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FREE | MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021 Volume 55 | Number 2768




Jenny Kwan and other B.C. female politicians refuse to bend in the face of vicious, vile, racist, and sexist abuse that comes with being elected to public office




Female politicians face down misogynistic, hateful bullies


March 4 – 11 / 2021



In advance of International Women’s Day, B.C. female politicians share stories about gender-based harassment and threats—as well as some solutions.

by Charlie Smith

By Charlie Smith Cover photo by Shimon Karmel



Check out some gift boxes and meal offerings that are being created to support Metro Vancouver women and the local economy. By Craig Takeuchi



UBC senior scientist Maria Lourdes Palomares has managed to succeed in a mostly male-dominated area of research. By Martin Dunphy



A nonprofit group called Commercial Real Estate Women Vancouver is advancing the interests of female agents in this sector. By Carlito Pablo

Vancouver East MP Jenny Kwan feels that she can have a positive effect on her constituents’ lives, which is one reason why she’ll never capitulate to vile online trolling. Photo by Gabriel Yiu.


ne of the eeriest videos shown during Donald Trump’s recent impeachment trial concerned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rioters are seen wandering the halls of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, with one saying, “Where are you, Nancy? We’re looking for you.” “Nancy, oh Nancy?” the man repeats. “Nancy, where are you Nancy?” These images left no doubt in the minds of many that this misogynistic mob intended to cause Pelosi grievous harm— perhaps even assassination. It’s easy for Canadians to think that this isn’t something to worry about on our side of the border. After all, the last politician to be murdered in Canada was more than 50 years ago, when Quebec deputy premier Pierre Laporte’s body was found in the trunk of a car. The vehicle belonged to Front de libération du Québec kidnapper Paul Rose. But in advance of International Women’s Day on Monday (March 8), several B.C. female politicians revealed to the Straight that they are routinely targeted with misogynistic abuse. Some face vicious racism and threats that could easily be deemed criminal in nature. This doesn’t only occur online over social-media platforms. For example, Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan recalled when a man burst into her constituency office while she was the MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant. According to Kwan, he was making violent racist and sexist threats against her. “I immediately came out of my office to see what was going on,” the veteran



politician told the Straight by phone. “I had to place myself between the individual and my staff, who were quite shaken up.” Kwan then warned the man that if he didn’t leave, she would dial 9-1-1. He still carried on, departing only when she actually called police.


They want to rape you and throw you in a ditch and hope you’re dead. – Green MP Elizabeth May Vancouver’s News and Entertainment Weekly Volume 55 | Number 2768

On another occasion, someone who was upset with her threw feces onto her family’s property. Then there are the racist and misogynist threats that come into her office. From time to time, a message comes in that’s so disgusting that her staff don’t want to show it to her. “It’s so hurtful, it’s so vile, it’s belligerent, it’s so violently grotesque that they want to shield it from me,” Kwan said. “And I said to them, ‘You must show me all that information because I must know what the risk is—what the situation is.” That’s because as an employer, Kwan feels she must do everything she can to

MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021

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EDITOR Charlie Smith SECTION EDITORS Mike Usinger (ESports/Liquor/Music) Steve Newton SENIOR EDITOR Martin Dunphy STAFF WRITERS Carlito Pablo (Real Estate) Craig Takeuchi SOLUTIONS ARCHITECT Jeff Li ART DEPARTMENT MANAGER Janet McDonald GRAPHIC DESIGNER Miguel Hernandez

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keep her office workers out of harm’s way. Kwan’s experience is far from unique. A 2016 Inter-Parliamentary Union study of 42 national parliaments indicated that “sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians are very real and widespread”. Nineteen of those parliaments were in Europe, four in the Americas, nine in Africa, nine in the Asia-Pacific region, and one in an Arab country. More than four in five women parliamentarians—81.8 percent—said they’ve been personally subjected to one or more acts of psychological violence. More than one in five—21.8 percent—said they’ve been personally subjected to one or more acts of sexual violence. And 25.5 percent have been subjected to one or more acts of physical violence. “Among the respondents, 65.5 per cent said they had been subjected several times, or often, to humiliating sexist remarks during their parliamentary term,” the study stated.

Dr. Hedy Fry, the longtime Liberal MP in Vancouver Centre, is the gender representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly. She recently gave notice to the 57-nation organization that her report this summer will focus on the dangers faced by female politicians and female journalists in the OSCE member states. “One of the things I am calling for is for male parliamentarians to speak out,” Fry told the Straight by phone. She added that some female politicians don’t want to acknowledge that they’re being harassed, abused, and threatened because they think it will make matters worse. According to Fry, others worry that it will make it sound like they’re weak and they’re complaining. But she pointed out that several female politicians have been murdered in Latin America. In addition, Labour MP Jo Cox was assassinated by a neo-Nazi in the U.K. in 2016 and former Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords

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Two veteran federal politicians, Liberal MP Hedy Fry (photo by OSCE) and Green MP Elizabeth May (photo by greenparty.ca) both know what it’s like to receive threats for just doing their jobs.

was seriously wounded by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. And Fry’s caucus colleague, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna, had vulgar messages spray-painted on her riding office. “This is not a joke,” Fry said of the threats and violence directed against female politicians. “It’s not only done by people on social media.” Fry recalled that back in the 1990s, she used to have RCMP walk with her in the Vancouver Pride Parade because of all the intimidating messages directed at her. In 2019, her campaign office was defaced with racist graffiti. “I have had a tendency to say, ‘You cannot scare me or threaten me because if I show weakness, it means that you think you’ve got me and you’ve got me on the run,’ ” the Liberal MP said. “We’re going to lift our voices and stop this from happening. It really is a move to silence women.” Kwan emphasized that this problem affects women at all levels of elected office. That was reinforced by OneCity Vancouver councillor Christine Boyle, who told the Straight that she receives a “fair amount of aggressive correspondence online”. She added that some of it is explicitly misogynistic and some of it isn’t. “I’m sure I miss well-intentioned questions because there are times when I just can’t read through all of the ill-intentioned messages to make sure I catch the well-intentioned ones,” she said. “And I regret that.” During her first political campaign, in 2018, Boyle found the abusive messages “pretty challenging”. Since then, she feels she has gotten better at dealing with them. One of her techniques is to minimize exposure to social media at night. Boyle also thinks it’s important for female politicians to speak up for one another as part of a “systemic response” when one is being attacked online. That oc-

curred last year when several local female politicians voiced their support for Port Coquitlam councillor Laura Dupont when she was fighting a motion to censure her. “I have huge respect for women like Jenny Kwan who are consistently brave and vocal on important and difficult issues despite the kinds of pushback that they may get,” Boyle said. “And I don’t know what that takes to last that long in the work.”

I think that women are targeted in a different way than men. – NPA councillor Melissa De Genova

Another politician who thinks female politicians need to act collectively to counter misogynistic abuse is NPA Vancouver councillor Melissa De Genova. In a phone interview with the Straight, De Genova described several ways in which people have harassed her and her family, both online and in person. Because her husband is a Vancouver police officer, De Genova has been swarmed on social media with hateful messages by some who want to defund the VPD. “You are trash and your husband needs to quit his job,” one social-media user said. “Nobody likes your white supremacist ass. Kill yourself.” De Genova said that it’s imperative for everyone—and not just women—to take a stand against this type of abuse. “If we don’t, my concern is we actually will see lower representation in the future of see next page


MARCH 5 -11

OneCity Vancouver councillor Christine Boyle (left) and NPA councillor Melissa De Genova both say that it is important to show solidarity for other politicians facing misogynistic attacks.

women—not just on Vancouver city council but at all levels of elected government.” But that’s not the worst of her experiences. De Genova also endured an attempt to humiliate her in person following concerns that she expressed about unlicensed cannabis shops opening in the city. “After meeting another councillor for coffee, I returned to my car and was planning to head off to an event when I was intimidated by three men—and one of these men exposed themself to me,” De Genova revealed. “The VPD confirmed that they believed that to be a targeted incident and they thought it was possibly meant to scare me.” She added that this type of tactic would likely never be directed against a male politician. “I think that women are targeted in a different way than men,” De Genova said. Yet another politician who has faced more than her share of online abuse is Elizabeth May, former leader of the Green Party of Canada. Because she refuses to block people on Twitter, she has been exposed to torrents of hateful messages, including death threats. “They want to rape you and throw you in a ditch and hope you’re dead,” May told the Straight by phone. Even her husband, who has run for political office, has been shocked by what social-media users have written to her. But she said that when she contacted Twitter about threats in the past, the company was not very responsive. According to May, Twitter suggested that just because someone wishes her dead does not necessarily mean that it’s a “death threat”. May is convinced that many of the anonymous accounts that spew vitriol at her are fake. And in some cases, she believes that they may have been created by people with vested interests as a means to intimidate her. That’s because different anonymous accounts sometimes use the same pat phrases over and over again.

“One of their favourites is ‘crazy as a soup sandwich’,” she said. May believes that the federal government could easily shut down much of the misogynistic and hateful social-media trolling by simply declaring through legislation that Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other such platforms are “publishers”. That way, they would be legally liable for defamatory content. “These guys need to be regulated—really regulated,” May said. For her part, Kwan would like to see regulations to make social-media giants accountable for removing hateful and violent extremist content from their platforms. “They can also take measures to ensure whoever signs up on their social-media platforms are not people who can hide behind anonymity,” Kwan added. One thing that all the politicians interviewed agree on is that the social-media environment must not dissuade younger women from running for office. Fry emphasized that the best decision-making occurs when men and women are both involved because they each bring different lived experiences and there are physiological differences in their brains. “We see the world differently,” the Liberal MP said. “We look at a problem and we see different aspects of that problem. If we came together, we have a 360-degree view.” De Genova said her husband said that their daughter will have more opportunities if she continues to fight against the targeted bullying that she has endured. For Kwan, it’s really about not giving in to those who seek to intimidate her or her staff. “They want to silence us,” Kwan said. “They want to make us disappear. They want to make us not to have that equal status to run for office, to sit as a city councillor, as an MLA, as an MP, and so on. So there’s a big part of me that says we must not let them win.” g

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Gift boxes and meals support women in business


by Craig Takeuchi

any women have borne the brunt of household pandemic adaptations, making career sacrifices to take care of family members. International Women’s Day on March 8 offers an opportunity to reflect on how the women in your life are faring during this challenging time period. Here are a few ideas of how you can find care packages and gift ideas from Vancouver for loved ones while supporting women in business and the local economy. This year, the North Shore Women’s Centre (NSWC) and Anatoli Souvlaki (5 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver) are holding a takeout meal event (www.facebook. com/northshorewomen/ ) until March 14 to raise funds for NSWC programs and services. Tickets are $75 (with tax receipts of $45) for a dinner of either souvlaki (chicken, beef, or lamb), salmon kebab, vegan moussaka, or spanakopita, all accompanied with Greek salad, roast potatoes, rice, and tzatziki. Throughout March, the stories of the women of Coho Collective (www.cohocom missary.com/ ), which offers shared kitchens to small-scale food and beverage producers, are being highlighted on their Instagram page. It is also updating its Women-Led



Coho Collective updated its Women-Led Box with 10 food and handmade products (Rich Won photo) while Legends Haul is offering three Women Producer Boxes. Photo by Legends Haul.

Box ($79), a collection of 10 small-batch food products and handmade goods from women-led local businesses at its three commissaries. This new edition includes a true East-meets-West combination of sauces and seasonings, pickled items, and sweet treats. East Vancouver restaurant and wine shop Dachi (dachivancouver.com/ ) is spotlighting women winemakers with the Women in Organic Wine Pack ($175). A Dachi tote and organic wine magazine Pipette accompany three bottles of wine from: Jordan Kubek

MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021

of Lightning Rock from Summerland, B.C., who specializes in sparkling wine from the Okanagan; Rennersistas, founded by Stefanie and Susanne Renner, who are upholding their family’s winemaking traditions and farming organically in Burgenland, Austria; and the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), who produce an “orange” wine made from indigenous Italian grape varieties. The grocery delivery service Legends Haul (www.legendshaul.com/ ) has created

a Women’s Month category for March that highlights products from female-owned businesses such as Anh and Chi’s fish sauce, Chambar heat-and-serve meals, and Livia sourdough and potato buns. It’s also offering three Women Producer Boxes ($100 each) that compile food and beverage items with household and personal-care products: Play features peanut butter, essential oils, laundry strips, body wash, and tea; Cool contains coconut amino sauce, charcoal bar soap, hand wash, and peppermint-lavender lip balm; and Quiet includes dressing, a vegan chocolate bar, a face mask, bath salts, deodorant, and toner. In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the social enterprise Tayybeh (tayybeh. com/ ) arose and evolved into a culinary success story. It now employs newcomer Syrian women to make fresh and frozen dishes for Vancouverites. Meal vary from beef or vegan moussaka ($14 to $15) and spinach and kebab or beef-and-white-bean stew ($14.50) to chicken shawarma ($15), plus appetizers, salads, and more. Tayybeh’s motto echoes the sentiment espoused by a certain provincial health officer: “The measure of a society is in its generosity and kindness towards its most vulnerable”. g


Ecologist studied fish from a glass-ceiling boat


by Martin Dunphy

BC senior scientist Maria Lourdes Palomares has a bit of an unusual reason why she prefers to be called “Deng”, a nickname given her by her grandmother. She was born with “blue baby syndrome”, which gave her skin a purplish tinge, and her parents—who had already picked out the name Josephine—were frantic with worry. “They were not stable at the time,” Palomares told the Straight in a phone interview. “It was the birth nurse who gave me her name. “She was very impatient, so she just put her name in the records.” Palomares went on to make her own name for herself, this one being that of a highly respected marine scientist who manages programs for one of the world’s largest databases of global fisheries information. As a senior researcher and project manager of UBC’s Sea Around Us initiative, Palomares oversees a wide range of work, especially research that sheds light on species abundance and distribution going back a century or more.

They dressed like men so they could do their research. – Maria Lourdes Palomares

In recognition of International Women’s Day (March 8), Palomares shared some of the experiences that led her to become a high-achieving woman in an area of scientific research that used to be (and still is in some areas) dominated by men. After deciding against a career in medical research, she gave engineering a try at the University of the Philippines, which was her father’s wish. “I did two and a half years of industrial engineering. They were mostly men; there weren’t even restrooms for female students,” she recalled. “You had to wait until there was no one in them to use the washrooms.” Palomares had always loved the ocean, and when the state university decided to add a department of marine science, she f led engineering. “They were opening up the department and trying to attract new students.” Although a female high-school teacher

Marine ecologist Maria Lourdes Palomares rose in her profession from a research assistant to a senior scientist and project manager for UBC’s Sea Around Us initiative. Photo courtesy UBC.

with a degree in marine biology had helped to inspire her in her academic switch, Palomares also remembered her childhood memories of swimming in ocean water that was “as clear as glass”. “When I was a kid, I used to swim in Manila Bay, but 10 years later, you couldn’t swim there, it was so murky. I was so sad to see that. I thought, ‘I have to do something.’ ” With a marine-ecology master’s degree in hand, Palomares went to France to earn a PhD at l’École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Toulouse. “I wanted to get my PhD by the time I was 30…I finished it in two years,” she said. Her thesis work, she related with pride, “is used today as a parameter in ecosystem modelling”. Her research with historical journals from ocean trading and exploration voyages during the 1700s and 1800s led to her discovery of the work of three female naturalists who disguised themselves to be able to work in that men-only preserve. “They dressed like men so they could do their research,” she said. “They were, in their own right, scientists. They helped prepare [animal and plant] samples and they wrote up the descriptions.…They were not remunerated for their work, but they did most of the work.” “We should not forget history,” she added. She returned to the Philippines to work as a junior scientist at FishBase, an international initiative then focused on researching the world’s top commercial fish species. Her boss there was Daniel Pauly, a French-born marine biologist who has since become one of the world’s leading researchers on human impacts on global fisheries and who now is project leader for the Sea Around Us. Palomares came to UBC at Pauly’s urging in 2001. She described her work now as “adding artisanal, subsistence, and recreational fisheries data to the global database of fisheries information for all coastal nations”. And she says things are getting better

for female scientists, even though when she started as a research assistant in the Philippines, all the scientists were men, with women relegated to administrative or secretarial positions. “All my bosses were white and male at that point in time. I started really consciously thinking about what was wrong with this system. It made me want to fight it.” She laughed and added, “Now I have teams in the Philippines that are 100-percent female. “It was a conscious choice for me to hire women. I like female students because they are very dependable.” Another laugh. “Im sorry if I’m being sexist. I can’t do that here.” g

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CREW advances women in commercial real estate


by Carlito Pablo

ittle has changed by way of women’s representation in commercial real estate. Men continue to dominate this industry that encompasses everything from multifamily residential development to office, retail, industrial, mixed-use, hospitality, and other properties. But women like Ashley Willard Bauman are among those who have broken into this field. Right out of business school in 2000, Bauman devoted her professional life to a career in commercial real estate. She has worked in Canada and other countries, including the U.S., France, Australia, and China. Here at home, Bauman lent her expertise in business strategy to projects like the masterplanned communities of Wesbrook Village at UBC and Tsawwassen Springs in Delta. “I think the ability to really create amazing next communities that serve diverse populations in the future is a big driver for people getting into this industry,” Bauman told the Straight in a phone interview. She described commercial real estate as fast-paced, strategic, and analytical. “It at-

Women tend to believe they always have to learn more and achieve more [to fill] a role. – Ashley Willard Bauman

Ashley Willard Bauman is the president of Commercial Real Estate Women Vancouver.

tracts people who are eager to be business professionals,” Bauman said. For about seven years, she has been involved with a nonprofit, Commercial Real


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Estate Women (CREW), dedicated to accelerating the careers of women in commercial real estate (CRE). It’s called CREW Vancouver, and Bauman is currently in her second term as president. The organization is part of a bigger CREW Network, which counts about 12,000 members worldwide. Last fall, the Kansas-based association released a report titled “2020 CREW Network Benchmark Study: Gender and Diversity in Commercial Real Estate”. The study noted that women in the U.S., U.K., and Canada occupy only 36.7 percent of the commercial real estate industry. It pointed out that this percentage has not changed much during the past 15 years. Also, women continue to be less likely to hold top positions at their companies. According to

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the study, only nine percent of executive jobs in the industry are occupied by women. Moreover, women continue to earn less than men. The study revealed that in 2020, the gap in fixed salaries between men and women was 10.2 percent. When it came to commissions and bonuses, it was a “staggering” 55.9 percent. The difference in total average earnings—which combines salaries, commissions, and bonuses—was 34 percent in 2020. According to the study, the gap had worsened from 11 percent in 2015. Bauman told the Straight that in her 21 years in the industry, she has seen more women breaking into commercial real estate. However, there is still much work to be done. “If you don’t see lots of women in these roles, then it’s a perception barrier,” Bauman said. According to her, she was lucky to work with leaders in the industry who have encouraged her. Bauman mentioned Mary Aubrey as one who she looks up to. Aubrey is the director of asset management of the real estate division of Nicola Wealth, a wealth management and investment firm. She also cites Jocelyne Legal, the managing director for office leasing with Cushman & Wakefield, among those she admires. In 2017, Bauman joined the executive team of the company of well-known Vancouver realtor Bob Rennie. She worked with Rennie for two years before leaving to establish her own consulting company, Beyond the Buildings. “I loved working there, and Bob has been a mentor,” she said about Rennie. According to Bauman, the so-called impostor syndrome can also hold back women from advancing their careers. It’s a phenomenon wherein a person feels inadequate. “Women tend to believe they always have to learn more and achieve more until they are ready for a role,” she explained. As an organization, CREW Vancouver provides mentorship to new professionals. On its website, the group notes that based on a CREW Network study, women supported by a mentor increased their chances of securing a mid- or top-level management position by 56 percent. Bauman also related that her organization has started a scholarship at the UBC Sauder School of Business with the support of the Conwest Group. The Vancouver group also contributes to the scholarship program of the CREW Network Foundation. This year’s theme for the foundation’s scholarship is “The Future of CRE is Female”. “What I like about the theme is that it starts young,” Bauman said. “I think a lot of females going through high school and university, they do not necessarily think of [commercial] real estate as an option.” g


Avoid bidding wars during a hot housing market


by Carlito Pablo

he Straight has previously reported about homes selling for more than $500,000 on top of their listed prices. If some thought nothing would ever beat that, here’s a surprise. A home in East Vancouver recently sold for $872,134 over its original asking price. The top-up alone is enough to buy a townhouse, or perhaps two condos. The two-storey home at 3285 Victoria Drive sold on February 24 after eight days on the market. Oakwyn Realty Ltd. listed the five-bedroom, four-bath residence on February 16. The listing price was $1,728,000. A buyer picked up the property for $2,600,134. The transaction was tracked by Zealty.ca, an information site owned and operated by Holywell Properties. Holywell’s managing broker, Adam Major, informed the Straight about the sale. According to Major, the deal for the home located across from Trout Lake is a “candidate for craziest individual deal”. B.C. Assessment placed the 2021 value of the property at $1,741,000 as of July 1, 2020. There may be buyers out there who have a fear of missing out as the market continues to sizzle. They may be tempted to enter into bidding wars. Major’s advice: don’t. “For buyers, I would recommend caution,” he said. The market may have become so hot that the government could decide to do something about it. “There is a risk that the federal government steps in to cool the housing market,” Major said. The governor of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, has observed “excess exuberance” in the country’s housing market. “What we get worried about is when we start to see extrapolated expectations,

After an East Vancouver house sold for $872,134 over its asking price after eight days on the market, a managing broker called it a “candidate for craziest...deal”. Photo by Oakwyn Realty.

At some point, the rules could change, and it could happen overnight. – Adam Major

when we start to see people expecting the kind of unsustainable price increases we’ve seen recently go on indefinitely,” Macklem said on February 24 during a virtual address to Edmonton and Calgary chambers of commerce. The central bank dropped its interestsetting rate to 0.25 percent on March 27, 2020, to ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

The bank has maintained that lowest rate and indicated that it will stay at that level until 2023. “We are starting to see some early signs of excess exuberance, but we’re a long way from where we were in 2016-2017, when things were really hot,” Macklem noted. Holywell’s Major noted that the central bank may be “only six months late” in issuing a “warning about the housing market overheating”. “But better late than never,” he said. “At some point, the rules could change, and it could happen overnight.” Major cited the case of New Zealand. In April 2020, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand lifted lending restrictions to prop up the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure eased credit flow and led to strong sales in the

country’s housing market, with price increases setting new records. Moving to cool the market, New Zealand’s central bank decided to reimpose socalled loan-to-value ratio (LVR) restrictions. Starting in March 2021, banks can allocate only 20 percent of their residential mortgage lending to owner-occupiers with a down payment of 20 percent. Moreover, banks can lend no more than five percent to investors with a down payment of less than 30 percent. Starting on May 1, the requirement for investors will increase to 40 percent. Locally, Major said that the last week in February 2021 was the “busiest for weekly sales since 2019” in markets served by the Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Chilliwack real estate boards. According to him, 1,998 sales were reported in the combined areas of the three boards. “In the last week of February 2020, there were 1,109 sales, so we are up 82 percent over the same week last year,” he said. Major also noted that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has been “awfully quiet”. He recalled that CMHC predicted at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 that housing prices would fall 18 percent. “The exact opposite happened,” Major said. He speculated that an increase to downpayment requirements by CMHC could be coming “any day”. So buyers should be cautious. “Are you sure you want to win a bidding war on a teardown in the sticks to wake up the next morning to discover the feds changed the rules so nobody else makes the same mistake?” Major asked. g

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Feisty Rio owner fights for local artists


by Steve Newton

orinne Lea has overcome a lot of adversity since taking ownership of the Rio Theatre in 2008. She started off by fighting to get an antiquated law from 1920 changed so the venue could acquire a liquor licence in 2012—the first for a movie theatre in B.C. Then, in 2018, when the property was put up for sale and there was a good chance it would be torn down and replaced with condos, she campaigned to raise enough money—$8 million—to buy it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a third major hurdle has come Lea’s way, and it involves the struggle to simply stay open. In November of 2020, the provincial Health Ministry decided that movie theatres had to close, even though bars and restaurants were allowed to operate. Up until the pandemic hit, the Rio had been a thriving destination for live concerts, improv comedy, and burlesque shows, as well as a cherished independent movie house. In order to survive, the feisty Lea took drastic action in January this year and turned the venue into a sports bar. “I came up with the idea out of sheer frustration,” Lea explains on the line from her Mount Pleasant home. “Having your business closed repeatedly, with no end in sight, is traumatizing. When you don’t know when you can open again, it’s extremely hard on your mental health, on your financial health, on all the staff. I just reached a breaking point when I could see they weren’t going to do anything to help us. So that’s when I came up with the marquee: ‘Screw the arts. We’re a sports bar now.’ ” Before taking charge of the Rio and becoming known as a fierce protector of Vancouver’s arts scene, Lea honed her business chops at the Havana Restaurant on Commercial Drive, which also doubled as a gallery and theatre venue. When she moved on from there, she started searching for her next project, and at that time she was heavily involved in producing shows for the local burlesque community. She was always looking for venues and found one in the Rio. “I basically fell in love with the theatre,” she says, “and I’ve found what I love to do.” As far as her career in business goes, Lea didn’t learn how to get ahead by attending business school. She actually graduated from art school—Emily Carr, to be precise. But what Lea may lack in formal business training she makes up for with fortitude. So where did she get that fighting spirit? “I think it’s because I am a child of a single mom,” she explains. “I have a joke amongst my friends that I was a daycare child, and you learn to fend for yourself as a daycare child. So I learned to be kind of scrappy at a young age, and I’m sure there’s some genetics in there that makes me a bit feisty. Where some people get 10


Crazy Rich Asians author to discuss power of creativity by Craig Takeuchi


Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan will appear in a UBC Connects masterclass.

Corinne Lea turned the multipurpose Rio Theatre into a sports bar to survive during the pandemic. Since 2008 she’s been doing whatever it takes to keep the venue­—and the arts—alive.

Having your business closed repeatedly...is traumatizing. – Corinne Lea

discouraged by things, I just get charged by them. It gets me going.” That inner drive has no doubt helped the 51-year-old entrepreneur get to where she is today: taking on the many challenges of running a place like the Rio. When asked to pinpoint what she’s found to be the best thing about the job, she doesn’t miss a beat. “The community,” she blurts out, “100 percent. That is the thing that has fuelled me all these years and it’s also the thing I’ve missed the most during the pandemic. Like right now, our sales are minimal— we’re just living off the concession. So, financially, is it really worth being a sports bar? You could argue maybe it’s not. “But for the community, it is worth it. I mean, it literally cheers me and everyone else up when we’re watching RuPaul’s Drag Race together. You know, we could all watch it at home—everybody knows that—but there’s something about being with others. That’s why we have the logo

MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021

of the restricted [symbol cougar]…and it says: ‘An experience you can’t download’. I feel really passionate about that.” As far as her best personal experience at a Rio event goes, Lea points to the time she produced and participated in a Leonard Cohen tribute night that featured local poets, musicians, and dancers. Equally memorable—though not in a good way— was a live broadcast of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “You know how everyone thought [Trump] was gonna lose?” she recalls. “I was in my blue Hilary suit and I was expecting to be celebrating then wound up just watching that whole thing spiral downward. Nobody wanted to leave, ‘cause nobody wanted to be alone with this horrible news.” That downer event aside, Lea says that her years guiding the Rio have resulted in everything from being moved to tears to laughing out loud to just being inspired. And she knows what she wants to do once COVID-19 is conquered. “I would like to do a live show with local artists,” she says, “and I want to feature what they’ve been working on during the pandemic. In my spare time, I’m also a painter—that’s how I work out my stress— so I’ve got plans to do a big art exhibition as well as a big live event. Artists have been hit the hardest through this pandemic, and I really want to celebrate a moment when we can get back to sharing in a room packed with other people without being afraid. “I think it will be emotional to experience that again.” g

he commercial success of the Hollywood rom-com Crazy Rich Asians proved to be a doubleedged sword. On the one hand, it propelled the careers of its stars—including Asian American actors Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat) and Awkwafina (The Farewell), and Asian British actors Henry Golding (A Simple Favor) and Gemma Chan (Captain Marvel)—in Hollywood, where Asian stars have struggled with limited visibility and opportunities. On the other hand, the timing of its release in 2018 was a particularly touchy one for Vancouver, where anti-Asian racism has been an ongoing contentious issue in debates about housing and real-estate, money laundering, and more. A movie poster for Crazy Rich Asians in Kitsilano, for instance, was found defaced with racist graffiti that referred to those issues, and it followed a spate of anti-Asian graffiti and white-supremacist, Sinophobic flyers in 2016 and 2017 that were found across the Lower Mainland. However, it also gave voice to and carved out significant cinematic space for Asian diaspora stories within mainstream markets— something that has not occurred since the 1993 Asian American dramatic feature The Joy Luck Club. (Other Hollywood box-office hit films since that time, such as Memoirs of a Geisha or The Last Samurai, have been based on Asian stories and characters, rather than Asian American or diasporic tales.) Historically, mainstream success with representation of minorities has often come with the risk of employing stereotypes—but once commercial success has been established, what can be done with the new opportunities? Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan will discuss how creativity and narratives can affect world issues in a virtual masterclass titled Represent, Represent: The Stories We Tell Change the World Around Us. This UBC Connects talk will be moderated by UBC creative writing professor Doretta Lau, author of the short-story collection How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?, and takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday (March 4). The event is free, but those interested in participating are asked to RSVP online. g


Film fest fare and more to fill your home screens


by Craig Takeuchi


atching stuff on-screen at home during the pandemic doesn’t only mean logging on to streaming giants. There’s a plethora of local and independent offerings, like these upcoming film festivals and series—and even an industry conference—to take note of and enjoy.

March 4 to April 1 This film series spotlights feature films and shorts from Toronto’s Medium Density Fibreboard Films (MDFF), which helped fuel a critically acclaimed new wave in Anglo-Canadian cinema with the likes of Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft and UBC film professor Antoine Bourges’s Vancouver-based Downtown Eastside Trilogy. thecinematheque.ca/


March 4 to 14 Launching in time to celebrate International Women’s Day, the 16th annual edition of this festival that helps to address the gender imbalance in screen industries offers 32 feature films, including 14 from Canada. And 10 of those are from B.C., including Jessie Anthony’s Indigenous drama Brother, I Cry and Karen Lam’s Asian Canadian supernatural thriller The Curse of Willow Song. Panel discussions and workshops will address making genre films, an artist talk with screenwriters, digital marketing and media, and more. viwff.ca/ VANCOUVER JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

March 4 to 14 With a lineup of 30 streaming titles available

The Spark FX 2021 conference will feature the creative teams from TV series like Bridgerton.

for viewing within B.C. (with some of them available across Canada), there’s something to suit almost every interest. Among the choices are a profile of Israel’s first female prime minister (Golda); a documentary about the popularity of a Swedish pop-dance group in Israel (Army of Lovers in the Holy Land); an exploration of the politics—and unifying power—underlying delicious cuisines of Syria, Israel, and Palestine (Breaking Bread); a reflection upon the man whose name defines excellence in writing (Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People); and even a screwball action-comedy (Mossad). www.vjff.org/



March 4 to 14 Although it’s a virtual conference, it’s also a showcase of talent in Vancouver’s visual effects, animation, and technology industries. This year features five main areas: artificial intelligence in visual effects; meeting the masters, with lectures by industry professionals; production sessions with creative teams from shows such as Bridgerton, The Expanse, The Monster Hunter, Star Trek: Discovery, and The Umbrella Academy; a real-time summit; and anniversary celebrations for films such as DragonHeart, Space Jam, and The Fast and the Furious. sparkcg.org/

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March 12 to 21 This year’s social-justice festival from Kwantlen Polytechnic University kicks off with the Japanese American internment documentary And Then They Came for Us, with a panel discussion featuring Japanese American activist George Takei. There’s also Wood, about illegal logging around the world; Hong Kong Moments, a look at seven people involved in the geopolitical protests; Overseas, focussing on Filipina migrant domestic workers; and Sea of Shadows, about saving the world’s smallest marine mammal in the Sea of Cortez. www.kdocsff.com/ DAN SAVAGE’S HUMP FILM FESTIVAL

To March 6 The pandemic has wreaked havoc with many libidos and sexual practices. But if you want to glimpse what turns some people on, this amateur porn fest, launched by Savage Love columnist Dan Savage, offers an array of erotic short films made by non–porn stars. The mix includes a motorsexual, sex with monsters, public water sports, leather daddies, and “animated squishiness”. If you just said “ew”, this one’s not for you. www.humpfilmfest.com/ g


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Cave’s CARNAGE a triumph in times of trouble by Mike Usinger



CARNAGE (Goliath Records via AWAL)

d A COUPLE OF years ago—before the time of the world’s great undoing—Nick Cave found himself in, of all bizarre places, New Westminster’s Massey Theatre. The occasion was one of his Conversations With… shows, and he spent part of the night solo at the piano, and most of the evening answering questions from fans. In New West, one of those questions spiralled off into a self-assessment of his life’s work, the singer and all-round renaissance man acknowledging that he’s constantly evolving as an artist. And that his determination to keep breaking new ground is both terrifying and rewarding. The reason? Every time he makes a new record, his fans have to ask themselves a question: “Do I still like Nick Cave?” That serves as a great entry point for getting a handle on CARNAGE, which has come out of nowhere as a surprise album. Recorded quickly in lockdown, the eight-song release finds Cave teamed up with Warren Ellis—his trusted artistic foil in the Bad Seeds, right-hand man in Grinderman, and go-to collaborator for soundtrack work (The Road, Hell or High Water, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). And, covering everything from break-of-dawn gospel to minimalist electro, it’s unlike anything the two have done before. As hinted by the record’s all-caps title, Cave and Ellis are fixated on one thing here: the hell that is day-to-day living in the modern world. A world scarred by a raging global pandemic, rising right-wing extremism, global warming, and Great Depressionlike unemployment. A world where Black lives often don’t matter, as seen by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Daniel Prude. A world where large swaths of Americams thinks Donald Trump is the greatest thing since Adolf Hitler. And a world where the news cycle is a forever-repeating loop of gun violence, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, global hunger, and—let’s face it—general endless intolerance. So where do we turn to in a world where people, they ain’t no good? Right off the top of CARNAGE, Cave makes the suggestion that embracing an all-knowing deity isn’t the worst option. “Hand of God” begins as a meditative piano ballad with the observation “There are some people trying to find out who/There are some people trying to find out why/There are some people aren’t trying to find anything but that kingdom in the sky.” And then, 25 12


Never ones to give up easily, Warren Ellis and Nick Cave spent a frustrating and entirely fruitless nine hours attempting to tune in Tokyo.

The message of “Hand of God” is clear: you need to find something to hang onto.

seconds in, Cave and Ellis pull away the soft-focus carpet, replanting themselves in a druggy’s ’80s Berlin basement, wraithlike strings rising and falling over muffled subterranean techno. “Hand of God” sets the table for CARNAGE, with Cave (and by association, Ellis) heading to the mythical purifying river that runs through pretty much every religion ever dreamed up by mankind. “Hand of God/Hand of God/Hand of God/” is repeated menacingly and mantralike throughout, until the final lines: “Going to the river/ Where the current rushes by/Gonna swim to the middle/Stay out there a while/Let the river cast its spell on me.” Lest that rile up the atheists among us, keep in mind that Cave has always sug-

MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021

gested that God can be whatever you want Him, Her, They, or It to be. Which explains why he can lovingly praise a divine higher power in “Into My Arms”, and sing about crawling over 50 good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole in “Stagger Lee”. The message of “Hand of God” is clear: you need to find something to hang onto in these most difficult of times if you’re doing to make it through to the other side. If looking for an uplifting time from there, you’re often in the wrong place. Blending haunted carnival keys, doomthrob bass, and Babylon-nightmare strings, “Old Time” has Cave intoning “Everyone’s dreams have died” and “I’m not coming back this time”. And “Shattered Ground” cuts to the core of how we manage to cope these days when Cave sings, over ghost-shimmer synths, “There’s a madness in her and a madness in me/And together it forms a kind of sanity.” The towering centrepiece to CARNAGE is “White Elephant”, which is one of the greatest songs that Cave and Ellis have ever collaborated on. The track paints a damning picture of the racial division that plagues much of the planet, including America, where the Australian-born Cave now lives: “The white hunter sits on his porch/With his elephant gun and his tears/He’ll shoot

you for free/If you come around here”. Not done there, he continues with: “A protester kneels on the neck of a statue/The statue says I can’t breathe/The protester says ‘Now you know how it feels’.” “White Elephant” starts out with reverb-bathed percussion and a greyas-November baroque string loop, only to explode into something obscenely magical three minutes and 21 seconds in. Cave and Ellis suddenly turn on their heels, rejecting doomsday bleakness and launching into what sounds like a Deep South revival tent at its most joyfully soulful. Need a sign that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be okay despite the emotional carnage caused by life as we’ve come to know it? First, keep in mind Cave’s belief that God can be anything you like: Leonard Cohen, Thomas Hardy, Flannery O’Connor, or (most deservedly of all, based on his monumental work here) Warren Ellis. Then shelve all the misery and join in when the choir roars up with “A time is coming/A time is nigh/For the kingdom in the sky/We’re all coming home/In a while.” When it’s all over, maybe ask yourself whether you still like Nick Cave. With the caveat you won’t need to after the monumental triumph that is CARNAGE. g


Two-spirit trickster aims to fix misconceptions


by Charlie Smith

wo-spirit artist and activist Raven John feels quite comfortable in the role of a trickster. In fact, in Northwest Coast Indigenous mythology, the raven represents a rule-breaking, mischievous figure who changes the world and protects human life. “My mother gave me the name Raven when I was born, not having a sense that it would dictate my life,” John told the Straight by phone. “I’ve very much embodied the raven throughout my life as a loud, goofy, transformative, chaotic being. It’s definitely part of my spirituality.” John has studied the role of two-spirit Indigenous people in various First Nations cultures, tracing their ancestry to the shíshálh (Sechelt), Chawathil, and Shxw’owhamel nations. Prior to colonization, John noted, certain ceremonies could only be performed in some Indigenous communities with a two-spirit person participating. In others, two-spirit people settled disputes or engaged in mediation between more feminine and masculine groups. “They were seen as somebody who had the gifts of both of these communities,” John said. John will participate in Zee Zee Theatre

I’ve very much embodied the raven throughout my life as a loud, goofy...chaotic being. – Raven John

Artist and two-spirit activist Raven John says that homophobia can sometimes be racist.

Company’s Virtual Humanity initiative, which challenge biases about differences. It’s the pandemic version of the company’s community-based storytelling event known as Human Library, transformed onto a digital platform. The public can buy day

passes and select two titles from the collection of 20-minute conversations with more than 30 “Virtual Humans”, including John. One thing that John hopes to clear up in their presentation is public misconceptions about two-spirit people. “So I’ll be going through describing what gender is, what sexuality is, and how they are on spectrums…as well as describing what two-spirit means,” John said. In addition, John believes that homophobia is actually racist because it oppresses two-spirit identities within Indigenous cultures. But as a self-described “involuntary comedian”, there will also be some humour. “Should there be an opportunity for a joke, I will make it,” John declared. “That is definitely a part of who I am.” John studied jewellery arts at Native

Education College and majored in visual arts with a minor in social practice and community engagement at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. As an artist, John’s practice includes storytelling, photography, sculpture, painting, and jewellery making, as well as comedy. “My mother was just teasing me about how I need to try and hone in on at least three different things, not everything,” John quipped. On a more serious note, John acknowledged that health problems—caused in part by sleep apnea, as well as being Indigenous and queer—have raised the spectre of a shorter lifespan than the norm. The sleep apnea has been so severe that John relies on a machine to pump her lungs full of oxygen at night. “I have a pretty awful respiratory system. I get winded very easily,” John said. “So there’s an inherent sense of FOMO— fear of missing out—which manifests itself in wanting to experience as much as I can while I’m still alive.” g Zee Zee Theatre’s Virtual Humanity streams online on Saturdays and Sundays from March 6 until March 28.

MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021




Sexting a cousin isn’t cheating—it’s insurance by Dan Savage

b I AM AT a loss. I am devastated. I just found out my husband has been sexting with another woman. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this woman is his first cousin! And this has been going on for years! I’ll give you a moment to recover from that jaw drop. Okay, now the background. We’ve been married for almost 30 years. Our relationship is not all wine and roses, but we had counselling years ago and decided we wanted to grow old together. We have similar interests; we love spending time together; and it’s just not the same when one of us is gone. Our sex life was never “off the charts”, and, yes, this was one of our main problems. He wanted a lot of sex and I was content with

Scan to conffess

very little. I came to believe he was content too and that he long ago accepted that spending his life with me meant this would be how it was. And I truly believed that our marriage was monogamous. Now I know that only I was monogamous. If it was any other women than his cousin I might be able to deal with this! I wish it was someone else! I feel trapped! I feel like I can’t talk to anyone! All I can think of is how disgusting and disappointed my children, who are in their 20s, and his family would be if they found out. This cousin has had many ups and downs. And years ago, when my children were small, I noticed some flirtatious behavior between her and my husband. I confronted him and demanded to The Georgia Straight Confessions, an outlet for submitting revelations about your private lives—or for the voyeurs among us who want to read what other people have disclosed.

Coping Mechanism I call it corona now to make it sound less scary.

I’m falling in love with someone whose recently divorced. I’m also recently divorced and it’s scary having feelings for someone else. I’ve been told space needs to be taken. It’s so hard because we were together most nights and now I’m alone all the time again. I hope with time things work out because this one is a keeper.

No friends I have zero close friends. My BF asked me to marry him last year and I’m thankful for the pandemic as I had no one to ask to be my maid of honor. He has tons of friends so no problem picking a best man but it will be an odd wedding....

Numbers When we all were working in the office, one of the most senior staff offered to tell us his salary during lunch. He probably earns twice as much as the average office worker. People told him No, please don’t tell us your salary. He kept insisting. I don’t know him very well and it’s seems TMI to know his salary. Not even sure why he would try and push it into us, because what were we to say? Wow? You’re so valued and smart? Only if you want to brag and feel superior would you offer your number to coworkers you KNOW earn less than you.



know what the hell was going on! I thought that was the end of it! I was wrong! I was on my husband’s iPad when I found their explicit chats along with requests for “visuals”. I went to my husband and asked if they had ever gotten together physically. He told me no. A few days later, we were on our way to a big family event and this cousin was supposed to be there. With me standing next to him he called her and left a message disinviting her. She called him back and he answered on speaker and I said hello and then asked her if she was fucking my husband. She sounded surprised and caught off guard, but she said no. We are about to move to a new place to retire! Now what?!? - Insane News: Cousins Erotic Sexting Trouble!

Timing Troubles


If one partner in a long-term relationship has greater sexual needs, it might be best for the couple to have a narrow definition of “cheating”. Photo by Getty Images/Tero Vesalainen.

to post a Confession MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021

Your husband didn’t fuck his cousin—or so he

says—but even if he did fuck his cousin, INCEST, that’s not incest. Don’t get me wrong: most people are thoroughly squicked out at the thought of cousins fucking. And cousinfucking is, in fact, incest-adjacent enough that most people can’t distinguish it from actual incest. But you know what does make a distinction between incest and cousinfucking? The law. First-cousin marriages aren’t legal in all U.S. states, but they’re legally recognized in almost all states. They’re also legal and legally recognized in Canada, Mexico, the U.K., the EU, Russia, and on and on. And since people are expected to fuck the people they marry, INCEST, it would seem that cousin couples—even first-cousin couples—aren’t legally considered incestuous. Mark Antony, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein all married first cousins. Your husband’s cousin says she isn’t fucking your husband. Seems to me that this is one of those cases where, even if you suspect you’re being lied to, you should take what you’ve been told at face value and avoid looking for evidence that might contradict it. Your marriage is still monogamous… if you define cheating narrowly. I happen to think everyone should define cheating narrowly, INCEST, because the more narrowly a couple defines cheating—i.e.,

the fewer things that “count” as cheating—the likelier that couple is to remain successfully monogamous as the decades grind on. Conversely, the more things a couple defines as cheating, INCEST, the less likely it becomes that their marriage will remain monogamous over the years. So, if you would still like to regard your marriage as monogamous, don’t define sexting as cheating and you’re in the clear. Your husband was always the more sexual one in the marriage and obviously still is. He made his peace with having less sex than he might’ve liked over the last three decades because he loves you and wants to be with you. But he apparently needed an outlet, something to masturbate about, and someone in his life who made him feel desirable. And if he was going to swap indecent sexts with someone to meet those needs, maybe—just maybe—it was better he did it with this woman than with someone else. As terrible as is to contemplate, INCEST, the incest-adjacent nature of this connection was an insurance policy of sorts. Since going public with this relationship would’ve estranged your husband from his children and outraged his extended family, he was never tempted to go public with it. Although she wasn’t an ideal choice, she wasn’t someone your husband would or could ever leave you for, right? Your children would probably be disgusted to learn their father was swapping sexts with anyone, INCEST, and they would doubtless be even more disgusted to learn their father was swapping sexts with his cousin. So don’t tell them. Your husband isn’t going anywhere. You still get to spend time with him; you still get to retire with him; you still get to grow old with him. And you know how you didn’t used to think about what he was jacking off about? Back before you stumbled over those explicit chats? Well, with a little effort and maybe a pot edible or two—or three or four—you can return to not thinking about whatever your husband see next page

b MY YOUNGER BROTHER is a 34-year-old gay man who got out of a really awful relationship about six months ago. Less than a month after that, he met a lovely new guy who is 26 and things seemed to be really great: they just spent Valentine’s Day together, posted cute

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photos on social media, etcetera. Ten days after that, the guy dumps my brother. He’s incredibly mature about it, says he thinks they’re best friends but something is missing and he doesn’t want to string my brother along. My brother is beyond devastated, and at 34 it’s the first time he has ever been dumped when he was this in love. I’m trying to be supportive and help guide him through the pain, but he’s truly a wreck about it. I sympathize, but to be completely honest, I felt this kind of pain for the first time when I was around 15 or 16, and I’ve been with my current partner for 14 years. Do you think there’s anything different about how you walk someone through their first heartbreak in their 30s versus their teens? - Helping A Brother In Turmoil

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who have gone out of their way to ensure I still orgasm and ejaculate (spectacularly!) despite being either flaccid or only slightly firm. Very fulfilling orgasms are entirely possible like this, Dan! Actually, a friend who had his prostate removed chimed in on this topic to say it was so for him too! And as I’ve worked on both my mental and physical health, my erections are returning along with my libido. Perhaps that’s something GHOST could work on as well? And I want him to know that at age 57 I’m having some of the best sex of my life despite not being hard enough to penetrate anyone right now. But who knows? Perhaps by age 60 I will again be rock hard again!

might be looking at when he jacks off. And, finally… Your family shouldn’t be getting together for “big events” in the middle of a pandemic—unless you don’t want to live long enough to retire. Personally, I’ve never cared who my husband swaps dirty texts with, but right now I don’t want him swapping virusy aerosol droplets with anyone, INCEST, and you shouldn’t be swapping droplets with your extended-family members either. So if you wanna avoid this cousin for the time being, cancel all family gatherings, big and small, until everyone is vaccinated.

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MARCH 4 – 11 / 2021

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The Georgia Straight - Unflinching Courage - March 4, 2021  


The Georgia Straight - Unflinching Courage - March 4, 2021