Gay Living TORONTO
Brent Williams Gay Dads So Much Has Changed
Toronto Drag Icon
Sofonda Cox Ask Jeff
Are Open Relationships For Me? OCT/NOV 2016 GayLiving.ca | 1
GayTORONTO Living ISSUE #3 October / November 2016 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Matkai Burmaster
HEAD OF PHOTOGRAPHY Adam Zivo
RESIDENT COMMUNITY COLUMINST Joey Viola
PHOTOGRAPHERS Adam Hart Adam Zivo Alex Roberts Brian Lawrence Greg Rola
RESIDENT DIVERSITY COLUMNIST Andre Goh RESIDENT WRITER: TRAVEL, FOOD & DRINK Andrew McArthur
DESIGNERS Matkai Burmaster Revel Papernick Alex Roberts WRITER Camil Rochon Jeff Reynolds
ON THE COVER Brent Williams by Adam Zivo
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Gay Dads So Much Has Changed
sex families, read them to the class group of 3 and 4 year olds, and discussed the ways we are all different.”
Professional Actor • Editor-In-Chief @ThatGuyMatkai I’ll be the first to admit that I thought I was going to go into this “Gay Dads” adventure to walk out of it having learned about some horrible things that are being done to the kids of LGBTQ parents, but thankfully, I found the opposite - most people are down with queer fathers for the most part. Growing up in a small town, I never met a queer parent and I was never told about their existence. Being gay was an incognito topic that simply wasn’t discussed. And gay parents? Well, I hardly knew that was even a possibility. Then, I owned and operated a drama studio for three years where I felt everyday like I had to hide my sexuality from my students because the parents just wouldn’t understand or they would fear for their children and pull them out of the program. In fact, thinking back, a lot of parents probably wouldn’t have cared. If anything, some education might have just helped the situation and brought change forward. I had the oppotunity to chat with Doug Kerr and Michael Went, the co-owners of Toronto’s longtime queer community staple Glad Day Bookshop and the queer parents of their son Malaki. Doug Kerr mentioned to me a time that he had to educate his son’s peers. “We did have some problems at his daycare. Some of the other kids kept telling him that one of his dads was his uncle and couldn’t be his dad,” Doug explains. “Mike and I spoke to the daycare about it and we were invited to come in and talk about our family. It was a really great day - we brought in books from Glad Day Bookshop about different kinds of families including same-
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It’s interesting to see how even at the young age of 4, stereotypes and preconceived notions are already present in the minds of young students. However, most of these comments come from a place of ignorance and a misunderstanding of the realities. But what about the dads themselves? What’s it like to be a gay father rasing children in a society where LGBTQ families are a minority? “While there are more and more LGBTQ families every year, especially in Toronto, we are still pretty unusual, and I think a lot of society still doesn’t really understand or accept this.” Doug recounts. “The negative reaction by many parents in Ontario to the new sexed curriculum that taught about LGBTQ families was a bit of a shock to me and it shows that we have a ways to go until everyone really accepts that gay people can have kids.” But the issue doesn’t just exist outside the walls of the LGBTQ. In fact, we ourselves, in the queer community can also be ignorant at times so we need to keep ourselves accountable. “We have been parents for just over four years,” says Michael. “The biggest change I have seen is among gay men who increasingly are changing their perspective to believe that we can become fathers.” Michael also acknowledges his race (and the race of his son) in connection to these notions. “The story of negative stereotypes of fathers is particularly true for black fathers. That’s why I was part of a documentary movie called Black Men Loving, showcasing positive stories of black fatherhood in Toronto.” “We want Malaki to be really proud of who he is, proud to have two dads, proud to be Black.” adds Doug. “He’ll have to deal with homophobia and racism eventually, so the more we can make him feel strong in his identities, the better.”
Photography by Adam Zivo
Michael & Doug with their son. Doug and Michael have actively inspired many through a program called Daddies and Papas 2 B that they have regularly helped out at. The program itself is run by The 519 and the Sherbourne Health Centre’s Parenting Network. Every few months, they go and tell other prospective dads their stories and give advice on how to adopt. But that’s not all they do. Doug and Michael are very active in the community and they bring their son to lots of LGBTQ events. “Malaki has been going to Pride Day in Toronto since he was 3” Doug explains. “We always go to the Family Pride area, and we pulled him in a wagon in the parade once.” And their communitu-focussed nature has even started to rub off on Malaki. “This past year he volunteered for the first time at Pride and helped do a skateboard demonstration in the Family Pride zone for his skateboard school.” “Being a father has inspired me to be a better person. I’ve gotten into better health in part so I can keep playing sports with my ac-
tive kid. I’ve learned empathy, patience, and joy through being a dad.” But it hasn’t always been that way. “Of course, when I came out in the late 80s and early 90s, it was pretty unthinkable that as a gay man I’d have kids. There really weren’t any role models back then. So much has changed and it’s been amazing to be a part of this change.” Like always, it seems like there is still work to do for queer fathers in our community and beyond. That change may only come when more gay men step up and become fathers. For now, I think we can sleep well at night knowing that so much has indeed changed. Doug is a nonprofit management consultant and college professor. Michael is a Senior Policy Advisor with the Ontario government. Both are longtime community activists and are also co-owners of Glad Day Bookshop.
Another queer couple, Ted & Garry, with their two sons. @GayLivingMedia #GayDads
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Budding Queer Actor
Evan Spergel Creates Turbulence
Photo & Film Professional • Head of Photography @AdamZivo One of the most noticeable things about Evan Spergel is his calmness. His voice is soft and his reactions are, for the most part, muted. The young actor and writer has a candid air about him. This, alongside a habit of making strong eye contact, makes him seem simultaneously aloof and deeply engaged. He dresses simply, often in black or muted colours, and occasionally takes out a journal to jot notes in -- observations from a conversation, little quotes here and there. He does this inconspicuously and unpretentiously. He’s just finished a short film, “Turbulence”, which he wrote and stars in. The film details the disintegration of a relationship aboard a plane landing in Toronto. Evan plays an artist struggling with his decision to take a conventional job after years of trying to make a name for himself. His boyfriend is a pretentious law graduate, simultaneously cliched and all-too-human. The dialogue is realistic, full of subtext, and breathes life into a concept that’s often poorly explored. The artist character is a counterpart to Evan’s real life experiences, broadly speaking. As a child he struggled with a learning disability and bouts of depression, and developed the self-reinforcing view that he was stupid and incapable. It was only in his early twenties, while studying a performing arts academy, that he grew confident with the help of friends who would become his second family. That period of self-perceived inferiority seems to preoccupy him and loom heavy in his personal narrative. He talks about it easily and often.
It’s easy to be suspicious of projects like this as exercises in narcissism. To some degree Evan recognizes this, though rather than self-absorption his motives are more pragmatic. In a city flooded with talent but occasionally anemic in ambition, artists need to make opportunities for themselves. As for writing a character that is essentially himself, he admits that he writes what he knows best, and believes that artists always impart something of themselves in what they create. The size of that part is irrelevant, so long as it makes good creative ore. While art-as-catharsis has its value, but at its worst it becomes navel-gazing and mistakes the mundane for the profound. If Evan’s film is an indicator of his general talent as an artist, this won’t be the case. Turbulence explores themes that are general enough to apply to most of us, but gives them enough of a personal touch that the message feels unforced. Even if it’s clear from the beginning who we should side with, the film imbues both characters with enough humanity that we can’t help but understand both of them, and a conflict between two people we can empathize with is the essence of good drama.
He hopes to use the film as a pilot for a web series which continues the plot, taking place after his character decides to once again pursue the arts. The plot is still being outlined and written, though it seems to touch on the general tropes of bohemia: freedom from convention and its costs. Frenetically searching for financiers, Evan hopes to make the project work no matter what the budget, figuring that adjustments to the production can be made to reflect the resources at hand.
@evanspergel Photography by Ezekiel Inocencio and Adam Zivo
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A Herstoric Expression
Resident Community Columnist @joeypurple Everybody, everywhere, has a way of expressing themselves. Some sing, dance or write personal accounts that dwindle in the minds of their audience. Some use humour, photography or painting to capture a moment and stimulate a reaction. Some prefer discretion and dance in the shower or do a striptease in the bedroom. Whatever your pleasure, when you express yourself, you share a piece of yourself. You feel liberated and it feels great. The most titillating expressionists utilize their alluring assets; they connect with their bodies on a level other people only wish they had the confidence to. I n today’s society, however, the most underappreciated expressions are and always have been relating to sex. The legendary expression of Drag (at the top of the list and written in rhinestone) being one of them. It would be impossible for me to relay the complete influence Drag has had on society - my column is meant to connect with Toronto’s LGBTQ community on a human level, not to school the children. But in a world where dressing in “gender-specific” clothing catapults you from zero to hero on the stage but the opposite in the streets, I’m happy to shed a stage-light and a Beyoncé-fan on this empowering and gender-bending art form. Toronto Drag trailblazers like ‘The World’s Oldest Drag Queen’ Michelle DuBarry and the late, greats Candace Kelly and Chris Edwards are all innovators who helped pave the way for this city’s entire LGBTQ community - as a whole. And they did it in Drag! “You think walking down Yonge Street in heels is hard nowadays?” Drag influence is rooted, yet it’s hardly credited. The effects on our community (and the world) run deep and the results are always the same - Drag is among the most revolutionary of underground art forms, whether you’re wearing nails, or not. One of the most interesting things about Drag is that you don’t have to know much about it to be drawn to it. I remember being as
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young as five or six years old when I wrapped my blanket around my waist and walked on my tiptoes to simulate high heels. I was a fierce little boy, yasss! But I had no idea what the hell I was doing at the time. I was just having fun. My old-school Italian grandfather caught me in the living room once, my choreo on point. He decided to express himself, too! Apparently, there was no room for “any of that” in his household. This was made clear.I was never treated poorly, ever, but I did feel an ounce of shame. I was definitely pushed to stop… “that”. I wasn’t sure what that was, exactly, not until I was old enough to understand, anyway.So I held back. But when the coast was clear and I knew I was alone, I acted on my strong connection with female empowerment and sexuality. I’d grab a towel and wrap it around my head like hair and whip it around while lip syncing to ‘Madonna - Into The Groove’. I was doing baby drag in my living room and I was damn sure I wasn’t the only one. That invisible barrier between boys and girls and what society chooses for us to play with and grow up to be had never made any sense to me. As a kid, one day I pretended I was Batman in Gotham City fighting crime, the next I was Barbie in Malibu shopping at the mall. And so what? Is that not a form of Drag in and of itself? When I took to social media to ask about what my friends liked about Drag, the running theme was that Drag always put a smile on everybody’s faces. Drag is always happy and it brings people together through performance. This is true, Drag is an exciting burst of energy and it’s sure to turn any frown upside-down. So it is not without joy that Drag stands proud as a literal LGBTQ mascot. They are often heroes among friends and family and the pillars holding up our multi-faceted rainbow. Many of them - true icons. In Toronto, 7 nights a week, 365 days a year, from the West End to the East End, in and outside of the Gay Village, and across the city like wildfire, Drag Queens and Kings take to the stages of our favourite venues for our viewing pleasure. They perform and dance and make a spectacle we love to love. We should thank them as often as we gawk at them. It isn’t easy. And it isn’t for everybody... 2 years ago, I had the balls to do Drag with my partner, Monty. Neither of us had the balls to actually tuck, however, so I wore an appropriate Batman tutu and tight underwear and let the boys play with the girls for the night.Toronto Drag divas Devine Darlin’ and Scarlett BoBo beat our mugs (for 3
Photography by Caitlyn Wilson
hours1) and we performed ‘Destiny’s Child - Survivor’ at our weekly industry party, FML Mondays.I can’t even begin to describe what went into my 3 outfit/wig changes, my mediocre Michelle choreo, and trying to keep my lipstick in check. Everything was so much fun and so much work. A fantastic night filled with drama, dahling! I still get PTSD flashbacks when that song comes on! Drag is an undertaking, to say the very least!
deanna matkai widmeyer burmaster
That night we did Drag, the I-dont-give-a-fuck-who-sees-us-dancing-around-in-lace-front-wigs-and-heels-feeling was a feeling I will ever forget. That experience shattered all ideology of sex-appointed boundaries for me. The fluidity between male and female was only something I’d truly believed after stepping into a female’s shoes. And I mean literally. These performers often dedicate their lives to doing what they love, through negative judgements and persecution, like all artists who have the courage to. And while artists will never truly predict the public’s reaction to their work, they can always plan, coordinate and practice their craft enough to satisfy their own expectations. We are our own worst critics at the end of each day. So the next time you see a Drag performer take the stage - the music starts playing and the lights brighten up - sit back, watch, and learn. They could teach us all a thing or two about passion, confidence, fierce leadership, and how to have a kickass gay ol’ time, no matter what anyone thinks. Because when push comes to shove, if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing drag.
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Brent Williams by Adam Zivo
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“ Know your weight in gold. ”
Brent Williams @_brentwilliams
ZODIAC SIGN Aries HOBBIES Music, writing, and fashion.
AN IDEAL DATE Anything involving a little bit of friendly competition
CELEBRITY DATE Jussie Smollett
GUILTY PLEASURE Superhero/comic book related movies
IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY Start my own business
DREAM BOYFRIEND Is definitely over 6ft
FEELING SEXY IN Anything with rips in it YOUR HERO Definitely my mom DREAM VACATION Someplace warm and tropical FIND HIM AT Mall, movies, or a bar
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Photography by Adam Zivo @adamzivo
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Queen on Fire
Sofonda Cox @sofondacoxto
Photo & Film Professional • Head of Photography @AdamZivo Just outside the Church Village there’s an apartment building. On one of its highest floors, in a hallway that’s drab and anonymous, you’ll find an apartment unlike any other in Toronto. Inside is a nest of costumes, piled up over years: a mess of feathers, glitter, rhinestones, silver, and so on. Buzzing through is Sofonda Cox (né “Jonathan Cruz”), one of Toronto’s most well-known drag queens. A connoisseur of beautiful men, who flock to her like chicks to a hen, she inexplicably seems ornamented by at least two of them at any given moment. Sofonda is known for her extravagant performances. Having spent over a decade honing her style, her shows rarely lack ambition when it comes to costuming and concept. Motivated by an inexhaustible work ethic and strong belief in the need to innovate, she’s become known for incorporating weird, brilliant twists to her shows. Last year she performed as the entirety of Destiny’s child -- as in, all of them -- using mannequins that she manipulated with a system of handheld rods. A video of her performance went viral, netting over one million views as well as media attention both abroad and at home. She followed up this year with a recreation of Beyonce’s Lemonade video, which also went viral. This month she released a Thriller Tribute, created in partnership with a number of other queens who served as her backup in a Church Street recreation of the iconic zombie dance.
@sofondacoxto Photography by Adam Zivo
It’s interesting to note that Sofonda’s work exists in a drag scene in which creativity is generally disincentivized. Toronto is known for its marathon-style of drag, a style in which queens are expected to perform long medleys of songs throughout the night and, by extension, extravagant ideas are impractical. Marathon drag doesn’t completely obstruct local creativity. Special events give queens an opportunity to develop more ambitious performances, and the West Queer West scene is built around shorter, more conceptual performances. Sofonda, though, is unique in how relentlessly she exploits any opportunity for a good show, or, barring that, creates new opportunities to demand our attention. Her work may lack the transgressiveness of the West Queer West scene, but it more than makes up for that in its sheer dedication to fun. Sofonda seems to let her own queerness recede into the background, reading instead as an entertainer whose genderplay is almost incidental. She calls attention to the spectacle of drag -- big, absurd, campy, and theatrical -- blasting away your cerebellum through sheer willpower. Expanding into video content is one of her main ambitions these days. Societally, we consume more video content than ever before, something she notes carefully. Video is in. To stay relevant, you have to find new ways to give people what they want or otherwise fade into mediocrity. Her relentless focus on innovation has helped sustain her career, and even grabbed the attention of some of drag’s most influential personalities. Were it not for an unexpected visa problem, Sofonda would be competing on Ru Paul’s Drag Race -a pinnacle achievement in the drag world. It’s a shame, but she’s been around forever and there’s always next year. For now, she has a thousand other ideas swarming in her head.
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Food & Drink
Closson Chase is
My Kind of Olympics Andrew McArthur
Somelier • Hospitality Professional It’s been a few weeks since the Rio Olympics ended and many of us are still out of breath. Talk about some homoerotic content. I’d say it was sexy if it hadn’t made me so damned ashamed of my own body. Seriously, this article has taken so long to write because I’m literally doing sit-ups while typing. But while our eyes were glued to the high dives and long jumps (olympic power-walking anyone?) we were neglecting another olympics of sorts. A perhaps much more fun competition right here in Ontario. A few weeks back I received a text from my industry colleague and bad influence drinking buddy Tania. It was a pic of a bottle of Closson Chase Chardonnay donning an Olympic style gold medal naming it National Wine Awards of Canada Gold! A wine olympics? Yes, and Closson Chase Chardonnay 2014 was deemed Canada’s best wine. Tania and I didn’t need a wine olympics to know this, we’ve been saying this for years. We drink it everywhere, from the 54th floor of the TD bank tower to a big yellow house in Yorkville. Closson Chase is our go-to wine on any wine list smart enough to include it. And now it seems, Closson Chase Chardonnay is claiming it’s much deserved top spot in the National Wine Awards.
You probably want to know what Ontario’s best wine tastes like. It smells a bit smoky, like flint or burnt match. Blindfolded and not knowing otherwise, I would every time think that this may be Meursault. There’s a slightly vegetal quality and the seemingly growing trend of reductiveness in Ontario wines is faintly evident. Chardonnays signature apple aroma is present, as is citrus. Once in your mouth the feeling is creamy and silky. It’s really incredible,and you’ll find more citrus on the palate than the nose would suggest. Pear and lime zest amidst a lactic warm cream flavour with hints of caramel. Acidity is good too and not just in the lime zest flavour but actual mouth puckering acidity that makes me want food. There is a wet stone minerality reminiscent of Chablis. The wine finishes with great length marked by apple and lime juice, your tongue left with memories of the wines creaminess. There’s really so much happening with this wine. It’s the stony minerality of Chablis, the butteriness of California chardonnay and the earthiness of white Burgundy and all from a Prince Edward County chardonnay. From the bottle art by David Blackwood to the wine in my glass, I could smell, observe, taste and contemplate this wine all day. At $29.95 it’s a steal and hopefully there are one or two more cases left the LCBO. If you can’t bring a bottle home, keep an eye out for this incredibly food-forward wine on restaurant wine lists, or head to the source itself, Closson Chase Vineyards in Prince Edward County (www.clossonchase.com). I didn’t see any coverage of the National Wine Awards of Canada, but I can only assume it lacked much of the blatant sex appeal that drew such high ratings for the Rio Olympics. But even without the speedos, the sideways glances in the hot tub post-diving, and what our imaginations can only speculate went on in the locker rooms, the National Wine Awards of Canada clearly had some sex appeal as well. And I’m certain nothing at the Rio Olympics tasted as good as this Ontario Chardonnay.
QUEER CHOICE Awards VOTING IS NOW OPEN
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Photography by Agberto Guimaraes
Kevin Asks About
Open Relationships Jeff Reynolds Psychotherapist
I have lived in Toronto for going on twenty-eight years now as a person and as a psychotherapist. What better way to give back what I have learned over thirty years, teaching, and being a community therapist, than accepting this opportunity to write a column as to reach out to those most needing it; those needing a friend (even on paper); and maybe going on to guide those who can use further help. I may help you, I may guide you to help, and I may even just empathize with what you are going through. I will not have all the answers you seek, but I’ll do my best to search them out for you. But please remember that a column does not replace seeking professional help if you feel that might be right for you. The process is simple. You pose a question of concern to you. And I will answer to the best I can. And so here we go…
Kevin, 32, asks
“Dear Jeff, my boyfriend of 2 years wants to start exploring an open relationship but I am not sure how I feel about it. I think it could be fun, but I am worried that I will be jealous or that my boyfriend will leave me. Is there a way to have an open relationship and still ensure that my boyfriend and I stay together and in love with each other?” Hey Kevin, Well my friend, in this case it’s all a bundle of odds. You say this is your boyfriend who wants to open the relationship? First you need to ask yourself is this to enhance your great sex life or is it to save it? How has sex between the two of you been lately. Good, o.k., so-so? Was this subject brought up over breakfast cheerios in the morning kinda thing or a serious heart to heart ‘true’ talk? Is there a known guy you both know? Or is this just open door? Having fun in an open well discussed sharing is great. But hold on a second? Let’s take your feelings into account there Kevin, things like worried, jealous, and the ugly ‘L’ word sound big, and I mean BIG warning chimes to me for you.
Give you an example. On a camping trip, my friend was fit to be tied! Her and her partner had decided to try said deal. My friend found out the two others were fooling around on the side as well and were shacking up. I quietly asked my friend what the contract between all three of them were. “What contract?” she demanded. I quietly put a log on the fire and poured her a stiff drink before I talked. When you open up your twosome to a threesome. You add a whole kindle of fish! And, hopefully understanding and accepted rules of play. But Kevin read what you write my friend? “but I am worried that I will be jealous or that my boyfriend will leave me. Is there a way to have an open relationship and still ensure that my boyfriend and I stay together and in love with each other?” Kevin, I wish I could say differently but the answer is NO! There are no guarantees’, period! My advice if this means something to you and your feeling means something to your boyfriend. Book a session with a sex therapist or such to talk out this issue. And also talk your own feelings over with a good friend or a professional about your own fears. The Warmest of Wishes and Support Kevin!
Have a sex or relationship question to Ask Jeff?
Email your question along with your first name and your age to email@example.com and your question may be answered in the next issue of Gay Living.
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FIERTE MONTREAL PRIDE
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STEAMWORKS CAR WASH
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SCOTIABANK AIDS WALK
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