Coming out on a cover

Brad Fraser remembers his first experience with Xtra

To celebrate Xtra’s 30 years of publishing in Toronto, we’re running a series of memories and musings from community members, writers and former staff members.

On March 30 it will be exactly 30 years since my play Wolfboy opened at Theatre Passe Muraille, starring a young Keanu Reeves, who, unlike the rest of the cast (which included Carl Marotte, Joanne Vannicola, Beverly Cooper, Shirley Douglas and Bob Collins), was not all that great. Lovely boy to work with though. Xtra interviewed me and put me on the cover of the pamphlet-sized tabloid that was inserted inside The Body Politic. It was my first appearance on the cover of anything and I was thrilled.

Sadly, the show was an enormous flop, got terrible reviews and made me no money. My boyfriend at the time turned out to be a steroid-fuelled asshole. I lost my job at a then-popular restaurant in a dispute over the tip pool. The writing on the wall seemed clear; Toronto was not the place for me. So after three years of living here I pulled up stakes and retreated back to my home town of Edmonton to reevaluate my life — vowing never to return to Toronto, a vow I kept for nearly 10 years.

During that time in Edmonton I decided I should probably come out to my mother. (I wasn’t in the closet at all and hid nothing; I just hadn’t told my family yet.) At lunch I dropped the bomb. Mom picked at her salad, looked surprisingly calm and said, “I know.” I was shocked. “How do you know?” Mom said, “One of the gay guys at church told me. Apparently you people have some magazine for gays that you were recently on the cover of.” And that was that.

So thank you, Xtra. You’ve never been perfect, but you’ve always been important to the community. You’ve featured me on a couple of covers, you’ve done a number of stories on me, you’ve printed a great many stories by me and they’ve all been helpful to my career and my life. But, most of all, thank you for saving me that painful conversation with my mother. I appreciate that more than anything else.

Here’s to another 30 years.

Brad Fraser is an award-winning Canadian playwright. He has contributed to Xtra at various times over the years, including the column Fraser’s Edge, which ran from 2012 to 2013.

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Power, Opinion, Toronto, History

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