2021-2022,  blog

Coming out in Atlantic Canada

Part of a printed zine, created by Robyn Grant-Moran for the #BeyondTO festival — In reflection of Crippled, A production by Power Productions presented by Theatre Passe Muraille

Robyn has dark black hair and fair complexion. She has hazel green eyes and wearing a bright red lipstick, with a black dress smiling

Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis) is a Toronto based writer, artist, and podcaster. While studying classical singing at York University, Robyn became fascinated with Indigenous representation in opera which lead to studying theatre criticism. 

After graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts, Robyn began writing for theatre publications focused on elevating voices of those historically underrepresented and in 2019, Robyn won the Nathan Cohen for Excellence in Critical Writing Outstanding Emerging Critic Award from the Canadian Theatre Critics Association.

Since then, her writing has been published in Intermission Magazine, The Dance Current, The Toronto Star, as well as the Globe and Mail. Robyn cohosts the Canadian Opera Company’s podcast Key Change, as well as being a member of their Circle of Artists, working for greater diversity and inclusion of Indigenous voices in opera. When not writing, Robyn is often making beaded jewelry as the Salty Magpie, learning how to ride her beloved motorcycle, and still waiting out the pandemic with her wee rat dog in their box in the sky. 

Generally speaking, Atlantic Canada is an idyllic place to spend your childhood. 

Things move at a more relaxed pace, people are friendly and many of us have the gift of the gab. We have quaint accents — if you haven’t heard someone from any of the Atlantic provinces say “I went to the bar and got carded” you really should. It’s a treat. And hey, there was a Broadway smash hit about Newfoundland! 

The hospitality of everyone in Gander, helping out those stranded after the September 11 attacks was the star of the show. But what of that hospitality if you are different? Disabled? Gay? Disabled and gay?

Characters Tony and Evan from the show laughs together at a Newfoundland dock at night, shining with streetlights

All production photos by: Alick Tsui

In Crippled, Paul Power takes an unflinching look at his life growing up disabled, and eventually as an openly gay man in Newfoundland. Neither of those things were and are easy, but the high baseline of ableism and homophobia in small town Atlantic Canada in the 1970s and 1980s with a healthy dose of Christian values, it presented significant hurdles. Paul didn’t come out until his mid twenties after he moved to Toronto for university. 

“I didn’t really come out even to myself.” Paul explains to me via email. “And that was because I had learned during my time in Toronto that there were other people like me. And it didn’t have to be a dirty secrets concerning my sexuality. I think that really helped me be more confident and accepting of myself when I came back to Newfoundland.”

His struggles with self acceptance, body image, and sexuality were, of course, helped by the love and support of his long term partner Jonathan. Paul notes, however, that things had also changed since the 80s and his childhood. St. John’s had developed a bit more of a LGTBQ community in his absence.

Character Tony stands and almost looks back at Evan who is standing far behind him.

“Our world has changed. Today’s generation of young people have a more supportive and diverse environment where differences for the most part are respected.” Representations of Queerness on TV and in movies are more numerous and some are even accurate, they aren’t all stereotypes and pink washing. Even kids in rural Newfoundland can see a variety of representation through pop culture, even when community might not be accessible. It’s a step in the right direction. 

Crippled is equal parts a heartbreaking love letter to Jonathan, and a brutally honest snapshot of a very specific time and place that has, thankfully, evolved and expanded. But for Paul, it’s important to remember that for all the advances that have been made, being a Queer youth in rural Newfoundland is still challenging in a way that kids don’t face in larger metropolitan areas like Toronto. 

“We have come a along way but there is still a long way to go. I’d be lying if I said homophobia isn’t still there.” Every time people are brave enough to love openly, it makes things a little bit better for everyone else. 

It’s a step closer to Atlantic Canada being the safe harbour we’d like everyone else (and ourselves) to believe in.

Crippled Poster has two male characters sitting by a dock talking to each other. The background of the poster is yellow, and there is a white-cutout around the characters. Red text reads #BeyondTO Festival Crippled May 12-21, 2022

A production by Power Productions presented by Theatre Passe Muraille

Tony finds himself on the St. John’s Newfoundland waterfront at a crossroad. Tired and grieving, Tony believes there is only one way to escape a life he no longer wants to live. His mind is made up, until a stranger appears with other plans. Recently nominated for the Governor General’s Award, Crippledis a powerful story about love, death, life and redemption. 

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This is part 3/4 of the whole zine!

This part 3/4 of a printed zine, created by Robyn Grant-Moran for the #BeyondTO festival, which will open Theatre Passe Muraille’s big red doors again since closing to public in March 2020: after numerous postponements, closures, and lockdowns throughout the pandemic — we’re finally here! Follw the buttons to continue reading.