In a fast-paced industry where flavour is supposed to be the thing that matters, clashing personalities can take up just as much counter space as the mis en place. Although Food Network specials would have you believe that queer cooks are on equal footing with their cheftestants and frequently trounce them, sometimes talent doesn’t make a lick of difference in the real world. That’s what chef Dave Claringbould and his partner are discovering as their restaurant is being run out of their Manitoba town.
The couple set up shop late last year in Morris, a city 50km south of Winnipeg. With fifteen years of restaurant experience behind him in the UK and Canada, Pots n Hands’ British home-cooked fare should have taken off. Unlike other restauranteurs that are being taken to task for gentrifying and diluting existing cultures, Claringbould had actually added to the community by teaching cooking lessons before he broke into the restaurant business. But instead of focusing on their food or philanthropy, a few patrons focused on what was in their bedroom. Although the restaurant was hardly an over-the-top gay smorgasboard, some townsfolk still discovered they were gay and wouldn’t stand for it. A few regulars just stopped coming, but others made a point of teaching the couple why.
“We were asked if somebody was going to catch something off of the plate because we had prepared the food on it,” Claringbould told the Winnipeg Press. Even though that comment is ludicrous since homosexuality is hardly a foodborne ilness, other citizens toute similarly outdated thoughts. George Ifantis, a fellow restaurant owner with no ill will towards the men, said, “A lot of people don’t like it. You don’t know what they’re doing in the kitchen.” Aaron Kleinsasser spoke to the Press after he left another restaurant, “They should get the hell out of here. I don’t really like them — the service and who they are. I agree (they should leave). It makes you feel uncomfortable. I’ve been in there twice, I believe, and I regret it. I’m never going to go back there again.”
Sadly, similar viewpoints are being echoed elsewhere in the province. Even though Canada is supposed to be a gay-friendly country (after all, gay marriage has been legal since 2004!), tolerance isn’t always apparent. On Easter Sunday, Chris McNally woke up to find his Winnipeg house defaced with homophobic slurs. The openly gay man had never been attacked before.”[I was] just sick to my stomach that someone or some people can be like that still.” Both of these incidents underline the need for change by emphasizing how outdated and close-minded citizens can be.
But all of that intolerance starts somewhere, so the NDP can hopefully curtail it by influencing the next generation. Last December, Education Minister Nancy Allen proposed Bill 18 or the Public Schools Amendment Act (Safe and Inclusive Schools) to take a serious approach to bullying and intolerance. The bill looks to codify a firm stance against all forms of bullying by students, teachers and volunteers alike, whether online or offline, at school or at home and whether it’s based on gender, race, ability or sexual orientation. The bill includes a clause ensuring that students can establish a GSA at any learning institution and provide a safe haven to all bullying victims.
Although the bill is meant to “promote the acceptance of and respect for others in a safe, caring and inclusive school environment,” most critics are focusing on the the GSA clause. A large number of Manitobans have blasted the bill from religious institutions that don’t want GSAs in their schools to Christian groups that believe gay bullying isn’t that big of a problem to political opponents that believe that religious students are the ones that need protection.But although they’re louder, gay-friendly citizens are managing to make their voice heard. In a rally last week, parents and children thanked the government for supporting the otherwise voiceless students. Evan Wiens, a student who has become a lightning rod in his hometown after attempting to start a GSA, sums up the problem, “They should not have to feel ashamed, and they should not have to feel like they have to hide themselves.” As it stands, bullying in all of its forms shouldn’t exist for students or adults.
Today, it’s clear that the work Bill 18 intends to accomplish is very necessary. Even though Morris’ mayor and several citizens have come out in favour of the Pot n Hands and shamed the intolerance, the bigots’ words cut a bit too deep for Claringbould and his partner. “Both of us understand this small group of individuals don’t represent the community of Morris and surrounding communities as a whole. But by no means are we ashamed of who we are and how we live.” For now, the couple is taking the disappointment in stride choosing to cut their losses and move on. Pot n Hands will serve its final meal on April 14th before the owners relocate to a different city. Meanwhile, McNally doesn’t have the option to leave, and has no choice but to stick around and paint over the slurs at his own expense. At a time when discussion of gay marriage is at an all-time high in North America, these incidents remind us that there’s plenty of hard work still to be done, and plenty of cultural and legislative hurdles for queer people to navigate when it comes to experiencing basic safety and respect in their communities. But hopefully when the legislature resumes on April 16th, Bill 18 will pass, helping to create a new batch of accepting and supportive citizens graduating from Manitoba’s school system.
This is a great article, thanks for shedding some light on all this! One of my profs was talking Bill 18 in class yesterday and explaining a little bit about how there is some government funding for all schools in Manitoba and discussing how that could influence the religious side of things. I hope the new legislation will pass and that it will help to raise kids who are all around more accepting of us!
I live in Winnipeg and this makes me extremely sad. But there are some positive messages coming from the community. One of the churches that I pass on my way to school everyday has written on their billboard “Support Bill 18, God loves everyone.” A lot of the people opposing this bill come from religious institutions and its nice to see a religious establishment show support.
That’s awesome to hear!
dear fellow straddlers, please sign this :)
What a bummer. I live in Winnipeg and this has been blowing my mind every morning when I open up the newspaper. I surround myself in a happy little queer bubble in this city and it’s shocking to realize that there are homophobic bigots so close.
id just like to say that while there is a disheartening amount of opposition to this bill, there is also a lot of support. i am the co-chair of the GSA at my school, which happens to be a jewish private school. the administration and teachers are incredibly supportive of us, and were even interviewed multiple times in response to the religion-based hostility towards the GSA clause. dont give up hope on manitoba just yet! the opposition may be vocal, but there is also a great deal of support from religious and secular institutions.
I live in Winnipeg too and the news around here has given me a lot of sad feelings lately, BUT it has also been very heartening to see so many members of our community banding together to stand up against the hate. If you are in Manitoba and want to show your support for Pots n Hands a bunch of us queer folk and allies are road-tripping from Winnipeg to Morris this Saturday to have lunch at the restaurant. The idea was started by Chad at the Rainbow Resource Centre. Check out RRC’s facebook page if you want more info and/or need a ride. It looks like lots of people are going to make the trip. Solidarity!
Also a group of awesome folks got together to help paint Chris McNally’s house today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SsNLrwvpSdU# More paint. Less hate!
I’ve processed my feelings. I’m just…really sad to know that bigots are still loud back home. Here in Edmonton, I tout a lot about how different it is in Manitoba – that nobody really cared about your sexuality, and how our community is seen as being normal while in Alberta, it’s still very backwards and prejudiced in a lot of the province. We’re supposed to be better than this, Manitoba =(
I’m from Winnipeg too, this is really embarrassing that we still have some ignorant/intolerant people in Manitoba. I’m bothered by the comments from the Morris locals that implies the restaurant just wasn’t doing well and that’s the real reason they are closing, they are showing such denial of the homophobia that exists. I got into a discussion with a work colleague about this, all they could complain about is someone must ‘have it out’ for George the fellow restaurant owner to publish his comment about ‘who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen’. Like really? That’s what you get out of this article? Other people I know from work were complaining that it must be a slow news day to be bothering to publish an article about this. It blows my mind that grown adults bullying other adults to the point of driving a business out of town is seen as not all that newsworthy or important.
When it initially broke it seemed like Dave wanted to protect the parties by not revealing the actual insults he heard… but the additional comments from citizens was straight out of their mouths’ when they spoke to the Winnipeg Press. I was seriously surprised that anyone would want to be put on record for saying things so inflammatory… but I guess if you don’t see why those words would be insulting to begin with, you wouldn’t be worried.
When it comes down to it, I really like to cover Canadian news. It’s easy to forget that ignorance and intolerance are still major problems when we have gay marriage and all of these bills that outlaw discrimination. We’re lucky that we have cities where people can let their freak flag fly, but saying there are a dozen safe cities for LGBT people to run to isn’t a win. Soooo remembering that there’s room for improvement is always newsworthy in my books.
the quote of the guy saying “we don’t know what they are doing in the kitchen” boggles my mind! THEY ARE CLEARLY COOKING YOUR DELICIOUS MEAL! It’s crazy how some people can believe that straight sex happens in normal acceptable places while gay sex clearly happens every chance possible in every location possible. It’s ok to eat at the restaurant of straight people because he doesn’t think that they have sex while at work or they think that straight people do have sex all over his food but it’s straight sex so it’s ok?! I can’t handle these people’s comments sometimes!
As someone that lives in Winnipeg and has been lucky enough to have been discriminated against this made me so sad, I don;t wanna add anything that hasnt been said in the previous comments… However I wanna mention that Virgin Radio and a bunch of awesome people got out there in the freezing cold to paint Chris’ house! it was amazing! Check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsNLrwvpSdU&feature=youtu.be
Sidenote: I really appreciate your use of kilometers
Sad to say but it seems a reality in many places in North America is that quite a few in the older generations will have to pass away for attitudes to improve. As they are replaced by the more tolerant and progressive younger generations the LGBT community will fare exponentially better across the board.