Opinions cast in stone…

My parents and I wandered into a chocolatiers. Dad quickly checked out the chocolates while Mom and I looked around. It was a small shop, there wasn’t much else to look at, so I went over to the cash where my Dad was paying for his candy and joking with the cashier. There, in the box beside him, were two boxes of chocolates. Both were labeled “non dairy”.

“Are these vegan?” I asked. They pretty much had to be because no one puts eggs in chocolate bars but I figured I’d ask to be safe.

The cashier came around the counter and pointed out several bars, “These are vegan.”

“What about those?” I asked, pointing to foil wrapped bars directly under a “non dairy” sign.

“Those are salted caramel,” she explained. “You can’t make vegan salted caramel.”

“My favourite ice cream is vegan salted caramel,” I informed her.

“Salted caramel requires cream and eggs,” she replied. “Your ice cream isn’t vegan.”

“My ice cream is made by a vegan company and labeled vegan.”

She didn’t respond with words but the tone she made was dismissive and I left disappointed. I wasn’t looking for an argument, I just wanted her to hear me with an open mind.

Isn’t it funny how people cling to their opinions, even when proven wrong? I wonder if it’s a comfort thing. You get used to thinking a certain way and don’t want to have to shift your thoughts 90 degrees. And sometimes it’s okay to let someone go on with their beliefs. It’s not going to hurt anyone if Nana keeps a Bounce sheet in her pocket to keep away the mosquitos. On the other hand, it does hurt someone if the government allows an organization to use electroshock therapy, among other things, to try and change someone’s gender or sexual orientation through conversion therapy. Hint. It doesn’t work.

Canada has an election on Monday and the polls are so very close… nail biting close. A margin of 0.9 is all that separates the Liberals from the Conservatives. And the Conservatives are ahead.

We used to have a party called the Progressive Conservatives, an amalgamation of two right wing parties. It stayed like that for decades until an extreme right wing party from Alberta, called the Reform Party, combined with the PCs. They knocked the Progressive off the name. Probably because there’s nothing Progressive about them.

Scheer, the conservative leader, has made no secret of the fact he’s anti-LGBTQIA2S. He’s also anti-choice when it comes to abortion, referring to fetuses as “pre-born babies”. His followers are quick to remind me that Scheer promised not to touch equal marriage, as if that’s the only concern. They have no answer when I bring up trans rights. The right to affirming surgeries, hormones, blockers for teens, to have equal access to jobs and housing. And that scares me. Not just that those are still on the list but that his followers don’t seem to care. I had one woman today claim I couldn’t just worry about a “special interest group”. The special interest group was the LGBTQIA2S community. I’m talking about human rights, not a knitting club who might have to find a new hall.

All it takes is a few minutes, a handful of questions, and an open mind. The cashier I talked to could have said, “You found vegan salted caramel ice cream? I didn’t know they could make it, what’s it like?” And the people voting for Scheer need to listen to the LGBTQIA2S community and understand why we’re scared. And once you’ve listened, then go out and cast your vote.

I’ll be out there on Monday. Will you?

pride

National Coming Out Day…

Guess what day it is? No, sadly, it’s not Free Pizza for Everyone Day. You can put down the pizza cutter. Instead it’s National Coming Out Day! It’s a holiday, albeit one with no food, that was started by the Human Rights Campaign thirty-one years ago. I’ve been coming out every year for four years now but there’s always new readers and the possibility (not likely) that someone might have missed my posts.

Alright, so I’m a demiromantic, panromantic asexual. That hasn’t changed since I’ve come out back in 2015, no matter what someone who’s close to me seems to think. Demiromantic means I become romantically attached only to friends. Panromantic means I’m romantically attracted to all genders. Yes, even your gender. And asexual means I have no sexual attraction to anyone. While you’re thinking “look at those blue eyes… I wish we could bump uglies” I’m thinking “look at those blue eyes, I could stare at them for ages”.

I ran into a friend today. She said “hi” enthusiastically then gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. We did the usual “How are you?” then she looked uncomfortable.

“I saw Colin at the bus stop recently and he, umm, started talking about stuff. Gender stuff.”

“You mean he said he was a girl on the inside and a man on the outside?” I asked and she nodded with visible relief.

“I didn’t know what to say,” she concluded.

“I’m sure you did fine,” I replied then she started talking about a trans aunt of hers. At first she started using he/him pronouns but I keep using she/her and soon she flipped to the female pronouns.

All the while I kept thinking of Colin. I know this lady because we were in the mental health ward of the hospital together, which means lots of time for conversation there. And she lives barely a block away so we bump into each other every once in a while. However, I think Colin’s only seen her twice and for a couple of minutes at that. It makes me wonder how many strangers are wandering around wondering who “that guy” is and why Colin was talking about being a woman.

I’ve offered to help him get a free therapist and to join, not one, but two groups dealing with gender related issues but he refused. I guess he’ll keep coming out to strangers and hope someday he comes out again to himself and those he loves.

Jeremy and I

Colin and I at the Pride Parade June 2015

Straight pride…

I can’t remember how old I was, maybe six or seven. I was standing in the living room beside my Mom when a boy only a little older than me walked past on the road. It was obvious he was crying.

“Why’s he crying Mommy?” I asked.

“He’s going to karate and he doesn’t want to go,” she replied.

“But why does he have to go if he doesn’t like it?”

My Mom thought for a few minutes, likely tailoring the story into something more suitable for my age. “His father thinks he’s too… sensitive… too girly and he’s trying to toughen him up.”

I thought of how sad he’d looked. “Can’t someone stop his Dad?”

“It’s not illegal to send your child to karate, even if he doesn’t like it. It’s not even against the law to make him walk there.”

I could tell by my Mom’s voice she didn’t like it. It was also obvious that there was nothing she or anyone else could do. It was also obvious that some adults did not like their children for who they were. Fit in or get hammered in.

The years passed and I was in high school. I was in a crowded hall when the group next to me caught my attention. Maybe because they were loud. Maybe because there was a teacher in the group. It was Monday and they were talking about what they’d done that weekend.

“I went downtown,” one said with a shit eating grin. A second and the teacher had also gone.

I loved going downtown too. I’d go down Queen Street to Bakka, a sci-fi/fantasy bookstore and I’d sometimes eat at The Old Spaghetti Factory. That wasn’t why they went though.

“There’s so many fags there, I didn’t have enough rocks!”

“I hit one and made him bleed!” The rest, including the teacher, made noises of approval, while I slid through the crowd and hurried away, feeling sick.

Time went on. I joined a choir and looked forward to our weekly rehearsals. One year we performed the song “Putting on the Ritz” and had a tap dancer perform in the middle. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him and couldn’t stop blushing either. He was really cute and a really good dancer. I mentioned the latter to the person beside me who looked at me with surprise.

“She’s a girl,” the choir member informed me. I looked closer and, sure enough, she was. But the interest didn’t go away. And, unlike the feeling of curiosity I felt when I was romantically attracted to a boy, this time all I felt was fear.

I was bullied at school and already knew how kids treat those they feel are different. And, of course, I couldn’t forget the guys blithely talking about throwing rocks at strangers for fun.

By the time I finished high school I was so far into the closet I’m surprised I didn’t come back out riding a lion. I married a man and was pregnant before our first anniversary. I’d worn my hair almost down to my waist for years but was finding it harder to keep it brushed and decent so I’d got a short cut in my 8th month. We went out for a walk one evening when a car drove by. The passenger yelled, “Fags!!!” out the open window. Anything else he said blurred into nonsense syllables while they sped away. I was terrified. Would they come back? Would they care that I was pregnant if they did. My ex wasn’t worried at all. I, however, knew how they treated those who were different.

It was last December and on our first date when I slid my hand into my girlfriend’s hand. We walked down a quiet path and I quietly breathed a sigh of relief when no one said anything. I knew that wasn’t the case all the time. Times have changed but by how much? Apparently enough to have a straight pride parade.

The parade is scheduled for this August in Boston and, to no one’s surprise, has links with the far-right and includes having Milo Yawnopoulos as the Grand Marshal. I’ve read a mixture of opinions regarding it but all I have is rage.

Pride started out as a protest against police brutality. It started with a brick thrown by a black trans sex worker, causing a riot that lasted for several days. The following year they started a parade and it’s continued ever since, spreading across the world. It was a parade of rage. Rage against the police officers who would pull them onto the street naked to shame them. Rage against the public who didn’t care. Rage against people who attacked them and mocked them… who refused to hire them or rent apartments to them. It wasn’t a party.

Now the Pride Parade is more of a party, a celebration of how far we’ve come. A celebration that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away.

But now there’s a straight backlash. They want to be in the LGBTQIA2S acronym, you know, because it isn’t quite long enough yet. They want their parade too. It’s not fair.

Do you know what’s not fair? What’s not fair is that child crying his way to karate, knowing his father only wanted him if he was someone else. Someone stronger… someone more straight. That child’s suicide attempt risk is so much higher than a straight child.

What’s not fair is all the people who had rocks thrown at them all because they dared to hold hands in a gay enclave. Or had slurs screamed at them.

What’s not fair is the eleven POC trans women who have been killed this year alone.

Or how about gay conversion therapy for youths, a treatment that has huge suicide rates and can cause PTSD.

Straight people want the party without the pain. They’ve never worried about holding hands or being attacked. They don’t have to worry about being misgendered and mocked by hospital staff after being assaulted. The people demanding their straight parade are like a spoiled child seeing a student get an award and demanding to know where their award is too, even though they didn’t put in any of the work.

No one’s stopping them for attending a pride parade, although I have a hunch they refuse out of a fear of having a pass made to them. They can wave rainbow flags and laugh and cheer with everyone else. Allies are more than welcome.

But they’re going to have their parade and a bunch of my friends are figuring it’s going to be the most boring parade ever, unless the far-right ignites a riot. And I’m just glad I’m nowhere near it.

 

No longer hidden…

It was the ’80’s, the heyday of Much Music, a Canadian music video station similar to MTV in the States. Now we could not only hear the songs  we liked but watch the imagination of the artists (or their staff) when it came to the videos. The only disappointment was it meant the end of the Solid Gold Dancers and our chances of getting on stage in what looked like a gold tinfoil leotard and dancing to the hits of the early ’80’s. I know my sisters and I weren’t the only ones who pondered this career option.

I liked watching and listening to the music but there was very little out there that I liked enough to remember both the artist and the songs. One of those artists was Cyndi Lauper. I loved that she didn’t care about what people thought of her and wore what she liked. And I loved her song True Colours. The only thing I disliked was the relationships added to her videos. Time after Time mentions nothing about a relationship yet it permeates the whole video. And in True Colours she literally pulls some guy out of the water to kiss him before moving on. Relationships and physical intimacy made me uncomfortable, even though I had no idea why and having her add both to her videos bothered me. It almost felt like a betrayal, something I’d never try to voice and couldn’t explain.

It was years later that she came out as a lesbian, which wasn’t a huge surprise, although I still wished she’d gone more neutral in her videos. Maybe she didn’t have the option. [it was years ago that a friend of mine told me Cyndi Lauper’s a lesbian and today that a friend told me it’s her sister who is one. Thanks C. Proofreading’s always a help]

It was years after this that I discovered Pentatonix through a Christmas video playing on Facebook. I loved their harmonies and voices and started searching out more songs. Eventually I bought enough of their songs that half my exercise album is their vocals. We even went to see them in 2015 with Kait and her boyfriend J.

Something that’s not hidden (like it was in the 1980’s) is both Mitch and Scott are gay. Even so, I figured they’d end up singing about girls because, hey, that’s what happens. My heart lifted when I saw this:

… and it still lifts each time I hear it. I’m so glad times have changed.

I wear my tears on the inside…

The conversation came out of nowhere. One minute we were getting ready to catch the bus and the next Colin was talking about whether trans people should out themselves to prospective dates. I was on the side of no and Colin, surprisingly enough, went for yes.

“It’s no one’s business what’s in someone else’s pants,” I said as I locked the front door. “Genitals are private.”

“What about you and L?” he asked. “You must know about her.”

“No,” I replied. “I’ll probably find out if we get serious but right now it’s none of my business.”

“Well it’s not right,” Colin loudly insisted. “I don’t want to find out my girlfriend’s transgender after I’ve been dating her for a while. I don’t want to find out we can’t have kids together. Not when I’ve given up my own happiness for a kid.”

Those words free fell from his mouth to crash onto the tiled floor.

“Given up my own happiness”

I couldn’t cry, I just couldn’t. He didn’t need that. His pain was his own and I couldn’t add to it.

We were halfway to the bus stop when I casually commented, “Did you know disabled kids are the least likely to get adopted?”

I tried to keep my tone light and non-committal. We’ve already had the adoption talk before and it wouldn’t help to go through it twice. But I was talking to the person who asked the store clerk if they had any special needs guinea pigs. Luckily I succeeded and he proceeded to talk about special needs all the way to the bus stop. Hopefully I’ve planted a seed.

I wish he’d put his own happiness ahead of a baby that doesn’t exist and a girlfriend he has yet to meet but that’s got to be decided by him, not me. So I’ll just keep remembering “given up my own happiness” and let the tears trickle down on the inside where he can’t see.

Colin and Angel

 

Being you…

Recently I was told by someone (who really doesn’t know me well) that I’m lost, confused, and desperately searching for labels… and I want to tell you this. You are not lost when you have found a label for yourself, no matter if it’s relatively rare or majorly common, as long as it fits and feels comfortable.

You are not confused when you’ve found a label you’re certain of. You’re not confused even if you aren’t quite sure. You’re allowed to question things about yourself and your identity. You’re allowed to be a work in progress.

You can search for a label, or labels, that fit. It’s important that your label doesn’t pinch or chafe your identity and that it gives you space to grow into yourself. It doesn’t matter if you change your label three, four, or ten times in your quest to find something that fits just right. It’s alright to search.

You can have more than one label too. Remember, a rainbow has more than one colour and looks amazing as it is. Rock those labels! Honestly, I’m a demi-romantic, pan-romantic asexual. You don’t need to be just one.

You are the only one who knows your gender or sexual orientation. No one else can guess or decide for you. It doesn’t matter what they think, how good their “gaydar” is, how closely related they are, or who you dated in the past. It’s your life and your identity. They need to work on their own instead.

It doesn’t matter if your label is “rare”. It’s not a sign you want to be “different”, it’s just who you are. And you’re amazing just the way you are!

You’re allowed to go at your own pace. You’re allowed to fit in and to stand out. You’re allowed to just be yourself, as multifaceted and colourful as you choose. Let your own inner voice be your guide.

work in progress

If you know who made this, let me know and I’ll credit them. Thanks!

I am angry…

This post is a long time coming, it’s not something I’ve suddenly realized in the last day or two. But three incidents happened this week and they pushed me over the edge. So here I am.

I’d been enjoying some Instagram on my cell phone before I got up one sunny morning. Pictures from friends, cute shots of animals, and then a picture Alok Vaid-Menon came onto my screen. I started reading… started discovering what their day’s like. Being verbally harassed. Being spat on once or twice a day. The realization that no one would come to their aid if they were attacked. People taking pictures of them to post online and mock and they’ve done nothing except being themself. They’re not hurting anyone. I cannot understand why someone would go out of their way to harm someone who is doing nothing wrong. What is the reasoning behind this? Sigh, I’m not sure I even want to know.

The second incident happened on Facebook. A friend of mine shared an article about a study that had been done regarding pronouns and I discovered that three people out of five will deliberately use the wrong pronouns for a trans person. Excuse me but really? You’ll apologize and make sure you use your friend’s cat’s correct pronouns but you can’t offer the same kindness to a fellow human? For fuck’s sake, the cat doesn’t even care. But the human certainly does. What is wrong with people that they can’t extend common courtesy to another person just because they’re perceived as different? There is nothing wrong with being different.

Then a page named Kialo showed up in my newsfeed with a discussion on whether trans women should have the same rights as cis-women by entering women’s only spaces. I know better but I still clicked on the link, commenting on the most egregious posts. It’s still going on (and on) with the usual arguments. Genitals trump all and trans women must be men. Trans women grew up with male privilege and therefore aren’t eligible for women’s spaces. Some cis-women have been assaulted before and trans women might trigger them – ignoring the fact that trans women get assaulted more than cis woman. And, of course, one lone idiot bleating “I’m not a cis woman. I’m just a woman”. Because Latin prefixes are so scary. I gave facts and rebuttals but I’m sure most of them went unread. Hopefully someone who’s wavering took a look and gained some knowledge. Who knows.

And I am so tired. I’m tired of the same damn arguments. The same lame “I identify as an apache attack helicopter” as if two hundred other assholes haven’t already used the same line. I’m tired of my friends being narrowed down to nothing more than their genitalia… being stripped of their humanity. I’m tired of them being nothing more to a whole swathe of people than a topic of discussion on a Friday night. I don’t want to have another discussion like that again. But I will. You know why? Because my friends are the ones being attacked and if I’m tired, they’re beyond tired of arguing their very existence. Because friends stay there for the hard times, they buckle down and say “I’ll help”. I can’t do anything physically or financially but I can be supportive and I can throw fact after fact at the bigots in hopes that one will stick.

Trans people are your family, your friends, your neighbours, your store clerks. They’re in the line up behind you. They buy their gas at the same station as you. You might not think you know someone trans but in reality you do. What are you going to do about this? Would you give a tissue to Alok and sympathize that they’d been spat on? Would you use the right pronoun if asked? Would you stand up via internet or in person for a trans person’s rights? It’s really scary standing up in person but it’s something you can do. Or are you going to be on the wrong side and ignore someone’s basic humanity. It’s up to you.