Friday, 26 August 2016

Overheard Conversation: Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway

I want to say she's a a bigot.

You can’t say that.

Why not?


Because why?

Because it’s not a good idea.


But she called me a bigot.

Yes, but just because she called you a bigot, doesn’t mean you should call her one.

Why not?

I told you, it’s not a good idea.


What about if…if I say I won’t deport all the Mexicans.

You would say that?

Sure, I would say that.

You would?

Yes. For sure. If  I can call Hilary Clinton a bigot.


But if you call Hilary Clinton a bigot, you have to have a reason.

I have a reason.


She didn’t help them.

That’s not enough.

Why not. 

When didn’t she help them?

Whenever. In the…past…she had a powerful position, she was running this country, and the blacks aren’t doing any  better. Why can’t I say that?

Okay Don’t say ‘blacks.’ Don’t ever say ‘blacks.’

Why not.

African Americans. Say it with me. Right now.

Okay, okay. (pause) African Americans.  (pause)  But why can’t I say she’s ignoring African Americans then?

Because ignoring African Americans is not really bigotry.

Why not?

It’s just not.


Look, what about if I say, okay, we’ll let the Mexicans stay and they’re not bad people,they’re good people and maybe just maybe, there’s a path to citizenship and…and I’m sorry I hurt their feelings.

You’ll say you’re sorry?

Yes, I will. I’ll say…I’ll say — I shouldn’t have been so harsh. I’ll say I have feelings. I feel for them. The Mexican people.

You’d say that?

Yes of course. Of course I’d say that. I’d say that in a heartbeat. I’d say that now.


But I really want to call Hilary a bigot. 

Why? why are you so obsessed with calling Hilary Clinton a bigot?

I told you, she called me one.

Come on. That’s schoolyard stuff.

I don’t care. It’s what I want to do.


So…you’re willing to give amnesty to the Mexicans?

I’ll give them whatever they want. Whatever the Mexicans want, I’ll give them..

Really? Amnesty?

Sure. Amnesty. If that’s what they want. If that’s what you want.

Well maybe we shouldn’t say amnesty. But you can say you have feelings for them.

Okay. I can do that.

And you regret…

I should say, regret?

Yes you can say you regret. You’re not sorry, you regret. (pause) 

But -- dammit. (pause) Shit. 


They'll say it’s a flipflop.

If they do, that’s not a problem.



Why not?

We’ll just say it’s not a flipflop.

I should just deny it you mean.


I should deny it just like that?

Just like that. That’s not a problem.  If they ask us if it’s a flipflop we’ll just say, a candidate's opinions evolve. Especially a thoughtful candidate, who listens to his constituents. A candidate like Donald Trump. In fact, it could be a good thing for you to change your position.

Okay. Makes sense to me.. (pause) So I can say Hilary Clinton is a bigot?




Yes. This morning if you like.

High five?

High five.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

If That’s What It Means to be Queer — I Quit!

A few years ago I wrote an article titled ‘If that’s what it means to be gay, I quit!’ I was tired of apolitical, churchgoing, family-oriented, unsexual gays and lesbians, and outed myself as an ‘ESPIE’ — an effeminate sexual person. 
As a limp-wristed horny gay man I thought — ‘Well even if I’m not gay anymore I can still be queer!’ But recent developments have indicated that I might not be comfortable calling myself queer anymore either.
Last month I attended a queer conference in Vancouver. Someone at the conference said: ‘I have a dear friend who is asexual, they consider themselves to be queer.’ I said ‘That  doesn’t make sense to me. Queer is a word originally used against people because of the kind of sex they like to have. Hasn’t being queer always been about sex?’ Nobody seemed to agree with me.
At the same queer conference I also learned that some very vocal queers these days don’t like drag queens — and they’re certainly not ashamed to say so! Someone said drag was misogynistic, someone else said that drag queens perform to appropriated music — and that their humour is hurtful and unpleasant. Others agreed. My understanding was always that drag (as Judith Butler taught us) gives freedom to stretch the binary gender boundary. And don’t forget, drag queens are, and have always been, radicals — they were on the front lines at Stonewall.
But that is all history. And modern day queers don’t seem to care a fig about history.
All this is relevant to the changes taking place at Toronto Pride. The Executive Director of Pride Toronto — Mathieu Chantelois — recently resigned. 
His resignation has a lot to do with ‘new queer’ vs. ‘old gay and lesbian.’ 
At the the most recent Toronto Pride, Black Lives Matter marched in the parade, staged a protest against the police, and offered an agreement for Chantelois that would ban the police from formally marching in the parade. Chantelois signed the document, but after the parade he promptly disavowed his action. Now, as Chantelois resigns, there are voices calling for a more race-sensitive, trans-inclusive Pride.
The battle lines are pretty clear. The question is this: will Toronto Pride be a gay and lesbian parade — celebrating the mainstream values of nice, married middle-class white gay and lesbian parents pushing strollers and waving rainbow flags? Or will it be ‘new queer,’ focused on  issues of trans and race?
I haven’t marched in Pride for years; but I don’t think I’ll be marching when it turns ‘new queer.’ I mean, I’m all for a more race-sensitive, trans-inclusive parade, and I’ve fought against racism and for trans people most of my life. But the conference made it clear to me that in the ‘new queer’ world, there is absolutely no time or space for subjects that matter very much to me, for instance: AIDS, drag, sex, and feminism. The lack of support for my ideas at the queer conference made it very clear: these subjects are past-their-due-date and irrelevant, and the ‘new queer’ powers-that-be might even be offended by someone bringing them up.
So you see, now that I no longer can call myself ‘gay’, I find it doesn’t make sense to call myself  ‘queer,’ anymore, either.
Gee, what’s ol’ Sky to do?
It looks like I’ll be having my own party every June — all by myself!
Wish me luck!

Monday, 25 July 2016

I am NOT your ‘ELDER’

I am not your elder.
That is not my culture, that is a term from another culture and it has absolutely no relevance to mine.
So please do not call me that.
I am a white Canadian guy and I have very little knowledge of Aboriginal culture; and as much as I may have learn about it, I cannot claim to ever fully understand it, as I am not in it.
From my admittedly limited understanding, Canadian Aboriginal culture treats the older members of their community with great respect — younger people are interested in what ‘elders’ have to say, and give them a pride of place, based on the notion that they may have gathered wisdom in their many years upon this earth.
This may be true of Canadian aboriginal culture; however in modern day Canada the situation is quite different.
I know what it is to be old in Canada today. My disabilities are treated with irritation and fear. (When I walk slowly on the street I am told in no uncertain terms to get a move on!) I live in a culture that only values youth — and the kind of unwrinkled, slender beauty that is associated with it. Before I open my mouth it is assumed that I probably won’t have anything important to say; I can see people bracing themselves for the interminable tirade of an old bore. I have yet to encounter a young person who values my experience. In my work I am constantly told that I have ‘had my day’ and that it is time for me to move aside for a contemporary point of view.
If I go to the movies or go online I am overwhelmed with youth culture — pretty people talking about and doing things I did and talked about years ago — all as if it was something new, and without history.
But listen. I’m not complaining.
No, really. 
You don’t believe me?
Well it’s my culture. I have lived with the advantages of being young in a youth-obsessed culture for many years, so now I must reap the disadvantages of being old in it. 
That’s just the way it goes.
I fully accept it.
What I’m complaining about are white people who appropriate an Aboriginal Canadian term and call me their ‘elder.’
I think it’s an unfortunate trend that accompanies the earnest and positive efforts to rectify some of the wrongs committed by the Canadian government against Aboriginal Canadians in the past.
All well and good.
 But people are throwing around terms like ‘two spirited’ and ‘elder’ as if they were the same as ‘queer’ and ‘old’ —- and as if it were all just a big game of Pokemon Go.
Well it’s not.
I know that for most people in Canada, age is not a matter of respect. They are in fact quite uncomfortable as they watch me stumble, — on my unlit way — to ‘dusky death.’
Respectfully — you just don’t know what you’re talking about.

So please don’t call me ‘elder.’

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Sad Irony of Black Lives Matter

It is ironic that Black Lives Matter should have been asked to participate in this year’s Pride Toronto — and even more ironic after what happened at this year’s parade.
Pride Toronto has become a meaningless exercise in corporate  display. The floats are no longer sexual because it might scare the kids. Grass roots political organizations are priced out of the parade, so mostly what’s left are splashy floats featuring boys in speedos, funded by big corporations. 
Middle class LGBT+ people (not unlike middle class people everywhere) are attracted by anything that involves money and shopping. So Pride Toronto is well attended. What you will see there are the knobby knees of older folks marching in support of their right to have children, go to church, vote Conservative or join the armed forces. Any ‘political agenda’ is confined to campaigning for full legal rights for LGBT+ people; most of which we have already achieved.
There is very little these days in Toronto Pride that speaks to lefty politics, queer culture, or homophobia.
So why did Toronto Pride invite Black Lives Matter — an organization with a fiercely political left-wing agenda — to be featured at this year’s Pride?
What did Toronto Pride expect?
The actions of Black Lives Matter are a slap in the face to Toronto’s LGBT+ community.
Congratulations to Black Lives Matter!
Unfortunately the slap will have little or no effect.
The irony of Black Lives Matter staging the anti-police protest in the middle of this year’s Toronto Pride is that each and every one of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ people have many reasons to protest Toronto police. Not only did Toronto Police famously raid the bathhouses in 1981 (which they have quite ineffectually apologized for) but they also raided The Pussy Palace in 2000. Also in 2000, police raided The Bijou sex cinema — where I was working as a cashier. (There have been no attempts by Toronto police to apologize for that incident.) Toronto Police haven’t just made one mistake — they keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
But do you think anything will ever mobilize the hidebound, old-fashioned, ‘family-centred’ LGBT+ community to protest the actions of the Toronto police?
Recent Toronto LGBT+ community ‘concern’ over the 1981 bath raids is lip service. No one cares. If bath raids were to happen today, no one would support the men or women victimized by police action. We tried to organize a march against the police raid of The Bijou in 2000, and guess what?
Nobody turned up.
Today’s LGBT+ community is fervently apolitical. I predict that — tragically — after singing along with a Lady Gaga song at a Toronto Pride church service, or observing sad floral displays on the street to remember ‘Orlando’, Toronto Pride will continue on its merry, apolitical corporate funded way.
The document Matthew Charlebois  signed isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. In Toronto’s LGBT+ community, intersectionality does not mean fighting for our own rights along with other radical groups, it means offering token space to Black Lives Matter as an excuse to ignore our own oppression.
It’s all very sad.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Just Say No to Kate Taylor

Invective can be like a drug; addictive and appealing in a demented way. For years Kate Taylor spewed her vile bile as the Globe and Mail theatre critic. Her work was like a car accident, difficult to see but hard to turn away from. I thought we were done with her — but it seems she’s back with a vengeance.
In the Globe and Mail recently, Kate joined the gang of supporters for The James Plays at Luminato, bemoaning the sad state of Canadian theatre. She whines that we have no Canadian National Theatre, saying “our closest thing would be the National Arts Centre,” going on to say that even if we did have a ‘national theatre’ there would be only one playwright (Michel Tremblay) good enough to fill it. Sorry Kate, but what about Judith Thompson, Linda Griffiths, Djanet Sears, John Mighton, Michel Marc Bouchard, or Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, or Leah Cherniak and Martha Ross? You see, there are so many brilliant Canadian playwrights, that I run the risk of offending someone by not mentioning all of them. 
What is going on here? I’ll tell you: Taylor has joined the pack of Canadian culture naysayers. The king of Canadian- Culture-Haters is without a doubt, Jorn Weisbrodt, who (in case you haven’t heard) has just built a monumental arts centre (apparently with his bare hands!) called The Hearn which, some say, will be his legacy.
Well I certainly hope so. The place is in the middle of nowhere, and you can’t get too it or from it unless you are rich enough to own a car, and you can’t get into or out of it on foot unless you are young and able bodied. I can see the lawsuits coming; they sell booze at The Hearn and the floors are rocky with rubble. But apparently since Europe is filled with giant old factories that they have turned into pretentious ‘culture centres’ for the affluent middle class, Toronto must have one too.
I know I am behind the times on this. The new culture critics tell us that Canada is a backwater with no history of an indigenous culture (which of course includes our Aboriginal work). Jorn, who is member of the worlds cultural elite, an international arts entrepreneur, came to Toronto to tell us what culture is — and it’s certainly not us. To the suggestion that Toronto might be a world class city, Jorn responded with a sneer: “If you are world-class, it means that the world talks about you. Certain criteria go with that. Toronto may be on the cusp of breaking through to be a world-class city?” 
May be on the cusp
Sorry Jorn, but I don’t give a flying you-know-what whether you or anyone else thinks Toronto is a world class city. We spent years wresting ourself from the colonialism of British plays; now we must bow to this colonialism yet again?
I think it’s a crime the way our cultural institutions,  arts councils and most of all Canadian producers themselves, have dialled the enthusiasm down for indigenous Canadian talent, to the point of ignoring Canadian work and offering full support to non-Canadian work instead.

And please, please tell me Kate Taylor is not going to start critiquing theatre once more — we just can’t have her hurling venomous brickbats at us all again!

Monday, 13 June 2016

It was the kiss

On Sunday June 12, 2016 Mateen Omar shot killed 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A. 

There will be the usual discussion. Was he a Muslim extremist? Was it a terrorist attack? A racist attack? Was he mentally ill? Is it time for sensible U.S. gun regulation once and for all?

Matten’s father had this to say:

“We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And [Omar] saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid, and he got very angry. They were kissing each other and touching each other, and he said ‘Look at that. In front of my son, they are doing that.’”

We are eager to find a reason for the massacre. That’s only natural. So we look outside ourselves — for something that is not in us, something that is not like us, something that is the ‘other.’  Omar Mateen is a foreign name. So perhaps Omar was not really an American at all. He claimed allegiance with ISIL. And on top of that, he was probably very different from us; he was probably insane.

Don’t you see what’s happening here?

Can you not understand that it in the rush to make this horrid act into something alien, something from outside ourselves, we have ignored the obvious? How many straight men do you know who would find the sight of two men kissing — or (worse yet!) making love — disgusting? And how many straight men might even get angry about it?

You see, the fault is not out there somewhere; it’s in ourselves.

It is gay bodies they hate — gay bodies that yearn for each other, that yearn to touch, that yearn to to have sex. We can pass gay marriage legislation, we can institute transgendered washrooms, LGBT people can fight for the right to adopt children or join the military, they can become the most respectable doctors, lawyers, ministers, policemen, politicians in the world. But don’t you see that none of that ultimately matters?

I’m gay. So I’m going to organize a kiss-in at a straight bar near you. In fact I think I’ll go down to The Fifth Social Club on Richmond Street West with my boyfriend — and sit at a table, and neck. Or maybe I’ll have sex with my latest trick in the washroom of Faces Nightclub. Or I’ll try to pick up some guy at Cabin Five.

Why would I want to do that?

I’ll tell you why. 

Because it was the kiss.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

What's Wrong with 'Reality Theatre'

'Reality theatre' is a fad that will fade — probably sooner than later. 
I am talking about plays like Brimful of Asha and Winners and Losers. I am not a theatre critic; so I'm not judging these productions (the first one I have not seen, and the second I saw and quite enjoyed). Here is my definition of reality theatre: theatre that takes place in real time and in which the actors:  a) play themselves, and b) if they do speak -- instead of speaking pre-scripted dialogue -- simply converse.
There are two pretty obvious objections to the notion that reality theatre is a radical new form. And there is one objection that may not have occurred to you.
First: reality theatre is not real. Even if the performers are not 'actors' but 'real people' they nevertheless are performing for us and are fully conscious of that. Just as documentary films are not necessarily truth, reality theatre involves certain choices about what will be presented and what will not. Significantly, reality theatre is not a new form or style; the history of theatre brings us countless examples of efforts to make writing, directing and acting more ‘true to life.’ Reality theatre is simply the latest and trendiest claim to authenticity. Those who promote it are the ‘New Stanislavskis.’
The second obvious objection to reality theatre is that people love stories and are not about to give them up any day soon. Fiction allows us enormous freedom to imagine possibilities for what we can do and who we can be.
Now to the less obvious objection.
The problem with reality theatre is that it tends to towards the contentless. Like abstract art, reality theatre — when for instance, it is about watching people stack boxes — often says nothing, or what it says is inscrutable or vaguely concerns the human condition. Purveyors of reality theatre like to go on about the idea that reality theatre accentuates the essence of theatre; its ‘liveness.’ I would argue that watching an old-fashioned story can be suddenly and stunningly ‘live’ if the content is controversial, offensive, or merely challenging to the average bourgeois consumer. Have you ever sat in a theatre where different members of the audience have violently opposing reactions to the content of a play? Where people laugh at the ‘wrong’ places? Where people walk out, or even speak back to the actors?
It is not plays with made-up plots that lack ‘liveness,’ it is mainstream plotted plays— like those approved for presentation by the Mirvish Real Estate Corporation — that are utterly devoid of it. Even the most experimental recent Broadway hit deemed suitable for the Panasonic Theatre has been judged clear of any discernible offence, or it would not be performed there.
Reality theatre is a lot of fun, and certainly has the potential to be a lot more than merely entertainment. 
But please don’t try and convince me it’s something I haven’t seen before.