IN Magazine: July / August 2023

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2 IN MAGAZINE JULY / AUGUST 2023 2 S L G B T Q I + C O M P A N Y , P R O U D L Y S E R V I N G A L L P A T H W A Y S T O P A R E N T H O O D . P R I D E P A R E N T H O O D H A S P A R T N E R E D W I T H A N O V A F E R T I L I T Y , P R O V I D I N G A C C E S S T O T H E B E S T F E R T I L I T Y S E R V I C E S I N C A N A D A . A L L F E R T I L I T Y J O U R N E Y S A R E U N I Q U E . E V E R Y I N D I V I D U A L H A S T H E F U N D A M E N T A L R I G H T T O G R O W T H E I R F A M I L Y . W E W O U L D B E H O N O U R E D T O A S S I S T W I T H Y O U R S . B E G I N Y O U R J O U R N E Y T O P A R E N T H O O D N O W A T : W W W . P R I D E P A R E N T H O O D . C O M


Patricia Salib


Christopher Turner


Georges Sarkis


Ruth Hanley


Paul Gallant, Doug Wallace


Jesse Boland, Jamie Booth, Loren Christie, Adriana Ermter, Elio Iannacci, Karen Kwan, Luis Augusto Nobre, Rowan O’Brien, Larry Olsen, Ivan Otis, Stephan Petar


Benjamin Chafe


Jumol Royes


Jackie Zhao Tyra Blizzard



IN Magazine is published six times per year by Elevate Media Group ( All rights reserved. Visit daily for 2SLGBTQI+ content.

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Issue 113

July | August 2023



The IN Directory helps folks find support, safer spaces


“Gender should never apply to hairstyles, ever”


Reduce food waste at home with just a few simple tips


It’s another milestone anniversary for Pride at Work Canada, the not-for-profit organization that works tirelessly to promote 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion in Canadian workplaces


Brittany has been living with HIV for nearly two decades, during which time she has become a fierce advocate



These 10 queer bookstores are sure to notch a spot on your bucket list


We chatted with lawyer Marcus McCann about his new book on park cruising, and how we need to consider the social good associated with cruising


The beloved out and proud instructor is set on bringing the fun to your fitness journey


The pride and the glory of Alison Goldfrapp’s disco nouveau


Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health’s Dr. Marjorie Dixon breaks down the steps in the 2SLGBTQI+ journey to parenthood


Unlike straight men, straight women have always had a prominent place in gay bars


Through the Spirit of Sustainability, the LCBO raised funds this Pride season for a diverse group of queer organizations


George Turner is the breakout star from the hilarious new Dekkoo series, Peckham Mix


Fierce lewks for dogs

48 | SUMMER LOVIN’ HAD ME A BLAST Summer allows us to lower our guard and let in new people and experiences


The company behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Toronto Argonauts is committed to ensuring their sporting events and venues are safe spaces for everyone


The city might be one of the world’s friendliest destinations for us


The Gay Capital of the World has a way of reenergizing the soul like nowhere else on earth –and I had clearly forgotten what I [heart] about New York


James Baldwin publishes his second novel, Giovanni’s Room




Ivan Otis gets behind the camera for a few of Toronto’s queer visionaries This summer, find a Canadian Pride event near you by visiting IN’s Pride Hub at


The IN Directory helps folks find support, safer spaces
Photo by James A. Molnar on Unsplash

This isn’t a story about a directory.

It’s a public service announcement about a critical lifeline for individuals who are searching for safety, support and community connections.

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’re aware of the pushback and hateful protests targeting Pride flag raisings and drag queen storytimes in communities across the country. It feels like 2SLGBTQI+ communities are under constant attack these days.

Despite all the conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and the strides made towards progress and acceptance, the need for trusted information sources to help community members connect to resources is greater than ever.

IN Magazine recently asked 2SLGBTQI+ folks about the biggest challenges they face when it comes to finding information to access services or seek support. Almost half (42%) of survey respondents said that 2SLGBTQI+ non-profit organizations and service providers don’t have the resources to promote their services; 21 per cent shared that 2SLGBTQI+-specific programs, services and supports are hard to find; 15 per cent confessed they don’t know where to look; and 12 per cent said searching for information online can be frustrating and time consuming (the remaining respondents cited other challenges).

All Inclusive Ministries, or AIM, in Toronto offers a welcoming, safe and affirming Catholic community for 2SLGBTQI+ individuals and allies, and serves as a bridge between the Catholic Church and 2SLGBTQI+ communities. The group provides opportunities for community life, outreach, education and spiritual growth in the form of social gatherings, lectures, film screenings, workshops and more.

Out west in Vancouver, Health Initiative for Men, or HIM, strengthens health and well-being in communities of self-identified GBQ (gay, bisexual, queer) men and gender-diverse people in British Columbia by offering a full spectrum of health-based programming and services to meet sexual, mental, physical and social needs.

Community resources found on the IN Directory can be seen in a grid or map view with search results filtered by province, city/ town, keywork search and category (i.e., community programs; health care; mental health and addictions; trans; crisis and helplines; employment, education and training; housing, emergency housing and shelters; sexual health; youth; abuse and assault; arts and culture; people with disabilities; children and family services; legal; African, Caribbean and Black; faith and spirituality; Indigenous peoples; older adults; Francophones; newcomers; and sport and recreation).

Each community resource listing contains a detailed description outlining the 2SLGBTQI+-specific programs, services and supports that the organization or service provider offers, along with contact information including a website, phone and/or text number and social media handles.

Co-created by the IN collective and diverse 2SLGBTQI+ communities, and proudly sponsored by Pride Parenthood with Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health, this digital platform is meant to serve as a living community resource navigation tool that will be continually edited, expanded and updated by communities.

We know from data compiled by Statistics Canada that 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians are more likely to be victims of violent crimes like hate crimes, more likely to experience poor mental health outcomes and be diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder, and more likely to have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetimes.

Enter the IN Directory: Canada’s newest 2SLGBTQI+ community resource directory for 2SLGBTQI+-specific programs, services and supports.

The IN Directory launched during Pride Month in June, and currently features 325 community resource listings across all 10 provinces and three territories: from St. John’s to Victoria, Iqaluit to Windsor, and everywhere in between.

There’s OutLoud North Bay, an organization committed to the mental health and well-being of young people in North Bay and surrounding communities that provides additional resources for 2SLGBTQI+ youth and organizes activities, events and workshops designed to engage local youth of all ages, empowering them to build a supportive network of peers.

The stories of the people behind the data make the heartbreaking case for why a directory like this one is essential.

After Pride Month has come and gone and the rainbows fade from view, the IN Directory will be helping 2SLGBTQI+ folks find the information they need when seeking support or safer spaces while navigating moments of strength and struggle.

So, tell your bio family and chosen family, friends and co-workers that there’s a national, digital community resource directory by and for 2SLGBTQI+ communities.


7 JUMOL ROYES is IN Magazine’s director of communications and community engagement, a GTA-based storyteller 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 Instagram @jumolroyes. COMMUNITY
“This digital platform is meant to serve as a living community resource navigation tool.”

Untangling Gender-Based Hair

“Gender should never apply to hairstyles, ever”

Who decided that short hair is for men and long hair is for women? Society, to be frank, dating centuries back, as suggested by historic paintings, statues and artifacts.

A trip to the Gregoriano Profano Museum in Vatican City affirms this via a marble bust of Cleopatra (70–30 BCE) depicting her likeness, her face framed in ringlets with the bulk of her long curls pulled back into a bun. In comparison, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a ceramic bust of the Egyptian queen’s lover Marc Antony (83–30 BCE), complete with a crown atop his curly coif, affirms short hair was a man’s domain.

“Certainly in our culture, hair length is a loose, societally structured form of sexual dimorphism, or a trait that differentiates between the sexes,” writes Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, the author of Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives, in an issue of Psychology Today magazine. “Plenty of men have long hair, but it’s still seen as a countercultural statement – not necessarily a proclamation of a man aligning himself with femininity, but a statement about resisting traditional, mainstream forms of manhood. (It’s de rigueur for heavy metal musicians, but the genre partially defines itself in opposition to radio-friendly music.)”

Celebrities have defied social constructs for decades, including gender-based hair. For women, the 1920s brought Josephine Baker’s kiss-curled Eton Crop. The 1930s showcased Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich in cheekbone-length Marcel Waves. The 1950s had women emulating Dorothy Dandridge and Audrey Hepburn’s short, rounded styles, while the 1960s highlighted Cicely Tyson’s short natural look and Twiggy’s iconic four-inch Pixie. Male A-listers, on the other hand, sported the Beatles-inspired Mop-Top in the 1960s; in the ’70s, Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and David Cassidy favoured the shoulder-sweeping Shag; and in the ’80s (God help us), Billy Ray Cyrus, Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe wore the signature Mullet.

But they are the anomalies. Most people follow convention, wearing the hair lengths and styles deemed socially acceptable, as proffered on hair salon service menus.

That is, until now.

Helping to create this gender-fluid society are hair salons. Nonbinary terminology, such as “short haircut,” “razor haircut” and “long-layered haircut,” are becoming more commonplace, replacing male- and female-identified styles and services. Specific names and descriptors for haircuts – such as the “Butterfly” (for a shoulder to upper-back length with long layers), the “Fade” (for a two- to three-inch length cut on the top with tightly cropped or buzzed hair at the sides) or “The Bob” (a style that’s one length and cut at the chin) – are popping up in salon conversations and on service menus with more frequency. All combined, this newly integrated genderneutrality is empowering clients to more confidently ask for what they want without worry or judgment about their gender orientation.

“A hairstyle is a style with no gender attached,” affirms Ly. “If we [hairstylists and salon owners] change how we use our words, then maybe we can start seeing positive changes moving forward.”

Positive changes currently demonstrated in salons have included awareness and education about the importance of gender fluidity, proper pronoun usage, the integration of gender-neutral hair terminology and how to describe haircuts, colour and styling without bias. Stylists are also becoming better acquainted with all of the tools in their salon’s repertoire, like hair clippers for short to buzzed cuts, rainbow shades of hair colour, foils for highlights and razor blades for choppy, edgy looks.

“Stylists were originally trained to differentiate and cut men’s and women’s hair styles by technique,” explains Ly.” Men’s cuts were about using clippers, razors and shears, and women’s cuts were mostly created with shears. It’s all based on a societal bias based on what represents masculine and feminine, [which is now changing].”

“Gender should never apply to hairstyles, ever,” says Andrew Ly, a beauty director and ambassador for Oribe Professional. “If [a cut] looks good on a person, then it looks good. We have hairstyle icons like Joan of Arc, Audrey Hepburn and Brad Pitt – when he had long hair – to thank for that. It takes confident people in society and pop culture to create this gender-fluid society, and we need to continue this way of seeing and living life.”

Salon menus are also being rewritten to celebrate inclusivity, individualism and tailored styles. Typically, a woman’s haircut and/or hair colouring service – regardless of length, style or colour – has cost more than a man’s, even if he was getting a long haircut and a head full of highlights. “The same cutting techniques apply to a women’s short haircut and a men’s short haircut; it’s all the same,” adds Ly. “The same rule applies with cutting long hair, yet women’s long haircuts have always been the most expensive. Any person sitting in a hairstylist’s chair should be paying the same hourly base price no matter what gender.” Which has many forward-thinking salons doing just that. There is a rise in genderneutral pricing, which is based solely on the length of the hair, the amount of time it takes to cut the hair and the level of seniority of the hairstylist providing the service. (Junior hairstylists typically charge a lower rate than senior stylists and salon owners.)

“It’s all about breaking the stigma,” affirms Ly. “The message is that [everyone] can be beautiful and gorgeous without having societal stereotypes [telling us] what is feminine, masculine and beautiful. I’m happy that, today, we are seeing more fluidity in hair.”

Long and short gender-based hair is evolving and becoming more fluid

7 Gender-Fluid Hair Salons We Love

Vancouver: Big Joy Barber and Salon

How can you resist a queer-friendly salon that has the words “Big Joy” in its name? Especially when that happiness is shared: the salon donates one per cent of all proceeds to local organizations like Rainbow Bridge, which supports queer gender-justice activists seeking refugee status. The Van-city favourite also guarantees an accepting environment, as stated on their website. “We do not stand for any transphobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, ableist or sexist remarks or behaviour. …our priorities lie in carving out a space where folx can be themselves and all our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members feel welcomed, supported and cared for.”

Calgary: BENJ Salon by Arabella

Inspired by the trans youth at the Skipping Stone Foundation, hairstylist Arabella Guevara Aseo opened her salon to provide a safe space for trans youth and adults who don’t feel seen in a traditional salon environment. “Sometimes they cut their own hair or their mom cuts their hair,” Guevara Aseo said in an interview with CBC. “As a transgender woman myself, I wanted to give back.” This give-back is reflected through her salon’s non-binary approach to customer service. By eliminating gender speak, Guevara Aseo ensures her salon’s clients are spoken to without gender assumptions, while being offered gender-neutral pricing on all the salon’s haircutting, colouring and styling services.

Edmonton: Adara Hair

With a website that boasts the tagline “We adhere to one standard of beauty – yours,” and a rainbow-coloured heart dangling above the salon’s Founding Principles that include “a judgement-free policy,” it’s easy to see this salon is all about inclusivity. Proof is in the service menu, which owner Jen Storey gender-neutralized after her wife complained she was paying for a one-hour haircut that took 20 minutes to fulfill. Since then, Storey has provided her team with The Pride Centre of Edmonton’s Safer Space Training for education on gender-fluid language and the proper use of pronouns.

Winnipeg: Samantha James Hair Design

Co-owners and master hairstylists Samantha Lacoste and James Ouellette are committed to their clients. They advocate for education by keeping themselves and their team up to date on the latest cutting and colouring techniques, trends, styles and advancements. They support inclusivity with and for the LGBTQ+ community by providing gender-neutral services and pricing. And they make you look and feel fantastic without ever having to speak a word – all courtesy of their Silent Hair Services. Recognizing life’s struggle is real, the salon houses a quiet room where clients can enjoy their service in silence. “We create an inviting salon atmosphere for everyone,” notes their website. “…with ZERO judgement.”

Toronto: Haven Salon

Boasting a staff that is highly supportive of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community (they’re predominantly community members themselves), this Willowdale-based salon offers a safe, relatable and welcoming space for individuals who identify as queer. The concept of men’s and women’s services does not exist; rather, the menu style reflects individual needs based on hair length, cut and style. Noting “inclusion” as a primary goal on the company website, Haven’s online blog clearly outlines that the salon team is focused on catering “to all people regardless of their race, age or gender identity.”

Montreal: Studio Coiffure PA

Owner Joshua Belair’s salon is a safe and inclusive space where the staff and clients are equally empowered to have a voice. “By creating that environment in the salon, we noticed our philosophy started to attract clients that were more open and diversified,” Belair said in a 2022 interview with Canada’s Salon Magazine. “We were starting to feel uncomfortable about asking a man with long hair to pay women’s pricing. That’s when we started to have the discussion together as a team to create a plan.” Now, the salon’s gender-neutral pricing is listed by acronyms such as “XXC” for extra-extra short cuts and “XL” for extra-long cuts.

Halifax: Maneland Non-Binary Beauty

Owner and stylist Steph McNair opened her hair salon specifically to provide the non-binary LGBTQ2S+ community with a place where a queer haircut is simply a haircut, no pronouns attached. With comfort and transparency at the forefront, her salon is predominantly for non-binary people and for those who don’t feel bound to one standard of beauty. “A lot of people find it difficult to walk into a salon and express how they want to look and who they are,” explained McNair in an interview with Global News Halifax. “[Here] when people come in, they’re seen right away, however they’re presenting in that time, and it is exactly how they should be.”

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



Reduce food waste at home with a few simple tips

We’ve all been feeling the pinch when grocery shopping, with costs continuing to rise. You may have started to look at flyers for items on sale as a way to cut back on spending at the supermarket, but have you considered how you can cut back on food waste? Being more savvy when it comes to reducing food waste can save you money – here are five simple tips that will help.

Take stock of what you have at home

Knowing what you already have in your refrigerator and pantry will help you avoid overbuying. How many of us have picked up some veggies, only to get home and realize that the crisper already has those same greens (which start going bad before you’re able to eat it all). Taking inventory of what you have in your kitchen before you head out to the store will help you make a more accurate grocery list of the goods you actually need.

Store and manage your leftovers well

Invest in some storage containers and items such as beeswax wraps so you can store leftovers for optimal freshness. Make note of what leftovers you will have for the days ahead with your schedule in mind, and if you know you won’t be eating them within the next couple of days, prepare them to be stored in your freezer – including labelling the containers so you can easily keep track of them. Also, keeping your fridge and freezer well organized will help you avoid food spoilage. Try following the FIFO method – that is, “first in, first out.” So if you buy some fruit, store it in the fridge behind the fruit you already have in the fruit drawer so that you use the older fruit first.

Start composting

If you haven’t yet started composting, get going! There are loads of sleekly designed compost containers to choose from that will help you put your vegetable peels and coffee grounds to good use. Plus, if you became a green thumb through the pandemic, composting will benefit your newfound hobby.

Get creative with your ingredients and recipes

Since you’ll now be tapped into what you have in your fridge, plan how to use up everything in it. Fruit that is past its prime, for example, can be tossed into a smoothie or berries can be used to flavour water, while veggies that are starting to wilt can be added to a frittata. Also, look for two-for-one recipes, such as grilling a protein as your main one night, then slicing it up and adding it to a salad the next day. Or roast a whole cauliflower and chop up some to use for vegetarian tacos; the next day, you can throw the rest of the cauliflower into the blender to make soup.

Be more resourceful with ingredients you’ve typically tossed

Stems and stalks you’ve automatically thrown into the waste bin can be used in your cooking if you get creative. For one, experiment with pesto using produce other than the traditional basil. Also, some stalks can be added to a stir-fry or soup, or added to a stock to add flavour. If you use a juicer at home, the pulp can be used in smoothies, to make baked goods or even to make fruit leathers.

See how easy it is to save money? …Well, it’s a start.

Illustration by Dex Ezekiel on Unsplash
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @healthswellness and on Instagram @healthandswellness.
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CABENUVA.CA LIFE HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT CABENUVA – an injectable treatment. Talk to your doctor.
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It’s another milestone anniversary for Pride at Work Canada, the not-for-profit organization that works tirelessly to promote 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion in Canadian workplaces

When Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada was created 15 years ago, the group of people who founded the organization had three words – volunteering, solidarity and community – in mind when they were thinking about how to define the goals to live in “a nation where every individual can achieve their full potential at work regardless of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.” This statement is our current vision, and while it has been updated over the years as we have grown and experienced some changes and new challenges in our journey, its inspiration still comes from those original three words.

The first word, Volunteering, is the essence of our work and foundation. In April 2008, a group of volunteers with a common purpose came together and created an organization to guide employers in their diversity and inclusion journeys, helping them to develop more inclusive workplaces and society for queer and trans professionals – something similar to employee resources groups and other types of associations where many people volunteer to live and work in better places. They donate time, energy and expertise to impact people’s lives positively.

The word Solidarity emphasizes the connections, empathy and work done by those who have committed to changing the reality for marginalized groups, removing the systemic barriers that have oppressed and pushed them away for decades. This word is the seed for something bigger and collective, where every single social actor makes a difference to protect others and their own rights. It is to give action to the word “Ally,” and to stand for and with those who experience more challenges, building bridges to promote more inclusion and a sense of belonging.

Last but not least, Community is our third word. Everyone looks to be surrounded by others who make them feel part of something

bigger, a place and group where they belong because we cannot be alone in creating social impact. Community and commitment walk side by side, and this combination empowers individuals to transform realities. Stronger communities would have more access to a diverse number of resources and adapt their path to a journey towards a better future.

Pride at Work Canada wouldn’t exist without the queer and trans communities it serves, embracing them and working hard to create this sense of belonging. While its main focus is on 2SLGBTQIA+ workplace inclusion, the organization stands and works in solidarity with many other intersectional aspects of diversity and inclusion, actively engaging and joining forces with other communities and partners to promote human rights. Although there is a business model to secure the continuation of its activities, volunteering and community engagement are the primary keys to guaranteeing its mission and vision among all stakeholders.

Since 2008, our world has witnessed changes impacting people’s lives in different ways. We have seen new legislation protecting 2SLGBTQIA+ people in several countries, ensuring equal rights and legal protection, but we have also witnessed anti-LGBTQIA+ bills increasing the political persecution. In Canada, we have had many advances, including the ban on conversion therapy and on blood donation based on gender identity and sexual orientation, both in 2022. This new reality is a collective effort from many organizations like Pride at Work Canada, which has been advocating to keep 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion on the agenda of the largest employers in Canada.

Pride at Work Canada, the leading national organization in workplace inclusion, has improved its approach to addressing more evidence-based 2SLGBTQIA+ best practices in the workplace.

Fierté des neiges in Montreal - February 2023

With a focus on tangible deliverables and strategies, it operates as a member services agency for employers, offering institutional education and guidance. People and employers who have a solid commitment to their 2SLGBTQIA+ professionals and inclusion see the direct economic benefits of engaging in diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the return on their investments.

Under Colin Druhan’s leadership since 2014, the organization has grown significantly in the number of partners, revenue and resource capacity. Founded by 12 employers, Pride at Work Canada now has more than 300 Proud Partners and Community Partners, and continues to serve its communities with top-notch content and events to empower people in their workplaces. Leadership programs and initiatives became its expertise to develop future two-spirit, trans and queer leaders; this is the main topic of the upcoming event series in 2023–2024 and its new reseach Lead with Pride: Best Practices for Advancing 2SLGBTQIA+ Leadership to celebrate the organization’s 15th anniversary.

One of the most significant barriers to 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion is people being chosen for leadership positions according to attributes irrelevant to their job, such as gender or racial characteristics. Pride at Work Canada’s educational approach uses content and data from different types of research to show the economic challenges experienced by queer and trans people in their professional lives. To date, several professionals in various fields still face discrimination, biases and stigma based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Those challenges impact their performances as they overlap with other aspects of their own intersectionalities.

In the big picture of the reality for 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Canada and their economic challenges, Pride at Work Canada develops meaningful engagement and measurable outcomes for its different stakeholder levels. Its work goes beyond the positive impact of inclusive best practices on business. It is grounded in belonging and collective achievement for 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion and intersectionality.

Queer and trans professionals seek employment in companies with genuinely inclusive workplaces. They want to be in spaces where they won’t be afraid to live their authentic selves and to change their own reality, empowering and inspiring other 2SLGBTQIA+ professionals to open up. Actual representativeness in the workplace is more than creating awareness and educating people on diversity, equity and inclusion. It is the key to guaranteeing social justice and removing systemic barriers for others to join.

In its 15th anniversary, Pride at Work Canada renews its commitment to empowering employers to celebrate all employees regardless of gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation. It also honours the people committed to making the difference in their environments. There are several steps to be taken towards this ideal future. Still, with this common willingness for an inclusive nation, the organization knows that volunteers and communities will stand in solidarity with each other.

NOBRE is the senior communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit Halifax ProPride - July 2022 SPARK in Toronto - February_2023 Montreal ProPride - August_2022 Calgary ProPride - September 2022


Although there is no cure for HIV infection, significant strides and scientific enhancements have helped improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. Women living with HIV have specific needs as HIV affects them differently than men, often facing more stigma and discrimination as a result of their status. To learn more, we had the privilege of speaking with Brittany, a woman who has courageously navigated life with HIV for the past 17 years.

Brittany was diagnosed with HIV in 2006 at the age of 20, when she was 36 weeks pregnant with her first child. Prior to her diagnosis, Brittany had already experienced stigma due to her struggles with substance use, along with homelessness, enduring gender-based violence and incarceration. However, the stigma she encountered during those times pales in comparison to the profound stigma she has faced following her diagnosis.

Since being open about her status, Brittany has faced stigma, particularly when interacting with healthcare professionals. In one instance she shared with IN, Brittany recalled a massage therapist to whom she had hesitantly disclosed her HIV status; the therapist left the treatment room and then returned with rubber gloves, which was an incredibly dehumanizing experience. But Brittany empowered herself after the situation by writing a letter to the therapist’s supervisor and the clinical director, educating them about HIV and directing them to resources. This is just one example of her commitment to leveraging education to dispel misinformation and combat stigma that often surrounds HIV.

We spoke with Brittany about how having an open dialogue and an ongoing relationship with her healthcare team have been critical to navigating her diagnosis and her journey living with HIV.

What stigma did you face after your HIV diagnosis, and how did you manage it?

It ebbs and flows. The biggest part about accepting stigma is embodying who I am and being HIV positive – it is no different than any other health issue. In my fourth and fifth years into my diagnosis, I had two more kids. This decision came with additional stigma, as it was a conscious choice to have additional children knowing I had HIV. But I wanted to show the world I could support children even though I was HIV-positive and that women living with HIV, when supported by healthcare professionals, can have happy, healthy, HIV-free babies. Addressing stigma is addressing the narrative of HIV and the misinformation about it. I wouldn’t change being open about my status for the world, but there will always be an opportunity for people to cause harm because of ignorance – stigma has allowed me to realize my voice and use it to fight back.

Can you elaborate on your experience being pregnant and receiving your diagnosis, and the importance of having access to health care during your pregnancy and beyond?

When I was diagnosed, I was terrified. Being a young mother and not knowing what was going to happen with my pregnancy and baby was very hard. It’s important to have ongoing support throughout your pregnancy to ensure the best outcome for you and your child.

With my younger children, I found myself teaching my OB/GYN about how to deliver a baby properly when the mother has HIV, and I helped that hospital develop a protocol for delivering babies whose mothers are HIV-positive. My two youngest kids actually set the precedent for how the hospital was going to manage delivering future babies with HIV-positive mothers.

How important is it for people living with HIV to have access to affordable and quality health care?

People who have access to care live longer lives and feel better supported. In my experience, working with your care provider and support network helps you have more positive health outcomes, and you’re less likely to have a higher viral load if you are getting good-quality care and are adherent to your treatment. With stigmafree care, we see better outcomes.

Based on your experience, why is it important to have an open dialogue with your general practitioner?

An open dialogue allows your healthcare team to support you throughout your journey with HIV, and helps you receive womencentred care and care that meets your needs. The nurse I met after diagnosis is the same nurse I’ve had now for 17 years. Building a strong relationship with your care provider is invaluable for your care and HIV journey.

What advice do you have for other women who may be struggling with their HIV diagnosis or managing their HIV status during pregnancy?

There is always support out there, and that support can help you have a healthy pregnancy. Make sure to connect with local support groups and find people with similar experiences. Also, I always encourage women to learn how to advocate for themselves and become familiar with the practices around pregnancy and child delivery when living with HIV.

How has your involvement with your local AIDS service organization [ASO] impacted your life and advocacy work? The support has been profound. My ASO helped me go back to school and gave me the opportunity to graduate with a diploma in social work. As much as a life without HIV would be easier, my involvement with my ASO has changed my worldview, my values and ethics, and who I want to be in this world and in this lifetime.

If you had to give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be? Take care of yourself – trust yourself.

Brittany has been living with HIV for nearly two decades, during which time she has become a fierce advocate
Photo by Heather Doughty Photography


These 10 queer bookstores are sure to notch a spot on your bucket list

Once I’ve chosen a vacation destination, my next step is to scour Google Maps for the local queer hangout spots, and my first search is always for LGBTQ+ bookstores. Walking into a queer bookstore in a new city is like a warm embrace from a distant relative, somehow foreign and familiar at the same time. The queer history and quirks of its hometown are nestled within the shop’s walls, happy to open up to a friendly face. Whether you are looking for some bookstores to add to your travel itinerary or want to make one of these miraculous establishments the reason for the trip itself, here are 10 queer bookstores from around the world that are sure to notch a spot on your bucket list.

Glad Day Bookshop


Not only was Glad Day the inspiration for this list, but it is also the place that made me fall in love with queer bookstores. A second home to many queer patrons, myself included, Glad Day hosts a variety of events, from erotica readings to sapphic dance parties to Indigenous burlesque shows. It is also the oldest LGBTQ+ bookstore in the world, having been open since 1970. In 2011, a collective of community members purchased Glad Day from the previous owner, and in 2016 it moved from its Yonge Street location into the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village. Glad Day also has bragging rights to Canada’s longest-running drag brunch, which you can check out every Sunday at 11 am or 2 pm. This pillar of the Toronto queer community also inspired a bop by British musician Freddie Lewis called “A Bookshop in Toronto.”

Boekwinkel Savannah Bay

Utrecht, the Netherlands

Boekwinkel Savannah Bay is a cozy bookstore on Telingstraat in Utrecht. It is the successor of Heksenkedler, the first women’s bookshop in the Netherlands, founded at a time when it was nearly impossible to find books written by any women in mainstream Dutch bookstores. When Heksenkedler opened in 1975, it was located in a basement and didn’t move above ground for nine years, at which

point it was renamed to Boekwinkel Savannah Bay after the French play by Marguerite Duras. Savannah Bay is a meeting place for the queer community of Utrecht and surrounding areas, and it also hosts Pink Point, an information resource for queer organizations and activities in the city. The store also has its own podcast called Radio Savannah, where hosts Lola and Suzanne discuss books in the store with special guests.

A Room of One’s Own

Madison, Wisconsin

I recently developed a virtual crush on A Room of One’s Own Instagram account. It started when my friend sent me a “Book Recs Based on Your Favourite Horror Films” meme created by the page, and was solidified when I saw their “Pick Your Lesbian” literary guide. A Room of One’s Own began in 1975 with a group of University of Wisconsin graduates and $5,000. Beginning as a feminist bookstore, A Room of One’s Own soon expanded its focus to queer and trans literature as well. It is owned by two former employees as well as silent partner and fantasy novelist Patrick Rothfuss. This bookstore carries more than 200,000 titles and is very involved with the community, taking on initiatives such as partnering with the Wisconsin Book Festival (taking place this year from October 19 to 22) and creating the #BooksAgainstBorders fundraising campaign, where A Room of One’s Own led a collective of bookstores to donate part of their sales to legal services for immigrants in July 2019.

Photo by Christian Buehner on Unsplash

Eisenherz Buchladen

Berlin, Germany

Eisenherz – translated as “Valiant Heart” – was originally named Prinz (Prince) Eisenherz when it was started by members of the German gay liberation movement in 1978. The name was changed to encourage gender inclusivity as more of Berlin’s women’s bookshops closed, and Eisenherz began to stock more lesbian and trans titles to support these overlooked groups. Eisenherz filled another missing niche as the birthplace of the Teddy Award (named after the stuffed animal given out as prizes), an international film award for queer films. With more than 20,000 titles, Eisenherz also has a gallery space, and hosts author readings and discussions. If you want a peek at the shop without leaving your house, you can even have your own virtual tour of the store on Google Maps!

Gay’s the Word

London, England

Gay’s the Word was created in 1979 by a gay socialist group called the Gay Icebreakers as a community space whose profits were funnelled back into the business. If you’ve seen the movie Pride (2014), you will recognize Gay’s the Word as the headquarters for Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a real group that used the bookstore as a meeting place to organize in support of the UK miners’ strike that lasted from 1984 to 1985. This community and information resource is located in Central London and has survived homophobic attacks such as a UK Customs and Excise raid in 1984. It hosts many community groups, including a lesbian discussion group that has been running for an impressive 40 years!

Les Mots à la Bouche

Paris, France

When Les Mots à la Bouche was born in 1980, it was not only a gay bookstore but also a tea room and restaurant by night. It also operated as a publishing house for the magazine Masques and a broadcast studio for Frequency Gay radio. When founder JeanPierre Meyer-Genton passed away in 1996, his partner, Walter Paluch, accepted oversight of the store. In 2019, rising prices in the gay neighbourhood of the Marais district forced the bookstore to move to a new location on Saint-Ambroise. It has a large section of English-language books to fulfill the demand of English-speaking queers in Paris who could not find what they were looking for at mainstream bookstores.

Hares & Hyenas

Melbourne, Australia

Inside the Victorian Pride Centre, there is a queer bookshop called Hares & Hyenas. Since opening in 1991, the shop has organized more than 5,000 literary and performance events, hosting many in its now-closed multipurpose venue called HareHole Melbourne. This shop is focused on creating a safe space for queer and genderdiverse kids to hang out, as well as providing resources for queer families. In fact, it is the only bookstore in Australia that specializes in books for Assisted Reproduction Families.

GinGin Store

Taipei, Taiwan

According to Travel.Tapei, GinGin Store became the first LGBTQIA+ bookstore in the Chinese-speaking world when it opened in 1999, located in “the capital of LGBTQIA+ advancement in Asia.” GinGin Store is not only a venue for the queer community to congregate, with lots of events and activities filling the calendar, but the owner also eagerly welcomes allies who want to learn about queer history and community. GinGin Store is located beside Love Boat LGBT Shop and offers gender-affirming wear such as binders, as well as drinks and art exhibitions. The name of the shop was chosen as the characters can be broken down into six suns (日) stylized in the six colours of the rainbow flag.

Somos Voces

Mexico City, Mexico

Created in 2005, Somos Voces is a queer bookstore and café located in the queer area of Mexico City called Zona Rosa. This bookstore hosts a variety of groups and workshops, as well as karaoke nights and painting exhibits. Originally focused on importing queer books from Spain, in 2006 Somos Voces expanded its reach to include indie writers and publishers from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Although the two companies have since separated, Somos Voces even started publishing its own books under the publisher Voces en Tinta in 2012.

Libreria Antigone Milan, Italy

The youngest queer bookstore on this list, Libreria Antigone opened less than a decade ago in Milan (home to the largest gay community in Italy), with a second location in Rome following shortly after. The founders chose the name Antigone because the character represents the struggle between the state and the individual, and the necessity to fight for your rights. It is also in reference to gender scholar Judith Butler’s quote, “One could simply say, in a psychoanalytic spirit, that Antigone represents a perversion of the law and conclude that the law demands perversion that therefore, in a dialectical sense, the law is perversion.” Libreria Antigone sells everything from books to DVDs to sex toys, and is located in the gay district of Milan, Porta Venezia. Its literary stock ranges from textbooks to self-published novels to kids’ picture books.

A lot of the bookstores on this list were started by queer and trans activists as a nerve centre for the queer community, a library of queer history and, in some cases, a war room in the fight for queer and trans rights. These bookstores are the perfect travel destination to engage with local queer history and community. They are all survivors of time and gentrification while many other trailblazing queer bookstores have disappeared. In an increasingly digitized world, we need to support these history caretakers and community hubs whenever we can, whether that is buying the new queer romance from their websites instead of Amazon, or dropping in for a coffee and a good chat.

LGBTQ+ representation in media while creating their own queer stories, including their coming-of-age short film CRUSHED, which has garnered over 1.4 million views on YouTube.
ROWAN O’BRIEN is a queer
and filmmaker based in Toronto. They love ranting about


Park Cruising: What Happens When We Wander Off the Path by Toronto lawyer Marcus McCann is a series of 10 essays that uses park cruising to discuss various topics such as consent, empathy, policing, violence, isolation and public space. It was inspired by his work opposing ‘Project Marie’ in 2016, which saw plainclothes police officers target men looking for sex at Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke. More than 70 individuals were charged with trespassing and engaging in sexual activities, although charges were later withdrawn. McCann, along with other lawyers, donated his time to help the men charged.

Through the use of global studies, news reports, police records and testimony, McCann creates a compelling narrative that dismisses misconceptions, like the notion that people go park cruising out of shame, and provides new ways to think of cruising. His explanation of the legal history is digestible, presenting insightful positions on how the system should view cruising, and public sex overall.

“The general takeaway, I think, is the same for all audiences [2SLGBTQI+ or heterosexual]. As long as the law continues to see public sexuality as something that is only ever a harm or problem and doesn’t consider the social goods that can come from park cruising, then society is at a disadvantage,” McCann says.

He also hopes that even queer readers, who likely have more knowledge on the topic than the general public, will find something that leaves them saying, “I didn’t know that” or “That’s an interesting way to look at it.” That is exactly how my friends and I felt – especially around the discussions of social good and how certain factors are making park cruising more relevant.

McCann positions park cruising as a form of companionship, learning and empowerment. “What’s at the centre [of the story] is the kind of warmth that comes from the human connection: that

cruising can reduce isolation and help people find and connect with each other.”

His book explores the community-building aspects, sharing testimony from those who find intimate communities among strangers. These relationships are built by having encounters with the same person over a period of time, and sometimes learning personal stories about them, all without ever fully seeing them or knowing their names. It can even be an identity-forming experience for many. “Park cruising can help people feel less alone,” he adds.

McCann gives an interesting perspective on safety, which leads to a conversation about park design and how we negotiate the use of public spaces. “The mere presence [of people] is a protective factor,” McCann notes. This is true not only for men cruising, but other patrons not engaging in the activity. One resident near Marie Curtis Park told the group Queers Crash the Beat, who were conducting outreach in the area after ‘Project Marie,’ that park cruisers made her feel safer.

As McCann explains, parks are mixed use spaces and “everyone is safer when there are a variety of uses.” He also adds that “park infrastructure can be set up in a way that directs people to do certain things in different areas.” We can design parks in a way that is harmonious and separates activities by being thoughtful with where we place things, the paths we create and the greenery we plant.

He also has a conversation on consent and what cruisers can teach us. “In order to engage in cruising, you have to care what signals are being sent by another person. You have to be alive to the signs of desire or interest that are being shown towards you,” McCann says. He explores why this is an important aspect and challenges the traditional model of the sexual chase by repositioning and refocusing it.

We chatted with lawyer Marcus McCann about his new book on park cruising, and how we need to consider the social good associated with cruising Photo by George Shervashidze Pexels

Cruising has been around for hundreds of years – since 15th century Florence, Italy, according to the book. In that time, the attitudes towards public sexuality have fluctuated and the reasons we engage in cruising have changed. In fact, we’re now in a moment where economic factors have made cruising more relevant.

Affordability in relation to commercial and residential rent may be driving more people to parks. Commercial rents, and even development projects, have closed queer spaces, with barely any new ones opening.

Residentially, extremely high rents are leading to multi-person households with roommates, or individuals moving back home. “In the face of those things, where do they turn?” McCann says. “It makes sense they turn to parks.… The idea of cruising in the ’70s,

where you would find someone and take them back to your modestly priced one-bedroom, is undercut when residential rents are high.”

The book is not what I expected when I first saw the cover on Twitter earlier this year. I thought it would be a linear journey looking at park cruising solely through a historical and legal lens. The more I dived into the book, the more I understood the fittingness of the subtitle, What Happens When We Wander Off the Path.

McCann creates several trails for us to walk along, giving permission to roam and choose our own route. He introduces forgotten stories, those hidden from public view, and provides information we can insert into conversation or even question. He shows us the past and the present, and provides us with a vision of how the views of park cruising could and should evolve in the future.

Photo by Jason Lee STEPHAN PETAR is a born and raised Torontonian, known for developing lifestyle, entertainment, travel, historical and 2SLGBTQ+ content. He enjoys wandering the streets of any destination he visits, where he’s guaranteed to discover something new or meet someone who will inspire his next story.

Peloton’s MATTY MAGGIACOMO Has A Passion For Fitness And Life

A former television reporter, born entertainer and Broadway lover, Matty Maggiacomo is one of Peloton’s most popular and infectious strength and tread instructors. He is, of course, incredibly handsome, but his appeal goes beyond his good looks. Maggiacomo teaches a range of classes on the treadmill from power walks to intense runs, outdoor hikes and runs, as well as strength classes, full body mobility stretches and resistance band workouts. The workouts are accessible, for all fitness levels, and always lighthearted and

entertaining. You may even find him occasionally teaching class as his drag queen persona, Mara.

IN Magazine caught up with Maggiacomo recently and chatted with him about everything from how he started at Peloton, to how he picks the music for his classes, to living his life authentically, to activism and role models. Oh… and, of course, his favourite Drag Race queens.

The beloved out and proud instructor is set on bringing the fun to your fitness journey

Let’s talk Peloton! How did you start with the company?

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I would be on ‘television’ in some way and so I sought out broadcast journalism in college. But I certainly wasn’t an athletic youth, so finding myself in fitness was definitely a surprise to me. I fell in love with boutique fitness around 2011, and promptly started training and then instructing shortly thereafter. I was basically doing it as a side hustle while I was learning how to field reports in broadcast news. To be honest, the grind really got to me and I swapped out my handheld microphone and suit and tie for a headset microphone and short shorts! A few years after I committed to teaching fitness full-time, I learned that Peloton was bringing the Tread to market and was looking for instructors. I auditioned for Robin Arzon…had a series of 10 (maybe 11!) interviews, and the rest is history!

How would you describe a Matty Maggiacomo class –either on the treadmill or a strength workout? You know… for someone who has never taken a class with you. Fun, accessible and effective. I’ve never wanted to be the most hard-ass instructor. My classes are for a person who needs to be distracted and entertained in order to get their minds off the hard work they are doing. I like to say that there is a place for everyone at my (fitness) table. I’m Italian, so everything is about food and family! I also love to infuse my left-of-centre humour and some commentary on pop culture. Not to mention, my music heavily features BDE. That stands for big DIVA energy!

How do you pick the music you play in your classes?

I only play what I would listen to myself. It leans heavily into pop, but I always like to drop fun remixes and covers. I love to play music that you’re familiar with – but present it to you in a way you may never have heard before.

I’ve been a Peloton member for a few years now and regularly take your strength classes. There is one thing that I’m really loving on the platform right now and it comes courtesy of you. Your evening stretches are much-needed. Can I personally request a whole lot more of those?

Of course! I literally just planned one just before this interview. Are you snoring yet?

And, Mara! Where did your drag queen persona come from? Mara is a legend. It’s her world; we’re just living in it. That woman loves Peloton more than anyone I’ve ever met – though she’s very prone to exaggeration. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her a liar – she just has her own skewed reality. She’s also a feast for the eyes.… I just wish I was present for when she has guest taught for me!

Honestly, Mara is an amalgamation of fun character traits from my mom, my aunts and some of my close friends. That said, she’s inherently part of me. I fully embrace the feminine side of my being – and when I put on that wig, Mara comes through in full force. I love to say ‘larger than life is just the right size’ – fave


quote from cult classic To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar – and Mara is representative of that!

Speaking of drag queens…who are your favourite drag artists?

Jinkx Monsoon. Trixie Mattel. Bianca Del Rio. Alyssa Edwards. I’m newly in love with Sasha Colby and Anetra from Season 15 of Drag Race

We are seeing so much political hate and legislation happening throughout the US right now.… How do you think the community can best combat the landslide of hate? We really are and, honestly, I’m not surprised, because these issues have raised their ugly head for decades. I view this anti-drag, antitrans and ‘don’t say gay’ legislation as a distraction from the major issues that we’re grappling with as a nation. I honestly believe the loudest voices on these issues are the most extreme. In my heart I believe the majority of Americans don’t feel the same way as a lot of these politicians who are pushing this limiting, hateful legislation. In my role, I try to shine a light on where this legislation stands and I try to show the [Peloton] members who follow me how to be the best allies they can possibly be.

At the end of the day, I want to be a positive and uniting force. The queer community stands for LOVE…that’s the best way to combat hate. Also, VOTE…and go one step further by making sure family and friends are fully aware if they are voting for politicians or policies that will hurt queer people.

week. On top of my class schedule of walking, running, strength and stretching classes, I currently lift heavy four times per week. On the days I’m not lifting, I try to get a few extra miles in on my own. I use the Peloton App almost daily to do a 10-minute core or yoga class as well.

Any tips for adding more strength training to complement our lives?

If you can incorporate strength, cardio and flexibility, then you’re hitting all of the bases for a well-rounded fit lifestyle. Strength training is so important. You also have to do what you love! Don’t force yourself into a fitness routine that you don’t love. Maybe it’s weightlifting, maybe it’s swimming, CrossFit or fencing – do what you love!

What is your advice to people who are looking to you as a role model?

Oh wow! Don’t take life TOO seriously. Even when I think of my lowest moments, I’ve had the confidence that there are better days ahead. People ask me how I could possibly be so ‘happy’ all the time…and believe me, there are days when I am the full GREMLIN. But being an OPTIMISTIC person means that even on the cloudiest days, you know that the sun is just beyond the clouds – and they ALWAYS clear eventually. Also, embrace your ‘weird’.… Misfits rule the world.

Who do you consider a role model?

It may sound unoriginal, but: my family. My mother specifically, because she has always fought for her family and what she believes in. My father because he taught me how to play fair. My sister Alissa, who is the oldest, because she taught me how to take risks. My younger sister, Rebecca, because she taught me patience – and is also the most incredible mom. I can’t wait to have children and follow her lead in raising them. My partner, Evan, because he just brings more light and love into my life than I’ve ever had.

Fave TV show, movie and song?

Fun fact: I’ve seen every single episode of all 48 seasons of Saturday Night Live. I’m a huge SNL nerd. Fave movie: Jurassic Park or La Dolce Vita Song: “Believe” by Cher.

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?

I eat in bed more than I’d like to admit.

What’s next for Matty?

Evan and I are exploring parenthood in the next few years. So building a family is definitely next. I’m also co-writing a novel with my mother, so that has been taking up a good portion of my time this year. I’m open to whatever the universe wants to throw my way!

How are you celebrating Pride this summer?

It’s my favourite time of the year. Gay Christmas! We will have a full slate of Pride classes for one! And hopefully Mara will be back from Boca in time. Wink wink!

What does your personal workout routine look like?

I try to incorporate movement in some way at least six days a

Last question. If someone could only take one Matty Maggiacomo class…which one should it be?

I think I’d throw it back to my first appearance as Mara! My Halloween class from 2020 [“Matty’s 30 min Halloween Run” from October 28, 2020 @ 7 pm]. It was a wild time for everyone – and I think Mara embodied a lot of that. It was her birth!

23 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. FITNESS

Gold Rush

The pride and the glory of Alison Goldfrapp’s disco nouveau

These lyrics – plucked from the title track of Alison Goldfrapp’s newly released Love Invention album – offer a clue into the solo artist’s current state of mind. Fortunately, the resilience and exuberance found throughout the disc’s choruses and verses follow suit. So much so that it’s hard to believe Love Invention is the first time Alison has released a full-length project without her former songwriting partner Will Gregory.

The band, named Goldfrapp, spent nearly 20 years and seven studio albums ushering in countless dance floor trends. The duo successfully went on to redefine electroclash, Italo-disco and progressive house, and subsequently helped to totally reshape the new millennium’s pop-dance landscape. Alison and Will’s music was so influential that icons such as Madonna cited Goldfrapp’s 2005 Supernature album as the stimulus to Confessions of the Dancefloor – and she quickly paid the price for her public devotion (a sexist British tabloid published a photo of Ms. Ciccone carrying Supernature with the headline “Oldfrapp”). Kylie Minogue’s Goldfrapp adoration

“Don’t let the fear in you…hold you back. Just let it come to you.… Meet the attack.”

followed, and she promptly asked Alison and Will to write for her album X (fans are still waiting for the demo to leak). Soon after, Lady Gaga and Depeche Mode tapped the pair to remix the songs “Judas” and “Halo.”

When the group’s first disc, Felt Mountain, hit the scene in 2000, the band couldn’t have been further from the dance floor. Yet critics and fans couldn’t help but be hypnotized by the operatic notes Alison was hitting and the James Bond-ian soundscapes Will was fashioning in songs like “Pilots,” “Lovely Head” and “Paper Bag” (that last track includes the delicious line, “no time to fuck but you like the rush”). Their second and third albums, Black Cherry and Supernature, solidified a proper rush of queer fans who adored the gritty, guitar-tambourine-laser beam fusion of their evolution.

Moving on

In many ways, Love Invention serves as a big step forward from two decades of sharing a vision. Instead, it evokes a singular prophecy for Alison, who boldly decided to release her debut on the eve of her 57th birthday. While it is a disc that draws from her past, Love Invention reflects the same sort of intensity and majesty as Annie Lennox’s first album, Diva – a debut that went on to solidify Lennox’s status as a Feminist-Queer-Fashion tri-con.

Love Invention is Diva ’s clubbier, sultrier and lustier cousin – brimming with testimony and newfound agency. It expresses all the paradoxical touchstones of an unforgettable inauguration with anthems such as “The Beat Divine” and “Digging Deeper Now.” So many tracks on Love Invention are a mélange of the sonic flavors Alison toyed with in her 23 years as a frontwoman for Goldfrapp. For more than two decades, the pair cherry-picked sounds from pre-parties and after-parties coming out of some of the best queer underground clubs of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Alison’s solo

effort re-examines those eras but this time through genres such as house, hi-NRG and nü-disco. Cuts ranging from 77 bpm to 125 bpm echo the fierce dance floor command of early recordings by Hercules and Love Affair, Everything But The Girl’s most beguiling remixes and up-tempo offerings from Björk, Justice and Röyksopp (Alison recorded “Impossible” with the latter group). For Alison, this new crop of songs represents a release from her life in duo mode, and conveys a lone statement about liberation across every sphere of her life.

“These new songs are my way of trying to find my way out of the norm,” she says via Zoom from her home studio in London. “To get out and discover and decipher euphoria in musical terms meant going towards something rhythmic and dance oriented with certain chord progressions. I was trying to ignore the world and get to those wonderful sweet spots in music that are joyful and positive, but I wanted to maintain a certain depth while getting into the frenzy of it all.”

Looking at our inner and outer worlds

One of Love Invention’s standout tracks, a cut titled “So Hard, So Hot,” is a prime example of Alison’s knack for flip-flopping between introspection and extrospection. Lines such as “We’re the souls we invite” and “We should be here and now and love what we got” speak to the individual and the communal feels you get under the mirror ball. While Alison tried to encapsulate the highs and lows of clubland emotion, she found herself thinking of ideas that went well beyond the dance floor.

“‘So Hard, So Hot’ is blatantly sexual, but I was also thinking about the extreme heat wave we had in the UK last year while I wrote it,” she says. “It was the last song on the album that I did, so you can feel this tension in the verses. I was imagining this idea of living


underground, loving the intensity of feeling really hot and then coming out of the darkness to be free. It’s a comment on climate change but it’s also a deeply personal and sexual track.”

Another song off the album, called “Fever,” speaks to the effects of the environment – both internal and external. Its lyrics merge ideas around erotic ecstasy and bodily transformation, and throw back to a few lingering PTSD-addled thoughts regarding the pandemic. “At the time I was writing it, I was reading about how scientists are finding plastic in our blood, which seems terrifying,” Alison says. “I was also imagining this fever of a sexual affair too – because affairs can feel incredibly exciting and change you. I also thought of humans being the fever – as hosts for a germ and a virus.”

Another song, “Never Stop,” is bred from commentary and social observation as well. It was partially ignited by the onslaught of targeted, faux self-help mantras and strategies that Alison has been pained to scroll through.

“Whenever I turn my phone on, I’m bombarded by people telling me how many times I need to change or move my body. Last night something came up on my phone, telling me that kicking your arse before you go to sleep is really good,” she says, laughing. “Seriously, this post told me to lie on my back and kick up with my legs and do that 20 times! I find it amusing fodder.… There’s always some woman telling me to drink green juice for five days. Fuck, if I drank just juice for five days right now, I’d probably just pass out and get really ill.”

The visuals for videos such as “Never Stop” link to Alison’s dark humour. For example, her collaborator, collage artist Mat Maitland, used AI programs to duplicate, morph and hybridize Alison’s body

in various frames and scenes. Through Maitland’s queer lens, Alison’s hands and wrists become hooves, flourish into bouquets and giant maggots; and her face becomes adorned in such a way that she presents as an electronic deity or high priestess.

“I wanted the visuals to feel dystopian and urban and have a fantastical nature, but not in a pastoral way that I’ve done before,” she says of her newfound crop of images and videos. “That’s what is so amazing about AI. Mat and I were feeding [my lyrics into the program] as prompts to direct the technology to [rework] his shoot, and it reacted to my songs in such an extreme way. The worm fish hand is one of my favourite bits.”

This isn’t the first time Alison pushed the envelope on film. In 2010, with Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us, she partnered with her then-girlfriend,

“These new songs are my way of trying to find my way out of the norm.”

director Lisa Gunning (Alison is currently in a relationship with architect Peter Culley) to create a 30-minute series of connected shorts using five album songs as a soundtrack. While great moments in Goldfrapp’s body of work are rooted in queer collabs (see Peter Rauhofer’s mixes of “Strict Machine” or Ralphi Rosario’s spin of “Systemagic”), Tales of Us remains the project that moved Alison to express her own relationship with queerness in a much more realized way. For example, Gunning and Goldfrapp created a stunning video for the Tales of Us song “Annabel” – which was inspired by a novel from Canadian author Kathleen Winter about an intersex adolescent.

“I was really taken by the bleak, stark environment that was in the book and by the way Labrador was written as this weird, end-ofthe-earth Shangri-La,” she says. Upon hearing that both the novel and video are banned in Florida classrooms, Alison responds

with a long, weary sigh before commenting. “It feels like we’re just going backwards again, doesn’t it? It’s almost like the more we become open and able to talk about all these things brings on a whole load of other people who just want to destroy them and take us backwards.”

What is moving Alison forward, however, is her own connection to polarity – be it artistic or biotic. Love Invention’s core, while poetic in nature, draws from the world of sci-fi and is also swayed and inspired by the hormone therapy Alison is currently on. “I’m on a lot of drugs in order to keep me kind of going – which is basically HRT [hormone replacement therapy],” she says. “Even the title came from this idea of a character who’s invented a potion to give you the ultimate love experience…which is inspired by all the medication I’m on and all the medication we are told to take.”

than 80 publications worldwide,
work is supported in part
funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. COVER
ELIO IANNACCI is an award-winning arts reporter and graduate student at York University whose research interests include ethnomusicology and gender studies. He has contributed
profiling icons such as Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé. His academic

Starting A Parenting Journey

Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health’s Dr. Marjorie Dixon breaks down the steps in the 2SLGBTQI+ journey to parenthood

For any queer couple thinking about having children, there comes a moment when the idea transforms from an inkling to a serious discussion. To ward off feelings of panic, and successfully navigate a sometimes-complicated process to achieve the dream, it helps to break the journey into steps.

1. Learn about all the options

While all potential parents must consider the ifs and whens of starting a family, most same-sex couples must also grapple with the how. That includes deciding whether to pursue adoption, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), egg donation and gestational surrogacy – each of which comes with their own variations. Choosing the best path requires consideration of what’s important to each person in the relationship: their values, their shared timelines and life goals, the roles they will play in

starting a family, and how they see the structure and bonds in their newly configured family. It takes good planning, lots of patience and research.

“Education is key,” says Dr. Marjorie Dixon, founder, CEO and medical director of Anova Fertility and Reproductive Health, which operates four clinics in southern Ontario. “Knowledge will help with any anxiety and doubt. It’s a human rights issue: every individual has a right to create a family.”


The first step in that education is exploring what options are available. Those options may not be what couples expect. Some of the stereotypes about the difficulty of starting a queer family no longer hold up, says Dixon. With more than 20 years in the field, and seven years since she founded Anova, she’s seen many changes in the technology and policies available to provide queer couples with access to fertility treatments.

On the medical side, improvements in endocrinology and screening not only make the process more reliable, but allow doctors to, for example, look for genetic mutations like those that cause cystic fibrosis. Even improvements in communication technology have contributed to streamlining the journey. For couples in small towns seeking to create a family through surrogacy, for example, many of the necessary meetings and interviews can be done remotely through videoconferencing. “It’s much less cumbersome,” she says.

Medical advances also help provide more choices. Techniques like reciprocal IVF, which is possible when both partners have eggs and/or uteruses, allow one partner to form an embryo created with donor sperm, while the other partner receives that embryo and carries the pregnancy, a path that can increase the feeling of a shared experience.

“You will see couples who start with a discussion where they’ll tell each other, ‘I want to carry a baby,’ or ‘I don’t want to carry a baby,” says Dixon.

2. Make sure both partners are on the same page

Different medical paths require different personal considerations, some of which can be emotional and built on the values of each individual. When do we want to grow the family and when do we have to start to work towards making that happen? How much time are we prepared to wait? In the case of donated sperm, do the parents want to know the identity of the donor and what will the relationship of the donor be to the family? In the case of surrogacy, what kind of relationship do the parents want with the surrogate, and between the child and the surrogate?

“You want to control what is controllable, but keep in mind that there are many variables,” Dixon says.

3. Consider legal aspects

Because there are legal implications around many of these decisions, particularly surrogacy, Dixon suggests working from the outset with a certified fertility lawyer, who can explain the legal framework that will direct the decision-making. Canada does not restrict surrogacy services to married, heterosexual couples; intended parents are easily granted legal parental rights. Though surrogacy in Canada must be altruistic (money can be paid only for expenses, not the service itself), there are systems and services that make it accessible to queer couples. Yet the policy framework is always evolving and there is definitely room for improvement to better accommodate LGBTQ2SIA+ families. “The good news is that these laws deepen the relationship and protect all parties,” she says. “But the regulations by Health Canada must have these checks and balances.”

4. Find the right healthcare partners

Though these are such personal issues to wrestle with, healthcare professionals take on a central role in the discussion, which is yet another consideration for same-sex and queer parents. The attitudes of healthcare practitioners towards LGBTQ2SIA+ people have changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. Yet many fertility clinics remain focused on straight couples: one report, according to the New York Times, suggests that self-identifying LGBTQ+ people make up just between five per cent and 10 per cent of fertility-clinic patients in the United States. And it was just last year that Nova Scotia dropped a consultation fee for same-sex couples and single people seeking fertility help.

Finding a clinic with practitioners who can speak the language of queer couples in a judgment-free way can be a key factor in the journey. “If a doctor is not welcoming, that can be offputting and triggering,” says Dixon, who is herself a member of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. Earlier this year, she and Anova launched a collaboration with Pride Parenthood, a program that aims to make the journey to parenthood more attainable for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community by supporting third-party assisted reproduction.

5. Get your financial ducks in a row

Finances, of course, are a consideration, and it can be especially daunting when there is no guaranteed outcome, says Dixon. Employee benefit plans are increasingly likely to cover fertility treatment for queer couples – although, in Canada, the median amount of coverage is about $3,500 while a standard IVF process can cost $25,000 (surrogacy costs even more). Considering the commitment required for parenthood – queer or otherwise – every little policy change can make a difference. For example, CTV News reported in March that the federal government has promised to reform the Employment Insurance system to provide a new parental benefit to parents who adopt or who grow their families with the help of a surrogate.

There have also been ongoing lobbying efforts to make coverage more equitable for LGBTQ2SIA+ families. Over time, benefits packages are likely to be more inclusive. “Anova is working on benefits companies,” says Dixon. ‘We’re telling them: ‘If you guys are saying you’re not discriminating against our community, then how are these amounts fair?”

Parenthood certainly isn’t easy at the best of times, and assisted reproduction adds another level of complexity. Being prepared beforehand can make it all a little less daunting…and will help you survive the process.

For more information about beginning your pathway to parenthood, please visit



Unlike straight men, straight women have always had a prominent place in gay bars

There is a myriad of threats posed against gay men in our current climate: bible-thumping GOP lawmakers, violent right-wing extremists, super-gonorrhea, driving tests, algebra. Drunken bachelorette parties, however, are not one of them. Yet for some reason, a constant point of aggravated concern for so many gay men is that straight women occupying gay bars and clubs is some sort of heterosexual invasion that is robbing gay men of our safe havens. While this manufactured panic could once easily be dismissed as an eyeroll-inducing statement expressed by a disenfranchised homo annoyed at inflated bar populations who are forcing him to wait in line longer for his vodka soda, the objections of many of the men expressing this rhetoric reflect a far more vile undertone – a glittery misogyny looming under the surface of our community. The insistence that women have no place in our community not only screams that quiet part out loud, but also questions the true purpose of these spaces: who exactly are we “protecting” them from?

Now, we can be honest and say that, yes, we have all had experiences of watching absolutely obliterated straight girls acting like recalcitrant demons fuelled purely by White Claws and with

an insatiable desire to show pictures of their dog to strangers, but can we truthfully say we have not all had our nights like that? Of course we have, because, ultimately, while gay bars/clubs do serve as convivial spaces for individuals to feel safe and connected with other members sharing their marginalized identities, the intended function of these establishments is for people to drop concerning amounts of money on regrettable debaucheries in the name of having a gay ’ole time.

Yet, we as gay men like to clutch our ASOS pearls at the sight of bachelorette parties or out-of-town girls’ trips behaving in such a fashion…as if we had not just been propositioned for head and/or a bump in the bathroom by a friend of a friend just moments ago. Anyone who has been regularly participating in gay nightlife can undoubtedly tell you that, realistically, you are more likely to be shoved while standing in line for the bar by an entitled twink than a bratty college girl, or non-consensually groped by an overly assertive leather bear than a 50-somethingyear-old straight woman trying to enjoy a night out now that her kids have left for college. In truth, if one were to seek a venue to partake in demure hobnobbing over discussions of contemporary

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

theatre paired with piquant libations amongst our community’s most socially elite, Crews & Tangos would perhaps not be the first recommendation on Google.

So then, for what purpose do we as gay men feel obliged to chastise these women for participating in the same dipsomaniac behaviours as ourselves, if not to ostracize them in the way heteronormative bars have done to us?

A common argument used by many who assert this claim is that queer spaces are scarce and need to be preserved at all costs through the method of gatekeeping – an argument that in most cases is actually quite fair and agreeable, yet seems to struggle with articulating just who falls under their definition of “queer” in order to gain access to these spaces. Many feminists over the years have similarly insisted on creating women-only clubs, gyms, tattoo studios, etc., in the name of creating safe spaces for women free from predatory male influence, but they struggle to delineate who indeed is considered a woman both legally and socially, largely ignoring the existence of trans women and androgynous non-binary individuals. By this rhetoric, the authenticity of a person’s gender and identity is determined not by themselves but rather by what standards of conventional femininity they either check or fail to check.

This issue presents itself in an even larger and more complex scale for gay bars that demand their patrons prove their gender and sexuality in order to access the vicinity. If we are to insist that only queer women may enter our establishments, are we then to demand upon entrance that women present themselves in a certain fashion that we deem “queer enough” for our comfort? When we say only queer women may enter our bars, are we keeping in mind the existence of lipstick lesbians, bisexual women in heterosexual relationships, non-binary femmes, cis-passing trans women, and women who are in the process of questioning if they even are women?

In an article for GQ back in 2021 (aptly titled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Getting Mistaken for Cis), model/actress Hari Nef recounted an experience of hers in which she was denied entry to a warehouse party in Berlin because the event’s door girl dismissed her transness, denying her and her cishet male chaperone entry under the assumption that the two were but another annoying straight couple trying to crash a modern saturnalia of queer joy. In the piece, Nef noted her conflicting senses of gender euphoria of fully passing on the outside as the woman she has always known herself to be, while simultaneously feeling dejected not only that her passingness had alienated her from a scene she has spent the better part of her life participating in, but also that the ultimate determinant of her womanhood was her romantic proximity to a cishet man. In the eyes of the world, all of her physical feminine beauty and her couture womenswear regalia and her distinctive transexual ingénue charm had not been as much of an indicator of her expression of gender identity as being a piece of arm candy for a man.

By creating a list of rules to abide by in order to gain access to our spaces, we are reinforcing the very same heteronormative standards of gender theory that forced us to create these spaces

to begin with; we are ultimately just another No Girls Allowed boys’ club, all while playing the Britney Spears remix of Rihanna’s “S&M” in the background.

As I try to better understand why so many gay men feel a reluctance to share these revered spaces with women, I try to think of what exactly draws these women to our bars over straight bars that would ideally better suit their interests (such as potential hookups and shorter bathroom lines). For women whose idea of a fun night out isn’t sitting in a club booth pretending to laugh at the jokes of unfamiliar drunk men so they don’t get murdered, gay bars serve as a sanctuary where these women can get dressed up, take shots, mingle with strangers, and shake their ass without fear of an off-the-clock disgruntled employee squeezing it: this is also colloquially known as having fun. For this reason, it is flabbergasting to imagine why certain gay men would not want to party amongst these jovially tipsy pixies, other than that their lack of sexual interest renders them worthless to those men.

As gay men, we often ignore the misogyny within our communities, but the key patriarchal belief that a woman’s worth is dependent on what she may provide us sexually reveals itself time and time again in our treatment of women whose presence in our spaces hinders our chances of getting laid. While bars are places for people to dance, drink, mingle and get laid, in the straight world they are also high-risk areas for women, who face the risk of assault from predatory men who take advantage of women’s moments of inebriated vulnerability as an opportunity to prey upon them. So it is more than understandable why women may seek refuge in our lower-risk spaces.

I won’t deny that it can be pretty annoying to have to wait in line for the bathroom behind a person who takes quadruple the time to pee, but if my sharing this space with her reduces her likelihood of getting drugged and raped at a straight club, then that is a tribulation I am willing to bear.

We as gay men have succeeded in creating a culture in our nightlife all our own that has made the world a better place in countless ways, and we have done it in spite of generations of bigoted vitriol from both homophobic men and women. But we cannot dismiss the work that cishet women have contributed to our getting here. Whether it be Bette Midler performing in New York bathhouses in the 1970s, or even Adele and Jennifer Lawrence playing Musical Shots at Pieces in the middle of the day, straight women have played an integral role in making our culture what it is.

It might be the supportive best friend taking her newly out bestie to a bar for the first time because he doesn’t have any gay friends to take him; or the supportive PFLAG mom trying to understand her gay son better by exploring his interests; or the overly enthusiastic drag fan who tips queens $10 every song; or that bad bitch who helps her doll friends get ready before going out, and will throw hands if anyone tries to say anything to them; or even the annoying girls who contribute absolutely nothing to the community but still have every right to be there because they’re paying customers and don’t owe you shit. Straight women are a part of our communities, even if they’re just neighbours who want to borrow a bump of sugar.

JESSE BOLAND is that gay kid in class who your English teacher always believed in. He’s a graduate of English at Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) who has 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.

Love Pairs With GivinG this summer

Through the Spirit of Sustainability, the LCBO raised funds this Pride season for a diverse group of queer organizations

Earlier this summer, through the Spirit of Sustainability, the LCBO made it easy for Ontarians to give back to the 2SLGBTQI+ community with its Love Pairs With Everything campaign.

Customers had the opportunity to donate in LCBO’s retail stores across the province or purchase Good Partner products that give back to the community in meaningful ways. The fundraising campaign, which ran from June 13 to July 2, raised funds for a diverse group of queer organizations that support the health, wellbeing and safety of the 2SLGBTQI+community: Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP), Casey House, Rainbow Railroad, The 519 and Women’s College Hospital Foundation. The funds raised will be divided equally among all five organizations. Last year alone, LCBO’s Pride fundraising campaign raised over $2 million thanks to Ontarians.

“The transformational support of the LCBO is empowering our mission to help at-risk LGBTQI+ people get to safety,” says Dane Bland, head of development at Rainbow Railroad. “It’s extraordinarily meaningful to be amongst the recipients of the

proceeds of the Pride campaign, which generates such deep impact and awareness for all involved partners.”

“We are grateful for the continued partnership of the LCBO as we move forward together to support Women’s College Hospital in creating inclusive, supportive and revolutionary health care for everyone,” says Sara Byrnell, vice-president of philanthropy and partnerships at Women’s College Hospital Foundation.

“Partnering with LCBO’s Love Pairs with Everything campaign, Black CAP receives crucial support to empower trans and LGBTQ+ youth,” says Nief Neamatt, Black CAP’s marketing and communications manager. “With the funds, we offer tailored services including counselling, peer support, trans ID clinics, HRT kits and online youth engagement. This partnership amplifies our impact, fostering resilience and inclusivity within marginalized communities.”

“As a small specialty hospital, Pride and its celebration of identity is an important time for Casey House,” says Joanne Simons, CEO,


Casey House. “We are honoured to partner with the LCBO to celebrate Pride 2023 Love Pairs with Everything. These funds help our hospital provide ground-breaking care for those living with and at risk of HIV by enhancing the compassionate care we provide from nurses, allied health staff and peers. This partnership should serve as inspiration for charities, retailers and marketers across Canada. Thank you to the LCBO for celebrating acceptance.”

The 519 is LCBO’s newest Charity Partner for Pride; the organization is thrilled to be part of this campaign and is eagerly anticipating the impact that the fundraising dollars will have. “Our trans ID clinic is about more than changing a government document. ID that reflects someone’s gender identity opens doors to employment, housing and more,” says Curran Stikuts, director of advocacy and strategic communications for The 519. “Having the support of the LCBO this Pride season means we’ll continue to support our communities with essential programs and services year-round.”

Customers can also give back throughout the summer just by shopping for some of their favourite brands. LCBO is highlighting brand partners that support and celebrate the 2SLGBTQI+ community. This year’s Pride Good Partners include Absolut, Belle Glos, Brickworks Ciderhouse, Bud Light, Collective Arts Brewing, Smirnoff, Somersby, Sour Puss, Vizzy and Wellington Brewery.

All the brands are supporting the community in their own way; for example, for each colourful bottle of Sour Puss Pineapple Coconut sold, 50 cents goes to the Rainbow Railroad Bill 7 Award, an Ontario scholarship for 2SLGBTQ+ students; Bud Light is giving $100,000 to various organizations supporting the 2SLGBTQ+ community across Canada; Somersby is supporting The Get REAL Movement with 10 cents per can going towards combatting 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination in universities and workplaces.

LCBO is also a proud sponsor of Pride Toronto (for the fifth year) and will be joining as an official partner of both North Bay Pride and Capital Pride in Ottawa this year.

So with all that said, let’s raise a glass to Pride!

For more on the LCBo

and to learn what all of the Good Partners are doing, visit #ToastToPride #LovePairsWithEverything


got It!

In the four-part Dekkoo-original series, Josh moves into an apartment on Weston Street in Peckham with some colourful new roommates. One guy is grumpy, coarse and brash. The other wears his heart on his sparkly neon pink sleeve. Josh has nothing in common with either of them, but he is intrigued by their mysterious late-night excursions. His curiosity may lead to deadly consequences.

Turner says he was drawn to Peckham Mix because he related to his character. “Like Josh, I have experienced having the rug pulled out from underneath me,” he admits. “I’ve hit rock bottom and been forced to find my own route through life’s rubble.”

While Turner’s fall wasn’t as comical as Josh’s, he says that when he looks back, he realizes that it is through the obstacles that he has grown the most. We spoke with the dashing young actor from London, where he was performing in a new stage show.

Where are we right now?

We’re in the dressing room at the National Theatre. I’m performing in Dancing at Lughnasa tonight!

Fancy! How long has it been since you’ve filmed Peckham Mix? It’s been a good five months since filming ended.

What have you been up to since?

Nothing much. Until I got this show at the National, I had been avoiding the temptation to not look out of the window in the I had something to do in the afternoon.

Have you kept in touch with any of your castmates from the series?

Yes, I have! Janak [Janak Nirmal, who plays Connor], Kane [Kane Surry, who plays Rex] and I grew close throughout the project. We really bonded, similar to how the characters grow as roommates.

How are you similar to Josh?

I over-think and worry. Also, we both part our hair in the middle.

George Turner stars as Josh in Peckham Mix, a lighthearted comedy about the struggles of finding a new direction in life after being dumped by a boyfriend.
George Turner is the breakout star from the hilarious new Dekkoo series, Peckham Mix

How are you different?

I’m a bit more adventurous and spontaneous than Josh. At least, I hope I am. I’m willing to be daring and do unexpected things from time to time.

When was the last time you were dumped? About six years ago.

Who would be foolish enough to kick you to the curb? It was my fault. I was too guarded to let go and be seen. Trust was lost, and I never fully appreciated my luck until it was gone.

Josh’s roommate drama in Peckham Mix is hilarious. Can you relate?

Absolutely. I had a flatmate from hell; a real charmer. He had anger management issues and was so jealous and resentful. He ended up being verbally abusive.

What did you do?

I went to the landlord and told him it was an illegal sublet. The rest wrote itself.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My hyperactive brain. It often becomes a noisy neighbour.

On what occasion are you willing to tell a lie? If the outcome outweighs the negative effects, to all parties involved.

What’s one vice you wish you could give up? Sweets. I love pick n’ mix!

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? After a stage performance, an audience member once told me, ‘That was good – you must be a professional actor.’

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Quiet and peaceful self-acceptance.

Boxers or briefs? Boxers...always black.

What are the three things you can’t live without? My tennis racquet, guitar and sense of humour.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life? I once travelled all the way to Helsinki to surprise a special someone that I fancied from drama school.

Would you ever go back to being a fashion model? In a heartbeat, if for nothing else but the feel of a new suit.

What would you be if you weren’t an actor? Could you ever see yourself in an office job? I would be crying at my desk.

If you could switch lives with one person for a day, who would it be?

King Charles. A king for just a day.

What is one piece of life advice that you wish you could give Josh in Peckham Mix? Embrace change. Don’t resist the tides already shifting around you. Swim with them.

Peckham Mix premiered on Dekkoo on June 15. For more information, visit

JAMES BOOTH is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He describes entertainment writing as a pleasant distraction that takes him to places unknown and fulfills his need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and a soothing of the breaks and bruises of the day

Rex (Kane Surry), Connor (Janak Nirmal) and Josh (George Turner) in Peckham Mix

Walking The Fur Ball

Fierce lewks for dogs

RuPawl, an eight-year-old Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, has been lighting up Instagram, wearing replicas of the gowns seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Created by RuPawl’s owner, José Lizárraga, some of the most iconic lewks include Ginger Minj’s Pop Art look from All Stars 6, a stunningly accurate rendering of Maddy Morphosis’s Rain Clowd gown, and Willow Pill’s blue strawberry gown reimagined with blue Kong chew toys.

Now the doggie drag queen is launching a collection of clothing and accessories for other fierce fashion canines. Dubbed Doggie Drag, the line features an array of stunning and flamboyant pieces that capture the essence of drag culture, from bright feather boas to sparkling sequined dog tags – there’s even a fluffy blond wig, honey!

Dogs can rule the racetrack in a hot pink and checkered jumpsuit inspired by Mama Ru, or sashay away in the Mutha of the Runway gown, an opulent tulle explosion that includes glistening embellishments.

“Our collection is about celebrating individuality and self-expression,” says Lizárraga, the founder and CEO of Doggie Drag. “Four-legged divas deserve the opportunity to express their resplendence, nerve and talent, and now they can shine as bright as the queens on the show.” He spoke with us from his home in Boulder, Colorado.

How did you launch the Doggie Drag collection?

We began the process with research, research, research. We scoured archives for some of the most iconic drag lewks out there, from past to present. We want our looks to be recognizably fabulous and drag!

What is the story you are telling through this collection – and how does it fit into the overarching narrative of the brand?

We want to communicate that the artistry of drag is not just for humans, but for pets as well. This initial collection is about setting a tone of making our brand distinguishably drag, and not just doggie


clothes. That’s why the themes of this initial collection seem familiar and are influenced by the mainstream themes we see on TV.

What is your favourite piece in the collection?

We are extremely proud of the ‘Start Your Engines’ jumpsuit. Fans are loving it! It is made with high-quality materials and just looks fabulous.

Which fabrics work best for canines?

Lightweight fabrics with a slight stretch because when it comes to pets, it’s about maximum mobility and comfort.

What colours dominate in the collection? Hot pink, purples, and shine! You know the colours of glamour!

If you could have one queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race as a guest designer for Doggie Drag, who would you choose? Goodness. This is a hard question! But Sasha Velour’s style is something we hope to explore sometime soon. She is so unique yet so glamorous.

Of the RuPaul’s Drag Race lewks from the show that you have recreated for RuPawl, which have been your favourites?

Our recent recreation of Jimbo’s promo lewk for All Stars 8 is definitely up there. Loved playing with the proportions and with our favourite colour, pink. We also loved recreating so many lewks of Sasha Colby’s this season. One of our top faves was her ‘Tie Dye to Die For’ lewk, which we hand painted.

Why release Doggie Drag now?

The collection is the next natural progression for the work RuPawl and I have been doing with our lewk recreations on Instagram. We want other pooches to wear doggie drag and feel just as fabulous as our Lil Ru feels. We also look forward to growing the brand and collaborating with other artists who share our belief that drag is love, drag is life, and drag is not a crime.

Visit and follow @doggiedrag. Follow RuPawl on Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter @RuPawl_official.
LARRY OLSEN defines himself as a teacher, reader, writer and dreamer. He lives
Palm Springs, Calif., with his partner of 22 years. In his spare time, he enjoys interviewing underground artists
exposing their unique talents to

The Creative Makers

Photographer Ivan Otis gets behind the camera for a few of Toronto’s queer visionaries
Jade Elektra, a stage performer and HIV activist, who is also known as DJ Relentless
Brian Phillips, who turns hair into sexy shapes at WorldSALON, with his muse and Rainbow maker, model Jude Karda
George Giaouris and Anna Giaouris, the creative team behind Northbound Leather
RiVerse, the LGBTQ+ supergroup, has a mission to represent the under-represented
Meghan, wearing a design by Marty Rotman, a designer of corrective apparel fetish wear


Summer allows us to lower our guard and let in new people and experiences

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

When I was attending university in Ottawa, my English professor assigned us to see and write about the play Karla and Grif by Vivienne Laxdal, the story of a relationship between two women. The main action takes place when Karla’s father dies and she desperately goes to her long-lost friend Grif for support, as well as for resolution over something that had happened between them years earlier. In flashbacks, the audience sees how the pair stumbled into a sexual and romantic affair while they were at summer camp – bunkbeds in cabins, hikes in the woods – and how it ended badly.

This was the 1980s and I had never seen homosexuality depicted on stage before – except as a joke – so the play won me over merely by saying aloud things I had thought or felt. But I remember my professor, a straight but progressive white guy, giving his POV of the story as something like: “Oh, of course, it had to happen between teenagers at summer camp so the characters and the audience can think of homosexuality as a fling or experiment, something that happens just because of an opportunity, not something adults would, in full awareness of their desires, freely pursue.”

My professor, straight as he was, was ahead of his time. In retrospect, the summer-camp motif seems condescending. Think of how many queer love stories in the last couple of decades are launched because the two main characters are forced together and/ or isolated from their quotidian concerns in some sort of pastoral setting: Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, My Own Private Idaho and God’s Own Country, just to name a few. These films all suggest we must be detached from family and friends, have all other choices removed, before we can cross the uneasy brink into a same-sex relationship.

My professor’s take is a smart critique of a template for LGBTQ+ storytelling that was established by a more apologetic generation of cultural creators than the ones coming of age today, who tend to de-centre stories of coming out and sexual awakening. But it’s a critique that misses a larger truth: when school’s out, or we’ve clocked out of work and out of our daily concerns, that’s when new adventures begin.

Summer, especially, serves up mobility and freedom that allows us to reinvent ourselves, allows us to lower our guard and let in new people and experiences. Only during summer holidays can you find yourself lying in the long grass next to a near stranger who is only a pinkie’s distance away – lying next to the same stranger in a snowbank in January or in the mud in April is not the same sort of sweet temptation. Even if our adult work schedule doesn’t exactly match up with the liberating power of summer, we have been trained by our dozen or so years of schooling that good weather is the time to reset our lives and identities, perhaps readying ourselves for a newfound sense of purpose and direction when the fall, and so cuffing season, takes over.

Until the cooler weather hits, we’re more carefree and more likely to set aside expectations and standards, according to some psychologists. Perhaps summertime triggers something in us that makes us revert, just a little, back to our adolescence. Even straight people fall under its sway: think of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John nostalgic for their “Summer Nights” together

in the film musical Grease. And Sandy Olsson and greaser Danny Zuko, sadly being straight, didn’t kick off their summer romance with a Pride party where thousands of underdressed people were scanning the crowd for a possible next lover.

Whether it’s the freshness of a vacation destination, a camping expedition, a seasonal job or hobby, or just a more relaxed attitude that allows us to see our existing community in a different way, summer can surround us with a new cast of characters, allowing us to try on new identities in front of a new audience. The shy librarian type gets the opportunity to take off her glasses, shake out her hair and play the part of femme fatale. Especially in cases of coming out, being away from the prying eyes of our family and peers can make us feel more comfortable with our authentic selves. In cultural depictions, this can be a dramatic transformation. In 1998’s Edge of Seventeen, set in 1984, a teenager takes a job at an amusement park, allowing him to meet an older male coworker who casually mentions that he has a boyfriend. This simple revelation is a game changer. By the movie’s end, the protagonist is dressing flamboyantly, going to gay bars and getting rim jobs.

The warm weather of summer can also mean stripping down: we see more of each other’s flesh and it can change the way we think of each other. Going to a bar, where we’ve given some thought to our wardrobe, we present ourselves based on multiple factors: how rich we are, how closely we follow fashion, our taste as shaped by our upbringing, and the social codes and expectations of the venue. On a beach – though there has definitely been a boom in the expressiveness of bathing attire, with cuts and colours, zippers and accessories, patterns and textures declaring to the world what kind of people we are – the eyes linger on the body itself, muscled or svelte or chunky, hairy or smooth, skin dark or tan or fair. Pack a beach with gay bodies and what they are saying to each other becomes irrelevant in the face of the mass of bodies on display.

Come summer, there are just more places to be that aren’t home, places where we can encounter new friends and old. Patios and hiking trails, festivals and ferry rides – the pageant of life passes by that much more closely. The gay male affinity for beach holidays, the desire to escape winter for Puerto Vallarta or Torremolinos or Mykonos or Cape Town, is a desire to reproduce the promise of summer even when it’s minus-20 in our hometowns.

People in year-round warm climates, though they save a lot on winter clothing, miss out on this surge of freedom and relaxation. It’s not practical for them; people in Los Angeles who kick off work early because it’s sunny out would never get anything done. But for those of us who live four-season lives, nothing feeds the LGBTQ+ soul like a Saturday afternoon and evening in July and August.

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


The company behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Toronto Argonauts is committed to ensuring their sporting events and venues are safe spaces for everyone

The excitement surrounding Pride Month has grown in recent years, and many sports leagues and teams are using “Pride nights” to help raise the visibility and acceptance of 2SLGBTQ+ people – as well as sell them tickets – while creating a sporting environment that is welcoming to everyone. These nights can include special merchandise, information tables and performances, and they’re largely a hit. In Canada, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) has been leading the way with key initiatives to ensure that all fans can feel welcome and safe in their spaces year-round.

MLSE is the parent company of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, MLS’s Toronto FC, as well as the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts – and as one of the premier sports and entertainment organizations in Canada, they recognize the importance of not only ensuring all fans can feel welcome and safe in their spaces, but also celebrate the diversity that makes Toronto fans world class.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe, whether they are engaging with sports inside or outside of our venues,” MLSE’s senior vice-president

of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) Teri Dennis-Davies told IN “We recognize that sport is more than just a game – it can transcend differences and has the unique power to unite people together while on the court, ice, field or in the stands. We acknowledge our responsibility to leverage sport and our platform to set an example of inclusivity while being intentional about uplifting the 2SLGBTQIA+ as a group that has historically been left out of the conversation.”

In April this year, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors hosted their annual Pride Games in support and celebration of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. The games included performances highlighting talent from the 2SLGBTQ+ community such as Vision Drag, Forte Chorus and a Vogue Battle Ballroom, while the proceeds from the teams’ Pride apparel collections were donated to local queer Toronto-based organizations.

“As an organization, it is important to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies to foster an environment that respects all individuals of diverse sexual and gender identities,” the Maple Leafs wrote on


their Culture Nights website leading up to the April 4 event. “We have a responsibility to ensure our game is safe and welcoming for all to participate in. We are proud to celebrate Pride and the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and creating a safe space for individuals to be their authentic selves.”

More recently, Major League Soccer’s Toronto Football Club (TFC) hosted their annual Pride Match on May 17. This season, TFC also teamed up with Common Goal to commit to the Play Proud initiative to promote inclusion in preparation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, with Toronto being one of the host cities. Common Goal aims to “inspire everyone in football to collaborate towards an equal and sustainable future for all,” while Play Proud is a grassroots-driven program that works with all stakeholders in soccer to make communities and stadiums a safer space for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It aims to transform soccer clubs and organizations around the world by equipping coaches and staff with the skills and knowledge to ensure that 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion is championed, on and off the pitch.

TFC joined the Play Proud initiative to prioritize the 2SLGBTQIA+ community by joining a cohort of other clubs to learn best practices and improve policies, says Dennis-Davies. “We hope our commitments through Play Proud will help galvanize others to join us in this space.”

That commitment meant fans and supporters identifying as part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community had the opportunity to collaborate with MLSE on workshops, elements of their Pride Match, educational training sessions and more. As well, TFC is working with MLSE Foundation to give fans the chance to have exclusive access to the clubs.

Coming up later this summer, the Toronto Argonauts will also hold their Pride Game at BMO Field in August. Fans can look forward to in-stadium performances and unique offerings for this game.

But what happens after the Pride celebrations end? Dennis-Davies says MLSE is continuing to ensure their sporting events and venues are safe spaces for everyone.

“The MLSE Foundation continues to identify the 2SLGBTQIA+ demographic as a priority in public grant making, and concentrates on this community in our Change The Game Research to help minimize barriers to participation and access,” says Dennis-Davies. “We continue to work to provide equitable access to sport and opportunity on the playing field, because we believe that it leads to success and opportunity off the playing field.”

One of the ways MLSE ensures 2SLGBTQIA+ fans feel welcome and safe in their spaces year-round is by providing additional training to guest services representatives before all games in their venues, to ensure foundational knowledge regarding gender and sexuality.

Further, all MLSE staff are required to undergo EDI learning and development training – and staff, MLSE suppliers and fans are expected to abide by MLSE’s code of conduct, to ensure game experiences are more equitable, accessible, diverse and inclusive in all equity-deserving groups.

Finally, MLSE will continue to collaborate with the community to put on some great events this year. Some events from last season include the Marlies Pride Game Queer Family Skate, Real Sports Leafs Pride Game Viewing Party, and the inaugural Defenders of 2SLGBTQIA+ Human Rights youth conference.

“As an organization, we will continue to advance our efforts to achieve full inclusion, which includes ongoing policy review, staff training and access to more equitable spaces and opportunities,” says Dennis-Davies.

“We also recognize that there may be fans who prefer a more private sports experience, and will continue to create bespoke experiences such as dedicated viewing parties for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in particular. For example, at our last Pride Night at Real Sports during the Maple Leafs game, we welcomed over 300 queer-identifying fans to watch the game together during a night of drag performances, special giveaways, food features and more. It is important for us to meet people where they are.”

Go sports, go!


A Weekend Alone In Tel Aviv: A Perfect Escape For An LGBTQ+ Traveller

Fresh off the plane, jet-lagged and in search of food on my first night, I wandered into North Abraxas, a restaurant across the street from my hotel. As soon as it became apparent I was alone, I was offered a seat at the bar. Ugh! Typical.

Vacationing alone has never been my thing, but on a recent business trip to Jerusalem, I decided it would be crazy not to tack on some time in Tel Aviv. I had heard so many great things about the city, including how welcoming it is to members of the LGBTQ+ community, that I set aside my usual misgivings about solo travel as an openly gay man and gave myself a weekend to explore this gem of a city.

As I settled into my seat around the half-oval-shaped bar with the lively open kitchen behind it, I girded myself for an evening of staring straight ahead and ingesting something off the menu as quickly as I could. I figured the hive of activity that lay open before me would at least keep things interesting. That was until the mulleted bartender eliminated any lingering apprehension by pouring me a shot of something tasty and strong and toasted me, “Welcome to

Tel Aviv!” That was quickly followed by her presenting me with a beautifully ripe tomato, which she deftly cut up right in front of me, sprinkled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and insisted I try it immediately. Simple and delicious.

An incredible meal of Israeli food followed. It can best be described as the best of the Middle East and the Mediterranean rolled into one: fresh, exotic, flavourful. Washed down with some delicious Israeli chardonnay, and I was soon on a first-name basis with many of the temporary inhabitants of the restaurant.

North Abraxas is one of many restaurants around the city with menus created by the famous Israeli chef Eyal Shani. His menus, which change almost every night, feature unique takes on the latest in-season vegetables. Simple items, like his Jericho Beans in lemon and olive oil, were perfect. Tasty, whimsically named mains like A Journey Into The Depths of a Spanish Mackerel’s Head and A Plate Full of Bresola That Woke Up From a Deep Sleep in Red Wine were outstanding. Every

I tried was incredible.

The city might be one of the world’s friendliest destinations for us
single dish Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash

Gosha Chubuain, a Russian expat who had recently moved to Tel Aviv, was sitting next to me. He enthused about the food and overall vibe of the city. He explained that he and his bisexual wife, Somnium, had decided to leave Russia for a variety of reasons and had originally been drawn to Tel Aviv due to its beauty. “But we discovered so much more. It’s not just about the sea and stone you find in this city,” Chubuain explained, “but the amount of life you find here, everybody is accepted.”

Floating back on a post-meal high to the Vera, my cute boutique hotel close to the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood, I decided jet lag be damned. I headed out (on my own!) to further explore the nightlife. When I asked the front desk agent, a young American woman clad mostly in pleather, if there were any good gay bars around, she enthusiastically explained that almost all the bars in Tel Aviv were LGBTQ+ friendly. Some – Forever, It’s Britney Bitch and Luli, to name a few – even have special LGBTQ+ lines. However, I ended up taking her suggestion of a bar that catered to LGBTQ+ clientele and set out for a Tel Aviv favourite, Shpagat.

Shpagat has tiered seating up to the second floor, but I opted for the patio. I always like people-watching when I’m travelling by myself, but as at the restaurant, I quickly found myself chatting with other folks around me, who were quick to give me other recommendations on what to see, what to do and where to go for the rest of my weekend. After a much later night than I was planning, and feeling more than comfortable to meander home on my own, I decided it was best to get some sleep.

Worth noting is that most of the Jewish population of Israel recognizes the Sabbath. Almost everything shuts down from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, as Jewish Israelis take the time to rest, reflect and spend time with family. Tel Aviv is a bit of an exception in that many bars and restaurants stay open, as I had already happily discovered on my unexpected Friday adventure. When I set out to explore on Saturday, however, I did learn that most of the shops were closed – but that didn’t stop people from enjoying their weekend.

Old Jaffa Port with its churches and museums is a beautiful area to wander, but it was once I hit the nearby flea market area that I truly fell in love with Tel Aviv. The market itself was replete with treasures – vintage clothes, Moroccan lamps, ornate furniture and all manner of souvenirs – but the real attraction was the large group of locals enjoying their weekend in the outdoor cafés and restaurants, drinking, eating and in some cases dancing in the sunshine. Not just enjoying the weekend but celebrating it. It was impossible not to get caught up in the joy of it.

After a sumptuous brunch at The Drisco Hotel, an historic fivestar hotel with an outdoor patio set in a garden oasis, I hit the area around Florentin Street. The area felt a bit gritty, but the hoots and hollers of lads having drinks before heading off to a soccer match at the nearby Bloomfield Stadium made me smile. Looking around, I was struck by the number of rainbow and trans-pride flags that were hanging from the balconies.

According to Asaf Eshel of Tel Aviv Global & Tourism, the citizens of Tel Aviv are proud all year round. Tel Aviv-Yafo, the official

name of the city since 1950, “has always been and will always be a welcoming home to all trans people, lesbians, gay men, queer people and non-binary folks,” said Eshel. “Here they will always matter, here they are always welcome.”

Later in the week when I made it to Jerusalem, I had a frank chat with Ilana, an Israeli colleague. I remarked that although Israel seems extremely diverse with its many religions and cultures, there are historic divisions that appear to make full inclusion difficult. But when it came to the LGBTQ+ community, it seemed that Tel Aviv was different.

“I think the Israelis living in Tel Aviv are very liberal-minded people. They believe that everyone should have equal rights and freedom of speech and movement,” Ilana explained. “Tel Aviv attracts likeminded people from all over the country and there is a very large younger population who all share common views. This enhances the general feeling of liberty, freedom and equal rights.”

Much of the life in Tel Aviv is focused on the beach. With a full portfolio of restaurants and hotels stretched out along the Mediterranean, there are countless opportunities for people-gawking. The populace in general appears to be active, in shape and, frankly, gorgeous. When I went for a run along the boardwalk in the late afternoon on Saturday, the amount of eye candy was borderline obscene. The official gay beach, complete with rainbow banners to mark the spot, sits in front of the Hilton Hotel. There are places to eat, drink and work out – but don’t go there if you are shy. Particularly on the weekends, socializing is basically mandatory. Although it wasn’t quite warm enough for sunbathing when I was there, I would recommend it to anyone travelling solo. Many people told me it is the place to be, and it is impossible for solo travellers not to make friends there.

For those wanting more of a party scene, that’s definitely there too. According to Eshel, the party scene is legendary. Although I didn’t have time to partake in any crazy parties, on my final day I stumbled into a store that appears to exist to dress festival-goers and partiers. Walking into Arketa, I might as well have fallen down the rabbit hole and ended up at the Mad Hatter’s tea party…if the tea party was the warm-up to Coachella. I have never seen a larger collection of tight pleather clothes, harnesses, feathers and beads in my life. If I could have pulled off the pink pleather pants and pink faux-fur full-length jacket, I would have. Sadly, I think it was better suited to Harry Styles. Located in the HaTachana park area and just steps from the beach, Arketa is well worth a window shop or more if you are heading to Tel Aviv. Don’t worry about packing an outfit for one of those epic Pride parties; you can buy it there!

Fresh from an inspiring weekend in Tel Aviv, jet lag forgotten and in search of a fun food experience on my last night, I ended up in a restaurant called Fantastic. Aptly named, the restaurant had a server peddling drinks on a tricycle, cocktails presented in whimsical glasses from teacups to giant green Hulk hands and, once again, outstanding food.

As soon as it became apparent I was alone, people around me ended up chatting with me. Fun! And typical…for Tel Aviv. Travelling alone has never felt so safe and so wonderful.

regularly talking travel on CTV’s Your Morning TRAVEL
LOREN CHRISTIE is a Toronto-based freelance travel journalist and proud member of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. His articles have appeared in a number of publications across Canada. You can see him

BarHopping In Hell’s Kitchen

The Gay Capital of the World has a way of re-energizing the soul like nowhere else on earth – and I had clearly forgotten what I [heart] about New York

Flaming Saddles

What do you call a pub crawl of just one person? I know what some might call it: sad. Me, I’m calling my bar-hopping memory of Hell’s Kitchen alive by labelling it “research.”

Honestly, my first evening in New York does start off with a friend, for a tête-à-tête in the rarified, quiet confines of the Baccarat Hotel across from the MoMA. The Champagne-hued Grand Salon is an ocean of glass and red roses, waiters hoisting trays of cut-crystal cocktails to the beautiful people. I consider it a sign – a gift from the gay gods – that my first celebrity sighting of the trip is Wanda Sykes. Turns out she’s doing a week-long stint as guest host of the nearby Daily Show. My friend and I just smile at how cool-by-association we are, and do the

Toronto thing and ignore her completely.

The night is still early when I escort my friend into an Uber, so I carry on with my plan to wander the Ninth Avenue gay bars – they are too numerous to do all in one night, but I can take a really good stab at it. I discover that the Hell’s Kitchen gay bars are fairly pared down, plain-Jane places, smallish with capacities for maybe 150 to 200 and a bit divey, but in a good way. They’re definitely drag queeny – some of them famous, with the stages at Hardware and Industry graced by many who moved on to RuPaul’s Drag Race. The whole strip has a very casual kind of T-shirt-and-jeans vibe. I notice that saying no to single-use plastic is not yet a thing in this part of town.

Mickey Spillanes

It’s hotter than Hell

So the story goes, Hell’s Kitchen used to be one of New York’s worst neighbourhoods, filled with vagrants, ne’er-do-wells and prostitutes in the late 1800s. The riots and fighting plaguing the tenements kept the police so busy, a constable is credited with coining the name Hell’s Kitchen, which now covers the district from 34th to 59th streets and from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River. Nowadays, the neighbourhood is gentrified: awash in luxury condos, pre-theatre restaurants of many international flavours, off-Broadway shows themselves, jazz music venues and many, many LGBTQ bars. It has been gathering momentum as a gaybourhood for the past 25 years or so. Being so close to Times Square, the area also draws in the tourists, which is where I come in.

I balance my posh Baccarat experience with walking straight to Flaming Saddles Saloon, New York’s number-one gay western bar. I make the mistake of ordering a double vodka, before remembering that in America this is equivalent to an eight-ounce tumbler. “Yippy I’m Gay #motherf**ker” says the bartender’s T-shirt, and we are instant friends – until he cuts the chat short. Up he gets onto the bar to reveal legs that go for days, tucked into cowboy boots that have seen a few miles. When John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” comes on, the sound goes up, and the bartenders are all suddenly dancing in unison on the bar, a choreographed knees-up that doesn’t seem to embarrass any of them – except my guy. He’s the best one, too, so I’m guessing he has performed this routine a thousand times over. His jaded days at the bar may be numbered, I feel.

At the corner of West 49th and Ninth Avenue, I spill into Mickey Spillane’s – not named after the crime novelist, but a renowned neighbourhood gangster from the ’60s. Same pared-down look here, but a much younger crowd, most of them on their phone. In fact, I start to rope men into selfies with me specifically because it works to invite them into the present – a selfie is something they understand. Their practised smiles turn on in an instant – a second later, they’re gone, eyes down.

Farther down the road, the 9th Avenue Saloon neon beckons. Though

it’s clear that I am running out of steam and it is only a Tuesday night, I order one last beverage and chat with some of the locals. When it’s pumpkin time, my own plastic fails at the Saloon’s cash register, an unexplainable credit-card malfunction. This is another Hell’s Kitchen lesson: cash is king. A gallant gentleman kindly offers to pay for me – but it feels too creepy. Luckily, the bartender cuts me some slack or I’d be washing dishes.

We are spoiled for choice

The next night, I’m back at my “research,” this time with a few pals on 10th Avenue at The Spot. We manage to catch the after-work crowd –and, happily, it’s Happy Hour absolutely every day in this town. The Spot – opened by the owners of the bar Rise, which I didn’t make it to – is a bit more upscale than last night’s 9th Avenue escapades, and newer. Here, we find so many clean-shaven faces and loads of nice teeth. A young man is nursing a cocktail at one of the tall tables, looking a little despondent, so we’re all “why the long face?” Apparently, he’s been stood up, so my buddy steps in to cheer him up before we head out to dinner. It works!

Speaking of which, the cuisine is another feather in the Hell’s Kitchen cap. It’s an international smorgasbord here, with Peruvian and Argentinian eateries, Japanese ramen, lots of Thai street food, Korean barbecue, plus French and Italian down-home goodness.

As for the multitude of bars I did not manage to tick off my list, a few are worth mentioning, given their sheer stamina. The aforementioned Industry is the industrial-chic dance bar, one of the most popular in the city. Rise is great for dancing and drag shows, while the multi-floor/ multi-themed The Q is co-owned by gay icon Jake Shears. DBL is short for “dive bar lounge” – short and to the point. And The Dickens pays tribute to the theory that Charles Dickens gave Victorian morality the finger, and included many gay and lesbian characters in his novels.

After dinner, we toy with the idea of going to Boxers HK, the gay sports bar on Ninth, for “buds and suds,” but decide that it’s out of our league. Taxi!

WALLACE is an international travel and lifestyle writer, photographer and custom-content authority, principal of Wallace Media and editor-publisher of TravelRight.Today. He can be found beside buffet tables, on massage tables and table-hopping around
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James Baldwin Publishes His Second Novel, Giovanni’s Room (1956)

Though the novel was first published in 1956 – a particularly impressive feat during the mid-20th century, when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness in the United States – and was banned in 1977, James Baldwin’s brilliant narrative Giovanni’s Room remains at the centre of 2SLGBTQI+ literature decades later. Years before the gay liberation movement, the African American novelist and intellectual showcased the internal struggles of sexuality, the difficulties created by standards surrounding sexuality and race, and the pain created by a lack of personal freedom.

At its heart, Giovanni’s Room is about the human need for connection and intimacy. The critically acclaimed work explores the internal struggles of sexuality and the complex representations of homosexuality and bisexuality by following the thoughts and actions of David, an American living in a bohemian neighbourhood of Paris in the 1950s. The book details David’s feelings and frustrations with his relationships with other men in his life, particularly an Italian bartender named Giovanni, whom he meets at a Parisian gay bar.

Baldwin moved to Paris in November 1948, at the age of 24, and soon met and fell in love with a young Swiss, Lucien

Happersberger. In the winter of 1951–52, while staying in Switzerland with Happersberger, Baldwin completed his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, which was published in 1953. Over the next two years, living mainly in France, he worked on his second novel, Giovanni’s Room. When it was first published, Giovanni’s Room was a surprise to his readers, since Baldwin was primarily known for exploring the African American experience, and all of the characters in Giovanni’s Room are white. When asked in a 1980 interview if the book was autobiographical, Baldwin explained that he was influenced by his observations in Paris, but the novel wasn’t necessarily shaped by his own experiences:

“No, it is more of a study of how it might have been or how I feel it might have been. I mean, for example, some of the people I have met. We all met in a bar, there was a blond French guy sitting at a table, he bought us drinks. And, two or three days later, I saw his face in the headlines of a Paris paper. He had been arrested and was later guillotined. That stuck in my mind.”

Baldwin died in 1987, but 67 years after its publication, his second novel Giovanni’s Room feels as trailblazing as ever.



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