Just Married

We love it!

our world!

Now here's the rule book

The Real World blesses homosexual matrimony
-- in the name of "social stability"





No dear: just Joe & Kev
Doing "domestic" schtick
for TV crews -- as "homosexuals in their natural habitat."

"Their names are Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa. Next month, they plan to walk down the aisle and into Canadian history. They expect to be the first gay couple in this country to be legally married. Many believe such a trip to the altar is long overdue, that it's simply the next step in the long struggle by gays and lesbians to have their relationships recognized in law. But others see it differently.... We'll be following Joe and Kevin as they prepare to be legally wed forever and always."

Alison Smith, CBC national news, December 8, 2000

"Leaving all the gay-marriage stuff to one side, this book provides a wealth of literate and sensitive insights into the 15-minute variety of fame and its effects on those caught up by it."

Bert Archer: "Gaily to the altar," The Globe and Mail, May 25, 2002,
a review of Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights
by Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

"Two gay couples make history," a page-1 Toronto Star headline informed us on January 15, 2001. With reporters from "some 80 media outlets," Xtra! reported, including "film crews from as far away as Germany and Japan," Kevin and Joe (Anne and Elaine Vautour too) had been joined in holy and, they hoped, legal wedlock by the Reverend Brent Hawkes at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.

"Gay vows covered like a royal wedding," said the Star. As they were meant to be. MCCT's media coordinator Brad Salavich had been quoted a month before: "We're actually taking out some of the pews to enlarge the media area." Even by then, Brent Hawkes glowed: "The media attention has been overwhelming."

It continued well beyond: in 2002 Doubleday Canada decided it was worth a book of the most salable sort: a "first-hand account" by two stars of the show. Or, as Bert Archer put it in his review of their book, Reverend Hawkes's volunteer "lab rats."

Like any royal wedding of the TV age, this was a media event elaborately staged. Even, perhaps especially, the "behind the scene" scenes. Getting ready for their first TV-crew home invasion, Joe Varnell writes: "We were going to be exactly what the CBC wanted, 'homosexuals in their natural habitat.'"

The crew was here, [producer Alison] Hancock explained, to capture some background material that would be edited and combined with an interview.... Alison, with her soft British accent and no-nonsense manner, reminded me of Mary Poppins. Somehow I felt that everything would run like clockwork and all would come right if we only behaved like good children and did as nanny said.

The cameraman asked what I would be cooking on national TV. ... I muttered something about "stir-fry" and pointed to the counter, where some of the chopped ingredients lay waiting for their close-up. We had chosen stir-fry because we thought the various colors would show nicely on the screen. ... Usually, Kevin entertains guests while I prepare food. Later we switch, and I entertain while he cleans. ...

"Just act naturally," one of the documentary crew said from behind the blinding glare of the camera lights. "Pretend we aren't here."

Mercifully, after about ten minutes of watching us pretend to eat, the cameraman said that he had enough footage, and we dropped our forks in unison. We tried to apologize for our poor conversation, but Alison smiled and assured us that it was fine. She said that everyone found it difficult to behave naturally when they were on camera.

Next, she said she would like to see us doing something else "domestic." Kevin suggested backgammon, but Alison wanted something more personal. Finally, we hit on the idea of us wrapping Christmas presents together ... something we had never done before.

Watching TV, many of us are smart enough to know that what we are seeing is a set-up. Especially if we have ever been on TV as "news." Or better yet, like Kev and Joe in their "natural habitat," as that avidly sought "background" for news: the "human interest" angle.

We are meant by the media, as they were told, to "pretend we're not here." But media crews, even doing "documentary," are inevitable players in what they show us. In fact, they create what we get to see: virtual "reality" -- carefully staged to look like the "real world" that "we" all "know."

Virtual reality becomes the only reality we are supposed to know. More "shocking" realities are reported to remind us just how lucky we are -- thanks to the powers that "serve and protect" -- to have such safe, normal lives. In this alone (not to mention much else) the media are active agents of the status quo.

Kevin and Joe were cast to fit that "reality." Consciously cast -- by forces behind the scenes of even those "behind the scenes" TV scenes. In real royal weddings, the bride and groom are preordained. This time the bride and bride and groom and groom were recruited, to suit political purpose. (Which, in fact, makes these weddings much like marriages throughout history, royal or not.)

This media-floodlit march to the altar had begun in 1999, on a train. The future newlyweds were not among its passengers. Wedding planners were: Doug Elliott and Martha McCarthy, lawyers heading back to Toronto from Kingston, and Evan Wolfson, senior staff attorney and director of the Marriage Project at the US Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Kevin and Joe identify McCarthy as the lawyer "who had successfully defended lesbian and gay civil rights in the Supreme Court of Canada." (In the case of M v H. The boys never say it was all about palimony: a lesbian suing her ex for support. The couple had already settled out of court; Martha pushed on to set a precedent, her "success" winning all of us, as it was said, "the right to make the big pay out.")

"On the train," Joe and Kevin tell us, "the three mapped out strategies for what they hoped would be a coordinated campaign for gay marriage in Canada. One hurdle, they knew, was that the gay community was fragmented, with no clear leadership for a national strategy."

Elliott and McCarthy, with lawyer Kathy Lahey, had been at a conference on the legal recognition of relationships, there to fend off "the threat posed by RDPs [Registered Domestic Partnerships] as a replacement to gay marriage." It was Lahey who had first suggested that Elliott, hoping to back an MCCT bid to challenge the gay marriage ban, look into the banns: an ancient Christian rite still embedded in law. "Publication of the banns" at three services just prior to a wedding apparently made it legal.

"I think it's a delicious irony," Elliott would say, "to use traditional Christianity, that has so often been a foe of gay and lesbian rights, as a weapon to advance equality." They had a potential strategy. But, as Kevin and Joe say, a question remained: "who exactly was going to get married?"

Banned by the banns
Picking & choosing "traditions"

"Gay unions are in the news, but if those concerned really believe in ancient Christian traditions, they cannot pick and choose certain of those traditions while ignoring the others.

"As far as publishing the banns of marriage is concerned, the banns go with one man and one woman, no adultery, and the intention and feasibility of bringing forth children. When the banns are taken out of context, they are not banns at all.

"Gay fidelity may be, and is, praiseworthy, but there is no just cause for calling it holy matrimony."

Letter from J W Beaton,
Woodbridge, Ontario,
The Globe and Mail,
Jan 16, 2001

"Traditional Christianity" would set limits on their casting. In early 2000 Martha McCarthy got behind perennial poster boy Michael Leshner's bid to get a licence to marry his boyfriend. The media lapped it up. Brent Hawkes, reluctant at first, jumped on the bandwagon, asking Doug Elliott to represent the MCCT as an intervenor in that case -- then to get busy on the banns.

Brent had willing couples lined up. But one of each had been divorced. Oops: that's banned by the banns. Scanning his congregation for "couples with some maturity and demonstrated commitment," conscious that they "would be not only representing the church" but also "the gay and lesbian community," he settled on those already joined by him in holy union.

On December 3, 2000, after MCCT deacon Elaine Vautour and partner Anne (who had taken her name the summer before) said yes, Brent announced that a gay-male couple would be married as well. Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, surfing channels a few nights later, heard Brent's promise on a TV talk show.

On the morning of December 7, Kevin got a call at work, surprised to hear Reverend Hawkes's voice. "Would you and Joe like to get married?" The date had already been set; he needed an answer that afternoon: a CBC crew was lined up to interview them -- that night, at home -- if they said yes. They did.

"Your names," Brent had said, "will be in the news." They were. For ages. Watching themselves on the news the next night (both yelling "exactly the same thing: 'We look so fat!'"), the boys were surprised to hear Alison Smith's sweet line: "We'll be following Joe and Kevin over the next few weeks." It would turn out much longer. And it would change their lives.

The morning [December 10, first reading of the banns; the CBC after "some 'natural' footage, as if 8:30 a.m. ever happened at our house on Sundays"] was filled with things that were fast becoming familiar. The same black microphones clipped to our collars, the same questions and the same answers. Then it was off to the kitchen, where we played a scene right of out of Leave It to Beaver. Kevin, looking rather fatherly, peeped over the top of the New York Times at his paramour preparing French toast and squeezing fresh orange juice.

Two days later, up early again for a photo shoot at MCCT for the national magazine Maclean's, Joe got from Kev: "Is that what you're wearing? You can't wear that for the photo." [A shirt and pair of Dockers picked "at random from our closet."] Joe said he'd change before they met later at church. "But," his paramour shot back, "I won't know what to wear until I know what you're going to wear."

"The storm that had been looming in Kevin's voice broke. 'It matters to me what you wear! ... Don't you understand how big this thing is getting? ... This seems to be an ongoing news story, and it's happening all over the world. I need you to start realizing the scope of what we're involved in and to let me know whether I can count on you to help keep us organized. If I can, great. If I can't, then I need to know now so I won't depend on you, and I'll make plans accordingly.'"

"Who was that person?" Joe asked himself when Kevin left. "He had looked so much like the man I was in love with, but he made me feel ... small." How they looked "all over the world" had come to mean more than how they looked to each other.

"For almost a week," Joe wrote, "I had done nothing but prepare for the media. I had cooked, cleaned, posed, sat still, walked, and talked on cue. I had opened my life to scrutiny and judgment, but I didn't think I had surrendered complete control. ... For the first time I thought, 'I don't want to do this.'"

But he did. Kevin too. They would find themselves co-stars of a show more aptly called Leave It to Brent. Or The Reverend Father Knows Best.


Rehearsing reality
"Even the wedding rehearsal took place in the glare of the media spotlights as several film crews jostled to capture what one National Post reporter termed 'the city's biggest celebration of matrimony in recent memory.'" (Photo, by Ken Tong, & caption from Just Married)

"I feel like a puppet that's being moved around for the benefit of the press. Isn't this our wedding? ... Christ, we're just actors who've been told to say our lines and not bump into the furniture!"

"Gay pastor 'Called to Lead People to Freedom.'" That headline on the December 17, 2000 Sunday Star took Kevin and Joe, again, by surprise. A quote from Brent Hawkes in bold print below made it, for them, not a happy one: "I don't know what will happen if [the province] refuses to register the marriages. It may be time for civil disobedience again."
We had been carefully managing to avoid confrontation, to express respect, and to be optimistic about the possibility of due process delivering justice. Then we wake up to prepare for our second reading of the banns and we find a lead story in a major paper saying, "To the barricades!"

"In my early days, as minister of the MCC," Brent said, "I was very radical in my civil disobedience actions. Over the past few years, as the church has grown, I've become more and more a senior pastor, a CEO.... I've been a lot quieter, behind the scenes, influencing a number of situations."

Kevin and Joe did not risk a radical call to the barricades. Just repeated calls "behind the scenes" for "a few suggestions" -- a phrase they'd hear often -- on how best not to scare the horses. They were to remain "respectable" foils for Brent's dire warning: if the state refuses these two nice boys (and girls), it better get set for some drama.

"Few words have the power," Joe Varnell wrote, "to generate foreboding like the phrase 'a few suggestions.'" The first was about those licences the province might refuse, with spaces to say who was "Bride," who "Bridegroom." Fear not: Brent had decided that all MCCT bann-based marriages would "systematically" evade gender bias -- alphabetically, by first name. Anne and Joe were thus deemed grooms, Elaine and Kevin became brides.

Then: the vows. Both couples had written their own. So had Brent. "They were nice words that expressed a noble and loving sentiment, but they were not our words. As I looked up, Brent answered the question none of us had asked."

"We are standardizing the vow. Everyone will read the same vow, and then they will have the option of saying additional words to each other. We've had people wanting to put all sorts of strange things in their vows."

Anne and Elaine opted for additional words. Kevin said: "I'm not going to stand at the front and say two sets of vows. If we have to say the standard vow, then that's all we'll say." The next suggestion, Joe says, "became my personal battle against what was becoming a 'no-name' wedding."

I had asked for the inclusion of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 ("Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments"). Reverend Hawkes asked if we would consider making the language gender neutral by changing "no man" in the last line ("nor no man ever loved") to "no one," and he wondered whether we couldn't modernize the language, the way the church sometimes does with verses from Scripture, to make it more accessible to the congregation.

Joe, who had "studied the Elizabethan poets," stood firm on rewriting Shakespeare, if conceding, "grudgingly, that the meter and the meaning of the sonnet remain intact if the last line was changed to 'no one' instead of 'no man,' but if further changes were required, I recommended dropping it altogether.

"Reverend Hawkes agreed that one change would be sufficient."


To serve & protect
"A handful of protestors, some hiding behind devil masks, presented the face of opposition to equal marriage." (Photo, by Ken Tong, & caption from Just Married)

And then: "security." The church "had retained both the Toronto Police Service and a private security company" for the day of the marriage service. Brent, "sounding apologetic," told his couples "that security concerns would make it necessary to keep us separate while we were in the church." Joe asked: "Do you mean that we won't be able to see our family and friends?"
Reverend Hawkes smiled. He knew that he was asking a lot, but he wanted us to consider the problems. Having security try to sort out media from welcome guests -- and perhaps "not-so-welcome" guests -- was going to be difficult enough under the circumstances. Opening up the church for even a brief moment with our friends, he said, would make it nearly impossible to guarantee the safety of us all.

On that fateful day, Kevin wrote, "the scene outside the church looked like one of the many film sets that take over Toronto neighbourhoods." Security was tight, the Star later reporting that "police coped with a bomb threat and six protestors dressed in devil masks." He and Joe arrived in an unmarked van with tinted windows and a "guardian angel" -- "a man right out of Men in Black.... 'Stay inside until I open the door,' the driver told us. ... A couple of police officers in bulletproof vests stepped forward. 'Don't worry about your bags. They will be taken care of. Now move.'"

Inside, Rick Firth (Brent's "right hand... like everyone around he was connected to a radio network") led them by a circuitous route to a basement room, outside the door "a large man" who "was going to be our bodyguard for the day." At 2:30 he led them, with Anne and Elaine, upstairs. "Police officers seemed to be everywhere."

One said, "Good luck, guys." Another: "Everything will be just fine." It was. Brent Hawkes (if not his connubial charges) wore a bulletproof vest.

Some precautions were, of course, prudent. "This was not like any wedding before," the Toronto Sun said the next day, "all expecting the worst on this historic Sunday afternoon." But behind prudence was a force more profound: the gripping and even grimly ennobling allure of "high security" in the face of imagined threat.

Kevin and Joe recount childhoods not unlike those of many gay boys -- even Catholic gay boys, as they were -- faced with occasional harassment if not outright assault. They recall once being razzed, sitting together on a beach, by kids in a passing car.

They did not face discrimination on the job; colleagues had met their 1999 holy union with cards, gifts, and "celebratory lunches." Made wary by their sudden fame of overly attentive strangers, they found most simply wanted to wish them luck.

They were, of course, lucky. Their book's potted (and pretty good) history of gay travails includes "lethal opinions about homosexuals" leading to "physical, emotional, and spiritual assaults by children in the schoolyard, school boards, politicians and churches." It includes 21-year-old Matthew Shepard "pistol-whipped" and left to die, tied to a fence post "crucifixion-style" in Laramie, Wyoming.

This is history that all queer people carry. And it is a history that many people in Doubleday's intended market likely do not know. But it is not our entire history. Nor do we all carry it in quite the same way.

It was inside my head that I heard the shot. A single, metallic bang that would fill the sanctuary. In its echo, it would leave violent injury, maybe even death, certainly shock and horror. I couldn't visualize what the scene would be like. Whenever I tried, I pictured a tumult of color and people rushing about. But the bang I could actually hear. ...

Kevin stirred first. He switched on his bedside lamp and settled his head into my chest. ... He spoke of the bad dream and made it real. "Are you ready to die tomorrow if...?"

"A hundred times over," I managed to whisper through my tears.

That was Joe Varnell, on the eve of the wedding. This was Brent Hawkes:

I called my sister in New Brunswick, as I had done on one previous occasion. I said "I love you, I care for you," and explained what was happening. I said, "If anything happens, tell our parents that I love them." I did not tell my partner, but I was absolutely convinced, the night before, that I wouldn't make it through the next day.

The book's tale of the next morning, some five pages of getting ready to go to church to get married, is mostly about a van: "sitting across the street with its yellow taillights winking like a dragon, waiting to pounce the minute we set foot out the front door." It had "tinted windows and a driver who appeared to be waiting."

Joe saw it first. Ten minutes later it was still there. Joe saw a man get out. "I couldn't make out his face, but his gait gave the impression of youth and strength. His dark overcoat sat squarely on what looked to be a stocky form. He glanced both ways as he got out on the street side and deliberately circled the van before getting back in."

Joe wrote of that moment: "There had certainly been enough people whose hatred of gays and lesbians had found expression in no uncertain terms. We had been labelled sinner and sodomites across the continent. ... Panic rose in me. I had to tell Kevin."

They called security. It was security: their van, with their "man in black," the "guardian angel" who would get them to the church. More than on time. They had gone from the cuddly domestic security of Leave It to Beaver '50s America to rescue by "security" in a flag-waving post-"9/11" episode of The West Wing.

And that, surely, is the Real World.

Brent Hawkes had cast his couples to represent "the gay and lesbian community." They were not always so sure. "My biggest concern," Kevin Bourassa wrote, "was to avoid being portrayed as role models or representatives." "Would the media be as positive when it discovered I worked on Bay Street? I wasn't exactly the picture of the downtrodden."

Kevin worked as "a director of process management" at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Joe in "web development" for Sony. They offer hints of their presumably normal "lifestyle" with no more qualms than Ward and June Cleaver sitting down to family dinner with Wally and the Beav. Dressed for a night out at a supper club.

Their 1999 holy union had been followed by a "two-week honeymoon" at a "luxury hotel in London." Their wedding tuxes were made by a tailor who "could claim the moguls of Canada among his clients." For his wedding haircut Kevin went to Carmen, his barber for 15 years, catering to "the bankers and lawyers of the financial district."

On bann-reading Sundays, it became routine to celebrate at home with champagne. They offered TV crews "the obligatory filler shots: the domestic normalcy of a middle- class couple with a great art collection." The house, we learn, had a burglar alarm.

Would the media be positive? My dear! It was perfect. They ate it up.

If not "role models," the Bourassa-Varnells were surely "spokespersons," that favourite creature of pack journalists ever tapping the same few to "represent" some odd and mysterious "community." And who, as Kevin and Joe quote Ian Taylor's Media Speak, become "for however brief a moment, an icon." They -- and with them gay marriage -- were cast as reassuring icons of "normalcy."

Far from undermining the family, gay marriage would extend the benefits of family life to an excluded part of the population. If married gays and lesbians are anything like their heterosexual counterparts, they will be happier, healthier, and more content. Despite all the changes it has gone through over the years, the essence of marriage remains what it has always been: commitment.

"The case for gay marriage" (editorial), The Globe and Mail, December 6, 2000

If homosexual partnerships are a permanent fixture of our society, and they are, our entire society benefits if these relationships are as stable as possible. We don't need a revolution for this to happen. We need only tolerant and wise leadership.

Editorial, The Kitchener Waterloo Record, January 16, 2001

Even commentators critical of marriage were led by hopeful gay couples to revise their view of that failing institution. "Who needs marriage anyway?" Margaret Wente asked in The Globe on January 16, 2001. "Everyone knows that the benefits of marriage disproportionately flow to men." It hasn't been so hot for women.

Or so she'd thought -- until she found Linda Waite's The Case for Marriage. "It has been widely panned as a neocon screed dressed up with dubious statistics. Actually, it makes quite a bit of sense."

Dr. Waite argues that married women lead longer, happier, healthier, less depressed, more affluent lives than single women do. ... "You'll be richer," she says. "Getting a lifelong, permanent economic partner makes you much better off financially in a variety of ways."

The papers are full of commentary pointing out that gay marriage, far from being a radical act, is a profoundly conservative one. The institution of marriage promotes responsibility and stability, thus raising our general moral tone, to say nothing of property values.

Lysiane Gagnon, in a September 2002 "Inside Quebec" column in The Globe, wrote of "The marrying kind" even in the home of freewheeling joie de vivre. "One of my friends is getting married this month. She and her fiancé have been living together for 10 years. He has three grown-up children and she's in her 50s, so they're certainly not getting married to build a family.

"So what's the point of marriage? 'It's a matter of social recognition,' she says. 'We're happy together, we want the world to know.'"

This is why gays and lesbians yearn for the right to marry -- because this would be the ultimate symbol of public acceptance, the sign that their sexual orientation is considered as honourable as the majority one. ... What's missing [in Quebec civil union] is the brand name, the symbolic charge of the word. ... Many gay people never go near a gay bar; they hate the garish, oversexualized exhibitionism of Gay Pride parades; they have a thoroughly conservative lifestyle based on stable relationships. They are the ones who would eventually like to get married.

"This will happen eventually," Ms Gagnon says, echoing a January 2001Globe and Mail editorial castigating the Liberals for "The ugly politics of gay marriage."

The legalization of gay marriage is inevitable. ... Polls show that more than half of Canadians already support it. ... Whether it's in one year, in five years or in 10, gay marriage is coming. If they really believe they are the party of tolerance, the Liberals will do the right thing and get out of the way.

Not a few citizens and the lives we have made may also have to get out of the way. Just Married reminds us that "columnists went further in their views, some imagining that marriage would transform gay sexual practice." Kevin and Joe quoted Donna Laframboise in the National Post, just the day after they married:

There's something to the argument that the promiscuous lifestyle embraced by many homosexuals, with its attendant health risks, is a direct result of society's refusal to provide these people with socially approved outlets heterosexuals have long enjoyed. ...

Should they be able to marry before God and the community? Should they be entitled to pledge to love and honour one another -- for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do them part? Yes. Anyone interested in social stability should welcome them into the fold.

They neglected to cite one of her supporting arguments:

A community in which people continually sleep around is a community in which there is a lot of conflict. In heterosexual relationships, men who arrive home to find someone else in bed with their wives often commit murder in jealous rage.

As I wrote at the time: "That we may be promiscuous out of free will and desire; that it has liberated many of us from the need for 'socially approved outlets' and the risks of 'jealous rage' (tarring us with their brush!) -- all that has faded from modern liberal discourse. Even, and especially, 'gay' discourse."

The future? The past

"The easiest way of all for the liberal to deal with the intractable otherness of homosexuals, and one which requires the minimum of reorientation, is to reduce everything to the level of prejudice or discrimination.
Then, confident that these twin evils have been uprooted, the heterosexual can continue to live happily in a world totally indifferent to the needs of gay people."

Andrew Hodges & David Hutter
With Downcast Gays, 1974

For more, see "Acceptance"
Myth  popularity

Gay marriage mavens, ever on about "choice," eagerly assure the rest of us that their choices need not be ours. But their eager embrace by the Real World in the name of "social stability" pushes us toward a world where freedom to choose lives not "socially approved" will be -- with "gay" consent -- even more restricted.

As With Downcast Gays predicted in 1974: "The liberal conscience will be clear, but we shall still find ourselves living in a foreign land in which every social institution has been devised for a life-style alien to our own." And every social perception too -- however ill-fit to realties beyond "jealous rage."

Joe was quoted in Maclean's: "This is about breaking down barriers that divide people, showing that there's not that much difference between us." Kevin, picking up on a Globe editorial beginning "Homosexuals are equal members of society; entitled to the same rights as anyone else," cited as a sign of social acceptance the many corporations offering same-sex spousal benefits:

That wasn't done because it was a moral obligation. It happened because to do so made good business sense. Corporations need access to a diverse and happy employee pool. In turn, happy employees lead to happy customers, generating a good return for investors.

"Many gay people," they write near the end of Just Married, "don't live in 'ghettos' and 'villages' that exist in larger cities, and they don't know what a bathhouse looks like. ... A lot of these people don't see themselves reflected in the carnival pictures of most Pride parades. ... Such characterizations rob gays and lesbians of their diverse lives -- the same lives heterosexual people live."

Dull muffins?
For my media-inspired
characterization, see:

Angels: Twelve Episodes

Just Married

Sharp cookies
Lessons perhaps too well learned:
Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights
(Doubleday Canada, 2002)

For Kevin & Joe's own ongoing online agit-prop, see:
Equal Marriage
for Same-sex Couples


For coverage of their story to date in Xtra!'s ongoing in-print "news" agit-prop (& some "editorial" reservations) see:
Xtra!... Two solitudes
leading to a detailed chronology:
Only disconnect

"Some in the gay community," the boys admit, "fear that their identity will be lost or threatened by integration into straight society." They quote gay-lib dinosaur Gerald Hannon, writing "almost wistfully" in the local weekly Now, on "a culture of uncertainly, fluidity, experiment. Or, as a friend of mine put it, 'serendipity, varied connections, random affections, promiscuity, magical sex, beautiful boys.'"

Kev and Joe follow that right away with: "And who better to represent such an ideal than porn stars?" A commentator in the National Post had wondered aloud if two then here on tour might better "measure up" as a "gay role model" than "a bank manager and computer guy who said 'I do' in a Christian ceremony last Sunday."

Gerald's "friend of mine" was I; we share a world of thought without copyright. That line he quoted had led to one more wonder of gay life: "Angels." Mortal ones, flesh and blood. If not "porn stars." But turn-around, even if not knowingly aimed, is fair play: in "Angels" I'd cast Kevin and Joe, on the media's lead, as "dull muffins."

I now see I was wrong. Television, as they fretted, may add ten pounds. But, if media muffins, they are not dull-witted. Their book proves them pretty sharp cookies.

They might have been, as we've seen, any couple "acceptable" enough to make Brent Hawkes's cut as representative of "the gay and lesbian community." But I'm glad it was Kevin and Joe: smart enough to offer us, as Bert Archer said, "a wealth of literate and sensitive insights into the 15-minute variety of fame."

This is Joe, at home with the media after Reverend Ken Campbell, perennial gadfly, had shown up at MCC to condemn a reading of the banns as "lawless" and "godless."

While Andy, the cameraman, wandered around the house, we chatted amiably with the producer about some of our experiences. Kevin began to talk eloquently about how hurtful it had been to be confronted by opposition to our lives in our place of worship. The crew's eyes began to glow with the glint of the wolf pack that had caught a scent -- the unmistakable whiff of human drama, emotional recrimination, and backlash. Mentally, I could see them uttering consolatory phrases, while helping Kevin to a chair, and glancing at each other to make certain that they were getting it all on film.

"Hold that thought," they seemed to say, "until tomorrow."

Kevin and Joe, reluctant media subjects -- and often reluctant acolytes to a master of maudlin, media-savvy sentiment -- learned fast. They held that thought long enough to give their book more than a whiff of "human drama." And they learned how to make a play for more than 15 minutes. They got a new tailor. They bought their own makeup. They got an agent at Westwood Creative Artists. She got them Doubleday. And, as their website tells, they took their show on the road.

They did not get their marriage licence. Or not yet. Joining other Ontario couples also refused licences, they went to court. In July 2002 they won. For the moment: the feds appealed. The case will go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell are no longer just "Rev Hawkes's lab rats." They now help run the lab. Its sacrificial subjects are the rest of us, whether cast as nice white mice or cute cuddly bunnies. Or "wistful" if sex-crazed black sheep.




Go on to:
Paying  the price
Some of us paying more than others
Demanding the same respectable rights; willfully dismissing social wrongs

Or go back to:
Rebels  with a cause -- & a cause without rebels
(Culture Wars: Contents page)
Beyond  dither?  (Xtra!'s "Shotgun Wedding"?)
Ideas  in play  (Main contents page)
Gay marriage? Wrong question  (Lead page)

My home page

This page: http://www.rbebout.com/getfree/ourworld.htm
December 2002 / Last revised: February 12, 2003
Rick Bébout © 2002 / 2003 / rick@rbebout.com