Matthew Shepard revisited…

The evening started out like usual. Kait and Colin played with their toys on the living room floor, my ex sat on the computer playing video games, and I read the paper. I started with the comics, moved on to the Life section, and then mosied on over to the Front section. And that’s where I dissolved into tears. Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, accepted a ride home from two men he thought were friends. Instead they drove him to a rural road, tied him to a fence, and beat him nearly to death with their rifles. He died of severe head trauma six days later.

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Photo from GBMNews

I cried while I read his article. Ugly cried to the point where my ex asked why I continued to read. But I couldn’t stop. At the time I told myself that I was crying for Matthew and for Colin, who was a sweet and gentle one year old at the time. I was also crying for me although I wouldn’t admit it. I clung to the label of “straight” like it was a lifeline although, to be fair, panromantic asexual wasn’t in my vocabulary in 1998. And it hadn’t been that long since I’d been a college student myself.

Now Colin’s 21 years old and part of the LGBTQIA community. He’s in continuing education, getting the education he couldn’t receive in high school, and planning on taking robotics. He’s young and bright with his whole future ahead of him. I worried for him every day when he was Emma and I still worry for him, albeit much less.

Matthew Shepard was also young and bright. A well travelled young man who loved politics and was studying it in university. He’d have been 40 years old now. What would he have accomplished as a gay HIV positive man to help the LGBTQIA community? What would he have fought for? What dreams did he have? What goals? What potential did we, as a society, lose when we lost him?

I still cry. I don’t think there’s a day when I read about him that I won’t.

 

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Dear Parents, love your children…

Not just your straight, cisgender children but your rainbow children too. My heart is breaking over little Anthony Avalos, who’d been abused for years alongside his siblings, but killed after he came out gay. He was young enough and innocent enough that he didn’t even come out as gay. He said that he “liked boys”.

He was failed in so many ways. People had called the Child Protective Services sixteen times over the years regarding multiple bruises on the children. He finally died of severe head injuries while covered in cigarette burns.

I remember reading a case a few years ago that was almost identical. A young, presumed to be gay boy, a history of abuse of all siblings, a final, fatal beating. The only difference was the boy was around kindergarten age.

And there’d been another case in 2013 where the son, Gabriel Fernandez had been assumed to be gay and was beaten to death while his siblings simply got ignored. Once again the calls about abuse were ignored and they continued with the beatings until he was dead.

That’s enough. Please let that be enough. It’s enough already that 40% of homeless youths are LGBTQIA, kicked out when they come out. It’s enough that 30% of all suicides are LGBTQIA, and it’s way too much that almost 65% of unsupported trans youths have contemplated suicide with 49% attempting.

There’s still conversion therapy with all it’s horrors. Not everywhere but it’s still lurking. The author of one article I read went to one such camp and was told, flat out, by the staff that half of them would be dead by the end. Soon, the youngest, had killed himself and, by the end, half the group was gone.

Little Anthony should be at the end of a month of celebrating being himself, the end of rainbows and confetti, and loud, happy parades. He should have strings of multi-coloured beads hanging off his bed and memories of being welcome. He should not be a tiny figure in a too large body bag.

Colin was six years old. I was taking a load of recycling over to the bins when he asked if he could marry one of his male classmates who he loved dearly. Another time he informed Kait that his heart was broken because he’d asked a boy out and got turned down. Within a year or two he was interested in girls but he certainly didn’t for a couple of years. My answer when I was asked about marriage was “yes you certainly can”, even though we were a few months away from equal marriage being legalized. He deserved the same love and attention as his sister and he got it.

Please, if you cannot handle raising an LGBTQ child, let them go. Call up CPS or CAS and tell them your child is gay or trans and their life is at risk under your care. I don’t care if you have to drop them off in front of the office and leave them there, just get them out of your care before you make them a statistic.

And, for the ones who are simply confused and unsure what to do, take a look into your local PFLAG. They will help you understand what’s going on and give you resources. If you have a local chapter, you can even meet up with other parents and talk about your questions and concerns.

But can we please have no more little rainbow children in body bags. Can we please let them grow?

Colin

Incels and their story…

20180423_122816.jpgApril 23rd was a gorgeous day. That afternoon I pulled on my running shoes and headed out for a walk on a nearby trail. It was beautiful and peaceful walking alongside the Harmony creek.

I got my 10 thousand steps (plus a few extra thousand) then wandered back home, logging onto Facebook once I’d said “hi” to Colin. The first post that showed up on my page was an article saying a white van had jumped a curb in Toronto then continued forward, striking everyone and everything in it’s path. There were 9 dead and 16 injured, a statistic that soon changed to 10 dead and 15 injured.

One of my first thoughts was “why?” Was the driver drunk? High? Did he suffer a drop in sugar and subsequently passed out? Did he have a heart attack? A seizure?

The answer was none of those. Soon people started talking about him being an incel. I figured that was some sort of terrorist group and it is. It’s just their reasoning and targets are slightly different.

Incel stands for “involuntary celibate”, I guess mainly because they don’t like the more accurate moniker of misogynist. They hate the rest of humanity, who they refer to as “normies” or Stacy for the girls who aren’t interested in them (that would be all women) and Chad for the men who have managed to have relationships. They had a huge group in Reddit (I’ve heard it’s been removed) and congregate on 4chan, which isn’t a surprise. They also pretty much worship Elliot Rodger, the self described incel who killed 7 people in Isla Vista, California.

incel idiocy1One of the first things I noticed when I read the post to the left is that the poster doesn’t have any concept of personality, mutual interests, or intellectual attraction. His only thought is physical attraction on a 1 – 10 high school rating system, kind of like in high school. He’s mad at woman for cheating the system by wearing makeup to make her look prettier then he assumes that cute guys are only into her for her “fake” looks. He even goes so far as claiming good makeup skills should be punishable by law.

Cue a conversation in jail…
“Why are you here?”
“I, umm, put on some Covergirl…”

incel idiocy2He gets right into setting out the teenage boys’ hotness scale as law. Makeup gets banned immediately as it “falsely advertises their beauty”, granting them sex with “guys above their league”.

Then he gets into even more government regulations, this time calling for a state mandated hotness test for all adults, again based on a high school 1 to 10 scale. He presumes that everyone has the same ideals for physical beauty and, of course, ignores intelligence, kindness, animation, and sensuality. So, in his world, if a 3/10 man clicks with a 5/10 woman, that can’t happen no matter how much they love each other. What’s love in an incel world?

incel idiocy3Apparently dick is a big, dirty problem because it seems to taint women. Each dick she copulates with brings her down a notch on the scale. And she can’t move back up the scale unless she exercises. Note, there is no corresponding drop for men. If they have sex with nine women it’s celebration time. And, finally we come to state mandated rape. Every woman with more than nine partners and every single Mom has to date and have sex with the men too repellent to get dates on their own. They don’t have a choice in the matter. You broke up with your abusive husband? Okay, well here’s Bill. He has fantasies of choking a woman during rape and he’s all yours now. Find a sitter and go make sure he has fun!

These men live in a two dimensional world where everyone is straight and worth only their physical appearance. And as I’ve said already, nothing else matters. When I fell in love with Lenny, I didn’t fall in love with his physical appearance, although I did find him attractive. I fell in love because we had similar interests. We both were working on a blog, we were both vegan, we both loved cats and music. We could talk for hours. But none of that matters to incels.

Women don’t matter to them at all. We exist as objects formed only to provide them sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure they feel is owed to them. Women are simply objects to dole out to men who can’t find someone to date them. I’m a single Mom. My worth did not increase when I was dating my exes and it didn’t decrease when our relationships ended. I am not a bone to throw at some stray dog, in hopes it will stop growling. I am a human being with all the rights that entails.

It would be nice to think that post was a one off but it’s not. Another post is making the rounds on Facebook.

incel stalking

Just a bit of harmless psychological fun, chasing a young teenage girl and frightening her half to death, just so she’ll notice you. And he enjoys it enough that he goes from city to city harassing women. He says he abhors rape but how long will it be before he, or one of the “lonely incels” he’s encouraging, decide the chase isn’t fun enough. What happens when he actually catches someone?

incel mandated girlfriendsJust in case someone thinks that these misogynists are strictly American, despite Alek Minassian being Canadian. Here’s a post for you. One where, once again, women have no value of their own and no rights to their thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. If a guy needs a girlfriend, there’s a girl right here. Who cares about her personality or interests? It’s her vagina that counts.

Plus it’s women who are at fault for men’s actions. It’s not a man’s job to stop himself from mass murder. It’s women because no one stepped up and spread their legs. It doesn’t matter if they’re uninterested, actively repulsed, or not even interested in men. He feels that single men are made to feel like trash and they should be handed the first available woman as if she’s his due.

 

 

I have an blog post that I’m going to link here that shows, in depth how depraved and out of touch these misogynists are. The blog post needs a trigger warning because it discusses how they are planning on attacking people, women in particular.

I have no idea how to help the misogynistic men we already have. Their personalities are set and they’re aimed at sad, delusional lives. What I do think is we need to work with our children. We need to teach them that both boys and girls have feelings, that it’s okay to cry. We need to let boys do “girl things” like play in the house centre in kindergarten and wear pink. It’s okay to like glitter and stuffed animals and Barbies. I believe that restricting these from boys and claiming they’re only for girls does two things. One it sets them up with a sense of outrage because only girls can do what he wanted and, two, it sets them up to think girl things and girls are lesser because if they were equal, he could do the same things as them.

I think we’re slowly raising more and more boys who believe in equality and who seek women for more than their looks. With any luck incels will turn out to be a dying breed.

New York blues…

The older Jeremy gets, the more his opinions on just about everything differ from mine. So you can imagine my trepidation when he said he wanted to talk about the New York law regarding misgendering people intentionally and as the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.

I don’t agree with it,” he started out firmly and then he went on with his usual flights of fancy.

“What if the person doing the misgendering is working three jobs to feed their family? They won’t be able to afford a twenty-five thousand dollar fine*. Especially if they’re working as a waiter or something. What if that means their children are going to starve?”

How on earth was I supposed to answer that? Do I offer Monopoly money to feed the imaginary starving children? Luckily he didn’t expect an answer. He certainly didn’t give me enough time for one.

“And what about made up pronouns?”

Made up pronouns? You mean like your old pronouns zie and zir?” I asked with a hint of anger in my voice.

“Yes,” he replied flatly. “And I would have felt that way back then too.”

“Back when you felt-”

“I didn’t just feel,” he snapped. “I was that gender.”

I nodded and he continued. “There are so many pronouns. How can people be expected to remember them all? Like, zie and zir are good pronouns, they’re used in Canada and England, but there’s so many more. And what if someone’s pronouns change regularly? Are they supposed to know them from day to day.”

As he calmed down, he circled toward his real reason. “A fine isn’t going to solve anything. Someone misgenders someone else then they learn more and stop doing it. But a fine is just going to make them angry and they won’t change.”

All I got was my mouth open before he plowed on.

“Just think Mom,” he continued. “That’s a big fine. When it goes to court they’re going to know each other’s addresses, that’ll be on the court documents. Someone’s going to get killed over this. There’s lots of guns in the States. Someone’s going to say screw it and grab their gun, go to the address, and then the person’s dead.”

“Hon, we can’t make laws based on what people might do later. You could say this about any fine-“

“No! Because it’s not the same!” he interrupted. “Those people don’t even think trans people are human. They’re not going to care. And if they have a gun…”

With that, he wound down into silence.

What on earth could I say to that? I mean I must have said something because he stopped talking about it but really… three trans people have been murdered already in the States and it’s only the 12th of January. Trans people have a 1 in 12 chance of getting murdered. And, while I still think the law is a good idea, he is right too. I hope nobody’s looking for an answer, because quite frankly I don’t have one, but he did make me think.

*I know he got the amount of the fine wrong

It’s been eighteen years…

CN: murder, suicide

Eighteen years ago I sat on my couch and cried inconsolably, newspaper on my lap, while Colin and their sister played. A young college student, Matthew Shepard, had just been brutally murdered by his peers, solely for being gay. They considered him a threat over who he loved.

I looked at my sweet toddler and wondered about their future. They were so loving, affectionate, and feminine and I worried for them. Were they going to end up gay? What would their future be like?

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Jeremy ~ February 1998

Tears poured down my face while I hoped Matthew had woken up a little near the end, just enough to know he’d been rescued… that people had cared. Enough that he hadn’t died alone. I couldn’t bear the thought that he’d died alone. I could barely bear that he’d died at all. In that moment he wasn’t a stranger’s son but my own child’s future.

Colin cynically commented that they were surprised his murderers got charged way back then and I assured them that of course they did. They were charged and convicted. But I had to admit that their cynicism wasn’t out of place. I poured through the papers over those next few months, reading all the articles and hoping for charges… hoping the plea of “gay panic” wouldn’t be accepted. That love wouldn’t be used as an excuse to kill. And it wasn’t… but only barely.

Today my news feed seems to alternate between pictures of Matthew and a story by a young man who survived conversion therapy, despite several suicide attempts. He’d been told 50% of his class would kill themselves and admits that number ended up being correct. The youngest was 13 years old. Those children were placed in that camp by parents who couldn’t accept their children for who they are and were willing to accept a 50% survival rate as long as their child came home straight. They seem to feel it’s better to bury a dead queer than love a live one.

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Colin ~ February 2010

A young trans friend of mine attempted suicide a couple of days ago. Another is contemplating it over top surgery. There were the Orlando shootings in June and, in Canada, the young artist Sophie Labelle gets death threats daily for daring to draw queer issues (mostly regarding the T in LGBTQIA). And if I hadn’t been a bit on the delusional side on how high you can jump and live, I wouldn’t be here either. I didn’t want to risk living through a seven storey drop (eight considering we live over the basement drop off) so, ironically, I’m still here too.

Eighteen years ago I’d hoped that our society would have changed dramatically for the better. It’s changed but not enough, not nearly enough. Today is beautiful, warm, and sunny but in my heart it’s raining. I am so tired of the deaths. Please help make it stop.

Kathleen’s introductory guide to trans…

There’s a good chance you’re reading this post because a friend shared it on Facebook and you’re curious. You’ve seen Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation via the media and watched Laverne Cox’s character on Orange is the New Black. Maybe you agree that they’re women or maybe you don’t understand why people think “he’s” a woman. Either way you’ve come to the right place.

The best place to start is with a definition. Transgender simply means that someone isn’t the gender they were assigned at birth. Assigned at birth is a common term in the trans community because, when you get right down to it, that’s what happens. If there’s something between the legs and it’s relatively long, the baby’s a boy. If there’s something there but it’s relatively small, the baby’s a girl. If it’s in between that’s what’s referred to as intersex. There is no biology or genetics done here, just a tired doctor eyeballing a newborn’s genitals and ticking a M or F box.

Sometimes people claim to be using biology as proof that trans doesn’t exist. All that does is prove the person really doesn’t understand biology. Gender is a spectrum; there is far more than xx/xy and penis/vagina. Claiming there’s no more to gender than two sets of chromosomes and genitals is akin to claiming algebra doesn’t exist because it doesn’t mesh with what you learned in grade two math. First, as I said above, intersex exists. Second, gender exists in the brain, not between the legs.

Gender and sex development occur in the womb. At the beginning, all zygotes look the same then they begin to differentiate according to hormones and the embryo’s chromosomes. Noticeable visual differences can be seen by the time the fetus reaches 20 weeks. But gender isn’t visible to the naked eye, that develops in the brain and can be seen in brain scans. To put it simply, the fetus’ genitals release small amounts of hormones which are supposed to trigger a hormonal wash to wire the brain. However sometimes the hormones aren’t detected and either not enough or different hormones wash through instead, wiring the brain with a gender that differs from the visible sexual characteristics.

People use the quote “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” on a regular basis and this goes doubly for gender. If you don’t want to be judged by outside appearances, why judge someone else? Women and men come in all different shapes and sizes (and so does everyone in between). I’m sure everyone’s had an incident where they’ve been told they can’t possibly know something about themselves, that someone else knows better. Maybe it was over something silly like developing a taste for a food you hated as a child and having your Mom refuse to serve it to you. Maybe it was over something serious like having your beliefs or sexual orientation dismissed as merely a phase or some sort of rebellion. There’s a frustration that boils up inside when people claim they know you better than you know yourself… an anger and discomfort at being ignored and patronized… a feeling of invisibility. Now imagine how much harder it would be to have the core of your identity ignored and devalued.

Your sex was the first thing other people defined about you as soon as you were born, usually even before your birth and often before your health. Your gender was the first thing people asked about you as a baby. It permeates every aspect of your life from the clothes you buy to the recreation you enjoy. If you’ve been arguing that trans people are wrong about their gender, it’s time to ask yourself why. Why do you feel you know more about their gender than they do? They know what genitals they have and are probably far more appalled* by them than you are. Isn’t it better to trust them to know such an integral part of their life better than you?

Sometimes when people disagree with being transgender, they bring up irrelevant arguments. Quite frankly, someone thinking they’re a dog is as relevant to an argument about trans people as someone wanting to marry their toaster is to an argument about equal marriage (whether it’s same sex or interracial). Someone thinking they’re black as an argument is a little more relevant since it happened recently. Rachel Dolezal splashed into the media this spring as a white woman who claimed to be black so incessantly that she got appointed the president of NAACP. As usual, the reality was complicated. She didn’t come up with this notion out of nowhere, she has black siblings and came from an abusive family. Rachel isn’t black, she’s a woman struggling through the aftermath of abuse who identifies with the people who supported her in early childhood. Colour really is skin deep. You can’t do a brain scan and determine whether someone’s black or white. Race is based on where our ancestors lived, a melanin umbrella for sun protection. The closer the equator… the darker the skin. Gender, however, can be recognized through brain scans.

I am a cisgender (or cis) woman. To put it simply, when I was born the doctor looked at me and said, “It’s a girl!” and I am one. Meanwhile the doctor told me that Colin was a boy and zie’s not. Cisgender is not an insult unless it’s been shortened to something like ‘cis scum’ and, in that case… seriously? What the hell did you do?

Don’t tell me, I don’t actually want to know.

It’s not a label you can refuse either (unless you’re trans). You can’t claim to dislike this one label when you’ve accepted every single other one. Claiming it’s an “invented word” doesn’t fly either. Is the rest of our language organic and free range? Were the other words all carefully hand picked off the etymology tree? This is a label that will turn up so rarely in your life that you don’t really have to worry about it. Even if you hang out with a bunch of trans people you’re far more likely to talk about phone cases, chocolate, and that amazing new Thai restaurant that just opened up down the street. Although honestly I’m more partial to the Chinese restaurant two blocks over (their homestyle bean curd is so yummy!).

My friends agree that dysphoria is the hardest part of being trans but there’s another difficult part… a whole bunch of misguided comments and cringe worthy questions. I’ve asked a few friends what comments or questions they get, but first I’m going to share a video made by trans activists:

As you can tell by the video, our society has a weird obsession with trans people’s genitals. My biggest tip is just don’t. When was the last time you asked someone if they were circumcised or if they shaved “down there” or you pondered the size of their labia? I’m really hoping the answer to all of the above is never. Give trans people the same respect. Plus let’s stop with the “chopped off his penis” comments. A trans woman’s penis is not cut off (presuming she chose to have surgery in the first place). The penis is very neatly divided and looped around to form a vagina, labia, and a (usually) functioning clitoris. This is done by a well trained surgeon and team, not the trans woman and a pair of scissors.

Alongside rampant discussions and questions about genitals comes a whole other debate. Bathrooms.

Cue the sound of trans people hitting their heads on the keyboard.

For most people, public washrooms are an irritation. Will there be toilet paper? Will the paper sit neat and clean in the dispenser instead of strewn across a waterlogged floor? Will it smell like a circus outhouse on a hot day or an artificial version of roses. Trans people get all that plus the added concern of being yelled at or beaten up and, in some cases, having security or the police called. Simply because they wanted to pee.

There’s a concern that some cis people have that men are going to sneak into the ladies room in drag, pretending to be trans, and rape someone. Won’t someone think of the children?!? This ignores the fact that a) that same man is going to have to walk through the store in drag, which is hardly inconspicuous (I’ve seen people literally turn in place to continue staring at Jeremy when we’re out) and b) there are trans children who need just as much protection as their cis friends and siblings. These fears also conveniently ignore a huge swatch of trans people, namely trans men. If people were forced to go into the washroom of their assigned gender, that means trans men would have to go into the women’s room…

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Yep, he wouldn’t be conspicuous at all

When people argue against trans people using their correct washroom, they forget about men like Michael Hughes. How exactly are you supposed to tell if he’s trans when he’s in the washroom? If a woman is scared of having a man in the washroom with her, I’d think she’d be more upset about a muscular bearded man than a woman who’s in there to pee and (possibly) check her lipstick. For that matter, how are people supposed to tell in general? Are we all to drop our drawers before we enter? Are they going by gender stereotypes? There’s already at least one cis woman suing in the States for being harassed and escorted out of the ladies room for not looking feminine enough.

Plus these arguments ignore one crucial fact. There has not been one single case of a trans person attacking or harassing a cis person in the washroom. Not one. The closest I could find was a case where a couple of young teens claimed to be exposed to a trans woman’s penis while changing for a team event. Not attacked, simply exposed. Plus it turned out that the two girls snuck into a member’s only section of the gym, an area they were clearly told was out of bounds, and then proceeded to open up a closed and private sauna room door where the trans woman and her friend happened to be sitting. Conversely, I wouldn’t have the space or time to write down all the times trans people have been harassed in the washroom from this year alone. It’s not unknown for trans people to suffer with bladder problems stemming from holding their urine for hours instead of using a public toilet. They’d rather suffer from bladder problems instead of being attacked (again). But they’d really rather be safe.

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So not a risk to anyone in the women’s room. Very much at risk in the men’s room.

There’s another act of violence against trans people, misgendering. This occurs when people refuse to use a trans person’s pronouns, instead using the pronouns the person was assigned at birth. Colin is continuously misgendered. Akin to misgendering is the act of using someone’s birth name, also known as their dead name in the trans community. Both can cause a great deal of emotional distress to a trans person, as well as disrespecting the right to their own identity. At least 22 people have been killed this year because they were transgender women. I say at least because some end up being dead named and identified as male. Their names were read at our Transgender Day of Remembrance service this year and an appalling number were identified by the phrase “unknown woman”. Outing someone is an act of violence. Telling people your female friend “used to be male” puts her at risk of being beaten up or murdered. Telling people your male friend “used to be female” puts him at risk of being beaten up or raped. If you have a trans friend that’s great. Don’t betray their trust by outing them so you can appear cool or trendy. Don’t betray their trust because you’re struggling with accepting your new information about their gender. Introduce them with their pronouns and chosen name then move on.

We are all human. We all have hopes, dreams, hobbies, and a burning need to know why Facebook keeps switching to “top profile” (the last one might be just me). Don’t let a label get between you and another person.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them honestly (and possibly by frantically messaging my friends). This blog is unapologetically a safe place. Any transphobic or homophobic comments are deleted and the person is blocked from commenting. I’ll make allowances for honest ignorance.

* Most, but not all trans people, deal with some degree of gender dysphoria. Some, like my teen Colin, are perfectly happy with their body including their genitals. One of my friends refers to her genitals as “that thing” or “the abomination”. Another friend of mine had to hide sharp objects for fear her daughter might try to cut off her own penis as a preschooler. Many of my friends have posted pictures which show a man and woman on opposite sides of a mirror, while saying that’s exactly how they feel. They feel themselves completely as one gender and it’s continually jarring to have everyone else see and refer to them as a different gender entirely.