Bill C-16. Passed!

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Photo credit: (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Today the Canadian Senate passed Bill C-16!!

This bill adds gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Code, and correspondingly changes the Criminal Code allowing protection to trans and gender non-conforming people experiencing discrimination, harassment and hate crimes.

Today, my trans child is now protected and has equal rights to my cis-gender child.  Both my children have equal rights and protections in the eyes of the law of our country.  As a parent, this means SO much to me.  We’ve advocated for this.  Our community has advocated for this.  Our community members across the country have advocated for this. For years, these proposed protections have been struck down and previous bills died on the floors of Parliament.

Today I’m proud to say that my country has become a better and safer place.  Today I’m proud to say that my country is leading the way, demonstrating globally the value of tolerance, diversity and equality.

Thank you Canada!  Thank you advocates in the trans* community! Thank you those who have come before us, trans folks who risked their own safety to fight for the rights of the trans* community.

Today, I am a thankful parent.  Thankful that my trans child will be growing up in a better, safer, more respectful world.  Today, we witnessed a historic moment.

Trans rights are human rights.

Rape Culture.

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Rape culture is so pervasive and it starts impacting children in primary school.  I felt extremely triggered by something my younger daughter shared with me last week after school.  It’s been bothering me all weekend for a number of reasons.  I find rape culture upsetting.  Sometimes I just want to scream, cry and shout about gender based violence and fight against it.  Other times I’m exhausted, burnt out, spent from trauma and secondary trauma and I want to curl up in bed and hide from the world.  Just take it.  Just let it all happen.  Just zone out and give up.  Because I can’t fight rape culture alone.  It’s too big and I’m just one individual person.

My daughter is in primary school.  She told me that the boys in her class were pinning girls up against the wall and humping them.  She told me that the girls were squirming and trying to get away and that they did not like it. The teachers did nothing.  I asked my daughter if the boys did this to her.  She told me they didn’t because they don’t fully see her as a girl yet (she’s transgender).   I asked her if she told the teacher and she told me “No, because the teachers tell me to stay out of other people’s business”

My daughter knows that this behaviour is wrong.  She was upset about it which is why she told me.  We talked about consent.  We talked about bystander intervention and the difference between tattling and telling to get help.  She told me she might talk to a teacher she trusts on Monday.

I’m triggered for a number of reasons.

This type of behaviour shows just how young the messages of “boys will be boys” and “boys chase girls because they like them” etc.  are ingrained, in students, and teachers don’t question them.  My daughter consistently tells me that teachers don’t intervene in situations like this, instead telling the kids to sort it out themselves.  This tells me that the school isn’t teaching consent culture, nor are they valuing bystander intervention, nor are they clearly teaching and demonstrating the difference between tattling and telling.  These are important skills in combating rape culture, preventing sexual violence and helping stop sexual assault in situations where risks occur (i.e bystander intervention).

Though I was very glad my daughter hadn’t experienced this unwanted behaviour, it also drove home a very clear message that women and feminine presenting folks are the main targets of rape culture.  Because my daughter socially transitioned this year, her friends still perceive her as a boy, thus they do not target her for this type of sexualized bullying.  She exists in an in between space, not perpetrating the violence and not yet suffering it either.  Though she does experience some bullying related to being trans or being different, because the kids don’t yet perceive her as a “real girl,”  she is not yet a target for the unwanted sexual bullying.

All of this is extremely upsetting for me.  I’m angry that the school isn’t being more proactive in protecting these female students.  I’m angry that the school isn’t being more proactive in teaching the male students that sexual bullying is not acceptable.  Rape culture takes root during these early years.  It’s far too late to begin education in consent culture in high school.  It’s important to teach school age children that “no means no,”  that games should stop if both people aren’t having fun, that chasing girls isn’t cool unless everyone has agreed on the game, and that humping people against a wall is assault, not a joke.

As adults, role models, mentors, parents and teachers, we can root out rape culture.  We can fight it at the roots by doing primary prevention.  Teaching consent culture to young boys and masculine folks.  Teaching bystander intervention to all kids.  Teaching young girls and women to build each other up, support each other and look out for each other.

I can be a radical feminist.  I can be a social justice advocate.  I can fight to end gender based violence until my last breath.   But very little will change, if young boys are being implicitly taught that humping young girls against a school yard wall is acceptable behaviour and young girls are being taught that nobody will stop it from happening.

I’m reclaiming “crazy.”

I’m so tired of crazy being used as an abelist, stigmatizing slur against me by my ex-husband.  I’m fed up of being called crazy as an insult, as an excuse for his abusive behaviour.  I’m tired of gaslighting which blames my PTSD for the sexual violence he perpetrated.  I’m tired of being seen as less than, being labelled with things that don’t apply to me.  I’m tired of the implicit assumption that having a mental illness is a terrible thing, something I should be horribly ashamed of.  It’s problematic on so many levels.  He accuses me of having borderline personality disorder (which I don’t have) but even if I DID have it, so what?  Would I be “crazy?”   Would this warrant being mistreated and shunned and ignored?  Would it mean everything I say and do is suspect?

I reject all this.  I want to reclaim crazy.  I want to fight mental health stigma.  I don’t want to be ashamed that I’m not neuro-typical.

I’d like my ex-husband to stop spreading awful rumours about me in the community, but I don’t have control over that!

Things I would like to stop hearing as I reclaim crazy:

-Be more neutral

-You are too emotional

-You are too sensitive

-Tone down your feminism

-Your past is impacting your parenting

-That was a long time ago, why don’t you get over it

-Just relax

-Calm down

-Don’t worry so much

-You are over-reacting

-Why didn’t you just say no?

-Don’t you know how to defend yourself?

-Why didn’t you just fight back?

-She’s crazy (from anyone unless they are also reclaiming the word)

I celebrate being crazy in a positive way, because it means that I’m NOT neutral.  It means that I am an advocate, a social justice warrior, an ally and a support worker.  I’ve harnessed some of the energy of the bad things I’ve survived and I’m using it to help others, to fight injustice and to try to leave the world a better place than I found it.    I’m proud of my feminism.  I’m proud of my anti-oppression principles and the way I strive to unlearn and learn in my daily life.  I don’t want to calm down.  My feminism gives me energy and it keeps me alive.

And if that makes me crazy, then I embrace it.  But let me define crazy.

Nevertheless she persisted.

 

Calories on Restaurant Menus: a Rant.

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When Ana and I first started hanging out together, I used to go to the bulk food store and buy candy.  Specifically, gum drops and red licorice bits.   I used to drink diet coke and eat twizzlers licorice from the 7-11 on my way home.  I used candy and diet pop as a replacement for proper nutrition.  I would bring exactly 5 gum drops to school and I would eat them slowly, while sipping diet coke and pretend it was a meal.  Those gums drops and the occasional licorice were some of the only treats allowed into my strict food rituals.  I loved that candy.

Then one day, the bulk food store started posting nutritional information on the lids of their bins.

And I never ate those gum drops again.  In fact, I stopped eating candy.  I mostly stopped shopping at bulk food stores!  Something that had been considered “safe” was suddenly off limits and forbidden.  The only reason?  Because I now knew exactly how many calories were in that licorice piece and 5 gum drops.  I was devastated and angry.  Why did the store need to post the caloric content of the gum drops?  Why?!?

When I was an inpatient receiving treatment for anorexia, I was encouraged not to read food labels, not to look at calories.  I was encouraged to eat based on my body’s cues, or even mechanically an appropriate amount to sustain health.

For the most part, I did this for years.  When my children were diagnosed with severe and life threatening food allergies, I was forced to confront food labels.  I was forced to read all the ingredients and check carefully for potential allergens.  I struggled with this, because again my eyes could not avoid seeing the nutritional information, calories and fat in the items I was consuming.  But I did it for my kids health and safety.

Recently, the government has decided that it is mandatory to post nutritional information and caloric content right up on the menus of all restaurants.

I was furious!  This is so incredibly triggering for many people with eating disorders.

I absolutely did not want to know exactly how many calories were in the Starbucks cookie I was having for a snack.  I did not want to know how many calories were in my caramel latte.  I just did not want this information.  I don’t want it!  I will never want it.  Because once I know it, I can’t “unknow” it!  This information is not useful to my life.  It does not make me healthier or happier.

On a good day, the information won’t change the choices I make.  But on a bad day, a day when Ana is in the driver’s seat…

Suddenly I’m struggling over deciding what snack to choose at Starbucks.  Suddenly I’m ordering a black coffee, rather than that cinnamon latte.

On a bad day, nutritional information and caloric content listed in large ominous letters on the menu in front of me, can put a dark cloud over my enjoyment of that snack or meal.

I understand that nutritional information must be available at restaurants.  It should be available for those with food allergies or sensitivities or religious dietary restrictions.  It should be there for those with diabetes.  It should be there for viewing ON REQUEST!  But does the caloric intake of my Starbucks beverage REALLY need to be right in my face as I attempt to order?

I think the answer is no.  I go to Starbucks for a break.   I go there to relax.  I go there to treat myself and rest from the stress of my life.  I don’t go there to have an extended and upsetting debate with Ana.

I just want to drink my coffee in peace!

Capitalism = Isolation

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We live in a society that glorifies productivity, busyness and wealth.  I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how this capitalist value system doesn’t work for people with disabilities including chronic mental illness.  I’ve also been thinking about how glorifying busyness means devaluing human connection, caring and many tasks that are associated with women’s unpaid labour (housework, childcare, health care); as well as, devaluing self care (especially for women).

Those are a lot of big words.  As I’m adjusting to reduced energy levels and increased amount of symptoms related to my physical and mental health issues, I’ve been recognizing the need to slow down.  I’ve been more aware of my disability than usual.  I’ve been very keenly aware of how many people around me are addicted to, or glorify, being busy to the point of workaholism.  I’m aware of how many people around me are literally too busy to make a human connection.  I’m aware of how many people are putting careers first, trying to get ahead, trying to get rich…and putting off connection “for later” or for “when I’m successful enough.”   It’s incredible how many people are too busy to spend time with friends.  Too busy to go on a date.  Too busy to have a telephone call other than in the car in between “essential” tasks.

I’ve been reflecting on what is actually important to me and why I often feel like I just don’t fit in anywhere.

Quite honestly I have no interest in being so busy that I am too exhausted to enjoy my life.  I don’t want to be rich.  I don’t want to be famous.  I don’t want to have a bigger house or a fancier job. I don’t want to be the boss.  I don’t want to have fame.

I just want human connection, peace and happiness and I don’t think money can buy those things.  Neither can workaholism achieve them.  I want to have time to enjoy  my kids while they are young.  I want to spend the day cuddled in bed with a partner.  I want to have someone to cook for.  I want long talks over coffee.  I want to have someone to talk about my day with.  I want to be comforted when I’m afraid.  I want to create memories.  I want to feel like I have space to breathe!  And I want someone else who feels the same way.

It’s occurred to me that there is a much larger social problem going on around me when people I talk to don’t have time to meet for a coffee.  Not just one or two people, but the majority of people I know are so busy they have almost every minute of their lives scheduled.   I’ve been thinking a lot about how our society glorifies being busy.   Society equates being busy with being valuable.   Being productive with having inherent worth.

But where does that leave people who choose to stay home to take care of their children?  Where does it leave those who are living with either permanent disability or temporary illness?   When we don’t value unpaid caring labour we are not valuing some of the most important work in our society.  When we equate productivity and earning power with self worth we perpetuate abelism and the view point that disabled people are somehow less than whole, less than valuable or even expendable.

Equating productivity with self worth means that I’ve been conditioned to believe that resting, self caring, and hobbies have no inherent value.  This is not true.

Equating earning power with value, means that when I entered the workforce my years of full time parenting were not viewed as relevant experience, even though I was applying for jobs in the helping profession.

Capitalism creates a world where burn out is expected.  It is almost worn as a badge of honour by some people, how many hours they work and how much money they earn.

Lately as I’ve been forced to slow down and accept my own limitations, I wonder if some workaholics will have regrets.  I wonder when people are old and rich, but alone if they will feel sad.  I wonder if people feel satisfied with the lives they have, or if like me, they are yearning for more.  I wonder how many people in our society are deeply yearning for connection.  Connection to one another, connection to community, connection to nature and connection to something bigger than themselves.

It could be a radical act to accept our self worth is not connected to our net worth.

It could be a radical act to deeply value self care and caring for others.

It could be a radical act to care for our communities and help those around us who are less able, while still viewing them as complete and valuable human beings.

It could be a radical act to value connection.

(please note this blog entry is NOT meant to devalue the struggles of those who don’t have enough money for the basics of life, or who need to work long hours to provide the basics for themselves. Captialism is responsible for this as well, because a more communal philosophy would place stronger social safety nets in place, including a living wage!)

International Women’s Day

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There was a call today for “a day without women” as a protest against President He Who Shall Not Be Named.  Women were encouraged to stay home from work or to wear red in protest.  It’s also International Women’s Day.

I decided to wear red, but I didn’t stay home from work.  I challenged the patriarchy by going to work today.  Helping women.  It was important for me to go to work today, because I’ve been struggling a LOT the past few weeks. Last week I was tempted to quit my job, and just accept that I’m not “able” enough to pass as normal, not “able” enough to continue working, too sick to keep pushing through.

But I realize that the patriarchy wants nothing more than for me to fail.  My abuser wants me to fail, I think he wants me to crash and burn and commit suicide.

So for me going to work today was an act of defiance and resilience.  It was me overcoming the panic attacks as I got ready, left the house and drove to work.  It was me ignoring the negative self talk which was telling me that everyone hated me and that I should just quit.  It was me saying that I won’t give up, I won’t give the system the satisfaction of seeing me fail.

Failure isn’t an option.  I have to be “well enough” and “able” enough to keep going forward.  I need to do it for my children and for people who are depending on me.  I know I could be replaceable at work, but my kids only have one mother.  So I’ve decided to take better care of myself, to rest and to try to move at a pace that is sustainable and won’t exhaust me to the point of panic and wanting to quit my job.   I’m going to do the best I can, but that best might not be what others are able to do.  Right now, I have to do what I am capable of, what I am able to, and stop judging myself against standards I’m not always able to meet.

So for International Women’s Day, I left the house.  I battled panic attacks but I did not let them stop me.  I tried to focus on my ability rather than my DIS-ability.  I did my best and for today, maybe that was good enough.

Pin featured in photo by Rachael House http://www.rachaelhouse.com

 

Be Your Own Hero.

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It’s been a difficult time for me.  I’ve been waiting 90 days+ for the verdict in my family law trial.  I’m experiencing a lot of triggers and finding it harder to stay positive and optimistic about the future.

Quite frankly, it is terrible for my mental and physical health to have contact with my abuser.  It upsets me, it triggers me, it causes flashbacks and disassociation, it confuses me, gaslights me, makes me doubt myself, my abilities, makes me feel crazy and like nobody believes me.

Unfortunately, he is the father of my children and I can’t just go no contact.

It’s awful.  It’s awful being told I have to “get along” with someone who treated me so badly.  It’s frustrating being told by many institutions such as the kids school, the CAS and some doctors, that I should be more neutral, not let my past impact me, that he’s a loving parent and basically a good person.

Hold on a minute….basically a good person?

That’s what I told myself for years.  It’s just sexual abuse.  It’s just the sexual stuff, he’s otherwise “basically a good person.”  Telling myself that kept me locked into the relationship for years longer than I should have stayed.

Someone who doesn’t believe in consent is not “basically a good person” they are an abusive person.  He is an abusive person.

Privilege in society allows abusers to “pass” as basically good people.  They know how to act, to charm, to make their victims look crazy or unreliable or unbelievable, they know how to discredit others, they know how to tell different lies to different people to suit their needs.  Most abusers can make you think they are basically good people, but in reality, the signs are there that they are not good people.

The saddest part is that because abusers are expert liars and manipulators they can often convince everyone who might be able to help you, that they are good people!   So the abuse they perpetrate goes unnoticed and unacknowledged by anyone who might be able to support or rescue you.

Suddenly, they are “basically good people” and you are perceived as mentally ill and crazy.

Abusers gaslight the system.  That, combined with the societal privilege, rape culture, and patriarchy, allow them to pass unseen, and unnoticed through our world, abusing people as they please and not being stopped.  In a parallel experience, the survivors are believed less and less, as a web of lies is spun about them by the abuser to those around her who might assist her in escaping.

This is what I’m experiencing in my life.  It’s been 3.5 years since I left my abuser but I’m still locked in a web of abuse.  Very few people within the “system” believe me, and those who DO believe me and my kids, are seen as biased!  It’s an unbelievable, frustrating and maddening situation.

The more I protest, advocate and fight for myself and my kids, the more I am labelled radical, crazy, not neutral, too angry etc.

So what are my options?

I feel like the only option is to be my own hero.

At the end of the day, my ex-partner would like nothing more than for me to fall into a crisis and commit suicide.  He wants me to kill myself so that he can be right.  So he can prove that I’m crazy and that I don’t care about, and have never cared about, my kids.  He won’t stop punishing us until he reaches this goal.

But it’s been 3.5 years, and generally I’m more mentally healthy than I was before.  Generally, I take care of myself.  I’m working full time.  I’m becoming more confident in myself and my career.  I have some supportive friends and a supportive family.  I’m not falling into a crisis.

I won’t let him destroy me.  I’ll stay alive as long as I can just to spite him.

I’ll be my own hero, if nobody else will step up to protect my kids.  I’ll protect them and myself and do everything in my power to survive.

Survival is the best revenge.

If you are experiencing abuse, be your own hero.  Believe yourself.  Support yourself.  The rest will slowly follow.

On Valentine’s Day, Celebrate YOU!

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Valentines against white supremacy
By Kate Madeira

On Valentine’s Day this year celebrate yourself!  It’s perfectly okay to take a day to acknowledge yourself and all the work you’ve done.  Celebrate yourself and all your awesome qualities!  Feel proud of the fact that you are a survivor.  You are surviving like a boss.

I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection and taking a long hard look at my life recently.  I’ve been confronted with accepting the fact that it’s not my abusers standing in the way of my recovery (at least not entirely).  What is standing in my way are my own negative, self hating, self-destructive core beliefs.  If I don’t believe that I deserve recovery, health and happiness, then I can’t expect those things to just fall into my life with the wave of a magic wand.

I’m not ready to let go of lifelong core beliefs.  Not yet.  It’s going to be a long journey.

But that journey is beginning with a single step.

Acknowledging that maybe, just MAYBE, my core beliefs aren’t true.  Maybe, just MAYBE, there is another option for me.  Maybe, just MAYBE, I could live a life where I do celebrate myself, I do believe in myself and I do believe that I deserve good things.

This Valentine’s Day, I hope that you find love.

Trust me, self love will last a lot longer than that box of chocolates.

Though you deserve chocolates too!  Buy them for yourself tomorrow, they’ll be 50% off!

 

Born this Way?

 

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A question that I get asked a LOT when I disclose to people that I’m queer is:

“Were you always attracted to women or do you think is it a result of your trauma?”

I find myself wondering what the answer is.  Was I born this way?  Or did I become less and less attracted to cisgender men as a result of experiences of sexual assault?  Does it matter? And why do other people care about the “cause” of my sexual orientation?  Is it really anyone else’s business?

Is my sexual orientation any less valid if I wasn’t born this way?

As a result of recent world events, I find myself feeling less self confident and proud of being queer.  I’m afraid that it might make me more of a target, or be perceived as more different.  I already feel like I don’t fit in, and being queer sometimes feels like one more way that I’m not “normal.”

I came out gradually to people in my life after 3 decades of living the straight lifestyle.  I bought into the “straight agenda” of heteronormativity.  Grow up, get married, have children, live happily ever after.  But it didn’t turn out that way for me.  After dating men for my entire adult life, and after being in a serious relationship/marriage with a man for 13 years, I was single and I had the freedom to explore what not being straight might mean.

I honestly don’t know if I was born this way.  Because as a young person, I don’t think I even knew or understood that being gay was an option for me.  I did know a few gay guys, but I didn’t know any gay women (or at least I thought I didn’t!).   I don’t remember ever having a conscious thought that dating women was something I could explore.  I don’t remember NOT being attracted to women, I just remember it not being on my radar.  Does this mean I wasn’t born this way?  Or does it represent a lack of knowledge that I could explore options other than the heterosexual path.

I have survived a lot of sexual violence perpetrated by men.  Because of this I have flashbacks and triggers related to men.  There is no doubt that experiencing sexual trauma at a young age impacted my sexuality.  But did it “turn me gay?”   And again, does it matter?

For me,  neither answer rings true.  I wasn’t 100% born this way, and it wasn’t entirely trauma either.  Most of all, I don’t think it’s important to figure out exactly why, in my 30s, I came out and identified as a queer woman.  Maybe for some people there isn’t a clear path.  Maybe for some people sexuality is fluid and develops across a life span.  I don’t think it makes me any less queer just because I came to the realization in my 30s.

I do know that when I identified as straight, nobody ever questioned me about it.  Nobody ever asked me if I was “born that way.”   Nobody asked if I’d been abused by women and thus was only attracted by men!  Hetero-privilege means that you don’t get questioned about your sexuality.

I do know that my sexual orientation isn’t a choice.  It’s not something I can ignore and it’s not something I’m ashamed of.  Whatever the reason, I’m not straight.  And as much as I’d sometimes like to return to my hetero-privilege, I can’t.  Once you come out of the closet, you can’t shove yourself back in there.

I’m here, I’m queer and I’m made this way!