Category: Activism


I’m just gonna leave this here.
 

Ending Violence Against Native Women
From the Roots Up

So someone on Twitter asked who-all was going to attend this evening’s Day Of Pink Gala (hosted by the CCGSD, formerly Jer’s Vision), and I responded, this morning, with one word: Nope.
While the sentiment was definitely clear, I did feel like I was being a bit misleading. So, as is my wont, I wrote a blog post to talk about this a little bit more.
 
Look. The truth of the matter is that I’ve never gone to a Day of Pink Gala. Even though it’s a free (iirc) party, and even though there’s a good chance that there’s free food at said free party, and even though I am exactly the kind of broke artist who will show up at a stranger’s vernisage specifically to eat the free cheese while trying to get a modeling job… I never went to DoP. For Reasons. Put it down to my being a home-body and big crowds making me nervous.
 
In previous years, this wasn’t anything to Make A Statement about, so I never did. At most, I’d shrug and go “Meh. I think I’ve got something else on that night” and not mention that “something else” was probably “youtube videos”. But then this happened: The CCGSD appointed Laureen Harper as their Day Of Pink ambassador. Now, on her own, Laureen Harper is just… some chick. Google her, and pretty-much all you’ll find is her connection to her husband, the current leader of the governing party of Canada.
You know, the biggest bully in the country.
(Okay, he might be tied with Don Plett, but every slime-ball needs a wingman, amirite?)
 
So here’s the thing. It is (technically) possible to have a lasting, loving relationship with a partner whose politics differ radically from your own. At least in theory[1]. So this would be a completely different situation if Laureen Harper’s youth-advocacy work involved being vocally and publically supportive of the rights of specifically queer and trans students to a harassment-free learning environment.
But, as far as I can tell, she’s not doing that. Sure, she talks about how it’s important to support diversity in schools, but in Ottawa, and in Ontario more generally, we’ve been watching state-sponsored English-language Catholic schools insist on the term “diversity” as a way to specifically refuse to support, or even recognize, their queer and trans students. “Diversity” in and of itself is great – the Pagans have a saying, “Strength in Diversity”, that references how much healthier a tall-grass prairie is to a monocrop, for example, how many voices singing in harmony with each other are way more powerful, more moving, than one voice shouting all alone – but “diversity” isn’t great when it’s co-opted by people who are actively trying to force you back into a closet.
 
Also, something worth noting: Pink Shirt Day was originally a campaign started by two rural Nova Scotia 12th-graders in support of a ninth-grade student who was hit with specifically homophobic slurs when he wore a pink shirt to school one day. Day Of Pink is a national upshot of youth-for-youth solidarity and, importantly, of youth standing with peers who face violence specifically because their gender presentation and/or sexual orientation is, or is perceived to be, outside of what’s considered “normal”.
So here’s a story from my own childhood:
I didn’t know “bisexual” was a thing until I was sixteen, and it took another year for me to figure out that “bixsexual” was a term that applied to me. But I didn’t need to be “out and proud” or even just “visibly queer” (as a cis, femme, little girl, the only things that marked me as “other” were my height, my music, and – unexpectedly? – my insistence on wearing dresses) to face homophobic bullying. Nobody beat me up, but my fifth grade was all about getting swarmed by mobs of classmates jeering “Are you a lesbian? Are you a lesbian???” (if you were wondering about where that fear of crowds came from…), stealing my shoes, being told that people being “different” was fine just “Not when they’re different like you”. It was my teachers being deeply unsettled to see me doing a Fred and Ginger dance routine with another girl in my grade.
I know damn well that I was not the only turned-out-to-be-queer kid in my class. Not just statistically, either (Ottawa’s a small town, for a place with a million people). Given that none of our teachers were saying “there’s nothing wrong with this, stop being a douche-canoe”, I can’t say I blame them for letting me draw the fire, if they’d even figured themselves out yet, which isn’t necessarily the case. But if they knew? If nine and ten year old kids knew they were One Of Us, and knew that to keep themselves safe they had to laugh at the (other) faggot right along with the Normal People… do you really think they wouldn’t?
I’m not typically one to quote Ivan Coyote, but they said something on facebook a while back, after having seen a high school teacher wearing a pink t-shirt that read “The Pink Shirt Says It All”. What they said on facebook was (I’m paraphrasing, I think) “The pink shirt means fuck-all if it’s not backed up with action”.
 
Look. There are things that CCGSD does that I really, really like. I love that they hold national conferences where high school students can learn how to advocate for themselves and their peers with a specific focus on gender and/or sexuality minorities and youth of colour. I love that they run Rainbow Write, locally, which is a program that bring queer and/or trans writers and, frequently, specifically queer and/or trans writers of colour, to Ottawa to do writing workshops with queer and trans teens[2] (and, if space allows, Rainbow Brights of all ages). But Day Of Pink is supposed to be about stopping specifically homophobic and transphobic bullying; about making schools and, more broadly, the world safer for our children; for sending the message (and backing it up with action, folks!) that this particular type of cruelty – which is used to police gender and sexuality at every age and regardless of what a given targeted-person’s gender and sexual orientation actually are, but which always, always hurts OUR kids, no matter whom its directed at – is absolutely not okay. Deciding that the appropriate ambassador for this message is someone who will actively dilute it, who is someone with deep and personal ties to a party that is clearly dead set against all of us who live outside of that tiny, narrow charmed circle? My dears, that was the wrong decision.
 
Those feelings of rage and betrayal that are flying all over twitter right now? Those feelings are real. Some of us believed you had our backs. But getting popular with the powerful crowd by betraying those who are already getting stomped on?
Honey… that’s what bullies do.
 
 
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Although, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how. That is a hell of a hard road to walk, even when your partner’s hateful, fear-mongering politics aren’t routinely being rammed into actual federal laws.
 
[2] The second time I came out – as kinky and poly and queer-femme – as an adult with my own place to live, it was queer (and frequently kinky and poly) femme poets who got me through my divorce, helped me see my reflection on paper, and helped me find my voice as a writer. I can’t imagine how much more of a huge fucking relief it would be for a queer and/or trans kid, a teenager who might be afraid of getting kicked out of their home if they’re open about who they are, to meet and be mentored by adults who are just like them and who get it.

H’okay. So C279, which started out pretty decent, is getting worse and worse. Now they’re trying to ammend it so that trans people[1] would have to carry their surgery-status papers (wtf??) with them just to use a fucking bathroom. Um, hello? The whole point of the bill was to PROTECT the human rights of TRANS PEOPLE!
AUGH!!!
God. That hateful man’s granddaughter is in more danger from him – statistically, if for no other reason, since he’s an adult relative – than from some random perp who decided that jumping out from behind a bush was too passé and that going through the effort of dressing in drag is totally the new wave of victim-accosting[2].
Eugh.
 
Anyway. Thinking about this, and having read Jeana’s post about Indiana (where she lives), I’m starting to wonder what we can do in terms of checking with businesses (I’m thinking in particular public pools, spas, gyms, yoga studios, etc) locally regarding what their policies are.
While yes, in Ontario, trans people’s human rights are protected by Toby’s Law, and Provincial law does take presidence over Federal under these circumstances, (a) the law isn’t necessarily reliably upheld in, for example, court situations[4], and (b) it’s only Ontario. BC has a similar law[4], and so does the NWT, BUT outside of those jurisdictions, everyone else doesn’t even have a matchstick to hold up. As someone living on the border with another province, it would be really nice to be able (to pick a swanky example) to do an informal Dyke Day at Le Nordik without worrying that the trans women among us would be open to that much more potential harrassment.
 
So, here’s what I’m thinking: Let’s phone/email our local community centres, spas, gyms, etc and see who will pull a Planet Fitness and support trans people using their facilities and, therefore, who does (and, incidentally, who does not) deserve our money. Okay? Okay.
Go.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Which would disproportionately effect trans women and trans-fem-spectrum people, for all the usual reasons, which can be case-in-pointed by how the focus of these idiots trying to ruin C279 boils down the “ZOMG MAN in DRESS! My delicate masculinity is afeared[3]!”
 
[2] FFS. Look. The whole business where predators – rapists who rape adults, rapists who rape kids, you name it – “jump out from behind a bush” or “hide in a dark alley” or otherwise attack people who are not both already vulnerable AND known to them?… We’ve known that this is bullshit for AGES. Everyone knows that predators are lazy. Attacking a stranger in a bathroom or a locker room takes effort. It’s risky, in that public locker-rooms and rest-rooms are well-lit, typically well-populated, public places, and it’s risky in that most people in thse well-lit, well-populated public spaces aren’t already incapacitated in some way. It’s unlikely to work. Even without having to buy special clothes[1] to do it, it’s still WAY easier to attack someone who already trusts you, with-whom you have a visibly possitive, or at least social/familial, relationship, so that nobody will believe that you did it even IF your victim believes it themselves and starts telling people.
 
[3] Which I wish was as easy to laugh off as I’ve written it, but seriously, this is the root cause of the murder of SO MANY WOMEN. Another black, trans woman was murdred – by police, fyi – just yesterday. Her name was Mya Shawatza Hall (please read the whole thing).
 
[4] For “Reasons”, mostly, but also because “gender identity” and “gender expression” weren’t explicitely define and, as such, a given judge could theoretically choose to interpret the terms using a super-narrow, genitals/medical/surgical-based definition (as has been the case in BC, for example).

Hey, folks.
 
So Parliament is going into (I think) Reading #2 of Bill C-51, the so-called “Anti-Terrorist Act”, which proposes a bunch of heavy-duty changes to Canadian law and to our national security infrastructure. A lot of these changes would negatively effect the rights and freedoms of Canadians (which is bad enough, honestly, BUT there’s more) without any sort of follow-through in terms of actually improving public safety (in fact, there’s a been a few annalysts who’ve pointed out the ways in which it does the opposite – give this a read for those details). This article breaks it down. If you’re hazy on the details of what the bill actually does, or are looking for a quick reference to use while composing a letter to your MP (or ALL the MPs, for that matter), I suggest that you give it a read. NOTE: You can also check out this Storify which has LOTS of links and information on the bill.
 
If you’re in Ottawa, you may want to participate in the Day of Action to Stop Bill C-51 as well. Click on that link to find events happening this Saturday (the Day of Action in question), as well as related events happening through the month of March.
 
Please do what you can to stop this bill in its tracks.
Thank you.
Ms Syren.

Hey there, everybody.
 
So this morning was full of a twitter discussion about what meds are contraindicated for Grapefruit (juice, but also the whole fruit). Pyke Barber dug up this handy list which, if you are on Anti-Depresants or Hormone Replacements of any kind (but also potentially a bunch of other meds that effect your brain) you should probably double-check about, if you don’t already know:
Grapefruit Effectiveness, Safety and Drug Interactions (RxList)
 
Other links of note:
Sophia Banks has this article about C279 and State-Sanctioned (and Perpetuated) Violence Against Trans Folks (esp Women).
 
Here’s an article from Xtra pertaining to C279 that you may want to check out (if you want to read all the hateful shit that comes out of Don Plett’s damn mouth, anyway…) and another one from HuffPo (that is slightly less awful to get through). Amnesty International is deeply unimpressed.
 
On a Sucktastically related note:
Sumaya Ysl, a black, trans, ballroom dancer from Toronto, was found dead last Sunday morning after being seen fleeing a man the night before.
 
If you are a writer of a womanly persuasion, you might considering submitting something to Bitch Magazine‘s “Blood and Guts” issue. Perhaps someone who knew Sumaya would like to submit a piece on intersectional violence? Maybe?
 
Eugh. And, this-just-in: Her Name was Melonie – Another Trans WoC Has Committed Suicide.
FFS. Hey, cis people, maybe we can all email Don Plett (again…) and tell him off for his abject failure to protect women and kids from violence? Let’s do that.
Note: When you email him? You’re going to get a shitty, condescending, mansplainy piece of bullshit back for your efforts. Do it anyway. What a hateful man. 😦

Gabrielle Fradet (25) was last seen at a home on County Road 7 in North Dundas Township on Friday, December 19, 2014. Police say she may frequent areas of #Kemptville and #Ottawa.
 
5’6″ and thin
blonde, shoulder-length hair
blue eyes
 
Possibly wearing blue jeans, a blue and white bomber style jacket and white boots.
 
If you have any information you’re asked to call OPP at 1-888-310-1122.
 

Gabrielle Fradet is described as 5’6″ and thin, with blonde, shoulder-length hair and blue eyes. She was possibly wearing blue jeans, a blue and white bomber style jacket and white boots.

To end violence against women, we must end violence against sexworkers.


 
Eleven days ago, I spent the morning tweeting the names of Murdered women. I did this for hours, and was nowhere near close to listing the thousands of women – cis women, trans women, black and indiginous women, women enrolled in a particular class at Polytechnique – who had been killed.
 
Today is International Day to End Violence Agaisnt Sexworkers. Usually, if people think about violence against sexworkers at all, they’re thinking of either (a) women whose bodies were pulled out of dumpsters – so actual people who were murdered, or (b) sensationalistic/titilating (sensationalistitilating?) stories about human trafficking[1].
 
These issues do matter. For sure. But they’re not the only types of violence that sexworkers experience. I appreciate the above infographic because it brings to light some of the other stuff – stuff that doesn’t necessarily result in death, and which typically doesn’t involve a starting point of coersion, but that limits people’s options and makes tenuous situations that much less stable.
Here, have a link to an Open Letter from Brazen Lee (who also provided the handy infographic, below).
 

 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Okay, here’s the thing about Human Trafficking: (1) It totally does actually happen. (2a) It happens far more frequently in the agricultural, construction, and home-labour (think: nannies, house-keepers) industries than it does in the sex industry, but (2b) you never hear about those situations because they don’t involve sex, or the combination of sex and violence, that is so damn titilating in our culture. Likewise, they don’t play into, or uphold, dominant cultural narratives about sex being something that men do to (or commit against?) women – who are typically coded as passive and victimizable. (3) There’s an entire industry – and I’m using that word deliberately – around “rescuing” women from sexwork. “Rescue organizations” tend to rely on inaccurate & inflated (And, sometimes, just plain false) statistics in order to secure their funding, and they tend not to work towards anything that will actually help people in the sex industry transition to different careers. Things that would actually help: Building affordable housing; working to make access to mental health care easier; pressuring businesses to end discriminatory hiring practices around things like race, immigration status, and gender identity; working to promote the decriminalizing sexwork; Pressuring provincial governments to increase the minimum wage to something where a person working *part time* (because most minimum wage jobs are part-time, and because people who – for mental and physical health reasons, or single-parenthood reasons, can’t work full-time sometimes turn to sexwork – where you can make a week’s minimum-wages in an hour – to make sure the bills are paid) could still make rent and afford food & utilities at the same time; Provide reliable, trans-inclusive shelter for both youth and adults fleeing abusive home-situations… The list goes on, but there are some suggestions.

First up:
If you would like to support people arrested in Ferguson, please donate here.
If you would like to support sexworkers’ fight to get Bill C-36 struck from the books as soon as possible on the grounds of its blatant unconstitutionality, please donate here.
If you would like to support Indiginous people fighting legal battles against Kinder Morgan and the proposed pipeline through Burnaby Mountain, please donate here (this one’s not an indiegogo campaign).
 
New Brunswick abortion restriction lifted by Premier Brian Gallant – Hurrah! 😀
 
A Variety of Posts Relating To Sexwork:
Bill C-36’s negative impact on racialized and migrant sex workers.
Remembering Stone Butch Blues‘ Pledge to Sexworkers.
Why Feminism Needs Sex Workers and Trans People.
 
On a completely different note, you can find music by awesome pianist & musicologist Dana Baitz here (music compilation ft all trans performers), here (lgbt spoken word), and here (Dana’s reverbnation page). Enjoy!

If you’re in Canada and would like to do something at least slightly concrete to support trans human rights here (or, heck, even if you’re NOT in Canada but would like to lend your support), particularly given that today is Trans Day of Remembrance, here’s something you can do:
 
Right now, Bill C-279 (read the whole Bill here) is in Committee, and has been since June 2014.
The bill, as drafted, will amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination as well as amending the Criminal Code to include gender identity as a distinguishing characteristic protected under section 318 and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2 at the time of sentencing (both of these sections pertain to hate crimes).
 
This is not the first time a private member has put forth a bill to protect the human rights of trans people in Canada. I would personally appreciate it if the bill actually made it through and became law this time.
 
To that end, I encourage you all to take part in PSAC’s letter-writing campaign and email members of the senate (PSAC offers this list, along with a handy letter-template to help you out) urging them to support C-279 as currently drafted and to pass it with all speed.
PSAC’s list also includes the few senators who have twitter handles and/or facebook pages, so that you can contact them through those channels as well[1].
 
Okay. Some of you are going to be thinking “What the heck good is this going to do?” when being race and sex are already protected under the human rights code and yet the majority of people who are remembered at TDoR are women of colour. And that’s a really valid question.
Trans activist Morgan M. Page points out that:
 

“TDOR is about the combination of three factors: transmisogyny, racism, whorephobia. Across the board, those we remember on TDOR were trans women of colour engaged in sex work. This tells us where our activism needs to be. We need another day to mourn those we lose to suicide, illness, and neglect.”

 
Writing letters in support of Bill C-279 will help put legislation in place that will mitigate microagressions like employers refusing to let someone work front-of-house at their job. It will also mitigate more macro discriminations like doctors refusing to prescribe day-to-day meds due to “discomfort”. Legislation like what’s proposed by C-279 is definitely important. But it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
 
Other things you can do (a list collected from a couple of folks on Facebook):
– Support sex workers rights – Sex workers need to work safely and be protected by legislation instead of being targeted and criminalized.
– Support anti-racism programs & actions – PoC face much higher rates of police & state violence (both in the immediate, physical sense and in the legislative sense).
– Support mental illness and suicide intervention programs – Trans people have much higher risks for mental illness and suicide.
– Support youth homelessness programs – Because breaking the cycle of parental abandonment and youth poverty can completely change people’s lives.
 
 
Thanks,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] EDIT: FYI, and not that this is going to shock anybody[2], but when you write to Don Plett, you’ll probably get a slimy, condescending reply dripping with enough ignorance and transmisogyny to make you want to fucking scream before the end of the third paragraph. So, y’know. Forewarned is forearmed…
 
[2] Except, apparently, me – who figured he’d at least have the sense to keep his bigotry really vague in any reply he chose to make.
 
 
Votive Candles in the Dark

So I wrote a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne with regards to bill #C36 and what she can do to protect her sexworking constituents and make sure these laws, too, gets struck down as soon as humanly possible.
 
A lot of people are doing this – hard copy letters, emails, even tweets – and it’s a bit of an informal campaign at this point.
There’s a templete available here if you’d like to write to your provincial/territorial Premier on the same subject.
You may also find some inspiration in Nikki Thomas’s impassioned open letter to Kathleen Wynne – I know I did. Likewise, POWER’s press release on the subject of C36 may offer further insights.
 
You can probably find a contact form or appropriate email address by googling “Office of the Premier” + your province or territory. That’s how I found Kathleen Wynne’s contact information.
 

Sexworkers are not “disposable people”. They are not “non-people” either. They have agency and they have rights, the same as everyone else in this province and in this country. Their lives matter and that doesn’t stop just because someone with a lot of power finds their work distasteful. (Me)

 

Please refer this bill immediately to the Ontario Court of Appeal for a constitutional reference, and do not pursue prosecutions until they determine its constitutionality. (Nikki Thomas)

 

Red Umbrella Image:
Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs