The Queer Pride Chronicles

April 27, 2014
by Shawna Dempsey

Performing Pride

Even though I had not yet come out, I started attending Pride in the mid-80s—performing, dressed as Mayor Art Eggleton wearing a pig’s snout. He wouldn’t recognize Pride as an official day; now politicians fall over themselves to appear gay-positive.

After I did come out in 1986, I was the only stage when Jackie O’Keefe heckled me, yelling “We always knew you were a dyke!” I said, “Who told you?” She brilliantly shot back, “Your mother.”

March 28, 2014
by Michael Murry

Gay Pride Parade in Toronto 2012

mm pride

The long weekend just passed, and although an awful lot of Toronto wanted nothing more than to leave the city and “get away from it all,” I felt the opposite. I wanted to dive into it all like it was a lake. I wanted to swim in the city, through the throngs.

July 1st, and on Bloor Street some people were dressed to celebrate Canada Day, others to support Italy or Spain– who were to clash later in the afternoon for the Euro Cup final– and even more were dressed for the Pride Parade, an event that would see 1, 000, 000 lining the streets of the city on a scorching hot day.

Near Bloor and Yonge a young beggar sat on the sidewalk beneath the shade of an awning. He had his shirt off and he was pale, bruised and unpredictably tattooed. He seemed messed-up, and as people passed by he reached out for each one, as if taking a swipe at their legs. People were avoiding him like the plague, but a beautiful woman in provocative red hot pants with a Canadian Maple Leaf on each ass cheek stopped in front of him and bent over as if posing for a Page 3 shot. She then put both her hands on his face and kissed him.

The Time Warp blared from a float and a riot of middle-aged men in tank tops and red pom-poms exploded in front of us. Joyously performing a carefully choreographed dance number, their teeth could not have shone any brighter. Teenaged girls, their bodies covered in glitter, wove through the crowds as the scent of pot wafted by indifferent, happy police officers. Drag queens, like Barbie Dolls melting in the sun, smiled bravely from their flotilla perches, waving past us like the celebrities they’ve always known themselves to be.

The palest Goth girl in the world sat in a wheelchair that was being pushed along the sidewalk by a large Indian man in a kilt. All in black and wearing a Hijab, a small woman with bony, root-like hands squeezed through the crowds smiling and taking photographs.

A hopeful young man wandered about armed with two massive water guns. As if performing a public service, he asked everybody, “Free water spray? Free water spray?” He delighted when an elderly couple declared that they wanted one. Smiling and still holding hands, they raised their arms and closed their eyes as if on a roller coaster, and the young man sprayed them cool, the nearby crowd cheering encouragement.

A mother was taking a photograph of her daughter standing beside a wall of Pride Posters. The girl was perhaps 18, and both she and her mother were wearing the convenient, floppy hats of tourists. The girl held a Rainbow flag and even though she was smiling, her eyes were inflected with a touch of melancholy. Who knows what journey led the two of them to this place in time? The song Like A Prayer rolling down Bloor Street, the two of them walking away now, arm in arm.
mm pride 3  mm pride2


March 25, 2014
by Alysia Abbott

A Father by Any Other Name

“Peter, what is it?”

“I was just thinking,” he said, a little scared, “It is only make-believe isn’t it, that I am their father?”

“Oh yes,” Wendy said primly.

“You see,” he continued apologetically, “it would make me seem so old to be their real father.”

“Not if you don’t wish it,” she replied.

–J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I first called him Da-da. Sometimes my poor little Da-da. By the time I was 4 or 5 he became Daddy and this is what he remained, until I was 13 and then he was plain old Dad.

But when we were out together at night and especially if we were out in the Castro, meeting at the Café Flor, or standing outside the Sausage Factory, he didn’t want to be called any of these things. He wanted me to call him Steve. Unless you want to call me Sugar Daddy, he’d add laughing. And then that afternoon in the store on 18th Street, the one that sold brightly patterned European silk shirts, I called out, “Dad!” and his eyes shot me darts. Steve, he insisted under his breath.

But I would never do this. Steve is what everyone called him, from that friend at the café to the writers who invaded our living room every week to the man who sold him his afternoon paper and coffee. Only I, and I alone, could call himDad. The singularity of our relationship, for me, was rooted in this appellation. That unique position I held in his life, my ability to call him Dad and Daddy, was my oxygen. To suddenly call him Steve was to transform our relationship into something common and vulgar. I couldn’t be a party to such a perverse charade.

“Sorry, Dad.”

I couldn’t understand. Was our father-daughter relationship so expendable? Was his role as a father perhaps not as sacred to him as it was to me? I couldn’t imagine myself without Dad. Yet he wanted to be, in the Castro on that sunny afternoon, anyone but my dad. “Dad isn’t sexy,” he told me, glancing at a cute young guy who was just leaving the shop. I couldn’t understand until years later how that central part of his identity realized through the act of fathering me in fact threatened his other identity, that of single gay man. I didn’t see how I hurt his romantic life, how I may have been the source of his recurring loneliness. Wasn’t I enough for him?

Much as I loved him, I could never indulge his request to call him Steve. With me he was Dad. If he wanted to be sexy and desirable, he could do it on his own time. So I left him the neighborhood, as though we were two countries dividing up the world map after calling a truce. The Castro would become his teenage basement bedroom, his man-cave. But walking hand-in-hand with me into Golden Gate Park, shopping at Cala or taking me to movies at the Lumiere or out to sushi in Japantown, he would still be Dad and sometimes, if he was being especially sweet, Daddy.

March 23, 2014
by Tim McCaskell

Saturday August 17, 1974

Saturday August 17, 1974, was a bright sunny afternoon. I was walking towards Alan Gardens. My stomach was in a knot. I saw a handful of people on the north side of the park and a pile of placards.

I was just back in Toronto after two years in South America. I had been following a young man who I was in love with, but afraid to tell.

When I finally hitchhiked back to Canada in the spring of 1974 I knew I couldn’t live with this kind of trauma drama. I had to either come out or jump off a bridge.

I had heard about The Body Politic, and although completely paranoid that someone might find me with them, I managed to read a couple of issues sitting in the middle of an abandoned playing field where I could see anybody coming from a quarter mile away. The paper had gotten me used to the term gay. It no longer made my stomach twist like the word “homosexual” did. But I didn’t actually know any gay people. There were ads for bars and baths, but the thought of going to a gay bar conjured up terrifying images of drag queens or leather men. I had no idea what a bath was. I was from Beaverton after all.

Then I saw an ad for a Gay Pride March. I’d been on my share of marches and demonstrations. I knew what you were supposed to do at that kind of thing.

Still, that hot Saturday afternoon, I hung around at a distance for a while before I jumped in. There was no one in drag or wearing leather or chains. In fact, most of them seemed pretty normal. So when they were almost ready to go, I quickly walked over and picked up a sign that said “Gay Liberation Now” and started marching down the sidewalk thinking, “if there’s a TV camera I wonder if I can induce a heart attack and die by holding my breath.

But there were no TV cameras. A gaggle of people walking down the sidewalk with hand-drawn placards, was hardly newsworthy, even in 1974. Another advantage of the group being so small was that everyone recognized a new face in the crowd. At the end of the march I was snapped up, taken home, had sex with for the first time, given a bunch of gay liberation literature and told to come back for more when I had finished reading.

I was a quick reader.

Edit Photo - CVS 2014-02-20 23-19-00

March 22, 2014
by Jason Bartlett

No Moobs



Sharing my story, hope you share too. 🙂
I’m going to the Community College of Rhode Island and majoring in fine art. I want to be a teacher. I have anxiety, ADHD and depression. I also have dysphoria. Dysphoria is the feeling I get when people use the wrong pronouns/name, looking at myself in the mirror, people calling me names, or looking at me the wrong way for being transgender.
I have been on Testosterone since January 2013. I also got my name changed that year and I am the first person in Rhode Island to get my gender change on my birth cerificate without surgery first, when I was seventeen. However, the one thing that I still desperately need is top-surgery (masectomy) (so I won’t get Cancer and deal with dysphoria). It is all very expensive. $7,805 dollars. I need help to raise this money. I identify as gay. Some people ask me why did I “become” a boy, to like boys. My sexuality has nothing to do with my gender. I always knew I was a boy I just never told anyone. In elementary school I would stand up when they asked the boys to stand. I wanted to play sports and play videogames but I was ostracized.
I can’t even go on the city bus without cringing at the things people call me and I can’t live without my chest binder. Some my family disowned me. It seems wherever I look I can’t pass as myself. I don’t want to prove my happiness, my gender, my pronouns or my name. I want to help all the transgender kids, even by showing them that it is possible, to dream of a day without dysphoria. Nobody should have to go through what I’ve been through.
“Ask and you shall receive.” and “The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.” — E. E. Cummings I didn’t choice to be this way. I really don’t want anymore trans people to die from ignorance or suicide. I tried to commit suicide four times. Insurance won’t pay for my surgery, please help me get one step closer. Donate 1$, even that will help. I appreciate what you can do, spread the word. All I want is equality. And of course, no more moobs. Please help, thank you for your support, I couldn’t accomplish this without you! Thank you. You get some of my art for donating 5$, which is totally worth it! Whatever you can afford will help me. Thank you very much! I appreciate you even spreading the word too! Please show your support in this journey to get my masectomy (chest removal)! Whatever you donate is going to be matched by another donor organization called Foster Forward. When I was in school I was bullied. Kids would spit on me, kick me, put my backpack inside out and push me down the stairs. When I told an administrator they told me, “A lady boy half-person like you should expect to be treated that way.” Students and teachers called me an “it” and a “tranny”. So, I withdrew out of high school my first week of junior year and got my GED.
My Art:
My Poetry:
My Transgender Military Petition:

March 13, 2014
by John Greyson
1 Comment

John Greyson

Making Glue from Macaroni
Dedicated to Ali Mustafa, Toronto photographer, killed in Aleppo on Sunday, March 9

Lisa chose some of my tapes – video art, video activism, video storytelling – as my contribution to Generations of Queer. Tonite I’m going to tell stories about how I made three of these tapes. The stories will sample methods that echo or mimic the formal strategies of the tapes themselves: substitution, hybridity, alchemy. Willfully, in this retelling, they have become jail stories. They involve Coconuts, Zorses, Glue.

The Roman Baths & the Perils of Pedagogy

Thanks to Monty Python, everyone knows that if you can’t afford
horses, you can always substitute coconuts. This is the story of how my first night in jail back in 1983 inspired me to put on a policemans uniform and a magic marker clone moustache.

In 1983, I spent the summer in Esteli, a northern town in Nicaragua, working with my friends Maryanne and Eric on a documentary about the Sandinista’s revolutionary agrarian reform efforts. I arrived back in Toronto one hot August morning, and decided to catch a bus home to London Ontario to visit my very worried parents, who’d been sweating their way through Contra headlines and Reaganite sabre rattling for 3 long months.

The last bus was at 10pm, and the Bus Station was several blocks south of the Roman Sauna Baths on Bay St. I was walking south on Bay, from my new apartment share at Harbord and Spadina. I crossed at Gerrard, and I’m pretty sure there was a green light and a walk signal. But then I heard a voice: “Why’d ya cross on the red light, faggot?”

There were two uniformed cops, lurking in the shadows. They asked for ID. All I had was my passport. They started hassling me about the Nicaragua stamp, repeatedly calling me faggot. I explained I was on my way to catch a bus. They knocked the passport out of my hand. I bent to pick it up. One of them stepped on my hand. I called out loudly in pain. They accused me of threatening them. I told them if they beat me I’d yell — loudly. They put me in handcuffs, threw me in the backseat, drove me down to the 52nd Division. I was allowed a phone call. I called Tim McCaskell. He phoned Bob Kellerman, one of the law union lawyer who’d defended many of the found-ins in the baths raids 2 ½ years earlier. I was released around 3am, and caught a morning bus to London. Needless to say, I told my parents I’d just missed the last bus, no big deal. When the case came to trial, Bob found a witness, another gay guy who’d been beaten by these same two cops a few months earlier. Their modus operandi was to lurk a block from the Romans, and make their arrest quota by nabbing guys coming and going. The case was thrown out.

Six months later, for my short video The Perils of Pedagogy, I needed a quick shot of a cop jerking off. I’d lined someone up – but then they cancelled at the last minute. Lacking a horse, I became the coconuts — I pulled on the uniform myself, drew on a quick magic marker clone moustache, and got the shot, accompanied by the dulcet tones of a youthful Stephen Andrews (seen here in a school boy uniform), seductively lipsynching to Lulu’s To Sir With Love.

The Kiss-In and the Letter.

ACT UP staged their infamous Stop the Church action in late 1989. 4500 activists outside St. Patricks Cathedral chanted slogans against the lethal homophobia of Cardinal O’Connor. 111 protesters were arrested and one activist notoriously threw a communion wafer on the floor. Artist Ray Navarro dressed up as Jesus to cover the action ‘live’ for DIVA (Damned Interfering Video Activists) TV.

A few months later, channeling a similar DIVA spirit, the Toronto chapter of Queer Nation organized a lunchhour kiss-in at the Eaton Centre. The goal: targeting the rise of anti-gay violence and promoting queer visibility.

The kiss-in was a humourous failure. Only three dozen people showed up, and we seemed more committed to gossiping then smooching. Along with fellow video artists Colin Campbell and Stuart Marshall, I’d volunteered to shoot the action, and we had a hard time getting any decent footage of actual lip-on-lip militancy. The hundreds of shoppers seemed oblivious, more intent on the 50% off sale at Stitches.

The cops and security guards were another story, however. Over a dozen of them circled our group, repeatedly asking us to leave, clearly frustrated that they had no legal means of moving us. The chief security guard attached himself to me. He was obviously upset about the kissing, and displaced his anger onto my camcorder, insisting over and over again that videotaping on private property was against the law. I argued back that the courts just six months earlier had legislated that malls were indeed public areas, despite private ownership. I also pointed out that a CBC newscrew was filming a few feet away, and asked why he wasn’t harassing them? The answer was predictable: they were journalists, I was a demonstrator. Well, ok, I’d done some kissing myself, but who are cops to arbitrate objectivity? The situation degenerated and eventually I was arrested — the only demonstrator to be arrested that day. My camcorder was confiscated because he claimed it could be used as a “dangerous weapon.”

That such a lack-lustre demonstration could be so threatening to the cops, and that it’s recorded image could be confiscated so arbitrarily, serves to illuminate just how jumpy the state gets when dissent and desire meet. The demonstration sought to promote visibility through intimacy — in short, to kiss and tell. This combo flies in the face of the state’s accelerating project over the past two centuries to regulate in Foucault’s sense — to do all the talking. The states many tentacles (in particular its legal and medical arms) don’t seek to choke or repress the sexual conversation, but merely to monopolize it. Deviant dissenters threaten this monologue with their own voices, and are thus prime targets of censorship.

Ray died in 1991 and four of us burned the midnight oil for several days to edit a tribute tape to his life for the memorial. Later, each of us re-cut the footage into our own versions. Mine became Letter to Ray Navarro, which included a romantic beach shot from the 1971 porn classic Boys in the Sand and Barbara Streisand singing Ave Maria, slowed down to make time last a little longer. The voice-over says: “The laws of physics suggest that if you slow down Barbra enough, you could make time last forever. Well, not really. The math doesn’t work, and its too much Barbra. But we’d have more time.”

There was never any time in those years, as the memorials accelerated and Queen West became a graveyard: Michael Lynch, David Buchan, Jorge Zontal, Ron Gabe, Alex Wilson, Rob Flack. We coped by slamming together Barbra and demos and Jesus and kisses. We were making Zorses.

Green Laser and Cairo Flip Flops

Every night in our prison cell in Cairo, I’d stare up at the ceiling fan and think of Gabriel Orozco. In 1997, he placed 3 rolls of toilet paper on the blades of a fan, and created a perfect triple helix when the speed was slow enough. As we remember from Grade 10 chemistry, while the double helix of DNA is common to all living organisms, the triple helical molecular structure, discovered in 1954, is unique to collagen. Collagen is the main protein in the connective tissues in mammals, and has been used as a glue for 8000 years. The word comes from the Greek ‘Kolla’, meaning ‘glue producer’.

I learned how to make glue from macaroni in prison, a glue so strong that it can support a grown man hanging off a hook glued to the wall. It revived my belief in the agency of alchemy, the necessity of making art from toilet paper.

In 2011, I joined the Canadian boat of the Flotilla sailing to Gaza, an international effort to break the Israeli blockade of this open air jail, the only port in the world not allowed to access its own waters. We got within a mile of international waters before we were arrested by the Greek coastguard.

My video Green Laser is an account of that experience, and rifles through the garbage to glue together a bunch of disparate elements: hornet films, Irish step dancing, Seth Rogen, Dalton Trumbo, scenes of shirtless Paul Newman in Exodus, on his boat and in prison as he tries to sail for Gaza from Greece, only to be stopped by the Greek coastguard.

Two years later, I tried to get to Gaza again, and again was stopped, this time by the Egyptian police. Here’s a story about flipflops.

We were sardines for the first three weeks, 38 men squeezed into a 10 m. x 3 m can, marinating in sweat. Then, finally, on September 4, they allowed us half an hour of exercise. To be released into that ocean of sunlight, that vast periwinkle sky, that choir of crows – we couldn’t stop running, round and round the yard. Some of the others had flip flops from their families, but Tarek and I were barefoot, we barely had pen and paper and soap from our weekly ten minutes with the embassy. We ran and ran, not caring that the concrete was griddle hot, a molten ice rink. Four blisters bloomed on our soles, the size of toonies, puffed like pancakes.
That night, it was our turn to give a lecture to our cellmates. Tarek described working as an ER doctor in London’s Vic and Gaza’s Al Shifa. He didn’t mention his ongoing experiments with quad copters (researching alternative methods for delivering blood samples) and 3-D printers (manufacturing medical implements), his radical sideways uses of new technologies that could potentially ease the brutality of the Israeli blockade. Sometimes you have to keep it simple. I talked about the four films I’ve made that are ironically set in prisons, joking that that’s the Canadian way – first we make the films, then we do the field research. I didn’t mention that the four are queer love stories. Sometimes you have to keep it simple.

Tarek decided that we should end with a song. Neither of us can sing. He decided it should be Que Sera Sera. We were shaky on the verses, but got the whole cell singing the refrain. He explained it as a parable of fortitude, of survival, of resistance. What will be, will be. Inshallah, shallah. Songs can let meanings fly free, beyond Doris, out the bars. For Tarek, it perhaps served as a secret serenade to his inner geek. For me, it perhaps subbed as a coded campy coming-out ballad. In the days and weeks that followed, whenever I was sitting alone, feeling blue, crushed perhaps by another extension of our detention without charges, one of the others, Masry or Ala or Ahmed, would throw a comforting arm around my shoulder and say: “Oh John, que sera sera.”
We are now free, and eight of the others are too, but 28 remain behind bars, held without charges. So are 600 others, arrested the same day. So are thousands more, for the simple crime of protesting Sisi’s restoration of military dictactorship. So is Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian journalist arrested on December 29, and now locked up in solitary close to our former sardine can. I wish I could tell him that freedom is sometimes blisters on your soles, but the Cairo winter is too cold for running barefoot on concrete. I wish I could tell him that freedom is sometimes an arm around a shoulder, quoting Doris, but he’s probably not allowed any contact with Ala, Masry, Ahmed.

I’m working on portraits right now of my cellmates, using a Garmin runners watch which records the GPS location of where I run. Here are portraits of Masry, of Ahmed. I create a route, superimposing the drawings I did of them in prison onto a different part of the city that bears some reference to their own life – for instance, with Masry, his brother-in-law is an archaeologist at the Cairo Museum, so I created a route which ran past the ROM. Then I run, and record them, transferring them to photoshop.

Pam Rodgerson and I are running a portrait of Mohammed Fahmy right now, broken up into six different chunks. Like so many, we worry as his case winds its way through the Egyptian courts, a show trial exploited by General Sisi to silence criticism and help consolidate his military dictatorship. Like so many, we can’t figure out why there isn’t more international outrage, why Baird and Harper are staying silent.

For generations, we’ve marched and kissed and mourned the dead – Ray Navarro, Rob Flack, Ali Mustafa. For generations, we used coconuts to make zorses. For generations, the glue that has held us together, despite the odds, a super-glue made of macaroni – that glue is our stories.


March 10, 2014
by Andrew Zealley

Rob’s Dream of the Inspirational Vibration

“Rob’s Dream of the Inspirational Vibration”(duration: 5 minutes, 19 seconds)

This track is culled from the audio installation that I was producing at the time of Rob’s death – for an installation that we were collaborating on at the time. The installation was tentatively titled The Eternal Cosmic Love Machine, and addressed the moment of transformation from life to death. I recall Rob’s joking suggestion that the show might alternately be titled Rob’s Theatre of Blood (said in a mock horror movie accent).

“Rob’s Dream of the Inspirational Vibration” is named for a dream that Rob told me about on a number of occasions. The dream first occurred when Rob was travelling in India, with his close friend Tim Guest. In the dream, Rob is floating, horizontally in a circular path around an arena or stadium where a large mass of people are gathered. They are watching him float above them, cheering and waving. He is emitting beams of healing light from his wrists that wash over the crowd, dosing them with wellbeing and love as he passes over.

This track is included in This Is True To Me, the bookwork w audio CD that was produced/published by The Eternal Cosmic Love Machine Collective (Kathryn and Brian Brownlie, Julie Gibb, John Flack, Christian Morrison, AZ) during the 12-month period following Rob’s death.

There were two collectives operating in that calendar year (November 1993 to November 1994): the ECLMC and the Rob-O-Rama group – each producing an exhibition and publication to mark the one year anniversary of Rob’s death. The ECLM presented at Cold City Gallery with the show, This Is True To Me, and the other group—including Stephen Andrews, Alan Belcher, Carlo Cesta, Andy Fabo, Janice Gurney, Micah Lexier, Regan Morris, Lisa Neighour, Andy Patton, David Rasmus, Chrysanne Stathacos, Julie Voyce, and Robert Windrum—exhibited Rob-O-Rama at YYZ. I performed a live “remix” of material culled from This Is True To Me at the opening of the Cold City show.

This Is True To Me, Cold City Gallery, November 18 to December 17 1994.

Rob-O-Rama, YYZ Gallery, November 16 to December 18 1994.

(image: Power Begins With You by Robert Flack, a full-colour poster project intended for public hoarding in the city, 1991-1992)

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