Thursday, June 28, 2007

No justice, no peace ...

.... f$#k the police. At least, that's the slogan they used to chant at all of the anti-police brutality demos in Montreal.

I would say that my analysis is a bit more nuanced than that. I do think that it's important for the queer community to keep an open line of communication with the cops. That's how we help scuttle bathhouse raids and arbitrary arrests. But how close is too close? Where's the fine line between sharing our issues with the police, and allowing them to co-opt our concerns and tell us how to react?

I touch on these questions in my latest column for Capital Xtra. There's also a really interesting piece in the Toronto edition of the paper, about a proposal in Toronto that all queer community reps to the liaison committee be subject to police checks. Predictably, this proposal is getting a universal thumbs down from the LGBT community.

But now for some late-breaking good news on the Dixie Landers case. The Ottawa Police have made two arrests ...keep checking xtra.ca for updates as more info becomes available.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CALL TO ACTION AGAINST THE SPP!








Council of Canadians to mobilize in Ottawa, Montebello and across the country from August 20-21


From August 20-21, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be meeting in Montebello, Quebec with U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The Council of Canadians will be there to tell them what Canadians really think about the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

Ottawa-based activists are already planning a giant weekend demonstration and possibly a bike caravan from Ottawa to Montebello.

We’ll be posting information about actions in Ottawa, Montebello and across Canada at IntegrateThis.ca, as details emerge. So drop by often for up-to-the-minute information.

But in the meantime, here’s plans are shaping up:

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 7:00 p.m. — PUBLIC FORUM

The Council of Canadians is working with a other labour and social justice groups to organize a public forum near Montebello. This event will feature Canadian, U.S. and Mexican speakers, focusing on how the SPP affects energy security, water, the environment, security policy, and other key issues. More details to come.

MONDAY, AUGUST 20 — NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION

The Council of Canadians will be organizing a National Day of Action Against the SPP on August 20. This will allow people across Canada to “plug in” to the resistance at the Montebello summit. Council of Canadians’ chapters will be organizing public forums and community picnics, lobbying of Members of Parliament, distributing handbills, and speaking to the media. We will be posting information about events across the country at IntegrateThis.ca, as details develop.

MONDAY, AUGUST 20 — PROTEST IN MONTEBELLO
The Council of Canadians will be joining with other groups from across Ontario and Quebec to protest at the summit site in Montebello. More details to come.

For more information about the Security and Prosperity Partnership, visit IntegrateThis.ca. We’ll post new information about the Montebello summit as it becomes available. Visit often for up-to-the-minute updates.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I heart feminist graffiti!

There's this awful anti-choice poster on Bank Street in Ottawa. One of my favourite morning activities is to see what wonderful feminist graffiti has arrived to "re-decorate" the sign.

I took the first photo this morning. The sprayed-on text says, "[Abortion] is so fun! I get one every day. I heart abortion."

My girlfriend took the second photo last week. It says "MISOGYNY SUCKS. Keep abortion safe and legal."

'Nuff said.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Making sex work safe

goodhandys pride.JPG

I just returned from Toronto's gay pride celebrations, and I was so thrilled to spend a few hours on Friday night at Goodhandy's, Toronto's "pansexual playground." The bar is only one year old, but in that short period of time has established itself as a gathering place for trans people and their allies, alternative burlesque performers, feminist activists, queer musicians, and sex workers. It's rare to find a space that serves so many functions, and proves that diverse communities can co-exist in harmony.

The bar, which hosts more mainstream musical events and dance nights, also features a members-only Diamond Room, where sex workers (largely trans women) can entertain clients in a safe space -- one that is protected by a security guard and, thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, shielded from raids by the cops.

In December 2005, the Court overturned the conviction of Montrealer Jean-Paul Lebaye for running a "common bawdy house" for the "practice of acts of indecency" after police busted his club, L'Orage, in 2000.

"Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society," wrote Justice Beverly McLachlin at the time, opening the door for the establishment of businesses like Goodhandys.

But the refreshing thing about Goodhandy's is that the owners don't try to hide the fact that the space is used as a meeting place for sex workers and their johns. In fact, they celebrate this fact, and recently started opening at 4pm on Thursdays, "to develop an after-work crowd of businessmen who want a discreet chance to meet t-girls," according to co-owner Todd Klink.

As it is, it's quite difficult for sex workers to find clean, safe spaces to work in, where they aren't likely to be harassed by bad dates or by the cops. The Sex Professionals of Canada are currently launching a constitutional challenge to Canada's solicitation laws, which they say are discriminatory and expose sex workers to danger. They recently held a fundraiser to support their cause at -- where else -- Goodhandy's.

After spending some time in a space that represents a real jewel in the crown of the sex workers' rights movement, I was disturbed to read this police bulletin about a recent "prostitute/john sweep" in my neighbourhood (Hintonburg, an inner city community to the west of downtown). My 'hood has a history of anti-sex worker vigilantism, which I took to task in a recent column for Capital Xtra.

How long will it take for the Ottawa police and city officials to realize that criminalization of sex workers only exposes them to further abuse and mistreatment?

Hooray for Goodhandy's for supporting Toronto sex workers. Is anyone in Ottawa willing to make a similar statement?


-- Cross-posted to BlogThis!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fatspiration!

Beth Ditto.jpg

Whenever I hear media commentators bemoaning the scourge of childhood obesity, I always wince a little bit. Even though I understand how important it is for kids to get active (and for parents to help them eat nutritious, unprocessed food), the reality is that there are many factors that affect a person's weight and girth. In many cases, poverty and food insecurity are an issue. In other cases, it's a simple matter of genes. There are many of us who work hard to stay fit and healthy, but will never ever fit into a size 8 -- which is the biggest size in Kate Moss' new clothing line for Top Shop in the UK.

Still, I am so happy to see so many foxy and fierce women bucking the body-hating trend. Beth Ditto, the uber-cool lead singer of the indie band The Gossip recently posed in all her naked, curvy glory for NME Magazine. Feminist icon Germaine Greer praised Ditto for her courage, saying, "Her intention is to force acceptance of her body type, 5ft tall and 15 stone, and by this strategy to challenge the conventional imagery of women."

Lilly Allen, the British pop star who achieved fame after posting her songs and writing on MySpace, has spoken out repeatedly about her desire to maintain her sanity in the face of celebrity body-obsession. She sings, "I want to eat spaghetti bolognese and not worry about it for days and days."

But like many of us, Lilly had a "bad body day" a few weeks ago, and posted an entry on her MySpace page claiming that industry pressure had led her to emotional collapse, and that she'd spent a day researching gastric bypass surgery. Her fans responded in droves with words of encouragement.

When I'm having a "fat day," I take my inspiration from the amazing Leslie Hall, fearless gold pants-wearing hip hop artist and keeper of the biggest Gem Sweater collection ever.

Or I watch this:



-- Cross posted to Blog This!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Let's give 'em something to talk about

Tell it all - to everybody
WORLD WITHIN / Let's give 'em something to talk about

Ariel Troster / Capital Xtra / Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pierre Trudeau's famous comment about the state having no place in the bedrooms of the nation seems rather antiquated these days, given that so many of us are sharing information on the Internet that earlier generations of queers saw as private.

It seems I can't go to a party or get on a bus or grab a cup of coffee, without hearing the word "Facebook" anymore. Embraced for a couple of years by university students primarily in the US, the highly sophisticated (and extremely addictive) social networking website has been grabbing hold in Canada, especially among the tech-savvy arts and activist sets. Within Ottawa's queer community, it only reinforces the one-degree of separation between most of the people we cruise on dating sites, meet at community events, and march in demonstrations with.

There's no denying that this kind of "over-sharing" fosters community. In the last few days, I've received invitations to barbecues and block parties, been informed of protests being planned for George Bush's August visit to Canada, and stayed up-to-date on a friend's bathroom renovations. This is not to mention the daily updates of who's been hooking up and breaking up. And sites like Facebook have become impromptu gathering places after communities experience tragedies, like the Virginia Tech massacre, the recent high school shooting in Toronto, and closer to home, the beating of Ottawa drag queen Dixie Landers.

But like many people over the age of 25, I initially found the tell-all nature of these websites a little scary. I mean, did I really want to be contacted by the person I sat beside in high school band? And do people really care what I'm eating for lunch or the fact that my cat just puked in the hallway?

Read the rest of my latest column for Capital Xtra here.

And feel free to leave comments here or on xtra.ca. Do you think we're sharing too much information on the internet? Does this help or harm the queer rights movement? Does it bring us closer together or does too-much-information drive us apart?