Tag Archives: LgBTQ

Why Black Lives Matter and Gay Tories Don’t

3 Jul

I made a new post on Storify about Black Lives Matter, Toronto Pride, and the tantrum of a formerly closeted Conservative columnist.

 

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Our grief is not a cry for war

12 Jun

Screenshot 2016-06-12 13.07.06In between museum visits and snuggle time with kiddo, I have spent today glued to my social media feeds, watching the horror of the Pulse mass shooting unfold in front of my eyes.

First the news that 20 — now 50 — people had been killed when a gunman opened fire at a Pride event in a primary Latino gay bar.

And then the immediate Islamophobic speculation from the very same right-wing politicians who fight to put more guns in people’s hands and against the very rights that the LGBTQ community is fighting for.

I can only imagine the horror of the people in that club last night, in a space that was supposed to be celebratory and safe.

It’s easy for those of us who live privileged queer lives to forget that there are people who want us dead. But we can’t forget that the latest spike in anti-queer, transphobic laws across the U.S. have legitimized anti-queer political rhetoric.

The very people who are most vulnerable to violence (queer/trans people of colour) are characterized as the bogeymen. A political culture that interrogates and refuses to believe women who survive sexual assault also claims to be wanting to protect us from “bathroom predators.”

Let us remain critical of the people who will use this tragedy to discriminate. As a group of peace activists declared in the days after 9/11, “Our grief is not a cry for war.”

Some things to remember during these immediate dark days:

  1. Pulse is a club that primarily caters to the Latino LGBTQ community. Many of the victims are likely queer people of colour. Do not erase this. Elevate queer/trans POC voices.
  2. The shooter’s name is a common one. Despite rampant speculation, there is currently no evidence that he was motivated by Islam.
  3. The Christian Right has introduced more than 200 anti-LGBT bills in the U.S. in last six months. Homophobia and religious fundamentalism kill.
  4. The shooter beat his ex-wife. He was violent and abusive toward women. Toxic masculinity kills.
  5. The gun used by the shooter to murder more than 50 queer/trans people is “owned by around 3.7 million American households, making it the country’s most popular rifle.” Guns kill.
  6. In the midst of this tragedy, gay and bisexual men (as well as women who sleep with bisexual men) are banned from donating blood unless they have been celibate for a full year.

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Homonationalism, Exhibit A

It’s up to us queers to make sure that this tragedy is not used to justify Islamophobia and racism. The people who wish us harm are using our pain to score political points. Don’t let them.

Stand together. Always.

Our grief is not a cry for war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Venus Envy

30 Sep

Two stories flashed across my news feed today that made me profoundly angry. First: another treasured young trans person (Skylar Lee of Madison, Wisconsin) has taken their own life. Second: a local Ottawa sex shop received a bylaw infraction ticket for selling a chest compression vest to a trans youth under the age of 18. These stories are related.

For those who don’t live in Ottawa, Venus Envy is a education-oriented sex shop. Well, it started that way over a decade ago and has become much more than that to all of the queers in our city. It’s a well-lit, beautiful store where you can buy porn, dildos, vibrators and lube. They display local art in their stores, run workshops on a variety of topics related to sexuality, and they sponsor fundraising dances for their bursary fund, which has given out more than $15,000 in scholarships to LGBTQ students over the last 10 years. Venus Envy has truly become a cultural hub for the queer/trans community in Ottawa. Many of my friends have worked there, or continue to do so.

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My wife and I with writer Julia Serano at Venus Envy in 2007. Yes, that is a wall of dildos. Deal with it.

But in addition to the more explicit material for sale at Venus Envy, you can also purchase LGBT-friendly children’s books, an array of queer/trans literature and a couple of specialty items designed for folks who seek to better express their gender identities. This includes compression vests, also known as “binders.”

According to the store’s owner Shelley Taylor, the store typically sees four or five young people a week seeking binders or gaffs, usually with their parents. The store’s staff are trained to deal sensitively with requests of this nature and make sure young people can find a good and comfortable fit.

Last week, a person under the age of 18 bought a binder at the store without their parents’ knowledge. And when their parents discovered the purchase, they called the City of Ottawa and had the store charged with a bylaw infraction. Because technically Venus Envy is a sex store and people under the age of 18 are not supposed to be allowed through the doors.

Members of the local queer/trans community are understandably outraged. First of all: it seems absurd that sexually active young people should be barred from accessing information about safer sex. If they are permitted to buy condoms and lube from a pharmacy, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so from a store that specializes in sex education? But secondly, the fact that this is the only store that carries binders and gaffs (which are items not even remotely related to sex) points to a bigger problem. Trans youth need access to essential services and a sex shop shouldn’t be the only place for them to purchase items that are crucial to the expression of their gender identity.

There are lots of ideas brewing in the community about how to fix this. A benevolent anonymous purchasing program that allows adults to buy these items for the teens who may need them? An arrangement with a local social service agency to provide binders and gaffs? A campaign to change the bylaw, so young people can gain access to spaces that support their sexuality and gender identities?

I hope that the outrage over this ticket reaches the young person who was brave enough to enter Venus Envy last week and make a purchase that was obviously so important to them. I want this kid to know that we have their back. That there is a whole community to support them. That one day, they will be free of their parents’ authority. That their voice and their choices matter. I don’t want to lose another Skylar. We need to do better. In the meantime, I want to say this to the staff at Venus Envy: thank you.

You can support Venus Envy by buying from them, either in store or online. I have a feeling you may find something there you like. 

*** UPDATE: I just heard from Shelley Taylor that the ticket has been waived. Venus Envy is going to be granted an all-ages license to make sure that youth can access the store. The only concession they had to make was to stop selling porn DVDs, which is not a huge loss for them. They are also going to start a “par-it-forward” program so community members can help purchase binders and gaffs for the youth that need them. This is the best news. Special thanks goes to city councillor Catherine McKenney and her amazing staff for making this happen. ***

Think of the children

26 Feb
Pro-choice, always

Pro-choice, always

I started to claim the title of “Mama” before I even gave birth. Even though I am devotedly pro-choice, I did this strategically. Because I knew that the “concerned parent” moniker was powerful and that I needed to mobilize it for good, not evil. I attended a counter-demo to the March for Life when I was about eight months pregnant, holding a sign that said, “Mama for choice.” And when I was only a few weeks away from giving birth, I presented to a provincial committee studying Bill 13, which compelled all Ontario high schools to allow gay-straight alliances (including the Catholic board).

Because whether I like it or not, being a parent lends me some sort of credibility and authority to speak on issues that are relevant to children. And it gives me an opportunity to disrupt the bigots who use ridiculous “think of the children” logic to deny people’s human rights and promote discrimination.

Cheap tricks

The notion that children need to be protected from queer and trans people is an old trope. In the 1970s, Anita Bryant based an entire “Save Our Children” campaign on the idea that gay people could be hiding in schools and corrupting innocent kids. She played on the false association between homosexuality and pedophilia and built a national campaign against gay rights in the U.S. based on it. While this seems like a total anachronism to many of us today, this same vein of manipulation is still alive and well. Two pieces of legislation are currently under debate that would have tremendous positive implications for queer/trans youth. But opponents are begging us to shut them down for the sake of “the children.”

In Ontario, the first comprehensive update to the health and sex education curriculum since 1998 was introduced last week. A similar update was first put on the table in 2010, but was quickly withdrawn after fundamentalist bigot Charles McVety raised a stink about it. The crux of his argument? You guessed it: that children’s innocence would be corrupted by frank discussions of sexuality.

He’s at it again with this latest curriculum. Before it was even released, McVety and his ilk were busy spreading rumours that the schools were planning to teach six year-olds the mechanics of anal sex (emphatically, not true). And now they are using the same argument as Bryant did in the 70s — arguing that parents, not schools, should be in charge of teaching kids about sex.

I am not going to get into the details of why the opposition to this curriculum is totally nonsensical, because I am going to trust that it’s obvious to you. But as a parent of a 2.5 year old, I gotta say it’s totally warped that anyone would oppose measures to teach kids about their own bodies and consent. These measures protect children much more effectively than willful blindness. And if you had any doubt any children’s capacity to understand these issues at a young age, watch this video that Staceyann Chin and her 3 year-old daughter Zuri made.

Luckily, our “lesbian activist Premier” (as she is being called by the right-wing chorus) has been fierce in her defense of the new curriculum and it’s sure to go through this time. But another crucial piece of legislation is sure to be quashed because of similar straw man arguments about “the children.”

Fear mongering

Just last night, an un-elected Canadian Senator took it upon himself to issue a death sentence to a piece of human rights legislation that has been in the works for years. Bill C-279 would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include “gender identity” as a grounds for protection. It has has been dubbed the “trans rights” bill and mirrors very similar legislation that is already in place in five Canadian provinces and territories. It was introduced in 2011 by NDP MP Randall Garrison and passed third reading in the House of Commons in 2013 — this included support from a handful of Conservative MPs, including Cabinet Ministers.

Then, the bill languished in the Senate. For years. As Justin Ling so adeptly pointed out in an article for Vice, this was clearly part of a strategy by the Harper government to sideline this bill and try to make it disappear. And then last night, Senator Donald Plett sentenced Bill C-279 to death. He brought forward an amendment that essentially reverses the intent of the bill and would effectively bar trans people from public bathrooms. If the Conservative-dominated Senate votes to adopt Plett’s amendment, the bill will get bounced back to the House of Commons and surely die before the next election is called.

What is the crux of Plett’s argument? You guessed it, THE CHILDREN. Specifically his young granddaughter, who he claims will be assaulted by “men” in bathrooms if trans people are afforded formal human rights protection under the law. I honestly cannot imagine what it would be like to be on the wrong side of history like this. To take it on one’s self to quash human rights legislation in the name of fear and gross misinformation. But as a queer mama, I gotta say:

  1. Trans people use bathrooms all the time. There have been ZERO reported cases in Canada of a trans person assaulting a child (or anyone else, really) in a bathroom.
  2. The people who have most to fear in bathrooms are those who are gender non-conforming and face harassment every time they try and go pee.
  3. And for trans youth, the inability to find a washroom in which to comfortably and safely relieve themselves leads them to drop out of school and leaves them even more vulnerable to homelessness.

Simply put, I support both sex education and human rights protections for trans people because I care deeply about THE CHILDREN — specifically the queer/trans youth in my community who are at highest risk of social exclusion, mental health issues and violence.

So I will use my “concerned parent” privilege as best I can to speak out against the manipulation of children — mine and yours — to further the cause of discrimination and harassment. Our kids deserve protection under the law and to see their families reflected in their school curriculum. If there is anything I’d like to shield my daughter from, it’s bigots like Charles McVety and Donald Plett.