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They step backward, we run forward.

Guest Post by Jesse Lz

I grew up in Airdrie AB, fortunate enough to experience the full Fuzzy Pickles Playschool-RJ-Meadowbrook-BCHS journey. I was always interested in politics and was lucky to have a variety of clubs and resources at my disposal, including Airdrie’s former youth council “Hyjinx” and the leadership class at BCHS.

My experience growing up in Airdrie as a mixed race gay kid was one I’d wish for every young LGBTQ2S+ Albertan, sadly I realize my positive experience was a bit of an anomaly. The first people I came out to were my friends in grade 10. I think back to that time a lot. I remember how confused I felt. I was struggling to balance faith, and expectations of my future with how I felt, and when you add in a healthy dose of hormones it was a LOT for a 15 yr old to deal with on his own.

There were a lot of long three-way calls and frantic MSN IMing back then, and I am still grateful I had supportive friends to turn to, which isn’t the case for many young LGBTQ2S+ kids. A GSA would have been an incredible resource at that time if only to show me that this was not some shameful fate I had somehow brought down on myself and that everything was OK. A silly thought looking back, but a very real fear in a confused young man’s eyes.

When I graduated in 2008, I moved to Ottawa to pursue a degree in political science. I went on to intern with Liberal MP Joyce Murray throughout my last few years of university, and then to work for Kathleen Wynne in Toronto where I now live, consulting with progressive politicians, and pursuing my own activist projects.

It was a privilege to work for Canada’s first openly lesbian premier, as a young gay man marching with her down Yonge St. in Toronto I felt a sense of pride and belonging, humbled by the importance of that moment. Unfortunately, as many of you know KW lost her re-election bid to Doug Ford, a man with very different priorities.

Right now Albertans are facing a similar situation. A man who has surrounded himself with a cast of characters that would give 80’s movie villain the creeps, is now leading the province.

There are going to be cuts and hard struggles ahead. It’s going to feel overwhelming and like there is a mountain ahead of you that you need to overcome, and the truth is there is. However, that’s just one part of the picture.

Under Notley, the progressive movement has flourished in Alberta. New voices have joined the provincial conversation in a way we haven’t seen before. Marginalized groups have begun to push back hard against bad policy and it’s having an effect. Progressives are gathering together, discussing the future they want to see, figuring out how to support each other and they’re doing it unapologetically in a province that just a few years ago was considered an invulnerable conservative stronghold.

The only thing standing in the way of these folks with regressive ideas is you. The next four years are going to require action, organization, cooperation between like-minded groups and a whole lot of deep breathing exercises if we’re going to effectively champion a more progressive, modern Alberta.

My best advice is to take what you’re feeling right now, turn it into fuel and put that energy into your community. Mr. Rogers passed on his mothers sage advice to always “look for the helpers” in troubling times, take it a step further and when you see someone working to make Alberta a better place, reach out and ask how you can help.

We also need to be honest with ourselves. Right now there is an emboldened section of the population that doesn’t wish our community well. These people are going to try to go after GSAs and attempt to make life harder for the youngest members of our LGBTQ2S+ family. We will not let them.

 

PEOPLE BEFORE POLICY

I don’t consider myself a “political” person.  However, like never before, I am feeling a great deal of anxiety and fear concerning what this province could look like in the next few months following the upcoming provincial election.  Despite my usual lack of engagement in the political debate, this time I feel I must make my voice heard in order to help my community make an informed decision about their vote.

I am a geologist with seventeen years of experience in the oil and gas industry.  I consider myself knowledgeable of oil and gas issues having had a great deal of exposure to our province’s dominant industry.  I have lived through and understand clearly the last few difficult years in Alberta. I have many friends, family members, and colleagues who have lost their employment through this challenging time so I understand and am extremely empathetic for how difficult this downturn has been.  I also know with certainty that the economic downturn was not localized to Alberta but instead was the result of a global drop in commodity prices, and therefore, not caused directly by any single government or policy in Alberta.

On a personal note, I am a transgender woman, in a same-sex marriage, and am an exceptionally proud member of the LGBTQ2S+ community in this province.  I am actively and passionately working in my community to ensure that everyone under the rainbow feels safe and has access to the quality of life that we all deserve.  

Here is where I start to get worried about our current political climate in Alberta.

First let me clarify that I am happy to debate carbon tax, pipelines, farm safety and anything else on the laundry list of political issues facing our province.  I will happily do some reading and educate myself appropriately while respectfully listening to others opinions and perspectives in the hopes to better understand alternative viewpoints.  I trust that it is in this dialogue and diversity of opinion that we build a better tomorrow. This is a democracy, and it is one of the many reasons that I am grateful to live in Canada.

But here’s the thing.  When the debate crosses the line into fundamental human rights poorly disguised as “political issues,” there is no middle ground for me.  I will not, and cannot respectfully listen and pretend that there is anything to debate. You see, the difference is that when we are debating carbon tax, pipelines, and farming, for example, we are debating people’s income, lifestyle, and employment opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong, all of this is extremely important for our province, but none of it, in my opinion, will ever be more important than ensuring basic human rights for everyone in Alberta.

To be very clear, and to ensure we are differentiating between political issues and human rights, I wanted to provide some specific examples of human rights, particularly relevant to the LGBTQ2S+ community.  I hope that we can all agree that ALL of these should be guarantees in our Province.

“Some forms of human rights discrimination experienced by people of diverse sexual orientation or gender identity include the denial of the right to live, the right to work and the right to privacy, non-recognition of personal and family relationships, interference with human dignity, interference with security of the person, discrimination in access to economic, social and cultural rights, including housing, health and education, and pressure to remain silent and invisible.” [1]

To be completely honest, I am terrified of what Jason Kenney will bring to our province.  One of his vocal campaign promises is to roll back protections for LGBTQ2S+ youth in our schools.  This move would directly violate kids right to privacy, right to human dignity, right to personal security, and their right to a safe educational setting (see our post on the value of GSA’s). Additionally, he has a long and painfully clear track record of directly attacking and showing incredible discrimination against the LGBTQ2S+ community. Throughout his political career, he has voted against basic rights and protections (as described above) for LGBTQ2S+ Canadians EVERY SINGLE TIME.  So as worried as I am about what he is telling us he will do, I am equally, perhaps more, worried about what he is not telling us he will do.

Here are some examples (unfortunately there are many more…follow the link for references and back up) :

  • 2018 – He boasted about his “political” work in barring dying AIDS patients from seeing their partners (follow the link for the audio)

 

 

 

  • 2013 – Voted against basic human rights protections for transgender Canadians

 

  • 2012 -Voted against basic human rights protections for transgender Canadians

 

  • 2011 – Voted against basic human rights protections for transgender Canadians

 

 

  • 2006 – Voted to re-open the marriage equality debate

 

  • 2005 – Voted against marriage equality.  Stated that discrimination against LGBTQ Canadians was “okay.”   Stated, “gays can marry, but not each other.” Stated that there’s absolutely “no social benefit” for LGBTQ families.

 

 

While he says he has changed, I have found zero acknowledgements of his past behaviour nor has he apologized for his incredibly discriminatory actions and the people and communities he has directly harmed.  In fact, when I dug further for information, most indications are that he has not changed at all. I believe firmly that for a person to change, they must be willing to be accountable for their past actions and as a result, I think that Jason Kenny’s past behaviour is a visible indication of his future if we give him that power.  

And that’s why I am scared.  For me, for my family, for my friends and for the youth and community that I support daily.

With all that said, this post is a genuine and heartfelt request for voters in my community and beyond to please do your research leading into this election.  Although it is difficult, don’t allow sensational social media, headlines and emotion to cloud your better judgement. Read, think critically, and above all, PLEASE differentiate political issues from human rights.  We must uncompromisingly prioritize the rights and freedoms of EVERYONE in this province. If you’ve never actually worried about the state of human rights in Alberta, for yourself or for others, that may be a sign that you are living with great privilege.   Please use that privilege to help protect those that don’t.

 

NORMALIZATION OF DEVIANCE

To use an analogy where we are able to have the benefit of hindsight, over the last two years, I have found myself in countless casual discussions with disgusted people, asking “how did Trump ever get elected?”  Here are my thoughts on how that may have happened and how we can prevent it from happening here in Canada.

One of the principles by which we can find ourselves in unbelievable situations (in this case with human rights), such as Trump, is called the ‘Normalization of Deviance.’  It is defined as “the gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become [treated as] acceptable. As the deviant behaviour or opinion is repeated without consequence or catastrophic results, it slowly becomes the social norm for the organization.”  

So, knowing that, I would argue that comments about Kenny such as “he has changed,” “that’s just him, not the party,” or “that won’t happen here,” are all explicit examples of how people can be willing to overlook unacceptable words and actions when those words and actions do not directly affect themselves.   Ignoring a track record like Jason Kenney’s when casting ballots is exactly how Trump got elected.

 

CHOOSE EQUALITY

Please read.  Please be critical.  Please prioritize equality before anything else when you choose your vote. Once that is a guarantee, then we can start working on sounder policies around the carbon tax, education, farm safety and all the other important POLITICAL issues that currently face our province.

This is 2019.  We know better.  We must grow and continue to do better to make sure EVERYONE in this province is supported and safe BEFORE we talk politics.

Much love,

~ Kiersten (she/her)

 

  1. M O’Flaherty and J Fisher Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law: Contextualising the Yogyakarta Principles (2008) 8 HRLR 207 at 208.

 

Connection

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We are increasingly more connected but also disconnected. There is value in social media as it has provided us with platforms to engage with others and find resources that we may not have had access to in a different time. Those who identify as LGBTQ2S+ have found necessary life-saving connections and acceptance through social media. In fact, you probably learned about Airdrie Pride through social media, but it is also impacting our mental wellness.

This happens through Comparison and false connection.

We have been told time and time again that what people put on Facebook is only the best, orchestrated version of themselves that they want you to see. Knowing this doesn’t make comparison happen any less. Just as we can be told that cover models are photoshopped and not real, millions of people compare themselves and engage in self-loathing based on unrealistic expectations. Social media is a terrible example of real life.

I will always be thankful for social media in keeping me connected to my friends and family when I moved provinces. That being said, these connections were not maintained and especially not deepened purely through social media. That requires human connection, voices, facial expressions, and touch. To truly connect we need more than emoticons and Gifs.

We are sitting with our friends and family while we scroll and compare. We are together yet alone. I wake up every morning pour my coffee and scroll, and now my children do the same (minus the coffee). My mind reels as I consider that they are pulled towards watching endless videos on YouTube, just as I am to social media. Don’t get me wrong, I will never have a completely screen free home (insert gasp here), but that’s cool if you do. My children are respectful human beings who do well in school and contribute to the functioning of our home, but there could be more.

Screens and social media have a place, but they must not replace. To create this balance, I will add more things in not create a punitive feeling of deprivation. I will be the one to change my behavior and will take the time I spend away from scrolling to engage my kids in conversations around compassion and self-esteem. Compassion for both themselves and others. I will foster awareness of the messages received from the society we live in rather than attempt to shield them from it. I want to raise humans who are kind in the comment section and think critically about what they see.

Airdrie Pride has four opportunities every month to create in-person connections, to find community in your community. Put down your phones and tablets and join us!

 

Candice (She/her/hers)

 

Gender Compassion

By Tammy Plunkett

With International Women’s Day on the horizon, I am forced to have a deeper look at my self-identity as a fierce defender of women’s rights. Before my third child transitioned to a boy, I spoke of empowering women and gender equity until I was blue in the face. I purposefully worked with women clients and spent my dollars in women ran businesses. But having two sons today has opened my eyes to so much more than my own experience of “being a woman in a man’s world”.

Last month, my husband and I cuddled up with our two sons and fresh popcorn to watch the Grammy awards. My heart was warm and fuzzy when the opening included five powerful women—Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Alicia Keyes, Michelle Obama, and Jennifer Lopez. They each spoke about what music meant to them, ending with “Tonight we celebrate the greatness in each other through music.” And then Alicia Keys said, “Who runs the world?” and I shout back to the television “Girls!” almost jumping out of my skin with fervor.

My youngest son quietly responded, “I don’t like feminism.”

My son. The offspring of the Wonder Woman idolizing, once Women Talk co-director, card-carrying feminist warrior just said he doesn’t like feminism?! I think my husband actually recoiled to save himself. But seriously, this taught me that I needed to not only define things for my son, but for myself as well.

FEMINISM

Feminism is definitely getting a bad rap these days especially among Millennials and Conservatives with traditional gender role values. Some women born into a society that already allows the right to vote, own property, get a job and have access to birth control view feminism as an unnecessary plot to devalue and denigrate men. That is not what feminism means to me. While we are miles ahead of where we used to be, women still often earn less than men, hold fewer senior management positions, and own less of the world’s wealth. Compound all that by the fact that women are more likely to pause their careers to raise children and take care of aging parents. Compared with a man with no workforce interruptions, the average woman cumulatively has earned $1.06 million less by the time she hits retirement age. That’s an enormous wealth gap. That is why I am still a feminist.

MALE PRIVILEGE

This was where my conversation with my eleven-year-old son began. A fish doesn’t know it is swimming in water. My son, like most men, doesn’t know the privilege he enjoys. It is difficult for him to realize that at such a young age. I gave him the example of being allowed to walk to Seven Eleven alone, but I never would have let his sisters go alone in grade six.  From his point of view, my son feels that he didn’t ask to be treated special, but more than that, he feels that he doesn’t matter when I celebrate women and girls. We are asking a whole new generation of fish to evolve and breathe air on land. Of course, there will be pain and push back for them! They were happy in the water, we dragged them out!

GENDER COMPASSION

I am going to be very frank. When my third child came out as a transgender boy, I felt like he was crossing the aisle. I wanted a little feminist warrior working alongside me and I had a tiny bit of resentment that, by becoming a boy, he would enjoy the same male privilege as his younger brother. Privilege I never had. I’ve grown and changed quite a bit since he came out. Thank God! And this has also changed my view on the gender binary and gender equality. I hear what the anti-feminists are saying in terms of not wanting to denigrate men. We don’t need to make someone else wrong to make us right. This is not about right or wrong, good or bad, it has always been about the fact that everyone matters.  So, I am changing my language. I now stand for gender compassion. Compassion for women who are striving to have access to all that matters most to them. Compassion for men who are learning to adapt to a new society where they may have to yield access. Compassion for gender non-conforming people who have a right to take up their own space too.

While I am saluting all of my women friends, sister, daughters on International Women’s Day, I am also sending love out to our men who are making an effort to shed their toxic masculinity and love to anyone who doesn’t identify with the prescribed gender binary.

I KNOW NOW THE PRIVILEGE I LOST

I have worked downtown in Calgary for seventeen years. Throughout those years I  have gone to countless work dinners and other events which required me to walk back to my car in a dark and deserted downtown Calgary after the event.   

Through all of those years, as I packed up my bag, threw my coat on and said my goodbyes to friends and colleagues, I never once had to think or worry about my safety as I navigated my way back to my car before driving home.  Over the last couple of years, since my transition from male to female, I naively still had not worried for my safety or given this scenario a lot of thought.

Then, a couple of months ago, I was meeting a colleague after work for dinner and a collaboration session in downtown Calgary.  It was December, and as I walked to the restaurant after work, the sun was going down, and the streets crowded with the busy rush of people trying to get home for the evening.  I found my way to the restaurant, which was only a few blocks away from my office, went in and met up with my friend and collaborator. We shared dinner, had a great conversation and accomplished all we had set out to achieve.  As the evening concluded, I got up, thanked her for dinner, put on my scarf, mitts and coat and stepped onto the street and into the brisk winter air. Like many times before, I started walking without a second thought.

As expected,  the streets were empty compared to when I had walked in a few hours earlier.  I looked down the empty road and began my short trek back to the office where my car was parked.  After about half a block, I found myself waiting at the corner for the walk light and heard the sounds of people coming up behind me.  Glancing behind, I saw three young men approaching the corner where I was waiting. I stood quietly, eyes forward and focused on waiting for the walk light in front of me.  I didn’t think much of it but instead was daydreaming, considering whether or not I would make it home in time to say goodnight to my kids. Then, behind me, I heard the men stop about an arms reach away, and suddenly become quiet.  

The walk light blinked on, and as I stepped off the sidewalk and on to the street, I was startled by one of the men shouting that he liked my boots, quickly followed by a lewd invitation to walk with the three of them.  I unconsciously glanced back to find them all staring directly at me, smiling and laughing. In an instant, my stomach jumped into my throat. I swung back around and started briskly walking, wanting to put some distance between myself and them quickly.  As I crossed the street and made my way down the next block, I glanced back, and the three of them were keeping pace and still uncomfortably close behind.

I immediately started surveying my surroundings to see who else was around.  I caught myself feeling exceptionally stupid to be in a dress and wishing I was wearing pants so that I would be able to run faster if I had to.  I felt my hands begin to sweat inside my mitts and my heart painfully pounded in my chest.

I approached the opposite corner of my office building and fortunately as I reached the corner the walk light clicked on, and I didn’t have to stop.  I walked briskly across the street and up the stairs in front of our building. I frantically dug around my pocket for my security pass, quickly pulled it out of my pocket, scanned the door, and slipped inside to the lobby of the building.  The door clicked behind me, and when I found the courage to look back, the three men were no longer there.

I made my way across the lobby to the elevators, down to the parkade and walked to my car.  I grabbed the handle, jumped in, and locked the door. I sat there. I caught my breath, and as I took my mitts off to start the car, I realized for the first time that my hands were trembling. Tears welled in my eyes with the stark realization that this situation had the potential to have turned out much worse.  At that moment, I realized that in the future I needed to be more careful than I had in the past. I didn’t want to feel this unprepared and vulnerable again.

PRIVILEGE

In the counselling I did leading up my transition, one of the exercises I went through was to evaluate my male privilege and what my life would look like without it.  I anticipated that this task was given to prepare me for any surprises or changes that I may experience as part of my gender shift. I saw the value in this and as such, invested much time in thoughtfully exploring all the situations that would be different.  I imagined possible ways that my career would be harmed. I considered how I would be treated when I got my car fixed and what it may be like when I needed to pick up wood at the lumber yard. After a great deal of reflection, I felt comfortable that I had thought through almost everything.

However, in all the thoughtful exploration I had done before transition, I had missed the most significant aspect.  I had never once, in all that examination, considered this feeling of defenselessness. I didn’t appreciate how it would feel to be so incredibly alone, vulnerable and exposed in a situation which I had never before had reason to worry about.  As I sat in the car, composing myself before driving home, I realized what the lack of male privilege felt like, and perhaps most importantly, it sunk in that this is what women, all around me, have had to deal with and be aware of their entire life.   

I can now begin to truly appreciate how much I underestimated the power of the male privilege I once held.  This experience provided me with a great deal more awareness on how much more work there is left to do in this world so that my spouse, my daughter, my sisters and every other female identifying individual out there can walk tall without the risk of feeling targeted or threatened.  

Hopefully, it is apparent that I believe the value of living an authentic life is exponentially more important than maintaining male privilege.  I am hesitant, as a transgender woman, to unintentionally discourage anyone who may be considering their own gender transition. It is not my intention to frighten anyone into staying in the closet.  It is my hope by sharing this experience; we can all be more prepared and aware, and ultimately, a little bit safer. I know I still have more to learn about living a life without male privilege. As I continue to live and learn I will also continue to contribute to the efforts of my fellow citizens working towards lasting change in creating safety and equality for all.    

Two weeks later I was at another work dinner that lasted into the evening.  This time, as we walked out of the restaurant, I made sure I had others to walk back to the office with.  I love the person I have become and the life I have found, but I also guarantee that now I will always have a plan to get back to my car without fear.

 

Much love,

~ Kiersten (she/her)

 

Introducing Sullivan

Hi! My name is Sullivan and my pronouns are he/him or they/them. I am honoured to be the newest board member of the Airdrie Pride Society. I have lived here in Airdrie for almost 15 years after moving from Winnipeg at a young age. I graduated from George McDougall high school in 2016 and now work in town at a natural health food store.

In my spare time, I am an online student of Nutrition and healthy living. I pursue my own fitness through weightlifting and otherwise spend most nights at some sort of local art showcase; either drag shows, poetry nights or other queer celebrations of talent and expression.

I am a Trans man of colour and through my own journey of transition and several “coming out’s”, have been inspired by the deep kindness of others that helped me find my way to take on a role that can help pass on the lifeline I needed. I am very excited to have this opportunity of helping build and create community here in the city.