2 min

How nerve-wracking!

He's dating someone in the same city

LATE NIGHTS. Elmer Atté works hard, but dreams of the sun. Credit: Mark Bogdanovic

Elmer Atté is a hard worker – still at the office at 7pm most nights. But that doesn’t mean that work is where the heart is.

“My goal in life is to get back to the beach,” he says.

Atté is referring to a year spent in Cuba in 1998, a sabbatical he sorely needed after 10 grueling years in the public service. After graduating from Carleton University, in the late ’80s Atté started working as a registrar at the Federal Court Of Appeals.

“One would think that the courts would be one of the most just places to work,” says Atté, 35.

“It’s fine to have beautifully worded policies, but if you’re not going to apply them, it becomes useless.”

Atté says budget cutbacks and poor management made the public service an unpleasant place to work, and began organizing with the Public Service Alliance Of Canada. By the time he left in late 1997, he was the union’s vice-president for the National Capital Region, representing 45,000 bureaucrats on, as he puts it, “issues of the downtrodden.”

Atté tried to deal with discrimination cases informally instead of resorting to filing complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission – a lengthy and frustrating process. Born in the Philippines, Atté sat on both the gay and lesbian caucus and the visible minority action committee, and also worked on disability issues.

He’s still proud that he helped put a stagnant union local back into action, but eventually it all became too much.

“I wanted to get out of the rat race,” Atté says. “There was no chance of promotion or competition – there was a zero percent increase in pay.” He headed off to Cuba for holidays – and stayed for a whole year.

“It’s an incredible place,” he says, “but a very different ball game. Gay culture is officially hidden, but everyone knows where the gays hang out.”

He lay in the sun and partied, heading to the homo house parties for those “in the know.”

Finding a job was impossible, and his Cuban boyfriend broke up with him. Running out of money, Atté headed back to Canada.

For the past year, he’s been living in North York and working as a legal assistant in a downtown Toronto law firm. Atté, who spent his childhood in Vancouver, says he finds Toronto a bit cold and cliquish.

“I don’t hate Toronto, but Montreal is my playground,” he says. “I enjoy the life so much – I enjoy the men so much!”

Since he’s been back in Canada, he’s connected with men on the Internet, a medium he says is great for meeting those with common interests, but bad for meeting people in the same hemisphere. He recently broke up with an Australian, and just started seeing someone he met on the ‘net – but lives in Toronto.

“This is the first time in a long time I’m seeing someone in the same city,” says Atté. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking.”

Although a relationship will be a consideration, Atté says he can’t wait until the international firm he’s at has an opening abroad.

“It’s a matter of timing,” he says. “There will be an opportunity to go elsewhere – an opportunity to be in the sun.”

Who We Are is an occasional series which profiles members of the gay and lesbian community.