Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Dear readers, fellow-bloggers, followers, friends and lovers,

I started this blog 4 years ago, in July 2007. While the blogging journey has itself been enriching and enjoyable throughout, I decided to put an end to The Queer Behind the Mirror [which explains the silence over the past few weeks, as I pondered the future of this online space.]

The 400+ posts will still be around till the end of the summer,  and then I will delete this entire archive. HOWEVER, I also happen to be working on a different online project right now [ta-dah!]. If all goes well, it will be launched at the end of the summer. So feel free to come back to this space later this summer as I tell you more and link you to the new blogging project that's on its way.

And for the fellow-bloggers: that I don't write anymore doesn't mean that I don't read you on a daily basis! So keep the blogging up! :-)

I thank you all for your support, your readership, your fun comments and conversations over the life of this blog. Of course, I will still be reachable at: thequeerbehindthemirror[at]gmail[dot]com.

That's all folks!



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I thought about him as I woke up this morning... [poetry]

I thought about him as I woke up this morning.
I'm not sure whether it was the bad dream
Or the fact that sometimes, you can't help but miss
What you can't hold, what you can't touch,
What impregnated your body and touched your mind
In the violent and charming ways of a hummingbird
Flapping yellow in the virgin purple of a prunella.
I thought about him fondly, passionately, angrily,
Wondering what it meant to be in love with a man
Whose flesh you tasted, whose heart you ate,
Whose body you tied and buried, with your own hands...

Maybe specters haunt us in uncanny ways,
Like cold breeze sifting through door sills,
Uninvited, into everyday life, late night dreams 
And spring mornings as we lay spread eagle
Licking the taste of blood off our parched lips.
Maybe abandoned lovers leave stains that, 
No matter how hard you try, how hard you rub
(Bleach, detergent, soap...)
Come back and show dissimulated dirt
Under carpets, covers, bandages, skins
And under the pretence of joy, sunshine, clear skies
And bittersweet dew of memories on Spring mornings.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How Did National Masturbation Month Begin? [NaMaBloMo]

[If you don't know what NaMaBloMo is, please read here.]

So when and how did the month of May become National Masturbation Month?

Well it all started when Good Vibrations, a sex-shop in San Francisco, California (link here) decided to declare May the National Masturbation Month back in 1995. If we feel that the taboo around masturbation is yet to be broken in 2011, imagine what it must have been like in 1995? (Incidentally, 1995 must also be the year when I started consciously touching myself.) 

Good Vibrations thought it was high time to raise awareness about masturbation and sexual health. The idea for National Masturbation Month was itself triggered after Jocelyn Elders (who was, by the way, the first Afro-American to be appointed Surgeon General of the United States, and that was in 1993; do the math) was invited to talk about AIDS at a United Nations Conference. Elders said that "[Masturbation] is part of human sexuality and perhaps, it should be taught." Due to the controversy that followed Elder's statement, she was fired by the White House in December 1995. (Thank you, Mr. Bill Clinton.)

However, Good Vibrations still picked up on Elders' suggestion and in 1995, the first National Masturbation Month occurred in San Francisco (and some other parts of the USA).

Stand Up! Don't Stand for Homophobic Bullying [a video]

I just watched this wonderful video, made by BeLong To, an Irish organization for LGBT youth aged 14-23 (link here.) It's one of the best youth anti-bullying videos about homophobia I've seen yet, so I thought I'd post it here:

Monday, May 2, 2011

How TV Ruined Your (Love) Life

Charlie Brooker made this wonderful series for the BBC, called How TV Ruined Your Life. It's everything I like (and according to some who know me quite well, it's everything I am): cynical, critical, darkly humorous, verging of pungent bitterness... Ah, British humor!

This summer, I am starting a working group and running a series of workshops on polyamory. I think I'll screen this episode of How TV Ruined Your Life in my first workshop-- we're discussing representations of relationships in mainstream media, seeing how they frame our own imaginary and expectations about what our relationships are and/or ought to be and we're establishing ways to identify, acknowledge and come to terms with these moments.

This particular episode, "How TV Ruined Your Life: Love," is a must-watch for all the cynical lovers out there and/or for all the polyamorous lovers out there.

Note to myself: maybe I should start a cynical lovers' group along with my poly- group!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Let's Masturbate! [NaMaBloMo]

Since I haven't been blogging much over the past couple of months (blame my thesis for sponging up all my writing/editing time), I found the perfect way to make it up in the month of May. 

May, as some of you may know, is the National Masturbation Month in North America, which could, in effect, be turned into National Masturbation Blogging Month (NaMaBloMo). This month, at The Queer Behind the Mirror, we will try to bring in as many posts as possible (poetry, art, anecdotes, stories, articles etc.) about masturbation. And if there's something you want to share out here, please feel free to get in touch with me [thequeerbehindthemirror (at) gmail (dot) com] and I will be happy to repost, crosspost and guestpost your masturbatory pieces, thoughts, art...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011
07:26 a.m.

I am done to with my thesis.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hungarian Philosophers Harassed for Criticizing Right-Wing Government

The Collège International de Philosophie in Paris reported at the end of February that a group of Hungarian philosophers were being persecuted by the Hungarian government and media. The philosophers are presently under investigation for having allegedly misused research grants allocated to them. However, the philosophers claim that they are being harassed and libeled because they openly criticized Viktor Orbán, the current Prime Minister of Hungary, and his administration.

According to the Collège International de Philosophie, the current campaign against this group of philosophers is symptomatic of other issues afflicting the intellectual circles of Hungary: the Academy of Science recently dismissed four philosophy professors while the director of the National Theatre of Budapest was publicly stigmatized for being homosexual.

Among the group of philosophers being currently persecuted are prominent European intellectual figures such as Mihály Vajda, Sándor Radnóti and Ágnes Heller. Ágnes Heller was born in 1929, and was a follower of Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic, György Lukács. Considered the founder of the Budapest School of Philosophy, Heller was persecuted as a dissident in the 1970s, and, in 1977, she left the country and pursued an academic career, first in Australia and then in the USA. Heller has been heavily slandered by the Hungarian media over the past few weeks, to the point that she has now put forward a criminal complaint against the newspaper “Magyar Nemzet” (“Hungarian Nation”) for its constant attacks.

According to Heller, the accusations of misuse of funding are just a cover-up, exploited by the government and the national press, to be able to harass a number of philosophers for their leftist inclinations, and for having criticized, in both the national and international press, the current policies of the right-wing government in Hungary. In an interview with “University World News,” Heller said the following: “There were more than 100 grants [given for research.] Why had they picked six of them for investigation? They gave the answer. The attacked philosophers were all liberal-leftist,” before adding: “Why was the attack concentrated on me, when I have not received one single penny? And why immediately criminal charges? On what ground, if not as ideological harassment?”

Many European intellectuals are worried about the safety of their colleagues in such a political climate. German philosophers, J. Nida-Rümelin and  J. Habermas recently published an open letter denouncing the campaign aimed at discrediting those philosophers. They actively called on the European Commission “not only to subject the Hungarian media law to a long-overdue legal assessment, but that, at the same time, in the course of this assessment, it [the European Commission] ought to take into account the general practices of the Hungarian regime and its agents, and in this case especially it ought to examine the treatment of critical academics and intellectuals.”

I hereby post a video of Heller explaining the situation:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Censorship Brings Back Old Memories [Pride and the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid]

On February 5, 1981, the Metropolitan Toronto Police raided four gay bathhouses in Toronto, arresting 306 people; 20 owners were charged for “keeping a common bawdyhouse,” and 286 men were charged as “found-ins.” While men were being verbally abused, beaten up and dragged out naked on the streets, this moment spurred what is now called the Canadian equivalent of New York City’s Stonewall Riots. Indeed, following Operation Soap (which was the name given to the raid and mass arrest), the LGBTQ communities in Canada rallied, got organized and steered mass protests. Thirty years on, this protest has now turned into what we know as Pride Toronto.

Thirty years is not so far back in time, and yet, in those 30 years, much has been accomplished, including, amongst others, recognizing the civil rights of LGBTQ and other minority communities, the passing of numerous anti-discrimination bills and the legalization of same-sex marriages. Three decades also propelled Pride Toronto into uncharted directions, altering the nature of the parade from a few thousand politically-conscious queers and allies descending into the streets to make themselves visible to what numerous activists now call “a big corporate party.”

While Pride Toronto “prides” itself on being one of the largest cultural festivals in North America, attracting up to one million people, the culture(s) being promoted by the 10-day event is still fraught with ambivalence: is Pride Toronto a political event, is it just a large profit-making corporate celebration, or, if it is a bit of both, how does Pride negotiate both these ends and incorporate them into those 10 days?

The crux of the question may be looked at in light of the debate about whether the activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) should, or not, be allowed to participate in Pride Toronto. The embers of this fiery dispute, ignited a few years ago, are presently being fanned again. QuAIA is an off-shoot of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, and is a Toronto-based LGBTQ group aimed at protesting the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli authorities. While their aim, as a LGBTQ group, is to make themselves visible and vocal enough to state their discontent in the face of a particular kind of colonization and occupation, the queer communities, and the public as a whole, are divided over whether Pride Toronto is an adequate space for QuAIA to denounce the politics of the government of Israel (and other countries supporting Israel.)

Last year, the Toronto Pride Committee claimed that Pride did not have any affiliations to political entities or causes and that QuAIA would not be allowed to march in the Parade. Subsequently, the committee changed its decision at the last minute, and QuAIA was allowed to take part in the parade, but the words “Israeli Apartheid” were altogether banned from use.

Last week, Toronto mayor Rob Ford announced that the city would refuse to grant any funding to Pride Toronto should QuAIA be allowed to participate in the parade. Speaking to the Canadian Jewish News, Rob Ford stated that “taxpayer dollars should not go toward funding hate speech.” From Ford’s point of view, denouncing and expressing an oppressive political situation, in a public fashion, in a democratic society, is “hate speech.”

Rewind back to thirty years ago: had the protests of the LGBTQ communities in 1981 been silenced and shrugged off as “hate speech,” where would the queer communities presently stand in terms of civil rights and anti-discrimination?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mauritius, The Greatest Country on Earth? [some nationalist feeling!]

Those who know me in real life know the deep political and intellectual aversion I have for nationalist discourses and nationalist feelings. These stem from a million of reasons that I won't get into in this post. However, I will make an exception to thrashing the idea of the nation in this post, and instead, I will actually celebrate the island where I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life: Mauritius!

A professor at Trent just sent me this article, "The Greatest Country on Earth: What the United States can learn from the tiny island nation of Mauritius." Read by clicking here.

Of course, it got me wondering: if I could be at home where I would attend university for free, why the hell am I piling up debts writing a thesis out here?! :S

"Suppose someone were to describe to you a small country that provided free education through university for all of its citizens, transportation for school children, and free health care—including heart surgery—for all. You might suspect that such a country is either phenomenally rich or on the fast track to fiscal crisis. . . ."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Musical Interlude and British Voices

It's been a very long while now, that I've been musically starved. It's been months that I've been looking for music that is refreshing, that blows me away, that is out of the box of the bing-bang-boom that the mainstream music industry has been producing. While all the Gagas and Rihannas are fine to listen once or twice (and definitely good for a dance-floor), I've been waiting for those artists whose albums I would listen over and over again, across months, without tiring my musical ear.

First there was Cheryl Cole's album, Fight for this Love that caught my attention back in 2009.

Sure, I love Cheryl and I want to marry her. But beyond my love for her, her first album took me back to good pop from the 80s. It was, for me, the epitome of British pop before it all got too trashy and out-of-hand (dare I say post-modern?) Cheryl's second album, 3 Words was released in 2010.

While some of the songs from 3 Words have been played much more than others on my i-Tunes, it didn't last too long.

In 2010, I also discovered Florence and the Machine-- again from Britain!

With Florence and the Machine, I had finally found a voice that gripped me with its tone, notes and texture, and I had found the perfect mix of indie, rock, pop and soul. Till now, I still regularly listen to their album, Lungs, and we often play it as accompanying music while doing our barre exercises at Ballet for Drop-Outs.

And then, a few months ago, thanks to her rendition of Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love, I discovered Adele. Again, a British artist who managed to conquer the rest of the world. Her first album 19, blew me away in its simplicity, its style, and just in terms of Adele's powerful voice.

There was the artist who had "it"-- whatever it stands for. Adele was the voice I had been craving for and I am glad she came along. Her songs are her voice, her personality: who she is is stamped onto every single song, which is predictable when an artist composes and writes all her songs herself. She found her niche, and she knew how to explore it.

A few weeks ago, Adele's second album came out, 21.

I've had it for a week now and it's been playing non-stop in my room, in my ears, and in my head even when I am not listening to it. She has spine-tingling juggling vocal abilities and I will never say this enough: she is original. She's got no Gaga-like gimmicks, nothing is overdone, nothing is exaggerated, other than the passion in her voice when she sings: she sings every single word and hits every single note like she means it.

In Adele's 21 album, she has an acoustic rendition of Someone Like You. I don't think there's ever been a song that gripped me so strongly and intensely. I listen to it three times a day. Just three times. If I listen to it more than that, I feel it's so intense that I want to explode, that I want to run away and hide my head under a pillow. It's just her, her voice, a piano and her passion.

I found this video on Youtube. It's Adele performing at the Brit Awards. Spine-tingling. Each time I listen to it, it gives me goose-gumps:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Drop-outs or Push-outs? Africentric Education and Inclusive Pedagogy

As part of Black History Month, the Community for Race Relations Committee of Peterborough (CRRC) and the Centre for Gender and Social Justice (CGSJ) organized a roundtable discussion on Africentric Education and inclusive pedagogy. The event took place at Catharine Parr Traill College on February 26 and featured Leah Newbold, a Toronto-based visual artist, community organizer and educator at the Sheppard Public Africentric Alternative School in Toronto; Charmaine Magumbe, co-founder of the Afrocentric Awareness Network of the Kawarthas (AANK); and Dr. George Sefa Dei, educator, researcher, writer and professor of Sociology and Equity Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto.

Each of the presentations brought to light a different perspective on the merits and challenges facing Africentric educational platforms: Leah Newbold spoke primarily of her experience as a teacher at the Africentric Alternative School; Charmaine Magumbe spoke about how her experience as a student of Jamaican-descent influenced the ways she raised and educated her children in Peterborough; and George Dei’s presentation pertained predominantly to how mainstream education can demotivate youth from minority groups and push them to disengagement. With the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) facing a 40% rate of drop-out amongst students of the Black communities, this panel provided a space to examine the reasons behind this drop-out rate and offer concrete solutions to counter this trend—notably, by questioning established pedagogies and curricula.

In her presentation, Leah Newbold explained that the Africentric Alternative School was initiated in 2009 with 130 students. It now comprises of 170 students from JK to grade 6, and the school is expected to grow by one grade per year. Though the school received considerable negative media attention and was accused of “encouraging segregation” and offering “ghettoized education,” Newbold demystified the latter allegations by explaining that segregation is a form of dominance that aims at separating groups with the purpose of making them unequal. Africentric education, on the other hand, is set up to address systemic failure and disengagement from youth. Newbold pointed out that mainstream education, as we know it, is itself Eurocentric, but the latter fact is taken for granted and not questioned as in its role as dominating or “segregationist.”

George Dei, was also adamant about Africentric schools being the solution to a problem that had been ignored for far too long. Dei explained Africentric education as a pedagogical methodology that, within the classroom setting, introduces culturally relevant references, histories, and experiences that resonate with a student’s identity and community. While the curricula followed is still the ones established by the TDSB, the core element of African-centered education is to “center” African experiences within these school curricula so that children and youth of African descent can see themselves through the lens of a valuable history.

Dei explained this history as a totality of lived experiences and not just as dates and facts that happened at particular times and places. Charmaine Magumbe echoed this notion of history through the work carried by AANK. AANK aims at raising positive-- rather than negative-- awareness of Black heritage in the Peterborough and Kawartha regions. Moving away from lectures and classes, AANK aims to teach and create comfort around Africentricism by sharing lived experiences and practices in order to restore learning about pre-colonial Africa.

One of the major points raised during the round-table discussion is the impact of mainstream education on the self-perception of youth belonging to minority groups. While Magumbe spoke about how her own schooling experience was destructive to her self-image, Dei argued that youth who drop out of schools do not generally do so because of any limitations of their own, but because they are “pushed out” of schools by the educational system. This “push out,” explains Dei, is a process and it needs to be identified and minutely analyzed.

For Dei, one of the ways in which this “push out” can be countered is by making sure that test scores are not the only measure of success for youth in schools. Instead, he proposed a thorough investigating of how students feel about who they are and how they feel about their community. Along the same lines, Newbold proposed forms of teaching that take into account histories of oppression while reinforcing positive models of self-image. Africentric education has the aim of encouraging youth to be proud of their history and their inherited culture, and to question the authority of mainstream whiteness and Eurocentricism.

For Dei, a successful Africentric education is one where Black youth recognize their community, and their community’s past and achievements. In other words, Dei encourages teaching models that move towards a culture of community rather than a culture of individualism. Speaking of Africa not as a continent, but as a state of mind, Dei reiterated that this African consciousness needs to be carried forward proudly. All the participants on the panel spoke of colonization not only in terms of the land, but also in terms of colonization of the mind—which is what an Africentric education aims at decolonizing.

By educating through engagement with identities and experiences, the Africentric educational platform aims to reach out and engage a multiplicity of experiences and identities that may or may not specifically pertain to the Black communities. With time, the panel hopes that such models will open themselves to other marginalized groups and different sites, and have the transformative power to reconfigure the current mainstream educational models. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Polyamory is Wrong:

Polyamory is wrong! It's either multiamory or polyphilia. Mixing Greek and Latin roots? Wrong!

[Yes, I am using this in my poly- workshop tonight!]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Dire Straits, Artistic Freedom and Censorship

[Since I haven't been updating the blog too regularly- due to my uberbusy schedule- here is a piece of mine that was recently published in a local newspaper. Thought I should share it with you! And the issue is one that is debatable; so if you want to share your point of view, please do so. I'd love to hear what others have to say on the issue.]

Dire Straits is a British Rock band that was a cultural staple in the 80s and the 90s. Arguably, their most successful hit, “Money for Nothing,” is a classic. It was released in 1985, as part of the album “Brothers in Arms,” and the music video featured early computer-animated human characters, which for many at the time, was a first. The Grammy winning song (Best Rock Performance, 1985) has been and still is symbolic of many other things: the song is written from the point of view of a blue-collar worker carrying heavy loads in a hardware store. When he stumbles on the video of a rock-band on TV, the man complains that he has to install microwave ovens, handle kitchen deliveries and move fridges to earn a living, while rock-stars just play the guitar on the MTV and get “money for nothing, and chicks for free.”

In a ruling released on January 12, 2011, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CSBC) banned the broadcast of “Money for Nothing” from Canadian airwaves. The decision came after a listener from Newfoundland complained that the song was played on CHOZ-FM (OZ FM, Newfoundland) and it included the word “faggot” three times. Indeed, the lyrics of “Money for Nothing” contain the following: “The little faggot with the earring and the make-up/ Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair/ That little faggot’s got his own jetplane/ That little faggot, he’s a millionaire.” The listener mentioned “[being] aware of other versions of the song, in which the word was replaced with another, and yet OZ FM chose to play and not censor this particular version,” and added, “I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community and feel that there is absolutely no valid reason for such discriminatory marks to be played on-air.”

The CSBC made its decision based on the fact that the lyrics of the song are a violation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ “Code of Ethics” and the “Equitable Portrayal Code.” Clause 2 of both these codes specify that “broadcasters shall ensure that their programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.” 

Since there have been numerous misunderstandings around this issue, it may be relevant to first get the facts straight: “Money for Nothing” is not banned in Canada. The original and unedited version of the song is still available for sale and for download. When it comes to the broadcast of the song on radio channels, edited versions of the song can still be aired. As a matter of fact, Dire Straits recorded an edited version of the song for the radio, where the word “faggot” had been replaced by the word “mother” (itself short for “mother f*cker”). In addition, the CSBC is a self-governing regulatory body for Canada’s private broadcasters and it has no power to fine or sue radio stations that defy its edicts. Membership to the CSBC is entirely voluntary, only members of the CSBC are required to adhere to its code of ethics, and private radio stations can leave the association if they so desire.

Yet, the CSBC’s decision to censor the original version of “Money for Nothing” created a ripple of reactions from all sides. The backlash included Dire Straits’ fans writing to the CSBC, explaining their outrage that the original version of the song that had been aired for the past 25 years could not be aired anymore. In Halifax, the radio station Q104, and in Edmonton, Classic Rock channel K-97 (CIRK-FM) repeatedly played the unedited version of the song for an entire hour on Friday, January 14, as a form of protest against CSBC’s decision. The decision has fueled debates about where to draw the line between censorship, artistic license, and freedom of speech. Furthermore, questions are now being raised about the evolution of language and whether terms that teach us something about the past (however offensive these terms may be) should be censored at all.

The CSBC’s position is rather easy to understand: Clause 9 (b) of the “Equitable Portrayal Code” of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters specifically mentions that “it is to be understood that language and terminology evolve over time. Some language and terminology may be inappropriate when used with respect to identifiable groups . . . Broadcasters shall remain vigilant with respect to the evolving of appropriateness or inappropriateness of particular words and phrases, keeping in mind prevailing community standards.” Seen from the CSBC’s perspective, the word “faggot” is now unacceptable, even if it was acceptable in 1985, when the song was released.

However, the word “faggot” might not have been as acceptable as we think it was in the 1980s. On Xtra.ca, a commentator from Vancouver argues: “[w]hen Dire Straits released Money for Nothing back in the 80s, it made me sick. As a teenager growing up in a small hick town in Ontario, it really bothered me as a closeted gay kid. I’ve been waiting 30 years for something to be done about it.” Along the same lines, Mark Knopfler (lead singer of Dire Straits) was aware of how offensive the lyrics of his song were when it was released: in the November 21, 1985, issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, Knopfler confessed that he had received an objection from the editor of a major gay newspaper in London. Quite interestingly, in Dire Straits’ “Best of” compilation, actually titled “Money for Nothing,” the problematic verse of the song is edited entirely.

The debate around the censorship of the song has also been likened to the ongoing debate about the edited versions of Mark Twain’s novels, “Tom Sawyer,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” The new edition of these two literary classics will now replace the word “nigger” by the word “slave.” While the books have been widely banned and criticized because of the use of the racial slur (4 times in “Tom Sawyer,” and 219 times in “Huck Finn”), many argue that racism will not be eradicated by erasing words and sanitizing literary history. Rather, since the books are often taught in schools and universities, the racial slur could be used as a pedagogic moment to acknowledge history, speak about it, understand the ways that it affects contemporary culture, and learn from past mistakes.

Can the comparison between Mark Twain’s novels and the Dire Straits’ song hold? “Money for Nothing” is not taught in schools, and, unlike books, editing a song for the radio does not stop the unedited versions from circulating: the unedited version of “Money for Nothing” still is and will always be available for sale and download, but the old editions of Mark Twain’s novels may eventually disappear in the long run. In addition, one also chooses which book to read, and if a book is offensive, one can always stop reading it. The same can be said of one’s personal music collection, where one can get rid of music that one finds offensive, but the same cannot be said of music being played on the radio: one does not choose what one will hear on a radio station.

And yet, can “Money for Nothing” be a teaching moment? The proponents of “artistic license,” and “freedom of speech” argue that “Money for Nothing” is a parody, it is ironical, and thus, it is not meant to be homophobic. If one takes into account the context of the song, one would understand that it is a social commentary: this song teaches us that there was a time where men were overtly homophobic when it came to “men with make-up,” and they were envious of rock-stars, whom they thought, did no work at all. Assuming this claim holds ground, there still are details that need to be addressed: do we really listen to the radio by taking into account the context of each and every single song being played? Besides, how many of us can actually decipher the subtleties of irony? How many of us are actually receptive to parody? Keith M., a 20 year old student at Trent University argues he wouldn’t want to hear the word “faggot” on the radio. He adds: “Since I was born in the 90s, I wouldn’t know the context of a song that was produced before I was born. If Kanye West’s songs can have an edited versions for the radio, I don’t see why this shouldn’t be the case for all artists.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Original "It Gets Better"

I love Rick Mercer (his webpage here; his wikipage here). By I love Rick Mercer, I mean I really heart the man. Rick Mercer IS Canadian Pride. Says who? Well I say so! 

[I've lived in Canada for almost three years now: I do have a say as to what counts as Canadian Pride, right?]

Yes, there is Naomi Klein, and Rufus Wainright, and Marshall McLuhan... And there's Justin Beiber too (let's not forget the Beibs) and there's Stephen Harper too (let's not forget the Harps... Okay, that was a tasteless joke), and there's Margaret Atwood too (but I haven't made up my mind on Atwood yet)... But above all this, there is Rick Mercer!

Fellow blogger, Small Town Queer, recently brought my attention to the fact that Rick Mercer had made a video back in 2007 that was, in fact, the original "It Gets Better." Indeed, what I like about Rick Mercer's video (other than being innovative back in 2007, and done what the rest of the world could think about only three years later), is that things do get better after you watch his video.

Oh Rick Mercer! You make my experience in this cold snowy land so much more enjoyable! *Sigh*

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lady Bunny: The Ballad of Sarah Palin

Oh, Lady Bunny! You gotta love, love, love, love her! The lyrics are brilliant!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Love at Work, HA! [I still prefer sex at work]

I thank Blair over at Gay in the City for posting this video that made my day. Ah, it feels good to laugh! Of course, laughter is to be shared, so here we go: let this video land on this blog too!

I think I will sign up for this website. Of course, I am NOT looking for another starving writer/academic/artist. A plumber to clean my pipes then? *hem*ahem* All puns aside, at the moment, I would quite fancy a CEO with a black leather throne of a chair and a thick wallet in this pocket. No, I mean a real wallet. A thick one. With loads in it. Loads of money is what I mean. I'm serious. No pun intended. I got bills to pay!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chris Colfer at the Golden Globes!

Not only because I am a gleek, but also because a young man can't be more charming, witty, funny and adorable as is Chris Colfer. Well-deserved!

From Online to Underground: On Craigslist's Erotic Services, Human Trafficking and Sex Work

[This article of mine is being published in our local independent press this week. I just thought I'd post it here too.]

On the week-end of December 18-19, 2010, the “erotic services” section of the Canadian Craigslist sites were taken down. This measure came after the Federal Government, along with the Attorneys General from five provinces (including Ontario) lobbied abreast anti-human trafficking groups to have Craigslist remove its “erotic services” section, as it had done in the U.S. in September 2010. The underlying rationale for removing the “erotic services” listings is that these classifieds were being exploited to coerce women and children into sex trade.

Whether the removal of the “erotic services” actually hurts or helps the cause of anti-human trafficking is subject to questioning. Craigslist has a history of having cooperated with law enforcement services to track illegal human trafficking, particularly under-aged sex trade. In the U.S., Craigslist had closed the “erotic services” listings back in May 2009, to run them under the rubric of “adult services.” One of the innovative aspects of the “adult services” listings was that each classified post costed 10 U.S. dollars, making each traceable to a credit card owner. Moreover, the website had imposed more stringent rules regarding the types of ads that could be posted and each listing was individually screened before it appeared on the list. 

In “Manual Screening Matters,” an article published on the Craigslist blog on August 18, 2010, Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, claimed that the company “is committed to being socially responsible, and when it comes to adult services ads, that includes aggressively combating violent crime and human rights violation, including human trafficking and the exploitation of minors.” He further explained that since May 2009, Craigslist had implemented a manual screening of adult services ads whereby “before being posted each individual ad [was] reviewed by an attorney licensed to practice law in the US, trained to enforce Craigslist’s posting guidelines, which, [were] stricter than those typically used by yellow pages, newspapers or any other company that we [at Craigslist] are aware of.” On numerous occasions, Craigslist’s authorities have cooperated with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in screening calls for child prostitution, and have consequently reviewed, removed and tracked suspicious ads.

Craigslist has been the centre of a few sex scams and scandals: in August 2009, Philip Markoff, popularly known as the “Craigslist killer,” murdered Julissa Brisman in a hotel-room in Boston, Massachussets. Markoff had met Brisman through a Craigslist classified. In Brampton, Ontario, Imani Nakpangi was convicted in 2008 for selling two teenagers aged 14 and 15 for sex services on Craigslist. Nakpangi was the first human trafficker to be convicted in Canada. However, it remains unclear whether removing the “erotic services” listings of Craigslist will in any way contribute to the eradication of human trafficking and child prostitution. Closing down such a central and large-scale service for erotic services of different sorts will only drive sex trade to more dangerous, less transparent and less visible locations. Unlike the services of Craigslist, the new locations may not have the same degree of accountability to the posters of the ads, and the latter may not even be traced back to their origins.

The Internet has rendered sex work safer in many ways. To start with, sex workers are not obliged to be roaming the streets for clients. The web has also made it easier and safer for sex workers to screen and track their clients: many sex workers demand that new clients provide referrals from existing clients and/or references from other sex workers. According to Nadia (name changed for the purpose of confidentiality), who has done numerous years of sex work off Craigslist in Peterborough, Ontario, “Craigslist goes far out of their way to ensure every poster is an adult. When ads were posted online, there were IP addresses, email accounts and telephone numbers to trace individuals . . . This development is going to hurt the case of sex workers in Ontario. We are now pushed to either pay huge fees for paper ads, return to the streets or continue to use Craigslist in covert ways.” For Nadia, the biggest anxiety is to be forced to go back to working on the streets, where competition is fiercer and where unpleasant and undesirable encounters are more frequent.

On the other hand, in a statement to the Canadian Press, Canadian Federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, expressed his satisfaction that Craigslist’s listings were removed, for, such advertisements could “facilitate serious criminal offences, such as living on the avails of child prostitution and trafficking in persons.” These thoughts were also echoed by Benjamin Perrin, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law at University of British Columbia and author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking. Perrin is a leading anti-human trafficking activist in Canada. Having initiated a national campaign called “End Modern Day Slavery,” he had been in the front line in making appeals to the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan to urge Craigslist to shut down its “erotic services” section.

According to Perrin, Craigslist was the most popular website used for human trafficking in Canada. However, some of the key findings of his research also demonstrate that most of the victims of foreign sex trafficking that occur in Canada can also be found in massage parlours, strip clubs and escort agencies. One cannot help but ask whether removing Craigslist “erotic services” listings really helped in eradicating human trafficking or did it instead only drive illegal sex trade underground, disguised under the thin veil of massage parlours and bath-houses? If from April, 2007, to April, 2009, only about thirty people have been charged with human trafficking in Canada, and only five have been convicted to date, will closing down Craigslist’s “erotic listings” really ensure better law enforcement? Will this move create further dismantling of human trafficking and actually increase the number charges and convictions?

There are other questions yet to be answered regarding further action across the web: while Perrin claims that “Canadian women and girls as young as 13 [can be] recruited by sex traffickers” through Facebook and MySpace, it remains to be determined what will be done about these other sites. Indeed, the web is full of other “adult listing” sites, escort agency links, personal ads, which cannot be as easily monitored and controlled as was Craigslist’s “erotic services.”

In many ways, the anti-Craigslist campaign was symptomatic of a backlash against recent developments aiming at decriminalizing sex work and related activities. For Nadia, this is an attempt at taking away the work of many, work that they need to make a living: “with the human rights challenge in the Court system, we are now entering a period where the laws regulating our experiences and legal livelihood will be in the hands of politicians.” Concerns regarding exploitation of “women and children” seem to mask a larger attempt of eradicating sex work per se. In representing sex workers as coerced women and children, the anti-prostitution lobby leaves out a diverse industry that includes consenting adult men, women and transgendered persons. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From Guerilla to First Female President: Why Dilma Rousseff Matters

[I wrote this article for publication in our independent press this week. I thought I'd share it here too.]

On January 1, 2011, Mrs. Dilma Rousseff, aged 63, was inaugurated as the President of Brazil after receiving the presidential sash from the outgoing President, Mr. Lula da Silva. Being the 36th President in line, Mrs. Rousseff made history by being the country’s first female president. 

Dilma Rousseff is a fighter, and when I say a fighter, I mean it in every sense of the word. Rousseff did not only triumph over lymphoma, a serious form of cancer in 2009, but during the 1960s and 70s, she was a guerilla involved in the armed struggle against Brazil’s military dictatorship. She was imprisoned in January 1970 and served for almost three years. During her time in jail, Rousseff suffered repeated torture that included electric abuse, and following her trial, her political rights were suspended for eighteen years.

Upon her release, Rousseff went on to obtain a degree in economics. When she became involved with national politics from the 1980s onwards, she developed a reputation for being an exceptional economist and administrator. Her forte, however, was to work around energy issues: first as the State Secretary of Energy, and then as the Minister of Energy, Rousseff refused to privatize the production and distribution of energy by reiterating that energy is a common and public good. She strengthened public infrastructure while keeping environmental issues in mind. Indeed, Brazil is currently the largest producer of biofuel and Rousseff has always encouraged sustainable development by giving priority to the use of biomass, wind and solar energy and assuring the preservation of natural reserves and forests. During her appointment as Minister of Energy, Rousseff was also involved in overseeing the functioning of Petrobas, Brazil’s public oil company. In June 2005, Rousseff became Brazil’s Chief of the Presidential Staff.

Dilma Rousseff succeeds Mr. Lula da Silva as President of Brazil. Lula da Silva (popularly known as Lula) leaves office after an eight-year run that saw him become the most popular Brazilian president in the country’s history. A former trade unionist, he was the first presidential nominee to win for the Workers’ Party in Brazil, and the first working-class leader of Brazil. During his two terms, some 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty, and Brazil’s minimum wage increased by more than half. What is of further interest, however, and going by the saying that “behind every successful man, there is a woman,” Dilma Rousseff has been Lula’s right-hand woman for years, and she was also Lula’s handpicked successor. In her inaugural speech, Rousseff paid tribute to Lula and repeated her pledge to eradicate chronic poverty from Brazil: “the task of succeeding President Lula is challenging. I will know how to honor this legacy... I will fight for the necessary changes in education, in health and security, and, above all, I will fight to end poverty and misery.” 

The social program put forward by Lula’s government to eradicate poverty—program that will be carried forward by President Rousseff—has been efficient in numerous ways. If Brazil’s level of economic inequality is dropping at a faster rate than almost any other country, and if between 2003 and 2009, the income of poor Brazilians has grown seven times as much as the income of the rich Brazilians, and if the line of poverty in Brazil has fallen from 22 percent to 7 percent of the population, it is, amongst many other factors, thanks to a program called Bolsa Familia (Family Grant). The generic term for the program is “conditional cash transfers” and it involves giving regular payments to poor families if they can meet certain requirements. While the requirements themselves may vary, they generally include keeping children in school, going for regular medical checkups, or having parents attending workshops on disease prevention and nutrition. The payments almost always go to women, trusting that they are more likely to spend the money on their families than men.

Bolsa Familia in Brazil covers about 50 million Brazilians, almost a quarter of the country. While a monthly stipend of roughly 13 US dollars is given to poor families for each child aged 15 or younger who is attending school, families can get additional payments of roughly 19 US dollars a month for each child aged 16-17 still in school. Families who live in extreme poverty get a basic benefit of roughly 40 US dollars without any conditions. While these stipends double the income of Brazilian families living in extreme poverty, they also help reducing economic inequality while increasing the overall quality of health and education within these families. 

Coming to head Brazil as President while having been a torture victim herself, Rousseff also represents roughly 20,000 Brazilians who were also tortured during the dictatorship. While other countries such as Uruguay, Chile and Argentina have confronted their past (Argentina presently has about 400 trials going on), Brazil has in no way acknowledged this part of its traumatic history, and in many ways, President Rousseff brings to light all those victims. During her inauguration ceremony, Rousseff was accompanied by eleven other women with whom she had been imprisoned in the 1970s. 

In terms of foreign policy, Rousseff has a few challenges facing her. Brazil is one of the few countries that almost-always held ground in steering an independent course outside the policies of the United States on a host of issues—particularly on war, armament and energy. Brazil is also one of the few countries in the world that recognizes Palestine as a state and even has a Palestinian Embassy in Brasilia. All these represent challenges that Rousseff will now have to live up to.

In a world where the sphere of politics and decision-making is still largely dominated by men, and where, on a global scale, women still comprise less than 20 percent of parliamentary positions, a woman is now heading one of the largest economies in the world, the largest in Latin America. Dilma Rousseff is a fighter, a survivor and a heroine facing a new decade locally and globally. She represents hope for the future, for a green revolution, for social and economic equalities, and for fairer policy making. In many ways, President Dilma Rousseff represents a victory not only for Brazil, but for the world, which is why Dilma Rousseff matters. 

Little Taiko Boy / リトル太鼓ボーイ [video]

Little Taiko Boy: Watch here

Little Taiko Boy combines Western holiday traditions, Shinto mythology and Japanese gay culture to advocate a very different way of wrapping gifts for a loved one.

Little Taiko Boy's soundtrack is a safer-sex parody of the American Christmas carol "The Little Drummer Boy" interspersed with the slow rumble of a traditional Japanese taiko drum that sounds like a massive throbbing heart beat. Against this backdrop, several men meet in Tokyo's bathhouses, love hotels and cruising spots for intimate encounters, watched over by a glamorous drag version of Amaterasu Omikami, the Shinto goddess of the Sun played by Japanese activist and artist MADAME BONJOUR JOHNJ. Like a queer Santa Claus, the goddess leaves each couple a condom in a bejeweled wrapper as a gift and blessing for the night.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Untitled Poem [or three Haikus in English]

[I leave this poem untitled. I just want to point out that the Haiku in English (link here) is not to be confused with the Haiku (link here). They're both two different genres, at least according to me.]

Tin foil, havocked roof
Cold body exposed, shameless
Run-down hut, dark night.

Red toes, muggy tongue
Shapeless burn of alcohol
Wretched navel, pain.

Dead cat, fiery hair
Broken bottle, scattered ash
He tiptoes away.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gay Vintage! [on tumbler]

Mae Callen recently sent me a note to bring my attention to a tumbler-blog that she'd thought I'd like... And she is right: I not only like, but I love!

It's called Fuck Yeah, Gay Vintage and it brings together a collection of queer vintage iconography. For those like me who are fascinated by vintage visual culture and fashion in general and/or who share my passion for queer history, please click on this link to check it out. And even if you don't give a damn about anything that does not belong to the present generation, still click on the link! You'll find an extremely interesting archive of images that comprises of such things: