by jane kansas

yeah, we all know how big, bold, brash, and flashy the U.S. is, how it's the home of the rainbow flag and Stonewall and all of that. But you know, when you get down on your knees, it turns out there's a lot on the ball for gay and lesbian people in Canada:

1. Teena Brandon and Matthew Shepard

Sorry to be blunt, but Brandon and Shepard were not murdered in Canada. They were murdered in the US of A: Shepard beaten and tied to a fence in Wyoming, Brandon raped and shot in Nebraska. Nothing like that has happened in Canada, which is not to say there isn't violence against queers in Canada. Sure there is. There must be. It's never in the newspapers or on TV, but it must happen. And we sure do have our share of homophobes. Recently Elsie Wayne, a member of Parliament (sort of like being in Canadian Congress) stood up during a session and asked incredibly stupid questions about queers, like "Why are they in parades?" and "Why do they dress up as women on floats?" Wayne was widely scorned and widely cheered. But compared to the U.S., acts of hate toward queers in Canada don't exist. Alongside all the allure of its big cities, the U.S. remains the Western country most ferocious toward gay and lesbian people.

2. Sodomy Laws

Congratulations on the events of June 26, 2003, when your Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that made same-sex sex illegal, and rendered obsolete anti-sodomy laws in the 13 remaining states that banned sodomy, whether it involved gays or straights. Glad you're catching up.

It was back in 1967, 36 years ago, when Minister of Justice Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who became prime minister the next year, voiced his opinions on such things as the divorce law, abortion, and homosexuality. He said (and it's often quoted in Canada), "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." And that was the end of it here.

3. Alabama Dildo Law

Can this be right: After complaints by religious and "family" groups and a two-year legal battle, a federal appeals court UPHELD an Alabama statute that prohibits the commercial distribution of sex toys? In 1998 the Alabama legislature unanimously passed a law banning the sale of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," and provided for a fine of up to $10,000 and a year in jail. The measure was modeled after similar legislation in Georgia and Tennessee.

Are you people serious?

I'm here to ease your pain: You can get whatever sex toy your little old... heart desires up here in the true north, strong and free. Hell, if you're from Alabama I'll personally rip a branch off a maple tree and carve you a dildo. We all use dildos up here. There's a town in Newfoundland named Dildo! (And one named Come By Chance.) Go ahead, look it up; Dildo's annual Dildo Days are held in August--there's still time, you could make it up for that.

4. Gay Marriage

Well, it's the obvious biggie: Canadian queers can now get married; Americans have to travel (although Vermont and Hawaii have recognized same-sex unions).

Belgium and the Netherlands have also legalized gay marriage, but now you can just pack up your snowshoes (or rent some when you get here) and make the trek to Canada to tie the knot. You'll be going to Ontario, just north of everything from Minnesota eastward through New York. And then you could honeymoon in Newfoundland.