Tag Archives: Pride Month

An excerpt from ‘Queering Urban Justice’

The Toronto chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM-TO) organizes public interventions to resist anti-black racism in the GTA. One of the most prominent of these actions is the sit-in they staged to block the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade from moving until festival officials signed a pledge to be more inclusive of black and brown trans and LGTBQ people.  Within hours, news outlets across Canada were debating the merits of BLM-TO’s tactics (here).

Two of BLM-TO’s founding members, Janaya Khan and Leroi Newbold, facilitated a public teach-in at the bookstore A Different Booklist.  A transcript of this event is published as “Black Lives Matter Teach-In” in QUEERING URBAN JUSTICE, a new anthology edited by Jin Haritaworn, Ghaida Moussa, and Syrus Marcus Ware, with Río Rodríguez. The following exchange is an excerpt (pages 141-143):    

COMMUNITY MEMBER: Can you speak to what is unique about do­ing anti-Black racism organizing in Canada as opposed to other places?

JANAYA: We know deeply, as I’m sure some of you who do different social justice work here know, of the uphill battle trying to talk about social justice in Canada. They’ll invalidate racism here and say we’re not as bad as the US. When did our standards become so low that we can justify real violence by saying we’re not as bad as the US? Because we don’t have Black people dying every twenty-eight hours like they do? When did that become the standards of justice for Black people? We are legitimately in a state of emergen­cy in Canada. We already were.

One major issue we’ve faced here in Ontario is our Special In­vestigations Unit [SIU], that’s who we’re supposed to look to in the event that police use force against persons in this province. They were supposed to be a group of civilians, but they’re a group of ex-cops. According to their own report, from 2012 to 2013, there was a 22 per cent increase of incident reports of police officers using force against a person. There’s been a 51 per cent caseload increase for this small group of people. That tells us that our police are actually getting more and more militarized and aggressive, and that our SIU is not changing in order to be accountable to its populace. It is changing to better support police officers in their masquerading. In their pretence of justice and pretence of law enforcement, which has just really manifested itself around anti-Black racism and the killing of Black people.

Here in Canada we recognize, particularly in Toronto, that it’s not about critical masses as much as it is about critical connec­tions. Everyone here in this space needs to be making critical con­nections. We need to be having conversations about anti-Black racism in Canada because for the first time, in a long time, people are talking about anti-Black racism here. In this era, Black Lives Matter Toronto is pushing that narrative. But revolution happens in cycles, and we’re going to honour our elders, and look towards our Indigenous people and our Black people, as we read more and more about what’s come before us. Histories of this work aren’t accessible, they are not archived, but guess what – we al­ready know they’re there because we have been living and sur­viving in those conditions. This is why a space like A Different Booklist is so incredibly important. Because it is literally a part of Black Toronto; it’s a part of Black Canada’s history. That is why we need to support it.

Also, what we are dealing with here is fundamentally not about just the Harper government – get rid of it, get rid of it. What we’re dealing with is not just one party, politician, or institution. If we were to get rid of the current government, anti-Black racism would continue to exist. What we are dealing with is a belief system. It is a belief system that Black people are [inherently] inferior, and that we actually don’t feel pain, that we don’t hurt, that we don’t love. That is what anti-Black racism is. It manifests itself in lock­ing us up. There’s an article in the Toronto Star that said that Black youth spend the longest time in the Children’s Aid Society’s care. That’s an extension of the prison industrial complex. I was one of those youth; I grew up in that. I can tell you it did not help. It made things increasingly difficult. It made me known to the police. Why? Because they treated me as an adult, and I was twelve years old. And then fourteen years old. These are the contexts our orga­nizing is born out of.

For more about Queering Urban Justice, click here.

An excerpt from ‘Homophobia in the Hallways’ by Tonya D. Callaghan

On a cold day in March 2011, an inconspicuous, unremarkable group of students at St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario, did something remarkable, something that, in their school – indeed in Catholic schools across Canada at the time – was unthinkable. They requested permission to establish a club, a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) club in their school. To the unenlightened eye, their action appeared small, routine even. It was a logical request for an in-school club whose focus would be to make the school a safe space for lgbtq students and their straight allies by raising awareness about, and so hopefully reducing, school-based homophobia. It was not even an original idea; GSAs had originated in the United States almost 25 years before. Unbeknown to these students, they would soon be taking on a significant battle for Canadian LGBTQ rights. Their actions set off a series of events that would reverberate across the country.

The students quickly learned that St Joseph’s school was not ready for such a club. A maelstrom ensued. The students, led by 16-year-old Leanne Iskander, encountered strong opposition first from their principal and then from administrators at the district level. By June, they remained in a standoff. The students vowed to continue their fight in the next school term.

The establishment of a GSA in a secular Canadian public school barely seems an issue worth noting, judging by the lack of media stories about such attempts. There is, in fact, no formal mechanism in place to ban GSA clubs in non-religious public schools. Starting a GSA club in a secular public school has often, though not always, proved no more controversial than setting up an anti-racism or debate club. Students who join a GSA in a non-religious school have the right to broadcast their club meeting schedule over the school’s public address system, actively solicit other students for their club using posters and other means, meet on school property, and name their club a GSA without any concern over the use of the word gay. Note that publicly funded separate Catholic schools are accountable to civil, not church, authorities. Religious bodies do not have a constitutional or legal interest in separate schools, and, as such, Canadian Catholic separate schools are not private or parochial schools as many are in other countries.

In Canadian Catholic schools, such as St Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, however – a publicly funded school, I must emphasize – Leanne Iskander and friends’ request to establish such a club was rejected outright more than once and caused serious alarm, not only for the administrators of St Joseph’s but also for its school district, the Ontario bishops, and the Ontario provincial government.

The increasingly public battle between this particular group of students in St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School and their Catholic school administrators is significant because it represents the growing discontent between publicly funded Canadian Catholic schools and Canadian society at large. In Canada, same-sex legal rights have been steadily advancing – in 2005 Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize marriage equality nationwide (Rayside, 2008) – and Canadian gay Pride parades regularly attract millions of tourist dollars. In the publicly funded Canadian Catholic school system, however, advances in same-sex legal rights have been virtually non-existent. When trying to determine how to manage the existence of lgbtq people (students, teachers, aids, and support staff included) in Canadian Catholic schools, Catholic education leaders turn to Catholic doctrine rather than to their legal authority – Canadian human rights law. Catholic doctrine describes “homosexual acts” as “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered” and count among the list of “sins gravely contrary to chastity” (cited in Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops [OCCB], 2004a, p. 53). Needless to say, relying on Catholic doctrine as a guide for curricular and policy decisions makes Canadian Catholic schools hotbeds for homophobia.

An excerpt from ‘Prairie Fairies’ by Valerie J. Korinek

Prairie Fairies makes a contribution to a small but important literature analysing the history of gay liberationist activism in Canada and of the ways that Canadian activism was inspired by – and aware of – American developments, while differing from them in important ways.  Importantly, in a context where, as Miriam Smith has argued, the “national” movement was never more than a “set of loose networks … rather than a coherent actor,” local queer organizations were the source of most activities. The prairies thriving activist scenes, in Winnipeg and Saskatoon in particular, would play an important role in generating local activism and contributing to the “national” liberationist scene. Westerners played a more significant role than earlier pan-national works have acknowledged, including [the fact] that western activist groups hosted three of the eight national gay and lesbian conferences held between 1973 and 1980.

Gay liberationist strategies and tactics continued to be articulated and used in the west well into the mid-1980s. At a time when many central Canadian organizations would shift to “rights talk” and legal “equality seeking” in the early to mid-1980s, westerners continued with various platforms of the liberationist strategies, including consciousness-raising, education, and human rights matters when they arose. Taking a historical, regional approach to gay and lesbian activism captures continuity and change, offers more perspective into social actors and local organizations, and deepens our knowledge of the breadth of regional queer political work. It was AIDS that changed the focus of western Canadian activist organizations, as well as activist migrations and burnout, not a shift to “rights” talk in the advent of the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

By 1985, AIDS had arrived in all the prairie cities and this plague dramatically transformed the organizational, activist, and queer communities in the various cities, as attention turned from liberationist goals to medical advocacy and support. Hopefully, future historians will research and write that social history. The connections and debates fostered about health, politics, sexuality, and relations between lesbians and gay men post-AIDS offers another vantage point on questions about place, sexuality, and queer politics. AIDS conclusively ended any anachronistic or utopian notion that prairie cities were not home to sizable populations of lesbians and gays, or that LGBT residents would be content to be second-class citizens with respect to medical care, political representation, or basic human rights protections.

From 1930 to 1985, Prairie Fairies demonstrates that queer people created communities; fostered social, educational and social service opportunities; and, indeed, created spaces for prairie residents to be gay or lesbian. People found pockets of urban spaces in which to be queer – this became a precursor to formal politics for some individuals, but also a way to assert a political identity in a place constantly trying to ignore, silence, or eradicate such differences. Putting the queer westerners back into the modern history of prairie cities and prairie societies reclaims important literal and historical space for prairie queer people, and moves them from the margins to the centre of the historical frame. From the 1930s through to the mid-1980s, queer westerners were part of vibrant queer and straight communities, and stories of these “mavericks” ironically fit beautifully within the prairie historiography at the very same time that their existence challenges everything we thought we knew about these provinces.

Pride Month Reading List

Happy Pride Month Toronto! This month we have been tweeting about what you should add to your LGBTQ+ reading list. Here are a few more titles you may be interested in. Have a safe and happy Pride! 

Phipps_ConstanceMaynardsPassionsConstance Maynard’s Passions: Religion, Sexuality, and an English Educational Pioneer, 1849-1935

By Pauline A. Phipps

Successful but self-tormented, English educational pioneer Constance Maynard (1849–1935) was a deeply religious evangelical Christian whose personal atonement theology demanded that one resist carnal feelings to achieve personal salvation. As the founder of Westfield College at the University of London, Maynard championed women’s access to a university education. As the college’s first principal, she also engaged in a string of passionate relationships with college women in which she imagined love as God’s gift as well as a test of her faith.

Using Maynard’s extensive personal papers, especially her diaries and autobiography, Pauline A. Phipps examines how the language of her faith offered Maynard the means with which to carve out an independent career and to forge a distinct same-sex sexual self-consciousness in an era when middle-class women were expected to be subservient to men and confined to the home. Constance Maynard’s Passions is the fascinating account of a life which confounds the usual categories of faith, gender, and sexuality.

4804 Deri Selected.inddLove’s Refraction: Jealousy and Compersion in Queer Women’s Polyamorous Relationships

By Jillian Deri

Popular wisdom might suggest that jealousy is an inevitable outcome of non-monogamous relationships. In Love’s Refraction, Jillian Deri explores the distinctive question of how and why polyamorists – people who practice consensual non-monogamy – manage jealousy. Her focus is on the polyamorist concept of “compersion” – taking pleasure in a lover’s other romantic and sexual encounters.

By discussing the experiences of queer, lesbian, and bisexual polyamorous women, Deri highlights the social and structural context that surrounds jealousy. Her analysis, making use of the sociology of emotion and feminist intersectionality theory, shows how polyamory challenges traditional emotional and sexual norms.

Clear and concise, Love’s Refraction speaks to both the academic and the polyamorous community. Deri lets her interviewees speak for themselves, linking academic theory and personal experiences in a sophisticated, engaging, and accessible way.

Bakich_ValeriiPerelshin
Valerii Pereleshin: The Life of a Silkworm

By Olga Bakich

Olga Bakich’s biography of Valerii Pereleshin (1913–1992) follows the turbulent life and exquisite poetry of one of the most remarkable Russian émigrés of the twentieth century. Born in Irkutsk, Pereleshin lived for thirty years in China and for almost forty years in Brazil. Multilingual, he wrote poetry in Russian and in Portuguese and translated Chinese and Brazilian poetry into Russian and Russian and Chinese poetry into Portuguese. For many years he struggled to accept and express his own identity as a gay man within a frequently homophobic émigré community. His poems addressed his three homelands, his religious struggles, and his loves. In Valerii Pereleshin: The Life of a Silkworm, Bakich delves deep into Pereleshin’s poems and letters to tell the rich life story of this underappreciated writer.

Marhoefer_Sex and the Weimar Republic - cSex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis

By Laurie Marhoefer

Liberated, licentious, or merely liberal, the sexual freedoms of Germany’s Weimar Republic have become legendary. The home of the world’s first gay rights movement, the republic embodied a progressive, secular vision of sexual liberation. Immortalized – however misleadingly – in Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories and the musical Cabaret, Weimar’s freedoms have become a touchstone for the politics of sexual emancipation.

Yet, as Laurie Marhoefer shows in Sex and Weimar Republic, those sexual freedoms were only obtained at the expense of a minority who were deemed sexually disordered. In Weimar Germany, the citizen’s right to sexual freedom came with a duty to keep sexuality private, non-commercial, and respectable.

Sex and the Weimar Republic examines the rise of sexual tolerance through the debates which surrounded “immoral” sexuality: obscenity, male homosexuality, lesbianism, transgender identity, heterosexual promiscuity, and prostitution. It follows the sexual politics of a swath of Weimar society ranging from sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld to Nazi stormtrooper Ernst Röhm. Tracing the connections between toleration and regulation, Marhoefer’s observations remain relevant to the politics of sexuality today.