Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What They Don't Want You to Know about Truvada

Truvada prevents AIDS.
Wow. What a headline. You'd think you'd see it on the front page of the New York Times!
Well, don't hold your breath.
Truvada -- when taken by someone who is HIV negative -- is very very effective at protecting you from HIV. Let me put it in a way that might have the most pragmatic value for the gay-man-on-the-street today. If you are HIV positive and you are on HIV medication (and you have an undetectable viral load) you can have unprotected sex with your partner who is HIV negative and taking Truvada and the risk is exactly the same as wearing condoms (i.e. practicing safe sex).
Unfortunately not everyone is interested in spreading the good news. Truvada is proving as controversial for gay men as birth control was for women in the 1960s.
Nowadays, we look on the birth control pill as an unqualified success. The pill radically changed women's lives, liberating them, making them happier, healthier, and able to control their futures. Without the threat of unwanted pregnancies, women pursued careers once reserved only to men, steering their lives in unimaginable ways. But back in the early 60s, some were opposed to birth control. They argued that if women were freed from the fear of unwanted pregnancy, they would become more promiscuous. This was reason enough to want to hide the truth from tender feminine ears.
Similarly, some people have tried to discourage gay men from using Truvada. Larry Kramer has said  "Truvada is for cowards." The fear (much like the fears about women and birth control) is that gay men armed with Truvada will go crazy and have unprotected (i.e. bareback) sex. And what should be important news shouted from every rooftop has barely made it into the headlines.
Sure it's possible that some gay men may misuse the new discovery. Truvada is most effective when it is used along with condoms. Truvada protects you from HIV, but not not from other sexually transmitted diseases - especially particularly lethal ones like Hepatitis C.
But many gay men have lived the past thirty-five years in shame and fear. They came to believe their own bodily fluids were lethal. For these men, AIDS has not only caused unbelievable suffering and killed their friends - but it has ruined sex. The idea that sperm is so terribly dangerous has,  paradoxically, eroticized practices that up until now, have been deemed risky for gay men. So yes, those of us who have felt unhappy with safe sex practices may be more than eager to say goodbye to the fear and loathing that has consumed our lives; i.e. we may prefer to live (at our own peril) in a condom-less world.
But is that a reason to hide this very important scientific information?
Already the Truvada debate has taken on a nasty tone, evident in the surfacing of the slang term "Truvada Whore" - a moniker some gay men have been rebelliously eager to own and flaunt.
But just as with birth control, we mustn't allow our moral judgements to stop the free flow of information. Policing gay men's bodies and/or women's bodies does not work. Treating them like children does not work. Hiding the truth does not work. Respecting their right to make adult decisions with the proper information most certainly does.
Knowledge is morally neutral - even though it is sometimes used for the wrong purposes. The Theory of Relativity, after all, was the inspiration for the development of the atomic bomb.
I do not, however think - like some - that Truvada is the equivalent of a nuclear disaster.
I think instead, that - like Einstein's theories, and the discovery of the pill - the truth about Truvada is radical and essential information that needs to be widely disseminated, because of the possibility it has for improving all our lives.
So please - speak, email, sing, shout - and tweet - the news!
Sure, condom usage has drastically reduced the transmission of HIV and death from AIDS — but we now have another incredibly effective tool to add to the arsenal. And that knowledge has the enormous power to free us from fear.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Fuck You, Disney!

I’ve had it with this crap. Little girls lined up in front of me at a restaurant dressed in their Cinderella gowns. Makes me want to throw up.
Don’t you see what’s going on here? There's no going back. Disney has decided, because it makes them a lot of money, that all little girls must be blonde and pretty and feminine and love blue sparkly dresses. If they don’t they don’t deserve to be called little girls anymore.
And what if you’re a little girl and you hate Cinderella and you’d rather wear construction boots and play with trucks?
Or worse yet; what if you’re a little boy and you really really want to dress up like Cinderella, and you're jealous of all the little girls who get to do it when you don’t?!?!?!?
How are you going to feel then?
You’re going to feel like a piece of shit, that’s what.
Meanwhile thousands of kids in North America are being rounded up by their parents and therapists and diagnosed with ‘gender identity disorder’ (GID) because the DSM (the psychiatrist’s manual) tells us that little girls who don’t act like little girls and little boys who don’t act like little boys are mentally ill and need psychiatric help.
We live in giant gender-fascist state in which children are held hostage because their parents are too lazy to confront big corporations like Disney on the lifestyles they present to their children.
There, I said it.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Think about it. The whole of the movie industry has become a giant babysitting corporation — most movies are aimed at children or adolescents, and parents welcome the respite from the whiney little buggers — in fact they are so grateful that they don’t seem to care what their children see, or what kind of role models they are digesting. They are so eager to get those kids off their backs that they would send them to see anything.
Any piece of warmed over SHITE like Cinderella.
Yes, I blame parents.
Yes I do.
And don’t believe these dumb reviewers like the one I saw on CBC the other day (you know — the idiot with the bow tie?) who was going on about how ‘there’s a twist in this Cinderella.’ There’s no fucking twist. I haven’t seen the movie but I don’t need to. It’s like Frozen. I was talking about that piece of crap with the female students in my university class and they were all mesmerized by it. I’d only seen the cloying nauseating video of the Frozen song, not the movie. (I refuse to see that dumb flick.)  “Oh the movie’s not sexist! “ They told me. “The girl is really independent and she doesn’t want to get married or anything she just wants to make sure that her sister doesn’t marry the wrong guy.” Oh I see, the leading lady doesn’t want to get married herself, so that’s supposed to redeem the movie, even though it’s all about her sister getting married? Really?
I don’t care about any supposed twists in this so-called ‘new’ Cinderella. It’s the same old crap. It’s just all a gigantic moneymaking venture trying to make a fortune off the backs off your children (and their sanity!). And worst of all — you just don’t give a shit. 
Pardon me but who cares if this Cinderella is  more ‘independent’ than all the other Cinderellas put together? She’s still fucking Cinderella and she’s still too beautiful for words. 
It’s all about infantilizing, belittling, disempowering, and objectifying women. Period.
And we yell about the Muslim Fundamentalists who don’t allow their little girls to read.
What we do is far far worse.
Yes worse!
I know that little faggot reviewer who wears the bow tie on CBC (yes, I used that word faggot -- I am one, so I can use it!)  just wants to BE Cinderella. Which would be fine if he could just be honest about it.
But he can’t, and keep his job.
So there.
I’m hopping mad.
I’m sorry I swore so much — but Jesus Christ!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Some Reviews of DUNSTER PUTIN

Dunster Putin opened at Toronto’s Regional Civic Stage recently. It is a controversial new play by a contemporary American playwright from New York City. Below are excerpts from some of the  reviews.

The Globe and Mail:
 There is a play here, and the author has something to say about the decline of the western world. Our world is in fact, in decline, and many would say that the problems must be addressed. In Dunster Putin you will perhaps not find answers, but ‘finding the answers’ is not what art is for.
 Or is it?
 I for one enjoyed the play immensely. My companion did not; I don’t know what that means.
 Cranston Sullivan the director of the play and the artistic director of Toronto’s Regional Civic Stage has again proved that he is a man of vision. Always willing to experiment and stretch our insights — as well as our comfort zone, he has lately become an especially welcome addition to the Toronto theatre scene. Rumour has it that he is on the list of possible new artistic directors to take over the helm at the Shaw Festival.
 If so, so be it.
 I have nothing at all negative to say about this significant effort, except that it is tiresomely boring from beginning to end. 
 However, that is something you will soon forget, as it is only one small aspect of an engaging production that offers huge promise for the future of Canadian theatre.

The Toronto Star:
 There is one giant egg being laid at Toronto’s Regional Civic Stage, and it’s not by the hens in the audience clucking about this play's so-called ‘important’ message.
 I for one, couldn’t find a message here, though I searched — like Sherlock Holmes minus his Watson — trying to find one.
 Whatever happened to lights, glamour and entertainment?
 Call me old fashioned but I like my incomprehensible messages to be accompanied by  a little song and dance or at least a heart-wrenching storyline.
 Not here, though.
 Cranston Sullivan has yet again masterminded a mind boggling mess of tedious pretentious claptrap.
 Anything might save it — perhaps Sullivan should call up Sky Gilbert (notorious drag queen and ex-Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre) and have him lip synch a pop song or two!
 Frankly, anything would be better than this.
 And by the way some advice for husbands being dragged to the theatre by your wives — no need to take a valium before the show: Dunster Putin will put you to sleep.

The Toronto Sun:
 A fascinating show just premiered at Toronto’s Regional Civic Stage. It is a deep and meaningful play. It fairly drips with very long words and thoughts that form in the characters heads and are then, miraculously expressed through dialogue. You will be drawn to the important message of the play — as well as to the challenging costumes and sets expertly executed by Talia Sybrgnzovitch. The lighting design is more than pleasing and star of stage and screen Dolly Garden is superlative in the leading role.
 There is a lot of meat on this bone. This production is very important and is doing something every production must do;  be controversial, present day, and up-to-date!
 I won’t even attempt to get to the bottom of the complex and challenging ideas that populate this new vibrant play, I leave that to you. But it is definitely saying something.
 Now, for Mom and Dad: there is some explicit language. As with the new sex ed curriculum you may find it necessary to put your hands around your little codger’s ears (you know what they say about little pitchers)!
 But all in all, it’s worth the trip. 

Now Magazine:
 Cranston Sullivan’s new production may not be for everyone. But sometimes that can be good too. There are exciting ideas here, about women, feminism, and the modern so-called ‘rape culture.’ Not everyone will agree with these ideas.  Some, in fact will disagree. And that’s the way the world is — there are many diverse people, cultures, races and sexualities in it. And everyone has a different point of view. This production is well executed -- with Sullivan’s effortless direction, Garden’s gleaming performance, and Sybrgnzovitch’s expressive set. Keep a watch out for newcomer Lance Longsheath. He is a talented young ingenue to watch, for sure.

The Blogosphere:

 Run don’t walk to see this fabulous challenging production. Everything about it is great, important and meaningful. I highly recommend it. You should go and see this show right away, before it closes! If you don’t you will be missing out on something! It’s a very good show! It really is. You will enjoy it. Everything about it is perfect and super wonderful!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Please Don’t Blame Those Dental Students

The male dental students at Dalhousie University who recently exchanged offensive 
Facebook posts are not to blame for rape culture. Punishing these 13 young men — or trying to educate them — will just make things worse.
The administration of Dalhousie University is not to blame, either.
Who is to blame?
First let me explain my objections to the term ‘rape culture.’ The use of this term implies that there is something specific, localized or contemporary about a lack of respect for women, their bodies, and their rights as human beings. But misogyny is not unique to Dalhousie, or a bunch of dental students, to most university age males, or to some young basketball players in Ohio (remember the Steubenville scandal of 2012?). 
Our western culture is a rape culture, and it all started with Eve.
From your Bible studies, you will remember that Eve tempted Adam with the apple, and that she is the source of evil. From talking to any red-blooded Canadian fellow over a beer, you will learn that though he thinks women are ‘hot’ he also imagines that they are very different from men, and that— perhaps through no fault of their own — they are mysterious and somewhat dangerous creatures who traditionally and perpetually tempt men, introducing them to strange extremities of lust.
These poisonous and antiquated ideas are part of our sexist culture.
What to do?
The answer is education.
Presently the government of Ontario is trying to institute a new sex education curriculum. The program is receiving vocal opposition from Ontario’s fundamentalist religious community, the Toronto Sun, and certain ‘concerned individuals.’  But removing sex education from the school curriculum will not keep children ‘innocent.' (Children are not innocent!). It will merely validate the present rape culture. I’m not a parent myself, but I know parents, and little girls (yes little girls under 5 years old!) ask their parents about their vaginas and where babies come from. These children deserve detailed, honest answers. Knowledge that children may gain about sex and their own bodies is not ‘scary’  unless it is taught to them by those who are frightened of sex, or it is delivered in a clandestine way,
Similarly there are 98 universities in Canada and only half of them have Women’s Studies courses. Of the universities that do have Women’s Studies courses, not all have actual Women’s Studies programs. And if they do, those programs are often mixed in with generalized departments that focus on ‘human rights’ and ‘a better world.’ If you examine these Women’s Studies websites you will see that some are being phased out (McMaster’s, for instance). At Guelph (where I teach) the Women’s Studies program was phased out several years ago, the justification being that we are well beyond women’s studies issues, and that such issues are covered by gender studies programs anyway. (For the record, we don’t yet have a gender studies program yet at Guelph. We need one!)
But should the age of Women’s Studies over? Do all men now know that ‘no means no,’ and that a 'yes' from a woman must be an enthusiastic one?
No. And they won’t learn this lesson unless we stop blaming young men at universities who say politically incorrect things.  Like the young women they are verbally abusing, they too are victims of a fundamentally sexist culture. Instead, we must challenge the core misogyny that lies at the root of Western culture.
That will only happen through education.
That is, if we really want to change.
But do we?