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5 questions with Christopher Karas, the high schooler fighting his school over homophobia

 

Christopher Karas, a gay Mississauga high school student, is currently at the centre of a battle with his French Catholic school over what he calls homophobia. While he powers on in his fight for gay rights in the courtroom we caught up with him to chat about his views on the history of gay rights in Canada, funding for religious schools, helping young people get involved, and his own future beyond the halls of high school.

What is wrong with Queer and Trans rights in Canada right now?

Queer men (labelled as MSM) aren’t able to give blood in Canada. MSM is a moniker the Canadian government has used to distinguish men who have sex with other men from the general public. As if Queer men are different from our heterosexual counterparts. MSM also applies to women who have sex with men who had sex with other men. In Canada, MSM aren’t able to give blood if they had sex with their partner in the last 5 years. This discriminatory policy has been used to bar Trans people (especially Trans Women).

Trans people aren’t protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Criminal Code. Close friend Susan Gapka is lobbying the Canadian government tirelessly to amend the Act and the Code to extend protections to Trans and Non-binary people across Canada, potentially adding Gender Identity and Gender Expression for the first time.

Intersex people aren’t part of today’s important conversations. Many of today’s conversations have focused on Trans people. While a focus on Trans people is needed and an important one, we must also have conversations that focus on Intersex people while centering #BlackLivesMatter, Brown and Indigenous people as part of these conversations. As we know, LGBTTIQQ2SA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, Asexual (Aces as we say!), and all those not yet included or who don’t want to be defined by any label) communities are Intersectional and always will be.

What have we gotten right since the Queer and Trans movement began?

When the Queer and Trans movement first began it wasn’t owned by any one person. This in itself is one of the movement’s greatest strengths. However, some have tried to co-opt our movement (i.e. Pride Toronto sponsorship, etc.)

Should the government be funding religious schools?

I think that it should be up to the people to have a debate in [upcoming elections]. We fundamentally protect the right of freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression yet we exclusively fund the Roman-Catholic school system while denying funding to freedom of conscience and religious schools. Although, I might be a bit biased. I sued my school board when my school barred me from putting up posters of my civil rights hero Harvey Milk and a Gender and Sexuality Alliance I tried to build with my peers.

 

Top 5 Pride events in the next two weeks

Pride has arrived and it is time to celebrate Toronto’s 1st annual pride month, beginning on June 1 and continuing until July 3. Events will be happening all across the city to celebrate the beginning of a amazing tradition! The problem? There are so many events it’s difficult to decide which ones to attend! Don’t worry though, Women’s Post has you covered.  Here are the best of the best for the first two weeks of Pride.

Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

The Pride Flag Raising Ceremony marks the official start of Pride Month. It will take place on Wednesday, June 1 from 9 to 11 a.m at Queen’s Park. Premier, Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory will be present with other honourable guests to help hoist the pride flag. The event is free and not one to miss!

Pride Month Launch Party: At the AGO

The AGO is hosting a launch party for Pride on June 2 from 7 to 11:30 p.m to celebrate the beginning of Pride. Toronto artist Bruce LaBruce, known for his acting, and film-making of underground gay pornography, has invited four of his favourite queer performers that includes performance artist Ron Athey, artist Narcissister, musician No Bra and queer musician and artist Gio Black Peter. The party also includes art-making activities, pop-up exhibitions, and thematic food from Night Market. Advance tickets are $13 and jump to $16 at the door. Get your tickets quickly, they are set to sell out before the event.

1st Annual Family Pride Day at Centreville

Centreville Theme Park is hosting its 1st annual Family Pride Day at Toronto’s Centre Island on June 5 from 10:30 a.m to 8 p.m. The venue is a popular destination for families and is set to be a fun-filled day for families looking to celebrate Pride. The amusement park and farm admission will be free, but ride tickets are an extra cost. Buy ahead of time using the promo code “Pride2016” and receive a discount on ride tickets as well.  This all ages event is a way to celebrate pride in a family friendly way and teaches kids how fun Pride month is.

Human Rights Panel: Bathhouse Raids

Join Margaret Atwood and other panelists on June 7 at 519 (519 Church St. ) from 7 to 9 p.m to discuss the Bathhouse Raids that occurred on Feb. 5 1981 in Toronto. Atwood was very vocal against the raids at the time and will speak about the community impact surrounding the event. Other panelists include Metropolitan Community Church Pastor, Brent Hawkes who went on a hunger strike in order to obtain an official enquiry into the raids and Susan Cole, a journalist and member of BroadsideFeminist Collective.  

Second City Show Tunes Karaoke

Second City has paired up with Acting Up Stage Company and Theatre 20 to provide Show Tunes Karaoke for Pride Month in Toronto on June 15 from 10:30 p.m until midnight at The Second City Mainstage (51 Mercer Street). The event includes drinks, singing your favourite show tunes ranging from broadway tunes to classical songs.

Party your heart out and learn about the history and triumphs of the LGTBQ at the same time at these events in the city. Stay tuned for part two in Pride Month, there is more spectacular celebrations to attend in the second half of June too!

 Which pride event are you looking forward to? Share in the comments below!

“Operation Soap” brought out our ugly

Today is Feb, 5th and on this day 34 years ago Toronto police organized “Operation Soap” raiding four gay bathhouses in the city and arresting over 300 innocent men. It was perhaps one of our lowest points as a city and should serve to remind all of us how easily our rights can be taken away.  Human rights are, unfortunately, easily ignored when those given power are ignorant.

Peter Bochove was co owner of the Richmond Street Health Emporium at the time of the raid in 1981 and said the police came in with crow bars and sledge hammers “ they were offered the keys to the lockers and the rooms, but they held up a crowbar and said — we brought our own. We ended up in the shower room and we were all told to strip” One of the cops who was looking at the pipes going into the shower room said, “gee, it’s too bad we can’t hook this up to gas.” http://www.yorku.ca/jspot/5/stand_together/3/

The campaign was an initiative by the metropolitan police to push gay bars and bathhouses out of business – but also to silence those who advocated for gay rights.

Instead of driving the LGBT community underground it worked as a catalyst, uniting the gay community and building support through mass demonstrations, rallies and marches.  It was the beginning of six years of steady harassment by the police of gay press and gay men across the country; but also the beginning of the gay rights movement in Canada.  Instead of hiding, gay men took to the streets, marching with their supporters, pushing the boundary and speaking out. It was the end of the silence.

Today is a day to remember, and a day to celebrate all those who stood up for gay rights and refused to stay silent.