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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The wisest friend

"It's so cryptic when someone tells you to be yourself but I think you know when you're not."

I had the pleasure this week of hearing Rabbi Steve Greenberg speak. He is the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, whose tagline is "Homophobia is just one room in the larger hotel of misogyny." He is also featured in For the Bible Tells Me So, which I just saw last night. It is about conservative religious folks (mostly Christian) and their gay children, who include Bishop Gene Robinson and Chrissy Gephardt (Richard's daughter). Desmond Tutu and many others are also featured in the film.

The interesting thing is that none of them gave up their faith nor are they all in the same place politically; rather, "love conquers all."
And isn't that what fans of romance believe in?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My city's gayer than yours

Appeared 2005 in Xtra!


In the gym the other day, I caught a glimpse of a trailer for Million Dollar Baby. I hadn't seen Hilary Swank since Boys Don't Cry, so the prospect of her in another challenging role (as a boxer) grabbed my attention.

In the context of a locker room it made sense to look at what a weight trainer can do for an actress whose career might have tanked after she portrayed a transgendered character. It was only when women around me started murmuring about how old Clint Eastwood has gotten that I realized I was the only queer there.

Remember, long ago, coming out and chanting "We are everywhere?" Where I'm from--not just the States but one of those Red States--that did not appear to be true. It was only too obvious that I was the only queer in whatever room I was in. But now I live in a city that seems so queer and queer-positive that it can be unnerving.

For example, after years of immigration hassles, my lover and I were happy just to live in the same country for more than months at a time. We didn't ask to be recognized as same-sex partners, so when the realities of Canadian law found us being proclaimed such in a taxman's office, it was awkward. It seemed we should be celebrating something, but how romantic is H&R Block?

We have so far held out against what some see as the ultimate domestication of wild homos--marriage. Otherwise, we aren’t a very radical couple. Before I lived in Toronto, I always figured that not being straight was radical enough for most people. If nothing else, I figured it got me off the parenting hook, as the last thing straight society wanted was for us to breed.

How surprised I was by the Toronto phenomenon of straight co-workers who actually ask if marriage and/or children are in our future. These people all know we’re lesbians; they take lesbians so for granted now that they expect us to wed and go on maternity leave. No wonder other queers look at the same-sex marriage fight and wonder where we went wrong.

In the minds of our neighbours, it seems, the girls are all getting pregnant, and the boys have all quit the bathhouses and are lining up to pose in Condo Living. I feel the need for resistance--or at least harness shopping--just to maintain some clarity in "We're all gay now" Toronto.

My lover, who seems determined to remain a woman, nonetheless has a running joke about being, at heart, a gay man. In the Pride run, she observed that never before had she been handed water by a man in a thong. She seemed so thrilled, I hope it was only the affirmation of community and not pushing the boundaries of gender. Are her fondness for men in black leather and mania for cleaning the house signs that I live with a queen? Perhaps this is the ever-queerer future for some of us.

But what do I tell my friends in America, who are fighting legislative efforts to scale back rights they already have? “Forget marriage laws, pass the latex and lube?”

Let's face it, the longer you do something the more you have to seek bigger and bigger thrills. Even committed monogamists know that a little renewal can be a very good thing. We haven't come all this way in the sexual revolution just to register at Canadian Tire.

On the other hand, we can get a bit spoiled here. After the U.S. election lesbians down south were e-mailing me wondering where to go from here, now that bashing gay marriages had been used to re-elect Bush and to take away much of what Americans have gained over the years. Beyond North America, things are far worse. We do have it better up here than down in the States, but at least they’ve got rid of the sodomy laws.

Having grown up breaking those laws myself, I was floored when a Toronto colleague said that her young daughter had been called a lesbian at school. “And the first thing I said was, ‘That's not an insult!’” I’ve heard other parents say things like that, and they seem to have no idea how remarkable it is. On Remembrance Day, I heard a client talking about the Holocaust and mentioning the homosexuals and others who also died, as if that were the most natural thing in the world. What does “natural” even mean any more?

So I appreciate those locker-room moments when I'm watching Ellen while everyone else is looking at Jude Law. Then we get in the elevator with a pumped guy and his sugar daddy, and breathe a sigh of relief. All is well. For now.