Saturday, June 28, 2014

chickens, water and pollen at the Toronto Islands

Believe it or not, these days it's not all about WorldPride.  It's also about enjoying this gorgeous - and short - summer!   So Friday we decided to hop on a ferry and have some peace and sun and nature before the more serious Pride partying took hold.

So they're for real?

We started at the Centre Island because we missed the ferry to Ward's Island, our main destination.  Honestly, we usually avoid Centre Island - too crowded, too many buildings, too big roads...   But, in escaping the island, we had to cross some entertainment area and what did they have in the tiny zoo?  This out-of-this-world too-cute-to-be-true silk chickens!   I had seen a pic in the internet, and I had assumed it was a fake pic, but here they were.  So fluffy they're almost blind, silky white chickens with black beaks and legs.  Totally funny and unexpected.

Sitting on a log, on Snake Island

We finally made it out of Centre Island and headed to one of our favourites - Snake Island.  It's small, it's not too popular, and you have beautiful views of the skyline.  We sat on a log by the water, and relaxed.   As simple as that.

Attack of the poplar trees

Friday Toronto received a severe dose of pollen from poplar trees.  I'm not sure where else in the city there are poplars, but the islands sure had a fair share.  And it was one big crazy pollen party over there!  You had pollen in the water.  On the ground.  In your hair.  And in the sky.  And, strangely, this last one made for a very nice video, which I'm posting below.

Not a bad summer day at all.   

Friday, June 27, 2014

End of the World Trans Pride Party

Continuing with my WorldPride reporting, Wednesday there was this very alternative, very crazy party:  the End of the World Trans Pride Party.  At a club called The Bovine Sex Club.  Which is not a sex club, mind you, but it's not your run of the mill club either, or at least not that night!

Those were some very striking performances I saw: transmen, transwomen, gender bending performers, burlesque, comedic lip synching, goth strip tease (I can't find a better name for it), performances with blood (related to HIV awareness art), performances about gender policing, reading of queer texts...  This was queer, fun, poignant, dark, camp... The crowd was absolutely electrified!  A crowd which, quite unsurprisingly, exhibited a more than fair share of gender non-conforming appearances.

Though this kind of events and parties may not be everybody's cup of tea, that was quite the party to remember and I had a blast.

I'm posting a video below about some of the performances I saw.   It's adult in nature.  It's transgender.  It's transgressive.  And there's some nudity.  And it doesn't give a very clear idea of the performances because the clips are too short.  You've been warned.  If anything of the sort offends you, do NOT click on play.  Oh, and happy (trans)Pride!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nuit Rose

As you may have realized now by my constant posting, WorldPride 2014 Toronto is huge.  There's something going on, somewhere, all the time.  And even things that had never ever happened before, like Nuit Rose, a "queer focused contemporary art event in celebration of World Pride 2014 in Toronto".  Since this was an event with some 65 art installations, exhibitions, performances and more, from Saturday 7:00pm to Sunday 3:00am, in two queer areas of the city, if you don't like lengthy posts - this is your cue to exit.

We started at Zone 1, Queen Street West, colloquially known as Queer St. West.   First stop, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA) which, by the way, always features great murals by the entrance, like this one: Herero Women Walking, by Jim Naughten.  Not officially part of Nuit Rose but what, you're not going to diss a mural like this just because, right?

Anyhow, back to Nuit Rose.  Our first event, at the MOCCA: an astonishing exhibition called "Over the Rainbow: Seduction and Identity", from the collection of Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex.  You have no idea how many iconic queer icons there were here!  Mapplethorpe, Gretta Garbo, Keith Haring...  Loved it.

Second stop!  The Sex Offensive: Emancipating Gender, by The Cunning Linguists, at the Propeller Centre For The Visual Arts.  First of all - great exhibition with art about sex and gender  (oh how bizarre I'd like this, eh?).  I even spotted a number of things I'd love to buy as a very fitting memento of our stay in Toronto.  If I could afford it, of course.   But, second of all - guests read stories, poetry and texts about, what else, the politics of sex and gender, presented and read by equally gender-diverse people.  Just my kind of crowd in my kind of setting.

Should things ever get a bit too literary or political, there was always the option of an Awkward Glamour Party, by Mammalian Diving Reflex (awesome name!), at The Theatre Centre.   What a space to show off, walk a pretend runway, be silly, and party.  Because why not?  Period.

At that same place, the Theatre Centre, they had this beautiful installation called FeD, JOEL, OMAR and SEB, by Nigel Nolan (see? I credit all artists for their work, as we all should if we can).  At the place itself they gave the installation an alternative name, Argentina Boys for Sale, which gave you more of an idea about the installation's motif and development.   Anyhow, visually striking and conceptually special.

We kept walking westwards, towards the Gladstone Hotel.  On the way there, we stopped by the Powder Box Project, where artist Marlon Griffith decorated other people's necks with designs inspired by famous brands, using intricate stencils and talcum powder, as a social commentary on class divisions.

Getting closer to the Gladstone Hotel, there was this rainbow on the sidewalk - Rainbow 1.3 Kilometres, by Morris Fox & Brian Schirk, covering the same distance as that between Queen's Park to the 52nd Toronto Police Division.  Which was the route followed by the 1981 demonstration against Operation Soap, when the Toronto police raided four Toronto gay bathhouses.   It's a shame there wasn't some visible sign about this somewhere, so the vast majority of people (including us) missed its significance at first glance.

So, there's this radio show called Roynation.  About gay arts and politics.  And at Nuit Rose, people were offered the chance to participate, LIVE!   And you could get advice from the older gay guys, spinning a wheel (see photo) to try your luck with a subject.  I wanted to try this, but we were rushing to catch a bus to take us to Zone 2 of the festival, so...  Darn.

What does a Mad Queer Brain LOOK like?  Artists from the collective Workman Arts created this multimedia installation, wonderfully lit pink, as an interpretation of a mad queer brain.  The space itself was filled with paraphernalia and images, and deserved quite some time to look at, ponder and, why not, rest on the rug and pillows in the middle.  Actually, we visited this place after the Cunning Linguists event, but the installation looked even more pink the darker it got, so this pic is of the place on our way back, a while after we had got in.

Once we reached the Gladstone Hotel, we realized we were at the wrong side of it all.  You see, the organizers provided a shuttle between Zone 2, where we were, and Zone 1, the Church Wellesley Village, where we were headed, but there we realized the shuttle departed from the MOCCA side, not the Gladstone Hotel side!    So, we rushed back to where we had started and, on our way there, we came across the Light Parade, performing The Cocoon Project, by Joey Bruni.   The concept?  Simple:  a reminder of our link to nature, with cocoon-shaped lamps inspired by the diminishing numbers of Monarch butterflies due to human damage of their habitat.

So, the shuttle that was going to take us to Zone 1 departed from Artscape Youngplace, where we had a good 20 minutes to look at the installations and art over there, like Silence of the Femmes, by Ruben Llanillos, a compilation of femme themes and trash art, mixing items like makeup, quilts, pink vintage frames, condoms, cigarette butts and razors.  The artist - a trans femme queer person of colour.   Take that and think.

Obviously, no art installation in Toronto would be complete without interactive spaces, like Unlimited Edition, by Elizabeth Sweeney, where everybody and anybody was invited to create their own sculpture with materials provided there, create their own art, and even document and number it.   

At the same space, there was this - Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, by Rachelle Lee Smith.  So fitting for such a pink night, queer youth (14 to 24 year olds) writing their own thoughts and experiences on top of their photographs.  Thoughts about happiness, about coming out, about bisexuality...  

You may or may not be aware of location-based gay hook-up apps.  They're ubiquitous, they're used by tons of people, and artist Adam Moco decided to use them for, instead of hooking-up for sex, creating intimate portraits of the strangers he met, in his project Tryst Pic.

Finally, it was time to get on the "Bus of Perpetual Joy" (the shuttle I mentioned before taking people between Zone 1 and 2) where the Toronto Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – from the Abbey of the Divine Wood - made the ride a lewdly musical and joyous one, led by delightful Sister Penny Tration.    By the way, in case you've never heard about the Sisters, they're not a religious group (but they welcome people of all beliefs).  They have abbeys and missions in a number of cities and countries in North America, Europe and South America, where they do fundraising, visit hospices, educate people about safe sex, and have a fabulous time.  And just so you know, sisters can be gay, straight, bi, male, female, transgender, cisgender (look that up), white, black, Asian...  so basically the one common trait is that they all have a very serious community service vocation, and that they look fabulous!  Oh, and we got a Carnal Bliss Kit!  Which included a condom, a candy, and instructions!  

After a nice half-hour ride of singing, joking and talking (I must stress what a delightful person Sister Penny Tration is), we arrived at Zone 1:   the Church Wellesley Village, where even if you didn't want to see any installations or events you could just wander the streets with the crowds celebrating Pride on the pedestrianized Church St.  But since we'll have the rest of the week to go up and down the street as often as we want, we went for the rest of  Nuit Rose, heading to the 519 Church St. Community Centre.

There, at the 519, I took this photo of I Love Toronto, by Link Tong.  This piece and others by him (part of a collection made for this night called "La Nuit en Rose") were made of hundreds of handmade paper roses.  I can't imagine the work and time that must have taken! 

As at Zone 2, there was our chance to behave silly, too.  Inside the Balloon Room, by Sly Maria, a bisexual artist, photographer and burlesque performer based in Toronto.  I entered a sheer fabric covered structure filled with countless latex balloons, some of which were blown up by participants themselves.  Adults playing with balloons filled with the breath of others inside a mesh structure conceived by a burlesque performer.  Neat, eh?

Last, and most definitely not least, we enjoyed a concert by the Counterpoint Community Orchestra, Toronto’s LGBTQ orchestra.   It has a 30 year history.  Can you imagine?  An LGBTQ orchestra THIRTY years ago?  Now that's commitment to creating a positive space for queer people!  Oh, AND, for this night, they had a special guest - a bandura player!   The bandura is this gorgeous Ukrainian instrument, a combination of a lute and a zither, with 68 strings.  It looked beautiful, and it sounded as beautiful as it looked. 

As you can see, we missed quite a number of art installations and performances.   But I was happy, and tired, and excited about all this effort to celebrate and to create spaces for queer artists and performers.  I must definitely agree with Link Tong, I love Toronto.

By the way, this is my 1,000th post!   Yay!  So glad it was about such a special night!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rainbow CN Tower

Obviously, WorldPride 2014 Toronto could not miss a rainbow CN Tower, could it!

Bizarre Ball at Buddies in Bad Times

Continuing with my plans to celebrate WorldPride 2014 Toronto until I drop - given it's my last Pride celebration in the Great White North - I took the huz to this event a friend had recommended as bizarre and fun.  Accurate words!

We found ourselves watching a fun, and very queer, show: Bizarre Ball - Rainbow Warriors. With people in drag, people in sexy outfits, people vogueing (the kind of dance African-Americans invented and Madonna popularized in her Vogue clip) down the runway and people competing in a number of extravagant and fun categories - not your average night at all.

There was a - of course! - Best Dressed competition, with people showing their most photographable and fashionable selves with a dash of canary yellow (essential requisite to compete, LOL).   And butch guys on 5inch+ pumps prancing and doing tricks on the runway (the BQUIP - Butch Queen Up In Pumps - contest).   And gay and transguys working the runway to do a sort of reverse drag: passing off as straight (the Realness competition).  And a number of other ones (like 6 or 7!) we missed because I was frankly exhausted (it had been a normal workday, after all) and I had seen one of my buddy's compete (and rooted for him like there was no tomorrow).   

What is there not to love about a bit of craziness and queerness and ridiculousness in your Pride celebrations, eh?  Keep it comin'!

WorldPride 2014 Toronto Opening Ceremony

Friday at the Toronto City Hall the rainbow flag was raised and a 10 day-long celebration of diversity and inclusion (and an expected 2 million visitors) began - WorldPride 2014 Toronto!

There's so much to say about this event... Nathan Phillips Square, where the opening took place, was full of people of all races, all genders, all orientations, all family configurations.  Everybody gathered there, everybody walked towards there, in complete safety, no matter how queer or gay or butch or straight or fancy or ordinary anybody looked.  This is no small feat for a society.

The Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, the first openly gay head of government in Canada, was there, with her wife, saying how in a 42 city tour not once had she been challenged for being a lesbian.  Saying how she plans to make Ontario even more tolerant, more inclusive.  Reminding everybody that there are still schools where LGBTQ children don't feel safe, and that she will work to make schools safe places too.   Having this kind of speech, from this kind of government officer, about these subjects... This is no small feat for a society.

When numerous countries still discriminate against, prosecute or even kill LGBTQ people, and even considering that Canada still has some way to go, Toronto is indeed one beacon - amongst precious few - for those societies that aspire for respect and inclusion of their citizens regardless of gender and orientation, and I feel incredibly grateful for the privilege of enjoying this for the past 5 years.

I'm getting just a tad serious, so let's not forget - this is a CELEBRATION!   And, given how conservative Toronto can be expense-wise, we were stunned to see everything that went into this ceremony, including numerous artists, like Deborah Cox, one of Canada's top R&B artists:

And Melissa Etheridge, famous American rock singer-songwriter and iconic gay and lesbian activist, whose simple message (in songs and words) was come out, get up, and stand up for your rights:

And, finally, a beautiful fireworks and laser display with great music to boot, like "I was born this way" and, of course, "Over the Rainbow", which touched quite a few hearts.

Let's be grateful, let's be proud, and let's paaarty!

Monday, June 16, 2014

sunny day at the Toronto Islands

Sunday was perfect pre-summer weather:  sunny, and a delicious 18 ºC (the Goldilocks temperature? not too hot, not too cold, just perfect).  Me, craving a bit of nature, dragged the huz to the Toronto Islands so he could see a lighthouse he hadn't been to (see this previous post of mine) and so that I could have my walk in the sun surrounded by water and trees, a view of the oldest Toronto landmark and the second oldest lighthouse in Canada, and a walk on the clothing optional beach with the cold water refreshing my feet and recharging myself with the sun's rays.

I have to say, as big and urban as Toronto seems in comparison with other Canadian cities, Torontonians are still blessed.  A meagre 7 dollars gets you to an island park, with wildlife, numerous paths, forest, canals, beaches...  This was one delicious walk, and another thing I'll miss from my big Hogtown (that's a nickname for Toronto, in case you didn't know).