The Queer Pride Chronicles

June 17, 2014
by Marnie Woodrow
0 comments

You’ve Come (Out) A Long Way, Baby

1.

I fell off a bar stool at Windows on Church after one too many Long Island Iced Teas. Sunburnt and happy and all of 17, my Vive La Difference t-shirt—the one that didn’t mention gays and lesbians—would be worn till it could not be worn anymore. We dodged TV cameras and microphones, not because we were famous in any way, but because she was a teacher and feared being outed at school. There were a few hundred people and part of Church Street, a tiny portion, had been cordoned off. I did not take part in the March even though back then, you could just leap in and be one with the brave stream of people. Tasted good, being out there.

2.

The coming-out conversations with friends that go weirdly and end up as make-out sessions that last for longer than they should. We’re just friends, you will hear later. She is irritated by your femaleness, the curve of your mouth after a night of platonic dancing. The word unrequited should be the tattoo, but somehow, the tattoo never happens. You remain undecorated, an anti-hero of the war on straight girls seeking silent sanctuary. Nauseating reminders in saccharine songs on buses headed south: you are the unwelcome 4 a.m. caller till it all works out for the best and you move away. You get over her; she gets married; you get married, too, because it is now legal to do so.

3.

Raped for being a lesbian at 22, I did not go back into the closet. Instead, I came raging out, hair shorn and feminist phrases flying. A one-woman all-night show of hands-down fury. Later I would learn to box and they would chide me to keep my hands up, keep my hands up. Kapow. But not now. I stayed angry and anesthetized for a decade—or more. Grew my hair back, chopped it off, grew it, let it go silver and granny white. Quit smoking (twice) and drinking (twice) and hung on tight till someone loved me enough to loosen my grip from the ledges. Out, damned spot of trouble.

4.

Come out and stay out, that’s the challenge. You forget how easy life is in welcoming quarters. Fall into happiness and love and lose touch with how hard that first conversation can be. The dry throat and shaking hands should never be far from your memory, but for a time, you forget. Come out to everyone, person by person, workplace by workplace—resist the urge to hide when it is more convenient. Come out because some teenager you have not yet met needs you to always be out, out, out. Quote Mandela—or was it Marianne Williamson, no one ever seems to know the real source—and be big, and quote some more smart people and stay out, right in the light. Re-marry, happily.

5.

Older, no wiser. Out, out a little farther. Unable to keep track of all the right letters in the LGBTTIQQ2SA equation but thrilled by the progress. Stranded alone on islands of belief some mornings, sober, eyes on what is working and what is beautiful, straining to acknowledge the need for constant change and weary at the thought of it. The world pushes in at the windows and you do not close the curtains and all the closets have had the doors removed for sake of ease.

6.

Dyke March in the streets, greyer and gayer than ever. Look how young everyone is! Out before they rot in a dark bar, rejoicing in the streets 45 different ways. Why do we need a parade why do we have to ram it down your throat? Because some have had to dance harder than others to get here. Stay here. Keep dancing, celebrate the curve of your own mouth, hers, remember the lost loves and the exhausting battles and the stamped out nights. Be out for someone you’ve never met in a world not immediately your own—she needs you to, and so does he. Rage as needed but mostly, love.

June 3, 2014
by S R K
0 comments

Enabled

We live in a town

with a dark underground

But we don’t share

the dark side…

Keep in line, don’t dare fall behind

But they don’t really care- you’ll be fine

 

Smile Wide- it makes you live longer

Take these pills, and you’ll be stronger.

The first thoughts of your child

In this world where we live wild

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

 

Our parents decide

(with secrets doctors confide)

Our everlasting label-

Stereotypes enabled.

We’re given a name

To wear with pride or with shame

As long as you can stand true

Dont let your name define you

 

Corruption within

every other syringe

Be patient, you are ours

Test group A or B

But neither’s allowed to see

Results riddled within the answers

Are these vaccines or are they cancers?

 

You never know

What someone else has been through

You never know until

they speak the truth

 

Just flesh and bones;

broken by sticks and by stones

We’re all the same when we’re dead

And we all bleed blood red.

 

For those lost, we will always be grieving;

Appearances can be quite deceiving.

We all share equal worth

We all belong to our Mother Earth

Keep your shoulders back, stand tall

This is as good as it will get, after all

May 24, 2014
by Emma
1 Comment

Bi invisibility

I try to make it obvious to people. I cut half of my hair short, leaving the other half to fall in curly tendrils around my face. I wear men’s shoes paired with floral printed dresses.

I’m not gay, and I’m not straight. Does that mean I’m somewhere in between or somewhere on the outside?

When people find out, I am rarely taken seriously. To gay women, I am often treated like a fraud. Someone using them to “experiment” with in between boyfriends. To straight men, I am often fetishized and encouraged to hit on other women in front of them.

These misconceptions come from the negative connotations of the bisexual stereotype. Bisexuals are seen as promiscuous, invalid, incapable of monogamy, greedy, and “going through a phase”. I have been bisexual my entire life, and when I found out that made me different I was confused. I thought everyone was bisexual!

I feel as though the negative attitude much of the LGBT movement has with bisexuality is that we are feeding the notion that sexuality is a choice. I never chose to fall in love with the people I do. There are many things that dictate whether or not I am attracted to someone. Their gender just isn’t a factor to me.

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May 20, 2014
by Susan Goldberg
0 comments

Mamas’ Baby, Papa’s Maybe

Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe

“How old is your son?”

I look up from the floor of the pharmacy, where I am trying to prevent my nearly-two-year-old son, Rowan, from stripping the shelves of their contents. He has an ear infection, one in a seemingly endless series of ear infections this fall. We’ve just come from the doctor, and now we’re waiting for the prescription.

I locate the asker, a burly, bearded, young guy in a hunting jacket, and I’m about to answer him, when I realize that his question wasn’t directed towards me. Rather, it’s been lobbed over my head to Rob, who is waiting with us.

Rob is not prepared for this. He fumbles the question, and misses. It hits him hard in the chest and then shatters and begins to drip — warm, wet — down the front of his coat and puddle in his shoes. He looks like a deer caught in the crosshairs of a rifle sight. He begins to stammer an answer, but is obviously too panicked to come up with anything coherent.

“Twenty-two months,” I tell the guy, who glances at me briefly and then beams at Rob in what I can only assume is a guy-to-guy — a dad-to-dad — bonding kind of way.

“My little guy is 16 months,” he tells Rob, who has regained enough composure to smile weakly and nod. “But he’s big! About his size.” Hunting jacket gestures towards Rowan, who has moved on to the homoeopathic stress remedy section. More nodding and smiling. A bit of toddler small talk until we get our prescription and make our getaway.

Of course, I think to myself, this guy thinks that Rob’s the father. He thinks we’re the parents.

And then I remember: Oh yeah, he is. We are.

Moments like these come up all the time these days, and we don’t seem to be getting any more graceful at handling them. By “we,” I mean me, Rob, and my spouse, Rachel. If I try to strip things down to the barest, most rudimentary, of facts, the story would go something like this: Rachel and I wanted kids. We needed sperm. Rob provided. I got pregnant, had a baby, and a couple years later we did it all over again. And now there are these two beautiful boys, Rowan and Isaac. And they have two mothers. And a … Rob.

Beyond that, depending on your perspective, things either get a bit murky or are crystal clear.

It’s not that we’re embarrassed or ashamed about the situation. It’s not even that we’re scared of the responses we might get. It’s just that it’s taken us a while to come up with an easy way to describe the situation in those blink-of-an-eye, waiting-in-line-at-the-pharmacy encounters. And so we stammer and nod and smile, stumbling along to the steps of the parental dance of recognition, searching for a language that somehow describes three partners instead of the assumed two.

On the surface, things seem relatively simple. Rachel and I are the primary parents, the hands-on, day-to-day people who live with the children, make the decisions about their lives, provide the bulk of the care and the discipline. We’re the ones on call 24/7, the ones — as we all agreed at the outset of this process — with all the rights, all the responsibilities. When we fill out forms, our names go under the slots for “parents” (or, maddeningly, “Mother” and “Father,” which we cross out and replace with “parent.”)

Rob is a man who went from being a friend on the further reaches of our circles to dead centre. He flew across the country for successive rounds of insemination, then for a baby shower, then to visit that baby as a newborn, and then every few months until a job opportunity opened up and he arrived to stay for a year, during which time we conceived and I delivered a second child. During that year, he saw us — Rachel, Rowan and me — several times a week. He’d come over after work and roughhouse with Rowan in the basement while Rachel and I made dinner. Or he’d make dinner, arriving with groceries and Haagen Dasz and elaborate plans. He’d use every pot we owned, and then stay to help clean up while one of us put Rowan to bed. He babysat. He set up intricate toy train tracks on our living room table, and helped Rowan navigate the cars around them. He made lattes and Pillsbury cinnamon buns every Sunday morning, and Rachel and I ate them on his couch while he and Rowan made forts in the bedroom. The day Isaac was born, a Saturday, Rob — so anxious — took Rowan for the day (and even managed to get him to nap) while I laboured at home with Rachel to support me. And when the baby arrived, we called Rob first to tell him the name: Isaac Robert.

Which is to say that somewhere along the way Rob became our family.

But did he become a father? A parent? Or was he one at the outset? And how do you explain it all to the guy in line at the pharmacy?

Something jaded in me notes that so many so-called “traditional” fathers play the same role as Rob: show up for a year, or a month, or a week, or for dinner; roughhouse with the kids for an hour or two before bed; take them to the playground for the afternoon. They come and go according to the various forces — jobs, love, demons, desires, obligations — that shape their lives. And therein, perhaps, lies the difference between the boys’ mothers and their Rob: for Rob, Rowan and Isaac are cherished, but only one of the many forces that shape his life at a practical level. For me and Rachel, Rowan and Isaac are, at least for now, the central force.

And that’s okay. We and Rob agreed to nothing more — in fact, much less — at the outset. He never wanted to be a parent, has carefully refrained from offering his opinions or advice on the decisions we make, has never tried to suggest that he is an equal partner in this endeavour. Every visit, every hour of babysitting or roughhousing, every meal we share, every drink that he and Rachel and I pour at the end of the day when the kids are finally in bed — each of these acts has come about as part of its own, organic process.

But what does it mean?

If I could put it all on a T-shirt, I would. Instead of, “I’m with stupid,” and an arrow pointing at Rob, I could have, “He’s the donor, not the father. Sort of.” Rowan and Isaac have both outgrown the baby onesie that declared, “I ♥ MY MOMS,” but maybe we could silkscreen up new messages for them, things like, “My father is my other mother,” or “We’ll discuss later what to call our father,” or “Nobody knows I’m the child of two moms (and their sperm donor).”

Of course, none of those does the situation justice, either. And, frankly, how much information is too much information? I mean, all the guy at the pharmacy wanted to know was Rowan’s age, not his provenance. More to the point, I sometimes wonder who died and left me in charge of policing other peoples’ interpretations of my family, “correct” and otherwise. Why do I care?

Because I do care, apparently. Not all the time, and not in every moment, but every so often it creeps up on me or hits me full in the face, the weight of all this invisibility, the way people work so hard to see what they want to see. Me and Rachel: Sisters? Two friends out with the kids? The “real” mom and the inconsequential one? Me and Rob pushing the stroller: a married couple, out with our children? I chafe at the assumption that I’m straight, but it’s awfully hard to blame people for assuming I am as I navigate the bookstore or the farmers’ market or the pharmacy with the father of my children in tow.

Of course, there are the folks who just get it — at least, most of it — without us having to say a word, who beam at baby Isaac snuggled in the sling against Rachel’s chest and congratulate the two of us on our beautiful children, the waitress at the greasy spoon who knows our orders by heart and tells us she remembers when her kids were the same age as ours, the little old lady at the next table who practically abducts the baby and then says, “Well, I like that,” when we explain that we are both “the mom.”

And even though Rachel and I are the parents, and even as I am happy every time we are collectively recognized as the parents, even as I expect us to be recognized as the parents, there’s this part of me that sometimes wants to say, “But there’s this guy…”

Rob.

It’s an adage central to the language of queer rights: love (as in, not simply legality or biology) makes a family. In fact, Rob himself has two fathers: a biological one, whom he refers to as his “father,” whom he saw for the last time in his teens and whose funeral he didn’t attend, and his “Dad,” the gentle man who married (and later divorced) his mother and whose last name he took — and who disappears from his life for months at a time. Rob of all people knows that biology doesn’t make for fatherhood — and that neither does nomenclature. Maybe it’s because he knows how easy it is to screw up, how tenuous (and how relentlessly all-encompassing) this fatherhood game is, that he has opted to take on a role in our lives, and in those of our sons. Maybe that’s why he moved across the country to be with us for that year, and is still trying to find a viable way to make our hometown his hometown. And maybe that’s why he hasn’t opted for full-time parenthood.

Is Rob a father? A dad? An uncle? A parent? A very good friend? Something in between all of these? Is it that we don’t know, or that language fails us when it comes to the words to describe our relationship?

Maybe, in fact, it’s just the opposite: maybe we’re the ones failing language. Maybe it’s that we lack faith in the ability of words to stretch and bend and accommodate our realities. If Rob is a father, does that somehow negate Rachel’s status a mother? If Rob is a father, then are his parents (his father? his Dad, whom I didn’t meet until Isaac’s first birthday) grandparents? If Rob is a father, can he still leave for months on end, disappear for weeks at a time without phoning, choose when he will and won’t visit, opt out of diaper changes and discipline and night feedings (assuming we relegated such tasks to him, which we didn’t and don’t)? It seems odd that the three of us have yet to come up with a snappy answer to the questions posed by the well-meaning strangers in the grocery stores and playgrounds and pharmacies and restaurants that encompass our daily lives. It seems even odder that we haven’t come up with a snappy answer for ourselves.

Or is it? None of us — me, Rachel, Rob — entered into this arrangement, this relationship, expecting it to be simple, uncomplicated. None of us wanted, has ever been about, easy explanations, tidy answers. And, now, in the day-to-day rhythms of our lives — especially, and perhaps sadly, now that Rob no longer lives in the same city — it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Rachel and I are mom and mom. Rob is, simply, Rob: at once viscerally important and ephemeral, vital and, somehow, optional.

But an option we chose. And an option we continue — always, always — to choose.

Excerpt from And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents & Our Unexpected Families by Susan Goldberg and Chloe Brushwood Rose (published by Insomniac Press, 2009)

You can read more of Susan Goldberg’s work at www.mamanongrata.com

And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents & Our Unexpected Families is available on Amazon

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Francoys-portrait-300x225

May 20, 2014
by Bookish Butch
0 comments

Chasm

I started this week,

feeling OK,

even,

good.

Spring was in full bloom,

I was looking forward,

to the visit of someone special,

the Habs were getting ready,

to kick the Bruins,

onto the golf course,

the town,

had Spring and Hockey fever,

and,

my birthday was coming.

I like my birthday,

I look forward to it.

I understand some,

would not look forward,

to a forty ninth birthday,

but,

I did,

I earned these years

:-)

but, right in the,

midst of,

the sunshine, the hockey wins,

and,

the imminent passing of another year.

A chasm,

opened,

right,

before my feet,

huge,

deep and dark.

My friend Francoys,

here one moment,

gone the next.

The sunshine,

went away,

a deep dark dank humid place,

replaced it.

It happened five days ago,

I know it,

but,

still,

I cannot,

believe it.

When I think that I will no longer,

share,

my hopes,

my dreams,

my fears,

my doubts,

that I will no longer,

share in his light,

his passions,

that I will no longer,

discuss books with him,

learn about history,

see into his brilliant mind,

that I will no longer,

hear his laughter,

or his always jolly and enthusiastic greeting,

that never again will,

I drink his delicious coffee,

sit in his wing chair,

and,

pass the time of day,

and,

shoot the shit,

share our lives,

learn from each other,

trust in each other,

be ourselves,

no persona,

ever,

and,

trust that no judgement,

will be passed,

ever,

truth,

friendship,

and all that,

that means to me,

all that it meant to him.

I am blessed in friendship,

a few true friends,

and,

they have been so supportive and sensitive,

in this time,

of dark,

of pain.

One of my pillars is gone,

my anarchist,

my noble gentleman,

he was light,

he was fun,

he was our own code and jokes,

and,

traditions,

he was unique in a world of sameness,

he was gentle and good,

he was strong and roaring,

he was a mensch,

a big beautiful,

man,

queer and feminist.

He leaves a chasm in my life,

that I will go around,

detour,

and reel from,

for a long time.

The world,

was a better place,

because of him,

it is lesser now,

truly,

but,

I will never forget.

I carry him in my heart,

the wound of his passing,

will,

eventually turn to scar tissue,

to keep him safely cocooned,

reading, smoking, laughing.

Bonne route,

mon ami.

Tu me manques,

deja.

BB

for those of you, who didn’t read this, here is, the tribute I wrote for his birthday:

http://bookishbutch.com/?p=4286

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Ivan E. Coyote Gender Failure Book Cover

May 2, 2014
by Ivan Coyote
1 Comment

Between the Boat and the Duck

Between the Boat and the Duck

I remember doing a show years ago in Seattle. Like, maybe the year 2000, somewhere around there. I still smoked cigarettes back then, and I was standing around in the drizzle on the sidewalk after the performance was over, having a smoke and talking to some friends. A woman approached me, thanked me for the show, and then leaned in to tell me how much she appreciated hearing herself represented as a proud butch woman in my words.

“It’s getting rare these days, you know, stuff about being a butch.” She shifted her eyes right and then left, and then lowered her voice so no one but her and I could hear it. “You know, as in not a trans man, but a butch woman.”

I smiled and told her thanks, even though I often used the word butch to refer to myself, but didn’t really use the word woman so much. And in my heart I identified with my trans male brothers just as much as I ever did with my butch sisters, and always endeavoured to never draw lines in the sand between us as she just had.

I had already spent years feeling like I was perched with one foot on a trans-shaped rowboat and the other foot resting on a butch dock, balancing myself and my language and words and work in the space between them.

I also knew that as an artist, my job was to create and present the work, and then stand aside and let everyone decide for themselves how to interpret my writing, and how much of it resonated with them, or didn’t. I knew even then that the world is tragically devoid of enough words and work and images that represent butch reality in anything other than the butt of a your-mother-wears-army-boots joke. Butches are so often the punch line, and so rarely the subject, and almost never the hero. Who was I to challenge her interpretation and experience of my stories? She had seen herself in them, and took comfort and strength in that, and that to me was the point. Perhaps she had witnessed something other than what I had intended, but that didn’t matter enough for me to take those rare and good feelings away from her. So I shook her hand firmly, looked her right in the eyes and thanked her, and I meant it.

Not sixty seconds after she had jumped into her Subaru wagon and driven off, a young man stepped up to speak to me. He thanked me for my words that night, and told me how important my work had been for him as he navigated his transition and found his place in his new body and identity.

“Thank you so much for representing trans guys without forgetting about feminism. I’m like you. I am a man now but I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to just transition and become another misogynist dude so I can pass.”

Again, I thanked him and shook his hand. What purpose would be served by telling him I wasn’t a man? That I wasn’t just like him, that I didn’t plan to transition, that I don’t like or use the word “pass,” that I reject the hierarchy that the word pass helps to create, that I resist the binary system and celebrate the lives and bodies of other gender failures like myself?

I knew if I were to find the time for the two of us to sit down and really talk, I might discover that our worldviews weren’t really that different after all, it was just this limited language and the scarcity of shared meanings of words that made it seem like he had misinterpreted me.

So I chose to focus on what we shared, not what made us different, and told him how much I appreciated him coming out to my show. Then he asked me for a hug, so I gave him one, and I meant it.

For years I grappled with this balancing act, “she” stuffed into one front pocket of my jeans, and “he” rolling around in the other. Second-wave feminists raised one eyebrow at my masculine name, but never high enough that it kept them from hiring me for their well-paid women’s day gig at the university, and I continued to write about my trans experience, but as long as I was still okay with being referred to by female pronouns, it never cost me much.

When I first met Rae Spoon, they were a young, queer-identified country singer. They went by the “she” pronoun and wore satin cowboy shirts and crooned about trailers and dirt roads and hoedowns and broken hearts. Rae was talented and funny and had an unmistakable, completely unique and beautiful singing voice. Their star immediately began to rise, and Rae’s name started to make regular appearances on posters for major folk festivals all across the country. I loved Rae’s music, and listened to their first demo CD on repeat in my little apartment for months.

I remember when Rae changed their pronoun to “he,” and came out as trans. We had started doing shows together here gender failure and there, and had become friends. In 2007 we booked a tour together and collaborated on our first full-length project. By this time Rae was experimenting with indie rock and dabbling in electronica. Rae and I toured the You Are Here project quite a bit, singing and telling stories at some pretty big festivals and to sold-out theatres, and I watched as Rae struggled with good-old-boy union stage techs and straight sound guys as they repeatedly referred to Rae as she during load-ins and soundchecks and on stages, even when told multiple times what Rae’s chosen pronoun was. Rae was always gracious and professional, and took it in stride, but I could see their face twitch almost imperceptibly every time it happened, and I knew it wore Rae down, and weighed heavy on their slender shoulders. I felt fiercely, sometimes irrationally protective of Rae, which was often maddening, because there was really no way I could effectively shield them from these multitudes of daily indignities. I worried that they might slowly bleed to death from one thousand tiny wounds.

We never expected much better from the mainstream straight art and music scene, and so neither of us were all that disappointed. They called Rae she and both of us ladies, and we swallowed it and did our jobs, and were grateful for the work.

What was hard was watching how the queer communities and the women’s music scene handled Rae’s trans self. What was hard was watching trans guys who I would have thought should know better misgender Rae during introductions. Watching Rae swallow their rage and slip their guitar strap over those shoulders and get up there and sing with that beautiful voice like their heart hadn’t just been broken by someone who should have taken better care of his family.

I watched as fewer and fewer lesbians showed up for Rae’s shows, but still came out to mine. I watched for a couple of years as transphobia cost Rae in record sales and empty seats. The fact that Rae continued to tour the world, often by bus and mostly solo, and produce increasingly more nuanced and more widely received albums is a testament to not just their talent, but to their bravery and fortitude.

And me? I escaped being called the wrong pronoun by never choosing one, by telling myself over and over again that it didn’t matter what anyone called me when they welcomed me to the stage.

Creating the Gender Failure show and writing this book together with Rae has been like a second chance for me. My second chance to stand shoulder to shoulder, right beside my beloved younger sibling, and offer my apologies that I was standing behind them the first time around.

 

Excerpt from Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon (published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014).

Gender Failure is available on Arsenal Pulp Press and also on Amazon.

'Gender Failure' by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote

‘Gender Failure’ by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote

Mark and Irene (1)

April 30, 2014
by Irene Loughlin
1 Comment

take the candy take the candy take the candy!

Mark and Irene (1)Mark Turrell was my friend from the time I was 17, a slight and beautiful young man who grew up on a farm but craved the metropolis.  Didn’t we both land there in the 80′s, me escaping from Hamilton and him from the farm. We met at the Wheatsheaf Tavern (through our friend Lynne Chretien), prior to the existence of what we came to call “the ‘Scummit’ (also known as the Summit 🙂 ), the first condo tower of the King and Bathurst area. Although I can’t be completely sure about our first meeting…I mean, maybe we met at OCA, where we were both students in different departments, me in the horrifyingly conservative area of C & D, and him, naturally, in the Experimental Arts department.  In any event, we became friends from those moments onwards.  I was generally always having a meltdown.  He often found me crying in the subway system or into my Michael’s or Cameron House draft.  Being an art student in the 80’s wasn’t easy, especially when you drank too much, there was no such thing as an SSRI, and you had severe depression.  Such relief came later with the dawn of Prozac, the post-OCA daze of the early 90’s.  Mark used to prop me up with a kind of wry humour, a cigarette, a somewhat questionable self-taught chiropractic adjustment, or whatever else I needed, really.   He’d answer my existential angst with a shrug, a smile, and a distraction. What else was there to do about it in 1985?  As the painter, I’d tag along with my head down on his video shoots.  Then, as the one not holding a camera, or microphone, or lighting kit, I became the extra body, stand-in performance artist – a career I attribute to him, to this day.  My various gigs included freezing in a white 1950’s slip at the Beaches for a faux tampon commercial, spraying deodorant in jubilant circular motions, him running toward me with my faux fur coat when it all became too much in middle of February.  The video was later altered with subtitles back at the school, executed under complex and mysterious cable hookups that only Mark could decipher – his brow furled, concentrating.   Later in life, I’d come across him sprawled on the rocks of English Bay in a black turtle neck, basking in the sun.  In Vancouver, he taught me west end breakfasts, gay pride parades at Denman and Davie, and Buddhist meditation.   The first two of these being pretty fun, and the latter being somewhat life-altering.  As usual, it was always a combination of both with Mark.  Meditating in a room with a group of people, he said, was a moment of such dignity for humans, one of the few such moments we would all encounter together in life.  Our time together in Vancouver was somewhat short, as he was passing onto the next phase of his existence, letting go into the great mystery.  I was proud to learn from him perseverance, humour and how to combine a general joie de vivre with just the right dash of cynicism.   Months after Mark passed away; I met the son of the founder of the meditation centre, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.  I told him about when Mark was really ill and how he pushed a dish of candies towards me with all his energy, exhausted from the effort.  I felt that I could not take the candy!  To which Rinpoche thought a moment and responded “Well, that’s the trick isn’t it, to take the candy and practice compassion at the same time.”  My mantra since then has been ‘take the candy take the candy take the candy!’ Years later working at the chocolate factory when I first arrived back in Hamilton, and exhausted from a day of standing on concrete bagging christmas bells with the industrial tipper tie, I would smile and remember that advice when I came across the mountainous piles of Cadbury’s candy canes.  Whenever I see a photograph of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ piles of candy, I remember Mark and it often makes me teary.  Grief is that way, circular and mysterious, sneaking up on you years later.    I sometimes recount these stories to the students I now have at Brock University when we discuss Gonzalez-Torres’ work in our first year studio class.  Several of the students have also grown up on farms and remind me of Mark, how they easily scale walls, their love of the earth, fields and sky, the sense of freshness they bring to situations.  I think that Mark would be proud of what I’ve managed to do and perhaps more importantly, for just ‘being’ in the world despite all my difficulties.  When we would meet for one of those west end breakfasts he would often say, “You do so much, it makes me tired just watching you!”  Less doing, more being, it’s a lesson for all of us. – And how much he inspired me to enjoy life!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this story of pride.  Irene Loughlin

Mark painting scanPainting by Mark Turrell

 

April 28, 2014
by Orville Lloyd Douglas
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Under My Skin

‎I hate black people! Wow, I feel so much better now that I can be honest! I hate the hypocrisy, the bigotry, and the homophobia!  One of the reasons why I wrote my second poetry collection Under My Skin is due to the fact there is a paucity of a queer black history in Canada.  Black gay people in Canada need to be more involved in engendering our own history. There is a gay and lesbian archives in Toronto but it is a white history not a black one.

There is a facade in Canada since gay marriage has been legal since 2005 that discrimination has been eradicated against LGBT people. However,  there is a reticence of the mainstream media and the gay press in Canada to explore gay rights beyond the white Gay Canadian community. The image of the homosexual in Canada is still Eurocentric of a white male under forty, middle to upper class, fit and he lives in the Church and Wellesley area.

Although, I was born in Canada, I never felt a part of the black Jamaican community or the gay community. I have felt conflicted at times that I exist in a purgatory not trusting either side and feeling alienated by both communities.

There are times I felt the gay community in Toronto to be racist and the black Jamaican community to be homophobic. For instance, in the black Canadian Jamaican community in Toronto there is no discussion about gay marriage or gay rights. The Canadian media and gay press are either ignorant or apathetic to the fact gay rights is non existent in many communities of colour. For example, in Toronto the top  Caribbean newspaper Share Magazine rarely ever reports about gays unless it is about stereotypical themes such as HIV and AIDS. Being a gay man or a lesbian in the Jamaican Canadian community is frowned upon. The struggle for black LGBT people of Caribbean descent is about survival since we are invisible. Of course, gay Jamaican people exist in Toronto and they attend gay pride and go to gay bars. However, during Caribana in Toronto every summer there is no gay float, the gays who were out and proud during gay pride are cognizant they must hide their homosexuality during Caribana.

In Jamaica, male homosexuality is still illegal. Many gays of Jamaican descent have sought asylum in Canada running for their lives fleeing homophobia. In fact, I wrote a letter for an acquaintance a few years ago because he asked me to. In my letter,  I had to provide specific information and addresses about the gay bars we frequented. I am happy to report my acquaintance was granted asylum in Canada. However, I wonder, how many gay people from around the world are denied asylum in Canada?   There hasn’t been much movement in the black Jamaican community in Toronto to have a discussion about homosexuality. Last year, I wrote a controversial story for the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom called “Why I Hate Being A Black man” the piece received international media attention from British and American people. However, the Canadian media ignored my essay. No Canadian media outlet bothered to contact me and yet I got interviewed by Don Lemon on CNN on November 16th 2013. One of the things I hate the most about the black Jamaican community is the refusal of the heterosexuals to see that gay rights are indeed civil rights. Gay people around the world in countries like Jamaica, Iran, Uganda, are fighting just to live.

Another thing,  I resent about the black Jamaican community is their hypocrisy. Black heterosexual people cry and whine about racism yet discriminate against black LGBT people. The black religious Christian rhetoric is curious. Why do black people believe in Christianity when it was forced onto them? Christianity was a form of mind control the slave masters and the missionaries used to control the slaves. However, hundreds of years later black people are still not mentally free, they buy into the garbage of Christianity. They believe in a book that was written over one thousand years ago.  Due to the colour of my skin I am considered a part of the black community and yet in my heart I feel alienated and ostracized by the people I am supposed to trust the most. There is a real fear in Toronto by many black gays to live in secret about being gay or lesbian. I hope my new book Under My Skin makes a difference and calls attention to the black gay struggle. More stories, art, and literature by black LGBT artists need to be told. Our lives are important even though the homophobic black heterosexuals wish we would perish and die.

By Orville Lloyd Douglas author of the new poetry book Under My Skin published by Guernica Editions on May 15th 2014.

Under My Skin is available on Amazon, Indigo.ca, Barnes& Noble.com. Under My Skin will be available at Canadian bookstores.

 

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