Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Teacher fired from Vancouver school

Music teacher Lisa Reimer says she was fired from Little Flower Academy Catholic school for her sexual orientation, mere weeks after her partner gave birth to their son, Andrew.

The 34-year-old said she was dismissed after the school came under pressure from parents who didn’t want their kids to be taught by a lesbian.

“I was completely shocked. I was completely unprepared because of their reaction when I told them,” said Reimer. “They seemed so supportive. I thought they would go to bat for me.”

At a news conference Wednesday, Reimer, the founder of Vancouver’s Zing! Children’s Choir, said she was fired because parents were afraid she would lead their daughters “astray.” (Full article, The Province, Apr 28 2010).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LGBT Bullying Legislation

"Minnesota senator Al Franken said Monday that he will introduce an antibullying bill addressing LGBT youth.

The Democratic senator recently criticized current antibullying laws during a senate education, labor, and pensions committee hearing on Thursday,The Minnesota Independent reports.

“There’s something very specific that has been on my mind… LGBT youth being bullied,” Franken told a panel of education experts in the hearing. “Right now we have laws that prohibit bullying based on pretty much everything, but not on gender identity and gay and lesbian kids. And the evidence is that gay kids are bullied a lot and that their achievement goes down. There’s a lot of absenteeism and even suicide.”

Full article Apr 27 2010 Advocate

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Taunt the PhDs

This episode of the Simpsons, taunting grad students, has made me think about graduate studies in general. The last two years has seen a dramatic deterioration of tenure-track jobs, as well as the cancellation of graduate programs across the United States and Canada. I am not sure what to tell the grad students in our department. Should I be encouraging? Should I be realistic, and risk discouraging them? Maybe discouragement is the humane response. The chances of them eventually being employed in a stable position is low, but not quite bleak. I don't want to extinguish the possibility, but I don't want to deceive them, either. Still, I regard that period in my life as amazing, and wouldn't want to give those years up for anything. They were defining. I don't want to cheat anyone of that experience. But I also want to say, you're going to feel liminal, you're going to be poor, you'll probably be drunk a lot, you'll accrue a loan or two (a loan with heavy interest, especially once you finish your program, and the government decides to collect). You're going to make bad decisions, but those are usually the most character-defining. Plus, there's always the hope that all of those bad decisions and peccadillos will somehow, through fortunate collision, transform into a life that's precarious but never boring.

My time at SFU was a pleasant haze of events in Vancouver, a city which owns me. New York also has a hook in me, and Toronto, and San Francisco, all for different reasons. One of the first conversations I remember having in Vancouver (21, scared shitless), was with another grad student at the Highland pub. I also remember dancing at Luv Affair, Club 23 West (dancing next to a beautiful woman wearing coiled rope around her body). Endlessly crossing the AQ by the fountain, getting distracted in the book store (or cruising for discounted course texts), and the bead store that became a convenience store, which was next to the Scotiabank ATM that never gave me money when my bank card was overdrawn.

Vancouver, for me, occurred in neighborhoods. You move a lot when you can't afford rent (and you'll probably be too precious to admit that you should be living anywhere but the trendiest of suburbs). I started in Lougheed, first on Government St, and then further up, in Burquitlam. I spent too much money at Fuji Sushi, as well as the Mountain Shadow. My cat lived with a cat named Fa'ihl, and they tolerated each other, although Fa'ihl did shit on my pillow once, an act which I immediately forgave her for, given the circumstances. Next was Commercial Drive, the graveyard of my 1992 Chevy Cavalier which leaked like crazy (I'm so sorry, Jay, but thanks for fixing it, and thanks for helping me pass the written exam in De Roo's Old English class; the favorite word that I learned was ymbeclypte).

After the Drive came the West End, Davie and Jervis, where there existed a concrete highrise known, colloquially, as Vaseline Tower. I spent a lot of time at Little Sisters, as well as Hamburger Mary's (the West End Breakfast with Pancakes, Eggs, and Fried Potatoes was essential to absorb alcohol). Walks along the Seawall, and Turtle the cat, who I was honored to have watched while her people were away, and who quietly objected to Wallerstein's World-System theory while we were sitting on the futon together watching reruns of Firefly.

After the West End was Burrard and Smithe, in a building that had its own Starbucks. Solid time spent in that apartment with Matt and Bea, endless pleasant crosswords and trips to Yaletown when we were dog-sitting (I miss you Buck, and I'm sorry if it was creepy when I posted your image as a Facebook profile pic, I just really missed you). Then Brooklyn, Greenpoint, where I learned what a cherry-cheese danish should taste like. The two dogs at Bluestockings (the guys were nice too).

It went fast. It's all going too fast. But there's nothing about my time as a grad student that I'd change. I was one of the lucky ones, with a postdoctoral fellowship and a tenure-track position marking the end of my time in grad studies. I am one of the few lucky ones, and there's no reason not to think that you couldn't be in the same position someday. Patience needs to be generated or acquired through conditioning. Some relationships last, but most are strained beyond the point of enduring countless arguments about theses and subject positions. I'm grateful for the men and women in my life who got to know me during that time.

So, there are jobs out there, as well as jobs outside of academia, and for heaven's sake, don't be afraid to leave non-tenured academia for something different. Plenty of inspired and happy teachers, editors, archivists, librarians, translators, poets, and filmmakers started out as fierce grad students. But, seriously, start an RRSP. Now. Put as much into it as you can, contribute whenever you can, but do it for as long as you can. And do not buy a Tim Horton's franchise, even if, like me, it remains one of your wildest dreams.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

McMillen Sent to Fake Prom

"To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a "fake prom" while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn't much to keep an eye on. (Advocate 4/06)

Monday, April 5, 2010

No Homo

The phrase "no homo" gets used a fair bit in hop-hop lyrics, primarily as a kind of disclaimer: the following sounds gay, but isn't. Lil Wayne says that he's "got money out the ass, no homo." Kanye West, one of the hip-hop artists who's spoken about homophobia in the music industry, delivers the curious line in his lyrics: "It's crazy how you can go from being Joe Blow To everybody on your dick, no homo." Basically, everyone's on his dick, but not in a gay way. No homo functions as an anti-queer performative utterance: the following speech-act, although its register is queer, is not. Bryan Safi, in his That's Gay segment, discusses this in an episode.

Jay Smooth, hip-hop blogger and critic, draws attention to the fact that "no homo" is about five years old as a linguistic adoption. He's featured some great artists on Ill Doctrine, including Immortal Technique (I saw him perform in Brooklyn, and it was an amazing show). Smooth discusses "no homo" as a phrase that's simultaneously negative and playful. There's a funny euphemism to it, as when one's mother says something like, "but not in that way," referring to some queer subtext in a way that both outlines and sidelines it. The linguistic play is difficult to avoid, and there's a pleasure taken in tossing it around. I think of saying things like "but not in a faggoty way," when in the presence of certain people, mostly queer intimates. But would I use it in mixed company? Probably, I'd say something like, "but not in a sexy way," with "sexy" acting as a slippery hinge between hot and gay.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lesbian Social Security

A finalist for the Youtube NonProfit Awards contest. The video focuses on an alien seeking death-benefits after losing her same-sex partner.

Portland Trans Cafe

Tuff Luck, a Portland, Ore., cafe, celebrated its grand opening last month.

The coffee shop is located inside In Other Words, a feminist bookstore, and was started as a way to help transgender people raise money for health care by providing them with a side job and a venue for selling art.

“It’s mostly people’s art that they can make money off because right now we can’t really afford to pay employees,” entrepreneur Ryder Richardson told Just Out, a Portland-area LGBT newspaper. “Down the line we’d like to set up an individual development account and get organizations to match whatever people can make working here.”

The cafe is inclusive of anyone who identifies as transgender, regardless of transition status, and raises funds for a variety of health care needs, including therapy, hormones, and surgery.

In Other Words Bookstore

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Finally" Cover

Adam Joseph's cover of "Finally," reworked as an ode to same-sex marriage equality. I used to not believe in marriage, but it's amazing how your feelings change when you realize how many people are denied access to the institution. Even in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal, there's no universal guarantee that the rights and benefits associated with marriage will be honored throughout the country, which means that we can't slip into neoliberal complacency. There's the tendency for Canadians to roll their eyes and say, "Oh, America, so backward in their human rights agenda," but this fight really ought to be everyone's fight. Plus, our federal government seems bent on eradicating safe living conditions for at-risk citizens, including poor and homeless gay, lesbian, and trans folk, sex-workers, IV drug-users, and those living with mental and physical disabilities. Canada isn't paradise, and our continued uncritical cooperation with the United States only confirms how easily we can ignore the lives of our most marginalized communities. Which means that marriage equality shouldn't be simply a middle-class issue, as this video represents, but a universal issue.

Give a Damn

The Give a Damn Campaign

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Queer Women in Politics

The LGBT Victory Association salutes queer women in politics.

Anna Paquin

True Blood star Anna Paquin came out as bisexual while filming a public service announcement for the True Colors Fund, the organization founded by Cyndi Lauper to raise money for gay rights.

"I'm Anna Paquin. I'm bisexual, and I give a damn," the actress said into the camera while filming her PSA, according to Radar Online.

Yeah Sookie! This only proves my point that contact with cool indie movies like The Piano at an early age will make you a more interesting person. Then again, I'm certain that Amadeus made me queer, so one can never tell.