way. Peaceful disruptions like die-ins were tactics that worked when asking failed. The LGBT movement grew from anger and frustration, asking and waiting had failed. Historically most change happens this way, through peaceful demonstration and acts of interruption.


Statement: This is reverse racism.
A: Read the article VICE article Dear White People, Please Stop Pretending Reverse Racism Is Real


Statement: But what have we really achieved?
Remember that list of demands the Executive Director signed? They have been met.
This is not a BLM issue, they represent many community groups. Now that they have achieved their goals, it’s up to us to start acting like a community by listening to one another.


I’m straight and I don’t like what’s going on.
There’s lots you can do, but forcing your opinion is not one of them. If you are not a POC or LGBT and you have strong opinions on a matter not directly affecting you, perhaps you could check your privilege. It’s not just poor sensitive you, nobody likes conflict. But your rights are not at stake here. It’s not my place to decide if an abused woman was really abused. My job is to listen and provide support as she needs it. This goes for the reverse, victims are not always completely innocent. We are all connected and interdependent so if you think there is a universal victimhood that is automatically truthful, than you too are part of the problem. Being a victim is not a virtue, neither is being a bully. Extreme positions, create extreme situations. Listen for what’s real and speak for yourself, avoid telling others what life is or should be like.


If you have a Statement & Answer you’d like to add, or a suggestion, please leave us a comment below. 

Featured Video Play Icon

Hosanna

star  starstarstarstar

Hosanna’s Higher Self
If Requiem For A Dream, Moulin Rouge and Carrie had a rendezvous their offspring would be a lot like Hosanna. Damien Atkins was riveting in his portrayal of Hosanna, an aging drag queen who models herself after the legendary Elizabeth Taylor. Hosanna’s outrageously sharp tongue lands her in a fight with her biker boyfriend Cuirette played by the larger than life Jason Cadieux. From the first scene Jason and Damien had the room in the palm of their hands as Hosanna’s life gets told through a heated argument between the two of them which makes for an incredible amount of edgy tension.

The Gender Offence
I can see why this play was controversial, especially to some within the LGBT community because it portrays gender in a way that is arguably not realistic. Written by Michael Tremblay, Hosanna tells the story of a transvestite who ultimately comes out as a gay man.

The program labels Hosanna a “drag queen” which is quite different from how she actually was throughout the story. Typically a drag queen is someone who dresses up for theatrical purposes with the word ‘drag’ referring to clothing. That’s different from a Trans person who has chosen to live their life as another gender. One is entertainment while the other is an expression of authenticity so when our heroine Hosanna retires all of her womanly things and comes out as a gay man the suggestion is that Hosanna really just needed to find her prince charming and then she would be able to give up wanting to be a woman.

Being LGBT, coming out or coming of age are processes that propel people towards authenticity which something people generally desire more of over time.

Sexuality is far more fluid than we give it room for in our current binary system so perhaps her gender expression was more reflection of the time period in history. After all, this play was written in 1973 which was a time when our society was literally at war with the LGBT community. In many ways one could almost view Hosanna as a tragic love story because her choice to give up being a drag queen came on the heels of her realization that not only did society hate her, everyone in her community did too. Hosanna is powerfully acted and at its core is a twisted love story and beautiful train wreck all in one.

Blowing Smoke, The Irony of Scents 
Side note: The program notes say that playwright Michael Trembly had wanted the audience to experience the heavy cheap perfume Hosanna spritzed throughout the show but we Canadians have banned scents so the audience smelt nothing. Ironically all the way through the show both actors smoked ‘fake’ cigarettes made of what smelled like lettuce or rose leaf which is precisely 100 times more disgusting.

Hosanna
Young Centre for the Performing Arts
On stage from September 23, 2016

 

MDLSX

starstarstarstar

The needed change is so profound that we call it impossible, so deep that we call it unthinkable. But the impossible will come and the unthinkable is inevitable. –Feminism Is Not Humanism, P.B. Preciado

MDLSX is an 80-minute performance/monologue/ DJ set performed by the award-winning actress Silvia Calderoni and directed by Motus founders, Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolo. Weaving autobiography and literary evocations Silvia Calderoni blurs fiction and reality, as she swings from Judith Butlerʼ works, Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender, to Donna Haraway’s, A Cyborg Manifesto, Paul B. Preciado’s Manifeste Contra-sexuel and other bits of the kaleidoscopic universe of queer.

Marilyn Manson
MIKA
MIKA

If MIKA and Marilyn Manson were to copulate, their offspring would surely resemble MDLSX, a gender-fluid artist born light years ahead of our time. The theatrical experience was second only to Silvia Calderoni’s raw and risky performance. The stage direction and lighting created a hypnotic journey that enveloped the space, the use of the hand-held camera was both provocative and intimate but at times it created a wall making it harder to empathize during some of the more intimate moments.

At its core this is a beautiful and profoundly moving story about the experience of being born both genders but being forced to live out one or the other. The experience was intellectually challenging with many moments that moved me to tears. MDLSX is rich with symbolism reminding us that our culture is still heavily defined by antiquated notions of gender, binary distinctions and false notions of fixed sexualities. Institutions still own our bodies, not us.

Silvia Calderoni as a boy, a girl, both and neither.
Silvia Calderoni as a boy, a girl, both and neither.

An angst-fuelled music selection covering adroginst legends like The Smiths, Dresden Dolls and The Cramps, Sylvia does much of her own lighting and sound, and despite some of the obvious line-reading her stage presence was down-right mesmerizing. The show culminates by holding a metaphorical mirror up to the audience in order to silently pose the question, did Sylvia create a spectacle that we felt compelled to watch or are we watching because it satisfies our deeper, voyeristic desires.

What if we change the name of this performance to something more empowering such as 3RDSX. As long as we continue to define ourselves based on heterosexual notions of sexuality (male/female) we are doomed to forever spend our in-between days in stuck purgatory by our our design. Like the word queer, we have an opportunity to take back our bodies and define ourselves as something completely new, filled with the possibility of the unknown. Defining ourselves based on the existing heteronormative culture makes us, as Mika would say, Stuck In The Middle, when what we could be is The Beautiful People in Marilyn Manson’s universe; people that no one controls. It’s all here for us as soon as we unhinge from the culture we’ve grown accustomed to. Go see MDLSX, it might change the way to think about your own gender.

MDLSX
January 07-17, 2016
Thursday to Saturday at 8:30pm;
Sunday at 4pm;
Monday, January 11th & Wednesday, January 13th at 7pm
Downstairs | 66 East 4th Street
TICKETS

Follow Raymond Helkio on Twitter: @raymondhelkio

3 Life Lessons From Hamlet In A Hot Tub

Photo by Ben Powless: Hamlet In A Hot Tub at Nuit Rose Closing Ceremonies, Pride Toronto (2015).


(1) You won’t learn a thing if you do it perfectly. There’s a difference between making a mistake in public and intentionally making a public mistake. We adapted the original production of Hamlet In A Hot Tub (HIAHT) so we could perform it in the washrooms during the Rhubarb Festival and despite weeks of rehearsals, performing out of the washrooms with an actual audience remained a theory right up until opening night. Lacking a model for how the show should work I had to give up trying to control our space so that the constant uncertainties became an expected part of our process, and to some extent, the show itself.

(3) The audience can be your friends, literally. An audience made up of complete strangers can be nerve-wrecking but at the end of the show those strangers will go home and remain strangers while our friends, family and peers can be a source of feedback to reflect on against the backdrop of what we intended to produce.
 
(3) A cast of theatre actors can be more reliable than your own family.
Being there for each other can be as simple as always being on time because everyone involved in the show depends on everyone else, moving mountains to be at a rehearsal is just how the family grows tighter. In 2015 we performed Hamlet In A Hot Tub fourteen times and thanks to the dedication and shear madness of the cast and I’m proud to call this highly dysfunctional (surrogate) family my own, here’s to a steamy 2016!

Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude and Polonius are Hamlet In A Hot Tub in this outrageously funny and gender-bending adaptation of Shakespeare set in a modern day bathhouse. Written + Adapted by Brock Hessel, David Bateman also featuring Paul Bellini, Amy J. Lester, Directed by Raymond Helkio and Music by Stewart Borden.