Tag Archive: ontario laws


So my Ghost and I got married. Just over a week ago today. 🙂
 
I am, duh, rather chuffed about this. I grin to myself every time I wind up mentioning my WIFE to somebody (I’m trying not to be obnoxious about this, but you never know).
 
A friend of mine was teasing me at a party last night – a married, poly, left-wing bi-guy, just to give some context – about the Bourgois Institution of-which I was now complicit. And, while I was well-aware that he was teasing me, it does fall into the Ambiguous Feelings About Marriage that turn up in my head sometimes.
 
I know it’s an institution that privileges monogamy and (in many, many places – including my own province, up until about 10 years ago) heterosexuality over, well, pretty much everything else. I know it’s history is deeply rooted in sexism. I know that it plays a huge roll in the continued existence of proprietary beliefs around and behaviours in romantic relationships.
And I still believe in it.
 
I am a newlywed. Before that, though, I was a divorcee. I have experienced marriage as a sexist, proprietary institution, and I’ve experienced “wife” as a state heaped with social obligations and expectations – about taking on household chores, maintaining familial traditions and correspondences (for two families), wanting and conceiving (biologically-related) children, wanting and purusing a particular kind of middle-class, suburban life[1] – all of which came with a denial of (and occasional shaming about) my bisexuality, my queerness, my dominance (and sadism – which I was only just discovering), my budding sex-positivity, even my religiosity[2] and environmentalism[3].
 
I have been a wife – with all its attendent social assumptions – before. And before, when I was a wife with a husband, the assumptions that people make about “wife” (and about “married” and how those things fit into the charmed circle of socially acceptable behaviour) chafed at my a lot because those assumptions didn’t actually fit who and what I was/am.
 
Now, I’m a wife who has a wife, and I find that the social assumptions that get made are rather different. Part of that, of course, is that “wife” can’t hide all the things that we are. We are openly poly – one of my wife’s other partners spent xmas with us chez my sister’s cottage with my extended family; we are obviously dykes; we are members of our leather community and our O/p dynamic isn’t something we keep in our bedroom[4]. We walk in the pride parade with the queer sexworkers and I’ve been on the news (recently, and seen by my landlord – we talked about it the next day) speaking on the importance of decriminalization. “Wife” doesn’t render those things invisible because I’m actively living all of them now.
When I introduce Ghost as “[…] and this is my wife,” people don’t mistake either of us for a man, and they don’t mistake either of us for het.
Instead of implying a lot of social conformity, “wife” tells people that my relationship with Ghost is one to be taken seriously, one that’s based on love and trust and mutual care, and one that comes with the expectation of those things will last a lifetime. And it does it with a single word.
 
I love my partner, my servant, my lover, my beloved. And I am damn pleased to be able to call her my wife.
 
 
Hands (with rings, post-ceremony)
 
 
TTFN,
Ms (Mrs) Syren.
 
 
[1] Said life appears to be a set of certain socially-conservative-but-officially-Liberal attitudes that my Maid of Honour (who lives in the suburbs and is het, vanilla, married, and a mom, – fyi) collectively refers to as “Barhaven” in tones of particular disgust.
 
[2] Both in that my religion is not Abrahamic and that it’s an active practice that involves actual faith and contact with the holy, rather than a sort of socio-secular worldview with no sense of the numinous involved in it at all.
 
[3] I don’t even know. 😛
 
[4] I may explain it “gently”, but nothing changes the bit where my wife calls me “my Lady” and gets down on her knees – in front of my mother – to help me on and off with my boots.

The day after tomorrow I am marrying my servant.
To me, this is a way to let the not-so-kinky world (members of our families, for example) understand the depth of the relationship we share.
When I was trying to sort out what it would mean to me to put a collar on my Ghost, what it boiled down to was: I want to keep her for ever.
And, frequently, that’s also what putting a wedding ring on someone boils down to – with or without the desperately sexist property rights business in its origins: The desire to spend the rest of one’s life with a particular person.

So here I am, a kinky, polyamourous dyke set to walk down the aisle holding the hand of my Servant. One of her other girlfriends is going to be her maid of honour. My big gay aunties are coming into town for the ceremony.

And what kind of promise can I make to a wife who has already vowed to honour and obey me?
To treasure and guide her. To lift her up and help her be her best self. To celebrate her achievements and help her through her rough times. To take care of her. To trust her. To love her with an open heart and to cherish her all the days of my life.

Okay. Rather like my last entry about Invasive Individuals, this GGBP entry isn’t actually about something I think is awesome. Quite the opposite, in fact.
 
There’s a guy in our neighbourhood who we’re pretty sure has taken it upon himself to be a one-man anti-sexworker patrol. We’ve heard him say some pretty horrible things about street workers, and we see him prowling around at night.
We saw him last night, and then we saw three cop cars turn up heading for where we’d seen a woman who looked like she might have been working.
Fuck.
All of which is circumstantial evidence and not acutally anything to go on in terms of Proof.

Cripes.
I hope she got somewhere safe.

I fucking hate it when this stuff happens.
Never mind the bit where people like That Guy are presuming to be entitled to police what women do with our own bodies, or determine who is “allowed” to walk alone after dark. I hate that “Community Groups” and individual vigilantes think they’re doing something good, think they’re making their neighbourhoods safer… when really what they’re doing is preying on people who are already vulnerable.
There’s a word for people like that.
It isn’t “hero”.

M-312 Defeated! YAY! :-D

Good thing: Motion M-312 was defeated today. YAY! 😀
The Radical Handmaids were there, and live-tweeted the whole thing.
Dismayed, though not actually surprised, that – based on her vote today – Status of Women Minister, Rona Ambrose, does not actually have women’s best interests at heart.
Also: I like the idea of Status of Uppity Women as a separate portfolio.

Radical Handmaids Strike Again!

Hey there,

So the Radical Handmaids are hosting a drinking-game/viewing-party for the Motion M-312 debate happening in the House today.

Meet-up at 1pm, debate starts at 1:30pm.
CUPW Boardroom, 377 Bank street, 1st floor.

Hey folks.

So I realize that I’ve been neglecting this blog. (Honestly, given the choice between blogging about stuff that stresses me out and depresses me – like our current government and its treatment of everything I love and value and consider good about my country; or the astonishing degree of unuterably stupid hatred in the world – or blogging about magic, religion, and my latest adventures in food preservation… I’ll take the latter).

However, every time I find myself scratching my head and wondering what to talk about on here, I get handed something that I can’t pass up.

So, verbatum from Radical Handmaids:

~*~

From the National Abortion Federation:

A U.S.-based anti-choice group has launched a manipulative and misleading ad campaign in Canada, and we need your help to stop it from continuing to air.Milk Carton

The so called “Milk Carton” ad produced by VirtueMedia has appeared on CTV, and inappropriately attempts to use the once popular milk carton “missing children” campaign to misrepresent safe, legal abortion care. In addition to being distasteful, the ad violates several provisions of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards:

Standard 1. (a) Accuracy and Clarity: Advertisements must not contain inaccurate, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims, statements, illustrations or representations, either direct or implied, with regard to any identified or identifiable product(s) or service(s).The ad contains inaccurate information about the legalization of abortion in Canada and makes deceptive and misleading claims about a safe, legal medical procedure.

Standard 9. Imitation: No advertiser shall imitate the copy, slogans or illustrations of another advertiser in such a manner as to mislead the consumer.VirtueMedia even states on their website that the “…milk carton has become a recognizable icon to display the photos of missing children…” and they are clearly copying this illustrative symbol in their ad to advance their anti-abortion agenda.

Standard 14. (c) Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals: Advertisements shall not: demean, denigrate or disparage one or more identifiable persons, group of persons, firms, organizations, industrial or commercial activities, professions, entities, products or services, or attempt to bring it or them into public contempt or ridicule.
This campaign is another attempt to negatively depict women who choose abortion care.

Honour Canada’s long-standing tradition of protecting women’s health and tell Advertising Standards Canada that this deceptive advertising campaign has no place in Canada! File a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada about the Milk Carton ad and then spread the word on Facebook and Twitter to #stopMCad.

Thank you NAF for your amazing work overall and in this case, for giving Canadians constructive ways to fight back!

~*~

NOTE: You will need to provide a “when did you see this ad” date if you send a complaint to the ASC. These ads have been showing up since at least June 29th, 2012, if that’s a help to anybody.

You could also contact CTV directly (try Media Enquiries, most likely) and leave them a complaint about the offensive advertising, since they’re the ones airing it. One creative thinker (who commented on this post) sent a note to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, since the ad is dragging milk products into the fray.

The ad in question, if you want to check it out for yourself, is available on the anti-choice group’s website.

Cheers,
Ms Syren.

Just a couple of quick, not particularly related things:

First, there’s this:

It’s a video response by Jay Smooth, in response to misogynist vandalism and bullying against Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency. It’s excellent.
I mean, it’s not saying anything we didn’t already know, but it’s said well and, while I’m not one for handing out Ally Cookies, I don’t see enough guys saying stuff like this (or this, for that matter), so I’m signal-boosting because, hey, using your privilege to say “Hey! People with the same privilege that I have! Doing this Thing is shitty, so let’s cut it out!” is actually a useful thing to do with your social capital.

So there’s that.

There’s also this:

Elizabeth May’s C-38 Omnibus Quiz.

This was an open-book quiz, offered by Green Party leader Elizabeth May, regarding the recently passed (fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck) “Omnibus Bill”.
The idea, as I understand it, was to see how many MPs – particularly the Conservative MPs who pushed the bill through its final reading – actually knew what the bill was proposing.
I think it’s telling that NO Conservative MPs showed up to take the quiz. I mean, yes, nobody wants to get something wrong. At the same time, it was an open book quiz and designed to make the bill clearer and easier to understand (the things was over 240 pages and changed over 70 laws, many of them environmental protection laws, under the guise of being a budget bill).

Eugh.

I didn’t want this bill to pass. It’s a sneaky piece of legislation that changes a huge number of laws without putting them through due process. I think it sets a really slimy president for parliament and what the government can sneak by us unchecked. 😦
I do not approve.

In more positive news: Toby’s Act gets Royal Assent today, meaning that it is now in effect. YAY! 😀

And that’s my short little post for today.

Cheers,
Ms Syren.

YIMBY!

Hey folks,

Just another fly-by posting here.

I wanted to draw your attention to this toolkit from Vancouver’s Pivot Legal (check out page 13 of the tool kit, in particular, fyi).

YIMBY, as you may have guessed, stands for “YES, in my back yard!”

It’s a direct response to the “not in my back yard” attitude held by those who don’t want to share their neighbourhoods with poor, brown, sex-working, mentally ill, adicted, or otherwise marginalized people/communities (even when those people/communities were in that area before the NIMBY folks turned up ).

I live in a historically working class, imigrant neighbourhood
I live in a (more recently) historically brown imigrant neighbourhood
I live in a neighbourhood that, in the past 30 years, has been home to many of my city’s more marginalized residents – folks who are struggling with poverty, with adiction, with mental illness.

I also live in a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood[1].

My neighbourhood includes two food banks, at least one methedone clinic, a safe inhalation program, and a women’s shelter[1], and I am damn proud to have every one of them here.

I want a safe injection site in my back yard.
I want a hassle-free clinic (and you don’t get much more hassle-free around here than at the Somerset West CHC, I don’t mind telling you) in my back yard.
I want Food Not Bombs and other community food-sharing programs in my back yard.
I want shelter for my neighbours in our neighbourhood.

So yes. I want this. In my back yard.
Because it isn’t just my back yard.

Cheers,
Ms Syren.

[1] There was push-back against the women’s shelter going up from a subsection of my neighbours – because, yes, they’re my neighbours too, even if they can’t see past their own noses – who said things like “these women shouldn’t be here” (live, in radio interiews, no less…). That’s “NIMBY” for you in a nut-shell: “Down-trodden? Go somewhere else!”
This is my impressed face. No, really. >:-(

So.
Today, Toby’s Act (Bill 33, introduced for the fourth time in five years by MPP Cheri DiNovo) became Toby’s Law. Gender identity and gender expression are now enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code (making Ontario, iirc, one of only two jurisdictions in North America – the other being the North West Territories – to protect gender identity and gender expression in their human rights legislation).

This is good news.
I know there are folks who are feeling kind of “Meh” about it. There are loads of people who would rather see legislation that effects concrete things like SRS funding or being able to change the gender markers on their ID without having to jump through a heap of gate keepers’ hoops.
Which makes sense.

However I also see human rights legislation as a wedge that can be used to push for the more concrete things.
I know that Bill C-279 went through its second hour of debate last week, and I’d like to see this bill become law for specifically that reason (although give Mercedes Allen a read about the negative effects of a possible amendment to the bill – she raises some very good points). I think that if it’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender expression, then this can (I hope? In theory?) be used to push for, say, ditching the requirement that someone have had SRS (and signed documents to prove it) before they can have their passport, health card, and other ID updated to reflect their real gender.

So. Yes. Ontario stepped up (finally). Hopefully things will follow suit on the federal level, ideally in short order.

Cheers,
Ms Syren.

Today I went to Voices for Women’s Health, a forum put on by the Aids Committee of Ottawa (ACO). It was an all-day event that included a number of short presentations (all of which dovetailed and linked up really well with each other) which were followed by discussion groups on similar topics.

Some things that I learned:
The HIV rate, across Canada, for trans women is ~27%[1], yet this population is largely invisible in, and left out of, the general conversation around HIV/AIDS in terms of both research and outreach.

On a related note, while there aren’t any statistics on this population for Canada (see above, re: research), the HIV rate for trans women who do street-based sex work is, in areas where research has been done (Rome, Italy; and Atlanta, USA), in the 65%-75% range.

This statistic is staggering on its own. However find it particularly interesting in light of something else that came up (in a different presentation):
In Ottawa, the combination of whore-stigma and active, constant street harassment by “neighbourhood associations” and, in particular, police[2] prevent many street-based workers from seeking help (such as health care, shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens), force them into remote (and, consequently, unsafe) working locations[3], and has led to many workers having (as in: currently having, at the time of this writing) suicidal thoughts and committing suicide.

I also find it interesting to learn (in one of the discussion groups) that what are currently the anti-sexwork laws (sections 210-213 of the criminal code[5]) were originally part of the Indian Act and were used to control and police aboriginal people.
I can’t help wondering how many ways this is connected to the assumptions that are made about how aboriginal women make their living (whether this is the TV stock character of the aboriginal hooker, or the dismissal of the missing and murdered (and overwhelmingly aboriginal) women in Vancouver as being “just hookers”).

A long time ago, on a different blog (now gone, otherwise I’d be reposting it here), I wrote about Jennifer Stewart, an Ottawa sex-worker who was murdered in 2010, and how all the different hardships she faced intersected in really unbearable ways.
Today’s forum reminded me a lot of the situation she faced, in that I find that the different topics spoken on today fit together along these intersecting lines of oppression and stigma.

Doing sex work
Dealing with substance abuse
Living with HIV/AIDS
Being a woman
Being trans
Being queer
Being poor, particularly being homeless or precariously housed
Being kinky, or otherwise “sexually deviant”
Being indigenous
Being an immigrant and/or a person of colour[6]

There’s an attitude held by The State – and, frequently, by people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo as laid out by The State – that people who fall into any of those categories don’t have a right to make decisions about what they/we do with their/our own bodies. Stigmas and oppressions around race, class, and gender, as well as the idea of “contagion[7]” work individually and in combination to lower a given person’s sense of self-worth – which, in turn, lowers the likelihood that that person will seek help form outside supports while, at the same time, raising the likelihood that they will engage in “risky” behaviour. More to the point, these stigmas and oppressions are used – by groups, systems and individuals seeking to control “deviant” populations – to both reinforce each other and to justify each other.

For example: One of the discussion groups today centered on BDSM and “full disclosure” in health care contexts, with regards to how perceptions of “sexual deviance” can affect the kind of care/treatment you receive (from doctors, from the legal system, etc) and how that, in turn, can affect whether or not a given person will seek help from those quarters.
Yes Means Yes has a series (There’s a War Onthis part goes to the bit dealing with the justice system (in the states, but it applies here as well) and how it tends to botch dealing with rape, let alone dealing with rape when there’s been kink involved) talking about rape and abuse in the pansexual BDSM scene. Some of the stuff that gets brought up in it is the same kind of stuff that I hear brought up in my own kinky community.
Contrasting the “You were doing kink, therefore you were asking for it” attitude[8] with, say, the Spanner Case – wherein a group of (gay, fyi) consenting tops and bottoms were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm (in the case of the bottoms, they were charged with being accessories to the assault of their own bodies), and it very quickly becomes clear that, in both cases, the people involved were being punished by the legal system for being “sexually deviant” – in the case of women coming forward about being raped during a kink scene, for being kinky and for being sexual (slutty); in the case of the men for being kinky and for being gay.

The same attitude plays out every time the murder of a poor/brown/sex-working/trans/all-of-the-above woman is brushed off, or ignored, by law enforcement, the justice system, and/or the media.
There’s an attitude held by members of the Ottawa Police[9] – and, by the looks of things, that attitude extends far beyond OPS – that membership in “the community” stops when you step outside the bounds of “acceptable sexuality” and into “deviance”[10].
One of the discussion groups I attended – this one focussing on missing and murdered indigenous women and on the cuts to programs and services that were directly related to indigenous women’s health and well-being – wherein one of the participants brought up the possibility that, based on the actions (and inactions) of both the legal system and the federal government[11], these people – these people, these systems, that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo – believe that only some lives are worth saving.

All lives are worth saving.
This nonsense has to stop.

– Food for thought,
– Ms S.

[1] This doesn’t include the trans women who get erroneously lumped in with the “men who sleep with men” population (who, for comparison, have an HIV rate of ~24%, in down town Toronto only).

[2] In the case of the police, this also includes the use of point-of-arrest “red zoning” that frequently leaves workers unable to return to their homes or to otherwise access basic living necessities such as food and shelter. See POWER’s Challenges Report for details. (Link goes to PDF).

[3] Which makes it much harder for outreach workers to connect with them and provide them with things like, say, safer sex supplies or safe-injection supplies[4].

[4] Which, if you’re taking hormones by injection, you need on a frequent and regular basis.

[5] Starts here, and continues onto the next page.

[6] Who, for example, is losing access to health care due to Bill C-31.

[7] The idea, rather significantly more than the reality. HIV is contagious, but there are heaps of ways to avoid infection. The idea of contagion, though, is far more powerful and much harder to work around, leading to attitudes like “how dare you come into my courtroom without a mask and gloves”. The idea of contagion also hits queer and trans people, poor people and, to a greater extent, sex workers – the idea that a poor person moving into a neighbourhood will bring everyone’s property values (everyone’s wealth/status) down; the idea that sex workers “infect” an area with drugs, theft, and violence. The idea that teaching kids about transexuality, gender independence, and sexual orientations will somehow “make” them gay or trans, as if queerness or transness were something you could contract through proximity or even just knowledge.

[8] See also: slut shaming. (My surprised face…)

[9] This comes from interviews done with the Ottawa Police, which were quoted in one of today’s presentations.

[10] Have you noticed how indigenous women and women of colour are hyper-sexualized – either as insatiable or obedient, but always available? Always “promiscuous”? Have you noticed how “classy” means “not slutty”, but also means “not poor”? “Acceptable sexuality” isn’t just monogamous, heterosexual and vanilla, it’s also white and moneyed.

[11] In Canada, health care, education, a lot of other things that, elsewhere, are the prevue of the Province, are under the jurisdiction of the Federal government when it comes to indigenous communities.