Thursday, 31 December 2015
Just a cheery note to keep you what’s been going on with the Rob and Richard family.
2015 has been a great year for us, as we hope it was for you!
We got a new puppy this year. His name is Buddy, and he really loves wagging his cute little tail. He is especially excited about the daily feedings, and always barks when we come home!
Another happy addition to the household is our houseboy Alon, a recent immigrant from Tel Aviv. Alon doesn’t have much money so we were happy to help him out by providing room and board in return for him offering a few essential services not just confined to the kitchen! We love Alon and he loves us!
This year Rob and I did a lot of traveling.
In May, we spent a gloriously sunny month in Barcelona. When we weren’t visiting Gaudi’s famous architectural marvels, we hit the back room of every bar in that fabulously glamorous city. The people were so friendly there, and always greeted us with charming, if somewhat messy smiles!
June is always a perfect time for rehab, which Rob certainly needed after our fun-fulfilled little European ‘vacay'! As many of your know, Rob has been struggling with a Crystal Meth addiction for a number of years. He has his ups and downs, but we are confident that he will come out of the positive side of this particular dilemma! In July, Rob was voted ‘Most Likely to Stay Off the Crank’ by his doctors at the Ocean Rehab in Streetsville! We’re all rooting for him, and so far, as we cruise into 2016, all signs indicate that the award is well deserved!
As for me, I’m happy to say that my viral load has consistently stayed at non-existent! And Ol’ Dr. Pete and I decided that it was okay for me to have unprotected sex with guys who are on PREP! Rob and I give thanks every day for PREP, because — as many of you know from experience — I’m a bottom who loves unprotected anal, and now I never have to worry about that very special load increasing my viral one!
As usual, August means Gay Pride in Puerto Vallarta! Happily Rob met some several talented couples who invited him to their palatial mansions in the hills. He managed to stay away from the ‘Meth Monster’ tho (Sincere Congrats Honey!) and only ended up in one situation involving guns. All indications were that it might have turned into a somewhat violent scene, and Rob acted so sensibly! He simply made his apologies and took a cab back to our hotel room. I helped him find a non-gun related trick on SCRUFF to keep him out of any real trouble!
September and October are often placid months for us, as life returns to ‘normal.’ There’s been lots of time for the a-hole bleaching (something we both urgently needed this year!) as well as silicone injections. My nuts resemble a tennis ball now, plump and smooth — always cause for comment at the baths!
This holiday, you’ll find Rob and I seated in front of the fire, with our our new puppy Buddy and our new houseboy Alon curled up contentedly at our feet. It’s the kind of satisfaction that only the visions of sugar plum fairies can bring!
Happy Holidays — and we’ll be sure and chat again next year!
Monday, 21 December 2015
A tendency that has not been as yet observed, but that deserves noting, is a queer idealization of the family in literature, so evident this year in two hit movies based on novels by queer authors: Brooklyn and Room.
Brooklyn is the type of movie that is often described as luminous, and certainly one that (as many reviewers have mentioned) you can comfortably bring your grandmother to see. My eyes were wet with tears through most of it. Though the piece is ostensibly about a young Irish woman’s experience as an immigrant in America, the actual subject matter is family; a young woman’s devotion to her mother and her sister, and eventually to her future husband. The conflict set up is a rather false one; will Ellis return to the man she loves, or will she return to Ireland and desert him? There is no question really, it’s a matter of growing up, and what every young heterosexual woman eventually must do, leave the bosom of one family to create another.
Brooklyn is based on a novel by gay writer Colm Toibim, and Room is based on a bestseller by lesbian novelist Emma Donoghue. There is no reason why the sexuality of these two authors should be mentioned, except for what you will read here. For what I find fascinating about both of these movies is a particular kind of idealization of the family that I think is specific to the experience of authors whose sexuality is outside the norm.
My theory is that queers of all stripes are often born into families that are heterosexual and thus, they feel fundamentally alienated from them. This is not to say that all gay and lesbian people hate their families, or even that they harbour a conscious awareness of difference. But we queers know — sometimes in a subconscious way — that we will not grow up to be heterosexuals. We know that the choice offered us: the desires, role models and ultimate outcomes will never apply. This makes us feel like outsiders, no matter how much our families love us, how much we love them, or how relaxed they may be (or may become eventually) about our sexualities.
For some gay and lesbian writers (not all, of course) this profound alienation is transformed into art. They express, in literature, a poignant longing for a family bond that is impossible because it is perfect.The epitome of this kind of nostalgia can be found in the work of several prominent queer literary outsiders, including: Thornton Wilder, Marcel Proust and J.M. Barrie.
Our Town represents perhaps the epitome of this sentiment. At the centre of this play is an unrelentingly elegiac longing for small town family connections. Of course such intimacy is possible; but what makes Wilder’s play rare is his insistence that such intimacy is not only absolutely necessary, but deeply profound. Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time famously creates a myth around the memory of his mother that captures piercing, heart-wrenching essence of an ultimate epiphany of love. And J. M. Barrie (a man of dubious and perhaps scandalous sexuality who never had intimate relations with women) created a fantasy based on a real life (his friends the Du Mauriers) that he loved almost to death. “The Darlings’ are certainly a family that few of us will ever forget.
I am not judging these writers — or the movies like Brooklyn, or Room. Rather I am observing a literary tendency which is interesting, because it is so often associated with iconic works that may shape our worldview in ways we may not be fully conscious of.
Be forewarned. You may feel a twinge of insecurity about the portrait of family life presented in these holiday movies because it appears to be too good to be true. It may help to remember that in actuality — it is.
Thursday, 17 December 2015
When I say ‘The End of the World’ I mean the end of the world as I know it.
1) Gay apparently only happened in the past and is now exclusively played by straights.
I know we’re supposed to be really happy that we have three gay Christmas movies this year but could they be any straighter? Tom Hardy, Cate Blanchett and Eddie Redmayne all play gay people from the past. But umm…they’re all straight in real life. And um…what
about dealing with modern gay issues? Carol made me cry, but what about a real gay situation like: ‘‘My girlfriend and I are dykes but now she wants to get dick surgery!’ or ‘I want to marry my 23 year old gay boyfriend but he’s on meth and is addicted to hooking up for unsafe sex online?’ Oh no, it’s all 60s British psychopaths, kisses in the snow, and butch Eddie Redmayne — so damn straight in those interviews about The Danish Girl that I could kill him with a gun. Ugh. Well, I’m sure he just wants another Oscar.
2) Tyler Oakley.
Have you seen this guy? He’s a youtube sensation. He’s 27 and holds mass slumber parties for fat girls and jumps up and down in ‘onesies’ and high heels (if you don’t know what a ‘onesie’ is then you are definitely very very old) . And what is the Tyler Oakley phenomenon? Well, remember once, there was Dan Savage — kinda out there, kinda non-monogamous — and kinda sexual? Well the new gay role model is Youtube Sensation Tyler Oakley, and like everything else these days, he is all about the kids. The fan base for his shows is mainly female and 13-17 years old (this would be the crowd that feels they have moved beyond Hunger Games). I was trying to figure out exactly what Tyler Oakley stands for and all I could come up with was — he supports your body image issues and he is very much in favour gay marriage. But where do you stand on anal fisting,Tyler?
3) Donald Trump and Rob Ford.
Need I say more?
4) No more cocktails or Splenda.
This is beyond huge. I walked into a Queen Street bar the other day, gazed lovinglyup at the thirty or so whiskey bottles under the mirror and politely requested a cocktail. The very hot guy behind the bar looked at me like I had lost my noodle. “We don’t serve cocktails,” he said, with great disdain “only wine, beer and booze straight up." Well pardon me for being such a girly man. But much more distressing is the disappearance of artificial sweeteners from the coffee bars on Queen Street West. You should have seen the expression of the face of the bun-headed barista when I asked for Splenda. “We have honey.” Well sorry, I didn’t take a shit on the floor, I just didn’t realize that craving aspartame was now actually a crime.
5) You can’t get a good blow job anymore
without having to chat up some damn hipster. What are you doing hanging out in a back room if you just want to have a caustic chat? And why do you want to have sex with me? I’m old enough to be your very old….father.
6) My computer knows more about me than I do.
No, really. I used to ignore those purchasing suggestions that Amazon used to make. But, oddly chillingly and frighteningly, those suggestions have recently become, well….right on.
7. My students at university don’t shock me anymore.
I shock them.
8. You can’t turn on a tap anymore. Or flush a toilet for that matter.
I go to plays and movies and operas etc a lot and there we are, the sad guys, all lined up at the sink flicking our hands around under the faucets, this way and that, randomly touching things that look like they might trigger water — and swearing. ‘How do you turn this damn thing on? Oh great you found one that worked. Can I put my hands under it? How come it worked for you and not for me. Do I have the wrong hands?’ I mean Is this sanitary? All the toilets now have piles of shit in them cuz all the toilets are supposed to flush themselves but don’t. Can somebody call the health department pull-eaze?
9. The oddest people are suddenly aboriginal.
I know I’m going to get into trouble for saying this. But what’s going on? I knew you as a white girl but suddenly you’ve found out that you have an aboriginal ancestor somewhere and you just won’t shut up about it. I’m all for learning about another culture
but not from some mainly white girl who looks white and who everybody thought was white until last week she decided she suddenly discovered she had a proud heritage that is the very essence of her and that she now talks about, everywhere, every day, on every freaking website there is.
10. The end of intermissions is the end of the world.
I’ve ranted about this before. But it’s gotten so out of hand. Routinely now, house programs say the show is an hour and a half long with no intermission and then you get there and find out that it’s really two hours long and it’s Soulpepper and you’re in the middle of the row and you can’t leave without waking up some oldster who’s asleep beside you.
YOU’RE JUST AFRAID THE CRITICS ARE GOING TO SAY YOUR WORK ISN’T PROFOUND ENOUGH TO WARRANT AN INTERMISSION. WELL SO WHAT IF THEY DO? WHO CARES WHAT THEY SAY ANYWAY?
I saw an old (1905) play in New York City this fall. There were three acts and two intermissions. Each act was a half hour long.
Friday, 11 December 2015
I must say I have mixed feelings about Paul Gross. Mainly because he is so beautiful.
When I was a young, semi-handsome gay playwright desperately running a theatre company so that I could get my plays produced, he was a supremely handsome, younger, straight playwright with the world at his feet.
Also, I have always wanted to lick him all over — and only Martha Burns gets to do that — which makes me cranky.
I only met Paul Gross once, when I was having lunch with Jackie Burroughs in Yorkville. She dragged me over to his table and gushed in her irresistibly childlike way— “Oh you just have to meet Paul Gross! You would love him, and he would love you!”
Sadly all that ‘loving’ never came to pass. But that doesn't mean I can’t be objective about the play Paul Gross is starring in — Domesticated (recently produced by Company Theatre at Canadian Stage).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to review the damn thing. These plays that come from New York City are pre-reviewed anyway; what we say about them (way up here in the provinces!) doesn’t really matter.
But I must say I am fascinated by what these American cultural products are selling. And in this case it was clear to me that Domesticated makes a very sharp, entertaining, and carefully crafted case for ‘men’s liberation.’
Men’s liberation — in case you haven’t noticed — is a growing movement in North America. Straight men everywhere are getting a little tired of feminists pushing them around. Poor boys — they’ve been blamed for everything — when most of them are just nice guys who happen to get a little horny now and then. And sure — and they acknowledge this — they might also be, occasionally, just a teeny-weeny bit insensitive once in awhile. But hey — being horny and insensitive -- isn't that what being a real man is all about?
Though playwright Bruce Norris has laboured to convince us he has created a balanced view of the feminist cause and its effects, Domesticated is clearly focused on the leading male character’s journey. The leading female character never gets to articulate her rage, she just gets to break his (spoiler alert!) guitar.
Afterwards I chatted with two female friends and one female acquaintance about the piece. I was astounded. My two friends agreed with my opinions about it. But the third (younger) woman expressed a surprising idea: “I didn’t think it was an anti-feminist play,” she said “I mean Paul Gross’s character was so obviously an asshole.”
I looked at her, knowing I might regret playing the ‘age’ card. “Are you a millennial?” I asked?
“”I’m on the cusp,” she said.
“Well I’m awfully sorry, and this is going to sound very condescending,” I said “but I’m very very old, and I noticed that millenials have a tendency to be overly cheery when confronted with racism, sexism and homophobia. They’ve been brought up in a product-oriented, celebrity dominated cyber-world where everything is nice (except for the occasional comment on Facebook). You young’ uns just figure racism, misogyny and homophobia are over; that everyone is ‘super aware’ of what is right and what is wrong. I glanced at a middle-aged men sitting next to me at Domesticated, and when Paul Gross’s character was raging against feminism, he was leaning forward, drinking it in; the play was speaking directly to him.”
“She screwed up her attractive face.
“Hmm. I don’t get it.”
And this young woman is actually very smart.
Be forewarned; Domesticated is not just your garden variety anti-feminist diatribe — it’s for everyone. And millenials, especially, like it too.
Monday, 16 November 2015
I’m a university professor. I think most of us know that being a university professor is nothing to be proud of; in fact, these days if you are a university professor it’s probably best to keep it to yourself. Why are we so unpopular? Well people generally seem to think that university professors are lazy because a lot of us spend more time researching than teaching. But I would suggest that the animosity goes far deeper than that. People resent university professors because they think that what used to be called ‘higher education’ is just a waste of time.
Take for instance, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. He spoke out in favour of vocational schools and against universities at the Republican presidential debate a few weeks ago. He said: “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
Well, as a university professor it’s my job to deconstruct statements like this.
(Yes, deconstruct — I know, that’s Derrida, sorry).
Rubio’s statement is sure to win votes. But why? What’s he really saying?
One fundamental first principle underlies Rubio’s dictum. This principle (not to be too melodramatic, I hope) indicates the eminent demise of western civilization.
For Rubio’s statement assumes that the most important thing in the world is money. Only if money was the measure of all things would it make sense to pick one profession over another because of it.
So if it is true that philosophers, historically, make less money than welders (and I’m not quite sure that historically speaking this is true) why would anyone have ever thought it necessary to be a philosopher in the first place?
Let me tell you.
We choose to be doctors of philosophy because we care deeply about two questions — why are we here, and what makes a good life. Yes, it is the belief of philosophers of all persuasions, that the most important questions are metaphysical and moral. Philosophical questions touch on belief, faith, the nature of reason and reality, and the origins of right and wrong. Philosophy helps us understand why we might — or might not — blow ourselves up in defence of a cause, why we might overthrow a tyrant or give to the poor, or why we might — or might not — rape a woman or beat a child. Essentially we can learn from philosophy what constitutes a good life; a life that is ultimately worth living.
I don’t wish to be classist. It is certainly very good to be a welder. If welders do indeed make more money than philosophers I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t deserve it. After all, in an earthquake, I think we we would all prefer to be standing in a building that did not spontaneously burst apart at the seams.
But frankly, does it matter whether or not we die if we have no idea why we are living?
You might think about this question the next time you consider siding with Marco Rubio against universities in favour of vocational schools.
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Michel Houellebecq’s Submission was overshadowed by the Charlie Hebdo massacre when it was published in France less than a year ago. Houellebecq’s fascinating book describes France in the year 2022, after a Muslim political party comes to power.
Houellebecq is famous in France for his engrossing, politically contentious, ideologically heavy — and extremely sexual — novels. He has won both the Prix Novembre and the Prix Goncourt. His plots often feature cynical, hilariously morose misanthropes as narrators. True to form, the narrator of Submission is a middle-aged university professor who lives a dull unrewarding life; in part because he hates the dehumanized product-obsessed capitalist society we live in, and in part because women don’t seem to sexually arouse him the way they once did.
When the Muslims take over, the de-secularization of education puts all non-Muslim professors out of work, and our disgruntled hero seriously considers suicide. However, in a surprising plot twist, he meets a charismatic Muslim philosopher who dangles before him the prospect of a new teaching job and the possibility marrying (not one, but —) four young wives — if he can only convert to Islam. Our cynical academic anti-hero, in a sudden epiphany, rediscovers his reason for living and converts to Islam overnight.
Houellebecq has — up until recently — identified as an atheist. So critics of the novel have accused it of being Islamophobic. However Houellebecq’s genius is that the book can be read as much in praise of Islam as it can be seen to critique it. As Vinay Menon said in a recent review of the book in The Star: “This is the opposite of Islamophobia. It is Islamanirvana.”
Whatever way you look at it, Houellebecq’s novel is incredibly relevant.
For instance, watching Drake’s Hotline Bling on YOUTUBE I couldn’t help thinking of Submission. Drakes much maligned dancing technique was of less interest to me than his lyrics: “You gotta reputation for yourself/ you started wearing less and going out more/ glasses of champagne on the dance floor/ hanging with some girls I never seen before.” The singer’s admonishments to his girlfriend carry a distinctly Muslim undertone; after all Islamic women are also encouraged to cover their bodies, be chaste, and save flirtation for the marital bed. Houellebecq observes pointedly that many sexist western males might prefer sexually obedient Muslim wives (many of whom, apparently wear lingerie under their burqas!) to modern western women who sometimes forget to dress up seductively for their partners, and sleep instead in yoga sweatpants and old t-shirts.
Some Muslim parents in Ontario have unceremoniously yanked their students out of public schools to protest the new sex education curriculum. This is also very relevant to Houellebecq’s novel. Some Muslim Ontario public school students are now attending Muslim institutions, while others are home-schooled. In Houellebecq’s Muslim utopia, universities become obsolete, as non-religious enquiry of any kind is is discouraged. Students are encouraged to attend post-secondary vocational schools instead. Ontario is certainly heading in this direction; post-secondary courses in the humanities (poetry, philosophy etc.) are increasingly being replaced by courses that teach students how to do — or even just find — a job.
In this — and many other ways — Houellebecq’s novel is shockingly prescient.
Are western post-enlightenment ‘decadent’ values a dead end?
I think it’s a question that many religious fundamentalists around the world are asking.
Perhaps we should ask it too.
For what Houellebecq would want us to understand is that what some believe to be unthinkable might someday become the shocking norm.
Friday, 23 October 2015
I’ve had it with beards. You can’t go anywhere without seeing them. And men think beards are so ‘trendy’ and ‘hot.’
I’m a gay man who has never liked beards. And I know there are a lot of women who share my distaste for that pesky facial hair.
First there’s the scratchiness when you kiss the guy.
Then there’s just the general grossness of the fuzzy monster, things get caught in beards (egg salad — yulch!).
Finally — truth be told, what I find attractive about men is — their faces. (No, not that other thing!) Give me a good face — really, it doesn’t matter what’s going on anywhere else. Of course there are lots of different faces out there, and thank God, there’s something for everyone. But what defines male attractiveness for me (and this is just me, I know) is the square jaw with a hint of peach fuzz around the edges, and a hint of nature’s own pink blush on the cheeks, and a big pair of lush pouty kissable lips plunked right smack in the middle.
If the guy’s got a beard all that luscious male beauty is covered up.
So what’s with the mania for beards these days?
In the gay community — where everything always tends to get out of hand, for some reason — guys are going nuts with this beard thing. You can’t get a date with a guy if you don’t have a beard. Remember obsession over penis size? Gone. It’s been replaced with obsession over beard size. The bigger, the messier the beard, the better. We even have a name for the (many) gay men obsessed with The Smith Brothers — we call them ‘lumbersexuals.’
So what are all these ‘beardos' trying to prove?
(Because it is my contention that they are definitely trying to prove something.)
The clue came to me when I was looking up at a sign for a store in the gay village that sells stuff for ‘men with beards and those who love them.’ The sign said: “Be proud of your beard — it’s what your Dad gave you!”
So it’s all about Dad.
And then I remembered that other era where all the men in North America and Europe had beards. It was called the Victorian era.
You see it’s my theory that the beard equals patriarchy, oppression, and celebration of all things masculine.
I hope you don’t think I’m crazy if I tell you I have great deal of old fashioned affection for the feminine virtues: vulnerability, beauty, grace, tenderness, kindness, etc. And I’m a bit worried that after coming a long way baby — and celebrating women — we may have come to a full stop. I mean even some women these days value all that’s ‘masculine’ over what used to be called ‘feminine.’
So this celebration of Dads and ‘maleness’ just makes me what to puke.
I mean are we going back there again?
To the Victorian era?
Is that why the Christian Right is working so hard to get rid of Planned Parenthood?
Okay, so you may think I’ve gone too far, that I’m reading too much into this whole beard thing.
Maybe I am.
But that doesn't change anything.
I HATE beards.
Saturday, 10 October 2015
The New York Times today featured a review of Ricky Martin’s recent concert in Madison Square Gardens. Martin is singular for — if nothing else — being the only out-of-the-closet gay pop singer of any stature to seriously entertain the notion of having a career.
I suggest, with all good intentions, that he give up now.
Jon Pareles' review of Martin’s work is so subtly laced with homophobic innuendo, that —although it would take someone part culture critic, part detective, to tease it out (i.e., myself) — it nevertheless succeeds in effectively diminishing Mr. Martin’s career to zero.
It’s up to you to decide if it is I who am reading too much into this Ricky Martin review, or if it is indeed the reviewer who is deliberately reading far too much into Ricky Martin.
Pareles starts out innocently enough. He quotes Martin as saying “I’m obsessed with performing.”
Nothing particularly gay there.
Let’s move on.
Pareles then goes on to describe Martin as ‘exultantly boyish.’ This appears innocent on the surface. But I ask you, what grown-up, heterosexual man wishes to exult in boyishness? Is that not more appropriate to a boy band member (which Ricky Martin once was and I’m sure wishes never again to be)?
Pareles goes on to quote Ricky Martin again, this time bringing up Martin’s sexual proclivities in the context of audience response: “In 2010 Mr. Martin told interviewers that he is a ‘fortunate homosexual man.’ On-stage, he was welcomed as an all-around sex symbol. He drew loud female shrieks.”
Ah. So Ricky Martin can breathe a sigh of relief. Although he has admitted quite brazenly to enjoying both anal and oral intercourse with members of the same sex, nevertheless somehow female fans continue to be attracted to him.
Pareles goes on to say that Martin celebrates ‘seize-the-moment-lust’ in his songs. He then quotes Martin saying — “This is the moment where you have to allow yourself to be free!” urging concertgoers to shout — “I don’t care” — and wave their arms upward and downward.
Now the reviewer’s intent becomes clear. This is no ordinary rock concert. It’s something akin to a gay revivalist meeting. Concertgoers have been nothing less than brainwashed into celebrating hedonistic non-monogamous homosexual lust.
Some will contend that since Ricky Martin has discussed his sexuality publicly, it’s fair game for a reviewer to include references to it in an assessment of his work.
There is precedent of course; John Simon once spoked disparagingly of Liza Minnelli’s “desperately uplifted breasts.’ He justified his comments by saying that since Minnelli had proudly displayed her upper body area, he had every right to review it.
I fear that Ricky Martin may have spoken too soon about being a ‘fortunate gay man.’ For unfortunately, like all openly gay musicians, he will most likely end up a fallen pop star.
Thursday, 8 October 2015
There is much outrage over Roland Emmerich’s film STONEWALL.
Outrage in the queer community that is.
I doubt whether any straight people will even see it.
STONEWALL got 9% on Rotten Tomatoes; straight critics have dismissed it. That along with ‘queer outrage’ over the film will probably kill any chance the film ever had of being seen.
That’s a shame. For as it is, it is a damn fine film — and an important one.
First let’s clear the air about what’s wrong with STONEWALL. Yes, it’s definitely a problem that Emmerich chose a pretty white boy to play the pretty white middle-class leading character. It’s also a shame that the movie is a traditionally constructed, sentimental, romantic tearjerker in the old-fashioned Hollywood tradition. In that sense, STONEWALL is certainly no cinematic milestone.
But let’s look at the criticism levelled against it.
CBC news says: ‘Although eyewitness accounts cite black, trans activist Marsha P. Johnson as the instigator of the riot, the trailer for STONEWALL seems to give a fictional, white, cisgender character named Danny with a key role in starting the riots.’
There are several things wrong with this statement. First of all, Marsha P. Johnson was not a ‘trans activist’. She was a drag queen and the founder of an organization for transvestites; there was no such thing as ‘trans’ (in the modern sense of the word) in 1969. Second, no one knows who threw the first brick at the Stonewall riots, and no one ever will, because there is no filmed footage of the event.
So why are queer critics of the film turning Roland Emmerich into our enemy? At worst, he is a well intentioned gay man who has created an important movie that makes the mistake (as so many gay and lesbian films do) of trying to present its radical ideas in traditional, mainstream style.
The theme of STONEWALL is fundamental and significant. The film’s protagonist struggles with an important dilemma — do you change the world through anger and violence, or through gentle, reasoned argument? To Emmerich’s credit (and to the credit of the excellent, unsung, gay screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz) the film unequivocally sides with anger and violence, clearly sympathizing with the drag queens and sex trade workers — the black and hispanic outcasts who radicalize the leading (white character) and turn him into an angry revolutionary.
At last! A film that dares to criticize the middle-of the-road politics that have dominated gay activism since AIDS. A film that dares to imply that although gay marriage is fine and good — it will not clear homophobia from people’s hearts. The message of STONEWALL is that it takes anger and radical action to effect change. STONEWALL says that acting polite, wearing suits, and sucking up to the straights is simply not enough!
Gee whiz, everybody loves ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK even though everyone also knows that the outrageously talented Lea DeLaria should be the lead. But no network would ever dare star a out butch lesbian actress in a TV show no matter how talented she is. Emmerich made the same mistake as the creators of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK —he chose a lead that is palatable to a middle-class movie-going public. So why is he being pilloried for it?
Crazy ‘victim politics’ like this is what killed the Queer Nation movement. It’s what will eventually kill what’s left of gay liberation. We have to learn to pick our enemies. Our enemies are Ted Kruze, The Pope, and Robert Mugabe — to name a few.
Not Roland Emmerich.
Friday, 25 September 2015
Martha Shelley deserves our gratitude for a number of things. First, for being one of participants in the Stonewall Rebellion — an historic riot that took place near the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and marked the birth of modern queer liberation. She also holds the distinction of speaking with singular eloquence (in a speech on September 20) on the political situation of gays and lesbians in North America.
Martha is also one of the founders of the GLF (Gay Liberation Front) in the United States. And her recent speech is a welcome reminder that although gay and lesbian marriage is now legal in the United Stages and Canada, the gay liberation movement has fallen far short of its original goals. Original GLF demands included “reproductive rights for women, freedom to get high, and freedom not to have your ass drafted and shipped to Vietnam. Our demands included an end to racist oppression. They included economic justice.” Martha goes on to remind us that although gay and lesbian activists have secured many civil liberties, they have ignored the original GLF demands and substituted assimilationist rhetoric. And, of course (and perhaps, consequently) reproductive rights for women are still under attack, the United States and Canada still engage in imperialistic wars, we have not seen an end to racism, and the distance between rich and poor gets wider every day.
But there’s another very important way in which Martha Shelley reminds us of our true history. In her statement about the Gay Liberation Front she says: “GLF was a coalition of radical gays from those mainstream organizations, gay radicals from socialist organizations, and street queens and dykes who’d never been organized before.”
Notice the absence of the word ‘trans’ — a term often used to describe participants at Stonewall. Instead of ‘trans’ Martha utilizes the term ’street queens.’ That’s because there were no ‘trans people’ at Stonewall. This is because trans did not exist - in the modern sense of the word — back in 1969. ‘Trans’ simply meant a ‘transexual’ — a person who had undergone gender reassignment surgery.
These days trendy queer theorists suggest Oscar Wilde was not gay because ‘Back in the 1800s there was no such thing as gay.’ So why do people talk about ‘trans people’ at Stonewall when no one was using the word ‘trans’ at that time in its modern, more inclusive definition, i.e. meaning ‘transgender’?
Because those who call the heroic, effeminate, flamboyant men who participated in the Stonewall riots ‘trans people’ are trying to erase drag queens from our history.
Drag queens are getting a bad name. Recently I did a lecture at a high school and mentioned that I was a drag queen. One of the teachers said “You’re very brave to say that.” I asked - “Why?” She said: “ We had a meeting about inviting members of the GLT community to our school, and someone mentioned inviting a drag queen, and a gay member of our committee said it would not be a good idea to invite a drag queen, as he and many other members of the community disapprove of them.”
When I tell queer people that I am a drag queen these days, I often get hostility. Not from feminists (which is where the opposition used to originate) but from gay men, and from some people who identify as transgendered.
But our history cannot and should not be erased. Drag queens were an important presence at Stonewall in 1969; and they are still an important part of our community today.
Thankyou, Martha Shelley, for reminding us that we must never be ashamed of our drag queens!
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
I recently worked with a woman who calls herself a feminist. Now I’ve got nothing against feminists (I know…famous last words!). In fact I consider myself to be as much of a ‘feminist’ as a man could be. Anyway, I was talking to her about a newly released movie that I absolutely adore — Fort Tilden.
You really have to see this film. It’s very funny. Fort Tilden is a critique of the younger generation, and as I’m incorrigibly old, I can’t help but love that kind of thing. Anyway, the film follows two young women in their mid-twenties on their way to meet boys at Rockaway Beach. These gals are amazing — selfish, narcissistic, sexually voracious, cruel, and stupid. They commit many crimes blithely, but most memorably they almost run over a child on their bikes, and drown a nest of kittens, without even batting an eye (‘Oh excuse me, sorry I was…um — texting?!)
When I told my new feminist acquaintance that I loved the film, I said “I suppose the film might be considered sexist. But as a gay man, I just identify with those teenage girls, cuz I kinda am one.”
This drew a blank.
“I don’t get it,” she said.
“Well I’m just saying that I don’t identify as a man. I identify as a boy or a girl, but not a man. So I really felt for these women like some gay men do. And so even though the film might be perceived as dismissive of women, I kinda am a girl — even though I know I’m really not — so I don’t think I was watching it through a sexist lens.
Again, that went over like a lead ballon.
After heavy questioning, I figured out she was a feminist essentialist, meaning that she feels (much like cowboys in the wild wild west used to feel) that ‘men are men and women are women’ and never the twain shall meet. So — although I am an effeminate male and a drag queen — because I have a penis I will always just be a good old fashioned, oppressive, sexist male.
People today have forgotten what it means to be gay or lesbian. Being trans means something. Being a woman means something. But being gay or lesbian means…wha? As rising young filmmaker Chelsea McMullan said in The Globe and Mail today “It’s inevitable that diverse voices in age, race and gender be given more space.” Uh, excuse me, but why isn’t sexuality on those trendy diversity lists straight white people love throwing around?.
It’s our fault really. We gays and lesbians have been so excited about assimilation that the myth — ‘we’re all the same’ has replaced the real truth — ‘we’re all fabulous but also fabulously different.’
Sure, gay marriage is here to stay; but that still doesn’t mean straights everywhere understand guys who bend over and take it up the ass.
It used to be that gay men’s special propensity for anal fun gave us a unique understanding of what it means to be differently gendered and what it means to be promiscuous (never mind the gift of knowing what makes camp funny).
Nowadays gay men like to pretend they don’t take it up the ass (“Please,” sniff — “Sex is just not an important part of my life. Love is.’). And most gay men disavow any special knowledge of promiscuity or femininity.
So, even though homophobia is still there, we have no way to talk about the still unique and sometimes difficult experience of being gay.
So obviously there’s no way I can persuade the feminist who challenged me over Fort Tilden.
Sure, I can say anything I want to.
But these days — since since gays and lesbians are officially no longer a persecuted minority— she has absolutely no cause to believe me.
Friday, 7 August 2015
When I die there will definitely be some people dancing quite openly on my grave — and a lot of them will be gay. That’s because I have expressed many radical opinions and admitted proudly that I am a sexually promiscuous drag queen.
The same cannot be said of Chris Hyndman.
In fact, since his tragic death on August 4th (one that so far has been attributed to sleepwalking off the balcony of the apartment he shared with Steven Sabados) many have stepped forward to publicly mourn Hyndman — who was only 49 years old — and to sing his praises.
I think it’s very important to talk about this.
First let me say that I am very sorry to hear that Chris Hyndman is dead. He was a brave man to come out on television in a homophobic society.
But though the official response to Chris Hyndman’s death may be to praise him, I’ve received a barrage of texts and emails from friends of another kind altogether. Many seem to harbour secret suspicions about the cause of his death. Gay men are all atwitter. I know that I’m not supposed to talk about this; but everyone is. I happen to think that Chris Hyndman’s death is very much wrapped up in our hopes and dreams of who we are as gay people, and attention must be paid — not only to his passing, but to what the gay and lesbian community are making of it.
Why is Chris Hyndman’s death so important to gay men and lesbians, in Toronto (and I suspect, many other places too)? Well, first of all, there are hardly any out-of-the-closet actors in movies or television. So Chris Hyndman cannot help but become — in death — a significant role model for us as queer people, whether he would have wished it or not. There is simply no one else who fits the bill. Secondly, Chris Hyndman and his partner Steven Sabados were a very visible example of a very new cultural phenomena: the married gay couple. And we all know what’s going on in the gay and lesbian community these days. We all imagine that if we can be married, have kids, and lead the ‘perfect’ lives of straight people that we will be loved and accepted by straight people. And especially, by our own parents.
Of course this bid for acceptance is based on a myth. The haters will always hate, no matter how many civil rights we gain (in fact some may hate us more for achieving those rights). But much more importantly, straight people have been getting married for years, and it hasn’t worked out too well for them We still have crime, drug addiction, violence, insanity, rape, suicide, and divorce (lots of it). Getting married is not the solution to our problems; in fact it may cause as many problems as it’s supposed to solve.
What I’m trying to say is, just because Chris Hyndman was on TV, and proudly out, and married to his gay partner, it’s unfair for us to pin all our hopes on him.
He was a brave man to come out in the homophobic entertainment industry. But like the rest of us — married or not —he may not have been perfect.
It might be time to remember that, as a community.
And it’s also time for us to remember, as a community, that if you dance on someone’s grave today, people very well some day end up dancing on yours.
Monday, 27 July 2015
It is astounding that no one is saying this. Trump is the racist candidate for president. And the scandal is that so many American voters are behind him.
Take the statements of Trump’s supporters. They want to ‘take the country back’ and ‘make this country great again’ and ‘inspire Americans to be Americans.’ The question that immediately comes to mind is: who do Trump supporters want to take the country back from? And what— especially these days — is so ‘unAmerican’ about America?
Let’s look at what Trump has to say.
Trump was one of the prime supporters of the ‘birther’ movement five years ago, insisting —against all odds — that Obama was not an American citizen. In March 2011 on Good Morning America Trump said he was a ‘little’ doubtful about Obama’s citizenship. A month later on NBC Trump refused to relinquish this view despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In October 2012, after Obama had released so many copies of his birth certificate that there could in fact be no more reasonable questions about his citizenship,Trump - trying to ferment further skepticism — pledged he would give $5 million to a cause of Obama’s choosing if Obama would publicize his college and passport applications.
In other words, Trump has consistently refused to believe that Obama is an American, simply because Obama is black.
Trump’s recent comments about Mexican immigrants are part and parcel of his racist rhetoric. No matter how many times he says that some of his best friends are Mexican and that there are ‘good Mexicans’ as well as bad, nothing can quite erase the efficacy of the notions that underly his language. Significantly, Trump refers to Mexican immigrants as ‘a tremendous infectious disease pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico, and in fact, for many other parts of the world.”
What is both fascinating and horrifying is that it is possible for an open racist to be taken seriously as a candidate for president in 2015 without anybody calling him on it. Trump cannot run on a platform that says “Lets get rid of the ‘(just insert plural version of n-word here)!’ But he dances around political incorrectness just enough so that some Americans are perfectly willing to accept his views and no one is willing to call him a racist. (Hilary Clinton is only ‘disappointed’ in her ex-‘friend’ Donald.)
I know I’m not supposed to say it, but doesn’t Trump resemble another political candidate — in fact an influential leader — from history?
I know it would be way over the top for me to suggest Donald Trump is Adolph Hitler, so I certainly won’t do that. However, it’s interesting to observe the similarity Trump’s talking points and the Nazi Party’s platform in Germany in the 1930s. Trump believes that his country is being ruined by non-white people and immigrants, by the ‘other’ who have become an ‘infectious disease.’ He is a virulent anti-communist. He also cultivates a dream of his very own version of the ‘Superman’: having little patience for ‘losers’ of any ilk, instead embracing highly personal and unrealistic standards for who a hero might be (witness his dismissal of John McCain’s war record). Like ‘Der Fuhrer,’ Trump is often ridiculed by his rivals; he not so much taken seriously as a threat — but instead dismissed as a clown.
Whether or not Trump becomes president, it should be a warning to us all that he got this far. We denounce fascists and insist that never again in human history will we allow The Holocaust to happen. So what kind of hypocrites are we?
Have we come such a very long way baby?
Could it happen here?
You’re damn right it could.
In fact, it is.
Monday, 20 July 2015
I know some might say — ‘Well I never considered you to be an artist!” or “Who cares?”
My concern here is with what it means to be an artist today, and how that has changed for the worse.
Unfortunately, art has become just another way to sell things in our mega-world. I rarely meet an artist anymore — just smiley, cheery, happy, upbeat people who earnestly yearn to become part of the entertainment industry — while singing a positive song or sending cute youtube vids.
This is especially tragic for young people, who are no longer taught what art is.
How did this happen?
I blame Richard Florida, a nincompoop who has somehow become a widely respected academic — despite the foolishness of his theories. (Richard Florida is — for some unknown reason — The Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and Professor of Business and Creativity at The Rotman School of Management at The University of Toronto!)
I blame Richard Florida, a nincompoop who has somehow become a widely respected academic — despite the foolishness of his theories. (Richard Florida is — for some unknown reason — The Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and Professor of Business and Creativity at The Rotman School of Management at The University of Toronto!)
The Rise of the Creative Class was published in 2002 and changed the way we think about art.
It was the perfect moment. Florida’s silly, badly argued theories changed the western world. The time was ripe, for the 19th century had seen the fall of communism, and the worldwide web had gradually morphed from a mechanism for creative dissent to a effective means of delivering advertising — through Google, Amazon, and iTunes.
Also, the ultra-capitalist Reagan and Thatcher regimes effectively wiped out lefty radicalism. In the 60s (when I grew up) we learned that there was a secular human spirit. We learned that that individual human growth was cultivated through nurturing fellow humans -- advantaged or not, privileged or not -- through play, art and radical thought. When the 80s, came, with AIDS, the 60s not only ended with a dull thud, but ideas about self-realization and the importance of art were rejected as having led to promiscuity and, ultimately death. AIDS was the perfect argument against 60s self-realization.
In the ultra-capitalist post 80s climate it was no longer possible for government or foundation funders to justify the arts on the basis of man's secular spiritual needs, since life was now all about making money and buying things — not something as old-fashioned, silly, and laughable as the growth of the human soul.
So, arts funders, city planners (and finally sadly, today artists themselves) have come to embrace mantras such as ‘arts create jobs’ ‘arts create world-class cities; and ‘arts boost the economy.’
The result is a tragic one, for those of us who once loved art and artists. Young playwrights used to ask me “How do I write a great play?” Now they ask me “How do I write a commercial hit?” Actors don’t care about a ‘the method’ anymore, they care about becoming triple threats. Young theatre companies have learned that bigger is better and want to reach a mass audience as soon as possible.
Of course most contemporary artists are pleased to get humungous grants and create giant spectacles as part of city festivals to promote Toronto. Everywhere you see pretty pictures, ‘audience involvement’ dance experiences, light shows — contentless, unchallenging self-confirming, narcissistic displays. And hey — bring the kids! After all, there’s nothing upsetting going on here!
Whatever happened to vision, challenge, inspiration, confrontation, experimentation, soul-searching, despair, anarchism, socialism, nihilism, skepticism, nakedness, risk, blasphemy, obscenity and the breathtakingly precarious expression of scarifying beauty?
So — just in case you are interested — that’s why I don’t use the term ‘artist’ to describe myself anymore.
Sunday, 19 July 2015
It’s time for some tough talk about Kathleen Wynne.
The recent scandal at Ontario’s legislature concerning the pornography displayed in an Ontario government gallery is more than dismaying; it calls for immediate action on the part of Ontario taxpayers.
Most Ontario parliamentarians passed by the work in the gallery — operated by Kathleen Wynne’s government — without giving it a closer look. But not Conservative MP and Conservative Women’s Critic Laurie Scott. She leaned in to examine it, and she was seriously dismayed.
You may have heard Scott’s name before. Indeed, she has been active in campaigning against human trafficking — that’s the exploitation of Ontario’s teenage girls, many of whom are kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
When Laurie Scott glanced a little more carefully at what was hanging on the wall — a monstrosity that has been promoted as ‘artwork’ — it was immediately clear to her discerning eye (like Elizabeth our queen, Laurie Scott is a horsewoman) that this was not art; it was the exploitation of women. You see, upon close inspection, this painterly mosaic proved to contain tiny pornographic photos of women participating in sexual acts. This is an obscene artist’s trick. The artist’s motives are irrelevant. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding hangs on the wall of an Ontario gallery — and it’s supported by Kathleen Wynne!
Do I need to explain? Pornography exploits women, and women who participate in pornography are victims, exploited by the greedy men who wish to make money off their innocent bodies. Women, as we all know, do not like sex, and do not even like to be reminded that they have sex —which they only do in order to produce babies, which is their proper focus in life — unless of course they are riding horses, or being Women’s Critics, like Laurie Scott.
But can I ask the question — what is really going on here?
For instance, have you taken a close look at the new so-called sex education program in Ontario, a noxious course of study that wants to teach 1st graders that it’s okay to have a same sex partner? It’s okay — yes, for girls to be with girls?
Of course Kathleen Wynne — an admitted lesbian — fully supports this curriculum.
I have it on good authority that Kathleen Wynne actually has spoken to the pornographic so-called artist in question Rosalie Malheux. They may even be friends. (It’s certainly possible. Feminist-lesbian-pornographers tend to hang out together.) The two women may even be related. It is certainly possible that Kathleen Wynne’s great great great grandmother and Rosalie Malheux’s even greater grandfather were related (perhaps by marriage) or certainly might have spoken to each other many years ago.
As critics of the sex education program rightly asked: “What’s next, safe sex with animals?”
It’s a legitimate question, and I think one that needs to be answered.
Sure, some might not find it ‘politically correct’ to criticize a lesbian, but when the lives of our children are at stake, it’s time to take action.
I recommend you write Kathleen Wynne and express your anger over this unabashed exploitation of women masked as so-called ‘feminist’ art.
If nothing else, do it for the sake of the children.
Do it for your little girl.
Saturday, 4 July 2015
I usually don’t do theatre reviews. And this isn’t really a theatre review. That is — I didn’t actually see the show, but I’ve heard so much about it — and I so much share Toronto’s enthusiasm for this fabulous musical — that I just had to tell you about it.
Kinky Boots is amazing from start to finish. The first thing you notice is that the story is all about Lola, a black drag queen. It’s not like Lola is some boring straight character’s sidekick (someone with a lot of invented conflicts and boring ballads). She is the central character in the story and all her songs rock! Kinky Boots is primarily about Lola — her life, her friends, her loves! And you really get to know her drag queen ‘Angels’! At last, a play with a central character that’s gay and a drag queen — something you could only expect from famed gay writer Harvey Fierstein!
But what’s really amazing, and what everybody’s talking about, is the way this deeply radical play gets to the heart of ‘kink.’ It’s not like they called the show Kinky Boots just to lure in a middle class audience and titillate them with something they never deliver. This show delivers the kink.
The opening number is a show stopper. When Lola sings “Don’t Just Take the Piss, Piss on Me!” — you can hear a pin drop. The song begins as a moving ballad — a brave testimonial to the joys of being urinated upon — only to transform itself into a toe-tapping dance number you’ll never forget! And when all of the male ‘members’ of the factory pull out their willies to pee on Lola (and each and every one of her Angels!) the audience spontaneously rises to their feet and gives the show spontaneous and well-deserved applause!
You have to see it to believe it!
The other big number comes at the end of act one, when Lola sings the heart stopping (and quite simply titled) “I Want to Eat your Shit!” I for one, never expected to see a scat song in a Broadway musical — but leave it to Cindy Lauper and Harvey Fierstein to transform subject matter that might shock some into a tune you just can’t get out of your head. And when the big fat factory worker Don squats down and does his ‘business’ (congrats to the props person on this — I think there’s a Dora in the future of this skilled craftsperson!) directly into the mouth of drag queen Lola, it is a moment that will forever change the face of kink! No more hiding in the shadows — scat now finds its home at the heart of a hit musical comedy — and it’s a hit with heart.
Finally, no description of Kinky Boots would be complete without mentioning the final blockbuster number “Sensory Deprive Me — Until I Die Me!” In the final moments of the show a relatively minor character, Charlie (who owns the factory) reveals that he has always wanted to be bound head to foot, wrapped in duct tape, and left to die in a closet. You think such material might be too ‘dark’ for a Broadway musical? Well you’re wrong. Somehow this genius duo — Lauper and Fierstein — make us laugh and cry yet again. And the whole audience rises to its feet once more!
I’m telling you, I’ve never seen a show that is so honest about the human condition — and that has such such power to change lives. Parents bring their kids to the show (which is great, why not)? I overheard one kid say to his parents “I’m never going to get married. When I grow up, I’m just going to find lots and lots of different people to pee on me!” Wow! What a change from Mamma Mia, eh?
As I say, I haven’t actually seen the show. I’m just riding on all the fantastic reviews and joining the general enthusiasm— because, hey, I believe in kink!
You heard it here. Run, don’t walk — to Kinky Boots!
Sunday, 21 June 2015
The recent firestorm over Rachel Dolezal’s identification as black has been a hot topic for one reason only; when you wade through it all, the discussion ultimately serves racism, homophobia, sexism and transphobia.
Witness Margaret Wente’s recent carefully worded column in The Globe and Mail. When she weighs in on Rachel Dolezal it takes Wente awhile to get to her honest and quite vicious opinion: “Not everything is socially constructed, and feelings are sometimes different from reality, and we shouldn’t be afraid of being labelled bigots if we say so.”
In case you didn’t get that (because Margaret isn’t sure she wants you to) this is what Wente is saying: “Come on guys — cut the bullshit. What is all this crap about the ‘social construction’ of race and gender? Caitlin Jenner is a guy, and he always will be a guy because of his chromosome count and the fact that he was born with a penis — and no amount of friggin’ plastic surgery is going to change that. Rachel Dolezal is white because her skin is white. I’m not dumb. I can see it with my own eyes! And don’t call me racist, or transphobic for saying that. You’re just a left wing intellectual nerd and you are full of crap.”
This point of view is incredibly persuasive and unfortunately carries much weight with stupid people everywhere.
Trans theory has embraced the concept of ‘self-identification’ and this is precisely what Margaret Wente and other right wing commentators are so gleefully making fun of. On the contrary, I believe in self-identification. I believe that race, gender, and sexuality sometimes work culturally in different ways, but they all — like every other category which we use to define ourselves — are social constructs. (There is no biological justification for classification by race except for skin colour; and the fact is that that you can have white skin and black parents — and visa versa.) Gender, race, sexuality and ethnicity are all fictions that have everything to do with what we earnestly believe about ourselves, what we deeply feel, and how we are treated by others. This is all the more reason to encourage everyone to take special care to think about ‘who they are’ and ‘who they wish to be’ and to respect those choices, even if we don’t understand them or even agree with them.
But if you believe that race, gender and sexuality are social constructs, then you must simultaneously, and with the same vociferous voice, speak of the notion of privilege.
Though Caitlyn Jenner identifies as a woman and Rachel Dolezal identifies as black, each of them has enormous privilege. I don’t know many trans people who have the money and power that Caitlin Jenner has, and I don’t know many black women who have the choices Rachel Dolezal does.
Similarly, President Barack Obama is somewhat of an Oreo cookie. Yes, he is black, because that is how he identifies himself. But he also has a certain amount of privilege, being raised by his middle-class parents, one of whom was white, and both of whom were university graduates (his father was a Harvard graduate). And, similarly, trans people who are able to pass and get married — and who look like every other straight couple — have enormous privilege. They have every right to identify whatever gender they want, but they also have to recognize that with that right, for some, comes enormous privilege.
The conclusion is — quite disrespectfully — screw you Margaret Wente! And screw you all the bigots who don’t want to be called on their bigotry! Trying to figure out who is ‘really’ trans, ‘really’ black, or ‘really’ male or female, really ‘gay’ or ‘really’ straight is the way of the haters. It is racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic to challenge anyone’s right to self-identify. However, supporting people who self-identify will only work as long as we don’t forget about privilege.
I appreciate that you identify as black, Rachel Dolezal. But you cannot compare yourself with an ordinary black woman because of the overwhelming privilege you accrue from being brought up by middle-class white parents.
Is that really too terribly complicated to understand?