Segregating Vegans

I settled down at the computer with my breakfast and dove into the “memories” section, hot chocolate in hand, to see what happened today on previous years. Some days the memories are funny, some days they’re poignant, and sometimes they kick you in your teeth. This was a kick you in your teeth day.

I had posted that I thought Sci Babe was being ridiculous for being against vegans who wanted a vegan option at In and Out burger. I also figured my friends would agree with me because, hey, what’s wrong with an extra item on the menu. It wasn’t like it would affect the rest of the food. I was wrong. Almost immediately one friend posted this…

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“Are you a vegan like the ones I described?” Seriously? What that really means is “just ignore me making nasty comments about vegans on your page… you’re different”. And, no, I’m not different. If I was in the States, I’d have been signing that In and Out petition for a burger too.

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This was someone I’d been friends with for years so her question surprised me to say the least. I was especially surprised she thought it would be okay to walk into a vegan restaurant and ask for a beef burger but couldn’t understand why a vegan would want a veggie burger in a meat based restaurant.

I figure it goes by can and can’t. Can a meat eater eat a veggie burger, fries, and salads? Yes. Can a vegan eat a beef burger, caesar salad, and french fries with gravy? No. So a veggie burger can be added to a meat based menu while a meat burger simply doesn’t go on a vegan list. It’s like asking someone with celiac disease to eat a wheat based slice of pizza. No, just plain no. But they can order a gluten free pizza at some restaurants. Flip side is you couldn’t order a wheat based anything at a gluten free store. It goes by who can eat what.

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When was the last time she was at a vegan restaurant? 1978? Every vegan restaurant I’ve been to has served pretty traditional meals. Burgers, soups, salads, fries, cupcakes. The closest one even serves “fish” and chips and poutine. But she didn’t want her bubble of ignorance burst so she blocked me instead. Blocked because I gave her a list of restaurants that serve vegan dishes.

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No, that’s not how it works. You don’t get to have a conversation about a minority of any type, especially one that puts them down, then claim it’s the minority’s fault for being upset. Saying I shouldn’t be able to eat at traditional restaurants with my family is not “a conversation”. Me explaining this isn’t an assumption. Funnily enough I haven’t missed her.

One thing I learned that day is you can think someone’s a friend but you won’t know for sure until you bring up something in your life that might be “controversial”. Fist bump to the friend who said it’s cool to ask for new products.

Something else I learned recently (not from this thread) is that the people who yell the loudest while defending you might not be yelling because they’re defending you. They might be yelling simply because they like yelling and controversy. I scrolled through my blog recently and found a post where a friend added a picture of herself eating a beef burger on a vegan thread I’d made then blocked everyone who disagreed with her. She had been a friend for years and one who vehemently supported me and the kids several times. But she turned just as quick and was just as vehement against me when her opinion was different.

That one was a hard one because I thought of her as a real friend. We’d messaged each other regularly for years, sharing thoughts, opinions, and pictures of our fur babies. She’d recently discovered a love of makeup and I sat through several makeup box openings because she deserved to have someone watch her happiness. I wear makeup maybe twice a year. And then she left, flinging insults as she blocked me. A friend said she’s like that, I wish I’d known in advance. But you can’t know everything.

And for those who aren’t shocked at the thought of eating vegan, here’s a curry recipe for you:

Vegan Indian Curry Recipe

4 medium onions, finely chopped
4 tbsps oil or cooking wine
1 1/4 cups Silk soy creamer
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
398mL can diced tomatoes (14oz)

2 tsps turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp tandoori masala
4 tsps coriander
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsps brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 stock cube (or 1/2 tsp salt)
4 cups mixed vegetables, chopped (mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, sweet bell peppers etc)

Mix all the spices together. Cook the onions until translucent, adding more water as needed. Add the spices, reduce heat, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and vinegar and stir well. Add the tomatoes, paste, sugar, and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for 45 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook until tender – between 30 to 45 minutes. Serve over rice.

When bullying lingers…

20180515_154637.jpgIt was the day after Mother’s Day and Kait and I were in one of my absolute favourite stores, Icing. They sell just about anything sparkly and have glittered word art, a combo of two of my favourite things. All Kait needed was a wallet with a strap on it but she found two more things and there was a buy three, get three free deal going on that day. By the time we’d circled the small store at least twenty times, Kait was rapidly running out of possibilities and patience. She needed just one more thing and it had to be under $9, which, sadly, left out all the word art. Then I saw it, a sparkly pink butterfly clip, complete with tiny fake pearls. It was $6, which made it free with the deal and thus became my Mother’s Day present to go along with my glittery card.

I put it on right away, before Kait even paid for it, and double checked that it was positioned perfectly before I headed out the door. It was a matter of seconds before anxiety began gnawing at my stomach and clawing at my chest. Suddenly I expected every person we passed to laugh at me, to point out my butterfly clip, to taunt me. I flinched when people drew close because what if they hit or punched me? No one paid a single bit of attention to me but that didn’t stop the fear. It was overwhelming… all encompassing. I tried to reassure myself. I’d got the butterfly from Icing for pete’s sake, it wasn’t like I pulled it out of the toddler section of a department store. No one was going to think I was that weird.

I managed to make it down the hall and even got in a brief run through Dollarama, another favourite store, but I didn’t start feeling better until after we left the mall and were standing in the open by the bus stop. My chest and stomach slowly started to relax although I had to inform my daughter there was no way I could cook dinner that night. My spoons were done and gone. Simply getting home was going to be challenge enough.

Kathleen in 1981It wasn’t until later that I realized the origin of my fear. School. The crowds plowing both ways through the hallway felt like the halls at school and, as soon as my heart took me there, fear followed.

If I’d been bullied the same way as an adult instead of as a kid, it would have been considered abusive or harassment but I’d been a student in the 70’s and 80’s, part of the ere where kids were expected to sort “school yard squabbles” out on their own, so nothing was done.

As far as I could tell I was a perfectly normal kid. I loved to read, especially Trixie Belden books, and adored my pet cat Spotty. I rode my bike, climbed trees, and loved to write. My favourite colour was green and I’d travelled most of the way across Canada twice. My bullies didn’t know any of this. In fact they didn’t know anything about me at all. That didn’t stop them from calling me a freak, a retard, a homo. That didn’t stop them from tripping and pushing me in the hallways and chasing me down on their bikes.

I quickly learned that if I hid in the convenience store, the store owner wouldn’t kick me out and my bullies would get bored and wander away. That if you were hiding behind a car, you had to hide behind a wheel, in case they look under for feet, and move along with them, hoping they wouldn’t take a second peek under the car when you were at the back and they were at the front. I learned to check my assigned seat for spit before I sat down and wipe it up quickly before the rest of the class arrived. I learned that people, no matter how kind they seemed to others, could be absolutely vicious even when they were unprovoked.

It’s been 34 years since elementary school (28 since the end of high school). It’s been decades since I’ve been chased, punched, or spat at and still, feeling a bit different, feeling a bit like I’m standing out, is enough to bring me back to being 11 years old, being attacked for no reason other than I didn’t quite fit in.

Most days I don’t think about it but on the days when fear is triggered, when my heart pounds, and my breath tastes metallic in my mouth, I wonder about my attackers. Do they ever think about how they acted as children? Do they ever feel any guilt or do they brush it off as something everyone did? Do they flip though their grade school yearbook with their kids and think “there’s Kathleen the freak” or do they think “shit we treated her badly”. I’ll never know the answers to those questions. To be honest, I never want to see any of them again.

As for me, I’ll keep rocking my butterfly hair clip and glittery tops and I’ll make sure to keep my trips to the mall on weekday mornings instead of busy afternoons. I know I don’t fit in and most of the days I’m fine with that. On the days I’m not, I’ll try to assure that small, scared part of myself that it’ll be okay.

 

Continuing education…

Colin was only six when he started in a special education class and it was a bad fit for him. Despite him not knowing his alphabet yet, his teacher decided to start in on spelling tests, telling me it would keep him with his peers and he’d pick up the alphabet on his own. Soon she was finding him inattentive and difficult, something that came as a complete surprise to me as his kindergarten teachers loved him. Although in hind sight, considering she wasn’t helping him catch up with his peers, I can understand. He must have been so bored and frustrated.

He moved from that class into a multiple exceptionality class in grade two and his teacher adored him. He worked hard and had all sorts of innovative ideas. He genuinely loved school and looked forward to attending.

And then came high school and that was an unmitigated disaster. His “innovative ideas” were seen as an attempt to control the class. In fact anything he did seemed to fall under that category. He couldn’t have a stress ball on his desk or a fidget toy because he was trying to control the class by distracting them. Note, he was squeezing them, not flinging them at classmates.

The teachers responded in bizarre ways. Colin loves math, always has, and asked for math class regularly. His grade school teacher loved his enthusiasm and rewarded it. His high school teachers went out of their way to avoid having math class when he was there. If Colin was sick or suspended they would have math class, something the other students would promptly inform him when he returned. One day Colin had felt sick but recovered then walked to school. The teacher watched him enter the class the immediately erased “math” off the day’s schedule.

When Colin came out as trans, he came out as non-binary first. He wasn’t sure what pronouns to use so I googled pronouns and came up with a chart. We sounded out each one then he decided to use the same pronouns as my then friend Lenny; zie and zir. I looked up the district’s policy on trans students and their pronouns and found this quote (bolding is mine):

“Suggestions to enhance the school learning environment for trans youth follow. This list is illustrative and not exhaustive. We encourage you to develop and share with your staff and the Durham District School Board other gender inclusive ideas and protocols you may develop.

PREFERRED WAYS OF ADDRESSING TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
Transsexual females—identified as male at birth To be addressed as ‘she’
Transsexual males—identified female at birth To be addressed as ‘he’
When you are in doubt of an individual’s gender Address an individual as ‘they’”

Colin’s teachers and the other team members insisted they could not use zie and zir because it was against school rules. They could only use she, he, and they as the diagram showed. I pointed out the “illustrative and not exhaustive” part and they insisted that meant again that they could only use the diagram. Sigh, that’s not what the sentence means.

I had to go over their heads and, thanks to PFLAG, found someone on the school board to explain the guidelines. Which worked well in paper but not so much in real life. In real life they continued to use he and him. In meetings they’d, oops forget, 9 times out of 10. You don’t forget pronouns that much unless you never use them in the first place. And, to make matters worse, the teachers were actively teasing Colin over his pronouns. Separating the class into boys and girls then telling Colin he’d never get to be first in line for a treat because he’d “chosen” not to be male or female (among other instances).

At the end of grade 12 both Colin and I were so done with his school. He could have continued in a “bridge to work” programme but we figured it would be more of the same. More of them refusing to allow him into mainstream classes, more refusals to have harder work, especially in math, and more antagonising behaviour.

Colin has loved computers and electronics as soon as he was aware of them and has wanted to work with them for as long as I can remember. It was in high school that his dream job focused on robotics. Now that he was out of high school, he set out to realize his dreams.

He couldn’t start at college, even with support, as he didn’t have nearly enough education. So he called continuing education, who also told him he didn’t have enough education. He only had one high school credit and needed more. Then he tried Durham Alternative Secondary Education and was told the same thing. Same with the Catholic School Board. Finally, in desperation, I suggested the John Howard Society and, bingo, we had a winner.

Soon Colin was in school from Monday to Thursday and loving it. He attended right though summer and only missed days for doctor’s appointments. Then one day recently, he came home and told me he was only going to school on Friday now and was going to be taking school at Durham College. Soon I found him working on a computer he set up on our kitchen table (so not the place I’d have chosen) with two monitors and a calculator so he could finish his work and get it emailed in.

Colin smiling on his balcony

One proud smile

And then came last Wednesday when Colin proudly informed me he’s now going to College Prep classes. He’s attending school from Monday through Thursday again but this time with an eye towards him entering college as a student, albeit one with special needs. Finally his chance of going to school for robotics is in sight.

Colin has always been a smart kid, he’s struggled due to learning disabilities and autism, but he’s smart. I am so glad to see that educators are finally seeing this and are giving him a chance not just to survive but thrive.

Way to go Colin! You’ve earned this!!!

Me too…

CW: sexual assault

My grade eight teacher was particularly strict. We had rules for how to line our paper and we had rules for how to line up before class (in order of height). There was always a bit of a jumble as kids found their spaces in line. This day I was standing a bit away from the other kids when it happened. Lloyd reached over and grabbed my breast in front of everyone.

The teacher came out with the resulting noise and asked what happened. So I told him. He immediately got Lloyd and I then took us down the hall. My stop was first. I got put into the little room beside the science room. It was probably designed as a photo lab but all it had was a stool, which I perched on.

The teacher told me to stay in there and wait until he came back. Then he left. I had no idea what was going on or why I’d been put there. I felt like I’d done something wrong. I sat there, staring at the blacked out window, and wondered what was going to happen to me. All the while I could feel Lloyd’s hand touching me.

Eventually the teacher came and led me back to class. No adults asked me any questions or even mentioned the incident to me. I sat in silence, trying not to look at any other kids.

When I got home, my Mom sat me down and explained how Lloyd was having a hard time. His Dad had died recently, crushed under the car he was repairing. Lloyd was the one to find him. I should have some sympathy for him. He had a lot on his plate.

I didn’t want to here this. I wanted “I love you”, “I’m sorry this happened to you”, “It wasn’t your fault”.

Lloyd was back several days later. I noticed him in French class and made sure to sit as far away from him as possible. The teacher told us to put our finished work on the back table. I placed mine down then a body pushed and ground himself against me. Lloyd whispered harshly, “If you tell on me ever again I will fuck you up the ass.” I’d learned my lesson. No one would do anything. I didn’t tell.

Soon after he invented a song, “Ah Kath-a-leen, ah Kath-a-leen. She’s my honey, my Playboy Bunny. Ah Kath-a-leen”. The song made me feel horrible inside but there was noone to tell. Yard supervisors ignored it and I didn’t think anyone else would care. This went on for months.

I also figured they wouldn’t care about the lies the boys were loudly telling. Claims of what I’d done to them the night before. Some things went right over my head. The rest were horribly embarrassing.

I have face blindness and struggle to recognize people. Which made the next stage of abuse even harder. Boys would walk up to me and touch me somewhere, usually my shoulder but sometimes my backside, and tell me what I was going to do to them that night. Then they’d slip away into the crowd. I didn’t know who I could trust because I didn’t know which boys were involved.

As we all aged the form of abuse changed. Now they had cars. I’d be walking home from school, or just around the neighbourhood, when someone would scream my name and what I’d supposedly done that night with him. I still jump if someone yells from a car and that happened in the 1980’s.

The day before yesterday I watched as my Facebook newsfeed filled with statuses and comments reading “me too”. I’d held this secret for so long, only my ex-boyfriend Lenny knew. But I wasn’t the only one assaulted, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Remember, if you were sexually assaulted, you have value, meaning, self-worth, and dignity. They took nothing from you. You matter so very much and people care about you. I care about you.

They didn’t take anything from you. You are still you. You are still whole. You will recover. We are phoenixes. We will burn into ashes and rise again even stronger.

Standing up…

When Jeremy was little, he was mistaken for a girl on a regular basis.jeremy-easter-2010

“What a cute little girl!”
“You’ve got such a lovely daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“What’s her name?”
“She’s so sweet!”

I didn’t bother to correct them. Jeremy didn’t mind and it simply embarrassed people. Besides, he was cute, lovely, adorable, and sweet. Even when his hair was short, he still got “such a lovely girl” comments. He was sweet.

Back then I knew nothing about trans people. I wondered why Jeremy only played girl characters in his games and played dress up right into his preteens with his sister but figured he was just imaginative and liked the way the dresses felt.

jeremy-in-2014Then he became a teenager and started experimenting more with his hair and, to a lesser extent, his clothes. The comments changed slightly to include “ma’am” and he was still, to the mildly unobservant, feminine.

He still didn’t mind being called her and she, in fact, sometimes it seemed to bring him joy. And I still had no idea what that could mean.

Now he’s almost 20 years old with mitts for hands, size 12 men’s feet, and a deep bass voice. Now he’s talking about transitioning. And I’m so scared. I belong to enough groups to know people aren’t kind to 6ft 3in women with deep voices and adam’s apples. I read the posts on Facebook. I know there’s been seven trans women (and one colin-and-laratrans man) killed so far in the States this year alone. I haven’t heard any statistics for Canada.

Jeremy talks happily about buying a bikini with a skirt and how he’s always wanted a frilly dress with lots of floofy layers. I will do everything I can to help him achieve his dreams but I can’t do everything.

Please be kind when you see my child on the street. For all that he’s 19 years old, he’s still my child. He bought a Minecraft book today and jelly beans then laughed over bathroom humour in a YouTube video.  He’s still young. He’s not a joke. He’s not a freak. He’s a person with feelings and thoughts.

One day he’s going to be stepping out that door in the dress of his dreams. You might see him or, more likely, you will see someone like him. Someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t fitting in 100%. Please be kind, be helpful, and let him come home safely with his heart intact. Stand up for him. Stand up with him. Don’t let him feel alone against the bullies and please, please don’t let him be a statistic.

Take Back The Night!

She bent down… just like this. It was obvious she was doing it for me. Then she said “I’m not that kind of girl”.

I’d dressed up a bit for this event. Put on make up, wore a sparkly shirt, I even added a rainbow bead necklace a friend just gave me. Listening to the two men talking nearby made me wish I could scrub off my face and put on something a little more ugly… a lot more invisible.

When she breaks up with her boyfriend, I’m totally going for her.

There was no indication that he saw her as a person in her own right. She moved solely for him and, when her boyfriend was done it was going to be his turn to have her.

But let me ask u this then let’s say I ask u to a dance and it’s a dream I really wanted and u tell me no and I go on a killing spree what would you say was the trigger point to my anger.

~ actual question asked to a friend ~

The Take Back the Night event started in an auditorium full of people… young and old… male and female. There were booths around the room where I got candy, a pen, and an apple. A Metis drumming group played at the front. I admired one lady’s sequined hat and then it was time to sit.

#webelieveyou

Story after story, in video and in person, of women who’d been raped, assaulted, molested, and beaten. Story after story where they were disbelieved because he wouldn’t do that. Story after story where women went to the police to be empowered and take back their right to bodily autonomy, only to have the police fail them too.

take-back-the-night

I was photobombed 🙂

My ex had a favourite position, one which made it so I couldn’t speak and couldn’t push him away. I couldn’t change my mind midway because “no” wasn’t an option. I told him this in tears and suggested a hand touch which would mean “no”. He ignored it… twice. That was when I realized the ignoring was deliberate, he liked that I was struggling… that I couldn’t stop him. I refused to get into that position after that and he sulked like a small child being told “no” to seconds of dessert. I’m a person, not a serving of cake.

Whatever we wear
Where ever we go
Yes means yes
And no means no!

We spilled out of the auditorium, a large jubilant, defiant crowd… hemmed in by a strip of yellow caution tape and guarded by police. Pouring onto the road, chanting almost incomprehensible words. Did we want safety or ice cream? The echoes sounded like both.

Two, four, six, eight
No more violence
No more rape!

I walked home after the event with a neighbour. Cheers and laughter erupted ahead of us, followed by a faint “no-oo”. My heart felt like it was slamming against my ribs and I rocked as I walked. What could we do against a crowd? Both our phones were dead and he’s shorter and more slight than me. The soccer field ahead was lit; it soon became apparent a goal had been scored. My relief was instantaneous.

There were children scattered through the walk, blowing whistles and waving hand made signs. For now it’s just fun. How long will it take for the message to sink in? Will they be the change for the future? Are there enough of them?

Michelle? You go out for walks on your own? Do you really think it’s safe?

I used to. Maybe someday I will again.

I will not apologize for being me…

Pain is a powerful deterrent. The emotional pain of seeing every adult look over at me with patronizing expressions and knowing nods because, once again, I was doing something that was normal to me and odd to everyone else. The physical pain after school when my classmates ran after me or chased me down on bikes because I was an easy target since I stood out. The humiliation of being ostracized repeatedly because no one else wanted to be tarnished by my presence.

So I shrunk myself small and hid myself close in an attempt to fit… and was still seen as odd.

I married the first person to date me. Years of thinking no one would ever want to date someone as weird as me turned into worries that this would be my only chance at marriage and children. Which is so not a good base for a relationship. Then I had kids and worried that my weirdness would hold them back from making friends. If the parents thought I was too weird, would their children be allowed to come over? And I shrunk even more.

Then came work. I needed a job to raise the kids and needed not to stand out, so I put on the most normal mask I could make and tried to be quiet but productive. I tried my hardest and hid until I could no longer find myself. And I never really noticed. It took a year before I noticed I’d lost interest in reading. Me, who read a book a day for years. I spent a year and a half without writing. I’ve been known to write for 12 hours at a time and carried a notebook and pen with me.

I never noticed when my shrinking turned into apologizing for everything that I did oddly, until I was apologizing for my mere existence. For using the air the more normal people needed to breathe.

I never really noticed until I found myself standing on the ledge to my balcony pondering how long it would take to fall and how quickly the pain would stop. My mask broke then and it’s never going back on again.

I will not apologize for loving bright colours and glitter
I will not apologize for loving stuffed animals and butterflies and rainbows
I will not apologize for hand flapping
I will not apologize for squeeing when I’m happy
I will not apologize for singing (yes, even in the grocery store)
I will not apologize for caring
I will not apologize for my thoughts being a step off from expectations

If I continue to apologize for being born autistic in a neurotypical world what am I teaching my autistic offspring? I’ve told my kids for years that, as long as I pay my bills, it doesn’t matter how weird I act. It’s time for me to believe that. My life depends on me believing that.

hand drawn daisy

I drew this at the hospital. The perspective’s not the best but I also haven’t drawn anything in twenty-five years.

So I’m reconnecting with myself. Writing poetry, reading, scrapbooking, sketching, and editing my novel. I’m singing again. To Jeremy, to the cats, and most of all to me.

Tomorrow I have errands to run, appointments to attend, and a cake to decorate. Then Jeremy and I are joining my parents for a family camping trip. I’m going to be 100% myself, even in front of the rest of the family. It will be fabulous!

don't shrink yourself