Toronto
5 min

Drama, drama, drama

The people we paid attention to in 2004

A SAD END TO A PROUD POLITICAL CAREER. Svend Robinson steps down. Credit: noelsilver.com

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.



Notable additions to the ranks of out homos this year included new Liberal MP Mario Silva and funnyman Rick Mercer. Silva was amicably outed by the Toronto Star’s Bruce DeMara post-election; Mercer was outed by Maclean’s and The Globe while promoting CBC’s Monday Report.



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BOOB TUBE RUBES.



TV has a tendency to turn complicated issues into matters of personality. Last January CityTV viewers were left wondering about the personality of anchor Gord Martineau. When unaired video of him doing mocking lisps and pointing at his crotch were released on the Internet, Martineau’s not-so-sensitive side was revealed. In October, CBC’s Hana Gartner did a piece on transsexuality for The Fifth Estate which left several of its subjects feeling used and abused. Gartner aired the most inflammatory material she collected, leaving the more complex aspects of transitioning on the editing room floor.



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YEAR OF THE GEORGE.



Grand Marshal of the 2004 Pride Parade and two-time winner for gay widower’s pension rights (the feds had the nerve to appeal the decision the first time around), George Hislop had a standout year in a lifetime of achievement and local gay fame.



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BEING QUIET IS THE SAFEST STRATEGY.



During the (failed) vote to merge the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation with the AIDS Committee Of Toronto (ACT), the former was all passion and self-examination while the latter was very, very quiet. Hats off to ACT ED Lori Lucier for making the question seem settled before the vote. Meanwhile, former figure skating champ Brian Orser showed up



for the photo-ops as a board member for the launch of the new Pride Ball, run by a spin-off of Pride Toronto. But when the June party oversold – leaving patrons furiously demanding refunds – Orser was nowhere to be seen.



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TELL ME ABOUT 1981 AGAIN.



Toronto academic and activist Maria-Belen Ordonez needs to be appreciated for more than just her intellect. Often the only woman (and frequently the youngest person) at many Toronto gatherings dedicated to fixing Canada’s laws on sex and pornography, Ordonez has shown she has a hell of a lot of patience. Consider that most of her sex radical peers have known each other since she was a toddler.



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GATHERING STEAM.



This year saw the fight for trans rights gaining momentum, especially around the relisting of sex reassignment surgery (SRS). With homo George Smitherman in charge of healthcare in Ontario, activists have been on putting pressure at every opportunity. In addition to the ongoing hearing before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal by four transsexuals who are arguing that the delisting of SRS was a violation of their human rights, there have been protests at Smitherman’s office and at Queen’s Park, and a postcard campaign by Egale Canada targeting Premier Dalton McGuinty.



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BREATHE DEEPLY & THINK HILLARY IN 2008.



What a rough year our poor disgruntled queer siblings to the south had! Watching their own country fight a nasty war, give George W Bush another four years and pass bans on same-sex marriage must be tough. In response, one Chicago couple, Carlos T Mock and Bill Rattan, sent out postcards all over, announcing the cancellation of Christmas. “Because of the rejection of our community by our government and church, and to denounce the creation of second-class citizenship for gays and lesbians, we have decided to skip the holiday season in protest.” Some American are skipping out altogether and applying to move to Canada.



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WELCOME ADDITIONS.



After giving us a cruel and unnecessary fright by failing to fill two empty seats on the bench before the election call, the federal Liberals made it up to us by appointing two queer-friendly justices to the Supreme Court Of Canada. Justice Rosalie Abella may be remembered for her 1995 ruling that having a separate age of consent for anal sex – 18 versus 14 for other kinds of sex – was discriminatory against gay men, and for her 1998 ruling that same-sex partners were entitled to receive survivor benefits. Justice Louise Charron wrote the 1996 judgment that struck down opposite-sex requirements for suing former partners for support. Both were sworn in just in time to be a part of the court’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage.



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SEXUAL SOLIDARITY.



While the bulk of Hamilton’s queer community took this year’s raids on queer spaces sitting down, a small group of activists turned it into a rallying point for the sexual liberation of the Hammer. Most notable are the organizers behind the Hamilton Women’s Bathhouse – Niki Gately, Tanya Gulliver (a regular Xtra contributor) and Shannon Lane. “We want to acknowledge that sexual repression is a key aspect of homophobia,” Gately told Xtra before the first women’s bathhouse event in October, “and we want to express our solidarity with the Hamilton men who’ve been experiencing negativity from the police recently.” The next installment hits town on Sun, Jan 30 at Hamilton’s Central Spa.



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MAYBE RALPH WILL DO THE PROPOSING.



Cape Breton fiddler Ashley MacIsaac finally picked a target worthy of him: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. MacIsaac has called for volunteers who want to marry him in that province, so he can challenge the laws there. A nifty idea and it might just get him laid!



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COMING OF AGE.



Among the many community institutions to make it into the double digits this year was the Lesbian Gay Bi Youth Line, currently headed up by executive director Philip Wong. In the past decade the provincial service has been a kind of superglue for community cohesion. “You could probably play six degrees of separation with Youth Line,” says Wong. “You probably know someone who’s called, volunteered or donated.”



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SOME PEOPLE JUST TAKE DRUGS.



“Something just snapped in this moment of total, utter irrationality,” former New Democrat MP Svend Robinson tearfully told a press conference after he confessed to stealing a pricey ring at a jewellery sale in the spring. Citing stress, Robinson did not run in the next election.



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‘SILENCE CREATES VULNERABILITY.’



The international queer movement suffered some painful losses this past year. “[D]espite all of the difficulties we face, I have faith that acknowledging the inherent dignity and respect due to us can lead to greater respect for our human rights,” Fannyann Eddy told the United Nations Human Rights Commission last spring. Eddy, one of Africa’s most prominent queer activists, was murdered in October. Brian Williamson, the first and only Jamaican-born activist to publicly champion queer rights, was murdered in June.



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AND WHAT DID YOU DO THIS YEAR?



It was a full year for ARC International’s Kim Vance. In the spring she was lobbying delegates at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, campaigning for the protection of queer and trans people worldwide. Although a vote on the so-called Brazilian Resolution was postponed until next year, it was maintained on the commission’s agenda, which is in itself a kind of a win given the overwhelming opposition from Islamic nations. In the fall Vance and her partner Samantha Meehan were one of three couples to successfully challenge Nova Scotia’s definition of marriage; that province became the sixth Canadian jurisdiction to include same-sex couples.



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PLUG THIS INTO YOUR CABLE.



After spending $2.6 million of his own cash to purchase beleaguered PrideVision, Bill Craig spent a year trying to win the digital network new rules of engagement from regulators and distributors. The first big change? The launch of a 24-hour gay porn channel called Hard. Now he should rename PrideVision Easy.