Posts Tagged ‘glbt issues’
Daily Xtra‘s Arshy Mann notes the happy news that a GLBT refugee claimant from the Caribbean has secured refugee status.
It took Rolston Ryan, who now lives in Toronto, six legal proceedings, include two trips to the Federal Court, to finally be acknowledged as a refugee.
“He suffered harassment, discrimination and violence in St Kitts amounting to persecution,” wrote Michele Pettinella, the member of the Immigration and Refugee Board who decided his case. “He did not receive adequate protection from the state when he reported a violent attack.”
Ryan, who was stabbed and beaten in St Kitts because of his sexual orientation, escaped to Canada in 2013 after he was threatened with a gun.
Unlike some LGBT asylum seekers, Ryan’s sexual orientation was never in doubt. Instead, immigration officials argued that there wasn’t any evidence that St Kitts and Nevis was unable to protects its queer citizens.
This is despite the fact that gay sex remains illegal in the island federation and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
[URBAN NOTE] “Pride Toronto executive director resigns after allegations of racism, sexual harassment”
Adam Miller’s Global News report about the turmoil behind the resignation of Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois is eyebrow-raising, to say the least.
The executive director of Pride Toronto has resigned amid allegations he sexually harassed staff members, left “controlled substances” in the organization’s headquarters and was abusive, manipulative, racist, sexist and transphobic, according to an internal email allegedly written by staff members obtained by Global News.
Mathieu Chantelois took to Twitter Wednesday to announce he had resigned from the Pride Toronto Board of Directors, adding he now works at Cineplex Media.
But Chantelois’ resignation announcement is in stark contrast to allegations that surfaced in an internal email allegedly sent from Pride Toronto staff to the organization’s board of directors on July 7, which detailed serious accusations about his conduct.
“Over the last eighteen months, the staff of Pride Toronto have regularly experienced intimidation, verbal abuse, manipulation, and deceit, which we have come to accept as core elements of Mathieu’s personality and character,” the email stated.
“We have been subject to racist, sexist and transphobic comments, sexual harassment, and personal attacks.”
As I mentioned in my reaction to Coal from Hades, the question implicit in that work of whether an earlier gay rights movement was possible has been tantalizing me for the past month. Could we have had a Stonewall a generation earlier, or even earlier? Could the global gay rights movement have taken off earlier?
I’d like to believe this possible, for any number of reasons. I’m not inclined to think it was possible, simply on account of the overwhelming popularity of homophobic religion in even the most liberal countries. Even in France, where legal bans against gay sex had been dropped in 1791, homophobia was normal, and gay rights unimaginable: In Frédéric Martel‘s The Pink and the Black, for instance, the author’s examination of the history of gay rights notes that while gay sex as such was not criminalized, any public displays seen as threatening to public morals were prosecuted as criminal offenses. If even in liberal France there was no way to create a public discussion about sexual orientation and civil rights, what prospect was there anywhere? The relative weakness of many civil rights movements in the pre-Second World War period is also another point against this imagining.
Am I wrong? I’d love it if you could tell me so.
I learned of the existence of Les Mouches Fantastiques, a zine published in Montréal between 1918 and 1920 that was about as out and proud as a zine could be at that time, via a column last year by Daily Xtra‘s historian Michael Lyons.
In the autumn of 1917, a young woman named Elsie Alice Gidlow (later known as Elsa) was living with her large family in Montreal. She made a meagre living doing office work but longed for travel and the bohemian life. She published a letter in the Montreal Daily Star under a pseudonym, asking if there were any organizations of artists or writers in the city. A second letter published under her own name appeared a couple of weeks later, suggesting that the original inquirer (herself) and others interested should meet at her apartment.
Only a few among the motley crew had any real promise. Most of the men who showed up were middle-aged and looking to pick up, given the female name signed with the second letter, and left disappointed. The only man who really stood out to Gidlow was the “most astonishing, elegant being . . . a beautiful, willowy blond” named Roswell George Mills, a financial-page editor at the Star who also wrote a pseudonymous female advice column — possibly Jessie Roberts’s What Girls May Do.
Mills was unabashedly, flamboyantly homosexual. “Roswell confided his personal crusade to me,” Gidlow wrote in her autobiography. “He wanted people to understand that it was beautiful, not evil, to love others of one’s own sex and make love with them. Roswell had divined my lesbian temperament and was happy to proselytize; the veil of self-ignorance began to lift.” Mills introduced her to the work of Oscar Wilde, Edward Carpenter, Verlaine and modern psychologists who described homosexuality in more concrete medical — rather than condemnatory moralistic — terms. She built on his reading list and began to find her own authors to venerate. He nicknamed her Sappho, and they became lifelong friends.
Early in their writing careers, Gidlow and Mills were very involved in the amateur journalist community in North America, a loose network of organizations and self-publishers. Canada was well into a bloody war, which Mills had escaped as a 4F — “physically, mentally, emotionally and morally incompetent for the glory of killing,” he said — and this, along with their sexual radicalism and their weakening tolerance for Christian patriarchy, coalesced into Les Mouches Fantastiques (originally titled Coal from Hades).
The publication consisted mostly of poetry by Gidlow about women, with translations, allegorical stories, dramatic writing and “articles on ‘the intermediate sex’” by Mills, as well as contributions that satirized society or panned the ongoing war. Gidlow assumed the publication went out to only a hundred of their fellow underground writers, but she eventually received a letter from a woman in Havana who was impressed with the work. [Graeme Davis, a] priest and writer from South Dakota read Les Mouches, fell in love with Mills and moved to Montreal in the hopes of being with him.
There is a fair bit about Elsie Gidlow, a pioneering lesbian writer who made her life and loves in the United States. The author who got her start in Les Mouches Fantastiques with her poem “To Regina” achieved some kind of fulfillment.
There is rather less known about Roswell George Mills. We know some of his relationships, we know that he spent part of his life in Berlin before the rise of the Nazis and that he spent most of his life in New York City as a freelance journalist, but we know little of Mills’ interior life. We know surprisingly little about the man who may well be the first out gay man in Canada.
Mills’ life, and that of his lover Davis, was brought to life for Nuit Rose by Jeffrey Canton and Marcus Peterson in the cellar of Glad Day Bookshop on Yonge. In Coals of Hades, Canton as Davis and Peterson as Mills enacted an imaginary exchange of letters between the two in the early 1940s before the United States got involved in the Second World War. They remember their life together in Montréal, they talked about their very experiences as gay men–Davis the older, Mills the more cosmopolitan–and each wonders what went wrong. How did the promise of Les Mouches Fantastiques, the printed imagining of the possibility that being gay was not wrong, fail to come about?
Canton and Peterson’s performances were good, one character’s letter smoothly following another. Coal from Hades had been presented before at the Toronto Storytellling Festival, but the two men are clearly practiced and skilled performers. The story that they told together was a powerful one, one that has preoccupied me a bit over the past month. Why did it take so long for gay rights to take off as a movement? Was there any hope? Could the bravery of Les Mouches Fantastiques have seen some fulfillment earlier in the 20th century? Coal from Hades has made me think a lot about the issues it explores, and I’m grateful to it for that.