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Cool queer things

Check out the show I am directing at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto on June 15th, PRIDE CAB, with a group of 14 queer youth! They are totally amazing, and it will be a cool show.

And further on the topic of cool queer things… I went to perform at this rather amazing event last weekend in Pembrooke, Ontario: Building Rural Rainbow Connections, a conference about queer health and safety issues in rural Ontario. Public health and safety workers – police, OPP, nurses, teachers, activists, social workers etc – were in attendance.

The conference was first and foremost a wild reminder for me of the bubble that urban queer culture exists in. From my travels around lots of places, I’ve certainly come to the conclusion that Toronto is one of the greatest and “easiest” cities anywhere to be out and queer. I feel very lucky to live here. But it’s so easy to forget that this is not everyone’s reality.

Over the course of the conference, I heard so many stories that spoke of personal acts of courage, and what it means to be “out” in a rural setting; I also heard so many examples of the insidious, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant ways that homophobia keeps small town and rural queers silent and hidden and afraid to be “out”. One small anecdote: at the beginning of the conference, there was an awards ceremony honouring people in the local community with recognition for Leadership in diversity and anti-homophobia activism. A high school-aged young woman from Pembrooke was given an award; at her high school the next day, an announcement was made over the PA that she had won an award for “Leadership” – the words “diversity” and “homophobia” conveniently struck out.

Another thing little tidbit I picked up which has really impressed upon me is that the Edmonton Police Force have a remarkable component to their police officer training about working with diverse communities. They require male officers to go in plainclothes and walk hand-in-hand with another male officer for a 15-minute walk down Whyte avenue in downtown Edmonton. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that. How totally simple, totally brilliant and totally effective. Walk in someone else’s shoes: literally. And what a wild statement about what homophobia and fear looks actually still looks like in 2006: it’s as simple as a 15-minute walk, hand-in-hand with another man.