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Roundup FEB 16, 2012


Manila Luzon is a guest judge at Ottawa’s Next Drag Superstar.


Ottawa’s Next Drag Superstar The runner-up of Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Manila Luzon, is in Ottawa to judge a home-grown version of the popular show. Xtra chats with Flamingo’s Sebastien Provost about bringing better drag back to Bytown.

› 17


Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar is vying for his party’s top job. Xtra speaks with Dewar about bullying, trans issues and what he would do to reach out to voters in suburbia and the West. ›8


Gay asylum seekers Paris and other European cities are home to an increasing number of gay refugees who have fled violence or imprisonment in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Xtra speaks to gay asylum seekers in the French capital, learning about the challenges they escaped and those they still face. ›12


Alone on the range Country singer Drake Jensen recently came out of the closet — the first Canadian gay country singer to do so. Xtra speaks with Jensen about why he decided to go public and how he hopes his music will help others do the same. ›15

Cue the waterworks Ottawa’s queer choir is back with a new musical director and a new water-themed repertoire. Xtra speaks with Tone Cluster’s president about the group’s upcoming show. ›19 COVER PHOTO BY JONATHAN EDWARDS


Madonna’s moment

Your Home Your Style

Her Madgesty is everywhere these days. Xtra writers and bloggers review WE, Madonna’s second feature directorial debut; rate her Superbowl halftime show; and discuss every last tidbit of Madonna gossip they can dig up. ›

Gay fraternity Forget the porn sites devoted to fake gay frat-boy moments — students at McGill recently started Canada’s first official gay fraternity. Xtra speaks with members of Delta Lambda Phi about their frat house rules, including whether sex among members is allowed. ›

Your home should be a reflection of your personality


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HIV criminalization INBOX is the biggest block Smoking ban to prevention Guest Editorial David Mills


HE HIV EPIDEMIC HAS undergone a massive evolution in the last three decades. But as the science of treatment and prevention has gone one way, the law has gone another. Tests are quicker and easier, treatments more effective and simpler to take. We know more about how to prevent HIV, and many people — including many gay men and other men who have sex with men — are using this knowledge to make sophisticated decisions about their sexual health and risk-taking behaviours. Yet the law is not keeping up and is causing more harm than it prevents. As a newcomer to Canada, I am dismayed by the impact the law is having on HIV. Granted, the tension between the HIV response and criminal law is a global issue, but the fear of criminalization is very visible in this city. Posters and brochures about criminalization and disclosure dominate sexual health clinic waiting rooms here, making what can be a stressful test a frightening one; people living with HIV need to understand complicated and vague legal distinctions when negotiating sex and are even advised to have witnesses to HIV disclosure. I am no longer surprised when I come across individuals who, fearful of clinical staff or of their medical records being used against them in court, put off necessary HIV treatment, viral monitoring tests or even diagnosis. What sort of world are we living in? To be clear, I am talking about people who, like the vast majority of people living with HIV who know of their status, would be devastated to pass on HIV to a sexual partner and take careful precautions to prevent its transmission. Instances where people living with HIV deliberately or recklessly infect others are very rare, and there is sufficient legislation to protect the community in these cases. I fear that the majority of cases currently before the courts do not fall in this category.

Unfortunately, most people living with HIV know all too well the risks of stigma, discrimination and violence associated with HIV transmission. When the risks of disclosure are so high and the risks of transmission are so low, disclosing to a new acquaintance is irrational — and yet that is what the law criminalizes. Those charged are often marginalized individuals, victims of unintended miscommunications or accidents, stigma or retribution. The criminal system tears lives apart and exposes all the messy, personal and intimate details for the front pages of the newspapers. People at risk of infecting others need support and counselling to enable them to disclose and reduce the risk of transmission. We need to be working with these people and not turning them away. Concerned individuals and organizations in Ottawa have been working to develop protocols so that each public health official, clinician and AIDS service worker knows what his or her role is in a well-supported and confidential public health system to assist people living with HIV who are not able to manage the risk of HIV transmission on their own. What we are still lacking is the support of the law and law enforcement to make these protocols effective. We also need a shift in community attitudes. Both partners in a sexual relationship have a responsibility to protect themselves and each other from HIV and STI transmission. Given that 30 percent of people living with HIV in Canada are not aware of their status, we should all take the personal responsibility of being informed and educated on HIV and STI transmission risk factors. When we have a shared responsibility for prevention, criminalization of one party is not an appropriate response. In the meantime, I will be among many involved in the HIV response in Canada carefully following the outcome of the two cases currently before the Supreme Court. We will be hoping for the end of the reign of fear and stigma that is undermining HIV prevention and treatment. David Mills is a community developer at the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.

“The outcome that we seek is this — gay and lesbian people daring together to set love free.” Xtra is published by Pink Triangle Press at 2 Carlton St, Ste 1600, Toronto, M5B 1J3.

CAPITAL PRIDE SHOULD stop waffling and embrace the change [“Up in Smoke,”, Jan 27] and use this as an opportunity to reach out to our community. Cigarette smoking kills 50 percent of all users when this product is used as intended. Most people are already used to smoking restrictions, and other cities around the world have similar laws. So stop dragging your high heels, Capital Pride, and get with the times. Bill Talbot Niagara, ON

Bullying HEY, STU, I REALLY BELIEVE in what you are doing [“Community Takes Action Against Bullying,”, Jan 25]. For the past five years the battle against bullying at our children’s school has been a topic of heated discussion. Today the same issues continue, except we now have to deal with the social media and the cyber-bullying that comes with the technology. There are way too many principals who send the anti-bullying initiatives back into the Dark Ages. These are principals who refuse to respond to parents’ emails, refuse to abide by the laws and bills that the Ontario government has put into place. There is an ongoing stalling game, and in many cases the superintendents and other board administrators avoid confronting these principals. The bottom line: parents and students are left out in the cold, and if you push hard there is a quiet retaliation process from many of the principals. Bullying in many schools begins at the principal level. I would really like to see you take the principals by the horns and make them see that what they are doing is just as wrong as what the bullies are doing. Alejandro Ottawa, ON

Sex workers WH I L E N E W Z E AL AN D decriminalized sex work back in 2003 [“Sex-Worker Group Argues Before Supreme Court,”, Jan 20], we now face a situation where the formal absence of transgender inclusion within our Human Rights Act means that trans women are restricted to street sex work or solo escort work. I hope Canada takes note of that particular flaw within our experience of decriminalization. Craig Wellington, New Zealand Send your correspondence by mail to PO Box 70063, 160 Elgin St-Place Bell RPO, Ottawa, ON K2P 2M3, email, or log on to and comment directly. We may edit letters.

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Address: PO Box 70063, 160 Elgin St-Place Bell RPO, Ottawa, ON, K2P 2M3 Phone: 1-800-268-9872 Fax: 416-925-6674 Website: General email: FOR DISPLAY ADVERTISING rates or information call 800-268-XTRA or email Display advertising deadline for the March 15 issue: Wed, March 7, 4pm. FOR LINE CLASSIFIEDS rates or information call 800-268-XTRA or email classiďŹ Line classiďŹ ed deadline for the March 15 issue: Fri, March 9, 4pm.

The publication of an ad in Xtra does not mean that Xtra endorses the advertiser. SEND A COMMENT to the editor: mail Xtra, PO Box 70063, 160 Elgin St-Place Bell RPO, Ottawa, ON K2P 2M3, fax 416-925-6674 or email Comments must include the writer’s full name, which is published, and telephone number, for veriďŹ cation only. We may edit comments. GIRLSCOUTSLA.ORG


Bigots boycott biscuits

SUBMIT A LISTING to Out in the City: Listings deadline for the March 15 issue: Tues, March 6, noon. SUBSCRIBE Call 800-268-XTRA, or email $47.34 for 12 issues; US$40 in the United States; US$70 overseas. HST included where applicable. Xtra is free in metropolitan Ottawa; elsewhere, retailers may charge up to $1 to cover transportation costs. GET DISTRIBUTION INFORMATION or suggest a distribution outlet: email FOR SPONSORSHIP INFORMATION email CONTRIBUTE OR INQUIRE about Xtra’s editorial content, email


A tiny, narrow-minded contingent of the internet is lashing out at the Girl Scouts of America, calling for a boycott of their cookies because of their inclusionary policies toward lesbian and trans girls. So if you need one more reason to buy a dozen or so boxes of Thin Mints this year — other than the fact they’re the greatest thing since sex — do it to help out an honourable group.


Issn 0829-3384 Printed and published in Canada. Š2012 Pink Triangle Press. Xtra is published every month by Pink Triangle Press.





EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE Luna Allison, Kandace Blaker, Michael Burtch, Julie Cruikshank, Scott Dagostino, Chris Dupuis, Jeremy Feist, Jeremy Hainsworth, Matthew Hays, Sarah Hoy, SeraďŹ n LaRiviere, Marcus McCann, David Mills, Ruby Pratka, Rob Salerno, Andi Schwartz, Dale Smith, Simon Thibault, Janice Thiessen, Mike Thompson, Helen Whitehead, Carolyn Yates



PINK TRIANGLE PRESS Founded 1971 DIRECTORS Jim Bartley, Gerald Hannon, Jennifer O’Connor, Maureen Phillips, Ken Popert, Gillian Rodgerson, Tori Smith AUXILIARY DIRECTORS


Many have searched for it, many have been squirted as a result of ďŹ nding it, but researchers have yet to pinpoint its exact location on the vaginal wall. Now, a new American-Israeli study, published in the Jan 12 edition of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, is ready to throw in the towel.

“Without a doubt, a discreet anatomic entity called the G-spot does not exist,â€? says Dr Amichai Kilchevsky, lead author of the review, from the Yale–New Haven Hospital in Connecticut. The sexperts suggest that what women may be â€œďŹ ndingâ€? (or not) is possibly a continuation of the clitoris mixed with a mishmash of the skene gland (didn’t know I had one of those) and the urethra. Though Kilchevsky admits that just because his team couldn’t ďŹ nd deďŹ nitive evidence of a G-spot doesn’t mean it can’t possibly exist. Science schmience. We say keep looking, ladies! The truth is in there! —Helen Whitehead




A 21-year-old Iranian man is now walking around with a permanent semi-stiffy after having the words borow be salaamat (good luck with your journeys) inked on his manhood along with his girlfriend’s initial. Within two weeks the man was diagnosed with “nonischemic priapism,� which is a fancy-schmancy way of saying he has an erection day and night because the blood can’t drain out of his dick. Corrective surgery has proved unsuccessful, but the man says he does not regret a thing. Doctors at Iran’s Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences are less enthusiastic. —Helen Whitehead


Permanent stiffy

MADONNA ART Madonna released the oďŹƒcial artwork for her next album, MDNA, which features an ultra-colourful, ultra-chic image of the songstress herself. Despite being called MDNA, the album has nothing to do with either mitochondrial DNA or the club drug MDMA. Although, given the vibrant colours and the super-dancey ďŹ rst track, the latter may have had some inuence on things.


GET YOUR SUMMER BODY WITH IDEAL PROTEIN So, I don’t know if you have noticed the patio furniture and BBQ’s that are starting to pop up in stores or seen the winter clothing clearouts making room for the spring and summer collections but all of this tells me summer is just around the corner and now is the time to start thinking about the beach, BBQ’s and babes. What does this really mean? It means your shirt is coming off in public in the very near future but if the winter abs have gotten the best of you it’s going to be a long shirts-on summer. If you’re looking for a way to look and feel your best, not just for summer, but a lifetime of shirtless summers then look no further than Ideal Protein. Located at 530 Hunt Club Rd West, coach Jonathan Russell, can help you lose between 3 – 7 pounds per week. But that’s not all; the Ideal Protein Weight Loss method isn’t just about weight loss. Developed by Dr. Tran Tien Chahn the Ideal Protein program removes carbohydrates as a fuel source and protects your muscles with high biological proteins, forcing your body to burn stored fat instead.

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Community takes action on bullying Politicians debate legislation that could empower gay students Andi Schwartz

mophobia in schools before it happens,” says Dias, adding that A SNOW DAY IN OTTAWA ON JAN 17 Jer’s Vision often refers youth to paused the No More Bullies school support services around the city. tour, but not for long. Meanwhile, debates are ongoing What started as a frustrated about what legislative changes tweet for Stu Schwartz, otherwise could help eliminate bullying. known as Majic 100’s Stuntman Ottawa Councillor Allan Hubley Stu, has become a full-fledged urges Ontario politicians to move campaign called No More Bullies. Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, “Out of frustration I tweeted, to committee, where it can be ‘If I have to go to every school in amended to include provisions Ottawa and preach about bullying, from Bill 14, a private member’s I’ll do it,’” Schwartz says. bill known as the Anti-Bullying The No More Bullies team Act. Both bills were introduced shares their firsthand experiences last November after Hubley’s son, with students and shows a video Jamie, took his own life. about speaking up against bullying. Hubley says he wants to see aspects of both bills go into a new piece of legislation. For example, he says, Bill 13 allows schools to expel bullies, while Bill 14 offers remedial programs to deter bullies from continuing the behaviour. Hubley says his son, who was the only openly gay boy in his school, wanted to form a club at AY Jackson Secondary School that would support all students. A rainbow alliance has since been formed there, Hubley says. Claudia Van den Heuvel, executive director of Pink Triangle Services, says that Stu Schwartz, otherwise known as while bullying happens for Majic 100’s Stuntman Stu, created the all kinds of reasons, it’s imNo More Bullies campaign. portant to note there is a One speaker is a gay Ottawa teen stigma associated with being gay. who has discussed topics from gay “It’s not like when you have stereotypes to his fear of holding braces when you’re a kid and years his boyfriend’s hand in public. later you don’t,” she says. “In a lot The team has presented at six of cases people are finding comOttawa schools so far. paratives that are superficial.” Queer youth-led organization Van den Heuvel says new Jer’s Vision has already been work- legislation could empower gay ing with students to prevent bully- students and allow staff to stop ing in schools for five years, doing anti-gay bullying in any school workshops and presentations and environment, whether a Catholic supporting student-led initiatives school or a school in a small town. such as gay-straight alliances. But several Catholic school Founder Jeremy Dias says the boards have said they will not organization works with 75,000 allow the formation of groups kids each year, runs 11 national termed gay-straight alliances. conferences and founded the Day Van den Heuvel says it’s too of Pink, the International Day soon to tell what impact the legagainst Bullying, Discrimination, islation will have. Homophobia and Transphobia. “If it’s not enforced, it becomes “Our goal is to prevent ho- meaningless,” she says.


Activists gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada Feb 8 to rally against the criminalization of HIV. From left to right: Brigitte Charbonneau, Grant Cobbs, Mike Cecilio and David Mills. For more on this story, see page 10. MICHAEL BURTCH


Sex-worker group argues before Supreme Court Local sex workers join BC legal bid for safer streets Luna Allison REPRESENTATIVES FOR VANCOUVER sex workers argued before the Supreme Court of Canada on Jan 19 that a constitutional challenge to Canada’s sex-work laws should be allowed to proceed. The court must now decide whether the Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society (SWUAV) meets the legal requirements for representation in the case, called public interest standing. The federal government has challenged the case, arguing that the sex workers do not meet the criteria for public interest standing. Sheryl Kiselbach, the only plaintiff in the case, is optimistic. “I’m feeling hopeful that the judges understand more of the issues,” she says. “[Changing the laws] will stop the fear of the police. It will also send a message out to the predators.” The legal test for public interest standing involves three considerations: that the issue is a serious one, that there is no other reasonable or effective way

for the issue to come before the court, and that those behind the case are directly affected by it. It is the third point, as well as the overall flexibility of the test, that is at issue because Kiselbach has not been charged with the offences in question — a standard expectation in any constitutional challenge. She is also no longer a sex worker, which is problematic because it can be argued that her rights can be deprived only if she is pursuing sex work. However, Vancouver lawyer Joseph Arvay, who spoke for SWUAV on Jan 19, indicated that the legal barriers and potential personal consequences facing street-level sex workers deter individuals from participating in such a challenge, leaving it up to groups like SWUAV to coordinate public interest cases. He said these consequences include fear of retaliation by police, invasion of privacy and child welfare actions. Ottawa lawyer Karin Galldin was in court as an observer. “What we heard from the court is that they certainly understood SWUAV’s

argument that street-level sex workers may not be in the best position to bring an effective individual challenge,” says Galldin, whose legal practice, Galldin Law, works with the Ottawa sex workers’ rights group POWER. “Though, the scope of the case goes beyond sex workers to groups who want to litigate on behalf of individuals. The issue for the court is whether we need a new test.” POWER and other advocacy groups question why Ottawa police still engage in sex-worker street sweeps despite knowing the dangers faced by sex workers, including a potential serial killer. Furthermore, a 2010 Ontario Supreme Court ruling struck down several laws governing sex work. In the decision, which applies only in Ontario, Justice Susan Himel indicated that federal laws contribute to the danger faced by sex workers. The ruling is currently being appealed, with an Ontario Court of Appeals decision expected later this year. “We know the consequences of these laws on sex workers’ lives,” says Frédérique Chabot, a member of POWER and the co-author of a recent POWER research report. “Because of the sweeps, women and men who do sex work, they don’t work in pairs, they’re displaced to isolated areas, they’ll [focus more] on avoiding arrest than screening clients.”


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XTRA! FEB 16, 2012



Paul Dewar engages NDP grassroots Leadership candidate talks gay politics and bullying Dale Smith OTTAWA CENTRE NDP MP PAUL Dewar is hoping to blaze a path to the top of his party through its grassroots. Xtra reporter Dale Smith spoke to Dewar about how he plans to engage Canada’s queer community in his campaign for the party leadership. XTRA: As leader, what actions would you take to address issues facing the queer community in Canada? PAUL DEWAR: The ďŹ rst thing I would do is make sure that we get our bill passed to ensure human rights protection for transgendered citizens. This is something that I worked with Bill Siksay on. Not only to put legislation through Parliament, but also to make sure that we connect with our grassroots to get behind this bill and to educate Canadians as to why we need it. The other area, of course, is around healthcare and providing service to the queer community, and we have to make sure that we keep up with the support and services in our healthcare system for the queer community, and particularly the younger demographic. Finally, as the [former] foreign affairs

Paul Dewar says he will fight to protect the human rights of the global queer community.

critic, I also want to make sure that we not just say that we will protect the human rights of others when we can abroad in the queer community globally, that it’s in our foreign policy. Homophobic bullying in schools has been a big issue in the last year. What would you propose to do at the federal level? This is a case where all governments have to work together, and we have to be assertive when it comes to ensuring there’s positive space for everyone,

that there’s not exclusion at all, and get beyond the language of tolerance and ensure that we have the language of respect. It’s been helpful to have those who have been affected by this, either the families or personally, speak out as champions, and we see a lot of that, and I’m all in favour of that, but then we have to take it to the next level.

Dias receives Mayor’s City Builder Award

Who are you looking to appeal to over the course of your campaign?

Sarah Hoy

The simple answer is everyone, but the focus for me is to appeal to those who want to see us build our party up from the grassroots, who want to see our party take our message to places where we haven’t been able to before because essentially we weren’t big enough and people didn’t see us as a viable option to be government. I’m not just interested in sitting back and maintaining the OfďŹ cial Opposition status. If we’re going to go to the next level, we’re going to have to build up the ground on the grassroots and take our message to suburbia and win suburban ridings, take back the West, and maintain and even win a couple more in Quebec. And that’s who I’m appealing to — people who want to grow and bring people in, and get to work on that right now.

THE FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF Jer’s Vision, an organization dedicated to ďŹ ghting bullying and homophobia, was awarded the Mayor’s City Builder Award on Feb 8. Jeremy Dias was recognized for his volunteer work and contributions within the community. “Jeremy is an inspiration to many in Ottawa and a role model for our youth,â€? said Mayor Jim Watson. “To have turned such a negative high school experience into a program that positively influences tens of thousands of people is remarkable.â€? Dias said he was honoured to receive the civic award. “I have no idea who nominated me,â€? he said. “To be honest, it’s not my work that’s been recognized — it’s the work of the team. I want to chop up the award into small pieces and give everyone a slice.â€? The award was created by Mayor Jim Watson to acknowledge those in the community who are making Ottawa a better place.

For more on the NDP leadership race and interviews with other candidates, visit


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“We are one of the only organizations that work in LGBTQ to be working in middle schools and in Catholic schools across Canada,â€? said Dias. “I think our organization is breaking a lot of boundaries.â€? Jer’s Vision was founded ďŹ ve years ago and has grown from a committee to an organization with programs across Canada and the United States. Dias came out while he was in high school. At the age of 17 he began a legal case against his school and school board because he had suffered through daily bullying and violence from students and teachers. At 21, Dias won Canada’s second-largest human rights settlement and used the proceeds to set up Jer’s Vision. Dias says there are a number of major ďŹ ghts facing queer communities across the country. “We as youth need adults to support us; we need them to get involved, volunteer and donate. More so, we need them to stand up to politicians who are being openly homophobic, and we need to call them out on it,â€? he says.

Capital Pride up in smoke?

to the ban while the committee raises awareness. —Xtra staff

ORGANIZERS OF CAPITAL PRIDE ARE worried the City of Ottawa’s proposed expanded smoking ban will hurt attendance at this summer’s Pride festival. The proposed bylaw, which city council plans to implement by spring, will effectively prohibit smoking in all outdoor areas under the city’s jurisdiction, including Marion Dewar Plaza, the venue for Capital Pride celebrations. “If the proposed bylaw goes through, we hope that this year’s festival season will have a grace period and [provide] education from Public Health for all festival attendees,â€? says Loresa Novy, chair of Capital Pride. Alluding to health studies that have been published in recent years, Capital Pride committee members say that smoking rates are approximately twice as high in the gay community as the general population. They worry that the proposed ban could discourage a signiďŹ cant portion of the community from attending the festival site. They say they are aware of the negative impacts of smoking and stress that they are not opposed to an eventual expansion of the existing smoking ban. They would, however, like to see a graduated approach to the implementation of the bylaw. “As a volunteer-based, not-forproďŹ t organization, we are concerned about being responsible for enforcement of the proposed bylaw. If we were to be ďŹ ned, there would be serious financial repercussions for our festival,â€? Novy says. She says having a designated smoking area on the festival grounds would allow Pride attendees time to adjust

Burgers on Main opens location near gay village A NEW BURGER JOINT HAS OPENED near the new Bank St Village, and its owner has high hopes for business in the changing neighbourhood. Burgers on Main takes the spot of Friday’s Roast Beef House, which closed last year. Jonathan Crow says that Burgers on Main will add something different. “Friday’s was very high end, and we’re not,â€? he says. “We are just very good-quality product put out for a reasonable price.â€? Crow chose the area because of past ties. “I always loved that part of town. I used to live down there. Then when Friday’s closed down and the spot came up, I thought, I love the building and I love the Village, so I decided I would give it a shot.â€? He describes the restaurant’s style as “a little quirky: ’50s, ’60s, ’70s kind of music style. There’s lots of music posters everywhere of the Rat Pack, Elvis, the Beatles and a couple of knickknacks here and there. “It’s relatively light and vibrant. It’s not diner style.â€? The restaurant will have a patio customers can enjoy during the warmer months, and the bar features spiked, X-rated milkshakes. Crow reassures those who are not burger fans: “We do burgers, we do hot dogs, we have a few salads, plus daily specials. There are deďŹ nitely options for people who do not want to have a burger.â€? —Sarah Hoy

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PTS programs aim to end discrimination New initiatives focus on youth, trans people and women Janice Thiessen GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES, according to Pink Triangle Services. PTS executive director Claudia Van den Heuvel says the queer social outreach agency is rolling out three new programs to tackle discrimination. She says the programs target different demographics in the community. The new initiatives include diversity training, advocacy on trans issues, and education on queer women’s health and sexuality. “They are educationally based programs designed to help the queer community,” Van den Heuvel says, noting all are volunteer-run. Creating Safer Spaces will provide diversity training targeted at youth, schools and service providers. Van den Heuvel says the aim is to develop a rainbow alliance. The program provides peer-to-peer training and youth initiatives and is linked with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. “We’re trying to engage the Catholic school board, but there’s a lot of con-

troversy surrounding that,” she says. “We are working toward setting up a rainbow training program. I think many below the board and trustee levels have interest in setting up a program, but within the higher executive positions there are some restrictions.” TransA ction is P TS’s newest program. “We received funding from Trillium Foundation last November to do a service audit by calling more than 200 organizations in the Ottawa area to assess their knowledge of trans issues and of their policies,” Van den Heuvel says. “This is so we can help them better serve trans people.” The initiative will educate frontline staff on issues of gender and identity. “Some organizations are better informed than others,” Van den Heuvel says. “There’s still a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of organizations may not even know they are serving trans clients. Some have said they don’t need to do the audit because they don’t have trans clients, but that comment is rooted in misunderstandings.” The third program is Queer Women’s

Health and Sexuality. The main objective is to educate service providers, especially women’s shelters, on how to better serve queer women. “We teach them about how queer women may be facing barriers to services,” she says. The program extends to both Carleton and Ottawa University. Van den Heuvel has seen one prominent pattern emerge: “The one we’ve noticed the most is women being discriminated against at women’s shelters, not by staff, but by other clients. Staff need to create a safer space for clients who are queer; it’s a part of what we do, by helping others enforce and maintain a safe space and to be aware of the different needs queer women may have.” She says another issue is service organizations that do not have queerfriendly materials. “It can make a clear difference. There are a lot of misunderstandings, we find, from health practitioners. There’s a lot of misinformation about queer women protecting themselves when they are sexually active. There are a lot of myths out there; it’s important people don’t communicate those myths.” For more information, contact PTS at 613-563-4818 or at creating.safer.spaces

PTS is working with local youth to raise awareness about bullying. This conceptual art image of Lan is part of an upcoming PTS campaign that will soon be seen throughout the city. BEN WELLAND

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The Supreme Court looks set to consider the evolution of science in relation to HIV. SUPREME COURT OF CANADA ANDREW BALFOUR

Supreme Court hears landmark HIV case Top judges grill government lawyers as court reviews rules in criminalization cases Marcus McCann

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TWO GOVERNMENT LAWYERS GOT an earful from the Supreme Court of Canada Feb 8, as arguments were presented in two cases involving HIV nondisclosure. Judges pressed lawyers representing the Quebec and Manitoba attorneysâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; general offices over their apparent disregard for scientiďŹ c evidence with respect to the evolution of HIV treatment and viral load over the last 15 years. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin also suggested that the test for criminal responsibility for nondisclosure, as itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s formulated, may be too vague to be useful. â&#x20AC;&#x153;How is that person supposed to know if they are committing a criminal act? If the answer is, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;They canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know for sure,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; then surely the crime isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really a crime. It would violate one of the fundamental principles of criminal law,â&#x20AC;? McLachlin said. The court is reviewing the rules set out in its 1998 Cuerrier decision, which required that HIV-positive people disclose their status to sexual partners if there is a â&#x20AC;&#x153;signiďŹ cant risk of serious bodily harm.â&#x20AC;? The attorneys general argued that all risk of infection is a â&#x20AC;&#x153;signiďŹ cant riskâ&#x20AC;? and that contracting HIV/AIDS is a â&#x20AC;&#x153;serious bodily harm.â&#x20AC;? Elizabeth Thomson, a lawyer representing the attorney general of Manitoba, was interrupted by Justice Rosalie Abella within the first five minutes of the hearing. Increasingly pointed questions effectively derailed Thomsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s oral argument. Judges openly worried that the attorney generalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s position, if adopted, would result in an absolute liability offence. Justice Abella called Manitobaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s position one with â&#x20AC;&#x153;no nuance, no gradations.â&#x20AC;? Justice Michael Moldaver said the judges were looking for a clear, intelligible test where HIV-positive people

would not have to disclose in every circumstance. Moldaver twice referred to a trial decision in which a judge ruled that a poz person would not have a duty to disclose if he had a low viral load and used a condom. Moldaver referred to risk of transmission in those circumstances as â&#x20AC;&#x153;nonexistent or virtually nonexistent.â&#x20AC;? Chief Justice McLachlin suggested that in cases where the risk does not materialize â&#x20AC;&#x201D; where no partner becomes HIV-positive â&#x20AC;&#x201D; there may not be any crime at all. The judgesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; comments are in no way binding. Often, the written judgments vary signiďŹ cantly from what is said in court. The cases, R v Mabior and R v DC, both involve HIV-nondisclosure where the accusedsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; partners did not become HIV-positive. Condom use and level of infectiousness â&#x20AC;&#x201D; as measured by the number of copies of the virus in the bloodstream, referred to as viral load â&#x20AC;&#x201D; were issues in both trials. The identities of the victims in both cases are covered by publication bans. Amanda Sansregret, a legal aid lawyer from Manitoba who represents one of the two accused, gave a lively defence of her client. She argued that either condom use or low viral load ought to suffice as a defence. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a sentiment that echoes the submissions from AIDS service organizations made in advance of the hearing. HIV-positive partners who use condoms or have low viral loads simply donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pose a high risk to their partners, she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;People have been lying in order to secure sexual consent from time immemorial,â&#x20AC;? Sansregret said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If you really want to protect yourself, you should use a condom . . . it strikes me as the safest approach. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking for a complete absence of risk, with all respect, abstinence is your answer.â&#x20AC;? For more on this story, visit

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BC non-gaybashing ruling ‘ghettoizes our safety’: activist ACTIVISTS ARE ALARMED BY A Vancouver judge’s refusal to recognize an assault against a gay man outside the gay village as a gaybashing. Judge Rosemary Gallagher ruled on Jan 27 that hate was not a motivating factor in the assault that took place in December 2009 outside a house party. According to the youth court judge, the facts did “not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the offence happened because the victim was gay.” Moreover, the offence did not happen in a highly visible homosexual area, Gallagher ruled. “Geography should have nothing to do with it,” says Jim Deva, co-owner of Little Sister’s bookstore. Gallagher also ruled it was “argu-

able” whether the violence was extreme or disproportionate. Deva reminds that the attack broke a gay man’s jaw in two places; the injury required two surgeries, eight screws and a plate to heal. Crown prosecutor Ann Seymour had sought a hate-crime designation at the assailant’s sentencing hearing in November. The youth knew the victim was gay before he assaulted him. “He called him a ‘fucking faggot’ several times as he assaulted him,” Seymour told Gallagher. “It sets a dangerous precedent,” says Deva. “It means the hate-crime law is only operative in a highly gay area. It ghettoizes our safety.” —Jeremy Hainsworth

Chow’s flight rules motion defeated

and I’m very busy,” he said in a brief phone call with Xtra. The sale has not yet been finalized, but the new owners expect to take over in early March. Michael Erickson was instrumental in bringing the group together. “We firmly believe that Glad Day provides a service and books that are not available anywhere else in the world. We hope that with a large group of people willing to put their energy and passion behind the business, we can keep it not only alive, but also growing,” Erickson says. “There’s an opportunity to make it something that it’s never been before.” —Carolyn Yates

NDP MP OLIVIA CHOW’S ATTEMPT to repeal a passenger-screening regulation that could prevent trans Canadians from flying went down in defeat at the Commons transport committee Feb 9. The committee voted six to five to reject Chow’s motion. “If they don’t want to scrap those regulations, they could go to where Australia is, with three categories,” Chow says, referring to the “indeterminate” gender category available on Australian passports. “There are many other alternatives. What the government is doing is just dumb.” Chow argued that gender is secondary to one’s appearance matching one’s photo, especially when new technologies such as retinal scanning are becoming commonplace. Liberal transport critic Denis Coderre insisted the vote be recorded. “It was an issue of discrimination; it was not an issue of security. It has nothing to do with gender,” Coderre says. “It’s about the reality, and a person is a person, that’s it. We’re very disappointed, and we’ll keep up the fight.” Arguing for the Conservatives, Pierre Poilievre insisted the rules do not discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation,” saying there have been provisions in place since 2007 for passengers whose appearances may have altered. Amanda Ryan, from Trans Pride Canada, says Poilievre doesn’t understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. —Dale Smith

Toronto gay bookstore will not close TORONTO’S GLAD DAY BOOKSHOP, Canada’s oldest gay bookstore, will live to see another day. A group of investors announced Feb 8 that they will unite to rescue the Yonge St store from closure — a fate that seemed imminent after owner John Scythes said he was selling the shop earlier this year. “I really didn’t want to see Glad Day close its doors — it has been, and continues to be, so important to so many people,” Scythes said in a press release. “I’m very happy. I’m trying to hand over the store in good condition,

Winnipeg gay mag drops ads for Cruiseline, Squirt WINNIPEG’S LOCAL QUEER MAGAzine, Outwords, has caused a stir by publicly announcing a policy that it will not run “sex ads,” specifically targeting Cruiseline and Squirt, both of which have run ads in Outwords for years. Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra, operates the online cruising website Squirt and until recently operated Cruiseline. In an editorial in the latest issue of Outwords, editor Rachel Morgan explains the decision. “Cruiseline and Squirt are legal businesses, but the reality is they are selling sex. Because of that we are getting a lot of pushback from businesses and advertisers who are uncomfortable with the Cruiseline and Squirt ads,” she writes. The magazine has a circulation of about 4,500 copies and is distributed mostly in coffee shops and bars in Winnipeg. Outwords continues to run ads for the Adonis bathhouse. The Adonis ad in the current issue has a line that reads, “Tuesday Night Is Cruiseline Pass Night at Adonis Spa” and includes the Cruiseline logo and phone number. The ad features a man’s bare torso and the words “The Nooner: Monday–Friday,” along with times and rates for lockers and rooms. Morgan says she doesn’t consider the Adonis ad to be “selling sex” in the same way that Cruiseline or Squirt do. —Rob Salerno For more on these stories, visit

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A dubious paradise

Gay asylum seekers live in fear and uncertainty in Paris

I top: The streets of the City of

Love are not always friendly places for refugees from the developing world. above: Saloum and Bakary, gay asylum seekers from Mauritania, chat with ARDHIS coordinator Frédéric Chaumont after a group meeting. right: Gay asylum seekers talk about their experiences at ARDHIS. BARBARA LABORDE

Ruby Pratka

t is a Saturday morning in the heart of the Marais, Paris’s well-known gay district. A young African man paces nervously in front of the Centre LGBT Paris-Île-deFrance, hands in his pockets, staring nervously at the unopened door. Ibrahim Touré came to France from Ivory Coast in October 2011, on false documents. He says he is gay, and his sexual orientation had become known in his neighbourhood back home. He continued to stay on good terms with his ex-wife and small daughter and to work as an Abidjan taxi driver until civil war broke out in the country in late 2010. “The new group that has come to power since the electoral crisis are Islamists, and they detest gays,” says Touré, who is himself a Muslim. “There is a threat to my life, and I can’t go back.” Touré lived in metro stations and shopping centres in Paris before an acquaintance told him about a Red Cross shelter. He has been living there for several weeks while he explores other options. “I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to anyone. I was working and my grandmother called and said the militias had come looking for me. My brother helped me get to the airport. I just left. I decided to claim asylum . . . I couldn’t even call my grandma back.” Touré is afraid he will be sent back to his home country. It’s a logical fear: according to Philippe Colomb, president of the Association for the Recognition of Rights of Homosexuals and Transsexuals to Immigration and Residence (ARDHIS), France accepts only 11 percent of political asylum seekers, regardless of the reason. On appeal, that number rises to 24 percent. No specific statistics

are kept for sexual orientation–based requests. “This is too many people to whom France says no,” Colomb tells a group of about 60 asylum seekers of all ages, races and stages of the process. “We need to get you the strongest files possible.” Touré’s journey, like that of the dozens of other newly arrived and hesitant queer refugees crowding the centre’s monthly information session, is only beginning. Asylum seekers in France must first register with local police, then make an asylum request with the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless People (OFPRA), explains Frédéric Chaumont, asylum accompaniment coordinator at ARDHIS. After submitting a summary of the facts, the asylum seeker is called to an interview with an OFPRA officer. This process takes three months to a year. Chaumont says OFPRA decisions “generally come within three months but can take 12, 16 or 19 months.” During this time, he says, asylum seekers cannot legally work and struggle to survive. “The most frequent response is a quick refusal,” Chaumont says. The refusal sometimes includes a deportation order. “If there is no deportation order, or if it has been successfully contested, the asylum seeker is summoned to the national asylum seekers’ court after a waiting period that sometimes lasts a year,” Chaumont says. “The hearing lasts 30 to 45 minutes — much too short — and the decision is made public within three weeks.” The pressure is on the asylum seekers to make their files as solid as possible. “It’s your word against theirs,” Chaumont tells the crowd of would-be refugees. “If you received threatening letters, we need photocopies. If you were arrested or something else happened, we want police reports.”

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The majority come from West African countries where religious conservatism has a strong influence on local politics and being gay is a punishable offence. Despite the fact some countries — including Senegal, Ghana, Benin, Tanzania and Bangladesh — imprison gays, they are on the French government’s “safe list,” making successful asylum claims from these countries much harder. The non-EU countries of the former Yugoslavia are also on the “safe list,” although they are hardly welcoming places for gays. Many of the white faces in the room are from Serbia or Kosovo. “The OFPRA uses the safe list to argue that human rights are generally respected in those countries and people who return to those countries won’t have any problems,” says Chaumont. “But in certain technically democratic countries . . . being openly gay is impossible, and you get negative reactions from the public, met with total passivity by the forces of law and order, and with implicit or explicit support from the religious authorities, and we mean all religions.” Mali, for example, is on the “safe list,” but it isn’t for Mohamed, one young Malian man in the group. “My father had me arrested,” he says. “The store where I worked was set on fire.” There are myriad horror stories, from all corners of the globe. “There’s a very bad situation in Uganda,” says Judy, a table tennis coach who came to France for a conference in September and never left. “Even yesterday I read in the papers, they passed a law that says we are going to be hanged . . . I am known as a lesbian; a bunch of us [gay activists] were seen on TV after the death of some of our activists, and people from the government started following us. If I were to go back to Uganda, they would send me to prison for life. “I don’t know anything about anything,” says Judy, who speaks fluent English but no French. “I haven’t had my [OFPRA] meeting yet. I wish they will let me stay. My parents didn’t let me go to university because I [am] a lesbian, but I want to study graphic arts.” Olga and her girlfriend came from Russia on a tourist visa. “The last straw was when I came out to my family and my mother and brother said they would rather I be dead than be lesbian,” she says. Some stories end happily. More than once there is applause as someone announces his or her request has been accepted. Kemal, a young Turkish man who applied for asylum to avoid conscription in his home country, is all smiles. “Yesterday I got my status,” he says in English. “I’ll start learning French soon. In Turkey I studied international trade, so I’d like to look for some jobs in finance.” Others’ stories continue indefinitely and may not end well.

XTRA! FEB 16, 2012


top left: Asylum seekers in the ARDHIS group. Front row (left to right): Artem (Russia), Saloum (Mauritania), Bakary (Mauritania), Bafode (Senegal) and Awa (Guinea). Back row (left to right): Yagouba (Mauritania), Edouard (Georgia), Mohammed (Mali), Frédéric (ARDHIS) and Pola (Guinea). BARBARA LABORDE below left: Ludovic Zahed founded HM2F, a group for gay Muslims in France. SERGEI YAHCHYBEKOV above: The Paris LGBT centre is a welcoming space for gay asylum seekers trying to find a new home in France. SERGEI YAHCHYBEKOV

WE ARE DOING LONG-TERM VISIBILITY WORK . . . WE ALSO NEED TO KEEP WELCOMING PEOPLE LIKE US. — Ludovic Zahed, founder of Homosexual Muslims of France (HM2F)

“A lot of asylum seekers choose to stay in France, in secret, living in fear of being found out and seeing the destruction of whatever life they will have managed to build,” Chaumont says. “It’s a challenge for them to see that the paradise they’ve dreamed of might not be as welcoming as they’d imagined.” Touré says he has no choice; he will stay in Paris whether he gets his papers or not. Olga and her girlfriend disappear from the meeting unnoticed, swallowed up by Paris, before Chaumont and his volunteers can register their names.


or those who grow up in religious environments, balancing faith and sexual orientation is an added challenge, even in France, where close-knit immigrant communities can be as homophobic and closed as they are back home. “I’m a Muslim, I’m a homosexual, and people don’t like that,” says Touré. When I tell him that in France there are some practising Muslims who don’t hide their sexuality, his eyes light up. “Really? At the same time?” Ludovic Zahed, a doctoral student who founded Homosexual Muslims of France (HM2F), says there is no simple answer for those who want to embrace their religion, culture and sexuality. “When I was a teenager I was very religious, very observant; I knew half the Koran by heart,” says Zahed, who was born in Algeria but came to France as a small child. “But at 17 or 18 I accepted that I was homosexual, that I was in love with this boy at the mosque and it was more than brotherly love. Now, in Islam that is forbidden. I found out I was HIV-positive at 19 and they said that was some kind of punishment.” Zahed estimates that out of the dozens of Muslims, mostly youth and students, who have joined his association, only about 10 percent are practising. He is one of them. He says he does not believe homosexuality is against the Koran, but he knows he has work to do to convince other Muslims of that. “We are doing long-term visibility work, because the more visible we are, the fewer Muslims will see this as a problem, and the fewer

Muslims will say it doesn’t exist. We also need to keep welcoming people like us.” Jamel, who leads the group’s prayer and meditation committee, says, “I waited three years to find an association like this. For me, there is no incompatibility between sexuality and religion . . . God doesn’t want to keep people from being who they are.” But Jamel says his family, from the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius, doesn’t agree. “My mother and father are very traditional, very strict, and what other people say is important for them,” he says. “In my country, if you say you’re homosexual, people will pity you and reject you, and say, ‘What did we do to deserve this?’ There are some people who show their sexuality, who have a pride parade, but you have to be really strong to do that.” Jamel’s parents don’t know about his sexual orientation, but he thinks they suspect something. In France on a student visa, he doesn’t know if he will go back home once his studies are finished. He worries about the job market in France and the paperwork involved in staying legally. Mohamed, from Ivory Coast, and Salim, from Algeria, also live double lives. In France they are active in the gay immigrant community, but in their home countries, they are not out to anyone. Unlike Touré, who is ethnically African, Mohamed is from the Ivory Coast Lebanese community. There, he says, “the society is homophobic, but sexuality is just not a subject that excites people. You can live [your sexuality] if you do it anonymously. When I get back, I’ll have to make a choice.” For Salim, however, switching lives became a bit too difficult. “Before [in Algeria], I had no gay life,” he says. Salim originally came to France on a student visa. “In France, I’ve been very out. When I went back to Algeria for vacation, I didn’t say anything.” He returned to France the day before his student visa expired and filed an asylum claim. He has also filed a claim with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, after getting a good impression of the country while on a work term in Montreal. “Both countries are studying my case,” he says. “If Canada says yes, I’m going back there, because I love the two countries, Canada and France.” In the meantime, Touré, Salim and dozens of other gay asylum seekers will remain isolated and in limbo in Paris, fearful of their illegal or irregular status, but much more fearful of being sent back home.


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XTRA! FEB 16, 2012


Pass the herpes Shelley Taylor launches new site to reduce STI stigma Simon Thibault SHELLEY TAYLOR BELIEVES IN SAFE and consensual spaces when it comes to sex. The owner of Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Venus Envy has made a career out of educating people about sex and sexuality. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have the term â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;sex positivityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; when I started in 1998,â&#x20AC;? she says. That was the year Taylor opened her ďŹ rst Venus Envy location, in Halifax. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I felt that having a space that was welcoming, friendly and really open about sex and pleasure would be a really positive thing to bring into the world.â&#x20AC;? Now, Taylor has created a virtual safe space, a blog on a subject that has marked her life: herpes. Called Pass the Herpes, the site is an ongoing collection of stories, personal anecdotes and all kinds of information about herpes. Taylor herself was diagnosed at 18 and has been dealing with the stigma that surrounds it for a long time. â&#x20AC;&#x153;For many years I felt damaged, dirty and had a lot of shame about telling


Pho Bo Ga

people I had herpes,â&#x20AC;? she says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Consider that thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s almost no shame in having the exact same virus on your face, but when itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on your genitals, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something completely different in how we relate to our bodies and how others relate to us.â&#x20AC;? For years, Taylor led workshops on sex, many of them dealing with sexually transmitted infections, including herpes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I try to make it sound really normal. Like, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Hey, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m Shelley, and I have a cold,â&#x20AC;? she says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how you can minimize the risks of getting a cold and passing it on to others. And remember, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not alone and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s manageable.â&#x20AC;? Taylor says people often come up to her and thank her for her disclosure, because they have no one else to discuss the subject with. When she started Pass the Herpes, it was no different. Since its creation, Taylor has received emails and messages from people thanking her for giving them a place to talk without judgment. She says that although she has spoken openly about her situation for

I FEEL LIKE I WASTED MANY YEARS WORRYING ABOUT MY BODY AND THAT PEOPLE WOULD THINK I WAS DISGUSTING. years now, almost every time she does she feels a twinge of anxiety. Creating this blog was a way for her to face that feeling head-on.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I feel like I wasted many years worrying about my body and that people would think I was disgusting,â&#x20AC;? she says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I wanted to bring the topic out into the open in some small way to perhaps keep others from feeling crappy about something they have little control over.â&#x20AC;? Although Taylor is the creator of the blog, she is not its only voice. â&#x20AC;&#x153;[Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s] more like a public forum than a blog,â&#x20AC;? she points out. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really valuable to have a place where lots of voices and experiences can be heard.â&#x20AC;? One post on the site, written by â&#x20AC;&#x153;C,â&#x20AC;? portrays Câ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own story about disclosure: â&#x20AC;&#x153;If itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on the table from the beginning, everybody knows what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re dealing

with. They can appreciate my honesty, ask questions and assess the risk for themselves, and I can assess their character by their response. So far thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s working for me.â&#x20AC;? Taylor agrees that talking about it is one of the best ways to remove the shame and fear around herpes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I understand that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to hear that the person you want to get it on with has an infection that you might be at risk of getting,â&#x20AC;? she says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But I also think that by telling you in advance, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re being responsible and caring and should be treated with gentleness, even if you make the decision that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not a risk you want to take in that moment.â&#x20AC;?

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Venus Envyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Shelley Taylor is one of many contributors to her blog about herpes. BEN WELLAND

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arts › entertainment › leisure

Out City IN THE




COWBOY Drake Jensen is one nice guy who won’t be washed away Scott Dagostino


’M GOING TO TELL THE TRUTH,” says country singer Drake Jensen. “Whether people agree with it or not is their own business.” At the tender age of 42, the Ottawabased, Cape Breton–born performer has recently released his first album, On My Way to Finding You. Tragedy turned this career milestone into a deeper new mission. In the video for the album’s title track, Jensen greets his real-life partner, 46-yearold Sean Morin, with a hug in the front yard of a country home while a dog waits on the porch. It’s a bucolic vision of bear heaven but one Jensen knew would be controversial in a conservative genre. “Country music has always been about honesty,” he says. “When Loretta Lynn sang about ‘The Pill’ in 1975, she stirred up the shit in the chicken coop,” he laughs. Coming out as gay is no different, he says, even as his voice cracks a little when he insists, “If I publicly deny the love that my husband and I share, then I will never stand for anything. I will be nothing.” Two weeks after the video was shot last October, 15-year-old Ottawa student Jamie Hubley committed suicide, his personal social-media posts detailing how isolated and bullied he’d been. Jensen was devastated. “It was like someone took a shovel and hit me straight between the eyes with it,” he says. “I was a recluse for a week.” Finally, he sat down and wrote a letter to Hubley’s father, telling the Ottawa councillor of his own childhood. “It was the first time I’d ever written down the abuse I suffered as a child, at home and at school,” Jensen says. “I was a fat kid and kind of feminine. I got called ‘fag’ at school and ‘queer’ at home. At 15, I left school and locked myself in my bedroom for six months . . . I just shut down and went on auto-pilot.” Hubley’s death brought these memories crashing back, and Jensen asked himself, “You survived. Is that fair? Well, you have something to do . . . tell people.” Allan Hubley sent Jensen a photo of his

son, and the singer then wrote a dedication for the video. “My biggest fear is that I’ll be viewed as opportunistic,” he says, “but on this, I had to follow my heart.” He plans to follow up by releasing his next single, “Scars,” only on iTunes, with proceeds going to “I look at that site and think, ‘Where were you 30 years ago?’” he says, eyes watering as he quotes a lyric from “Scars,” written by Toronto songwriter Don Graham: “All the shame and anger he keeps under lock and key.” “It took me a long time to get here,” Jensen says. “Everyone asks me, ‘Why did you wait until you were 42 years old to record your first album?’ but I couldn’t have done this five years ago. I was too emotionally damaged.” Jensen’s cover of an Anne Murray song got some airplay on CBC Radio back in 2001, but his singing career was quickly aborted. “I wasn’t ready,” he says. “I was shutting down because of the abuse.” By 2008, he says, “I was living in Moncton, coming out of a very bad relationship, and I was 325 pounds. I ate my emotions.” Meeting Sean Morin online one night changed everything. “I knew there was something special about him,” Jensen says. “We talked for four to five hours a night, and that was the beginning of my healing journey.” The singer credits his husband — a civil servant in Ottawa and now also his manager — with helping him “unpack the baggage” and guiding his revived career. Dressed in blue jeans, with a matching black vest and cowboy hat, Jensen wears a crisp black-and-blue-striped tie and has a bear paw tattooed on his neck. “I decided to tag myself when I moved to Ottawa because I knew who I was,” he says. “I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been, and I’m so proud to represent that a big, bald, non-GQ-type guy can stand up and do this. I’m proof that no matter where you are in your life, what counts is what you do right now. You can make a change.” While the world of country music has


been grudgingly accepting of out lesbians kd lang and Chely Wright, gay male performers, such as Doug Stevens, were never supported. Any meagre progress has come from straight-but-not-narrow stars like Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks, whose single line, “When we’re free to love anyone we choose, we shall be free,” caused controversy in 1992. Last year, gay songwriter Shane Stevens, who wrote a hit for Lady Antebellum, bluntly declared, “They’re not going to play a gay artist on the radio.” “I believe that you get what you believe,” Jensen says. “It’s a cliché, like that book The Secret, but I started to live my life like that. Once the universe knew that I was ready, it lifted the blanket and allowed me to rise. All these wonderful people came into my life.” Canadian country radio has been more open, says Jensen’s “pitbull” publicist Deborah Wood: “No one will say to me that they won’t play the single because he’s gay; they say things like, ‘He doesn’t fit our demo,’ but I know when they’re bullshitting,” she laughs. Jensen isn’t worried about being rejected for coming out. “If this video is the last thing I ever do as a country artist, it will be worth it.”

With his rich, clear voice that carries a hint of Randy Travis, Jensen credits Garth Brooks, Loretta Lynn and Michelle Wright as influences, but he also loves Duran Duran and, most surprisingly, longs to do a country duet with RuPaul, “an incredible inspiration to me.” Most of all, however, there’s the one-and-only “Backwoods Barbie,” Dolly Parton. “I learned from Dolly that you have to be yourself, no matter what anybody thinks,” gushes this burly, bearded man. Being Canada’s first out gay countrymusic singer is, Jensen says, “interesting and intimidating at the same time, but there is nothing on earth that is going to stop me from singing, from reaching people with what I’ve got in here,” he says, tapping his chest. “No matter what I go through from here on in, it will all have been worth it. I’ve opened the door a crack, and I believe the light will shine through.”

the deets ON MY WAY TO FINDING YOU Drake Jensen Soaring Eagle Productions $20


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For the love of AIDS musical helped Shaun Toohey come out a second time Chris Dupuis SHAUN TOOHEY ALMOST GAVE UP ON musicals entirely. The Brockville-born performer grew up watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies Sunday mornings with his mom. But as a postpubescent rebellion kicked in, he ditched old Hollywood in favour of newwave pop by bands such as Eurythmics and Culture Club. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I grew my hair long on one side and wore a bowler hat like Boy George used to in the early days,â&#x20AC;? the Ottawa educator and performer laughs. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I never got up the nerve to wear makeup, but I think if Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d lived in a larger city I might have. The â&#x20AC;&#x2122;80s consisted mostly of stuff like Cats and Phantom of the Opera. I was still interested in other kinds of theatre, but I had decided musicals were totally uncool.â&#x20AC;? That all chang ed one day in 1996 when a friend played him the soundtrack for Rent, shortly after the show exploded on Broadway. Based on Pucciniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1896 opera La Bohème, the story of aspiring artists battling poverty, addiction and AIDS in Manhattanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lower East Side captured his imagination. For the ďŹ rst time, he found people singing about things he could relate to. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It spoke to the experience of my generation, and it had a rock score I could be unashamed to sing along with,â&#x20AC;?

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Shaun Toohey (bottom right) with the cast of Rent.

he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In a way, Rent allowed me to come out of the closet about my love of musicals by making them cool again.â&#x20AC;? The original production ran 12 years and toured extensively, including a stop at the National Arts Centre in 1997. To say Toohey is excited to perform in Orpheus Musical Theatreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s production is a considerable understatement. The self-described Rent-Head (a term that

refers to folks who regularly camped out for tickets to the show) saw the NAC version six times. Of the several roles he plays, the leader of an HIV support group may be the most meaningful for the longtime activist. A regular volunteer at Bruce House (a community organization that provides support for people living with HIV), heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no stranger to

the epidemicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s realities, something Rent explores unďŹ&#x201A;inchingly. Though four of the eight main characters are living with the disease, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not just the representation of individual stories but the speciďŹ c era in AIDS history Toohey identifies with. Rent takes place after testing was introduced and AZT went on the market, a time often thought of as the second wave

in the epidemic; it was the ďŹ rst show to document Tooheyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s generationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unique struggle. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was part of the group in their teens when the news of Rock Hudson broke,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re struggling to figure out your sexuality and just beginning to become sexually active, ďŹ nding out these choices can cost you your life informs every aspect of how you view yourself. My generationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s story of AIDS is less about knowing you would die than it was about trying to ďŹ gure out how to live.â&#x20AC;? In the 16 years since Rent premiered, the realities of HIV have changed dramatically, with the focus shifting from preventing deaths to preventing new infections and ensuring continued access to medications. Though it plays at times as a period piece, Toohey stresses the value in looking back. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There will be a lot of younger people in our community who donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know that history and who donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know anyone who died,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an amazing production with incredible talent on stage, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the ďŹ rst time itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s being performed in Ottawa since the touring production came here in the â&#x20AC;&#x2122;90s. But more importantly, I think, is that telling these stories is how we honour the people who have died and how we pass on our history to the next generation.â&#x20AC;?

the deets ORPHEUS MUSICAL THEATRE PRESENTS RENT Fri, March 2â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Sun, March 11 Centrepointe Theatre 101 Centrepointe Dr


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ART & PHOTOGRAPHY Public Domain Caleb Speller’s work reimagines history by rejigging Yousuf Karsh’s photographs of so-called heroes to create entirely different images. Runs until Sun, Feb 26. La Petite Mort Gallery, 306 Cumberland St. Free. 613-8601555.

Comix Jam Shake the dust off your pencils at Ottawa’s monthly Comic Jam. Open theme — suggestions welcome. Wed, Feb 29, 7–10pm. Shanghai Restaurant, 651 Somerset St W. Free, materials provided. 613-863-8264.

Flamingo general manager Sebastien Provost. KANDACE BLAKER

Move over, RuPaul Flamingo hosts local drag race Kandace Blaker LOCAL GAY BAR FLAMINGO IS LIFTING the skirt on Ottawa’s queen scene. The hip club, recently dubbed one of the most colourful additions to the city by the Ottawa Citizen, is hosting its spinoff of RuPaul’s Drag Race throughout the month of February. What started as a national promotion for Drag Race’s fourth season, spearheaded by OUTtv, has now become a way to showcase Ottawa’s most fabulous female impersonators. Xtra chatted with Flamingo’s general manager, Sebastien Provost, to learn more about the competition and to hear his view on what it takes to be Ottawa’s Next Drag Superstar. XTRA: This whole thing started as a promotional event, then quickly turned into something more. What was the driving factor to start such a contest? SEBASTIEN PROVOST: When Flamingo opened we tried several different concepts for weekly drag shows. For one reason or another they never worked, so we made a conscious decision to stop having drag until we could launch something that was both meaningful and sustainable. We wanted to take this promo a step further and make it about helping develop our local drag queens and bridging the gap that we see in this community. What was meant to be a two-night competition has grown into a movement. Also, we have always striven to be cutting edge, and a partnership with OUTtv and RuPaul’s Drag Race was a natural fit.

What are your thoughts on having [RuPaul’s Drag Race runner-up] Manila Luzon as a guest judge? When I think about what drag is really supposed to be, I think Manila embodies those qualities perfectly. Her talent and commitment to the art of female

impersonation is simply spectacular, and we are thrilled to be working with such an iconic drag trendsetter. What does it take to be a superstar drag queen? A superstar will be a double or triple threat and incorporate singing or acting. You should be able to make costumes, be a pro at makeup, and stage makeup in particular. They need to have a solid understanding of all facets of production and they need to commit to the art. What are you hoping to achieve through this competition? Already we are breaking down barriers within the community. When I was growing up and doing drag in Toronto, I had many, many role models that I looked up to. I learned some of the most important lessons and drag secrets from such iconic Canadian drag legends as Stephanie Stevens, Dale Barnet and Rusty Ryan, just to name a few. I think that if we can share this knowledge and mentor our own community, then we will have done something really special. Our hope, when all of this is said and done, is to have been able to help unite the local drag community and continue our work to help it grow.

FILM & VIDEO Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Will wonders never cease? An intelligent, powerful, bisexual female character in a mainstream movie! Fri, Feb 17–Sun, Feb 19, various showtimes. Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank St. 613-730-6552. $5–10.

Live Telecast of the 84th Academy Awards Join Ottawa’s biggest and best Oscar party at the Mayfair! Walk the red carpet, enjoy fit-for-a-star refreshments and watch motionpicture history unfold on the big screen. Sun, Feb 26, 8pm. Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank St. 613-7306552. $5–10.

Divergence Movie Night This month, Divergence presents I Had an Abortion, which explores 10 women’s personal experiences with abortion, spanning seven decades. Thurs, March 1, 8pm. Raw Sugar Café, 692 Somerset St W. Suggested donation $5–10.

Pariah After a world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Pariah — a film about an African-American teenaged lesbian’s coming of age — is making the rounds in theatres, to much acclaim. Sat, March 10– Wed, March 14, various showtimes. Bytowne Cinema, 325 Rideau St. 613-789-3456. $7–10.

HEALTH & ISSUES The Living Room A free space for poz people and their loved ones. Food bank, free laundry facilities, internet, counselling, workshops, advocacy and support groups. Contact the Living Room to make an intake appointment. AIDS Committee of Ottawa, 251 Bank St, seventh floor. Free. 613-563-0851.

Women for Sobriety Do you have any words of advice for the fabulous contestants? My advice would be to think outside the box and get out of your comfort zone. I firmly believe that to become great, you must take risks and try new things. With this frame of mind, only then will you be able to grow.

the deets OTTAWA’S NEXT DRAG SUPERSTAR Tuesdays at 7pm Flamingo, 380 Elgin St

A confidential and anonymous selfhelp recovery program for women with addictions. Every Sunday night, 7–8:15pm, at the Christmas Exchange Program, 1390 Prince of Wales, fourth floor. All women welcome. Free. 613-220-3588.

Weekly Yoga at GayZone Free weekly yoga classes for gay men. Classes are open to everyone, from beginners to advanced students. Thursdays, 5:15–6:45pm. Centretown Community Health

Pariah is screening at Bytowne Cinema.

Centre, 420 Cooper St. Free. aco-cso. ca/gayzonegaie

LIX Monthly Coffee Meeting

Post-Adoption Support Group

The Lesbian Information Exchange has revived its monthly coffee meeting, for lesbians to socialize, network and connect. Mon, Feb 20, 6:30pm. Michel-Ange Café, 35 Laurel St. Free.

For queer- or trans-identified adoptive parents who want a nonjudgmental space to talk. Thurs, March 1, 6:30–8:30pm. Centretown Community Health Centre, 420 Cooper St. Free. For more info, email

LEISURE & PLEASURE Hump Night Promoted by locals Laurie Hawco and Ricky Alvarez, I Love 2 Hump features the Eva Darling Drag Show and DJs Martin and Grace spinning hip hop, electro and house. Wednesdays, from 9pm. Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward Market Sq. 613-789-5324.

Rideau Speedeaus Join the Rideau Speedeaus Swim Club for some wet fun! Wednesdays at 6pm. Ottawa U Pool, Montpetit Hall, 125 University St. For more info or to register for their Learn to Swim program, email lts@ 613-5625789.

Creative Writing Play Date A drop-in writing group facilitated by Sean Zio. Poetry, fiction and nonfiction writers welcome. Tuesdays, 8–10pm. Mother Tongue Books, 1067 Bank St. Suggested $5 donation.

Ottawa-Gatineau Gay Hockey The Ottawa-Gatineau Gay Hockey Association holds weekly pickup games and is looking for new members for the OG Capitals hockey team. Sundays, 8pm. Carleton University Ice House (Rink A), Carleton campus. $17 per night or register by writing the team at info@

Gay Ottawa Volleyball A weekly game of recreational volleyball. Open to men and women. Drop-in players welcome. VisionJeunesse Catholic Elementary School Gymnasium, 235 McArthur Rd. Mondays, 8pm. Drop-in fee, $3.

Lesbian Badminton The Lesbian Outdoor Group hosts a number of indoor activities through the winter, including weekly badminton. Drop-in players welcome. Saturdays, 10–11:30am. Jack Purcell Community Centre, 320 Jack Purcell Lane (near Elgin and Lewis).

Blow Him Away Want to give your guy the blowjob of his life but aren’t sure where to start or what to do once you get going? This workshop is for you. From basic anatomy to advanced tips. Mon, Feb 20, 6:30–8:30pm. Venus Envy, 320 Lisgar St. $10–20. 613-789-4646.

LOG Winter Dance In celebration of International Women’s Week, the Lesbian Outdoor Group presents its annual Winter Women’s Dance. Sat, March 10, 8pm–1am. Montgomery Legion, 330 Kent St. $15 advance, $20 door. Available at Mother Tongue Books, Venus Envy. For more info, contact

Ottawa Knights Bar Night Join the Ottawa Knights Gay Men’s Denim and Leather Club for their monthly night of fun, debauchery, rubber and latex. Sat, March 10, 10pm. Cellblock, 340 Somerset St W (above CPs).

Girls Want to Know Show The Lesbian Information Xchange (LIX) presents its third annual Girls Want to Know Show — a fair to network and promote local lesbian businesses and community groups. Sun, March 18, noon–4pm. Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave. Free.

Logistics of Non-Monogamy Part lecture, part skills sharing, part guided discussion, this workshop addresses how to be considerate, efficient and sensitive about time management in poly situations. Led by Andrea Zanin. Sun, March 18, 6:30–8:30pm. Venus Envy, 320 Lisgar St. $15–25. 613-789-4646.

PRINT & PERFORMANCE Falling Open at GCTC Luna Allison’s one-woman show, Falling Open, makes its theatrical debut as part of the undercurrents festival. Fri, Feb 17–Sun, Feb 19, various showtimes. Studio Theatre, Great Canadian Theatre Company, 1233 Wellington St W. $16.95. Tickets available at the box office, at 613236-5196 or at › continued on page 19


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Caught by undercurrents Indie festival not scared of tough topics Serafin LaRiviere

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LET’S FACE IT: DESPITE WIARTON Willie’s prediction of an early spring, things are still looking pretty chilly out there. When it’s this cold and dark, something has to be really special to drag us out of our warm living rooms. Undercurrents is definitely that special something. Now in its second year, this midwinter festival has already had the indietheatre crowd aflutter with a selection of plays from some of Ottawa’s most interesting creators and performers. Like the Fringe Festival, undercurrents showcases works not generally destined for mainstream stages; themes like online bullying, sexual abuse and political revolution are explored with a fearless honesty that can be both disturbing and captivating to watch. The two festivals part company in their selection process: undercurrents is a juried festival — a definite plus for those wishing to avoid the occasional 45-minute disaster that unfolds on the lottery-chosen Fringe stages. “It’s very experimental in form, content and style,” says festival producer Patrick Gauthier. “There are a lot of emerging artists who make their home here in Ottawa and are working outside the mainstream. This gives them a beautiful studio environment to explore.” Gauthier started the festival last

Luna Allison’s Falling Open delves into the dark issue of sexual abuse.

year with Lise Ann Johnson, artistic director of Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company. The two came up with the idea in order to make use of the GCTC’s studio theatre space outside of the company’s regular season. Gauthier had just completed an internship under Johnson and welcomed the opportunity to seek out experimental productions that would fit their fledgling festival’s aesthetic. One such play that made this year’s lineup is Luna Allison’s Falling Open. “I saw Luna’s show at the Ottawa Fringe last summer and I loved it,” Gauthier says. “She performed it originally in her apartment, so there were only 17 seats a night. It was very


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intimate, but it meant only a small handful of people got to see the show. I really thought that it needed a bigger audience.” The one-woman play is the epitome of what undercurrents is hoping to showcase: edgy theatre that can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Allison’s play tells a tale of sexual abuse not only from the perspective of the victim, but also from that of the perpetrator and a doll that acts as witness and narrator. Gauthier is keenly aware of the show’s risky nature. “I admit when I first heard of it I bristled, because it wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to sit through,” he says. “But it’s so full of beauty and

humour that my reservations disappeared completely. She’s an incredible performer.” For her part, Allison welcomes the chance to provoke discussion and debate with her show’s provocative themes. Writing and performing from the abuser’s point of view was certainly an emotionally demanding task, but it also afforded some surprising insights. “The writing in particular was difficult because I had to immerse myself in the mindset of a sexual abuser,” says Allison. “It brought up a lot of resistance.” She researched the piece by reading accounts of convicted sex offenders, including an intensive sociological study that included numerous interviews with the predators. “It was a really fascinating read, and it very much informed my portrayal,” Allison says. “It debunked a lot of myths I had, even as a survivor, about abusers. “I care so much about the truth with this piece that once it had been written I was completely committed to portraying the abuser in realistic, human ways. It sounds really strange to say, but I was excited to bring forward what I had discovered and uncovered to help people understand that perspective.”

the deets FALLING OPEN Part of the undercurrents festival Fri, Feb 17–Sun, Feb 19 Great Canadian Theatre Company 1233 Wellington St W

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Tone Cluster reverberates Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s queer choir surges into 2012 GET OUT YOUR UMBRELLAS AND rubber boots and prepare to get wet. Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s queer choral group Tone Cluster is back with a splash. And speaking to Tone Clusterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s president, Rob Bowman, about the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s upcoming show, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s truly as if a dam has burst. Bowman is very excited about the list of songs the choir will be performing at its next concert, the aptly named Rhythm of the Water. It will be the groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ďŹ rst show of 2012 and its second with new musical director Kurt Ala-Kantti. Thematic shows are a mainstay of Tone Clusterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s repertoire, and this eventâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s focus is on music that evokes the sounds of water â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a ďŹ tting theme for March, arguably the drippiest month in Ottawa. Spring also being the season of change, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a ďŹ tting time to usher in new faces. After a debut at Tone Clusterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s holiday concert, the choirâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new musical director now embarks on a foray into largely uncharted waters. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He brings some really wonderful qualities to the choir, and heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s taking

us in some really interesting new directions musically,â&#x20AC;? says Bowman of Ala-Kantti. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Every conductor brings their own personal style to the choir. With him itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very much about the dynamics. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kind of shaping it all the way through.â&#x20AC;? The process of ďŹ nding a new director began last summer with the departure of Jane Perry, who had directed Tone Cluster since 2000. Applicants went through interviews, auditions and even a fake rehearsal. Ala-Kantti, who had helped found Harmonia and conducted several youth and church choirs, was eventually chosen. Bowman says one of the things that drew Tone Cluster to its new director is his eclectic musical base, giving the

listings â&#x20AC;ş

group plenty of room to explore. Exploration is key to Rhythm of the Water. The pieces are diverse, comprising everything from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Storm on Georgian Bay,â&#x20AC;? a song inspired by the famed Group of Seven, and the East Coastâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;inďŹ&#x201A;uenced â&#x20AC;&#x153;Song for the Myraâ&#x20AC;? to African-themed numbers. Also featured are a number of songs on the theme of rain. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s funny when [Ala-Kantti] says in the rehearsal, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Pull out the one for rain,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; because we all go, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Which one?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;? Bowman laughs. Rhythm of the Water will also feature a Council of Canadians speaker who will talk about water as a precious resource. Bowman says the group is looking forward to showing off its new songs in July, when the choir will participate in the Gala International Choral Festival in Denver. â&#x20AC;&#x153;About every second year it works

out so that we can go to a festival,â&#x20AC;? Bowman says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re really happy with this opportunity, because I know they have choirs there with a million-dollar budget and 50 to 60 members, and then weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re Tone Cluster with 20 members.â&#x20AC;? The ďŹ ve-day festival will feature approximately 6,500 singers, with each attending choir given a 20-minute concert slot. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great way to hear a lot of different choral pieces and decide what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to bring back with you,â&#x20AC;? Bowman says. Through it all, the choir remains uncompromisingly queer-identiďŹ ed, maintaining itself as a safe and welcoming space for singers from all communities. As Bowman explains,


Julie Cruikshank

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a real warm feeling and a real sense of community. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been to each othersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; weddings, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been through each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health issues . . . there are so many unexpected joys to being in this choir.â&#x20AC;?

the deets RHYTHM OF THE WATER Sat, March 3, 8pm First Baptist Church 140 Laurier Ave W

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â&#x20AC;ş continued from page 17

PRINT & PERFORMANCE (CONTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;D) Quest of the Ring

Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Next Drag Superstar

Local lesbian storytellers Jan Andrews, Jennifer Cayley and Katherine Grier recount the myths that inspired The Lord of the Rings and Wagnerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ring Cycle: The Quest of the Ring. Thurs, Feb 16, 7:30pm. Fourth Stage, National Arts Centre, 53 Elgin St.

Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s newest drag competition is in the home stretch. Guest judge Manila Luzon, from RuPaulâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Drag Race, will help announce the winner on Thurs, Feb 23, 9pm. The Flamingo, 380 Elgin St. $10. theďŹ&#x201A;

Tone Cluster Concert Join Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s queer choir for its Rhythm of the Water concert. Sat, March 3, 8pm. First Baptist Church, 140 Laurier Ave W. $20 advance, $25 door, children under 12 free. Tickets available at Mother Tongue Books, After Stonewall and Venus Envy.

Third Time Lucky

Paul Hutcheson stars in Third Time Lucky at the Gladstone.

Paul Hutchesonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s latest solo show combines biting humour and physical comedy to relate his stories of coming out, working as a substitute teacher, and performing queer comedy in rural Montana. Part of the Black Box Set Festival. Fri, March 9; Sat, March 10; Fri, March 16; and Sat, March 17, 10pm. The Gladstone, 910 Gladstone Ave. $20, $15 students and Gladstone subscribers. 613-233-4523.

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1^^Z<dbXRP]S;haXRb Qh9^]PcWP];Pab^] Amanda Rheaume performs on March 15.

Amanda Rheaume at the Blacksheep Top-notch queer MĂŠtis rocker Amanda Rheaume returns to the Blacksheep Inn, with special guest Brea Lawrenson. Thurs, March 15, 8:30pm. Blacksheep Inn, 753 Riverside Dr, WakeďŹ eld, QC. $12 advance, $15 door. Tickets available at 1-888-222-6608 or at ticketweb. ca.


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Ottawa’s gay & lesbian news

XTRA! FEB 16, 2012


Michael Burtch

Centretown Pub bartender Gavin McIver (left) takes a rare Friday night off to party with his partner, Pierre Fontaine, on the bar’s main level.

Jordan “Toben” Thomas (left) and Marcel Forget cozy up to an empty suit of armour at Centretown Pub’s To Honour and Serve: Military Bar Night. optical


237 ELGIN ST. 613.216.6076

(From left) Bode Spa manager Eric Trottier, owner Dan Francoeur, Francoeur’s sister Karen Malcolm, his daughter Holly Francoeur, and esthetician Brian Lisicky celebrate the relaunch of the ARC Hotel’s website and a new partnership between the ARC and Bode Spa at an exclusive party on Jan 20.

Guy Le Monnier (left) and Mister Leather Ottawa 2010, Michael Tattersall, who’s also the producer of National Capital Leather Pride Weekend, stand at attention at Centretown Pub’s Military Bar Night.

(From left) Brad McLeod, Daniel Lennox, Robert Black and Joey Delvecchio participate in a free, men’s only yoga class at Gay Zone, held each Thursday at 5:30pm. To learn more, visit or

(From left) Photographer Ben Welland snaps Gay Zone volunteer Jayesh Tigdi, yoga instructor Loren Crawford and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa’s David Mills for an upcoming web- and print-based campaign aimed at increasing the profile of Gay Zone’s STI/HIV clinical services and wellness programming. Visit to view Welland’s work.

The second Thursday of every month, Gay Zone plays host to volunteer Firipo Humuza (left) and organizer Greg Whitelock (pictured facing off over a game of Carcassonne) at Gay Zone’s Board Game Night.

(From left) Gerry “Sir Squeaky” Legault, Mister Leather Ottawa 2007; Murray Lavigne, Mister Leather Ottawa 2012; Isaac Wesley; and the Ottawa Knights’ Pat Croteau at Centretown Pub’s Military Bar Night, Feb 4. Next up on the fetish calendar? The first ever Pup Party, Feb 18 at the Centretown Pub. Called Ruff ’N’ Tumble, it’s organized by Mr Cellblock 2011, Rob Yanosik, and it’s BYOB: bring your own bowl.

A World of Gay Adventure XTRA! FEB 16, 2012


The first of a three-part series looks at Montreal’s evolving nightlife scene

Montreal Bursting with joie de vivre, queer parties flourish beyond the Village Matthew Hays Photography by Carrie MacPherson


PON ARRIVING IN Montreal, dubbed the Paris of North America by many who’ve visited, queer tourists often dive directly into the Village. And it’s an impressive strip — size queens note how long it is, stretching along Ste Catherine from the Berri metro station all the way east to Papineau. But a good many of the city’s gay citizens don’t actually live in the Village, and recent successes in nightlife ventures have reflected what many Montreal experts know all too well — that the entire city is a little bit queer. Two organizers of alternative queer events have been overwhelmed by the responses to their ideas, which have outdone even their wildest dreams. For the last three years, François Guimond has organized Mec Plus Ultra, a monthly night catering to a primarily gay crowd, usually held in The Belmont, a mainly straight club situated at 4483 Blvd St Laurent, at Mont-Royal, the heart of the Plateau neighbourhood.

Guimond says that one reason for starting Mec Plus Ultra was very basic: “One night I was out with a friend driving around from place to place, and he said, ‘You know, the music in your car is better than the stuff we were hearing in the clubs.’” Guimond says that when they began Mec Plus Ultra, Belmont management questioned how many people they could pull in. “So they put us on Sundays. But we proved very popular, one of their biggest nights, in fact, so they moved us to Saturdays.” The key? “We hired good DJs, people who would not play top-40 music. No typical club or house music allowed!” He says they relied on an element of surprise with each night they organized. “One night we brought in an electric bull. People got into riding it. We even tried a religious theme one night; we had an angel going around asking people for their confessions. We got theatrical and interactive, and people liked it.” Guimond thinks the conventional wisdom about the internet killing queer nightlife is not the case in Montreal. “I think one can complement the other. Now people go out and meet someone and then friend them on Facebook.

It’s an easy way of staying in touch and getting to know someone better . . . If anything, the success of Mec Plus Ultra just showed us how eager people were to go out again and connect in person.” He says he has always remained sensitive to the fact that, while a lot of people go out in groups, many would attend events on their own. “I think a lot of people just weren’t going out for a while, people who felt there weren’t nights that reflected their tastes and sensibilities. We put on some stupid games, like giving people stickers and then they had to find their match with whoever had the corresponding sticker. People liked it because it helped to break the ice and got people talking to each other.”

Faggity fun The past four years have seen the rise of another queer phenomenon, Faggity Ass Fridays. The night wasn’t just a way of reaching out to those who were bored with what was being offered by other clubs; it was started by activists who were astonished by the provincial government’s decision to abandon sex › continued on page 22

from top: Co-owner Val Desjardins pours a strong drink at the Royal Phoenix;

François Guimond, of Mec Plus Ultra fame, launches Audio Porn Club; young revellers enjoy Faggity Ass Friday.


A World of Gay Adventure

XTRA! FEB 16, 2012

clockwise from left: Faggity Ass hostess Marie Jane and volunteer Aman Ahluwalia raise money for sex education; Royal Phoenix co-owner Val Desjardins; best friends stick together at Faggity Ass Friday; cute boys pose at the Royal Phoenix. Montreal GETTING THERE Montreal’s Trudeau Airport is not served directly by the metro system, but an STM bus (route 747) will take you downtown, 24/7. There’s also a regular bus (route 204) to the Dorval bus/ train terminus. A taxi downtown costs a fixed fare of $38 (all prices Canadian). The Aerobus shuttle is an easy and inexpensive option at $16; it leaves every half hour in the daytime and drops you off at the central bus station.



› Montreal continued from page 21

Phoenix rising

education in classrooms after some deemed the province’s sex ed curriculum too racy. Rather than attempt to explain themselves, the provincial government decided to stop offering sex ed altogether. Shocked by such a move, a number of activists banded together to create Faggity Ass Fridays, with all proceeds going directly to Head and Hands, a youth organization that created a peer-based sex education program to fill the gap created by the government’s cowardly response to ill-informed opposition. FAF has become something of an institution in the city. Generally offered the last Friday of every month and currently at the Playhouse (5656 Ave du Parc), the night has featured live musical acts (a rarity in queer circles) as well as guest DJs. Village Voice journalist Michael Musto raved about FAF in his column two years ago after visiting Montreal.

Val Desjardins has been coordinating FAF for almost two years, but she’s looking for another coordinator, as she’s got her hands full. FAF is held on the Plateau and in Mile End, lively neighbourhoods where high-end restaurants, funky gift shops and hipster cafés are interspersed with traditional Jewish, Greek and Portuguese merchants. After seeing the response to FAF, Desjardins decided those neighbourhoods and their queer residents were being underserved. That led her and a posse of friends to launch the Royal Phoenix (5788 Blvd St Laurent), a queer bar, club and restaurant that opened last summer. The response surprised even the most optimistic, including Desjardins herself. “Wow. We had hopes, of course, but we didn’t see it coming — not like this.” The Royal Phoenix routinely has lineups on weekends, and after only a month Desjardins decided to expand by opening a kitchen, which serves a


number of healthy dishes. “To me, the Royal Phoenix is a reflection of the best things about Montreal,” Desjardins says. “I think it comes back to our European roots. People in Montreal are very emotional. You know, when I go home for Christmas, a family gathering always ends in song and dance. People in the rest of Canada are a bit stiffer. DJs will tell you: people in Montreal are a lot quicker to get up and dance once the music starts playing.” Desjardins says that the club’s raison d’être, like that of Mec Plus Ultra, was to do something that wasn’t happening before. “We liked the idea of a club where there was a lot of crossover: we have some nights when we play a lot of jazz, other nights fusion, other nights hip hop. And that’s reflected in our clientele; we have a very varied group of people coming in. “I’m not pretending that Montreal is some kind of utopia. I know it has its problems, but I often feel like the

different cultures aren’t clashing here — they’re living together quite well. I feel like that’s what happens at the Royal Phoenix, too.” Desjardins has kept her management style very democratic. “We have 20 employees, and if they have a good suggestion, I’ll implement it within 24 hours. I listen to the staff. They’re the ones on the floor, working hard. It’s very important for me to have a friendly staff, with everyone knowing they contribute in a valued way to the overall success of the bar.” Now, Guimond and Desjardins will be combining forces. Guimond is organizing a new night, Audio Porn Club, which will be held on select Saturdays at the Royal Phoenix. “As you can tell by the title, we’re putting an emphasis on offering a different music menu for people who want to go out,” Guimond says. “We’re going to be bringing in international DJs as well as the best Montreal has to offer.” “Our main goal,” Desjardins says, “is to give people the space they’ve always wanted.”

Central Montreal is quite walkable; a stroll from the gay area to the main downtown shopping core takes about 20 minutes. For street addresses, remember to distinguish between “est” and “ouest” (east and west) on major thoroughfares. The metro is clean and reliable, and it operates until about 12:30am. Single fares are $2.75; three-day passes are $14. But one of the best ways to get around is by bike; there are bike paths throughout the city and along the river and canals, and Bixi, Montreal’s public bikesharing system, has stations on almost every block. Rent a bike for $5 per day from any station and return it to any station.

Trip advisor BARS & CLUBS Cabaret Mado Mystique

LODGINGS Hôtel Manoir des Alpes Hotel Stay Centre Ville


Matthew Hays’ look at Montreal nightlife is the first of a three-part series on Montreal.

Coo Rouge La Colombe

SAUNAS & SEX CLUBS Bain Colonial Sauna Oasis

SHOPPING & SERVICES Priape Ugo & Co Salon Find information on more than 200 places of interest in Montreal at

on the web Royal Phoenix Bar › Faggity Ass Fridays ›faggityassfridays. Montreal Tourism ›





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HOT CITIES. HOT PLACES. HOT TIMES. ALL IN YOUR POCKET. Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Montreal, Mykonos, Paris, Puerto Vallarta, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Tel Aviv and more coming!

A World of Gay Adventure


XTRA! FEB 16, 2012



Ancient legacies, artistic wonders and modern gay life


Mike Thompson

ODERN ROME OFFERS incomparable food, rich art, historic sites and stylish shopping. Among the subtler pleasures, a sublime light plays across ancient marbles, setting aglow burnt sienna and ochre-coloured walls at sunset. Thousands of years of civilization are built one block upon the next, with more recent builders often using the recycled substance of a predecessor — an extraordinary complexity of landscape with odd and incongruous joints, making it a delightful city for aimless wandering. Do the postcard sights, but dare to get pleasantly lost to find those little treasures that delight the casual explorer. The Eternal City, with its ancient legacies of language, law, architecture, religion and philosophy, still captivates the world. For anyone who grew up loving pizza, pasta, good coffee and La Dolce Vita, the place seems already familiar on arrival. Amidst vast ruins in the olive groves at Villa Adriana, it’s hard today to imagine that Emperor Hadrian once administered the Roman Empire from this peaceful retreat, 30 kilometres from the capital. This most powerful man of his day travelled constantly throughout his domain and built much (including the eponymous British wall and the Pantheon). Lover to Antinous, whose storied beauty is seen in many statues, he wasn’t the only emperor who didn’t closet his same-sex desires.

Roman men and women can be surprisingly friendly and touchingly helpful. Sensual and passionate, sometimes raunchy and brash, Italian men are known for their style and selfconfidence but abound in contradictions. With the Church still influential they can seem at once conservative and liberated. Sex among men was once considered a harmless fact of life of no great significance — not spoken of, but certainly not a matter of identity. Gay styles have changed, but things are still more traditional and Mediterranean than in European cities to the north. Without doubt, however, gay men and lesbians are now much freer to live together, and gay club kids, bears, drag divas, lesbians and leathermen look to Paris and Berlin to create their own social spaces. Masculine displays of affection among friends and family are often effusive and public, and welcomes bestowed on visitors can be enthusiastic and generous. An archaeological and artistic wonder, Rome is also a Christian spiritual destination, centred at St Peter’s Basilica. What remains of pre-Christian Rome is a window into older concepts of sexuality — the ancients didn’t equate nudity with sin, and sex for pleasure was more disconnected from social and family obligations. This alternative aesthetic had a complex and conflicted relationship with the Church, but the Vatican Museum, paradoxically, is now home to one of the world’s most amazing collections of nude male beauty. During the remarkable 15th century, the finest artists of their time were em-


top: At Palazzo Mattei di Giove. above: Boys cavorting at L’Alibi. right: The Colosseum, with My Bar

and Coming Out in the foreground.

ployed by patrons such as the Medici family of Florence, which also contributed four popes. As the West emerged from the “dark ages” it looked to the old empire as a cultural beacon. The Vatican complex includes the Museo Pio-Clementino, with 54 galleries, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece. Postures and knowing looks, faithfully captured by the master artist, betray his affection for the urchins who portrayed angels and saints, intact with the grit and grime they brought with them as models. They transcend their humble origins to bridge the millennia, recalling an older world we can no longer fully comprehend. Spare time for other halls, including Museo Chiaramonti, Museo Gregoriano Etrusco and Museo Egiziano, with ancient Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Egyptian materials. The Vatican Museum’s website (, offers extensive virtual tours. The Borghese Gallery ( has works by Caravaggio, Ber-


nini, Canova, Rubens, Raphael, Titian and others from the Cardinal Scipione collection; the Capitoline Museums ( collection ranges over ancient art and architecture. The Villa of Hadrian, the emperor’s retreat to the east of the city, in Tivoli, includes the greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian garden. English, widely used on public signs, is understood by many, especially in gay circles. The cost of taking care of basic needs can be quite affordable outside the tourist traps. The 2nd Floor, near the Colosseum, has the most gayfriendly lodgings, and the mixed Ares Rooms is one of a cluster of reasonably priced hotels in the area between Termini Station and Via Nazionale. Book

ahead, especially in summer, when demand exceeds supply. Public transport, 1 euro for 75 minutes of bus travel or one metro ride, is a good way to get around town. Multitrip, multiday passes lower the price further. “Nocturnal” buses run regularly all night, and taxis can fill the gaps. The adventurous and agile may rent motorbikes. Rome’s gay scene is scattered all over the city, but most venues are within walking distance of the Colosseum or Termini Station. Termini has long been a cruising area, too: inside, outside and in the restrooms. But beware of pickpockets and those who might distract you as a silent partner › continued on page 24

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A World of Gay Adventure

XTRA! FEB 16, 2012



Escape the doldrums of winter with a last-minute getaway to the rodeo: the cowboys of Dallas–Fort Worth are staging a Texas Tradition Rodeo, March 2 to 4, in Fort Worth. The event is put on by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, which has produced rodeos for 29 years. Director Dan Nagel promises “another terrific event, competition and entertainment while showcasing the women and men in the sport of rodeo.” The rodeo grounds will include a Western market of vendors and informational booths with live entertainment. Events are planned in the North Texas area during the weeks leading up to Rodeo weekend, including chili competitions and a kickoff party at the Dallas Eagle on March 1. Rodeo tickets are $20 per day or $30 for a weekend package. Visit for more information.


Chicks Ahoy!


Olivia Travel marks 40 years with landmark sailings

OLIVIA.COM staff Olivia Travel will celebrate its 40th anniversary in early 2013 with two Caribbean excursions the company is billing as the largest lesbian cruises ever to set sail. More than 4,000 women are expected to take part. The cruises will be onboard Holland America’s luxurious Nieuw Amsterdam, which features a culinary arts centre, an expanded Greenhouse Spa and Salon, and the largest gym on the Holland America Line. Departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the ships will call on a private Bahamian island, Half Moon Cay; Willemstad, Curaçao; and Oranjestad, Aruba. Olivia always charters entire cruise ships or buys out resorts, bringing in entertainment and activities geared toward the lesbian community. “Even if you are out in the world, there’s nothing like being in the majority every minute of every day on your vacation,” says Judy Dlugacz, president and founder of Olivia. Olivia was founded in 1973 as a women’s music label. It has grown into one of the largest lesbian travel companies, taking women on cruise, resort and adventure vacations all over the world. Olivia’s first “concerts on a cruise” in 1990 were met with tremendous enthusiasm, Dlugacz says.

“History has repeated itself — the first cruise ship we chartered sold out so quickly that we had to add a second sailing, and the same thing happened with our 30th, and now 40th, anniversary cruises.” “We are thrilled to have a reunion performance of original Olivia recording artists Meg Christian and Cris Williamson, along with the biggest lineup we have ever had,” says Tisha Floratos, vice-president of travel for Olivia. The roster of onboard entertainers includes Kate Clinton, Karen Williams, Suede, Marga Gomez, Elvira Kurt, Michele Balan, Sweet Baby J’ai, Julie Wolf, Zoë Lewis and CC Carter, among many others. The cruise will also feature parties, dances and excursions, all designed with the breadth and diversity of the Olivia community in mind. “This is the biggest celebration of our community that Olivia has produced. It will be a giant reunion, celebration, entertainment extravaganza and tropical vacation all rolled into one,” says Floratos. Dlugacz notes that 40 years is a major milestone for a lesbian company and that it speaks to the deep bond between Olivia and its travellers, affectionately known as “The Olivia Family.” “It’s a bond unparalleled by any company, anywhere,” Dlugacz says. For more information, visit

If you were there, you already know. If you missed it, take note of this must-attend event for 2013: Montreal’s annual Igloofest guarantees some of the hottest nights of the winter. Described in one review as “an interactive ice village standing luminous against the bleak, black winter,” the sixth annual Igloofest was held over nine nights between Jan 12 and 28, on JacquesCartier Pier in the Old Port of Montreal. More than 19,000 people turned out for the wintry fun. From 6:30pm to midnight each night, the igloo kingdom served up local favourites and world-famous DJs, well-known artists from the electronic scene, punchy audio-visuals and an electrifying atmosphere. There was even a wacky ski-suit competition. “Igloofest was one of the most memorable shows we ever did,” says J-Wow (aka João Barbosa, aka Lil John of Buraka Som Sistema). “We couldn’t erase the smiles off our faces during the MIGUEL LEGAULT performance; it’s just too emotional to feel that all those people are there, all dressed up in snow gear, to get down to your music. Snow ravers are the new ravers!” Check out the party and vibe by watching the Igloofest video at For more information, visit

› Rome continued from page 23

Out inOttawa 2012

Mark your spot Out inOttawa BIAN GU IDE MAP XTRA’S GAY & LES 2011 ED ITIO N


Mark your spot on the 2012 edition of Out in Ottawa, Xtra’s gay and lesbian guide map. Call today for booking and rate information, 613-986-8292. Out in Ottawa 2011 can be downloaded at


disappears with your bag. Just south of the Colosseum, Via di San Giovanni in Laterano has been designated Gay Street since 2007. Several gay and lesbian favourites: Coming Out and My Bar, near the Colosseum, for both men and women; and Hangar bar, for men, near Cavour Station, where English-speaking owners John and Gianni are always at the door. Muccassassina, on Fridays, and Alibi, on Saturdays, are two big dance nights, with afterhours dancing at Frutta e Verdura. The Eagle, K-Club, Il Diavolo Dentro, Gate/Frequency and Skyline are men’s cruise and sex clubs. Some clubs close in summertime as people quit the city, but for several years Gay Village has put on concerts, shows, theatre, films and dance extravaganzas. EMC is the largest of three downtown gay saunas. Many gay bars and saunas require membership in Arcigay, the national gay organization. A card bought at one club is valid nationwide, and the fee helps gay Italians create a more equitable society. Arcigay’s website lists members, along with other information. Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven) is a popular gay beach off Via Litoranea, beside a pine forest on the Roman coast at Ostia. A mixed crowd gathers here for loud music and beach volleyball games or to relax, using umbrellas and chaises longues, which can be rented. Admission is free (unlike many private Italian beaches), and a summertime catering service offers a rich buffet of rice, fruit or pasta salads, sides, and cool drinks throughout lazy afternoons. A quiet area may be reserved where nobody will disturb you. For more information on travelling in Rome, go to


At Palazzo Mattei di Giove.

Trip advisor BARS & CLUBS Skyline Club Hangar

LODGINGS B&B Gaspare Hotel Anfiteatro Flavio

RESTAURANTS & CAFÉS Ice Cream Bears Taverna di Edoardo II

SAUNAS & SEX CLUBS Il Diavolo Dentro Sauna Mediterraneo

SHOPPING & SERVICES Libreria Babele Souvenir Visit, where you’ll find more than 90 gay and lesbian places of interest in Rome

on the web Gay Village › Arcigay › Pride (Italy’s gay culture magazine) ›

more at

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ACCOMMODATIONS - ONTARIO Ambiance Bed and Breakfast 613-563-0421 Brookstreet Hotel 613-271-1800 Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre 416-977-6655 The Gilmour B&B 613-236-9309 Trinity House Inn 1-800-265-4871 AIDS Committee of Ottawa Bruce House Bureau régional d’action sida (BRAS) Gay Zone

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