Review (and a personal retrospective) – Behind the Candelabra


With only the most scant help from Google I have been trying to remember more about my personal, professional meeting with Liberace (“Please, call me Lee.”)

It was some time in the mid-1980s, while I was working at a St. Catharines, Ontario radio station, when the subject of last night’s premiere of Behind the Candelabra was making one of his periodic appearances at Melody Fair Theater on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Tonawanda, New York – a suburb of Buffalo about a forty-five minute drive from St. Catharines.

My first impressions of Melody Fair were that it had seen better days (and it has since closed, demolished in 2010). The same could be said for Liberace who, after all, was some eight years older than my father who would have seemed “old” to anyone else in their twenties!

The meeting was what I have since learned was a very routine set-up between journalists, celebrity-chasers, and their self-important subjects. My allotted time of ten minutes or so was no more, on less than anyone else in line claiming “exclusive” access from their particular micro-market’s point-of-view.

I had come out relatively recently and took it upon myself to use my time with a slightly dressed down version of himself to tease out Woodward and Bernstein-worthy details of his private life.

What did he like to doon his days off, infrequent though they may have been?

Spend time at one of his several homes. He liked to cook for his “friends” (none of the bawdy details I would have liked to hear, of course, and portrayed in Beyond the Candelabra and Scott Thorson’s palimony-inspired book.

That’s all I remember about our conversation – riveting I know – having been derailed in my aim of making news out of what was inevitably to be a fluffy entertainment piece.

I grew up feeling a lot of antipathy towards the flamboyant, yet conflicted (a self-professed Roman Catholic) and ultimately talented pianist. This was no role model I would ever want to emulate, should I ever own my own homosexuality.

His age, I suppose, would also have been a factor in his denial of the obvious.

It was, however, his denial of what ultimately killed him that left me feeling quite angry – with him and his church. He never acknowledged dying of AIDS, swearing everyone to secrecy, which of course illustrated the stigma of the times (worse even than now) in his over-the-top way.

I couldn’t separate my feelings for him as I watched last evening, which is not to say that I couldn’t also relate to the inner struggles while recalling my annoyances with him.

Michael Douglas had a hell of a job to do which I found to be well done and credible. Matt Damon also proved himself to be a convincing actor in a gay role and a sympathetic character. In a supporting role I thought Rob Lowe stole the show.

I will watch it again, while it’s still in the HBO lineup, and while I don’t necessarily expect my feelings for Liberace to change I know I am capable of seeing him – jewel-encrusted warts and all.

Wherefore art thou, Cardinals? – Oh!


This was a landmark day in the lives of Ontario high school students who have been exercising their democratic rights, without the vote even, for the passage of Bill 13, the Ontario provincial government’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) initiative.

It passed in the Ontario Legislative Assembly with 65 votes in support, from the combined efforts of Liberal and New Democratic Party members, and 36 votes against from the Conservatives.

No thanks to the Cardinal!

Of course, besides the horrors of bullying, I empathize strongly with victims of sexual abuse, be they school children or the prey at Penn State, where the nightmare continues with today’s farcical early developments in the trial of accused coach Jerry Sandusky.

As I’ve written before, my greatest personal bully was in elementary school, a teacher (who would become principal), but my peers picked up where he left off, particularly on the 40-minute bus rides to and from high school.

So I have “issues”, many of them similar to those at the heart of the GSA debate. The work continues – which makes me so happy that GSAs are growing in popularity.

While their red-capped overlords protest, it is wonderful to know that Catholic teachers back GSAs!.

Order in the Court!

Unpacking (more) personal baggage


Pardon me for the humourless dissecting of my neuroses

Have I mentioned before having used, for many years, the esteem-busting mantra “If anyone deserves AIDS, I do!”  (Looking at it now I feel like each word should be italicized for emphasis, rather than just one or two.)

What a message: If anyone deserves AIDS, I do!

I bring this up in the context of two recent posts: one on forgiveness, the other on the 30th anniversary of the notorious bath-house raids.

If the mantra was esteem-busting, its sentiments probably go back to my elementary school days and my adult bully in the form of my head teacher/principal – a fan of the Boston Bruins, then coached by one Don Cherry.

Just to make things worse I was flunked in his Grade 4 math class (or “held back” as my mother put it) which meant seven years, not six, under his tutelage. Oh well, at least I was with kids closer to my own age for those last three miserable years.

When I was twelve or thirteen, depending whether I was going into Grade 7 or 8, I was sexually abused by stranger(s) in what I would now recognize as a “cruising” area.

None of this – not the teacher/principal terror, not the sexual exploitation – did I talk about with anyone at the time.  It’s only been more recently that I’ve talked with family members about C.G. – the teacher/acting principal – in quite general, yet unfavourable, terms – the closeness of our families’ friendship much less than I had imagined when I didn’t feel that I could turn him in.

He’s now dead, and has been for a number of years.

The bit on forgiveness I had been reading a couple of weeks ago seemed to be worth exploring – even if only letting go of his neck, metaphorically, is all I can manage to accomplish.

If I, as I often say, connect the dots from the bullying school mentor to the pedophile(s) hanging out by the canal it is understandable how I might have been full of self-loathing.  While the only thing, but it’s huge, that I could have changed about the school situation was to have ratted the guy out to my parents the sexual abuse was a classic case of a kid with confusing, homosexual feelings giving in to his curiosity at the hands of a man probably four times his age.  (I just noticed how much easier it was to write about me in the third person.)  The fact remains that, whether I was curious or not, it was the adult’s job not to go through with it.

It seemed as if I had nothing to do, no place to go, with my inner turmoil.  For that I certainly don’t blame my parents.  These were the early seventies, well before “street-proofing” more than don’t-talk-to-strangers and, besides, any mention of my sexual curiosity would reveal more about my sexual orientation than I was yet prepared to share.

I managed to get through high school quite successfully, using my sense of humour and an ability to maintain good grades to disguise any signs of trouble.  It was in college, Niagara College some six hundred kilometers from home, that the inner twelve-year-old drank adult beverages to excess, and the unraveling began.

There was no LGBT peer support on campus, as there is in the area now thank goodness.  I didn’t know enough about drinking to worry about my experiencing blackouts from the get-go.  Then the trips to Toronto began, where the bars and baths seemed like Utopia.  I well remember looking across the lake from St.Catharines and thinking of Toronto as Oz.

Now I live in Toronto and, well, ‘pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’.

If anyone deserves AIDS, I do!

This little ditty has come up in therapy, and more than once, over the years.  It’s not that I believe it, not at its face value.  But knowing, as I sincerely do, that I have ever believed it inside, on some level, still hurts.  So, as someone in a peer group whispered last week, whatever forgiveness – or letting go – I may feel about past perpetrators I just might have a heap more forgiveness of myself to do yet.

I have never bought, in full, the idea that my casual sexual relationships were merely the exercising of the freedom implied in the “sexual revolution” of my early adulthood and well before.  It has seemed to me, with the benefit of hindsight, that my conduct was more of a reflexive response to the trauma I experienced, sexual and otherwise.

Between my drinking and the constant settling for ‘Mr. Right Away’ I was not ready for – indeed I was afraid of – a serious, intimate relationship.  HIV, and then AIDS, added to the complexities.

So I conclude with this attempt to unpack my old mantra.

‘If anyone deserves AIDS…’

It is an absurd notion, this, that anyone would deserve AIDS – that my sex conduct (or someone else’s intravenous drug use, for example), no matter how early in the epidemic, would – and even should - be rewarded with an incurable disease.  The simplicity of this cause-effect formula, simplicity being the preferred way of thinking among the theory’s proponents on the religious right, boggles the mind.  I had just enough experience with them, a couple of years before coming out, to do some psychic damage.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7 (KJV)

How’s that for an effective club with which someone (such as me), lacking self-respect, might put in my suicidal arsenal!

(If anyone deserves AIDS)…I do!’

Messages I gave myself, to back up my feeling of deserving, mostly centered around the idea that my sex conduct – regardless of why it might have been the way it was – seemingly left me vulnerable, with eyes wide open one would almost think, to infection.

I blamed myself for everything: from not reporting Mr. G, to giving in to sexual curiosity even though – as I pointed out earlier – the onus for restraint is on the adult in these situations.  I blamed my drinking, at least in part, on these secrets which led to lack of good judgment in my sexual pursuits as a young adult.

How many ways do I need to cut myself some slack?

I recognize this ‘unpacking’ was mostly at the intellectual level.  There’s still some emotional work to do when, I believe, much more self-forgiveness will have the chance to emerge.

Sarah Palin incites stupidity, why not worse?


“If a Muslim put a map on web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he b sitting right now? Just asking.” (tweet from Michael Moore)

I have nothing but best wishes for the victims and families of today’s gun madness in Tucson. Speaking from family experience, the first brain surgery on Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was probably more about relieving the swelling than about making pronouncements on her prognosis. She does have youth and a ‘through-and-through’ bullet wound in her favour, however.

When Sarah Palin – this one – was reminded today of having put a “target” on Congresswoman Giffords, and others, someone on her staff quietly removed the campaign ad/map from her website.

Remember how many of us shook our heads in disbelief a couple of years ago when guns were found at Barack “Hussein” Obama election rallies and when gun sales increased after he was elected President?

Many Democrats can’t hide their excitement over the prospect of taking on Sarah Palin in 2012 but just how much more of the “Don’t retreat…reload” crap can we tolerate in our political discourse?

But, “Oh no,” gunners always protest, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Well just suppose Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (and on and on, ad infinitum)…suppose these people of influence, however dubious, actually had more bricks in their load than we usually give them credit for? (It’s their ideas I actually find crazy not their marketing ingenuity!) Their followers, however, are not all (dare I say not at all) equipped to filter through incendiary rhetoric; and some may be set off, as it were, swept up en masse, yet often acting alone. We must use guns, they attempt to reason, when we have so much to fear.

Politicians are fanning out to reassure themselves that they are all, regardless of political affiliation or beliefs, elected to serve. It’s a comon bond. If we were to base everything we think about politics on what we hear on talk radio, cable news or in “gotcha” sound-bites we would not know that many people we elect, and of opposing political views, actually get along quite well with another.

But, alas, as Keith Olbermann attempts to point out we’d never know that.

Next year will mark 200 years since the start of the War of 1812, when the British, and Canadians loyal to the Crown, defeated the U.S. A. at historic sites along our shared border Re-enactment ceremonies are bound to be part of the commemorations. Do we need to remind people that no live ammunition will be tolerated?

Celebs with $900 sunglasses and Mama’s medicine chest in their undies can be silent today if they want, not me!


I’m all for vaccuous celebrities shutting their yaps today, especially as a fundraiser, but if I don’t tweet or “poke” or “like” it won’t be because I’ve gone silent for World AIDS Day. How many years passed before those in power, like Reagan for example, even mentioned AIDS? And Canada continues to sell out on pacts made for cheap meds in poor countries. Don’t be silent without at least listening!

World AIDS Day 2010 – Stories – 2 – “This friend living with AIDS who gave me so much…” by Dominique Gauvreau


Each author in this series has generously given me permission to post their work. The views and experiences shared are their own. Where applicable, links will also be provided at the end of the piece.

This is the World AIDS Day, 2010 entry in Dominique Gauvreau’s blog Rencontre sous le Chêne de Mamré (Meeting under the Oak of Mamre):

(Google translation edited by KC)

 

“This friend living with AIDS who gave me so much…”

 

 

There are people who cross our path at random and without knowing just how they transform us.

In the 1980s, a mysterious illness was striking the gay community in Montreal. Acquaintances were dying around me. I was terrified. At that time I was not “out”, essentially living in a gay underground. I hid because I was ashamed of who I was. I hid because I was told again and again that being gay was against nature, immoral, abnormal. Imagine being more affected by what was dubbed the “gay cancer.”

I entered adulthood marked by a childhood in the holy water, where the Catholic Church thought it was the only one which could possibly save me from eternal fire. I was influenced more by the existence of the devil, and fear of damnation, than by a God who loves unconditionally. At this time of my life, I was still marked by homophobic attitudes, having suffered beatings and taunts at school. I was so ashamed that for fifteen years I kept secret a sudden sexual assault in late adolescence.

My silence and my imprisonment in these underground confines led to hidden relationships – dangerous, anonymous, without boundaries and dead to any fear of taking medications, alcohol and street drugs to gild my non-existence. That led to a deep depression. Well-meaning Christians stretched out their hands to heal me, yet told me that marriage was the solution to my very gay problem.

I didn’t get it, seeming to sink further. Naturally! That God rejects and hates gays was well known. I did not deserve to live.

I met Marcel at a party. He told me his life story. He was one of the first I knew who spoke openly about his HIV status. Marcel was a believer and soothed by his faith even though it was very different from mine.

We did not get together too often. We met once by chance walking on Ste-Catherine. Pleased to meet and share some time together, without a pre-arranged date, we went to the chic restaurant “Cristal” in the gay village.

One day as I paced the streets, feeling out of it, at a very low point in my life, religious and social tensions at their lowest, Marcel accosted me with his big smile, hugged me and told me how much he loved me. There was universal love, unconditional. I firmly believe that his actions that day prevented me from throwing myself under a subway train. He was kind of my angel of the day.

Several years have passed since then. Today, I work for GLBT inclusiveness and I am aware of the realities of HIV and AIDS. I’m light years beyond the young man I was at that time. However, I am shocked to see that so much remains to be done in moving toward a society that’s more tolerant and inclusive. Unfortunately, prejudice remains and there is a rise of the religious right and those who would rather see the social exclusion of people with HIV, showing homophobic feelings.

When I see the repercussions in the media of intolerance and hatred on young people who end their lives or who are considering doing so, I ask myself many questions. I have to wonder if anything has really changed in forty years. Some narratives or stories that I hear have disturbing similarities to what I experienced back then. When a character like Benedict XVI speaks of homosexuality as an injustice and against the will of God it is really baseless, ideological bullshit.

Getting back to my friend Marcel, I saw him one fall evening, cold and rainy, in a restaurant. He was letting me know about his next stay in hospital. He gave me his phone number and told me he did not really like people calling it, except me.

After several attempts to contact him, I remained without news. Worried I returned to the restaurant to ask the waitress if she had seen him lately. She told me that he had died.

Every December 1, I think of Marcel and I thank God for having placed him in my path. I think of all those I knew or I know who live with the reality of AIDS. I invite you to do the same and perhaps contribute a donation to an organization or recognized charity.

For my part, in Montreal, I suggest you donate to Cocq-SIDA. I also invite you to learn about the new “Jasmin Roy Foundation” which works to fight against homophobic attitudes in schools. This is another reality which touches me closely and which unfortunately has been topical in recent months.

 

 

"Would we still be friends if I was HIV-positive?"

 

 


Biblical text of the day

Today, the biblical text is not that suggested by Taizé as I usually do.

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’

Recontres sous le Chêne de Mamré

Ever-developing story – Clint “I-like-it-when-gays-die” McCance speaks to CNN’s Anderson Cooper: brain farts maybe?


I’m keeping this post open to add more developments.  Suffice to say, to begin, that Clint McCance’s so-called apology on CNN’s AC 360 is not going over very well.  (As I wrote at the time it seemed like Anderson had to pull out the nature of his wrongs.  They weren’t forthcoming from McCance himself.)

David Pakman of Midweek Politics with David Pakman (my favourite podcast) was having none of it and was also critical of Anderson.

Dr. Phil called McCance’s performance “a non-apology apology”.

Thursday night Anderson Cooper interviewed the Vice-President of Midland School District in Arkansas whose Facebook rants against gays, “fags”, “queers”, the recent rash of publicized gay suicides of five young men and boys, and his mocking of a day to remember them, touched off such a storm earlier in the week.

Whether it was the glare of the television lights, or the endless stream of upset his comments caused, Clint McCance was, at least, very soft-spoken. It seemed as though Anderson Cooper had to feed him reasons why he should be sorry, other than the fact that his father took him to the proverbial woodshed:

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres joined Anderson and called for people from a wider cross-section of society to become involved in counteracting homophobia and other sorts of bullying.

So, in a whirlwind twenty-four hours or so, Clint McCance has announced his resignation.  That would be enough for some people, as would his words – however laboured – with Anderson.  It’s too bad there wasn’t some community council way of restorative justice which would compel Mr. McCance to work, supervised of course, with gay kids.  He would learn a lot from them, I am sure, as long as his presence didn’t terrify them.  Instead he will be able to, should he choose, keep the company of good ol’ boys (and gals) to whom his incendiary, wounding ramblings on Facebook were anything but offensive.

Maybe one day he’ll have the opportunity to speak with a Dad and Mom who’ve lost an LGBT kid to suicide, although I can’t imagine them wishing to speak to him.

Then again, since  Mr. McCance has already had a terrible influence on children maybe these ideas are just too creepy and that the focus should remain on the kids he has lorded over with such hateful thoughts and words.

Clint McCance is a man who should be run out of Arkansas


This idiot’s 15 minutes (I don’t expect he’d know what that means) will, hopefully, soon be over but surely not before he loses his elected job on the Midland, Arkansas school board.

Anderson Cooper set the story up this way last evening and then had a couple of great guests, including the whistle-blower:

A screen-shot of McCance’s Facebook page (which has been taken down), quoted by Anderson Cooper,  is kicking around the internet:

It turns out McCance is a bit afraid for the safety of his family – really? While I do not doubt there will be some who have some threatening words for this idiot, there are far more children – the ones he was ridiculing, just recent, public examples – who have, or have considered, suicide and who are in danger.

Was wearing purple last Wednesday, to remember kids who had killed themselves and to draw attention to bullying (by other kids mostly, mind you) just too much for this heat-seeking missile of a crack-pot to stand for?  I’m a little over-heated myself, I grant you.

I don’t know if the women of “The View” will be able to discuss this without smashing the furniture but it’s over-heated reactions – and by a school board vice-president no less – to grassroots movements of commemoration and education such as we saw a week ago Wednesday that make them all the more necessary.

No blogger, not even Anderson Cooper, is going to change the mind of a monster like Clint McCance (and should he ever apologize my guess it would be along the lines of “If I have offended anyone…”) but this is an opportunity for the people of Midland, and everywhere else in need of some soul-searching, to talk to one another and make an effort to see that there is nothing to be feared in difference.  Your children’s lives may depend on it!

This is an occasion when a wide variety of people, not just queer activists, should make their views about this known to Mr. McCance, the school board, and each other.

Now I need to remind myself (thank you Jo-Anne), with six hours sleep ahead if I’m lucky, that I am 51 years old and no one in my circles today is a bully. C. G. (“Mr. G” to me) is long dead and gone.

That will not stop me from calling out others like him as I see them.

Sticks and Stones…


I’d imagine it must be painful for a parent to have to impart to their children those familiar words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

I was certainly skeptical.

Long before summoning the courage to come out to my parents at age 21, I had known that I was different from other kids in elementary school. I instinctively knew that I shouldn’t express my admiration for the exemplary physiques of Batman or Tarzan. So it was for many years – all the way through high school – that, while feeling no sticks and stones of any consequence, plenty of names hurt me and none moreso than those flung at me by my elementary school head teacher/principal. I attribute his monstrous bullying and physical abuse with setting the stage for all kinds of acting out behaviour detailed in other parts of this blog.

It is difficult to imagine that a man with such responsibility would have a place in today’s schools. To that extent, IT GETS BETTER.

Perhaps because we’ve applied ourselves to studying more diligently, or are just naturally gifted, it has been my observation that lgbt kids are smarter than average. There’s something to be said for being a nerd! I know, because I remember, that as a teen it seems like the freedom of adulthood will never arrive. It will, and IT GETS BETTER.

Almost without exception nowadays, schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Use that for all it’s worth. You have a right to being safe in school. The same goes for the internet.

I won’t lie to you. What your parents have probably called “the best years of your life” (I know mine did) will seem unbearable at times. Just remember that things have come a long way in terms of lgbt rights and acceptance since I, or your parents, were in school. Hang in there, IT GETS BETTER.

I’m going to close with three of my favourite messages from the YouTube “It Gets Better” campaign.

Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinsom



Fort Worth, Texas Councilman Joel Burns

New York City Gay Men’s Chorus

Unholy hubris


Crooks & Liars blogger karoli got it so right when she wrote, “If you have had the misfortune of being one of those kids who was sexually victimized by an adult, the one thing you know is the script. You know it by heart, and even after years of therapy and recovery and acceptance that script can send you back — right back — to where you were all those years ago, or yesterday.”

Earlier in the weekend I was facebooking articles about the allegations against Atlanta-area “Bishop” Eddie Long (the quotations are because I’ve never heard of a fundamentalist Christian minister, I don’t care how big his church, having such an old-school hierarchical title).  There was a certain amount of righteous indignation motivating me as, yet again, another anti-gay Christian preacher on a pedestal was being brought down by allegations of the very behaviour he has organized marches in Atlanta against. 

Having only heard about the disclosure late Sunday night by CNN anchor Don Lemon that he had been molested as a youngster, I’m still wide awake well past bed-time.  Just like karoli says – stuff gets stirred up all over again, even some thirty-eight years later for me.

What both karoli and Don said is true (I’m calling him by his first name because he’s been a facebook “like” for a long time and I now feel closer to him, however unrequited that may be.  I’m used to that!).  Those who have been in situations similar to the alleged victims in this case have an extra sensitivity to words used and scenarios created by abusers.

karoli: “They start by telling you how special you are, and how they want to spend time with you, help you to succeed. They invite you to their secret place, whether it’s their house or their office or even their car. They’re affectionate in words and speech, and they reach out, little by little and draw you in and because you’re a kid and they’re an adult you let them. It’s not until later that the shame overcomes the privilege. They find you because you’ve had trouble in your life, or your family isn’t all it should be, or you’re poor, or you’re smart, or whatever it is that attracts. And once they find you, they pursue you. Relentlessly.”

I can still see that pervert in the early-70s, brown Pontiac Parisienne who, having wrung out my innocence once, now drove down the same dirt road past me with his swim trunks below his knees.  I never gave in, though, and took not just a little pleasure in seeing him frustrated.

As Don Lemon pointed out, many African-American boys and men have a lot of taboos about homosexual acts – taking great pains to leave talk of such things to private times with their partner.  “On the down low.”  The shame inherent in this hyper-secrecy could explain the “Bishop’s” carefully chosen words on Sunday, although his body language also spoke, it seemed to me.  So then how courageous was it for these four young men, each with detailed allegations that were independently reported, to share their stories with their lawyer – their individual pictures on TV!  The courage this will continue to take going forward will knock hard against the taboos.

Long portrayed himself as little David (despite his size, his wealth and a large, cheer-leading congregation) going up against Goliath, the giant.  Huh?  Four kids and a lawyer, hardly Goliath.  Maybe his task is Goliath – to refute the charges and stay out of jail.

Beaten senseless, Windsor man adds his story to the archives of insane gay-bashings


I’m angry, I’m sad, angry, sad, angry, sad…

image

 

The Windsor Star’s account includes a video of the young victim, who clearly understands the value of personal story-telling, holding a press conference to describe the beating he endured and some of the deeper meanings, however ironic.

I heard about this yesterday but only started to turn up the corner of the pages today – so familiar, so tiring, so traumatic it all is.

CBC.ca’s readers, if that’s not giving them too much credit, are weighing in with all sorts of rationalizations and side arguments, some of which question whether this was a gay-bashing worthy of hate crimes designation.  It strikes me that some of their arguments, with just a hint of fundamentaCon oh-well-dem’s-da-breaks, fly in the face of the tough-on-crime positions (however half-baked) they feed in to cbc.ca and other comment vacuums 24/7.

All I can say is “Bravo!” to Chris Rabideau for courageously, and probably still in shock, coming forward to lay bare the ugly side of society where intolerance towards people’s sexuality is still acceptable in many quarters.

Premier McGuinty, on sexual health this is not leadership!


I’ve had a difficult time sleeping this week which I think I can safely attribute to hypomania which, in turn, has kept me busy following the news here in Ontario of promising changes to the province’s 1998 sex education curriculum. Excuse me – Health and Physical Education Curriculum. Alas the promise was dropped like a gum wrapper by a cowardly Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Just as Prime Minister Harper’s leaky trial balloon about a couple of word changes to the National Anthem sputtered across the country like a giant fart, McGuinty’s strong backing earlier in the week of proposed changes to the curriculum has dissolved like the Communion host on his warm tongue. I’m not saying it’s his Roman Catholic faith (piled on by official Bishopdom) which led to his
flip-flop
– there was, after all, plenty of other pressure – but, Mr. Premier, consider some of the sources!

Charles McVety?

Really?

Not surprisingly, an Islamic parents’ group made its opposition known. And I’m sure the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the chance to move off the Church’s sexual abuse scandal to decry some practical, age-appropriate education about sex (and how, maybe, to rebuff the advances of pedophile priests).

Thank you, Adam Radwanski, for articulating what I’ve only managed to carry around as anger, tension, sad memories and thoughts of how my generation’s sex education might have advanced the cause of compassion, tolerance and understanding in these matters had this now-delayed curriculum been in place long ago.

Ontario’s ‘education premier’ fails on sex education

“Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have only themselves to blame for the last-minute scrapping of the province’s new sex-ed curriculum”

McVety, whose Bible memorization school acts as his political headquarters since his religious charity shouldn’t, talks of the clear and present danger of the ‘homosexual agenda’ (What?), of how it has been our mission to infiltrate schools and indoctrinate, etc., etc. – mad fantasies dutifully echoed by his Queen’s Park lieutenant, Conservative leader Tim Hudak, whose search for an electoral base begins at the churches in parking lots across the province.

Well what if this new curriculum allowed a kid to realize, without even asking any questions since that probably wouldn’t be comfortable, that some of the different feelings s/he’s had are not to be joked about by others at recess but respectfully described in class. And, quite aside from those of us who are different, isn’t it about time schools taught kids about the joys, responsibilities and risks of sexual activitiy in this day and age of “sexting” and all sorts of stuff that today’s parents – children of the seventies and eighties – would never have imagined!

Anal sex preserves virginity. That’s what many of them tell each other! Blow-jobs are the new good night kiss. This is teenage sexuality right now – not your finest hour Mr. Premier!

Self-forgiveness – even when it seems so unnecessary


While I would acknowledge there are probably exceptional circumstances I am generally of the restorative justice point of view, as described by Correctional Service of Canada.

The holiday weekend news that Graham James – variously described as “hockey predator Graham James”, “convicted pedophile Graham James”, etc. – had been pardoned for his repulsive crimes took a lot of people by surprise, including his victims who, I am sure, had nightmares stirred again.

I know I did, launching into a hyper-vigilant state that rarely surprises me anymore.

One of the ways this manifested itself was living out a follow-up to my Easter post.

Of all the iTunes I have downloaded, a solid majority are from what iTunes Canada classifies as “Inspirational”. (I gather the US iTunes have more specific categories such as Gospel, Christian Contemporary, etc.)

This is music from individuals and bands that have exploded in numbers since my brief association with evangelical churches.

I wonder if my seeking out this music, also available on iTunes feeds of radio stations, is what many might think of as a self-hating exercise – a lapse back towards a time of such intense internal conflict (surviving non-familial childhood trauma, coming out, etc.)

It doesn’t feel like it. As I manage to ignore anything in the words that I deem objectionable I find comfort in most of the, to use the vocabulary, praise and worship of the music and lyrics. The sentiments still touch the loneliness I sometimes feel inside, the isolation I occasionally choose, and the memories of those days when life’s questions seemed unbearable.

It is all much easier when I translate literalist ideas into the mystical, where stories and ideas don’t have to be believed and yet still manage to hold truth.

An Easter I wish I could do over


In my second year at college I hitchhiked from Niagara to Burlington, as I would do occasionally, just a few weeks before Easter. A cousin, her husband and their young family were happy to pamper me with good food and fun. On this particular weekend they also shared their enthusiasm with me about their conversion to Christianity – more of a conversion from the liberal, mainstream Christianity we knew as kids to the ‘born again’ variety.

I was of an age, and at a time in my life, when I was susceptible to suggestions of my unworthiness – not from them directly, to be clear, but in the pamphlets they gave me from Campus Crusade for Christ. I did not realize, at the time, that I could have discussed my troubling homosexual awakening with my brother so, upon my return to my shared apartment on Sunday evening, it was one of the things I prayed to be rid of as I followed the instructions in the brochure (now available as a web page but the illustrations remain exactly the same.)

My prayer was sincere, including my wish to be rid of my homosexual thoughts, and I’d like to think that my eventual acceptance of myself and my coming out, were God’s answer to those prayers – just not the ones I had expected.

Anyway, feeling the excitement of a new convert I went to visit the pastor of a church which I had been attending. Excited by my news, of course, he told me that there was to be a baptismal service at the evening service on Easter Sunday, just a few weeks away. This was to be a full immersion baptism, with several others, wading into a tank of water at the front of the church.

News of how I was to spend Easter did not go over well at home. By then Mom and Dad had learned that Craig was gay and was quietly involved, nearly silent of necessity, in the church’s deliberations over the ordination of gays and lesbians. (They wisely chose not to disclose Craig’s sexual orientation to me at this time!) I can only imagine how upsetting my decision was for them. It’s something I regret to this day although Craig assured me, when I eventually did come out, that he understood where I was coming from.

Holding up the positive, I understand the theology of the back-to-basics, evangelical Christians. From their point of view it’s simple, matter-of-fact, and certain – just the way they like it. (I still have a weakness for Christian music which has come a long way since the heyday of gospel quartets.) The cyclical “the Bible tells me so” argument is not subject to much, if any, interpretation. It stands up to criticism and discussion by simply not engaging in it in any way that the Bible-as-authority is disputed. I actually find more meaning in the story-as-metaphor or allegory. The burden of proof is lifted and the underlying message can come forward.

When my pastor, in 1981, publicly supported Toronto police raids of several bath-houses I was really angry. I traveled to Toronto for several public rallies against the raids and soon came out to Mom and Dad and, in turn, to Craig. Far from unforgiving of my past denunciation of homosexuality they were all very supportive. Craig understood, as do I, that some of the most virulent homophobes are people who haven’t dealt with their own sexuality in some way.

So, rather than dwell on that disruptive Easter of my youth, I remember the great holidays spent with Craig for the twenty-five years plus we were able to enjoy as gay brothers and I look forward to spending this weekend with Mom and Craig’s partner Claude. I hope Claude’s tulip bulbs at Craig’s grave survived the squirrels.

Unearthing one of my early newspaper appearances


 

After the cathartic experience here this morning of again recalling Craig’s struggles, in the early days of his ministry, I was remembering some of what was going on in my life 700 km away from Craig.  In the raucous days of an Ontario Human Rights Code amendment debate, giving gays and lesbians protection in the workplace, housing and so on, I agreed to be interviewed by another reporter (she from the newspaper, me in radio).

In a brown envelope, within a “clippings” folder, I found a photocopy of this St. Catharines Standard article stamped Dec. 29 1986.

Forgive some of the views expressed. Pop quuiz: I won’t tell you which ones. :) I was so naive!

Beneath a picture of me on the phone, a picture roughly the same size as the three-column article, picture this:

On the record

 

Kenn Chaplin has ended a double life to find contentment in the gay world

 

By TERRY SLAVIN

Standard Staff

If Kenn Chaplin had been able to choose his sexuality, he would have chosen to be gay.  Although it’s  difficult enough for most people to deal with their heterosexuality, Kenn has no regrets about the fact he was born gay.

“I’m enjoying the political side of my lifestyle immensely.  I think because I’m gay I’m more sensitive  to other oppressed people.  Despite what I now know about the difficulties of this lifestyle, if I could choose, I think I would choose to be gay.”

Kenn, a reporter with CKTB in St. Catharines, is also one of the founding members of Gay Outreach Niagara, a two-year-old support groups for gays and lesbians.

Helping other gays in the region come to terms with their homosexuality is a labor of love which occupies about half of his leisure time.  He also has devoted a great deal of time working with the AIDS committee in Toronto.

Kenn has emerged from a few closets since the day six years ago when he penned a letter to the United Church Observer objecting to the ordination of gays as ministers.

“It’s something I regret now,” the lanky 27-year old says quietly.  “But I think some of the worst homophobes can’t come to terms with their own sexuality.”

Kenn moved to the Niagara area from Valleyfield, Que., to attend Niagara College in 1977, and entered a period of emotional and mental confusion.

“When I moved here I had a truly double life, going to Toronto for sexual contacts while attending an ultra-conservative sect in Welland on Sundays as a way of suppressing it.

“It didn’t work.  It just made me feel guilty – not because I was doing what I was doing, but because I was leading this double life.”

On one trip to Toronto in 1981 he was handed a pamphlet which tore apart the biblical justifications used to denounce homosexuality, and he suddenly realized he could resolve the conflict between his gay identity and his faith in the United Church.

It was on the heels of that revelation that he decided to tell his parents the truth.

“That was the biggest hurdle, telling my parents I was gay.  I just wasn’t sure how they’d handle it.  My gut reaction was they’d either reject me or lovingly accept me.”

Fortunately for the entire family, they did the latter.

Spending Sundays hearing the anti-gay gospel expounded on the Calvary Gospel Church pulpit, however, has helped him to understand both sides of the heated debate about the sexual orientation amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“I appreciate the diverse backgrounds.  I know how the two poles operate.  I know how the born-agains operate.  They fully believed I was going to hell.”

Kenn says his goal in life is to share a normal existence with one other man “and live happily ever after”, but it has been difficult for him to find a partner.

He estimates between 40 and 50 percent of gay men aren’t secure enough about their sexuality to commit themselves to that kind of lifestyle.

It is difficult enough meeting other gays.  He says “straight people” have the opportunity to meet potential mates in school, shopping centres, work situations, as well as the bar scene, but gay people don’t have as many choices.

Outside of a gay bar, he observes wryly, “You just don’t go up and ask, if you want to keep your teeth.”

There is one bar in downtown St. Catharines which caters to a gay clientele at night, he says, but most people go to Toronto, or across the border to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York.

“I’m not holding out much hope it’ll happen here, and that’s why I’ll never feel at home here.”

Another shadow that cannot help but creep into Kenn’s life is the fear of AIDS.  He has done some work with the AIDS committee in Toronto, and has given emotional and practical support as a “buddy” to some of the AIDS victims in Niagara.

He has had three friends die from AIDS.

“When I read the Globe or the Star I read the death pages.  It’s made me grow up fast, come home, do the crosswords and read the death notices.”

And with each new death, his thoughts can’t help but stray to his own mortality.

“I’m assuming I’ve already been exposed to the virus before safe sex started,” he says.  Because of the long incubation period (up to five years) he could still get AIDS.

“I like to live.  My philosophy is don’t worry until you have something to worry about.”

And now that the Human Rights Code has passed an amendment prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals, he does not have any fear about going public about his sexuality.

He said he expects some negative reaction when “people who’ve been dealing with Kenn Chaplin, CKTB reporter, find out they’ve been dealing with a gay all along…but I accept it.  I’m going to have to deal with it all my life.  By coming out the only choice I’ve made is to be honest.  If other people can’t handle that it’s their problem, it’s not mine.”

 

If I was spoiling for a fight I got one – but nothing as bad as it could have been.

It just so happened (wink, wink) that the article came out on the first of my two days off.  When I returned to work my fellow reporters showed a variety of levels of support but when my boss called me in I got a truer picture.

He nervously assured me that he had no problem with the substance of the article, the unorthodoxy of a newspaper interviewing a competing radio station notwithstanding.  He wished that I had given him a heads up.  It was his boss, he said, the station manager, who was having a harder time with it.

His office was my next stop.

Again, I was treated with courtesy but he gave me a double-pronged objection:  I was opening up the radio station to unnecessary scrutiny by listeners and he was Roman Catholic and struggled with some of my views.  No big surprise there.

The whole exercise was an adrenaline rush and I wholly admit to being in a frame-of-mind at the time of, “Go ahead.  Challenge me!”

It’s a reminder to me of those days when “pride”, as in LGBT Pride displayed in the annual festivals and parades, was much more political here in Canada than has since become the case.  However, echoing the words of Alyson Huntly to me earlier, “I don’t think people realize how much hatred glbtq people experience just for being who we are, or how hard it is for young people especially. It’s still socially acceptable to be anti-gay even when it is no longer socially acceptable to promote racial hatred.”