Certain markers are often used to identify the different stages of our lives. When friends and I discuss life markers, a few key occurrences or life changes keep coming up: finishing school, partnering, having kids, establishing a career, coming out and, most importantly, buying a real bed (no futons, no mattresses on the floor – a real bed with headboard). We used to consider ourselves “established” once four of these six markers had been reached.
Of course, some of these criteria will never apply to certain people, be that through personal choice, physical limitation or cosmic intervention. It is the different stories, the wild variations, the fantastic journeys that each of these souls has travelled that makes each person’s actuality both different and relative.
For the record, I have previously scored a six out of six on this criteria, but now I’m back on a lumpy futon.
Life changes: 5 of 6
Real bed: Yes
She may be from the small town of LaSalle near Windsor but Bennett can tell you “the best places to eat in every medium-sized city in Ontario.”
Called Neet by her family, she’s working on convincing her friends to call her Bennett (“I’ve never really felt like an Anita”). This former captain in the military reserves, law school graduate and government of Ontario policy manager considers herself an adult version of a tomboy. Bennett describes herself as butch, having never really fit into “girl culture.” “I got kicked out of Brownies for not wanting to skip!”
It’s been pointed out that Bennett “didn’t have a childhood – she had a boyhood.” However, if she could change one thing, it would be to have come out earlier. “I didn’t start my baby-dyke phase until my early 20s and I sometimes wonder what I missed out on.”
Bennett discovered debating in grade eight and knew then that she wanted to become a lawyer. She did achieve this goal, although she has never practised. Instead, her career path has taken her through a nine-year stint in the military police division of the reserves and then into the civil service, mainly in varying positions relating to labour policy, negotiation and mediation. About her time in the military police: “I got to live away from home and I got combat boots and uniforms for free.”
Ten years ago she was travelling again, with her partner at that time, this time on a six-week jaunt to New Zealand. She seriously considered relocating there, but realized “that I really like being Canadian.”
Now she is settled into a nice home in the Annex. Bennett, an avid renovator, has put a lot of work into her home to make it “a warm, cozy bit of my soul made corporeal.” She looks to the future with an eye to moving into a second career, something that isn’t brain-focussed, perhaps “running a construction company, a B&B or driving a bobcat.”
Life changes: 6 of 6
Real bed: Yes
Henry Golden has lived and spent significant time in such disparate locales as Alberta, England and South Africa. All of these places have affected the traveller soul that is Golden. This constant flux in home base (“Not only did my family move a lot, but we also travelled a great deal”) filters through to all aspects of his life: fluidity. When considering his gender and sexuality, mutability is intrinsic: “I have breasts and a pussy and a cock, but I ain’t your natural born man…. I feel as much in drag when I wear women’s clothes as when I wear men’s.”
But this flowing nature is not just limited to Golden’s sexuality. About three years ago he realized that he wanted to move out of the visual arts field, in which he had trained and worked as an educator, to pursue a secret desire to work in construction and home renovation. “I will be eternally grateful to my boss… for his willingness to hire a fella like me and to answer my endless questions.” Golden also maintains his work as an artist.
Another new role Golden has taken on is a new identity at home: Uncle Henry. His soulmate Jody, with whom he lives in Toronto, is the guardian to a “sweet, surly Goth teenager.” But given that the kid is already 16, they have a good, burgeoning relationship that is not based on the parent/child dynamic. “The kid is too old and too wise [for me] to step into that role.”
Richard “Dick” Moore
Life changes: 6 of 6
Real bed: Combination bed-frame, box spring and futon mattress
Richard Moore epitomizes community activism. American born, this conscientious objector came to Toronto to do his graduate degree and a few years later finally settled here. Moore’s work with the United Way, care agencies and currently as a project coordinator at both The 519 Community Centre and The Rainbow Health Network exemplify his gentle and nurturing soul.
In recalling the various positions he has held in different organizations, Moore’s face lights up remembering people he has worked with, particularly the seniors he’s helped. “I learned at home how interesting older people are and I always enjoyed spending time with them.”
Currently he is coordinating Queer Reflections, a multidisciplinary art, zine, web and storytelling project that brings together queer seniors and youth.
Now a member of the congregation of The Church Of The Holy Trinity, Moore was born and raised a devout Roman Catholic but he had a falling out with that faith over the church’s mistreatment of women.
When is 25-year marriage ended in the late 1980s, Moore ended up buying his ex-wife’s stake in their Annex home. Opening his doors to renters has lead to wonderful experiences in communal living and chosen family.
Since his marriage, Moore’s had two significant relationships, one that was unfortunately cut short by sudden death, and now his current committed relationship with Marty. Moore is relatively newly-out as a bisexual man, and Marty identifies as lesbian. They’ve now been together for more than five years and hope to own a farm.
Running until Wed, Jun 1, Queer Reflections is an intergenerational project where participants create a webpage and a zine using text and image to tell a story from their lives. It’s at Queerreflections1.photosite.com and Queerreflections2.photosite.com.
Life changes: 1 of 6
Real bed: Mattress and box spring with no frame
Add a dash of rebel to a whole spoonful of social, feminist consciousness and you have the powderkeg that is Chelsey Lichtman. Event planner, Women’s Studies student (first at the University Of Western Ontario, then York), percussionist, writer, retail slave and suburban refugee, she is involved in so much that’s she’s grown beyond her 22 years. As a teenager she was “throwing street carnivals, telling teachers to fuck off” all the while “not quite knowing what those feelings toward Kelly from Beverly Hills 90210 were.” Nowadays, she knows full well what those feelings were.
Currently, she considers herself “thankfully single.” Lichtman has had two significant relationships: a high school boyfriend (“but that doesn’t count”) and one with a woman that lasted a year and a half.
A performer by nature, Lichtman is currently one half of the wildly popular Harry And Phatty drag duo. Lichtman has always been comfortable on stage. While in high school “I hosted all the assemblies and events because people thought I was funny.” Recently she turned her event organizing prowess to the need for AIDS education in Africa with the co-organizing the L’Afrique Show. This cause is dear to Lichtman’s heart. Ten years from now she’d like to be “working in an orphanage for children with AIDS in Africa, not trying to save them, just trying to make things easier for them.”
One thing that Lichtman feels most uncomfortable with is the idea of stability – particularly the average, upperclass lifestyle her parents enjoy. “When I look toward my future now, at this age, I can’t see myself ever wanting to own a house or a car or really anything that will tie me down to one place.” She enjoys a good relationship with her family and since moving out she has gained a much better understanding of her parents. “They are very giving, witty and totally on the ball – people that I can appreciate now that I’m at a distance.”
Alexander Ethan MacFadyen
Life changes: 5 of 6
Real bed: Big frame with a futon mattress
In his position as sidelines buyer and returns manager at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, alex Ethan MacFadyen gets to stay true to his DIY philosophies and artistic leanings.
Whether it be his current interest in making zines and greeting cards, singing (“I used to sing medieval and Renaissance music, but I haven’t quite made the leap from soprano to baritone yet”) or building houses for his gerbils as a youth in Calgary, MacFadyen has always been a creator.
Some might not think of it this way, but “growing up” is what MacFadyen considers to be the biggest change in his life. Part of that growing up was transitioning. One year ago he was getting ready for surgery, and at the same time arguing with his parents. He’s had a tight relationship with his family most of his life; when he was 20, he cared for his grandmother who was dying of cancer. However, his parents had some trouble with his transition, particularly his mother. “They didn’t disown me or anything, but they sure tried to talk me out of it.”
Education is another matter on which he and his parents don’t see eye-to-eye. A graduate with a degree in English and music history, his parents, both university professors, would have preferred he continue on to graduate school. He told them he’d “rather sell donuts.” However, he sees himself and his parents becoming more like each other. “I think that I am who they raised me to be, even if they don’t recognize it yet.”
Age: Not disclosed
Life changes: 5 of 6
Real bed: King-sized
With more than 300 hundred flights under his belt, Bryen Dunn really knows how to get around. After spending 15 years in the travel industry, he’s now a freelance event manager and corporate communications consultant.
It was a six-month backpacking adventure in Europe in 1985 that inspired him to work in the travel industry. But as time went by, he grew dissatisfied with the nine-to-five corporate culture. A trip to India a year ago was “a great awakening.” Now, with his freelance work and current relationship (“To an outsider we would be considered completely different, but we have a magical connection that is indescribable.”) he is “the happiest I have been in a long time.” He’s channelling his travel bug into travel writing and recently spent time in Switzerland.
It also has to make him happy that his alter ego, DJ Triple-X, is one of the hottest party-throwers in town. Music has long played an important role in his creative expression; he began writing concert reviews for a local newspaper in high school.
He gave up his car in January 2004, “for the health of the planet and myself. I now transit and bike everywhere. Yes, even during winter storms. I’m a bit of an extremist when it comes to adventures.”
Check out Themarsbar.com for DJ Triple-X events.
Life changes: 6 of 6
Real bed: Yes
A “lesbian-identified, bisexually-active, toppy-switch,” Carol Camper has placed a strong emphasis on “lovely sex” in her life. But it isn’t just sex that is lovely with Camper. She may seem mild-mannered, but on the inside is a strong soul looking to help those who need it. She is also a chronicler of the world around her.
Camper balances her renowned photo-graphy skills and writing with a being a women’s shelter supervisor. She has worked in social services for many years as a group home mother, at a youth centre and now at the shelter.
She is candid about her own past and interest in this work. “I have been interested in social justice since childhood, probably due to having experienced racist violence and sexual abuse.”
She was adopted and her experience with her adoptive parents was one of “love, neglect and abuse.” She also has a relationship with her birth mother who has had a very troubled life. “She’s one of the last ‘great broads’ and a total pain in the ass.”
Camper’s a mother herself of two adult children, Michael and Cicely, and was married for 20 years. She came out more than 15 years ago and has been in a same-sex polyamorous relationship for the past eight years.
Her artistic inclinations are what she considers her calling and mission in life. She hopes to continue her formal education with a master’s degree in art and, hopefully, the study of jewellery design and gemology.
“I want to be a famous artist whose work sells fantastically well and whose art gets discussed and written about as a catalyst for liberation and social change.”
Life changes: 5 of 6
Real bed: Yes
Twenty-five years ago Aries Cheung was in his native Hong Kong, reading about homosexuality, getting off and learning about sexual politics. He met a political activist from Canada and began working at founding an underground gay social and political group.
“Homosexuality was still illegal and the society was oppressive.” Now a 15-year resident of Toronto, Cheung is still involved in sexuality politics, but he is also an accomplished visual artist, designer and past owner of a bed and breakfast.
Currently, “seeing someone nice,” Cheung had his first crush on an elementary school classmate. “It was rather unconscious. Just feeling good when seeing him, talking or playing with him, especially when engaged in games with physical contact.”
Living in Toronto, his career has switched between advertising and visual art (“they can be related, but the lifestyle and income are totally different”) and community work – particularly with the local Asian community. He has worked full-time as an AIDS educator and is currently involved with Asian Canadians For Equal Marriage.
Had his father had his way, Cheung would have become a doctor, lawyer or architect. The only thing they shared was an interest in Chinese opera. His mother, on the other hand, is the person he credits with teaching him “about being a good person…. She knows how to run a family and raise good kids.” Himself, he has two cats: “They call me dad.”