Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fàilte gu Alba - Our 13th anniverary

"What an ugly photo", you must be thinking.  And yes, I myself don't think it's pretty either.  But when I took it, we were approaching Scotland, and at that moment I experienced a sense of wonder at a land that didn't look like I expected - it seemed... more? More intriguing, more rugged, more extensive... I'm always excited about travelling, of course.  Always.  But all of a sudden I realized I was feeling even more excited at this land that was surprising me even as we approached from the air...   

Ah, yes, of course.  Though nobody should need a reason to travel, we did have one - our 13th anniversary.  We've found trips to be the perfect anniversary gifts:  we both get to enjoy them, they're unique, we bond, we grow, and they're simply way, way better than anything we could ever afford to buy for each other.  And why Scotland?  Well, funny thing, work circumstances meant I couldn't plan in advance and my husband's plans to go to either Norway or Bolivia fell through (air fares had gone through the roof for those two by the time I could finally book things).   I was left looking for a destination we could fly to without breaking the bank, hopefully one that offered either great nature, great culture, or both.  And out of Ireland, the Açores, London, Vancouver and Scotland, Scotland came out the winner (with Ireland a close second, though).

This was an amazing trip.  It was gorgeous.  It was fun.  It was a great way to say goodbye to Canada (I count these destinations as part of our Canadian experience, as they're relative close and easy to get to from here).  And it was a good way to remind us that staying together takes effort, that making that effort is rewarding, and that we're pretty good together, warts and all.   

Ah, one last detail before I begin with the trip's posts:  Fàilte gu Alba, the title of the series, means Welcome to Scotland in Scottish Gaelic.  I enjoyed seeing so many bilingual sings and, as a language buff, I appreciate Scotland's efforts to preserve and promote Scottish Gaelic. So don't be surprised if I use the Scottish gaelic version of place names along with the English version.

Our next (first) stop...   Dùn Èideann! Edinburgh!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

trans* people, Toronto, atheism... and being Jewish?

I mean, years of learning about identity and the construction of the self thanks to Toronto's trans community, years of enjoying Toronto's rich Jewish culture and gradually developing an emotional sense of belonging, finally (finally!) cracking the puzzle of my partial Jewish family history, and then, then! finding there is a community that welcomes atheist and secular individuals within a framework of cultural Jewishness and a humanistic ethics?  There was only one option - unabashedly surrendering to one's willful and unconscious becoming of oneself.*  

*I took a long time to decide to publish this post. As I was happily crafting it, the current horrible situation in Gaza developed.  And then worsened.  Fearing this was terrible timing, I left it as a draft, unpublished.  I kept quiet.  But that felt like hiding, like feeling shameful of something that had made me very happy.  But stealing inspiration from some powerful words from a friend's post today, I can say there is nothing to be ashamed of by identifying as a humanist Jew who believes in freedom, social justice, and human happiness guided by critical thinking, abundant compassion and radical empathy, which are even more important than ever at this moment.  So there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


A festival.

Of short home-made porn films, made mostly by locals from Seattle and Portland, and which are destroyed after the last viewing so people can get to be porn stars or pornographers just temporarily.

With no judging based on body type, gender or fetish represented.

With no commercial aim, without even the aim of pleasing the general public, the main purpose being personal expression and a communal celebration of that.

With 20 or so really diverse shorts, which can really take you out of your comfort zone.

For me, all this is what makes this event so valuable.  Whatever gives people new avenues for self-expression in a safe space.  And on top of that in a fun way?  Thanks Dan Savage for bringing "Hump!" to Toronto! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

WorldPride 2014 Toronto

Trade - WorldPride edition

WorldPride was over Sunday July 29th.  But that didn't mean the partying stopped.  It just became a bit more subdued, with more parties Monday, albeit starting earlier and of a more relaxed nature.  I dragged my tired self to one of them - Trade, at a bar called Black Eagle - a party on a rooftop to enjoy the summer sun, a brewski, in gym shorts, and in a sex positive atmosphere. 

Now, about that last part which may or may not have raised an eyebrow or two... There's something straight culture in general could learn from LGBT culture, or - to use Toronto as example - at least from urban North American queer culture: sex positivity.   Though the more conservative people might simply interpret this as pure, debased debauchery, sex positivity simply means that human sexuality and sexual exploration are celebrated and accepted, within a framework of consent, safety and freedom.  Seriously, does that sound unreasonable at all?

Anyhow, back to Trade.  Was it like an orgy? Did everyone have to engage in sex?  No.  And no. As hard as it may be to imagine for someone who hasn't been to sex positive parties before, the majority of people simply relaxed after a good many days of partying, danced to good music, chatted with old friends and made new ones, basked in a very pleasant afternoon sun, had a few cold beers, and some - just some - played with others in a consenting, congenial, sexy, laid back atmosphere.  Although something tells me that no matter whichever way I may write this, I'm sure it still sounds to some as the dirtiest, raunchiest, unhealthy, disgusting thing in the world...  

Still, I couldn't finish my WorldPride posts without some praise to this aspect of LGBT culture in Toronto which, frankly, seems healthy, liberating, fun, and simply essentially human.  Bravo Toronto, and thanks for an unbelievably good, fun, diverse, rich, inclusive, sexy, and meaningful WorldPride!

The End

Saturday, July 12, 2014

bye bye Toronto, nos vemos en Madrid!

Yes, the WorldPride saga is almost over!   I didn't think I'd end up posting this much.  But I didn't think I'd be experiencing this much either!

So, after the Parade, we rushed to Dundas Square for the closing ceremony.  The place was - how unsurprising - packed!  The weather - gorgeous.  The mood - friendly, ecstatic, loving...  One funny thing?  I'm a lover of dark beer, you know, porters, stouts...  But my friend who was visiting loves cider.  So I ended up trying Canadian cider... it was perfect for the weather! Still discovering things right before I leave, eh?

As for entertainment, it was fun non stop.  I have no idea who Ce Ce Peniston and Robin S were. But, to begin with, they had everybody up and dancing.  And, additionally, Robin S is the Robin S from "Show me love"!  If you don't know what song I'm talking about, just google it and listen to it.  Within 5 seconds you'll recognize it!  Also, we welcomed Madrid as the next host of WorldPride in 2017!  Spain will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first Pride Parade, and given Madrid's lively scene, that should be a WorldPride to remember too!  ¡Felicidades Madrid!  

But you know what one of the best things was?  We knew there was a chance of some light showers - it was in the forecast.  But the clouds loomed darker than expected.  And what at first felt like tiny drops soon became bucketfuls of water pouring on us!   Why was that great? Because there's nothing better than to stand there, not giving a damn about getting soaking wet, while enjoying a performance by an artist - Rich Aucoin - giving it his all because his public is right there with him jumping up and down and celebrating diversity and enjoying the moment despite anything and everything.  So liberating!  And they even let people use a gigantic rainbow flag - that had been used as a backdrop for some parts of the event - as an improvised massive umbrella! Seeing that enormous multicoloured cloth unfold from hand to hand was fabulous! Loved it!  And wait, because it gets better!  What comes after the rain in the late afternoon?  Afternoon sunshine. And with it?  Not one, but TWO rainbows!  Yes!  A double rainbow!  Effing amazing, people.  EF-FING aMAZEing. 

And the show was far from over.  With both rainbows still above, though beginning to fade as night fell on us, we still had "Hedwig" (a fictional character from a glam rock musical called "Hedwig and the angry inch"), a stunning performance by Circus Orange with women clad in metal corsets putting electric saws to their bosoms and genitals to generate tongues of fiery sparks radiating from them, and the cherry on top the Pride cake:  Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara (ok, I admit, I had no idea who they were, but the vast majority of people around me did, and they certainly were crazy excited!).

And since no ceremony could be complete without them, WorldPride said farewell to Toronto with a show of fireworks.  Yay!

Now, just in case for those extremely few of you who actually enjoy video, here's a short one with clips from the whole thing, from Ce Ce Peniston to the fireworks!  If I may say so, it's pretty neat.

Now, we were not just going to go home because someone had said WorldPride was over, right? A quick walk back at the Church - Wellesley Village proved that the party, despite it being very late and a Sunday, was still pretty much still going on!  Granted, the stages were closing down. But the crowds still filled the streets, the music from the clubs still spilled unto the pedestrianized Village, and everybody was having the time of their life with what energy countless days of non-stop partying had left.  Which in our case wasn't very much, I'll concede! 

But we had a mission.  My friend was leaving the next morning and she had one more thing to try before leaving Canada - poutine!   If you're not Canadian or haven't been here, chances are you have no idea what this is strange thing that Canadians couldn't do without at their hockey games, for example.  No hot dogs? Probably.  No poutine?  War!   Here a photo of the delicacy, composed of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds.  Yes, cheese curds:

We headed back home.  And we caught a glimpse of the last few minutes the CN Tower was lit with the colours of the rainbow running up its length.  Until it stopped, reset, and began showing red and white patterns for Canada Day.  WorldPride was indeed officially over.  My best Pride ever, by far, unquestionably so.  A very fitting farewell to this city I've come to appreciate so much.  Respect.

Friday, July 11, 2014

WorldPride because AWESOME

OK, let's have a break from the more serious WorldPride posts.  Sunday 29th was the last, and biggest, celebration - the WorldPride Parade!  We watched the parade for some 3 hours, and we must have seen just over half of it!   It was huge!  And just about everybody participated! Universities, unions, government services, night clubs, nudists, polyamorists, the leather community, the Ismaili community, the Thais, the Chinese, the African community, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, libraries, the Indian community, gamers, all sorts of sports clubs and leagues... Everybody!   With some 12000 participants, over 280 floats and over a million visitors, this was one massive party indeed!  

We later moved to Dundas Square for the closing ceremony, which was one incredible event too. And then we headed to the Village for more partying, and went looking for poutine... But that''ll be for my next post, because I want to keep this post simple and celebratory, because like I said - AWESOME!   

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

KripHop and GendurrWTF!

There are two additional WorldPride events I would be absolutely nuts not to mention, and which took place the same day as the Dyke March.  These are very special to me because they were a strong and clear signal of the inclusiveness and diversity of Toronto.

Queer Krip Hop - Tangled Arts + Disability Showcase

The first one was the Queer Krip Hop - Tangled Arts + Disability Showcase at the Wellesley Stage.   I wish I knew the name of the first artists you see in the video, but I can't find them anywhere.  I have no idea what their disabilities were, if any.  But what mattered was that they were up there, sharing their beautiful voices and poetry with us.  Intimate, sensual, defying.   Fortunately, I do have the name of the last performers, a Krip Hop (yes, that's the name of the genre) band - the Wheelchair Sports Camp.  They were amazing!  Talk about meeting artists new to you!  One of the musicians had a very strange instrument, with a horn-like quality.  I loved this performance!  And needless to say I was super proud that WorldPride had dedicated a special stage for queer and differently abled people.  That totally rocked!

GendurrWTF - Genderf*ck Pride Show

On top of that, later that night there was a second event, this one related to Trans* Pride: the GendurrWTF - Genderf*ck Pride Show.  Here's what was posted on the party's website, so you can get an idea of what this was all about:

"Are you a boy or a girl?"

And stealing another bit from the website - it just can't be said any better! - this event was about "celebrating the fluidity of gender, smashing the binary, then sweeping up the pieces into a beautiful collage".  And that's what it was, smashing gender neat-boxing and, best of all, pretty much on the street!  Because the North Stage had no private access and everything you see in the video below was visible to anybody walking down Church St.  Granted, it was WorldPride, people expected to see a higher rate of different looks and behaviours.  But this definitely must have gone beyond anybody's expectations!  And it was simply too fun.  (you do you it's incredibly fun to twist and tear and smash the gender binary, do you not?)

As usual, a small warning:  there might be some nudity - all in the name of art and performance - and some adult themes.  If you're not comfortable with either... then what on earth are you doing even glancing at this post?  Out!  Now!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

of bikes, country and a cherry bomb!

Continuing with the WorldPride theme, now it's the ladies' turn!   And since a good friend of mine was visiting, and she's very much into ladies, I made sure she saw aaaaall the ladies humanly possible. [GRIN]  But first, the serious stuff:  the Dyke March.  And before someone might complain about the term Dyke, let me remind you that's the official name of the march, and that it's part of the politics of reappropriation of slurs by queer communities.  So there.   

Anyhow, like the Trans* March (see this post), the Dyke March is really interesting because it conveys a wide number of messages relating to feminism, gender, sexual politics...  It is both a celebration and a march of a community with very valid demands.   Plus, it's got quite some history, starting in the mid-nineties.  Among other things, people march against prostitution laws that'll leave sex-workers more vulnerable, they march because women are still paid less than men, they march because acceptance of diversity and respect for all genders starts in safe and embracing schools, they march against slut-shaming, they march because being queer is still illegal and dangerous in most countries, they march for inclusion of transgender women in women's movements and fights.   Like I said, this is no empty-messaged march at all.  Respect to the Dyke March for that!

Like the Trans* March, the Dyke March was not just about clear and bold political statements and demands.  It's about community, and of celebrating together.  And for that the crowds gathered at the South Stage for the "Gay Ole Opry" country / trad showcase, and one of the showcase stars was... Chely Wright! Now, I'm no country boy.  But I recognize the importance of this woman for the movement, as she was deep, deep in the closet at some point.  And she was very well know in her genre.  And she was (and is) super feminine and completely passed as straight.  So coming out as a lesbian was a big step for her, launched her as an activist, and was pretty darn meaningful to a number of girls and women (sort of like Michael Sam's - the American football player - coming out as gay was very meaningful to quite a number of men).   

The icing on the Dyke Cake was the official Dyke March party: Cherry Bomb!   600+ women from all around (remember - WorldPride!) dancing to fierce music by female DJ's.   Though I did face some slight opposition to using the gender neutral washrooms (a couple of girls insisted I went to the "gents" washroom; I insisted on pointing to the huge "gender neutral" sign between both), at least one woman was intrigued enough by my "pansexual" sticker on my T-shirt to ask a few interesting questions and I even found a couple of female admirers of my beard! LOL Anyhow, the music was brilliant and the crowd one of a kind (you don't find parties with hundreds of lesbians and bi women around every corner, OK?).

So, the lesbian part of my WorldPride - including making my friend be as surrounded by women as possible - was a total success.  Hurray!