CELEBRATING CANADA’S LGBTQ2
MARCH / APRIL 2022
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE QUEER AND DISABLED SPREADING THE WORD ABOUT ASEXUALITY INTERNATIONAL TRANSGENDER DAY OF VISIBILITY IS ABOUT CELEBRATION
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THEIR 8 GAYEST MOMENTS 1
MARCH / APRIL 2022
LIFE HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT
Trademarks are owned by or licensed to the ViiV Healthcare group of companies. ©2022 ViiV Healthcare group of companies or its licensor. Code: PM-CA-CBR-JRNA-210004-E Date: 01-2022
inmagazine.ca PUBLISHER Patricia Salib GUEST EDITOR Christopher Turner ART DIRECTOR Georges Sarkis COPY EDITOR Ruth Hanley SENIOR COLUMNIST Paul Gallant CONTRIBUTORS Jesse Boland, Adriana Ermter, Courtney Hardwick, Noel Hoffman, Gelarah Kamazani, Karen Kwan, Paul Langill, Kimmy Nichol, Luis Augusto Nobre, Ivan Otis, Sikha Panigrahi, Brian Phillips, Doug Wallace, Jaime Woo, Adam Zivo DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND SPONSORSHIPS Bradley Blaylock DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS Jumol Royes CONTROLLER Jackie Zhao
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IN Magazine is published six times per year by The Mint Media Group. All rights reserved. Visit www.inmagazine.ca daily for LGBTQ content
MARCH / APRIL 2022
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105 Issue 105 March / April 2022
Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider ultimately left the competition with $1,382,800 in total winnings – one of only a handful of winners whose earnings surpassed $1 million. “The best part for me has been being on TV as my true self,” the openly transgender contestant said after her eight-week run. “Expressing myself, representing the entire community of trans people and … just being a smart, confident woman doing something super normal like being on Jeopardy!”
06 | 3 VIRTUAL DIY BEAUTY AND GROOMING TRENDS TO TRASH The lowdown on those too-good-to-be-true TikTok look-good hacks
08 | THE BEAT OF VISIBILITY We want to be seen and heard. No more apologies, this is us
10 | VANCOUVER INFECTIOUS DISEASES CENTRE OFFERS CUTTING-EDGE TREATMENT AND CARE Providing community pop-up clinics in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside 12 | HANDLE WITH CARE Being an LGBTQ2+ caregiver can be tough. What happens when the caregiver needs care? 14 | BE YOUR OWN HEALTH ADVOCATE Take these five steps to advocate for yourself 15 | HELIX RISES Twink porn is all grown up as the genre’s leading adult company celebrates its 20th year
18 | ALL ABOUT ACES: SPREADING THE WORD ABOUT ASEXUALITY The second annual International Asexuality Day is April 6 FEATURES
20 | IN DEFENCE OF QUEER MEDIOCRITY It’s okay to suck dick – and it’s okay to suck in general
22 | THE GOLDEN GIRLS: THEIR 8 GAYEST MOMENTS The show tackled topics like coming out, AIDS, and learning to accept family members’ sexuality, among others, with sensitivity and humour in some pretty groundbreaking ways 24 | MEDITATIONS ON LOVE What’s it all about, Alfie? 26 | A STORY OF DISABILITY AND SEX One of the biggest barriers for people with disabilities is the assumption that they are not sexual. Not so!
16 | INTERNATIONAL TRANSGENDER DAY OF VISIBILITY IS ABOUT CELEBRATION Every March 31, the trans community and allies come together to observe #TransDayOfVisibility
30 | REMEMBERING TRAILBLAZING TRANSGENDER MODEL APRIL ASHLEY Elvis Presley, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí were all said to have been smitten with Ashley, who was the second British person to undergo male-to-female gender reassignment surgery in the 1960s, and who died late last year 44 | READING MM: HOW GAY ROMANCE SCRATCHES AN ITCH FOR STRAIGHT WOMEN Taking a look at women who write gay male romance novels 46 | SAVOURING SAN JUAN The range of Puerto Rico’s culinary talent yields a smorgasbord of taste sensations, from the fine dining to the food trucks 50 | GLAAD STUDY SHOWS RECORD NUMBER OF LGBTQ+ CHARACTERS ARE ON TV LGBTQ representation is on the rise thanks to streaming 51 | FLASHBACK: MARCH 2, 1995 IN LGBTQ+ HISTORY Landmark human rights decision rules the City of Hamilton was discriminatory FASHION
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34 | SPRING GLOW Get that glow and make a serious fashion statement this season
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MARCH / APRIL 2022
VIRTUAL DIY BEAUTY AND GROOMING TRENDS TO TRASH The lowdown on those too-good-to-be-true TikTok look-good hacks By Adriana Ermter
Remember YOLO, the acronym for “you only live once”? Its hashtag dominated videos of people ziplining Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, eating donut burgers and shopping 90210’s Rodeo Drive. They flooded our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds before donning masks and isolating indoors became our new norm. Now, FOMO, otherwise known as the fear of missing out, holds court amidst our oscillating ghost town/madhouse world. It has
us replacing IRL moments with double clicks – all in our quest to connect, be happy and stay in the know. So much so that one billion people worldwide, as reported by CNBC, currently turn to TikTok each month for their daily fix of Texan drone dances, Aussie dog-painted sunflowers and “For You”-curated content, complete with DIY beauty and grooming hacks…including three top-trending hacks that are better left for the viewing than the doing, especially if you just want to get back to the YOLO.
"ONE BILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE CURRENTLY TURN TO TIKTOK EACH MONTH "
The real deal: These RL products are intended to do exactly what their names state: suck gunk – like blackheads, pus, oil, dead skin cells, dirt, etc. – out of your facial pores. There are multiple brand options to choose from, including Rodan + Fields Pore Cleansing MD System, Poppyo Blackhead Remover Pore Vacuum and the Lonove Pore Vacuum. The perceived win: Your every selfie will feature a flawless complexion. The TikTok hack: To be fair, there is no hack per se being touted on TikTok, rather just an assortment of the actual vacuums and their purported efficacy. The reality: At the end of a vacuuming session, most people – TikTok influencers included – have very red-looking faces and marginal (if any at all) reductions of pore gunk. And trust me, turning up the settings on these devices doesn’t help. “People with skin issues, such as rosacea especially, need to proceed with caution,” warns Dr. Somenek. “The vacuum can exacerbate these conditions and cause untoward side effects like broken capillaries and bruising. This can even occur with those who simply have sensitive skin. Even if the device is effective, the pores will eventually refill, and preventing this from occurring via this tool is too much wear and tear on the skin.”
The real deal: Remember when makeup contouring was all the rage, with anyone who was anyone on the small or big screen doing it (yeah, we’re talking about you, Colin Jay, Kim/Kourtney/Khloe Kardashian and Tom Sandoval)? The makeup technique is still appreciated by the masses as it carves out cheekbones, creates a definitive jawline, highlights eyes and gives skin an overall golden glow, in about one to three hours. The perceived win: You’ll never look better, on screen or in front of your peers. The TikTok hack: Using sunscreen, and the lack of it, to sculpt your skin using the sun. All you have to do is apply an SPF 30 product all over your face, and then add an SPF 90 product to the parts of your face where you would typically brush on a little highlighter. The idea is that the sun will contour your skin in the same areas where you would typically apply bronzer. So, despite decades-old warnings about sunburn and skin cancer, TikTokkers have made the sunscreen-contouring hack seem very appealing as a time saver; it works as you’re taking a walk outside, shopping at an outdoor mall, whatever. The hack is touted to provide all the rewards of makeup contouring, without the time spent spackling in front of the mirror. The reality: Factor in your facial features, sweating, facial movement, etc., and reality dictates that there’s no certainty to how well this hack will actually work. Think about it: your nose, cheekbones, eyes, forehead, cheeks and chin don’t receive the sunlight equally. And, more importantly, do you really want to purposefully expose any portion of your face to the sun’s harsh UVA and UVB rays? “Attempting to control your sun ray exposure through mixing SPF levels is illogical,” says Dr. Somenek. “Radiation bounces off sand, water and cement, hitting the face at different angles, so you might not get the J-LO glow but you could get patchy sunburns. And you are risking your skin from a cosmetic standpoint and health-wise in the form of skin cancer.”
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.
The real deal: Skincare facial patches, such as skyn Iceland’s Face-Lift in-a-Bag, Fanny Face’s Stardust Gel Eye Masks and Oia Patches Facial Wrinkle Remover Strips, are used to reduce and prevent wrinkles, fine lines and crow’s feet. The patches are typically non-toxic and dermatologist tested for sensitive skin, as well as fuelled with skin-safe ingredients like aloe vera, white willow bark, caffeine, jojoba and shea butter to soothe, smooth, hydrate and plump up your face. The perceived win: You can admire your younger visage in the mirror and on Zoom. The TikTok hack: Attaching strips of regular adhesive tape to your face before bedtime to prohibit wrinkle-inducing facial expressions while you sleep. According to TikTokkers, all you have to do is place the tape over top of existing fine lines or over areas of your face where you want to prevent wrinkles from forming, then go to bed…and you’ll wake up wrinkle free. The reality: Tape that’s strong enough to hold your skin taut while you count sheep is meant for packing boxes and construction sites, not your face. Factor in tape’s occlusive nature and, well, that’s just a breeding ground for bacteria, dirt, oil and grime to fester, causing redness, irritation and acne on your skin. Plus, when you pull off the tape, you risk taking off a layer or two of your skin with it. “This [hack] can cause a tear in the skin barrier,” affirms Dr. Michael Somenek, a board-certified plastic surgeon at the Somenek + Pittman MD Advanced Plastic Surgery clinic in Washington. “The trauma could result in underlying pigmentation, or leave you at risk for a bacterial infection that could potentially scar.”
PRIDE AT WORK
BEAT OF VISIBILITY We want to be seen and heard. No more apologies, this is us
MARCH / APRIL 2022
By Luis Augusto Nobre
When I watched the movie The Greatest Showman (2017) with and lesbian activists, and, despite lesbians artists, we don’t see Hugh Jackman, I immediately related myself with the whole social many representatives from the other groups having their space in idea behind the musical. No, I am not as ambitious as Phineas media (or maybe I need to change my lens to see better). Taylor Barnum, Hugh’s role, but I felt connected to the other characters who give life to his circus – diverse talented people In a more recent wave, we started to have more trans content and who were hiding themselves from society or trying to survive in artists on our screens such as Laverne Cox and Mj Rodriguez, who the most invisible way possible. We may have had the feeling of is the first trans actor to win a Golden Globe for best performance in seeing that before in comics and in other movies, but the lyrics a TV series (Pose). Rodriguez wrote on social media that the award of some songs were the icing on the cake to hook me. “is going to open the door for many more young [2SLGBTQIA+] talented individuals,” and I cannot be more excited to see more The original song “This Is Me,” written by Benj Pasek and Justin and more trans and queer people thriving. Paul, awakened some dormant power that helped me to become stronger whenever I face issues related to gender identity or sexual You may have a different opinion, but Rodriguez knows the orientation. Although the lyrics are directly connected to the importance of the award for the trans communities. Opportunities marginalized characters in the plot, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ like that one create visibility and increase the chances for more folks, communities in other marginalized groups can replicate it. even if it is a very different field or industry. Those opportunities help people to be seen as they are, and we can even use them to Many of us have learned to be ashamed of “scars” and have continue engaging with important allies. experienced verbal aggressions that just emphasize people’s biases and prejudice. We need to know that we are brave, that we are I’m saying that because, during a phone call with my sister, who glorious, that we aren’t afraid to show our authentic selves. I am is one of my strongest supporters, I had the chance to share with so thrilled to see more people who aren’t scared anymore to be her some gender identity knowledge. We were talking about seen despite many other challenges that we have to deal with in the TV show Queer Eye when I mentioned something about the our daily lives. hosts (four gay men and one non-binary person) helping to build LGBTQIA+ acceptance around the world. Growing up, I had a few references on TV and media in general. Consuming queer content and artists was akin to a spying operation She looked at me with big cartoon question marks over her head. I because I was so afraid to be seen and to give more ammunition saw that she was trying to understand a new term for her: non-binary. to bullies in case of being caught. Nowadays, we can see more I did my best to explain how Jonathan Van Ness self-identifies, and more trans and queer artists and content, and we don’t need and the meaning for some of the other letters, and this experience tons of camouflage to access their work. Even those people who don’t feel safe enough to come out have easier access to queer content that will help them to feel supported and worthy, improving their sense of belonging among other peers in our communities. As a queer cis man, I find the current visibility that we are building for our communities is great; however, it isn’t enough, and we still lack visibility for other letters in our rainbow acronym. The Gay Liberation Movement started with trans, gender non-confirming
"WE WANT TO BE SEEN AND HEARD"
PRIDE AT WORK Photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash
showed me the lack of visibility for those identities that are beyond the LGT (bisexuality is a topic for a future contribution, and there is a lot to say based on people’s reaction).
Companies and organizations have been on a journey to create more inclusive workplaces, but we need to do more. People need to feel welcomed and safe in all places.
I have also heard from other people that they don’t like the need to have everyone in boxes or labels. They say that we should treat people by who they are. Period. It makes sense in a certain way, but we are not at that level yet considering all the systemic violence and microaggressions that folks have to live with daily.
Conscious consumption is not just related to sustainability and climate change issues. It is reflected in how we interact with our surroundings and other people. When we see trans and queer folks in leading roles, on the stage, in politics, etc., we can see ourselves there as well. Those places are for us. One example is the Netflix documentary Disclose, which explores the importance of visibility for trans actors and how the movie industry has been changing over the past years.
To answer some of those comments, I started quoting Boaventura de Sousa Santos, who is a professor at the School of Economics at the University of Coimbra, in Portugal. In his article entitled “Nuestra America – Reinventing a Subaltern Paradigm of Recognition and Redistribution,” Santos wrote, “We have the right to be equal whenever difference diminishes us; we have the right to be different whenever equality decharacterizes us.” It’s like individualism supporting collectivism, and vice versa. Creating boxes, labels and visibility would lead us to a more inclusive society keeping every single person’s identity important.
We are seeing more and more queer content produced by queer professionals. We are moving from supporting roles to leading roles, becoming protagonists as well. Everything is possible, and we know that our presence isn’t just tolerated, but celebrated. And celebrations ask for music! So it is already clear that we will be dancing and marching on to the beat for the recognition of our rights, for equal opportunities and for the elimination of prejudices. We want to be seen and heard. No more apologies – this is us.
LUIS AUGUSTO NOBRE is the marketing and communications coordinator of Pride at Work Canada/Fierté au travail Canada, a leading national non-profit organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. For more information, visit prideatwork.ca.
Infectious Diseases Centre Offers
Cutting-Edge Treatment and Care
Providing community pop-up clinics in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
The Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre (VIDC) is a non-profit organization that has been providing multidisciplinary care to HIV and HCV patients since 2000. It works to engage with and provide tailored care to marginalized communities and, ultimately, to promote long-term patient engagement as an agent for social change for those communities.
MARCH / APRIL 2022
We recently sat down with our friends at the VIDC to find out more. Tell us more about your project. Where does this idea come from? Who are your target populations? UNAIDS, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, has set very ambitious goals for the suppression of HIV infections across the globe over the next several years. Globally, we did not reach the goals for the 2020 targets, but we have a key opportunity to meet those set forth for 2030 and ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 where 95 per cent of people living with HIV know their status. In the work that we do, it became clear that certain populations, such as people living with HIV and vulnerable populations who live in the inner city, particularly injection drug users, are nowhere near meeting that goal. In fact, preliminary surveys indicated to us that perhaps half or less of HIV-infected injection drug users were responding in an optimal way to antiretroviral therapy. So, I think it becomes important to identify why that is, and to design specific strategies to engage these individuals in care, particularly in HIV care, and make it so that they will benefit from the
promise of highly effective antiretroviral therapy going forward. Thanks to ViiV Healthcare, we secured funding to implement our project, which focuses on helping these targeted populations with specific strategies that address their needs, such as peer work and community-based initiatives and support. Education is a key component of your project. What are the main topics you cover in your educational sessions? We had a previous project with ViiV Healthcare that was very successful. That project was really aimed at educating people about how you get HIV, the behaviours that transmit HIV and how you can get tested very quickly. I think this can be reinforced yet again because there are some people out there who are undiagnosed. The key component of teaching, that would be mixed in with this multidisciplinary intervention, is to tell people that although HIV is not curable, it is controllable and that the treatments have become much simpler. It is also important to remind them that the treatments are available, free, and that we can coordinate any treatment they want to their convenience. For example, we can get it sent to a pharmacy that they normally go to, or we can provide it to their place of residence on a weekly basis. We will be there to help support them. They’ll have blood tests done, etc. What we’re currently doing is consolidating the education that we did in the previous project about HIV transmission and testing, and adding the component of treatment and its long-term benefits.
instrumental. People working at the grassroots level build these relationships and then they act on them on an ongoing basis. It is valuable. People think it’s hard to combine the work and rigor of health professionals with community-based initiatives, but this interaction is entirely possible.
There are factors that contribute to the disengagement of people living with HIV from the traditional healthcare system. How can a holistic approach effectively meet the HIV care and treatment needs of people living with HIV? The healthcare system does not currently meet the needs of patients. In many cases, these are individuals that have addiction-related needs, social needs, psychological needs, in addition to their very important medical needs. Unless a strategy is put in place to meet the needs that they prioritize at any given point, it will become difficult to engage them to take antiretroviral therapy in a reliable manner and have the virologic suppression that we mean to achieve.
At the operational level, what you need first and foremost is to use the grassroots. You can’t expect a project to succeed if you don’t have a strong community outreach. It’s all about linking up with places where people live: the single-room-occupancy buildings, talking to the managers, figuring out what’s a good time to be there with whatever the needs of the people happen to be according to the manager, sending in people. Peer workers are very important! Support staff and nurses. Where the doctor fits in is to supervise specific events, to provide that important medical opinion on the spot when it’s needed, and to sort of supervise and support the program.
I think a holistic, patient-centred approach is the best path forward for vulnerable populations. As professionals or individuals working in the community, we need to constantly be reminded that of these populations’ 10 highest priorities on a given day, HIV is probably number nine or 10. So we’re not going to make any gains if we try to convince them that HIV is the most important thing to them in their lives. Nevertheless, the holistic approach puts the patient at the middle of the intervention. It makes certain that the top 10 priorities to get patients that day are being addressed, and in establishing partnerships we can quickly get to a point where HIV care becomes relevant and essential to them. Convincing these populations is a process and it can only be accomplished by a holistic approach. That’s why our first move was to create engagement and to make it multidisciplinary, addressing all the needs of vulnerable populations. Finally, we have to make sure that it’s durable.
It’s a team approach on our side, it’s a team approach on the side of the community. I think that it is because we have spent time building these relationships that we’re able to act in the way we do in the current project, and help people getting efficient care and treatment.
What are some of the mechanisms in place to keep these people engaged? Since HIV is not a curable disease, they need to stay on treatment for years. This isn’t a one-time intervention. This needs to be a durable and structural process that they believe in and that they will buy into. This is a project that needs to be community based. We have to go to them, as they are not coming to us. Second, we must have on the team people who are able to meet all the needs these populations may require. In many cases, the physician – the medical doctor – is almost trivial in the sense that we write prescriptions that will meet acute medical needs that others can’t address. This is our expertise. However, the relationship, the bond, is done by support staff, peers and nurses. They are much more flexible in their mandate, in the time that they have. They can be directed to meet the needs of individuals on an ongoing basis as they vary. And that’s even more important with COVID now being in the background. HIV infection may not have been the highest priority in our society and is now pushed further down the list of priorities. How do community outreach initiatives remove barriers to accessing care, treatment education and support? It really is through building relationships and partnerships that you succeed in removing these barriers. The human aspect is
To what extent can peer work be considered a complementary approach in some cases to the traditional healthcare system? What are some of the benefits of providing peer support? In many cases, the public healthcare system is really solid, but it’s a bit top-down in the sense that they establish policies, they establish programs. If the program doesn’t work or if it doesn’t meet the needs of the population, they really get into trouble very fast, as they can’t be flexible and they can’t change. Second, we have had many misses when conducting grassroots projects over the past 20 years: things that we’ve tried that we thought would work but didn’t work because they weren’t based enough on the community, because there weren’t enough interactions with the community. Once trusted relationships are built, success is still not guaranteed. But we have a process that has worked for us in the past and we are tweaking it to address issues in a very targeted manner. If we don’t succeed, we will have the ability to understand, hopefully at a very granular level – at a very targeted level – what didn’t work and what we need to change. This is something the public health system does not have, yet it makes public policy all the more effective. To summarize, we believe in three pillars to make the patient-centred holistic approach a reality: engagement, multidisciplinary and durability. It’s the holistic approach building on the relationship that is going to lead us to making sure that more and more vulnerable populations will get their treatment and ultimately be virally suppressed.
For more information, visit www.vidc.ca.
Moreover, we educate about other topics such as hepatitis C, COVID-19 and other wellness issues. So, they are used to this educational intervention, and adding this HIV intervention in the context of the knowledge we have now – i.e., half of HIV-infected injection drug users being unsuppressed – is important.
H ANDL E Wit h Care Being an LGBTQ2+ caregiver can be tough. But what happens when the caregiver needs care? By Jumol Royes
I’m blessed to have two parents who are both relatively healthy and independent, but that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing and blue skies all the time. They’ve each had their own health hiccups over the years – some more serious than others – and I’ve had to step up and play a more active role in their lives. That could mean advocating for them when they have medical appointments or procedures, or encouraging them to change their eating habits (an uphill battle when it comes to my dad, but I keep soldiering on). Not that I’m complaining. Not really, anyway. After all, my parents have done and sacrificed a lot to give me and my sister the best life possible. As their dutiful son, I’m content to take care of them as they age, even if they do get on my nerves every now and then. When push comes to shove, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For the moment, managing their needs is workable. But lately I’ve been wondering: who will come to my aid when I need support down the road? More LGBTQ2+ millennial adults are becoming caregivers to aging parents, not to mention chronically ill partners, children with special needs, and chosen family, friends and neighbours. According to the Ontario Caregiver Organization’s website, “some estimates suggest there may be up to 250,000 caregivers across Canada who care for or are 2SLGBTQ+ identified themselves.”
MARCH / APRIL 2022
The truth is, we’re not prepared. LGBTQ2+ caregivers face unique challenges depending on who they’re tending to. For some, taking care of an ailing parent could mean moving back home and dimming their queerness to make their loved one feel more comfortable. Others may be caring for a long-term partner without being given the same recognition and respect that caregivers in heterosexual couples receive. Add to that the homophobia and transphobia that still exists in health and social care systems, and it’s easy to understand why being a caregiver and a member of the LGBTQ2+ community can be fraught with frustration.
There’s a lack of specialized services and supports for LGBTQ2+ caregivers in Canada, and that needs to change. We must do a better job of ensuring that all caregivers have access to the resources they need to cope so they don’t find themselves isolated and overwhelmed. As LGBTQ2+ caregivers, we also need to reframe the way we think about caring for ourselves. Supporting a friend or loved one when they’re sick or struggling is second nature to many of us. We’re usually known as the helpers and fixers in our families and friend groups. I know that rings true for me. What comes less naturally is asking for and accepting help when I need it. Prioritizing self-care is a daily, sometimes momentby-moment, commitment. I can get so caught up trying to control my own circumstances, while concurrently trying to manage my parents’ issues and their choices, that I forget life is messy. That is, until I get a not-so-subtle kick in the ass reminding me that I’m not responsible for everyone else and it’s not my job to make everything better. It’s a given that we’re all going to fall apart, have breakdowns and meltdowns and be in crisis. When that inevitably happens, it’s okay to allow people in so they can offer us a shoulder to lean on. We owe it to ourselves to turn off caregiver mode every now and then. Constant caregiving leads to burnout, and then we’re no use to ourselves or anyone else. In those moments when we’re alone and external support isn’t easily within reach, it’s on us to fill our own cups first so we can offer what flows out and over to others. A very wise person once told me, “If you’re waiting for someone to come save you, stop waiting. They’re not coming.” That was the day I realized I had to be the hero of my own story and learn how to save myself. Being an LGBTQ2+ caregiver can be tough. As my parents grow older, I know there will be good days and some not-so-good days that will require me to seek support and shower myself with my own care, comfort and concern. Sometimes what caregivers need most is to be handled with care.
PERSPECTIVE Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash
JUMOL ROYES is IN Magazine’s director of communications and community relations, a Toronto-area storyteller, communications strategist and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol and on Instagram at @jumolroyes.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Be Your Own Health Advocate Take these five steps to advocate for yourself By Karen Kwan
We’ve all heard that health is wealth, and yet too many of us approach our health and well-being halfheartedly. Sure, you may go to the gym regularly, but have you put in as much effort when it comes to your last doctor’s visit, for example? Learn to be a better health advocate for yourself and you’ll be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your care as well as having a deeper understanding of your health. These five steps will help you step up for yourself when it comes to your most important resource.
4. Get a second opinion If you’ve gotten a diagnosis (say, your doctor insists that lump is nothing to worry about) but you’re feeling unheard and your intuition tells you the diagnosis is wrong, get a second opinion. Following your gut could save your life, so book that appointment. If the worst that comes out of it is that you offend your doctor, so be it (although any good doctor would not get offended if a patient opted to get a second opinion).
1. Prepare for your doctor appointments Doctors are on a busy schedule and you’ll only have a limited amount of time with them for an appointment. To make the most of your appointment, take time beforehand to jot down any questions you have, or if you have experienced any worrisome symptoms since your last visit. With a full picture of your health, the doctor can better treat you. And don’t be afraid to actually ask those questions. If you’re unclear about something they’re prescribing, speak up and ask right then and there while you have their attention.
5. Understand your health insurance plan Knowing the details on how your health insurance works will enable you to use it to your full advantage. If you know one dental appointment is covered every year, for example, that might be the encouragement you need to book your annual dental checkup. Plus, you may discover you have extended benefits you were unaware of that could be helpful, such as the services of a nutritionist when you’ve been looking to change up your diet.
MARCH / APRIL 2022
2. Keep organized records of your health care Although you probably have your COVID-19 vaccine certificate readily available, do you know where your record is from your tetanus shot or HPV vaccine? Storing these documents in a designated file will help you maintain a detailed record of your health history. 3. Do the research, and learn Look to reputable websites (with the emphasis on reputable) for valuable health information about health conditions and treatment options. The more well versed you are, the better you can speak up for yourself when it comes to your health care and treatment. That said, don’t diagnose yourself or decide on a course of treatment based on what you’ve read on the internet. Take everything you learn and use that information to guide your discussion with your doctor.
"Sure, you may go to the gym regularly, but have you put in as much effort when it comes to your last doctor’s visit?"
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.
Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash
Twink porn is all grown up as the genre’s leading adult company celebrates its 20th year By Noel Hoffman
“It has been a wild 20 years at Helix Studios,” reflects Keith Miller, including Pup Play and Helix Academy,” Miller explains. They the founder and CEO of the gay adult film company known for its can also download classic Helix films starring past studio darlings twink models. “While the adult industry has changed dramatically Blake Mitchell, Evan Parker, Max Carter, Kyle Ross and more. since 2002 when we first launched, the two things that remain the same are our customers’ desire to view sexy young men and our “As someone whose filming days are over, at least for the foreseeable commitment to scour the world to find them.” future, it’s awesome that fans will be able to drop by my page, connect with me, stream my past content and keep up to date with Miller says big changes are afoot for the company in its 20th year. my latest projects through the new platform,” says Kyle Ross. Most significantly, the studio is preparing to release a platform that will allow its talent greater involvement in the creative process. The other area of growth for the studio is in its diversity. In 2021, “Today’s adult film stars want more control over their careers,” he the company premiered Helix Studios Latin America, introducing says. “They want to make decisions on how they are portrayed Hispanic talent like Sly Conan and Giorgio Angelo to its roster. In in film and promoted to the masses, and they want to be able 2022, they are crossing the pond with Helix Studios Europe. The to monetize their interaction with fans. We’re giving them that first film, out now, is from producers Vlado Iresch and Johnny opportunity on our platform, one of the biggest in gay adult film.” Iresch of Motion Film in Prague. It stars newcomers Sammy Trakuza and Josh Cavalin, who meet at a go-cart racetrack and The new changes will not only affect talent, but members, too. Since then set up a rendezvous in a secret wooded hideaway where the its inception, Helix Studios has operated on a subscription model. real fast and furious action takes place. Members currently pay a monthly fee for unlimited streaming and download access to more than four thousand scenes on the Helix “Helix Studios Europe is something I’ve been wanting to do for Studios network. Later this year, Helix will introduce pay-per-view some time,” Miller continues. “It’s exciting to be speaking with access that allows non-members to stream and download single producers in Italy, Spain and Germany. We’ll be bringing some films at reduced prices. “Fans will be able to view individual of the most sought-after European models to the Helix network.” films starring their favorite Helix exclusives like Travis Stevens and Josh Brady, or stream/download a specific series of films And no doubt, Helix fans will be watching.
NOEL HOFFMAN is a digital media producer, author and freelance journalist for the Daily Collegian, ElectriCITY and the Los Angeles Times. In another lifetime, he was also an actor, singer and teacher, but today, much of his time is consumed with being a single gay dad of two young children.
International Transgender Day Of Visibility Is About
CELEBRATION Every March 31, the trans community and allies come together to observe #TransDayOfVisibility
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On March 31, people around the world will recognize the International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), a day dedicated to celebrating trans people and raising awareness of the discrimination faced by transgender people around the world. With transgender visibility in North America at an all-time high in media, sports and politics, it has become a day for allies and advocates to show support for the community. Beyond that, though, TDOV is about renewing our commitment to educate ourselves on trans issues and to raise our voices against transphobia in all its forms.
While the Transgender Day of Remembrance (or TDOR) is held every year on November 20 to memorialize the transgender people who have lost their lives as a result of anti-transgender violence, TDOV is a day dedicated to honour, celebrate and empower the lives of transgender and nonbinary people. Whether you’re a trans person looking for support or an ally who wants to show support to the trans people in your life, here’s everything you need to know about TDOV.
Photo by Lena Balk on Unsplash
"TDOV is a day dedicated to honour, celebrate and empower the lives of transgender and nonbinary people"
History Transgender Day of Visibility was founded in 2009 by Rachel Crandall-Crocker, a Michigan-based transgender activist and the executive director of Transgender Michigan. Her original intention was to create a day of awareness to celebrate the successes of transgender and gender-nonconforming people. According to Crandall-Crocker at the time, the trans community didn’t always have a lot to celebrate. She also wanted to highlight the fact that the only transgender-centric day that was internationally recognized was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates members of the community who had lost their lives – people like Rita Hester, a Black transgender women in Boston, who was brutally stabbed in her own apartment in 1998. The transgender community was tired of being targets and done being dismissed by the press, which continuously misgendered Hester. On November 20, 1999, people gathered and marched through Hester’s neighbourhood, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance was born. Crandall-Crocker felt that TDOR and honouring transgender homicide victims was important. But she said she was always left feeling depressed after the day, and felt there was no day to pay homage to living transgender people. “I wanted a day that we can celebrate the living, and I wanted a day that all over the world we could be all together,” she said. So, in an effort to bring people a moment of happiness, she created a Facebook post encouraging people to organize festivities in their hometowns and started messaging accounts all over the world – it was worth a shot.
So Crandall-Crocker, who had lost a marriage when she came out and a job as a psychotherapist when she transitioned, decided to create the day herself. March 31 would be the International Transgender Day of Visibility. The date wasn’t significant as much as it was convenient. It was far enough away from TDOR in November and Pride Month in June that it wouldn’t conflict with either. From her home in Michigan, she organized a panel just outside of Detroit. Maybe people would come or see the Facebook post and hold their own events, she thought. Crandall-Crocker now talks about those early days with near disbelief. Millions of people now recognize March 31 as a day to celebrate transgender people worldwide. Every major LGBTQ+ rights organization recognizes the Transgender Day of Visibility with community gatherings, panels and celebrations. For many trans kids, their first introduction to transgender community had long been a day honouring transgender murder victims. While it was a time of gathering, it was also a stark reminder that living as trans often came with an expiration date. But the Transgender Day of Visibility gave kids another narrative to grow into, advocates say.
How To Be A Good Ally Many transgender people are happy to discuss their experience, but allies shouldn’t always assume that’s the case. There are so many resources out there to help you if you want to learn more about the community and how to be supportive. Here are a few ways to support the transgender community today. Seek out stories by transgender creators Seek out authentic stories and media that have been created by the transgender community, such as the Transgender Film Center, a non-profit organization that supports transgender filmmakers and their projects. Call your local LGBTQ+ centre See what kind of help they need, whether it be volunteering or offering a service that you’re good at. Educate yourself Allies can start by learning the basic terminology surrounding the transgender community. For example, people often confuse sexual orientation and gender identity. There are many places online that share tips on how to be a good ally.
“I’d been wanting there to be a special day for us for a long time,” Crandall-Crocker recalled. “And I was waiting and waiting for someone else to do it. And then finally I said, ‘I’m not waiting anymore. I’m going to do it.’”
All About Aces: Spreading The Word About Asexuality The second annual International Asexuality Day is April 6
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By Courtney Hardwick
As sexuality becomes more widely understood as a spectrum rather their lives in ways that make sense for them. Generally, most ace than a binary, the assumption that everyone has to identify as one people can identify their views on sex in one of the following ways, thing and stick to it is fading away. From gay to straight to bisexual although it may shift throughout their lives or depend on their partner. to all of the above, every individual’s sexuality is personal and ex-repulsed people do not feel comfortable with the act of unique. But it’s also possible for someone’s sexuality to lean more • S having sex towards “none of the above.” Someone who identifies as asexual, or “ace,” does not experience sexual attraction towards any gender, • Sex-indifferent people do not have strong feelings for or against sex and has a very low or absent desire for sexual intimacy. • Sex-favourable people are willing to have sex with a partner in certain circumstances Some consider asexuality to be a sexual orientation while others don’t, but the limited research that has been done on the topic mostly shows how diverse the asexual community really is. As Lacking an interest in sex doesn't automatically come with no people begin to identify openly as asexual and talk more about desire to be in love or to have a romantic relationship. While some their experiences, common themes and sub-identities under the are also aromantic (have little or no romantic attraction to others), “asexuality umbrella” have emerged. many ace people do want to find a partner. In an effort to be clear about their preferences, aces commonly use hetero-, homo-, bi-, Someone who identifies as demisexual feels no sexual attraction and pan- in front of the word romantic to describe who they are towards other people unless an emotional bond has been established attracted to romantically. first. A greysexual may feel vague or infrequent sexual attraction, but usually not strongly enough to act. Both may have had sexual For example, if a person identifies as hetero-romantic, they might be experiences in the past and may be open to having them again attracted to people of the opposite sex or gender, just not in a sexual but their desire for intimacy can be fleeting, inconsistent and way. The Split Attraction Model can help anyone, ace or not, learn unpredictable. how to separate sexual and romantic attraction and explore their unique preferences without getting caught up in strict binary labels. While asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction or feel the need for sexual activity, that doesn’t mean none of them have Since sex can be such an important part of a relationship, ace sex. Many asexual people are in relationships with sexual partners, people have to learn how to advocate for themselves, communicate so they may feel motivated to incorporate sexual intimacy into with potential partners and create boundaries that they truly feel
comfortable with. It’s still possible for them to find love and build the kind of relationship they want, but their path might look a little different than what society has deemed conventional dating. Researchers predict that one per cent of the world population is asexual, but many will never know there is a word for what they are feeling and that they aren’t alone in feeling it. Online communities help educate and bring ace people together so they’re able to start understanding themselves and how to talk about their lack of interest in sex – and what that means for them. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), founded in 2001 by American activist David Jay, is a community for people who identify as ace, suspect they might be ace, are in a relationship with someone who is ace, or just want to learn more about it. From answers to common ace-related questions to message boards where people can ask for advice or share their experiences, AVEN is all about removing the stigma and giving ace people the space they need to feel more confident in who they are. In a further effort to spread the word about asexuality, April 6 has been officially named International Asexuality Day. 2022 is only the second annual IAD, but as more people learn about asexuality and feel comfortable being open about it, it will continue to become more accepted. The four main themes of IAD are advocacy, celebration, education and solidarity. Although many aces report feeling alienated or “broken,” especially in their teen years as they start to realize how they are different from their peers, asexuality isn’t considered a disorder, dysfunction or medical problem that needs to be fixed. It’s simply another possibility on the vast spectrum of sexuality that continues to expand as more people choose to explore.
COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.
IN DEFENCE OF
QUEER MEDIOCRITY It’s okay to suck dick – and it’s okay to suck in general By Jesse Boland
When we use the word “queer,” what do we really mean? If we are using it as an umbrella term for non-cishet people, that’s one thing, but when we’re using it to zhuzh up a lacklustre work of art or glamorize a subpar athlete or performer, are we not simply putting rainbow sprinkles on a piece of shit and trying to pass it off as a cupcake? Queerness means so much more than simply a gender or sexual identity – it’s an ideology that challenges the patriarchal and colonialist systems of violence used to enforce oppressive fascism. So forgive me if I roll my eyes when I see headlines about “queer” banks or military fighter jets with rainbows painted on their sides. Beyond that, how necessary is it to commend below-average-quality films and television shows, or talentless entertainers and athletes, simply because they belong to one of the numerous letters of the LGBTQ+ community? If a muscular white guy comes out as gay in a forest but Out magazine isn’t around to give him a profile piece, is he still brave and inspiring?
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Now, just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with being mediocre. In fact, the world would be a much happier place if more people would embrace their own mediocrity. While social media may often attempt to destroy our self-esteem by barraging us with visuals of flawlessly hot people pretending to read books in Palm Springs, or videos of soon-to-be Scooter Braun protégés immaculately covering Whitney Houston ballads at their middle school assemblies, it also creates a safe space for dumb people to just vibe. Every week, TikTok pumps out a new trend of an awkward dance or lowbrow humour meme inviting its millions of users to participate in hopes of amusing their friends and followers, if only for a loving pity like. What social media helps us remember (when used properly) is that talent and beauty are not prerequisites for us to be deserving of joy and affirmation. What becomes tricky, however, is when these creators of mediocre content begin amassing a massive following that catapults them into the territory of microcelebrity, granting them access to resources and opportunities not afforded to more deserving if less recognized peers with – you know – actual talent. From doing this, we glorify quantitative marketability over qualitative substance that gets Addison Rae invited to the Met Gala while Juilliard-trained theatre actors get server jobs to support themselves.
How does queerness tie into all this? Well, you tell me why former Bachelor/part-time stalker Colton Underwood got his own Netflix documentary simply for not being sexually attracted to any of the women whose time he wasted for money on a network TV show, or why Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy was given a recurring acting role in American Horror Story: 1984 despite his only prior acting experience being feigning sincerity in his apology for his racist Native American Halloween costume. Due to a deranged obsession with “visibility” and “representation,” we as a community too often elect to aggrandize any glimpse of queerness depicted in media – regardless of how prosaic it may be – then are forced to suffer the consequence of being tormented every week by Che Diaz on our screens. When we lump all artifacts of queer culture together, we diminish the triumphs of genuine excellence that the trailblazers of our community have carved out for us, and reduce the Pride flag to merely a rainbow-coloured participation ribbon. Is that to say we should create space in the pantheon of queer art and entertainment only for the most elite of culture creators? Absolutely fucking not! If anything, we need more mediocre homos making lowbrow network sitcoms and mindless pop music! If we as queer people are going to demand social equality to our cishet peers, then we should be able to be just as terrible at our jobs as they are! After all, before I am a gay man, I am a proud dumb bitch. Trigger warning: this next paragraph contains mention of Love, Simon and may rehash 2018 film Twitter discourse. In our culture of pretentious elitism, we often conflate accessibility with unintelligence. What upper-class culture deems worthy of being highbrow is its exclusivity as to who possesses the sophistication
to properly appreciate its complex nuances. While Moonlight and Carol show queer identity and same-sex romance in a visionary extension of cinematic adroitness, they are hardly easy viewings for a relaxed Netflix night with your friends. Therein lies the beauty of 2018’s Love, Simon; a silly, dumb teen rom-com about a silly, dumb teenager trying to find silly, dumb young love…but while being a faggot. While this meh-smerizing teen flick had grown gay men in their 30s bemoaning online about its lack of artistic substance (instead of building houses like grown men should be doing), what Love, Simon did succeed in doing was giving young LGBTQ+ viewers around the world an opportunity to feel themselves represented on screen in the same way their straight peers do. What mediocrity can often allow for, and prestigious cinema cannot, is accessibility to reach wider audiences. When queer youth are told that they don’t have to be extraordinary to succeed, it invites them to take up space that up to now has been occupied by their entitled cishet peers. Queer people are magical – we have always known this. We are some of the most talented, brightest and innovative visionaries who have shaped history since the dawn of time. We are also
some of the worst drivers since the invention of the wheel, with the most reprehensible television taste and the soul force keeping Charli XCX employed. Either way, we are deserving of respect and dignity. While there is exponentially more work needed to be done to advance our footing in the world of social equity, we do not need to pretend that every gay photographer’s portfolio consisting entirely of naked fit guys is somehow accomplishing that. Not all of us are going to be the next Larry Kramer or Audre Lorde, and we don’t have to be. Much of the success of our queer forerunners was the freedom for us to exist authentically in freedom of our truths without a consistent demand for validation. There is room for the Arca’s of the world, whose melodic artistry challenges the very idea of what music can be, and there is also room for the Kim Petras’s of the world, who sounds like what expired poppers feel like. We don’t owe the world greatness, but we owe ourselves the honesty that we’re not always great. Sincerely, a published gay writer who doesn’t fully understand what an adverb is.
JESSE BOLAND is that gay kid in class who your English teacher always believed in. He’s a graduate of English at Ryerson University with a passion for giving a voice to people who don’t have data on their phones and who chases his dreams by foot because he never got his driver’s licence.
T HE GOLDEN IRLS: G
THEIR 8 GAYEST MOMENTS
The show tackled topics like coming out, AIDS, and learning to accept family members’ sexuality, among others, with sensitivity and humour in some pretty groundbreaking ways By Christopher Turner
It’s safe to say that The Golden Girls – starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty – won a legion of gay fans during and after its years of broadcast. One of the reasons the comedy about four senior women sharing a Miami home retained its cult status, especially with the LGBTQ+ community, is because of how the show tackled controversial topics like coming out, marriage equality and learning to accept family members’ sexuality with sensitivity and humour. The show, which ran for seven seasons from 1985 to 1992, even did some groundbreaking work on issues that faced the LGBTQ+ community, like AIDS and hospital visitation rights, in episodes without gay characters.
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Even though gay issues were taboo in the ’80s and early ’90s, The Golden Girls didn’t shy away from them. The NBC show provided primetime audiences with the most progressive look at LGBTQ+ issues on network television and for years went where few other sitcoms dared to go.
While The Golden Girls didn’t feature any gay characters in lead roles, it made strides with supporting characters and storylines. By including smartly acted and written gay characters, ones who were treated with respect or fought for respect, the show helped celebrate gay relationships at a time when they were seen as deadly. On New Year’s Eve, the world lost the last Golden Girl when White died on December 31, 2021, six days after she had a stroke. The 99-year-old comedic actress was just three weeks away from celebrating her 100th birthday. Getty, who suffered from Lewy body dementia, a progressive brain disease, died in 2008 at age 84. Arthur died from cancer in 2009 at age 86, and McClanahan passed away in 2010 at age 76 from a stroke. Since White’s death, people around the world have been honouring her legacy, and all the girls’ legacies, by rewatching and celebrating the hit show. So, in celebration of the iconic show, we’re taking a look back at eight of The Golden Girls’ gayest moments that continue to inspire acceptance and equality. Thank you for being a friend, ladies.
The Engagement (a.k.a. The Pilot) Season 1, episode 1 Original airdate: September 14, 1985 Isn’t It Romantic? The episode that started it all is also notable for featuring the Season 2, episode 5 character of Coco (Charles Levin), who makes his one and only Original airdate: November 8, 1986 appearance in the series. Coco was a gay character being played “Isn’t It Romantic?” marked the first time The Golden Girls addressed for laughs…who can forget Sophia describing him as “the fancy homosexuality, post-Coco. In the episode, Dorothy’s friend Jean man in the kitchen”? So why was Coco written off the show? (Lois Nettleton) comes to visit. Jean is a lesbian whose partner, “It really came down to that there wasn’t enough room in a half Pat, recently passed away. Dorothy decides not to tell Rose and hour,” producer Paul Witt explained in Golden Girls Forever. And Blanche that Jean is gay, but they discover it for themselves when although it might be tempting to wonder whether Coco was cut Jean ends up falling for Rose. Rose eventually tells an embarrased because it was the height of the AIDS panic in 1985, Witt insists Jean that, while she doesn’t reciprocate her romantic feelings, she he was eliminated for purely practical reasons. “Charles Levin is flattered and the two agree to remain good friends. This episode was a terrific actor, and was terrific in the part, but we had too also memorably features the infamous “Lebanese” joke, among much.” Writer Susan Harris added, “We couldn’t possible service many other hilarious moments. all five regular characters adequately.”
Strange Bedfellows Season 3, episode 7 Original airdate: November 7, 1987 “Strange Bedfellows” is notable for featuring one of the first trans characters on American television. In the episode, the ladies are trying to get wimpy councilman Gil Kessler (John Schuck) reelected. When Kessler claims that he and Blanche had an affair, Blanche protests her innocence but the girls do not believe her. The episode ends when Gil makes his election speech, admitting that he didn’t sleep with Blanche before revealing that that he is transgender and his name before 1968 was Anna-Maria Bonnaduci.
Scared Straight Season 4, episode 9 Original airdate: December 10, 1988 When Blanche’s younger brother Clayton (Monte Markham) arrives for a visit, we meet the male version of our Southern belle for the first time. In this episode Clayton, who is gay, struggles with coming out to Blanche. Hilarity ensues, of course, and Clayton does eventually tell Blanche that he’s gay…but only after he claims to have slept with Rose. Blanche, who initially refuses to believe it, eventually comes around to accepting that she and her brother may just have the same excellent taste in men. Fun fact: the episode originally aired shortly after the very first National Coming Out Day in 1988.
72 Hours Season 5, episode 19 Original airdate: February 19, 1990 While this episode from the fifth season doesn’t actually include any LGBTQ characters, it is still one of the most memorable of the series because it dealt with issues surrounding HIV and AIDS that many in the community were dealing with at the time. Rose is tested for AIDS following the revelation that she may have been exposed to blood containing HIV antibodies when she had her gallbladder removed. The Golden Girls showed audiences that AIDS was something that could affect anyone.
Ebbtide’s Revenge Season 6, episode 12 Original airdate: December 15, 1990 When Sophia’s son Phil dies, she must deal with her animosity towards his widow, Angela (Brenda Vaccaro) and must come to terms with her son’s cross-dressing. Sophia admits that every time she saw her son, she wondered what she had done wrong. When Angela assures Sophia that her son was indeed a good man, Sophia finally mourns when she cries out, “My baby is gone”… one of the show’s few downbeat ending lines.
Sisters of the Bride Season 6, episode 14 Original airdate: January 12, 1991 Blanche’s brother Clayton returns with a big surprise: his fiancé Doug (Michael Ayr). Although Blanche claims to have accepted her brother’s sexual orientation, seeing him with his boyfriend catches her off guard. There are endless jokes and lines throughout the episode that helped to explain the topic of marriage equality to viewers at a time when it was still a new concept for many. One of the most memorable came from Sophia when she schools Blanche, and ultimately the audience, on marriage equality: “Everyone wants someone to grow old with. And shouldn’t everyone have that chance?”
Goodbye, Mr. Gordon Season 7, episode 15 Original airdate: January 11, 1992 In this episode, Rose is promoted to associate producer of the Wake Up Miami show at a local TV station, and books Dorothy and Blanche as guests for a talk show. But they are both shocked, as the cameras roll, to learn that the segment, “Women Who Live Together,” is about lesbians. Though they’re furious at being tricked into making the appearance, Dorothy and Blanche decide to play along rather than risk costing Rose her job.
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.
Meditations On Love What’s it all about, Alfie? By Jaime Woo
I did my undergraduate degree in engineering, and although most of my courses were in the maths and sciences, I had to take electives in the arts and humanities to round out my education. While some of my classmates hated it, preferring to focus only on what they deemed practical, I loved these classes. If engineering showed us how the world worked, then arts and humanities demonstrated why we should care about it. In a course on Canadian literature, I was introduced to Barbara Gowdy, and immediately became hooked. She crafts worlds of weirdos and freaks, and in telling their stories, she asks us to inspect our own aversion to them: we are let into their lives, but in fact what we reveal is something about our own natures. The title of one of her most famous collections of stories has stayed with me throughout the years: We So Seldom Look On Love. It’s a curious title, because we seem to be always talking about love. In my early 20s, discussing relationships took up as much space as any other topic. Yet, as many of us get older, we notice – we feel in our bones – just how little love there actually is. There are love songs, and love stories, and viral proposals, but then you look at a world that lets people starve, or freeze, or gather dust in the corner. Surely, a world that knows how to love, that saturates in it, wouldn’t allow those things to happen.
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When I was younger, love was that clicking together that felt so effortless it had to be meant to be. I didn’t believe in soulmates, because you obviously had to work at it, but I wanted that rapturous sensation that came from falling in love. I wanted the feeling that inspires people to gush that they had found their favourite person – their best friend – and just couldn’t imagine life without that person.
love from The Road Less Traveled, sharing that she “first learned to understand love ‘as the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” She carefully separates love from care and affection and cathexis (“the process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us,” as she explains). This is important because when I think of those love songs and stories and proposals, most of them embody these qualities rather than love. (There could be a whole parlour game that could come from separating love songs into these categories. “I Will Always Love You”: love. “The Heart Does Go On”: affection and cathexis.) There are two parts to the definition of love that hooks puts forward: the extension of self, and the nurture of spiritual growth. What’s powerful about this is that it reminds us that love is not some uncontrollable force that overtakes us, but a meaningful choice. Love would be nothing but a series of hormonal reactions if it were not for intention. I was talking to my friend and 1 Queen 5 Queers castmate Hollywood Jade about love, and he agreed that love is a choice. Crucially, however, it means having to be honest about both sides of love: “You can fall in love, but no one talks about falling out of love,” he says. “When you fall in love with someone, you’re choosing to love that person, and when you fall out of love, you’re choosing not to love that person in that capacity.” When we fall out of love, we’re deciding to reserve our energy that otherwise would go towards their spiritual growth.
That sort of complex, nuanced decision making usually gets filtered out of the reductive understanding of love that is downloaded onto us through popular culture and social media algorithms. It helps me understand why I’ve become more cautious about entering relationships as I get older, because relationships take so much from us, and we have to ask, if we are in a relationship looking for love, will it further our own and their spiritual growth?
I wish I had read bell hooks’ 2000 book All About Love when it was first published. It unpacks love in a way I could have used before entering my major relationships. She meditates on a definition of
Hollywood echoed that sentiment. To date someone, “they’re going to have to add so much value that I deem them worthy of my love – and that sounds arrogant, but it’s not, because my love
I’ve yet to feel that. At this point, I can’t be sure if I haven’t found it, or if I found it and just didn’t feel as strongly about it as others do.
LOVE pork and cabbage. I’d make a pork bone and napa cabbage soup, and dutifully carry two portions of each on the bus to her apartment. She’d steam a fish for us, and we’d eat while she asked me questions. They were the ones she’d always ask: was I doing okay financially; had I found someone to marry; how was my brother doing. She was a worrier, perpetually hoping to see us all settled down before she passed. I’d answer as best as I could in my broken Cantonese, and the answers weren’t always what she wanted to hear, but I knew all she wanted for me was to be taken care of. Then she’d watch the clock that hung on her wall, anxiously ensuring I wouldn’t miss the bus. Even as I shared that I could check online for the bus schedule, she’d be vigilant that I mustn’t miss the bus and end up standing too long in the cold. is rich and valuable, and needs to be treated as such.” A wise, beautiful reminder of the power of love. As grown-ups, we have so many relationships, so many responsibilities to the people around us, and I understand what he means, in that if we bring someone into our lives, will they make us better, and in turn fuel us to make those we already love better – and if not, why would we want any less than that? *** I’ve never enjoyed Valentine’s Day. I hate fighting for reservations, and the consumerist idea of demonstrating love through buying expensive things. Even when I was partnered, I chose to spend my Valentine’s Day with my grandmother. She didn’t even know it was Valentine’s Day, but I started the tradition when she entered her 90s, understanding that every Valentine’s Day could be our last together. I would spend the day making dumplings, rolling out wrappers from scratch and then filling each one carefully with a blend of
Before I left, she’d hand me a box of steamed sponge cake that she knew I enjoyed greatly, and a hefty container of steamed sticky dumplings. As she got older, she’d be too tired to cook, so I’d bring dessert along with my dumplings and some extra soup. I chose to be with her on Valentine’s Day because when I reflected on love I thought about the sacrifices she had made to bring our family halfway around the world, to give us freedoms and opportunities we couldn’t find back in her village. I think about the definition of love that bell hooks uses, and how my grandmother gave up and took on so much so that we as a family could grow. She lived alone, and it was hard for me to think of her being by herself on a day when we should be celebrating love. She passed a few years ago, and I stopped doing anything on Valentine’s Day. I recognize in hindsight that that was out of grief. She was gone, and with her went my desire to do anything for the occasion. But this year will be different. Grief, after all, is an extension and expression of our love, so I’ll spend Valentine’s Day visiting her grave, with a warm container of dumplings and soup by my side.
JAIME WOO is a writer based in Toronto, focusing on the intersection of technology and culture. He’s best-known for his Lambda Literary-nominated book, Meet Grindr, dissecting how the design of the infamous app influences user behaviour.
A Stor y Of Disability A n d S ex One of the biggest barriers for people with disabilities is the assumption that they are not sexual. Not so!
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By Adam Zivo
Conversations around inclusion and representation typically but the chance of death was marginal. These are the facts. recognize the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities. However, they also tend to ignore the fact that these “If you get a prosthetic ball, they’re going to tell you to be realistic individuals are desexualized in society, an issue which isn’t trivial about your size. A lot of men aren’t,” I told him. for those who simply want to enjoy the same romantic and sexual freedoms available to everyone else. Many people with disabilities He was relieved. In the end, the cancer scare turned out to be a see desexualization as a form of erasure that strips them of the false alarm, but for a time it seemed that, in yet another respect, fullness of their humanity – and that should be talked about. our bodies were not so different – perhaps both had betrayed us in the same way. To better understand this issue, I spoke with Colin Phillips, a university lecturer at X University and Renison University The question of difference, of being made into an outsider, is College. Colin is a seasoned academic who studies homelessness something that Colin constantly contends with. He considers his and affordable housing from an urban policy perspective. He also greatest accomplishment to be the relative banality of his life. happens to be disabled, as his cerebral palsy renders him unable Absent his disability, he is just another queer kid who escaped to walk or speak. southwestern Ontario and metamorphosed into a downtown professional. He told me, “I want to be seen as a potential partner, I first remember seeing Colin years ago at Naked Boys Reading, but I’m not. Things like going to Hanlan’s Point or showering at a charitable event that raised money by offering exactly what its the gym is partly a political act. I force myself and my body into title implies. He and I were both readers. When his turn to perform queer spaces.” came, his assistant placed him on the stage, where he played a prepared speech off his phone. It’s not as though Colin is incapable of sex. He is an in-shape, 38-year-old with a good job and a high libido. Yet his disability It’s rare for disabled bodies to be seen naked in public – even trumps that. He told me that his sexual erasure happens in three rarer outside a medical or caregiving context. Yet there he was, different ways. as unashamed as any other performer. As his speech had been outsourced to his phone, Colin’s performance was narrowed down “The first, and the most painful, is when men see me as a friend, but to his physical presence – to the job of being looked at. Thus his not as a potential partner. I’ve never figured out how to overcome nudity, which was already unlike everyone else’s, had a special this one. Sadly, there are so many anecdotes that I could tell.” intensity to it: look at me; I inhabit a body, too. Colin went on, “The one that hurts the most is when I finally had His disability was a shell, beneath which there was just another body, coffee with someone who I had known for a few years. Similar as banal as everyone else’s, brimming with its own idiosyncrasies interests, lifestyles, etc. During our ‘date,’ I could see it – I could and possibilities. see sharing space with him, making love with him. Later, he said that we were not on a date and refused to have a conversation Years flashed by and we stayed in each other’s orbits through about my disability.” social media. Then we met again when it seemed that he might have testicular cancer. He messaged me about it because I had had However, there are nuances to this. Earlier this year, Colin was the same cancer years before. I went to his place and together we pursuing someone who eventually told him he wasn’t interested. went over the risks – perhaps, like me, he would lose a testicle, Though Colin immediately jumped to his disability as an explanation,
COVER Colin Phillips (photos by Adam Zivo)
someone eventually pointed out that the man simply was not looking to be with anyone, disabled or otherwise. The second form of erasure Colin experiences is the silence he often encounters on dating apps and websites. Ironically, he also occasionally bumps into people who fetishize him for his disability, much as some people fetishize trans lovers. Those people receive an instant block – because to be unilaterally reduced to a fetish fantasy is dehumanizing in its own way. The third and most subtle form of desexualization occurs with new lovers who, upon sleeping with Colin, show signs of surprise at his body’s normalcy. How does Colin address his desexualization? He tried oversexualizing himself, hoping that would bridge the gap. Then he took the opposite approach and tried to normalize his life. Neither worked. He is, of course, not the only one navigating this issue – and I think back to an experience I had in my early 20s, when a prominent disability activist messaged me on Grindr. At first, he oozed confidence, and I thought he would be lovely to meet. Then, when I perused his social media, a different image emerged. He was seemingly obsessed with his disabilities and their relationship to sex, which would not have been an issue had it not come off as deeply insecure. The way he spoke about, and depicted, other men suggested that he saw them not as distinct people with needs and wants of their own, but rather as sex objects who existed to assuage his anxieties. Under the guise of activism and representation, he produced a photo series of himself in bed with an impossibly attractive man. The photos lacked intimacy and seemed like proof-of-conquest. If his point had been to underline how he was just like any other person, then he succeeded – but mostly insofar as he demonstrated that he, too, could objectify others. I thought of rap music videos I’d seen as a kid, in the 2000s, where women existed as ornamental props.
MARCH / APRIL 2022
Yet I also understood where he was coming from – because I also have a disability, rooted in a spinal deformity that, since utero, has dulled and weakened the lower half of my body, leading to side effects that inconvenience me almost every day. I couldn’t orgasm until I was 21, and, even now, my capacity to enjoy sex feels precarious. I understood his insecurity and his need to construct a hypersexual persona to compensate, because I had done the same, albeit with slightly more tact. I stopped replying to the activist. No, he was too dominated by his body, too preoccupied with litigating his normalcy. He also loved wearing terrible hats. I wondered if he would interpret my ghosting as a rejection of his disability. Would it be better to tell him the truth – that I was not into him as a person? I asked Colin about the tension between wanting to be seen and acting entitled to other people’s bodies. He replied, “I’m not entitled to anyone’s body – I’ve admittedly not always remembered this and have been pushy on occasion – but I am entitled to be seen and spoken to. It’s really about being in spaces and normalizing my body.”
“For better or worse, I’m a middle-class, urban queer man who goes to Hanlan’s and posts the occasional locker-room shirtless selfie. I’m also just a guy who teaches qualitative research methods and social policy, and who does stuff around the community. That balance seems to be missing for some folks in the disability community and I think that’s a problem.” He added, “Have I been far too quick to send a picture to prove something? Absolutely, but I am working on that.” Though questions of sexual legitimacy, visibility and insecurity are deeply personal, they can sometimes be thrust into the unforgiving limelight of public policy. In the Netherlands, there has been debate about the government’s role in subsidizing sex for the disabled. Though no sex grant exists per se, citizens with disabilities receive funds that they can spend however they’d like – and some spend that money on sex. This has inspired pushback from those who feel uncomfortable seeing tax dollars spent on sex, as well as those who raise safety concerns. For example, can disabled women trust that they will not be abused by male sex workers? The latter concerns, however, risk taking an overly paternalistic attitude towards the disabled, stripping them of the right to make their own risk assessments. Medical ethicists have noted that sex and disability have long been seen exclusively through the lens of protecting the vulnerable, but what if a person with a disability tires of being reduced to their vulnerability? Colin believes that state-subsidized sex is not a good solution. “It would, at least for me, fail to address the underlying problem. If anything, I’d see it as yet another person being paid to know and touch me intimately.” He noted, however, that he is someone who is fully able to pleasure himself, and that those who can’t may have a different relationship to publicly subsidized sex. There’s no straightforward way to tackle the desexualization of the disabled: there are so many kinds of disabilities, each of which brings its own set of considerations. As Colin acknowledges, his experiences are not universal. How could they be? Each disabled person inhabits a different body, which they navigate in their own way.
Colin Phillips (photos by Adam Zivo)
However, at the very least, the rest of society can work on acknowledging that people with disabilities want to have sex, and that they deserve opportunities to experience sexual and romantic fulfillment, just like everybody else. To recognize the sexuality of people with disabilities is to recognize them as full-fledged human beings, rather than receptacles of pity.
ADAM ZIVO is IN Magazine’s politics and culture columnist. He is a Toronto-based social entrepreneur, photographer and analyst best known for founding the LoveisLoveisLove campaign.
Colin knows the activist I mentioned, and went on to say that this activist, and others in the disability community who focus on sex, “at best do not represent me, and often do harm.” He noted that his public persona is not defined by his desexualization, because he thinks that would not only be defeatist, but would also further marginalize him from the very community he seeks acceptance from.
REMEMBERING TRAILBLAZING TRANSGENDER MODEL APRIL ASHLEY
Elvis Presley, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí were all said to have been smitten with Ashley, who was the second British person to undergo male-to-female gender reassignment surgery in the 1960s, and who died late last year
MARCH / APRIL 2022
By Christopher Turner
On December 27, 2021, model April Ashley passed away at her Early life home in London, England, at the age of 86. In recent years, Ashley Ashley was born George Jamieson on April 29, 1935, to a workinghas been hailed as a trailblazer for her campaigning work for the class couple living in Liverpool, one of nine children (six who transgender community, but her life hadn’t always been filled with survived). As a young boy, Ashley was bullied and beaten, and praise and adoration. Ashley underwent gender reassignment surgery said she felt like a stranger in her own body. in 1960, before embarking on an international modelling career that saw the British beauty photographed by the world’s top photographers “I never grew up as I was supposed to,” she recalled in The First and landing her on the pages of the most fashionable magazines, Lady, a 2006 memoir about her childhood. “I was emaciated and including Vogue. But it all came to a halt when she was outed as very shy. I felt like a total freak. There were no whiskers, my voice a transgender woman by The Sunday People newspaper in 1961. didn’t break and I sprouted breasts. I hated myself and there was no one I could look to.” Ashley – who was only the second British person to undergo maleto-female gender reassignment surgery – became the subject of As George, at the age of 16, Ashley joined the merchant navy; public ridicule, but she persevered and in recent years was widely however, she was given a dishonourable discharge following a recognized for her role in championing transgender causes. Here’s suicide attempt. By some accounts, she had been raped by a fellow her story. sailor before the incident. A second suicide attempt resulted in Ashley
"IN RECENT YEARS, ASHLEY HAS BEEN HAILED AS A TRAILBLAZER FOR HER CAMPAIGNING WORK FOR THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY, BUT HER LIFE HADN’T ALWAYS BEEN FILLED WITH PRAISE AND ADORATION" being sent, at age 17, to the Ormskirk District General Hospital psychiatric unit. There, Ashley was treated with electroconvulsive therapy and injected with male hormones. Ashley fled the hospital for London in 1955, followed by a move to Paris. By the late 1950s, she had begun using the name Toni April. Having started cross-dressing, she began working at the famed Le Carrousel nightclub in Paris, which was famous for its drag acts, and befriended performers such as Coccinelle, an internationally recognized trans woman, and Kiki Moustic. When Moustic gave her the number for a doctor in Casablanca, Morocco, Ashley began saving money to undergo gender reassignment surgery. It’s in Paris where she met Elvis Presley, who was reported to have been captivated by her when they met. At the time, Ashley was wearing women’s clothing and Presley apparently had no idea that she was a man. The pair never slept together, but whenever they met up in the years afterward, Presley always bought her a bottle of champagne. At the age of 25, having saved £3,000, Ashley travelled to Casablanca and underwent sex reassignment surgery on May 12, 1960, which was performed by pioneering doctor Georges Burou. She was only his ninth patient and only the second Briton to undergo male-tofemale transition surgery. “Au revoir, monsieur,” Dr. Burou told her before administering an anesthetic. Some seven hours later, Ashley awoke to the words, “Bonjour, mademoiselle.” After the surgery, all of Ashley’s hair fell out and she endured significant pain, but the operation was successful and she later said that becoming a woman made her the happiest she had ever been. In the early days of her recovery, she had only been given a 50-50 chance of survival, but she told an interviewer years later that she hardly cared: “I would prefer to have died than not to have the operation.” After undergoing the groundbreaking procedure, Ashley returned to England and officially became named April Ashley, obtaining a passport, a national insurance card and a driver’s licence, all of which identified her as female. Attempts to persuade the superintendent registrar to change her birth certificate, however, failed. Modelling career Upon her return to the UK, Ashley embarked on a successful modelling career, and was photographed by famed fashion and portrait photographers Terence Donovan, Richard Dormer and
David Bailey. There were appearances in British Vogue (shot by Bailey) among other high-profile magazines, and she even won a small role in Norman Panama’s The Road to Hong Kong, which starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Joan Collins. The film would hit theatres in 1962, after the scandal erupted. In 1961, her career was abruptly cut short after a friend sold her story to the British tabloid Sunday People, which then outed her as transgender. It caused a significant stir at the time; in fact, her film credit was dropped from The Road to Hong Kong because of the scandal. "My career was destroyed, and apart from jobs where you were paid under the table, I never worked again,” she once told The Liverpool Echo. "With others, when they found out, my shifts would be changed, my hours reduced, and then they would tell me they didn’t need me…but then advertise for someone else. It was heartbreaking because I would have been a movie star." Despite the scandal, she found solace in the underground of London’s swinging ’60s, where she partied with artists including Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso and was a fixture on the social scene. By her account, Dalí and Picasso wanted her to pose for them; she demurred, deciding they seemed too salacious. Corbett v Corbett In 1963, Ashley married aristocrat Arthur Cameron Corbett in Gibraltar, on Spain’s south coast, but the marriage soon ended. In 1966, Ashley’s lawyers tried to claim financial support, which prompted Corbett to respond the following year by filing suit to have the marriage legally annulled. Corbett asked the court to declare that there had been no marriage, saying Ashley was in fact a man, even though he knew she had transitioned in 1960. Ashley disagreed, saying that she was a woman. The judge (Lord Justice Ormrod, who was himself a physician) considered medical evidence from a range of sources, but ultimately ruled that Ashley was a biological man and that it was not possible to legally change a person’s sex, which therefore rendered the marriage invalid. “It has been established that the respondent is not, and was not, a woman at the date of the ceremony of marriage, but was, at all times, a male,” Ormrod devastatingly concluded. For Ashley, the hearing in 1969 was an utter humiliation.
Corbett v Corbett and their resulting 1970 divorce was a landmark legal case that changed transgender rights in the UK for the worse, creating a legal precedent that allowed the widespread practice of legal discrimination against transgender and intersex people throughout Britain. As a result of Justice Ormrod’s decision, the unofficial correcting of birth certificates for transsexual and intersex people ceased, beginning more than 30 years of legal discrimination. After the annulment Despite the humiliation, after the annulment Ashley rallied, took advantage of the publicity and opened a restaurant, April and Desmond’s (also known as AD8), in the Knightsbridge neighbourhood of London. The restaurant and nightclub was flooded with show-business customers including Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Keith Moon and Dusty Springfield, but, despite her celebrity clientele, the public backlash and the negative attention she received from the court case became too much. The stress led to a heart attack in 1975 and, left with nothing, Ashley closed the restaurant and retreated to the US west coast to escape the prejudice and discrimination she faced at home. But Ashley’s life wasn’t just a series of hardships. She tied the knot for a second time with Jeffrey West in the 1980s. They parted but remained friends until her death. Reported romances with highprofile heartthrobs followed, garnering expected media attention. Egyptian actor Omar Sharif and British star Peter O’Toole were both said to have bedded the beauty. Ashley also claimed to have had a brief romance with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence in the early 1980s. Ashley returned to Britain in 2005, when she was legally recognized as female thanks to the Gender Recognition Act and became widely recognized for her role in championing transgender causes. In fact, in 2012, Ashley was awarded an OBE (the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from Charles, Prince of Wales, for her work raising awareness about transgender causes. “I never asked to be born like this,” she stated after receiving the honour from the heir apparent to the British throne. “I would like to have been born normal like everyone else. I wanted to live in the real world and do what everyone else does, but I think I have lived my life with enormous dignity.” That she did.
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“I don’t know whether life would have been so different if I had been born later,” she told the Liverpool Echo the following year. “It was incredibly difficult, but one has to keep one’s dignity. And I just had to get by as I have. Was I a pioneer? I just got on with my life. There was no point in being bitter. My father always taught me that the only person bitterness hurts is yourself. He said we are here to enhance life, and if you can’t enhance it, bugger off.” She remained in the limelight in later years. At the age of 80, she advised actor Eddie Redmayne on how to approach the role of Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper’s 2015 film The Danish Girl, and was thanked in the film’s credits. The film, which was based on the 2000 novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, was loosely inspired by the lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Elbe was a Danish painter and transgender woman, and among the early recipients of sex reassignment surgery. The film has been criticized in recent years for its casting of an English 32
cisgender man to play a Danish transgender woman. Although he earned a Golden Globe nomination, a SAG nomination, a BAFTA nomination and a Oscar nomination for portraying Elbe, Redmayne told The Sunday Times in 2021 that he “wouldn’t take it on now” in retrospect. “I made that film with the best intentions, but I think it was a mistake.” Regardless, over the years Ashley grew to become a kind of grande dame of Britain’s transgender community, appearing on television to answer questions about her childhood and identity. Besides the OBE, she was named a citizen of honour at a ceremony in Liverpool Town Hall on her 80th birthday in 2015, and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Liverpool the following year. Among many other awards, April also won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the European Diversity Awards in 2014; in 2017 she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gay Times; in 2018 she received The Oldie Woman Award; and in 2019 she was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of London. There was even a major retrospective exhibition of her life in the Museum of Liverpool, April Ashley; Portrait of A Lady, that attracted one million visitors in 2013. At a time when LGBTQ+ people were largely excluded from the spotlight, she’s became an inspiration thanks to her fight for her place in society. As a more informal adviser to thousands of LGBTQ+ people who sent her letters in later years, seeking advice about transitioning or dealing with hostile family members, she said she typically responded by offering blunt encouragement and information. Ashley usually offered three suggestions, which she shared with the Times of London: “Be kind to yourself, and to others. Be beautiful on the inside, and that will show on the outside. But most of all, be brave. Because you’ll need to be.”
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.
SPRING GLOW MARCH / APRIL 2022
Get that glow and make a serious fashion statement this season
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FASHION MARCH / APRIL 2022
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FASHION MARCH / APRIL 2022
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FASHION MARCH / APRIL 2022
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MARCH / APRIL 2022
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READING MM: HOW GAY ROMANCE SCRATCHES AN ITCH FOR STRAIGHT WOMEN Taking a look at women who write gay male romance novels By Paul Gallant
MARCH / APRIL 2022
When Lauren Blakely, a married straight 49-year-old woman living in Seattle and a voracious reader, came upon the 2007 literary sensation Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman, a gay romance that was made into a 2017 movie starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, she devoured it in a weekend. Then read it twice more. And then she decided she wanted to write a romance between two men. Blakeley wasn’t a writing newbie: she had started writing romance novels in 2013. You know the stereotypical romance novel: girl meets guy, then something keeps them apart for a while, then they get together, man and woman, happily ever after. Blakely became known for her steamy and passionate writing. Her first gay romance, A Guy Walks Into My Bar, was her playing with the idea of whether it was possible for two men, strangers, a US hockey player and a British bartender, to fall in love in six days. “I thought, ‘If half my readers read it, that would be great.’ It was a passion project for me,” Blakely tells me by phone. It became a bestseller.
Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash
Of course, Blakely isn’t the first straight woman to become successful telling stories about man-on-man love and sex. In the romance novel category, which is well-known to be dominated by female readers and writers, MM (male-male) is not something from another universe, it’s a substantial subgenre, just a step or two over from MF (male-female) fiction. The gay themes – furtive glances in locker rooms, workplace rivalries overturned in shared hotel rooms – are not necessarily aimed at gay men. In fact, one survey has suggested that 87 per cent of MM romance readers are female. It’s certainly working for Blakely: her MM romances have gotten her the number one spot on USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists. Of the 100 romances she’s written, a substantial number have titles like The Virgin Scorecard and The One-Week Husband, with covers featuring chiseled men so overheated they might rip off the reader’s clothes right from their spot on the cover. Because FM romance books these days can have similarly racy covers, a potential buyer sometimes must read the text on the back to tell that these books are gay, not straight.
"OF COURSE, BLAKELY ISN’T THE FIRST STRAIGHT WOMAN TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL TELLING STORIES ABOUT MAN-ON-MAN LOVE AND SEX" “An annoying sigh escaped River’s lips,” Blakely writes in The Bromance Zone. “‘Do you think you and Jack will just snap back to friendship once you stop messing around?’ I shrugged, full of postcoital bravado. ‘Sure. Why not? Plenty of men and women go back to being friends after having a sex fling.’ Although I didn’t want to think of sex with Jack ending – mostly because I liked getting laid. I liked it a lot.” Blakely has a personal connection to the material – but not in the way you’d think. Her father, who is gay, was closeted in the early years of his marriage to her mother. Interestingly, her parents stayed married after he came out. “Their decision to stay married has influenced me tremendously in how I think about love and romance,” Blakely says. “I chose to write about men who are out and comfortable being out. They move fluidly among their straight friends and gay friends, and they’re unafraid, at the end of the books, to get down on one knee and propose. I love being able to create a world my father wasn’t able to embrace when he was young.” Blakely has a gay male editor read over her books to make sure they ring true, particularly the sex scenes. “He’ll tell me which words I shouldn’t be using and he’ll pay attention to the sexual mechanics. ‘They wouldn’t do that, that wouldn’t happen that way.’ It’s not like I’ve done everything with my husband that I write about in straight romances. There’s a lot of shower sex in my books, but not in my life.” Lucy Lennox, an MM romance writer who lives with her husband and three children in suburban Atlanta, was encouraged by her sister, also a writer, to start writing novels. After Lennox wrote some FM romances, a fellow quilter in her quilting group, a Mormon woman, told her about MM romance and suggested that Lennox try writing one. Over the past five years, Lennox has written 40 romances, including titles like Hijacked, Forever Wild and Hitched. “How gay men talk about relationships is as different as how straight people talk about relationships,” Lennox tells me. “I know suburban gay couples who have a very heteronormative life, gay guys in New York who are regularly hooking up on Grindr. There’s a misconception that there’s only one way of telling a gay man’s story.” Lennox has some fascinating ideas about why straight women are drawn to MM romance. Firstly, straight romances are full of “sexist junk”: the powerful assertive man, the damsel in distress. The power dynamics can be appalling. Inverting the formulas – lady boss seduces her male assistant – can be just as cringeworthy, and often hurts sales. By having two men as leads, there’s not as much baggage in having one rescue the other, or having one more powerful than the other, or having that flip, or having them be pretty much “equal” all along. When female readers get wrapped up in a scene about a male firefighter pulling a woman out of a
burning building, they might, by default, insert themselves into the role of the female victim. If it’s a male firefighter pulling a future male lover out of a burning building, some women can more easily insert themselves into either role. It’s less about homosexuality itself than starting the game of love on a level playing field. MM romance offers lots of other nuances as well. From a storytelling perspective, male-male relationships can provide more “will they or won’t they” sexual tension. Put a naked man and woman together in a room and the situation is, for most straight readers, automatically sexual. In fact, because women are often raised to be modest, that scenario could seem unrealistic from the outset. But men can be non-sexually naked together in many circumstances, allowing for a routine shower after soccer practice to – surprise! – sparkle with lust. Rough straight sex can seem rape-y unless it’s framed as BDSM, which is a subgenre that operates in another corner of the literary marketplace. But two rival studs of equally fit physiques wrestling over something can be, for many readers, extraordinarily horny. Having a man and a woman “face off” against each other physically seems weird, rightly or wrongly, while sports are huge in MM romance. “Enemies to lovers is a delicious trope. The tension is way different when it’s between men,” says Lennox. As a straight woman, Lennox says, MM fiction allows her to read about the “male body parts” that interest her, though she is quick to point out that this experience is more nuanced than the straight male’s propensity to watch lesbian porn. MM romance writers may integrate various aspects of contemporary gay life in their books, referencing gay bars and hookup apps, for example, as well as tropes like college days and professional sports. But some components of gay culture don’t translate well for female readers. No matter how promiscuous characters might be over the course of the novel, they are expected to commit and be monogamous by the novel’s end. Writer A.E. Via set off a firestorm in the MM romance community a few years ago when a book in her erotically charged Nothing Special series, about alpha-male police detectives, ended with the main couple inviting another couple over for a foursome. “Readers lost their shit,” says Lennox. “They think it’s cheating and it’s abhorrent.” That’s when you realize – no matter how well written these books are, or how conscientious and sensitive their writers, it’s fantasy, not messy ole reality. Readers are looking for the idealistic parts of gay life: the glamour, the globe-trotting, the buff bodies, the smouldering heat. The complicated bits of gay life – self-doubt, homophobia, the difficulty of coming out, hard-to-harness desires, negotiating non-monogamy – must be set aside for a few hundred pages. MM romance, with its hot, confident bodies always ready for action or a tender moment, might not reflect reality…but they’re certainly good PR for gay men.
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.
San Juan The range of Puerto Rico’s culinary talent yields a smorgasbord of taste sensations, from the fine dining to the food trucks
MARCH / APRIL 2022
By Doug Wallace
The extra pandemic pounds are a bit of a shock when I go to throw on my best pair of trunks. Having not worn summer clothes for a few months, it is more than annoying to find that they now don’t fit, particularly on San Juan’s Condado Beach, where all the boys are, sunning themselves like lizards in their little swimsuits. I silently hate them and their stupid abs. My first trip to the beach in two years and I’m a negative Nellie. The problem is, Puerto Rico is not the place to be on a diet or to pass up any food. I should have “shrunk the package” beforehand, as a friend puts it, but now it’s too late. San Juan is a culinary wonderland and I must eat everything in sight. Within a week-long food extravaganza, we go from traditional to fine dining to offbeat menus, appreciating the expertise of some of San Juan’s top chefs and taking history lessons from time-tested food rituals. Here, even the plain-Jane meals are great. Luckily, my going-out pants have a drawstring – one that no one can see. We begin on Condado’s main drag at Ropa Vieja Grill, a cab driverrecommended eatery with a Cuban-Puerto Rican fusion menu that is so massive it takes twice as long to decide what to have. The patio is swinging, the portions are big, the value terrific – so every table is full. Specialties like black bean risotto with beef tenderloin tips and a seafood cazuela top the list, but I have my heart set on the traditional mofongo: fried and mashed plantains served with meat or seafood. My chicken version comes swimming in a tidal wave of oil and garlic. And as my plate empties, I find myself taking smaller and smaller bites to make it last longer. A few doors down at casual, bohemian-style 1950 Condado restaurant, more traditional Puerto Rican dishes await us the next night in the form of ham and manchego croquettes, stuffed tostones with ceviche, and pork ribs. The mamposteao rice is a true highlight, a richly spiced mixture of stewed red beans and rice. I could truly eat my weight in rice and beans.
Eating practice makes perfect At the other end of the sliding dining scale, we take two evenings to discover the restaurants of Puerto Rican celebrity chef Mario Pagán of Food Network’s Next Iron Chef fame. The first is the buzzworthy La Central by Mario Pagán, a cavernous steakhouse in the Distrito T-Mobil, a new entertainment complex with restaurants, cinemas, a concert venue and a convention centre all rolled into one. Everything at La Central is cooked on a wood-fired grill, the kitchen on full display, almost like dinner theatre. Groups of obvious businesspeople traipse in and jaw-off in little cliques, many heading to even more dining space upstairs. We tuck into swordfish with white bean stew and a 20-ounce New York steak with cilantro béarnaise with black truffle butter melting away on top, and finish with a corn brûlée, a caramel popcorn-and-custard combo. Latin-Asian fusion reigns at Raya by Mario Pagán, located in the chic O:LV 55 Hotel, a boutique gem. Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese influences meld here in the form of miso sea bass with truffled white yam croquetas and foie-sake emulsion, plus a black cod with lemongrass crema and yuca aniseed buñuelos (i.e., little fritters). Both of these restaurants are powerfully good and we linger at each to the point of overstaying. When the time comes to work off at least one of these fabulous meals, what do we do? Take a walking food tour, like that’s the most brilliant answer ever. There’s nothing like a little exercise to walk off what turns out to be two breakfasts, two lunches and three cocktails in quick succession with The Spoon Experience, San Juan’s premier food tour. Five stops around Old San Juan have us eating super-local, as the history of Puerto Rican food is neatly woven into details of the island’s heritage and the timelines of its Spanish and American past by informative tour personality Pablo Garcia Smith. Over rice and pork, we get into discussions about things like hot peppers and beer and cilantro, and about sofrito, the base of many Puerto Rican dishes: garlic, onion, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro cooked in olive oil. At the iconic La Taberna Lúpulo, proper Cuban sandwiches are passed around: a ham and cheese with marinated roast pork, dill pickles and mustard on a crispy Cuban
loaf, washed down with a shandy. We finish up at luxury hotel El Convento – which was once, yes, a 17th-century convent – where we polish off a lovely plate of red snapper with a daiquiri – just rum, sugar and lime – so simple but so good. Girls just wanna have fun San Juan really knows how to relax. I don’t mean that other cities don’t know how to relax, it’s just that San Juan is very outgoing, and the people socialize regularly, not just every other weekend when they can fit it into their calendars like us. One of the most convivial atmospheres to experience this is La Placita de Santurce, a square of bars, restaurants and chinchorros – takeout kiosks – ringing the old market in the neighbourhood of Santurce.
A Puerto Rican beach from the air
Locals of varying ages collect in the corner bars or in clumps in front of the market, music spilling from a half-dozen spots. We are soon taken in by the yellow neon lights of Jungle Bird, a tapas bar run by the owners of the impossibly cool La Factoría in Old San Juan. We soon have tropical drinks in our hands: mine, a Spicy Dead Lady, a mixture of mezcal, lime, cappelletti (a wine-based aperitivo) and falernum (a ginger-lime-almond syrup). The cocktails are not really Tiki per se, but more Taíno, rooted in the culinary spirit of Puerto Rico’s Indigenous forebearers. The kitchen, until recently fronted by noted trans queer chef Paxx Caraballo Moll, focuses on Caribbean dishes with an Asian twist, and we pounce on shrimp puppies with chili guava sauce, snook ceviche with cucumber and starfruit, and a tomato salad with toasted quinoa, shredded nori and pickled onion. The outdoor carnival atmosphere in Santurce gets even more foodie-forward in nearby Lote 23, a gastronomic picnic-table park, with a walkway of food kiosks serving a variety of Puerto Rican comfort foods. There’s a food truck serving only mofongo, one doing burgers, others only pizza or poke bowls. This openair food court was created with the help of a culinary mentorship program that supports and encourages young hospitality industry entrepreneurs looking to follow their food passion.
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We do the slow-wander past the chalkboard menus, narrowing down our choices. I have a whisky sour from Caneca, a mobile bar located in an Airstream trailer, and then select a fried chicken sandwich from a vendor called Hen House. It is shut-my-eyesand-exhale delicious, the most exquisite thing I have ever tasted.
Castillo Del Morro
DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource TravelRight.Today.
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Let’s just say that these will boost your outfits up at least 3 levels of chic, get no less than 5 mentions a day, and all of the attention in the room. hehe ;-)
These earrings are constructed using high precision laser cutting. Being only 3 mm thick, they are super lightweight. They are made from high quality acrylic and 925 sterling silver.
GLAAD Study Shows Record Number Of LGBTQ+ Characters On TV LGBTQ representation is on the rise thanks to streaming
LGBTQ+ representation on scripted TV series has grown along with the footprint of streaming services, according to an annual study by GLAAD. According to the advocacy group’s 17th annual “Where We Are on TV” report, out of the 775 series-regular characters on the 2021-2022 prime-time slate, 92 – or 11.9 per cent – of them are LGBTQ+. That’s not only a jump of 2.8 per cent from last year’s 9.1 per cent, but also a record-high percentage for broadcast television.
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Additionally, the report revealed that for the first time, lesbian characters represented the majority of queer characters on broadcast television, with 56 characters (40 per cent) identifying as such. While that’s an increase of six per cent from last year, the percentage of gay men on television decreased by five per cent, with 49 characters (35 per cent) appearing on scripted shows. Bisexual representation also increased, with 27 regular and recurring characters appearing in the 2021-2022 broadcast television season.
the ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC networks include a combined 141 LGBTQ characters this season, according to the study. On the broadcast side, the CW had the most LGBTQ+ representation among series regulars, with Fox a close second. The report also stated that 42 characters across broadcast, cable and streaming are transgender, an increase from last year’s 29.
"TV is leading entertainment in telling LGBTQ stories"
“TV is leading entertainment in telling LGBTQ stories,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “The growing state of LGBTQ representation on television is a signal that Hollywood is truly starting to recognize the power of telling LGBTQ stories that audiences around the world connect with.”
Racial diversity among LGBTQ+ characters is also up for both broadcast and streaming shows, though it decreased on cable shows to 45 per cent. On broadcast television, LGBTQ people of colour currently make up 58 per cent of all characters, outweighing white LGBTQ characters.
GLAAD’s report “analyzes the overall diversity of prime-time scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and assesses the number of LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on prime-time scripted cable programming and original scripted streaming series.”
Despite the many improvements across the board, certain LGBTQ spaces need a boost. For example, no broadcast network has created a show in which a majority of its cast members identify as LGBTQ. And representation of HIV-positive characters was down this year from three to just two: one in Netflix’s Dear White People and the other in NBC’s Ordinary Joe.
This year, GLAAD added five new streaming services to its report: Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock. They made for a total of 358 LGBTQ characters on streaming, up 217 “At a time when anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence continues characters from last year when there were only 141 LGBTQ to increase, it is cultural institutions like television that take on characters on streaming shows. the crucial role of changing hearts and minds through diverse and inclusive storytelling,” said Ellis. “Networks and platforms Netflix, which has consistently topped its streaming competitors must continue to prioritize telling LGBTQ stories that have been in LGBTQ+ inclusivity, according to GLAAD, ranked first again, long overlooked, with a specific focus on the trans community, with 155 regularly seen or recurring characters on its original LGBTQ people of colour, people living with HIV, and LGBTQ comedy and drama series. By comparison, prime-time series on people with disabilities.”
FLASHBACK Landmark Human Rights Decision Rules The City Of Hamilton Was Discriminatory (March 2, 1995)
An Ontario Human Rights Commission decision that was released on March 2, 1995, found that then Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow discriminated against homosexuals by refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Week in Hamilton back in 1991. In 1991, Pride Hamilton was launched by the city’s Gay And Lesbian Alliance (GALA), but Morrow refused to issue a civic proclamation for the event, citing a lack of consensus in Hamilton City Council. GALA filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which was heard in 1994. The following year, the commission ruled that Morrow’s refusal to issue a proclamation was discriminatory. The 26-page decision in the case, which was released on March 2, 1995, said Morrow contravened the Ontario Human Rights Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Morrow was ordered to pay $5,000 in damages to GALA and to issue the proclamation in 1995 if it was requested. Morrow issued a proclamation that year, but concurrently city council passed a ban on all further civic proclamations for any events at all. For years, Hamilton didn’t issue proclamations about Gay Pride Week…or anything else. Members of the governance review subcommittee reviewed the issue in 2016 and decided to stick with the 1995 decision. Finally, Bob Wade, Morrow’s successor as mayor, reinstated civic proclamations, and issued a civic proclamation of the event in 2001.
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