Between the Lines

The Not-So-Gay Media

Richard Burnett
Last year I wrote an op-ed for the Washington, DC-based Alternatives magazine, publication for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, decrying the absence of a column about gay life in Canada’s daily newspapers – unlike our more puritan neighbours Stateside who boast such gay columnists as Deb Price (based with The Detroit News and syndicated in over 100 dailies) and my friend and colleague Rex Wockner, the most published gay byline in the business. But here in Canada there are just three – yes, count ‘em, just three – gay columns outside the gay press, and they are published by the alternative press: the oldest of the three is (pardon the buttplug) mine, Three Dollar Bill, which is based at Montreal’s Hour magazine; Pink Panther by ab-fab playwright Sky Gilbert at Toronto’s Eye Weekly; and Winnipeg’s Uptown magazine column Queeries by recently-appointed EGALE executive director Gilles Marchildon (and isn’t gay-rights lobbyist Marchildon’s writing a column on gay life a conflict-of-interest just waiting to happen?).

So it was somewhat disheartening to read journalist Julian Aynsley’s feature headlined “Canadian Media Offer choices in Two Languages But There’s Still No Truly National Gay Publication” in the February 2003 edition of Press Pass Q, the self-dubbed electronic “newsletter for the gay and lesbian press.”

“Canada’s gay media scene today is lively, in sharp contrast to the 1970s and 80s, when The Body Politic, a radical, Toronto-based magazine with an international following but a small circulation, was virtually the only voice,” Aynsley leads off. “Now, there are three major publications in the English-speaking provinces, while several others cater to French-speaking gays in Quebec.”

That’s just the first paragraph and already Aynsley has it wrong.
Need I remind folks that Montreal’s activist French-language magazine Le Berdache – whose notorious contributors included Pierre Vallieres, Gerald Hannon and Tom Waugh (nominated for a 2003 Lambda Literary Award for his awesome book Out/Lines: Underground Gay Graphics from Before Stonewall) – published 30 editions between 1979 and 1982?

But Aynsley is right when he writes Canada “still has nothing that is considered a truly national publication in the way that The Advocate is regarded in the United States.” (Let’s not even discuss Fab National, the defunct Canadian glossy that screwed several freelancers – including yours truly – out of hundreds of dollars, effectively putting the “free” in freelancers.)

Aynsley says the Pink Triangle Press chain of tabloids – the flagship Xtra! in Toronto, XtraWest in Vancouver and Capital Xtra in Ottawa – is the closest thing to a national mag this country has. That’s true. But Aynsley then contends Toronto-based Fab magazine and the Calgary-based Outlooks magazine (which distributes in Toronto and Vancouver but not Montreal) are next in line.

Aynsley puts his foot deeper into his mouth by later stating “Quebec has its own thriving gay media, with three magazines produced there” – so far so good – the three being “the largest and most important” Fugues magazine, followed by RG and – say what? – Le Guide Gai du Quebec.
Well, let’s get one thing straight, honey: Etre, along with its English-language spin-off ToBe, published by André Gagnon, is Quebec’s “third” gay publication.

Aynsley does get it right, though, when he contends the fiasco known as PrideVision TV – truly a national embarrassment – has “floundered.”

Or to put it more bluntly, we should pay PrideVision $7.95 per month for crappy decade-old reruns like Linehan and Dame Edna, starring a who’s who of dead movie stars?
Up yours, PrideVision.

Meanwhile, PlanetOut dumped Rex Wockner’s gossipy The Wockner Wire column after three and a half years. The column was picked up March 4 by Toronto-based – also home to pundits Eleanor Brown and Michelangelo Signorile.

“PlanetOut’s decision was not a big surprise,” Rex noted in his February 14 column. “I was, in fact, surprised when The Wockner Wire survived the merger of PlanetOut and two years ago. The cultures of the two companies were different, the resulting corporation is, and I am too iconoclastic for the worldview.”

If that’s not weird enough, Wockner’s colleague David Bianco recently sold his remaining shares in the company he founded, Q Syndicate, to Rivendell Marketing. Q Syndicate provides more content to the gay press – notably Simon Shepard’s Sex Talk, Paula Martinac’s Lesbian Notions and Romeo San Vincente’s Deep Inside Hollywood – than anyone else.

Bianco, who is Jewish and no longer identifies as a gay man – but apparently isn’t over his syndicated column Over the Rainbow which he will continue to write – told Wockner in a January 29 interview, “I’m no longer having sex with men for religious reasons. I no longer identify as gay because it doesn’t feel like the label that best describes me. I’ll take ‘bisexual’ if I have to have a label. I’d just as soon do without one.”

Now, I once sat next to Bianco at a National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association dinner in Toronto a few years back and, while I must admit I wasn’t exactly enamoured with his overbearing personality, I am sad to see Bianco go. Q Syndicate was an accomplishment. (The Canadian NLGJA affiliate, meanwhile, also called it quits on January 29.)

So good luck, David. Remember, you are more than welcome to return to the family fold. To paraphrase the title of an old Gordon Merrick gay romance novel, “I’m sure the Lord won’t mind.”

Quote of the month : Asks the website in a February 13 posting, “Which bad boy rap megastar enjoys a public reputation as a womaniser [sic] but is secretly dating his bodyguard? He makes sure that he has a constant supply of beards, and also orders his stylist to make his wardrobe ‘as straight as possible.’”

Richard Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill can be read locally in Hour magazine as well as on the web at