‘Times Have Changed’ at 40 Wellesley St.E. #HIVnow


40 Wellesley St. E.

40 Wellesley St. E.

The latest ambitious awareness campaign by the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), #HIVnow, “asks big questions, puts forward honest answers and issues clear calls to action”.

The “Times have changed” theme comes to mind as I watch the slow demolition of 40 Wellesley Street East, a medical offices building where I learned of my HIV status in 1989 and received medical care there for several years. Hundreds – thousands even – of HIV/AIDS patients were seen in these offices at the height of the crisis in the early 1990s.

If those demolished walls could talk…

Guess what’s next for 40 Wellesley.

Leaving Unit 503 upright


I am surrounded by boxes, both packed and empty. This week I am changing units within my housing co-op, moving house for the first time since 1992.

When I re-located to this building 23 years ago I thought, with good reason, that my death was imminent; that I would be here a short time before being discreetly carried out, feet-first, in a black bag – as had been the case for several other friends with AIDS before and since.

Diane Frankling Co-operative Homes, formerly Bleecker Street Co-op, has historically given priority for its rent-geared-to-income units to people living with HIV/AIDS, persons with mental illness (I am, therefore, dually qualified) and women escaping abusive relationships.

Just one floor up and across the hall, dominant morning sun will be replaced by the afternoon’s; plants will need to be re-positioned accordingly. Rather than a view of Cabbagetown roof-tops I will look on to another apartment building and, to my left, a partial but exciting view of Toronto’s impressive skyline.

While I have purged a lot of stuff, and packed quite a bit more, the move just one floor up has me in a sense of suspended animation. Clothes remain on hangers because, well, they can be carried upstairs just like that. It’s the same with my plants.

What I can only pack figuratively are 23 years of memories from here – the early house parties, the cats which I have loved (Sujata is only beginning to suspect we’re up to something), the recovery from my 2003 crash (John Kerry, I so relate to your broken femur!), and the guests and uninvited who have plopped down on the dump-bound sofa.

The weight of these years is affecting me emotionally, positively and poignantly, but it is a marker of the new era of HIV/AIDS that I am leaving Unit 503 walking upright.

Re: How a change of heart led to a backlash from the ‘Church of Nasty’


How a change of heart led to a backlash from the church of nasty

Dear Mr.Coren,

I have been a follower, if not always an admirer, for many years.

Your change of heart, more quantifiable with each successive column I read from or about you, has touched me a great deal.

Suffice to say I weathered some of your former comments, written or on CTS, no worse for wear but, so convincing were you, I find I need to pinch myself to take in how you have changed.

I am by no means a model gay citizen. A recovering alcoholic, HIV-positive for 26 years, and a gay rights activist since 1981, my journey seemed to be at right angles to yours. I don’t know that I have ever scorned you in public but, to the extent that I have resented you, I apologize. I nevertheless admired the strength with which you held your convictions.

Please work on Dr. McVety ;-)

All the best,

Kenn Chaplin
Toronto

Keeping Kenn Zeller’s name alive


In a crowded classroom at OISE a couple  of weeks ago I listened politely as a woman told how she had been influenced so positively by a Toronto school librarian years before.

“I was going through a rough time – abuse and all kinds of shit at home,” she said.

“He spent a lot of time with me and I always felt better better after our talks.”

“Then he was murdered in High Park and my world crashed.”

Suddenly very alert, my mind raced back to a murder that had touched me deeply in June of 1985; my God thirty years ago?

A forty-year-old school librarian had left an end-of-year staff party and driven into High Park to see if he might find some opportunities for anonymous sex. Instead he found five drunken teenaged boys, ranging in age from 15 to 18, also celebrating the end of school, who had been heard earlier declaring they were headed to High Park to “beat up a faggot”. As Kenn Zeller walked past the youths, one of them stuck out a foot and tripped him . He managed to get up and run the 10 metres or so to his car but, after getting the door open, he didn’t make it inside. In the minutes of kicking and beating him around the head which followed, his increasingly lifeless form was left for dead. His car was then vandalized.

The five each pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to nine years in prison.

“That was Kenn Zeller,” I said to the woman nodding. “I adopted the spelling of “Kenn” as a memorial to him. I don’t get the opportunity to tell the story behind it as much as I might like sometimes.”

His death was a catalyst for the Toronto District School Board implementing a program aimed at eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a foreshadowing of the board’s Triangle Program for LGBTQI youth.

United Church of Canada Moderator to receive Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


Three Colleges – The United Theological College, The Montreal Diocesan Theological College and The Presbyterian College, Montreal – are gathering May 7 to celebrate their respective Convocations and 100 years together as the Montreal School of Theology.

The Right Reverend Dr. Gary Paterson, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, will be an honoured guest of United Theological College as recipient of the Craig Chaplin Memorial Award, named for my brother who died in May, 2007.

Craig’s loved ones marvel that his Award, to honour the achievements, projects and ministries of openly LGBTQI persons, will be going to the spiritual leader of the Church less than a generation after the historic approval of LGBT ordination in the United Church of Canada. How thrilled Craig would be!

In a letter to UTC Principal Philip Joudrey, confirming the terms of reference for the Award, Craig wrote:

“…it is my intention and desire that this award be presented in recognition of the particular ministries of (LGBT) people both within the formal, organized structures of the Christian Church and without…choosing to honour those whose life’s work has been particularly distinguished in its clear embodiment of such central Gospel values as personal courage and integrity, life-affirming faith and spirituality, an unswerving commitment to social justice and a sustainable environment, and solidarity with those who are poor or marginalized.”

Additional Convocation honours will be bestowed by the other participating colleges and the Convocation Address will be delivered by renowned United Church of Canada theologian Douglas Hall.

To be held at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, on the edge of the McGill University neighbourhood, this will be the first joint Convocation of the three Colleges – and marking 100 years of The Montreal School of Theology is an occasion for a grand celebration!