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Living & Design

G a y & L e s b i a n C i t y L i v i n g | J U NE 2 0 1 4

does our bitchiness Define Us? Melissa Etheridge comes to WorldPride Open house Google’s Will Eagle Hidden Cameras at Luminato

Matters of the art High-style house Holt Renfrew a perfect fit for Casey House

Travel: the paradoxical beauty of Havana Books: Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab Stage: Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

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– H O LT R E N F R E W P R O U D LY S U P P O R T S –


Celebrating you is always in style.

C A N A DA’ S D E S T I N AT I O N F O R S T Y L E , L U X U R Y & E X P E R I E N C E S I N C E 1 8 3 7 H O LT R E N F R E W. C O M

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delivered with style.


PUBLISHER Patricia Salib EDITOR Alan A Vernon Art director Nicolรกs Tallarico CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Gordon Bowness, Paul Gallant, Michael Pihach, Krishna Rau


CONTRIBUTORs Aaron Chinn, Mary Dickie, Chris Howson, Steve K, Sheila McElrea, Sutherland Models, Velocci Models, Kyle Pacholock, Monica Pavez, Adam Segal, Riley Stewart, Adam Webster, Teresa Young ON the cover Photography Adam Webster Senior Account Directors Ryan Lester Woodrow Monteiro DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Reggie Lanuza Controller Miki Ogiri OUR MISSION Inspire gay men and lesbians to live life to the fullest. Expand the gay and lesbian community by valuing diversity and individual choice. Celebrate Toronto. Provide readers with compelling news, information and entertainment. ADVERTISING & OTHER INQUIRIES 416-800-4449 ext 100 EDITORIAL INQUIRIES 416-800-4449 ext 201 PRODUCTION

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issue 49 JUNE 2014

views | living & design | insight | events | Arts & entertaiNment





living & design


06 | travel Havana’s odd mix of tourists, hustlers, trans folk and locals is truly something to behold

30 | get out Places to go, people to see

10 | open house The urban “country estate” of Google’s Will Eagle

32 | Music Melissa Etheridge rocks on at WorldPride

16 | fashion Stylish summer in support of Casey House

36 | Hidden Cameras depart from gay church folk music

24 | relationships Acceptance: Can family and friends welcome new definitions of gender?


26 | does our bitchiness define us? For a minority group who’s struggled for their place in the world, we can behave like a gaggle of bitter old queens

arts & entertainment

39 | books The multitalented Shani Mootoo stakes surprising new territory with her fourth novel 40 | Stage Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter celebrates a father’s coming out


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42 | caught in the act Party pics

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Havana tourism

Living & Design

T r av e l

A crumbling beauty → Havana may be the eighth wonder of the world. Just don’t criticize the government Story Gordon Bowness


owntown Havana is a mad jumble of faded and peeling pink, blue and yellow concrete confections: ornate beaux-arts palaces, sleek art-deco blocks and Soviet modernist marvels, all jammed together along narrow, winding streets, all in the same crumbling state of disrepair, blasted by sun, salt and rain. Then there are those famous Chevys and Fords: at least 50 per cent of vehicles on the road were made before the revolution of 1959 and the sub-

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sequent US embargo. And, most unsettling of all, there’s no advertising. No flashing screens, no billboards, hardly any signage over a particular business or shop. There are revolutionary slogans and the faces of Fidel and other revolutionary leaders hand-painted here and there. Plus some beer promotions. But that’s it. It’s shocking how disorienting the absence of advertising is. What era are we in? Everyone should experience this vertiginous, disorienting wonder city.

But poverty and politics lurk around every corner. Havana is not the Cuba of Varadero and Caya Coco with their unspoiled beaches and gated resorts. The capital offers a very different—and much richer— holiday experience. You cannot escape history in Havana. The past 500 years of conquest and colonialism, resistance and revolution, adaptation and syncretism are ever present. Havana’s history is its people, proud and tenacious. And history

doesn’t stand still. Perhaps that’s why Habaneros love to dance.


or LGBT locals and travellers alike, Havana is in a state of flux. Two years ago, to enter the LGBT social scene, you’d wander up and down the Malecón, the seaside promenade that runs for five miles through the heart of the city, or you’d head to a few blocks in the Vedado neighbourhood known as La Rampa, to find out where the roving gay party was happening that Saturday. The

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Gordon Bowness

Living & Design

search is much easier now. As of spring 2014, there are at least three LGBT bars with another two or three venues hosting weekly gay parties. Pride is now officially sanctioned; some events have even moved into the giant Karl Marx Theatre. The city’s LGBT scene is exploding. Around midnight one Friday this past February, a friend and I find ourselves standing outside Humboldt 52 (52 Humboldt), a small gay bar in a squat, nondescript building in Vedado. The doorman bars our entry; the place is full. The show has just started so no one’s leaving any time soon. We can hear the music and the revelry inside. My friend offers a substantial tip. The doorman demurs. He simply cannot squeeze two more people in. It’s packed. Outside are a few locals standing around. We don’t really feel like waiting. A young man approaches and suggests going to another place, a disco we’ve never heard of. He says

there will be lots of men and dancing. He’ll take us. We hem and we haw. “How far?” “Ten minutes.” “Ten Cuban minutes?” we ask. Havana is rife with jineteros, touts paid to steer tourists to bars and restaurants. He says it’s close. He seems nice. So off we go. After a five-minute walk we’re standing in front of Hotel St John’s (206 Calle O). The main-floor lobby, where we pay the cover, is a louche ’60s dream with its tattered rattan chairs and young men lounging in tight jeans. The disco, Pico Blanco, is on the 14th floor. We’re escorted to an elevator and squeeze in with a full party; we all laugh nervously as the elevator bounces upward. The door opens onto a startling scene: A dark, narrow hallway packed with young men. We’re one floor below the disco, where the washrooms are. We walk past the line and up a flight of stairs,

again crowded with men, and into the disco. We made the right choice. The place is crammed, the vast majority locals. It’s not a huge space but it takes up almost the entire top floor. Glass walls on three sides offer a stunning view of the city. On a low stage at one end is a show with drag queens and muscle-bound acrobats. The vibe is sexational. Immediately I get a new friend. “You have a nice face. Do you like my face? You have nice eyes….” We start buying drinks. It’s what you do. We get more friends. And then the question… “Are you staying in a hotel?” This is crucial, I find out, because locals can’t stay overnight in hotels; they can only hook up with tourists at private bed and breakfasts, what’s called casa particulares. It so happens my friend and I are staying at a casa particular. We get more friends. As the dancing kicks in, the place really heats up, literally.

→ time capsule The past 500 years of conquest and colonialism, resistance and revolution, adaptation and syncretism are ever present. (Pictured above and left) The Paseo Del Prado

We lose the view because of the steamy windows. From the street below it must look like some perilously perched opaque fish tank. At one point my friend is approached by two stunning creatures: young, tall, skinny, both wearing tight mod suits, one all white, the other white and black. They are like some Cuban version of the Kray brothers… a very apt allusion, apparently, at least according to my new friend, the one with the compliments. “Watch your wallet with those two,” he hisses. “Tell your friend, now.” As if on cue, my friend comes over with the dashing duo and one of them offers me a drink. Unheard of. C’est la guerre. We never do figure out if the warning is genuine… or perhaps

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Living & Design

with celebrity memorabilia, ceramics, art, kitsch and plants. And Chihuahuas. There’s a pretty garden patio on the roof and a small must-see dining room downstairs. The place is just around the corner from one of the best restos in the city, La Guarida (418 Concordia). Unbelievably romantic and great food. But you have to book ahead. So go there to make a reservation, then head to Notre Dame. You’ll be charmed.

Both photos James Burn


→ mixed message The tarnished beauty of Havana stems from a mix of everyday poverty and the glamour of tourism. (Top) La Guarida, the best restaurant in town, is on the top floor of this beaux arts ruin; colourful car park in Havana.

more self-serving. A few hours later, with only our original guide in tow, we try our luck again at Humboldt. It’s quiet at that late hour, only a handful of people remain—a welcome opportunity for conversation, however broken, and laughs. This is what we learn about the weekend line-up of LGBT parties. Fridays is Pico Blanco, Saturdays is Café Cantante (at the corner of Paseo and Calle 39, in the basement of the Teatro Nacional; considered gayfriendly most of the time), and Sundays is… something. I

can’t remember; too much rum. It seems Humboldt is always a good bet. The other fulltime gay bar is the scrappy Las Vegas (204 Infanta), which has a popular drag show that starts after midnight. It’s dead before that. Who knows which venue will still be happening next season? In the past the police would crack down periodically on gatherings along the queerer section of the Malecón. Hopefully, however, these bars—and others—will still be going strong. There are countless gayfriendly restaurants, too. One of the most quixotic by far is Notre Dame des Bijoux (218 Gervasio) in Centro Havana, run by a flamboyant former dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba. The place is stuffed to the gills

n a number of fronts, LGBT Cubans have made huge strides in the last 15 years. Leading the charge is Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of President Raul Castro and director of the Cuban National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX). Last year Espin was awarded the International Grand Prix by the Quebec lobby group Conseil québécois LGBT for her educational and advocacy work on behalf of LGBT and HIVpositive Cubans. No doubt Espin helped prod her uncle Fidel Castro to make a remarkable expression of regret in 2010 over the regime’s past maltreatment of LGBT Cubans. Gone are the notorious quarantines for HIV-positive individuals. A UN report notes that generic anti-retroviral drugs are now readily available. Rigorous testing, education and outreach have resulted in the lowest HIV rates in the region. In addition, Cubans have had access to sex reassignment surgeries through the universal health care system since 2008. In 2012 a trans woman was even elected to municipal office in a central province. The increasingly public success of Havana’s two-week long Pride, officially an antihomophobia event known as iDAHO, is a tangible expression of the improved lot of LGBT Habaneros. As long as they don’t criticize the government. The Human Rights Watch report on Cuba is sobering: Political dissent is met with arbitrary detentions and intimidation. Freedom of expression is nonexistent.

The government’s paranoia is plainly visible. When tourists and Habaneros mix, police regularly stop locals to check identity papers. Even on the gay beach, young men parading in swimming trunks can’t stray more than a few feet from their bags or wallets holding their papers. Authorities seem intent on showing locals they are under the thumb of the regime. It’s disturbing to witness. Even I got mistaken for a local when a cop barked something at me in Spanish. When I responded in English she waved me away like some bad smell. So how to justify going? Cubans are very poor; they need our money (and much else). In addition to documenting abuses by the regime, many human rights groups acknowledge the terrible pain inflicted by the US embargo, mainly borne by the poor and other marginal groups. Recent baby steps towards economic liberalization are unleashing pent-up entrepreneurial energy. The tiny nascent middle class needs support if it’s ever to have enough clout to challenge the regime. Whether you want to thumb your nose at US arrogance or support gradual change in Cuba, go to Havana and spend money. Engage… in crumbling beauty and in messy politics. Havana and its people offer so much in return.

Culture vs beach? You don’t have to give up the sun and sea when staying in Havana. There’s a lovely long stretch of beach called Playa del Este just a 20-minute taxi ride from downtown (costs around $20; arrange with the driver to pick you up, too). There’s a big hotel at Santa Maria del Mar at one end and a small town called Guanabo at the other. The gay beach, Mi Cayito, is in the middle. There you can rent lounge chairs and buy cold beer and drinks and food (ham and cheese sandwiches are always a safe bet in Cuba, but also tasty deep-fried shrimp). The odd mix of tourists, hustlers, trans folk and other locals—all under the watchful eye of the police—is something to behold.

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Living & Design

O pe n H o u s e

House of nuance → Google Canada’s Will Eagle—part old world English gentlemen, part digital branding star Story Michael Pihach | Photography Riley Stewart


ore than a decade ago, Will Eagle was living in an Edwardian house in London, England, while working a dream job at the Virgin Group alongside company grand poobah Richard Branson. Everything on the career front was going to plan… until a transfer to work for Virgin Mobile in Toronto caught Eagle’s eye, an offer the tech-savvy Englishman couldn’t refuse. In 2004, Eagle relocated to the T-Dot, settling into an ultrachic condo at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel. But after renting for three years, and leaving Virgin Mobile to work at MTV Canada, Eagle was itching to get his hands dirty and buy a house. The 34-year-old, who now works at Google, eventually found his pet project: a two-storey attached treasure in Cabbagetown.

You went from living in a luxury modern condo in the SoHo to a quaint house in Cabbagetown. Why the dramatic shift? In London I lived with 10 other people in a big, drafty and very expensive Edwardian house with one bathtub. The people were great, but I wanted to live alone and when I came to Canada I realized I could do that. A [modern condo] is something I thought I wanted at first, but I’ve always preferred something that get could my hands dirty. Something I could renovate and decorate. Your home was the first and only place you looked at while house hunting. What sold you? I never thought I could find a small but reasonable house in Cabbagetown because all you hear about are one-to-two million

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Living & Design

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Living & Design

dollar homes. Also, when I told my UK friends that I was looking to buy, they said I should look in Cabbagetown. The neighbourhood’s reputation extends across the pond? I think it’s because there’s lots of British people who live in Cabbagetown. It’s like a British enclave. And a gay enclave. You said your home was nothing but a “beige shell”

when you first moved in. How did you add your own spin to it? I collected stuff I thought I’d like. The framed pictures, for example, have personal meaning: one is a picture from the 1930s of the street I lived on in Brighton, England. There’s a framed etching of a castle, which is the castle in the town I grew up in in England. I added the mantelpiece and crown moulding myself.

→ country squire Despite working at Google’s trendy office in Toronto, home for Will Eagle is all about old world charm.

Would you call your place the ultimate country home? I don’t have pretensions on having a grand country home. So I’ve chosen popular things from the Orient that people might know: glossy lacquer foo dog statues I got from Pearl River Mart in New York City; English

history books that were given to me by a neighbour who moved away. I’ve tried to synthesize things in a way that doesn’t feel stuffy, but traditional and comfortable. You have the soul of an old world English gentleman, but professionally you’re a digital

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Living & Design

branding star at Google. What’s it like working there? Google is like no other company I’ve worked for. You’re always up-to-date on things that will soon be hitting the market, like Google Glass or contact lenses that can help with diabetes. Innovative stuff that is about making the world better. I’ve heard Google’s office space is like no other. The office is at Richmond

and York and is designed to make the working experience more comfortable. There are different activities on every floor. My floor has a gym and a pingpong table; another floor has a foosball and pool table. You can move around the office, change your environment and improve productivity. How hard is it to get a job there? It’s embarrassing to answer this because I have to say

something about myself, but yes, it’s very hard to get a job there. Google has a solid recruitment process and they definitely look for the best people. It’s not just about academics. It’s about being a cultural fit. What’s it like being gay at Google? There’s a group of us called the gayglers. Diversity is hugely important at Google because you’re working in multiple

territories around the world. On top of being a pro gaygler at Google, you’re also an active participant in Toronto’s ballroom scene. How did you get into that? I had read about the ballroom scene on BlogTO years ago. Someone had also showed me Paris Is Burning and I really wanted to go to a ball. Years ago I went to a Lady Gaga concert with a friend and after there was a ball happening. We went and had the

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Living & Design

→ diy BY design Eagle always preferred a place where he could get his hands dirty. Something he could renovate and decorate. He got his wish with this Cabbagetown fixer-upper.

best time of our lives. I ended up starting a house called the House of Nuance. So I take it you know how to vogue. I don’t vogue because I have no rhythm, but people in our house do. I’m more about best-dressed,

all-American runway (walking like a straight guy), bizarre (which is like Halloween) and executive realness. Very cool, but I never expected any of this upon first meeting you. Where does this side of you come from?

Halloween. I love Halloween. It’s more of a thing in Toronto than it is in England. When I worked at MTV I dressed up as a Victorian chimneysweep. Then I saw all the creativity that other people had brought so the following year I upped my game and went as Glinda the good witch. Dressing in costume is just one facet of the ballroom scene.

Where can people see your house perform next? The House of Nuance is kicking off World Pride at the Bizarre Ball at Buddies In Bad Times on Friday, June 20. The theme is Rainbow Warriors. It’ll be like the Latex Ball in New York City, which is a big costume party. We want it to turn into something like that eventually.

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wear your art on your sleeve style meets compassion at Art with Heart fundraiser for Casey House all clothing provided by Holt Renfrew Photography: Adam Webster styling: SHeila McElrea Models: Aaron Chinn & Kyle Pacholok (Sutherland Models) STeve K (Velocci MOdels) Makeup & Grooming: Monica Pavez, Teresa Young Shot on location at: 401 Richmond & Gallery 44 artwork: Janna Watson, I’d rather be in the sky or in the ocean

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Blazer: Etro shorts: Richard james outlooks shoes: stacy adams

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posh and pensive (left) Jacket, SHirt: Paul SMith Pants: Ralph Lauren (right) Long-sleeve T: Holt Renfrew Jeans: J Brand 18 outlooks Month 2011

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artwork: April Hickox, Hammock Wall Art, Ruth Skinner outlooks

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White glove treatment (Left) Suit: Armani (Right) Suit: Paul SMith 20 outlooks Month 2011

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artwork: Mike Badour, Juggler outlooks

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Making headway


(Left) SHirt: Holt Renfrew Pants: Ralph Lauren (Centre) BLazer: Paul Smith Shirt: Ralph Lauren Pants: J Brand (RIght) SHirt: Holt Renfrew Tie: Armani Pants: J Brand o u tShoes: l o o k s MStacy o n t h 2ADams 011

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Living & Design

relationship advice — with Adam Segal → I’ve met a new guy recently and am pretty much over the moon. We began dating after meeting at a club and each moment we spend together, it gets clearer that we really have something. I’m a cis guy and he is trans. This is a first for me and I hate to admit that it has been a bit of a curveball, at least initially. Where I get really nervous is when I imagine how my family and friends will respond once they know him and his gender identity. So far, only a few friends know I’m getting serious about a guy at all. My circle have been very supportive since I came out about five years ago, but this feels like different territory. My bf says he wants close friends and family to know he’s trans because he doesn’t always pass and would rather people not guess. I fear that there will be discomfort or outright judgment... or that they won’t know how to be around him. What’s the best way to handle this? Greg 577 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1Z2 T 416-966-6969 | shop online

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Your new romance is forcing you to have to take a look at the narrow and outright oppressive ways our culture tends to view gender—and all the notions and expectations that go along with that. While your circle has been great at accepting and celebrating you as a gay man, you are right to consider that their understanding with respect to gender identity might take a different shape. The likelihood is that there will be a range of responses. You can certainly prepare, to an extent, but there is no perfect way to navigate this step. Patience will be a virtue, as some may need time to adapt just as you did. Transphobia is very much alive despite increased trans visibility in popular consciousness. Friends or family that see themselves as progressive could still be outright phobic or more subtly ignorant to the plurality of gender and the difference between biological factors and gender identity, never mind the fact that gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. You should consider just how much educating you are up for; as your peeps could look to you as their new Trans 101 professor. Like so many mothers in countless after-school TV specials,

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I will repeat the overly simplistic argument that unkind friends aren’t worth having in the first place. I don’t want to minimize the potential risk to you, and your bf, of others’ discomfort or judgmental behaviour. Losing any relationship to a friend or family member over this would be outright tragic, but ultimately you may need to step back from anyone that actively works against you and your blissful new romance unless they are willing to evolve their stance. Your sweet new guy has most likely already had to face a number of similarly difficult situations with regards to his trans-ness in addition to the assumptions that face him on a daily basis. My stance is that your friends and family are your responsibility when it comes to working toward making a safe place for both of you. That you have the intention of inviting others to share in your romantic delight shows that you are a strong ally and boyfriend. This confidence will go a long way in taking your relationship out of a vacuum and into your larger world.

Adam Segal The writer and therapist works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental health question at

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WHAT IT MEANS TO BE SEEN Photography and Queer Visibility june 18 – august 24, 2014 Photographer unknown, c. 1960 (detail). From Casa Susanna edited by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, published by powerHouse Books (2005)


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c u lt u re

Bad habits → Even though the world often gives us a rough ride, our bitchiness doesn’t have to define us Story Paul Gallant


anadian gay men of a certain age have a few nasty things tucked in the back of their drawers. Shiny, stretchy and most certainly a fire hazard, 1990s club wear from retailers like Body Body Wear and Priape held us together— tightly together—at a time when gay life was exploding. The skin-tight sleeveless glitter tops in the drawer are mementos of a less hairy, less lumberjack-y era. Wearing them now? A much trickier proposition. When gay men first come out, they often embrace all sorts of trends and attitudes that are relatively harmless in the short term. But they get a little tired. Not just fashion crimes, either. We pick up other habits that are equally hard to get rid of.

“I think some men grow up and do leave their bad behaviour behind, but some men thrive on the drama and the nasty,” says Tyler Curry, a photographer and writer from Dallas, Texas. An article on his blog,, maps out “the six gay men you never want to meet,” ranging from Dr. Sober/ Mr. Sloppy (a drunken lech) and the Serial Dater (a love addict) to the Mombie (a model zombie). Though some readers saw the piece as unfairly demonizing gay guys, Curry confesses that he himself has been every single one of the six types at one time or another in his life. “Looking back, I cringe at everything and laugh at everything.” The way society treats gay people—and how we treat each

other—can leave us with some bad habits. But, like the stretched out T-shirts we now wouldn’t be caught dead in, they don’t have to define us.

Snap judgments A counsellor for more than 30 years, Nelson Parker says one of the most common complaints he hears about gay life is that the community is judgmental. That might emerge from our own feelings of being judged by the straight world. Often expected to account for why we are different, gay men can develop a sharp eye for spotting—and a sharp tongue for pointing out—differences in others. “There’s humour that comes from oppression,” says Curry.

“There’s a release to being a little nasty because you can just get so fed up.” Bitchy humour is both an effective way of quickly making new connections—did you notice the run in that drag queen’s nylons, too?—and a defence mechanism to ward off other people’s judgments. “Gossip is illicit speculation, information, knowledge. It is an indispensable resource for those who are in any sense or measure disempowered,” wrote the American literary critic and historian Henry Abelove in his book Deep Gossip. But when people complain that it’s pushing them apart rather than uniting them, you have to wonder whether it can go too far. “It’s very easy to take for granted what we do like,” says

→ defence mechanism? In trying to be our best do we end up looking like everyone else? And if so, does that mean we end up conforming to a straight standard?

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Trevor Hart, an associate professor of psychology at Ryerson University and chair in Applied HIV Research at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. “We take more notice of threats than human pleasures.”

Clone invasion Birds of a feather flock together, but how much did you pay for your feathers? Gay men sometimes conform to certain wardrobe choices, exercise routines and musical tastes. Parker says some subcultures can push this to the extreme. “When people talk about the drug scene, it sounds like high school to me,” says Parker. “Everybody’s got to be the same, everybody’s got to be doing the same thing and if you’re not doing whatever everybody else is doing, you’re going to be ostracized.” Fashion savvy can turn into fashion fascism. The cult of “straight acting” has most of its adherents dressed in the same brands. But the truth is: The straight guys they’re trying to look like don’t pay nearly as much attention to what their friends are wearing.

Who’s on top One might assume that people who have struggled for their place in the world would be more sympathetic toward other people’s struggles. But often groups who have won acceptance are so relieved, they are less likely to be sympathetic. You can see it in the lack of interest many gay men show in transgender/transsexual issues, even though being vilified for being too masculine or too feminine is a shared experience for both groups. “There’s a phenomenon where people think, ‘I’ve made it and that means I’m better than someone else,’” says Parker. “There’s also an element of, ‘I don’t want to be painted with the same brush as you.’” Often the perception of having “made it” is premature—which is part of the problem. “People still

hear homophobic slurs when they’re walking down the street with their friends. It can still be very stressful to be gay,” says Hart. “Even though a lot of gay men report they don’t feel overt homophobia on a day-to-day basis, they do feel affected by it.” The tendency to hold other oppressed groups at a distance betrays a lingering denial about our own vulnerability. Feeling less precarious might, in fact, make us nicer.

yo, dude Anyone who’s ever perused a personal profile knows the code words: straight-acting, masculine, normal dude, not into the scene. The obsession with “straight-acting” guys emerges from insecurity about our own manliness. Hart says studies show that gay men are more likely to report not being as masculine as they’d like to be, which

ing by straight people’s rules is the first step in coming up with our own rules—which may be more fun, anyway.

players be playing Apps and websites that allow gay men to easily hook up can create the impression that the dating pool is infinite. So efficient are these systems that some men take it to the extreme, melting down their evaluation process to 1) hot photo and 2) the right answer to a series of sexual questions asked and answered without charm, wit, manners or humanity. “If we went on a first date, we’d figure out the roles and the chemistry organically,” says Curry. “Now it’s become forced. I know I like X, Y and Z and if you’re not that, then you’re blocked.” We can be jawdroppingly discourteous. Parker says gay men who do get around to dating often have

“Everybody’s got to be the same, everybody’s got to be doing the same thing and if you’re not doing whatever everybody else is doing, you’re going to be ostracized.” —counsellor Nelson Parker makes sense, considering that straight people establish the norms. “Gay men don’t conform to gender as defined by straight people,” says Hart. “People can feel bad about themselves and want to demonstrate that they’re just as good as anybody by meeting the stereotype.” Recognizing that we are play-

expectations that are too high. Rather than look for a connection, they arrive with a checklist. “If the date doesn’t give them what they want, they say, ‘That’s it.’” Unlike our straight counterparts, gay men usually don’t get to date as teenagers. Lack of early practice in seduction and courtship may carry adolescent anxi-

eties into our 20s and longer. As more people come out earlier in life, that could change. Gay men who make their awkward dating mistakes when they’re young may be better catches as adults. But then again, as Hart points out, studies have shown that coming out earlier also means experiencing homophobia at a younger age, when a person has fewer resources to deflect it. We may have more legal rights and better corporate policies, but the world is still a pretty straight place. When a gay man told Parker that his parents said they still loved him after he came out, Parker thought to himself, ‘That’s not much.’” We still have many reasons to doubt who we are and what we’re worth. Those doubts make us especially hard on ourselves. Hart doesn’t think there are any particularly “gay” bad habits. Straight men can be careless with straight women’s hearts (and vice versa). Straight women can be judgmental about straight guys (and vice versa). Straight people of both sexes can be materialistic and conformist. In gay life, though, courtship and competition are combined. When we meet each other, we are always trying to figure out if it will turn into a sexual relationship, a friendship, a rivalry or something else. As we determine each other’s compatibility, availability and desirability, Parker says gay men experience both sides of the equation at the same time. We see the worst of each other, but we can also see the best. Hart points out that gay men have teamed up to fight against homophobic violence and the AIDS crisis. We have built a community together that has reshaped many Canadian cities. That’s not a bad track record for a minority group which can, from time to time, behave like a gaggle of bitter old queens wearing clothes that are too tight for them.

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Get out june Events

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Camp Fires reveals the concept of “camp” in the work of three important Francophone Canadian ceramic artists: Léopold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu and Richard Milette. Camp Fires is an often sensual encounter with these artists’ powerful body of work, one that addresses subversive ideas about queer identity through clay. To Sept 1. Gardiner Museum. 111 Queen’s Park.



Guest curated by the Art Gallery of Ontario’s associate curator of photography Sophie Hackett, this exhibition examines public representation of queer people through photography, mass media and activist publications—and brings focus to the ways in which photographs have historically been used (and misused) to make queer people visible, collectively and individually. (Pictured: Casa Susanna, c.1960. From Casa Susanna edited by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, published by powerHouse Books) Hackett also curates Fan the Flames: Queer Positions in Photography, which appears concurrently at the AGO. It features historical and contemporary works by Canadian and international artists whose work documents, questions and extends the practice of drag, often now seen as performance art. To August 24. Ryerson Image Centre. 33 Gould St.


This year’s lineup includes The Hidden Cameras (June 8, pictured right) who’ve emerged as Toronto’s most outrageous indie band with their brand of “gay church folk music.” Also not to be missed is If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway: An Evening of Love Duets (June 14) where Rufus Wainwright (pictured left) teams up with Grammy and Tony-winning music director Stephen Oremus to redefine love songs from Broadway musicals. Performed exclusively by men and to men, the evening showcases Wainwright and an international spectrum of pop, jazz and musical theatre stars in unexpected pairs. Guests include Boy George, David Byrne and Steven Page. To June 15. Various Venues. luminatofestival. com. (See interview with Hidden Cameras lead man Joel Gibb on page 36.)

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festival › NXNE

The 10-day fest, now in its 20th year, has more than 1,000 bands at more than 50 venues across the city. It’s an arts and cultural celebration of film, comedy, visual art and interactive components. Performers include out gay rapper Le1f (pictured), The Cliks, Guerrilla Toss and Lakes of Canada. To June 22. Various venues.

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Half a million music lovers unite across 40 locations for one of the city’s largest music festivals. Of the 350 concerts, confirmed artists include Bobby McFerrin (above right); Keith Jarrett; Chaka Khan (above left); Stanley Clarke; Dianne Reeves; Snarky Puppy, winner of this year’s Grammy for Best R&B performance; and a double bill featuring Dave Holland, Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland. To June 28. Various Venues.

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This showcase of queer theatre, comedy, art, music and parties underscores the LGBT community’s unstoppable spirit. The line-up of entertainers includes a celebration of Buddies’ 35th birthday with 35 Years & Counting and PrideCab, a multi-disciplinary cabaret created by members of Buddies’ Queer Youth Arts Program. Plus queer comedy with perennial favourites Bitch Salad and Homo Night in Canada (pictured right ), showcasing the talents of Drew Droege, Dawn Whitwell, Lindy Zucker, Katherine Ryan, The Cheeto Girls, Shawn Hitchins and Elvira Kurt. Gavin Crawford (pictured left) and Sharron Matthews also join forces on stage for the first time. To June 29. Buddies in Bad Times. 12 Alexander St.



A retrospective of the fabulous nobodies who ruled New York nightlife during the period 1987-1990 photographed by nightlife documentarian John Simone. Images include RuPaul, Michael Alig, Madonna, Cher, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Sandra Bernhard, Divine, Halston, Barbra Streisand and Keith Haring. To June 29. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. 12 Alexander St.


CELEBRATION › WORLDPRIDETORONTO This international event incorporates activism, education and the history and culture of global queer communities. WorldPride 2014 Toronto is presented by Pride Toronto and celebrates the history, courage, diversity and future of Toronto’s LGBTTIQQ2SA* communities. This year’s lineup across the more than 25-block festival footprint includes Melissa Etheridge, Tegan and Sara, Martha Wash, and DJs David Morales and Quentin Harris. Plus Hercules and Love Affair, Crystal Waters and Neon Hitch. Various venues. To June 29. (See our interview with Melissa Etheridge on page 32.)

art › NUIT ROSE This late-night queer contemporary art festival of indoor and outdoor art installations from a variety of independent, Canadian, LGBTI artists, curators and arts producers, as well as live performances takes place in two ‘hoods: Church-Wellesley Village and the West Queen West Art and Design District (between Shaw St and Gladstone Ave). Shuttle buses will be available. On Church Street, installations and events are at The 519 Community Centre, Cawthra Park and neighbouring businesses. In the Queen West area, expect visual arts, installations and events at the Drake and Gladstone hotels, Artscape, YoungPlace and at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Artists include Michael Venus’s Icons and Demigods series (pictured above), Joey Bruni and Roy Mitchell who broadcasts his live internet radio show, Roynation, as well as displays his interactive performance piece, Neighbourly Advice.


The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) celebrates WorldPride with a series that sheds light on LGBTQ human rights, identities and histories from around the world, Imaging Home: Resistance, Migration, Contradiction. The exhibition brings together documentary video and photographic work that explores the experiences of LGBTQ individuals living in oppressive regions around the globe. Works from Uganda, Kenya, Guyana, the Caribbean, India and Toronto are pieced together to tell a story about the challenge of envisioning human rights at home—wherever that home is. Viewers are also able to participate in the exhibition by adding their own photos to the collection as part of a growing global family photo album through the joint project Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights. CLGA. 34 Isabella St.

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Arts & Entertainment

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Arts & Entertainment


To Russia with love → Rock and role-model icon Melissa Etheridge lights up with a lyrical message of hope Story Chris Howson


elissa Etheridge is an icon. There, I said it. The story of her contribution to LGBT popular culture is a brave one. The singer/songwriter came out more than two decades ago, a time when few, let alone the famous, had the guts to break down the barriers of homophobia. And ironically for her, it wasn’t until she publicly announced her sexuality and released her fourth studio album in 1993 that she was solid in the world of rock and roll. Now, after 25 years in the music biz Melissa Etheridge will make her first-ever Canadian Pride appearance at Toronto’s WorldPride celebration. You came out of the closet 21 years ago! How has the world changed since then? I think gay rights were and are at the forefront of human rights. We represented it because ours was a difference that you could hide. It wasn’t one that was on our skin or in our body… it was a difference that came from our heart. So it was debatable and questionable, and yet the more we stood firmly and said, “No this is who I am deep inside to my core, this is what I believe,” the more people understood that maybe there wasn’t one way that we were supposed to be and maybe there is a gorgeousness to this diversity. Michael Sam [a 2014 draft pick] is going to be massive in professional football [and might become the first openly gay athlete in the NFL after being picked by the St. Louis Rams]. I love that the ones coming out are so smart and so well spoken… I love it! Back when you came out things weren’t like this, you pretty much stood alone. Do you remember being scared? It was scary and exciting. It was unknown. I would

have parties at my house and Ellen DeGeneres, KD Lang, me, Rosie O’Donnell would all be in one room kinda talking about it… we were all out; we were out to our families, we were out to our friends and inside the industry everyone knew. We were very strong, smart people and thought, “What’s it going to take to step across that boundary and into the public?” KD jumped off first, then I jumped and then Ellen and… it was fun, it was exciting. Of course, some ugly stuff comes up, but that’s just the way of the world. As far as things have come in many parts of the world, it seems as if things are getting worse in others like Uganda, Nigeria and Russia. You were gay, you got hung, you were dead. The more that Western countries move into the light, those places are also being pulled into the light. Now we are looking at them and yeah, it’s going to be a long road. The more each of us comes out, the more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more we can change the world. Can you talk a bit about your latest single Uprising of Love and how the issues of the LGBT community in Russia inspired it? It was my effort to send a message, to shoot an arrow into the sky and make it light up. It was sending them our support. I’m not going to go to Putin and say, “Change that law.” That’s not going to work. What is going to work is changing the hearts and minds of people. The law will follow afterward; that’s how it works. And a portion of the proceeds goes to support a coalition you also founded of the same name? Yes. Uprising of Love is a part of the Russian Freedom Fund, which also gives money to the LGBT

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Arts & Entertainment

→ rocking on Melissa Etheridge with wife-to-be Linda Wallem (left) and receiving the Oscar in 2007 for Best Original Song for I Need To Wake Up from the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

leaders in Russia now. I met them, these sweet darling people who are putting their lives on the line… It reminds me of the leaders in the early ‘80s. They are standing up and trying to organize with no money and they have no people to help them, but that’s the only way to get the gay community strong. Switching gears slightly, you’re working on a new album I’m in the middle of creating the album; I’m with a different management company, it’s very new ground I’m on. I’m going out and searching for inspiration from many different people. I’m collaborating more on the musical production process, so you’re going to hear things that are a bit out of my comfort zone, out of the box that you may have placed me in. Nowadays through technology it’s about making me and my guitar or me and my piano the centre and then surrounding it with these different sounds. That’s where I’m at and I’m really loving it and enjoying the whole experience. After so many years in the industry, do you still get nervous about releasing new material? I can’t worry about how the world receives it and I don’t. It is

such a joyful process on my part; I’m so blessed to have been able to do this for this long and for this to be my work, to go create music. I know that if I do my job, which is to create music that I love, then I know I’m doing it right. I can’t guess what other people love and want but I know I have to stand by it and go, “I love this. I want to sing this, I want to play this, I want to listen to it.”

There are whispers in the Twitterverse that you are planning a collaboration with Adam Lambert. Any truth to that? Oh yes. I was performing at the Family Equality Council and afterwards Adam got up and sang and just slayed me; I was totally thrilled. His fans and my fans were all demanding a duet so I tweeted him and said, “Hey

I would have parties at my house and Ellen DeGeneres, KD Lang, me, Rosie O’Donnell would all be in one room… we were out to our families, we were out to our friends and inside the industry everyone knew. We were very strong, smart people and thought, “What’s it going to take to step across that boundary and into the public?” KD jumped off first, then I jumped and then Ellen... it was fun....

Adam, the fans have spoken, what do you think?” And now we are talking. We’re both making records right now so I see no reason why there cannot be a collaboration on either his or my record coming out very soon. In all your years on tour, do you have a favourite memory? It’s a toss-up between singing with Bruce Springsteen and the 2005 Grammys when I was bald and it was a big personal triumph for me. You’ve only ever done one Pride show in Pittsburgh. Are you excited about coming to WorldPride in Toronto? Yes. I’ll give Toronto a little secret. This summer something is happening in Toronto that I am going to be a part of that is going to be so awesome, and it has to do with Pride. That’s all I’m going to say. You have a fiercely loyal fan base and such a great influence on the world. How does it feel to inspire with every step you take. It becomes a responsibility. All of a sudden I have to think about the choices that I make because not only do they affect me and my family, but they also affect people who are watching my story and looking for guidance. And that’s big; I take it seriously as a mother in my family and also as a leader in the gay community. I’m honoured to be in that position. You’re an Oscar winner and a two-time Grammy Award winner. Will you round it out with an EGOT? You know it. I would not be a very good gay if I didn’t try for the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). I’m marrying into television [to American actress, writer and producer Linda Wallem] so someday I’ll get that Emmy, somehow. Also my partner and I are so very close to a musical on Broadway, so believe me, those are two very important things in my future. In the meantime I’m just doing what I do.

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Arts & Entertainment


Channeling the devil → The sixth Hidden Cameras album addresses the angst and horrors of adolescence—and the politics of the dancefloor Story Mary Dickie


he Hidden Cameras’ sixth album, AGE, is a bit of a departure for the renowned Toronto musical provocateurs. Rather than gathering the troops—who include Gentleman Reg, Maggie MacDonald, Laura Barrett, Don Kerr and Owen Pallett, among other local luminaries—and recording some new songs together, bandleader and songwriter Joel Gibb (pictured top left) took a different approach. Gibb, who’s been dividing his time

between Toronto and Berlin for several years, raided his vault of songs, going back to some of his earliest efforts, and recorded them one at a time, here and there in Toronto and Europe. “I spent so long working on it over the years,” he says. “It was this little pet project, this album I’ve wanted to make ever since I started writing songs.” Full of dark, melancholy, minor-key songs (another departure from the Cameras’ joyous, exuberant “gay church folk

music”), heavy on keyboards and even featuring a dub song, AGE ended up being the 37-yearold Gibb’s coming-of-age album, addressing the angst and horrors of his adolescence. The devastating video for the single Gay Goth Scene, directed by Kai Stanicke, illustrates that theme with a stark, painful story about teenage homophobic bullying. The song, which features a spinechilling vocal by Mary Margaret O’Hara—“I asked her to channel the devil,” Gibb explains—is more

than a decade old, but it didn’t find a place on a Hidden Cameras album until now, though it’s been a fixture of the band’s live set. “It was recorded at [producer] Ohad Benchitrit’s house in maybe 2003,” Gibb recalls. “We played it at the Gay Goth show in 2002 at that goth club on Queen, the Vatikan. Somehow we made a set that was dark with our early material, and it worked. We always put Gay Goth Scene into the set, especially on Halloween. It kind of fit into a Hidden

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Arts & Entertainment

“Berlin is a dark place, I have to say. There’s a gay club scene, but it’s not a happy one. It is a place where lost souls congregate, and it’s got an eerie quality.” —Joel Gibb

Cameras show, but I don’t know how it would have fit on any other album. “And I started recording Skin and Leather with Don Kerr when we were doing [the 2006 album] Awoo. To me, those two songs are companion pieces. I kind of pooled all my minor-key songs in the back recesses of my mind, and it’s like now they all match. They’re almost all in F minor. It’s like my songwriting through a minor lens.” Still, a Hidden Cameras concert will always be infectiously joyful. “My songwriting is not depressing-sounding,” Gibb says, “though I may feel depressed sometimes.” It’s way too easy to call AGE the product of Gibb’s dark Berlin period, like those of David Bowie and Iggy Pop—particularly since a lot of the writing and recording was done here in Toronto. “I write more songs here, I can’t explain why,” he says. “I think it’s something about where you come from, you know? The thing I like about Toronto is that there’s such a healthy, supportive arts scene across the disciplines. I don’t think Berlin has a community so much. It’s a lot of techno people who work by themselves. I don’t know a single guitar player there.” Gibb calls the album “completely mixed up” when it comes

to where and when it was created. “The music for Carpe Jugular, the clubby one, was done by Graham Peel, this Scottish guy,” he says. “That was my first co-write. I wrote the lyrics and sang that in Berlin. It kind of deconstructs the politics of the dance floor. But Ordinary Over You was done with James Bunton here, just down the street. “Berlin is a dark place, I have to say. There’s a gay club scene, but it’s not a happy one. It is a place where lost souls congregate, and it’s got an eerie quality.” The city has also served as a creative hub for Canadian expatriate musicians like Chilly Gonzales and Peaches, both of whom have given Gibb support. “The first time I went to Berlin, I stayed in Chilly’s apartment for a couple of weeks,” he recalls. “I met this fiery Norwegian opera director who was the impetus for me to move there, but that ended quickly. But Peaches has always been a steadfast buddy.” And Gonzales played piano on one of AGE’s standout tracks, Year of the Spawn. “He’s so good,” says Gibb. “I told him to channel the devil as well. He heard the song once and recorded it in like five minutes.” Now, Gibb acknowledges that he’s symbolically letting go of his adolescence by releasing

these songs. “I think I’m growing up, finally,” he says with a rueful smile. Which means he’s now free to make a complete about-face and release—wait for it—a country album. It’s all written and recorded and needs just a few finishing touches. “I wrote so many songs between 2000 and 2006, I’m just catching up right now,” he explains. “I don’t need to write another song. I have this record and a record which is country-influenced and very, very sweet. There are a lot of songs, and a lot of covers. There’s a Tim Hardin cover, and a song by Wade Hemsworth, a Quebec folk singer from the ’50s. And a Hidden Cameras song from [2001’s] Ecce Homo, He Is the Boss of Me. Ecce Homo was all four-track demos, and I’ve rerecorded each song in the studio. The only one that was never rerecorded was He Is the Boss of Me, so it’s finally going to make its way onto a record. The album is going to have pedal steel and strings and banjo—all the stuff I love.” Plus Mary Margaret O’Hara, apparently channeling a “church boy” this time. After clearing the vaults with those two albums, Gibb says he then wants to make one the oldfashioned way. “I want to get a band and rehearse and then go make a record somewhere, record it classic style. I really miss

→ coming of age The Hidden Cameras’ latest album is a departure from the joyous, exuberant “gay church folk music,” addressing the angst and horrors of Gibb’s adolescence.

the old process we had on the first and second records, which was getting everyone together, recording it in one place, mixing it with the same person and it’s done.” In the meantime, the Hidden Cameras are playing a show on June 8 as part of the Luminato Festival. Gibb says MacDonald and Barrett will be there, as well as regulars Alysha Haugen, who’s also in By Divine Right, Jon Hynes and John Power, plus a horn section. “It’s a great group, it really is,” he says. But the set list will have to be adjusted to suit the crowd. “It’s a free afternoon gig, so it’s got to be family-friendly and fun and entertaining and all that.”

Hidden Cameras. Luminato Festival. June 8.

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Arts & Entertainment B O O Ks

Transparent → Shani Mootoo’s latest novel explores how difficult it is to really see someone Review Gordon Bowness


hani Mootoo’s Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab is a bewitching, complex novel about intimacy, our ability—or more likely our inability—to really see someone, to understand a life. There are so many obstacles to understanding, obstacles the world creates and ones we make for ourselves; incredible effort and heart are required to overcome them. Born in 1957 in Ireland to IndoTrinidadian parents, Mootoo grew up in Trinidad. She moved to Canada to attend university and now lives in rural Ontario with her girlfriend. Mootoo burst onto the literary scene in 1996 with Cereus Blooms at Night. Her debut novel was an international sensation, placing on the Giller Prize shortlist and the Man Booker longlist. Her next two novels, He Drown She in the Sea from 2005 and Valmiki’s Daughter from 2009, both lived up to Mootoo’s initial hype. The multi-talented writer, painter and videomaker stakes surprising new territory with Moving Forward, her fourth novel, out this June from Doubleday. Jonathan, the main protagonist, is a straight white male, a middleaged author from Toronto with writer’s block. He’s spent much of his young-adult life searching for his mother, Siddhani, who abandoned the family when Jonathan was 10. Nine years ago, Jonathan found Siddhani, then Sydney, living as a man in Trinidad, and made repeated visits to reconnect with his trans parent. The book opens with the aged Sydney’s impending death. Time is running out and Jonathan’s plangent need for redress, for some satisfactory explanation for his abandonment, becomes paramount. But his needs collide with Syd’s mysterious, elliptical story. There will be no easy answers. There is hope, however, of understanding shimmering in the distance. “What I was interested in is how we hear stories,” says

Mootoo, “and how we tell back other people’s stories, the parts that we don’t hear or can’t hear.” Syd loves to talk of his friendship since childhood with a girl named Zain. She holds the key to Syd’s story. There are stories, too, about life in Canada, but never enough for Jonathan’s sake; details are scant about him and his other mother, India. Then there’s the story about walking in a blinding snowstorm to a sex reassignment clinic for top surgery. It’s a story full of portent that Syd returns to again and again while Jonathan searches in vain for meaning. “There are some stories that are very difficult to tell in a straight line,” says Mootoo. “You have to keep trying to come at them and come at them and come at them from all kinds of different ways. Sometimes you repeat yourself. You can’t get the end out. They’re so hard to tell.” Only after Syd dies and Jonathan comes into possession of Syd’s notebooks and a stack of letters from Zain, does Syd’s life slowly come into focus. Jonathan finally finds the words he’s so longed to hear; he finally understands his parent’s choices… and love. Jonathan starts to write. With its shifting narration, the book is an epistolary origami with letters, diary entries, writing sketches and recollections folded and nestled against each other. “I think what Jonathan needed to understand was that there was a huge story there of immigration, race, class and gender within the lesbian community,” says Mootoo. “I wanted Jonathan to be a receptacle, in a sense, for all these stories that Syd contained within [him]. And I wanted this straight white man to hear them.” Mootoo was deep into writing the book when her mother died in 2010. Her death haunts the pages. “There certainly was never any funeral in the book, nor any death in the book at that time. I think my experience of that particular death was so profound, that it

couldn’t but come out [in the book]. “My mother wasn’t a transgendered person. My mother didn’t leave me when I was 10 years old. But I know the experience of having this estranged type of relationship and this constant desire to connect with her. “I’m trying to write that, and I’m getting Jonathan to write it. It’s removed and imposed on Jonathan. So it’s not just my own. It’s all the things that I can’t say, want to say so desperately to my mother.” The climax of the novel is Syd’s funeral, a Hindu service where the body is cremated on a pyre with Jonathan acting as chief mourner. He actually has to touch flame to Syd’s body and then stand watch for hours as the body burns. Mootoo’s telling of the scene is detailed and visceral. “You know here in Canada you don’t see the body, you don’t touch the body, you don’t have anything to do with the body,” says Mootoo. “That’s why Jonathan keeps thinking he’s just going to go push a button. But in the end he’s got to go and deal with the bodyand a body that has changed so much. I really wanted for Jonathan that sense of everything he knew falling apart and the possibility of being something else.” By the end of the funeral, Jonathan knows his life will never be the same. Syd has bequeathed to him much more than letters and a house. A white man finds home in the Caribbean through baptism by fire. A woman of colour becomes a man in Canada through baptism by snow. It’s as if Mootoo has reversed the diasporic journeys common to her other books. And despite seeming very specific to the immigrant and trans experience, these journeys hold universal truths. No child grows up in the same culture as its parents; inher-

itance is always messy. No one inhabits the same body as they age; we are different people at different stages in our lives. Facts are meaningless; context is everything. You have to really look to see. Mootoo doesn’t like how the term magic realism is often applied to her writing, especially Cereus Blooms at Night. But real reality offers all sorts of quotidian conjurings: spectral absences, time folding in on itself, and the transubstantiation of writing. Echoing the Hindu concept of reincarnation, Syd and Zain are reborn inside the writer, Jonathan, and these characters will live on inside readers’ hearts. A beautiful haunting.

MOVING FORWARD SIDEWAYS LIKE A CRAB. Shani Mootoo. Doubleday Canada. $29.95. Mootoo readings this month: 7pm. June 12. Bryan Prince Bookseller. 1060 King St. W. Hamilton; 6:30pm. June 16. Bonnie Stern Literary Salon. Location TBA.

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Arts & Entertainment


No demons to wrestle with → In Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter, Alison Wearing sees her father’s coming out as a celebration of love—not a family tragedy Preview Paul Gallant


he early, crazy years of gay sexual liberation in this country, from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, created an unexpected—weird, even—breed of gay family, long before married same-sex couples were raising kids. A previous generation of gay men had hidden their sexual orientation, succumbing to societal pressure and marrying women. They participated in traditional heterosexual family life with varying amounts of enthusiasm, even while their sexual imaginations resided elsewhere. Then things changed. The generation of gay men who came of age

later didn’t have much time for charades. They were much less likely to date women, never mind marry them. They proceeded directly to gay life and, if they ended up raising kids, have been able to do so as openly gay men. But then there were the men caught in between. Those who started heterosexual families during the transition from the love-that-dare-not-speakits-name to the love-that-doeswhat-it-pleases lived through a remarkable time in history. And so did their families, for better or worse. For the wives who discovered or were told their husbands would rather be with a man than with them, it was probably worse.

Who wants to learn their domestic life was built on a lie? But for kids, amidst the acrimony and the divorce proceedings, there was also the delight of another world unexpectedly opening up. Alison Wearing was 12 when her father came out as gay and in hindsight, at least, she sees the experience as something magical. “My father was so damn happy. It was like seeing someone come into full flower,” says Wearing. Her theatrical memoir of the experience, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter, plays at George Ignatieff Theatre during WorldPride, following a highly successful run on the festival cir-

cuit. “From the beginning he was so accepting of himself. If he had been wrestling with demons, we would have been wrestling with the same ones.” But he wasn’t, which made all the difference. “He really went out of his way to include us. There was an element of celebration about it that’s very contagious when you’re a kid.” Although the book of the same name became a bestseller last year, the Confessions project actually began its life as a play. Wearing, now 46, was trying to write a memoir about her family’s time in Mexico, but memories of her father’s coming out when she was a little girl in Peterborough drowned out

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Arts & Entertainment

Of course, there had been early warning signs. On Wearing’s seventh birthday, her father substituted her requested menu—hot dogs, coleslaw and chocolate cake iced with Cool Whip—with his own: Gruyère soufflé, waxed beans with tarragon butter and crème brûlée.

other childhood recollections. She could imagine the scenes on stage. The trigger memory was the fateful conversation she had with her mother one day when she was 11. Wearing complained that her father, a political science professor, wasn’t around much and wondered why he was spending so much time at an apartment in Toronto. “There are a lot of things about your father that you don’t know,” her mother told her, setting off another round of questions. “I remembered sitting in the kitchen on a stool and how, if I got nervous, I would grip the steps of the stool, lift them up and let them crash down,” says Wearing. “I remember doing that and seeing how much it was irritating her. I could feel something was wrong and I just wanted to get at it, like a child pulling on her mother’s pant legs, tell me, tell me, tell me. I remembered her unloading the dishwasher and the exact bowls she was pulling out, and how that dishwasher never worked well and so there was always grit on the dishes. For a writer, it was like finding a whole palette of paints.” Wearing had set off that uncomfortable conversation her-

self, quite by accident. She misreported a meal with her father at a gay village restaurant as a visit to a gay bar—at the time, Wearing didn’t even know what a gay bar was. But her repeating someone else’s joke set off her mother’s alarm bells. Of course, there had been early warning signs. On Wearing’s seventh birthday, her father substituted her requested menu—hot dogs, coleslaw and chocolate cake iced with Cool Whip—with his own: Gruyère soufflé, waxed beans with tarragon butter and crème brûlée. Plus there was all that opera he took her to. The separation and divorce that followed consumed Wearing’s teen years. On one hand, she felt uncomfortable talking to friends about what was going on at home. On the other, the revelations expanded her idea of what form relationships could take. “I would think, ‘Both your parents are straight? Oh yeah, yeah. I guess some people live like that.’ In the same way it rocked my world, it broke it open. I could see there were so many ways of living and loving.” All Wearing’s family members have seen Confessions, in which she plays all the roles: her-

self as a child, her mother, her father and her teenage friend. Her older brother was relieved when he saw it—he expected the worst. Her younger brother happily took his young daughter. It was most difficult for her mother. Though her mother blossomed and remarried later in life—and resumed friendly terms with Wearing’s father two years ago— the play ends when Wearing is 23, with her mother still a tragic heroine. The first time her father saw the play, he was embarrassed. Now 77 and in a gay relationship for more than 30 years, he hadn’t realized how hard it was for his kids. “But then his seeing audience reactions made him realize, ‘This isn’t a roast, I’m actually being celebrated and isn’t this extraordinary how much people are moved by the story.’” Although the play has been performed in Toronto as part of the promotional effort for the book, this is the first time it gets a full theatrical treatment here. Producer Larry Peloso was given the book by a straight friend who had seen the show elsewhere. Reading the story, Peloso realized Alison’s father had been a professor at Trent when Peloso was

→ fairy tale Alison Wearing (pictured) was 12 when her father came out as gay and in hindsight, at least, she sees the experience as something magical.

a student there and had directed Peloso in a production of H.M.S. Pinafore in the late 1970s when neither man was out. Peloso decided he had to bring the show to Toronto for WorldPride. Wearing sees the show both as a piece of Canadian gay history and as something far more universal. “If he had been born 10 years earlier, my father might never have come out. And if he’d been born 10 years later, he might never had gotten married,” says Wearing. “So that’s changed. But you don’t have to drive too many hours outside Toronto before you find families living the exact same story our family was living 32 years ago.”

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter. June 25-28. George Ignatieff Theatre. 15 Devonshire Place.

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out ON the town

caught in the act by Michael Pihach


Green Space Festival launch at The 519





photos by Christopher Dew


Bonham Centre Power of Word Awards at Hart House

Inside Out Film Festival launch at the Burroughes Building









→ 1. Biko Beauttah 2. Charles Pavia, Mathieu Chantelois, Pascal Dessureault, Andre Ferreira 3. Margo Foster, Taryn Pimento 4. Sofonda Cox 5. Kevin Beaulieu, TK 6. Shyam Selvadurai 7. Patricia Nell-Warren, Peter Waite 8. Edmund White, Lawrence Spicer 9. Scott Rayter, Brenda Cossman 10. Houmed Arjomand, Ayoub Zadeh 11.Gavin Crawford 12. Peter Andrew, Daniel NaVarro 13. Lauryn Kronnick, Anna Evans 14.Philip Villeneuve, Jonathan Nathaniel.

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In Magazine June 2014  
In Magazine June 2014