By Rebecca Eckler - Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
Alison Wearing’s 12-year-old son had a friend over recently. He saw a mock-up cover of Wearing’s upcoming book, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad. “Yeah, my grandfather’s gay,” her son told his friend. “Do you want some chips?” It wasn’t as easy for Wearing when her father came out in the ’70s, in the small city of Peterborough, Ont. He’d always been different from other dads, baking croissants, wearing silk pyjamas, skipping while singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. “There wasn’t even the word ‘gay’ in those days. It didn’t really exist. It was like hearing a different language,” she says, of finding out. Her mother, equally in shock, divorced her husband.
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter was originally a one-woman show that Wearing performed all over the world. When she saw the reaction she knew she could delve a lot deeper than her 25-page script. “When I tell people that my father is gay, no one has ever said, ‘That sounds boring. Let’s talk about something else.’ It’s actually a great party trick,” laughs Wearing, 45. The book also started with a box her father handed her which, she says, “was a window into his heart.” In it, she not only found newspaper clippings about the gay scene in the ’70s, but her father’s journal, and letters to friends and family. One diary entry contained this bombshell: “Last night I made it with a Roman Catholic priest.” When she read it aloud to him, her father didn’t tear the page away, she writes. “He melted into a coy posture and cooed, ‘Oooh, I remember him. He was so cute.’ ”
At first, Joe Wearing didn’t like the idea of his daughter writing about him. He has not yet read her book. “I have a certain distance from it,” he said in a telephone interview. Now in his late 70s, he has been in a relationship with the same man for 30 years. Asked how he didn’t know he was gay, he says, “When I look back, I realize that, ‘Oh yes, I was struggling with admitting it.’ In the 1950s it was just out of the question.” He led a Dr. Jekyll straight life in Peterborough, where he was a political studies professor, eventually spending four days a week in Toronto. In a letter featured in the book, he writes of his then-wife, “How much she is aware of I just don’t know, though I would have thought that, if anything, my sexual performance at home ought to have aroused suspicions. In the end I don’t know whether she will be prepared to accept a gay husband (I have been amazed to find out that some do.)”
By Rosemary Westwood - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
A global movement promotes a more progressive reading of the Quran
France’s first gay-friendly mosque recently opened in Paris to widespread criticism from Muslim groups. A local Islamic leader, rector of the city’s Grand Mosque, said it goes against Islam. A Facebook post labelled its members’ sexuality a “disease.” Founder Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed is ignoring the hateful comments: “We don’t care.” Rather, he points to the praise he has received, including an email from a lesbian Muslim, who told him he was “opening the doors of the Islam of tomorrow.” Zahed, a gay Muslim married to a man, opened the mosque in a donated room on the outskirts of the city, but plans to reopen next year with a library and office in central Paris.
He is part of a growing global movement promoting a more progressive reading of the Quran. The Paris mosque is a member of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a U.S.-based organization with chapters in Ottawa, Toronto and five U.S. cities (and plans for a Danish chapter). The movement focuses on inclusivity, says MPV’s L.A.-based founder Ani Zonneveld, a singer-songwriter. “In 20 years it will be the norm for women to be leading prayers,” she says, and for gays and lesbians “to be included as equals.” She asks, “How can you say Islam is a religion of peace, when you discriminate, when you are unjust? Justice is the foundation of peace.”
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 8:11 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Const. Cheryl Letkeman still remembers the cruel slurs she faced growing up…
VANCOUVER – Const. Cheryl Letkeman still remembers the cruel slurs she faced growing up gay in Maple Ridge, B.C., and the fear she experienced before coming out to her parents.
“It’s usually not the greatest time of anyone’s life,” Letkeman says in a video released this week featuring RCMP members participating in the “It Gets Better” campaign.
Letkeman, 42, who’s been a police officer for nearly six years, is among 20 officers and civilian members of the RCMP to appear in the nine-minute video, each recalling their own coming-out stories.
For Letkeman, it did get better. She came out to her parents, despite her fears. She joined the RCMP nearly six years ago, working with at-risk youth in Surrey, south of Vancouver.
It was with those youth in mind that she came up with the idea that the national police force needed to join the “It Gets Better” movement with its own video.
“Dealing with kids, I see the struggles that they have,” Letkeman said in an interview Tuesday.
“I think it’s incredibly important for the youth to have positive role models to look up to when they feel like things aren’t going to get any better.”
The “It Gets Better” project was started two years ago by American sex columnist Dan Savage in response to several high-profile suicides involving teens who were bullied for being gay.
The campaign encourages users to record videos telling their own stories. So far, more than 50,000 videos have been uploaded, including from celebrities and politicians such as U.S. President Barack Obama, talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Police officers in Austin, Texas, and San Francisco have released their own “It Gets Better” videos, as have members of the British Transport Police, but so far the RCMP appears to be the only Canadian police force to participate.
Letkeman said when she brought the idea to her superiors, they were immediately supportive. She canvassed RCMP units throughout the Vancouver region asking for volunteers, and the 20 who responded gathered over three days this past summer to tell their stories.
Many of the officers talk about bullying in school or the moment they came out to their families.
“They were really supportive,” a homicide investigator originally from St. John’s, N.L., tells the camera. “Mom was only disappointed that it took me so long to have been honest with her, and dad was the same, and he actually said that he hoped he’d never said anything that made me feel like I couldn’t have come out earlier.”
One officer recalls the reaction of his father, a police officer, who “took it tough, he didn’t really understand.” Another recalls telling his mother he was quitting the priesthood because he was gay: “She cried for three years straight.”
One issue the participants in the video don’t talk about is their experience within the RCMP.
“This isn’t really about the RCMP, it’s about members telling their personal stories to youth so the youth can relate to the people telling their stories,” said Letkeman.
She said her own experience with in the force has been positive.
“I can only speak to my own experience, and mine has been fantastic,” she said. “I’ve never had an issue. I’ve never had anything other than support.”
By Tuesday afternoon, the video had been watched more than 15,000 times and was posted to the front of the main “It Gets Better” website. Dan Savage, who writes a widely syndicated sex column, tweeted a link to the video on Monday.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 28, 2011 at 1:03 PM - 10 Comments
A week ago, Conservative party staff and MPs put together a contribution to the “It Gets Better” video series originally inspired by Dan Savage. In short order it was duly noted that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews opposed same-sex marriage and that Senator Don Meredith once said homosexuality is a choice, while the opposition subsequently pushed for the Harper government to defend gay rights within the Commonwealth and fund Gay Pride events in Canada.
Yesterday brought two new points of conflict: news that Conservatives MP David Sweet, who appears in the video, once said homosexuality is a sin and an odd disagreement during Question Period over whether or not Peter MacKay was willing to say the word “gay” out loud. Continue…
By Julia McKinnell - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Parents who believe homosexuality is biologically determined tend to cope better
“For some girls, it might begin with a crush on an older sister’s best friend or a strange physical sensation that occurs while watching Xena: Warrior Princess on television. For a boy, it might be a fantasy to take a bath with a buddy or a strong urge to run his hand across his gym teacher’s bearded cheek,” writes professor Michael LaSala in Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child.
LaSala, who interviewed 65 gay and lesbian youths and their parents for the book, advises parents not to confront children with their suspicions until the kids have come to terms with their own homosexuality. Otherwise, he writes, “They will simply deny it. Trying to push this issue is like trying to take a cake out of the oven before it’s fully baked.”
By Michael Petrou - Monday, August 16, 2010 at 10:39 AM - 0 Comments
An Iranian man, at risk of being killed in his homeland for being gay, is trying to seek refuge in Canada
Edison wasn’t home the first time Iranian police came to arrest him. He had been photographed during the mass demonstrations that rocked Tehran following last year’s seemingly rigged presidential election.
When police couldn’t find Edison, they took his computer and scoured its hard drive. Sifting through his emails, photographs and Internet search history, they discovered he was gay. When the police returned to his house three days later, they were no longer interested in his politics. Edison’s mother answered the door. “The first thing we have to do is stone your faggot son,” they told her.
By Ken MacQueen - Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Why the one-time critic of the IOC signed on as chef de mission for 2012
To watch a replay of Mark Tewksbury’s Olympic gold medal swim in Barcelona is to realize how the world has changed since 1992—enough for an outspoken critic of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a gay man, no less, to be named this week as the chef de mission for Canadian athletes at the 2012 London Summer Games. In that Barcelona pool 18 years ago, eight men in skimpy Speedos—paper suits, they called them, for they were that thin—lined up for the 100-m backstroke final. Most wore bathing caps or shaved their heads to reduce friction. Tewksbury, an exception, kept his thick head of hair uncovered because he wanted to feel the water. His strategy worked well enough: the 24-year-old, in a come-from-behind sprint, touched the wall first in an Olympic-record 53.98 seconds.
By Kaj Hasselriis - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 21 Comments
Harper opposes harsh laws aimed at Uganda’s homosexuals
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose party refused to support same-sex marriage in Canada, is being hailed as a gay rights hero—in Uganda. “He’s a human rights activist,” said Brown Kiyimba. “Harper is a liberal guy,” added Emmanueil Turinawe. Both men are from Uganda’s gay community, which is under siege thanks to a bill that calls for life sentences for gays who “touch another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality,” and even the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” such as having sex while HIV-positive or being a “serial offender.” That bill, currently being debated in the Ugandan parliament, was introduced by government MP David Bahati and enjoys widespread support in a nation that already criminalizes homosexual acts. It also calls for the imprisonment of heterosexuals who fail to report gays, and the abolition of gay-rights organizations convicted of promoting homosexuality. And gay Ugandans don’t have to live in the nation to be affected by the proposed legislation, since it can apply to offences outside Uganda.
Until recently, the Prime Minister of Canada never registered on the radar of most gay Ugandans. But at last November’s Commonwealth conference in Trinidad and Tobago, Harper had a private meeting with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. He gave him his two cents’ worth on the anti-gay bill. Shortly after, the East African leader told BBC News, “The Prime Minister of Canada came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays.” For the first time, Museveni talked of the need for “extreme caution” about the bill because it had become a foreign affairs issue. (Though he hasn’t openly supported the proposed legislation, Museveni’s previous statement criticizing homosexuality—he claimed “European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa”—combined with the time and attention the private member’s bill has received in parliament, led many observers to conclude he tacitly backs it.)
Gay and lesbian Ugandans were thrilled. “The Prime Minister of Canada putting it forward was a way for the [gay] community to know the position of the president on this bill,” said Abdallah Wambere, another gay Ugandan. And since Harper and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown brought up the issue at the Commonwealth conference, other world leaders have followed, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:00 AM - 13 Comments
Everyone, even Conrad Black, shows up in the high society crime chronicler’s final novel
Dominick Dunne died last August and with uncharacteristically bad timing—a day after Ted Kennedy. According to the New York Times, the family wanted to delay announcing his death until the Teddy ululations blew over. But, with the media diving headlong into a vat of mawkish drivel about “The Last Lion” and “The End of Camelot” and showing no inclination to climb out this side of Thanksgiving, the Dunnes threw in the towel and, for the first time in a long time, the high-society crime chronicler found himself relegated to a table at the back of the room, metaphorically speaking. I wrote about him in this space a few days later, mainly because he was a better man than Ted and he didn’t deserve such a total eclipse.
The poor timing was especially poignant because Dunne had evidently given a lot of thought to his death. His last novel, Too Much Money, written when he knew he was dying, has just been published to faintly bewildered reviews. A strange, slight book, it seems to have befuddled the critics: even those who profess to like it can’t quite make the case for it, and give the vague feeling the two thumbs up are one for the road and old times’ sake. The book is suffused in mortality, to the point that one of its principals is a gay undertaker from a prominent Manhattan funeral home who got bitten by the bug when he was 13 years old and waited five hours in line to see Judy Garland in her casket. The moment he glimpsed her red shoes, he knew he wanted to be a mortician. Forty years on, he’s keeping busy, and not just with funerals. He’s taken to squiring Dodo Van Degan, a society widow who finds her gay undertaker escort surprisingly good company:
“She often sat with Xavior at night in the Grant P. Trumbull Funeral Home when he was embalming a body. Afterward they would fool around a little.”
By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 9:50 AM - 7 Comments
In France, gay couples are not allowed to adopt children
When the French lesbian known to the public as “Emmanuelle B.” first applied to adopt a child in 1998, she was rejected; the adoption board cited the “lack of a paternal figure in [B.’s] household.” That explanation spurred a legal standoff that pitted French courts against gay rights advocates, who saw the rejection as a statement about their ability—or, more accurately, inability—to be parents. Last week, 11 years after the case began—and one year after the European Court of Human Rights condemned France for sexual discrimination—a French court overruled the 1998 verdict, conceding that it could not “legally justify the decision to reject [B.’s] request.”
B.’s supporters say the case is a flagrant example of high-level prejudice, because, since 1966, France has explicitly allowed unmarried individuals to adopt. And given that the now-48-year-old B. is a nursery school teacher, it would be hard to claim she is an unqualified caregiver. So last week’s reversal is being celebrated as a landmark. “This groundbreaking ruling means governments can’t use sexual orientation to stop someone from adopting a child,” charged Scott Long, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights division program at Human Rights Watch. L’Est Republicain, a French newspaper, dubbed the decision “the end of hypocrisy.”
For others, the victory is tainted. If B. does apply to adopt again, she will still have to designate herself as a single parent, despite the fact that she is in a 20-year relationship. That’s because French law still bars same-sex couples from adopting. And that view does not look poised to change: “The government and president have on several occasions expressed our position,” said spokesman Luc Chatal, “which is that we are not in favour of the adoption of children by same-sex couples.”
Translation: one gay mother is okay, but not two.