My Latest PinkPlaysMag Blog Post: Dear Gay White Males. Check Your Priviledge and Do Something About It.

Last night I volunteered for a really fabulous queer event here in Calgary. When you think of Calgary, you may not think ‘Canadian queer central’, and compared to cities like Vancouver and Toronto it isn’t. What it does have that I find many larger cities lack, is a sense of cohesiveness and camaraderie that seems to get lost as communities get larger, and ‘tolerance’ by our heterosexual counterparts becomes more apparent. Calgary is at a pinnacle of capaciousness as the city is becoming more mainstream, and the sense of ‘queer community’ is on the verge of liquefying.

This event I was at, Apollo Friends in Sport, Western Cup, is one of our biggest queer events all year, next to Pride, and was a genuine success. One thing struck me though, the ratio of male identified folks compared to female was immensely skewed. In fact, my friends and I joked that we were the only four women in the place. One friend refused to dance because she kept getting pushed around by  the conflux of well-dressed and well-cologned gentleman dancing to DJ Mimi Imfurst. I have been to one of these events before and from what I can recall, the ratio has been the same. I find myself wondering why I never noticed before. Or more concerning, maybe I did notice, but just accepted as fate.

Pride Parade

So what had changed, and why was it so apparent to me last night that the lack of women in that particular space? Was it because that space was not a space we were particularly welcome in?

For a short time between 2012 and 2014, I lived in Toronto. As soon as I arrived I immediately looked on the Pride Toronto website to see what opportunities were available as I had a long history with Pride Calgary and wanted to continue to be involved with Pride in any capacity. To my surprise, the Dyke March was advertised as looking for a Team Lead. What surprised me more, was the fact that Pride Toronto was in charge of the Dyke March.

The Toronto Dyke March 2014.

The Dyke March is generally not part of any Pride organization for a reason. The first Dyke March was created to increase visibility of dyke identified folks including bisexual, lesbian, and transfolks. Of course the Pride Parade attracts a large crowd representing the diversity of our community, but is this really the case? Not so much. The Pride Parade, at least in large North American cities has turned into nothing more than a corporate mecca targeting the gay man. We are inundated with visions of flaming mascots like ‘Trojan Man’ and the ever multiplying ‘TD Boys’. These corporations are baiting you for your money, and they are now the norm at each Pride Parade, queer event, and ad campaign.

Trojan Men

TD Boys

So again, I repeat, the Dyke March is generally in direct opposition to the Pride Parade because we are simply not included in the contemporary Pride Movement. So when I became part of the Toronto Dyke March, I quickly learned that the Dyke March serves a purpose that is in direct opposition to a large Pride festival.

Take Back the Dyke Toronto 2010

While my team consisted of some kick ass Dyke activists, our mandate belonged to Pride Toronto. We were financially controlled by them and their sponsors. We were told when our march began and when it ended. Every single decision we made as a team of dykes had to be okay’ed by the entity known as Pride Toronto. Pride Toronto, of course, was doing their job. They were operating as a large, corporately contained event management organization with a queer focus. These were, and still are, a group of fine people doing a fantastic job. I mean last year alone, World Pride welcomed millions of visitors. Pride Toronto knew no better. The event I attended last night knew no better.

So why are these organizations and event planners missing the mark when it comes to reaching the masses, meaning everyone else that isn’t a gay guy?

53697aa458e0d.image

The problem is systemic sexism. This isn’t a general queer problem. This is a world problem that unfortunately reflects in our community just as much as any other. The gay white male wins the race. The gay white male has the money and therefore has the power to control almost everything, like Pride Toronto and like the event I went to last night. There is no room for us because the gay white male does not understand that it needs to be created. Instead the lack of our presence is chalked up to catchy phrases such as “lesbians don’t go out” or “there aren’t really any trans people in the city”. Both of these statements of course are completely false, but sadly they are commonly spoken.

So, before you decide to chalk up the lack of our attendance on ‘woman issues’ or ‘trans issues’ perhaps take some things into account. We do not make as much money as you. In fact trans women of colour make way less money than we will ever make. They also face much more violence. Is your event a safe one? Does it cost more than I make in a day? We also make up the greater percentage of caregivers. Did you give us enough time to find a babysitter or did you plan your event a couple of days ago? Again, after paying a babysitter can I afford your event? Do any of your organizers identify any differently than as a gay white male? If there are a couple of these folks do you give them the space to  contribute? Do you really listen to what they have to say, and give them a safe space to do so? If you don’t have any of these people as part of your team, why not? Have you actively searched for a few good, diverse folks to balance you out?

These are just a few examples of checking yourselves out. What is apparent is that the bulk of us are not included in your events. We simply aren’t given the space to become a part of it, and at this point in the game I can imagine it would be easy to write us off because without us you are doing just fine. Well  I would like to argue that you are actually doing a horrible job at being a good queer. We as a community are doing so many great things in the fight for human rights, but we still suck at gender acceptance and equality. You as queer organizers need to step back and check your privilege. You need to reach out to those that aren’t included and do something about it. If we don’t, then we are just like everyone else.

– See more at: http://pinkplaymags.com/2015/04/dear-gay-white-males-check-your-privilege-and-do-something/#sthash.wLZsEnbF.dpuf

Advertisements
My Latest PinkPlaysMag Blog Post: Dear Gay White Males. Check Your Priviledge and Do Something About It.

Men’s Rights Groups Have Got it Wrong! : My new PinkPlayMags Post!

Taken from: Some Kind of Feminist

Men’s Rights Groups Have Got It Wrong

So, my Facebook page doesn’t see a lot of action from others, only posts from yours truly, usually proudly proclaiming my love of my new found singlehood, or perhaps showcasing the talents of any writer on Autostraddle.com. Well, to my astonishment (and perhaps deepest desire), posting an article on Men’s Rights Organization CAFE’s latest billboard extravaganza, with my caption ‘Thoughts?’ created more likes and comments and debates than my page has ever seen.

billboard1

Before i divulge into the feedback I received on my Facebook page, as well as some interesting CAFE facts, I need to disclose some facts. Most of these responses were from cisgender white folks who were equal parts male and female. I say this because, regardless of the fact that the arguments were relevant, to have only this demographic, leaves out a large portion of folks who are affected by domestic violence, and without this input we only scrape a tiny portion off of the problems, we as a society face.

CAFE recently decided to post an elephantine billboard on the corner of Davenport and Avenue in Toronto with the proclamation, “Half of domestic violence victims are men,” and that “There are no domestic violence shelters dedicated to us.” Displayed alongside the message of  the Men’s Right’s rhetoric is a picture of a white woman, closely resembling Linda Blair in the Exorcist, as Leah McLaren of the Globe and Mail puts it, screeching something to the poor white man, who has to plug his ears in protest.

Linda Blair The Exorcist

A self-proclaimed group “committed to achieving equality for all Canadians,” CAFE has had its fair share of controversies. In March of 2014, they were granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency, however lied about having Egale Canada, Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, and the Status of Women Canada as potential participants in future events and panels organized by CAFE. The WorldPride 2014 committee in Toronto revoked CAFE’s permit to march in the Pride Parade due to concern that the group would not align with the values of Pride Toronto. Despite this fact, CAFE marched in the parade alongside the Sherbourne Health Centre, arriving the morning of the parade in CAFE t-shirts. Sherbourne asked them to wear Sherbourne t-shirts, which they did, however passed out CAFE paraphernalia to the audience. When asked about this, Sherbourne stated that they were not aware of this, and if known, would have asked them not to walk with them.

xtra.com

In 2012, CAFE organized an event with keynote speaker, and a leader of the modern Men’s Movement, Warren Farrell, author of such works as The Myth of Male Power, Why Men Earn More, and my personal favorite, Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?  at the University of Toronto. This was met with protests organized by the University of Toronto’s Student Union. Some of the female protesters were subject to online harassment on register-her.com, a repugnant website run by American Men’s Rights Group, A Voice for Men. Some fine work from a flock of fear-mongering, emasculated folks questing for ‘equality among all Canadians.’

Vice.com

As stated, my Facebook page was aflutter with action when this article was posted right after the absolutely adorbs video of animals seeing the outdoors for the first time. Some comments were expected, “False stats. They’re lying,” and “Half is a bold claim.” Some from concerned parents were correct in their concern, “As a woman with two sons…..if any of us experienced any kind of violence I would hope that we would have a safe haven and respect shown to us…..regardless of gender.” Others spoke from the concern of men, “My point behind all of this is, we don’t have enough support for men in any negative situation, addiction, abuse, or otherwise. I’m very thankful that women get as much support as they do, but I acknowledge that more could be done.”

There was also some concern about abuse in general, “Domestic violence needs to be addressed with all sex’s in any campaign bringing about information, which then leads to discussion about this topic, is a win/win for all,” and “The numbers are very real. Gender aside, abuse is abuse – physical, emotional, financial – and it hurts individuals and society at large. I am a man and I have suffered abuse at the sign of men, and women. Some people aren’t given the words to express their frustration. I am also lucky to know that I don’t thrive in a relationship like that. Many people out there however cannot leave their abuser, or do not feel they have the power to change the situation.”

As a feminist and a woman, I of course have an opinion. It is very difficult to keep my imminent and intense rage at another Men’s Rights Group telling me as a feminist that I am the root of all of their ailments and inadequacies when in fact I know damn well that patriarchy is the cause, not me. This is the thing, violence is not an issue solely allocated to women. It happens EVERYWHERE and excludes no one and I will never dispute that. What I absolutely detest is the fact that these groups such as CAFE that have degraded women over and over again, and were created right around the time feminism really started making a difference and continue to claim to fight for equality  yet instill such a hatred towards women’s rights that they will do nothing short of attempting to strip any essential service we rightly deserve.Yes, the system is skewed, and yes domestic abuse is far from solved. Abuse and the power structures that surround are a direct result of patriarchy which was created by very powerful white men. This is what CAFE should be angry at, not the women struggling to live on an equal footing as men.

This is Feminism.

Men’s Rights Groups Have Got it Wrong! : My new PinkPlayMags Post!

My Latest Post on PinkPlays Magazine!

http://www.customerplus.co.uk/political-correctness-in-the-workplace

Politics and Sexism: Not Much Has Changed

I was recently perusing through my Facebook feed and I came across this article, No Excuses: Why women need to step up. It is, of course, nothing new to read pieces that tell women why they just simply need to buck up and suck it up when attempting to attain equality, but in lieu of recent allegations of sexism in the City Hall offices of Toronto and Calgary I decided to take a closer look at these words of wisdom from writer Scott Gilmore.

“The recent elections in the United States and Canada prove, once again, that there are not enough women in politics. And while systemic sexism doesn’t help, women themselves must shoulder part of the blame,”  says Gilmore. He continues, “The surest way to improve the quality of the political talent pool is tap into the 50 per cent of our population who have traditionally been excluded.” This master plan is simple according to Gilman. because our excuses for not jumping into the piranha tank of white male privilege we call politics are simply not good enough.

In Calgary City Hall, the political haven of the one and only World Mayor Naheed Nenshi, accusations of sexism, drug use, and alcoholism have made national headlines. According to Calgary Counsellor Druh Farrell there has been systemic  sexism going on in Wild Rose Country for years. “I’ve had meetings where there has been a party in the office and it’s disrupted my meetings. When I’ve complained I’ve been told I don’t need to attend. If you look at why there are fewer women on council maybe that can explain part of it, the approach and tone within this building.”

We all know the sexist, racist, and homophobic ramblings of ex-Mayor Rob Ford, but when the race for his successor last year got really ugly. the old favorite attacks reared their ugly heads. Olivia Chow got the brunt of the disgusting characteristics many politicians and Canadians still hold dear to their heart. A self-proclaimed Ford supporter told Chow at a Mayoral debate to “go home, back to China.” Well known and out councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam was told, amongst other things “I hope you get AIDS and die in public office.”

According to Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead women need to jump into the male sphere in whatever way possible. “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on,” Similar to Scott Gilmore, the onus to eliminate sexism in the workplace is put upon the women to accomplish. In other words, we as women should just accept the bullying we receive as common place, and just be thankful for our spot in the system. Well, this isn’t good enough.

In order to fully eliminate sexism in politics, and for any workplace for that matter, systemic sexism needs to be eliminated. This can’t be done by just ‘letting us in’, because you are basically telling us to sit down and shut up. Why should we just jump in as both Gilmore and Sandberg want us to, if it only results in badgering, bullying, and brutality? There has to be a better reason.

So, in response to Scott Gilmore, I say this. You are correct, politics will indeed get better once women play a stronger role in the system. The problem however, lies not in our ability to sign up, but with the fact that politics still doesn’t want us. So before you tell us what we should do, and how we should do it. perhaps you should ask us why we don’t play in the political shark tank instead.

About the Author

Dallas Barnes is a freelance writer, queer community organizer, amateur yogi, and currently attempting to write her first novel. Currently residing in Calgary, she is the kind of proud feminist who will troll Facebook and Twitter looking to argue with the first person she sees that claims that feminism is dead. You can find Dallas’s ramblings on her blog Reset, Rewind, Rebirth…And Again and her Facebook page Dallas Barnes.

– See more at: http://pinkplaymags.com/2015/02/politics-and-sexism-not-much-has-changed/#sthash.ySQFCkJV.dpuf

My Latest Post on PinkPlays Magazine!

The Cliks

Screen-shot-2011-09-02-at-12.06.18-PM

Lucas Silveira of The Cliks is ready to show his true colours at Pride Calgary tonight. The creator and lead singer of the Canadian band is finally where he was always meant to be.

“I am going through a transition in my life, and my music is reflecting that.”

The Cliks have been around for a while, created by Silveira in 2004. The band has gone through an evolution of sorts, starting as a singer and songwriter with acoustic roots and morphing into a collective of revolving musicians that have complimented and enhanced Lucas’s edgy musical style.

Currently, The Cliks include Silveira, Hill Kourkoutis on Bass, and Patrick Von Ghostwolf on Drums. Throughout the past 7 years, Lucas has been the only constant in the band, with a myriad of musicians helping The Cliks realize its full potential along the way. When asked about this turn style of band members, Silveira responds honestly:

“I think I will always have rotating band members in the Cliks. There are always really keen, young kids who want to go touring all the time. The music industry is a really tough place right now. Unless you made a band early in life and have grown together, it is hard to find people that will commit to a product that isn’t their baby. I made the Cliks and it is my band. That is the way it is, and it is hard for people to be fully committed band members. By remaining with the rotating band members I can hire them and they know what they are there for, that way the roles don’t get confused. It is like a marriage. I am in a serious, non-monogamous and polyamorous relationship with my band.”

This collective of band members has prepared Lucas for his most recent album Mockingbird. “I feel that I have my groove back. I have been able to perform songs that I have always wanted to do and have been recording YouTube covers, and requests from people. I felt that I might as well record an album with all of this.”

This album also marks a more personal transition. Lucas, a transgendered man, through the past few years has been transitioning physically into the man that he has always been.

“I am really proud of the new album. When I finished recording I could honestly say, ‘Yes, that’s me.” Before my transition, I would go to the studio and would like the songs once they were completed, but I hated the way it sounded because I didn’t like the way my voice sounded.”

Tonight The Cliks are headlining the Pride Calgary Dance at The Aratta Opera Centre, followed by a film screening and panel discussion about trans issues on Saturday at Club Sapien. Being transgendered, regardless of its inclusion in the LGBTQA acronym, is not on equal grounds with the gay and lesbian movement. As a trans man, Silveira holds this plight dear to his heart.

“Well, it is generally accepted that most Pride celebrations are populated by predominantly gay males. I have been told numerous times that gays and lesbians don’t want the trans community to ride on the coat tails of the gay community. I believe that there is a gay conservative movement. The  [gay] community has made so much leeway in the [gay rights] movement, it is now the norm, and they believe that the trans community is going to set back the movement.”

Pride Calgary is attempting to combat this exclusion with its mandate for the year “Putting the ‘T’ Back in LGBTQA.” Lucas Silveira and The Cliks are a welcome and necessary addition to the celebration.

Published in The Gaily September 2011

The Cliks

Perils And Pride Of The Dyke March

DykeMarch
 

The Vancouver Dyke March made me lesbian. Well, not really, but it definitely helped me realize that straight life was officially out of the question for me.

As a questioning thirty-something that couldn’t quite figure out why the companionship of men made me want to bury my head in a huge bowl of potato chips, being surrounded by a right-on bevy of butchy beauties made it all make sense.

Unfortunately, this year, the dyke march – my personal catalyst and ode to dyke-dom  – was nearly effaced. If it wasn’t for some quick action by some dyke-loving people to remedy adequate funding and a renewal of board members the sapphic sister-loving haven of topless women with a message that we call the Vancouver Dyke March would never have graced Commercial Drive again.

While dyke marches become a fast-growing tradition in cities accross North America (typically on the day before their Pride parades), one wouldn’t think that funding, nor enticing a line-up of keen eager beaver lezzies, would be an issue. For many cities however, a lack of funding and volunteers are crucial issues that may affect the longevity of the dyke march, in Vancouver specifically but elsewhere too.

The Dyke March is not a Parade.

The Dyke March is actually a tradition that has been around since 1981, originating in Vancouver during the Bi-National Lesbian Conference: a conference full of workshops that strengthened the Canadian lesbian movement. A second Dyke March happened again a couple of months later in Toronto, and so started the tradition.

The Dyke March, regardless of its apparent similarity to the Pride parade is in fact very different. Brianne Langille, Founder of The Calgary Dyke March is determined for everyone to understand the difference. “It’s not a parade,” she says. “It’s not for people to be on the sidelines watching. It’s about people getting involved. It’s about getting friends and family and allies and everybody marching together to raise our visibility and to basically show that we’re together in this.” They are adamant about refusal of corporate sponsorship. In order to keep it as a ‘march’ and to remain grass roots they rely on fundraising, grants, and personal donations.

The Winnipeg Dyke March

The Dyke March on the outside may look like the audience of a Tegan and Sara concert, but it is important to look at what is happening on the inside to understand the importance of the dyke march to and for the lesbian community.

As mentioned, my coming out was in part due to a dyke march. It is a mixed bag of protest, celebration, strength, and camaraderie. It is a women`s march with a twist: an awareness of our double inequality (being a woman and being a lesbian). But, most of all, it is like coming home. It is, to me an organic demonstration of the harmony of sisterhood and solidarity. Yah, I said it.

Money brings the Dykes to the Yard

On April 27th of this year, the Vancouver Dyke March had a town hall meeting to discuss its potential cancellation.  Its financing comes from a myriad of sources (keep in mind, unlike the Pride Parade, there is little to no corporate sponsorship, and it costs nothing to be a part of) including city grants, fundraising events and donations. Sadly, the fundraising events have been poorly attended, and the organization has had to dip into its reserves. They still needed to raise $15,000 for the event to go ahead.

Sam Levy, President of the Vancouver Dyke March explained for what the money is needed. “Our overall costs for the March and Festival are about $15,000 annually. I think it surprises people to hear that… as they likely don’t think about what is involved in organizing and presenting a dyke march. We pay for port-a-potties, permits, police support, insurance, merchandise, advertising, sound equipment, festival grounds equipment, supplies for our annual art banners, etc, etc. It all adds up!”

Thankfully, an insurgence of eager beavers joined the Board, adding some life and new ideas to this grassroots organization. The Vancouver Pride Board also stepped in by helping with some funding.

Money has also been a factor in other major cities’ dyke march events. The Ottawa Dyke March has had similar issues with a lack of funds for the associated municipal costs (they had to come up with $1000 for police presence).

“If they want to have free events, organizations like the Dyke March have to decide whether they want to grow or stay small, says special events Sgt Denis Charbonneau.”[The Dyke March] used to be a sidewalk march. If you grow, you need officers. And it’s grown to the point where they have to hire police officers.”

The Calgary Dyke March

I wonder if the civil rights protestors, anti-war demonstrators, or the gay activists of yore had to pay for police? When did a march become a special event anyways? What does this mean for our freedom to congregate and demonstrate against inequality and prejudice?

We are how the Dyke March can be saved.

So how do we save the Dyke March? The answer is really quite simple. The only way for any non-profit, grassroots demonstration/celebration to survive is money and participation. In an ideal scenario buying the world a Coke and singing in perfect harmony would do the trick. Sadly money does make the world go around, but so does fresh energy, even for a few hundred dykes that may or may not want to march topless down a street shouting: “This is what a lesbian looks like!”

Bottom line? Get involved! Join a board, be a volunteer, donate $10.00, join your local dyke march Facebook page! The Board of Directors for any Dyke March are volunteers. No one is getting paid, and there are only 24 hours in a day. If you love the Dyke March as much as I do, you must put in the work to keep it going.

The Winnipeg Dyke March

 

 

Perils And Pride Of The Dyke March

Gay is Good. Craig Rodwell had a homosexual agenda

 

The season of rainbows is upon us. Millions of U-Haul driving, faux-hawk sporting, Lady Gaga minions will be strutting, prancing, and preening their way to the greatest party of the year! This is the time where we can shout from the top of our lungs: “Gay is Good!” and other select favourites such as: “We’re Here, We’re Queer !“ or my personal favourite: “Closets are for Clothes!”. We come together to celebrate our shared experience and to parade proudly in front of intrigued strangers in our sequined G-strings and our strategically painted breasts to celebrate all that is queer.

Did you ever wonder how we got here? Well if you are like me, you might have until recently assumed that Pride was always a part of society’s celebratory summer culture or just have been ignorant about what launched it into the worldwide festivities we now see each year. While we are sampling the remarkably tasty, watered down beverages in the beer gardens with our favourite drag queen, there is perhaps only a vague notion that Pride originated out of a fight for equality on a very small scale in the rather large city of Manhattan.

In 2007 I became part of the homosexual agenda (my local Pride Board) and quickly learned that where we came from is just as important as where we are going.  Without digging around in a small, out of the way queer bookstore in any other major city other than my own (Calgary has a serious lack of any queer literature) the history of Pride is not always very transparent.

Throughout the summer I intend to lure you into the world of queer heroism with stories of my queer heroes. These are the bread to my butter, the cake to my icing, the homo to my sexual.  These are the individuals that have fought their way through a shit ton of ideological bullshit so that our G-string dancing is possible. With the recent debate over The Grid’s Dawn of the New Gay and the ensuing discussion over Pride, this post is somewhat felicitous.

Craig Rodwell: Bringing the Homo to the Sexual

Craig Rodwell was born in Chicago in 1940 to a broken family (really, who wasn’t). His mother, unable to care for Craig on her own, decided to send him to a church-affiliated school in Chicago for ‘problem boys.’ You are perfectly correct in assuming and envisioning this as a hot-bed of hormones and sexual experimentation. Regardless of ALL THE SEX, he also learned how not to question sexuality.

What made sense to Craig was that he liked boys. He knew no different. Like a hamster in a cage, all he knew was his surroundings. Testosterone-raging boys was all this boy knew.  Not surprisingly, it was when teachers began catching wind of these sexual shenanigans that Craig learned not all boys loved boys. In fact, from what he was told, boy’s hearts were not supposed to skip a beat when another walked in the room.

But Craig’s heart did skip a beat when a boy walked in.

In his late teens, Craig discovered the Mattachine Review, a publication distributed by The Mattachine Society, one of the earliest homophile organizations in the US.  Are you curious about the word “homophile”? Well, it is a word that was used in the days of yore for those that were homosexual as well as those who advocated on behalf of homosexuals, and who were quite politically astute and engaged.  ”Homophile” emphasized the word love rather than sex and has that Greek awesomeness to it. I am secretly hoping that the word has a strong resurgence, like leggings or The Backstreet Boys. Dallas Barnes is a homophile. Try it with your name. It’s fun.

Anyways, with his growing political mindedness and activist mentality buzzing, Craig packed up and moved out to New York under the premise (to appease his mom) of joining ballet school. Despite the hope that The Mattachine gave Craig, the group was in fact not so interested in rocking the boat. Rather than fight for diversity and acceptance, The Mattachine was interested in assimilating with the dominant male centric, heterosexual, 2.5 kids, and white picket fence dream (think Leave it to Beaver) that defined America, and to some extent, still does.

Craig Rodwell, “Gay is Good”

Although The Mattachine afforded Rodwell a chance to make a difference in the fight for human rights, he proved to be too politically eager for this group and he made the members nervous with his demands.  When most members of The Mattachine chose pseudonyms to protect themselves against FBI spies infiltrations, Craig refused. He picketed in front of the draft board, protesting the release of information about sexual orientation to employers of former military. He went out ‘wrecking’ in the streets (a great way to ‘taunt’ close-minded straights by being overly friendly with your choice of same sex partner). I personally like doing this on transit with my girlfriend: I call it holding hands in public, but to certain passengers of the Calgary Transit system it’s “flaunting it in their faces”.

Rodwell’s growing concern for the lack of basic political and personal freedoms motivated him to ask The Mattachine to purchase a bookstore that would act as its headquarters. Not surprisingly, a store was not the kind of visibility they wanted. This was the final straw for Craig, and he quit The Mattachine to open his own bookstore cum community space.

Craig Rodwell at The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop

The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop opened in 1967 on Mercer Street in Manhattan. The name says it all, as Craig was determined to make his shop identifiable as a gay bookstore. He sought to make the store a place where people did not feel intimidated, over-sexualized, manipulated, or used. The book store was a success and was a meeting point for many organizations fighting for human rights.

The Birth of Pride

On June 28, 1969, in what was definitely not the most popular of establishments at the time, The Stonewall Inn, gay history took a quite remarkable turn.

The Stonewall Inn

Like most New York gay bars in the 1960’s The Stonewall Inn was run by the mafia as a ‘legitimate’ business, although lacking in hygiene and regulations. The water was often murky and the watered-down beer was priced extremely high. (If you think this sound like most bars today, well I think you are onto something.)

On this particular night, Craig had been on his way home from playing cards with his friends. He ran into a crowd in front of the Stonewall. The air was tense and the sense of impending revolt was evident (This sounds so hot! It makes me want to throw a pie at Stephen Harper). At 1:20 a.m. the police decided to raid the Stonewall looking for any ‘illegal homosexualism’ (a common ritual amongst the NYPD in all gay spaces).  With the growing dissatisfaction of the mafia controlled gay bars and the consistent NYPD raids, the patrons had had enough and fought back.

Rodwell sat on the steps of a brownstone and watched history unfold. As the protests became more heated, and more people began gathering, Rodwell, a believer in spreading the message, immediately phoned the media and ran home to grab his camera.

Rodwell recognized immediately the momentum and importance of the Stonewall protests. After the excitement had died down at the Stonewall Inn, he immediately set into action.

When it was time for the Annual Reminder (a picket at Independence Hall that Rodwell had created five years earlier), not only were gays there picketing, but heterosexual women and their children were there marching alongside their allies. There were public displays of ‘homosexual affection’ again, hand holding (saucy little vixens!), and a general feeling of relentless activism. In other words people were tired of being oppressed and Rodwell realized that the Annual Reminder could segue into something bigger and better: Pride!

The Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade

The first Pride March was held on Sunday, June 28th 1970. Officially titled the Christopher Street Liberation Day after the street on which Stonewall and other gay bars were located, hundreds of people marched for liberation.  Forty-one years later, we are still marching for liberation and in celebration of our difference and our diversity.

Anecdotally, Rodwell dated Harvey Milk for a short time in the 1960’s when Harvey was a closeted business man, so unlike who he was at the end of his life. Milk resented the outright activism of Rodwell and The Mattachine Society made him nervous, as did being openly gay, as did an association with The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop. Not long after they broke up, Harvey to San Francisco, and, unhappy with the treatment of gays on Castro Street, Harvey began to speak up. He became political, and became a strong advocate for coming out. When Craig Rodwell opened the bookstore he wanted a place that would act as a public service and to be a meeting place for all gay activist groups. In 1972, Castro Camera was bought by Milk and acted as political headquarters for his political campaigns and was a central spot for the San Francisco gay community, quite like The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, that he had resented.

Craig Rodwell died in 1993 of stomach cancer. His determination, persistence, inspiration, and understanding, have made people aware of their power through activism.

Published in the Gaily June 2011

Gay is Good. Craig Rodwell had a homosexual agenda