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CELEBRATING CANADAâ€™S LGBTQ2
STOP GENTRIFICATION TO PROTECT QUEER SAFE SPACES QUEER NIGHTLIFE IN ISOLATION
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CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF IN MAGAZINE
94 Issue 94
May / June 2020 INFRONT
06 | WELL FED Can beauty and wellness pills, powders and patches truly feed your face – all from the inside out?
08 | HEY, CAN I ASK YOU A QUESTION? Yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question – and no, you don’t need to always answer them…but you might want to 10 | PICKING A PROTEIN POWDER Finding the right supplement for your goals 11 | MANAGING YOUR LOVED ONE’S MEDICATION Tips for caregivers 12 | WASH YOUR CAR THE RIGHT WAY Give your vehicle a thorough spring clean with these helpful tips 13 | ON THE TOWN Scenes from the party circuit
A happy ending! David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) officially tied the knot during the series finale of Schitt’s Creek on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
17 | OTTAWA WELCOMES NEW HEALTH SERVICE FOR ACB COMMUNITY Learn more about the Health Zone for African, Caribbean and Black community
32 | IN A CITY FULL OF DRAG, THERE’S ONLY ONE AURORA MATRIX This drag queen is twirling and kicking her way into queer city nightlife
18 | STOP GENTRIFICATION TO PROTECT QUEER SAFE SPACES Queers need safe spaces because to us, not every place is safe
36 | MESS AROUND: YANNI BURTON GETS THE REMIX TREATMENT We talked to the artist before the release of the Pool Cosby remix of “Mess Around”
20 | SLAY IT AGAIN, SAM Artist Sam Morris shows no inhibition in his exhibition
38 | QUEER NIGHTLIFE IN ISOLATION Images from a Saturday night on Church Street in Toronto during the city’s isolation to help slow the spread of COVID-19
22 | WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH GRINDR FLAKES? A conversation with that guy who disappeared 24 | DANCING BY OURSELVES One group that’s painfully aware of social isolation is the LGBTQ community 26 | CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF IN MAGAZINE In May, IN celebrates its 10th anniversary. Here, we revisit all of our memorable, groundbreaking – and, in some cases, hilariously dated – covers!
FEATURES 14 | TRUE COLOURS Drop the mask, and step into the fullness of the life you were born to live 15 | PROFILE IN YOUTH: VIVIANNE QUANG Meet the nursing student who is dedicated to making health care more accessible for queer and trans youth
28 | LOOKING BACK AT MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE The gold standard of the pop star documentary originally hit theatres in May 1991 30 | CANADIAN COMEDIAN HAS US FEELING GOOD Mae Martin sprinkles some of her real life into her original series. With Feel Good airing on Netflix, the world is starting to take notice of her authentic brilliance
44 | CONSERVATIVE LEANINGS: ERIC DUNCAN Canada’s first openly gay man to be elected a Conservative MP is eager to distance himself from his party’s social hang-ups 46 | HOW FRIENDLY IS THAILAND FOR LGBTQ TRAVELLERS? In Thailand, we believe that diversity is amazing 48 | NORTH WALES ROAD TRIP With its quaint inns, hearty meals, rolling hills and natural beauty, this singularly stunning part of the world will charm your socks off 52 | FLASHBACK: JUNE 26, 1992 IN LGBTQ HISTORY One Life To Live’s Billy Douglas comes out 53 | 5 POWERFUL LGBTQ QUOTES These inspirational quotes are certain to brighten your day
Can beauty and wellness pills, powders and patches truly feed your face with collagen, fuel your hair with protein and protect your skin with antioxidants – all from the inside out?
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By Adriana Ermter
Used to be, an apple a day was all we needed – at least according overflowing with the vitamin C- and fibre-loaded fruit. Instead, to a Pembrokeshire proverb from the 1860s that is rumoured to we’re perusing the store’s pharmaceutical aisles in our quest to find have been the original adage, “Eat an apple on going to bed and the latest youth-enhancing, skin-glowing, hair- and nail-growing, you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” The phrase stuck, health-improving nutricosmetic we can drink, wear or pop into evolving in the 19th and early 20th centuries to “An apple a day, no our mouths so we can call it a day. doctor to pay,” and then eventually to its most commonly expressed, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” “People are busy with their careers, families and activities,” explains Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist and the founder of DLK on Avenue Lately, however, many of us have been walking past the grocery in Toronto. “Taking a pill that claims it can make your skin glow store’s produce section without a second glance at the bins or look younger is their quick fix.” 6
“Most beauty supplements, like Stunn AM and Stunn PM capsules, combine clinically researched ingredients in dosages that are designed to be effective for their intended beauty effects,” adds DePass. “Additionally, the individual ingredients often have synergistic benefits that are only found when they are taken together in the correct doses, which serve to compound the beauty-enhancing effects. When you take a beauty supplement, you are trusting that they are professionally formulated to excel in their beautyenhancing properties.”
good mental health to his 137K LGBTQ following; and Dr. Shanté a.k.a. @themovementmaestro, who promotes a healthy body and mind to 55K men and women alike. With all of the feels and none of the judgment, beauty and wellness ingestibles fall straight into this millennial-influenced mindset with their products’ feel-good, do-good promises, purpose-driven marketing, environmentally friendly packaging and, often, all-natural ingredients. Check the ingredient list twice Vitamins A, C and E are some of the most popular ingredients listed on said packaging, as they benefit both skin and hair health. Others to note are zinc, silicon, folic acid, leucine and iron for hair, and flaxseed and sunflower oils with lycopene for skin. Grass-fed collagen peptides can be found on both hair-care and skincare ingredient lists. The problem? “There’s no evidence-based medical reporting that they actually work,” says Dr. Kellett. “Vitamins, iron, antioxidants, etc., are best absorbed through bright-coloured fruits and green leafy vegetables. Even then, they go through your gut, are dissipated and excreted” before making their way to your face.
While these supplements may be new in the aesthetic sphere, it was back in the 1920s that scientists declared the need for a balanced diet based on the vitamins found in foods and their correlation The research and development teams at ingestible brand manuwith disease prevention. Courtesy of World War I economics, not facturers are willingly jumping through arduous national food, drug all foods were consistently and readily accessible, so supplements and health-bureau hoops to prove the efficacy of their plant-based in the form of essential vitamins and minerals emerged. Over the molecular formulas. Other elements – such as amino acids like next several decades, moms across North America diligently doled collagen, and proteins like peptides – are harder to verify. With out everything from castor oil and Flintstones multivitamins to limited clinical evidence, says Dr. Kellett, more research is needed vitamins A, B, C, D and E to their families – all to prevent cancer, to definitively prove their ingestible value. heart disease, colds and the flu, and to promote healthy skin and bones. So it’s only natural that beauty and wellness items are now “Collagen is just one part in the bigger picture towards creating a part of this mix. healthy-looking and feeling skin,” says Dr. Kellett. Multiple contributors like the sun’s UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays, You can thank millennials pollution, free radicals, hormones and more contribute to damaged, Currently, ingestible supplements have ballooned into a multi- dehydrated, aging and wrinkled skin. “Topical care through daily billion dollar industry that, according to a Net-A-Porter report, use of sunscreen, as well as skincare products and dermatological claimed more of shoppers’ money than skin care in 2018. As a treatments, are the best defence,” she says. result, both mega brands and mom-and-pop brands – including GoopGlow Morning Skin Superpowder; Burt’s Bees Protein + Still, one well-known area of research is with antioxidants, like Healthy Radiance Protein Shake; Hair, Skin & Nails with Collagen vitamin C, which can help protect skin from UV rays and support Gummies; Akalo’s Vitamin D3 Patch; and Stunn Collectives’ hydration, while playing a key role in collagen and keratin Capsules – are all getting into the game. production. Other compounds, such as carotenoids, polyphenols and flavonoids, support elasticity, hydration and tensile strength, “The wellness trend has exposed people to the value of good nutrition and repair skin damage. “Certain vitamins, minerals and herbs can and how good nutrition impacts the entire body, inside and out,” have a direct impact on your skin health and have lots of clinical says DePass. “It is only natural that this mindset be extended to research supporting these claims,” says DePass. Through their using nutrition through ingestible beauty supplements to aid in stimulation of natural collagen production, these ingredients are improving things like skin, hair and nails.” believed to rejuvenate skin over time and aid in hydration and glow. Daily use of beauty and wellness powders, patches and pills are Increased popularity for this whole-beauty approach can, in many typically recommended, while results are most frequently seen after ways, be attributed to millennials’ belief in self-care—a core value the initial two- to three-week period. Consistency and commitment said to have developed as a response to the uncertain political to long-term usage is key, as the cumulative process is necessary climate that began in 2016 and continues to grow, especially on in achieving the best results. smartphones, where the proof is in the posting. A quick look on Instagram, the millennial’s preferred social home base, shows more “It’s important to remember that our bodies are made of many than 25 million #selfcare posts along with too many handles to count. interconnected systems,” says DePass. “Aside from providing These include the editors at @purewow, who encourage their one direct skin benefits, most beauty and wellness supplements support million followers to gain additional #selfcare insight on their sister you internally and externally, which in turn leads to healthy aging ’gram; the 27-year-old health guide @owinpierson, who advocates and better skin.”
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.
Not to be confused with multivitamins… These are not your run-of-the-mill vitamins or multivitamins, says Ash DePass, co-founder and co-CEO of Stunn Collective in Vancouver. She describes ingestible beauty and wellness supplements (otherwise known as nutricosmetics and cosmeceuticals) as nutritional products developed with specific active ingredients. Each one provides benefits such as skin hydration, glow and radiance; an even skin tone and texture; cellular damage repair from inflammation, pollution and free radicals; and collagen and elastin production.
PRIDE AT WORK
HEY, CAN I ASK
YOU A QUESTION?
Yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question – and no, you don’t need to always answer them…but you might want to
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By Colin Druhan
My first legitimate job was at a fast food restaurant, where people could see the swish in my step and hear the way I spoke. I was hired to work in the kitchen, but having always been a bit of a talker, I didn’t find that very interesting. When I asked one of the managers if I could train to work with customers, he told me that my voice was “too gay” for the drive-thru microphone and that having someone like me up front would “send the wrong message.” Because I now work for an organization that promotes workplace inclusion on the grounds of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation, I use this story to open a lot of my public speeches. I point out that in my current position, that same “gay voice” is amplified by microphones to corporate audiences across Canada. The story and punchline usually get a few laughs. (Not 8
from my partner, of course. He’s heard that same anecdote hundreds of times, and never thought it was that funny to begin with.) However repetitive the story may be, it’s a good tool. It heads people off at the pass, since one of the most common questions I get from people is what workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation even looks like. Posed with various levels of sensitivity, other questions I get include “What acronym am I supposed to use now?” and “What do I do if I know someone is gay, but they haven’t told me yet?” My personal favourite is “What does ‘queer’ mean, anyway?” (When that one gets asked, my partner goes to the bar for another drink, because he knows I’m going to be a while.)
a huge positive. “You know, this has to be a way of life. Whether at work, at home or on holiday, this is how you need to behave all the time,” says Inspector Cathy Bawden of the Durham Regional Police Service, where for two years she led the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Unit.
I could spend hours rattling off arresting statistics about the high unemployment rate for trans people, about how queer and trans people graduate with heaps more student debt than their peers, or about the staggering number of employers who ignore their duty She explains that a lot of the questions she got in that role (and to accommodate marginalized workers. The truth is, most people continues to get, as people know she’s an expert) are about the don’t want more heavy topics to think about. They usually just “right thing to say.” Upon hearing some of the questions she gets want quick answers to their relatively simple questions about how asked, some people would brush them off as too silly to answer. not to come off like a biphobic, homophobic or transphobic mess. She disagrees with that strategy, pointing out that “silly questions are an opportunity to ask where the question comes from and why Make no mistake, I’m not complaining. I signed up for this. When they’re asking it.” She gives people the simple answers they’re your business card has rainbows on it, you have to expect that looking for, but leverages that conversation to help reveal how their people are going to ask you questions about queer and trans stuff. behaviour can change to make communication easier. However, the crucial issue I see is that most people with very simple questions tend to have them because they incorrectly put “It takes a little while for people to absorb and put into action for themselves at the centre in the dialogue about queer and trans rights. themselves,” she explains, “but with some help they’ll get there.” How do I come across to people? How can I be seen better by this community? How is everyone different from me? I like Inspector Bawden’s style because she employs an incredible amount of patience in her work. She says it helps her to remember I’m of the mindset that we can effect change in the world around us how far she’s come in her learning and how far she has to go. As only if we acknowledge that the world is larger and more complicated she puts it: “The more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know.” than our individual experiences of it. It’s such a cliché, but to really learn about others we need to get out of our comfort zone. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve worked directly with queer and trans communities for the majority of my career, but I’m still learning When it comes to creating an environment in which people can about them every day. There are too many things I will never truly push the boundaries of their knowledge, Laura McGee has it experience first-hand. I need to rely on my listening skills and locked down. She’s the founder and CEO of Diversio, a technology allow the stories of others to guide my actions so that, as much as company that uses machine learning to help organizations become possible, they’re not driven by stereotypes, assumptions or what I more inclusive. When she’s having a conversation with a group think is “best” for other people. That patience and understanding of executives who are learning about inclusion for the first time, must also extend to people who have a genuine curiosity for the she might begin with: “Let’s start from a place where we all agree lived experiences of my community but don’t yet have the language diversity and inclusion are important, and we’re here to close the to ask the right questions. gaps.” She might add: “Let’s not limit the conversation out of fear we might use the wrong terminology,” to make sure everyone feels The best advice I ever got about public speaking was that no comfortable making mistakes. matter how many times you get up in front of a crowd, you will always experience the same level of nervousness. It never gets “Assume everyone’s heart is in the right place until shown better over time. What improves is how you manage those nerves: otherwise,” explains McGee, who I know has answered some of you learn to harness that anxiety and use it as a reminder that you the same diversity questions I constantly get. She admits that it can really care about what you’re saying. If you don’t give a shit, why be frustrating, especially when people have clearly created their should anyone else? opinion based on bad information – like when people embrace the myth that there are high rates of women falsely reporting sexual The same applies when you hear the same questions a thousand misconduct or assault. “That just doesn’t happen,” she says, adding times. What’s inane to you is revelatory to someone who just doesn’t that “they hear one story and extrapolate it.” McGee doesn’t let know where else to go. You’ll likely always feel frustration when her frustration show, though. “At the end of the day, I’m a problem you get certain questions, but there’s an art to not letting that show. solver. The quickest way of achieving our collective objective is It’s one thing if the questions are too personal, are brought at an an open dialogue, a positive environment.” inappropriate time (once, a complete stranger on the subway asked me when I realized I was queer…I just turned up the volume on my She says a lot of those repetitive questions, especially the ones that headphones), or are framed in ways that are intentionally hurtful. seem to challenge the guidance she’s offering, come from fear: fear Shut that down right away. Enlist help if you need it, in order to of being “replaced” by women and minorities, fear of falling victim feel safe. Nobody has the right to make you feel uncomfortable to “PC culture,” or just fear of the unknown. Gently, McGee offers or ashamed. However, if you’ve made a conscious decision to be the reminder that “being afraid doesn’t make someone a bad person.” a formal or informal advocate for your community, a visible ally, someone who wants to help people get past those simple queries Advocacy is 24/7 (or “queeries,” if you’re feeling punny) to a place of genuine As a member of the queer community who works with the queer understanding, you’d better be prepared to answer those benign community, I feel like I’m always on duty. To be honest, I’m totally questions over and over. And over. cool with that. It helps to have colleagues who see that attitude as
COLIN DRUHAN is the executive director of Pride at Work Canada, a not-for-profit organization that empowers employees to foster workplace cultures that recognize LGBT employees. For more information, visit prideatwork.ca.
PRIDE AT WORK
What I mean to say is, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, people have the same questions over and over…and over.
Picking a Protein Powder
Finding the right protein supplement for your goals By Karen Kwan
Step into the protein powder section of a vitamin store and the vast wall of oversized containers is enough to make anyone new to using these supplements run home empty-handed. If you’re a protein powder beginner, you could ask friends what they use, but their goals and taste may differ from yours. Finding the one that will suit you doesn’t have to be overwhelming: start by paring it back to these key steps. Consider if you can eat more whole foods to meet your goal “Before diving into using a protein powder, first make sure there are not other ways to meet requirements,” says Tara Postnikoff, a nutritionist based in Toronto. “Protein powders are still supplements – they aren’t a whole food.” She recommends looking at whether there are ways you can consume more real food for upping your protein. “When you’re eating whole foods, you get more nutrients and the other cofactors that aid the body. A supplement is not absorbed in its entirety in the same way food would be.”
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Clarify what your goal is for using a protein powder Two of the most common reasons for taking a protein powder are to build muscle or to lose weight. Factor in any dietary restrictions, which will narrow down which supplements you can choose from. Keep in mind, though, notes Postnikoff, that incorporating a protein smoothie may not prove helpful if your goal is weight loss, as drinking calories doesn’t feel like you’re actually consuming them, so you might end up taking in more calories than you need. Plus, some brands contain a lot of sugar, which goes against your weight-loss goal. Read the ingredient list carefully A good starting point is to check that the ingredient list is on the short side, says Postnikoff, who also coaches and trains clients through her company Heal Nutrition. Avoid products that contain artificial sweeteners and sugars, “like aspartame, sucralose, Xylitol, anything with -ol and sucrose, maltose, dextrose – steer clear,” she says, adding that artificial colours and flavours should be on your no-go list as well. “Also, natural doesn’t mean healthy. Look for cocoa or actual chocolate, not just natural chocolate flavour, for example.” 10
Choose your type of protein The most common categories include whey and vegetarian/vegan sources. Whey is a dairy derivative – however, if you are lactose intolerant, it likely won’t affect you given that the supplement is whey protein and not sugar. Whey protein isolate is popular as it contains all of the essential amino acids and a high level of amino globulins (compounds that support the immune system), and it’s high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which help with muscle protein synthesis, says Postnikoff. Whey is also highly bio-available, meaning that most of what you consume is absorbed by your body. When looking at vegetarian and vegan sources (which include soy, pea and brown rice), she recommends that – as long as you don’t have an allergy – you use a supplement that is a blend of vegan sources, so you can ensure you’re getting the levels of essential amino acids you need. Also, look to fermented versions, as these types may help to improve the product’s digestibility. When choosing between a whey or a plant-based source, “look at the complete picture,” says Postnikoff. “If you eat a lot of meat and dairy, this may be a way to diversify your diet by using a plant-based source, giving you a broader spectrum of nutrients.” Check the grams of protein Read the labels to see how much protein each scoop delivers and calculate how many servings you’ll need to consume to meet your protein needs. Find your flavour Flavour is entirely a personal choice. Unflavoured, chocolate and vanilla are the most common. Think about how you will consume your protein powder. If you plan on blending it in a smoothie with fresh vegetables or fruit, Postnikoff suggests using unflavoured, given that you’ll have more choices of the foods you can throw into the blender with your protein powder.
KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Managing Your Loved One’s Medication Tips for caregivers
A caregiver provides support to someone in their lives, whether that be a young child or an aging parent, who has a chronic illness, an injury, or a physical or cognitive condition. Providing the best possible care and support to a loved one can be stressful and time-consuming, but Rexall pharmacists can support caregivers like you through services designed with care in mind. Rexall’s Medication Management tools can help simplify caregiving, as they are: • •
helpful and easy to use customized and designed to meet the specific needs of your loved one
Your Rexall pharmacist can help. Here’s how: Med Organizer Are you trying to ensure your loved one takes the right medication at the right time? Rexall’s Med Organizer is a convenient pack and helpful tool to ensure that people always take their medications as prescribed by their physician. The Med Organizer is a card with a total of 28 foil-covered bubbles or ‘blisters,’ with four blisters (breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime) for each day of the week; the blisters are filled with the person’s medications based on the days and times as prescribed by a physician. All your loved one needs to do, based on the time of day, is to push through the foil seal to get the medication they need to take. Additionally, if you are accompanying your loved one to their medical visits or on other trips, the Med Organizer is a convenient way to travel with their medications. During an emergency, it also outlines all their medications in an organized manner, for emergency healthcare providers to have the information necessary to help.
automatically refill the medication when it is due and before it runs out, so you’ll never miss a refill. Additionally, when you sign up for Rexall Reminder, your Rexall pharmacy will conveniently notify you via text, email or phone call to let you know the medication is ready to be picked up. Medication Review A Medication Review can help you better understand your loved one’s medication therapy and ensure that medications are being taken as prescribed. A Medication Review provides you the opportunity to sit down with your Rexall pharmacist and your loved one, to review all their medications. Your Rexall pharmacist will determine if each medication is right for your loved one and is being taken appropriately, and will also answer any questions or concerns you both may have. Additionally, your Rexall pharmacist will safely dispose of all old, expired or unused medications for you. Medication Dashboard Ensure that your loved one is getting the most out of their medications with Medication Dashboard. This is a personalized log of all medications that are taken regularly. With the Medication Dashboard, your Rexall pharmacist can work with you and your loved one to identify any gaps in refills and develop a plan to help them stay on course with their medication therapy.
If you have questions, visit www.rexall.ca or stop by your local Rexall to speak with your pharmacist about how they can help make caregiving simpler.
Auto Refill & Rexall Reminder Your Rexall pharmacy remembers to refill your loved one’s medications when they are due, so you don’t have to. When you enroll in Auto Refill, your Rexall pharmacy will Brought to you by
WASH YOUR CAR THE RIGHT WAY
Give your vehicle a thorough spring clean with these helpful tips By Casey Williams
My husband enjoys his winter woodworking projects in our garage, which have unfortunately left quite a layer of scruff on my old Corvette. Soon, it will be time to get it ready for the eyes of summer: charge the battery, inflate the tires, store the roof and buff its dirty body. But all that should be done carefully, to avoid further disgrace. Here are some helpful hints for cleansing your dirty ride: Get ready… Just as you wouldn’t use dish detergent in the shower, don’t splash it on your car. And keep hand soap and glass cleaner off your paint, too. All of these can damage the wax and clear coat. Instead, buy a dedicated car wash solution from your favourite auto store. Employ bug and tar remover for the tougher grime.
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Buy two sponges: one for the body/glass and another for wheels/ tires. You do not want to grind sand, road dirt and brake dust into your paint. If you drop either sponge on the ground, get another. Practise safe sponging, people. Make sure your car is chill before washing. Park in the shade, let the engine cool. A hot smooth body may elicit desire, but will evaporate water more quickly and leave a soapy film that’s difficult to wash off. Now, get down and dirty Begin by spraying the entire car with water to remove loose dirt; that way, you’ll avoid grinding it into the paint when you rub on the suds. Do not rub in circles, which can cause swirls in the paint.
Most of us don’t wash our entire body at once – we work arms, legs, body and face in due time. Likewise, when washing your car, concentrate on one section at a time and rinse with water as each section is finished. This will keep soap from drying and becoming difficult to remove. Just as you might wash your blade when shaving down for that first bike ride of the season, you want to rinse your sponge often to flush all of the debris – as in dirt, salt, bird sap…and for me, thanks to my husband, sawdust. Empty the bucket and replenish halfway through to keep from recycling all that gunk. After every inch has been scrubbed and wiped, hose the car off one more time to remove the last remnants of filth and lather. It may be environmentally friendly to let your car air-dry, but that’s probably not the best way to avoid water spots on your spotless paint and windows. Dry with a chamois, dragging it gently across the body and glass, and squeezing out water often. A terry towel is a good alternative, but if you are especially picky, use a portable air dryer made for auto detailing to evict every droplet. Of course, you can avoid all of this hassle by driving into your favourite professional car wash, paying a fee, and letting them do the dirty work. But that would deprive you of bonding with your car and feeling its every curve and crevice. When you see your work glistening in the driveway, you’ll know it was all worth it.
CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com. He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.
ON THE TOWN
SCENES FROM THE PARTY CIRCUIT By Michael Pihach
Artist Project 2020 Opening Night at Better Living Centre 1: Jeannie Polisuk, 2: Mark Gleberzon, Andrew McLeod, 3: Nick Jarzabek, 4: Kimberley Gonsalves, Michele Yeo. June’s HIV+ Eatery presented by Casey House 5: Dan Menchions, Keith Rushbrook, 6: Chef Matt Basile, Joanne Simons, 7: Ryan Arima, Michael Fazal, Ryan Murphy, Taylor Russell, 8: Dacia Hibbert, June’s Chef Tara, June’s Chef Kenneth, Matthew Halse. Miss Canada Continental Pageant 2020 at the Phoenix – photos by Drag Coven 9: Amanda Roberts, Vanessa Van Cartier, Mona Moore, Brooke Lynn Hytes, 10: Farra N. Hyte, 11: Heaven Lee Hytes, 12: Cira Flexion.
Colours Drop the mask, and step into the fullness of the life you were born to live By Jumol Royes
Queer people don’t grow up as ourselves; we grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimize humiliation and prejudice. The massive task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us and which parts we’ve created to protect us. I wish I could take credit for this quote, but I can’t.
Living an authentic life might sound like an amazing Instagram hashtag, but the work required to achieve it is almost always messy and fraught with land mines. You’ve no doubt heard about quarter- or mid-life crises. If you haven’t experienced one yet, trust me, it’s coming. The process is marked by profound, philosophical questions like “Who am I, really?” and it feels as if the world as you know it has been turned upside down.
It’s the first in a series of viral tweets sent out earlier this year by writer and activist Alexander Leon. The tweets had a lot of people talking and seemed to really resonate with the LGBTQ2+ community. “It’s not a crisis; it’s a slow, brutal unravelling,” says researcher, They got me thinking about all the masks we wear as queer folk, as storyteller and New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown. well as about my own personal journey of blossoming, blooming “This is where everything that we thought protected us keeps us and becoming the person I was meant to be. from being the partners, the parents, the professionals, the people that we want to be.” When I was about six or seven years old, I had a special white sweatshirt with a picture of Bart Simpson on the front (if you’re The thing about self-discovery and self-awareness is that once you of a particular age, you’ll recall what a pop-culture phenomenon start down the path towards seeing yourself as you truly are, you The Simpsons was back in the day). I wore it to school with pride, can’t unsee it. Think of it like crossing over a threshold from which only to have it ruined when the class bully pushed me down into there’s no turning back. You can either let fear keep you stuck and the mud one day at recess. I don’t know for sure why he enjoyed feeling paralyzed, or you can choose to be brave and step into the picking on me. Perhaps he was jealous, or maybe he could sense fullness of the life you were born to live. that I wasn’t like all the other boys. Regardless, the message I received came through loud and clear: being different puts a All of this is to say – be kind to yourself. Discovering who you bull’s-eye on your back. Figure out a way to fit in at all costs. To really are is an enormous task; it doesn’t happen overnight, nor this day, I sometimes still catch myself trying to “act macho,” and does it happen without some hiccups along the way. Be patient, affect a deeper tone in my voice when I enter a barbershop to get be compassionate, be vulnerable and exist loudly. And most of a haircut. Old habits… all – be proud!
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The costs associated with armouring up and putting on a mask don’t come cheap. Data collected by the Canadian Mental Health Association in Ontario shows that compared to heterosexual people, LGBTQ2+ people face higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm and substance use, as well as double the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s massive and existential and difficult. But I’m convinced that being confronted with the need for profound self-discovery so explicitly (and often early in life!) is a gift in disguise. We come out on the other end wiser and truer to ourselves. Some cisgender/ heterosexual people never get there.
I loved crayon etching or scratch art when I was a kid. I would draw pictures with vibrant colours, cover them over with black crayon and then scratch away until the colours revealed themselves again. It’s the perfect metaphor for my life and the lives of many of us in the LGBTQ2+ community. From an early age, we were taught that it wasn’t safe or normal or acceptable to be our authentic selves and let our true colours shine through. And so we learned to hide them. Our collective soul assignment is to unlearn those lessons and to live our lives boldly, brightly and in full colour.
JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-based storyteller and communications strategist with a keen interest in personal development and transformation and a love of all things Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol.
Profile in Youth: Vivianne Quang Meet the nursing student who is dedicated to making health care more accessible for queer and trans youth By Courtney Hardwick
Equal access to health care is a point of pride for Canadians, but the reality is that many people still struggle to get exactly what they need from the healthcare system. Vivianne Quang, a nursing student at Western University, is determined to change that. From better training for mental health professionals to making sexual health education more inclusive, Vivianne is passionate about advocating for LGBTQ2S+ youth and helping them get access to the resources they need to thrive. Creating safer spaces for LGBTQ2S+ youth is something you’ve been advocating for in the past few years. Can you describe what that means to you? I have had the privilege of seeing the growth and transformation that LGBTQ2S+ youth experience when they have a space to authentically exist. I think most queer and trans people know what it’s like to feel like they have to hide part of themselves in order to safely navigate our society. That’s why it’s so important to make spaces that clearly state, “We see you, this space is meant for you, and we will accept you for all that you are.” Can you give us examples of changes that can help LGBTQ2S+ youth feel more welcome and secure? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but I do believe it is valuable to start with collectively creating community guidelines that all participants can be held accountable to. What was it like working at Camp fYrefly, a leadership camp for LGBTQ2S+ youth? It was incredibly moving to see the journey participants experienced throughout the four days. On Day 1, everyone was a bit nervous and quiet. By the end of Day 4, all the participants were in tears over having to leave the chosen family they had grown so close to. Even when the four days came to an end, the passion, ideas, community and learnings live on and are shared with the world through each and every participant. I believe camp truly makes the world a kinder place. One of my favourite parts about camp was the spaces we held for specific groups within our community, such as racialized spaces and trans-femme spaces. Even within the queer community, these spaces can be challenging to find. Personally, as a queer and trans person of colour, that experience of being part of a queer, racialized space has been absolutely invaluable. What kinds of things did you get to work on at the Centre for Sexuality in Calgary? I had the privilege to witness and participate in a number of initiatives, such as updating the provincial sex education curriculum to incorporate an anti-oppressive lens, meeting with Alberta Health Services to make health care more inclusive for queer and trans people, and working with Calgary’s GSA network.
Can you talk about the importance of making mental health resources available to LGBTQ2S+ youth? They are dealing with a range of unique challenges and are disproportionately affected by mental health-related issues. That’s why tailored mental resources are necessary to help address the stigma and discrimination they face. I believe that all mental healthcare providers need to receive adequate training on how to provide care for LGBTQ2S+ individuals and communities. Even small things – like including their pronoun with introductions or having a supportive poster/ sticker in their office – can help queer and trans youth feel more at ease with their mental healthcare provider. Have you seen connections between your work with homeless populations and advocacy for LGBTQ2S+ youth? Homelessness also disproportionately affects LGBTQ2S+ youth. Many are kicked out of their homes once their family discovers they are queer. I have worked with queer homeless people, trans women in particular. Unfortunately, many shelters and other services for homeless people discriminate against transgender folks. This issue definitely needs to be addressed. How does sexual education need to change to become more inclusive for both the LGBTQ2S+ community and allies? I think what people need to understand is that comprehensive sex education isn’t just about anatomy, birth control and STIs. It also includes boundary-setting, consent, healthy relationships and self-image. When these topics don’t have an inclusive lens, it can create a lot of harm and misinformation, which can lead to people participating in high-risk activities. For too long, sex and sex education have been used to control bodies, and it is time to change that. Sex-ed needs to be inclusive, not only of all genders and sexualities but also of all bodies, abilities, ethnicities and cultures. Creating inclusive sex-ed curriculums is a continuous process that requires constant reflection and integration of new evidence.
Peace Tea proudly supports inclusivity, diversity & love
COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.
A variant of period, periodt is an interjection used to signal the end of a discussion or to emphasize a point. It usually occurs at the end of a statement or in the phrase.
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Mint Media’s most recent video campaign was nothing short of a queer masterpiece, periodt.
WELCOMES NEW HEALTH SERVICE FOR ACB COMMUNITY
Learn more about the Health Zone for African, Caribbean and Black community
The ACB Health Zone is founded on the premise that the ACB (African, Caribbean and Black) community constitutes a population that experiences significant disparities in health and wellness. With this in mind, ACB Health Zone’s mission is to reduce the transmission of HIV and STIs among members of the ACB community by providing culturally appropriate and holistic services and programs that build community and enhance wellness. The ACB Health Zone takes place every Monday evening from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre in downtown Ottawa, and has been made possible thanks to the support of ViiV Healthcare Canada. IN Magazine talked with Haoua Inoua, manager of education and prevention of the Health Zone, to learn more about it. What types of services are offered through this program? The ACB Health Zone provides anonymous HIV testing and connection to primary care services, immigration/settlement support, and family and drop-in programming. The Zone also provides workshops and discussions on various topics such as mental health, stigma, employment, housing, racism, LGBTQ+ rights, ACB diet and nutrition, mindful meditation, art, and diabetes screening, as well as referrals to other community services and programs. Why is it important to have a space like this? It creates accessibility for the ACB community to connect with social and health services in their neighbourhood free of stigma and discrimination. The ACB Health Zone is located in Lower Town Ottawa, where a significant number of ACB community members live. It’s important to be where people live, to make it easier and more accessible for them to connect. Is the ACB Health Zone a solo project or a community effort? It has been a complete community effort from the get-go. An initiative like this can’t be a solo effort, especially if it is going to be meaningful and relevant to the community. As the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This initiative has been led by community members and involves various stakeholders. We are proud to be facilitating this program. Our core partners are Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Somerset West Community Health Centre and Ottawa Public Health. Some of our program partners include Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre, Centretown Community Health
Centre, Parents for Diversity, Youth Services Bureau and Bruce House. The majority of our volunteers at the Health Zone are ACB community members. How did this important project come about? It’s been a long journey. We had many consultations with various stakeholders and in January 2016, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO), together with the African-Caribbean Health Network of Ottawa (ACHNO), held focus groups to identify issues around HIV/sexual health in the ACB community and to assess the need for an ACB Health Zone in Ottawa. Those focus groups were in both English and French, and were composed of ACB community members (both those living with HIV and those not living with HIV), as well as service providers from both community-based and clinical settings in Ottawa. From the beginning of the process, ACO and ACHNO worked directly and closely with members of the ACB community, as well as with other health and social service providers, to identify impacts of HIV and related issues/challenges. When a report of the focus group findings was published, it clearly indicated the need for an ACB Health Zone in Ottawa. This report was presented by one of our partners, Felicite Murangira, at our ACB Health Forum back in 2017, and in 2018 we proudly launched the ACB Health Zone to kick off AIDS Awareness Week. What is the impact of the ACB Health Zone? It has had a very positive impact on the community. Between January and June of 2019, 192 ACB community members were connected to some form of care, such as immigration/ settlement support, the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works, housing support, rapid HIV tests, and primary care services. The main impact has really been the building of a safe space for ACB community members, free of stigma and discrimination, where folks can come together and develop a sense of community through peer engagement and support, and feel empowered to prioritize their own health and social needs, all of which eventually goes well beyond the walls of the ACB Health Zone into the community. We look forward to forging more partnerships and collaborations to further develop this important community health initiative.
GENTRIFICATION TO PROTECT QUEER SAFE SPACES Queers need safe spaces because to us, not every place is safe By Emily Norton
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In my second year of university, I was fresh out of the closet, and longing for community. I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of a lovely group of LGBTQ+ friends. After bonding over our very gay writing, I introduced myself to a lovely person who quickly became someone I admired for their pride and their genuine, welcoming attitude.
After living in a constant state of worry and loneliness, I briefly felt the magic that exists between queers on the verge of bonding: the edge of friendship and the promise you feel when you know another person understands your existence and respects what you might have gone through to embrace it wholeheartedly.
would have taken me. To think that places that are brimming with LGBTQ+ solidarity and hope, places that allow us to be ourselves without fear, could so quickly and easily be transformed into vessels for capitalistic ventures is a traumatic thing for all community members to process.
I’ll never forget the day they took me to a drag bar for the first time. As an introvert who had spent many years closeted and wondering where my place was within my own community, I was anxious to be in such a queer-centred environment. I wanted to make a good impression on my new friends, have fun, and feel like I actually had a worthy place among them. I probably acted shy, maybe embarrassed myself, and was too nervous to have a drink for fear of making tipsy confessions, but I was in a place where I felt safe, understood, and excited to be surrounded by a community, my community. Which is full of hope, joy, turbulent memory and triumph.
The cost of living is already so high in Toronto for everyone, and the cost of existing safely and happily as a queer person in Toronto is rising quickly amid rent hikes and financial crises – these pressures are limiting our access to safe spaces.
In March, news broke that the beloved Toronto drag bar Crews & Tangos was facing a potential shutdown. While this news is ultimately up in the air as of right now, learning that a place where so many queer people go to have fun and feel safe together was being considered for replacement by condos was jarring and, frankly, heartbreaking. Over the years, Toronto’s gay village has faced many losses in terms of queer spaces. Gentrification is rapidly rearing its ugly head. And while the community still stands, these places that grow close to our hearts – places where we meet friends and dates and new loves – dwindle before our eyes, leaving us to ask the question: where can we feel safe when our places keep disappearing in front of us? On a windy, grey Saturday in March, I clutched my notebook as I wandered through the village and past people who walked like they knew they belonged there. I grabbed a coffee and tried to jot down words that emulated the place I was in, and the way it quickly becomes an innate part of me each time I am there, despite the long commute and my slightly touristic knowledge of the city. In my notebook, I scrawled: safety, light, fresh, beaming, grief, friendship, love, holy. The existence of queer-specific spaces is vital to queer life. Without the places where I knew I’d feel comfortable, embraced and like I belonged, I don’t know where my journey as a queer person
Safe spaces keep many of us afloat as queers. They have positive effects on our mental health, let us explore our identities without oppressive eyes watching us, and ultimately give us an outlet for pure queer joy and companionship. The space between the well-being of queers and the gentrification of our spaces is a tightrope. Something we use to walk away from ourselves, flailing with uncertainty about our community’s future, as a means to an end that does not value our existence and how essential we are to each other. Queers need safe spaces because to us, not every place is safe. The intersections of identities within our community deserve to be protected and prepared for growth given that this so often does not occur elsewhere. While change is inevitable in a city like Toronto – especially considering the social and political climate of the times we are living in – queer safe spaces deserve to be held with much more value and consideration than they are right now. Having a gay bar where you can grab a drink with friends, a coffee shop with bookshelves lined with romantic lesbian stories, or even just one street corner where you feel safe kissing your partner on the cheek, is undeniably important. And to say otherwise, or to grab at riches even if that invalidates these treasures, is to say that our queer spaces – and consequently our safety – matter less than profit or the freedom for corporations to claw at our lives whenever they get a chance. Queers need places to feel safe in our cities, and gentrification is the enemy that so often stands between us and this feeling. So many of our trusted gathering spots are fading, losing money and losing hope. During these tumultuous times, we need each other more than ever. We need our places. We need our moments together – to exhale the pressure of societal expectations and political trauma. To be queer, to be safe, to be together.
EMILY NORTON is a writing student and poet from Toronto. Her work centres themes of identity, reclamation, honesty and, of course, lesbians. If she’s not writing, she’s probably watching TV or thinking about her dog. You can find her on Twitter at @_emnorton.
S lay it again, Sam
Artist Sam Morris shows no inhibition in his exhibition
Photo by Sam Morris
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By Connor Davenport
Sam Morris is often called the modern-day Tom of Finland. Like his predecessor, Morris’s work is stylized, homoerotic
fetish art that depicts the quintessential gay male. However, where Tom of Finland celebrated men with extreme muscular body types who were often performing aggressive sex acts, Morris’s work tends to focus on the handsome but relatable ‘boy next door’ gay man. “I aim to create an aesthetic that is romantic, yet sexy,” he explains. “My work invites viewers to fantasize over the man they have a crush on at work, or maybe the one who works at the local coffee shop or the DILF they are secretly following on social media.” We caught up with the Berlin-based artist when he was in Miami a few months ago, exhibiting his work at Art Gaysel. How would you define your unique take on gay eroticism? I use lots of different art mediums to explore the male form. At Art Gaysel, I showed some of my photographic prints, film work, paintings and sculptures. It was a pretty confronting exhibit with many different expressions of the body and sexuality.
You did a little exploration of your own in New York not that long ago, performing a poetry reading at Club Cumming. Yes, I opened with a piece by John Cage, 4.33, in which I got completely naked in silence. I then read a couple of poems, followed by a 20-minute talk on censorship and erotica. My being naked wasn’t a stunt…it was important to the message behind the essay. Have you always felt so comfortable in your own skin? No, it took a long time to get where I am today.
What would you say is the most beautiful part of a man’s body? The penis. It’s where we place a lot of our power, shame, motivation, emotion and sexuality. It’s the hidden facet of each of us that we’re all dying to reveal.
What is one part of your body that you wish you could change? My teeth, but I’ve just started Invisalign, so hopefully that will change soon.
How has technology, social media and the hookup culture impacted your work? I’m a child of the internet, for sure. Social media has helped me connect my work with others.
In the here and now, what is something your growing fan base would be surprised to learn about Sam Morris? When I was a child, I was in the final castings alongside Daniel Radcliffe to play Harry Potter.
How do you keep your followers engaged? I work very hard on producing the work I do and constantly sharing different parts of my work. I’m lucky that people want to see it.
That’s incredible! What new projects are you working on for 2020? I’m writing a one-man play, essentially expanding on what I did at Club Cumming, but this time a more narrative theatre experience. By the way, if you’d like to get a peek at the poetry reading I performed, I just shared a poem on my social media.
Who are the men featured in your images? I shoot guys from all over the world. How do you find them? I normally wait for them to get in touch with me via my socials, and then I see what they would like to explore on camera.
For more from Sam Morris, you can follow him on Instagram at www.instagram.com/justsammorris.
CONNOR DAVENPORT is a freelance writer who loves working from home with his puppies on his lap. He was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. His work has also appeared in numerous places in print and online including AXS, Add To Bucket List, Examiner, Leisure, MAAFBox and other websites.
Wh at’ s T h e D eal W i th G r i nd r F l akes? A conversation with that guy who disappeared By Bobby Box
My name is Bobby Box and I am a Grindr flake. I’m not active on the apps right now, but let me tell you, when I was on the digital meat market I was flakier than a stale croissant.
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I exhibited my worst behaviour when I first moved to Toronto roughly two years ago. As every Grindr user knows, when you’re visiting or new to an area, you’re a shiny new toy that all the boys want to play with. This rush of attention is addictive, and I was more than happy to chat and send a few suggestive photos. In most cases, this was the furthest I would go.
“I think the main reason I flake is fear. But it’s not about them, it’s about me and my insecurities.” Fear is also what keeps Baker, 27, flaking. “I would consider myself a new gay, and not very experienced,” he says. “This is intimidating when hooking up on Grindr because most guys are very experienced.” Baker’s other reasons are more selfish in nature, citing distance (he will not hook up with somebody more than 20 minutes away) and “circumstances” for flaking. “Chatting up a complete stranger can be exciting and fun when ‘needs’ need to be met because it’s a way to get off,” he says. “Once that need has passed, I normally don’t feel like hooking up with whoever I’m chatting with.”
I wanted to go further, but my insecurities always prevented me. Do my images accurately capture my appearance? Is my apartment clean enough? Do I suck at sex? Am I going to have to deliver on “Sometimes I’m just not horny,” says Mike, 28. “I try not to do this the filthy things I texted? anymore but there have been many times where I’ll plan a hookup These are some of the many thoughts that raced through my days in advance and if that day comes around and I’m not horny, I mind after agreeing to a hookup. The noise from these thoughts – will cancel that plan. If I’m not in the mood to fuck or get fucked, combined with the sexual preparation, making sure my apartment I’m not going to go through with it.” was in order, and the nervousness that comes with meeting someone When this happens, Mike will generally say something like “Hey, new – would always outweigh my desires. I’m not in much of a mood to have sex tonight, but if you want Anthony, 28, has only had the courage to meet with three men to hang or grab a drink I’d be down.” He is often turned down because his insecurities make him feel unworthy of sexual attention. because the person is just looking for sex. “I often think: why would a guy like that want me? He’s perfect and I’m not even close to that or to anything that he wants,” he says.
The cost of flaking What flakers fail to consider is how this behaviour makes the other person feel. “If someone is flaked on, they might experience a sense of rejection, which is hurtful and can trigger existing feelings of insecurity,” says Daniel Olavarria, a New York City-based clinical therapist who regularly works with LGBTQIA individuals. “They might also feel frustrated with the perceived lack of consideration that was shown by the person who bailed.”
somebody something. If you change your mind, communicate that to the other person as soon as you can.” The message doesn’t have to be lengthy or even require an explanation: just let the other person know you won’t be coming so that they can go about their day. Of course, if there’s short notice, an apology is always good form.
Because sex tends to be more prone to impulses, Olavarria argues this could be a reason for the heavy collection of flakes on apps like Grindr and Scruff as opposed to more traditional dating apps. “Just as quickly as someone decided to shop for a hookup, they can just as easily change their mind,” he says.
“Sure, they might be upset, which is totally understandable – they may even share some choice words with you,” Olavarria points out. But, he adds, “remember that you are not responsible for other people’s reactions; you’re only responsible for how you treat them. So long as you are operating within your values by being considerate and communicative, then let them work through their own emotions.”
Olavarria believes another reason could be that apps make it easier to dissociate emotionally from the fact that there is a person on the other end of the interaction. “While we intellectually understand that there’s a human being on the other end, we feel emotionally removed, which can be reflected in our behaviour.”
Everybody has their reasons for flaking and everybody has a right to flake if they feel any sort of way – and the other person is free to feel angry if they choose to. No side is right here. What we have to do better is be more mindful of the other’s feelings, because there’s a real person behind that headless torso.
To ease the impact of flaking behaviour, be as communicative as possible. “The truth is, people have the right to change their minds,” Olavarria says. “I don’t want to see anybody following through on hooking up because they feel that they have to, or that they owe
BOBBY BOX is a prolific freelance journalist in Hamilton, Ont. He currently works as contributing editor at Playboy.com and has had the privilege of speaking with the world’s most recognized drag queens, including, most recently, Trixie Mattel and Alaska Thunderfuck. While proud of his work, Bobby is not above begging. He asks that you follow him on Twitter at @bobbyboxington.
One group that’s painfully aware of social isolation is the LGBTQ community By Fraser Abe
John Donne said it best: “No man is an island.” That quote, by the way, is from prose written in 1624 (almost 400 years ago) and it’s an aphorism that holds true today. We humans don’t do well in isolation. At the time of writing this, April 1, we are deep in the midst of a COVID-19 emergency order, one that Ontario Premier Doug Ford just extended to mid-April (Editor’s note: it’s now extended to mid-May…and who knows what US President Donald Trump will do). It’s hard to know what the future will hold by the time this goes to print – many best guesses predict the coronavirus will continue to spread unless these strict measures remain in place indefinitely (at least several months longer). The only thing that is certain is that the loss of everyday interpersonal interaction is a hard pill for most people to swallow. One group that’s painfully aware of social isolation is the LGBTQ community.
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The AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s was a defining moment of LGBTQ isolation. Beyond familial rejection for being different, many LGBTQ people were treated as lepers. Even doctors – whose Hippocratic Oath states that “there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug” – often refused to treat HIV/AIDS patients and were vocal about their cavalier attitude to people infected with HIV/AIDS. In fact, a 1990 survey found that only 24 per cent believed that office-based practitioners should be legally required to provide care to individuals with HIV infection. Some 40 years later, isolation still starts at an early age for LGBTQ youth, from families that can cruelly reject their own children based on the child’s sexual identity, gender identity or gender expression. A resource guide by the Government of Ontario for serving LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system says, “While it is estimated that 10 per cent of the general population is LGBTQ, studies suggest there is a much higher percentage of LGBTQ children and youth in the child welfare system because many LGBTQ children and youth face rejection, neglect or abuse when their families learn of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.” 24
Statistics by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness are just as sobering: compared to heterosexual cisgender youth, LGBTQ youth were more likely to say that they were homeless or street-involved due to an inability to get along with their parents, and more likely to say that violence or abuse made them leave home. Studies by The 519 in Toronto suggest that 25-40 per cent of homeless youth in Canada identify as LGBTQ. Even ignoring these stats, and looking at LGBTQ-positive media coverage in 2020 (everyone, even the Karen who wants to speak to the manager, knows RuPaul’s Drag Race now!), it may seem the world is getting better for LGBTQ kids in Canada. But it’s more complicated than that: in 2019, Alberta passed the United Conservative Party’s Bill 8 Education Amendment Act, which states that a school is allowed to contact parents if a student joins a gay straight alliance, bringing institutional harm to kids who would prefer that their parents not know these facts. GSAs are very important for LGBTQ youth, and this bill isolates students who might otherwise find friendship and kindred spirits at school. Middle age is also a challenging time for LGBTQ people. The US Center on Addiction says that more than twice as many LGBTQ adults reported using drugs in the past year compared to heterosexual cisgender adults, and LGBTQ adults were also found to be more likely to smoke cigarettes, binge drink, and have had an alcohol or drug problem in the last year. Maybe the lifetime of stigma they face might have something to do with it. The New York Times suggests that LGBTQ health is growing “imperilled by a political and social environment that is growing less friendly towards sexual minorities.” A newer area of study is isolation in LGBTQ seniors. As a generation of out adults begins to age, their isolation compared to heterosexual or cisgender peers is stark. LGBTQ people have mentioned feeling forced back into the closet in nursing homes and have found that when a partner dies, a lot of their social network can disappear. The Government of Canada lists several case studies highlighting some of the issues these seniors can face, including a lack of services
specific to LGBTQ concerns unless they are located in large cities, feeling isolated from unaccepting family, fear of nursing home staff reactions to their identity, and often (though not always) no children to visit.
group to support a senior citizen with a lift to a larger city, an ear to listen or help with groceries can help with feelings of loneliness. You know what they say: it takes a (gay) village.
Tapping into a coping mechanism Of course, since LGBTQ people are so well versed with isolation, The AIDS crisis brought to light a coping mechanism LGBTQ it’s no surprise that the community has made lemonade out of these people use to deal with their isolation: chosen family. The chosen Corona lemons. With everyone stuck indoors, the next best thing family offers love and support and care when a biological (or to going out has become the Zoom party. Once relegated to your adoptive) family can’t or won’t. When same-sex partners were weekly obligatory work team call, where someone droned on about denied hospital visits, chosen family was there. When suspected their TPS reports, the queers have made Zoom chic. The hottest HIV-positive people were being fired from their jobs, chosen family party of all started in Toronto, by four artists The Cut describes as was there. When the world around them was shunning HIV-positive “20-something, uncomfortably attractive club-kid scenesters based folks, chosen family was there. That support is no less important in Toronto: Mingus, a digital creator; Casey MQ, a musician and today. Even “well-meaning” family can get it woefully wrong, like resident DJ at Club Q; Brad, a comedian and producer; and Andrés, thinking “It’s just a phase,” or believing conversion therapy (or a recording artist.” Their Zoom party – Club Quarantine – has any version of praying for imagined “sins”) is somehow an act of about 30,000 Instagram followers at @clubquarantine and lets love, or deadnaming their trans children and siblings – in these queers party from the safety of their homes. Charli XCX DJed a times, chosen family helps the LGBTQ individual struggle through. set. Robyn has Instagrammed about it. Wigs are everywhere. It’s zeitgeist-y: backgrounds include Tiger King’s Carole Baskin, Bernie Chosen family can help in all of these instances of LGBTQ isolation. Sanders and rainbow everything. A strong network of friends can help advocate for health care and rally around any person with health issues. GSAs help young As Mingus told The Cut: “When you trap queer people in a box for queers find friends and allies. A strong family of choice may help a day and they have three hours where they know they’re going adults struggling with alcohol or drug use disorders. And having a to be seen by like 400 people, they’re going to put on a show.” FRASER ABE is a Toronto-based writer. His work has been published in Toronto Life, The Globe and Mail, Sharp Magazine, NOW Magazine and more. When he’s not busy writing, he’s shrieking Gia Gunn quotes at his boyfriend, Colin..
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF IN MAGAZINE In May, IN celebrates its 10th anniversary. Here, we revisit all of our memorable, groundbreaking – and, in some cases, hilariously dated – covers!
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2017 2019 2020
LOOKING BACK AT MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE The gold standard of the pop star documentary originally hit theatres in May 1991 By Michele Yeo
There’s a point in Madonna’s landmark documentary Truth or Dare when her then-boyfriend Warren Beatty, perplexed as to why the superstar would want to put everything out there on film, says, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera. There’s nothing to say off-camera. Why would you say something if it’s off-camera?”
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Madonna was often a trailblazer ahead of her time, and those words from Warren – uttered long before the days of reality TV and regular people documenting their every move on social media – seem both quaint when seen through the lens of 2020 and also as if Madonna was maybe some sort of prophet. This year marks the 19th anniversary of the film’s release, and with all of us confined to our homes and craving content, it’s the perfect time to either revisit the iconic documentary or experience it for the very first time. Showing the good, the bad and the ugly Truth or Dare famously follows along as Madonna embarks on her legendary Blond Ambition Tour. The singer is at the absolute height of her success during this moment in time, coming off the release of her multi-platinum album Like a Prayer, as well as 28
having appeared in the action adventure movie Dick Tracy (a film that spawned the soundtrack I’m Breathless, which featured her colossal hit “Vogue”). The Blond Ambition Tour – which was to be sponsored by Pepsi until the brand pulled its dollars after Madonna’s controversial “Like a Prayer” video – consisted of 57 shows across three continents with the film’s director Alek Keshishian in tow, filming 200 hours of footage that would ultimately be edited down to become Truth or Dare. The film was originally supposed to be a straight-up concert film, but it didn’t take long for the filmmaker to realize that what was going down behind the scenes was just as entertaining as what was happening on stage. Madonna certainly wasn’t the first pop star to invite cameras behind the scenes, nor was she the last. In the years since Truth or Dare, there’s been Beyoncé: Life is But a Dream, Katy Perry: Part of Me, Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two and, most recently, Taylor Swift’s Netflix doc Miss Americana, just to name a few. But while all have their merits, none can live up to what is truly the gold standard of the genre.
feature a kiss that can only be described as sexy as hell. And there’s a moment, about halfway through the doc, when the dancers attend a Pride parade. The parade stops to observe a moment of silence, which the doc lets play out without any commentary. Madonna isn’t even in the scene. Then, of course, there’s the moment when Madonna and her dancers are in a prayer circle before a show and the singer pays tribute to her friend, the artist Keith Haring, who passed away from AIDS-related complications the year previous.
Madonna doesn’t shy away from shade in Truth or Dare. Belinda Carlisle, the city of Chicago, Oprah and Janet Jackson: these are just a few of her targets. And who could ever forget when she ends Kevin Costner’s life backstage at one of her shows, putting her finger down her throat to mime throwing up after the actor uses the word “neat” to describe her show. “Anyone who says my show is neat has to go,” she says on camera. And this is Dances With Wolves-era Kevin Costner. At the height of his fame, Madonna murders him in front of millions. Madonna saves her most poisonous venom, though, for the city of Toronto. After members of the Toronto Police Service show up to the SkyDome at her third and final show threatening to arrest the singer on obscenity charges, Madonna, ever the provocateur, is positively delighted at the thought of ending up in cuffs. She refuses to back down or change her show, and the concert goes off without a hitch – but not before Madonna reduces Ontario’s capital city to filth, calling it “the fascist state of Toronto.”
While parts of the movie don’t age well – particularly Madonna dismissing, and pretty much making fun of, her makeup artist’s sexual assault, as well as Oliver’s casual homophobia – there’s no denying the cultural impact of Truth or Dare.
But it’s not just the shade that makes the film memorable. Name a modern-day pop star at the height of her fame who would, during a game of Truth or Dare, allow herself to be filmed showing how she performs fellatio on a bottle, or who would reveal on camera that her ex-husband (in Madonna’s case, Sean Penn, whom she had divorced a few years earlier) is the one true love of her life? And remember when she shows us how thirsty she is for Antonio Banderas and how, upon finally meeting him, she’s highly (and vocally…within earshot of his wife) disappointed that he’s married? Taylor, Beyoncé or Katy wouldn’t dare! More than just Madonna Truth or Dare is also notable for its cast of supporting characters. Who could forget Madonna’s childhood friend Moira McFarland from Michigan, whom Madge hasn’t seen in years, showing up and asking Madonna to be the godmother of her unborn child. The singer tells cameras that Moira once “finger f*cked” her and showed her how to use a tampon, claims Moira denies with, “Madonna, I did not teach you how to insert a tampon and and if we got into bed together naked, I don’t remember that.” But it’s Madonna’s dancers and their chemistry both with the star and with each other that provide the most entertainment in Truth or Dare. Dancers like Kevin, José, Gabriel, Oliver and Salim, along with backup singers Nikki and Donna, form a travelling dysfunctional family circus filled with laughter and love. In Truth or Dare, Madonna’s gay dancers are portrayed as human beings with talents, hopes, dreams, families, etc. It now seems ridiculous that someone should be congratulated for portraying gay people as, well, people (isn’t that the bare minimum?) – but in 1991, when many were still in a gay panic about AIDS and gay people were largely under-represented in media, the bar was so low it was under the ground. Truth or Dare not only brings these gay men front and centre, it shoves their gayness in our face, most notably when, during the aforementioned round of Truth or Dare, Gabriel and Salim MICHELE YEO is a pop culture-obsessed Toronto-based long-time writer who has written and produced for outlets such as Entertainment Tonight Canada, CBC and MuchMusic. She is not, unfortunately, Michelle Yeoh from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Crazy Rich Asians fame, although she did write and produce Yeoh’s episode of A&E Biography.
Most celebrities present a carefully calculated and cunningly curated image of themselves to the public. While Madonna would certainly never be accused of not being calculating, she allows the cameras to show us the good, the bad and the ugly in Truth or Dare. You get the sense that Madonna truly has no f*cks to give about whether you come away from the doc liking her. It’s refreshing, and also something that a pop star of her magnitude couldn’t do today without an apology tour after the fact.
MAE MARTIN HAS US FEELING GOOD
The Canadian comedian sprinkles some of her real life into her original series. With Feel Good airing on Netflix, the world is starting to take notice of her authentic brilliance By Bianca Guzzo
Mae Martin is a breath of fresh air. Her stand-up sets are going viral, and the series she co-created and stars in is currently streaming on Netflix. Ever since the Canadian actor/comedian broke onto the scene, she has constantly challenged norms, and she continues to push us out of our comfort zone on how sexuality has to be labelled. Her series and stand-up act give us a glimpse into her life, while keeping us wanting to learn more about her. Martin uses comedy to tell her stories about life, love, addiction and communication in a way that’s truly unique – and that’s only the beginning of what makes her, and Feel Good, so brilliant. Martin grew up in Canada, but in the early 2010s moved to the United Kingdom, which is where Feel Good is set. She often references her Canadian heritage both in the show and in her standup routines. Before moving to the UK, she wrote for the Canadian comedy show The Baroness Von Sketch Show.
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Feel Good covers a lot of issues, from sexual experimentation and navigating a relationship with your parents as an adult, to struggling internally with who you are. It is mostly centred around the “fictional” Mae’s struggle with drug addiction and how it can control every aspect of a person’s life. The show doesn’t sugar-coat reality, telling the stories in a real and raw way. It shows us the complexity of addiction, and how it affects not only the individual but their friends and family too. Martin has said that a lot of the emotions you see in the show come from a real place in her life, although not all of the characters and stories are autobiographical. The “fictional” Mae’s mother is played by the iconic Lisa Kudrow, who does an excellent job at making a more minor character in the six-episode series so multifaceted and captivating. From the stories that “real life” Mae tells in her stand-up specials about her mother, the Lisa Kudrow adaptation does seem like an exaggerated version, but it comes from a real place, no matter how ridiculous she might be. The Feel Good Mae is real, and flawed, and makes a lot of mistakes, but that doesn’t stop the audience from rooting for her the whole way through. Mae is likeable, and from the first episode she feels like someone who has been your friend for years. Though the show does deal with heavier topics, at the heart of it is the story of how we foster relationships with the people we
love, through both good times and bad. It’s about how we lean on each other for support, or communicate with a partner, or have difficult conversations with loved ones. Nothing in Feel Good is wrapped up in a bow. It’s real, and sometimes difficult to watch, but it’s important to the way Mae controls how the story is told in the series. While we want her to triumph, there are moments where the audience can feel the frustration, and there are moments of real disappointment too. In real life, Martin’s relatability is what draws you into her story in the first place. She’s understated, and cool, without trying hard to capture our attention. In an interview with UK publication PopBuzz, she spoke about how important it is to have representative characters in popular media, citing Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a character she felt represented her at a young age. Even if she didn’t feel she necessarily connected with the character on a deep and personal level, Martin said, she was grateful to see a little bit of herself in a character. “Mae” is now filling that role for other young queer people who feel they don’t necessarily see themselves represented anywhere. We may be used to seeing and wrongly expecting queer celebrities to identify themselves, but Martin actively chooses not to put a label on anything she does. She states that she has been in relationships with both men and women, and leaves it at that. In a world where many people feel the need to put everybody into a box, with a clear label, a lot of people don’t identify with one, or don’t feel like they have to conform to one singular label…and that’s totally okay. People are going to see Mae, whether it’s the character or the real-life version, and they’ll feel represented by her, and they will feel that same representation from her just being her authentic self. Martin often uses stories from her past in her stand-up sets, which are so endearing, and enjoyable to watch. Her comedy can take some dark turns, but it remains relatable, which is why so many people find solace in her work. Through the highs and the lows of Feel Good, you will find yourself desperately wanting to be friends with Mae. After you’re finished the series, you’re going to do a deep dive and realize that Mae Martin is exactly who the world needs right now. She is authentic, and she’s taking the world by storm, and that has us feeling good.
BIANCA GUZZO is a writer based out of the GTA. She spends her free time watching Trixie Mattel makeup tutorials, though she has yet to nail the look.
IN A CITY FULL OF DRAG, THEREâ€™S ONLY ONE AURORA MATRIX This drag queen is twirling and kicking her way into queer city nightlife
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Story, styling and creative direction: Aram Eginliyan Photography: Janine Maral
“You better get it!” “YASSS!” And, surely, “Slay Queen!” These are often heard when Aurora Matrix hits the stage at Crews & Tangos, a nightlife staple in the heart of Toronto’s gay village. Aurora may be one of the newer girls to be seen twirling and kicking her way into queer city nightlife – but there is more to this young, talented beauty than a pretty face and some jaw-dropping dance moves. Whether you are a newer member of the LGBT+ community or have been part of queer nightlife culture for many years, drag queens are undeniably something you are familiar with…especially nowadays, when drag culture is more mainstream than ever before. Given how readily available and apparent it is, it comes as no shock that Toronto – a city with thriving creativity and startup hubs – is also one of the biggest drag-supporting and drag queenbirthing cities in the world, with more than 200 queens giving us shows and entertaining at bars, brunches, birthdays and all forms of celebrations in between, from the city’s east end to the west. And younger generations of queer artists have opened the door for themselves and started a journey that never would have seemed imaginable for themselves as young, questioning queer teens. Now, being a queen sure isn’t as easy as it looks, let alone a queen who struggles with the traditionalism of an immigrant family and their eastern ideals; one who deals with the harsh realities of parents who are homophobic (yes, that still happens for many, even in a liberal city that is Toronto). Over the past year, Aurora Matrix has gone from having a regular hobby for makeup and practising far away from her traditional Chinese family and upbringing, to bringing down the house all over Toronto’s gay village and beyond: showing us that age truly has no limitation on artistry and the ability to be a true entertainer. At 20 years old – making her one of Toronto’s youngest drag stars to emerge from what seems to be the baby boom era in drag history – Aurora has truly set herself apart from the rest of the emerging Toronto queens. To have the confidence Aurora has as a new drag queen is something that anyone can admire (albeit with, perhaps, just a teeny tinge of jealousy). As Aurora, nothing can stand in her way, but that isn’t to say that the confidence that exudes out of her as Aurora is apparent in every facet of her life. Coming out wasn’t the easiest journey, and living now as a formulated open queer individual hasn’t become any easier, coming as she does from a traditional Chinese family where the topic of being gay is extremely frowned upon and often dismissed to this very day. This is a common tale among the queer community, and one that leads many to find their tribe within their new ideals of what family really means. As queer individuals, we often “choose” our family: the people who form us after we come out and who understand us in ways that some of our original family perhaps never will. In talking about the struggles with her birth family, Aurora says, “Coming out was extremely difficult since my family doesn’t support the LGBTQ+ community. Because of that, they actually don’t know that I am a drag queen.” But, she continues, “through drag, I have met so many wonderful people who love and support both me and my art, and I have found a second family within the Toronto drag community.” Aurora goes on to say that “being an Asian queen and representing my culture through drag is extremely important to me, especially because there are so few of us in the Toronto drag scene. Growing 33
up, there weren’t really any queer and Asian role models that I could look up to. Now that I have this platform, I want to be a role model for queer Asian youth. I want to be able to be that figure that queer Asian youth can look up to, because I didn’t have that when I needed it the most.” Marrying drag with Chinese tradition Recently, she hit the stage in one of her proudest moments in drag yet: a baby blue traditional Chinese Cheongsam dress made with a fabric patterned with blue dragons, a vintage victory roll hairstyle with a barrel curl back, decorated with yellow and white flowers. Aurora was a vintage Asian Barbie straight out of the box! “Throughout my childhood, I would always look forward to Chinese New Year, because my family and friends would always dress up in our traditional Chinese clothing. I always admired the Cheongsam and was often jealous that I never got to wear one. So it was a full circle moment for me to be able to wear one as Aurora.”
Similar to how we all evolve as queer individuals, Aurora faces the challenge of simultaneously evolving as both a queer individual and an artist. Her makeup, she says, is “definitely a key factor of the transformation process – almost like a ritual.” And with a face painted as beautifully as a porcelain doll, you cannot help but stare in a daze at how, at such a young age, Aurora was able to perfect her face in a way that would take some queens decades to manage. Her talent doesn’t stop at the face (or “mug,” which is a more common term queens use to describe their painted faces) – this queen is far from a one-trick pony. When asked what she would say to those asking what to expect at an Aurora Matrix show, she answers, “Pop, dance, splits and sex,” which really are things she incorporates into every single one of her high-energy dance numbers. But for Aurora, it’s not all about making people talk with her dance moves, it’s about making a difference, and also showing up each and every night as a loud and proud Asian queen.
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What does she ultimately want to accomplish with her platform? Oppressing your “gayness,” fighting the status quo and discovering “Drag has helped me through tough times in my life, and I want who you are as a queer individual is a liberating journey that truly to be able to do the same for others.” And if she gets to do that, is never-ending, and when you add a pound of makeup and your being the proud Asian queen she is, it’s as good as it can possibly favourite pair of heels, it is bound to become even more interesting. be for this budding drag superstar. “My drag is hyper-feminine and I love it,” says Aurora. “Out of drag, however, I try to hold back that side of me in fear that I might You can catch Aurora Matrix performing all over Toronto, but come off as too feminine. My queer identity is something that I mostly frequenting local drag bars like Woody’s and Crews & continuously work on, and I look forward to exploring it more as Tangos. Trust us when we say, you’re not going to want to miss I continue on this journey.” her on your next big gay night out!
ARAM EGINLIYAN is a Toronto-based wardrobe stylist, style writer and co-owner of Torontoâ€™s The Fashion Hotline. A fashion chameleon and lover of all things fashion and luxury, he can often be seen playing with highs and lows in fashion, mixing and matching local vintage gems with high-end street style. Follow his socials and blog at @arameginliyan @thefashionhotline and thefashionhotline.com.
MESS AROUND: YANNI BURTON GETS THE REMIX TREATMENT
We talked to the artist as he prepared for the release of the Pool Cosby remix of “Mess Around” By John Stein
Yanni Burton’s “Mess Around” is a sexy, smooth and sassy “I’m-a do-me” ballad with a dash of “f” you. It was written after the young out artist experienced his first tumultuous split with someone who used him and cheated on him. But the song doesn’t deal with the pain or regret of time wasted on his ex; it focuses on Burton’s recovery and his rebuild of his own sexual, emotional and physical identity.
in the relationship. I realize now that it’s very important to stand up for oneself in a relationship as, ultimately, that is what is going to make the union solid. If there’s a power imbalance, with one person constantly walking on eggshells or accommodating the other’s needs all the time, a relationship can’t work because the less dominant partner begins to lose perspective and their identity.
“I wrote it when I was completely done with all the bullshit and wanted to let a certain someone know that I was back, stronger than ever,” Burton says.
What did you learn from your time spent playing the field and being messy? I learned what I really wanted in my next relationship; how communication and respect are essential.
“Playing the field and messing around after a breakup is the best anecdote for heartbreak. It helps a guy or girl to rediscover him- or herself and learn what he likes and what he’s no longer willing to tolerate. It’s just important to play safe and be respectful of your body and soul, and others’ too. As long as you are, you do you, honey!” He was confident enough to strip down (literally and figuratively) for the campaign images that accompany “Mess Around.” “It was my first nude shoot,” he exclaims. “I loved it! As soon as I stripped down, I grew into this new sense of power and confidence, which is exactly what the song is about.” The Pool Cosby remix of “Mess Around” released in April as IN was heading to press. We chatted with him to get the latest.
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How do you feel about remixers reworking your songs? I absolutely love it. The Torna remix came out first and the Pool Cosby remix is next. Both are completely different, to the point where you probably wouldn’t recognize they came from the same song. That’s what I love about collaborations.
What kind of crazy shit did you get into? (Laughing) I had my share of late nights out… When did you know it was time to stop messing around? One late night out in New York City at a drag show, I met Jordan, the man who would become my fiancé, and that was it for me! From pretty early on, we knew we had something good, and here we are eight years later. Based on your Instagram, you and your fiancé look to be up for fun all over the world. (Laughing) I get so much shade for being naked and not posting enough musical content. But, hey, I work hard so I can play hard, and I’m proud of the results. Does Jordan mind if you get a little slutty and butty on Instagram every once in a while? At first, he wasn’t having it, but he takes most of my photos now, and he gets to keep all the juiciest content.
You aren’t bothered by remixers adding their own interpretations to your songs? One of my favourite things about working with other artists is the endless possibilities of creativity that come to the table. You gain different perspectives, tastes and style, which add a new quality and dimension to your work.
You’re only young once, right? Indeed, you are, and you better hustle while you can.
The original “Mess Around” was a letter to your ex, to let him know you had moved on. It was also a letter to myself, to recognize the mistakes I had made
Fans can still see Yanni Burton “Mess Around” on Instagram. Follow him at @yburton.
Would you mind if he were to get wild on his Insta? (Laughing) I would love that! But if you’ve seen his Insta, it’s pictures of our cats and me, so the chances are slim to none.
INTERVIEW JOHN STEIN worked for print publications ElectriCITY and the Los Angeles Times, and is now a digital media producer, freelance journalist and author who primarily covers entertainment and current events. He is a movie buff, is obsessed with his three chihuahuas, and has a mild video game addiction. 37
Queer Nightlife in
Images from a Saturday night on Church Street in Toronto during the city’s isolation to help slow the spread of COVID-19 Text and photos by Wade Muir
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Although they were wilted, there were still flowers on the tables at Glad Day Bookshop, the world’s oldest LGBTQ book store. Its café looked like its customers had just up and vanished into thin air. Of course, the theatre lover within me couldn’t help but underscore the scene with Schönberg’s & Boublil’s haunting “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”…accompanied by an all too reminiscent feeling of plagues gone by. It was 10:30 pm on a Saturday night in Toronto’s usually bustling Church Street village, and it was silent and empty. All but a few local businesses were shut down, computer-printed closure signs on each of their doors. In yet another moment of dramatic underscoring, I caught myself having to regain some self-composure. Taking a step back from the closure signs, I turned around and continued to walk.… I slowly crossed Church Street, walking over a large painted rainbow. Through a dark window, I could see a beaded curtain sparkling with light from a nearby street lamp. Above me, I could hear a Canadian inspired Pride flag flapping and snapping in the wind. Though it sounds dramatic as all hell, in that moment I felt this deep sense of stillness and resilience, like an ominous gift from a gay god – providing a moment of much-needed inner peace.
From that darkness, I started to see (literal) signs of community and togetherness: “Share smiles and kindness” and “We are all in this together.” In the stillness, I saw street art and murals that I had never noticed before – some of which had clearly been there for years…depictions of a rich queer past – of strength and of love. Leaving the village with a collection of photos, I felt sad and tired, yet profoundly moved. I rushed home to get to what I knew would be the perfect end to this series…the internet. I immediately logged into Zoom. This online business-meeting platform has now become the new queer cyber-safe-space: a space for webcam gatherings such as Club Quarantine and a Toronto favourite “in-person” now turned internet party, FIT. A worldwide community of queers now collectively dances and shares space in front of their computers and phones… a somewhat miraculous and crafty way to continue queer nightlife and slip away into an alternate reality scored by new electronic beats and vintage disco anthems. In the darkness of my kitchen I danced and snapped photos of radiant smiles, of sparkling queers, and all weirdos alike, collectively sharing, all the while supporting and lifting each other up. This glorious community grows, births new leaders and supplies endless love – a truly radical and major oof, my heart!
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WADE MUIR is a queer Toronto-based photographer/artist (who feels a lot). You can check out more of his work on Instagram at @wademuir or www.wademuir.ca.
CONSERVATIVE LEANINGS: ERIC DUNCAN
Canada’s first openly gay man to be elected a Conservative MP is eager to distance himself from his party’s social hang-ups By Paul Gallant
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Many LGBT people see themselves as underdogs and, as a result, tend to see a need for government to rebalance society’s many inequalities. Meaning: they usually lean to the left. Failed US presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg – an openly gay Democrat in favour of single-payer health care and of rescinding the ban on trans people in the military, among other progressive policies – was pilloried in some corners of the LGBT media for not being left enough. “I don’t trust him,” wrote my friend RM Vaughan in The Globe and Mail. At the other end of the political spectrum, LGBT conservatives can seem like oddities, their motivations suspicious. 44
So I am not surprised when Eric Duncan, the 32-year-old Conservative MP for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, farming country that runs along the St. Lawrence River south of Ottawa, tells me he does not much identify as an underdog. “I faced nowhere near the negativity and the challenges and the anxiety that many other people have who have come out before me,” he tells me. “I haven’t been quote scarred by any of my experiences.”
community needs, like surgery for trans people, youth programs, arts and Pride festivals. “Government has a role in that. What the exact level should be, there needs to be debate on amounts.” In that sense his conservatism seems to come down to balancing budgets, curtailing government waste and getting out of the way of business. “For me it’s a very easy thing to navigate. I’m also a social libertarian. I believe in individual freedoms and personal choice.”
The first openly gay Conservative to be elected to Canadian Parliament (Scott Brison came out years into his parliamentary career, and then promptly came out as a Liberal), Duncan is a quintessentially agreeable, well-mannered, small-town boy from Winchester, Ont. His father, who founded and still operates a successful trucking company, responded to his coming out “with a hug, a handshake and a pat on the back.”
Charting the ‘right’ path Canada’s Conservative Party is, of course, in the process of selecting a new leader. One of the reasons cited for Andrew Scheer being pushed aside is because he is seen as being out of touch with even average Canadians on LGBT issues. Again and again, it was mentioned in the press that Scheer (like his predecessor, Stephen Harper) wouldn’t march in Pride parades. “If the benchmark of being supportive of gay rights is being in a Pride parade, I don’t meet that definition myself,” says Duncan, half joking. He has spoken warmly of Scheer and says he has no regrets in supporting him. “As leader, Andrew was always very inclusive of me, asking my views of certain issues. We’ve had conversations about conversion therapy, about ending the ban on gay blood donation, about LGBT refugees.”
Duncan realized in his teens that he was gay, but didn’t come out publicly until he was 27. Those intervening years were almost entirely spent in public life. He made history as one of Canada’s youngest elected officials when he was elected municipal councillor in North Dundas at the age of 18, and was elected mayor in 2010 when he was 22. There’s a cute video from about four years ago, produced by the Rural Ontario Institute to applaud exemplary rural youth, which shows Duncan walking around his hometown sporting a shaggy beard, a mauve shirt and an aquamarine jacket. Duncan’s steadfast devotion to retail politics – that is, focusing more on pleasing constituents and working on local issues than reinventing government or delighting in the spoils of power – has shaped both his political and gay life. He doesn’t do much afterhours Parliament Hill schmoozing because he still lives in his riding and drives home from Ottawa every night Parliament is in session. There’s little time for whisky-soaked backroom dealing. He’s on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, a nice position for a wonk, but not in the Conservative shadow cabinet.
At press time, there were eight candidates in the running to become Conservative leader. Five of them – Marilyn Gladu, Peter MacKay, Rick Peterson, Rudy Husny and Erin O’Toole – have stated their willingness to march in Pride parades. But then there are the three who have the backing of hardcore social conservatives. Ontario lawyer and businessperson Derek Sloan has promised to bring forward bills on abortion and same-sex marriage (presumably to get rid of them), and has said, “Whatever the cause of sexual orientation, which I still maintain is scientifically unclear. That is the position of science right now.” Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis is also against abortion and same-sex marriage. Cambridge lawyer Jim Karahalios hasn’t said much publicly about LGBT issues, but he was advisor and organizer for an Ontario MP who tried to overturn the province’s same-sex-friendlier sex-ed curriculum, and also campaign manager for an Ontario PC candidate who campaigned against gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools. At the time I spoke with Duncan, he had not thrown his support behind any candidate, but suggested that the ones talking about abortion and same-sex marriage are marginal voices, out of sync with the party majority.
And dating? He used to use the apps when he worked at the municipal level, but says he’s deleted them since going federal. He’s never been in a relationship. “I had to come out as gay and I had to come out as conservative. The second was harder than the first,” Duncan tells me. “When I was mayor, partisan politics aside, anybody I went on dates with wanted nothing to do with someone with a public profile. That’s the case sometimes even now. I know the right person will come along at the right time. I’m not worried about it.” “What I’ve seen on the front lines as a caucus member, there’s not an appetite to go down this road at all,” he says. “People are entitled Like many small-c conservatives, Duncan draws a line between to run, but you’re going to see a solid core of the membership say, fiscal and social conservatism: he supports the former, but not so ‘We’re not going in that direction.’” much the latter. He’s in favour of government funding for LGBT 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.
DREAM TO TRAVEL: WHY IS THAILAND SO LGBTQ-FRIENDLY? In Thailand, we believe that diversity is amazing
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Thailand is a recognized global leader when it comes to welcoming travellers of all backgrounds, identities and gender expressions. As the most welcoming country in Asia for LGBTQ+ people, Thailand is proud that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community – and all people, no matter how they identify and whom they love – feel free when travelling in Thailand. While many destinations claim to accept diversity in all its forms, there are still many countries that shun same-sex couples, or do not openly acknowledge the LGBTQ+ community publicly. Yet Thailand’s relaxed and warm sensibility embraces LGBTQ+ travellers, and encourages them to discover this magical place, travel freely and be comfortable.
What is it that makes Thailand so LGBTQ+ friendly? Even today, many countries consider homosexuality to be a criminal act. Thailand’s attitude is very different. It is one of the most progressive Asian countries, with the Thai government decriminalizing homosexuality over 75 years ago. Considering global social norms at the time, this was a significant measure and affirmed the country’s receptiveness. Some of its approach can be traced to its primarily Buddhist teachings, with approximately 95 per cent of its citizens identifying as Theravada Buddhists. The religion is well regarded for its underlying foundation of tolerance, and this principle helps influence
Thailand’s attitude towards gender expression. But many believe that the exotic kingdom’s philosophy of life – ‘Sanuk Sabai’ – is what truly drives its acceptance of most things. The words ‘sanuk’ and ‘sabai’ translate to ‘slow, relaxed and happy.’ This is evidenced in all aspects of Thai culture, and the Thai people genuinely believe that one person’s right to a happy life should not interfere with another individual’s right to a happy life. This respect underpins interpersonal relations among the people of Thailand and the way they relate to visitors. It also includes respecting one’s happiness, which includes gender identity and self-expression. Another governing principle is ‘mai pen rai,’ which teaches people to ‘never mind’ and ‘let it go,’ recognizing that some things cannot be avoided. This gentle acceptance of life, its attributes and challenges, is one of the most compelling reasons the exotic kingdom is so attractive to visitors. Thailand is known as “the Land of Smiles.” While conventional wisdom suggests that the smile is intended to signify delight, in Thailand the smile has a social purpose. They say there are 13 different smiles used by Thai people, and non-Thais are sometimes confused by a Thai person’s ability to smile in almost every situation. That is because the smile is used not only as a greeting or when someone is amused, but is also used to defuse potentially difficult circumstances. In the face of aggression or anger, a smile is the first defence. The smile is also a way to ask forgiveness or beg someone’s pardon, and, in return, to forgive. In Thailand, there is a general avoidance of confrontation and victimization, which has created a society in which being gay is of little issue to most Thais. Instead, you will be greeted with a smile.
Thailand’s high-profile transgender community Thailand’s highly visible transgender population lead otherwise ordinary lives and work in a variety of industries, unlike other countries in the region. This community thrives, particularly in Bangkok, which welcomes transgender people who may be persecuted or shunned in other countries. Thailand hosts the largest and oldest international transgender beauty pageant, Miss International Queen, drawing contestants from around the world and promoting beauty in all forms. Diversity is what makes Thailand so unique and appealing – diversity of people, destinations, experiences and nature. Yes, there are internationally renowned LGBTQ+ events, beach parties and nightlife, but beyond that, the Kingdom offers rich culture, delicious food, unique local experiences, unparalleled luxury and wellness activities that are open to everyone no matter your sexual orientation or identity. As we all dream of our future travels, let Thailand’s incredible diversity inspire you: gothaibefree.com/inspire.
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North Wales ROAD TRIP With its quaint inns, hearty meals, rolling hills and natural beauty, this singularly stunning part of the world will charm your socks off
MAY / JUNE 2020
By Doug Wallace
Seriously, I thought it was a hot springs – but it is ice cold. We’re “taking the waters” at St. Winifred’s Well in North Wales, one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in Britain. Why? Because it’s there, because it dates back to the 12th century, and because we are hardy Canadians on a road trip. Day 1 and I’ve already taken a shine to this place. And a bath.
square kilometres in size. Needless to say, we fit in a long walk whenever we can.
At a time when deep-diving into your ancestry is trending, it’s only fitting that Wales feels like home: going back many centuries, my surname, Wallace, was previously Waleis and before that Wylisc, meaning “foreigner” or, more specifically, “foreigner from Wales.” No surprise, then, that I’m digging the scene.
An intrepid hiking guide leads us to Aber Falls near Abergwyngregyn one afternoon, then becomes our new best friend when she hikes us right into Aber Falls Whisky Distillery, the first one in North Wales in more than 100 years. Relatively new, it has set its sights on whisky, but while that is aging, it churns out the most tantalizing gin. There’s an orange marmalade version, and a rhubarb and ginger gin, but we latch onto their small-batch bottle, ripe with flavours that date back to Druid times: things like rowan berries and lavender.
We’re toodling along the northern coastline (with a map, of course), through the fishing villages and the little resort towns, along the strips of pale yellow and powder blue seaside hotels. At one point we pop into a mammoth church just off the main road and listen for a blissful half-hour as a pipe organist practises, the bassline rumbling in our chests. We stop at romantic Victorian seaside piers and wander the arcades and cotton candy stalls, shooing away seagulls eyeing our fish and chips. Time appears to be standing still, and a storybook sentimentality sticks with us for the whole week.
The gin-fest continues later in the week at the Dyfi Distillery at the southern end of the parkland, where wild botanicals foraged from the nearby biosphere reserve kick up exquisite London Dry-style gins. We taste-test their summer and winter versions of small-batch bottles, sporting flavours of wild flowers and wild fruits, respectively, then fall hard for their original gin with its notes of bog myrtle, pine, juniper (of course), coriander and lemon. All this gin makes it into my suitcase somehow – marked for special occasions only – and we are delighted to find them behind the bars of our guest houses.
Away from the coastline and into the interior, North Wales is beyond gorgeous. We don’t drive all day, of course. Nature plays a big part of this peaceful sojourn, and immersing ourselves in it is simple via hiking and cycling, boating and paddling. There are caves to explore, trains to climb aboard and golf courses to walk. You could count the sheep that dot the rolling farmland for days and never finish; apparently, there are more than 10 million in the whole country. The hills of Gwydir Forest and Snowdonia National Park yield wide-open terrain; Snowdonia itself is 2,000
Wheel into the circular drive and put your feet up The nice thing about a road trip in Wales is that come cocktail hour, touring is over, so you never have to drive in the dark. Wanderers finish their day at five, have a nap, freshen up and then enjoy the old-fashioned, country-inn hospitality. These are estate homes for lolling about, for getting lost in all the nooks and crannies, and finding the hidden paths to the pastures and fish ponds. They’re inns with updated spas, with roaring fireplaces that greet me in the lobby, with sofas so soft I can’t get out of them and landscaped rose 49
gardens tended by people who have been doing it for decades. They are places with a summer and winter balcony. The word “quaint” doesn’t do them justice. We spend the night in a room Winston Churchill once slept in, and don’t shut up about it for weeks. Happily, at these comfy country estates, our whole stay is anchored to my favourite thing in the world: dinner. We are stunned at every stop by the goodness we are putting in our bellies. Real. Food. Not just some city chef’s interpretation of slow food, but the real McCoy. Fresh lamb and game, and sublime seafood, particularly mussels and bass. Not only do we indulge in some of the most incredible culinary journeys we will ever make, but also in the traditions that are revealed along with the foodways, propped up by a heritage and history that isn’t stashed away in old library books but right in our faces. Getting acquainted with the history of North Wales is easy, because it springs out of every quadrant. Almost every mile of our road trip reveals an ancient treasure. You can’t throw a stone and not hit a castle – Caernarfon and Conwy being two of our favourites. There is no shortage of curiosities here, either. We squeeze ourselves into Quay House – billed as the smallest house in Great Britain – a red-painted, two-storey one up-one down in Conwy that measures 10 by six feet. Visitors have to tour it in groups of no more than two at a time. Oddly, its last resident was a six-foot-three fisherman.
Around the corner at 16th-century townhouse Plas Mawr, we see how the wealthy lived in the Elizabethan era. It’s a rare example of a surviving and unchanged building, restored to the nines. We almost get lost wandering the 17 rooms, which include brewing, baking and dairy facilities. I freak out thinking about how many people slept in each of the tiny rooms upstairs. The history in Wales is more than just an old story; it has informed how the Welsh are now: direct yet relaxed, and immensely proud and knowledgeable of their heritage, reclaiming it after hundreds of years of being bossed around by England. And unlike the Scottish, who have mostly lost their Gaelic, the Welsh still speak Welsh. In the tiny oceanfront dining room at Gwesty Cymru in the university town of Aberystwyth, I tuck into my last meal in Wales – fittingly, Welsh Rarebit. Everyone’s heard of it, but few know what it is. Yes, just bread and cheese, pure and simple and satisfying, the epitome of comfort – just like Wales itself. MAY / JUNE 2020
When you go June to October are the warmest months for outdoor adventure in Wales, with temps ranging from 14ºC to 20ºC in the north. April to June is relatively drier than the rest of the year. There are fewer tourists in the spring and fall, which are also the most scenic. The weather is unpredictable throughout the year, and you might well see sun and light rain in one sky. Check out VisitWales.com for more details. 50
DOUG WALLACE is the editor and publisher of travel resource TravelRight.Today.
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Celebrating Canadaâ€™s LGBTQ2+ lifestyle 51
FLASHBACK FLASHBACK: June 26, 1992 in LGBTQ history One Life To Live’s Billy Douglas comes out
MAY / JUNE 2020
Actor Ryan Phillippe made his daytime debut at age 18 as One Life To Live’s Billy Douglas back in April 1992. He was the new kid in town; his parents didn’t understand him; he felt trapped and lonely. Then, on the June 26 episode of the long-running ABC soap, Phillippe made history when the 16-year-old character told Reverend Andrew Carpenter that he was gay. That coming-out episode pushed One Life To Live into mainstream headlines. Although adult gay characters had previously made low-key appearances on several daytime soaps, no show had ever prominently featured a gay plot line – let alone a gay teenager – on its front burner. Through the next few months, One Life To Live boldly went where no soap had gone before: into a major plot line documenting a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality and the intolerance that erupted around him involving numerous residents of fictional Llanview, Pennsylvania, the show’s locale.
”When I auditioned, I had no idea Billy was gay,” Phillippe said in an interview. “They told me, and I said ‘Oh! Okay!’ but a shock went through my system. I thought, ‘What is my family going to think? What about my friends?’ But I realized that for Billy, the torment is a hundred times that.” “In a sense, we’re copping out,” OLTL producer Linda Gottlieb said at the time, admitting that the storyline could only go so far. “We’re not dealing with this kid in a gay relationship. We discussed it at length, but you do what you can do, and we can tell a strong story. Some people will be alienated; we’ll get vicious mail. But I hope that by seeing a young gay boy, getting to like him and sympathize with his pain, audiences will understand the hurt that awful jokes, dumb remarks and exclusionary behaviour can cause. We have an hour every day – what better place to explore this than daytime?”
These inspirational quotes are certain to brighten your day
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”
– Harvey Fierstein
“I think being gay is a blessing, and it’s something I am thankful for every single day.”
– Anderson Cooper
“We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity.”
– George Takei
“I’ve been embraced by a new community. That’s what happens when you’re finally honest about who you are; you find others like you.”
– Chaz Bono
“Somebody, your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished, and are perishing every hour – and in the oddest places! – for the lack of it.”
– James Baldwin
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