Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers headline new 12-concert cross-Canada tour

I remember I was chatting with 1980s pop star Samantha Fox the day after Les McKeown, frontman for 1970s heartthrobs the Bay City Rollers, admitted on the British TV show Rehab in February 2009 that he is bisexual.

"I’ve been a bit of a George Michael, meeting people, often strangers, for sex," McKeown said. "Not in public toilets – I’m not big on the unhygienic side of things. These days you’d meet online and figure out a place where to meet – your place or mine." 

Ironically, a week earlier, New Kids On The Block heartthrob Jonathan Knight was outed in America. In other words, the song remains the same.

But Fox – whose fabulous lesbian partner of 14 years, Myra Stratton, is also her manager – was as stunned about McKeown as I was. 

"Les and I had become great friends on [an Australian] tour," Samantha explained. "When I was 10 in 1977 the BCR were huge and I used to wear white trousers and tartan bottoms! My friends and I had our own BCR song" – here Samantha sings it to me – "and I sang it to Les at the airport! I could see on that tour that he was a broken man. Now I understand [why]. I wish he had spoken to me because I could have helped him. Because it was [also] very difficult for me [coming out]. I could never live that lie that long because it destroys you. And people know. That’s what happened to me. Even when I went out with guys, like Paul Stanley of Kiss, I knew." 

Monday, 29 April 2013


Internationally-acclaimed, Montreal-based Canadian transgender country and indie singer-songwriter and author Rae Spoon (above) is one of the subjects in photographer JJ Levine's Queer Portraits exhibit (All photos by JJ Levine, courtesy JJ Levine)  

I first came across the photographs of Montreal photographer JJ Levine in the pages of Maisonneuve’s Summer 2012 issue, where Levine parodied prom-style portraits, and then again just days later in the 10×10 Photography Project: 100 Portraits Celebrating LGBT People in the Arts, during Gay Pride at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel last summer.

Montreal photographer JJ Levine
That exhibit featured 10 photographers, but it was Levine’s portraits that caught my eye – and many of those are also featured in Levine’s new solo show Queer Portraits at display at Toronto's Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography from May 3 to June 16.More images from JJ Levine's series Queer Portraits will be on display at Gladstone Hotel's Art Bar from May 1 - 31.

The Queer Portraits press release states, “Each portrait is taken in a different domestic setting, characterized by saturated colours and often discursive backgrounds. Using professional lighting and a medium format film camera, Levine creates a studio within each home environment, and intentionally places every piece of furniture and object that appears within the frame. These settings are intended to raise questions regarding private queer space as a realm for the development of community and the expression of genders and sexualities that are often marginalized within the public sphere.”

“I’ve been taking these [portraits] since 2006 and I’ve probably taken over 100 [portraits]  in this series by this point,” Levine says. “I photograph my friends and people around me, so there really is no decision-making process [about who to photograph]. It just comes to me when I’m interacting [with others] in my daily life.” 

Queer Portraits runs at Toronto's Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography from May 3 to June 16. More images from Queer Portraits will be on display at Gladstone Hotel's Art Bar from May 1 - 31. Click here for more info.

Click here for JJ Levine’s official website.
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NBA center Jason Collins has come out on the cover of the  May 6, 2013, issue of Sports Illustrated.

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

Those are the very first words by 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins from his essay in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated, making him the first openly-gay male athlete playing in a major-league sport in North America.

"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins continues. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

And after writing, hoping and wishing for this very moment for many years, all I can say is "Wow!"

And congratulations to Jason Collins who has now become one of my all-time favourite athletes.

"I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade," Collins writes. "I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, 'Me, too.'"

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Montreal singer France Joli became an “overnight success” at the age of 16 back in 1979 when she replaced Donna Summer at a legendary beach concert performance for 5,000 gay men on Fire Island now famously known as Beach ’79 (Photo by David A Lee / All photos courtesy France Joli)
This interview originally ran in The Montreal Gazette

Montreal singer France Joli became an “overnight success” at the age of 16 back on July 7, 1979, when she headlined a legendary beach concert performance for 5,000 gay men now famously known as Beach ’79.

Donna Summer had cancelled at the last minute, so Joli stepped in as a replacement and sang her song Come to Me, which would chart at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart  – then at #1 on the disco chart – and to this day the song is widely-known as “the definitive Fire Island dance classic.”

“I was blown away, I was a kid and had never seen gay life like that before, it was beautiful to see two men embracing – and it was 1979!” France Joli says today. “I loved that freedom and the happiness that disco reflected. It’s impossible not to be happy and dance to disco. The lyrics could be dark, but the music always lifted you up.”

Joli will headline Disco Montréal’s 2nd annual Disco Party benefiting West Island Community Shares, which funds various local charities. The April 20 benefit will be held at the Pointe Claire Holiday Inn, whose main ballroom will be transformed into a 1970s disco. Legendary DJ Robert Ouimet –  known worldwide as The Godfather of Montreal Disco – will spin, and Joli will perform Come to Me and Gonna Get Over You, as well as her latest hit Hallelujah (a dance version of Leonard Cohen’s signature song).

“I always wanted to be a singer,” Joli says. “I even cried on key when I was born!”


Time magazine's April 8 issue had two different covers

This op-ed originally ran in The Cornwall Free News.

The last few weeks have been a pretty intoxicating time for LGBTQ Americans, as the gay civil rights movement in the U.S.A. has finally attained critical mass and reached a tipping point.

Just before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two highly-publicized gay-marriage cases in March, a decisive majority of Americans said they support gay marriage in a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

That poll showed that 58 percent of Americans now believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. Among young adults aged 18 to 29, support for gay marriage was a whopping 81 percent.
Clearly the writing is on the wall.

But it has taken a long time for U.S. President Barack Obama – not to mention much of D.C.’s political establishment – to come on board. It was only in May 2012 that Obama finally publicly said, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

I do not doubt that Obama always supported gay marriage. But when Obama first ran for the Oval Office in 2007, Chicago’s Windy City Times newspaper dropped a bomb when it dug up this 1996 Obama quote when he ran for the Illinois state senate: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

Once in the Oval Office, Obama said in an open letter to America’s gay communities, “As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.”

But then the long-standing member of the evangelical United Church of Christ added, “I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment.”

I have always taken Obama’s civil-rights agenda with a grain of salt – he is a politician after all and he didn’t get to become president by accident. Certainly, President Obama’s refusal to endorse gay marriage was not the first time a politician has said – or believed – one thing and done another.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


Newspaper legend, cartoonist, author and LGBTQ icon Alison Bechdel (Photo by Elena Seibert)

I’ve interviewed Lambda Literary Award-winning cartoonist and author Alison Bechdel – whose groundbreaking biweekly comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For was syndicated in over 70 alternative newspapers around the world for 25 years – many times over the years, and she always gives good quote. 

See for yourself when Bechdel will discuss her creative process and latest graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, in a visual presentation in Montreal on April 12.

Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? is a graphic memoir about her own Mom. In fact, back in 2003, before Alison retired her Dykes to Watch Out For cartoon strip, she told me, “I never thought this would be my career. When I started out my mom was not happy. Her first response was, ‘You’re not going to do this under your own name, are you?’ She came around, though, and is now really supportive. She says she’s proud of me."

Are You My Mother? is a sequel to her  2006 bestselling memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic which told the true story of Bechdel’s coming out, as well as the discovery that her own father was gay.

Fun Home was eventually named a Best Book of the Year by Time, Entertainment Weekly, New York Times, People, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Village Voice and The San Francisco Chronicle, but when the book was first published, Alison admitted she was nervous.