Arts & Icons By Richard Burnett

Heroes and Zeroes of 2017

Richard Burnett
il de jour, elle de nuit
Here is my 22nd annual column of the past year’s heroes and zeros.
Hero Lady Gaga who, disguised as Edward Scissorhands, partied with her entourage at District Video Lounge in Montreal’s Gay Village on Halloween night, before raising the roof at the Centre Bell a few days later, on November 4.
Zero Quebec vedette Eric Salvail, who was accused of sexual harassment and lewd misconduct in the workplace.
Zero  PWR BTTM, the indie rock duo that advocated for safer spaces policies in venues, and who were dropped by their label and management company after a sexual assault allegation in May against lead singer Ben Hopkins.
Zeroes  Actor Kevin Spacey and conductor James Levine, both accused of sexually harassing teenage boys. Spacey conflated the issue by publicly coming out at the same time, thus reinforcing the lie that gay men are sexual predators.
 James Levine
Zero   Pride Toronto which lost a whopping $1.3 million, eating up its accumulated $848,124 surplus, which brought their deficit down to $458,209.
Hero   Fierté Montréal Pride which organized the successful inaugural national edition of Canada Pride. The next Canada Pride will be held in Winnipeg in 2020.
Zeroes   The inept organizers of the World OutGames Miami which went bust and was cancelled just days before the scheduled opening ceremony on May 26. No criminal charges were filed, but LGBTQ athletes from around the world were left in the lurch.
Zeroes  The 15 thugs who viciously beat up five lesbians outside the Blue Anchor pub in Portsmouth, UK, on April 16. The police investigation is ongoing.  
ZERO   Former PQ leader André Boisclair, busted for impaired driving in Quebec City on November 9. He was released on a promise to appear in court on February 15, 2018.
Hero  Quebec literary icon Michel Tremblay, who was awarded the prestigious Prix Gilles-Corbeil from the Fondation Emile-Nelligan, and The Prince Pierre Literary Prize from Monaco’s Prince Pierre Foundation, for his lifetime body of work. 
 Michel Tremblay
Hero  Montreal’s Project 10, a program founded by Bill Ryan to help LGBTQ youth, which turned 25 in 2017. 
Hero  AIDS Community Care Montreal, which turned 30 in 2017.
Hero  Image+Nation, Canada’s oldest LGBTQ film festival, which turned 30 in 2017. “Attending Image+Nation is an ‘old-school’ collective experience and communal moment,” I+N festival director Charlie Boudreau told me. “There is still power in gathering together in a dark cinema.”
Zero  Rock n Roll legend Little Richard, who continues to struggle with his own sexuality, for telling 3ABN in October that gay love is an “unnatural affection.” The church can have Little Richard – we still have Esquerita.
Zeroes  Harvard University, which on September 15 revoked its invitation to whistle-blower Chelsea Manning for a prestigious fellowship position; and Canada, which a week later barred Manning from entering the country, despite that U.S. President Barack Obama had granted Manning clemency.
ZERO  Milos Yiannopoulos, who was everywhere in 2017, the type of gay man championed by the alt-right because faggots like him give them cover as they trash the civil rights of other groups and minorities.
ZERO  Comedian Dave Chappelle, who in August kicked off his 16-show residency at Radio City Music Hall with 20 minutes of transphobic jokes.

Laverne Cox

Hero   Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy-winning producer Laverne Cox, who hosted The Laverne Cox Gala at Just For Laughs in July. “Dating has not been easy for me. In some ways because I’m so-called “famous” it is more difficult. But dating while trans is really hard anyway,” Cox told me, pointing out that “trans women are murdered more than any other groups of folks in the LGBTQ community. Often the violence that trans women experience is from their partner. There are a lot of straight-identified men who seek out transgender women to date or have sex with, knowing that we are trans, and their own internalized shame can sometimes cause them to be violent towards us.”
Zero  Jean Edens Lindor, 24, who was charged with second-degree murder following the Pointe St. Charles stabbing of trans sex worker Sisi Thibert on September 18.
Zero  U.S. President Donald Trump, whose transgender military ban was thrown out by the U.S. District Court on October 30.
Zeroes U.S. authorities for busting on Aug. 25.
Zero Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who withheld same-sex marriage licenses “under God’s authority.”
Zero Madonna’s gay brother Christopher Ciccone, who defended Kim Davis: “The gay community feels the need to be sore winners. The rights we have all fought for mean nothing if we deny her hers.” This is one man I don’t want to see on his knees.
Heroes   Danica Roem, Virginia’s first elected openly-transgender state legislator; Julie Lemieux, Canada’s first trans mayor elected in the small village of Très-Saint-Redempteur, west of Montreal; Tomoya Hosoda, the first transgender man elected to public office, in the city of Iruma, Japan; and Gabrielle Bouchard, elected the first trans president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec.
Hero   California, where on September 1, 2018, residents can request legal gender changes without undergoing treatment, and on June 1, 2019, can choose the nonbinary gender option on driver’s licences. 
Heroes  Canadian parliamentarians, for passing Bill C-16 which adds gender expression and identity as a protected ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as to the Criminal Code provisions dealing with hate propaganda, incitement to genocide, and aggravating factors in sentencing. The bill became law on June 19.
Heroes    The contestants in Australia’s inaugural Miss First Nation contest showcasing that country’s top Indigenous drag queens. On September 29, Josie Baker was crowned Miss First Nation 2017.
Zero S.E. Hinton, best-selling author of The Outsiders, who tweeted in January that she is a “heterosexual writer about heterosexual characters” and “I was born this way, did not choose this lifestyle.”
Zeroes Oakland Athletics outfielder Matt Joyce, who on August 4 yelled an anti-gay slur at a fan. Major League Baseball suspended Joyce for two games. Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar was also suspended for two games in May for using a gay slur.
Hero   San Francisco 49ers assistant wide receivers coach Katie Sowers in August became just the second woman hired by an NFL team as a full-time coach, and is the first openly LGBTQ coach in league history.
Hero    Robbie Rogers of the LA Galaxy and first openly-gay US pro footballer announced his retirement in November. “My only regret in my 11-year career are the years I spent in the closet,” he said.
Hero   Montreal Canadiens centre Andy Shaw, who in January was named an LGBTQ ambassador for the NHL.
Heroes   Six of Montreal’s most popular drag queens – Tracy Trash, Barbada de Barbades, Rita Baga, Gabry-Elle, Lady Poonana and Lady Boom Boom – who were cast in the ICI ARTV reality TV series Ils de Jour, Elles de Nuit, which premiered on April 7. 
Heroes   The 25th annual Saskatoon Pride Festival, which hosted the first-ever Drag Queen Storytime with drag queen China White – a.k.a. Ryan Young – for children at Saskatoon’s Frances Morrison Library. Said Young, “Some of these kids could be LGBTQ youth so the fact that we can maybe give them a little boost up, make them feel okay about things, and loved and accepted, I think that’s a pretty positive way of doing Pride.”
Hero   Lactatia – a.k.a. eight-year-old Montrealer Nemis Quinn Mélançon Golden – who became a global drag sensation after being invited onstage by Bianca Del Rio at the May 27 Montreal stop of the Werq the World drag tour.
Zero   London UK nightclub G-A-Y Late, which was accused of refusing entrance to a patron on May 24 when they discovered he had HIV medication (Truvada and Efavirenz) on him.
Hero   The province of Ontario, which added a generic PrEP drug to its publicly covered drugs, effective September 28. 
Hero The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), which on June 20 became the first and only LGBTI organization to be officially accredited by the Commonwealth. 
Zeroes U.S. prosecutors who won an August 2 federal court judgment against owner Jeffrey Hurant, who was sentenced to six months in prison for promoting prostitution. Hurant, 51, said his website had improved conditions for gay sex workers.
Heroes   Taiwan’s top court, for ruling on May 24 in favour of same-sex marriage (SSM); German MPs who voted to legalize SSM on June 30, despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement she believes marriage is “between a man and a woman”; and Australian MPs who legalized SSM on December 7, following a national postal survey of the Australian public. The postal survey reported 61.6 per cent of Australians supported SSM.
Zero Australian tennis champion Margaret Court, who said LGBTQ activists lobbied for equal marriage in Australia “because they want to destroy it.” Court added gay marriage would also ruin all major holidays: “There will be no Mother's Day, there will be no Father's Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas,” she said.
Heroes   Martina Navratilova, who says Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park – home of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament – should be renamed; and John McEnroe, who said, “Or keep the name and when same-sex marriage becomes legal in Australia, I will personally call my good friend Elton John to host the biggest same-sex, mass wedding ceremony ever seen — in Margaret Court Arena!”
Zeroes The many nations persecuting LGBTQ people around the world, such as the 140 men arrested at an alleged gay sauna party in Indonesia in May; Turkey banning all LGBTQ events in the capital of Ankara to “protect public security”; Egypt’s renewed crackdown on LGBTQ people following a September rock concert by popular Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila  (whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay), where seven audience members waved a Rainbow flag, and were also arrested for it; and electric-shock “gay conversion therapy” taking place in Chinese hospitals, not to mention more mass arrests of gay men in Zanzibar and Nigeria.
Heroes  The 150 people who participated in Namibia’s first-ever Pride march on July 29 in the capital city of Windhoek. Escorted by police, marchers carried a huge Rainbow flag while others held up signs that read “Gay rights are human rights” and “You don’t need to be LGBT to support LGBT.”
Zero Josh Rivers, the newly-appointed editor of UK publication Gay Times, who was fired on November 16 for racist and misogynistic tweets dating back to 2010. 
Hero  Lez Spread The Word, the critically-hailed Montreal publication now available around the world, for sale in such outlets as Artbook at MoMA PS1 in New York. Their second edition was launched on December 7.
Zero Black Lives Matter – Montreal, not for what they represent, but for the unfortunate timing of their protest at the Canada Pride parade on August 20, during the annual Minute of Silence which commemorates all those we have lost to violence and AIDS, notably racialized people who are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Zero The Kladyrov regime, for reportedly establishing a registry of gay and lesbian citizens, as well as beating, torturing and killing gay and bisexual men in concentration camps in Chechnya, including well-known Russian pop singer Zelimkhan Bakaev, who remains missing.
 The Kladyrov Regime
Hero    Canada, which has been evacuating LGBTQ people from Chechyna in a clandestine program spearheaded by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.  As of September 1, 22 people had been evacuated and given asylum in Canada.
Hero   Ana Brnabi?, the first lesbian and first female prime minister of Serbia, who assumed office on June 29.
Hero    The Bundestag, Germany’s lower legislative body, which voted on June 22 to quash all 64,000 convictions under Paragraph 175, which criminalized male homosexuality, especially under the Nazis. The law remained on the books until 1994.
Hero Canada and the nation’s PM Justin Trudeau, who apologized in parliament on November 28, for decades of discrimination against LGBTQ Canadians. The government also earmarked $100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by former members of the military and other federal agencies targeted by Canada’s so-called “gay purge.” A teary-eyed Trudeau said, “It is with shame and sorrow and deep regret for the things we have done that I stand here today and say: We were wrong. We apologize. I am sorry. We are sorry.”
Hero   Then Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre who on August 18 formally apologized for historical anti-LGBTQ police raids in Montreal over the past decades. Said Coderre, “We have a tainted past and the best way to cure it is to recognize it and the best way to reconcile is to recognize what happened.”
Heroes   For coming out in 2016: Daniel Neeman of The Walking Dead, Rutina Wesley of True Blood, and CMT and iHeartRadio host Cody Alan; Chance the Rapper’s bisexual brother Taylor Bennett, Jay Z’s lesbian mom Gloria Carter, and hip hop star iLoveMakonnen; intersex supermodel Hanne Gaby Odiele, Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell, and Las Vegas crooner Barry Manilow (when he married his manager and longtime partner Garry Kief); Canadian pole vault world champion Shawn Barber, former NFL New England Patriots lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, and British Olympic medalist Colin Jackson; actors Haaz Sleiman, Jordan Gavaris, Brandon Flynn, Dan Amboyer and Gordon Thomson (of Dynasty fame); former pro soccer player Adam McCabe and Top 100 WTA Swedish tennis player Johanna Larsson.
Heroes   Quebec trans pioneer Marie-Marcelle Godbout, TCM host Robert Osborne, provocative Chinese photographer Ren Hang, singer and former Billboard magazine publisher Tommy Page, psychotherapist George Weinberg (he coined the term “homophobia”), NOW magazine theatre critic Jon Caplan, famed Montreal HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Mark Wainberg, Jamaican fashion designer Dexter Pottinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet John Ashbery, U.S. Equal Marriage activist Edith Windsor, International Mr. Leather founder Chuck Renslow, Yves Saint Laurent fashion house co-founder (and YSL’s life partner) Pierre Berge, British gay journalist Richard Smith, Argentinian porn star Max Schutler (real name: Jorge Schmeda), famed gossip columnist Liz Smith, drag icon Flawless Sabrina (a.k.a. Jack Doroshow who organized drag pageants across the U.S. and co-starred in the 1967 documentary film The Queen), founder Henry Badenhorst, and “Gomer Pyle” actor Jim Nabors all passed away in 2017. RIP.
Hero   Gilbert Baker, the American artist and LGBTQ activist who created the Rainbow flag at the request of slain gay icon Harvey Milk in 1978. Gilbert passed away on March 31 at the age of 65. “The first time I saw the Rainbow flag on a flag pole was amazing, but what makes a flag a flag is that it’s not mine; it belongs to the people,” Gilbert once told me. “It is torn from the souls of the people. So much art is all about branding, but mine – the Rainbow flag – it’s not about me. I don’t get royalties. If I did, it would change everything, and the Rainbow flag would not have the power that it does have today.” Thank you, Gilbert. Sleep well.