The year of the big event
Toronto watched with not a little envy as Montreal’s World Outgames attracted 12,000 hunky homos in July and early August and Chicago’s Gay Games attracted similar numbers in July. All that toned flesh so near, yet so far! But then more than 20,000 people descended on downtown Toronto’s for the queer-infused International AIDS Conference. As Church St bars filled up — on weekdays — we learned that having Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Richard Gere in town was even more exciting than Mark Tewksbury’s toothy smile. (And the AIDS Conference, unlike the Outgames, didn’t have to file for bankruptcy protection.)
Over the years the issue of AIDS might have felt a little been there, done that. But conference heroes like performer and Xtra cover boy Vincent Chevalier, young, HIV-positive and out about it, showed us the struggles are still unfolding.
Earlier in the summer, Toronto also hosted hundreds for the world’s ninth International Conference On Bisexuality, and, in a nice overlap, a few hundred sci-fi geeks for the International Gaylaxicon Conference.
Hey, if aliens like it here, we can’t be all that bad.
The year of youth & education
* Liberals and New Democrats just shrugged when our new fearmongering Justice Minister Vic Toews introduced legislation to increase the age of consent to 16 from 14, without equalizing the age of consent for anal sex (which, in the Criminal Code, is 18). That’s on top of the existing antiexploitation legislature, which applies to everyone 18 and under. But young people took note. Twenty-two-year-old Andrew Brett led the battle, launching the Age Of Consent Committee
* Pride Toronto’s youth contingent resisted corporate sponsorship in a debate that was loud, sometimes abrasive but always productive
* Kathleen Wynne was appointed Ontario’s education minister, making her the first openly lesbian cabinet minister in the province
* A study showed that queer teens are more likely to use crystal meth than their peers
* The Toronto District School Board asked teachers, and then high-school students, about their sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to shape the system to better serve queers.
The year queer organizations turned some corners
* Egale Canada, a group whose members often seem to care more about the capitalization of its name than its mission, spent most of 2006 falling apart. By December it had no staff, and its board might as well have installed a revolving door
* After a dramatic turnover in staff, Pride Toronto tweaked its event. On the upside, it’s more polished. On the downside, they introduced a new fee for noncorporate parade participants, then bullied individuals who complained about it
* The Evanov Radio Group got approval for Rainbow Radio, a low-power FM station in downtown Toronto targeting queers. But not before partner Pink Triangle Press (PTP, which publishes Xtra) backed out prior to the hearings, wondering aloud about Evanov’s desire to reach out to queers
The year of a smaller planet
* The United Nations published a commitment to fighting AIDS, which failed to specifically mention gay men, sex workers and drug users
* South Africa voted to legalize same-sex marriage
* In Cameroon, a newspaper editor was jailed after publishing a list of allegedly queer notables
The year of trans momentum
* Egale Canada launched a new trans protection campaign, which points to the lack of specific protection under Canadian and most provincial human rights acts, as well as the lack of medical coverage for sex reassignment surgery
* Meanwhile, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that transsexual people are entitled to request a male or female officer — or a split search by two officers — if they are required to undergo a strip search
* Church St got a new bar, Goodhandy’s, dedicated to trans people, their fans and gender outlaws of all sorts
* Trans activist Susan Gapka ran for office against incumbent Kyle Rae for councillor of Toronto Centre-Rosedale, getting almost five percent of the vote (Rae got almost 57 percent)
The year of blowhards
Oh, it’s so hard to choose. Toronto City Councillor Rob Ford ranks because of his memorable opposition to city AIDS funding: “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably.”
Then there was McGill prof Margaret Somerville, who received an honorary degree from Ryerson and delivered the prestigious Massey Lecture. Her arguments against same-sex marriage wouldn’t impress a grade sixer, but they were the best nonreligious arguments Canada’s rightwing could dig up.
But even Somerville couldn’t compete with Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College, who became a media darling not so much with weak arguments, but with total fabrications. He just made up nasty side effects of same-sex marriage as it suited him.