IN MAGAZINE: January/February 2022

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WHAT’s yours? Is it time to rethink your treatment options? JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2022

DOVATO.CA DOVATO is dolutegravir + lamivudine in one pill

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104 Issue 104 January / February 2022 INFRONT

05 | 5 OF OUR FAVOURITE LGBTQIA+ BEAUTY AND GROOMING BRANDS We have had a long-standing influence over the beauty and grooming industry B:11.25"


07 | THE DOWN-LOW ON ADAPTOGENS What are they, and should you be adding them to your diet? 08 | THE ENDLESS COMING OUT Coming out of the closet is a process that never ends – and it has to come at a time of your own choosing

10 | MY HQ, MY HEALTH A conversation about STI and HIV testing and the new Toronto community health centre for guys and trans people who are into guys 11 | CANADA’S STRUGGLE WITH THE HIV EPIDEMIC Preventable and treatable…in 2022, why is HIV still rising in Canada?

“I want to be able to put a new and real face to a person who’s living with HIV,” says Donald Turner about HIV in View, a royalty-free photo gallery featuring images of real people living with HIV that was launched by ViiV Healthcare and Shutterstock Studios

16 | YOUTH IN CANADA ARE TAKING THE LEAD ON HIV AWARENESS AND PREVENTION CANFAR expands its social network to go further in raising awareness and preventing HIV in Canada among at-risk youth ages 15-29 17 | ALL EYES ON 2022 Xavier Dolan makes his mark on the small screen, and content celebrating diversity streams online. Here are six eye-openers worth waiting for 20 | SOCIAL DISCOURSE: THE TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT When do comments go too far? When does accountability go too far? 22 | THE RISE OF THE CHAOTIC GAY CELEBS What’s going on with the gay celebrities now gracing our screens? 24 | THE TEAR FACTOR Whether sad tears or happy tears, when it comes to matters of the heart, there will be tears

FEATURES 12 | 10 BLACK QUEER-OWNED CANADIAN BUSINESSES TO SUPPORT Show these brands, businesses and queerpreneurs some love 14 | THE NEVER-ENDING QUESTION: WHAT IS OUR COMMUNITY EXACTLY? I don’t understand how part of gay culture became being mean, rather than being supportive of one another

26 | THE PLACE & TIME IS NOW Stars of Broadway shine a spotlight on underrepresented segments of the queer community

28 | MEET THE DESIGNER BEHIND SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE CANADIAN DRAG QUEENS’ MOST SICKENING LOOKS Dianna DiNoble, designer to the queens, opens up about her fashionable career 42 | STAYING GAY IRL IN THE METAVERSE In some countries, staying in the metaverse is a way of avoiding assault and harassment… but it will never provide the serendipity that makes life exciting 44 | GENDER NONCONFORMITY IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN YOU THINK That’s shown by a brief history of hijra, India’s third gender 47 | WHICH WAY TO THE BEACH? Start planning now for your sand-in-yourpants tour of the world’s most amazing beaches. You’ve put off your tan long enough! 50 | FLASHBACK: JANUARY 17, 2017 IN LGBTQ+ HISTORY Gabrielle Tremblay becomes the first transgender woman actor to be nominated at the Canadian Screen Awards FASHION


32 | STORM INTO WINTER Brave the cold weather in style by slipping into these must-have new styles

3 PUBLISHER Patricia Salib GUEST EDITOR Christopher Turner ART DIRECTOR Georges Sarkis COPY EDITOR Ruth Hanley SENIOR COLUMNIST Paul Gallant CONTRIBUTORS Jesse Boland, Mathieu Chantelois, Tristan Coolman, Adriana Ermter, Noel Hoffman, Karen Kwan, Paul Langill, Luis Augusto Nobre, Ivan Otis, Sikha Panigrahi, Paul Pereira, Dr. Caley Shukalek, Guillaume S. Togay L. de Varennes, Julia Valente, Doug Wallace, Jaime Woo, Adam Zivo DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND SPONSORSHIPS Bradley Blaylock DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS Jumol Royes CONTROLLER Jackie Zhao

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IN Magazine is published six times per year by The Mint Media Group. All rights reserved. Visit daily for LGBTQ content 180 John St, Suite #509 Toronto, Ontario, M5T 1X5






OF OUR FAVOURITE LGBTQIA+ BEAUTY AND GROOMING BRANDS We have had a long-standing influence over the beauty and grooming industry By Adriana Ermter

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

It’s safe to say that the beauty and grooming industry has undergone a long-overdue makeover since David Bowie drew on a little guyliner in the ’80s. While hetero-stereotypes remain, there’s a new ease and confidence with which beauty and grooming brands can now openly identify with and connect to LGBTQIA+ communities.

Topics such as covering a five o’clock shadow, embracing male baldness as beautiful, and spritzing perfume for its scent rather than its feminine or masculine notes are becoming more commonplace as queer-friendly brands make their presence known. Here are a few of our favourites…




FOR TRANSGENDER WOMEN: JECCA BLAC Why we like them: Television and film makeup artist Jessica Blackler is the founder of this line, which is not only vegan and cruelty free, but gender free. What started as YouTube-based makeup tutorials teaching transgender women how to properly and expertly apply foundation, eyeshadow, blush and more has, since 2015, morphed into a full-blown makeup brand. Currently, Blackler is a transgender-community advocate hosting makeovers at the London Transgender Clinic, with a portion of her proceeds going towards Mermaids UK, an organization supporting genderdiverse and transgender children and youth. Must-try product: Correct & Conceal Palette. This hero item, the brand’s first offering, covers blemishes and beard shadows for a flawless finish.


FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: NOTO BOTANICS Why we like them: The brand is committed to self-identification and expression, and to the environment. Noto’s website states, “Self identity should be fun, radical, unique and protective to the environment and our communities,” while its founder, Gloria Noto, is quoted on the site saying she created her line of small-batch, vegan, clean and gender-fluid, multi-use skin and body products to “celebrate queer bodies, nonbinary bodies, trans bodies, and more BI-POC bodies.” Noto also puts her money where her mouth is, donating more than US$25,000 of her products’ proceeds to the LGBT Youth Center LA, the Okra Project and more. Must-try product: Agender Oil. Fuelled with hemp seed oil, vetiver and lavender, this hair and skin product promotes hair growth, while calming and soothing whichever body part, from head to toe, it’s massaged into. Plus, its subtle, herbal, smoky scent is addictively good.

FOR MAKEUP: M.A.C COSMETICS Why we like them: They’re rooted in Canadian cosmetics history. Since their debut in 1985, M.A.C Cosmetics has retained their status as one of the first beauty brands to break down makeup barriers, remaining loyal to the LGBTQ+ community. Initially created by Canuck co-founders Frank Angelo and Frank Toskan as a pro makeup line for both female and male models, the brand has long since been the go-to spot to shop for makeup, with wearable hues for all genders and skin tones. With the tagline “all ages/all races/ all sexes,” today the label is as renowned for its cult following as it is for its progressive and often cheeky ad campaigns, which have featured RuPaul, Lady Gaga, Queen Latifah and many more. Must-try product: Viva Glam 26 lipstick. This new, limitededition, fiery red matte lipstick is both bold and meaningful. Every single cent of each lipstick’s sales goes towards supporting the company’s AIDS Fund.



FOR MEN’S SKIN AND SCALPS: MANTL Why we like them: They’re honest about hair loss for men. According to the Canadian Dermatology Association’s website, 50 per cent of men are affected by male pattern baldness, which can negatively impact self-esteem. While many brands gloss over that fact, Mantl addresses scalp and skincare issues head on to empower all men. Founded by television’s Queer Eye star Karamo Brown, the California-based brand promotes hair-loss acceptance while demolishing negative stereotypes through website statements such as “bald is fearless” and “we choose to build community.” Must-try product: Invisible Daily SPF 30. The gel-based formula absorbs easily and quickly into skin and scalp to protect against the sun’s harsh UVA and UVB rays. Plus, it doesn’t leave a chalky or sticky residue. FOR FRAGRANCE: SIGIL SCENT Why we like them: Since 2015, Sigil Scent’s queer founder and perfumer Patrick Kelly has been mix-mastering gender-neutral fragrances inspired by ancient and esoteric traditions, such as purification and dissolution, the spirit of the soul and the circle of life. With a motto on the website that states, “We believe fragrance has no gender, and your choice should be based purely on personal preference,” inclusivity is clearly at the heart of this brand. Must-try product: Prima Materia Eau de Parfum. This intense blend opens with fresh citrus, sweet neroli blooms and herbal sage before being absorbed into an elixir of earthy oak moss and woody vetiver. The overall effect is sparkling and warm, grounded yet effervescent.

ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.




On Adaptogens What are they, and should you be adding them to your diet? By Karen Kwan

Are you feeling out of sorts and more stressed, or tired and anxious? Perhaps you’re finding it hard to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, or feeling the pressure of adopting new habits with your New Year’s resolve to achieve your goals. Adaptogens could solve your malaise – at least, that’s what proponents and any number of trendy wellness companies say. These natural remedies have been steadily gaining popularity – prettily packaged beverages, powders and teas, in appealing pastel hues, promising to improve your health. But what exactly are these on-trend players in the wellness sphere? Adaptogens are plants such as herbs, mushrooms and roots that are said to provide a wide array of health benefits (everything from helping you sleep to relieving stress), and they’ve long been part of Chinese and Ayurvedic healing remedies. Adaptogens purportedly boost your health by helping your body manage how it responds to physical, biological or mental stress. When we experience stress, the body responds by going through general adaptation syndrome, which is composed of three stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. What adaptogens do is get the body to remain longer in the resistance stage. Instead of falling quickly into the exhaustion stage, your body is protecting itself by helping you achieve balance; with this balance, you can move forward past the stressor. This balanced state is referred to as homeostasis. And by being better able to cope with stress, with this balanced state your overall health improves.

work? While there are many claims and proponents of adaptogens, the research is not conclusive; studies have been on a small scale and focused on animal subjects or cell samples. As you should do before trying any new treatment, talk to your doctor first. Some herbals have contraindications. Once you have your doctor’s recommendation, be sure to follow the recommended dosage. If you’re unsure of the dosage you should be taking, speak to a naturopathic doctor, who can also recommend how to adjust the dosage based on your needs. An ND can also help you with planning when to take your personal adaptogen lineup; if an adaptogen has a stimulating effect, such as red ginseng, for example, it should be taken early in the day. While more research does need to be conducted on the benefits of adaptogens, most doctors believe they are unlikely to cause any serious side effects (although being a plant, they could potentially cause an allergic reaction or upset stomach). If you’re in the midst of a particularly chaotic period and are curious about whether adaptogens can help, talk to your doctor for advice.

Given that stress is at the root of many health concerns – including low immunity, insomnia and digestive problems – adaptogens are also thought to help with these common issues. While some adaptogens may be unfamiliar to you (ashwagandha, for example, is an evergreen shrub that is said to help with anxiety), others, such as certain types of ginseng (long believed to be an immune booster), are more well known. But before you start incorporating adaptogens into every part of your diet, is there evidence that these herbal pharmaceuticals actually

KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.




COMING OUT Coming out of the closet is a process that never ends – and it has to come at a time of your own choosing By Luis Augusto Nobre

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a while since I realized that I would never stop coming out of the closet. And, yes, this probably won’t be the first or last time that you will read about it. Coming out of the closet is an ongoing process, and it could be a good or bad experience depending on where and when you need to say “I’m gay.” By the way, the word “gay” here encompasses all the letters in the acronym that represents all 2SLGBTQIA+ community members. For all of us, the coming out journey will be different and personal, and with potential traumas and risks. I wish it could be as simple as the “coming out” process for straight or heterosexual people.


The idea of sharing these words with you in this magazine came during an interview for a podcast a few months ago. The conversation was recorded before Coming Out Day, usually celebrated in Canada and the US in October; however, you should keep in mind that being gay is still illegal in more than 70 countries (in some countries, it means the death penalty or life in prison). Answering those questions about my own process, self-acceptance and family support just put several spotlights on my lived experiences. I had to revisit both my good and bad memories, but they also reminded me of who I am now, and what kind of world I want to live in. Maybe you, like me, are struggling with your own issues about your life, career, relationships, family, raising children.… And we know how challenging it is just to be us in the privacy of our homes. We have witnessed how society and the job market are changing, but being openly gay can still activate barriers and stunt our professional development. Even if we don’t witness this with our own eyes, a few studies are in progress that show these obstacles. I have been there a couple of times myself, hitting those walls and losing employment opportunities. These barriers don’t come only from the professional side: they also impact different aspects of our lives (housing, health, civic rights, etc.). Many of us choose what we feel is the right time to disclose some aspects of our own identity, and choose whom we will tell (when we feel safe in the workplace or whatever environment we are in). If it takes time for someone to take that step, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is pretending to be someone else or denying themselves. It could be self-protection, as we have to be in alert mode all the time for the sake of our own integrity. If not, we could

be putting ourselves in danger, experiencing 2SLGBTQIAphobia and violence. The most recent data about transphobia shows a seven per cent increase in reported murders around the world in 2021 compared to 2020. The fear of becoming the next victim is constant, and a simple visit to the dentist could be a trigger. The “elevator conversation” we have about our personal life while the dentist is working away can be more uncomfortable than the noise from the drill. People generally want to talk and to know more about us, but they just assume who we are based on some answers and words sandwiched in between “close a bit, open more, turn to the left, spit.…” Also, not using gender-neutral language is pretty common, as are questions raising gender identity or sexual orientation issues. Our answers could change the treatment we receive, and lead us into a more vulnerable situation. I for one have seen many surprised faces when I share some aspects of my identity. As I mentioned, people just assume. You might have experienced that in different places and with different people, but the feelings are probably similar. The vulnerability is there! I always have the impression that I’m playing Sea Battle but with life-threatening consequences. I tend to over-analyze words and movements as if I could send a missile towards my own fleet. I struggle with that when I come out through my words or actions: holding my husband’s hand, wearing any rainbow accessory, talking about work, anything. Being gay is part of my identity and has the same importance as my other characteristics, so much so that I destroyed my closet, figuratively speaking. I simply didn’t have space for it in my life anymore. However, I still may need to wear an invisibility cloak now and then, to hide myself when I don’t feel safe. I feel ashamed when I have to wear it, but I am aware of the importance of being a wallflower when necessary. It’s the choice between what is right and what is easy. Being in survival mode myself, I cannot imagine how hard it is for other folks. Those experiences helped me to learn that everyone has to choose their own time to share about themselves, even with people from the same letters, groups or communities. I stopped assuming people’s identities a while ago. Until they feel comfortable coming to me, I just read the room, try to mirror their language, use neutral language, Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash




and avoid some topics to put them in the spotlight. Although my strategy creates space, maybe it doesn’t create time and opportunity. Who knows when it will happen, but I will continue supporting that person to feel proud of who they are and to take the next steps in their life. Maybe my attitudes are inspired by an essay that I had the pleasure of reading a few years ago about a mother sharing her experience with her 10-year old son. During dinner, he asked to talk to her and shared that he was a straight boy. He had learned in school that some other kids were coming out to their parents, and he felt the need to do the same with his sexuality and tell his mother. She wrote about her surprised reaction, how challenging it is for children to be in a trusted environment to come out to their parents

regardless of their own sexuality, and how parents lack knowledge in dealing with their children in those situations. I wish that I had had that conversation earlier in my life. Certainly, I would be a different person and would be walking a different yellow brick road to find a “place” to call home. We are the owners of our journeys to be comfortable in our own skins. In the same way that I learned I will continue coming out, I have also learned that there is still time to pursue happiness. It doesn’t matter if you come out late in life or not, because there aren’t rules for that. Say it when you feel ready, when you feel safe, when you feel loved or in love. Say it to yourself as many times as you need it. It might not be easy, but know that you deserve to live a happy and authentic life.

LUIS AUGUSTO NOBRE is the marketing and communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit



My HQ, My Health A conversation about STI and HIV testing, and the new community health hub for cis guys who are into guys, and all trans and nonbinary people in Toronto

HQ is a new community health hub for cis guys who are into guys, and all transgender and nonbinary people, which is coming to downtown Toronto early in 2022. We spoke with John McCullagh, one of the people behind HQ, to talk about the hub and some of the services it will offer.


Why do we need a health hub such as HQ? Toronto is Canada’s most populous city, and home to the country’s largest population of gay, bi and queer guys, as well as a vibrant trans and nonbinary community. Yet, it’s also one of the only major cities in North America without a centre of excellence dedicated to providing integrated health services for cis guys who are into guys, and all trans and nonbinary people. For those of us in these communities, one bad experience in a healthcare setting can discourage us from accessing the care and supports we need, when we need them. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We should be welcomed with a smile and immediate access to competent, caring support. No judgment. No lecture. This is exactly what HQ provides. How will HQ be different? We are bringing clinical and community partners together to offer services in an inclusive, warm and accessible environment that will offer a culturally competent approach that truly puts first the needs of cis guys who are into guys, and all trans and nonbinary people. Located in the heart of Toronto at the corner of College and Bay, it will be a welcoming, sex-positive, shame-free, stigma-free space; a one-stop shop where people can get their sexual, mental and social health needs met holistically. This includes express HIV and STBBI [sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection] testing with same-day results and treatment, mental health assessments, social programs, and more. We are taking care and making our best efforts to ensure that people visiting HQ see themselves reflected in the staff and volunteers providing and facilitating our programs and services. Tell me about some of those programs and services. One of the most innovative, and we believe transformative, services will be our express testing program that facilitates faster diagnosis of STIs and HIV, and immediate initiation of treatment if needed. This rapid, drop-in program will offer our clients control, convenience and choice in when and how to get tested, in accordance with their own sexual practices and sexual health needs. Innovation will empower people to conduct self-swabs for certain STIs, if they are comfortable doing so. TV screens embedded into 10


single-stall washroom mirrors will play a short video on how to safely perform self-swabs, place them in a sterile specimen cup, and hand to staff for assessment at HQ’s state-of-the-art on-site lab. This lab is a vital component of the HQ express testing care model, allowing people to get their results by text message, email or phone within a few short hours. Those who test positive for HIV or an STI will be immediately linked to a physician for compassionate care and treatment. Those who are at risk for HIV infection will be offered PrEP, a medication that helps to protect them and their sexual partners. Those not using PrEP and who are concerned about a possible HIV infection will be able to get immediate access to PEP, pills that can help to prevent HIV if taken within 72 hours of exposure. You mentioned that HQ will be offering mental health care. Tell me more about that. Integrating mental health care alongside sexual health services will reduce the stigma associated with seeking care for mental health, and make access easier. We know that many cis guys who are into guys, and trans and nonbinary people, experience loneliness, anxiety, depression and challenging substance use. We also know that these individuals may have experienced childhood trauma and intimate partner violence. Supported by partner clinicians and agencies, HQ will offer free access to safe, reliable, culturally competent, and evidence-based counselling support for the diverse community of individuals we will serve. Using a stepped-care approach to matching people with the intensity of care they need, we aim to provide the right care at the right time for each individual, with the goal of reducing waitlists. What about social and spiritual wellness? HQ aims to be a place where our clients build community, share knowledge, and connect. We and our partner agencies will provide programming to meet the community’s social and spiritual needs. Programs like yoga, meditation, poetry readings and book clubs, and ceremonies for Indigenous and two-spirited peoples, are just some examples.

For more information, visit or follow HQ on social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @MyHQToronto.

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Canada’s Struggle With The HIV Epidemic

Preventable and treatable…in 2022, why is HIV still rising in Canada? By Dr. Caley Shukalek

Every year, more and more people in Canada are living with HIV – a result of continued transmission of this preventable virus. While HIV itself does not discriminate, certain populations like LGBTQ2S+ communities have higher rates of infection than do their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. It is estimated that in 2018, more than 62,000 people in Canada were living with HIV, but only 87 per cent of them were aware of their HIV status. In the same year, 2,516 new infections were diagnosed, an 8.2 per cent increase from 2017. This is in spite of the Canadian government’s commitment to end transmission and achieve the World Health Organization (WHO)’s “90-90-90” goal: 90 per cent of all people living with HIV know their status, 90 per cent of those diagnosed receive antiretroviral treatment, and 90 per cent of those receiving treatment achieve viral suppression. Two years after the deadline, Canada has not yet met these goals! To achieve these targets, the Canadian government needs to focus on three key principles: testing, treatment and prevention. Testing Knowing your HIV status is empowering and offers the opportunity to either treat it or prevent future infection. To learn your HIV status, you need to be tested at a clinic or lab after speaking with a healthcare professional. The introduction of commercially available self-testing in late 2019 puts more power in the hands of patients, but with the exception of some community agency access, it is not yet easily acccessible, and cost is also a barrier.

recommended for sexually active people, but evidence and my own clinical practice have not demonstrated success through these methods alone because they do not meet people where they are (i.e., not harm reduction). This is why PrEP is so important! PrEP prevents HIV through the use of medications that were originally developed to treat HIV. Two drug combinations are currently approved in Canada for PrEP: • T enofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine (commonly referred to as Truvada; available as a brand-name medication as of 2016 and later in generic form) • T enofovir alafenamide and emtricitabine (marketed as Descovy; available as a brand-name medication as of 2020; generic form not available) Both medications are equally effective at preventing HIV infection (up to 99 per cent when taken daily), and are extremely well tolerated and safe, with evidence suggesting that Descovy has a lower risk of side effects to both bones and kidneys. Of course, PrEP requires a prescription and access to health services – in particular, affirming health care. For those lucky enough to live close to an inclusive prescriber, in-person health services can facilitate access to PrEP. Fortunately, online prescription of PrEP – already common in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom – has been available in some Canadian provinces since 2020 and this offers convenient access to PrEP.

Treatment PrEP access can also be quite costly. Some Canadian provinces For those living with HIV, modern HIV treatment is generally – Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan – offer PrEP free well tolerated and limits the effects of the virus. It also completely to eligible persons. All other provinces have variable coverage eliminates sexual transmission (Undetectable=Untransmittable; based on age, income, and private insurance requirements that U=U). All provinces offer some cost coverage for these limit or restrict access to this important HIV prevention strategy. medications, but the amount covered varies province to province, as does access to experienced, patient-centred care. Despite advances in medicine and initiatives of some governments and providers, HIV transmission continues as a result of inaction Prevention in ensuring accessible testing, treatment and prevention strategies. For those who test negative for HIV, avoiding sexual As a provider and expert in this field, I intend to continue to transmission can include many strategies, such as behaviour advocate for and work towards improved access to affirming modification, condoms, and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis sexual health services, and will continue to hope that funding (PrEP). Counselling about HIV risk and condom use is strongly bodies, like the government, can end HIV transmission.

DR. CALEY SHUKALEK is the medical director of Freddie, a virtual service that is making HIV PrEP accessible and inclusive through virtual care, as well as clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services with clinical and research focused on the treatment and prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections and on the healthcare experiences of sexual and gender minority persons.



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Show these brands, businesses and queerpreneurs some love


By Jumol Royes

Can you name a homegrown brand or business in your community that’s Black queer-owned and queer-operated? If names don’t roll easily off the tongue, it’s not because these businesses don’t exist. They just rarely receive the recognition they rightly deserve.

applauded for their work. But they aren’t Black and LGBTQ2S+ specific. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a guide to help you discover businesses at the intersection of Black and queer without having to go searching for them?

To be clear: ground-breaking initiatives like the 15 Percent Pledge, which calls on major Canadian retailers to grow their share of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) brands to at least 15 per cent, and Black Designers of Canada, the first-ever comprehensive Canadian index celebrating Black excellence in design, should be

You asked, we answered. We’ve compiled a list of 10 Black queerowned businesses across Canada. From fashion labels to patty shops, there’s something for everyone. One caveat: this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s a starting point. So look up their websites and show these brands, businesses and queerpreneurs some love.

L’Uomo Strano Little Rainbow Paper Co., Toronto Calgary This very-queer, Toronto-based fashion brand is on a mission to If you’re looking for a little something extra to brighten your day, “create affirming wardrobes for gender-nonconforming folx and look no further than the Little Rainbow Paper Co. This Black-owned their allies.” Founded by Mic. Carter, a nonbinary Black designer, LGBTQ2S+ stationery brand based in Calgary carries queer and the brand’s ethos is grounded in social justice, and many of the quirky greeting cards, enamel pins and novelty goods for everyone, pieces can be shopped online or rented short-term (be sure to check with a commitment to serving the LGBTQ2S+ community. The out the colourful and queerful creations featured in their Spring/ owner-operator, illustrator and artist Heather Hansler, strives to Summer 2022 collection). Word on the street is that Hollywood “reflect, affirm and celebrate all the ways we humans know how to Jade and Vivek Shraya are super fans. live, love and be.” Giving back is baked into the brand’s philosophy: one per cent of each purchase is donated to organizations supporting Toni Marlow, LGBTQ2S+ folks and Black women. Toronto Toni Marlow bills itself as more than just an underwear brand. It’s Queeriosity, an innovative, gender-inclusive undergarment company founded in Toronto 2015 by Jaymin (Jalisa) Luces-Mendes, a Black queer entrepreneur. Queeriosity is an LGBTQ2S+ social card game that “taps into the Products are produced locally in Toronto and include T.O.M. (time fun, the wholesome and the wild parts of the queer experience.” of month) period boxer briefs, Packer Boxers, and Boy Shorts Black and trans created, owned and operated by Eli Holtz and designed for women, trans men and nonbinary people. Toni Marlow Kai Jospeh, two BFFs from Toronto, Queeriosity is all-inclusive donates $1 from each product sold to Friends of Ruby in support and questions can be personalized to make them more relatable of suicide prevention and awareness. to individual players. The game includes 110 cards covering six categories to play with friends or dates, in person or over Zoom. Goodee, The goal? Creating meaningful connections with other queer people. Montreal Goodee is a curated marketplace where good design meets good Elbo Patties, purpose, offering sustainable housewares and lifestyle products Vancouver for better living. It was founded by Montreal-based twins Byron Who doesn’t love a good patty? In Vancouver, Elbo Patties is the and Dexter Peart, two designer brothers who know what it takes to perfect pit stop to fuel up and get your patty fix. Their handcrafted build a global brand (see Want Les Essentiels de la Vie). Bestsellers Jamaican patties are available for pickup and special events in a on their e-commerce platform include the Canopy Self Watering baker’s dozen or 50/50 dozen box with fillings like wild mushroom, Planter crafted from recycled glass. The Peart brothers live in jerk chicken, spicy beef, vegan spicy beef and garden chili. Coco the same building, one designed by renowned architect Moshe bread, chutneys and sauces are also on the menu. Owner and Safdie – Dexter with his wife and two daughters, and Byron with culinary master Christopher Boreland, a.k.a. “Your Fav Auntie,” is his husband – proving that good design is a family affair. a queer Black man serving queer Black joy one tasty bite at a time. 12



Michelle Osbourne & Co., Quebec City Michelle Osbourne may have many titles, but your average CEO is not one of them. The communications specialist, multi-disciplined educator, change agent and content creator is the principal of Michelle Osbourne & Co., a boutique communications consulting studio that helps marginalized communities build socially conscious brands. She’s also the creative director of Project Femme Noire, a photo series that celebrates women of colour in Quebec City. Osbourne is a queer Black woman and proud parent who champions diversity, equity and inclusion all day, every day. Gloria C. Swain, Toronto If art has the power to change hearts and minds, Gloria C. Swain is making the world a better place one piece of art at a time. A multidisciplinary artist, activist and mental health advocate, Swain (more affectionately known as Auntie Gloria) uses her artwork to challenge systemic oppression against Black women and trans folks. Her art has been exhibited across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Manitoba. When she’s not busy creating art or facilitating arts-based workshops for marginalized communities, you can find Swain dropping it like it’s hot on the dance floor at local queer events. Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, torontokikiballroomalliance Toronto For many young BIPOC members of Toronto’s LGBTQ2S+ community, the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance is their chosen family. The alliance is a group for queer youth who embrace ballroom culture, and its mission is to “provide LGBT+POC (People of Colour) youth with opportunities and activities that build positive relationships, strengthen the community-at-large and develop their self-esteem and confidence.” Co-founded by Twysted Miyake-Mugler, a gay Black man and one of the biggest names in Canada’s vogue ballroom scene, the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance creates a safe space for youth to show up and show out as their authentic selves.


Franyz Hair & Aesthetic, Halifax Frances Dadin-Alli knows a thing or two about hair. She’s a passionate and professional hairstylist and the owner of Franyz Hair & Aesthetic in Halifax, specializing in Afro-textured hair. But this busy entrepreneur and self-described alpha femme lesbian has more than one business in her portfolio: she’s also the owner of Franyz Nigerian Cuisine and Franyz Entertainment. Dadin-Alli immigrated to Canada from Nigeria in 2010 to pursue post-secondary studies at Dalhousie University, and last year, she was elected chair of the Halifax Pride board of directors. Here’s to Black queer girl magic. JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-area storyteller, communications strategist and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol and on Instagram at @jumolroyes.




I don’t understand how part of gay culture became being mean, rather than being supportive of one another By Jaime Woo

One of the highlights from the summer for me was getting to see rock climbing debut at the Olympics. I was so excited for the countless children and adults who were going to fall in love with the sport.


At the same time, I felt a mild sense of dread: like many physical activities, rock climbing can be dangerous when done incorrectly. I saw two instances recently where parents leapt from eight feet off the ground – and nearly flattened their children because they didn’t notice the kids standing below. Most of these parents don’t know enough about rock climbing to even prevent injury to themselves, let alone their young children. I was lucky to have a group of friends support me when I started rock climbing. They taught me the etiquette expected in climbing gyms, and tips and tricks to reduce the likelihood of getting hurt. And that made me think about how we build communities in general, and the ways we can (and cannot) make them safer. Looking at the 2SLGBTQ+ community, when I came out, I thought the very act of coming out made me part of this community. Certainly I felt more kinship with others in the community, and recognized a part of myself in them. The same goes within the broader community: we have subcultures where specific rules and customs apply. But as I get older, the more I rethink my assumption of automatic community membership, in the same way that you can become a climber without automatically becoming part of the climbing community.



I saw this in the treatment of Victoria Scone as the first cis woman to be cast on Drag Race UK (and, in fact, the first on all the Drag Race franchises). Some Drag Race fans (and here’s where I separate them from the community) were loudly upset because Victoria didn’t fit their concept of drag. It got to the point where Lawrence Chaney, winner of Drag Race UK Season 2, felt the need to publicly defend Victoria Scone’s casting on Twitter. For so many of us in the queer community, this was an odd reaction: if you’re an actual fan of drag, you’ve probably encountered so many wonderful performers from all kinds of backgrounds. Rather than being upset, it should have been a relief since Drag Race has so far showcased such a fraction of the talent found in drag performance. Without guidance on how a community has held together for as long as it has, you can pick up maladaptive, unsupportive practices. In climbing, I’ve seen decently skilled climbers drop off the wall landing on their feet rather than tucking backwards in a roll. Sure, tucking into a roll may look sillier, and therefore more vulnerable, but it’s done because it relieves the pressure on your ankles. I worried that these climbers might at some point land just a bit wrong and end up breaking bones that would leave them unable to climb for months – all to act tough. How we posture reminds me of an incident that happened at the tail end of 2021. Someone posted a video on Twitter of himself eating pizza at a club, and when another patron tried to get by, the pizzaeater snarled, apparently miffed at being minorly inconvenienced. It’s unclear if it was done in tongue-in-cheek (who was filming this, and why?), but it struck a nerve with Gay Twitter, a small, albeit



vocal community. Here was a young, muscular, conventionally attractive white man acting unpleasantly for no other reason than that people who look like him are allowed to do so. And then sharing it online, ready for all the attention it would net. Some people clapped back, but a lot more happily accepted the opportunity to thirst over the poster. Why, I can’t say. I mean, there are thousands – tens of thousands – of men who look like him, and yet there seems to be room for all of them. I don’t understand how part of gay culture became being mean. A decade or so ago, the It Gets Better campaign began to prevent teen suicides, and yet it seems we’ve simply moved them from one risk group to another. There’s a performative nature to it all. For some people, the selfish behaviour that so many call “iconic” on the usually white, privileged Real Housewives franchises has become a benchmark. It’s not really camp: it’s more an aspirational proximity to white supremacy that, let’s face it, remains alluring for many even if they’re part of this oppressed umbrella. But beneath it, too, I wonder how much of that meanness is a form of unintegrated trauma. When you are told for so long that you shouldn’t exist, it creates a rage in many people and a need for control that, unfortunately, gets directed downstream. That doesn’t excuse the meanness, of course, but it partially explains why it’s so easily accessible in the community. The truth is, no matter how sheltered someone thinks they are, how freely they are to act callously towards others, in this world members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community remain disposable and disappearable. I get a sense of fraying – and perhaps that was inevitable as progress moved along. What was once a group bound by necessity now gets to experience freedom more and needs to hide less. It makes me wonder, though, what kind of a welcome do newcomers to Canada

receive, especially those from places with stricter laws around sexual and gender-related freedoms? Long ago, I, like many, wondered what was the use for the Village, and I was reminded that many people still need a safe place they can go to, or at the very least a first safe place. What customs and mores do they learn as they join the community? Community is an oft-thrown-around word, and I did an experiment of my own on what might be considered one of the toughest communities around: Grindr. I’ve been on Grindr now for over a decade (still wild to write down) and I too have downloaded and deleted it, trying to gauge my relationship with it. Grindr has a reputation for having users who are brusque and cold and transactional. And yet we’re all on Grindr, including some very kind and warm and personable people. Do we act the way we do on Grindr because we think that’s the way it has to be? Even when I wrote Meet Grindr, I knew that we, as the users, define the sites we’re on. So on a sleepless night, I decided to do something different. Rather than using the customary script on Grindr, and without any intention of meeting up with someone, I decided to look at the users on Grindr as, well, people. People I might see on the street, or stand behind in a queue for coffee, or maybe even see at the climbing gym. Being appreciative on Grindr is easier than you might imagine. Someone’s beautiful curly hair. A pair of glasses that are perfect for someone’s face shape. A shade of colour that complements their skin tone. I prefaced my comments with the clear intention of not looking to hook up, and it was fascinating: I got back so many thankful and grateful responses. It was unlike any other experience I’ve had on Grindr. It reminds me that underneath the facades, we can find that humanness. We can, one on one, build something meaningful, even if it’s brief. We can relate to one another, and envision the interconnection that is true whether we want to see it or not. A community is a group conversation about the ways we act to support not just one of our needs but all of our needs. I have no grand solutions to strengthening the community, but the first step is to see each other as human.

JAIME WOO is a writer based in Toronto, focusing on the intersection of technology and culture. He’s best-known for his Lambda Literary-nominated book, Meet Grindr, dissecting how the design of the infamous app influences user behaviour.



Youth In Canada Are

Taking The Lead

On HIV Awareness And Prevention CANFAR expands its social network to go further in raising awareness and preventing HIV in Canada among at-risk youth ages 15-29 By Guillaume S. Togay L. de Varennes

The year 2022 has just begun, but it already has an added advantage in the fight against the HIV pandemic. With the support of ViiV Healthcare Canada, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) Legacy 2.0 Group recently opened a new chapter in Ottawa to further amplify its impact on Canadian youth. Established in 2011, Legacy (now Legacy 2.0 as of 2019) is a social network across Canada bringing together supporters and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. It is uniquely focused on supporting fundraising and initiatives dedicated to national HIV awareness and prevention among at-risk youth ages 15-29. Legacy’s vision aligns well with ViiV’s commitments to ending the HIV pandemic. Marvelous Muchenje, ViiV Healthcare’s community relations manager working with Legacy 2.0, is excited about the idea of future network expansion. “The Legacy 2.0 project has grown stronger over the years, and we hope to soon have a chapter in every province in Canada,” she says. The strategy behind the Legacy 2.0 mission offers a promising long-term response to help end the HIV pandemic, one that is more grounded in reality than previously thought. In its 2020 surveillance report, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that about 25 per cent of new HIV cases were in the 15-29 age group, regardless of gender, making the age group one of the highest-risk groups for HIV infection. Ignoring this fact can be a double-edged sword, with disastrous short- and long-term effects, which Legacy 2.0 tends to counteract.


The opening of strategic chapters across Canada, such as the most recent one in Ottawa, allows Legacy 2.0 to develop HIV prevention programs more relevant to younger generations. Each local program is able to maximize funding for research, education and social programs specifically dedicated to this goal. Their latest initiative –, a youth-led online platform dedicated to HIV prevention and youth empowerment – illustrates this approach. These chapters also play another important role, says David Tremblay, co-chair of Legacy 2.0. “It’s crucial for the Legacy 2.0 network – as well as the new Ottawa chapter – to share CANFAR’s mission and news across the country, and raise awareness of the Sexfluent platform.”



Across Canada, excellent initiatives are being developed to improve access to treatment and tailor delivery to specific communities. In the longer term, and because programming is not a “one size fits all” idiom, the support provided by Legacy 2.0 is critical to keeping the risk of HIV infection at bay in the future. This is the second aspect of the above issue. The idea of reaching 15- to 29-year-olds also aims to address the root of the problem. Raising awareness among today’s younger generation will likely impact their future needs for health care, access to treatment, and facilitation of medical linkage across the country. The healthcare system will be better prepared to meet future demands and thus, indirectly, help improve the quality of life of people living with HIV. In addition, Legacy 2.0 responds to a new challenge raised by the change in communication behaviour among younger generations. The widespread use of social media and connected platforms to inform themselves and interact with their peers has disrupted the traditional channels used by initiatives targeting this demographic. The future effectiveness of campaigns and projects will depend heavily on mastering new communication tools and strategies capable of reaching and capturing the attention of this already over-solicited age group. And that takes a tight-knit network that is alert but also responsive to changing trends within its target population. The new Ottawa chapter is another promising step towards better including youth in the HIV equation. But, more importantly, it is tangible evidence that local support remains a key component in addressing the HIV pandemic at the national level. As Daniel Reyes Cocka, co-chair of the Ottawa chapter of Legacy 2.0, concludes, “This is something that has been incredibly important to me. Alongside my husband, I am so proud to be a part of such an amazing team in Canadian cities as we bring chapters to life from coast to coast.”

MAKE A DONATION OR BECOME A NEW MEMBER OF LEGACY 2.0 CANFAR welcomes new Legacy 2.0 members on an ongoing basis as well as donations throughout the year. Legacy 2.0 membership offers some exclusive benefits in return for support or a donation. Visit

Xavier Dolan makes his mark on the small screen, and content celebrating diversity streams online. Here are six eye-openers worth waiting for By Mathieu Chantelois

Day in and day out, I keep my eye on all the new stories coming to our screens. I’m currently on parental leave from the Canada Media Fund caring for a new baby girl, the second little one to join my family since the pandemic began. Between feedings and

16 HUDSON (SEASON 3) If children are open books, then it is our job as adults to fill their blank pages with lessons of love, tolerance and empathy. This is exactly what the award-winning children’s program 16 Hudson does each and every episode. Set in a charming, big-city apartment building, this animated series tailored to preschoolers features kids and their pals learning all about one another’s diverse cultures and traditions. The children’s parents, including two gay dads, come from all over the world (Iran, China and the Philippines, to name a few of their countries of origin), and the series features families celebrating holidays such as Diwali, Norooz and Chinese New Year. The new season consists of 21, seven-minute episodes airing on TVOKids, along with five new 16 Hudson shorts. Season 3 will also air on SRC-Radio Canada.

diaper changes, I wanted to share some of the must-see content I’ll be streaming in the coming months. What do all these exciting audiovisual projects have in common? They highlight the incredible work coming from Canadian LGBTQ2S+ creators today.

LA NUIT OÙ LAURIER GAUDREAULT S’EST RÉVEILLÉ Cinema’s enfant terrible Xavier Dolan makes his first foray into television with his adaptation of playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s hit play, La nuit où Laurier Gaudreault s’est réveillé (The Night Laurier Gaudreault Finally Woke Up), with most of the original cast from its staging at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal two years ago. In typical fashion, Dolan wears a number of different hats: author, director, producer and actor. Like the original play, the TV series follows an internationally renowned thanatologist (Julie Le Breton) on her return to her hometown in the early 1990s to embalm her mother. She’s reunited with her brothers (Patrick Hivon, Éric Bruneau and Xavier Dolan) and over the course of their conversations, laced with resentments, old wounds and reconciliations, we discover a family deeply divided by dark secrets. It’s Dolan’s second adaptation of a Bouchard play (his first was Tom à la ferme) and, once again, everyone’s favourite filmmaker flirts with horror, mystery and gallows humour. The five, 60-minute episodes will be presented sometime in the spring before lighting up screens for our French cousins at Canal+.



— ALL EYES ON 2022 —



Avocado Toast the series returns for a second season of hilarious and heartbreaking storytelling focusing on middle-grade teacher Molly (Heidi Lynch) and her introduction to the world of bisexual dating, while her best friend and former creative director Elle (Perrie Voss) deals with a serious case of burnout. And if that’s not enough, the millennial pals are still learning way too much about their parents’ sex lives. Show creators Lynch and Voss bring a sex-positive spin to their dramedy celebrating a wide range of identities and desires. Especially gratifying is the way the show celebrates the sex lives of older women, whose stories are rarely explored on-screen. This season also boldly examines issues of mental health and physical illness, adding deeper layers to this laugh-out-loud dramedy. All 10 of the 15-minute episodes will be available on OUTtv’s digital streaming platform,


In the 1953 classic How to Marry a Millionaire, three lovely ladies (Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall) set out to land three rich men.

Take that premise, flash-forward almost 70 years and give it an oh-so-gay spin, and you’ve got Sugar Highs. This dramedy series follows a group of twentysomething friends who would rather party than work menial low-wage jobs, so they set out to find themselves sugar daddies to pay their bills. But this brand of “wallet love” comes with all kinds of complications – good and bad – that make for fascinating, fun and sexy viewing. Actors Samuel Davison, Adam Fox, Joey Beni and Michael Ayres star as the resourceful sugar babies, with guest sugar daddies and sugar mamas that include Scott Thompson (The Kids in the Hall), Jennifer Whalen (Baroness von Sketch Show) and Brian MacQuarrie (Picnicface).


Look for Sugar Highs on OUTtv.



Being a female musician is a challenge in the male-dominated music industry, but it’s painfully difficult for queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (QTBIPOC) women+ artists. In this eye-opening documentary, director Han Nguyen takes us inside Ottawa’s live music scene, where venues and music programmers predominantly book white, cisgender male acts. The doc introduces us to queer Black folk musician Kimberly Sunstrum, Sri Lankan-born folk artist Amanda Lowe Warnakulasuriya and Anishinaabekwe singer-songwriter Larissa Desrosiers.


The Colour of Music

Y A UNE ÉTOILE Trans nonbinary artist Xavier Gould is part of a new generation of Acadians creating groundbreaking content for francophone audiences. After participating in the CBC documentary series Canada’s a Drag, Gould worked on a feature-length documentary with Moncton director and screenwriter Julien Cadieux. In this emotional and uplifting road-trip movie, Gould meets up with other francophone queer folks determined to live their differences out in the open in their Acadian hometown. The goal of Gould’s project is to debunk the myth that everyone in the LGBTQ2S+ community would be happier if they moved to urban city centres. The crew also takes their cameras into an Indigenous community to illustrate the added difficulty of trying to embrace queerness inside an already under-represented group. Audiences will be deeply moved by this inspired and inspiring work, interspersed with the music of the late and highly acclaimed Acadian singer Angèle Arsenault. Through Gould’s film, audiences will come to understand that a queer Acadia actually does exist. Watch Y a une étoile on TV5Unis.

They are all joined by DJ Jayel, a masculine-presenting woman of colour. Through interviews, home movies and powerful performances, we learn how these artists are fighting to be seen and heard in a music scene designed to silence them. Systemic barriers have profoundly affected the musicians’ mental health and well-being, but as the film ultimately reveals, it’s their love of music that sustains them through hard times. The Colour of Music will air on CBC.

MATHIEU CHANTELOIS is an award-winning journalist, proven marketing and communications professional, and strong advocate for inclusion in the screen-based industry. He joined the Canada Media Fund in 2019 where he is vice-president of communications and promotion.



SOCIAL DISCOURSE: THE TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT When do comments go too far? When does accountability go too far? By Tristan Coolman

Over the past few years, the quality of our collective social discourse – both online and in person – has taken a nosedive. Whether it’s fuelled by the rise of Trumpism, or the influences of and behaviour changes with our consumption of social media, it really is getting nasty out there. Thanks to social media, we all get to chime in with our two cents. But just as real life, you really can’t do much with two cents in your pocket. Those defending and siding with marginalized folks and folxs often get associated with terms like “wokeness” or “cancel culture” in an effort to discredit their contributions. And that’s just the beginning. Online discourse often devolves into name-calling…and before you know it, you see a thread full of “Karen,” “snowflake” and “boomer” references, with few attempts at directly addressing fact and lived experience. Holding entertainers and influencers accountable is equally as difficult. When the lines are blurred between social literacy and comedy, as an example, it becomes much more difficult to understand what is a joke and what is expressed opinion. Harnessing the latest discussions in our social discourse is something entertainers do to attract audiences and grow their following. It’s an added dimension in entertainment – the entire industry is making attempts to ensure that all different identities and intersections are reflected in their work.


Entertainers do have an influence on their audience, whether it is in changing positions or confirming biases. The funniest and the most personable of them amass large followings and to their followers, they can do no wrong. In particular with comedians, the feeling seems to be that we should protect them and cut them some slack. After all, it’s just a joke…they’re really just the cultural evolution of a court jester. But when a comment goes too far and when accountability is rejected, I think we have a problem. Of course, not everyone agrees with that – especially comedians. When a comedian – or any other professional, whether they be in entertainment, sports or elsewhere – enters the arena of political commentary with their platform and wishes to participate, they should not be exempt from facing their critics…especially when their words can do harm. These conversations surround real lived experiences, and have real-life impacts. They touch on topics of political discourse, whether it’s gun control, inequities, racism, queerphobia, ableism, etc. The latest so-called victim of these attempts to be held accountable (as of this writing) was Dave Chappelle. Through Netflix, Chapelle released a series of stand-up acts in his latest special, The Closer, which continued to perpetuate stereotypes about queer lived experiences. One of the criticisms Chapelle and his supporters were



quick to address right out of the gate was that the criticism was coming from individuals who had not watched the special. I have, and I certainly felt uncomfortable and angry watching it throughout. Chapelle references a lot of his lived experience, including incidents of anti-Black racism from folks he thought were gay simply based on their behaviour (a.k.a. stereotype). He accuses the queer community of embracing whiteness when it’s convenient for them. I don’t think that characterization from him tells the full story, and it’s one of his many positions in the special that should be addressed. It’s conveniently incomplete. Of course minorities would at times seek that whiteness – because, despite living our truths, it was the only way we could guarantee some form of safety, regardless of how precarious that safety took shape. There is still quite a long way to go for trans, nonbinary, genderqueer, bisexual, lesbian, intersex and ace folks, and equally as much for queer folks of colour, queer folks with disabilities and more. To charge us with wanting to be white, as if that were a negative and a blemish on our community, is low-hanging fruit. The benefits of that history are not as abundant as he attempts to portray, and the lack of intersectional considerations further hurts his position. But then he makes a case against getting into the details of identity politics. Suddenly he is a comedian just trying to get a laugh. Suddenly, wading into the waters of deeper discussions, and challenging his attitudes towards the queer community in his acts, is taboo because he connects with the idea that we are all simply having a “human experience.” He supports people who are having “human experiences” like J.K. Rowling, and supports the transphobic rhetoric described by “TERFs” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). He wishes to describe unrealistic bathroom situations with a trans individual, he wishes to make assumptions about sexuality in his acts, he wishes to promote violence towards trans people in his acts, he wishes to question the validity of these lived experiences – all for a laugh. It’s okay to say you’re learning, to say you’re having a human experience…but to try and claim you are not doing harm, and then walking away from the conversation when your weakest positions are exposed, is awfully convenient. Chapelle is facing harsh criticism because he fails to see the fault in his position and he is profiting off of it. He expects his audience to know better without acknowledging the faults in his positions, which


Over the past few years, many of our lives have been pulled out of their respective vacuums to face the harsh realities of other lived experiences. When comedians decide to wade into these discussions, why should they be any different? But there is another side to this: can accountability go too far, and what is too far? Cancel culture has been born out of the idea that one’s access to success and influence is not only cut off, but is reversed. The person being “cancelled” is publicly shut down for the harm they have exacted, and it’s a tough line to walk. Who should be held accountable, and what does accountability look like? The second season of The Morning Show on Apple TV+ explores this discussion (spoilers ahead). In Season 2, disgraced morning show host Mitch Kessler is a shell of his former self. He is living alone in a mansion in Italy, away from his family, and trying to lay low. He continues to be recognized in public and encounters people trying to engage him on social media for further notoriety. Just prior to his sudden death, Mitch admits he wants to do better and be a better person; he doesn’t want to harm anyone else. Upon his death, his former colleagues struggle with understanding how they can give themselves the permission to grieve a friend when that friend was responsible for so much harm. Some people find themselves embarrassed when their comments from the past – maybe years and sometimes decades old – come to the surface. Do people deserve to publicly learn and rehabilitate their image when their intentions are genuine? If they have demonstrated a journey of learning over those years, should they still undergo harsh public criticism? The reality is that marginalized folks gain nothing from excluding anyone from a journey of learning and getting better, but not everyone has the capacity to accept that. No one needs permission to do any of that – but we should have the maturity and intellect to understand the impacts of either decision. That is at the root of any movement or any advancements that marginalized communities have made. We need individuals outside of our communities with more power than us, to understand our experiences and to help. Sometimes that means we need to interact with people who have, either intentionally or through ignorance, caused some harm to us and to others. The concept of allyship is designed to make this learning journey welcoming and understandable. Some roll their eyes at the word, or words like reconciliation, because in a way they minimize and overly reward folks who are on these journeys, and place them on pedestals to be celebrated. But if it takes the participation award that comes with a label like allyship, is that really such a negative thing when the upside is much greater? When do comments go too far? When does accountability go too far? How do you react when you’re challenged? What do you do with your learns? What does accepting someone’s learning journey look like? These are all questions we need to ask of ourselves when participating in discourse around social justice and when we hold people accountable. It’s also something entertainers should understand. Participation isn’t a one-way street.

TRISTAN COOLMAN is based in the suburbs of York Region north of Toronto. He works full-time in retail by day, volunteers with Pflag York Region in his spare time, and desperately tries to keep his succulents alive in between. Follow @pflagyorkregion on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook; follow Tristan at @iamcoolman on Instagram, @tristancoolman on Twitter.



to him are comedy gold, and he gives his audience permission to laugh at the harm to others. Chapelle has shared in great detail his experience with anti-Black racism, and it’s hard not to be drawn in by these deeply touching moments in his comedy that make you think. He expertly navigates anti-Black racism in his acts, but he continues to exploit the lived experiences of trans and other queer folks. The last time he left the stage, he left because people were laughing for the wrong reasons. We’re still laughing for the wrong reasons – but his lack of understanding for trans and other queer lived experiences prevents him from understanding that. That is the basis for perpetuating hate and, in this case, it’s transphobic, homophobic and more.


THE RISE OF THE CHAOTIC GAY CELEBS What’s going on with the gay celebrities now gracing our screens? By Jesse Boland


“It’s so important to normalize queerness” – says a person who has never read the word “queer” in a book. The past four decades have demonstrated remarkable strides in welcoming the LGBTQ+ community into the day-to-day lives of straight audiences through the mediums of Western entertainment, yet these extensions of media have still perpetuated the ideologies of heteronormativity by filtering who is to be deemed a respectable enough queer. While there is no shortage of homosexual and transgender representation in Hollywood, it cannot be so safely said that queerness itself remains prevalent. The goal of queerness has never been to obtain its place in the realm of socially accepted respectability, but rather to abolish the very system that created the elitist system of normalness. Hollywood has, for the most part, succeeded in creating an image of queerness as love, kindness and acceptance through the positive representation of LGBTQ+ characters in Will & Grace and Modern Family as well as through celebrities framed



as positive role models such as RuPaul and Ellen DeGeneres. But in doing so, it has created an image of what a respectable queer is supposed to look like, and delineated how whoever fails to fit within this mould is to be punished for failing to be normal. The métier of a celebrity is to encapsulate a persona beguiling enough that it can be commodified by corporations and media conglomerates to promote not just their products but their values too. From the clothes they wear and the accounts they follow in their personal Instagram accounts, to the other famous people they choose to befriend, celebrities are a culmination of different brands forged together to create a niched super-brand. What this system of symbolic capital exchange serves to perpetuate is an evolution of corporate marketing through the extension of the celebrity as a vessel of a personified marketing campaign. This is nothing new in the world of monetary capitalist gain, but when celebrities belonging to the LGBTQ+ community – a community historically rooted in anti-establishment liberation –

While it cannot be dismissed that the push for positive representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in media has shifted the global perception of queer people by straight audiences into a more flattering light, this has occurred through the trapping of respectability politics that cater to the pernicious notion of the model minority myth. Queer celebrities have been lionized as being earnest, inspiring, kind, loving and endearing – and that has created an eerily pristine image of how queers are expected to perform if they are to be gifted respect in our heteronormative society.

there’s history’s most powerful Barb, Lil Nas X: if he’s not sitting atop the Billboard chart for singing about bottoming, then he’s at the top of Twitter’s Trending Now topics for sending (fellow Barb) Tucker Carlson into a mental tailspin using only a meme of Mr. Krabs blowing Squidward. What these gay celebs and others like them represent is a chaotic energy that current mainstream media is unable to repackage for mass consumption. The perturbing rawness of their queerness is not intended to generate empathy and understanding from straight audiences, but simply to exist in their own authentic truths for their queer – and even cool straight – followers to fuck with. With

"It's so important to normalize queerness" – says a person who has never read the word "queer" in a book Furthermore, queer celebrities who do not live up to this standard of assimilated respectability are not only deemed unrespectable but also unemployable. One may recall English model Munroe Bergdorf being enlisted as part of L’Oréal Paris’s diversity & inclusion campaign in 2017 due to her being a Black trans woman, only to be swiftly fired after publicly denouncing the compliance of all white people in violent white supremacy. What Bergdorf’s firing demonstrated was the raw essence of rainbow capitalism: the impossibility for corporations to ever be allies, as the mission of their opaque progressiveness is merely to homogenize diversity itself as means of commodifying anti-commodification. Now, does this mean that all celebrities are inherently class traitors and pro-establishment because of their commercial success? Not necessarily. Though RuPaul may currently be fracking the state of Wyoming dryer than his wigs on Season 2 while Ellen DeGeneres promotes a line of cruelty-free skincare products during her downtime from emotionally abusing her roster of underpaid production assistants, a new generation of LGBTQ+ entertainers is showing that they do not need to sacrifice their integrity to succeed. Actor/writer Jaboukie Young-White recently signed on to write and executive co-produce The Gang’s All Queer: The Lives of Gay Gang Members on HBO alongside Issa Rae after a tremendously successful career, despite having the blue checkmark removed from his Twitter page for impersonating the FBI and Joe Biden too many times. Comedian Joel Kim Booster’s risqué stand-up material discussing group sex and evil white gays probably won’t earn him a brand sponsorship from Coca-Cola, but it hasn’t hindered him from numerous television writing gigs in addition to his debut feature film Fire Island (slated for a 2022 premiere). Then, of course,

corporations spending millions of dollars every year on marketing campaigns designed to emulate the lingo and trends of countercultural groups to feign relatability in order to make sales, younger audiences raised on the internet can easily spot faux authenticity. While the Wendy’s Twitter account may frequently butcher ballroom lingo as a means of commodifying queer culture to sell chicken nuggets, I know she’s not real enough to say faggot. Most importantly, when we see these celebrities being able to succeed without watering down the authenticity of their ludicrousness, it demonstrates the power that queerness holds to be free of the need to assimilate to the conformity of the non-threatening gay trope. When we as consumers put our money behind chaotic gays by directly funding their projects and art, we are freeing them from the dependency to sell out to brand sponsorships that would have them dilute the debaucherous nature of their authentic selves for the sake of appealing to the masses of heteronormative consumers. Every June, there is a debate as to whether or not kink belongs at Pride, with little progress being made each time it comes around. Regardless of your stance on kink itself, it is imperative to remember that the bacchanal nature of kink is still too taboo to be commodified by corporations and thus it is the one thing protecting Pride from being fully consumed by rainbow capitalism. In the same way, these chaotic gay celebs and their unwillingness to tone it down for the sake of broadening their brand are perhaps the only thing keeping the trueness of queerness alive in media. We cannot normalize queerness, for queerness is an opposition against normality itself, a system of standardization that exists to punish whatever is considered to be other. When we ask for acceptance, we are giving others the power to either accept or reject us when we do not need their approval.

JESSE BOLAND is that gay kid in class who your English teacher always believed in. He’s a graduate of English at Ryerson University with a passion for giving a voice to people who don’t have data on their phones and who chases his dreams by foot because he never got his driver’s licence.



are deemed tame enough to be enlisted for corporate propaganda, that’s a problem.


The Tear Factor Whether sad tears or happy tears, when it comes to matters of the heart, there will be tears By Jumol Royes


Do you remember the very first time your heart was broken? I was in my late teens when I fell head over heels for a friend from school. Struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, the feeling was terrifying and amazing all at the same time. I can still clearly recall the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach when I sat next to him, the scent of his body spray lingering in the air whenever he passed by, and the nervous anticipation I felt as I awaited his phone call or ICQ instant message (how’s that for an old-school throwback?). When we spent time together, I was on cloud nine. When we were apart, I pined for him and couldn’t get him out of my mind.


Unfortunately, my feelings weren’t reciprocated, and I was forced to accept this devastating reality the summer the object of my affection went away. I was completely shattered. One night, at home alone, I found myself listening to love songs curled up on the floor in the fetal position. I cried more tears that night than I had ever thought humanly possible. Think Oprah’s “ugly cry” – only worse, much worse. I wept and sobbed and not even my dog could console me until I was all cried out. We may know the science behind tears – what they’re composed of and all that – but despite the technical knowledge, emotional crying remains a bit of a mystery. Charles Darwin once opined that emotional tears are “purposeless,” and some scientists still doubt that tears serve any real purpose other than biochemical, like protecting our eyes and clearing them of debris. However, recent research has found that emotional tears do have bona fide benefits. They’re self-soothing and help reduce stress, they release endorphins and oxytocin (the love hormone associated with hugging and orgasm), they signal vulnerability (a critical component for intimacy and human connection), and they help ease emotional and physical pain. While other species shed tears reflexively in response to pain, we humans are the only life form whose tears can also be directly tied to our feelings. Whether sad tears or happy tears, or something in between, being human means that from time to time, there will be tears. I’ve always been prone to emotional crying, and not just when I’ve been brokenhearted because of a boy (when I was sent a memo that read “Real men don’t cry,” I hit “return to sender” and didn’t bother to reply). I weep tears of compassion when watching a Netflix documentary that bears witness to people who are homeless and seeking shelter and a safe place to call home. I shed tears of gratitude when I realize that the universe is constantly conspiring for my own good, even when I don’t see it or am struggling to believe it. And I cry tears of relief when I finally give in and give myself permission to feel my feelings, especially the unwelcome ones, thereby embarking on the long journey from my head to my heart. My tears remind me of my humanity and they help me see the humanity in others, too. That’s something I hope I never lose sight of. A co-worker and good friend of mine openly owns the fact that she’s a crier; it’s one of the many things we have in common. When she was recently interviewed for a local TV show, she shared a touching lesson that her mom had taught her. And her message is one we would all do well to embrace: it might help us rethink our relationship with tears, emotional crying and the purpose they serve. “Tears are just love squeezing out,” her mom used to tell her. Moms always know best.

JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-area storyteller, communications strategist and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol and on Instagram at @jumolroyes.




Place & Time Is Now

Stars of Broadway shine a spotlight on under-represented segments of the queer community By Noel Hoffman

The new musical theatre album Place & Time shines a spotlight on theys, enbys, transgendered, lesbians and queer people of colour (POC). “We are here too,” says the album’s co-writer EllaRose Chary, a queer woman, “and like everyone else, we experience a range of feelings and circumstances that aren’t all centred on our trauma or our otherness.” Songs on Place & Time are fun, flirty, emotional, nostalgic and queer themed. They’re sung by an all-star cast of Broadway artists from under-represented segments of the community, including Tituss Burgess, Amber Gray, Telly Leung and Tony Award winner Daisy Eagan. What inspired you to create an album of LGBTQ+-themed songs? Ellarose Chary (ERC): We have so many talented friends who exist in an industry and a system that is very interested in putting people in a box and then only viewing those folks through a narrow lens. Part of the project of this album is to show off our community the way we see it: full of multi-dimensional, complex, beautiful humans who defy the flattening that is often expected of us in a capitalist system.


Would you say that while musical theatre is gay, it is not very queer? ERC: I have spent a lot of my life in musical theatre, and my love for it has often elicited the comment, ‘You’re such a gay man!’ But I’m not a gay man. I’m a queer woman. The implication that my queerness somehow does not have an affinity towards the form is exhausting. My community is full of wonderful queers who don’t identify as gay, but who love musicals, watching them and making them, as much as I do. So I’m trying to flip the narrative and assert my presence in the space. Brandon James Gwinn (BJG): On my gender journey, I discovered I existed outside of the cis, male, gay box that I had convinced myself I fit neatly into. As included as I feel in narratives and works like Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, there’s so much more to the LGBTQIA+ story, and I like to think that if we can make room, there’s plenty of room for everyone. Does Broadway and the theatre community have a responsibility to be more inclusive? ERC: The whole act of theatre is gathering people in a room and saying something to them and asking them to receive it. It’s about asking folks to see each other, to listen to each other. If we’re



“Even as a young gay man, I always had problems fitting neatly into the cis and straight culture at large,” admits Chary’s co-writer Brandon James Gwinn, who identifies as queer and gender fluid. Chary agrees. “There are a lot of us who don’t feel beholden to any one label or identity. We exist on a spectrum. A big part of my coming out has been trying to decipher what part of the LGBTQ puzzle I fit into.” We spoke with both Chary and Gwinn from their studio in New York City.

only prioritizing a small subset of voices in that or only including a fraction of the human experience in that, we’re fundamentally not doing our job. The new production of Company [music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim] stars a female Bobby, now Bobbie. Is that a step in the right direction? ERC: The right direction would be letting women tell our own stories. Giving Broadway-level resources to women writers is better than asking us to map our experience onto something that at its core isn’t meant for us. On the topic of Sondheim, what are your thoughts on his recent passing? BJG: Losing Sondheim affected me in a way that was somewhat unexpected. Telly Leung [who sings on the Place & Time album] and I met at a bar and drank and teared up, and then we got on stage and performed Sondheim songs. It was a magical, very New York moment. ERC: I am one of the people who has come to musical theatre in part because of my early experiences with Sondheim’s work. Two of my formative shows are Gypsy and Into the Woods. I am grateful to have been alive at the same time as Sondheim and to have received his work. I recently rewatched Six by Sondheim and was struck by his advice on how you get better with practice. If you have the resources to try and fail and learn and do the next one, you’re going to be better at this than if you are only ever given one shot. He had that chance and I hope our generation of artists, especially the weird and challenging ones, are also given the resources to have that chance through a more egalitarian funding structure for making new musicals.

MUSIC Ella & Brandon

Congratulations on winning the 2021 Richard Rodgers Award for your musical TL;DR Thelma Louise; Dyke Remix! ERC: Thanks! We are so excited to have won this award, and grateful to the Academy of Arts and Letters and the selection committee for trusting our vision and investing in our work. It honestly feels life changing. BJG: It came at a time when not only the future of our work but, I think, the entire industry was in limbo. No one knew what was next and we still kind of don’t, so getting the news of our win was uplifting and encouraging. What are you working on next? ERC: We’re working on a new musical that we have in development called Queer. People. Time. It’s a time-travelling queer rom-com about queer history. Will you continue to strive for inclusivity in all of your shows? BJG: Ella and I have been writing songs for 10 years now. It’s really great to have a voice and a style with someone. It’s a voice we have had the time to refine and mould. That style and voice are intrinsically tied to who we are and what we write about. So, if we’re staying true to our voice and ourselves, then we have no choice but to strive for inclusivity. It’s part of who we are and why we write. The Richard Rodgers Award gave us a pat on the back as well as a light kick in the butt. I think we’re more energized to keep creating now, which means Place & Time is just the tip of the queer iceberg.

For more information, visit

NOEL HOFFMAN is a digital media producer, author and freelance journalist for the Daily Collegian, ElectriCITY and the Los Angeles Times. In another lifetime, he was also an actor, singer and teacher, but today, much of his time is consumed with being a single gay dad of two young children.



Meet The Designer

Behind Some Of Your Favourite Canadian Drag Queens’ Most Sickening Looks Dianna DiNoble, designer to the queens, opens up about her fashionable career By Christopher Turner

While some queens conceptualize and sew their own costumes and accessories, others now have the means (or the necessity) to outsource the creation of their drag to designers. That trend has taken on momentum as the Drag Race empire expanded into Canada with the launch of Canada’s Drag Race in 2020 and the spotlight has shone a little brighter on some of the country’s queens vying to top the franchise’s increasingly high bar on the runway. Over the years, several local designers have earned I already know the answer to this…but when did you start designing? I started designing clothes for my friends’ dolls when I was little. My mom was a second-wave feminist and decided that all of my toys would be gender-neutral, so I got Legos and art supplies. I didn’t get dolls of my own, but my friends had lots, so I loved finding fabric scraps and sewing together gowns for them. I started designing people-sized clothes in high school, because I loved dark and gothic clothing, and in a small town, the only option was to make them for myself.

their living creating intricate custom garments for the show or for a queen’s post-show appearances. One of the most notable in recent years is Toronto-based designer Dianna DiNoble. Dianna has been creating bespoke corsetry under her label Starkers Corsetry for over 25 years, and she’s gained a devoted following in Canada, the United States and Europe thanks to her meticulous attention to detail and modern take on historical designs. Bespoke corsetry, bridal, burlesque and fashion pieces are custom designed and handcrafted in her Toronto home studio to perfectly suit each client. Established in 1992, Starkers has catered to a wide range of customers, from traditional brides and fashion trailblazers to risqué fetish lovers and, more recently, drag queens. Fun fact: I went to high school with Dianna and even walked the runway for her when she presented her Starkers designs at an artist gallery, so it was a pleasure to reconnect and talk fashion and drag queens. One day, a stylist messaged me for a wardrobe call for Brooke Lynn Hytes. I was so excited, and made her a custom dress in record time. Sadly, the shoot was cancelled, but she surprised me by shooting it a few months later for World AIDS Day! The same stylist put me in touch with Priyanka, for her videos, including Jimbo’s Killer Clown stripe look, and it grew from there! One of the coolest things was watching Canada’s Drag Race Reunion episode, and seeing Priyanka, Scarlett BoBo and Jimbo all wearing my creations for the episode. Especially when they all declared to Jimbo that “this is glamour” with her pink and black PVC look that I designed.

Tell us about your early years as a designer. It really started with the music. When I was 14 or 15, my group of friends had a lot of indie musicians, playing gothic, punk, industrial music. I met up with a band in Toronto to help them with a show. One of the members had a clothing store on Queen West, and it was magic! Her store was called Xiphotek, and it was a baby gothling’s dream come true: loads of velvets, satin, lace, luxurious textures, dark jewel tones, and every shade of black you could hope for – ha. I knew at that moment that I wanted to live in Toronto and be a designer. As soon as I got back home, I began sewing my first line, which I presented with a friend at the Lindsay Boys & Girls Club. We later took the show to Peterborough at Artspace – where you walked the runway for us, Christopher! I started selling some of the clothing to individuals and local stores. I began fashion school at Sheridan College…which I failed out of, because I was already busy with my own corset-making business, and it’s been going strong ever since. More recently, you’ve started working with some pretty notable drag stars. Can you tell me how all that started? I have worked with drag queens on and off over the years, but this past year has been the most fun I’ve ever had. During the pandemic, Canada’s Drag Race came out, and I became obsessed with the show. The creativity and talent of these queens was so inspiring, and I suddenly found myself watching everything drag. All of RuPaul’s Drag Race episodes and spin-offs, Dragula, everything. Priyanka’s coronation look from the season 2 finale of Canada’s Drag Race Photo: Blake Morrow



RuPaul’s Drag Race is more than just a TV show that has catapulted to mainstream success in recent years – it’s a worldwide phenomenon that has seen the art of drag explode and create multiple micro economies. The franchises, spin-offs, tours, YouTube shows, music videos and more mean that some of your favourite queens need a closet full of lewks. After all, fashion and drag have always been closely intertwined, and drag queens have long been a force to reckon with in fashion.


and listening to them talk about what shapes and colours make them feel amazing and beautiful. I love dramatic designs, so I’d love to work with people like Sasha Velour and corset enthusiast Violet Chachki, but I also love bonkers fashion, like Jimbo, Utica and Yvie Oddly. I’d love to design for all of them! Tell me what goes into designing and constructing a corset. The process looks intense. It can be pretty intense, depending on the design. Whether it’s for a client who wants a plain corset, a drag queen or a bride, I start out meeting with the client to discuss their ideas. Sometimes they have a concept to start with, and sometimes they don’t know where to start. Often beginning with a colour and a vibe is the way to get started in the right direction; then I sketch it out. I take 15 to 30 different measurements and draft their pattern from scratch. Then I make a mockup that they either try on in person, or I mail it to them and we fit it via Zoom. I send them loads of fabric swatches with stones and other details. I want them to feel the fabric for themselves. I make the corrections to the mockup and pattern, then begin the finished garment. I like to have a few fittings to be sure it’s perfect, and that they are happy with it. I make sure all of the details are exactly how they want it, and they get to take it home. Where do you draw inspiration from for your looks? The inspiration usually comes from the client: the overall feel of the look they want (‘I want to be That Bitch, but in orange’), the shape (‘Something like Cinderella or Marie Antoinette, but, you

Brooke Lynn Hytes in red. Photo: David Martinez

Who are some of your favourite queens? They are all my favourite! Every time I see a new queen on TV, or in a live performance, I fall in love so quickly. The talent is always remarkable. It takes so much to put a character together; to learn the hair, makeup, dancing; and even the crowd control. I’m always blown away. I have worked most closely with Priyanka over the past year, with her base layer corsets, Her Morticia Come Through look, some performance pieces, and gowns like the Peacock reunion dress…and one more special look that she will be premiering soon. What about a few of your favourite looks that you have designed for the queens? One of the most fun parts of working with these queens is that they give me a few basic concepts, and then they let me do my thing. I love that one of the most traditionally bridal looks I’ve ever done was for Lemon to host the 2021 CGLCC gala. Plus there’s a quickrelease multi-layer Rapunzel look for Juice Boxx, a few fun looks for Jimbo – including a PVC Marie Antoinette look and a sparkly Wilma Flintstone – some pieces for Dragula’s Maddelynn Hatter, and there are some jaw-dropping projects coming up in the new year with Brooke Lynn Hytes and Lemon. My favourite look will be debuting later in December. It took me about a month to create and weighs about 30 pounds. I wish I could tell you more, but you’ll know it when you see it. Anyone on your wish list to design for? Everyone! I’m so happy to meet new queens and work with them to make their looks come to life. I love starting with a blank slate Jimbo Marie Antoinette. Photo: Helene Cyr. Wig: Stephane Scotto Di Cesare




Jimbo in the Killer Clown for Priyanka's video Bitch I'm Busy Hair: Ian Russell Makeup: Viktor Peters

Priyanka's Punk Schoolgirl Night of the Living Drag Look Photo: Drag Coven Makeup: Viktor Peters Hair: Kristen Klont

know, more bondage-y’) or what they like (‘I really like Edward Scissorhands’). I like just vibing with a client and circling in on what makes them the happiest. Who inspires you? There’s inspiration everywhere! Pretty much every drag queen I’ve ever seen, artists like Jessica Joslin and her creatures, Heather Horton’s paintings (those colours!), my teenager’s mind-blowing spooky art…but I find inspiration in pretty much everybody who is a creative. People are so interesting, and everyone has their own unique circus.

" R eally, drag inspires me"

Really, drag inspires me. I really relate to the dressing up and creating a fantastical look and having an alter ego. Most days, I’m starting the day in sweats, home-schooling my tween kiddo, and trying to get my life together with coffee and to-do lists – but then I put on my “work drag.” Even if it’s just a bright lipstick or cool shoes, it gives me a boost to go out to an event, meet a supplier or client, or just get sewing.

Lemon in her custom bridal ball gown at the CGLCC gala

Any advice for aspiring fashion designers? It’s really discouraging being a new fashion designer now, with so much production being offshored, and people not understanding why something would cost what you should charge. I mean, seriously, sometimes the materials for a look alone can be over $1,000, never mind the cost of labour. Just keep going. Keep making beautiful things and putting them out there. Bring a sketchbook everywhere you go, and draw stuff. Maybe you’ll see a tree branch that’s a cool shape, and it gives you an idea for a hat. Maybe a crumpled piece of paper gives you an idea for a skirt draping technique. Be open to seeing inspiration wherever you are. If you weren’t designing right now, what would you be doing? I have no idea! Designing has been a huge part of my life for most of my life, and I can’t imagine not doing it. Maybe I’d be one of those guinea pig show people? Be a full-time TikTok creator? I need to be fully immersed and obsessed with my work, and it can’t be cooking, so I really don’t know. I’d just sit there and be sad. If you could tell people only one thing about you, what would it be? I probably became a designer of fancy dresses because when I was four, I wanted to be a princess for Halloween, but my mom dressed me as a lumberjack instead. ADHD can be a superpower sometimes. Also, goth isn’t always just a phase. What are you working on right now? Any teasers for some of your upcoming collaborations? I’m working on about six pieces right now that will be widely shown by this time next year, some television, some advertisements – all very sparkly and will make you go WOW!

CHRISTOPHER TURNER acted as guest editor for this issue of IN Magazine. He is a Toronto-based writer, editor and lifelong fashionisto with a passion for pop culture and sneakers. Follow him on social media at @Turnstylin.




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WINTER COAT: H&M T-SHIRT & PANTS: H&M SWEATER: Tiger of Sweden SHOES: Christopher Bates, MTV exclusive RINGS: Catharsis EYEWEAR: Kamazani House





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In some countries, staying in the metaverse is a way of avoiding assault and harassment... but it will never provide the serendipity that makes life exciting By Paul Gallant

It was around midnight when I spotted the two gay dads standing on the boulevard, with their baby wrapped up in the stroller beside them, outside the open-air drag show at Ricky’s Cabaret. Ricky’s is one of the half-dozen drag bars at Yumbo, a multi-level LGBTQfocused shopping and entertainment complex in Maspalomas, a resort community on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, and it gets started the earliest – which, I suppose, makes it the most family-friendly drag show. Depending on your grasp of English, which is the main language the queens deploy, you might not even notice all the dirty words. You have to go up to the mall’s second floor before stumbling on the bars with mandatory naked and/or fetish theme nights. So the only ethical qualm I’d hold against these two men, who rightfully weren’t going to let a little parenting get between them and their nightlife, was all the cigarette smoke that swirled around us – damn Europeans and their love of cancer sticks. There are still cigarette machines in the entrance of Spanish grocery stores, even though you can’t buy medication as strong as a Pepto Bismol or Aspirin without talking to a pharmacist.


The dads with the stroller reminded me of the dads I’d seen the day before on the gay strip of Maspalomas beach, a 20-minute walk through dunes so unrepentantly cruisy all the discarded tissue paper is causing serious environmental problems. Each of the beach dads was decked out in a Speedo-styled bathing suit (they kinda matched), each with a baby strapped to his chest. Twins? Feminism in the ’70s had teased women with the idea that they could “have it all” – career, love, family, sex, money, power – but the gay fathers here in Europe’s answer to Palm Springs/Fort Lauderdale seemed to be the ones cashing that cheque. After almost two years stuck at or close to home, seeing real-life LGBTQ people in real-life situations was at first a shock, then a thrill, and then, within a few days, business as usual. With the Spanish vaccination rate very high, and a lull in new cases, life on Gran Canaria felt almost normal except for putting on masks to enter restaurants and clubs before taking them off inside for eating and drinking, then putting them back on again to go to the bathroom or leave. There were fewer people around than in other years, I was told, and fewer Brits than usual, England having decided to dance to the beat of its own drum rather than listen to the European Union DJ’s COVID protocols mix. German gay



men, not the liveliest vacationers, were the majority by far. But it was all a reminder – at least for a Maspalomas first-timer – of how important meat space is for queer and trans people. Sure, online life has many safety features, not only from contagious diseases, but from the threat of physical harm by homophobes. The internet has been a refuge for LGBTQ people in many communities around the world who might face violence if they went out the door looking like they do in their Instagram stories. The “stay at home” advice meant to keep us safe from COVID-19 also gave many trans and nonbinary people an opportunity to experiment with how they present to the world without submitting themselves to quotidian scrutiny at work or on their daily commute. Our online lives can be curated with an amazing amount of precision and it’s easier to walk away from an annoying discussion thread about, say, J. K. Rowling, than it is to walk away from a boss who can’t or won’t get your pronouns right. Ideas are what shape public policy and cultural attitudes, and ideas can be easily transmitted online, which is why politics kept ticking during the pandemic even as supply chains stumbled. So easily, in fact, that we’re awash in ideas and information. They break on us like waves, day after day, sometimes minute by minute, in articulate essays, succinct tweets and unforgettable GIFs that capture a thought in a way that no single stream of words, images and sounds can manage. Which is why, during the peak of the pandemic, I missed the relative slowness and clumsiness of real life. An awkward conversation with an Italian holidaymaker doesn’t present the same mic-drop opportunities as an impassioned Facebook comment. But the pauses, the misspeaks, the interruptions, the reliance on facial expressions and body language, reminded me that what’s true ideally, what’s true in theory, what sounds great in our heads, does not always manifest itself the way we want, or get us what we want, in real life. The plan and its execution are not the same thing. That’s easy to forget if most of our interaction with the world is through our keyboard and camera. Memes aren’t the best way to make romantic or erotic connections. In fact, being too articulate, too savvy, can get in the way. The control freak part of ourselves that social media nurtures so well can ultimately be filed under “inner saboteur.” You can put “looking for sporty or Lycra dudes” in your


dating profile, but that totally non-sporty non-Lycra dude you have to squeeze past to get to the washroom might have the sweetest smile you’ve seen in a while. The Metaverse, should it ever come to exist in a way that wins people over, can never provide the serendipity that makes life exciting and that has driven gay life since the first cruising grounds and the first gay bars. If something exists in a virtual environment, it’s because

someone designed for it to be there, thus depriving users of the opportunity to have a fresh experience. Even in a destination that’s as tired as Maspalomas can be – where bars relentlessly imitate each other’s themes and prices and entertainments, and patrons clonishly deck themselves out in the same fetish gear – there are experiences nobody planned for, surprises waiting in the margins. Those are the experiences that will touch us most deeply or make us laugh the hardest.

PAUL GALLANT is a Toronto-based writer and editor who writes about travel, innovation, city building, social issues (particularly LGBT issues) and business for a variety of national and international publications. He’s done time as lead editor at the loop magazine in Vancouver as well as Xtra and fab in Toronto. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, published by Acorn Press, is out now.



GENDER Nonconf or mit y Is Mor e Complicate d Than You Think That’s shown by a brief history of hijra, India’s third gender By Adam Zivo


Tanveer (above) is one of the few people in Toronto who self-identifies as a hijra

Some international critics of the LGBTQ community have argued that gender nonconformity is a Western invention, but that isn’t true – there are ample examples of gender divergence around the globe. Hijras are a relatively prominent example of this. Found throughout South Asia, hijras inhabit an ambiguous, occasionally mystical, space in the region’s cultural landscape. They are not exactly men or women, but neither do they neatly conform to the terms “nonbinary” or “trans,” although Western activists and commentators, as well as some South Asian LGBTQ activists, often impose those labels upon them.



To better understand the hijra world, I interviewed a Toronto-based hijra, Tanveer, who spoke at length about their experiences and complicated relationship to the hijra identity. While hijras can be found throughout most of South Asia, Tanveer is Bangladeshi and so this article is focused on Bangladesh. SOME BASICS Hijras live highly distinct lives that are defined by far more than just gender nonconformity. Hijras typically live together in quasi-families under the leadership of a hijra guru. They rely on

Despite their economic marginalization, many hijras find their lifestyle liberating – they are their own bosses, so their poverty comes with a great degree of freedom. For this reason, employment programs sometimes find it difficult to support hijras, who are resistant to regimentation in the formal economy. Many queer Bangladeshis become hijras because no alternatives exist for them. Owing to virulent cultural prejudice, gay and trans Bangladeshi youth are often kicked out of their homes and seek out hijra communes for a sense of belonging and protection. However, this support comes with a price. Gurus are often exploitative and keep their communes’ earnings for themselves. While hijra communities are technically open to people of all gender identities and orientations, most hijras are effeminate queer men or bisexuals. However, hijra culture aggressively pressures members to perform hyper-femininity, sometimes to the point of physical self-alteration. That can mean pressure to get surgeries and hormones and, in some cases, ritualized and unsafe castration.

" M any que e r Banglades his be come hijras be caus e no alte r nat ives ex is t f or t he m"

considers them to be sexually disabled. Relatedly, it uses a narrow definition of “hijra” that relies on genitals for legitimacy. Legally speaking, one is considered a hijra in Bangladesh only if they do not have male genitalia. Official recognition as a hijra typically involves medically invasive checkups at government hospitals. Hijras who have not medically transitioned are excluded from government support systems, despite being vulnerable to social scorn. Hijras receive some assistance from international organizations, but this assistance is typically provided through the lens of HIV reduction, because hijras are so intimately connected with sex work. As a result, international aid is more focused on the symptoms of stigma (STIs in the context of sex work) than its underlying causes (prejudice against gender nonconformity). In precolonial times, hijras were respected in South Asia. They were considered wise eunuchs and were given influential positions as political advisors and guardians of harems. They were also considered somewhat divine. Interestingly enough, though, these historical perceptions utilize many of the assumptions that are still made about hijras today – for example, desexualization and mystification at the expense of normalcy and equality. Once European colonial influences seeped into the region, hijras were rebranded as perverts and deviants. HIJRAS, ACTIVISM AND WESTERN LABELS The term “hijra” is highly stigmatized in Bangladesh and is akin to the word “faggot.” As a result, many Bangladeshi activists consider the term to be a slur and are reluctant to use it, either for themselves or for others. As an alternative, they push for the adoption of Western terminology, such as “trans” and “nonbinary,” which lacks the toxic cultural baggage of “hijra.”

Though most new hijras are already queer in some sense, this isn’t However, this Westernization of local language can be pernicious. always the case. Mature hijras often patrol train stations in search of As hijras are so profoundly marginalized, they rarely have the runaway children to recruit. These children are then told that they social and economic clout to engage in organized activism. As are hijras, regardless of their actual orientation or gender identity. a result, Bangladeshi LGBTQ activist circles have scant hijra Imposing femininity on an individual under the threat of group representation. Most of Bangladesh’s LGBTQ activists are highly ostracization or expulsion is inappropriate, much in the same educated and come from middle- and upper-class backgrounds. way it is inappropriate for biological families or others to impose Their socioeconomic privilege grants them the protection needed masculinity under the threat of disownment. Generally speaking, to advocate for change in a hostile environment. In the face of it is best to let people adopt whatever gender expressions feel criminalization, activism persists underground, and yet, because most natural to them, and while hijra communities can carve out it must be shielded by money and education, it is available only space for some people to be their genuine selves, they can also to the monied and educated. lock others into gender inauthenticity. This association with wealth is problematic because wealth begets Given all of these factors, hijra communities have a complicated a yearning for cosmopolitanism and respectability – privileged moral status. Though they are a distinct and rich subculture that LGBTQ Bangladeshis want to simultaneously escape their culture provides vital support to the marginalized, they are also slightly and be embraced by it. On one hand, they want to be seen as predatory, economically exploitative, and can inappropriately force legitimate in Bangladesh, which means building up an aura of feminization on cisgendered members. respectability that is, at this time, simply incompatible with the stigma surrounding hijra culture. They fear being associated with In 2013, Bangladesh legalized the hijra identity and recognized hijras like a hypochondriac fears mud. Yet, at the same time, they it as a third gender – though homosexuality remains criminalized. want to flee the parochial confines of Bangladeshi culture, which, Hijras also now benefit from affirmative action policies that carve in practice, means emulating Western values. out professional opportunities for them in the public sector. However, this does not mean that hijras are seen as legitimate members of The resulting power dynamic is strange. Middle-class activists Bangladeshi society. The government accepts hijras because it vigorously debate about the language used to describe impoverished



one another to survive in a culture that scorns them, and, owing to their widespread illiteracy, typically turn to begging and sex work for income.


hijras who are conspicuously absent from conversations concerning their own well-being. They want to protect hijras, because doing so is necessary within the larger fight for LGBTQ rights – yet at the same time they are embarrassed by them and want to obscure their identity using a Western linguistic framework that hijras are not familiar with. Perhaps the closest Western analogue to this would be well-off homosexuals debating about what label would be most respectable for trans sex workers, without actually inviting trans voices to chime in with their own perspectives. Yet this comparison is not entirely apt, because, at this moment, trans people have the capacity to advocate for themselves and so inviting them to speak is feasible. For Bangladeshi activists, what are the alternatives to the status quo? Unfortunately, some hijras genuinely lack the capacity to forcefully advocate for themselves, which thus consigns them to being paternalistically represented by outsiders who see them as inferiors.


" F or Tanve e r, to s el f -ide nti f y as a hijra is a way of r e claiming cult ural he r it age and r e conne c t ing to an ex ile d home land"

On the other hand, the push to adopt Western terminology has inspired fierce pushback from some hijra groups, who have taken offence to what they see as attempts to erase their culture and community. Some hijras have gone so far as to threaten the lives of Bangladeshi trans activists who advocate for Western labels. However, Western language continues to filter into Bangladeshi queer life due to widespread use of the internet, which diffuses ideas from across the globe. Some hijras manage to climb out of poverty and attain education and formal employment. However, fearing stigma, these individuals often choose to shed the term “hijra” and instead self-identify as trans. This is understandable – overcoming social barriers is



exhausting and no one should be begrudged for wanting peace for themselves. However, this further complicates the debate around the term “hijra.” Yes, some hijras shy away from the term, yet, at the same time, they represent a well-off faction of their own community and it’s unclear whether their preferences should be imposed upon other community members who remain marginalized and find the term “hijra” integral to their sense of self. Tanveer, the hijra I interviewed for this story, says, “Hijras are not on any NGO [non-governmental organization] boards and are only beneficiaries of aid, not administrators. On one hand, they want to use the thin layer of legality associated with the label ‘hijra’ so they can get ahead. Sometimes, people who are gay or lesbian do queer activism under the jargon of helping hijra people, but none of them want to call themselves hijra. On the whole, the hijras cannot speak for themselves.” TANVEER’S STORY Tanveer, who uses they/them pronouns, is an acquaintance of mine and one of the few people in Toronto who self-identifies as a hijra. Growing up in Bangladesh, Tanveer was often called a hijra by their homophobic father. Sometimes these slurs would come with beatings. As a teenager, Tanveer tried to run away from home. They had heard on TV that there were hijras in a nearby city, and so they went to the train station in the hope of connecting with other people like them. They boarded a train to go to the other city, but their father found them before the train left and forced them to return home. Tanveer recently decided to start calling themselves a hijra – yet that choice is controversial to some. Hijras in Bangladesh are unlikely to recognize Tanveer as one of their own, because Tanveer, though gender-nonconforming, does not have a history of living among hijras and participating in the hijra lifestyle. More Westernized Bangladeshi LGBTQ activists may also reject Tanveer because these activists consider the term “hijra” to be highly regional and inapplicable to someone living in Canada, even if that person is Bangladeshi. Even Tanveer’s mother is unsupportive, given the term’s stigma, and prefers that they use the term “nonbinary” instead. Yet hijra is the identity that Tanveer is most comfortable with because it honours their cultural background in a way that terms like “trans” and “nonbinary” do not. For Tanveer, to self-identify as a hijra is a way of reclaiming cultural heritage and reconnecting to an exiled homeland. At the same time, it is precisely Tanveer’s distance from Bangladesh that makes this reclamation comfortable, because self-identifying as a hijra in Canada comes with few social costs – most people have no idea what a hijra is. Sometimes Tanveer feels that they shouldn’t self-identify as a hijra, and yet, when these feelings percolate, they wonder what their life would have been like had they been born into a lower socioeconomic class or if their father hadn’t stopped them from running away. In either case, it is likely that Tanveer would be a full-fledged hijra today. If Tanveer was called a hijra by their father and could have very easily become a hijra in another life, why, then, should they be entirely cut off from the hijra identity? The heritage Tanveer hopes to claim is one of a life that was almost lived – a life that continues to reside within them in some way to this very day.

ADAM ZIVO is IN Magazine’s politics and culture columnist. He is a Toronto-based social entrepreneur, photographer and analyst best known for founding the LoveisLoveisLove campaign.


Which Way To The Beach? Start planning now for your sand-in-yourpants tour of the world’s most amazing beaches. You’ve put off your tan long enough! By Doug Wallace



AUSTRALIA Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands Reachable by boat tour or helicopter, this seven-kilometre strip of fine, white-silica sand consistently makes the world’s top-10 lists. The sand is so fine, it feels like you’re walking on cornstarch and makes a squeaking sound. It comes courtesy of an ancient underwater volcano, around which two tectonic plates are grinding together, creating a constant supply of new silica that floats to the surface. There’s not much to do here except soak up the beautiful view, swim and read a book, but you’ll be hard-pressed not to feel like you’re in a Bond film. Watch for stingers: tour companies will provide you with full-body stinger suits, the wearing of which is your IG shot of the day. FRENCH POLYNESIA Matira Beach, Bora Bora The largest public beach in Bora Bora is very popular, and for good reason: it is beyond gorgeous and never very crowded. All the tourists seem to be at their own beaches, so you can splash around in crystal-clear blue water, quite shallow and calm. Boat tours can take you out to visit a “fever” of very tame stingrays who roam this southern tip of the lagoon. You can wander the hiking trails or pop into the shops, and restaurants are all close at hand, so going for the whole day is easy and breezy. If you’re not staying within walking distance, the beach is five miles south of Vaitape, where you get a bicycle or find a taxi.

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES Petit St. Vincent This 115-acre island south of Union Island in the Grenadines chain is a private luxury resort, so guests have the run of the place, including the white-sand beach. It pretty much rings the whole island – straddling the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. PSV doesn’t even bother with a swimming pool, instead steering guests towards wind-surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing. There are a ton of snorkelling opportunities, particularly on the Atlantic side of the island, where the reef is more extensive. The five-star Jean-Michel Cousteau Caribbean Diving Center – one of two in the world – is a big draw. ANGUILLA Maundays Bay, West End Sheltered, shallow, peaceful and pleasant, this hallowed semi-circle of powdered sand on the westernmost tip of the island is the best of Anguilla’s 33 beaches. With clear, blue water and not many waves, it’s like a little beach isthmus between the bay and the inner salt ponds. There are beach bars to hit, food pop-ups to support and resorts to check into, including the five-star Cap Juluca, a Belmond resort. Set your sights on sailing and snorkelling and paddling, or pondering the million shades of blue.


BRAZIL Jericoacoara Beach, Ceará What was once just a fishing village with no electricity is now a relaxed tourist town, big with weekenders, honeymooners and clusters of college kids, a magnet for wind- and kite-surfing on Brazil’s north coast. It’s a bit of a trek and there’s not much to do – but that’s the point. After you’ve taken the requisite photos of the famous Pedra Furada seaside rock formation, you can go 4x4ing with a dune buggy and driver, take a surfing lesson, rent a sand board or throw back a few caipirinhas. Everyone congregates on the giant Sunset Dune to watch for that green flash when the sun disappears, then wanders into town for steaks.


Left: AUSTRALIA - Whitehaven Beach



Above: BRAZIL - Jericoacoara Beach

CRETE Balos Beach, Gramvousa On the Gramvousa peninsula in western Crete near Kissamos lies Balos Beach, one of the finest in the Mediterranean. It has all the exotic appeal you’d expect of the Greek islands, pink and white sand, vivid blue-green water, natural surroundings. The beach hugs a natural lagoon, all warm and shallow. This is a great place to moor your yacht in the morning to enjoy some peace and quiet before the ferries arrive. Speaking of which, go only in the shoulder season: July and August see robust crowds.

ANGUILLA - Maundays Bay

TURKEY Blue Lagoon, Ölüdeniz One of the most famous stretches of sand in the world is tucked within the southwest coast of Turkey inside Ölüdeniz Nature Park. Two different things are going on here: Belcekiz Beach and the Blue Lagoon beside it, supported by the resort village of Ölüdeniz. Here where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean, you can soak up the hypnotic sunshine playing on the water and the almost surreal colours, before paragliding from the top of Babadag mountain. SRI LANKA Dalawella Beach, Unawatuna This palm-tree studded, white-sand paradise on the southern coast of Sri Lanka – a.k.a. Wijaya Beach – is well worth the two-hour drive south from Colombo. There are rocks to climb and a famous rope swing to channel Tarzan with, with little beach restaurants to hit. Dozens of little villas and bungalows make this a lovely week-long break from trekking through parts of the country, a vacation within a vacation. Beach_Horseshoe Bay_Southhampton Parish

CRETE - Balos Beach

DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource TravelRight.Today.



BERMUDA Horseshoe Bay, South Shore Park Pink sand, cerulean water, a chair and an umbrella, and you’re set for the day at this popular but not-too-crowded Bermudan beach. The dramatic surrounding rock formations feature little caves and coves to explore. There’s also a series of smaller, hidden beaches – one in fact called Hidden Beach – that you can stumble upon along the sand dune trails. Don’t forget to work in tuna burgers at Rum Bum Beach Bar at the west end.

FLASHBACK Gabrielle Tremblay Becomes The First Transgender Woman Actor To Be Nominated At The Canadian Screen Awards (January 17, 2017)

On the morning of January 17, 2017, Quebec’s Gabrielle Tremblay made Canadian history when the Academy Of Canadian Cinema & Television rolled out the film, television and digital nominations for the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. Tremblay became the first transgender woman ever nominated for an acting award at the Canadian Screen Awards or their predecessor Genie Awards.


Tremblay was nominated as best supporting actress at the 5th Canadian Screen Awards for her performance as Klas Batalo in the 2016 film Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau), directed by Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie. The film was about four young people, veterans of the 2012 Quebec student protests, who were disillusioned by the failure of their past activism to effect meaningful social change and engaged in small-scale public vandalism. Tremblay was born on July 27, 1990, in La Malbaie, Quebec, and came out as transgender in 2012. She didn’t take home the gold statue when the Canadian Screen Awards were presented at the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts on March 12, but she did make history.




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