Tag Archive: community


So, a few months ago (early December), I was reading about Femme Stuff while working a reception job. I spent the whole morning reading primarily about femme invisibility and ended up writing a Twitter Thing about how the postal carrier who turned up with the mail around Noon had asked me if I’d ever considered being an actress because I was “using my facial expressions very intensely”.
What I thought was “Shit, I’m totally doing that”. But what I meant was… I’m flagging.
Flagging hard, to no-one in particular, wearing all of my sparkle on the outside because I was reading about how un-see-able I am to other queers.
 
That intense, almost theatrical, expressiveness is a thing that makes femmes intimidating and fascinating, but sometimes I wonder if that Femme Dazzling Smile (like a butch nod, if you will) that lights us up when we see each other isn’t just us saying “I See You, Femme!” but is also us asking “Do you see me?”
I mean, maybe that’s just me.
But I do wonder if we turn up the volume on our already/often pretty innate intensity, particularly in queer spaces & contexts, in the hopes of being recognized as Family when we don’t (necessarily) have fades / asymmetrical haircuts, or rock a pin-up aesthetic, or have leopard-print on that day or what-have-you. (As a side note, I have a pair of Fake Cat-Eye Glasses that I got for doing cam work, and I sometimes want wear them around town just to see how that effects the way others perceive me. I don’t know if that counts as “field work”…)
 
It’s a weird thing. Kind of nice to know that it shows up, even when I’m not consciously doing it? Kind of heart-breaking to know that I try That Hard to be visible even when there’s nobody around to see me?
 
An anecdote: Back in November, I went to a combination book-launch/dance-party/AGM/fundraiser (you know how that goes), and had all my dazzle on when I headed home afterwards. Halfway home a butch-of-a-certain-age, under a big umbrella, chatted me up for no discernible reason at all. Unexpectedly visible. Who knew?
I just about floated home. Not because that particular person was particularly exciting, just because: she (they?) recognized me well enough to flirt, noticeably, with a stranger in spite of drizzly night + my warm coat & non-heeled boots.
It was so freaking validating.
 
I’m in my late 30s. Most het-cis dudes don’t catcall me. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve “aged out” of the Easy To Intimidate range, or what (I am not complaining, if I have), but, despite that, most of the attention I get on the street is from people I’m fairly confident are cis dudes. They flock like cis dudes in their 20s who are trying to prove their manhood. Then again, maybe I think they’re cis guys because 100% of everyone else has a pretty solid idea of how uncomfortable it is to hear “How’s my wife?” from a stranger, sooo… What I’m saying is, it’s not necessarily “business as usual” to be all “Hey, Lady” when you’re QAF.
 
Years ago, on a day that was warm, but not nearly warm enough (so probably in late April or early May), I went out in my leopard-print skirt, my alizarin monster-fur ¾-sleeve jacket, a pair of dangly earrings, and a slick of raspberry lippy. I didn’t know it was Femme Visibility Day until I logged onto twitter that evening. But someone else did, some other femme with pin-up-girl bangs and winged eye-liner, who looked me in the eye like she’d seen something holy, reached out her hand, and said “You. Look. Fabulous!”
She gave me a smile that lit up the street, and I walked home wearing a crown.
 
One single day to throw away all the toxic, internalized shit that insists on telling us that deliberately-feminine-presenting people are always straight, always binary, always either cis women or wanting to be read as such (and I do not mean for safety reasons)… That it’s rude of us to plaster an unverified marginalized identity or two all over someone else’s unconsenting body, like we would be shaming them, just because they look familiar in some way. That it’s better (safer? Less painful? For whom?) for us to assume that the person with the fancy fade and the delicate Monroe piercing, is a “metro-sexual” straight, cis dude, not a brother-fem gay guy or genderqueer and pansexual or a trans dyke rocking Lesbian Haircut Number Two; wiser or kinder (are you kidding me?) to assume that the person with the scuffed, cuffed jeans and the crimson extensions, or the red, red lipstick and the fedora, is a cissexual straight girl not a genderqueer, sexuality-queer trans fem/me, a cis bi-dyke, a trans lesbian.
…That assuming anything else would be met with hostility or confusion or even anxiety, a whole other sort of Unrecognized to the one we’re used to from random androgynous-queers on the street, and all the more painful because of it.
 
The validating Butch-of-a-Certain-Age in that anecdote? The femme who made a point of telling me she could see me? Those encounters are the polar opposite of the queer dances I tend to go to. Queer dances run by femme friends. Queer dances where I at least kinda-sorta know the other regulars. Queer dances where I still walk in with the working assumption that people who don’t know me personally will be wondering what the Straight Lady is doing in their space.
And, to a point, I know that this is basically “Don’t Self-Reject” on a social scale. That I’m assuming every sort-of-stranger there is going to look at me the way my own femme friend looked at the cab-load of 20-something other femmes and assumed they were a bunch of het-cis kiddies crashing the dance during Pride.
The assumption (the fear) that I won’t be seen as “belonging” in a queer context is definitely partly pre-rejection (pre-jection?), but it’s also the end result of every time a more “obvious” (read: masculine) queer doesn’t pick up on my traffic-stopping lipstick & leopard-print skirt, every time the androgynous youngsters at the hippy indie grocery store only turn on the “Oh! You’re one of us!” familiar-smiles when I put money in the Ten Oaks donation box, every time someone I met at That Queer Thing, One Time looks right through me (huge, hard-to-miss me) on the street because I no-longer have Queer Context to flag for me.
It makes me a mix of sad and angry every time.
 
It’s funny / not-funny, strange / not-strange, that I get Recognized by people who I’m reading as older-than-me cis gay men – the ones who sing their sentences in much the same way that I do (so probably some degree of fem, even in the land of No Fats No Femmes Adonis-hungry gay culture) – more often than I get recognized by butch women in my own age bracket. Fellows who stop me on Booth street, in my pencil skirt and plunging neck-line, to say “Honey, do you have a light”, or who stumble, tipsy, up to me in my five-inch heels and mini dress – fresh from the Alt 101 drag show where the only people who gave me the nod, or looked anything like me, were there to perform and in costume – and inform me “Oh, sweetie, they’re gonna love you at CP” only to correct themselves with “Then again, maybe it’s not your scene” when they hear me respond in soprano… because everyone knows that a feminine cis-lady is straight, right?
 

 
This is why I try extra-hard to dazzle-smile at the baby femmes I see on Bank Street, or Somerset, or in the art classes I work for. This is why I try to assume that anyone whose style and bearing a just a little “too much” for where they’re standing – too glamourous, too skin-confident, too aware of their own sensuality – is one of mine, no matter where I find them.
The ones with Nefertiti eyeliner and pink-purple-blue hair extensions.
The ones wearing sun-dresses & stockings in November.
The ones with delicate wrist movements and shy smiles who paint fairy-wings on me in art school.
The ones who dye their armpits to match they eyebrows and scalps.
The ones who name themselves “queen” and “bi-gender” to strangers, but whose body-language says it before they ever open their mouths.
The ones who lounge on the counter, one leg crossed over the other, in deep v-neck t-shirts.
The ones who do the social/emotional labour of keeping up their end of a conversation.
The ones who sidle up to me at parties, because I’m taller than they are, and ask me where I got my shoes.
The ones braving dyke march with long, long hair and flowers in their hatbands.
The ones with boyfriends and big jewelry and hot-pink lipstick who call everybody Darlin’ in the office.
The ones with natural hair and magenta-cerulean plaid back-packs and huge earrings on the bus.
The ones who pluck their eyebrows so carefully and tailor their rock-show tshirts into boat-necks with the sleeves ripped off.
The ones who wear their plaid shirts & blunnies with cut-off short-shorts and scoop-neck tanks.
The ones in skinny jeans and perfect, sparkle-diamond nose-studs.
The ones rocking cocktail party jewelry in their 9am classes.
All of them.
All of us.
I want them to know I see them. That we gleam like fucking rubies, like lights in the dark, to anyone who knows how to look.

Also this (suuuuuuuuch a big deal, go read it all): “If you have shamed something in yourself – like a normal need for intimacy – so early and so completely that you don’t even notice you are doing it, you will interpret that same need as shameful when you see it in others.”

Dating Tips for the Feminist Man

The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture: men* increasing their capacity to nurture, and becoming whole.

The Ghomeshi trial is back in the news, and it brings violent sexual assault back into people’s minds and daily conversations. Of course violence is wrong, even when the court system for handling it is a disaster. That part seems evident. Triggering, but evident.

But there is a bigger picture here. I am struggling to see the full shape emerging in the pencil rubbing, when only parts are visible at a time.

A meme going around says ‘Rape is about violence, not sex. If someone were to hit you with a spade, you wouldn’t call it gardening.’ And this is true. But it is just the surface of the truth. The depths say something more, something about violence.

Violence is nurturance turned backwards.

These things are connected, they must be connected. Violence and nurturance are two sides of the same coin. I…

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Queer Fam… of Origin

A few years ago, when I was an outreach worker for a province-wide Q/T health organization, I got to spend an afternoon with my wife and a bunch of other out-of-town (mostly) adults hanging out in Renfrew County for the local queer youth support/social group’s Big Day Out. THere were safer sex workshops. There was a drag workshop. And there was a dance-party (at which a friend of mine paid the party a surprise visit in her Elvis Gear, thus putting the king in The King, and the kids went nuts and wanted pictures. It was a good time.
BUT (or, more accurately,AND): I met a youngster who needed to talk about Stuff with someone who wasn’t an immediate part of her microscopic dating pool. Long story short: We emailed, she told me about feeling like The Only Queer in the Family, I mentioned some statistical probabilitiess, and she wrote me back to tell me she’d asked her Dad and he’d pointed out the small but significant group of homos amongst her cousins.
“I’m not the only one!” her email crowed.
 
Sometimes it’s a surprise, is what I’m saying.
 
In my case… it wasn’t entirely a surprise.
We were all just really, reeeeeeeeeeeally clueless.
But it still kind of floors me when I’m visiting my (bio) aunt, my (married-in) aunt, my masculine-presenting cousin + her super-femme lady-love[1], and my Big Gay Honourary Uncle… because it’s like: I don’t have to flag! They all KNOW!
It’s like some part of my brain forgets that they’re my relatives, that one of them has known me since I was born, and most of the rest have known me since high-school, and all I see is a house full of hippie-ass creative queers (MAH PEOPLE!) whom I don’t see every day… and I suddenly want to be all “So, my wife and I went to this queer slow-dance thing last weekend…” while re-applying my hot-pink lipstick and talking-with-my-hands so much that my shoulders are getting in on the action.
I feel like those kids in Renfrew, going a little hay-wire just because there are Other Queers Around… even though 90% of who I hang out with, these days, are big ol’ homos.
It’s a bit bizzarre, to tell you the truth.
And yet.
I’m not the only one!
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Who totally gave me the Femme Dazzling Smile when she met me, because we do actually recognize each other, but I wasn’t expecting it, and it was really nice when she did it. 😉

I’m just gonna leave this here.
 

Ending Violence Against Native Women
From the Roots Up

So, this morning, I tweeted this:
 

 
Family grows in a lot of ways. It makes me happy that my wife’s girlfriend/servant sourced the soil for my garden, that my wife/property arranged the delivery and built the bedframes in the first place. It makes me happy that our sweetheart is willing to come and move soil by the bucket-full, and that my metamour’s roommate is willing to do the same. (Admittedly, part of this is just that they are both avid gardeners and all of six blocks from my house, but still. They come. This is wonderful).
So. The garden where I will (fingers crossed, successfully) grow the food that will (partially – it’s only two beds so far) feed my people? Is being built by my people. How awesome is that?
 
I don’t know what I want to say about this. I want to write about find your quarto, which you’re only going to understand as a reference if you’re intimately familiar with Cathrynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest. I want to write about how all families grow, how my wife and I finding another person to share our lives with, in whatever shape that takes, isn’t all that different from my sister giving birth to her-&-her-fiance’s first child. I want to write about how Kinky Femme’s extended poly family, her leather fam, stepped up to help her father move, and that he’s starting to understand that there’s enough love to go around, that you don’t have to police it or ration it. That I’m learning this, too.
I want to write that Your heart is an organ the size of your fist a TARDIS: It’s bigger on the inside and able to grow, as required, to hold everything it needs.
 
Maybe this is just the NRE talking – I wouldn’t be the first to come over all twitterpated and rose-coloured-glasses under these circumstances. And maybe it’s the sunshine and the fact that I get to grow an actual, in-the-ground garden with food and edible flowers and perenial herbs and all the rest of it. That my soul is going to be fed this year in a way that it hasn’t been in a long, long time. And that definitely has an effect on one’s outlook, I don’t mind telling you.
But either way, I’m looking at my growing family with a tremendous amount of joy in my heart.
 

[…] we move
four cubic meters of trucked in soil
by bucket chain
hand to hand
grinning
in the fading evening
I scatter the seeds
of rainbow chard and kale
more than cold-tolerant
tender and hardy
both
the food of our people

 
From “Cultivation” (by me)

 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So there’s this JAKEtalk (like a TEDtalk, but really gay) and I haven’t listened to it all the way through, because he opened his talk with a quotation about Gay Assimilation into the Het world, and then spoke briefly about the Queer Bubble, about increasing (ish?) acceptance of The Gay[1] in mainstream[2] society, and what that means, or could mean, when it comes to maintaining a Queer Identity when that identity is no-longer based on, or reliant upon, being The Other or being an Outsider.
 
Which seems very strange to me, at first blush, so I thought I’d ramble a bit and see if I can parse it out. (The JAKEtalk intro is being used as a jumping-off-point here, rather than this post being an actual response to anything in the JAKEtalk).
Onwards!
 
So, look. I’m a weirdo. I spent my teens and early 20s wearing All The Velvet and All The Eyeliner because (a) PRETTY!, but also because (b) I figured out fairly early on that, at 6’4”, there is no protective colouration that will make e look “normal”, so I might as well (i) wear what I actually like, and/or (ii) give them something to fucking stare at.
So I’m fairly well-versed in Identity As Defined By Otherness, even if it’s on the relatively shallow level of being an unusually shaped/sized cis chick. I’m pagan – in the “Bioregional Animism” and “Ancestor Veneration” senses of the word, rather than the more widely recognized “Wiccan Offshoots” sense of the word (thank you gods, for a country where we have “Freedom TO”-based freedom of religion), and I’m a poly, kinky bi-dyke femme. A lot of my personal identities/labels/shorthands-for-what-I-am are frequently explained by highlighting the ways that they contrast with more mainstream/normative/normalized identities.
BUT that doesn’t mean that my identities can’t exist without that opposition.
Being married to my wife doesn’t make me Not Queer. Or “not queer enough” for that matter.
One of my poly-leather family members once said (gods, lifetimes ago now, back when my wife and I hadn’t even been dating for six months yet) that being a “married queer” didn’t change the way that she built family, that she didn’t stop being poly (or kinky, or anti-o, or a TIFD) just because she was also a Nice Jewish Girl with a ring on her left finger.
This has stuck with me for years now.
 
I love my Bubble. My kinky, poly, trans-inclusive dyke bubble is awesome. But, specifically because it’s so awesome, I kind of wish 100% of humanity was in here with me. Not in here diluting the awesomeness with their hetcis-normative expectations, with their “stay out of my bathroom” and their “I don’t understand how that kind of relationship could be anything but abusive”, their “porn is the theory” and their “multiple concurrent relationships are a sign of emotional immaturity[3]”, their “you’re in love with your own oppression” and their “you just haven’t found the right man yet”… No. I mean I want 100% of humanity in here with our norms and ideals and social expectations[4] which, largely, boil down to “Your kink[5] is okay, whether or not it’s mine” and that the more options we have, and can put words around, the better.
 
I don’t think that we stop having our identities just because more people accept, normalize, and celebrate them.
 
My wife is not “less poly” just because her mother is happy to meet her many partners, and to have us in attendance for her 65th birthday. I’m not “less queer” just because my own gay auntie paved the way for me in our family, or because her parents responded with absolute love (I know, because she read the letter from them, responding to her coming-out letter, at my wedding) when she came out decades ago. My friends are not “less trans” because zir mom took zir shopping for more gender-appropriate clothing, or because her nieces call her their favourite auntie; and they’re not “less kinky” because they can talk about their desires and relationships with their vanilla friends.
We do not stop being what we are just because the Normal People still love us, or let us on the PTA, or look to us as part of our faith community. Being unwanted is not a prerequisite for being us.
 
It’s sucks beyond all possible measure that any of my poly friends have to keep coming out to their families-of-origin, have to worry about how said relatives are going to handle it when they bring their multiple people home for the holidays. It sucks beyond all possible measure that my family members have fam-of-o or (extended-community-members, for that matter – get with the program, y’all…) who keep getting their pronouns wrong even though it’s been YEARS since they came out. It sucks beyond all possible measure that any of my dyke Fam has to deal with out and out hatred as part of “being a good daughter”.
I know that we face this stuff, that our bubble is (our bubbles are) how we protect each other, hold each other up, keep each other safe, help each other heal. And I don’t want to lose the love that comes with building our own families in spite of the Charmed Circle wishing that we weren’t around being our fabulous, unapologetic selves “at” them. But we don’t have to lose it.
We don’t have to stop being big-hearted and open-hearted with each other just because we’re gaining the chance to be open-hearted with the people we came from, too.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms. Syren.
 
 
[1] Less-so The Trans, so let’s keep pushing for that one, shall we?
 
[2] Meaning heteronormative, cisnormative.
 
[3] TRY IT SOME TIME, I DARE YOU, KIDDO.
 
[4] Which, full disclosure: I ain’t perfect yet. None of us are. But I know where I’m going.
 
[5] Gender / family-structure / body / employment situation / sexual identity / etc – Choose your own adventure(s).

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.

There’s another young woman missing in/from Ottawa, Ontario.
This message came signal-boosed on facebook and I’m passing it along:
 
Casandra (I have no last name to go on, but her mother is Michelle Simoneau Turner, so they may share a last name) has been missing since November 17th, 2014, and was last seen at Colonel By high school.
She answers to the name Cassie.
She has a slight build. 5’7″ and about 100lbs.
Here hair is long on one side – dyed black, but with blond roots – and is shaved on the other.

She looks caucasian. She has one piercing in her left ear (and probably a matching one in her right, though I can’t tell from the pictures).
Going by the pictures her mom provided, she tends towards black clothes with spike sand skulls. Meaning, fellow spooky people, that she’s one of ours.
 
I realize that not everyone who disappears wants to be found. But I would dearly like to know that this kid is safe and warm, whether or not she’s home.
 
Her mother is asking that, if you have any information, to please contact her at: 613-324-5978
 

 

 

 
Please spread the word and help if you can.

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