University of Toronto Press Blog

  • Decriminalization According to Whom? Reflections on the Recriminalization of Homosexuality in 1969


    A demonstrator is arrested at protests against bathhouse raids in Toronto, June 1981.

    The Arquives: Canada's LGBTQ2+ Archives

    Written by guest blogger Tom Hooper.

    As a historian studying the Toronto bathhouse raids, one of my first research questions was about the criminal code reform in 1969. How could so many people be arrested in the decades that followed the ‘decriminalization’ of homosexuality in Canada? This special edition of the Canadian Historical Review provided an opportunity to explore the 1969 reform in greater detail.

    What I found is that the law reform did not match any common definition of the term “decriminalization.” No laws were repealed, gay sex remained a criminal code offense, and the number of people who faced charges increased. This included the innovative use of the bawdy house law against gay bathhouses, but also the continued use of the very provisions that were reformed in 1969. In the weeks following the 1981 bath raids, the gay liberation newsmagazine The Body Politic printed the headline, “recriminalization?”

    I resurrect this question in the hopes of revisiting the term “decriminalization.” Any celebration of reform must incorporate the ground-level interactions between LGBTQ2 people and police officers who were tasked with enforcing criminal law. When taking that perspective into account, 1969 did not represent a turning point toward equality and human rights. In addition to the community reaction to the reforms, I re-examined the debates in the House of Commons to search beyond the moral and medical rhetoric. I found members from all major political parties expressing their skepticism that the reform amounted to a decriminalization. Reactions in the media were similarly doubtful that the changes in law would have any practical effect.

    Activists in the 1970s and beyond devoted much of their resources toward fighting the continued criminalization of LGBTQ2 communities. This includes the 1971 “We Demand” protest on Parliament Hill, in which activists called for an actual decriminalization with the full repeal of gross indecency and indecent acts. Branding the reforms as “decriminalization” is part of a deeper process of homonationalism, in which the struggles of queer people both before and after 1969 get erased. Progress in both legal and social transformation is not credited to these struggles. Instead, it is a celebration of Pierre Trudeau and the policies of the Liberal Party.

    I am honoured to be joined in this special edition by other authors taking a critical perspective of Pierre Trudeau’s “Just Society.” Katrina Ackerman and Shannon Stettner examine the provisions in the criminal code regulating abortion, they argue these changes were so limited that it did not change women’s ability to access these services. Marcel Martel similarly argue that the Official Languages Act was not a turning point. Sarah Nickel examines the 1969 White Paper, which called for the destruction of indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights. The idea that these policies would end marginalization or promote equality represents a setter-oriented framework of justice.

    Tom Hooper is a historian of the Toronto bathhouse raids. He is contract faculty in the Law and Society Program at York University. He has appeared before parliamentary committees in both the Senate and House of Commons on matters related to the criminalization of LGBTQ2 people in Canada. His article “Queering ’69: The Recriminalization of Homosexuality in Canada” is available free to read for a limited time on CHR Online.

  • Pride Month: Course Syllabi Featuring UTP Titles

    Pride Month

    To celebrate Pride Month, we have developed a blog series with weekly posts, designed to allow UTP authors the opportunity to share with us what Pride means to them, and to discuss a whole manner of Pride-related topics.

    This week we’re showcasing UTP books that have made their way onto recent course syllabi. Read on to see how our books are used in undergraduate classroom across North America.


    Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985

    Prairie Fairies draws upon a wealth of oral, archival, and cultural histories to recover the experiences of queer urban and rural people in the prairies. Focusing on five major urban centres (Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary), Prairie Fairies explores the regional experiences and activism of queer men and women by looking at the community centres, newsletters, magazines, and organizations that they created from 1930 to 1985.

    • Winner of the CHA 2019 Clio Prairies Book Award
    • Winner of the Jennifer Welsh Scholarly Writing Award (Saskatchewan Book Awards)

     

    Course

    Canadian Women’s and Gender History (HI 397), Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford, ON

    Professor Tarah Brookfield lists Prairie Fairies as one out of three options for a book review assignment.

    “This course explores the history of Canadian women from the colonial period until the end of the twentieth century. It compares women’s diverse historic experiences in the workplace, family, community, and nation, and how women’s and men’s identities and paths were shaped by social constructions of gender, race, sexuality, and class. The course also considers how historians have developed the field of women’s and gender history and how this has reshaped understandings of Canadian history.”


    Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto

    Queering Urban Justice foregrounds visions of urban justice that are critical of racial and colonial capitalism, and asks: What would it mean to map space in ways that address very real histories of displacement and erasure? What would it mean to regard Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) as geographic subjects who model different ways of inhabiting and sharing space?

    Course

    Urban Politics (PO 412), John Carroll University, University Heights, OH

    Professor Elizabeth A. Stiles recommends Queering Urban Justice to students in this course.

    “Most Americans live in metropolitan areas—either in a city or in a suburb based in relation to a city. The city is often the background for the American dream as opportunities for social mobility and wealth are present there. It is also the site for some of our sharpest failures as a nation—rising inequality, urban riots, and environmental problems. In this course, we will begin with various theories and evidence about urban politics and their surrounding suburbs. We will then analyze links between urban institutions and national politics, as well as issues of race, class, health disparities, and environmental issues.”


    Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis

    Liberated, licentious, or merely liberal, the sexual freedoms of Germany’s Weimar Republic have become legendary. The home of the world’s first gay rights movement, the republic embodied a progressive, secular vision of sexual liberation. Sex and the Weimar Republic examines the rise of sexual tolerance through the debates which surrounded “immoral” sexuality: obscenity, male homosexuality, lesbianism, transgender identity, heterosexual promiscuity, and prostitution.

    Course

    Modern German History – The Weimar Years (HIST 196G), University of California, Santa Cruz, CA

    Professor Edward Kehler teaches this course and each week students are asked to discuss a particular reading. In Week 7, students focus on Sex and the Weimar Republic.

    “The class is designed as a small-group discussion course providing a broad overview of some of the major historiographical debates concerning the Weimar period. Through the readings we will analyze modern Germany’s experiment with democracy and its failure. Subjects of study will include the foundation and development of the Weimar Republic, the political and economic challenges it faced, and its ultimate collapse. Aspects of Weimar culture, including gender politics and homosexual emancipation, and the factors that enabled Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power will also be covered in depth.”


    Consider adding these titles to your course syllabi:

    VIVA M•A•C: AIDS, Fashion, and the Philanthropic Practices of M•A•C Cosmetics

    The first cultural history of the iconic brand M·A·C Cosmetics, VIVA M·A·C charts the evolution of M·A·C’s revolutionary corporate philanthropy around HIV/AIDS awareness. Drawing upon exclusive interviews with M·A·C co-founder Frank Toskan, key journalists, and fashion insiders, Andrea Benoit tells the fascinating story of how M·A·C’s unique style of corporate social responsibility emerged from specific cultural practices, rather than being part of a strategic marketing plan.


    Amplify: Graphic Narratives of Feminist Resistance

    In this highly original text—a collaboration between a college professor, a playwright, and an artist—graphic storytelling offers an emotionally resonant way for readers to understand and engage with feminism and resistance.

    "This is the book for you if you have ever struggled to reconcile the academic, artistic, and activist sides of yourself: it combines feminist analysis and history with compelling discussion questions and striking illustrations of recent political struggles. This is the book for you if you are ready to learn about social justice in a fresh way that engages multiple learning styles and modes of expression: lead a class or a discussion group by showing an image, posing a debate question, reading an excerpt, or pursuing one of the research activities provided. This is the rare book that treats its readers as equals by showing us all how we can join the conversation and take up the struggle."

    Lucas Crawford, Department of English, University of New Brunswick


    Growing into Resilience: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada

    Despite recent progress in civil rights for sexual and gender minorities (SGM), ensuring SGM youth experience fairness, justice, inclusion, safety, and security in their schools and communities remains an ongoing challenge. In Growing into Resilience, André P. Grace and Kristopher Wells investigate how teachers, healthcare workers, and other professionals can help SGM youth build the human and material assets that will empower them to be happy, healthy, and resilient.


    Homophobia in the Hallways: Heterosexism and Transphobia in Canadian Catholic Schools

    In Homophobia in the Hallways, Tonya D. Callaghan interrogates institutionalized homophobia and transphobia in the publicly-funded Catholic school systems of Ontario and Alberta. Featuring twenty interviews with students and teachers who have faced overt discrimination in Catholic schools, the book blends theoretical inquiry and real-world case study, making Callaghan’s study a unique insight into religiously-inspired heterosexism and genderism. She uncovers the causes and effects of the long-standing disconnect between Canadian Catholic schools and the Charter by comparing the treatment of and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer teachers and students in these publicly-funded systems.


    Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada

    Pink Blood is the first book to analyze homophobic violence on a national scale. Douglas Victor Janoff uses social theory, legal analysis, descriptive case studies, and interviews with victims, activists, and police officers from thirty cities to convey the shattering impact this violence has had on queer Canadians and on the communities they inhabit.

    Drawing from a wide range of scholarship—law, criminology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and social work—Pink Blood is an important addition to the literature on queer life in Canada from a respected researcher and community activist.

  • Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

    June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

    To celebrate this day, we're providing an exclusive excerpt from the latest book by author John Borrows, winner of the 2019 Canada Council Molson Prize. Law’s Indigenous Ethics examines the revitalization of Indigenous peoples’ relationship to their own laws and, in so doing, attempts to enrich Canadian constitutional law more generally. Organized around the seven Anishinaabe grandmother and grandfather teachings of love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect, this book explores ethics in relation to Aboriginal issues including title, treaties, legal education, and residential schools.


    Excerpt from Law's Indigenous Ethics

    1. Zaagi’idiwin – Love
    2. Debwewin – Truth
    3. Zoongide’ewin – Bravery
    4. Dabaadendizowin – Humility
    5. Nibwaakaawin – Wisdom
    6. Gwayakwaadiziwin – Honesty
    7. Manaaji’idiwin – Respect

    The following chapters examine these gifts, each in their turn. As noted, these are the Seven Grandmother/Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabe, as made popular by Elder Eddie Benton Benai. This work discusses how these principles can apply to Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the Canadian state and those of the broader world. In so doing, this book advances an ongoing research agenda that explores the relevance of Indigenous law in contemporary legal affairs.

    The Seven Grandmother/Grandfather Teachings are found in constitutions, by-laws, teacher’s guides, school walls, books, blogs, posts, songs, stories, and other artist works across Anishinaabe-akiing (Anishinaabe territory). Reference to these teachings has greatly expanded through the last twenty-five years. I have been told that it is not really “traditional” to organize our laws in this manner; it has been said that they are “new” and therefore not really Anishinaabe. Some of these people believe that Indigenous authority can be rooted only in antiquity, thus rendering suspect any invention, interpretive reorganization, or expansion of Anishinaabe world views. Constitutional originalism has long been used to exclude or marginalize Indigenous peoples.

    I have not been able to determine the origin or longevity of the Seven Teachings. Their present arrangement may be a recent phenomenon, though I have no evidence one way or another. Fortunately, it might be advantageous to my thesis if the contemporary organization of the Seven Grandmother/Grandfather Teachings was of a recent vintage. Their use, expansion, and development across Anishinaabe-akiing might demonstrate that Indigenous law is being made, created, and invented in the present day. I have long argued that it is not necessary that every law be old to be standard-setting for present-day Anishinaabe communities. Indigenous law can be a living and dynamic force if not tethered to what is regarded as being integral to aboriginal communities prior to European contact or sovereignty. The Seven Grandmother/ Grandfather Teachings could broaden our legal imagination if they are regarded as current expressions of Indigenous authority in the modern world, regardless of whether their origin is old or new.

    As with my other books, this work examines Indigenous law through the lens of one specific group – the Anishinaabe. I consider Indigenous law from an Anishinaabe perspective because this is what I know best. I am Anishinaabe and a member of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation. I have worked with Anishinaabe law for over twenty-five years. My reserve is called Neyaashiinigmiing on the western shores of Georgian Bay, a four-hour drive north of Toronto. The Anishinaabe more generally live within the Great Lakes watershed, surrounding large parts of Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. We also occupy farmlands and woodlands north of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. We likewise have reservations/reserves in the forests and prairies of northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and southern Saskatchewan. There are even isolated Anishinaabe communities as far west as Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia. It is a big group. Anishinaabe people form part of the largest Indigenous nation in the United States and Canada, rivalling in size the Navajo, Cherokee, Cree, and Lakota nations.

    In taking this approach, I must stress that this book is not intended to be representative of all legal traditions in Canada, though I do hope it opens space for them to interact with Canadian law in their own unique ways. As I have tried to explain in my work, there are diverse viewpoints concerning law’s nature and scope within and beyond Indigenous legal orders. While I recognize the distinctiveness of each Indigenous legal regime, there is value in beginning our enquiry with a specific Indigenous lens. Ideas are presented from one group’s perspective in order to open  doors to alternative possibilities in Canadian law.

    Thus I do not write about Anishinaabe legal principles because I regard them as superior in any way; they are just as helpful and misleading as any other legal tradition across the world. I write from a particular perspective because law must flow from identifiable contexts.  At the same time, I draw more general lessons from Anishinaabe law, because Indigenous peoples’ laws (including Anishinaabe laws) must be relevant in international, national, and local settings. Other Indigenous legal orders will be just as valuable, if not more so, in facilitating resurgence and reconciliation across the land and beyond. Indigenous law grows from a place, but it cannot always be contained by that place, at least in some of its manifestations. This is the case with every legal tradition, including those indigenous to Canada. Therefore, while I use Anishinaabe ideas in this work, they must be viewed as signalling what is possible when Indigenous law interacts with Canadian law more generally.

    When analytical frames shift away from “Western” legal frames, this can help us to see law in new ways. As a result, in this book I apply Anishinaabe law – as much for what it can tell us about Western law – as for what it reveals about Anishinaabe reasoning. The constraints, biases, and preoccupations of the common law and civil law systems are somewhat diminished when relevance and justiciability do not rest on their terms. Thus, this is very much a book about “Western” law too. I have written from an Anishinaabe legal perspective to ask questions that may be less likely to occur in Canadian law without Indigenous input.

    These are questions like, How is love relevant to regulation and dispute resolution – particularly when considering treaties? What is the role of relative truth in the law – especially when considering law’s so called foundational sources and force? Is bravery a constitutional value, and can it be applied in an Aboriginal rights context? Does humility have a place in helping us understand Aboriginal title’s relationship with private property? Can wisdom be specifically invoked to require more holistic approaches to learning that take us outside the classroom and onto the land? Can honesty assist us in acknowledging Canadian law’s syncretic nature – and can this affect how we teach law? Can respect be activated to inculcate mutual responsibilities in Indigenous-settler relations – especially when residential schools and other assimilatory pressures are at issue?

    Each of the following chapters will examine these seven questions/gifts from an Anishinaabe legal perspective. Though my views of Anishinaabe law reflect the research and experience of one person (me), I have tried to analyse the tradition from many different angles. You should not regard my views as being representative of their field; many people will disagree with me or emphasize different parts of the tradition with varied intensities. This book exists as an exercise of “issue identification.” It can be considered an invitation to people who work with other legal traditions to compare their views with those expressed in this book. Perspicuous contrast and vocabularies of comparison have long motivated my Anishinaabe trickster-inflected methodologies. This book follows earlier work in this regard.

    When identifying issues, I am careful not to be overly prescriptive in linking Anishinaabe laws to the themes of each chapter (love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect). Again, I am not the authority in these matters; the practice of Anishinaabe law is a collective endeavour. I am merely offering one set of limited views on a field. Moreover, Anishinaabe legal tradition requires that I leave some space between Anishinaabe law and constitutional issues raised in each section. This might be frustrating for some readers who are looking for more specific connections between the Seven Grandmother/Grandfather laws and Canadian constitutional law. I believe these connections are strong and I have tried to weave them carefully throughout the text. Nevertheless, there are places where these connections may seem somewhat ambiguous. This methodology is nonetheless deployed because Anishinaabe approaches require readers to activate their own agency in answering the questions presented herein. It would be inappropriate at times for me to be more directive. This has been called precept ambiguity by scholars who observe Anishishaabe life. Nuance is often valued over highly specific delineations, as will be the case as issues are identified throughout this book.

    Furthermore, some of the “gaps” between Anishinaabe and Canadian law in this text illustrate the distance that still needs to be crossed in Canadian constitutional law. It is not always Indigenous law that is ambiguous. Canadian law is itself a cultural system that does not
    effectively relate to Indigenous legal approaches, and this also leads to ambiguity in how systems may be connected as they continue to develop. At the same time, I have worked to provide interpretive highlights through the text, and to identify connections and possibilities for readers to make use of the seven teachings in relation to the broader legal issues explored in each chapter.


    To read the full introduction, please click here.

    John Borrows is a world-renowned law professor at the University of Victoria. He's Anishinabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Borrows specializes in Indigenous legal rights and comparative constitutional law. He has written and spoken extensively on Indigenous legal rights and traditions, storytelling, treaties and land claims, and constitutional and environmental law. He is also widely recognized as an authority in the field of Indigenous law, and has received many honors and awards for his work with and for Indigenous peoples in many countries.

     

  • When English is not your first language

    Written by guest blogger Jessica Mayra Ferreira.

    For those whose English is not their first language, it might be a challenge to submit a manuscript and not receive the comment “needs to be reviewed by a native English speaker”. I have always considered myself as a fast learner when it comes to new languages and it wasn’t such a struggle for me to learn how to communicate in English. However, when I decided I wanted to work as a researcher starting by my Master’s degree in Brazil, I had no idea that writing well enough for scientific literature would be such a demanding task. I received the same comment above in most my manuscripts reviews, even though some of those manuscripts were previously reviewed by a native English speaker, which made the work frustrating and stressful at times.

    Following, I will present five tips that I have gathered throughout my academic work and hopefully will help not only Brazilians but also other researchers worldwide to write well in their future works.

    1. Do not start a sentence with numbers. For example:
      “1156 women were included in the study.”

      Instead, use:

      “A total of 1156 women were included in the study.”

    2. Avoid begging sentences with “the” – include it only when referring to something specific.
      “The computers are of enormous assistance in the scientific world.”

      Instead, write:

      “Computers are of enormous assistance in the scientific world.” (In this case, we are talking about computers in general, not specific ones.)

      “The research found that…” (In this case we are talking about a specific research and “the” is acceptable in the sentence.)

    3. Passive voice is well accepted and even encouraged in scientific literature:
      “The government has given little attention to the environment.”

      Instead, use:

      Little attention has been given to the environment by the government.”

    4. Do not use contractions such as “don’t” “aren’t”, “isn’t”, etc.:
      “Pregnant women shouldn’t smoke.”

      Instead, use:

      “Pregnant women should not smoke.”

    5. Avoid writing long sentences and try to simplify as much as possible. Instead of using “in order to”, use only “to”.

    I believe an extra tip would be to practice a lot! The key to do anything perfectly, or as near to perfection as possible, is to practice. Try to read English articles as much as you can and pay attention to the way it was written. Make notes on what you think it is helpful and apply them in the next manuscript you will write. Trustingly, you will receive less comments that your work “needs to be reviewed by a native English speaker”.

    Photo of author

    Jessica Mayra Ferreira is a Physiotherapist graduated in 2009 at Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Brazil, she specialized in Women's Health, with emphasis in Human Reproduction and Human Sexual Health, she did her Masters and PhD in Health Science at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. She was a visiting PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2017 under the supervision of Dr. Lori Brotto. Her latest article in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, “Analysis of 16 years of calls and emails to the Options for Sexual Health ‘Sex Sense’ information and referral service,” is free to read for a limited time here.

  • Dragging Theory

    As she gets ready to celebrate the launch of her new book, Viva MˑAˑC author Andrea Benoit talks Judith Butler, the art of drag – and looks back to that notorious VIVA GLAM ad featuring RuPaul. During the month of June, proceeds from sales of Viva M·A·C will go to Casey House, a stand-alone hospital where people with HIV/AIDS can receive compassionate care without judgment.


    Written by guest blogger Andrea Benoit.

    Image courtesy of MˑAˑC Cosmetics.

    In season 9 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drag queen Sasha Velour considered performing as philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler for the infamous Snatch Game challenge, which showcases the queens' best celebrity impersonations in a game show setting. Aside from wondering what that would look like (and we’ll really never know as Sasha decided to perform as Marlene Dietrich instead, I was struck – yet again – at the prevalence of drag and how it’s now considered in wider and more popular contexts since the 1990s, when I talk about the art of drag in my new book, Viva MˑAˑC: AIDS, Fashion, and the Philanthropic Practices of MˑAˑC Cosmetics.

    Viva MˑAˑC  is the first cultural history of the originally Canadian cosmetics brand, and uncovers the origins of the company’s corporate philanthropy around HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising. When MˑAˑC first started raising money through sales of its signature VIVA GLAM lipstick to support local AIDS organizations in 1994, AIDS was still largely a verboten subject for corporations. While many myths about AIDS were beginning to be dispelled, such as how HIV was transmitted, there was still great fear and rampant homophobia surrounding this medical condition.

    MˑAˑC chose the relatively unknown drag queen RuPaul to be its first spokesperson for VIVA GLAM and Chairperson of its new charity, the MˑAˑC AIDS Fund. In 1995, RuPaul appeared in the company’s first advertisement, a provocative image that portrayed him spelling out the letters of VIVA GLAM, including the notorious letter “M” that gloriously depicted his legs splayed wide-open. Twenty-five years later, the Fund has raised almost $500 million for AIDS organizations globally. RuPaul’s mantra of “loving yourself,” combined with his entertaining, over-the-top glamour, brought international attention to the MˑAˑC AIDS Fund, and made addressing the AIDS epidemic a bit more palatable to a mass audience. Much has changed since the 1980s and 1990s, when Viva MˑAˑC’s narrative takes place. Folks live with HIV for decades now, as it’s no longer an immediate death sentence, thanks to antiretroviral medications.

    And RuPaul is now famous. Back in early 2009, as I was beginning to outline the contours of what would eventually become my book, an intriguing new show called “RuPaul’s Drag Race” appeared on Logo TV, a niche American LGBTQ television channel. Debuting at the height of the reality television phenomenon (itself a subject of scholarly inquiry within my own field of Media Studies), RuPaul offered a completely different take, which promised to reveal “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” riffing on the then-popular “America’s Next Top Model” show to great, if unexpected, success.

    Now, Sasha Velour considering performing as Judith Butler on season 9 harkens back to Butler’s own theorizing of drag twenty-five years earlier in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity  (1990) and later in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (1993), when Viva MˑAˑCs narrative takes place. Traditionally, a drag performance is a very self-conscious presentation of gender norms, often being a hyper-stylized representation of femininity. Depending on the context, however, such performances offer potential sites for challenge, critique, and action, especially regarding the AIDS epidemic. While Butler did not really consider commercial or media contexts when she described the ways and spaces in which gender performances could be subversive in the 1990s, I argue in Viva MˑAˑC that MˑAˑC’s notorious VIVA GLAM ad featuring RuPaul should also be considered subversive: the very fact of featuring a drag queen “performing” in a beauty ad to promote awareness and fundraising for HIV/AIDS organizations was unheard-of for that time.

    We’ve now come full circle: Sasha Velour can invoke Butler, confident that many in the audience would understand the reference. Butler herself responded to Sasha (much to her delight), admiring how “radical and fierce” Sasha was but also pointing out they were both connected in a mutual project that addressed the “struggle for freedom, for self-expression, for political rights, for the ability to walk down the street without being harassed, to be able to move across borders and express one’s political desires and have a form of life in which one can live and breathe and move as one pleases."

    Drag as an art form has evolved in amazingly creative and increasingly diverse and inclusive ways, and it’s now also mainstream entertainment, drag’s underground vernacular and traditions, even its theoretical underpinnings, becoming common parlance, thanks largely to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” It’s worth remembering, though, and not just during Pride, that drag’s political and activist commitments run deep, wherever they show up: in the bar, on television, or in a lipstick ad. Viva MˑAˑC tells a little of that story.


    Andrea Benoit is the Academic Review Officer in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. She is the author of Viva MˑAˑC: AIDS, Fashion, and the Philanthropic Practices of MˑAˑC Cosmetics.

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