I’ve been following and learning from a number of radical grassroots indigenous activists for quite a while now. I don’t remember when I encountered the first, who has been a source of inspiration and encouragement to me since our first contact on Facebook. But before long, I was getting to know a bunch of people who are proud of their indigineity, the lands their ancestors taught them to protect as though it were their next of kin, and all the life depending on that land — including people like me, by which I mean not related by blood to the First Peoples, and always learning new things about indigenous cultures. So when news of the pipelines and FIPPA deals the Harper government wanted to bury under the streams, rivers, lakes, and homes of many of the blood kin of my indigenous friends first broke, I found out about it through them. Not from the news. Then a whole lot of Occupy Vancouver activists (most of whom are white and apparently haven’t the foggiest clue beyond a very superficial understanding, of exactly what they are actually saying when they declare “unceded Coast Salish territory” at the beginning of their speeches) started their predictable and ambitious surge of hippy speak, wheat-pasting, vegan food, flyers, and public musical jam sessions, to try and raise awareness of the pipelines. Finally, it started to appear in the news, in between reports of Trayvon Martin being murdered while George Zimmerman was allowed to keep all his Nazi regalia company in the privacy of his own home for weeks, Shaima Alawadi’s murder being pegged at first as a hate crime until it was determined she was killed by her husband, and Bei Bei Shuai being sentenced to prison after her late-term pregnancy was interrupted by a suicide attempt (the baby was delivered and died a week later). But the Occupy activists just kept on truckin’ through all this extraordinarily depressing news that mysteriously never seems to be about white people getting put in prison, or even worse, in a coffin.
This past Wednesday, I experienced a repeat of an event that occurred in my natal home nearly 20 years ago. Only this time, it was with a man I had met just six weeks ago, whose only relationship to me was as my landlord. I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that he would like nothing more than for me to be quiet about what he did, as he responded to RCMP knocking on the front door with surprise and instant resentment. RCMP decided within a half an hour that they will be recommending charges, as I insisted that I will go to court if my presence is required to see that this incident follows him for the rest of his miserable life. A warning to fellow trauma survivors and people who have fled domestic violence and/or abuse: this post very likely contains triggering content, so it’s probably best for you to avoid it if you’re already having a really bad day. I am going to be referring to not just one, but two men, and they are both quite frankly terrible people who hate women and think that it’s acceptable to try to prove their “tolerance” for everyone else by constantly identifying people by the facet of their identity that leaves them socially marginalized (e.g., I’ve heard the phrase “My girlfriend’s a sex change” so often in the past six weeks, I’m temporarily liable to either instinctively hit the next person who says it, or just punch a hole in the wall immediately adjacent to their head.)
This past Saturday was World AIDS Day. If you didn’t know, that’s OK. Now you do. As I was walking up to the site of an anti-abortion hate group demonstration to go picket them, a group of people in my city were giving out free hugs to anyone who wanted one, and passing out red ribbons to spread a message of compassion for everyone who is presently living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS. And while prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS and raising awareness to reduce stigma faced by people living with HIV/AIDS are both really important sides of the conversation, there’s another side to it that often gets overlooked or completely ignored: institutionalized HIV/AIDS discrimination. For the purposes of relative brevity only, I am limiting the content of this post to HIV/AIDS discrimination in Canada, and will not be addressing the racial component (i.e., which racial groups are at highest risk). It should go without saying that this is already a loaded topic. I’m going to warm this post up by providing you readers with a video link for the trailer of a powerful documentary about the life-long effects of discriminatory North American laws (specifically in the U.S.) on HIV-positive people, before I break down some basic terminology:
Yesterday evening, I received a letter directing my attention to a women’s organization in Canada (called REAL Women of Canada, formally established in 1983), that presently seeks to undermine a private member’s bill. The bill proposes changing the Canadian Human Rights Act, such that discrimination against trans* people will be considered a human rights violation; and changing the Criminal Code of Canada, such that aggravated assault, battery, or murder perpetrated against a trans* person will be considered a hate crime. Once again, for clarity, RWoC finds this proposal troubling and vehemently oppose it. You can even read RWoC’s brief in PDF format (if your stomach can handle it by the end of this writing). But first! Why do they call themselves REAL?!
Our name defines our aim. The word REAL is an acronym which means Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life.
(from their website)
I advise strongly against giving that website too much traffic (or any at all, really). That’s how they make money, and then they use it to promote a barely repackaged vision of the ideal family that harkens back to 1950. It’s also pretty clear that for females who aren’t busy popping out babies, you’re not a real woman whose needs should be heard by the government (think that “for Life” part is just a coincidence? Think again.) It might be advisable to have a barf bag handy for the rest of this post, which deals with the brief they published on why they think Bill C-279 shouldn’t be allowed to pass.
How exactly do I even begin? My language choices throughout this piece are applied conscientiously. Selection of terminology used here is neither made carelessly nor in jest. I am struggling daily with a profound and genuinely increasing sense of dread, and this particular piece of writing is an attempt to account for this as concisely as possible.
We’ve got indigenous peoples in both Brazil and Canada essentially declaring war against their respective colonial governments and other occupiers with corporate interests (Brazil, Canada). While indigenous peoples in Canada are being neglected (see this… oh, and this… and this, too) and starved (see here), indigenous peoples in Brazil and neighbouring countries are being fire-bombed and gunned down — though media reports on indigenous peoples in South America are apparently often misleading (as in the title of the article about a Brazilian indigenous tribe declaring a fight to the death … Continue Reading
Some time ago, I overheard someone say that people shouldn’t refer to marginalized groups by calling them this or that “minority”. I didn’t catch the reason why they said this at the time. And then I found myself sitting in the theatre at a queer film festival. The film was about creative non-fiction writers telling their coming out stories, and at one point, an individual who had become a queer radio host after coming out as transgender started to talk about the word minority. She said that referring to a group of people as a minority has the effect of directly minimizing their needs as much as possible. Thus, when the first major pushes for LGBTQ equality began, heterosexuals everywhere could be heard declaring that gays and lesbians are a minority. And the inevitable declarations of “why should we?” followed. Why should we change the way we talk to protect your delicate feelings? Why should we change this law so that you aren’t thrown in prison for holding hands in public? Why should we de-classify same-sex love as a mental illness? Why should we even care? In other words, you’re a minority. You don’t matter as much as everyone else. Stop trying to inconvenience us and just get over it.
In July of this year, a former friend of mine who is an RCMP officer was exposed on national news as a practitioner of BDSM who had starred in his very own erotica. Unfortunately, he was also erroneously identified as the male component of a series of photos I can only reasonably describe as pseudo-snuff, which bear a chilling resemblance to the last moments on Earth faced by 49 women at the hands of serial murderer Robert Pickton — this was stated as an objective observation by journalists from two separate national media outlets, which both accused the RCMP officer of having some unspecified part in the serial murder spree (which was extended for nearly three years due to apathy and incompetence on the part of investigators in two separate jurisdictions, including his, because a marked majority of the victims were Aboriginal females engaging in sex work and illicit drug use). One of the journalists actually seems to have fabricated an even more sensational description of the photos as well. Turns out they were all duped by a single man whose hobbies include cyber-stalking, compulsive lying, and creative fiction writing in the form of letters to the media, RCMP, blog writers, and the lawyer who represented many of the grieving families of the serial murderer’s victims.
When the story first appeared in national news, I wrote a blog entry about what it was actually like to be this RCMP officer’s friend (spoiler: it’ll give any rational person at least one case of goosebumps). I criticized the photographer and models in the pseudo-snuff photos that were aired on national news, for attempting to eroticize violence against women. I also criticized the rest of the community for pretending this was not exactly what was intended when the male model took a fistful of the female model’s hair, bringing her to her knees in front of him, and held a large knife against her throat as she gazed up at him in terror. I didn’t know that my former friend was not the male model until I received a phone call that triggered a whole other past trauma (which I’ve since reported to RCMP), from the man in the photos. RCMP had found my first blog post within days, written an internal memo about it, and started monitoring my blog. They came to my home and I gave a two-and-a-half-hour statement about every detail I could summon from the depths of my memory. I took a look at the online space I used to share with this RCMP officer, which was named in the news stories, and was shocked to see hundreds of people convincing each other that there was no crime, therefore no criminal investigation. … Continue Reading
In Vancouver, BC, there is a rather annoying anti-choice blight on the corner across the street from one of the only two clinics that are not associated with a hospital. They call themselves pro-life, co-opt famous quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., and directly compare what they are doing “for the unborn” (i.e., by standing around as a visible and often vocal pillar of shame to all women, encouraging other people to campaign to eradicate women’s rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination) with what MLK Jr. accomplished for the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, this is a rather tame version of the greater “pro-life” pseudo-social-justice-movement (I call it a glorified popularity contest). More on what exactly that means momentarily.
I began picketing these bigoted, misogynist hypocrites (who pull out their rosaries and start praying whenever someone yells at them), approximately six months ago, when I found out that they were actually slut-shaming women and telling them in so many words that they deserved to be raped if it should ever happen to them. I showed up for the first week in my tightest and brightest underwear, a clown wig, and a cape, holding a clown horn and a sign declaring my reasons for being there. As one of them began shaming me, I began honking my clown horn repeatedly, shouting “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over all this noise I’m deliberately making!” until her lips stopped moving. She turned to someone who was with me, and told them that I deserve to be raped multiple times. For a popularity contest that prides itself on how anti-violence it is, this is already painting a pretty grim portrait of hatred and violence against women. But wait! There’s more!
Over the past six months, they have now told numerous women that they deserve to be raped or are asking for it, and that at least half the time that a woman is raped it’s because she provoked it or secretly wanted it. They’ve grabbed and punched two of my friends (the police made up every excuse they could to avoid doing their jobs when this happened). They’ve literally cackled while a man repeatedly walked straight up to my face to yell at me then followed me around while I kept yelling at him to just fuck off, until he finally asked me why I don’t just punch him (I didn’t, because he’s able-bodied, so why should I have to punch him to make him get the fuck out of my face? Why isn’t “get the fuck out of my face” enough?) They’ve stood by and done nothing while another man walked up and began antagonizing the one person he could most easily isolate from the group, before verbally gay-bashing him and doing the same to me before threatening to “smash [my] fucking head in.” I’d have to be utterly dense and cognitively dissonant to believe that these antagonists weren’t invited there by the anti-choicers themselves. … Continue Reading