Xtra Magazine "Ana Pink All Over" Issue

How Xtra’s new (and improved) editorial direction is expanding its audience and reach in the LGBTQ2IA+ community

And Pink All Over

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]I[/su_dropcap]t’s a bit like a time machine: a hot pink metal box with the words TAKE ONE on its door. An advertisement for the Ultimate World Pride Guide 2014 on the bottom, memorializing the first year Toronto invited the globe to come celebrate Pride in its city. The screen embedded in the front of the box digitally flips through old issues of a publication you can’t hold in your hands anymore, its name emblazoned on the top with an exclamation mark: Xtra! The headlines slide by: “Pumped for Pride,” “Dyke March Intervention!” and “Hot Attack: Miss Conception Sets Pride Ablaze!” The newsbox sits in the lobby of the Pink Triangle Press (PTP)—publisher of Xtra—offices at the corner of Carlton and Yonge Streets in Toronto. The tagline on top reads: Toronto’s Gay & Lesbian News. But changes in the industry, and the LGBTQ2IA+ community at large, have forced a reexamination of just who Xtra’s audience is now. In 2015, the print edition closed. Since then, it’s been going through staff overhauls, recently hiring past Xtra contributors Rachel Giese as editorial director and Gordon Bowness as executive editor.

Changes have happened in the digital sphere as well. Associate editor Arvin Joaquin—in charge of the “reactive beat,” similar to breaking news—has reduced the two newsletters Xtra used to pump out, Xtra Gay and Xtra Queer, into a single newsletter, Xtra Weekly. While Xtra Gay specifically targeted gay men (“It’s just pretty much all thirst traps,” jokes Joaquin), Xtra Queer was for all other readers. But keeping them separate siloed readership. Joaquin says when the publication started to expand its demographic, bringing the two into the same space made sense. Xtra Weekly’s consolidation of newsletters demonstrates the shift from gay culture to the wider scope of the LGBTQ2IA+ acronym.

PTP launched Xtra back in 1984 as an entertainment insert in The Body Politic, a monthly magazine that, when it was founded by a collective of volunteers in November 1971, focused mainly on gay men. It faced its controversies: in 1977, one of its founders, Gerald Hannon, published his story, “Men Loving Boys Loving Men,” resulting in a scathing response in the Toronto Sun, the police paying regular visits to The Body Politic offices, and the small monthly being forced to do battle in court over censorship. Evidence of the police raids can still be found in the ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives), about six blocks north of the PTP offices, in Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village. The organization claims to be the world’s largest independent queer archive, and was born from the work of The Body Politic. The second floor landing of the ArQuives’ historic house office is wallpapered with copies of the office floor plan of The Body Politic and a vintage map—featuring the old Toronto Police Headquarters on Jarvis Street—showing where to run if being pursued by the authorities. When the police raided four gay bathhouses in 1981, launching a Canadian gay liberation movement, The Body Politic reported. The paper reported heavily on HIV-AIDS from the beginning of the crisis. As Hannon himself put it in an Xtra profile from 2019, “We had to be both the paper of record and a centre for organizing—we had the only phone number and office of a gay organization.” The Body Politic ended in 1987, but Xtra lived on in a different form. By 1993, Xtra had launched sister publications in Ottawa and Vancouver. Those print editions are now closed, but Xtra is building a readership past Canada’s borders. “Probably slightly under half of [Xtra’s] audience is Canadian,” says Giese, followed by readers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The biggest differences, though, are made plain in its changing mandate. In 1999, Xtra was guided by this mission statement: “We, the members and workers…are lesbians, gay men and people of good will. We carry on the work first undertaken by The Body Politic. The outcome that we seek is this: gay and lesbian people daring together to set love free.” The new mission statement still cites “daring together to set love free,” but now says Xtra’s aim is to “cover current events through an LGBTQ2 lens” and “engage audiences, inform readers, elevate causes and inspire actions within our diverse communities to empower the creation of a just, free, and inclusive society.” In other words, Xtra has revised coverage, changed staff, and extended reach within the community and the world, in order to stay relevant in the digital queerscape.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]E[/su_dropcap]ternity Martis, one of Xtra’s senior editors, has been with the publication since 2016, the longest of any of the new editorial staff. She was hired initially as an associate editor after completing her master of journalism degree at Ryerson University. Most recently, she was balancing her editorial duties with finishing a memoir about being one of the few Black students on campus during her time in undergrad at Western University. (The memoir was published in March 2020). When Martis applied for the editorial job four years ago, she didn’t think the Xtra of the past necessarily saw her, identity-wise, but still felt a pull toward the publication. “In the same way that Xtra hadn’t represented my voice, mainstream media had never been representing my voice,” she says.

Martis felt liberated from the beginning with Xtra, calling it her dream job. “I could come to work and talk about things I actually care about. I could talk about queer issues; I could talk about sex,” she says. When Martis was first hired in 2016, she says she was amongst only men in the editorial department, but her two other coworkers were people of colour. Martis knew she wanted to change the way Xtra chose its editorial content. She created the Xtra Queer newsletter in response to Xtra Gay. Resources were limited, so to populate the new outlet, she originally linked to queer women’s and trans stories outside of Xtra, some from publications like Broadview magazine. “That was kind of my way of getting in more diverse content,” she says.

As the health and sex editor, Martis handles health issues in a different way. In the past, she says Xtra was focused more often on topics like gay men’s health, HIV prevention, and PrEP. The staff still write about those important subjects, but now coverage includes more trans, non-binary, and bisexual health. “We’ve talked about queer women’s health and why you should be worried about STIs,” says Martis, “and we’ve done these Ask an Expert series about, ‘What happens if I’m trans, do I need Pap tests?’” Martis has received positive feedback from longtime readers, people who tell her, “I stopped reading Xtra’s health stuff because it didn’t reflect me—I’m so happy this is happening.”

One of Martis’s stories takes a feature-length look at the question, “Why Did the Dental Dam Become a Joke?” In it, she delves into the history (and possible future) of a safe-sex product that’s treated as a punchline by many LGBTQ2IA+ folks. She covers the lack of knowledge available about the dental dam during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. She mixes personal reporting—unfruitful trips to Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart to find dental dams—with a range of queer-positive sources from the Toronto club scene and sexual health organizations. “I wanted to do health coverage that was comprehensive, that was accessible,” says Martis. “I find health coverage can often be either boring or women’s magazine-y.” Although she admires that the health stories in women’s publications are often “voicey and fun,” she says, “I wanted something that was in between there. So, good health coverage that is talking to you and giving you smart, accurate information in the way that you would talk to your friends, but that is also reflective of the communities we are covering.”

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]H[/su_dropcap]ealth coverage is important for another reason. Mitchell Cheeseman, Xtra’s marketing communications manager, says the publication’s most successful stories are related either to health or pop culture. On any given day, one or two of Xtra’s “evergreen” sexual health stories (such as “Why Do Bisexual Women Experience Such High Rates of Poor Health?”) are in the site’s top 10 most-viewed articles. When the physical copies halted, Xtra’s website was divided into the three segments of its former print editions: Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver (the brick-and-mortar Ottawa and Vancouver offices had closed). Arnaud Baudry, director of product and audience engagement, says web traffic has been coming from outside those three cities since the early 2000s. But he says that wider readership was built without a conscious push on Xtra’s part. “The idea when the content was republished on the website was just to make it available to people in those cities,” says Baudry, “without necessarily having the intention of making it useful to other people outside of those cities.” Cheeseman says it’s only since print shut down, and most heavily in the past two years, that the team has purposefully begun targeting audiences outside the big three. “Losing print, while obviously tragic,” he says, “opened up this whole new world of possibilities for us that we simply didn’t have before. So I think that it took a while for us to realize that losing print wasn’t just losing print, it was really gaining a digital focus.” The site isn’t structured in the “three city” model anymore, but is divided into five subcategories: opinion; politics; pop culture; sex and love; and health.

Xtra went through a sort of existential design crisis in the mid-2010s. The website’s logo and general design were changed to blue, but then later returned to the classic pink. The name changed from Xtra! (featuring an exclamation point) to Daily Xtra, and is now just Xtra. Cheeseman says that returning to branding from before print’s closure was a natural decision. “We pretty quickly realized we needed to switch back to Xtra…because people knew us as that. And we wanted to be able to embrace our past rather than creating something that was completely different. So we tried to switch things back to pink everywhere,” he says. Cheeseman thinks some of these changes may have contributed to confusion amongst Xtra’s readership. “There were a lot of people who, after we shut down print, didn’t realize that DailyXtra.com was the same thing as the Xtra paper they used to pick up in The Village.” To this day, Cheeseman still occasionally hears people say they “just grabbed the paper last week.”

The two paintings behind Cheeseman and Baudry reflect the publication’s importance to that same village. In a glass-walled boardroom with plastic chairs, a burst of colour depicts a packed Pride march moving down Yonge Street. Beside this, another scene from the not-so-distant past: a person facing a police officer at a door, a hand signing a search warrant beneath it. Many of Xtra’s readers are part of a community familiar with LGBTQ2IA+ history and culture, and some have been with Xtra through decades of change. Erica Lenti, senior editor, has watched Xtra’s last ten years from inside and outside the offices. She says unlike other publications, Xtra doesn’t need to explain cruising, apps like Grindr or Scruff, or the website Reddit to its readers. “I think it’s very liberating as a queer person to be in a place where your audience are like-minded people who totally get what you’re saying,” says Lenti. “Like when we say we’re ‘shook’…the readers get it.”

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]X[/su_dropcap]tra’s podcast studio is a small, retrofitted office. Microphones are clamped to the table. The walls, with black acoustic panels, are painted a light yellow that keeps the room from feeling too small. A gray, striped throw blanket on the table dampens the noise. This is where four staff—Giese, Martis, Xtra video producer Michelle Turingan, and Lenti—host Off the Chart, a recap podcast about The L Word (along with senior producer Rachel Matlow and producer and editor Corey Misquita). Launched in the latter half of 2019, Giese says the podcast has almost a perfect Canadian/American split in audience. It fits into a landscape of the coverage they’re focusing on now: a growing mélange of LGBTQ2IA+ pop culture, politics, and advice columns that can appeal to people across North America. When Lenti’s not in that room revisiting the show that brought the first ensemble of lesbian characters to TV, her role at Xtra includes the political beat. For instance, she created a spreadsheet of every LGBTQ2IA+-identifying candidate in the 2019 federal election, and ran a series of analysis pieces called Rainbow Votes 2019. At the same time, she and Joaquin deliver a regular opinion series, “Salty Queers,” in which they rail, often comedically, against something that’s currently bothering them about queer life. In one piece, they put out a call, “Straight people: You need to stop gender reveal parties.” Although the pieces are ‘quick takes’ with a cheeky lilt, they do serious reporting. In this gender reveal piece from October 2019, Joaquin and Lenti cite “explosive pipe bomb reveals”—which are literally deadly—alongside the mental health dangers stemming from a child seeing a parent’s disappointment at their assigned gender later in life.

Xtra has moved away from more of a “daily news” style into a new mix of coverage. There are features and personal essays from freelance contributors on larger topics (“The Barbershop is a Refuge for Black Men—But Not if They’re Queer”), explainers and analyses (“How Conversion Therapy Affects Trans Canadians”), pop culture correspondence from Los Angeles-based Tre’vell Anderson, and a “Dear Abby”-style column for anyone on the rainbow spectrum (Kai Cheng Thom’s “Advice for the Apocalypse”). Thom, a regular contributor to Xtra and author of I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World, gets credit for the most-viewed article on the site currently: “Why Are Queer People So Mean to Each Other?” The piece explains the hard science behind trauma while mixing in Thom’s consistent message of working toward a world where we “do not have to kill each other to survive.” Xtra also produces video interviews with people like Black, queer rapper Sydanie and Two-Spirit, trans sex educator Arielle Twist.

After a two-year stint as editor of This Magazine, Lenti tweeted that she was leaving the publication. She then received an offer from Giese to join Xtra. Lenti, along with Giese and Bowness, is one of the staff members who have returned to Xtra—in her case, she had interned in 2012 and had occasionally freelanced for the magazine since then. Lenti thinks that Xtra’s expanded coverage mirrors the LGBTQ2IA+ community today, and she’s seen changes even since her days as an intern. “I think we’re doing a good job of covering those additional communities who have been excluded in the past. Xtra was groundbreaking. It mattered when it started, but, like all publications, it had to evolve,” she says. By that, she means the diversification of coverage, but also that the team has found a new voice, echoing what Martis says about health coverage. “The tone is like your cool best friend who’s explaining things to you but they’re not talking down to you,” says Lenti. “It does feel like I’m telling stories to people who could easily be my friends.” And amidst the current tension in the journalism industry, Lenti says Xtra’s staff is a “growing team among a lot of layoffs.”

Kevin O’Keeffe was one writer Xtra grabbed from a publication facing major layoffs. O’Keeffe, like fellow pop culture contributor Anderson, is based in Los Angeles. For the past year, he has been recapping episodes of the popular American television show RuPaul’s Drag Race for the Canadian publication. This is where Xtra hopes to go: not only focusing on Canada, but on North America and beyond.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]A[/su_dropcap] car engine revs up. A metallic blue backdrop fills the screen, and an über-white smile flashes for only a second. A giant computer-generated lipstick tube rolls through the frame. One of the most famous drag queens in the world takes her place on top of the show’s title, donning a hot pink jumpsuit, racing flags in hand. The episode begins.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is now a TV phenomenon. Throughout season 11 there were viewing parties in almost every bar in Toronto’s Village, just a seven-minute walk from the Xtra offices. In May 2019, resident “Queen of the North” Brooke Lynn Hytes (the first ever Canadian queen to compete on the show and now a judge on Canada’s Drag Race) returned to Woody’s bar in Toronto for a party and stage performance. The event lasted over five hours. Fans packed into the bar at 7 p.m., with some getting a meet-and-greet with royalty at 8 p.m. The episode got underway at 9 p.m. Hytes provided running commentary throughout the show until 10:30 p.m. People then refreshed their drinks and waited for her to return. She and her drag family performed in the fifth and final hour. But the wait didn’t matter—everyone hung back for a chance to see the queen repping Canada’s largest city on the American series.

O’Keeffe (not to be confused with former Xtra supervising producer Kevin O’Keefe) is a self-proclaimed “Drag Race herstorian,” recapping the franchise for Mic from 2016 to 2017, at which point he and 24 other employees were laid off due to what the site called a “pivot to video.” On the morning of August 17, 2017, O’Keeffe tweeted about his layoff. By that afternoon, Martis replied, “Would love to work with you on the Canadian side if you’re interested!” O’Keeffe joined a different publication at the time, Grindr’s INTO. Two days prior, Grindr had announced it was launching the website, hyping it as a “millennial response to Out.” O’Keeffe tweeted less than a month later that he would be writing about “all things Drag Race” for the publication. Then Grindr effectively closed INTO in early 2019 in another “pivot to video.” This may explain the closure, but it’s also true that INTO’s editorial team had been investigating a Facebook post wherein Scott Chen, Grindr’s then president, said “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” All editorial and social staff were let go. Midway through RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season four, O’Keeffe began writing for Xtra. He still lives in Los Angeles.

Martis originally served as O’Keeffe’s editor. She says the Xtra team wanted to cover the show but weren’t sure how to make the coverage stick out. “There’s so much Drag Race,” says Martis, “what can we bring to the table? And so, we had those conversations for—it felt like years—before we actually brought Kevin on.” The team wanted smart analysis, not a rehash. Martis says O’Keeffe knows pop culture, knows drag, and breaks down the show in a way that viewers can’t get from a typical review or recap. And that analysis is what Xtra wants nowadays. “We do it in a way that reflects and is in line with the rest of our content,” says Martis, “so why not do it?”

O’Keeffe believes covering Drag Race has real value for queer audiences. He says he wants to write for them, “because their friends go out to watch it on Friday night at a bar and they want to be part of that experience. They want to be part of that community.” Joaquin, who now edits the recaps, says O’Keeffe’s coverage brings in Canadians, but also brought American readers to Xtra, while RuPaul’s Drag Race UK brought viewers from across the Atlantic. O’Keeffe is now recapping Canada’s Drag Race for the site as well. Drag Race is big for Xtra right now. In fact, May 31—the day after the show’s season 11 finale—had the highest amount of traffic the website saw in all of 2019. The challenge is to figure out how to keep those international eyes on site and get them interested in Xtra’s news coverage and analysis. In the meantime, PTP, Xtra’s publisher, is advertising O’Keeffe’s recaps on another one of their platforms, the hook-up app GuySpy.

GuySpy and Squirt.org, another hook-up service, are the money-making dating apps that help keep Xtra running. GuySpy, Squirt.org, and Xtra are all housed in the PTP offices in downtown Toronto. The Xtra side almost resembles a regular start-up space: white interiors, open concept, glass doorways. Rainbows of sticky notes cover whiteboards. Once through the lunchroom, Cheeseman says, “There’s a lot of nudity in here.” The desks are closer together, it’s a bit darker, and nudes are posted on the walls. One of GuySpy’s advertising models, gay porn actor Pierre Fitch, is pinned up, naked, in high definition. It’s definitely Canadian content. Andrew Nolan, marketing and communications manager for PTP, says in an email that finance and usage statistics on GuySpy and Squirt.org are not given out publicly. He says this business component of PTP was established to support the mission of the publisher, and that the team is “always assessing our current business model to see what changes and investments that we need to continually support the mission of the press.” GuySpy, which was purchased by PTP three years ago, has undergone changes since they acquired it to bring it in line with competitor apps. But using sex and dating to help fund the journalism isn’t a new idea—in the 1990s Xtra had a phone-in “cruise line” that brought in upwards of 2,000 calls a day and $50,000 in revenue each month. The difference now is that as Xtra seeks to diversify its coverage to reach more of the LGBTQ2IA+ community, the apps still mainly cater to, and are advertised at, an audience of gay and bi men. Xtra’s website doesn’t regularly promote the apps. In fact, there are often only a handful of external advertisements on Xtra’s website at any given time.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]E[/su_dropcap]ditorial director Giese’s assessment on advertising: “It’s just not the future at all.” Giese, an Xtra contributor in the 1990s, took the helm in 2018 after stints as editor-at-large at Chatelaine, senior editor at The Walrus and deputy editor at The GridXtra does sell ad space to support itself currently, and there are external ads on the dating services. But to her, the downturn of the advertising model is self-evident—“ad numbers are dying for every publication”—meaning the industry might need to focus on other funding models. Xtra used to run ads for local businesses, bars, and clubs frequently, but that shifted when print ended. Still, some things haven’t changed. PTP runs like a not-for-profit, says Giese, in that it has a volunteer board and no owners. And the magazine has always been free in the past, so she believes making it into a subscription-based publication would not be the correct path. “This is all very hypothetical at this point,” says Giese, but she believes a membership model—allowing readers to donate money to the publication if they choose—would keep it connected best with its readership. She cites the membership structure of Autostraddle as an examplea U.S.-based digital publication that describes its readership as “lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends).” The site offers different levels of buy-in, along with gifts like enamel pins and tote bags in return for support. “When you are relying really heavily on an audience for revenue stream,” Giese says, “it keeps you honest as a publisher because your livelihood is tied to, ‘Are you meeting the needs of your audience?’”

The financial outlook for LGBTQ2IA+ media, especially south of the border, is shaky. INTO is out, while Out and The Advocate are still in, but struggling. For example, three years ago, Phillip Picardi, at the age of 26, was seen as a wunderkind, called the possible “future of Condé Nast” by The New York Times and “marvelous” by Anna Wintour herself. He launched Condé Nast’s queer publication them in 2017. The next year, Picardi left his role to become editor-in-chief of Out magazine. When he started at the publication, he encountered a looming rebrand and lingering money issues. In February 2019, The New York Times reported on layoffs, pay cuts, and over $100,000 in back payments owed to various contributors at Pride Media—Out and The Advocate’s parent company. Picardi exited his position by December 2019 amidst the ongoing financial woes. Zach Stafford, the first Black editor-in-chief in the history of The Advocate—who had previously been the editor-in-chief of INTO before its closure—stepped down at the same time.

On this side of the border, queer media is a small field. There’s IN, a lifestyle magazine aimed at urban gays and lesbians Canada-wide. There’s also Yohomo, a Toronto-focused arts, culture, and nightlife website run by Phil Villeneuve. Villeneuve was the editor of Fab, PTP’s discontinued magazine targeted at gay men, which had a focus similarly based around arts and culture.

Having staff and contributors reflect the array of communities the publication covers is important to Giese. But she says she’s careful not to be “corny or cheesy” about Xtra’s approach to diversity in staffing and reporting. “We need to cover folks in our communities, period,” she says. “And if we are missing people in our communities, then we are just not doing our jobs as journalists. We’re leaving stories on the table.” Five years down the road, Giese would like to see an expansion of exactly what the team is doing right now—more staff, more podcasting opportunities, more health coverage, and correspondents in other countries.

For now, the goal is to relaunch the Xtra website with the help of old friends. Giese asked Vanessa Wyse—former founding creative director of the now-defunct Toronto weekly The Grid—to take the Xtra website to the next stage. Wyse is now the founder and creative director of StudioWyse. She had started the redesign project with the studio’s former art director and Grid colleague Nicola Hamilton (Hamilton is no longer with StudioWyse). Xtra’s new look, overall, is meant to emulate the hot pink newsbox. When the boxes went away, the publication lost its physical face—and the brightly pictured faces of many LGBTQ2IA+ folks—on the city streets. So, the team wants to bring portraits of staff and subjects to the forefront on the site. StudioWyse and Xtra are also thinking about punctuating each article with an end mark, harkening back to the print days—an asterisk, a symbol with various meanings to the LGBTQ2IA+ community. Wyse says they hope to use it across the site and in marketing. The goal? To “reclaim this idea that we were these footnotes at the bottom the page before, and that’s no longer the case.” They’ve also tried hard to build up a larger colour palette than the current black, gray, white, and pink. At one point, Hamilton says, they had a screen grab on their computers with flags of every subculture in the LGBTQ2IA+ community, but ran into a problem. “Each colour does have a connection to a part of the community,” says Wyse. So the more colours they added, just as many had to be neglected, and “the more we were leaving people out.” The idea of bringing the entire acronym under the Xtra banner is being thought through at every level, whether in editorial or visuals. There is only one design piece, according to Wyse, that can’t be disputed: “pink was not movable.”

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”10″]A[/su_dropcap]nother hot pink box lights up onstage at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a historic, queer black box theatre in Toronto’s Village, in November 2019. This box isn’t a newsbox. At the play Every Day She Rose, it’s a life-size set made up to look like a typical Toronto high-rise condo, home to two fictional roommates. One is Mark, a white, gay, cis man. The other is Cathy-Ann, a Black, straight, cis woman. Both are the co-creation of Toronto-based playwrights Nick Green and Andrea Scott. After the preview performance ends and the audience clears out, Green sits in the basement of Buddies. “I think my most famous piece of writing for Xtra—I wrote an article on getting a Manzilian wax job, and I encourage you to look that up for some research. It’s hard-hitting. I was nominated for a Peabody,” he jokes. His article humorously probes men’s fear of pouring hot wax anywhere near their “winky-doodle,” as Green calls it, tongue firmly planted in cheek. It’s emblematic of a lot of gay lifestyle writing from the early 2010s: exploring masculinity and the messiness of gay men’s body image, all with a knowing smile.

Green contributed to both Xtra and Fab during that time while also working on a play about The Body Politic’s history. Body Politic, the show, follows a slightly fictionalized history of the eponymous publication, chronicling it from creation through its necessary reporting on the AIDS crisis and onward. Green agrees that the team of The Body Politic were “very, very progressive and boundary-pushing, especially when it came to censorship,” and that they stood for “liberation in all different kinds of meanings and manifestations.” But, as someone who is white, and “somewhat cis-identifying,” Green says, “it was a very white publication. White and largely cis male.”

Green says the word “coalition” was mentioned frequently in his research on The Body Politic. “There have been missed opportunities for coalition building in queer history in Toronto,” says Green.

Every Day She Rose, which is premiering more than four years after Body Politic played on the same stage, engages with these missed opportunities. It tells the story of these two friends, Mark and Cathy-Ann, dealing with the fallout of their relationship after the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade, where Black Lives Matter Toronto held a sit-in. But then things get more complicated. As the action spikes at the parade, the lights shift, and the purple silhouette of the Toronto skyline flickers out. A metanarrative begins: fictionalized versions of Nick and Andrea, played by the same actors, act out the real playwrights’ conversations, laughs, and fights during the show’s creation. We see a white, gay man playwright and a Black woman playwright working out their own narratives, struggling to share the page with each other. By the end, Andrea and Nick reconcile, agreeing to a conversation over martinis. But now it’s the audience’s turn. The curtains at the back of the stage open to reveal a timeline, illuminated by a giant Pride flag walkway. The flag includes black and brown, two colours added to the rainbow by the city of Philadelphia in 2017. Everyone watching from the seats is invited into the space, to read about and discuss the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade. Three questions, stuck on the wall, guide the audience along their walk:

“How did we get here?”

“Where are we now?”

“Where do we go from here?”

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