Media Advisory – International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, Dec 17

Media Advisory – Dec. 15, 2014

On December 17, the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, sex workers and their allies will be calling on Canada’s provincial leaders to take action.

Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), Maggie’s – Toronto Sex Workers’ Action Project, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, COUNTERfit Women’s Harm Reduction Program (South Riverdale Community Health Centre), and the publishers of Toronto weekly paper NOW Magazine will bring a powerful messages to the provincial government and Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne at 11am in the Queen’s Park media studio.

Wynne has already expressed her “grave concern” that the law, brought into force December 6th, will not make sex workers any safer, and the province’s Attorney-General is assessing its constitutional validity.

More information is available here:

WHEN: Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 11am
WHERE: Queen’s Park media studio

Wynne to Examine Consitutionality of C36/PCEPA

The next time someone tells you that you can’t make a difference, just tell them about the time a bunch of hookers, pimps and perverts were able to convince a Premier to request a consitutional reference.

Premier Wynne Statement on Bill C-36:

Yesterday, on December 6, after months of hearings and public debate, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act came into effect.

When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down three provisions of the Criminal Code, they found that each of the impugned laws placed sex workers unnecessarily at risk in a way that violated their rights to safety and security under the Charter.
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The “Bedford Rule” for Conservative Party Clients?

I’ve generally stayed away from the Bill C36 discussion (and blogging altogether) for a variety of reasons, but rather than rehash them now, I’ll just cut to the chase. On September 10, Terri-Jean Bedford appeared before the Senate committee assessing Bill C36, and said the following:

“If this law passes I’m going to make you guys forget about Mike Duffy, because I’ve got more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at, I promise.”

For many years, Barney Frank had a rule regarding the exposure of closeted gay politicians – those who did not actively work to limit gay rights in the USA would have their right to privacy respected, but those who engaged in gay sex acts behind closed doors while also publicly opposing the advancement of gay rights deserved to have their hypocrisy revealed, regardless of the consequences. Known as the “Frank Rule” he explained it to Bill Maher in 2006:

“I think there’s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. People who want to demonize other people shouldn’t then be able to go home and close the door, and do it themselves.”

Many of my past clients have had public profiles; I remember one enjoyable dinner date with a client, where we talked about seeing each other on the same TV program on different nights, and gave each other pointers for our future appearances. Some of my clients have been active in politics, either before, during or after the time I saw them. Although I can’t see myself ever “outing” a past client for any reason, I can certainly understand where Terri-Jean is coming from.

If members of the Conservative Party have purchased sexual services and they are simultaneously seeking to criminalize that very act, then Terri-Jean is well within her rights to reveal their actions, and their hypocrisy. Those who value their own privacy have no right to impose on the privacy of others, which is precisely what C36 will do. In that sense, respect for privacy is very much a two-way street – if you’re an elected official who doesn’t respect the privacy of other Canadian citizens, then you can’t expect the citizens to respect your privacy either.

It would not surprise me at all if a large number of male Conservative Party MPs are suspiciously absent during the next Parliamentary session, when Bill C36 is set to be voted into law.

Agree? Disagree? Comment below and tell me why!

Jason Collins’ Courage

In a bold display of personal courage, Jason Collins of the NBA has become the first openly-gay athlete in the four major North American sports. While I respect that this is truly a watershed moment for sports and LGBTQ rights, it would be a great disservice not to acknowledge the many athletes before Collins who have made gains for LGBTQ rights and visibility:

Billie-Jean King. Greg Louganis. Brendan Burke. Martina Navratilova. Mark Tewksbury. Johnny Weir. Orlando Cruz. John Amaechi. Wade Davis. Alan Gendreau. Matthew Mitcham. Esera Tuaolo. Brian Orser. And many, many more.

(This isn’t meant to be a complete list – you can go to wikipedia for that, although I’m sure their list is far from complete either. And yes, I did check that list to fill in my previous paragraph.)

Even though he’s far from the first, Collins’ gesture is important for its context. The four major sports in North America (baseball, basketball, football and hockey) perpetuate the myth that professional sports is the domain of the hyper-masculine, where only the manliest of the manly men can compete. This is why every other sport has long since accepted gay and lesbian athletes, where the big four have not; not only that, but it also seems that women’s sports are miles ahead.

It’s not surprising that there are more female athletes who have come out as lesbians, than there are male athletes who have come out as gay. When Brittany Griner, the 1st overall pick in the recent WNBA Draft, announced she was a lesbian, the world barely shrugged, and went back to ignoring the WNBA as it has for years; but Collins’ announcement has made headlines in every news outlet in North America.

Ultimately, this speaks to the pervasive sexism that still exists in sports, and how we regard sports as a strongly-masculine pursuit. A lesbian athlete who is attracted to women more readily fits the stereotypes we assign to athletes – tough, powerful, strong, etc – all of which are terms we associate with masculinity. Gay men are stereotypically associated with femininity and weakness, rather than masculinity and strength – though the Ancient Greeks would be quick to disagree!

So, this is why Collins’ courage matters so much. He is not simply speaking out against homophobia, but also speaking out against the sexist undertones that encourage homophobia – and as I wrote in my previous article about Yunel Escobar, the line differentiating homophobia from misogyny is very blurry indeed. The underlying message behind homophobia is that the worst thing a man can do is to adopt the behaviours of a woman, which is at the root of all misogynistic sexism.

Even as Collins breaks down this barrier, we must also acknowledge another list that is growing every day – athletes who identify as trans, and transition during or before their athletic career:

Renee Richards. Kye Allums. Michelle Dumaresq. Keelen Godsey. Fallon Fox. Lana Lawless. Kristen Worley. And many, many more.

Again, this list is hardly exhaustive, and in time, will grow longer. More barriers will be broken. More athletes will find compassion and inclusion among their sports and their teams. Eventually, and hopefully, nobody will even care.

Collins’ courage is just one more step in a journey that will force me to change the first line of my article – instead of using the term “gay athlete” to describe players like Collins, we’ll soon be calling them “athletes who happen to be gay”.

Or hopefully, someday, just “athletes.”

Twitter reactions to “Yunel Escobar: Where homophobia meets misogyny”

I was genuinely surprised by the number of retweets and responses to my first official blog post! Lots of support and plenty of appreciation, here are some of the best ones, starting with my first reply from Mike Wilner (who I really admire for his infinite patience with irate callers on JaysTalk):

Mike is great, he always makes time for me and other people who tweet him, which makes us feel so much more connected to our favourite team. Thanks for the comments Mike! 🙂

Had a nice discussion with Dirk Hayhurst as well, who I really like for his writing skills and insightful commentary. He correctly pointed out that I had mistakenly used a pic from last year’s hazing, which I soon corrected. He had some kind words to say:

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Yunel Escobar’s Eye Black – Where homophobia meets misogyny

So, those of you who know me know that I’m a huge baseball fan, with leanings towards my hometown team, the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve always found baseball to be a much more complex sport than the rest; the other sports are pretty much just variations on the same theme. You’ve got two teams, two “nets” (or scoring areas), two sides of the playing area, and some sort of projectile – usually a ball – and you have to get the projectile into the scoring area using whatever rules the sport dictates. Maybe you have to use your hand, or your foot, or another object to direct the projectile into the scoring area, but beyond that, they’re all pretty much the same concept wrapped in different packages.

Baseball is a totally different sport than the rest, and it’s widely acknowledged that hitting a 95-mile-an-hour fastball is the hardest thing to do in professional sports. It requires a very different skill set than other sports, and also requires a huge amount of mental toughness, because luck plays a bigger role than it does in any other sport, and you’re constantly having to deal with failure. Even if your batting average is .333 (which is All-Star calibre) that means you’re failing twice as often as you succeed, and it’s incredibly easy to lose confidence when you get stuck in a slump. For these and other reasons, I’ve always been very impressed with baseball, and baseball players in particular – but the actions of my favourite team and one of my favourite players have left me painfully unimpressed in the last two weeks.

In a story that many people already know about, Yunel Escobar was photographed with hand-written words on his eye black, which said “Tu ere Maricon”. This has been variously interpreted to mean anything from “You’re a faggot” to “You’re a sissy” or “You’re a wuss” and former and current baseball players – especially native Spanish speakers – have been lining up to claim that it’s not a big deal, and wasn’t meant as a hateful slur because it’s a common term flung around baseball clubhouses.

The problem with Yunel Escobar’s eye black really doesn’t have anything to do with the specific translation of “Maricon”. A lot of apologia has been floating around suggesting that the term “faggot” isn’t really what he meant, and there might be some truth to that. However, the problem is that the alternative – which is usually translated as “sissy” – really isn’t any better. A closer look at both North American and Latin American constructions of gay men can help us understand that both terms essentially mean the same thing. Continue reading