York professor defends sex-change funding

Recently Health Minister George Smitherman announced that Ontario would once again cover sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for that small group that is eligible, wrote Michael A. Gilbert, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, in an opinion piece for The Ottawa Citizen May 22.

In response, Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre has declared that the federal government should hold back any health fund transfers used for this purpose. Poilievre’s plan is both ill-considered and discriminatory.

Every province views gender dysphoria as a serious and legitimate psychological malady, as does the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, the book that lists and describes all mental illnesses.

Sex reassignment surgery provides relief for the small number of people in our society who are incredibly distressed by the mis-match between their personality, psyche and genitals.

Our culture is highly genital-based, and suspicion that someone’s gender presentation does not match their genitals puts that person in both psychological and physical danger. Failure to support those in need is every bit as callous as failing to support any other fellow citizen with a pressing medical issue.

The Citizen noted that Gilbert is a professor of philosophy at York and a lifelong cross-dresser.

Attack came from behind, recounts student who was stabbed

York student Nicole MacDonald was browsing her BlackBerry, waiting for the streetcar at Broadview and Danforth Avenues, when she felt a strange man’s arms wrap around her from behind, as if to give her a hug, wrote the Toronto Star May 22. Before the 26-year-old realized what was happening Tuesday night, the man plunged a 5-inch blade into her stomach. Yanked it out. Then stabbed again. She had never seen him before. It was a random attack.

“He came up behind me, and – you know when you go to hug somebody from behind – then he stabbed me three or so times. I guess I pulled away and started screaming ‘What are you doing?’“ she said, when reached by phone in her hospital room yesterday. “At one point, I thought I was going to die.”

Police quickly located and arrested a suspect a few blocks away. A witness had followed him, updating police via his cellphone as to the suspect’s whereabouts.

  • What the hell was this man doing on the loose in the first place?, asked The Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington May 22. For a York University student named Nicole MacDonald, recovering in St. Michael’s Hospital from stab wounds, it’s a question that not only needs to be asked, but answered to protect others down the road.

Even though his own psychiatrist said he “remained a significant risk to public safety” after the earlier stabbing of a senior, Ontario’s mental health review board still saw fit to discharge the man who allegedly stabbed MacDonald at random on Danforth Avenue Tuesday. MacDonald had no chance. If she had not been in that location at that time, she would not be recovering from serious wounds in hospital.

  • Both Global Television and CTV also broadcast reports of the incident.

Free speech on abortion

Being against abortion in Canada today means you may no longer have the right to express your views on university campuses, wrote The Globe and Mail May 22 in an editorial. Several student councils in the past two years – at Capilano College in North Vancouver, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Carleton University in Ottawa and Toronto’s York University – have in effect declared the issue closed. No more debate.

This is political correctness run amok, exemplified by a student leader at York who forced the cancellation of a debate on abortion, saying: “It would be equivalent to having a debate over whether or not you can beat your wife. People in this country have had the debate over abortion. The Supreme Court made a decision, and that’s good enough for me.”

Imagine the chagrin of student leaders when the anti-abortion groups began complaining to provincial human rights commissions. Human rights for those who oppose abortion? Yes, and that’s as it should be. Sometimes those on today’s wrong side are right tomorrow, as the pro-choice advocates should know very well.

Cornell shares her magic with students

The students of Dance Debut studio in Cochrane, Ont., got a lesson in dance, history, music and fun, all wrapped into one, last week when world-renowned artistic director and choreographer Heather Cornell (BFA ’94) visited them, wrote the Cochrane Times May 21.

Cornell is the artistic director and principal choreographer for Manhattan Tap, a company she founded in 1986 as a New York-based ensemble of tap dancers and live musicians. Cornell is also hailed as one of the leading tap teachers on the scene today. When she was four, her mother asked if she would like to dance one day. “I said yes and that was it,” she said. “The rest is history.”

Playwright tackles satire he first read in Grade 1

York alumnus Ian Ferguson (MFA ’98), an award-winning Vancouver playwright and humourist, has created a new stage version of Animal Farm, George Orwell’s famed novel, for Kaleidoscope Theatre, wrote Victoria, BC’s Times Colonist May 22. The show, directed by Ferguson, opens Friday.

Although he eventually took a master’s degree in directing from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Ferguson was a Grade 10 dropout. Ferguson is set to release two new books. One is Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood. The non-fiction humour work examines such phenomena as Hollywood’s penchant for casting Canadian aboriginals as American Indians. Next spring marks the release of his short story collection, The Loyal Tea Room and Other Stories.

After Animal Farm opens, Ferguson goes “full-tilt boogie” directing a Canadian feature film. He’s not at liberty to discuss details, other than the fact it’ll be shot in 10 Canadian cities over 45 days. “That’s about all I can say,” he says. “It’s going to be chockfull of really amazing Canadian comedians.”

Councillor alumna cites fine arts degree in move against local mural

For three years Darlene Richards-Loghrin fought a losing battle with a gang of “taggers” who repeatedly defaced the office building she owns on Kingston Road, wrote columnist Sue-ann Levy in The Toronto Sun May 22. Since the mural has been up, the wall has “not been tagged” a single time, she reports.

That notwithstanding, Richards-Loghrin has been told by the city the art she commissioned is not art at all – but graffiti – and must be removed. The real backlash, however, has been from her councillor, York alumna Sandra Bussin (BA ‘74).

In fact, she said Bussin told her she has a fine arts degree (from York University) and had taught art (prior to her political career) – leaving Richards-Loghrin with the distinct impression she “didn’t like” the mural. At a Toronto East York community council meeting where the decision to remove the mural was confirmed, Bussin continued to make no secret of her good taste in art.

She told the council she was selected by the mayor to be the chair of the (now-defunct) roundtable on a Beautiful City because she has a “sense” of what art is. “This is not a success…it is a tag,” Bussin said of the Kingston Road mural. “I do believe great art is not here. A tag for a tag to me doesn’t resolve the problem,” she said. “One of the things they teach you at York University is don’t hug what you did…move on.”

Calgary’s Asian Night Market event includes York jazz graduate

Calgarians can catch some high-energy cultural performances at the Asian Night Market, which takes place Friday, May 30, at Olympic Plaza, wrote the Calgary Herald May 22. Panasian Jazz Quartet is a group of award-winning professional musicians who have come together to celebrate their love of jazz and their Asian heritage. The quartet includes York alumnus John Poon (BA ‘99) on bass. Poon is a bass player (upright/electric) who is “obsessed with music.” When he’s not teaching guitar and bass at a music school in Toronto, Poon is in his home studio producing music.

He studied in the jazz program in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts with Don Thompson and Mark Eisenman, and won the Oscar Peterson scholarship two years in a row. In addition to playing in professional pop and R&B bands, Poon is active in Toronto’s jazz scene.

On air

  • Victoria, BC’s A Channel News featured York alumnus Russell McNeil (PhD ’73), who helped develop lidar technology during his graduate studies at York, in a story about the York-led Mars Phoenix mission, May 21.