Inclusive storytelling in theatre gives all folks an opportunity to see themselves on stage

From a young age, many of us have been inspired seeing versions of ourselves — or versions of ourselves we aspired to be — in TV shows, movies, books and theatre. However, we may have also come to realise there were no versions of ourselves in the media we had as children.

Hartley Reed Schuyler, a transmasculine queer performance artist, who attended McMaster University for history, saw an opportunity to provide this inspiration to youth audiences through theatre.

He applied to Carousel Theatre for Young People in Vancouver, B.C. and he became an outreach coordinator for the production Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls by Dave Deveau.

In LGBG nine-year-old Fin comes out as a boy and we observe his family adapt, with Dad accepting the change right away while Mom struggles. Both kids and parents in the audience watch Fin’s family move from good intentions to active support, embracing Fin’s transition and gender identity.

Schuyler was tasked with building a resource guide for teachers and students aged nine to 12 viewing the play to complement their classroom discussions.

“Our goal is to bring classrooms into the theatre,” explained Schuyler.

In adapting a new guide for LGBG, which was originally performed in 2018 at the Roseneath Theatre, Schuyler considered how the conversation around trans kids has changed even in just the past few years. Namely, beyond being a guide through the trans experience, it serves as a community-oriented invitation to parents, teachers, friends and peers alike to deeply evaluate their approach to caring for trans people in their lives.

The show weaves together the experiences of trans kids and those of their parents, allowing parents to also see themselves on stage. The audience learns what it means to be supportive and really show up for someone you love.

The show weaves together the experiences of trans kids and those of their parents, allowing parents to also see themselves on stage. The audience learns what it means to be supportive and really show up for someone you love.

Schuyler noted this duality in target audience is something we often don’t see, since we tend to target only one audience or another. LGBG strives to demonstrate everyone has a role to play in supporting trans youth, including parents, teachers and peers.

“Because it is a show that is so centralized in all facets of its storytelling that it doesn’t just target kids and it doesn’t just target the parents – there’s something in it for both communities and I think that’s really important,” said Schuyler.

"Because it is a show that is so centralized in all facets of its storytelling that it doesn’t just target kids and it doesn’t just target the parents – there’s something in it for both communities and I think that’s really important."

HARTLEY REED SCHUYLER, OUTREACH COORDINATOR FOR LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS

For students interested in theatre, Schuyler encouraged them to seek out opportunities that feel safe in terms of their support systems and adds sometimes smaller spaces are the ones that make the most space for people. During his time at McMaster, he was closely involved with several theatre spaces on campus, including McMaster Activist Theatre, which he felt was one the most accessible ones on campus.

Schuyler also emphasized that there is always space for everyone, even if that sometimes means carving out a space for yourself, and while he notes that can be hard work, he hopes with so many working together towards this goal, as he felt working on LGBG, it will soon be less so.

C/O Esra Rakab

The QTCC provides an online space for racialized 2SLGBTQ+ students to gather and build community

McMaster University’s Queer and Trans Colour Club is a place for racialized 2SLGBTQIA+ students to connect and thrive both academically and socially at McMaster. Even while clubs remained online for the fall semester of 2021, the QTCC found avenues for students to connect. Their online workshops and their educational Instagram posts shared tips for mindfulness and how to deal with living at home during online school and the holidays. 

In the fall, the QTCC held a variety of online events to encourage students to connect with one another, including a midterm destress session and their most recent workshop, A Very Queer Study Session, in which students studied together over Zoom using the Pomodoro method. The workshop also provided space to discuss mindfulness techniques and how to manage stress at home during the holidays as a 2SLGBTQIA+ student.  

The workshop also provided space to discuss mindfulness techniques and how to manage stress at home during the holidays as a 2SLGBTQIA+ student. 

The President of QTCC, Emma Zhang, who helped run the workshop, shared her experience at the study session and some of the tips they gave for the holiday season. 

“We leave a reminder: it’s important for us to support each other in finding ways to cope with this. [T]hen we open the floor to everyone to see what tips they could have in terms of what worked for them and then we will go with what tips we have. For example, if you can, connect to the people who could affirm your identity and community. It can be online through game nights or meeting up in person,” said Zhang. 

For example, if you can, connect to the people who could affirm your identity and community. It can be online through game nights or meeting up in person.

Emma Zhang, QTCC President

The QTCC is continuing their events in the new year with educational information for aromantic spectrum awareness week, a coffee house they host annually at the end of February. Last year, the event was hosted online.  

“Last year, we had, of course, spoken word. Also, we had people who shared their screen to show their paintings and I think some were more abstract and some were personal. Also, some people performed songs and dances that were important to them,” said Zhang. 

In the month of February, the QTCC is also busy promoting educational information on their social media about Black History Month in collaboration with the Black Students’ Association.  

Zhang spoke about how the QTCC hopes to provide tips on how to connect with others platonically on Valentine’s Day. 

“Specifically for our Valentine's Day post, we're hoping to also provide some resources where people can connect platonically and we hope to address the topic of what it means to have a clear platonic relationship because as you know, queer relationships and timelines don't really look identical to a cishet timeline,” explained Zhang. 

Through every online workshop and post, QTCC is fostering a community for racialized 2LGBTQIA+ students, allowing them to still feel connected to their peers even if most students are stuck at home. 

“We leave the floor and the freedom to our attendees to choose what they want to do to build the community that they want to see and I think that that is pretty powerful. And generally having a sense of solidarity of seeing people like them on the screen with them doing similar things, that's pretty helpful. I think personally, I've benefited from that,” said Zhang.  

Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano / Production Editor

By Julia Healy, Contributor

CW: Mentions sexual violence

Sex and I have a fraught relationship with one another. As a girl growing up as a lesbian in a fairly conservative religious environment, my parents, teachers and peers frequently insinuated that queer attraction, particularly attraction between women, was attention-seeking and a phase. This stereotype made me constantly doubt my feelings and kept me securely in the closet during my high school years. But, once I left home and entered the secular world of university,  I was determined to come out. 

In first year, I began to feel like I had missed out on a lot of romantic experiences by remaining closeted for so long. While I hadn’t even tried flirting with a girl, my 2SLGBTQ+ friends would tell stories about their past high school flings and recent hook-ups at parties. One story that that I would hear and unfortunately internalize starred straight girls who had supposedly just wanted to “experiment,” and had left my queer friends feeling heartbroken and used. 

Being told that my sexuality was “just a phase” by people back home and by society at large was enough to make me doubt myself. Having this sentiment seemingly confirmed by the experiences of fellow members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community was terrifying. I internalized the idea that I could be misunderstanding my feelings, and that I was just constructing these attractions to seek attention, or approval from my 2SLGBTQ+ peers. I became fixated on the need to validate my identity and thought that having sex with a woman was the only way to settle the nagging fears inside my head.

I became fixated on the need to validate my identity and thought that having sex with a woman was the only way to settle the nagging fears inside my head.

Unfortunately, as an awkward first year who had never even kissed anyone, this plan was easier said than done. I worried that I would somehow mess up and embarrass myself, or, even worse, that I would realize I was straight all along. This idea made me so anxious, I didn’t even try to date. First and second year went by without a single a kiss to show for it. 

In the summer of second year, my sexual life completely shifted. After just one lacklustre date with very little chemistry, I went back to a girl’s apartment and stayed the night. She didn’t know that I had experienced my first kiss and had lost my virginity  within minutes of each other that night, and she didn’t seem to care about my nervousness. Although, in hindsight, I recognize that this encounter was not very healthy, I felt immense relief at the time that my attraction to women was not a figment of my imagination.

Despite this experience, I still hadn’t fully dispelled the negative stereotype about seeking attention, or the fear of falling behind on sexual experiences, from my brain. I started to seek out sexual encounters to validate not just my identity, but also my desirability and my self worth. The fears that I held onto have led me into some unsafe situations. I’ve rushed into sex with people before I was ready, to prove that I am, in fact, a lesbian. I’ve had sex with people before talking about STI status because I didn’t want them to feel like I was stalling out of disinterest, or for them to lose interest in me. I’ve never been able to properly communicate not being in the mood for sex, wanting to slow down or wanting to stop, even with partners who I knew would have  respected my boundaries. I’ve had people hurt me during sex and, perhaps most damaging of all, I have frequently verbally consented to situations while my brain screamed at me to run away. 

My lack of sexual experience once seemed like nothing but an obstacle between myself and the formation of a healthy queer relationship with a loving partner. However, after ignoring my own boundaries for so long, I feel like I’m farther from forming whatever a “healthy relationship” is than ever before. 

My lack of sexual experience once seemed like nothing but an obstacle between myself and the formation of a healthy queer relationship with a loving partner. However, after ignoring my own boundaries for so long, I feel like I’m farther from forming whatever a “healthy relationship” is than ever before.

The unhealthy attitudes that I have developed towards sex started with the desire to not only  validate my lesbian identity for myself, but to have that identity recognized by other queer women. My conservative upbringing started my self-doubt, but it was ultimately the emphasis placed upon sexual experience and the suspicion surrounding virginity within my own community that pushed me to seek validation through sex. I am only beginning to unlearn my unhealthy attitudes towards sex and to reconcile with my identity on my own terms.

At the intersection of sexism and homophobia, queer women face a lot of pressure from society to perform our sexuality in specific ways, often for the gratification of others. Rather than reproducing these pressures within our spaces, we as queer women should uplift one another, no matter where on our sexual journeys we happen to be.  

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

 

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Photo C/O Kristin Archer  

Note: This article has been edited to clarify that Marc Lemire has been working for the city of Hamilton since 2005.

cw: homophobia, physical violence, white supremacy, religious extremism

The annual Hamilton Pride event held on June 24, 2006 was interrupted midway by a group of homophobic soccer fans. The soccer fans allegedly swore and spat on those marching in the parade, but the Hamilton police were quick to respond, forming a barrier between the fans and the parade participants. 

At the time, Lyla Miklos, a Hamilton-based activist, creative and journalist, was a board member of the Hamilton Pride committee. She was also one of many who marched in the pride parade—an experience she detailed thirteen years later in a deputation to the Hamilton police services board on July 18, 2019. 

The deputation came a month after a hate group violently interrupted the 2019 Hamilton Pride event. A video from the scene shows a snippet of the commotion, which occurred in the middle of Gage Park and away from Pride festivities. 

Anti-pride demonstrators gathered at the event, shouting homophobic and white nationalist rhetoric. The video appears to show a religious group holding signs with phrases from the Bible and accusing Pride participants of perpetuating “sin”. 

Hamilton Pride 2019 event at Gage Park being disrupted. Photo C/O CBC News

Another group is shown attempting to protect Pride-goers from the anti-pride demonstrators, trying to erect a black curtain to cover the anti-pride group and their signs. 

Eventually, the confrontations escalated to punching, grabbing and choking, with one of the disruptors hitting pride-goers in the face with a motorcycle helmet. 

In the aftermath, the Pride Hamilton board of directors published a statement saying that the situation would not have escalated to such a violent degree had the police responded sooner. 

The statement also discusses Pride Hamilton’s multiple attempts to explain to the police that a similar protest happened during Pride 2018 and that they expected the number of protestors to escalate for 2019. 

Nevertheless, Miklos’ deputation from July 18, 2019 points out the differences in police responsiveness between the 2006 and 2019 Pride events. 

“. . . I am puzzled as to why the [Hamilton] police were unable to mobilize themselves in the same way [they did in the 2006 Pride parade] at Gage Park for Hamilton Pride in 2019, especially since they knew in advance that there was a threat,” she said.  

Pride Hamilton’s statement also touches upon the relationship between the Hamilton Police Services and the local queer community. 

“There have been long-standing issues between the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and Hamilton Police Services that remain unresolved. We feel that this was an opportunity for police to demonstrate that they were there to protect and act in solidarity with the community,” said Pride Hamilton’s statement. 

Hamilton Pride 2019 event at Gage Park being disrupted. Photo C/O CBC News

However, not all members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community believe that increasing police responsiveness is the answer. A June 2019 study from McMaster’s department of labour studies surveyed 900 members of Hamilton’s queer community. Approximately one third of respondents stated that they had been treated unjustly by police, and transgender respondents were more likely to report unfair treatment.

Some recount the events of Hamilton Pride as an example of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community coming together to defend themselves.

Indeed, the protest at the Pride event is only one part of the fraught history between the city of Hamilton and the members of its local queer community. 

Since 2005, Marc Lemire has been working as IT network analyst for the city of Hamilton. From 1995 to 2005, Lemire ran Heritage Front, a now defunct neo-Nazi white supremacist organization. He was also the webmaster of the Freedom Site, which hosted the websites of several Canadian anti-Semitic organizations. 

In an email to CBC News, however, Lemire denied being either a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi. Despite Lemire’s claims, when Lemire’s appointment and history became public knowledge in May 2019, the Hamilton LGBTQ advisory group responded by stating in a motion that with the city allowing Lemire to work for and with them, it had failed to show solidarity with the marginalized communities in Hamilton. According to the LGBTQ advisory group, Lemire’s employment threatens the safety of city staff and volunteers that belong to these communities.

The advisory group is also protesting a police services board appointment from April 2019, which it believes was a missed opportunity to appoint someone who was part of a marginalized community instead of another of the white, straight men that comprise a majority of the current board. 

Another criticism from the advisory group is that the city didn’t implement a transgender and gender non-conforming protocol as quickly as they should have. The protocol was established three years after an incident in 2014 that sparked an Ontario Human Rights tribunal settlement. The advisory group also alleged that the committee behind the protocol was chosen by the city arbitrarily, without careful regard of who would best serve the intentions of the protocol. 

In consideration of all this, the advisory group declared that since the city has failed to demonstrate solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Hamilton, it didn’t want the city to fly flags in honour of Hamilton Pride 2019. However, on May 30, 2019, rather than adhering to the advisory group’s request, city officials still chose to fly flags symbolic of Pride and the transgender community — only without hosting a flag-raising ceremony, in an attempt to reach a compromise between the city’s plans and the advisory group’s request. 

On May 30, 2019, rather than adhering to the Hamilton LGBTQ advisory group’s request, city officials still chose to fly flags symbolic of Pride and the transgender community. Photo C/O CBC News.

In a CBC article from the time, Mayor Fred Eisenberger insisted on flying the flag, citing that one advisory group does not represent the entirety of the LGBTQ community. 

“There’s a much broader audience out there, including our own staff,” he said. 

Cameron Kroetsch, chair of the LGBTQ advisory committee, acknowledges that some 2SLGBTQIA+ residents might have wanted a ceremony and that people would have felt differently about the flag-raising. 

“It’s a powerful symbol, and you can’t perfectly represent everybody,” he said. 

Less than a month after this, on June 15, 2019, the 2019 Hamilton Pride event was interrupted by a hateful protest, and tensions between the city of Hamilton and the local queer community came to a boil.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger tweeted his reaction to the Pride incident, “I am disappointed with the events that transpired at yesterday’s Hamilton’s PRIDE celebration at Gage Park. Hate speech and acts of violence have no place in the City of Hamilton. We are committed to being a Hamilton For All where everyone feels safe and welcome.” 

However, the mayor’s intentions did not bring any positive impact for the remainder of the year.

On June 18, 2019, a community conversation regarding Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQIA+ residents ended in a heated discussion about the lack of effort from Hamilton police in keeping Pride participants safe. 

On June 22, 2019, in an outcry against the arrest of Cedar Hopperton, an anarchist activist charged with alleged parole violations following the Pride incident, protesters marched from the Hamilton police headquarters in Barton Jail, where Hopperton was detained. Hopperton, a prominent member of the Hamilton queer community, was the first arrest made following the Pride protest. This drew questions and criticism, as videos of the June 15 incident also showed at least two alt-right protesters committing violence against participants of Hamilton Pride. Hopperton’s supporters also argued that Hopperton was acting in defense of the community while the Hamilton Police failed to arrive at the scene in a timely manner. 

https://www.facebook.com/TrentCWTP/photos/a.1835158899853468/2268043049898382/?type=3&theater

On July 12, 2019, around two dozen members of Hamilton’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community, alongside allies, set up an encampment at Hamilton city hall in protest of the Hamilton police’s alleged failure to stand in support and in assistance to the city’s marginalized communities.

On Aug. 27, 2019, the Hamilton police expressed the desire to improve their relationship with the city’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Jackie Penman, the spokesperson for the Hamilton police, claimed that the police’s goal was to identify what should be done to reestablish communication between the Hamilton queer community and the police. 

Nevertheless, a month after this, on Sept. 10, 2019, Chief Eric Girt of the Hamilton police makes homophobic and transphobic comments on the Bill Kelly show. One month later on Oct. 10, 2019, the police board denied a request from Kroetsch from the city’s LGBTQ advisory committee to provide a deputation to the board, claiming that Kroetsch wanted to speak about city issues and not police ones. 

When asked about where the police should start with repairing its fractured relationship with the Hamilton queer community, Kroetsch points out that the work behind this has already been done by many kinds of groups long before 2019. 

“The chief quite clearly stated that he knew what the issues were. So I think the start has to be … getting a plan from the City of Hamilton, getting a plan from city police to talk about what they’re planning to do now … What can you do, what are you able to do, how are you able to participate in this conversation marginalised communities have been asking you for decades?” said Kroetsch. 

He also spotlights the frustration felt by many members of marginalised communities, who have already done a lot of talking and who have to relive traumatic experiences in sharing their accounts with others. Kroetsch says that he does not see a plan coming forward from any civic leaders that truly take into account what marginalised individuals are telling them. 

In a similar vein, Miklos criticizes the constant defensiveness from the mayor and the chief of police. She calls for more compassion and urges the mayor to do something more helpful than simply showing up at cultural events. 

Regarding the future of the city’s relationship with the local 2SLGBTQIA+ community, Kroestch said that it is up to the city, including the police, to listen and engaged with the right folks. 

“There’s a lot of awkwardness there and uncomfortability, and they have to find a way to work through that for themselves, and work through what it means to engage with marginalised communities …  And that’s really the start of the work and I think it’s a long road for that. But the sooner they get down that road, the better,” said Kroetsch. 

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

 

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A poppy created and sold on eBay by Julie Fearnley in 2018. Photo C/O Julie Fearnley. 

By Sarah Homsi, Contributor

cw: homophobia

As vibrant, red poppies take residence on jackets and over people’s hearts, they act as a solemn symbol to remind us of those who have fallen during times of war. 

This year, the lead up to Remembrance Day feels different. My various social media platforms have been overwhelmed with people disputing the rainbow poppy. Some are seething over its alleged disrespect to the symbolic and traditional red poppy, as they believe that breaking the tradition of having a red poppy, which represents remembrance and peace, will dishonour our veterans. Meanwhile, others are applauding its inclusion of a historically persecuted group, because it recognizes the 2SLGBTQ+ veterans that have fought for us. The Internet has not been this divided since the white/gold versus blue/black dress fiasco of 2016. As is the case for most viral internet debates, misinformation is being spread.

Never seen something so disrespectful in all my days, What does LGBTQ have to do with the war? Red represents Blood, Black represents widows and loved ones, Green represents land the blood was spilled on.

NEVER change the poppy. What right do you have?

Fuck your Rainbow Poppy. pic.twitter.com/TKwYrOgtFX

— Brooke💋 (@BrookeCutler_) November 3, 2019

The heteros are cool with white poppies for peace and purple poppies for animals but god forbid there’s one rainbow poppy in honour of the lgbt soldiers that died for this country. Smells like homophobia to me

— ☽◯☾ (@horrorwIw) November 4, 2019

Images can often convey news faster than words. The image of the rainbow poppy that has been circulating online, a grainy yet colourful enamel pin on a black background, was taken from a UK-based seller’s eBay page. This seller has been selling the item for many years but has since taken it down due to the controversy. 

As many of us have borne witness to people getting in heated debates over the rainbow poppy, ask yourself if you have actually seen anyone donning it. While people have been fervently accusing members of the 2SLBGTQ+ community of pushing the “gay” agenda, it should be noted that the rainbow poppy was never part of any sort of campaign from members of this community. Rather, it was something being sold on eBay that Twitter discovered, which resulted in arguments on what is the most appropriate way to honour our veterans.

Regardless of whether or not the rainbow poppy was put forward to be distributed and worn in November — even though they were not made with the intention of being widely distributed and worn — one cannot ignore the hate that was spread as a result of this dispute. Those adamantly opposed to the rainbow poppy seem to be using it as an opportunity to condemn the 2SLGBTQ+ community, promoting a fictitious narrative that there was actually a plan to make rainbow poppies a mainstay.

https://twitter.com/19Warrior85/status/1191332761208053760

Apparently, anything other than a red poppy is disrespectful to some, despite the existence of purple, white and black poppies, all holding a different meaning. Those arguing against red poppies are implying that representation has no place when we honour those who have fought. A lot of the arguments made against the rainbow poppy were instances of homophobia, masked under the guise of saying these arguments were intended to respect the vets. Some people have made it very clear that they can pick and choose which lives to honour, and which to not. 

Whether or not you support the existence of a rainbow poppy, we should all take the time to reflect on why we remember, as well as refrain from propagating hate rooted in baseless claims. Remembrance Day is about remembering those who risked their lives for our country, but we must also remember the groups our history textbooks often don’t cover. Their lives have just as much meaning. Additionally, we should all reflect on how quickly we share random images on social media without giving them a second thought.

 

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