1) Gay-straight alliances in Catholic schools
Without a doubt, the biggest story of the year was Andrea Houston’s ongoing coverage of the lack of gay-straight alliances in Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools. It started with Houston learning that the Halton Catholic District School Board had quietly passed a blanket ban on GSAs. When Houston contacted board chair Alice Anne LeMay for comment, LeMay bluntly responded, “We don’t have Nazi groups, either
.” The story made headlines around the world and broke all records for xtra.ca’s readership.
When Xtra broke the story of the Halton GSA ban, politicians and the national gay and lesbian rights group Egale maintained that the ban was isolated and that other Catholic schools had allowed GSAs. Untrue. In a further investigation, Xtra uncovered that Catholic school boards do not allow GSAs or any group that includes the words “gay” or “lesbian” in their names because Ontario’s bishops won’t allow them.
Just when we thought that the GSA ban couldn’t get any crazier, Houston broke the story that St Joseph Catholic Secondary School had banned the display of rainbows
at a fundraising event planned by a group of students who had formed an unofficial GSA. The kids got around the ban by baking rainbow-coloured cupcakes.
The school then got even more spiteful, insisting that the students couldn’t donate the money they’d raised to the LGBT Youth Line as they’d planned; instead, they had to donate to a Catholic charity. This story made national headlines, and various national columnists’ suggestions that readers donate to Youth Line to protest St Joseph’s decision led to a small reported spike in donations
Sixteen-year-old Leanne Iskander emerged as the hero of the GSA fight, and her struggle against her school’s administration fuelled much of our coverage over 2011. This must have frustrated her principal, Jeff Quenneville, who threatened her if she continued her advocacy work
. Iskander is not backing down.
2) Ivan Coyote, Dear Lady in the Women’s Washroom
Ivan Coyote has been writing in Xtra for years, but this year her columns really developed an amazing online following. This story about the hysteria she faced when she tried to use a women’s washroom
became the third-most-read article on xtra.ca this year, and her monthly column, Loose End,was a consistently popular feature of our website.
3) Open secret: Conservative Cabinet minister John Baird outed
4) Trans canadidate makes Canadian history in Ontario
When Christin Milloy announced her candidacy for the Libertarian party in the Ontario provincial election in Mississauga-Brampton South, she made history as the first trans person to be on a ballot in a federal or provincial election
in Canada. She confused some readers with her suggestion that the Ontario Health Insurance Plan should fully fund more of the costs of sex reassignment surgery while also calling for the provincial health insurance plan to be dismantled.
5) The war over Pride Toronto
6) A homophobic and transphobic Ontario election campaign
Making matters worse, several PC candidates in the Ontario election distributed copies of the ad and a flyer that added grossly misleading suggestions that the Toronto School Board required students to set up same-sex kissing booths and crossdress. Tim Hudak refused to apologize
, even when the TDSB chair filed an official complaint
against the party.
7) The photography of Steve Walls
This report about a controversial exhibit at Montreal’s Galerie Espace
drew furious debate in our comments section about the propriety of Walls’ photographs, including one that depicted a nude, tattooed model posing as Jesus Christ on the cross with an erection.
8) Remembering Jamie Hubley
9) The 1981 bathhouse riots
Our commemorative coverage
of the 1981 bathhouse riots, looking back on 30 years of the modern Canadian gay rights movement, was a huge hit with readers.
10) TIE: Queer couple kicked out of Tim Hortons
Riley Murphy and her girlfriend, Patricia Pattenden, were shocked and offended when the manager of a Blenheim, Ontario, Tim Hortons told them the coffee shop is “family-friendly” and threatened to call police
over their public displays of affection, which included Murphy putting her arm around Pattenden and giving her a peck on the cheek. A local pastor alleged that the couple were “basically having sex
.” A subsequent kiss-in outside the store
saw about 30 people protest Tim Hortons’ actions.
10) TIE: Facebook comment sparks trans boycott of Xtra
This late entry to our list just squeaked in before the deadline. It began when Xtra
reporter Andrea Houston wrote a feature article about the dangers of sex work
, in which she interviewed trans sex worker Lexi Tronic. Assignment editor Danny Glenwright posted a link to the story on his personal Facebook page in which he mentioned Tronic’s birth first name, as they have a history together and he wanted to point out the story to their mutual childhood friends.
Tronic and several of her friends were outraged and launched a boycott of the paper, saying the decision to reference Tronic’s first name was transphobic.
Danny removed the Facebook post and then wrote on xtra.ca’s blog about the controversy. That post has become the most-read blog entry on xtra.ca all year, with more than 130 reader comments as of press time.