National Coming Out Day 2017


It’s October 11. In the United States, at least, it’s National Coming Out Day. I know of no such celebration in Canada but we’ve been ahead of the pack in most ways having to do with lgbtq-2 liberation.

For me, Coming Out Day was sometime in February of 1981. I had come crashing out to protest the police raids on Toronto bath houses, so I thought it best to come out to my parents, lest they see me on TV from one of the many protest marches.

I wrote them a letter.  I wish I had saved  a copy because, if I may say so, it was a model of a coming out letter!

Mom and Dad called me once they had received it, reassuring me that their love had not changed, and thanking me for my honesty. They also revealed that my brother, Craig, had come out to them a few years earlier but he had not disclosed to me, for good reason, ,as I had been involved with an evangelical church while at college.

AIDS was already doing its preliminary work, silently infecting people oblivious to its eventual horror.  I was just sowing my oats, wild oats at that.

So most of my gay life has been lived in the shadow of HIV/AIDS, first other people’s, then my own. This has defined my activism and much of my life.

But I was just gay first.

 

 

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The flight was brief, the landing less than graceful


I was on my way for a hair-cut this morning when, at the corner of Sherbourne and Gerrard Streets, I momentarily took flight. Picture Peter Pan on his worst day. While still airborne I thought of Craig, of the 24th of April, 2007. But I was still conscious. I managed to land without breaking my wrist, as had happened in 2003 when I was struck by a cab. I rolled to the sidewalk on my rain parka and didn’t damage my femur,as I had in the same incident. Still thinking of Craig, but recognizing that my head was working, I yelled.

A man dragged me to the steps of the pharmacy and applied an oversized gauze bandage to the right side of my forehead. A nurse practitioner on her way to Mount Sinai Hospital on her bicycle rushed to our side. 9-1-1 was called by a female by-stander. The n-p took my pulse (100). The pharmacist came out and, with the others, helped me into a chair in the lobby of his business.

I laughed when I was asked if I was on any medication. I widgeted out a used blister-pack from my jacket which had labels of all my meds taped to the cover. (Medic-Alert in long form.)

The ambulance arrived, siren silent, and the interviews began anew. Had I eaten? Had I checked my blood sugar (it was now a whopping 24.3!) Where was I going? Day and date? A pain inventory was taken. My head, yes. Skinned knuckles, yes. A bloody knee under torn jeans. My civilian helpers said their goodbyes as the ambulance attendants strapped me into a chair in the back and rode off, again sirens quiet, traffic lights being obeyed like all the other morning rush hour chumps. This underlined how lucky I was.

Another indication that I was a low-priority arrival came as I waited to be seen by a doctor. It was not, notes this enthusiastic lover of Canada’s health system, an unreasonable wait.

I was given a couple of extra-strength Tylenols, when offered, and a tetanus shot was administered (“cuz you never know what was on that sidewalk”.) The attending physician, the son I never had, repeated all the interview questions and examined me from head to rolled up jeans, dabbed my head with a combination disinfect and adhesive.

“So I’m good to go?”

“Yes, pay attention to any lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea – but I think you’ll be fine.”

With the help of two of my own Tylenol-2s I have been.

Grateful. But thinking of Craig.

And I walked to get my hair-cut.

24 April 2007 – 24 April 2017


I’m feeling some anticipatory trauma, if there is such a thing, as we approach the tenth anniversary of the mishap which would, soon thereafter, take the life of my brother Craig. Maybe it’s a heightened sense of awareness that this sad anniversary is upon us.

It was April 24, 2007, his partner Claude’s birthday, when Craig fell to the sidewalk,alone, outside their condo in Montreal’s Le Plateau neighbourhood. The extensive damage to his brain immediately apparent, Craig would never fully regain consciousness. He clung to life on a respirator, while his near-zero brain function was evaluated, until one last attempt to see if he could breathe on his own failed on the ninth of May while Claude and my sister Lynn stepped out for a break.

Mom dreads the month of May. (I’m just glad it is as pretty as it is.) It was May 4, five years earlier in 2002, when Dad collapsed and died in his beloved garden, so all the attending rituals were in May. Oh and Craig’s birthday. And Mother’s Day. So it was that on May 13, 2007 – Craig’s birthday AND Mother’s Day that year – that we (my sister Janice, husband Randy and their young family) drove Mom down from Perth to Montreal for her eldest son’s funeral the next day. Followed by his burial in Perth the next evening.

While the rest of us admire her strength and still try to acknowledge Mother’s Day,we understand why she would just rather have May slip by quickly. I’ll never think of May again without remembering Mom’s journey through it.

Insubordination? (Probably.)


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The Body Politic excerpt (PDF)

I Googled my name today, for the hell of it, and came across this article I wrote for the June, 1986 edition of “The Body Politic”, Pink Triangle Press’s forerunner to Xtra!  I was up to my arm-pits involved in this using the pseudonym David Coleman to disguise myself to my employer, CKTB, and talk-show host John Michael, the defendants in this case!

Usually no fan of John Michael, for some reason I was listening the morning he started going on an anti-gay, anti-AIDS tirade.  I had the presence of mind to slap a cassette tape into my landlord’s radio-tape deck.  That tape, and the formal copy provided by the radio station later, was the basis of the case to the CRTC.

I wrote the letter to the CRTC, inserting transcribed comments which I thought would carry the greatest weight. These were exciting times.  Warren Hartman and I worked hard, me speaking as David Coleman and Warren as his out, proud, gay old self! Now don’t get me wrong.  I was out at work, and so I’m sure there were suspicions I was involved, but I couldn’t use my real name and plot against my employer, now could I? It wasn’t so much of being in any closet of my construct as much as it was muck-raking anonymously.  I was to use the pseudonym a few more times before leaving St. Catharines.

Susan Mabey to receive 2017 Craig Chaplin Memorial Award


“A Christian who happens to be a lesbian”, Susan Mabey’s is a name which has been more than incidental in the long struggle for LGBT inclusion in the United Church of Canada.  Cited by the Chaplin Award committee for her recent bridge building, even as a self-described ‘lightning rod’, while the multi-ethnic Toronto school, where she teaches Grade 2, struggled with the new provincially-mandated health and sex education program, Susan drew national attention of a different kind in the early 1980s when she was refused ordination in the United Church of Canada due to her sexual orientation. (She very quickly established herself as a minister of Christos Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto at a time when the largely-LGBT congregation was beginning to be devastated by AIDS illness and deaths.)

Susan’s 1999 Doctor of Ministry thesis was entitled “When the Valley of the Shadow is Littered with Bones: Ministry in the Midst of Multiple Bereavements”.

See Shower of Stoles Project

The Craig Chaplin Memorial Award was established following the death of my brother in 2007. It is meant to lift up the outstanding vocation of an openly lgbtq person. Susan will be presented with the award as part of the Convocation of United Theological College, in Montreal this May, the tenth anniversary of Craig’s death.

“UTC is honoured to name Rev. Mabey’s long and courageous commitment to justice and inclusion, compassion and vital pastoral presence, and in particular, to the ministry she now lives as a teacher.”

Rev. James Scott will be recognized through the conferring of the degree Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa).  Rev. Scott, the United Church of Canada’s General Council Officer for Residential Schools, will also be the convocation speaker.  The College “recognizes in particular Rev. Scott’s profound commitment to indigenous concerns and his work with the Church in preparation for, and response to, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

UTC’s convocation exercises will be held at Roxboro United Church, 116, rue Cartier in Roxboro, Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 2 pm.  Roxboro, which will officially become an Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Canada on May 7, is the congregation of Rev. Darryl Macdonald who, in 2009, was the second recipient of the Chaplin Award.

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Do You Hear The People Shing?


This coming Thursday I am having a number of teeth and partial teeth extracted as my mouth make-over goes into high gear  (This is the work that is more typically done by the fifth year of one’s sobriety but, as I didn’t think I’d live long enough to bother, I’ve waited until the tenth.) Yesh to life, as it were.

I am reminded of an occasion several years ago when I had both of my front teeth extracted.  I distinctly remember going to see Les Miserables on stage with my friend William sans teeth and under the influence of a couple of Tylenol 3s.

No such plans this Thursday evening.  Perhaps I’ll rent the forgettable film version of Les Mis.