CELEBRATING CANADA’S LGBTQ2
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HOLLYWOOD JADE IS THE CANADIAN ENTERTAINMENT ICON YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING PELOTON’S JESS KING ON SHOWING UP FOR THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY WHY GENDER PRONOUNS ARE SO IMPORTANT 1
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inmagazine.ca PUBLISHER Patricia Salib GUEST EDITOR Christopher Turner ART DIRECTOR Georges Sarkis COPY EDITOR Ruth Hanley SENIOR COLUMNISTS Paul Gallant, Jumol Royes CONTRIBUTORS Jesse Boland, Fabian Di Corcia, Ivy Edad, Adriana Ermter, Gamaliel Grootenboer, Bianca Guzzo, Courtney Hardwick, Imarra, Karen Kwan, Paul Langill, Ivan Otis, Brian Phillips, Sofonda–Thrive, Pinal Surana, Doug Wallace, Casey Williams, Jaime Woo, Adam Zivo DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND SPONSORSHIPS Bradley Blaylock CONTROLLER Jackie Zhao
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ON THE COVER: HOLLYWOOD JADE Photo Credits PHOTOGRAPHER: Fabian Di Corcia MAKEUP ARTIST: Imarra PRODUCTS BY: Cherry Bomb Eyes WARDROBE: L’Uomo Strano by Mic. Carter and Roell Designs by Roell Gomes NAIL JEWELLERY: Infiniti Nail Jewelry
101 Issue 101 July / August 2021 INFRONT
06 | A SUNSHINE STATE Debunk these sunscreen myths with 10 killer tanning facts
08 | GET THE CROSSOVER THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU Are your crossover’s mountaineering boots for hiking or style? 09 | MUST EAT: FERMENTED FOODS Five fermented foods to add to your diet 11 | PROMOTING QUEER HEALTH IN BARRIE/MUSKOKA A conversation with Randy Davis, the gay men’s sexual health coordinator at The Gilbert Centre 12 | POSH BALL GOES AHEAD IN VANCOUVER Van Vogue Jam and Vancouver Pride Society are creating spaces for racialized queer folks while also remembering ballroom’s roots 13 | SHOW YOUR QUEENS SOME LOVE In celebration of International Drag Day on July 16, we asked one of our favourite Canadian queens to write a few words
14 | PRIDE 365 We asked, “What is your favourite Pride memory in relation to your time at Metrolinx?” 15 | TRANS FUSION CREW IS SUPPORTING OUR YOUTH A welcoming and supportive space for all trans and non-binary gender experiences
16 | HERE’S WHY GENDER PRONOUNS ARE SO IMPORTANT When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking you to respect their identity 18 | DO NOT DISTURB WHILE IN TUB A nightly bathtime routine has been my saving grace and great escape during lockdown 20 | TWO FRIENDS, ONE OBSESSION, ZERO FILTER If you’re a passionate tennis fan and a podcast listener, Ready Play Tennis is the ultimate podcast for you
22 | IN SEARCH OF THE ELUSIVE “SUMMER BODY” As someone who has body image issues, Instagram can be hell 24 | STRAIGHT MEN AREN’T EMBRACING THEIR FEMININITY, THEY’RE REBRANDING IT Dude, yes, your pearl earring does make you look gay. Now, is that a problem for you? 26 | CHERI DINOVO IS STILL FIGHTING FOR A QUEER-FRIENDLY CANADA The former MPP’s new book, The Queer Evangelist, is all about amplifying marginalized voices
It’s time to celebrate!
52 | PRIDE PARADES ARE FRAGMENTING – THAT’S INEVITABLE... AND OKAY Let’s call it rising discontent 54 | JONATHAN PARKS-RAMAGE’S GOTHIC TAKE ON #METOO His debut novel is as enthralling as it is disturbing 56 | THE REVENGE TRAVEL ROUTE It’s best to have something fabulous in mind for when the travel dam actually, finally bursts 60 | FLASHBACK: JULY 25, 2015 IN LGBTQ HISTORY The first official Indigenous Pride event in Canada FASHION 38 | JARDIN LUMIÈRE Heavenly creatures in a crazy-magical world 42 | SHOW YOUR PRIDE These beauties are celebrating Pride and recommitting to equality and justice every single day of the year THIS ISSUE OF IN MAGAZINE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY
28 | PELOTON’S JESS KING ON SHOWING UP FOR THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY The beloved out and proud LGBTQ+ instructor is celebrating the community, both on and off the platform 32 | CANADA’S OWN HOLLYWOOD Hollywood Jade is the Canadian entertainment icon you should be watching 5
Debunk these sunscreen myths with 10 killer tanning facts By Adriana Ermter
Who hasn’t stopped, mesmerized, at the sight of a sun-weatheredlooking person whose biological age is most certainly a decade younger than their perma-bronzed, coconut-scented presence? With blatant disregard for sunscreen, these raisin-like creatures join the ranks of the Ritz Cracker’s George Hamilton, There’s Something About Mary’s Magda and the Grand Old Party’s Donald Trump – each one a cautionary tale for what too much time spent outdoors without SPF will do to your appearance and health. And it makes me ponder, are we using enough sunscreen?
water resistant up to 40 or 80 minutes, explains Dr. Carroll. But remember: “it will not last all day.” The Mayo Clinic defines waterresistant SPF by the amount of time it can last while the wearer is sweating, swimming or engaging in water activities. Solution: Apply SPF to exposed skin 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply as recommended by the product label. SUNSCREENS WITH AN SPF 50 OR HIGHER = LESS APPLICATION False: The number next to the SPF on the label refers to the level of protection you’re receiving. “Using a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher can block approximately 97 per cent of the sun’s rays, providing protection against sunburn and UV-induced skin cell damage,” explains Dr. Carroll. That said, “there isn’t a sunscreen that can block 100 per cent of the sun’s rays. It’s also important to remember that high-number SPF sunscreens, such as an SPF 50 or SPF 100, last the same amount of time as an SPF 30, and they all need to be reapplied throughout the day.” Solution: Play it safe and set your smartphone to alert you to reapply your sunscreen every two hours (or as directed on the label).
a SunshinE StatE
Based on the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation – which has calculated that over 80,000 people develop skin cancer each year, 5,000 of whom are diagnosed with melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) – the answer is no. Most people are not applying SPF properly or as diligently as necessary. To get you back on track, we’re debunking the 10 most prevalent sunscreen myths to arm you with the facts and SPF solutions you need to have fun in and out of the sun 365 days a year.
SPF-INFUSED MAKEUP OR FOUNDATION HAS YOU COVERED False: Unless you’re wearing a full ounce of thick and heavy drag queen-style makeup or foundation, you’re not wearing enough to protect your skin from the sun. “Makeup typically won’t have enough SPF in it and it’s hard to tell if you have enough on for it to be effective,” adds Dr. Carroll. “Always put SPF on either before or after makeup application to make sure your skin is protected.” Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends using a face cream with SPF, then layering it with a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen. Solution: Apply your SPF skin care first, then your sunscreen, and then your makeup.
CHEMICALS IN SUNSCREEN CAN CAUSE CANCER False: Despite chatter about ingredients such as oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and parabens, “none of these chemicals have been classified as a cancer-causing substance by any major scientific organization,” affirms Dr. Julia Carroll, a dermatologist with Compass Dermatology in Toronto. “Sunscreen prevents skin cancer. Furthermore, I’ve sadly had patients die from skin cancer but I’ve yet to have a patient die from using sunscreen.” With 80 to 90 per cent of skin cancers resulting from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, the Canadian Dermatology Association says any potential health risk from an ingredient is outweighed by the risk of developing skin cancer by not wearing sunscreen. Solution: If you’re still worried, try a physical sunblock with mineral-based ingredients that sit on the skin’s surface, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
YOU ONLY NEED SUNSCREEN DURING THE SPRING AND SUMMER False: You need to wear sunscreen 365 days of the year, even during a pandemic when you’re stuck inside. “People think they can only be affected by the sun when they are in the direct sunlight, but UV rays can get through clouds, fog and haze,” warns Dr. Carroll. “Water, sand, concrete and especially snow can reflect and even increase the effect of the sun’s rays. Apply sunscreen every day when outdoors, driving in a car, or even indoors if you are working near a window. The sun emits harmful ultraviolet rays all year round – in fact, UVA rays remain constant in a location no matter what the season.” With the Canadian Cancer Society identifying melanoma as one of the most common cancers among people ages 15 to 29, no one is off the hook. Solution: Mix it up with SPF sprays, solids and lotions.
WATERPROOF SUNSCREEN LASTS ALL DAY False: There is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen or sunblock, because if there were you’d never be able to wash it off. Look for “sunscreens labelled water resistant 40 or 80, indicating they are
I’M VITAMIN D DEFICIENT, SO I NEED FULL-ON SUN False: According to the Harvard Medical School, your body reaches its maximum vitamin D production after 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight. “There is no scientific data available to support
NATURALLY DARK SKIN TONES CAN SKIP THE SUNSCREEN False: All skin tones are susceptible to some level of sun damage, so “it’s important for everyone to wear sunscreen, regardless of their skin colour, as it can prevent sunburns and photoaging,” says Dr. Carroll. Your skin cells respond to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays by releasing more pigment, which can result in a red, tanned, or more enhanced and darker-looking colour. “Certain skin conditions can be worsened by sun exposure as well, including melasma, rosacea and wrinkles,” adds Dr. Carroll. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, exposing your skin to UV radiation – whether from the sun or indoor tanning – puts you at risk for skin cancer. Solution: Broad-spectrum protection ensures you’re covered from both the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
I CAN’T USE SUNSCREEN – IT MAKES ME BREAK OUT False: All skin types need to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF daily. “When you have acne-prone skin, sun exposure can actually lead to permanent marks and scarring,” says Dr. Carroll. Choose a non-comedogenic and oil-free option that won’t block pores and cause pimples or blackheads. Solution: Look for words on the label like: water- or gel-based formula, anti-acne, clear face and non-comedogenic.
IF I GET A BASE TAN, I WON’T BURN ON VACATION False: Getting a base tan will never prevent you from sunburn, and it actually offers very little protection from the sun. The Canadian Cancer Society states that some tanning beds can actually expose you to five times as much ultraviolet radiation as the sun. “Exposure to UVA and UVB radiation from tanning equipment can cause sunburn and eye damage, as well as increase the risk of skin cancer,” affirms Dr. Carroll. “Among those who first used a sunbed before age 35, the risk of melanoma is increased by 59 per cent – and early exposure to tanning beds can increase a person’s chance of developing melanoma by up to 75 per cent.” Solution: Use a tinted sunscreen containing SPF to create a safe and natural-looking glow.
I LOOK HEALTHIER WITH A TAN False: Bronzed skin may make you feel healthier, thinner, happier… but there’s nothing healthy about premature aging, wrinkles, sunspots, fine lines, burn blisters and melanoma. According to Harvard Medical School, the earlier you start tanning, the longer your lifetime of skin damage and the higher your risk of skin cancer. “There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan,” affirms Dr. Carroll. Solution: Apply SPF-infused powder or foundation in a bronze colour over top of your sunscreen.
SUNSCREEN DEFINED UVA rays: Ultraviolet A rays from the sun associated with premature aging of your skin. They affect the inner cells in the top layer of the skin, and can cause wrinkles and some skin cancers. UVB rays: Ultraviolet B rays from the sun associated with burning your skin. They impact the cells in the top layer of the skin and can contribute to premature aging, while causing sunburns, blistering and skin cancer. UV radiation: A form of electromagnetic energy that can come from sunlight, lasers and tanning beds.
the argument that being in the sun is the only way to produce vitamin D,” says Dr. Carroll. “Because of the known side effects of UV exposure, vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to the sun. It can be easily obtained from foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods and beverages fortified with vitamin D, and vitamin D supplements.” Solution: Eat more fatty fish, cheese and egg yolks to get your vitamin D fix.
MATCH YOUR SPF TO YOUR NEEDS FOR: ACNE-PRONE SKIN Try: Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB, $18, available online at www.well.ca FOR: A CHEMICAL SUNBLOCK Try: Ombrelle Ultralight Advanced Spray SPF 60, $21, available at Shoppers Drug Mart FOR: A FULL BODY GLOW Try: Avène Tinted Mineral Fluid SPF 50+, $33, available online at www.well.ca FOR: A PHYSICAL SUNBLOCK Try: Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Sensitive Skin, $15, available online at www.well.ca FOR: CONTOURING AND FACIAL GLOW Try: bareMinerals Matte Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 in “Golden Tan 20,” $38, available at Sephora FOR: EVERYDAY ALL-OVER PROTECTION Try: Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Clear Sunscreen Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 50+, $40, available at Sephora FOR: EXCESS SWEATING, FACE AND BODY Try: Vichy Idéal Soleil SPF 60 Sport Water and Sweat Resistant Face and Body, $30, available at Hudson’s Bay FOR: FACE HYDRATION AND PROTECTION Try: Olay Regenerist Mineral Sunscreen Hydrating Moisturizer with Sunscreen Zinc Oxide Broad Spectrum SPF 30, from $39, available at Walmart and drugstores FOR: WATER SPORTS AND ACTIVITIES Try: Sun Bum Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA/UVB Protection Water Resistant Premium Sunscreen Spray, $19, available at Shoppers Drug Mart
Broad-spectrum sunscreen: A sunscreen product that protects from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Chemical sunscreen: Contains active ingredients that seep into your dermis (the inner layers of your skin) to absorb UV rays, preventing damage to your skin. Physical sunscreen: Contains active ingredients that add a protective layer to your epidermis (the outer, top layer of skin) to block UV rays, preventing damage to your skin. Sensitive skin sunscreen: Formulas mix-mastered for people with skin allergies, sensitivities and acne. Hypoallergenic and mineral-based, they contain titanium and/or zinc dioxides and are free of fragrance, oils and the active ingredients found in chemical sunscreens. Sports sunscreen: The formula is water resistant to sweat and water-based activities, and can last for up to 40 minutes before reapplication is needed.
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.
GET THE CROSSOVER THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU Are your crossover’s mountaineering boots for hiking or style? By Casey Williams
One of my favourite scenes in all of the Schitt’s Creek episodes centres on David admitting he sees Patrick as his boyfriend. In a rant about what is not correct (including plungers in front of the store and breath mints where lip balms should be), he provides as evidence “these mountaineering shoes that my boyfriend is wearing like Oprah on a Thanksgiving Day hike.” Definitely incorrect, but what about hiking boots on your comfy little crossover? In the case of the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, absolutely correct! Outbacks are pretty capable in tennis shoes, but this is next-level. Catering to more daring owners, Subaru added ground clearance, off-road tires, flared plastic fender cladding, and a black anti-glare patch on the hood. Metal skid plates protect sensitive underbits. Electronic X-Mode enhances the vehicle’s traction and powertrain to storm up sloppy hills and creep feet-off down the other side. A turbocharged 2.4-litre with 260 horsepower gets it down-trail expeditiously. There’s a lot of style, too. That strapping roof rack was fortified to handle 318 kg, enough for a two-person tent. All of the anodized copper accents hide functional elements like town hooks. I’d get the black alloy wheels and deep-tread tires just for flair. Go ahead and select delicious Geyser Blue paint too. Inside, faux leather seats and rubberized cargo compartment can be washed clean. Whether you drive this car to dinner or across deserts, it looks ravishing in all its kit.
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Subaru’s big wagon isn’t the only crossover dressing like an army ranger. As Ford introduces its famous Bronco SUV, the Escapebased Bronco Sport entices a more urban crowd. It looks the part with square shoulders and bulldozer grille. But it also comes with modes to help it conquer trails named “G.O.A.T.” (goes over any terrain), which configures the powertrain for Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Sand. Trail Control enables a cruise control-like setting up to 32 km/h forward and 9.5 km/h in reverse for automated throttle and braking. Add to that enhanced ground clearance and 245 horsepower turbo-four. The interior holds two mountain bikes and has washable rubber flooring in case things get messy. Front tow hooks get you out – or just provide pomp for cars and coffee shows. Before you think that’s some sissified crossover, remember Jeep followed this formula for years with the Renegade Trailhawk, essentially a Fiat 500X with cleats. But its adjustable drive modes, enhanced 4x4 system with crawl ratio, skid plates and signature red tow hooks make it the Boy Scout who dresses properly. I once spent an entire day watching a Renegade follow Wranglers and Gladiators anywhere they ventured. It’s no poser. 8
When I recently drove the Outback Wilderness at an off-road park near Flint, Michigan, I was impressed with its capability – far beyond what I need for daily commuting, deep snow or summer vacations with my family. On the highway, pressing the turbocharger, soaking up rough northern roads, and looking like a boyfriend in mountaineering boots, I felt stylish. I’d buy the Wilderness or Bronco even if they never leave pavement.
CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com. He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
FERMENTED FOODS Five fermented foods to add to your diet By Karen Kwan
From the health nut in front of you in the lineup at the grocery store who has their cart stacked with bottles of kombucha, to the kimchi that’s suddenly popping up in more recipes and menus, fermented foods are having a moment. Although they’re nothing new, fermented foods are becoming mainstream thanks to people realizing their gut health-boosting benefits.
using vinegar (rather than the beneficial microorganisms), so it won’t contain probiotics. Boost your digestive health by making room in your diet for these popular fermented foods, which can now be easily found in most supermarkets.
What are fermented foods, though? Through the action of yeasts, bacteria and enzymes, these foods are broken down and preserved, which boosts their shelf life and ups their nutritional value. These foods provide you with probiotics, which are good bacteria that help with digestion. When shopping for fermented foods rich in probiotics, be sure to look for naturally fermented foods. For example, while sauerkraut is a naturally fermented pickled cabbage, that jar of dill pickles, while also a pickled veggie, is pickled KEFIR glass jar with a label that says it’s fermented (rather than the Kefir is a fermented milk product (usually made with cow canned variety). or goat milk) that is like a thinner, drinkable yogurt. Think of it as a tangy smoothie. It is rich in calcium, vitamin B12, TEMPEH magnesium, biotin, folate and probiotics. Made of soybeans that have been combined with a starter, tempeh is similar to tofu but is springier in texture. It is a good KOMBUCHA helping of both protein (a three-ounce serving provides 15 Kombucha is a fermented beverage made of black or green grams of protein) and prebiotics. It is a dense cake-like form, tea and sugar. When you add specific strains of bacteria and which you can steam, sauté or bake. yeast, the tea is fermented. As it ferments, it also produces acetic acid and other compounds, trace amounts of alcohol Kimchi and gases that give it a subtle carbonation. Kombucha has A traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables, such as been around for thousands of years, and while its benefits are napa cabbage and Korean radish, kimchi is made with a variety not conclusively backed by research, many people find it can of seasonings including gochugaru, garlic, ginger and fish help boost digestion and energy. sauce. It’s salty and spicy, and very versatile; use it as a dip, an ingredient or a side dish on its own. In Korea, it’s enjoyed SAUERKRAUT at almost every meal, including breakfast; experiment with This fermented green or red cabbage, whose name means it and try it out in your stir-fry dishes, sandwiches, noodles, “sour cabbage” in German, is high in fibre as well as vitamins eggs, fried rice, or even on top of your pizza. In addition to A, C, K and B; and is a source of iron, calcium, manganese containing probiotics, there is some evidence that kimchi can and magnesium. When shopping for sauerkraut, look for a also help reduce inflammation and reduce cholesterol.
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.
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PRIDE AT WORK
BARRIE AND MUSKOKA A conversation with Randy Davis, the gay men’s sexual health coordinator at the Gilbert Centre
The Gilbert Centre is a not-for-profit charitable organization that has been operating for more than 25 years in Barrie, Ont. It provides social and support services to empower, promote health, and celebrate the lives of people living with and affected by HIV, hepatitis C or other sexually transmitted infections, as well as individuals and families from the LGBTQ2S community. We recently sat down and chatted with Randy Davis, the centre’s gay men’s sexual health coordinator, to find out more about the organization and how they educate and help individuals and communities. Tell us about you and your work. What motivates you? Prior to joining the team at the Gilbert Centre three years ago, I had a totally unrelated career in finance for more than a decade. I became an advocate and activist for people living with HIV (PLHIV) when I first publicly disclosed my HIV+ status in 2017, two years after my diagnosis. Back in early 2015 when I heard the words “you’ve tested positive for HIV,” I thought my life was over, that I’d be alone forever and no one would ever love me. It was the support and unconditional love of [my husband] Aaron and my family that helped me find the courage to share my story and experiences openly and unapologetically in an effort to dismantle the stigma of living with HIV. My husband is HIV negative and therefore the message and movement of U=U [Undetectable equals Untransmittable] is near and dear to my heart, and a subject I speak on as often as possible. Stigma is the equation of ignorance and fear, so the best way to counteract its effects is with education. To amplify the community, I host a local 2SLGBTQ+ focused interview show on Roger’s TV Barrie/YouTube called Let’s Be Perfectly Queer. Most recently, I helped launch, and now manage, a new sexual health clinic at the Gilbert Centre – during the COVID-19 pandemic – called the InclusHIV Care Clinic. For those who don’t know, what is U=U and why is it such a game changer? U=U, or Undetectable equals Untransmittable, means that someone living with HIV, who has access to effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) and care, can suppress the levels of the virus to such low amounts that it becomes Undetectable through traditional lab work. When a person living with HIV attains a suppressed or Undetectable viral load, not only is their health improved but it also makes it impossible to pass on the HIV virus to sexual partners. The virus becomes Untransmittable. This information opens up sexual and reproductive freedoms for PLHIV and helps to eradicate the stigma around sex and living with HIV. The recent Positive Perspectives Study (Wave 2) has highlighted some important facts about people living with HIV and their care. Can you tell us about that and why it’s so significant? This study, which was led by ViiV Healthcare, has been effective in helping to understand the unmet needs of people living with
HIV and to shift conversations towards quality of life focused approaches to treatment and care for all PLHIV. The HIV sector is very much driven by data, and this study provides that data which links nuanced approaches to the health care of PLHIV, to an increased quality of life that we all deserve. What are some of the barriers that exist for PLHIV in accessing new and better treatment options? Access to accurate and factual information to new and emerging treatment options for PLHIV is often difficult to navigate, as many healthcare providers [HCPs] seem determined to play the role of ‘gatekeeper’ instead of entertaining the idea that treatment change for some can be a good thing. When I was first diagnosed, I was put on a one-pill/three-drug treatment that had me reach an undetectable viral load in less than six months with minimum side effects. I was, and still am, incredibly grateful to have had access to such wonderful treatment and care, but when I decided I wanted to switch to a one-pill/two-drug treatment a few years later, it was through my own research and advocacy that it came to pass and not from my healthcare provider. To have the onus on the patient to discover alternate and better treatment options for themselves without an HCP bringing these options forward just doesn’t seem right. HCPs should be up to date on all treatment options available for patients and not hesitate to provide those alternatives where appropriate. What message would you give to healthcare providers working with people living with HIV? In my opinion, listening is the key. It’s unfortunate that this has to be pointed out in the first place, but it is often necessary. We, as PLHIV, are the experts on how each of us is affected by this virus. Do not dismiss our concerns and questions – engage with us in thoughtful and respectful exchanges of information and strategies to improve our health outcomes and quality of life. As the Positive Perspectives Study, Wave 2, found, “Talking can make a real difference and PLHIV-HCP engagement was significantly associated with better health outcomes.” With Pride season upon us, what is the link between HIV advocacy and activism? Why is it important for us to continue to “ACT UP”? Pride started as a riot, and that activism and advocacy was the fuel that lit the fuse for change. These fires must be reignited in the fight to eradicate the HIV virus and stop new transmissions. I truly believe that the quiet, passive and polite approaches need to make way for a return to loud, proud, boisterous, unapologetic, political and peaceful marches, rallies, sit-ins and, when necessary, public shaming to ensure that substantive and lasting change is finally achieved – because history has shown us that SILENCE = DEATH. The Gilbert Centre is located at #555-80 Bradford Street in Barrie, Ont. For more information, visit gilbertcentre.ca.
The opinions expressed are those of Randy Davis and not necessarily those of the Gilbert Centre.
P R O M OT I N G Q U E E R H E A L T H I N
POSH POSH BALL BALL GOES GOES AHEAD AHEAD IN IN VANCOUVER VANCOUVER Van Vogue Jam and Vancouver Pride Society are creating spaces for racialized queer folks while also remembering ballroom’s roots By Ivy Edad
Vancouver Pride has been honoured to partner with Van Vogue Jam and Ralph Escamillan for the past two years to bring some ballroom voguing culture to Pride celebrations. Ballroom culture is a queer, Black and Latinx subculture that reached a turning point when Crystal LaBeija was denied the title “Queen of the Ball” in a time when queer organized events only served white communities. Ballroom became a way for racialized folks in the LGBTQAI2S+ community to gather, shed their oppression at the door and carve a space for themselves. “After Crystal’s outrage and frustration at not being chosen and not having the opportunity to be a winner because of her skin and background, it became a catalyst to build her own place where she could celebrate herself and her community,” says Ralph Escamillan, the artistic and executive director of Van Vogue Jam. Ballroom in Vancouver started in 2017, when Van Vogue Jam and BRoll held the Dynasty Ball. After Escamillan got consent from his Vogue mother Leiomy, the Wonder Woman of Vogue, he started a scene that cultivated a new community and carefully looked back at the Black and trans roots of ballroom culture. “I had the consent from an authoritative figure like her to build this community, which I thought was really important.” Escamillan believes that building a community requires a passing of the torch. “It’s something I try to continue with the scene now, reminding everyone that there are people who are alive who originated the ballroom culture and we can still talk to them.”
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Escamillan founded Van Vogue Jam to continue learning more about ballroom. “We created this channel of growth.” Through teaching the community about voguing, he started improving his own craft.
LaBeija starting The Royal House of LaBeija is needed in order to properly organize and make racialized queer folks feel safe. “The balls are able to show queerness in another way where it’s not just love, sex, magic. You can be queer and a creative creature, or be queer and have a strong walk, and it allows folks, especially younger queer people, different ways to celebrate their queerness.” Escamillan encourages the LGBTQIA2S+ community to learn about voguing and ballroom. “People who started ballroom culture weren’t dancers, we’re just doing this for fun.… We’ve created this weird aura about dance that comes from elitism and the capitalizing of art that makes it scary for people.” Ballroom is not a tool for gatekeeping. “What’s so beautiful about street dance cultures like ballroom…these forms still exist even without resources. Street dance cultures like ballroom are the culmination of the history of marginalized people in America, and people don’t know that.” There is no room in ballroom for elitists and gatekeepers who regularly dictate what art is. “Dance is for all of us, and the divide was created by the people who want to capitalize off of us.” According to Escamillan, “We’re in a system, and instead of letting the inevitable truth take over us, we can take that and repurpose it into our own reality.” Escamillan wants more opportunities for QTBIPOC so they can be in the room, grow, and thrive in the spaces made for themselves. “When you learn about a dance, it’s like learning about what’s on the back of the box, the ingredients, what’s inside of it and not just what’s on the outside. There’s just so much more than the face value. It’s this active awareness of the past, its origins and what makes it ballroom.”
Van Vogue Jam became a nonprofit in 2019. “The balls connect a multitude of different queer scenes that would never pass. Our queer scenes are really informed by our sexual interests and we’re put into different niches.” In Vancouver, balls held by Van Vogue Jam create a competitive but nurturing space where the LGBTQAI2S+ community can come together and cheer each other on. “The history of ballroom culture is the foundation of the queer culture that we know today,” Escamillan says. The same energy of
IVY EDAD is a Filipinx writer born in Manila, Philippines. They currently reside on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh peoples. Ivy’s work can be found in pulpMAG, For Women Who Roar and SAD Magazine. Currently, they work for the Vancouver Pride Society.
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Show Your Queens Some Love
In celebration of International Drag Day on July 16, we asked one of our favourite Canadian queens to write a few words By Sofonda - Thrive
I often think about a time when I caught up with an acquaintance who had just become a lawyer after five years of school. New Lawyer (NL): What are you up to these days? Sofonda: I’ve been performing at Woody’s every week as well as doing shows around the city. NL: You still doing that shit? Don’t you do anything else? Sofonda: No, actually, I don’t. I’ve been performing full-time for a few years now. NL: Isn’t that just a hobby? I can’t believe you’re still doing that. I don’t know what it is but I always seem to dwell on that negative interaction. I was seven years in as a full-time drag entertainer and today I write to you, thriving in the art of drag in my 21st year. My name is Jonathan and my drag name is Sofonda. I’m always shocked when people don’t recognize the art of drag as a career option. Yes, it is not quite what my parents had in mind. They dreamt of me being a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, an architect or even a dentist. I know, I know, our parents simply want the best for us. It’s quite common to have this belief, especially in my culture, being half Sri Lankan, plus Filipino, Mexican and Chinese. (What a mix, right?!) It has been ingrained in us that success appears once you follow the path of one of these five sought-after careers. So I followed it…only to realize, after my fourth year going for a BSc from U of T, that my passion lay in the arts. Success = Preparation + Opportunity Although this equation may seem accurate, I thought it was incomplete. Success happens when Preparation meets Opportunity with a pinch of Passion. Having a passion for something you love and that you wake up for every day is essential. Passion is saying to yourself, “What great things could I accomplish today?” My passion was in the art of drag. So, rather than dwell on that same negative interaction with NL that scarred me for life, I thought I’d share with you the fabulous experiences and rewards/ accolades I’ve received while performing for over 21 years in our lovely city of Toronto. I broke into the art of drag by joining amateur competitions throughout Toronto’s Village. You need to stand out and luckily I was crafty, I loved to dance, and it paid off in my shows. I won talent contests from one bar to the next until I was offered a job at Woody’s, Crews, Fly and the Unity festival. I was working the circuit. I flourished throughout 2000 and on New Years Eve 2001, I graced the cover of Xtra Magazine as a top Queen of the Millennium. This was when I was coined the Sexy, Sassy, Sensational Sofonda.
in different episodes! I did national commercials and corporate bookings, and performed the largest, spectacular shows at the annual PRISM festival. (I remember one Pride, I was strapped in a harness, performing 20 feet above 8,000 party revellers at the CNE Automotive Building.) I have been blessed to have been flown and booked to perform at places like Bermuda, Malaysia, Brazil, all over Mexico, all over the United States, all across Canada. Whether it be a solo show or a production number, I was ready to share my chops as a choreographer and director to produce a stunning show. Being recognized as a reliable working queen was wonderful. Promoters definitely appreciate the hard work and effort you put into the shows. But what I value most is the fact that my audience and I have grown up together for over 21 years. It’s a relationship I hold dear. The popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race brought drag to the mainstream audience, making it even more popular than ever, especially on social media. On August 3, 2015, when my Destiny’s Child Puppeteer Performance went viral – boasting over two million views on social media – I was speechless. That was followed by two other performances that went viral as well: The Spice Girls Group Puppeteer performance and my rendition of Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” all landing me on the national news. I was also featured on CBC’s Canada’s a Drag Docu series. I am a trooper at heart and most definitely the queen of the hustle. I have found that success in my career as a drag performer requires constant evolution. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve performed online virtually through my show on Saturdays called Sofondays. I performed curbside for private events and at Drive Ins, and became a recording artist. I rarely do this, but I’m gonna give myself a pat on the back for a career well executed. I usually cringe when I get complimented. But from this day forward, I will be proud of my hard work and accomplishments. It wasn’t easy getting here. It was a lot of work, but it was definitely a lot of fun. So on July 16, on International Drag Day, show your queens your love. In fact, show your queens some love every time you see them on stage. It goes a long way.
I was Miss El Convento Rico one year, Miss Woody’s the next, Miss Zippers the following year, and so on. When the Queer as Folk series came to town, I landed three feature performance roles
Adam Jagdat: “I was fortunate to have been able to help plan Metrolinx’s Pride campaigns over the last two years, including coordinating our contingent of marchers at the 2019 Toronto Pride Parade. That parade itself is my favourite Pride moment because my mom was one of the 170+ marchers. She got to experience firsthand what I’d been working on, and it was also the first time she and I had been able to attend Pride together. She had an amazing time and got to meet some of my wonderful colleagues and friends. I’ll cherish that forever.”
Kam Somji: “Coming from a country where being out was not an option, being able to walk in the parade alongside the company float has to be my number one memory. I have to commend Metrolinx for making it possible for me to feel safe every day at work.”
We asked, “What is your favourite Pride memory in relation to your time at Metrolinx?”
Although we each celebrate Pride in our own way every day of our lives, there are probably certain moments and experiences during Pride Month that you’ll never forget. We checked in with some Metrolinx employees to share some of their fondest memories of past Pride events.
Diane Kolin: “Each time we got to walk together as a group in the Pride Parade was a fun memory. The last time was 2019. We have an awesome team and I enjoy the moments we can dance all together to celebrate Pride. I look forward to dancing with our group in person again!”
Valeria Leon: “I have been volunteering with the Pride Committee at Metrolinx since 2018. Every year has been different and funny, and I always volunteer with my friend Diane, which is always an adventure. The first year we had to deliver wet, cold pizzas to the GO Bus for the volunteers as it was raining. The following year, we got the speakers for the music; however, we realized that the music was not loud enough to reach the big contingent that we had for that year. But the important thing is that no matter how things go, we always have fun and have a great time together! Here is our picture from the 2019 Pride Parade. I’m so looking forward to marching again in person next year!”
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Natalie Petra: “My favourite Pride memory in relation to my time at Metrolinx is each and every one of our employee resource group meetings. We have a fantastic team of dedicated people, and being a part of these meetings has helped me feel included and welcome. I know what we do matters for people, and I know that we’re making change in the workplace, both for our colleagues and our customers. I was fortunate that my first ERG meeting took place about two weeks after I joined – and across three departments and four managers, that’s remained a constant. I’ve made some great friends and grown as a person and in my activism – can’t ask for a better memory than that. I’ve also attached a photo from York Region Pride 2019 – that was a really great experience for me. I live ~10 min away from Newmarket (Bradford) and I’ve spent a lot of time around the Fairy Lake area, so it was nice to see my employer so engaged in my community, 14 IN MAGAZINE and to be there celebrating the LGBTQ+ experience.”
Josh Nobrega: “Our family attended our first Pride event in 2018. I was taken aback at how much love and positivity surrounds the entire day. It was important for me to ensure my children know that love and acceptance go hand in hand. Looking forward to many more celebrations in the years to come!”
Trans Fusion Crew Is Supporting Our Youth
This welcoming and supportive space is for all trans and non-binary gender experiences Trans Fusion Crew (TFC) has become a lifeline and beacon for trans and non-binary youth across Toronto, providing supports for people who often aren’t sure where to turn. “Moving here as a queer and trans teenager on the run from an abusive and transphobic home environment, attending the program helped me find community and support,” says Markus*, a TFC participant. “I was able to access healthcare services, get fed regularly, and learn about issues relevant to the LGBTQ+ community. I am sure that the relationships, support and skills I gained are what helped put me on a positive and healing path.” TFC is a community program operated by Sherbourne Health, an urban health agency in downtown Toronto that works primarily with underserved populations including LGBT2SQ communities, people experiencing homelessness and newcomers to Canada. As with most of our programs, TFC was born from a need in the community – an overwhelming lack of supports for trans and non-binary individuals. Through groups and one-on-one supports, TFC provides critical assistance to trans, gender non-binary and gender-questioning youth in a safe, trans-positive space designed to help youth build confidence and resilience, empower youth with health knowledge and inspire a supportive community. These supports became even more critical during the COVID-19 crisis. Access to mental health supports is vital to the overall wellbeing of LGBT2SQ youth, and during this past year, many of Sherbourne’s group programs like TFC saw an alarming increase in the need for greater mental health supports. Transgender and gender-diverse youth already face significant challenges and complex barriers (transphobia, discrimination, a disproportionate rate of unemployment and homelessness), and now added to this was extreme social isolation brought on by the pandemic. With the help of TD Bank, our TFC lead sponsor, we were able to adjust our programming to ensure that online and one-on-one mental health supports were available during the pandemic and that we could continue to provide and adapt these vital services for our trans and non-binary youth. Along with mental health supports, we were also able to address
food insecurity, which became a growing concern for youth during the pandemic – many had been laid off or lost their employment altogether. TFC began to offer food hampers that contained nutritious essentials like fresh produce, meat and meat alternatives, milk and rice so that our clients were receiving physical sustenance along with the mental health supports they required.
Food insecurity became a growing concern for youth during the pandemic To further help in combating feelings of social isolation brought on by the pandemic, we have incorporated some new and creative activities, like our recently launched QueerTrans book club and, when public health orders allow, a walking group where TFC participants can walk and explore the city and queer up the streets together. We are also implementing programming that brings together clients from more than one of our groups to create intergenerational discussions, learnings and social experiences. TFC is part of Sherbourne Health’s Supporting Our Youth (SOY) program, an innovative and award-winning capacitybuilding program that has been in operation for over 20 years. SOY programs work to support the health and well-being of all queer and trans spectrum youth 29 years old and under through groups, programs and events, and by providing oneon-one support. For more information on SOY programs and services like Trans Fusion Crew, visit soytoronto.com. For more Trans Fusion Crew information and programming, please contact facilitators at email@example.com. Markus is a pseudonym to protect this participant’s anonymity.
TD has donated this space to Sherbourne Health to help them tell the story of the Trans Fusion Crew program
gender pronouns are so important
When someone asks you to use their pronouns, they are asking you to respect their identity By Christopher Turner
In May, Instagram introduced a new feature making it easier to address people by their preferred pronouns, announcing that it would allow people to add up to four pronouns to their profile, which they could then choose to display either publicly or only to their followers. That means users can now choose from a variety of pronouns including he/him, she/her and they/them, among others, which will appear in small grey letters next to the username on that profile. It was a simple update, but an incredibly important addition to any platform to create an inclusive environment. And it ultimately helps push the conversation forward about preferred pronouns, identity, and the elimination of archaic notions of the gender binary. “Instagram is excited to normalize pronoun usage while promoting a more thoughtful community,” the company said of the announcement. The discussion, debate, and in some cases all-out social media wars about whether or not pronouns are important has never been more prominent, as more trans and non-binary people are living openly. So let’s set the record straight: they are important. Pronouns are a way that we identify with the world, and when someone asks you to use their preferred pronouns, they are asking you to respect their identity.
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Pronouns are connected to gender expression, which the nonprofit organization GLAAD defines as the “external manifestations of gender, expressed through a person’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behaviour, voice and/or body characteristics.” But why are they important? One of the main reasons why it is so important to normalize the use of preferred pronouns is because other than our name, pronouns are one of the main ways that people identify and call us. Imagine your legal first name is James, but throughout your entire life, your family and friends called you by your middle name of Robert. Every birthday cake, every holiday card from your grandparents, every time your mom yelled at you to get to the table for dinner, all you’d hear was, “Robert!” Then one day, you tell a friend that your legal name is James and they say, “OMG, I’m 16
going to call you James from now on!” And you’re all like, “But I don’t go by James. James means nothing to me. In fact, I feel really uncomfortable when people call me James because it’s not what people call me or what I respond to.” The way we call people by the names they give us is very similar to how pronouns work. Basically, people tell you their pronouns and then…you just use them. Like a name, pronouns are personal, and using someone’s pronouns correctly quite simply shows respect for the person you’re interacting with. Normalizing correct pronoun usage For cisgender people who have never had to worry about being called by an incorrect pronoun, sharing gender pronouns might not seem that important because they are used to being properly identified without any questioning or misgendering. However, it needs to be said that the same reassurance cannot be guaranteed for some trans people or those who do not identify within binary perceptions of gender, which sees males and females (who go by he/him/his and she/her/hers, respectively) as the assumed norm. Trans, non-binary and gender-nonconforming people (who may go by they/them) face misgendering and discrimination for their identities every day. For those in communities that conform to the gender binary, sharing one’s preferred pronouns, and politely asking for someone else’s pronouns, is an exceptionally easy way to enact better allyship. The burden of normalizing correct pronoun usage should not be solely on trans and gender-nonconforming people. Cisgender people should also begin sharing their pronouns, as this means trans, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming individuals will not feel singled out when they share theirs. By sharing their pronouns, cisgender people can establish sharing pronouns as something that’s not simply done in LGBTQ2+ settings, but in all settings. In certain environments, like workplaces or classes, taking the initiative to share pronouns helps to create a safe space for people of these communities, which can be incredibly comforting in helping them feel welcomed and accepted. Moreover, having cisgender people share their pronouns deconstructs the idea that everyone’s gender can be assumed, something that
A new generation Instagram’s update includes everything from he, she and they, to the less common ze, zie, per, xe, fae, ve, vi and e/ey. While pronouns like they are already becoming normalized in society – many Canadian college and university students in new classes are already asked to confirm their pronouns, for example – the move is important in normalizing terms that many people may not have heard or used before. One in four LGBTQ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that “fall outside of the binary construction of gender,” according to a 2020 study by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization. “The results show that although LGBTQ youth are using pronouns in nuanced ways, the majority who use pronouns outside of the gender binary use either familiar pronouns or combinations of these familiar pronouns to express their gender,” the study said. “An individual’s pronoun expression, or even the decision to avoid them altogether, is a very important reflection of a person’s identity.
Respecting pronouns is part of creating a supportive and accepting environment, which impacts well-being and reduces suicide risk.” It’s not just younger generations that are changing with the times. In fact, both the Canadian Press and American Press style guides, which are used by news organizations across the continent, now accept “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Merriam Webster officially added “they” to its online dictionary as a grammatically correct nonbinary pronoun (it was also its Word of the Year for 2019). Conversations around pronouns are also happening in workplaces across the country as organizations place a greater emphasis on making language more inclusive. For example, Air Canada has altered its greeting to say “everyone” rather than “ladies and gentlemen.” “Pronouns matter, and adding inclusive pronouns to a contact form is more than just a demonstration of allyship,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement after US President Joe Biden took office in January and WhiteHouse.gov updated its contact form to include gender-inclusive pronouns and prefixes. “Research has shown that recognition and respect of our pronouns can make all the difference for our health and well-being – especially when it comes to LGBTQ youth.” While changing our language doesn’t solve prejudice or guarantee acceptance, it still makes an impact, and at least that’s a step in the right direction: an act of inclusion.
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.
often results in misgendering. The idea that pronouns can be assumed by one’s outward appearance conforms to a gender binary and, ultimately, the stereotyping of gender expression. Through demonstrating that gender identity is not something that can/should be assumed, this alleviates pressure for those whose identity is more fluid and normalizes the idea that identity is not simply one or the other (male or female).
DO NOT DISTURB WHILE IN TUB A nightly bathtime routine has been my saving grace and great escape during lockdown By Jumol Royes
Rub-a-dub-dub, don’t come a-knockin’ when I’m in the tub. As soon as it starts getting late in the evening, my internal clock tells me it’s time to unwind after a long day spent sitting at my desk staring at a computer screen while simultaneously trying to triage requests from my baby boomer parents to help them send an email, make an online purchase or get on a Zoom call (the concept of working from home is still somewhat foreign to them). I make my escape into the bathroom, shut the door, turn on the tap and let the warm water fill up the tub. On days when I require a little something extra to boost my mood, I add a few generous dollops of luxurious lavender and honey bubble bath and put on Mariah Carey’s “I Stay In Love” (the Jody den Broeder Radio Remix), before stripping down, getting naked and settling in for a soothing soak. This pandemic ritual has pretty much kept me sane during lockdown.
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When I’ve needed respite from the daily barrage of news reports about COVID-19 case counts, ICU admissions and deaths, my bathtime routine has been a source of comfort. In those moments when I’ve sought refuge from the unbearable videos of Black folks being dehumanized and killed, taking a bath has been my saving grace. And when I’ve shut down and struggled with depression and feeling overwhelmed, my bathtub has welcomed me with arms open wide and enveloped me in its warm embrace. Writer, feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde once wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I couldn’t agree more. While I understand that spending time in the tub may not seem like a radical act of self-care to some, for me – a gay Black man who’s still working his way towards radical self-love, acceptance and worth – it’s an intentional practice that sends the message to myself that I matter, my needs matter, and I’m deserving of my own love and affection. When you exist in a world that historically hasn’t prioritized these messages for people who look and love like you do, small pleasures like taking a bath take on greater significance. But the benefits of my nightly bathtime routine don’t stop there. The pandemic has stolen so much from us, including robbing LGBTQ2+ people of safe and communal spaces to explore and express our sexuality. In the absence of bath houses and friends' houses, support groups and dance parties, gay and queer folks 18
have spent the past year in relative isolation, and some have even been forced back into the closet just to survive living at home with family members who aren’t accepting of who they are. I came out to my parents a long time ago. Even though they’ve come a long way from open opposition to tepid tolerance to almost acceptance, they’re probably not going to throw a tickertape parade to celebrate my gayness any time soon. Being stuck in lockdown with them has been challenging, and I haven’t always felt comfortable being completely myself, minus the self-editing.
The Pandemic Has Stolen So Much From Us, Including Robbing Us Of Safe And Communal Spaces To Explore And Express Our Sexuality When I close the bathroom door and slip into the tub, all of that melts away. I caress my body the way it desires to be touched and manoeuvre it the way it wants to move. I put in my headphones and sing along with my favourite female pop divas while pretending to be a backup singer. I light scented candles, I play with the bubbles, and when I get out of the bathtub, I dance and pose in front of the mirror. In those moments, I’m totally unrestricted and unrestrained; I’m free to be me. There are so many things I’m looking forward to doing again as regions around the world start to open up. I’m ready for sightseeing and people watching, extravagant celebrations and intimate gettogethers. I can’t wait to be on both the giving and receiving ends of lingering hugs. I dream about dancing in a crowd, flirting with strangers, stealing kisses in dark corners with cute boys. One thing is for certain, though: my new normal will continue to include some well-deserved “me” time in the tub. While I’ll likely return to taking 10-minute morning showers before work, I plan to schedule in time each week for at least one super-long soak in the bath. It’s the perfect opportunity to wash away my worries, relax, restore and renew my spirit, and be my gayest self. Bring on the bubbles.
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.
ZERO FILTER If you’re a passionate tennis fan and a podcast listener, Ready Play Tennis is the ultimate podcast for you By Christopher Turner
Keeping up with what’s happening on and off the courts can be a struggle. Sure, you can get your tennis news, updates and gossip from Sports Illustrated, TSN, Sportsnet or ESPN, but wouldn’t you rather stay up to date on all things tennis from a gay-hosted podcast completely dedicated to the sport? Look no further than the Ready Play Tennis podcast. Toronto-based Aldwin Era and Jason Patterson are two openly gay tennis fanatics who launched their weekly podcast last year, just before the pandemic hit. Though pro tennis has taken a hit in the past year, that didn’t stop the two from serving up the latest tennis tea, and dishing about the latest headlines from the ATP and WTA tours and more locally on the GLTA [Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance]. They’ve had a ton of fun, received a ton of industry praise and have even interviewed a few tennis faves. The pair met back in 2015 at Woody’s in Toronto’s gaybourhood at an after party for a gay Dodgeball league. A mutual acquaintance told Aldwin, who was very active in the gay tennis scene, that Jason wanted to get back into the sport. After a quick introduction the two became good friends and started playing regularly, eventually hitting the road together to Montreal, Indianapolis, Detroit and New York to participate in GLTA events.
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We caught up with the two to chat about their passion for the game, putting together a podcast during unprecedented times, their favourite players, the gayest moment in tennis history and more. Tell us about the Ready Play Tennis podcast. Aldwin: It’s a weekly pod that covers the world of tennis from our unique perspective as gay amateur players obsessed with the sport. When you tune in, you get some thoughtful tennis analysis, but what I truly think brings our listeners back week after week is our playful chemistry and our knack for engaging the world’s best players in a little off-court commentary. I mean, just ask tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios what he meant exactly when he called us “albatrosses” in Season 1. 20
What can listeners expect to hear? Jason: Unlike most professional sports, the pro tennis season is year-round, with tournaments all over the world. We cover the women’s [WTA] and men’s [ATP] tour events, who’s playing well, who’s on the rise, and give words of encouragement to those floundering. We talk about our own play, like Aldwin crying on court when his forehand is working, or my cheesy chip shots and struggles with my backhand. We also love sharing our interactions with all the tennis players we reach out to through our social media platforms. I still remember when we first premiered and Aldwin noticed that Serena Williams had watched our Instagram story. He shared with our listeners that he was having heart palpitations. Having said that, even after numerous attempts, I still haven’t gotten Vasek Pospisil on our show. Not even my dead schnauzer could convince him otherwise. How did you guys get the idea to start a tennis podcast? Aldwin: The idea emerged in January of 2020 when – after endless hours of car-ride banter, shuttling ourselves to and from tennis tournaments – Jason and I decided it would be fun to let an audience in on the kiki. It was all about brainstorming ways we could channel our passion for tennis into a creative outlet. We tinkered with a few ideas, learned a lot – pattern-making is not in our wheelhouse of skills! – and starting our own pod just seemed to be the most accessible vehicle for us to share our love for the sport. A couple of microphone and recorder purchases on Amazon later and we officially launched the Ready Play Tennis podcast last May. In Season 1 you interviewed your first big player, Genie Bouchard. How did that come about? Jason: As Aldwin shared with Genie during the interview, he was on vacation and I was ‘hard at work’ doing a promotional post about Genie’s success at a tournament in Prague. Aldwin decided he needed in on the action and posted a beach story with him and his friend Antonio in a unicorn floaty, asking Genie to come on
We had a great interview with her – and with other players like former world #1 Victoria Azarenka, Christian Harrison and Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez.
the show.… She shared it with her 2.1 million followers and said ‘100%... Just Tell Me When.’
sport. As members of both our local TLGTA [Toronto Lesbian and Gay Tennis Association] and international GLTA, we are also keen on finding ways to give back and support our LGBTQ2+ tennis communities through our platform. Who are your favourite tennis players? Jason: For sure Juan Martin Del Potro from Argentina… I heart ‘DelPo’ so much.
We try to take a different approach to player interviews. Players are asked such banal questions from reporters, some of whom don’t seem to know much about tennis. We engage players in the sport, Aldwin: Of all time? Steffi Graf. Current faves include my boyfriend but also keep it fun, asking them about gelato flavours, go-to karaoke in my head Stefanos Tsitsipas, snack-attack Christian Harrison, songs, and playing our rapid-fire question game ‘The Changeover.’ Canadian gem Leylah Fernandez and tour bestie Genie Bouchard. Venus Williams also has a special place in my heart because I have Your dream podcast interview? been by her side since 1997, for every win and every heart-breaking Jason: For sure Juan Martin Del Potro from Argentina.… I’ve cried loss, and I just can’t quit her. many times watching him, including when he beat Roger [Federer] at Indian Wells in 2018, and his silver medal run at the Olympics Quick. Answer this question: The gayest moment in tennis history is… in Rio in 2016 after nearly three years away with wrist injuries. Aldwin: Actually, it literally happened in April, when tennis immortal Rafael Nadal debuted his new Nike kit at the Monte Carlo Aldwin: I would literally die and come back to life if Steffi Graf tournament. Watching him step on that ochre-coloured clay court agreed to come on our pod. I was a little seven-year-old gay boy in those bubble gum pink booty grabbers made me believe for just when I watched Steffi play for the first time, at the 1989 French one second that I had stepped into a gay foam party in Mallorca. Open. I begged my dad afterwards to buy me a Dunlop racket so Girl, those short shorts were so lit they set gay Twitter on fire! I could smash forehands just like she did. She is my all-time idol. How have you been putting the podcast together during COVID? Aldwin: With prayer and black magic. Kidding. The real stars of this process are iMessage, GarageBand and Facetime. Jason and I will shoot each other a few texts during the week about intriguing tennis headlines – like Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov making his rap music debut during last year’s US Open – and these messages end up becoming the bones of our weekly show.
Jason Patterson and Aldwin Era ready to hit the courts
Everything happens on Sunday because most weekly tournaments will have a champion by the time we record. We meet via Facetime, prep with a run-through of story topics and dive right into recording, usually with a refreshing beverage to help steer conversation. Once another episode is in the bag – along with an empty bottle of Kim Crawford – we divide and conquer the responsibilities to get the pod edited, uploaded and ready to share for our drop on Wednesday morning. How has the tennis world dealt with the coronavirus pandemic? Jason: With events happening all over the world, some get cancelled, some have no fans, and some seemingly have too many fans. The Australian Open season was the craziest, with players arriving early to quarantine for 15 days. The agreement was they could have time out of their hotel room to train and practise, but about 72 players ended up on flights where other passengers tested positive for COVID-19. Those players were immediately disadvantaged and could not leave their room for any reason.… The drama of that and watching players work out in their room or hit tennis balls against urine-stained mattresses – that was Vasek btw – was so funny, and gave us six weeks of content through the end of the tournament. What’s next for the podcast? Aldwin: Alongside increasing engagement and listenership, Jason and I are excited to explore new interview opportunities with different voices in the tennis world – like chatting with acclaimed tennis journalist Jonathan Scott – and partnering with a myriad of tennis-centred organizations to bring increased visibility to the
You can find out more about the Ready Play Tennis podcast at readyplaytennispodcast.podbean.com, listen in weekly through your favourite podcast provider, and follow the guys on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok at @readyplaytennispodcast.
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.
In Search Of The Elusive
“Summer Body” As someone who has body image issues, Instagram can be hell By Jaime Woo
On the one hand, there are the endless images of unattainable (for me, at least) bodies – lean, long, and perfectly lit. The bodies we’re told are desirable, and therefore the bodies we feel are most desirable. And then, on the other hand, there are the images of seemingly unattainable body acceptance – those posts with people who love their bodies to a degree that I am not sure I’ve ever grazed. I cheer them on wholeheartedly, and yet I admit imagining that if I shared something similar, I would be met not with an enthusiastic response but one of apathy. The giant “meh” I’ve had hanging over my head most of my life.
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Over nearly four decades of living in this body, my understanding of it and the experience of living within it continue to change. I have wondered why, as a child, people who saw me felt compelled to share that my “English was very good.” As a teenager, when I took little interest in the competitiveness of football or basketball, I was told I wasn’t athletic, even though I was qualified enough of a swimmer to be a lifeguard. In my 20s, I learned to armour up whenever people in cars drove past screaming “faggot” out their windows, freezing in place as I calculated whether or not I’d have to bolt to safety. While I once considered all of this as the past, now, as I close out my 30s, I am learning that the past is never just in the past. One of the questions I have become fond of asking myself is: “Who taught you that?” My neighbours have a young child, and when he says a word or a phrase that neither of them have spoken before, that is the question they ask: “Who taught him that?” It’s not like the child spontaneously imagined it into existence. (And the answer is usually YouTube.) Yet we like to believe that this does not apply to ourselves as adults, even if psychology says differently. So when I wake up in the morning and stand in front of the mirror taking a long look at my naked body, and the thoughts start popping into my head – the judgment, the vanity, the pride, the worries – I now ask myself, “Well, who taught me that?” Did I learn this shame as a child, when my cousin (older by a few years) lifted my shirt 22
and slapped my belly hard, calling me “fatty-fat”? Or did I learn this judgment from looking at magazines, where everyone looks the way they do because, frankly, that’s their job? I don’t do this as a way to excuse the thoughts I have, but to become familiar with them, to see them as what they are: old jingles that have inadvertently gotten stuck in my head. Who taught us about summer bodies? Where did we learn this idea of needing to have the kind of body that draws the attention of others? I remember hearing from the ether people that they wanted to get in shape for the summer, but I don’t recall it having the same oppressive nature. I assume it metastasized, as so many things did, when we could be seen and could see the lives of hundreds or thousands of others. But what to make of our queer bodies: these bodies that we have been told for so long are diseased, should not exist, are somehow built wrong? If you ask any queer person, they could tell you some part of their body that they learned to change for their safety. Maybe it was the pinky finger that sprang out when they lifted a glass, or a limp wrist that was too feminine, or a heavy gait that was too masculine. In grade school, I liked hugging my binders and books securely against my chest but stopped once I was picked on by older children – but who taught them that? I moved my head too much when I talked, and I inspected my nails the wrong way. We tell children they can be anything they want, and yet there seem to be so many ways in which our bodies can betray us. Of course, our desire is the most outstanding way, the way that most queer people had to learn to diminish their bodies for their survival. A wayward glance at someone in the change room; the contradictions we understood within our bodies while, in health class, listening to what was supposedly normal. I have a friend who came out as bisexual only later in life simply because he had never seen it modelled for him as a possibility, and so he simply tried to dampen those same-sex desires and focused on his attraction to women.
In Cool Runnings, the 1993 Disney film loosely based on the first Olympic Jamaican bobsled team, the coach (played by Canadian legend John Candy) is asked by one of the bobsledders why, after winning two gold medals, he still felt compelled to cheat for another one. The coach’s response lives in my head rent-free: “A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” The first time I heard that quote about unconditionally accepting ourselves as we are, I wondered how that might apply to goals. How could I accept this moment, and yet want something else? I didn’t understand that acceptance wasn’t the same as complacency. More importantly, it’s only when we accept things that we can see things clearly enough to move towards our skills more skillfully. When I return to the idea of a summer body, I think about what accepting it in this moment looks like. What does it mean to be
enough without the gold medal? I’ve come to the conclusion that it means caring for my body beyond just how it may draw the attention of others. When we care for our summer bodies by listening to them, providing them with enough rest, enough hydration, enough nutrition, enough sun protection, enough movement, enough appreciation for what they do for us in this hot and humid weather, regardless of whether it’s exactly the shape, size or silhouette we dream of. That’s a true summer body. And if we can get to that place, we’ll love it in this moment and the next. We can support ourselves by taking a look at the people we surround ourselves with. What kind of bodies do they have? Is there a range of bodies, of different shapes, sizes and silhouettes? It’s not just about loving ourselves: we love ourselves by loving others and by learning from others. It’s very difficult to love our own changing bodies if we don’t have the opportunity to observe others loving their bodies. That modelling is so powerful. If we are surrounded only by one type of body, then it’s unlikely they will know how to support us as our bodies change. Our bodies will continue to change, no matter how much we resist it – no matter the diets we eat, the exercises we do, the creams we buy, or the Instagram filters we apply to them. What’s truly important is to treat our bodies with love and caring and acceptance. I’ve taught myself that.
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.
On one level, I understand the desire to show off bodies that fit the neat, conventional ideas of attractiveness. It is a grab for something that was unavailable for queer people for so long. We return control to something that for most of our lives felt out of our control. And how intoxicating that feels to be validated by others. The avalanche of likes! The thirsty DMs! And yet that victory feels so hollow, perhaps because it is chasing someone else’s ideal of a summer body, rather than truly inhabiting the one we’re in.
Straight Men Aren’t Embracing Their Femininity, They’re Rebranding It Dude, yes, your pearl earring does make you look gay. Now, is that a problem for you? By Jesse Boland
My entire outlook on queerness was flipped when I suddenly understood that homophobia is not the fear of gay people themselves, but rather the fear straight people have of being perceived as gay. I had made the realization that the detestation so many straight men feel towards queer men derives not from their anxiety that we might one day attack them, but more so the possibility that their peers could view them as akin to us by our shared mannerisms or appearances. This instilled sense of anxiety oftentimes finds itself manifesting within the subconsciouses of even the most progressive straight men, who feel comfortable micro-dosing traditionally feminine behaviour attributed to that of queer men, yet with the perpetual messaging of no homo! emblazoned in their mindsets.
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Listen, I loathe identity politics. The notion of human beings being forced to extort facets of their own cultural self-identity in exchange for social capital and ultimately monetary gain feels painfully reductive and at times even degrading. But, alas, we do be living in a society, hunny. So if those are the cards life has dealt me, then you’d better believe I will be throwing down my hand and yelling, “reverse UNO, bitch!” Gatekeeping queer lifestyle from straight men is an impossible task, as it implies there is an objective aesthetic that encompasses queerness in its entirety into a tangible medium. Rather, queerness – much like beauty itself – is an essence both indescribable yet unmistakable in its universal presence that transcends limitations cementing it as a definitive otherness. I don’t believe in telling straight men they cannot dress more scantily or throw their ass in a circle to Britney Spears remixes while tipsy on vodka sodas; in fact, quite the opposite. I firmly believe
the world would be a much better place if more straight men did in fact dress and act like sissy whores. The idea that men believe it is a fair compromise to not learn proper grooming techniques like moisturizing their faces or plucking their eyebrows or literally washing their fucking asses(!) if learning all that meant people would perceive them as gay…well, it is concerning, to say the least. What I do want, however, is for them to acknowledge that this lifestyle does derive from a tender place of femininity that should be embraced rather than run from. While our standards of traditional femininity and masculinity have evolved throughout history, the narrative has stagnantly remained the same: masculinity is to be exalted while femininity is to be execrated. When we see male celebrities making small strides to challenge gender norms in their fashion choices, I feel reluctant to applaud them, knowing all too well the self-serving performance of their actions. Seeing Jacob Elordi sporting his best Lisa Rinna cosplay on the cover of Man About Town magazine, I question if we would be lauding this choice of aesthetic to the same extent on a femme-presenting 110 lb. twink as we do on a muscular, 6’3” straight man? I recall Young Thug being pilloried by critics for his choice to wear a periwinkle flowing dress on the cover of his 2016 mixtape Jeffrey. In response, numerous women and queer people vehemently defended the bold decision – by a heterosexual dark-skinned Black man working within the infamously patriarchal world of hip-hop – to defy toxic masculinity through his choice of nonconventional gendered clothing. Years later, though, after openly gay Billy Porter appeared at the 2019 Academy Awards stunting in a custom Christian Siriano tuxedo dress, Young Thug posted
a picture of Porter’s outfit to his Instagram with the caption, “Now if y’all don’t do this n[…] how y’all did me I know some.” He was responding to the praise Porter received from critics for his regalia in contrast to the backlash he had received, but you can imagine the hollowing disappointment at that response. This lack of solidarity between one man to his queer peer highlighted precisely the inauthenticity of this performative allyship of men who flirt with gender-bending aesthetics; how when they are not commended equally (if not more than we are) for emulating our own authentic modes of self-expression, they are not only quick to turn their backs on it but to dismiss it as a monotonous fad. Therein lies the return to that shackling concept again: otherness. The incessant need to ostracize others for the sake of asserting yourself as those who worthy are belonging. The insistence from the guy rocking a pink shirt that it’s “actually salmon.” The justification of men who frown upon getting pedicures but treat themselves to a fine manicure because it literally has the word “man” in it. The need for a brand of saccharine pink wine to be titled Brosé because all that stands between a man and his dick falling off is the letter B. The underlying understanding that as much as we may love the luxurious gifts derived from femininity, our subconscious cultural
hate towards women forces us to separate ourselves from it at all costs. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a place where we can live in an epicene society where cisgender people can free ourselves from the pressing need to assert our allegiance to the gendered binary that was prescribed to us at birth. What I do know is that it’s going to take a lot more than pearl jewellery and crop tops on straight men to bring us there. Men – and, yes, queer men are included in this too – need to stop treating our relationship with our feminine side as a meaningless fling intended only for our own self-service and then cast off to the side when we’re bored with it. We instead need to nurture it with loving tenderness and care, and to protect it when we are told to be ashamed of it. I want men to be happy. I want us to be able to be soft, to be beautiful, to be gentle, to be sensitive, to be carefree, and to be able to give femininity the same love that we demand from it. But that will never be able to happen so long as we allow our fetishized reverence towards masculinity to continue to push those deemed less masc than us outside of the realm of worthiness…even if the nails of the hand that shoves them are painted salmon.
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.
CHERI DINOVO IS STILL FIGHTING FOR A QUEER-FRIENDLY CANADA The former MPP’s new book, The Queer Evangelist, is all about amplifying marginalized voices By Courtney Hardwick
Former provincial MPP Cheri DiNovo may have retired from politics, but that doesn’t mean she’s done fighting for change in Canada. Now the minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts, DiNovo continues to spread her message of acceptance across Ontario and beyond with her podcast The Radical Reverend and her new book The Queer Evangelist.
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DiNovo’s second book (she also wrote Lambda-award-winning Qu(e)erying Evangelism in 2005) is a memoir that takes readers through her experience as a teenager living on the streets and her early interest in social activism, which helped lead her to a career in politics. Before running for provincial office, DiNovo earned a doctorate in ministry and her goal has always been to bring together the best parts of Christianity, feminism and socialism to work towards acceptance and equality for all. She believes the best way to do that is to listen. “I maintain we gather in communities of faith to be evangelized by those who are on the margins. We gather hoping our actions will attract the Christ who will then teach us,” says DiNovo. “The Queer Evangelist is the tale of a woman who was ‘evangelized’ in just that manner – by trying to listen to those more marginalized than I am.” Her success in politics was due in part to her knack for connecting with people on the periphery, and as an openly bisexual woman, DiNovo has always understood the importance of pushing for progress. She was the only woman to sign Canada’s first gay rights manifesto “We Demand” in 1971, and she was the minister who performed the first legalized same-sex marriage in Canada in 2001. Christianity, and religion in general, have a bad reputation for being unwelcoming when it comes to issues of sexuality. As a minister and activist, DiNovo wants to change that. “Queer-phobia, racism and misogyny are real. We’ve all been raised in a world that denies women, BIPOC folk and queers, justice,” says DiNovo. “Often it’s 26
those who see themselves as ‘progressives’ who perpetuate injustice because they haven’t done the work necessary to see their own assumptions as a problem. This is and should be the spiritual path.”
Dinovo Succeeded In Passing More Pro-LGBTQ2+ Legislation Than Anyone Else In Canadian History During her 11-year tenure as an NDP MPP, DiNovo worked hard to forge a better world for LGBTQ2+ communities, and she succeeded in passing more pro-LGBTQ2+ legislation than anyone else in Canadian history. Her biggest wins included Toby’s Act, which added trans rights to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012; the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act, which banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ2+ youth in 2015; Cy and Ruby’s Act, which established parent equality for LGBTQ2+ parents in 2015; and the Trans Day of Remembrance Act in 2017. All of her accomplishments, for LGBTQ2+ rights and otherwise, always came back to the same thing: listening and spreading the word. “In all of that work, I simply gave voice to those who were having a difficult time being heard,” says DiNovo. She believes all experiences and perspectives are worthy and valid – and the more we take the time to listen, the better off we’ll all be. Despite all the progress that has been made in Canada for LGBTQ2+ rights, there is still a lot to be done. DiNovo is looking forward to plenty more changes in the future. “I hope to see conversion therapy criminalized across Canada and trans rights put into practice now that the law has changed,” says DiNovo. “I also hope the educational process will pick up speed so that the suicide and homelessness rates for queer kids come down. I hope all faith institutions recognize equal marriage and that queer rights are human rights and that faith demands equality for all.”
The Queer Evangelist is one woman’s experience, but DiNovo hopes to share everything she has learned and help inspire the next generation to not only prioritize acceptance but make it a non-negotiable. To young activists who want to make a difference, DiNovo has this to say: “You don’t have to settle. You can support both revolution and reform: both are necessary. You can tell truth to
power and survive. You can struggle for justice and you can win. History shows us this. Like the graffiti from the student action in France in the 1960s said, ‘Be realistic – Demand the impossible.’ The fate of our earth now rests on this and the good news is, the impossible is possible.” The Queer Evangelist is out now!
COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.
Jess King On Showing Up For The LGBTQ+ Community The beloved out and proud LGBTQ+ instructor is celebrating the community, both on and off the platform
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By Christopher Turner
Jess King is one of those instructors: the former dancer has undeniable charisma, a closet of glittering outfits, and an endless amount of energy that inspires and pushes you to the end of that sweat-inducing class. IN caught up with King recently and chatted about everything from how she started with Peloton, to how she picks the music for her classes, to living her life authentically, to how she and the platform are celebrating Pride. Oh, and she shares the story of how she met her fiancée. Let’s talk Peloton! How did you start with the company? I started here seven years ago. A producer on a show I was working on said, ‘Hey, there’s this thing called ‘Pedal-ton’ and I think you’d be great at it,’ but he said it was indoor cycling, so my initial reaction was that I don’t do that, and I’d never done it before. My mom is also in fitness as an aerobics instructor, a trainer and a bodybuilder, so I was like ‘I’m not my mom! I’m a dancer, I’m an artist!’ Then I realized I’m also broke, and I had promised myself a Year of Yes, so I took the meeting with Ryan Engel and John Foley. John took me through the concept and the model, and it was new and exciting. I had this feeling of ‘I have no idea how he’s going to accomplish what he says he’s going to, but I believe him.’ I was interested and I wanted to do it, so I made the transition from dance to fitness. At the end of the day, I’ve always been an athlete and musically driven. I had also been teaching dance for 15 years, so it really wasn’t that far of a leap – the main difference was that now my feet were clipped in. How would you describe a Jess King class? You know…for someone who has never ridden with you. I wish I were more predictable – I’m not! I’m giving you something that’s authentic, genuine and in real time based on what I’m going through, where I am in my life, what’s relevant and how I’m feeling. What you can always bank on, though, is a very challenging workout. I have a hard time scaling back. I’m always pushing myself to the edge. So you can anticipate that unless the class is designed to be low impact or for advanced beginners, it’s going to be somewhat challenging.
How do you pick the music you play in your classes? I want each song to make you feel like ‘Oh yeah, I remember this!’ Or you have this nostalgic experience and it really motivates you. The music is always going to match the intensity of what I’m going for. I’m someone who has an aversion to riding off-beat so my cadence, my RPM, is always going to be matching my BPM. I’m also an EDM house head. I love house music – that’s my thing! I pride myself on my house playlists and I often collaborate with DJ John Michael on those so that the mix is fluid and feels like you’re out at a party. I spend a lot of time – hours and hours – curating my playlist to find the right music. I take it very seriously. For me, music is the most important factor; it’s the connective tissue between the movement, between each other, and it keeps us all synergistically in the same rhythm and the same flow. Then when the lyrics hit, that matches the way you’re feeling or unlocks something inside of you or allows you to tap into your emotions. We’ve all had that moment where you’re like ‘ahhhh’ and the music moves you. I did a RENT run to kick off Pride Week this morning, and I don’t even know if I coached the class – I was like, ‘I’m just going to push play and we’re going to run and sing along to the best soundtrack of any Broadway show that’s ever existed.’ Music is so important to me. Let’s talk about how Peloton celebrates identity and representation. Personally, I ride with the #PelotonPride hashtag, and it surprised me how a hashtag could bring people together, especially through the past year. Can you talk a little bit about how little things like this help bring the LGBTQ2S community together? Tags are special because you have to choose to be a part of it, and that means it matters and means something to the member. So when you find other people who have sought out the same tag, it’s a collective vibration, a collective connection of values and energy. Knowing that you’re not alone and you have this team of people within a larger team is powerful and significant.
Jess King and her fiancée Sophia Urista
I spend a lot of time on my music and you can bet that it’s also going to be spontaneous. I might start off with a ’90s pop song, then somewhere in the middle we’re rocking out to Metallica and we finish with Aladdin’s ‘Friend Like Me.’ It could journey all over the place based on the intention and how I want you to feel in that exact moment. I use music to create a story and to really move myself – and everyone else – from one place to another, so we’re all going through this experience, this journey, together. You’re going to end up somewhere you did not start off, that’s for sure. I love moving my body, I love being in front of the camera and I love the fact that I am moving with thousands of people at the same time – our community is 5.4 million members! We’re this giant heartbeat. I always say that Peloton gets the absolute best of me. I am my favourite version of myself when I am in front of the camera and moving with our members. So bottom line, you can expect tons of energy, challenging workouts and eclectic music!
At-home fitness has changed rapidly in the past year, and Peloton has led the way with its top-tier virtual classes and beautifully shot streaming content. A big part of that success can be attributed to the diverse group of instructors who motivate both on and off the bike.
I would also like to point out that we have a non-binary option when you create your profile so you can pick from male, female or non-binary. It’s really important that our community, the LGBTQ+ community, and our non-binary family members, feel seen and feel like they have a place. Peloton prides itself on being diverse and that’s so important to the fabric of who we are – that we’re multicoloured and that every identity is represented within the Peloton umbrella. Given that we’re a virtual platform, what’s interesting and different is that you’re not just scrolling, tapping and liking, but you’re actively participating and we can gauge your metrics, we can gauge your participation, and you’re pouring energy into it. When you ride together with a tag or ride together as a community, not only are you saying ‘I’m part of this community,’ but you’re contributing your life energy into it. Yes, we’re feeling that within Peloton, but it has this ripple effect in our local communities as well – in our neighbourhoods, within our homes and within our families. That’s what makes us a global community: we come together on the Leaderboard, and what we create together then extends into people who aren’t even part of the Peloton community. I think that’s powerful. Now that we are coming up to Pride Month, how is Peloton celebrating Pride 2021? I make it a point to celebrate Pride 365 days a year at Peloton by being out, by being proud, by talking about it, and by creating content in months other than June. It’s important to me to celebrate this community, to be loud and to be heard, because representation truly matters and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I’m so proud and excited that Peloton takes the time to put a lot of energy into celebrating this month because it means so much to so many of us, but also that it extends beyond just June. Peloton has honoured the diversity of the experiences and uniqueness that form our LGBTQ+ community with music, themed classes and a new apparel collection this Pride Month. We’re highlighting the power and creativity of Pride with themed workouts and music moments featuring icons and rising stars within the LGBTQ+ community, including our RENT Artist Series, which I’ll be teaching!
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To support the safety, mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ communities, we’re also donating a total of $100,000 to four global organizations, including The 519 in Toronto, as well as The Ali Forney Center, London Friend and GLADT. These organizations protect and foster the journeys of individuals in LGBTQ+ communities across the world, and we’re proud to partner with them in their mission. Outside of the studio…you’re engaged! Congratulations! What’s the update on wedding plans! I feel like Sophia and I need to actually have a conversation about this because it keeps coming up and we don’t have plans right now! We don’t have a date yet, but most likely it will be some time next summer. We wanted to get out of this ‘great pause’ chapter and we did not want to modify the way we wanted to celebrate. We’ve been together for over six years now, so nobody is going anywhere, you know? We focus so much more on how we express love every single day and how we show up for each other every day, that a wedding for us is more about giving back to our community and giving everyone we love a chance to gather and hold space in that public way. 30
How did you two meet? We were both in the same show in a New York City nightclub called The Box, which is also when Peloton came into my life. It’s this seedy, burlesque nightclub and my whole life has come from this place – I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that something beautiful and profound would have been born from this underground nightclub in NYC. I walked in one day for rehearsal and she was on stage. Turns out that she was the emcee of the show and I was a dancer. I had never been with a woman before, ever – not even messed around – but there was something about her. It’s interesting when anyone meets her, they’re always like ‘Ohhh, I get it now’ because it doesn’t matter how you identify, there’s something about her energy that pulls you in. Kind of like a sex symbol, almost like how Prince was, when you see her, you’re just like ‘I want to be near that.’ I was so ignorant and naive, and walked up to her and was like ‘Hey, do you want to hook up?’ and she was like ‘What? No! Why would I want to do that – I’m not your experiment!’ Then I had a moment of ‘Oh, that was rude, I should not objectify people like that.’ That was awful.’ So, she forced me into friendship and I really didn’t want that. I thought I had enough friends, I wasn’t interested in more than a hookup, and it never crossed my mind that I would fall in love. But after a year of friendship, I realized that I did have a deeper connection and deeper feelings for her, and I decided that I’m absolutely not going to deny myself love solely because it showed up in a different package. Everything I had ever wanted in terms of how she made me feel – safe, seen, loved, adored, treasured – was so healing for me that it was something to overcome in the beginning; my own judgment, my own limiting beliefs about what I should or shouldn’t do. What was so real was the way that I felt for her, and that love being reciprocated, so after a year of friendship and four months of courtship, we took it really slow, but we started dating. It was so scary at first, but so incredibly beautiful and rewarding. I’m so free-spirited and there’s a rebellious part of me that really likes the thrill of carving my own path and doing things my way. For those who don’t know, Sophia is a musician…so I have to ask: what’s your favourite Sophia song? This is an easy one because she wrote a song to propose to me with, called ‘Everything About You.’ There’s also a music video that we filmed when we were on vacation in Nicaragua a year or two
earlier – I didn’t even know what it was all for and then she put it all together in this video and showed it to me at our engagement party and it was incredible. I don’t like surprises, and this is probably the only surprise that has ever moved me like that. She’s also part of this band called Brass Against and I cannot get enough of her cover of Tool’s song ‘The Pot.’ Her vocals, the way she just goes for it, I just can’t get enough of listening to her sing that track. And stay tuned…I have to do a shameless plug!…she just recorded a new album, so I’m sure I’ll have an updated list of my favourite songs soon. What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know? What don’t people know? I have a problem with keeping anything in – I talk about everything that’s going on in my life, I’m not very secretive. I often hear that I’m intimidating, and I want people to know that no matter how my energy may or may not make you feel, that I am safe. If you ever want to approach me, if you ever want to come talk to me or confide in me, know that I am a safe space and a safe person to do that with. I genuinely find it very hard to judge people, only because I used to be the most ‘Judgmental Judy’ ever. Then I realized that being judgmental and critical of others was a reflection of my relationship with myself, and I committed to do my work around that, to become someone that was accepting, empathetic and understanding to myself and others. My energy is big and unapologetic and understandably a lot for some people, but if you lean in, you’ll realize I’m a good listener and I care deeply for the people in my life. What’s next for you? Sophia and I have started a cooking show called Ooo, Mami and we want to continue doing that. We’re having a lot of fun building it: we played around with one that was more of a telenovela, we just did one that was a Battle of the Bowls cookoff contest, and we might lean into a little Lucy and Ricky kind of idea. We’re playing around with how we want the show to evolve, so I would stay tuned for that. We also just bought a house! This is such an amazing, huge project. We’re both very creative, very artistic, and we’re both very opinionated, so it’s going to be a really fun process and collaboration to create a space that’s uniquely ours. And stay tuned for the wedding at some point! If someone could only take one Jess King ride…which one should it be? I haven’t changed my answer to this in a very long time: the one ride that I stand by with my whole heart is the New Year’s Eve episode from the Jess King Experience Season 2. It’s not because of anything I said or did, but because of the way I felt in that ride. There was something magical about everything that went into the experience, and it’s the most free, the most beautiful and the most authentically me I’ve ever felt in a class before. The lighting is amazing, my costume is amazing and DJ John Michael is amazing. If a 45-minute ride intimidates you, this is your call to action. 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.
Canada’s Own Hollywood Hollywood Jade is the Canadian entertainment icon you should be watching. He talks to IN about the power in being authentically yourself, and why it’s important to recognize those who came before us, as well as lifting each other up By Bianca Guzzo Photo Credits PHOTOGRAPHER: Fabian Di Corcia MAKEUP ARTIST: Imarra PRODUCTS BY: Cherry Bomb Eyes WARDROBE: L’Uomo Strano by Mic. Carter and Roell Designs by Roell Gomes NAIL JEWELLERY: Infiniti Nail Jewelry
Hollywood Jade has been working both in front of the camera and behind the scenes in some of our favourite music videos and movies for nearly two decades. The dancer-turned-choreographer/ producer – who was first featured earlier this year in IN Magazine’s “Black, Bold, Queer and Beautiful” article by Jumol Royes – is a first-generation Canadian who also identifies as Jamaican-Guyanese, as well as queer.
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His hard work and determination have followed him through his time as a backup dancer in music videos, to dancing in movies like Save the Last Dance 2, Make Your Move, Camp Rock 2 and the iconic Hairspray. That would eventually lead him to start choreographing, as well as assisting other choreographers on various projects including music videos, television performances and award shows, and, most recently, head choreographer for the first season of Canada’s Drag Race. From a kid who loved movie musicals to a multitalented dancer, producer and director, Hollywood Jade has not only paved his own authentic and original path but makes sure to bring others along for the journey.
movies like Babes in Toyland for sparking the idea that a fusion of all of the things he loved could possibly be his career. “As a kid I saw these movies and thought, ‘I can do this. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but that’s what I want to do,’” he says. As for his name, “Hollywood” was given to him by a former mentor of his, and it was originally meant as a dig. “I’ve always been a very fashionable person. I credit my mother for this. But I would go to rehearsal in these outfits, and one morning I just wasn’t feeling it, and I had my Starbucks in one hand and my sunglasses on, and I’m in my outfit, and I walk into rehearsal. I was over in the corner practising, and [my mentor] started with rehearsal, but I was so out of it I didn’t realize. She’s like, ‘Hey! Excuse me, Hollywood. Do you wanna join us?’ and I was just like ‘I love that!’” He ran with it, adding Hollywood before his first name to create something that’s not only memorable but authentic – a recurring theme with the work Hollywood Jade produces.
Soon enough, Hollywood Jade found himself dancing in music videos for Canadian music artists. Eventually, he was dancing in Hollywood Jade, born Jade Anderson, grew up in Toronto. But bigger productions, the first “big” one being the Mary-Kate and he was actually born in Alberta, which he says surprises a lot of Ashley Olsen movie New York Minute, which was filmed around people since his work has become synonymous with Toronto’s Toronto. Unfortunately, Hollywood Jade’s scenes ended up being performance art scene. His discovery of movie musicals as a kid cut from the final movie, which is why he considers dancing in helped him realize he could make a living out of blending two Kelis’s 2003 music video for Trick Me to be the first job he was on of his favourite things, movies and music. “When I found movie that he knew was a big deal. “I remember being on set and saying, musicals, it changed the game for me. As far as I can remember, ‘I can’t believe that I’m here.’” That video was directed by Director Grease was like my first taste of that.” Hollywood Jade also credits X, who is known for making music videos for Canadians Sean 32
Jade describes him as being “a genuinely, lovely human being, who also just happens to be an amazing choreographer.”
Another important and lasting professional bond Hollywood As Hollywood Jade started dancing in more productions, and Jade made on the set of Hairspray is with fellow dancer-turnedworking with a variety of artists and choreographers, both Canadian choreographer Eboni Nichols. After their work together on Hairspray, and international, his determination and creativity grew, eventually Nichols asked Hollywood Jade to assist on jobs, and that was just leading him to becoming a choreographer for artists like Canada’s the beginning: they’ve been working together for over 10 years R&B queen Jully Black, as well as producing his own work. There on projects for stars like The-Dream, Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne. was one job he worked on specifically where he said that ideas started to click for him. “It definitely played a big role. Getting that co-sign from these people who I idolized and looked up to was huge,” he says, especially “Hairspray! Without a doubt, to date Hairspray was the game since he wasn’t getting that type of recognition from his peers at changer for me,” he says, describing it as being “a crash course in the time. It not only told him that he had what it takes for the next being in the entertainment industry.” Getting to work alongside level of his career, but that the narrative he was creating was adding industry vets like Adam Shankman, Anne Fletcher and Jamal Simms to the conversation rather than simply making noise, which was gave Hollywood Jade a chance to not only learn from some of important to him. “I was contributing to the conversation of dance the best but to create lasting professional relationships with them. and pushing the narrative forward, making it acceptable for queer He even credits Jamal Simms (professional choreographer and, people to be their authentic selves on stage.” most recently, the lead choreographer on American Drag Race) as being the person whose career he is trying to model his own Being able to share himself authentically through sprinkling what he after – not only because of Simms’ talent, but because Hollywood calls his “queer-isms” in his work was not always easy. Hollywood
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Paul, Nelly Furtado and, famously, Drake’s Hotline Bling music video, as well as videos for countless other global superstars such as Ariana Grande and ZAYN.
queer Caribbean man, I think we make up a huge population of the creatives that we’ve seen – our names just haven’t been mentioned,” he says. He talks about the people we’ve lost recently just in the Canadian queer community, and how their life’s work could have gone unnoticed if their names weren’t spoken in places where they hadn’t previously been mentioned – people like Michelle Ross, a Jamaican-Canadian drag queen who was an icon in the Toronto queer community, especially for Black queer folks.
When he started working in the entertainment industry, Hollywood Ross, who died in March 2021, happens to be the first drag queen Jade explains, everything was very “commercial,” with repetitive Hollywood Jade ever experienced in person. “If not for people like steps, meaning there was very little room for him to add that personal me and Tynomi Banks, who when she was on Drag Race made flair for which he is now so well-known. “It made it challenging sure that she mentioned her, [Ross] could have passed away and getting my point of view and my perspective as a creative across, the world would not know the greatness that was her,” he says. because I felt like so much of the hesitation was wrapped up in “I’m tired of that being the narrative. I’m tired of people not being them resisting accepting me fully.” celebrated until they’re gone. It’s important for me that we’re bringing recognition to people while they’re here and while there’s Acceptance, and recognition, is something that has rarely been given still time for more impact to be felt. It’s important that people can to Black members of the queer community. Black queer people have put a name to the things that trigger positive things in their lives.” contributed a lot to queer culture, but that not only goes unnoticed, but also unattributed. Hollywood Jade wants to make sure people While talking about how the last season of Drag Race ended, are recognized for their work while they’re still alive. “As a Black Hollywood Jade mentions how happy he is that Symone’s specific,
Jade says that who he is today is more in line with who he was when he started in the business, as opposed to who he was in the middle, where he says he was concealing parts of his personality in order to be hired. “I slowly started hiding more and more of myself to acclimate to be what was bookable,” he says. “I faced all sorts of, ‘No, that’ll never work; we don’t want to see that,’ you know? The people around me were like, ‘We accept and understand that you’re queer, but we don’t want you to bring that to work.’”
COVER JULY / AUGUST 2021
and sometimes niche, style of drag was accepted and celebrated by so many. “What I’m so happy about is that the state of the world has shifted so greatly. Somebody’s true authentic self was able to shine through and be crowned and celebrated in such a public way,” he says. “I just hope that the world really takes a step back and looks at what has happened and it’s like, “There is space for all of us to exist.” Speaking of Drag Race, Hollywood Jade served as the resident choreographer for the first season of the Canadian version of the show, working closely with the queens, choreographing the performances…and any Drag Race fan will know how hard it can be for some of the queens to learn the choreography. This is something that Hollywood Jade was totally prepared for ahead of filming. “In my career as an instructor, I have commonly taught beginner and intermediate classes,” he says. “Even if you look at the dancers I hire, I’m the guy who will hire the underdog and spend the extra two hours rehearsing with them to give them the opportunity to prove themselves. So, with that being said, I’m used to working with a wide variety of skill sets.” It was that same variety of different skill sets from the queens in Season 1 that made him feel right at home, allowing him to flex his muscles with his teaching and communicating, which is something he regularly does outside of the show. When it came to the choreography, he says most of the challenges had nothing to do with how fast the queens could (or couldn’t) pick up the steps, but instead came from the show’s production itself, issues like time constraints and working in spaces where 36
they were constantly being watched. “It presented a challenge, but it was one I was completely prepared and ready for,” he says. Something else Hollywood Jade loves about working with queens is that he can include as many queer references – or queer-isms, as he calls them – into the choreography, and the queens are always up to work them into a performance, which is something that can’t always be pushed as far while choreographing for cisgenderheterosexual artists. Another silver lining to working with queens? “I get to live out MY FANTASIES! Like all of the songs I loved as a kid, I get to choreograph for these women,” he exclaims. “Nineyear-old me is screaming right now!” While it isn’t confirmed on whether or not Hollywood Jade will be returning to choreograph the queens in the second season of Canada’s Drag Race, he says his fingers are crossed that he’ll get the phone call. Another place where Hollywood Jade’s choreography and leadership shines is the vibrant and unique Hollywood Presents: Urbanesque. The dance company, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in March 2021, is a place where the structure of commercial dance is met with the whimsy of musical theatre. “Urbanesque is defined as having the breadth of burlesque with the energy and the essence of urban culture past and present,” says Hollywood Jade. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant live performances were completely shut down. Urbanesque had their final live performance in February 2020, before the world went into lockdown.
Hollywood Jade, who is about to launch a new season of Urbanesque, is continuing on with everything the pandemic has taught him. Through holding auditions for new talent, he is now focusing on producing and curating work specifically for online, which is something he’s never done before. While the online work is his current priority, he knows it won’t be like this forever. As the pandemic eventually winds down, people are becoming more and more eager to get out of their homes and support local artists in live performance spaces. In the meantime, though the pandemic has created hurdles for producing entertainment, Hollywood Jade is thankful for the pause everybody was forced to take, and hopes people recognize the quality of work being put out. “The pandemic has been a huge blessing to me in terms of really being able to take a step back and look at how I want to work and how I want to impact people with my work. So the process has evolved greatly.” He argues that sometimes when an artist’s work is continuously forced out, it compromises its authenticity and staying power. He knows that the work he’s putting out now is more important than ever, because it’s becoming the standard that people are going to expect when they come and see his work live (as soon as it’s safe to do so). “People are going to want to make sure that ‘If I’m putting my life at risk to come out, I want to be entertained,’” he says. Something else Hollywood Jade says he hopes comes out of all of this is the idea of “curated experiences,” where people pay for the exact entertainment they want and leave feeling totally fulfilled, and that they got a bang for their buck. Hollywood Jade explains that he doesn’t go into projects believing he has all of the answers; he gives the work time to breathe, and
gains different perspectives from other creatives throughout the process. It’s something that was hard for him at first, being a true Capricorn, but he eventually realized it gives everybody involved a chance to explore and grow within the project. Which is how he recently choreographed the Cake music video for Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka. Whether he’s choreographing Canada’s drag queens, the Urbanesque dancers, or dancers for films and music videos, Hollywood Jade has made an imprint on the Canadian entertainment industry, as well as the queer community. He has not only carved out a space for people who have previously gone unrecognized for their work, he is adamant about continuing to give recognition to others who have impacted the Black entertainment industry. One way he does this is with his podcast Hollywood Hosts, which is currently in its second season. “Nobody is talking about the people who started them off, who gave them a springboard. So that’s really what the podcast is about,” he says.
There is still so much Hollywood Jade wants to do, like someday writing and producing his own musical. “I feel like that would be a complete full-circle journey for me as a creative, and as an artist, to be able to create something that some kid is going to see and inspire them to go after all of their dreams. That would be the dream project,” he says. In the meantime, he’s keeping busy producing and choreographing, telling stories through art, and using his platform to uplift other voices – continuously showing that a Black-queer-Canadian can become a leader and mentor in spaces where Black members of the LGBTQI+ community have not always been welcomed and celebrated, and that there is space for everybody at the table. “I’m really happy about being in a position with all that I’ve acquired, and all of the knowledge that I’ve experienced, and all the avenues that I’ve been in Canada or internationally…that I get to now give this back to people who want to receive it.”
BIANCA GUZZO is a writer based out of the GTA. She spends her free time watching Trixie Mattel makeup tutorials, though she has yet to nail the look.
Luckily, some of the performances were taped, meaning that throughout the pandemic, Hollywood Jade was able to sell tickets for online viewings of performances via the incredible network he’s built. “Transitioning my live show onto an online platform is really been the biggest pivot that I’ve had to make,” he says.
Jardin Lumiere Heavenly creatures in a crazy-magical world
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PHOTOGRAPHER: Gamaliel Grootenboer MODELS: Oz Moreno, Roy Nares, Javier León, Charly, Louis Cousinard and Christina Fulker SWIMWEAR: Oz Moreno brand LOCATION: Zipolite, Oaxaca
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GAMALIEL GROOTENBOER is a Mexican art/fashion photographer. Grootenboer was born in San Cristobal, Chiapas, a town in the south of Mexico, and currently lives between Zipolite, Oaxaca, and Mexico City. He creates his own props and sets and focuses his work on storytelling.
SHOW your your your your your your your your your
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These beauties are celebrating Pride and recommitting to equality and justice every single day of the year PHOTOGRAPHER: Ivan Otis CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Paul Langill WARDROBE STYLIST: Pinal Surana HAIR: Brian Phillips MAKEUP: Paul Langill MODELS: Kirk John-Williams, Mikka Gia, Mars, Van Goth, James Levesque, Travis L’Henaff, Nathaniel Bacon, Nick, Mateo Mendeiros (Special thanks to Greg for booking talent from B&M Models’ LGBTQ and non-binary division) Special thanks to Studio311.ca
TOP, GLOVES AND EARRINGS: Model’s own
FASHION VAN GOTH Say hello to Van Goth. Belonging to this community transcends race, age, socioeconomic status and so much more. But it does not transcend racism, transphobia and other forms of bigotry. Pride in 2021 is about bringing our community together, and making sure we all do our part to protect and uplift our most vulnerable. All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter. 43
TRANSPARENT DRESSES: Gorm SHORTS AND SOCKS: Topshop FASCINATORS AND MARCHING BAND HAT: Kensington Market BIKINI LEAF TOP: Gorm GLOVES: Queen Street West BELT: H&M BOOTS AND SHOES: Guess
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MARS Mars identifies herself as she, they, them or just Mars and she comes from a background of theatre and creative performance art. She now books her own talent and dance shows, and hosts and produces LGBTQ events. Mars’ passion for fashion and her versatility working in the industry is leading to an exciting and accepting career as a model/dancer. 44
FULL SLEEVE TOP: Gorm BANGLES: Topshop PANTS: Zara SOCKS: Kotn HEELS: Aldo Shoes NICK The new LGBTQ kid on the block. He defines Gen Z, pushing all the boundaries – but once groomed and styled, he transforms himself. It’s beautiful to watch him work: we all know we’re working with an up-and-coming star! Watch for Nick to be turning up in Paris, Milan and New York Fashion Weeks.
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SHIRT: H&M JACKET: Hudson’s Bay MASQUERADE EYE MASK: H&M BOW TIE: Topman POCKET SQUARE: Austen Dor KIRK JOHN-WILLIAMS Kirk is a model, entrepreneur, screenwriter and simple human. As a creative person, he enjoys telling dramatic stories and working within the BIPOC and the LGBTQ communities in ways that are universally relatable.
DENIM VEST: Xian Clothing HAT AND SCARF: Gorm NATHANIEL BACON As an award-winning actor and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Nathaniel’s played queer characters on stage from Hedwig to Frank N’ Furter and made appearances on TV shows like Saving Hope, Shadowhunters and Reign. He’s passionate about social justice, nature, singing, yoga and veganism. He’ll next appear on the upcoming final season of The Expanse.
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T-SHIRT, CUT-OFF SHIRT AND JEANS: Model’s own MATEO MENDEIROS Mateo’s true passion has always embraced his creative background, working with photographers showing off his tall masculine looks and his explosive, unique and confident personality. Now working as a Positive Body Influencer. He is launching his modelling career working with fashion for all men’s sizes included. 48
FISHNET T-SHIRT: Kensington Market LEATHER JACKET: Black Market HAT: Coup De Tete WRISTBAND: Fossil JEANS AND BOOTS: Model’s own JAMES LEVESQUE James has been a successful character model and actor working in fashion and the film industry for a number of years. He’s passionate about his beautiful tattoos and long beard… But aren’t we all?
TOP: Topshop JACKET: Xian Clothing
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MIKKA GIA Mikka lives and works in the Queen Street West district of downtown Toronto. Owner and creative director of The Groomed Society and Barbers To Go T.O., her passions are photography and everything art.
VINTAGE LEATHER FASHION AND BODY ACCESSORIES: Northbound Leather RINGS: Catharsis TRAVIS L’HENAFF Travis has always embraced his LGBTQ lifestyle, which has rewarded him an incredible career and a role on Canada’s Drag Race as one of the infamously sexy "Pit Crew.” Travis continues to be a strong HIV advocate and activist in our community.
POLITICS & CULTURE
PRIDE PARADES ARE FRAGMENTING – That’s Inevitable... And Okay Let’s call it rising discontent By Adam Zivo
Recent years have seen rising frustration with mainstream Pride festivals, which some groups no longer feel represent them. Some on the political left feel that mainstream Prides have become too corporatized, and argue that, by straying from their radical roots, Prides have failed to advocate for the interests of the most marginalized. Mirroring that, some centrists and conservatives feel that Prides have become too woke, privileging an impractical strain of activism that fails to recognize the political diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Across the political spectrum, frustrated groups have taken to organizing their own alternatives to Pride, through which they’ve hoped to make more space for different political priorities. In 2017, after Toronto Police Services was barred from marching in Toronto Pride, more conservative community members protested by organizing the short-lived First Responders Unity Festival. In 2019, progressive activists launched Toronto’s first “Alternative Pride Festival,” which styled itself as a de-corporatized space where, unfettered by sponsor obligations, more provocative political stances could be championed. Though both progressives and conservatives have their respective discontents, progressives have been far more effective at turning that into action, with anti-corporate alternative Prides popping up all across Canada and the globe. Their degree of organization varies, from structured festivals with ticketing fees and formal programming, to annual, grassroots protests. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to opt out of participating in Pride celebrations altogether, giving up on political advocacy in a hostile environment.
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As alternatives to Pride proliferate, they call into question whether the current status quo – wherein cities only have one Pride festival, overseen by one local organization – is sustainable. Will Pride celebrations splinter, so that cities are serviced by a handful of festivals, each catering to its own niche within the community? Was Toronto’s 2019 Alternative Pride – and, to a lesser extent, the 2017 Unity Festival – simply an aberration, or does it represent the beginning of a larger journey of fragmentation? Politics vs culture Looking at things more closely, it seems as if the latter is more likely, because there has always been something bizarre in how Pride festivals are designed – an underlying tension which makes fragmentation seemingly inevitable. Pride festivals are, in a way, made to schism. That’s because they’re situated as both cultural and political events. This isn’t entirely unique, because politics and culture often intersect, but it is rare for festivals to treat both with equal consideration. 52
Cultural events are often incidentally political, and political events are often incidentally cultural. Pride festivals are simultaneously and emphatically both. The political dimension of Pride is, of course, rooted in its historical need to platform LGBTQ+ advocacy, creating a space for people to loudly call for equality and inclusion (or rebellion and liberation, depending on your political stripes). Unlike other festivals, activism is never seen as an intrusion – people may disagree with the ideologies forwarded by some groups, but their right to be political is nonetheless expected. At the same time, Pride festivals also have an obvious cultural dimension, spotlighting and celebrating the various segments of the LGBTQ+ community, along with their values and aesthetics, without an explicit political agenda. Drag is Pride. Leather is Pride. Gay families are Pride. Queer zines are Pride. Gym gays in Speedos are Pride, as are trans people walking down the street. This cultural aspect is amplified when Pride festivals make the case for public funding, positioning themselves through the lens of tourism and economic development. While it seems perfectly natural for Pride festivals to be both cultural and political, these parallel mandates have wildly different needs. Cultural events succeed when they are maximally inclusive, creating a mosaic wherein no part of the community is left behind. Everyone must have their due, even if, collectively, radical inclusivity creates incoherence. The muscle bears, femme lesbians and art queers (among countless other disparate groups) all have an equal right to be culturally represented, even if their priorities are worlds apart. Much like the acronym “LGBTQ+,” an inclusive cultural festival is a mishmash of odds and ends, struggling to be more than the sum of its parts. In contrast, political events benefit from being narrowly focused, disciplined, and ideologically exclusive. Political activism succeeds when it clearly sets an agenda and then unwaveringly fights for it. Diversity is a distraction in this case, turning political advocacy into a confusing marketplace of ideas without clear priorities. A poignant example of this was the Occupy Movement of the early 2010s, which began with seemingly limitless socio-political capital, only to collapse under the weight of its own indiscipline and disorganization. So therein lies the tension: cultural festivals benefit from being inclusive, soft and nebulous; political advocacy benefits from being ideologically exclusive, hardening itself into a knife that hacks towards its goals. A festival that aggressively combines both
The cost of acceptance Many consider culture and politics to be inextricable. Giving visibility to queer culture is inherently political, in a way – isn’t elevating queerness an act of rebellion against prevailing social norms? Wasn’t it true that early Pride festivals were radical simply by virtue of the cultural visibility they brought, which then implies that culture is politics? Historically, the answer to this question was “yes.” This is perhaps why questions about the purpose of Pride – is it a cultural celebration or a political riot – only arose belatedly (which isn’t to say that these questions only recently became important; they’ve always existed, but have only recently been foregrounded with so much gusto). When culture is fused with politics, it’s hard to find a tension between the two.
A festival that aggressively combines both culture and politics is a contradiction of sorts However, as the LGBTQ+ community has become more socially accepted, making visibility less transgressive, things have come more complicated. In the absence of transgressiveness, cultural visibility loses its political importance. The more Pride advocacy succeeds, normalizing what was once harshly stigmatized, the more its cultural dimension becomes apolitical. Take drag queens as an example. In a previous generation, their presence in Pride festivals was a clear affront to mainstream sensibilities. By shockingly challenging gender norms, drag queens were necessarily political. Today, in the age of Drag Race, when armies of suburban teens celebrate and mimic mainstream queens, watching a drag performance on an outdoor stage is not a political statement – it is just cultural entertainment. The same is true, to varying degrees, for many other public expressions of LGBTQ+ life, which society has also become accustomed to – lesbian parents, shirtless men, leather harnesses, gender queerness, and so on. Consider that, in the 1970s, gay activists organized “kiss-ins” as a form of protest – because samesex love was so stigmatized that this was enough to make a bold, political statement. Today, to call public kissing a political act would rightfully elicit eye-rolls – at least in Canada’s main metropolises (these things are, of course, context-sensitive). Gone are the days when visibility was sufficient for activism. None of this is to say that LGBTQ+ culture has been entirely de-politicized; the point is that it’s lost enough of its political character that it can be seen without the fog of politics – culture enjoyed for its own sake, where not everything is turned into an activist statement. Some consider this a bad thing, believing that LGBTQ+ culture should always be tethered to larger dreams of political liberation. However, this cultural banalization has been one of the community’s greatest victories. One of the heaviest burdens of being a marginalized minority is to have your existence forcibly turned into a political
statement, so that life is spent in a constant state of anxiety, tensed up against the hostile judgments of a society that keeps you on indefinite trial. Liberation entails the freedom to relax and just exist, to be seen as an individual like any other. Freedom is boredom, but what do Prides mean if they’re boring? Having normalized the transgressive, they’ve become victims of their own success. As long as their attention is focused on cultural representation, they will continue to struggle with meeting the needs of those who see Pride as a vehicle for activism. A solution: divide up politics and culture “Pride is political.” So goes the slogan. But whose politics should be platformed in Pride? Whichever choice is made, some groups are left behind, because no one set of politics could ever encapsulate the ideological diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Sometimes that means progressives feeling that Pride is not radical enough, sometimes that means centrists and conservatives feeling that Pride is too woke. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone. If Pride festivals were narrowly defined as political advocacy organizations, this would not be an issue: they would simply set their activist agendas without worrying about whether some parts of the community are left out. However, because Pride festivals are vested with their cultural mandate – burdened, in a way, with the responsibility of representing the entire spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community – they don’t have the privilege of having a narrow focus. The people they exclude often rightfully feel a sense of betrayal: “Why is Pride, which is supposed to represent the entire community, myself included, ignoring my politics?” Some Pride festivals have dealt with this by simply dispensing with the expectation that they service all factions, politically or culturally. Pride Toronto, for example, makes no secret that it considers large swaths of the LGBTQ+ community to be politically illegitimate, and, relatedly, is minimizing cultural representation of factions of the LGBTQ+ community it considers ideologically inconvenient – for example, cisgendered gay men, who tend to be more conservative than Pride Toronto prefers. As a result of this approach, many within the LGBTQ+ community lack political representation, and, to a lesser degree, cultural representation as well. Perhaps the better solution, and maybe an inevitable one, would be to let Pride celebrations continue to fragment – with a main Pride festival acting as a maximally inclusive cultural celebration, supported by smaller, niche Pride events that can be tailored to the community’s political niches. This would simply be an extension of what we’ve seen in the past few years, given that alternative Pride events see themselves as political accompaniments to apolitical, mainstream Pride festivals. Of course, that would be unpopular to many, because mainstream Pride festivals have accumulated an enormous amount of influence over the decades, and this trove of influence could no longer be leveraged for political activism. But maybe that’s okay – because it’s questionable whether the culture of an entire community should be used towards political activism that represent only specific subsets of it.
ADAM ZIVO is a Toronto-based social entrepreneur, photographer and analyst best known for founding the LoveisLoveisLove campaign.
POLITICS & CULTURE
culture and politics is a contradiction of sorts. Maybe it would be better to disentangle the two…but is that even possible?
JONATHAN PARKS-RAMAGE’S GOTHIC TAKE ON #METOO His debut novel is as enthralling as it is disturbing By Paul Gallant
Before I started reading Yes, Daddy, the debut novel by the American writer Jonathan Parks-Ramage, I had heard that it was being turned into a limited series by Amazon Studios. So I read it like I was binging on a TV melodrama, and, oh, what a binge it was.
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Jonah, a hunky, ambitious and somewhat desperate gay waiter/ aspiring writer in New York, orchestrates a meet-cute with a rich and influential playwright (yeah, yeah, insert joke about rich playwrights here). So far it could be one of those pulpy gay novels from the 1990s, chronicling the habits of a newly empowered queer community and how it likes to spend its pink dollars. Jonah then finds himself ushered into a world of wealthy and cultured older gay men, a world that’s thrilling and, eventually, frightening. Just like Jonah, the reader is seduced by what money can buy, then shocked by what the “bill” looks like.
and assaulted by patrons and the owner of the restaurant was, like, ‘That’s just what it means to be gay.’” The sexual freedom and experimentation that can be part of gay life, and which informs how many gay couples live their lives together, further clouds the definitions of consent. The grey area in same-sex relationships can seem greyer than in relationships between men and women, where more conventions exist, even when straight men pretend to be oblivious to them. When a gay man willingly enters, say, a dungeon playroom, is he automatically giving consent to everything that might happen there?
“There’s a lot of sexual freedom in certain corners of gay culture, which is really beautiful, and we should really celebrate that,” says Parks-Ramage. “But, you know, with great freedom comes great responsibility. Even when navigating those kinds of sexually “There are the trappings of this young aspiring writer who’s broke, charged spaces, I think it’s still really important in those moments who is brought to this glamorous Hamptons compound for what to make sure we’re also navigating consent and making sure that he thinks is going to be a fabulous summer, but things take a much everyone’s having a good time.” darker turn. I wanted to draw the reader in, in the way that our narrator was drawn in,” Parks-Ramage tells me when I reach him Parks-Ramage started writing the novel in 2016, about a year before on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. sexual harassment allegations (and later charges and convictions) against straight Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein brought the Reading any given page of Yes, Daddy, it’s impossible to predict idea of #MeToo to wide public attention. The biggest gay #MeToo, what will happen next. But since the prologue opens with a sexual allegations by actor Anthony Rapp against Kevin Spacey, broke in assault trial, I’m not spoiling anything by saying that Parks-Ramage 2017. “When those stories started hitting the press, it also shaped balances a mood of lurid gothic horror with a serious gay spin on the novel. I was writing it in kind of real time. Suddenly I realized, the #MeToo movement, where the exploitation is fuelled not by ‘This is going to be a story about sexual abuse and assault within gender but by money, power and even religion. queer relationships. But I also wanted a portion of the book to take place years after the assault happens so our narrator is forced to When he was in his 20s, Parks-Ramage himself was an ambitious reflect back on this experience.” writer who had arrived in New York hoping to strike it big (he moved to California about seven years ago). So I have to ask him A few years ago, Parks-Ramage wrote about his real-life experiences how much of the story is drawn from real life. of being diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer. As in Yes, Daddy, there is humour as well as therapy in how he navigates “I dated a lot of older, wealthier, famous men in my early 20s, and I the territory. “I don’t want to like lump all trauma together, but always considered writing about that experience because there’s a I do think that if something traumatic happens to you, there can lot to unpack there, especially now that I left that chapter very far be the impulse to lock it away in a box, and try to pretend like it behind,” he says. “This novel is a book that’s very personal, but never happened. But the danger of the denial is having that trauma not autobiographical. There are a lot of things that I’m exploring, bubble up in either subconscious or conscious ways that affect the looking back on my own life, then filtering them through a fictional way you treat others, the way you treat yourself, the way you move lens. But there’s definitely a lot of me in it.” through the world,” he says. Indeed, the restaurant where Jonah works is based on a restaurant where Parks-Ramage worked when he first arrived in New York. “It’s like a gay upscale Hooters, if you will. It’s populated by very wealthy gay men who pay top dollar to eat okay food and then also sexually harass all the servers. I was literally sexually harassed 54
His days of dating older men seem to be over. He’s been in a relationship with Ryan O’Connell, the 34-year-old producer and star of Netflix’s Special, since 2015. Theirs is a classic California meet-cute: at a birthday party for Grimes, the Canadian musician and partner of kooky billionaire Elon Musk. Parks-Ramage and
O’Connell have established a creative as well as a romantic connection. “He’s actually a very important sounding board for me, and vice versa. Whether it’s a book or screenplay or article, we usually bounce pretty much everything back and forth. We both really love each other’s work. It’s helpful to have that person who can give you a little outside perspective.” Stephen Dunn, the gay Canadian director who is in charge of the upcoming reboot of Queer as Folk for the Peacock streaming service, has been tapped to direct the television adaptation of the book for Amazon Studios; the release date is yet to be determined. Parks-Ramage shopped the unfinished book around Hollywood at the same time he was shopping it around to publishers; he signed his book deal and TV deal almost simultaneously. Openly gay TV exec Patrick Moran helped make it happen. “It’s good to have queer collaborators who understand the world and also understand the sensitivity required by the subject matter, collaborators you feel you can trust and that you don't have to explain anything to,” says Parks-Ramage. 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.
TRAVEL JULY / AUGUST 2021
The Revenge Travel Route It’s best to have something fabulous in mind for when the travel dam actually, finally bursts By Doug Wallace
Sunset in Turks and Caicos (photo: Flow_Flo/Unsplash)
Turks and Caicos Quiet and shy, the Turks and Caicos Islands, tucked just below the Bahamas, nets you amazing beaches to loll about on under tropical savannah skies. Even though it has been inhabited for centuries, the population is sparse – perfect for more private peace and quiet. Grand Turk, and the capital Cockburn Town, is the historic, cultural and financial heart of the islands, where your itinerary will include more than a few history lessons and tall tales – have fun determining which is which. And while outdoor adventure also needs to be on the list, the hip action is all in Providenciales on the Caicos side. “Provo” is one of the Caribbean’s top beach destinations, with dozens of pit stops to pop into – make a point of changing hotels at least once to enjoy a change of scenery. Grace Bay is a hub for the well-heeled, as are Northwest Point and Long Bay, which is favoured by the kiteboarders. Turks and Caicos also presents an excellent chance for off-the-radar ecoadventure romps, with dozens of islands and cays delivering marshes and mangroves, and all the wildlife that goes with them. As you will most likely visit between December and April, make a point to commune with the migrating humpback whales, which wander by the islands on their way to the Dominican Republic. Antigua and Barbuda A distinctly British tinge washes over the twin-island paradise of Antigua and Barbuda. More than 150 kilometres of coastline beckon with 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. English Harbour is the yachting hub, home of Nelson’s Dockyard and other historic sites, many of them nautical in nature. Sailors plan their visits to coincide with both Antigua Sailing Week and the Yacht Regatta
in April, but the real party is the annual Carnival at the end of July, celebrating the emancipation of slaves with a 10-day splash. Antigua is a big hiking island, a pandemic-friendly pastime. Easy routes include the three-kilometre Jones Valley Trail, netting sea views, an Instagram-worthy set of ruins and access to other paths. Wailing’s Dam is a well-worn picnic route, with other paths leading to some of the island’s more iconic sites, including Signal Hill and Falmouth Harbour. While the luxury-leaning Jumba Bay Resort and Galley Bay Resort & Spa are haute havens, your best bets are the smaller boutique hotels and guest apartments, where you can get a bit closer to the island’s real culture. A 15-minute flight away, the celebrity hideaway of Barbuda is on the rebound since being clobbered by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island is famous for both its 28-kilometre stretch of pink-sand beach and for one of the world’s largest frigate bird sanctuaries. Strap on a snorkel and hit the reefs – but keep an eye out for Ashanti. Curaçao The islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao lie just north of Venezuela, where their Dutch roots and European vibe lend them an LGBTQ-friendly flavour. In fact, Curaçao Pride festivities each September include a speech by the prime minister, something we hope other Caribbean nations are monitoring. Curaçao’s capital city of Willemstad is continually upgrading its once-derelict neighbourhoods into hip little enclaves of arts and culture, including the town’s safe and walkable Pietermaai District. It is a hotbed of cool cocktail bars, high-end dining, music and art. Architecture eye candy here and throughout town is a thrill, with Art Deco buildings and colonial mansions getting a new lease on life as boutique hotels, brasseries and galleries. Prime digs include Baoase Luxury Resort in Steenrijk with its sumptuous Balinese aura and the Santa Barbara Plantation community in the island’s east end, a hacienda-style resort with a buffered beach zone and an 18-hole golf course.
Sleeping Indian Mountain range in Antigua and Barbuda (photo: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Board)
The hour of escaping the border is approaching. Revenge travel is trending, a treat for putting up with locking down for so long. Have you thought about where late fall and winter will see you sitting on a beach somewhere, twirling your umbrella drink? While some islands are still shuttered for safety, others have their shingles out, ready to welcome those with their health papers in order, with no quarantine on arrival. Here is a little circular sunny route to get you motivated.
When you’re done with the major sites – including Museum Kurá Hulanda and its incredible African collection – beach-hop your way through Curaçao’s 35 beaches, dipping into the nooks and crannies, swimming with wild turtles (and pigs!) and snorkelling the coral reefs. Ecuador It’s not just a pit stop on the way to the Galapagos. With ecoadventure travel trending in a major way, mainland Ecuador is worth considering for the sheer variety of environments to explore, as you can embrace both the Andes and the Amazon.
Barbuda Beach in Antigua and Barbuda (photo: Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Board)
Small-group tours are worth considering for visiting Ecuador, as this will get you into places that aren’t on the tourist radar, including the ecolodges in Yasuni National Park in the Amazon rainforest, accessible only by motorized canoe. This is where you can visit local communities, learn about their way of life, sample the food and simply be at one with the jungle and the mangroves – not to mention the green parrots, sleepy bats and not-actually-vicious piranhas. A trip up the winding highways to the highlands yields volcanic vistas, Indigenous realism and misty forest. The city of Otavalo is in a lake region known for its textiles, where visitors can poke about the largest outdoor market in South America. Spend a night at 200-year-old Hacienda Pinsaqui nearby.
Willemstad, the capital city of Curaçao in the southern Caribbean (photo: Doug Wallace)
More geothermal activity awaits in the spa town of (appropriately named) Baños in south-central Ecuador, best known for its adventure sports – paragliding, canyoneering, zip lining and more. Spring for a massage at one of the spas, or pop into the local mineral baths for $2. Costa Rica The first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage, Costa Rica is warm and welcoming. Beach-bumming is the order of the day – a plethora of beach towns along the country’s Pacific coast are full-on surf boards, burly beards, beach bars, water sports and condo rentals. With one-quarter of the country comprising protected conservation areas, Costa Rica is a hiker’s paradise, filled with ecological, geological and zoological elements to discover through 29 national parks, 19 wildlife refuges and eight biosphere reserves. Hang out with critters like raccoon-like coatis, white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, white-tailed deer and migrating turtles.
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The pools at Andaz Papagayo in Guanacaste, Costa Rica (photo: Doug Wallace)
Treat yourself to a few days in Kardashian-approved Papagayo, a lush peninsula of protected parkland jutting out into the Gulf of Papagayo. This is where all the posh villa rentals and high-end hotels are concentrated – and it’s a 30-minute drive from the region’s international airport.
As travel rules tend to change with the wind, check local listings on the protocols and protections in place before heading to the airport. Read the Canadian government sites for suggestions and tips. Research like crazy, because that will make your revenge-taking all the more sweet.
The hills surrounding Quito, Ecuador (photo: Doug Wallace)
DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource TravelRight.Today.
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FLASHBACK The First Official Indigenous Pride Event In Canada (July 25, 2015)
Canada’s first on-reserve Indigenous Pride event took place on July 25, 2015, at the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario. The celebration drew roughly 150 people to Veteran’s Park and included remarks from local leaders including Chief Ava Hill, who honoured the community’s two-spirited people.
JULY / AUGUST 2021
The Six Nations Pride event started with Myka Burning talking to her nine-year-old daughter Meryk about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community and that summer’s Pride celebrations. Meryk then asked a question that startled her mother: are there gay Indigenous people? That prompted Burning to help organize the inaugural Six Nations Pride event. “At first I thought it would just be me and Meryk at the corner with a sign,” Burning said with a laugh. “For me, this is about the community aspect to show them that we support them.”
Fellow organizer Lyndon George (Long Feather) said he knows of many LGBTQ Indigenous people who have left their reserves due to intolerance. Homophobia, which he said is a by-product of colonization and residential schools, can be rampant on reserves and Indigenous communities. Canada’s National Aboriginal Health Organization says that historically, many First Nations cultures supported and honoured two-spirited people. They served important roles within their communities, including counselling or healing, and were held in high regard and prestige. It wasn’t until First Nations people made contact with European settlers, George said, that Canada’s Aboriginal people adopted the idea that gender is strictly binary.
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