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Playwright Brad Fraser was in town last week to catch a preview show of his adaptation of Richard II at the Stratford Festival. 

Afterwards he noted people had walked out during a male-male kiss.

If you know anything about Brad, you’ll understand that he took it as a badge of honour.

Then he noted: “Thirty-four years ago when two women kissed halfway through the first act of "Unidentified Human Remains" people walked out. Last night, part way through act one of "Richard ll", when two men kissed, people walked out. And we like to tell ourselves things have changed.”

Indeed, local stories recounted from this past weekend’s beginning of PRIDE Month (June) demonstrate it’s no different here, although I like to think we’re a bit more civilized here than in other nearby places given the international artistic influence on Stratford – something I happen to believe. 

But for every drag storytime at the Stratford Public Library Saturday morning, produced along with my organization, Stratford Pride Community Centre, and Fanfare Books, that saw an astoundingly large audience of 120 parents and children, there’s an incidence of transphobic hate in a local store so vehement that it frightened the staff of the alcohol store it took place in (remarks about the Bud Lite sponsorship of a US trans social media influencer that saw the beer company lose sales).

For every rainbow crosswalk painted outside city hall, there’s a report of homophobic graffiti at a local restaurant Sirkel.

For every Sunday Perth Pride March and festival of (my estimate) 1,000 people gathered to proclaim their pride in their lives, there’s someone hyperventilating about us mounting a theme night at a local bar that we called The Stratford Gay Bar (people, for heaven’s sake, get a grip. The title is funny. It’s an inside joke about using an incredibly obvious name. Incidentally, in Washington, DC, they have “The Little Gay Pub”).

In all these cases, it is good to see the gaping difference in numbers between the supporters and the haters, and to quote Martin Luther King that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

I’ve been gratified to see the number of Stratford businesses that have upped their Stratford Pride Guide donations from $50 last year to $75 for this Spring’s edition of our online guide to gay-friendly businesses in town; a Guide, I might add, that is a benefit to the business community as it is to queer visitors. 

Having said that, there are still businesses where epithets are flung around openly, as recently happened to an actor here for the season who was openly called a f*aggot. I’m told such verbal attacks are much more common than the virtuous citizens of Stratford would care to believe. 

And people wonder why the LGBTQ+ citizenry needs safe spaces such as our Stratford Pride Community Centre and the occasional weekend theme night in a local bar whimsically named The Stratford Gay Bar.

People easily forget that it was two straight guys in a Colorado straight bar who decided it would be fun to play murder the queer and beat the life out of Matthew Shepard, leaving him tied in the dead of winter to a ranch fence to die.

Sunday night, our opening night for The Stratford Gay Bar, I sat beside a young person from a nearby village tell me how, since coming out of the closet to live as her true self, she is afraid to go into straight bars.

Her feelings are her feelings. Don’t try to dismiss them as an over reaction. Unless you’re queer, you don’t know how close to the surface stories like Matthew’s are for us, no matter how many years pass. It happens again, somewhere, everyday. You can’t comprehend that each of us knows someone who’s been beaten just for being gay, if we ourselves haven’t been. Telling me queers don’t need safe spaces where they know that everyone inside that door is just like them, is touching a third rail. 

To quote Brad again:

“History proves that when times are tough in periods of economic and social flux the majority will inevitably turn on minorities, rather than the corrupt governments and deceptive leaders who are the true architects of our misery, in order to place blame on someone they can persecute and punish. 

“This is happening on a worldwide level right now and no target is larger or easier to attack than the queer community. 

“Whether it's the criminalization of homosexuality in backward countries, bashing and attacks on individuals in western countries, banning drag queens, criminalizing gay behaviour, or certain institutions refusing to display PRIDE flags, make no mistake, we are under attack and will have to defend ourselves.

“I find it hard to believe this is happening after decades of progress and enlightenment, but so much of what's taking place right now has our governments, corporations and religious institutions happily pointing at us rather than owning up to their own terrible exploitation of hatred and prejudice. 

“We are in an extremely vulnerable position and we can only protect ourselves by banding together, whatever our differences might be. When minorities stop fighting and arguing with one another we cease to be minorities and become an army.

“Let's dedicate this PRIDE month to positive dialogue and becoming the army that protects one another from the very real dangers of the majority.

“Our lives depend on it.”

Brad Fraser will read from his memoir, All the Rage, sign copies and take questions, at The Stratford Gay Bar, Rockwell Lounge, June 19, at 8 p.m.

-- Bruce Duncan Skeaff is President of the Stratford Pride Community Centre.

Queer Book of the Month - June

Dotson, by Grayson Lee White
@SPL: J306.768092

June 9, 2023

Dotson, is an autobiographical and inspirational story from a young trans boy, and it examines what it’s like to feel you are in the wrong body, and how early in life some children realize this. The title is the author’s own word - an amalgamation of the words daughter and son.

Grayson Lee White was born Zoe, but he knew for a long time that he was meant to be a boy. At the age of two he made a wish to become a boy, and at three he remembers he felt uncomfortable at his dance recital wearing a tutu.

At seven he gave the speech to his class, explaining that he would like to be known as Grayson. His twin sister Gabby stood up at the front of the class to support him.

This book would be a tremendously brave achievement from any trans individual. It’s candid, heartfelt, and it’s filled with joy and hope. But what makes it all the more courageous is the fact that it’s been written by a thirteen-year-old boy. Grayson’s parents have supported him from the outset in his wish to transition, and the love of his family is evident throughout.

Grayson discusses some of the harder things about both transitioning and coming out. Things like which bathroom to use at school, and how to tell his best friends about himself, since they never knew him when he was Zoe. The front cover off the book shows Grayson staring at two bathroom doors and wondering which one to use. The illustrations by Stephanie Roth Sisson are whimsical and engaging
This is a book everyone should read. Not just children asking about gender, but also parents, teachers, and all kids who want to understand the life of someone growing up transgender. Grayson has provided a glossary of terms at the end of his story as well as useful links to resources for transgender kids and their families.

Heather Lister
Public Service Librarian
Stratford Public Library



The Stratford Gay Bar

Whimsical in name and in nature, The Stratford Gay Bar (or Queer Bar) at The Rockwell
is a safe and friendly, classy and fun space for after-theatre pints and cocktails.
And watch out! It has a baby grand piano. You can’t sing with the show in the theatre,
but you can sing after the show at The Stratford Gay Bar at The Rockwell.
The Stratford Gay Bar at The Rockwell also has a gourmet kitchen and an expert
It brings the spirit of New York gay piano bars to Canada’s centre of theatre in
SouthWestern Ontario.
“It is a prime destination for all to attend for post-show gatherings, drinks and
socializing,” said Daviorr Snipes’s Stratford Festival’s Director of Equity, Diversity and
“It’s a project of The Rockwell Lounge and the Stratford Pride Community Centre. Said
the Centre’s President, Bruce D. Skeaff, “We had the idea. The Rockwell provides the
Here’s how it works:
On performance nights of the Stratford Festival’s smash gay musical, RENT, two gay
plays, Richard II and Casey and Diana, and Pride-related events presented by the
Meighen Forums, The Rockwell Lounge becomes The Stratford Gay Bar from 9pm until
close. On other dates and hours, the Rockwell opens as The Rockwell.
Partnering with an existing bar lounge was the way to make this happen, said Skeaff.
“Flipping the routine on its head, The Stratford Gay Bar is not a straight bar where
queers are welcome. It’s a queer bar where everyone is welcome.”
“After the theatre season, The Stratford Gay Bar may continue opening on a schedule
to be determined and based on local support,” said Skeaff.

Stratford Gay Bar _ rack card


SPCC Flyer - C&D

Stratford (April 13, 2023) – The Stratford Pride Community Centre (SPCC) is offering virtually unlimited 2-for-1 ticket sales on the entire runs of Richard II and Casey & Diana in the 2023 season of the Stratford Festival.

The following promo code is a 2-for-1 deal on both Casey & Diana and Richard II. The code is valid for all dates except dates that are already designated for 2-for-1 or PWYW (Pay What You Will) performances.

Promo Code: 110779

Use the promo code via the following link when signing in to purchase tickets:

The discounts are part of the SPCC’s “Stratford’s Big Gay 2023” promotion to encourage LGBTQ+ travel/tourism.

“There’s another reason these special rates are important to us,” said SPCC President Bruce Duncan Skeaff. “Lower prices make theatre more accessible to young LGBTQ+ people. Young queer people should know the history of their tribe. Where they come from.”

Casey & Diana is a world premier play about the day in 1991 Diana, Princess of Wales, visited Casey House, the AIDS hospice in Toronto.

Richard II: In a revolutionary adaptation by Brad Fraser, this Richard is the story of a king who believes that God gives him the right to live above the rules and who ultimately suffers the consequences.

The story is embedded in a time of great freedom that is soon crushed - the late 1970s and early '80s: when lives were lived at great volume against a suffocating strain of conservatism and fear. Fraser's adaptation maintains Shakespeare's text but draws on sources beyond Richard II.

We are eternally grateful to the Stratford Festival for making these ticketing opportunities available.

For more information about what’s going on during Stratford’s Big Gay 2023, visit our website,, where you’ll also find the Stratford Pride Guide, our directory of queer-friendly businesses in the city.

The Stratford Pride Community Centre, the only rural-based Pride community centre in southern Ontario, is a not-for-profit organization registered with the federal government.

The SPCC serves people living in Stratford and Perth County, those who are visiting/plan to visit, and those who are looking for a welcoming place to move permanently.

SPCC works to advance our community as a progressive, inclusive, and welcoming place to live, work, visit, or do business.

The centre is a valuable resource for businesses and organizations wanting to learn how to be more LGBTQ-positive in their interactions with both clients/customers and staff.
Further information: [email protected]

SPCC Flyer - RD2


Stratford's Big Gay 2023!

The community centre is open weekdays, from 9 am to 12 noon.
We're at 24 Downie St., 2nd fl.
(By stairs from Downie St. or elevator through Festival Square shopping mall, at 10 Downie St., if it's open on the day.)
Phone (519) 273-7722 SPCC
You can email us at [email protected]


Tranna Wintour Fri., June 9, 2023

drops by The Stratford Gay Bar 10:45 for an informal visit after her headlining gig at the Meighen Forum Funny Friday show at Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre. Tickets for that performance are still available:

tranna june

Brad Fraser @ The Stratford Gay Bar

Fanfare Books and the Stratford Pride Community Centre & Pride Guide (SPCC) invite you to meet provocative Canadian playwright Brad Fraser in Stratford June 17-18.
Brad has adapted Shakespeare's Richard II for the Stratford Festival, opening Sat., June 17. He'll be our guest at the Stratford Gay Bar at The Rockwell Lounge, Sun., June 18, 8pm, 38 Albert St., to read from his memoir, All The Rage, and to take your questions. Fanfare will have a desk at which you can buy copies for autograph. Or you can order copies in advance through the store.