Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hug a Lesbian Day

For the past six months or so every Sunday morning I wake up, roll my ragged bones out of bed, kick out my flavour of the week (jokes) and peruse the NY Times Wedding section where I count the number of gay weddings versus the number of lesbian weddings. I then summarize the results like so: Brad and Brian for the win!! gays: 1, chicks who like chicks: zero. I then go to and plan my own wedding. See how fun Sunday's are Casa Nay?

While I know that not that everything in life is a competition, I like to judge other people’s weddings. Especially gay ones.

Anyway the topic of lesbians came up at a dinner party I recently hosted for a couple of my gay friends. At some point in the evening one of my gays excitedly told us that his law firm hired their second lesbian. The gaggle of gays that sat around the table grew excited with this news. “A lesbian! What is she like?”
From the content of the ensuing convo, it was almost as if were talking about some sort of endangered species...

In some ways the lesbian is truly a rarity. Although an equal slice of the LGBTQ community, lesbians are seemingly our inaudible partner in crime.

“Gays Parade,” my friend Caitlin is fond of saying, “Lesbians march.”

This may be a bit of an over-simplification of things. The truth is that I actually don’t know very many lesbians and neither do most of my gay friends. At said dinner party as we went around the table to count the lesbians in our lives it became clear that not one of us could name more than one (if even that) lesbian that they saw on a regular basis. The only exception was my friend Derek; however, in his defence, his boyfriend argued that Derek liked hockey, plaid shirts and playing pool… so of course he would know lesbians. Either that or he’s a hipster with an ironic taste for hockey.

Worrying that this may be a case of gays being gays [gays notoriously don’t like lesbians…] I started polling a bunch of my straight friends to see if I could mine their friend lists for some new lesbian action. No such luck as they were low on lesbian love as well. In fact when I asked my straight friends if they knew a lesbian most of them hemmed and hawed vaguely referring to someone they maybe thought was a lesbian in their constitutional law class. My fiend Karen told me she met a lesbian at a conference she facilitated, but I argued that that didn’t mean they were friends. The Sapphic ace up her sleeve is tht Karens landlady is a lesbian D; she DJ’s at a party called Sticky Fingers, I bedrugingly accepted that. While my friend Maggie let me know that the woman who threaded her eyebrows had once been a lesbian, but then reverted.

I still wasn’t sure if this was just one of those bubble things (like I don’t know anyone who voted for Rob Ford even though 380,000 Torontonians did…) and maybe all the lezzers lived in the suburbs? Or if the lack of lesbians in my life was part of a much larger phenomena.

When I thought about it – you rarely saw lesbians on Church Street or in Toronto’s defacto Queer West Village. In fact in both of Toronto’s queer hoods the largest bars and biggest queer themed nights have been started by and cater to an almost exclusively gay male clientele. The only Toronto exception that I can think of is the fun crew at Yes Yes Y’all, which was indeed started by a bunch of female DJ’s. But for every YYY there are countless gay nights which have been started by gay dudes and cater to a predominantly male crowd. The Village in and of itself, from its place in popular culture to its gay porn shops, gay bathouses, and gay bars, is a defacto male construct.

Wondering why there were so few lesbians – I hit the interweb to do some research. I soon discovered that one of the reasons why it may be hard to find lesbian friends is that there are statistically fewer homosexual women then there are gay men.

Most studies have actually concluded that there are half as many lesbians as there are gays! A recent study by Statistics Canada discovered that while about 1.3% of men polled considered themselves homosexual, only 0.7% of women considered themselves homosexual. Now any questionnaire that attempts to gauge the overall size of the LGBTQ population probably has more holes in it then Swiss cheese [what does gay mean along the spectrum of sexuality etc…], but almost all studies done since and including Kinsey’s work have concluded that gay incidence rates in the general population occur twice as often as lesbian incidence rates. There’s a good, albeit out of date, recap of statistical studies here.

I’m willing to buy the statistical conclusion that gays > lesbians, but it still doesn’t fully explain the lack of lesbians in my life. It also doesn’t explain why the Church-Wellesley Village is predominately male or why in popular culture lesbians (with the exception of the archetypical and probably not so typical “lipstick lesbian”) take a back-seat to the gays. The most successful movies with LGBTQ content (Milk, Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain come to mind almost immediately) are about gay men and gay rights. I can’t think of a mainstream lesbian movie with the exception of Boys Don’t Cry. On TV gays similarly dominate. In GLAAD’s annual report on LGBTQ characters on the major networks there are 23 LGBTQ headlining or supporting characters. Of the 5 main LGBTQ characters 4 are men. Of the 18 supporting characters 11 are gay men, 2 are lesbians and 5 are bisexuals. In fact of all the major “coming out” plot lines I can think of (with the exception of Ellen’s original sitcom way back in the nineties) most of the characters are men. Coming out stories involving women, perhaps best personified by Willow’s lesbianism in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have contrasted with TV coming out stories involving gay men, where the coming out is generally louder and angrier and more dramatic. Remember when Jack read his poem basically announcing his homosexuality on Dawson’s Creek? Retrospectively so awkward….

Gay’s have also used their sequined gay claws to help put their queer stamp on popular culture, less so for lesbians. Where would Madonna and Lady Gaga be without the gays? Why is there no counterpart to gay icons like Gaga, Lauper and their ilk? When I Googled lesbian icons all I came up with was Ellen Degeneres and Samantha Ronson… great people who both rock a pixi haircut, but neither of whom have the same pop-culture heft that their gay counterparts have had.

Again certainly I am willing to buy the statistical argument in the matter, but still, why are lesbians so demure compared to men?

The reality is that gay men have had a more public and cohesive identity then lesbians. Recent queer history has helped form this singular community identity. The HIV/AIDS crisis that galvanized the queer community in the 1980’s and 1990’s was central to constructing a gay civic identity. But the disease was much more a gay crisis then it was a lesbian one. Heck – even the fight to decriminalize homosexuality –was often fought via the fight against sodomy, which as far as I know really only pertains to gay men and perhaps women who peg other people. Interestingly, the final decriminalization of homosexuality in all US States was a Supreme Court challenge against Texas’s sodomy law. Couple sodomy laws, HIV/AIDS crisis and bathhouse raids it is clear that late twentieth century queer rallying cries were seemingly male dominated; it has only been queer marriage and queer adoption which have seemingly spanned both sides of the queer community.

Stereotypes also come into play of why perhaps homosexuality is more "mainstream" then "lesbiansim". Stereotypically gay men are more fun then lesbians. Gay men are sidekicks. Gay men offer fashion advice. Gay men can complain about boys with our girlfriends. Gay men can also give pointers on how best to deal with penis. For straight dudes, once they get over the gay thing [and no I don’t want to bang you…], gays can be awesome wingmen, as we’re not fishing in the same stream. When a male friend of mine started seeing his new girlfriend she suggested that the three of us go shopping together because obviously all gays like to shop. What’s the stereotypical comparison for lesbians: “I’d love to go play curling with you and your lesbian best friend?” Sure these are extremes of course and fairly stereotypical I also realize, but play word association with lesbian and gay – the pop-culture connotations are much more positive to be gays then lesbians.
To go back to my friends’ joke: dykes march, gays parade.

My friend Krista suggested that societal bias towards gays is similar to societal bias towards men. It may also be related to some sort of patriarchal fear of the lesbian. I’m willing to buy this argument. Sure straight men are fascinated by hot chicks making out, but skim the thin icing of faux-lesbianism off the multi-layered cake of sexuality, and Krista argues that straight men may actually feel threatened by the lack of cock in lesbian relationships. To the uninitiated lesbianism may seem emasculating.

Now all of this being said – and I hope this story is cohesive and not offensive to anyone who is a carpet muncher, I mean lesbian (that was a purposefully offensive joke inserted into a sentence about being non offensive), gays, the next time your law firm hires a lesbian, or the next time you find yourself at Slacks, or the next time you’re hanging out with your one lesbian friend, hug them; its high time we gays celebrate our other half. They may not be as flashy as we are, but they’re our people too.

Remember friends that for too long lesbians have been our quiet sister who has supportively stood in our shadows and watched us perform our sequined song and dance routine. Gays it’s time to share that stage.

It’s time for Hug a Lesbian Day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Becoming a Rugged Individualist...

Sarah Silverman has this great joke using the word scary. She literally just repeats the word scary over and over again in a disafected accent. There's something about it that makes me smile; this makes some sense, about 50% of my life revolves around cribbing Sarah Silverman jokes. In the best of times this leads to hilarity, and in the worst of times it leads to complete and utter embarrassment.

Take, for example, the time my marketing class was talking about the need to rebrand American Airlines. Old Jono thought he'd whip out Sarah's classic 9/11 joke: Ya know Sarah Sivlerman says that American Airlines should just re-brand itself with a more positive spin, "First Through the Towers".

I finished with a flourish and smirk - in my head I expected the class to burst out into laughter allowing me to reap the reward of comedy - instead, however, my smirk was met with defeaning silence interupted only by a gasp from the back of the room.

The silence was so great, it was almost as if I'd just admitted to my marketing class that I fuck goats on the weekend (which I don't).

Such joke #fail was indicative of my tenure at the Rotman School of Management. Sometimes I think that Rotman stole my youth; other times I'm concerned that it stole my joie de vivre; other times I'm just convinced Rotman spat on its hand and had its way with me just like Ennis Del Mar had his way with Jack Swift (that movie still holds up by the by - I recommend a re-watch and RIP Heath).

However the one thing I truly lost at Rotman, besides a computer cord and this really pretty cashmere scarf I bought in London (to whomever stole it I quote noted thespian Antoine Dodson: you are so dumb, you are really dumb, for real; you don't have to come and confess, we're looking for you, we gonna find you), was my ability to champion in group consensus.

What do I mean exactly? Well before Rotman I jokingly told a friend that if I ever got drafted into the army I'd be voted as most likely to organize a kumbaya circle in order to champion an Oprah-esque Remembering Your Spirit moment.

A year later? Fuck your feelings - lets talk about moi for a moment. I'm not sure where my love of other people's feelings has gone over the last two years - it may have been those lectures on the evil of group think - but I think Rotman has turned me into a rugged individualist.

I was recently at a strategic planning session for a non-profit I volunteer with. The organization, a group for up-and-coming professionals, is currently refining its strategic vision and mission statement and those of us in attendance were to construct a new vision statement.

As we broke off into small groups it became clear that there were two broad groups of people - in one corner you had those who felt the organization's mission was simply about city-building (the admirable ones), and in the other corner were the individualists who admitted that they were involved with said non-profit because they sought out personal growth would in turn allow them to support city-building initiatives.

There's a small but important distinction between these two positions. And aI left the meeting I surprised myself by being more supportive of the latter idea; isn't everyone furthering their own agenda all the time?

I'm pretty sure my change of heart isn't just a b-school thing. It may be a generational/state of life. As a friend of mine, who recently bought a house, admitted - the time was nigh to maximize his own personal earnings. If there was anytime to be now for one and one for now... it was in your late twenties and early thirties.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Individualism - especially of the rugged kind - is a defining myth of the American twentieth century. The myth goes that rugged individualists - from Daniel Boone to Henry Ford to Teddy Roosevelt - tamed the American frontier (of both the literal and figurative type) and then watched the country prosper because of it. It was in 1928 when Herbert Hoover coined the term, Rugged Individualist, proclaiming: "The American system.... It is founded upon the conception that only through ordered liberty, freedom and equal opportunity to the individual will his initiative and enterprise spur on the march of progress."

In a recent article in Time Magazine on the state of rugged individualism Roger Rosenblatt argues that the driving mythology of the Rugged Individualist is not necessarily a bad thing because the concept is not simple narcisism, as "The 'rugged' saves 'rugged individualism' from shabbiness by implying not merely solitary but courageous action." Rosenblatt further argues that as much as the concept of rugged individualism has shapped modern American culture, personal rugged individualism has been tempered by a collective sense of responsibility.

Therein, I think, lies the important point in all of this business - tis fine to segue into that of a rugged individualist (it also sounds really butch if you're gay) but never forget the bow)ties that bind us. That may be why the rugged individualist, such as myself, enjoys a good bow tie; as the NY Times noted: "A list of bow tie devotees reads like a Who's Who of rugged individualists."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finding Your Happy in Gossip Girl

There are few things in life that bring me a considerable amount of joy. And most of what does lead to personal happiness is orally inclined: basically I'm talking about food and sex. And before you get all judgy and tell me that I am a dirty asshat for thinking about sex all the time le me remind you that the average male thinks about sex every 8 seconds and I'm going to assume that women think about it just as often as men do (cause we're equal y'all).

This means that while you were reading the above paragraph your mind probably wandered like at least twice (cock) to matters below the belt (blow job); who's the sick freak now (vagine)? The majority of my day is thusly spent eating, planning my next meal, and thinking about sex. Less time is actually spent doing the sex because well ya know... I'm single.

The other thing that truly, truly brings me joy, beyond my deep deep love for Gwyneth Paltrow (GP is the WASP girlfriend I've always wanted), is the blessed hour of television known as Gossip Girl. I'm going to assume that most people have watched or at least know about the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite... Even my mother watches Gossip Girl; although in your defense she tapes it on her VCR, as if you think Sim Sim Sima would spring for PVR? What planet are you from?

The main criticism that people level at GG is that it is totally unrealistic. No shit Sherlock. If I wanted realism I'd watch a documentary about oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico or maybe I'd watch an inspired by true events docu-drama about Terry Fox. Realism = nihilism and my life is realistic enough. I watch GG so I can salivate over the sets, the parties, and the clothes. And also Chase Crawford. For one brief hour a week GG is a respite from the daily grind that is ma vie.

In fact I love Gossip Girl so much so that when I'm down or blue I sometimes YouTube short clips of GG and sing (to the tune of Julie Andrews):

Serena's Large Breasts and Nate Archibalds man bangs,
Crazy ex-boyfriends and Van der bilts named Tripp;
Charitable functions and masquerade parties with bling;
These are a few of my favourite Gossip Girl things.

When Little J is banished;
When Georgina is damaged;
When I'm feeling sad;
I simply remember my favourite epi's and then I don't feel so bad.

Anyway... I've gotten a bit off topic here - but because I love me sums Gossip Girl I mostly overlook the fact that it the show has almost zero tangible connection to reality. As a joke NYMagazine's blog Vulture does a Gossip Girl reality meter every week, but I mean whatever... why bother asking such salient questions like why is "Gossip Girl" cyber bullying Serena? Or ask even more nuanced questions like: how does Juliette's brother text her from prison? Or point out obvious plot holes like it would take Dan more then an hour to get dressed, and get from DUMBO to Lincoln Center. Whatever. Who cares, just look at Blake Lively's tits.

That being said there is a bit of moral issue I do wish the show would address on a somewhat more realistic basis.

What you may ask? Let's talk about sex baby. Let's talk about you and me. Let's talk about all the goods things and the bad things that may be.

Look, as a progressive person I'm fairly cool with everyone on Gossip Girl being a bit of a whore; its part of the fun and at least someone is getting some.

That being said - can the kids on Gossip Girl be whores who don't get STD's? At one point while watching an episode from last season I texted my friend Amy with the sad realization that almost all of the characters on GG were having more sex then I was but nary once had there been a mention about condoms or protection. And while I don't expect the Powers that Be to film an episode where Blair and Serena have to put a condom on a banana in their high school health class (something my friends Emily and Julia DID have to do) it would be nice if the show touched on issues of contraception and STI's. I'm assuming a lot of teenagers do watch the show; and heck even people my age need to be reminded that: no glove, no love [I just spent 30 minutes trying to find the youtube of that commercial that was on the TV when we were younger when there was that girl and her sister and the sister grabs her as she's running out the door to remind her: no glove no love and couldn't, sorry].

Its not the general promiscuity I worry about - its how our friends on the Upper East Side seemingly screw around with abandon at all times of day in almost any location; are they just always carrying around condoms? Take parts of Season 3 which found Serena and Nate f^cking each other across the Upper East Side. In one seminal (no pun intended) episode Nate pulls Serena into a coat closet for some afternoon delight. It would have been nice if someone mentioned the c-word, because lord knows Nate is too fucking stupid to carry around a condom with him.

Thankfully there has been a bit of a change in Season 4 in terms of promoting safer sex. Chuck actually mentioned buying condoms in one episode and there was a faux Gossip Girl blast insinuating that Serena had an STD. That being said Blair's insinuations that Serena is a whore who slept with "french waiters, bartenders, docents, anyone on a bicycle..." doesn't really bode well for her pelvic health... And while GG may finally be becoming a bit more realistic when it comes to contraception choice - the way that the show portrays women also leaves a bit to be desired.

This leads me to moral quandry numero duos.

Again - I realize Gossip Girl is not going to be my generations Mary Tyler Moore show but can it at least try and make its main female character, Serena Van Der Woodsen, less dependent on men for her own feelings of self worth? In the last episode (Juliette Doesn't Live Here Anymore) - heroine Serena pouted all the way to Bergdorfs because she was sad she couldn't show up the ballet opening on the arm of her sorta boyfriend, who was also her professor. Girl - don't value yourself by being someone's arm candy!

Anyway - there you have it folks I love Gossip Girl for its unrealistic amazingness - but maybe, just maybe the show could try and be a bit more realistic when it comes to addressing salient societal issues.

Ya know - it would be nice if we could somehow mix some Blake Lively side boob and Chase Crawford man bangs with some safe sex (and heck if that safe sex includes yours truly that is a price I am willing to pay for the sake of moral uplift).


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pity Toronto

Poor Toronto; we’re always never quite there, even though we try so hard. And by there I’m talking about our obsession with being a world-class city, whatever that connotes. The smell of our desperation is starting to get noticed though, which is worrisome for those of us who actually like Hogtown. Check out Gawker’s list of cities to move to when the Tea Party takes over America where Gawker astutely noted about our little hamlet: “there's a weird inferiority complex thing going on in Toronto that just gets a little sad after a while.”

Inferiority complex aside, however, there is something that sometimes seems a bit provincial about our beloved burg (take our reaction to Scott Conant HuffPo letter about his Scarpetta outpost at the Thomson).

Or remember when William Thorsell announced Daniel Libeskind was going to head up Renaissance ROM? At the time Libeskind with Da Shit; he had just designed the acclaimed Holocaust Musuem in Berlin AND had been hired to design the Freedom Tower which was to be built at Ground Zero. Take that New York – Toronto had him first (just like Susur Lee!). In our minds we had hit the starchitectural big leagues baby. So then we built our showy new Libeskind but then we all ended up hating it and more importantly everyone else hated it. For those with little short-term memory it was named the ugliest building of the decade by the Washington Post. To make matters even worse - by the time the ROM opened the era of starchitecture had died. The international financial crisis had led to an era architectural austerity yet there was Toronto holding the keys to an overpriced tin can.

Toronto is like that girl in your class who is the lamest member of the cool girl posse (think Gretchen in Mean Girls). True, she is still part of the cool posse, but barely so and bless her little heart – she’s always trying, clinging on to being invited to tag along. In fact she reeks of try. Toronto is like the last person to get UGGs and then proudly wears them the day Queen C declares UGGs are over. I mean – good for us, we got a Liebskind, but we opened our Libeskind the day the world zeitgeist decided that Daniel was démodé.

Le sigh for us.

Unlike for gays, however, it doesn’t get better for Toronto – first there was the whole Rob Ford thing, which I mean is sort of embarrassing from a macro-perspective, but then Roger Ebert had to pipe in with this tweet: “Toronto elects a mayor who doesn’t believe in public transit, arts funding, environment or homosexuality. Toronto?” I know most of us were hoping that we could keep a lid on the Ford thing for a bit longer, “maybe no one will notice that we, a self-proclaimed beacon of diversity, elected a Mayor who called Asian people Orientals and then made disparaging remarks about gay people?” When push comes to shove at least we could sort of gloss things over and boast about our Mayor-elect is so badass he got busted with marijuana! I know most of us were hoping that we would have at least until World Pride 2014 to deal with the issue had hand.

As if that isn’t bad enough – we’re about to become hit with “The Lake-Shore” some weird made-in Toronto reality show that features 8 of the worst (and I’m making a value judgement of these 8 people after watching their youtube auditions) people our fair city has to offer. The cast members are self-described in variants of: hardcore party animal, tease, fashionista etc… What’s even worse is they’re labelled as: the Jew, the Lebanese, the Turk, or the Italian. Just an FYI from his bio: our home-grown Italian loves to flash his hot Italian abs. Great – so not only are we going to be subjected by 8 idiots doing Jager Bombs to Shots Shots Shots by LMFAO and Lil John at Easy on the Fifth – we’re also going to be subjected by near racist epithets.

Awesome Toronto. Just f’ing awesome. And to take it up a notch – the international media is taking note: Gawker, NY Daily News, LA Times, Washington Post and Entertainment Tonight are all reporting about the Lake-Shore. One article was titled: “Canada's Lake Shore: It's Like Jersey Shore But Worse.” For a city that is constantly trying to join the big leagues of sophistication is this really what we need?

Look – I’d love a good Toronto-based reality TV show – maybe something Bay Street related? Or even a catty show about people who work in our burgeoning fashion industry – can’t someone give Robin Kay a show – that bitch would bring the CRAZY? Or what about a scripted show about rich Upper Canada boys and Branksome Hall girls – think Gossip Girl meets 90210: “Hey there Forest Hillary’s, guess who was spotted eating hummus at Mashu Mashu…”. Maybe the first episode can start with someone coming back from self-imposed exile from Lakefield or something… I don’t know… but like surely we can do something a bit cooler then copying a reality TV show based in New Jersey? I mean, really Toronto, really?

Last year I wrote that Toronto with our garbage strikes and socialites had finally become Manhattan. I take that back – Toronto has become New Jersey, the armpit of America, and quite frankly this is embarrassing for all of us. Instead of international media taking note of whatever it is we do best – we’ve taking photos of our warts and have tagged them on the Facebook that is the international news media.


File this one under: Nancy Drew and the case of Toronto needs a good PR person. Stat.