What does it matter?

“It’s just a difference of opinion,” she said. “People are allowed to have opinions. It doesn’t make any difference.”

Except it does. Every online voice is a person; a cashier, a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, a landlord. They don’t solely exist in the void of online. And when they have a negative opinion on trans people or the LGBTQ community in general, it makes a difference in real life.

The woman ranting that trans people are mentally ill is the doctor who says she “isn’t prejudiced but…” before denying services. The man who claims gay people are perverts is the lawyer who won’t take that adoption case because children need a mother and a father. The person who talks about “trans freaks” is the manager who looks at a trans person’s face then their ID before throwing the resume in the garbage. The couple, complete with conjoined Facebook names, who lament the lack of a straight pride parade are the landlords who suddenly doesn’t have an apartment to rent… at least not to them. The anonymous account spouting hatred is the politician forming laws regarding bathrooms, adoption, and outright approval of prejudice. The lady sharing awful trans “jokes” is the children’s aid worker harassing this family.

We need to stop pretending it’s just an opinion when that opinion has body counts. I’ve seen people say “it’s just an opinion but I think trans people should be gassed to death”. There’s no ‘just’ in that sentence, with any meaning of the word. Opinions are “I like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla” not “I think my neighbour should be exiled to a rocky island to die”. That’s hate speech, not an opinion.

People talk about free speech as if it’s sacrosanct, meanwhile they have no idea what it means. In both Canada and the United States it was created to allow you to freely criticise the government without being arrested. It was not written into law so you could talk about killing your neighbour over their gender or who they love.

We need to stand up and against the people who spout hatred. Call them out. Point out the hatred in their words. Maybe they’ll learn something but, at the very least, maybe they’ll simply shut up. And, more importantly, the people on the fence will get information they need to form a real opinion, one with facts.

And we need to keep doing this until hate laws stop being presented, all families are considered equal, and it’s not considered shameful to share age appropriate  information about the LGBTQ community to children. Until it’s recognised there are LGBTQ children.

We need to keep fighting until there’s no longer a body count.

Scattering kindness…

Some days it feels like there’s so much cruelty in this world that the earth can barely contain it. From pure evil to petty meanness, it saturates our lives to the point where it’s overwhelming. It becomes hard to notice anything else. But there is something else that’s equally strong. Kindness.

Kindness grows like dandelions through concrete… seemingly impossible until it’s there. It spreads and scatters in small amounts that appear almost pointless. What can a simple smile do compared with war and starvation? But it keeps trying. It’s spreads and it grows.

Today Julie and I are protesting against the gay concentration camps in Chechnya. It is a little protest in a little city in Canada. Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s leader, will never hear of our protest. On the surface it seems pointless.

But every person who passes us today has the chance to think of LGBTQ rights and the prejudice against us. Every person has the chance to think on their own views and perhaps modify them a bit, which then impacts their families. With each protest, more families are touched and the greater the impact. Then it’s noticed.

Politics is often a popularity game. What can a politician do to please the constituents and get elected again. A positive view on the LGBTQIA community and a desire to do something about those camps will get noticed by more and more and will, hopefully, get added to foreign policy.

Each one of us is but a simple light but together we make up all the stars in the universe. Let your light shine. It might be small but it matters. You matter.

protest

When the PC culture goes too far…

I read the post and then reread it… twice, unable to believe my eyes. A teenager in the States had poured out his heart explaining how he understood how marginalized a teenager in Canada felt. He was gay, his family would not accept that and treated him badly. His peers at school thought he was disgusting. He had no friends. He pretty much lived his life online, waiting for a chance to grow up and get out. The Canadian teenager was horrified. How dare he compare their lives! He wasn’t trans and would never understand how marginalized he, as a middle class trans Canadian, felt.

Instantly the Canadian teen’s friends jumped in, name calling and mocking. I waded in and explained that, while being gay wasn’t a big issue in urban Ontario, where equal marriage had been around for a decade, it was still a huge issue in the States where, at the time, equal marriage didn’t exist. I pointed out that the gay teen likely was even more marginalized where he was and got back a simple, “I didn’t know.”

No, he didn’t but he never stopped to listen either. And, by then the damage had already been done.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine posted a screen shot with the name blanked out. It was discussing Harry Potter and whether he was marginalized because of previous child abuse. My friend felt he didn’t, that he was an ass all on his own. The person in the screen shot had a different opinion. All was going fine until this comment.

“She’s a POC though so I don’t really appreciate you doing this.”

The fact that POC have precedent to speak about their own issues does not translate to everything they say is sacrosanct. My friend can disagree with someone of colour over Harry Potter without being racist.

We are all people with unique views and opinions and we need to work together to support each other. If we all devolve into “you can’t understand me because I’m black and you’re Chinese” then we’ve lost. If your entire focus on a conversation about child abuse is someone commented “that’s crazy” and that’s ableist, what does that say about you? No, it’s not right but, seriously, shouldn’t your focus be on the child abuse? I’m crazy. Trust me, work on the abused kids first.

We live in a world filled with differences and that’s what has divided us through history. Dividing right into war. If your zeal for human rights blinds you to actual human suffering, you’ve lost what you’re fighting for. Aren’t we fighting for equality and acceptance… not dissonance and separation?

I’m watching as a drive to unite is slowly turning into picking at differences. Can we please acknowledge our differences and celebrate our similarities? I can listen to your struggles with being black and celebrate our kids playing in the living room together. I can listen to your fears of being trans and celebrate a mutual love of Doctor Who. You can listen to my struggles with insanity and celebrate our love of nature.

We need to work on being a tapestry; different threads all woven into one beautiful whole. And we need to stop picking at the threads and deciding which ones have more worth. We all have worth. Our tapestry wouldn’t exist without us.

Signed  ~a life long snowflake~

 

Remembrance Day revisited…

CN: discussion of violence and prejudice

I stand on my balcony and can see Lake Ontario. On a clear day we stand on the shore and look across the lake at Buffalo. This has never scared me until now.

I went online yesterday and my news feed was flooded with stories of hatred and violence. A friend of mine has an openly gay ten year old who was terrified to go to school… to the point of stress vomiting. He’s been taunted since kindergarten, this fear is something new.

Another friend of mine had a pick up truck, with a poorly shored confederate flag, nearly hit him at high noon. The driver stopped and jumped out screaming “fucking faggot” before heading into the nearby post office. My friend wasn’t sure who he was more scared for, himself or the solitary black woman operating the office. Luckily both were fine.

After my friend posted, one of his friends chimed in to say she’d just had passengers tell her to flash them in order to get a tip. Pro tip, that’s not how taxis work. But maybe that’s how they work in Trump’s new United States… if the driver is female and the passengers are male.

Yet more friends are panicking about getting IUDs inserted before January 20th or getting married before that time. One’s researching nursery schools in Canada while others half joke about marrying a Canadian citizen.

I’d expected the hatred and violence to start slow and increase. Instead it poured out as if a flood gate was opened, starting with a bottle bashed over a gay man’s head because this is Trump’s America now. It moved on to school children drawing and shouting “build a wall” while their classmates cried. To high school students scribbling racial slurs and graffiti about white pride. To grown men harassing and groping women because it’s their right under Trump.

And, through it all, Trump stayed silent.

Well, not exactly silent. He complained about people being mean to him on Twitter and placed Ben Carson, the man who thinks the pyramids were grain silos, into the position of the head of the Department of Education. The masses will now become even more uneducated but they’ll know the Bible right down to every last hate filled corner. I don’t think the more positive and altruistic verses will have a place in Trump’s world.

I’m terrified for my friends. For my black and brown friends and my gay and pan friends, for my friends who “don’t pass” and my friends who do, for my friends who hold their LGBTQ children close and hope for the next four years. And I’m scared for those of us living in the US’s shadow, because if Trump starts lobbing bombs, just because they’re there, that border is not going to hold back retaliatory radiation.

On this cold and quiet Remembrance Day, I feel like history is repeating itself.

poppies-and-full-moon

Poppies under the full moon

Religion, the original gated community…

Michelle, hope all is well and I am being very kind to myself. Thank you for asking but how are you doing?

Those words might sound mild, even a bit positive, but they brought tears to my eyes. Tim most certainly isn’t being kind to himself and there’s nothing I can do about it. His life is a tragedy in slow motion and one I’ve been watching for years.

The first thing I noticed about Tim was his vibrant personality. Even though he was still in high school, his enthusiastic energy was almost palpable; his smile as bright as his hair. The second thing I noticed were his mannerisms. Everyone knows the stereotype of a flamboyant gay male. That was Tim, right there. The kid might as well have worn a t-shirt with the caption “why yes, I am very gay”. We worked together for almost five years and I’ve lost count of the number of times a customer described him as “the gay one”.

He introduced himself to me by pointing out a young man as cute then watching to see my reaction. Several months went by with him being quite openly gay then he announced he’d met a girl for dinner. Once again he watched for reactions; this time he seemed quite shocked that people had trouble believing he’d invited a girl for a date. Later he told me he didn’t know why people were spreading rumours that he was gay. I found myself unable to think of anything to say. Within days he’d reverted back to being openly gay again.

I talked to Tim from time to time about Jeremy and why I wondered if zie was gay or bisexual. At one point I told him about how Jeremy had asked me, in grade one, if it was all right for zir to marry Albert when zie grew up. Tim’s face grew wistful. He’d made a similar comment when he was that age and one of his older brothers told him never to make a comment like that again or he’d be beaten up. I began to understand his flip-flopping.

Over the next few years he did a few more flip-flops regarding his sexual orientation. I tried my hardest to be supportive and I’m sure his other friends did as well. He slowly became more positive about being gay and joined PFLAG. Several years in a row he invited me to attend our local Evening of Hope; an event similar to the Transgender Day of Remembrance but for the whole LGBTQ community (the Trans Day of Remembrance is also observed). I made sure to attend. One year his mother called during the whole service. Candles were being named then lit and carried across the stage in front of a hushed audience. Meanwhile his phone kept ringing and ringing.

Mom, this is serious. I can’t talk right now.”
This is a memorial service.”
No I can’t leave.”
“Mom, please, you have to stop calling.”
I helped organize this. I’m needed here. I really can’t leave.”

Her son was working alongside the mayor and the police to help organize a huge event with dozens of vendors and approximately a hundred people. He hurried around, well respected and busy, taking donations, directing people to the right places, and organizing the set up. And instead of being there to support him, she was sitting at home harassing him to leave. I wouldn’t know this lady if I ran into her on the street but there’s a good chance I wouldn’t like her.

I watched as he matured into his early 20’s. He wanted to be an event planner and organize weddings. I listened as he fell in love and again when they broke up. Tim didn’t want to be a secret, he wanted a boyfriend who was willing to be out with him. Then he started looking for a new religion because the Catholic Church wasn’t supportive enough. He wanted a place that would accept him as gay. I suggested my own congregation of Unitarian Universalists and got a “maybe…” in response. I get that. I’m an atheist and he’s deeply religious; I’ve had a few friends assume that the whole congregation must be atheistic if I’m there. It’s not but I backed off, figuring he needed to find his own path. Unitarians are good at that. Maybe too good.

He continued to help with PFLAG and received an award for being a person who made a difference. His posts reflected the love he had for his family and a growing acceptance of himself. Then his posts faded, he was busy at work but fine. He couldn’t attend my parties due to work but was fine and we’d get together soon. The posts he did make were less about family and more about God. And then came this post…

Tim mormon

He deleted it almost immediately but a quick peek at his about page showed his religion as Mormon and his “interested in” section set to women. There aren’t many churches out there who are less accepting of LGBTQ people than the Catholic Church but the Mormons are definitely one of them.

There is no way this can end well. He’s not straight. He’s not even (from what he’s said during quiet, honest times) bisexual. And he’s joined a church that only loves him if he lies and only accepts him if he ignores his own romantic feelings.

I understand why people turn to religion. They look for acceptance, community, support, and (for some) a greater meaning to life. At it’s best, religion can serve these needs. What worries me is when religion is at it’s worst. It’s worst leaves people shattered and broken… clutching the fragments of their lives as they watch their community turn away. It leaves LGBTQ kids on the streets, begging and selling themselves to survive. Or walking in front of trucks convinced life will never get better. It teaches children that they are the chosen ones and the “others” are the sinners. Giving them a sense of pride for being chosen and a sense of fear that they might stumble and become one of the “others”.

Get a group of atheist parents together and you’ll hear a variety of stories about their children being harassed by other kids for not believing in God. Emma used to get chased off the bus by a girl who insisted she was going to burn in hell forever. A mother I talked to recently has a child who was having nightmares about Jesus coming to get him like some sort of bogeyman. Once again it was from peer bullying.

Years ago, our congregation welcomed an older man who had left a fundamentalist church. Every Sunday, for weeks on end, he’d come to the front of the room for  the pebbles of joy and concern ceremony and cry. He could barely choke out any words, he’d simply break down in heart wrenching tears. His former church had left huge scars on his soul. It took nearly a year before he could manage to speak. He was white, straight, and cis… with a good job, children, and a wife who loved him… and his scars nearly broke him regardless. He didn’t entirely fit into their mould so they tried to hammer him in place. They damn well shattered him.

Love isn’t trademarked, it just is, and it’s there for everyone; not just the ones religion deems worthy enough. Life is not a tragedy, love is not a mistake, and if your religion loves all the little children (except if they have a penis and are wearing a dress) then you’re doing it wrong.

What defines a woman?

An open letter to women and a rebuttal to Emilee Danielson

Emilee, your story is simply one single thread in a tapestry of women. It is not the whole cloth. Living for almost 50 years does not give you a magical ability to tell other women they’re wrong about themselves; all it does is allow you to identify yourself.

We are women from the moment we first heard the word girl and felt it click inside us… whether the word was aimed at us or not. We are a women from the moment we looked into a mirror and recognized the girl within… whether we could see her face or not.

A woman isn’t defined by breasts. You’re a woman whether you’re flat or have breasts that go on for days. Neither is it defined by the ability to carry an infant to term. It most certainly isn’t defined by being a martyr.

Being a woman isn’t defined by horrendous cramps or your ability to fake it through them. It isn’t defined by the size of the baby or the amount of medication you received. You’re still a woman and a mother if you adopted your child or if your partner gave birth. You’re still a woman if you’re child-free.

Emilee, you are a privileged woman in the United States. Unlike friends of mine, you have never been chased down dark streets by strangers while having slurs shouted at you simply for daring to be yourself. You have never had store clerks look you in the eye and misgender you repeatedly and on purpose because they don’t like that you exist. You have never looked at yourself in the mirror and wished you were dead when faced with the stranger staring back. You have children but you don’t have my child. You don’t stand beside your child and have strangers stare… turning so they can continue to stare as you walk past. You worry about strange men on the side of the road while being blissfully unaware of the dangers that trans women face every single day. Unaware that their risks of violence and death from strange men are staggeringly higher than yours.

No, Emilee there is more to being a woman than you could ever experience or even imagine. I find your claim to know and speak of womanhood on behalf of us all to be insulting. A real woman is defined, not by beauty or dirt under her nails, but by herself.

Ms Jenner is a woman, I am a woman, and you are a woman. Tapestries are nothing if every thread is identical. We need our differences in order to make life vibrant.