Friday, May 1, 2015


When fall and winter set in and the long dark days see my mood matching, I am hesitant to admit to being SADD. I don't want to attribute my feelings and capacity to deal with them as being hinged on the length of days or the weather. I worry that if I let the weather be such a significant indicator, that in some sick twist of depression playing dominant, the spring and summer will return, as they always do, but without emotional reprieve.

But here we are, Beltane, a time of year that my ancestors surely celebrated with big bonfires, orgies in the forests and ritualistic dances around the pole. Spring is horny as fuck and is coming all around us. Baby animals are popping out of every corner. Here in the country all the attention is being drawn to buds, seedlings, bottle lambs, brooder huts, and big changes; in the temperatures, colours that surround us and the length of days.

Since moving out here I have started exploring this practice of travelling in space (an idea which I can credit to Ricardo Hubbs). The Earth travels around our big star Sun and we watch our Moon wax and wane and shift where it shows itself in the sky. I have started to get to know these patterns, knowing when to expect to see the full moon rise over the hill. I start having a rough sense of when springs in the mountainside will bubble and burst before disappearing back into mysterious underground realms. I notice and start to know when the buds will emerge, how they close in the evening preparing for mountain harsh cold nights and where on the land to find the last piece to balance a vase of fresh cuts for the mantle.

I can putter and wander and observe for hours at this time of year. The damp cold has backed off for the day times, and my layers peel off, necessitating an evening harvest of hoodies and scarves as the sun dips into the valhallas. The days are almost long enough that the suns last dip of the day will be a tease. The tip of Mt Dag, sharp like a ramp kids make to jump their bikes, plays hide-and-seek with the solstice high sun for a few minutes before letting them out to dance a last dance on sun hungry gardeners (not likely to stop just because the sun has gone).

I won't say that my darkness has departed, as an almost ever present aspect of my life, it holds a comfort. An attempt to hold me in something I know, I have spent the winter nesting and tending to pain of the heart and body. The doom is present in my heart and mind and evident in the world around me. Hearts break on the daily. Ever growing numbers of young black folks being killed by cops. More indigenous women disappear all the time. People starve while working themselves to death producing food for those that can afford it. Folks die from treatable illnesses due to the corporate greed of drug companies hoarding knowledge and patenting tradition. And more and more of the earths old blood, her deep, dark, energy rich crude forced out of every possible vein and peeled and pumped out to fuel the out of control machine of global trade. When I allow myself to sit with these things and learn more, explore my own misconceptions and prejudices; when I spend evenings sitting on the front steps, watching planets, stars and spaceships travel across the sky, chatting with beloveds of the horrors we live amongst it can all feel like a bit much.

The desire to crawl back into bed, self medicate into a numb state of sedentary self distance and disappear into story is strong. I can't deny the desire to watch something on a screen wherein good wins, a tale as old as time, told in the medium of this one. Something where the dichotomy of good and bad can be simplified just enough, or where someone else has the plan about what to do next. Some one else is instigating the rebellion, or it's already been happening long enough to have a recognizable movement. Familiar enough to serve as a salve to the current and real wounds of trauma and current events, but far enough away to not pull all the scabs off.

And I look back out the window to see poppy fronds bursting and building their chlorophyl catching nests preparing for their big pink and red flowers. I see the lilacs, just about to burst, swollen and getting more purple everyday. I see birds having a hay-day, and watch the bees bustle between the buds. I see the grass attempting to encroach on my garden and more piles of brush begging to be planted as hugelkulture beds. I hear the calls of the fiddle heads and the nettle and the horsetail telling me to come and gather their medicines. I see places that were once buildings and garbage dumps overcome with bursting life.

I know the story I am looking for - the one that comes after the dark painful winter that capitalism and colonialism has cast on the world. I dream of cities that have been re-consumed by the environments they attempted to dominate. I must hold on to the belief that this depression can lift. That there is life and love and a victory of spring waiting in the wings, building to burst. I feel a gratitude to get to hold story in this time. I've always found home in the inbetweens, and here we are.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The rise of the fall: the militarized climax of capitalism’s last stand.

I take brief breaks from being in bed, nearly broken by the effects of burnout on my body and mind. On occasion when all I can muster is laying around, recovering, I have the pressing need to express my concerns for the current state of the world in something slightly longer than a status update. This is one of those.

Two weeks ago I was in the starting stages of working towards the medical leave that I am a couple steps closer towards. I was feeling the emotional strain of working in the helping profession, within a system so full of cracks that I caught myself saying things like, “I'm sorry you are hungry, we don't have the funding or mandate to offer a food program.” and “It really sucks that you are essentially living in hiding because the authorities want to take you in for the sale of one pill.” and “I can only hook you up with this voucher for thrift store goods once or twice a year, so next time you are going to stash your stuff somewhere, make sure it won't get stolen or soaked, because we might not be able to replace it again.” I interacted daily with folks who are dying at the hands of a failing system. I needed some time away to ground and recuperate. Knowing of course the heartbreaking truth, that the privilege allowed to me, wherein I get to go home to a house, I get weekends and medical benefits is something that is painstakingly far from the lived realities of the folks I am working with.

It took a few days to actually successfully get gone, but once I did I headed towards the beach at the opposite end of the lake. I had taken a serious fall into the river during my couple of days of trying to get out and the growing bruise kept me from venturing too far from my car camping spot. I split my time at the beach between painting a character I had first started to develop last year as a part of a role playing game and reading graphic novels. A graphic adaptation of Howard Zinn's History of American Empire had me thinking about uprisings and what measures may have to happen to end the systems that we both depend on and that are so incredibly toxic that we can't reasonably continue. Like a bad delusion, or a potent addiction, the society we are accustomed to continues to grow in its' parasitic fashion. Across the territory Idle No More, Warrior Societies and grassroots resistance is standing in the way, burning bridges, holding blockades and attempting to find the wrench that when it lands in the gears all will grind to a halt. As I drove back down the lake towards my home, I wondered when and in which ways we may have to rise up – joining in unified resistance.

As I rounded the last corner before the village closest to my home there was an unusual amount of traffic parked along the side of the highway. As I approached the village entrance road I saw an armed RCMP officer standing in front of the road way, car blocking the path, lights flashing. I pulled over and rolled down my window to ask what it was all about. First, the officer scoffed at me, seemingly flabbergasted that I hadn't heard the news. When I told him that I knew nothing, and that I wasn't trying to get past, I just wanted to know what was happening, he told me that a man had “opened fire and shot at some of “our guys””. He told me that the village was on lock down and the news was full of reports that would give me more of the story. I made my way home and logged online to find the new reports he was talking about. At that time they had already been in lock down – manhunt mode for one full night, but they hadn't released any name or details.

Increased momentary police presence isn't entirely unheard of around here, a place where we don't usually have cops around unless they are specifically called, even then- limited and sporadic; but when they have an interest to be here they appear. Last year when a misled tanker trunk dumped 33,000L of Jet fuel into a pristine river system, the cops appeared, supposedly to “help”, but in reality they used the situation as a motivator to set up highway check points where they were ticketing people for expired insurance and confiscating prohibited substances. A growing industry exists here, while it shrinks due to decreased profit margins and increased risks. Changes to medical grow permits in the past year took away the ability for people to grow their own medicine, instead leaving the industry to be dominated by corporate giants. Small scale growers and folks growing for personal use were once again subject to the prohibition of a plant that has been proven to have medicinal benefits, looking at large fines, jail time and other impacts of criminal charges; harvest season around here leaves some people a bit on edge. It's become unfortunately routine that around this time of year police raids, helicopter fly overs and cross-border inter-agency busts see members of our community disappear into the “halls of justice”. This particular brand of “justice” will never be following up on the misdoings of corporations like Executive Flight Center, SNC Lavilin or the RCMP, because their job is specifically to protect their interests at the costs of personal freedoms and well being of individuals.

While the village of Slocan was locked down, and armed officers were granted permission to search all buildings within the village I worried for folks whose livelihoods are outside of the law, or existing in a moral/legal grey. I worried for students in the school who were locked down in the school before being transported out of the village on a bus with armed officers. I worried for village residents who have been on the receiving end of police brutality being re traumatized by this Rambo show. And I especially worried for Peter de Groot. Once the media released his name they started releasing other, now revealed to be falsified, information about him. They called him armed and dangerous, they said he had served tours of duty with the armed forces, they told people to stay in their homes and lock their doors. They brought in helicopters and dog teams, they chased him into the woods and continued to build an environment of fear. As I woke to helicopters overhead on the third day I couldn't help but have some empathy for a scared human out in the woods being hunted by a large (reports said around 40) squad of armed militants. I thought about the ways that this is becoming increasingly common, I laid in bed with a date and we held each other while watching John Oliver's commentary about increased militarization of police. Police in Ferguson, MO gunned down Michael Brown about 2 months before they gunned down Peter de Groot. The people of Ferguson have been demonstrating ever since. In the course of those two months another score of unarmed young men (mostly men of colour) were killed at the hands of police and at least as many young indigenous women have disappeared. After decades and mass call outs for public inquiry to the missing and murdered women – no official response has ever happened. Volunteers in Winnipeg started dredging the Red River, looking for bodies after decades of failure to respond from the authorities. 43 students disappeared from Guerrero, Mexico, believed to have been kidnapped by police on their way to demonstrate against corruption. Large scale public response and demonstration has received limited media attention. While elections were turned over to corporate interests and private business decision makers in Hong Kong, people gathered to occupy a previously public space, only to defend themselves from teargas and attacks from police with umbrellas and plastic wrap. Any direction you look it isn't hard to see that police forces are quick to defend corporate interests and corrupt governments and that the mythology that we have been fed, that police are around to serve and protect, is a falsified and dangerous idea to hold onto. Movements of the people, resisting brutality, corruption, genocide and torture are consistently challenged and brutalized by these publicly funded, overly armed power tripping teams of deluded quasi-soldiers.

Most recently a soldier was gunned down in Ottawa. It is being used as an opportunity to increase security, crack down on terror threats and continue to profile enemies and insurgents against the state as “terrorists”. I have seen very limited response of this incident being willing to state that soldiers are killed in war. The Canadian nation state has been actively at war for a very long time, some might argue that it is a core element of the existence of this occupied and unceded territory. While soldiers representing Canada have been a part of supporting the brutal treatment of military personnel and civilians both overseas and on occupied indigenous territory, when one member of this publicly funded gang is taken out in a public place, the government and media respond as if it is a tragedy. While I wish to hold space for the family of the soldier to grieve, I can't get on board with thinking that this is a tragedy. Tragic are the deaths of Darrien Hunt, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego, Michelle Cusseaux, the Iguala 43, Peter de Groot and far too many more. When unarmed civilians, dissidents, mentally ill, poor, and otherwise marginalized people are taken out as victims in this war game of capitalism, that is tragic. When people are faced with economic drafts, seeing enlisting as the only possible way to meet their needs, feed their families, get an education, that is tragic.

Tragic was also the conversation that I had to have with one of the kids in my life this past week. She's not quite 4, younger than school aged. While we drove up the valley she asked me why cops kill people. She asked if they will kill us if we break the rules. On the spot I responded to her honest enquiries as best I could. I told her that when she does something that is harmful to others, the adults in her life, and the other kids, will probably tell her, maybe she will get in trouble. She is still learning about how to navigate the world in caring and respectful ways and that being called out when she steps out of line is a part of that. Police unfortunately don't get in trouble in the same ways when they hurt people, in fact all too often, it becomes an indoctrinated part of their job to do so. This can really confuse a persons brain and heart in knowing what is right or wrong. Sometimes the rules are wrong, and we are put in a position to try and hide and make sure that we don't get caught breaking these unjust rules. Trying to educate our future generations about the role of government, laws and police is a complicated task as we see these systems failing our communities.

Those tasked with the education of our future leaders have not been without their own set of challenges either. While all of these demonstrations, murders of civilians and growing corruption and destruction was happening we had a school strike that lasted through the summer and into the beginning of the school year. Money that should have been going into ensuring that all students, including students with special needs, have access to an accessible and public education, was instead going into development of an LNG industry which is in violation of treaties (and in many cases- where treaties have NEVER been negotiated), international law and best public interest. We can clearly see the ways that the money that we hand over to the government each year in the form of income tax (which is still illegal- another post for another day), sales tax, and more are not going in the directions that are in our public, our future or our environments best interest. Instead that money is feeding a corporate machine, addicted to growth and destruction; and the militaristic forces required to defend such a downfall.

When and how are we going to stop the escalation of this brutal trend? At what point do the un-funded individuals, just scraping by and trying to keep from falling through the cracks, find ways to come together and resist the militarized corporate occupying forces that attempt to paint themselves as a democratic government? Are we waiting for a leader? A call to action? How much longer can we afford to wait? And how many potential leaders are actively murdered and disappeared in the process?

I write all this hoping that it can serve as a clarification, reminder and potentially a call for action; and of course also, hoping, that in writing and publishing this that I will not be next.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Words and Pictures:

This afternoon on the drive home from work, and getting my kittens' reproductive system removed, I happened to be in the same time and place as another queer trans person as we re-fueled at the country co-op. We chatted for a brief seconds, about pets, fatigue and surgeries when we were approached by a woman. And of course, I am making broad presumption, given where I may take this next; but I read her to be a woman, presenting woman-ness with the ease and non-thought that people who really haven't thought all that much about the gender they are presenting may actually think (I think- I don't know cis-ness or the ease that comes from it), or not, about the woman-ness (or man-ness) that they may be presenting.

She approached us with her camera and a question. She told us that she was working on a photo project and wondered if she could take our pictures for her project. I asked her what the project was. She responded, “Oh it's not going anywhere, it's not going to be published or anything, it's just this thing that I am working on, where I'm taking pictures of people and then making up stories about them.”

making-up stories?

I hummed for a brief second before saying no. The answer was clear to me in a bristle up the hairs of the back of my neck, although it took most of the rest of the half hour drive home and sitting down to write that I really realize my abrasion to this idea.


I am scheduled to present on a panel about gender and health at a Rural Health Research Conference. It will be full of academics and public health heads, policy makers and health care gate keepers. I was asked to supply a photo and bio. I wrote my bio easily enough. I use the appropriate “they” pronoun throughout, identify myself as an organizer from trans and queer communities. Luckily this is relevant to my work. I am not exactly sure how I would inject my story, my identity if it wasn't relevant. Although that spins off into a whole other conversation around the transferable resiliency skills we develop as marginalized people. The problem I am having though is with the picture. I know it is hard to communicate my wholeness in a still picture. I am a dynamic being, constantly fluxing through variations and identity spaces.

I search my folders.

Lots of photos of stuff. Stuff in the forest. Stuff in my yard. Stuff my kids made out of Lego. My kids. In costumes. With Ponies. In Costumes. If you look through the pictures quickly it is like some sort of trippy music video. The kids frantically dance between costumes and dance poses, all interspersed with ponies and gushing fungi and fence posts.

There are some photos of me. All of which capture one version. One moment. Of the wide changing wholeness that is me. Whatever gender was shining through brighter in that particular moment from that particular angle- interpreted of course through the viewers' lens. I know that there are lots of people who don't know a version of me yet. They may not know words like genderqueer, androgyne, femme, queer, fagette and so I know in place they may fill in words like man, woman, or freak to fill in and span across the places between what the pictures show, regardless how incongruous it may end up seeming.

I want to find a photo that feels like exactly the right mix of all of the things, the things that I know words for, but other might not, to illustrate exactly the delicate and ever shifting balance that I am constantly working to balance. For matters of integrity and truth, but also for safety and security.


I have been accepting requests for interviews. Students at the local college seem to be asking me my words for some paper every few weeks. I give my words, knowing that even if they may be edited down for the submitted paper, the interviewer will have had the opportunity for me to fully articulate myself. I can state and elaborate on confusing points of seeming contradiction and muse at mystery.

I half-joke with the students about finding a way for my being a community resource who is studied and interviewed and quoted to lead to me getting an honorary degree.

At the gas pumps:

The woman with the camera walks away. We look to each other. “Maybe if was something about trans visibility in the country" we say , "then maybe." “Ya, or if it was someone I knew”

Then there would be the assurance that our stories are getting made up, with more than just a minute portion of the data required to make even the most blanket judgements. Our stories are already made up of words that are standing in and leaving gaps. Without the opportunity to sit and tell them ourselves, we know the likelihood that we will be given an ill fitting simplified story, to match with our ever complex and dynamic selves, is too high a risk. A story that has the potential to persist, if only for that one person; a neighbour in this tiny place we live, to think she knows us, or a version of us, or a frame worth of who we are.

I thank all of you who have ever taken my picture in a way that recognizes and tries to capture the dynamic blends of femme, nonbinary, queer, genderqueer, kinky, sex positive, resistant, resilient, creative and all the other things that I am sometimes or all times. And may we use this as a reminder to make space for people to tell a version of their own stories. Hear their own truth. You might hear a story you haven't heard before.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Innappropriate Questions

This past weekend I attended a party. This on it's own isn't newsworthy. Considering the rural nature of my living situation I get to my fair share of shakedowns. This one was in a barn in the country, but it was also a surgery fundraiser for a new friends' SRS. I feel real lucky to have found the scenic rural valley that is chock full of witches and trans folks and other radicals of all sorts. It seems to fit so well. I know that there is place where the country boned queers and friends can still find community amongst the coyotes and ravens.

One of the features of this party was it's theme. It was advertised as a gender blender and folks were encouraged to bust out the glam and drag for a proper hoe down. This was appealing and terrifying to me as someone who blends gender and lives most everyday in a state of drag. Would I feel at the butt of someones joke? Would I be misunderstood? Would I be one of few trans people amongst a hoard of cisgendered folks thinking that they understand transness because they put on a dress for the night? I was unsure if I would attend until I confirmed that I could arrive in style with another local trans person. She is friends with the benefactee of the party and tried to assure me it would be a good time. I was pretty sure it would be, knowing a couple of the DJs and having attended parties at this place in the past.

We arrived early and found our selves through the space. The barn loft dance floor had been beautifully decorated in a manner that was very reflective of the cause, flowing red and pink fabrics, fastened along the peak of the roof and draping down labially. Eventually the party started to fill up and each of the 5 or so out trans folks at the party along with a couple friends and partners took turns collecting cash at the door. The party turned a decent profit, but that is not really what this whole post is getting to.

Alfred Kinsey said that what he found from his research was that approximately 10 percent of people are 100% straight, fully woman identified women who are attracted solely to 100% man identified men and vice versa. 10% of people fell at the other end of his 6 point scale, being 100% gay. I would like to propose that this scale and perception of the human population could also be applied to displays of rude ignorance. There were a couple people doing a really good job of saying inappropriate things, a couple people calling them out, holding ground or otherwise dealing, and then the other 80% of people were somewhere in the middle. Not offensive, but maybe also not even noticing. For those 80% I write this. For those of you who aren't doing the work of noticing and addressing this sort of thing, or maybe you notice, but you use your passing privilege to let it be someone else's struggle. Because those who are doing the standing up, well we know. And that other 10%, I don't have the time or energy to devote any of my free time to attempting to educate you anymore than I already do. And did last weekend.

longest intro... but here we go....
I was standing out by the fire when a woman complimented my facial hair. I have 2 little tufts that grow long from my chin. I responded, thanking her.
Upon hearing my voice she retracted her complement by saying, "oh, I thought you were a girl dressed up as a boy."
I responded, "no, I'm neither, dressed up as neither"
She continues, "oh!? are you a hermaphrodite?"
I glare at her and tell her that she is being rude and that word is probably not one she should use. I give her the term intersex and briefly explain the relationship between intersex people, identities and medicalization that has led the H word to fall from favour. *already more than she deserved, but I allowed myself to turn on my educator brain, thinking that it would be a part of my contribution to the cause we were raising funds and awareness around. If people were going to attend a SRS surgery fundraiser a little bit of trans education may be in their best interest to prevent hurting or offending someone else. I stepped up to the plate and turned on my teacher hat.
She listens. Scoffs and mutters something along the lines of, "oh well, how ever is anyone supposed to keep up with all of this people changing words and stuff anyway." then turns to me and asks, "so are you intersex then?"
I retort by asking the measurements and dimensions of her clit and labia.
She finds this offensive. HA! And tries to argue that that is totally different.
I inform her that it isn't. I give her a brief run down of the wide spectrum of intersex conditions, some that display visible at birth, some that show up at puberty, and some that never do. I explain the criteria that would lead to an intersex diagnosis at birth, namely the size/shape/appearance of ones genitals. So, not in fact that different than asking a woman the size of her clit, would be asking someone if they are intersex.
She pushed on, demanding that there must be some polite way to ask. I ensured her that there wasn't. That asking about the size, shape, surgical status or reproductive viability of someone's genitals is and always will be inappropriate.
I proceeded to give her definitions to the terms trans*, transsexual (the identity, not the orientation, she wasn't ready for that), and transgender. I gave her a piece of advice around asking about someones' pronoun preference and told her that if she stuck to that as her invasive question that she may find her self being trusted and respected more than with her original attempt.
She said that being at a gender bender party was confusing for her because she didn't know where the men were or who she should be attracted to. I didn't even go there. I hope that maybe later, if she remembers any part of that conversation she might realize that was a moment of acknowledging her privilege. A moment where she was given a lot of patient attention from someone who could've just told her to fuck off and suck my clit, for whom the world contains that type of confusion EVERY DAY. Who may be attracted to a neither, dressing as a neither? Will it be gay men? Dykes? straight people (not to mention the self identity crisis processing that can come with that)? pre-post-non op trans people? Who am I "supposed" to be attracted to? And what does that even mean in a world that may not have words, let alone understanding or compassion for me?
So for the 80% of you in the middle. Maybe you are unaware. Or unsure of what you could do. Maybe you hear these conversations happening and they make you feel uncomfortable too. I ask you this. Next time you see or hear this type of thing going on, try to make eye contact with me, or the person playing the role of me in this scenario. If it seems at all reasonable, chime in, suggest some alternate routes that people can take to learning this stuff that doesn't involve pulling the people who live in the position of the oppressed to educate their oppressors. Maybe after this has happened you wanna try and track me down and check in, give appreciations, or offer a hug or a smoke. Or maybe you want to throw together a little circle of people working in solidarity, people striving to being allies. You could process this shit with each other and it would take a big weight off of folks who would really just need to dance without having to worry about this.

Friday, December 28, 2012

it was the end of times, it was the best of times

Times are a changing. I know that there was a lot of speculation, misunderstanding and generally racist assumptions being made over the past months leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar cycle. People were talking about end times in on of the most widely spread ways I have seen in my lifetime. The speculations made their way onto network TV shows Raising Hope and the theme of "end of the world as we know it prevailed, with shows like Revolution, Terra Nova, Continuum, movies and books like the Hunger Games. The pop culture world is buzz with schemes and plots and story lines built around what comes next, or how to survive the coming end times. Meanwhile, other interpretations of the end of the Mayan cycle explain that this cycle that has just ended is one of the paternal and the start of the maternal, emotion driven, heart centered time of shift. I connect this with the falling of the great empires of our time, which appears to be happening. This also seems a very logical connection to the large scal organizing that is happening and bringing women indigenous leaders to the forefront of political action and change, like Chief Theresa Spence who is in day 16 of hunger striking in attempts to arrange a meeting between PM Harper and First Nations leaders. The actions associated with Idle No More are challenging the paternalistic, oppressive systems that have dictated this place and the people within it for too long. The movement is spreading world wide and people are calling for an end to colonial structures of oppression. The Zapatistas re-emerged from their already established and highly secret autonomous communities in the largest public action since their armed uprising in 1994. Their demonstration was silent and presented upwards of 40,000 people. Mean while across canada rail lines, border crossings, malls and highways are being blockaded and filled with the sounds of war drums and the songs and dances of people tired of living under opposed colonial rule. So maybe the world didn't all end at once, the polarity of the earth didn't immediately shift, computer systems didn't cease to operate, but I would like to hear how this is NOT the end times. The end of colonial times, the end of paternalistic oppression at the hands of the rich white men who have been in power for far too long. Maybe the needs to stockpile food and prepare weapons aren't the same ways that TV has prepared us for, but being prepared for the boats to stop delivering your tea and oranges all the way from china may be a pretty good idea. Oil is becoming more and more expensive and there are 1000s of people putting their lives in front of oil development. We are at a point to choose to stay the same, or move forward choosing light and love and self sufficiency and community support.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bullying: Hot Topic

This week I have noticed, and how could you not, the explosion of press attention given to bullying. Following the death of Amanda Todd after online disclosure of extreme bullying, school boards, radio shows, community organizations are once again stepping in to say that something must be done. This seems like something that I have seen ebb and fall, as another death or high profile case hits the mainstream, people get really worked up for a spurt before having the issues of bullying return to the closets, PM feeds, and notes passed in the backs of class, under the eyes but without the attention of the millions. I want to throw my own thoughts about bullying, and how we need to address it as communities affected into the ring. I wish to self identify myself from the start as a former victim of school yard bullying, and a trans gender adult who continues to see bullying behavior play out on the street side as a witness and target of this attention as well as occasionally the bystander who has spoken up and stepped in. I would like to add some of my thoughts about this idea, about bystanders not standing by and what it takes to step up or step in. A prominent memory that flashes into my head when I think of school bullying, takes place in my aunts kitchen. My mom was working as a house cleaner for her sister, while I would be occasionally hired to watch her daughters. This particular memory may have followed a particular incident, or it may have just been a point where a dam broke, and after years of teasing, exclusion, name calling and physical violence I couldn't hold it together anymore. I remember buckling over in tears, sputtering through my gasps to my mom and aunt the ways that I had been targeted. I cried and asked them in earnest if it would ever stop, why the other girls at school were so cruel, and what I would need to do to protect myself. I was able to tell even at that point, probably 7 or 8 years old, that the specific details that the bullies would pick out and make a scene over never seemed to run out. Coming from a working class family where clothes were either home made or second hand, being tall and lanky at 6' 0" by 6th grade, religious associations, not fitting gender expectations, being asthmatic, being double jointed, music tastes, and intelligence; it didn't seem to matter, there was always something to be picked out. At this point, 7 or 8 years old, I was unsure I could maintain the pressures. I thought about getting out of the school system, but also had known the bullying that extends to the ever awkward and outside of social norms 'homeschoolers'. My aunt tried to assure me that it would get better, that eventually I would come out on top stronger for it. The "it gets better" mentality around bullying and harassment is a long time stand by. Dan Savage kicked off his campaign a little more than two years ago, which now hosts over 30,000 videos of people giving their version of the hold on, get through, it will be better on the other side message. Although from the best intentions, from my aunt in her kitchen, and from thousands of strangers on the internet, it falls short. I would like to point out that once I got through school, bullying didn't go away, and in some ways, it got worse. Primarily because navigating the systems in which to find support and hold bullies accountable in the work place, in the housing market, and while walking down the street, are a lot less easy to identify than the pamphlet filled offices of the high school guidance counselor. When I worked as a bike messenger, my dispatcher was a bully, later working in a bike shop, a older male owner was a bully, trying to access community spaces I've encountered bouncers and bar tenders exemplifying bullying behaviour. I've become well practiced at filing complaints, leading boycotts, and finding ways out before situations get beyond my control. One of the things I have learned, as a life long victim of bullying, is that often outside the school yard, people call it something else. It's sexism, it's homophobia, transphobia, it's predatory sexual advances, it's discrimination, classism, ablism. I think it's time that we start calling bullying what we call it when it happens to adults. I think that calling sexism and predatory sexual advances bullying down plays what it really is and how it affects those on the receiving end. We could serve the victims of school aged bullying by giving them the empowerment involved in acknowledging their struggle as real; I think the cultural perception of "bullying" discounts the experience as people imagine thumbs on noses and lines of taunting. Let's call it what it is- a wedgie is an act of physical assault. Posting photographs of someone without their consent is theft and in many cases of 'school aged' cases, distribution of child porn. Bullying is a softened word that describes the intersectionally oppressive practice of abuse, harassment, violence, destruction of personal property, character defamation and use of hate language. Surviving ongoing onslaughts of this type of behaviour is a challenging and commendable feat. Finding ways to thrive are that much more important. The ways that the 7 year old girls would make fun of my pants being too short with taunts and exclusion, the ways the 10 year old girls convinced my only friend that she could be cool if she stopped acknowledging my existence, the knee of the 10 year old boy bruising my pelvis in response to my attempts to play soccer with the boys, the way that the 11 year old girls excluded me from their spin the bottle and truth or dare games rationalized by my yet to be developed breasts, the way the 13 year old boys named me "manchild" as a way of drawing attention to my failures at performing "girl", the way that the grown men employing me as an adult woman would make explicit suggestions and inappropriate and unwelcome advances, the way that sales people direct me to the side of the store they feel would be more appropriate to my perceived gender and the yells I hear walking down the street when the bars let out. They are all unacceptable, they are all "bullying", but they are also so much more. Understanding the intersectionality of these issues is important. I have heard a lot of media around vigils being held in Amanda Todd's honour today. Today is also the day that queer and trans communities have been drawing attention to these issues within our communities for years already. A few more weeks and we will be approaching Trans Day of Remembrance, another case of communities who have been living with a personal understanding of how these issues affect us for a long time, that have been finding ways to address and honour the victims for years. I am glad that more school districts are recognizing that these are issues to talk about up front, but I challenge them to find ways to look at what has already been happening and integrate the energy into a unified front. School districts and community organizations organizing vigils and discussions this week are calling students to step up and not be silent bystanders. I think that this is an important step in creating safer schools and communities, I think it's vital to look at what taking a stand takes. Many times, the threat of becoming the next target keeps bystanders silent. The threat of retaliation for being a 'narc' from cohorts is real. As well, many people don't speak up, as they don't see the behaviour or don't recognize its problematic nature. As well, knowing what will happen if attention is drawn to an issue is an important factor going into the choice to step up. When threats of personal harm are on the table, and we aren't sure that our actions will have any affect, or an affect we agree with, it can keep witnesses silent for their own calculated interests. I believe having upfront and open conversations about approaches of justice in schools, work places, and communities could prove incredibly valuable. Knowing if a student bully would serve punishment, and what that punishment could be is a make or break element of this challenge. If a bully is given a suspension as a result of bullying, all that means is that they have time off campus to prepare a next assault. It could mean that a bully is laying in wait, right off the school grounds, right outside of the arm of the schools' jurisdictions for the 'narc' to walk into their trap. Whereas, engaging students, employees, community members in ongoing accountability dialogues, wherein issues can be identified, addressed and explored can create a container for the pain and trauma which causes people to enact hateful and violent behaviours on each other. Within this container compassion can be bloomed, understanding can be planted, and cycles of violence and trauma can begin to heal. This type of dialogue and process cannot exist in a bubble. It cannot exist in divided categories where the queer and trans youth are discussing homophobia and transphobia in segregated settings, without the support of het and cis allies. This type of dialogue cannot happen once a year, in a large group setting without ongoing follow up. This type of process requires a large scale commitment to delve into the really hard and painful things that lie under the surface of 'bullying'. Addressing the ways that the legacies of colonization and institutional racism spawn slurs on the playground, addressing the ongoing sexism that exists in the "binders full of women" world we live in, addressing economic inequality, addressing child poverty and sexual exploitation of minors and alcoholism and drug addiction and ablism are not easy one afternoon topics, that can have a candle lit for them and have them go away. They don't get better when you survive the institution, especially if you are living in the intersections of oppression. Addressing oppression is required to end bullying, so when we talk about making schools safer, we must realize that we are really talking about a societal paradigm shift. Perhaps this increased attention will be a key piece in creating that shift. I hope that as the topics enter conversations online and off that you may be a part of, you can challenge the idea that bullying is a school yard problem. I hope you can be a part of this change within your own families, communities, and work places and I look forward to hearing about the ways that this is working where you are.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

First times, hopefully gentle.

The facebook status I most recently posted said: “…. is rallying all the glamour of fairy queens past, present and future where they rest in my closet dancing to Abba to properly honour the momentous occasion that is Castlegar Gay Pride. THIS IS A REALLY BIG DEAL. I am so excited to be able to bring my wholeself to Castlegar, a place that I usually leave a few of my selves at home or in the car when I go there. A place that I have felt a need to butch up to feel safe. And tonight, we will create safety in numbers. An opportunity to celebrate our diversity, fabulosity and create space so we won’t have to check ourselves at the door, and most importantly the next generation of people growing up around here may never have to learn this survival mechanism at all.” _______________ I wanted to share with you internet about how incredibly excited I am for this incredibly important occasion. As my followers know, I have been living and finding space for this genderfucked fancy self in a part of rural Canada that has a pretty decent reputation of being radical, accepting and weird. There are 2 small cities equidistant from my home. Nelson being one, and Castlegar being the second. Castlegar is where I usually go shopping, as the thrift stores are amazing and they have much cheaper groceries. Sometimes occasionally I will go see a movie in Castlegar since Nelson doesn’t currently have a theatre. But almost always going to Castlegar takes some degree of warm up, a specific kind of outfit, appropriate footwear etc. I think preparing to go Castlegar is sort of akin to what some people who are closeted must wrestle with every morning. How much can I be real, and still be safe? What can I pull off and slip under the radar, not raise any eyebrows or red flags? Usually I butch up when I go to Castlegar. I very rarely bind, but I like to wear overalls, baggy sweaters or a distracting amount of layers when I go to Castlegar. This got me into trouble when I first arrived. I over heated and passed out while in Fabricland. I have to say, if there is a good place to pass out, a fabric store is it. My head was bolstered by a bolt of polar fleece and I awoke to a small crowd of grandmothers, retired cardiac nurses and quilt crazed cougars. I wasn’t sure how they would react to my trans-ness. They were shocked at the amount of clothes I was wearing, I passed it of as being attributed to adjusting from a recent move from the coast and not being able to warm up in the ice yet. I was taken to the hospital in Castlegar, which is very small. I remember a room with out 5 or 6 beds in it being the ER, possibly even the whole thing. I told one of the paramedics that I was trans, and tried to explain that I didn’t really want it to be a thing. I don’t really remember how exactly everything went down, but I remember being generally impressed. Which says a lot, I’ve had lots of experience with hospital emergency rooms, and I am rarely satisfied, let alone impressed. The hospital staff grabbed one of their mental health workers to drop by and introduce himself before he left for home. I was introduced into their system, considering that I had all sorts of warning signs; new to the area, depressed, isolated and overwhelmed. I met with one of their workers for a bit, which in some ways felt like I should have been transcribing a book called, “how I feel about being trans in this place.” I don’t really feel like that is the best way to encourage healing and balance in my life so I dropped out. Castlegar is the place where I usually won’t try on dresses or skirts without buying them, and sort of convince myself that I am buying them for a friend. I try to pass, trying to access as much male privilege as anyone will give me. Tonight I will be busting it all out. Two outfits, one to appear in, and one to change into as the night lets loose. But neither one of these outfits is attempting to pass as male, or straight, or normal. Tonight is the Pride party. For the first time in Castlegar, gays (their language not mine, I think the crowd will be a lot more queer+) will organize and appear en mass publicly. Tonight we make history.