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queer views, news, issues

Christmas A queer perspective

Fashion

The fabulous tux

Blue Bombers They’re our team, too

Trans discrimination in the workplace •

How you can help prevent suicide

Outwords | December 2012 | Issue 198 | Serving the GLBT Community Since 1994


“ As an instructor at RRC, I help my students learn about respect for all children and their families. As an LGBTT Ally, I model this message in my own life and work.” Conni Cartlidge

Instructor, Early Childhood Education

Embracing the Community Red River College’s LGBTT Initiative fosters the development of a safe campus environment, in which everyone has the chance to work, learn and access services in an inclusive, welcoming manner. RRC’s Ally Project supports LGBTT staff, students and faculty by identifying campus Allies who can provide a safe and inclusive space. For more information: Nora Sobel, LGBTT Initiative Staff Lead nsobel@rrc.ca or 204-632-2404 www.rrc.ca/LGBTTInitiative


Contents 4

Letters to the editor

5

Passing the torch

6

Did a u.s. church confine a gay man?

26

editorial

Putting on the Ritz

fashion column

30

Taking the mystery out of Yoga

32

Create A Financial To-Do-List

33

Aboriginal AIDS Week: a time to heal

34

Gifts for the techhead in your life

36

Spirituality

38

Climate change & queer rights

international news briefs

9

Rewriting the past

11

Defining our own path in the holiday season

national news briefs

18

The language of suicide

22

True Blue and Bombers, too

24

How one transwoman survived being fired

December 21 2012?


Letters to the Editor

misery does not want company Thank you for choosing the topic of suicide - it's so important in today's gay world, because we've become so isolationist - many no longer go to gay events, clubs, pride...instead they sit around online all day hoping to find someone nice, creating fantasy names and profiles, leaving out their flaws and other qualities that would lead to a possible rejection. Unfortunately, every other gay person seems to do the same thing, nobody says anything, and thus nobody ever meets anyone. There is no motivation to get out there and see real, live gay people and get to know them. We are constantly fed images of porn models who are college athletes posing nude because that's how financially desperate they are. In turn, gay people online now expect other gay people to look like this, then come out and see nobody like that in the gay world. They're either devastated (and continue to isolate), or feel as if they've been lied to and in anger, want nothing to do with the GLBT community. The gay world is still anonymous, 'don't ask me my name and don't acknowledge me in public', so right off the bat we don't trust each other, nor do I think gay people find each other very attractive or interesting. What needs to be understood regarding suicide for gay people - not just youth - is this blurring of fantasy (the partners we wish we had who we see in online ads for gay entertainment) and reality (the majority of gay men who are twenty years older, aren't athletic and often come with a lot of emotional baggage - so after meeting someone for the first time, it's not uncommon that both men bolt in the opposite direction). We have the right to get married yet hardly any of us know how to go on a date, or know what keeps a relationship working after you've found someone. Marriage does not solve the fact that the majority of our relationships have a six-month lifespan, and I don't know what can be done to change this. We live in this illusion of endless supplies of money, university degrees, high social status, very expensive materials and if that's not you, then (in their eyes) don't bother coming out. This is important to stress because it takes a lot for a gay person to finally come out. Often there are years of 'should I or shouldn't I' and guilt and despair - there's this need to finally see people who have the same attractions you have. Again, what's so shocking is the unexpected rejection, hostility and indifference we find from other

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca

gay people who can't be bothered with someone else's life. For me, that's when life became very dark. Now not only do I have no support from non-gay society, but now gay society, who I've waited to find for years, is even worse. Unless you wear $600 sweaters, own a nice car, have an expensive condo, have a doctorate degree and are the best of the best, they have no time for you. This contradicts the 'coming out is a statement of differences being okay, and a good thing - so good, in fact, that we celebrate those differences on gay pride day. I no longer believe this is the case. We've become very mean to each other. We are just as much at fault as straight bullies when it comes to suicide. When you are gay, and it dawns on you that you're not meeting anyone, you can't afford to live in the affluent gay-populated metro areas, and then you're not seeing any gay people who have an interest in friendship, you question the point of being here. If this is going to be the rest of your life, it's easy to think that life has nothing good to offer. Sure, you can be happy alone, but you can be terribly lonely. As humans we need companionship, we need love, we need affection. Over the past ten years it seems as if everyone's taken to the internet and set up their 'filters' so they only find the best of the elite - while everyone else finds nothing and in time they give up trying. If it's going to get better, it starts with us as gay men and gay women. There is no way we have any right asking society to accept us when we treat each other so badly. When it comes to gay men today, I've discovered that misery does not want company. - Jonathan Lund, Fort Frances, Ontario

The coat statement says: animal cruelty OutWords magazine has now published two issues in a row that have promoted the fashion statement of fur as acceptable. As someone who has worked in fashion and costume this is simply not necessary or acceptable. Curve went fur free and so can OutWords, until it does this is one queer household that isn't interested in what you have to say. To admonish one form of cruelty while promoting another is more than a little hypocritical. - Jo, Winnipeg, Manitoba


outwords Serving the GLBT Community Since 1994 Issue 198 • december 2012 

Published by the outwords volunteer staff: 

Rachel Morgan editor Ksenia Prints, Jen Portillo Assistant editors Miles McEnery Sodial media editor Dylan Bekkering art director & layout Michele Buchanan Assistant layout Darron Field Financial officer Jared Star, Terry Wiebe distribution  Vic Hooper web manager Cheryl Ezinicki sales representative Dylan Bekkering Cover illustration Rachel Morgan, Peter Carlyle-Gordge, Jefre Nicholls, Corey Shefman, Alana Lajoie-O’Malley, Debra Chasnoff, Ray Buteau, Charles Melvin, Sean Snowdon, Marina Koslock, Roger Currie, Shandi Strong, Vivian M Muska, Graeme Coleman, Donna Adam, Alana Westwood. contributors to this issue  Debbie Scarborough, Diane Ready, Kevin Hills, Barbara Bruce, Sky Bridges, Dale Oughton, Darron Field , Helen Fallding, Shayne Duguay, Gail Eckert, Liz Millward board of directors outwords 201-63 Albert St. Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 1G4 Phone: (204) 942-4599 For office hours, please call. General Inquiries: info@outwords.ca Editor: editor@outwords.ca Creative: creative@outwords.ca Advertising: advertise@outwords.ca Distribution: distribution@outwords.ca Accounts: billing@outwords.ca Event Submissions: calendar@outwords.ca Letters Submissions: letters@outwords.ca Website: www.outwords.ca    OutWords provides news, analysis and entertainment for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit and queer community and its allies.  GST 89671 7618RT, ISSN 1715-5606 (print) ISSN 1715-5614 (online)  Canada Post Publication Licence 416 99032, Contents copyright © 2012 Outwords Alll rights reserved. Outwords is a member of the Manitoba Magazine Publishers’ Association.  Articles are not necessarily the views of the staff, management, or board. We accept no liability for our advertisers’ claims.

editorial

A fond farewell

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his is my last issue as editor of OutWords. As I start to write this I’m not really sure where it will go. For one thing, I’m not accustomed to writing about myself. Yet, it seems appropriate to let readers know editorial there will be changes rachel morgan at the magazine. It’s only natural that a new editor will have fresh ideas that will be reflected in the content and look of the magazine. It’s also possible that instead of a single editor at the helm, the magazine will be in the hands of a group of editors and writers – a writers’ co-op of sorts. This is a wonderful opportunity for rebirth and growth for the magazine. It’s also the perfect time for you, the reader, to voice your opinion about where you want the magazine to go. You might also consider jumping on board as a volunteer or contributor. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked on a magazine or you have no journalism experience, there’s a good chance you’ll find a home at OutWords. You will definitely make some good friends. I have been with OutWords in one capacity or another for six years. It has been a rich and rewarding experience. It’s a lot of fun to put out a monthly magazine for the GLBT community. It’s unlike any other kind of publication. Sure other media outlets carry news of queer issues – and many do it well and with sensitivity - but none put it all together in the way OutWords can. That’s not bragging, that’s because we put it out through a rainbow lens. I should also add that it’s been an honour to work with so many talented and creative people over the years. And I want to emphasize that everyone who has

ever contributed to OutWords has been a volunteer or a freelancer. There have never been any full-time staffers. OutWords is successful, but the magazine has never been able to afford full-timers or pay contributors what they are really worth. Maybe this will change some day but it’s likely this magazine will always remain a labour of love – and that’s OK. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to a few frustrations. As a small non-profit magazine with limited funds we have never been able to fulfill all of our dreams. The queer community is rich with fascinating, creative and adventurous people. We have tried to give voice to their stories but we have barely scratched the surface. It’s also a community that is spread far and wide in every metropolis and rural community across Canada. We have long wanted to reach out to as many people as possible, but that, too, is a dream that will be left for another day. The future of OutWords is difficult to foresee. Our advertisers have been loyal and wonderful to work with. But advertising revenues aren’t guaranteed and there are no government grants to help us cover costs. These are problems many media face today. And the answers so far don’t exist on the Internet. Yet, there is reason to be optimistic that OutWords will continue to thrive and evolve well into the future. For one thing, there will likely always be a need for a niche publication for the queer community. And the queer community has always solidly supported this magazine. Furthermore, every time there has been staff turnover, new people have stepped up with fresh energy and exciting ideas. For my part, I will turn my energies to other projects that have been on the backburner for some time. But I hope the new editorial team will welcome the occasional article or column from me. And I look forward to picking up my monthly copy of OutWords to find out what is happening under the rainbow umbrella. www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS Church members accused of assaulting man to cure him of gayness RALEIGH , North Carolina – Four members of a church in North Carolina have been charged with false imprisonment over allegations that they held a young gay man against his will. WLOS News 13 reported 21-year-old Michael Lowry is pursuing charges against Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, North Carolina, of which he and his parents are members. Lowry says he was confined against his will in a building on church property and subjected to repeated assaults

in an attempt to “cure” him of his sexuality. He alleges he was subjected to “supervised” bathroom visits because church leaders feared he might be masturbating. Faith in America, a group that campaigns against religious extremism, is calling on the FBI to investigate the case. They believe it is a clear example of an “extreme” hate crime under federal hate crime laws. In a statement, Faith in America executive director Brent Childers said: “In my six years of working to educate people about the harm caused to gay and lesbian people by religionbased bigotry, this is the most disturbing story I have encountered. This young man has had to flee his family and his community with little more than a few personal belongings.” “He feels he has been exiled, shunned, humiliated and denied the pursuit of happiness that most young people would be enjoying at his age… No church should be allowed to subject its members to physical, emotional, and psychological abuse because of a church’s views on sexual orientation.”

Michael Lowry claims he was assaulted and held in captivity by his fellow church parishioners to “cure” his homosexuality.

Compiled from web news services by Peter Carlyle-Gordge

Gay men are notoriously persecuted in Jamaica, but a lawsuit is now trying to repeal two legal reasons for this discrimination / image from the Big Queer Blog

Jamaicans battle homophobic laws KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica has a terrible reputation for gay bashing and homophobia, but now two gay Jamaicans have launched a legal challenge to colonial-era laws, on the grounds that they are unconstitutional and promote homophobia throughout the Caribbean. The legal action, supported by the U.K.-based Human Dignity Trust, is aimed at removing three clauses of the island's Offences Against Persons Act of 1864, commonly known as the "buggery" laws. Critics blame the clauses for perpetuating a popular culture of hatred for "batty boys,” a derogatory local term for gay men. The legal challenge is being taken to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, which is modelled on the European Court of Human Rights. Jamaica is not a full member, so any ruling against the country would only be advisory. It would nonetheless send a strong signal of international disapproval. When Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller was elected last December, she said she would hire a gay person to serve in her cabinet and condemned discrimination. So far her government has not attempted to repeal the laws. The Offences Against Persons Act does not ban homosexuality, but clause 76 provides for up to 10 years' imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for anyone convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery committed either with mankind or any animal.” Two other clauses outlaw and criminalize attempted buggery and gross indecency between two men. Not surprisingly, many gay tourists are giving Jamaica a miss.

204.985.9200 OUTNABOUTTRAVEL.COM 6

outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca


Anglicans are waiting to see how Bishop Justin Welby will put his stamp on the church.

New Archbishop of Canterbury rejects marriage equality LONDON – A former oil industry executive who opposes same sex marriage will take over as the Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of this year. The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, will replace Dr. Rowan Williams. Bishop Welby was educated at Eton and Cambridge University, and then spent 11 years in the oil industry before studying theology at Durham. He was ordained in 1992. British media outlets reported that Bishop Welby is regarded as being on the evangelical wing of the Church. He is said to closely adhere to traditional interpretations of the Bible with a strong emphasis on making the Church outwardlooking. Ruth Gledhill, religious affairs correspondent at The Times, said the bishop was thought to be "conservative on the issue of gay marriage" and was "absolutely in favour of women bishops, but strong on protecting the position of traditionalists in the Church." Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion and the current Bishop of New Hampshire told the BBC he met Bishop Welby earlier this year and found him to be an "immensely likeable and sensible man." He told the BBC that Bishop Welby's appointment would show the Church of England was "thinking outside the box, which is exactly what is needed, and it would be a breath of fresh air for the Anglican Communion."

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Gay conversion therapy is once again on the legal agenda for California, as several Christian groups are trying to reinstate it for people under 18. Graphic by cbc.ca

gay kissing in Greek Downton Abbey

Christian groups try to reinstate anti-gay therapy for minors SACRAMENTO, California – A second federal lawsuit has been filed seeking to overturn California’s new ban on gay conversion therapy for those under the age of 18. The Christian legal group Liberty Counsel has filed a civil rights suit naming as plaintiffs two southern California boys, aged 14 and 15, who have been undergoing so-called “reparative therapy” with psychologist Joseph Nicolosi. According to the Associated Press, the suit claims the ban, scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013, violates the teens’ freedom of speech and freedom of religion by denying them the chance to be cured of “unwanted same-sex attraction.” The boys’ parents are also named as plaintiffs, along with Nicolosi, two other southern California therapists, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counsellors. A similar lawsuit was also filed earlier by the Pacific Justice Institute on behalf of therapist and pastor Dr. Donald Welch, who runs one of the oldest Christian counselling services in San Diego. When the new law comes into force California will become the first place to outlaw the conversion therapy practice for people under 18 in America. California Governor Jerry Brown told reporters gay conversion therapy has no basis in science or medicine and can be damaging.

ATHENS, Greece – Greek state television has been accused of homophobia and censorship after editing out a gay kiss on the premiere of the British period drama Downton Abbey. Reuters says viewers took to social networking sites to complain about NET channel’s decision to axe the gay kiss scene. The episode in question shows actor Rob JamesCollier, who plays Thomas the footman in Downton Abbey, kissing a visiting duke. Greece’s left-wing SYRIZA party said in a statement: “As incredible as it may seem for a democratic country in the 21st century, officials of the NET television channel censored the scene of a kiss between men from the TV drama Downton Abbey.” It described the decision as amounting to “an extreme act of homophobia and discrimination”. The Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation says it is not homophobic and the kiss was removed because of timing and the lack of parental guidance warnings.

Madonna sued in Moscow for ‘gay propaganda’ MOSCOW – Madonna has been sent a summons to appear in a Russian court for breaking St. Petersburg’s homophobic censorship law during her concert in the city last summer. Madonna gave out

pink wrist bands at her concert and spoke up for the GLBT community. Russia Today says nine anti-gay activists have obtained Madonna’s home address in New York and sent her a legal summons, claiming her concert caused them “moral suffering.” The pro-Kremlin group Trade Union of

Russian Citizens wants the 54-year-old star in court for blasphemy and for damaging the cultural foundations of St. Petersburg. They are seeking 333 million rubles, almost $10.5 million, from the company that organized her show.

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Compiled from web news services by Peter Carlyle-Gordge

Scouts movement refuses to back down on anti-gay policies

Obama specifically mentioned gays in his victory speech.

Rainbow follows the election storm The November election in the United States was a significant victory for gay rights and marked a series of firsts for that nation. President Barack Obama specifically mentioned gays in his victory speech in Chicago, the first time a sitting president has done so. "It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try," he told the nation. As well, Maine, Maryland and Washington joined six other states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia – in voting in favour of gay marriage. Meanwhile, Minnesota voters rejected an amendment to their state’s constitution that would have solidified a ban on gay marriage. Gay marriage isn’t yet legal in Minnesota, but this is a solid repudiation of those who wanted to prevent it from ever happening. As well, Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin became the first openly queer politician to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

LOS ANGELES – One former boy scout’s story is putting the entire organization on defence, while his coming-out garners massive support. After appearing as a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ryan Andresen, a former boy scout who was refused the eagle scout badge for being gay, received a $20,000 scholarship towards his college fees. Andresen, now 18, joined the scouts when he was six and had completed all of the requirements for the eagle scout badge, which included building a “tolerance wall” for victims of bullying like himself. But despite his scout leader knowing he was gay and telling him he would get the badge, Andresen was refused once the work was completed. He explained his disappointment on Ellen’s show: ”I don’t think it’s fair that not everybody has the opportunity to go through it,” Andresen said. “I hope people understand discrimination is not OK.” Andresen, who came out in July, was told that his scouting membership was to be revoked altogether. His mother has started a petition on Change.org to get her son the badge and it garnered 400,000 signatures. But the Boy Scouts of America says it has no plans to change its ban on gays being members. Over 170 eagle scouts have now pledged to send Ryan their eagle scout pins out of support – 50 of them from his own Scout troop.

Ryan Andresen was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being openly gay.

A "Big Brother" First! Victoria, Australia - The most recent season finale of Australia’s Big Brother nearly played out like one big gay fairytale. Benjamin Norris, a 32-year-old accounts manager from Victoria, Australia, became the first openly gay winner of the Aussie competition, scooping up the grand prize of $250 000. Although the winnings may be sweet, it wasn’t until Norris’ partner, Ben Williams, joined him on stage in celebration that the show headed towards a moment of ratings gold. Norris, seizing the opportunity, got down on one knee and proposed to his partner. As Norris and Williams embraced, the room was overcome with cheers, tears, and applause as the audience - including Norris’ mother as well as former contestants - congratulated the couple. Norris explained that the engagement ring was an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation and expressed that, “Since I met Ben, all I ever wanted was for him to be a part of my family.”

Your Members of the Legislative Assembly

wishing you a Happy Holiday Season Jim

Rondeau

MLA for Assiniboia (204) 888-7722 JimRondeau.mb.ca

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca

Jennifer Howard

Ron Lemieux

MLA for Fort Rouge MLA for Dawson Trail (204) 946-0272 (204) 878-4644 JenniferHoward.ca Ron-Lemieux.ca

Deanne Crothers

MLA for St. James (204) 415-0883 DeanneCrothers.ca

Andrew Swan

MLA for Minto (204) 783-9860 AndrewSwan.ca


NATIONAL NEWS

Compiled from web news services by Peter Carlyle-Gordge

VICTORIA, British Columbia – The B.C. Ministry of Health has done an about-turn after refusing for years to fund phalloplasty, a penis construction surgery. B.C. has announced that it will now fund the surgery for a limited number of transgender men under the province’s medical service. The procedure involves taking a graft of tissue from a donor site and extending the urethra. The change was announced at the recent Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) conference in Winnipeg. The province had previously refused to cover phalloplasties, citing a lack of information regarding safety and patient satisfaction. For several years it has funded other procedures for trans men, such as hysterectomies and mastectomies.

After Manitoba, Nova Scotia considers new gender protection HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) is pressuring lawmakers to amend the province’s Human Rights Act to include the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression.” Kevin Kindred, chair of NSRAP, says the changes are needed to prevent trans people from discrimination. "The particular push in Nova Scotia came about because of the progress at the federal level and within other provinces," he says. Ontario took similar action in June, passing

the Trans Rights Bill 33 and Manitoba has also passed legislation to change its Human Rights Act. Federally Bill C-279, curently awaiting approval from the justice committee, offers the same protection.

Human Rights Act to include the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression.”

Omar Khadr to inherit cash from gay B.C. activist Jack Hallam will bequeath at least $700 to Omar Khadr after his death. /Pentagon-approved sketch by Janet Hamlin

VANCOUVER – Retired zoologist Jack Hallam of Salt Spring Island says he’s leaving Omar Khadr some money in his will, even though he thinks the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner wouldn’t approve of his own lifestyle as a gay atheist.

Hallam, 84, wants Khadr to put the money towards his education now that he’s been repatriated to Canada after spending a decade at a U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. He has put aside $700 for Khadr because he thinks the Toronto-born man has been treated badly by both the American and Canadian governments. In October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty before a military commission to five war crimes, including murder in violation of the rules of war. In return, he was given a further eight years behind bars but was allowed to return to Canada to serve out the rest of his sentence. Khadr’s lawyers say he had also been studying

Forty-two years after graduation, Robin Tomlin will have a yearbook where he is not labelled a “fag”.

Better late than never VANCOUVER – Bullying is much in the news, but can you expect an apology 42 years after it happened? That’s what’s happened to Robin Tomlin, who says he was bullied during his time at Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver in the late 1960s. In 1970, the year he graduated, Tomlin was horrified to see the word “Fag” written as a caption for his yearbook photo. In 2012, after his daughter saw the homophobic yearbook and demanded he take action, Tomlin finally received a formal apology from the North Vancouver school board. Board spokesperson Victoria Miles told reporters Tomlin will get an apology and a new yearbook. “Amending the yearbook has been a big part of this, and amending it in a way that respects his needs is an important part of the resolution,” she says. “Mr. Tomlin will receive amended copies of the yearbook and we will have amended copies in the library. We will also have copies of amended pages available for anyone else who may have a copy of that yearbook.” Even better, his former classmates decided to throw him a special graduation party, as he was unable to attend his original one. He is now also working with his old school to address the problem of online bullying. at Guatanamo with the long-distance help of an Edmonton-based tutor, who once visited the detainee at the Cuba-based prison. Benefactor Hallam says he may increase the amount of money he leaves Khadr so he can use it to adjust to life back in Canada. “I think the young man has been treated abominably,” Hallam told The Canadian Press. “His story just moved me. He was tortured, he was kept in solitary confinement, he had light deprivation.” Khadr was just 15 when captured in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Canadians have donated money to the family of the U.S. soldier who was killed by a grenade thrown by Khadr during a battle. About 400 people have donated about $30,000 so far. www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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Tis the Season A time for family, a time for reflection, a time to define who we are

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or many of us, December is a month when family becomes the focus of our lives. Christmas, Hanukah and solstice fall in December. In the Christian calendar, New Year’s Eve is celebrated on the last day of the month. Under the cycles of the Muslim calendar, the Islamic New Year sometimes falls in December, as does the Day of Ashura. The Chinese celebrate the Dongzhi Festival in December. December can be a wonderful month, sharing time with the families we love. December can also be a bittersweet month, especially if one has lost family through the passage of time or because of rejection.

Illustration by Dylan Bekkering

OutWords asked readers and contributors to share some of their memories of December and their observations of the holiday season. We are proud to present a selection of articles for your enjoyment. You will find golden memories, poignant moments and even pain. And as some writers explain, a family isn’t always the one you are born into. Each of the writers will receive a pair of tickets to an upcoming Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performance. We want to thank all of those who submitted articles and express our gratitude to the WSO for participating in this special December issue.

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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A stupid war that only I was fighting By Charles Melvin

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y Christmas memories are standard-issue for a small-town kid of my generation, raised in a Canadian blue-collar household. I remember poring over the Sears Christmas catalogue, painstakingly circling and annotating my selection of toys. I remember hiding in my room when my parents hosted a holiday party, waiting for the last guests to be ushered out the door so I could sneak into the living room and eat the leftover chips, canned baby shrimp and the Black Magic assorted chocolate rejects. In those years before Santa was exposed as a mere chimera, before I understood the inhibition-melting power of liquor, I truly believed the festive season allowed a harmonious, universal kinship to express itself. Puberty annihilated those feelings of camaraderie. I watched from the sidelines as the other kids joined in the never-ending heteronormative pride parade, feeling the sting of contempt from the few who favoured the goose step. This mix of hormones and humiliation left me feeling combustible and unwieldy, like the Hindenburg cut loose in a hurricane. I scorned that microcosm of the world represented by my hometown. Entire institutions were the follies of fools. I used the word "bourgeois" more often than I had any right to. And Christmas became a tacky capitalist stew of commercialism and hypocrisy. My family unit also sustained collateral damage in my emotional carpet-bombing of society. One Christmas eve, I peeked under the wrapping paper of a gift from my dad. It was a shaving kit. Flush with cash from my first part-time job, I went out and bought him a larger, more expensive shaving kit, all for the smug satisfaction of seeing his embarrassment and hearing his stilted "thank you" on Christmas morning. Later that day, I overheard him telling my mother we should limit the price of our gifts. He was wounded. I had scored a point in a stupid war that only I was fighting. That was the one time I purposely hurt my dad. It still haunts my conscience and makes me feel a lesser man. Heart disease slowly shut down my father's circulatory system during the last years of his life. I was there when he took one last look around the cottage

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before he had to sell it. I was there for Christmas when he tried to will himself to walk outside, holding on to my arm, finally sitting down in the snow and crying when the pain in his legs kept him from walking any further. I never came out to my father, although he did meet Noël, the man I eventually married. Some time after my dad died, I finally came out to my mom. She told me that my dad really liked Noël. That hurts like a faded bruise I can't stop touching. That memory of my petty one-upmanship is a lump of coal in an otherwise warm and fuzzy Christmas stocking. It holds down the lighter memories of Christmas past and makes them seem all the sweeter for not slipping away. I remember a mild, snowy evening when I was small. My parents tucked me and my little brother into a caboose attached to the back of the Skidoo and we travelled along the wooded trail up the large hill that shadows our town. The view from the top is peaceful. I can still see it. The glow from the streetlamps bounces back off the clouds, basking the entire tableau with a diffuse incandescence. Almost every home is lined with strings of colourful Christmas bulbs, as if those seams of light are holding the town together through deepest winter. – Charles Melvin lives in Toronto with Noël, where they are creating a loving life together.


A friend at a time of need By Shandi Strong

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he holdiay season for me, for almost my entire life was about family and kids. Get-togethers, presents, food, fun. As a child I looked forward to the traditions that my parents had, and as an adult did my best to amalgamate them with my own - which became more and more complicated as families grew and grew apart. The Christmas seasons since I'd had children have always been complicated. Being divorced, remarried and having to schedule holidays to be able to make sure they got to spend time with all sides of their expanded family was not easy, emotionally or logistically. Two years ago, however, Christmas was very different. I was alone. I was all but ostracized from my now-adult children and denied the family I had known for nearly two decades due to my impending divorce. All because I had finally come to a point where I could finally live my life as the woman I had always wanted to be. For many in the GLBT* community, rejection upon coming out results in a certain amount of loneliness. Because of the support I had felt from my then-partner and children, I felt I was to be spared that. Sadly, I was not. But why should I, or anyone for that matter, be alone when everyone else is celebrating something that has been an important part of life since birth? It would only add to the horrible feelings and lead to possible disaster. The level of betrayal and feeling of abandonment I felt was at times more than I could bear. I am thankful for the many friends that reassured me during those tough times and for a dose of reality from my eldest daughter, that helped make everything bearable. So I decided to start my own holiday tradition. Using Facebook and e-mail I put out an invitation to those I knew who, like me, were alone. I organized a potluck, bought the turkey and voila, there was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. People were together with their kindred spirits. Last year was much the same. I started it, because I knew I couldn't stand to be alone. I continued it so my friends wouldn't be. The GLBT* community has been family for most of us at one point or another. I know for me, seeing as how my parents and sibilings live out of province, the community has become my brothers, sisters, cousins and assorted kin - providing cameraderie, purpose, silliness, fun, drama, sadness, loss and focus. In short - family life. For, until you look at your family and understand that all of the things good and bad that are part of that relationship, you won't realize that there are people in your life that do exactly the same for you without the genetics. Often people point out that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Over the past two years, my "genetic" family situation has improved with my parents and children, but thanks to my "chosen" family and other factors in my life I am at a point where I am happy, regardless of anything to do with my family. What did I learn about Christmas from all this? I've never been a religious person. I constantly wish that the feelings of caring and giving that are predominant during this season were year-round. I try to live that way daily. But Christmas is a time, when those who don't have many of the things that so many of us take for granted feel it the most. The get-togethers, presents, food and fun can easily be lost in worry, regret and complications. So be a friend, there's someone out there that needs one. I was one of them.

The empty chair in the kitchen By Vivian M Muska

When I think of the Christmas season it doesn’t conjure up a happy memory, but it’s one that is close to my heart. This was several years ago. My mom had died of lung cancer six years earlier. My dad was 84 or so. I moved in with him to take care of him. My mom and dad were very traditional during the holidays. We could count on turkey with all the fixings and plum pudding. But that first Christmas after my mom passed on, my dad started sitting in the kitchen where my mom used to sit all the time. My dad and I roasted a chicken and made mashed potatoes and pie. We sat in the dinning room. My dad sat where he always sat, and I sat where my mom used to sit. We ate in silence, missing my mom. It was hard to bear. My mom had always been the centre of family holidays. I watched my dad eating, his head low and eating slowly. I could almost feel my mom in the kitchen making tea for the dessert. It was as if she was just taking a smoke break waiting for the water to boil But, she never came out of the kitchen. It was just my dad and I sitting together. We ate our pie, and afterward my dad went back into the kitchen. He sat in the same chair my mom sat in, and drank his tea. I remember looking at him, the radio was on and he rested his arms on the counter with his head down, missing my mom. He died two years ago of pancreatic cancer. Now they are in heaven together keeping the family Christmas traditions alive together. - Vivian M Muska is a Winnipeg-based artist and writer.

- Shandi Strong is a survivor who has helped countless others survive the ups and downs of life. www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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Guess who’s coming to dinner by Roger Currie

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he year was 1967, and I was a student at St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba. I lived a very comfortable life with my family in River Heights, one of Winnipeg’s most comfortable neighbourhoods. Most homes in the area, including ours, could have been the setting for a Canadian version of Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best. Mom stayed home and at Christmastime she organized a festive dinner for what we affectionately called “the geriatric club.” It included three of my four grandparents, a step grandmother, a widowed great aunt and a widower great uncle. While my brother and I dove into our Christmas treasures, playing endlessly with the new hockey board game or other similar amusements in the pre-digital era, our mother, Thelma Currie, spent the day in the kitchen. There was no automatic dishwasher, so my father seemed to have an apron on and dishtowel over his shoulder for much of the day. The feast was truly grand and very traditional. There was a beautifully-stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, boiled onions and at least one other vegetable and tomato aspic. Desert included mince tarts and plum pudding with two different sugary sauces. The menu seldom varied and the meal was always to die for. There was not an abundance of alcohol served, out of deference to the grandfather who was a lifelong teetotaler, but once the geriatrics were out the door mom would kick off her shoes and knock back a couple of stiff gins. Dad was still drying dishes. By 1967 the cast had changed somewhat. Gone to their reward in the great beyond were two of the grandparents and the great uncle. But great-aunt Marie was still with us, along with grandma Currie with her delightful Glasgow accent. Aunt Marie was a Swede from the farming community of Hallock, Minnesota. In today’s world she might easily be described as a bigot, but 45 years ago she was merely ‘representative’ of her generation. Did I mention that she loved to talk? From a relatively young age I have always enjoyed “stirring the pot,” so I conspired to liven up the geriatric feast by adding a “person of colour” to the table. His name was Fitzroy Clarke and he was a fellow university student. He came from the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean and like many foreign students he was

destined to be alone and thousands of miles from home at Christmas. We gave no advance warning that Fitzroy would be joining the festivities. In retrospect, given the average age of the group, that might have been a wise thing to do. Polite greetings were exchanged and dinner was served. Aunt Marie had little to say, but her face spoke volumes. Fitzroy held forth on a wide range of topics. My older brother, David, laughed heartily through all of it, shooting me many a knowing glance. The passage of 45 years has dimmed the memory of what exactly was said that evening. In today’s context, I’m sure it was nothing particularly startling. The only people who are still around from that occasion are my brother and I, and hopefully Fitzroy. In recent years I have tried Google and other means to try to find him, without success. It appears that he does not live in Canada. My wish is that he returned to St. Vincent and has lived a wonderful life, doing lots of worthwhile things. - Roger Currie is a Winnipeg writer and broadcaster, and an ally of the GLBT community. His weekly commentaries can be heard on CJNU (Nostalgia Radio) 107.9 FM. You can read more of Roger’s columns at rogercurrie.org.

Illustration by Dylan Bekkering

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca


Illustration by Dylan Bekkering

Home is where I choose it to be By Marina Koslock

The time of year when we hope to return home for the holidays is drawing near. It’s also the time when we get to consider what home really means to us. Home isn’t always where we do our day-to-day cooking and cleaning, it is often something else. Sometimes, it’s our parents’ home, surrounded by siblings and relatives. But sometimes it’s something more ethereal that embodies our ideal of what home is or should be. When we return to the family home, we have to be on our best behaviour. The way we treat each other will affect our relationships during the following year. It’s the little things that matter: Did James remember to bring Tofurky for his vegan sister? How much did Yasmina and her sisters contribute to decorating the home, if at all? All of these small acts somehow matter and can lead to stress or conflict. Why then, do we feel the need to be home for the holidays? The time spent on flights or on the road, trying to get there for one day matters perhaps not to us, but to someone in our circle, invariably in our families. The resounding question of why is answered: family duty. Why is this so crucial in our family dynamic? Why do we feel the need to pull off a successful act every year, not to mention trying to one-up the previous holidays? The long hours spent in shopping malls or online shipping for gifts, the painstaking care in wrapping these precious parcels is all part of the performance. We all seem to buy into the idea that by spending money and sacrificing time, we are proving we value family above all other priorities and options.

That brings us back to the question of what constitutes a home and whether by failing to measure up to unrealistic expectations we are lesser actors and will fail to obtain transcendence this holiday season. This year, my sisters and I will be spread across three continents and it is not financially possible for us to be together. We have no collective home. One of us lives in a shanty on the beach with her partner in Australia. Another will be in Barbados, eating Bajan salted fish cakes with her new confidants. As for myself, instead of remaining stationary, I opted for a change of scenery with my partner. As I hummed “I’ll be Home for Christmas” while browsing flights online, I felt that our idea of home was being constructed with every click of the mouse. My partner may not be my blood relative, but this person is my family and my comfort. I want to spend our holiday together, even if we are spending it in a borrowed room in a house with nine other people, in a city we do not know. Walking the snowy streets together, visiting art galleries and museums in place of shopping malls, and having our holiday dinner prepared for just the two of us in a cuisine of our choice, sounds like a holiday in a winter wonderland. As Lana Del Rey said in Ride, "home is wherever you lay your head.” Home is not a seven-foot-tall tree with presents bursting out underneath. It’s not a physical place. Home is wherever we share our lives with the people we hold dear. It’s the faces in the room. It’s the place that gives us a sense of belonging. - Marina Koslock is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer. www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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A Simple Christmas And A Promise From A Complex Lady By Peter Carlyle-Gordge

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n the fall of 1977 I resigned as producer for CBC Radio, determined to abandon the rat race and take a sabbatical for a year. I went to England, my birthplace, with the idea of going on to Portugal to live cheaply. I also took along my then-wife plus daughter, age six, and son, age two. As it turned out we ended up buying an old van and going down to Cornwall and the southwest tip of England. We ended up renting a house in a little town, St. Ives, which is famous as a colony for artists and writers. Christmas was coming and the weather was stormy. We invited my wife’s cousin and husband to come down for Christmas. Originally from Winnipeg, they loved England and had moved there. Back in 1977 they were quite poor, as were we. We would manage with homemade gifts or ones picked up at rummage sales. We didn’t even have a Christmas tree, so Dale went on the moors and dug up a thorny gorse bush, which the children loved decorating with tinsel and inexpensive baubles, many homemade. The children had great fun. There were, of course, no fancy tech toys, no electronic games or computer screens. They ran free, enjoying the beaches and nooks and crannies of the ancient town without parental supervision. Now in their thirties, they still talk about it to this day as the best holiday ever. I had planned no work for a year but made one exception, which was something of a challenge. One of my favourite fiction writers was the reclusive Dame Daphne du Maurier, author of such classics as Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn and even the short story The Birds, which Alfred Hitchcock turned into a movie. For her services to literature, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1969, the female equivalent of a knighthood. All I knew was that I loved her writing style and creativity and found her reclusiveness fascinating. I also knew she lived in a big old Cornish house in Fowey, a two-hour drive from St. Ives. She had grown up in London but after a holiday in Cornwall as a young woman she had severed all ties with the capital and opted for the wild, windswept moors and crashing seas of Cornwall. Many of her novels are set there. She loved wild weather and wild, colourful characters. Being young – I was thirty — and ever optimistic I decided to write to her, expressing my deep admiration and telling her as a journalist that I would love to interview her. She scribbled me a reply saying she really was busy and couldn’t do an interview, but to check back in a few weeks.

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca

I did write again and got a scribbled postcard saying she was suffering with a cold and not up to seeing people but to contact her again. I did so. The best gift I remember from that year is the short scribbled letter that came at the same time as the Christmas cousins. She named a date in February and said she would see me if she was well. As it turned out, she not only gave a lovely interview over sherry and a roaring log fire as the howling February winds blew outside her stately home, she asked her housekeeper to come in and make lunch for us, then followed it up with a tour of her home and archives. It was warm, personal and memorable. We got along famously and my interview ended up in a Winnipeg paper, the San Francisco Chronicle and the London Free Press. BBC Radio also played a snippet of it. She died on April 19, 1989, in Par in her beloved Cornwall, five weeks shy of her 82nd birthday. After her death a marvellous biography of her came out. It revealed she had secretly been bisexual all her life and once had a terrible crush on the wife of her American publisher, Ellen Doubleday. Later revelations show she also had an affair with famed actress Gertrude Lawrence. A TV movie made after her death charted her lesbian longings to 1945, when her husband, Tommy (private secretary to the Duke of Edinburgh), returned from the war. Although they undoubtedly married for love and had three children together — they found it difficult to reconnect after the years of separation. Her bisexuality undoubtedly explains how she could write Frenchman’s Creek from a strictly male viewpoint. Some also believe one of her earliest coded lesbian images in Hollywood is the character of Mrs. Danvers, the creepy housekeeper in Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of her novel Rebecca. Seemingly obsessed with her first mistress, the late Rebecca de Winter, Mrs. Danvers both frightens and repels the new Mrs. de Winter. It is a classic image of lesbian desire as unsettling and "other." Dame Daphne really had two distinct people living inside her. Whatever the full truth, the biography was fully approved by the late author’s family and her books, once the most borrowed of any author in the world, continue to be read worldwide. And I have a fond memory of my most valued Christmas gift ever: a letter from a renowned recluse inviting me for a visit and a very long chat. Of many thousands of interviews in the past 40 years hers is the one I truly cherish most. - Peter Carlyle-Gordge is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.


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Where there is life, there is always help and hope In the concluding article in this series, Outwords examines tools to prevent suicide By Peter Carlyle-Gordge

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca


Suicide has a horrible effect on family, friends and societ y, but can it be prevented—and how? In some cases, it cannot. The victim—a victim of their own selfdestructive thoughts— sometimes retreats so far into the mental darkness and despair that even loving friends and professionals fail to shine a beam of light or hope into their hell. But there is a lot of things people can do to inter vene and prevent someone from taking their life. Val Horner is a Winnipeg nurse and senior training coach with LivingWorks Education, a suicide inter vention group that was f irst founded in Calgar y. She has been involved with suicide prevention work since 1982. Her training experience has been in working with corrections workers and students in law-enforcement programs such as corrections and policing. She has also trained many students and professionals in the social work and crime f ields, as well as members of the

LGBT T communit y, in suicide prevention. According to Horner, spotting signs of suicidal wishes in a loved one is the f irst step to preventing it. “There are many signs to watch for,” says Horner. “Someone may become depressed or withdrawn, or they may start giving away possessions. A lcohol use may increase or their language may begin to sound helpless and hopeless.” “Signif icant changes in behaviour can be warning signs, such as changes in food or sleep habits. Physical appearances may change too and a person may stop caring about it.” Horner says it’s vital to confront these signs and tr y to get the affected person to talk about their feelings. Just getting someone to open up and talk can greatly relieve their stressful isolation and give them a broader perspective. They may begin to feel less over whelmed and powerless. “Suicidal thoughts often follow a loss and those in the LGBT T communit y know all about losses,” she says. “They may have lost a family or

“Suicidal thoughts often follow a loss and those in the LGBTT community know all about losses.” - Val Horner

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rs pai n you, Rivers are da mp, Acids stain you, And dr ugs ca use cr amp. Guns aren't lawfu l, Noose s give , Gas sm ells a wful. You mi ght a s well live.” - Doro thy Pa r ker, En oug

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family members because of prejudice, or they may have lost a job, a lover or a parent. The important thing is to talk and let them know they are not alone and are valued as people. They may have lacked self-esteem throughout their life because they felt they were different.” She says talk of suicide was totally taboo in the past, but education is beginning to change that. She has no doubt at all her own work has helped save real lives from being throw away and more people need to learn how they can helpfully inter vene. Talking, connecting the hopeless with practical help and getting them to see they have choices in life all have the potential to prevent needless deaths.

“I am involved in local suicide prevention initiatives and am passionate about helping communit y members become better prepared to help people at risk of suicide,” Horner says. “I believe that suicide prevention is ever yone's business and that we all need to work together to help keep our communities safer from suicide.” Horner’s interest in the subject came when she worked in corrections and realized she lacked the skills needed to prevent suicide among inmates. A s a counsellor at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, Horner says staff were taught CPR but there was no skills training for suicide prevention.

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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Volunteering to save lives

It’s all in the mind: The tools for suicide prevention

Even if you’re mentally healthy and have no need of counselling services, places like Klinic are always in need of volunteers to help with their services. They offer excellent training and help develop skills which may allow you to help friends and family in future. In helping others we always end up helping ourselves on our own journey, so consider the enormous emotional dividend of helping save someone’s life without having to learn CPR. Klinic offers training in suicide intervention and crisis management. It also offers full training for all its volunteers in crisis counselling. » Volunteers for Klinic can register at: www.klinic.mb.ca/ ApplicationForm/form.htm In addition, the Canadian Centre For Suicide Prevention in Calgary offers valuable workshops and resources. Check out: www. http://suicideinfo.ca. » To get specific information, contact Brenda Ann Taylor, communications director. E-mail: bat@suicideinfo.ca; Phone: (403) 245-3900 » The Rainbow Resource Centre also offers counselling services to those experiencing mental health issues. Their website offers a good directory of counselling organizations too. Check them out at: www.rainbowresourcecentre.org Likewise, Nine Circles Community Health Centre offers counselling and medical help. Check them out at: http://ninecircles.ca/

The LivingWorks program, one of Canada’s most popular suicide prevention resources, which includes safeTALK and suicideTALK, has core beliefs such as encouraging open, honest and direct talk about suicide rather than dancing around the subject. It also believes most suicide is preventable with proper training about warning signs, intervention methods and all forms of help seeking, be that from counsellors, medical people or friends and the Internet. Doctors can prescribe pills for depression or anxiety, but far more intensive intervention may be needed in serious cases, especially when there is a history of suicide attempts. The program believes all thoughts of suicide are dangerous. Its Core Beliefs manifesto states, “All persons with thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously. Distinctions that lead to regarding one person’s thoughts of suicide as more serious than another’s are almost as dangerous as suicide.” ‘This does not mean that all persons at risk need the same help. Safety plans should be tailored to minimize the risk factors that apply to the particular person at risk.” LivingWorks also preaches an optimistic view on suicidal outcomes. “While thinking about suicide may be difficult if not impossible to prevent, preventing thoughts of suicide

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca

from moving on to become suicidal actions is achievable. We assert that almost all persons at risk actively invite help and retain within them the desire to live, even if they are no longer in touch with that life force.” LivingWorks experts believe persons at risk are ambivalent about suicide. The capacity to actively hold suicide as an immediate option is almost always temporary, they say. A caregiver often only needs to help prevent the immediate risk of suicide in order to stop it for some period of time, maybe for a lifetime. To have thought about suicide and turned away from it can make it clear that one has a choice. Tim Wall, director of counselling at Klinic, says multiple approaches may be needed when trying to prevent suicide. He says people need to be made aware of the wide array of resources available in the community. For starters, there is much employers can also do to support mental health work and help reduce stress which might lead to suicide. Klinic has recently developed resource materials including a leaflet, Are You OK?, which talks about mental health and mental illness. One organization that tries to compound local resources on an international level is the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). Founded by the late Professor Erwin Ringel and Dr. Norman Farberow in 1960, IASP now includes professionals and volunteers from more than fifty different countries. IASP is a non-governmental organization officially partnering with the

World Health Organization (WHO). By becoming a member of IASP, anyone can have access to their internationallyrespected journal, Crisis, which offers the latest findings from both basic research and practical experience in the fields of suicide prevention and crisis intervention.

Helping others by helping yourself Wall says keeping connected and having a good balance in your life is essential to mental good health. Klinic has workshops and a brochure on keeping life in balance. It offers a range of services that are designed to promote wellness through greater life balance. They are intended to enhance your ability to be calmer, quieter and selfcompassionate. These approaches to life can better equip you to listen carefully to what your body and mind might be telling you. The idea is to learn to know and be yourself. Klinic Community Health Centre’s Counselling Services offers hope to many and most of them are free and open to anyone, though space is sometimes limited.

Suicide prevention in the LGBTT community Winnipegger Jefre Nicholls lost his 21-year-old friend and former lover to suicide. Coping with the failure of his attempts to help wasn’t easy. “The loss made me very angry because it was the second time he had tried it,” he says. “I asked myself if I was becoming jaded, if I could not have done more to save him. But


depression is a serious illness and we need to talk about it a lot more and talk about suicide too. Most people get down after a shitty day, but this depression was much more serious.” He believes his late friend Hamish changed physically and emotionally after he dated a man who wasn’t out of the closet and whose father reacted badly after discovering them. The negative reaction deeply affected his whole psyche and balance of mind. “I think he became a shell of what he had been,” he says. “He became extremely vulnerable and felt no one could love him. Though very attractive, he believed he was ugly.” Nicholls hopes that in the future more resources become available to people who need steering away from suicide. Education and greater awareness, along with more research, are needed into causes of suicide.

It need not be a taboo subject, especially for those in the LGBTT community. “Just coming out to family is a major stressor for LGBTT people,” he says. “You can face rejection and that can cause serious depression. I’m amazed that some young people today are even coming out while still in school. I lived my own life for 19 years pretending to be someone I wasn’t.” Things have undoubtedly improved for the new LGBTT generation. There is more openness, more coming out, more self-esteem. But life is still of challenges, potential prejudice, insults and basic ignorance, all of which are hurtful and sometimes spiritually crushing. But even the darkest clouds often have silver linings if you wait a while and get help. Nicholls thinks the It Gets Better project may help some young potential suicides gather some hope. The Internet can be

used to inflict pain on people who are different, but it can also quickly organize support and an organized fight-back against oppressors. “Coming out is painful, but it really does get better,” Nicholls says. “Life is amazing and wonderful. There can be terrible pain and a sense of loss if you lose a lover but there is no substitute for passing time. Things will and do get better if you just allow time to pass.” Cognitive therapy, drugs, friends, counselling and just talking can all help lessen the gloom of a life that seems to offer no exit to a land of sunlit uplands, but those uplands do exist—and with time and help, they can be found.

Where to get help + Manitoba Suicide Line - 24 - Hour 1-877-435-7170 + Crisis Line - 24 - Hour Crisis Line 204-786-8686 + Toll free 1-888-322-3019 TTY 204-784-4097 + Manitoba Farm & Rural Support Services Stress Line: 1-866-367-3276 + Manitoba Farm & Rural Support Services Online counselling: www.ruralsupport.ca

-Peter Carlyle-Gordge is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December November 2012

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Cheering on the bombers For the first time, the Winnipeg Bombers add male cheerleaders to their team By Graeme Coleman

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he Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ cheerleaders have been keeping spirits alive during games for over 50 years. They’ve been known by many names during this time, including a period as the Blue Lightning Dance Team in 2011. But the team turned a new leaf this year, earning them a new name. For the first time in their 50-plus years of existence, the Bombers’ cheerleaders added men to their team. They are now formally known as the Blue Bomber Cheer

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Team (BBCT), the third team in the Canadian Football League to go co-ed, following Saskatchewan and Edmonton. Being one of the first male cheerleaders on the BBCT never crossed Kevin Geyson’s mind. Actually, being a cheerleader at all was never a part of the athlete’s plan - but that’s only because he never thought of it. Before cheerleading came into the picture, the openlygay athlete had an extensive diving career. He trained hard to become an Olympic diver, but decided to retire after his third trials.

outwords, November December2012 2012 //// www.outwords.ca www.outwords.ca

Photo courtesy of Winnipeg Blue Bombers


“I retired from diving because I had been doing it for 18 years and this was my third Olympic trials, and I had been the alternate for all three Olympic trials,” said Geyson. Being the alternate means he placed third in the trials, while only the top two divers get to compete in the Olympics. “I was super close but never quite made it.” Geyson kept himself occupied by auditioning for the University of Manitoba’s dance team for a second year. Barely anyone showed up to the auditions and the team fell through, but fortunately for Geyson, as one door closed another opened. “That same day when I left the tryouts, the cheer team was practicing at the same time, and they were coming out of their practice at the exact same time. I explained what happened and they invited me to their tryouts,” said Geyson. “I hadn’t even thought that I would ever be a cheerleader until I went to that tryout after the dance team fell through.” Geyson quickly found that he was quite suited for cheerleading. “It ended up being more to my strengths anyway because of my diving skills,” said Geyson. “The flipping and acrobatics came naturally because I had training.” The all-star athlete may have retired from diving, but his athletic career is still on the rise.

He is now in the first batch of male cheerleaders for the BBCT and has big projects ahead. Geyson is amidst the application stages for joining Cirque du Soleil and contemplating trying out for Team Canada Cheerleading in early 2013. In all of his athletic activities, Geyson has noticed a commonality. “In all three sports there’s a huge gender stigmatization. Diving is considered sort of a gay sport because of what we wear – the speedos – and the ripped bodies. Gay people really pay attention to diving,” said Geyson. “With Cirque du Soleil, there’s the performance and costumes, as well as the bodies too, so they all kind of have the same kind of stigma.” Geyson was aware that when he joined the BBCT that the men on the team would inevitably face some unwarranted gender discrimination. “I knew we were going to be judged since it was mainly girls for so long,” said Geyson. “Some fans didn’t really know what we were doing. I assume that they thought we were going to be dancing like the girls used to. They didn’t understand that when guys came, they were bringing something totally different.” Instead of having a dance team of 32 females, the new BBCT consists of 12 female dancers, 12 male stunters and 8 female stunters.

Photo courtesy of Winnipeg Blue Bombers

“It's added a great dynamic because we’re able to do more of the athletic cheer style and have a smaller group of dancers, which enabled me to only take the best of the best,” said Mickaela McAuliffe, choreographer for the new BBCT. “Now we have a really strong stunt team and a really strong dance team, which raised the level of our overall product,” McAuliffe said. “It's way better with guys,” said BBCT dancer Nikki Allen. Even though it’s been a rough season, Allen said it’s the guys on the team who keep them pumped up.

Kevin Geyson (one of the first male cheerleaders on the BBCT)

“I try not to pay attention to any of that,” said Antoś Kieloch, a fellow male cheerleader on the BBCT. “I’m going to do what Iʼm going to do.” Their honorable attitude and

“I knew we were going to be judged since it was mainly girls for so long.” - Kevin Geyson Adding men to the team has made it stronger, but that hasn’t stopped some Bomber fans from giving negative feedback. Not surprisingly, most of the gender discrimination McAuliffe has experienced about the addition of men has been online. “People post comments out there and don’t have to be responsible because they’re hiding behind a computer, but these people might not be very educated about what good cheerleading is,” McAuliffe said. Some fans even went so far as to yell at the male cheerleaders during their performances in the stadium. “They would say comments like they don’t want the guys out here or yell things like ‘fags’,” said Geyson. Comments like these are ironic considering Geyson is the only gay member on the team. Regardless of their sexuality, the male cheerleaders had to have tough skin in order to dismiss the negative energy and keep positive spirits.

skills soon earned them respect amongst those originally in opposition. “Once the season went on and they saw how hard and dangerous the stuff that we did are, they totally changed their tune and now there are sections in the stadium that wait for us to come by and cheer us on,” Geyson said. “Some fans say they watch us more than the game.” Bomber fans should not be focusing on the gender of the new BBCT; instead, they should be focusing on the passion and high quality of cheerleading they bring fans whenever they’re in the stadium. Now that the team has made the transition into coed, they are expected to only get stronger. “With guys on the new team, it will make the team better in future years,” Geyson said. “Now guys will feel a lot more comfortable trying out because we paved the way for them.” - Graeme Coleman is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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A Winnipegger’s personal account of trans discrimination in one workplace, redemption in another

The Diverse, positive workplace still an elusive pipe dream for some By Shandi Strong

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he diverse positive workplace is probably not something most people think about a lot, unless it affects them directly. I for one always felt or assumed that workplaces in Canada were diverse simply because “we’re Canada,” and people are protected because we’re people and Canadian citizens. A little over two and a half years ago I found out the hard way that that was not the case. At that time I was preparing to take the big step towards my transition. I had a career, a supportive partner and an understanding family. Or so I believed. When I came out to my employer of fifteen years I outlined in a letter the basics of my

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situation and the value I could be to the company in other areas of the business should it be felt that serving customers would cause issues. I was summarily shown the door. I had been a loyal employee and was made to “go away.” Even going to the Human Rights Commission gained me very little but a minor financial compensation, a letter of apology that really meant nothing and a letter of reference for which I had to negotiate pronouns. To add insult to injury, my supposedly supportive partner of nearly twenty years, whose first words were “I’m so proud of you” when I came out, left me a few short weeks later. Not exactly the new start to life I was expecting when I made the decision.

One of the first thoughts I had when I realized it was in fact over was, “How the hell am I going to afford my surgery?” Money makes the world go around, without it your world becomes very stressful, very quickly. Soon it became all about finding a job to afford to maintain my home, some of my lifestyle and to handle my transition. Many people define who they are by what they do. After trying unsuccessfully to change career paths, I went back and sought other retail positions, without success. Was it because of being trans? There was really no way to know. Everyone who transitions feels a significant insecurity when it comes to finding or keeping their employment. I finally landed a job in a call centre which I kept out of necessity for about


eighteen months. I really didn’t enjoy it and feared that this was all I would be good enough for because I was trans. In terms of diversity, it was a good company to work for. There were certainly enough GLBT* people working there and they quickly reprimanded a staff person who was overheard making unkind remarks about me in the lunchroom. They even asked me about the course of action I would like them to take regarding the situation. So that was positive. But the job wasn’t for me, it wasn’t me. When the time came for my medical leave, I vowed never to return and started searching in earnest for a new job. My severance was used up, having to have tenants in my home to cover the bills was not ideal and working for minimum wage with all my qualifications and abilities was just plain wrong. I was better than that, I knew it. It took two years of struggling and frustration to realize it. I had been networking and a good friend told me that Henry’s, a photo specialty retailer was looking for managers for the Winnipeg area. I thought, “Do I really want to go back into the camera business?” and thanked him for his effort, but no. Almost my entire career had been in the retail photographic industry or as a photographer and I thought I wanted a change. I had a few days off before heading to Montreal for my surgery, so I kept the job search going. My Monster account sent me a notification about the position at Henry’s. I thought it over, and this time said, “Why not”. I did not want to go back to the call centre, I couldn’t afford to. At this point in my life I need to do something that pays me what I’m worth, and something that I enjoy. So I fired off my resume. Henry’s is based in Toronto. With over thirty stores and over one hundred years in business, they carry everything from entry level point-and-shoot cameras to high-end professional gear and all the goodies in between. Indeed all of the things that I had been selling or using for almost my entire adult life. The positions were for management, for which I also had plenty of experience. And they were the direct competitor of those who had dismissed me for being “me”. What did I have to lose? The pay had to be better than minimum wage!

"Cloud 9 just became Cloud 10! Not only was I doing something I was suited for and really enjoyed, I suddenly lost all fears about the direction my life had taken." - Shandi Strong

On Feb. 8, 2012, “The Big Day,” I hadn’t checked my cell phone for a while and noticed a couple of calls from a number I didn’t recognize. Still a little out of it from my surgery I checked my email and noticed a reply from the HR department manager from the day before, wanting to do an initial phone interview. Wow! Okay! So I called her the next day, and even though I’m certain I was still feeling the effects of the previous day’s anesthetic, did well. And we arranged an interview during a job fair in Winnipeg later that month. The thing I must note here is that I was completely honest with her about me. I had in fact interviewed with Henry’s about three years prior and was offered a job as an assistant manager. I felt that that was important to mention, because I had been offered the job as a man. I declined that offer because my thenemployer, who likely had no idea I was considering leaving, offered me a promotion and a raise. I still considered the new offer, but with my transition approaching, I was concerned that coming out after just being offered a job would complicate matters. I had a partner, a family and a mortgage, so job security was a priority. Transition once again was relegated to the rear. The in-person interview went very well and I was offered the position of assistant manager for the three Winnipeg locations. With a salary comparable to the one I had been making three years earlier in a different life. Life was good! But it gets even better. Part of the training for managing the stores involved myself and the two new store managers being flown to Toronto to meet the people

we work with and learn our new systems and responsibilities. Part of that included HR policies—and there it was in black and white, I was working for a company that would not tolerate discrimination in any form, from anyone. Be it staff, management, or even customers. Cloud 9 just became Cloud 10! Not only was I doing something I was suited for, and really enjoyed, I suddenly lost all fears about the direction my life had taken. While there we were given examples of how management supported this policy and saw first-hand and met the many different people that worked for the company. There were people from all walks of life, ethnicities, and the GLBT* community. Truly a rainbow if I ever saw one. Wow, again, what a wonderful feeling! The local photographic community is a lot like the GLBT* community, with pros, hobbyists, enthusiasts, etc. And like a small town, most people know, or know of, most people. I soon began working with and renewing relationships with many people from my past life, co-workers, customers, sales reps and even a few people from my previous place of employment. Sure there were a few shocks and surprises along the way, but there were also smiles and hugs. Everyone was happy to see me back in an environment I belong and thrive in. Since I was ousted, the protection for trans people has become included in the Manitoba Human Rights Code. Thanks to a lot of hard working people, many serve to benefit from that legislation. Had that protection been in place two-and-a-half years ago, my life might have turned out differently. But at the end of the day, it’s best to know that my workplace doesn’t need that law to see and respect people for who they are and the benefits and abilities they bring to work every day. How many people can say they truly love their job and going to work every day? I certainly can! - Shandi Strong is happily working at the job she loves in Winnipeg.

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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Tux Photography & Fashion: Jefre Nicholls Hair & Makeup : Becky Kooting appearing courtesy of VQ salon Model: Andrew T courtesy of Swish Model Management

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War M

Of

ore than a few years have passed since the Gary Coopers of the world stepped out on the town looking like million-dollar troopers. Back then, they donned one of arguably the most famous of all men’s fashion icons aptly named for the New York location in which it made its debut – the Tuxedo Park Club. Today, the tux can be found in many a shape and form, so for this holiday shindig season put on more than the Ritz and step out in your own tuxedo style. From a hipster Canadian tuxedo of denim on denim, to denim on a rock star graphic print and leather pant combo – there really is no wrong way to reinvent this grandfather of classics.

outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca


Andrew T wears a Mandarincollared tuxedo shirt, matador cord & crushed-velvet vest and a printed, denim - and pearl - studded crucifix, all from Forever XXI.

www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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-On this pageRaw denim jacket from Club Monaco. Light - wash denim button-up by Diesel. Japanese Denim from Nudie, available at Donali. Belt & boots, model’s own. Vintage bow tie stylist’s own. -Right page top left Striped, textured satin - lapel tuxedo by Christian Dior. Lambskin, gold-leather and lace gloves from BCBG. Graphic mirror print top and B&W printed scarf from Forever XXI. Polyurethane pants from Urban Planet. -Right page top right and bottomBlack and ivory silk shirt, nude and black patent leather attaché from Forever XXI. Black, skinny jeans from Urban Planet. Rounded lapel tuxedo jacket & black satin bow tie by Oscar de la Renta. Lambskin, gold leather and lace gloves from BCBG. Boots, model’s own.

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www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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Making heads

and tails of

yoga H

ot yoga, Siddha yoga, Laughter yoga, Hatha yoga, Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Dance yoga, Raja yoga, Bikram yoga, Pilates Fusion yoga. The buffet of yoga classes and courses on offer these days is nothing short of astounding. So what’s the deal? What is yoga? What’s it for? What kind is the best? Is yoga just a fancy word for gymnastics? Yoga happens to be pretty old - a couple thousand years at least - but the kind of yoga you’re likely to see here in Winnipeg would be pretty unfamiliar to someone practicing yoga a thousand, or even one hundred, years ago. Living Green Yoga used to involve a lot more sitting still Alana Lajoieo'malley and a lot less jumping around from one fancy contortion to another. Yoga comes from India. More specifically, it comes from various religious traditions in India. It is based on the idea that through discipline, we can train our minds to pay attention (because we usually don’t, and it turns out this causes us a lot of problems). Older Sanskrit texts usually define yoga as something like “citta-vrtti-nirodah,” or “the stilling of the wanderings of the mind.” Totally straightforward, right? Give it a try. Take a moment to pay attention to only the sound of your breath. Notice how long it takes for your mind to start thinking about what you are going to make for supper. There are tons of different ways – and subsequently, yoga methods – to learn how to leave worrying about what’s for dinner for later in the day. Most yoga methods involve(d) some combination of postures, seated meditation and breathing practices. But, it is really only in the past 100 years that the kind of posture practices that most people now associate with ‘yoga’ began to develop. While the physical benefits of yoga practice can be pretty astounding with the right instruction, I think it’s the benefits of

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learning how to pay attention that are the real kicker. It makes us calmer and more able to deal with challenges. It offers us the opportunity to examine and balance our relationships to our appetites and desires, so that we can be more responsible, compassionate and effective people. In short, disciplined yoga practice can allow us to suffer less and to cause less suffering. There are tons of opportunities to try yoga here in Winnipeg, from community centres, fancy studios or even private homes. A good place to start looking is the Facebook community called ‘Winnipeg Yoga.’ You can also check out the Leisure Guide. If you’re looking for a good workout, go to a few different classes, but take care to pay attention to your body. Not all instructions are safe for everyone and it can be hard in large classes for teachers to correct you. If you’re interested in really digging in to the process of training your mind, worry less about the style you’re doing and more about the teacher teaching you – and stick to only one. A really exceptional yoga teacher, as some in this city, can truly guide you through the process of using the physical practices of yoga as tools for the process of learning how to really pay attention. -Alana Lajoie-O'Malley is the manager of Campus Sustainability at the University of Winnipeg


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How To Create A Financial To-Do List I

YOUR MONEY Donna Adam

Sure it’s winter and you’d rather figure out your seasonal party schedule, but this can be the best time to consider your future

n the midst of winter, your thoughts may be turning to holiday plans, spending time with family and friends, and weekend skiing excursions. But one shouldn’t forget to include setting up a new financial planning “to-do” list that focuses on the basics, to make 2012 your healthiest financial year ever.

Make sure your will and power of attorney (POA) are up to date. Do you have a will, and is it up to date? Reflect where you want your assets to be distributed in case of death. Also, since the odds of suffering a disability are much greater than the odds of dying prematurely, it is even more critical to have an accurate POA and health care directive. Make sure your account structures and beneficiary designations are up to date. List all your bank accounts and ensure the ownership (joint or sole ownership) is appropriate for your situation. Review your beneficiary designations in your will to ensure that they are up to date.

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Consider income-splitting strategies. Many Canadians are not taking advantage of simple income-splitting opportunities permitted by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Prescribed-rate loans, spousal RRSPs and contributions to your spouse’s tax-free savings account are just a few examples of common strategies. Ensure you have adequate life and living benefits insurance. Will your family be able to maintain its standard of living after your death? You may want to consult your insurance specialist to confirm where you are at. Ensure your asset allocation is up-to-date and tax efficient. Re-balance your portfolio. Is your asset allocation still appropriate, based on your risk tolerance, life plans and overall financial and retirement goals? Prepare a retirement projection. Will you have enough income when you retire to live comfortably? If you own a business, how will that business create retirement income for you? Write down your plan – and stick to it.

Simplify your financial life: Consolidate accounts. Are you truly benefiting from dealing with multiple institutions? Are your account services duplicated as opposed to diversified? Find a trusted financial institution that offers a wide array of solutions and competitive fees

and that can give expert advice to meet your financial and personal goals. Bank online. This will allow you to view your accounts, transfer funds and pay bills at your leisure. Pre-authorize your bill payments. This can save you considerable time and ensure your bills get paid on time. Get a pre-authorized contribution (PAC) plan. Pay yourself first. Setting up a PAC plan is good for annual RRSP and RESP contributions, stock savings plans, etc. E-Statements. Consider moving from paper statements to electronic statements. Utilizing a to-do list and having a strong determination to complete each item will help you succeed. Sit down, alone or with your financial advisor, to review your list and make a commitment to complete the items by the end of 2012. – Donna Adam is a financial planner with RBC.


National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week Getting to Zero Brings people together across Canada The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) launched Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week on Dec. 1 in Winnipeg. The launch signals the start of workshops across the country (Halifax, Regina, Toronto, Iqaluit and Victoria) to continue discussions on Aboriginal HIV and AIDS issues in Canada on Dec. 2-6. Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week (AAAW) connects national Aboriginal organizations, government
 partners, health care providers and community leaders to focus on how Aboriginal people can work together to reach the goal of Getting to zero, as in zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. zero AIDS related deaths. “We must all work together to reduce the number of new HIV infections by promoting prevention, education and testing. Aboriginal communities developing strategies and actions to combat HIV and AIDS will foster our journey to zero,” said Ken Clement, CEO of CAAN. Aboriginal people (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) continue to respond to HIV and AIDS with community based initiatives, but are still experiencing epidemic proportions, 3.6 times higher than other Canadians. An estimated 4,300 to 6,100 Aboriginal persons were living with HIV and AIDS. Eight per cent of all prevalent HIV infections among Aboriginal Canadians comprised about 12.5 per cent of all new HIV infections in Canada in 2008. This year, AAAW will focus on how to reduce these numbers to zero The 2012 theme represents the goal to eliminate transmissions from mother to child, which means zero babies are born HIV positive in Canada, zero tolerance of discrimination towards those living with HIV and AIDS, and zero barriers to treatment for all. A convergence of cultural, social, health and political events during Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week is creating a climate for important positive developments on the HIV/AIDS agenda. The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network is a not-forprofit coalition of individuals and organizations that provides leadership, support and advocacy for Aboriginal individuals living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, regardless of where they reside. Its philosophy is that all Aboriginal Peoples deserve the right to protect themselves against infectious disease and strives to provide the Aboriginal community with accurate and current information about HIV, including risks of contracting the virus, issues of care and treatment.

Your assets may be protected. (But is your partner?) We know it’s not something you want to think about but no one expects the unexpected. The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is the assurance they are protected. That’s why at RBC Wealth Management we have knowledgeable financial advisors that can help you address your unique concerns. You can create your own path forward. We can help.

Create your path forward

Brendan Rogers, BA Hons FMA Investment Advisor Rogers & Associates of RBC Dominion Securities Phone: (204) 982-6898 Toll Free: (800) 463-9775 Fax: (204) 982-4070 brendan.rogers@rbc.com www.brendanrogers.ca

RBC Dominion Securities Inc.* and Royal Bank of Canada are separate corporate entities which are affiliated. *Member-Canadian Investor Protection Fund. RBC Dominion Securities Inc. is a member company of RBC Wealth Management, a business segment of Royal Bank of Canada. ® Registered trademarks of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © 2012 Royal Bank of Canada. All rights reserved. www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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Buying toys for adults technology Corey Shefman

It’s that time of the year again. Come December, it seems that everyone is frantically searching for ‘That Perfect Gift’ for their loved one or significant other. This year, OutWords is here to give you a hand.

For the Professional in your Life

For the Student (and pretty much everyone else)

But they asked for a new cell phone!

If money is no object, go for Microsoft’s Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablet. At the time of writing this column, Surface with Windows 8 isn’t yet available, but it is expected to be on the shelves before Christmas, or just after. Microsoft’s first modern attempt at a tablet was (mostly) a success. The reviews of the Surface with Windows RT (the less powerful version of Windows) were mixed, with the main concern being the compromises that were made to make Windows work on the less powerful machine. The Surface for Windows 8 Pro solves that problem with a full version of Windows 8, hardware on par with high-end ultrabooks (think MacBook Air) and, hopefully by the time it’s released, a more robust app store. For professionals whose daily work lives run on Windows, the Surface will soon be a must-have.

The iPad 4 is the first of Apple’s tablets since the iPad 2 which you can safely expect to have serious lasting power. The iPad 3 (strangely named ‘The New iPad’) was a dud, with limited improvements over the previous version. The iPad 4 brings you Apple’s new ‘Lightning’ connector cable and a significantly faster processor. At this point, you shouldn’t need convincing to get an iPad. Even if you’re not an Apple fan, there is no denying that between the quality of the components and the often-incredible breadth of the app-store offerings, nearly everyone will find a use for it. And in the case of the iPad 4, the release of the iPad Mini at the same time is a signal that the iPad will not be getting significant revisions for some time—so your investment is (mostly) safe.

December is probably the best time of the year to buy a cell phone. Incentives abound and it is near the peak of the release cycle for new products. And this year, these tiny computers in your pocket are on a more equal footing than ever. With the addition of Bell to the cell phone market in Manitoba, your chance of getting a (relatively) good deal on a 3-year contract is better than ever. Your choice of phone is also greater than before. Your top choices are the iPhone 5, the Nexus 4 from Google and LG, Samsung’s Galaxy S3. If you’re looking to spend a bit less, an iPhone 4S is still a great buy, as is the Samsung Galaxy SII and any Windows Phone.

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-Corey Shefman is a Win`nipeg-based freelance writer.

For the bookworm Despite all this talk of tablets, we can’t forget their modest cousins, e-readers! This year saw the release of a slew of ‘front-lit’ e-readers, which maintain all the benefits of e-ink (very little strain on your eyes, feels like you’re reading a book) while bringing the benefit of a computer screen to your bedroom (or other dark room). These readers, like the Kobo Glo and the Kindle Paperwhite, use a new technology that directs light at the screen, not from the screen the way computer screens do. While moderately more expensive than their dark predecessors, they’re worth it.


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www.outwords.ca // outwords, December 2012

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What's all this hype about December 2012? R

ummaging through the Rainbow Resource Centre’s library just before their youth meeting, Tom asks Spirituality Danny, “What do Ray buteau you think about all the hype about Dealing December 21?” “You mean, with the the hype around unexpected December 25?” “No,” insists Tom, “I mean about the world coming to an abrupt end on December 21 of this year.” “A nd may I ask why you're asking me?” Danny says, bewildered. “Don't you have an opinion or even a worr y?” Tom insists. “My opinion is that I don't have one and my worr y is whether to go ahead and buy any gifts now or wait till after the 21. But I do know who will have an opinion.” “You mean Robert, right?” “R ight, and since he's a resource person for our group, the centre may give you his number.” Soon enough, a meeting is arranged by the centre bet ween Robert and the guys. “Hi fellas,” Robert greets them. “Hi Robert, I see you don't have a coffee yet,” Danny says. “I've been waiting for you t wo; my treat, consider it a pre-Christmas gift.” Finding a table and settling down, the guys thank Robert for the coffee and he begins.

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outwords, December 2012 // www.outwords.ca

“Fellas, you're going to hear a lot of doom-sayers and frightened eccentrics, each obsessed with the off icial countdown. You'll hear about the apocalypse and biblical proofs explaining the end of the world, the Mayan prophecy or the Nostradamus predictions.” “Yeah,” adds Danny, “It can really put a downer on ' joy to the world.’” “I've heard it's going to be some cataclysmic event brought on by an outer world encounter or some cosmic event and even by natural disasters,” Tom adds. “Some of my relatives are getting freaked out and even going to church,” says Danny. “Well, the church part won't hurt anyone and if the minister is calm, it may even help a lot of people,” says Robert. Tom asks Robert, “W hat do you make of all this?” “W hat's it going to be,” Danny sarcastically suggests, “a spaceship, an earthquake, Jesus on a chariot, or the planet blowing up?” “I must say you have an interesting way of simplif ying the possibilities,” Robert says. “The only thing I'm sure of is that if anything happens, we're all in it together. Do you guys remember me speaking about the three resources that each of us has to help us through any transition, even any doomsday change in our lives?” “One had to do with ourselves,” Danny proudly admits. “Thought you'd remember that one, Danny,” Robert cautiously says. “One had to do with a higher power,” Tom adds, “I remember that

one ‘cause that's the one I have the most guilt about.” A nd Robert was about to add the third when Danny blurts out, “A nd us, and other people.” “Well done fellas, and though it will be important to take care of ourselves and have a faith in a power greater than ourselves, we will need to reach out to each other in the event something happens beyond our control.” “A s part of a communit y that often calls itself 'family,' you have friends and, through the centre, lists of the ser vices to which you can reach out. The bottom line is that you're no longer alone and like I said, should anything happen, we're all in this together.” “A re you worried, Robert?” asks Tom. “No, there's too much hype, I live one day at a time and if something happens I'll tr y to remember what I've just told you t wo.” “Supposing Santa does show up,” Danny says, “what are you plans for the New Year?” Robert responds, “I have an interesting offer that I'd like to make in the New Year to the t wo of you and hopefully to your youth group.” “I can't believe I'm going to say this.” Danny says, “But I don't know who I'm more interested in meeting after the 21, Santa or you.” - Ray Buteau is a former Catholic priest and author of the book No Longer Lonely. You can visti Ray’s website at www.raybuteausweb.com


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When pink

meets green By Alana Westwood

Queer environmentalists discover they have several goals in common

T

wenty young faces from all across Canada sat in an expectant circle, a collective range of colours, sexual orientations and gender expressions. “Why am I here?” one person asked himself out loud. “I’m here because I’m curious. I never thought these struggles could fit together, but now I see they are one and the same.” His words were greeted with a chorus of nods. This caucus was part of PowerShift 2012, a youth-led conference of 1,200 participants mostly aged 16-30 that descended on Ottawa this past October. They had come to train and develop skills in the fight for climate justice – a movement which recognizes that those who are least responsible for causing climate change suffer its greatest impacts. The caucus was organized to examine the intersection between the climate justice movement and the queer rights movement. The merging of the pink and green in this way wasn’t something anyone had yet explored. After all, LGBTQ* organizations rarely recognize environmental issues in their campaigns. There are seemingly more pressing concerns: marriage equality, protection based on gender identity and many, many more. The changing climate is low on the priority list. Yet, as the rate and severity of climate change intensifies, so do its effects. Those on the margins will be hit the hardest, including queer and trans folks who are more prone to poverty and homelessness. Other environmental harms affect the community, too. For instance, little-to-nothing is known about the effects of everincreasing amounts of artificial hormones in our water supply on the bodies of trans- and cisgender people alike. The harm goes both ways. The sheer amount of garbage and disposable trinkets at pride parades is appalling. The growing perception that a ‘queer lifestyle’ is synonymous with a consumerist lifestyle only perpetuates environmental damage. Both social struggles are symptoms of a larger, systemic problem. We exist in an economic and social system focused on the centralization of power and the domination of a single mindset.

Climate change is a product of this system, as is the dictation of ‘acceptable’ gender expressions and sexual orientations. Linking movements of empowerment—from fair trade to marriage equality – allows us to intervene in broken system that created this mess in the first place. The goal of PowerShift 2012 was to advance the enormous task of changing that system. Conference organizers looked closely to the queer caucus for strategies to move forward. They asked facilitators to take lessons from the successes queer movements have had, and see how they could be applied to climate justice. The caucus, amidst

Linking movements of empowerment—from fair trade to marriage equality—allows us to intervene in broken system that created this mess in the first place. smiles, found an easy conclusion: “fun.” The environmental movement has sometimes been perceived as angry, demanding the exclusion of anything damaging from its tent. In comparison, many queer victories haven’t come from antiheterosexism, but by demonstrating shared values of pride, love, family and celebration between the LGBTQ* community and the mainstream. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that love is a stronger motivator than fear. The fights for queer justice and climate justice don’t just intersect. They are entwined. Greens can help the queer movement lighten its footprint and respect our environment, while the queer movement can bring fun and non-binary thinking into the struggle for climate justice. Though the dialogue between these movements now begun in earnest, we need to keep it going. It is time to take pride in our planet and move together towards a cleaner and more just world for all communities. - Alana Westwood is a PhD candidate in biology at Dalhousie University

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Outwords provides news, analysis and entertainment for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit and queer community and its allie...

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