Joel, from the Other London

Back in Seattle, when we were on the Jef St. De Lore Show, Joel called from his home in London to say how much YGA had helped him out. It really made our day and he’s been an awesome friend for a while so it was special for us to finally meet him in person as we passed thru London on our way to Michigan.

He gave us a quick tour of his school, the University of Western Ontario, drove us around London a bit, and even introduced us to Professor James Miller, whose Pride Library is a Canadian gay landmark (see next article.)

Joel, we didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked to in London, but we promise we’ll come back! Thank you so much for the Turtles and the JellyBelly’s. You’re the best!!

YGA: So everyone knows Toronto’s a very gay-friendly place. It’s like Canada’s New York City. But what about London?

JOEL: It’s funny cuz London is actually bigger in land mass than Toronto.

YGA: Really.

JOEL: So when I came here I thought it’d be like gay people everywhere, like you’d go to the mall and you’d see gay people everywhere. But they’re way more hidden here. London’s a very conservative city. Anytime I go to Toronto to a concert or something I see people making out in the audience and stuff. But when I get back here, it’s nothing like that.

(we’re driving thru downtown London, checkin out the people on the streets)

YGA: There’ve been like three gay boys on the streets so far in the last ten minutes.

 Yea, maybe, but it’s still nothin like Toronto. Diane Haskett has a lot to do with it. She’s a very vocally homophobic mayor who was just elected. She flat-out refuses to support gay rights things. The pride parade committee invited her to be in the parade, for example, and she refused.

YGA: That’s sad.

JOEL: Yep. It’s funny because I’m from Chatham, about an hour away West of here, and we just had our first pride week this year. City Hall took the Canadian flags down and put up rainbow flags. We also have a city picnic in the park every year and the gays and lesbians were invoted to come share in the picnic. In a lot of ways Chatham’s a lot more accepting than London. Yet, I don’t have any gay friends up there. No one from my high school is really out.

YGA: What are some London claims to fame?

JOEL: Lessee.. David from Queer as Folk, the doctor, is from here, originally! And also they say London is the most diverse city in Canada. A lot of companies test their new items here. McDonalds tries out its new menus here.

YGA: The most diverse, huh.

JOEL: I think it’s that the races and groups are more integrated here. In Toronto you have Chinatown. Here you have a Greek restaurant right next to an Italian restaurant.

YGA: I see.

JOEL: And London has the best university in the world.. Western. University of Western Ontario.

YGA: What about nightlife? Do you go out to bars or clubs in London?

JOEL: We go to GT’s on Thursday nights. It’s a straight bar, but it’s pretty fun. The gay bars in town absolutely blow. Everybody knows everybody else, it’s a big soap opera production. I don’t like it. I go to a lot of str8 bars; I have a lot of str8 friends.

(we pass by a nice-looking and busy café on the corner of a downtown street)

JOEL: That’s Plantation coffeehouse. If you walk by and look in the windows you’ll see lots of guys sitting together. There’s Ceeps, and Barney’s.. they’re the best-known bars in town.

 London seems REALLY spread-out. How do you get around?

JOEL: Bus, usually.

(we enter Western’s campus)

YGA: Huge campus!

JOEL: They say that Western is like a city inside a city.

 When you first emailed us a while ago, you were pretty much in the closet right?

JOEL: Yea.

YGA: And that was a year ago?

JOEL: October, maybe more than that…

YGA: Your roommate didn’t know. Your parents didn’t know.

JOEL: Well, all that changed as of February 3rd. I went home for the weekend. Got home on Friday, told ‘em on Saturday, left Sunday.

YGA: How’d it go?

JOEL: Not too bad. My dad was very quiet. My mom said she always knew but never wanted to ask. She actually apologized for not asking. I said, oh mom don’t do that…. Here we are!

(we park and go on a walking tour of Western’s campus, stopping to check out the swim-team practicing)

YGA: So where do you meet other people here in London?

JOEL: The only way I meet people is thru the internet, which I don’t feel that great about. I wouldn’t want someone to say “how’d you meet your boyfriend” and say “the NET!”.

YGA: Why not?

JOEL: I dunno. It just sounds dirty. There’s nothing wrong with it or anything, just that there’s a stigma. It sucks, actually. I mean, if it was easy to meet people in high school, or even in college, then you wouldn’t need the ‘Net. But unfortunately you do. People ask me why I go online and I say its because there’s NO other place I can go to meet other gay youth.

(we go check out the fabulous Pride Library and meet Professor Miller. Afterwards, in an awesome surprise, Joel gives us a present: some lottery tickets, a bag of jellybelly’s, and turtles candies.)

YGA: Thank you so much Joel this is so awesome.

JOEL: You guys have done so much for me, it’s the least I can do.

YGA: OK but you better take these lottery tickets cuz we’re not going to be in Ontario much longer.

JOEL: Well scratch em off right now then! You can redeem ‘em at a corner store on your way out of town.

YGA: Ok. (scratch, scratch…scratch) how the hell does this thing work I can never figure these things out…!

JOEL: Pick a new square.. it’s like Bingo.. I25… pick randomly… there. OMIGOD! You just won $10,000!

YGA: No way.

JOEL: OK, no, it’s just $5. But it’s a start.

YGA: Thanks, Joel.. we love you!

JOEL: You too guys.

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