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A rundown of recent queer headlines

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Once again there’s a surfeit of timely stories, so this week’s Queermonton is a rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good
People always claim that Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto have more queer culture than Edmonton, but until recently we also stood in the shadow of Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg and even Regina. Each of these cities hosts its own queer film festival: Regina’s has been around for 20 years! But starting next month, Edmonton can hold its head high. That’s right: we are getting our very own official queer film festival. (And before you write that angry letter, I know there have been one-off mini film festivals in the city before, but to my knowledge this is the first intentional full film festival.) Running from October 15 to 18, Rainbow Visions will feature four days of queer films, plus an appearance by Bruce LaBruce. The festival is put on by the same folks who do Northwestfest (formerly Global Visions) and promises to be a good time. For more information, tickets and/or to volunteer, go to rainbowvisions.ca.

The Bad
It’s not just our new film festival that’s putting Edmonton on the map: making headlines again is the ongoing inability of the Edmonton Catholic School Board to demonstrate basic human decency (dare I say it’s Christian duty) towards one of its trans* students. You may recall a few months ago when the mother of a young trans* girl fought the school board after it refused to let the student use the girls’ washroom. Last week, the board dissolved into a shouting match over a proposed inclusivity policy for trans* students. Trustee Larry Kowalczyk went so far as to say, “I see [being trans*] as a mental disorder, my faith sees it as a mental disorder.” It was a disgusting statement from a meeting that was apparently full of them.

Instead of rehashing my anger over all of this, let me say instead: Kowalczyk is right, in a way. As far as I can tell, the Catholic Church regards trans* people as being mentally ill, and I suppose that’s his Charter-protected right. However, I find it shocking that we have a publicly funded school system that is not only religious but also doesn’t acknowledge the basic human rights of all its students. One of these days, gender identity and expression will be added to the Charter and at that point I think we need to have a serious conversation about whether tax-dollars should support a system that will be in direct violation of the Charter. I understand the historical reasons for the two school boards, but you would be hard-pressed to find evidence that Roman Catholics are an oppressed minority who deserve special attention in contemporary Alberta.

The Ugly
I’m ambivalent about corporations jumping on the rainbow bandwagon. On the one hand, I am glad that they can draw attention and funds to queer projects. On the other, I don’t think our communities are a lifestyle commodity that can be sold or used to bolster a company’s image. Case in point: Doritos has released a limited-edition rainbow “flavour” in support of the It Gets Better Project. From a purely esthetic sense, I suppose it makes sense: Doritos are already a lurid orange, so why not add purple, blue and green? But here’s my real question: will they stain your lips purple, or will all the colours combine and leave you with muddy brown Doritos dust on your mouth, and regret in your heart and intestine? Taste the rainbow, indeed. (Sadly, these will only be available south of the border.) V

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