To all of my fYreflies, the alumflies of 2011 (both Saskatoon and Edmonton):
Be strong, be brave, be safe! …and know that wherever you may go, you go surrounded by love!
When I was young, I shaved my legs every day; EVERY day. Spring, Summer, Autumn, AND Winter; every day. The media told me that having smooth, moisturized, soft legs was an important part of being pretty – and as a teenager and young person I bought into it. I believed the myth of beauty society fed me.
As I came into adulthood, I still shaved – though not with the same frequency. I spent a great deal of my time as a young adult sick and in pain… pretty just wasn’t as important when you hurt so bad that you can’t get up and down stairs without dissolving into tears. But I still shaved and moisturized. It was part of being a girl. We couldn’t have people thinking I actually grew hair on my legs.
Then I became a Mom. And yes, even then I shaved my legs. By then it was just one of those chores you do. Going swimming? Better shave. Wearing shorts or a skirt? Better shave. Just part of the self-grooming routine. Something I didn’t think about. Something I did in a rather robotic fashion, another member of the trained masses.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing these things are choices – even if we don’t always feel they are. Not all Women shave. In some parts of the world it would seem odd to do so. My daughter believed this until she was three. Then one day she laughed, astonished, at the ridiculous notion that a Woman could choose not to shave. That was the day I stopped shaving my legs.
Lily-Ann has other Women in her life who are non-shavers, my sister for one. But clearly this was something she needed to see with more frequency. It may seem like a small thing, but I needed her to know that we have a choice. We don’t have to shave. We don’t have to buy into the view of beauty that the media is selling, we can choose something different.
I may be the odd Woman out here in North America, sporting hairy legs all year long – without shame and, quite frankly, with a little pride. And yes, it may seem like a strange thing to take a stand on… but I couldn’t let my daughter grow up thinking she has no choice, that she has to go along with whatever ideals society sets before her.
She has options and choices. We all do.
Sure, I could have kept on shaving – but she shocked me out of it. Sometimes, that’s what we need. Something to shock us out of that robotic state we get lulled into. Something to bring us back into personhood. A sudden splash of cold water, a bucketfull dumped on us while we lay half asleep, lounging in the sun. Something to remind us we’re alive, and we have the right to make these seemingly small, seemingly insignificant, choices for ourselves. And sometimes, those small choices end up being some of the biggest.
Hey! Remember me?
Yeah, it’s been a while. I know. Things have been a little crazy hectic here. But we finally got everything moved out of the old house and into our new home (and the garage and shed). No, we aren’t actually unpacked yet… but I’m making slow progress.
We have our computer/crafting nook set up. Which, let’s face it, is of prime importance in this family – and I’d suspect many more others than will admit to it. The girl has already been busy at work both on the computer and sitting at her own little craft station, making all sorts of things.
The girl’s bedroom is MOSTLY set up. For now her mattress is on the floor and she does have some boxes still that need unpacking. She has usable space though, and her clothes are all accessible in her closet. So I’m happy with where we’re at there (for now).
We moved in our little antique “three bears” kitchen table and chairs yesterday so finally got to use them. If you remember way back when, I blogged about them when we first bought them. They’re super cute, but I’ll be honest… while their style fit in perfectly at our old place? They don’t match quite as well here. So I’m open for suggestions on how to paint/stain/refinish them to help them blend a little better in a European kitchen.
Our bedroom is partially put together. Still a long way to go in here… but we have a bed, a closet, and a tv (as well as a butt load of boxes). I know it will come together yet, but yeah. Our room isn’t exactly the priority.
The bathroom requires some work… new tub, new vanity, new counter top, new light fixture(s), new floor. Honestly? I think the only things I’m okay with keeping are the toilet and the sink. So we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us in there.
So yeah… exhausted. But I am slowly putting things together.
Damon had taken the last two weeks off to help pack up the old place, move, and get started on the unpacking. Today was his first day back at work. It feels kinda odd not having him around. I’d gotten used to it.
Today was also the first day I used my new key fob for our alarm system. I’ve never had an alarm system, so it does take some getting used to. Gotta get in the habit of pushing those buttons when I’m supposed to. LOL
Today the girl had her school photo retakes too. And yes, I’m sure this one will turn out MUCH better. She was just too darn busy playing with her friends in line to want to bother with the picture last time. Where today it was just her in the room, so it went much easier.
Further, today marks the International Day of Remembrance. A couple years ago I had organized a candlelight vigil down at the memorial bandshell beside the North Saskatchewan River. This year I’ll mark it quietly at home with my family. And I do ask that those of you who aren’t doing something en mass do the same. Just take a moment to remember all those amazing people who lost their lives simply for having the courage to live authentically. It is simply not right that so very many *trans women and men are murdered EVERY YEAR for being themselves. It is so beyond a time for change. Some Women have penises, and some Men have a vagina – get over it. People should not have to die because they don’t fit into some other persons idea of what “man” or “woman” means. My *trans sisters and brothers are incredible, strong, brave, compassionate individuals and they should not have to fear for their safety every time they leave their homes. So yes, if you do nothing else, take a few minutes out of your day to remember the many, many men and women who have been brutally murdered for the crime of being who they genuinely are.
Okay… today I’m going to again share my gingerbread cookie drawing. The one I did to accompany my session at Breaking the Silence. I think it explains the basics of Expression, Gender, Assigned Sex, Sex, Sexual Desire, and Affection rather well. After all, that’s the entire reason I created it.
So… at it’s most basic? Expression is “all this” – and if you could see me you’d see me waving my hands and fingers over my entire body from my head to my toes and everywhere in between. It doesn’t exactly translate the same way to a blog post as it does when I do it in person. Your outward expression of gender doesn’t have to match your assigned sex, your actual sex, or any particular gender. It just just how you feel like presenting yourself at any given time – and there is no wrong way to express yourself.
I have to be honest. I’m kinda glad we’re on “E” with this challenge. Sure, my blog posts have been really fast and easy to write since the challenge started. I find this type of thing really easy to talk about. It helps that I talk about it with such a range of people on a day to day basis. From toddlers to teachers, I talk about orientation a lot and in a lot of different ways. So writing about it comes fast and easy. But I miss the challenge that comes from writing about myself and following the whim of my muse.
It really is a far greater challenge to share about important parts of my day, and how those things led to moments of self discovery or laughter. Sure, it means I end up with the occasional “sorry for being so boring today” post. But generally, it’s a very satisfying part of my day. It allows me time to put everything into perspective. It is time for me to reflect on the days joy or frustrations.
That’s really what this blog is all about. It’s about my expression of self. What I feel, who I am, what’s important to me on any given day. And this challenge, to a degree, has robbed me of that. It’s a good thing this is such an important topic or I’d be likely to scrap the whole darn thing at this point.
It is an exceedingly important part of who we are. Without it? (get ready for the exceptionally geeky reference dead ahead) We might as well be assimilated by the Borg. Taken into the collective, sharing a mind…
It’s easy to think of it as the least of the parts that makes up our orientation, but when it is robbed from you? It’s easy to see it as potentially the most important. Without it, we are but shades of ourselves… lost, and without the will to communicate.
So value your ability to express yourself, through the way you look, the things you do, how you interact with others… Express yourself freely and without regret. BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE! Be the very best you, you know how to be, and inspire others to do the same.
There is something to be said for having such a handle on who you are that you can take a glance in the mirror and say “There I am. I am _____.” Personally I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never fit neatly into a little box. Life is messy, and so am I. I’ve tried to stuff my vast and varied parts into an easily labeled box… I tried for many, many years to stuff myself into one. But there were always parts hanging out, keeping the lid only half covering the contents. I’ve come to be grateful for it though, as I’ve come to accept myself. That unclosing lid is what kept me breathing. I think I’d likely have smothered if I’d managed to get it on tightly.
There is this drive, this need in our society, to define ourselves. Like I said, I suffered from it myself for many years. Now though? I really don’t get it.
The minute we can slap a label on that box (whether the box represents others or ourselves) we can put it up on a shelf and forget about it. When a box has a label on it, we don’t need to dig any deeper. We don’t need to slowly discover it’s contents. We rob ourselves of that joy. Discovery, let’s be honest, really is a joy. And self discovery? It’s even more so.
Accept yourself as you are, and if you need a label, there are many out there. Take which one fits when you need it, and discard it when it no longer does. Allow yourself the discovery, and allow those around you the same. You are worth the time it takes to really get to know you. You are worth the joy of a slow reveal, the slow clap, the slow motion entrance. Grab that 80′s teen flick moment and just run with it! Be pretty in pink!
LMAO Okay, yes, super eye-roll-causing segway… but I HAD to get in this photo of the kid and I – all dressed in our matching duds – as we headed out for the walk to school. And while it was a seriously dorky way to lead into the photo that doesn’t take away from the truth of it.
The minute you accept yourself as you are, and stop searching for a way to squish yourself into a nice neat box you’ll find your world will open up in ways you didn’t expect. You really are worth the joy that comes from slowly discovering all the glorious mysteries that make up that amazing package – don’t deny yourself that pleasure. Don’t slap on the first definition that seems like it just might fit okay. There is no rush. You have your entire lifetime to discover yourself, and those who are worthwhile in your life? They’ll happily take that time too.
One of the very best things you can do for yourself is to build community. Having a “family by choice” will provide you with the supports we all need and don’t always get after coming out to our family by blood. Even in those instances where your family is fabulous and supportive, it always helps to have a community of people who really understand what you are going through and who have either been there, or are currently right with you.
The internet is an amazing resource when it comes to finding a sense of community. These days, even individuals with severe, life-limiting anxiety disorders can still find others and build camaraderie. We can find a global community, always ready and waiting thanks to things like email lists, online forums, and FB groups. But I do encourage you to also seek out local individuals, because there are times when we all need to reach out and actually FEEL another person whom we can trust and know will be there for us.
Here in Saskatoon I can’t recommend the ACC any more highly than I already do. They run a number of excellent programs for individuals of almost every age range in almost every situation. You can find them online at http://avenuecommunitycenter.ca/. PFLAG is also another amazing resource, and there are branches all over North America. Check them out at http://www.pflagcanada.ca/ and http://pflag.org/. For those of you in high school, talk to your guidance counselor to find out if there is a GSA you can join. And for more information on resources in your neck of the woods, check out http://www.gaystraightalliance.org/ which includes a directory that is world wide.
There is no reason to feel you have to go it alone. You aren’t alone. Far from it! No matter how you identify, even if you aren’t sure how exactly you fit into the whole spectrum, you can be sure there are others out there just like you. And now you’ve got some tools to help you find them.
Some of you may already be familiar with this piece. It was something Ivan E Coyote wrote for her column in Xtra. I remember reading it, and applauding it at the time.
For those of you who have never had to stop before going into a public washroom and consciously make a choice which door to walk into, be thankful. It’s not an easy choice to make. A person takes their safety into their own hands every time they walk into a public washroom, especially when the individuals on the other side of the door may not agree with their choice. We don’t all fit neatly into one gender box or another – nor should we have to. So here is Ivan, on being shrieked at, on life in the gender variant spectrum, on discrimination, and on compassion:
It’s well worth the watch folks, whether or not you’ve read the personal essay that ran in Xtra.
To all of my fYreflies, the alumflies of 2011 (both Saskatoon and Edmonton):
Be strong, be brave, be safe! …and know that wherever you may go, you go surrounded by love!
Well, here we are. The end of Pride week here in Saskatoon. It really is my favourite week of the year. A chance to make some new friends, and connect with those I rarely see the other 11 and 3/4 months of the year. Pride week fills me with hope, and I truly KNOW that things are getting better. Each year our numbers are stronger and our colours brighter. I look forward to the time when we can live PRIDE every day – and I know that it is coming.
Want to see my post post-parade last year? Here it is: Leave the Politics at the Door.
Being at the parade and fair in an official capacity was a new experience for me this year. As coordinator for Camp fYrefly I was there to set up our booth, organize volunteers, and get our group all set up to march in the parade. It was a lot of fun, but it meant we were there a lot earlier than we’re used to. And it also meant that I didn’t get to do my usual tour of tables. I kinda missed out on hunting down all the coolest stuff, and checking out all the latest from the fair vendors… which I confess, I do regret. And after the parade, the girlie had just had enough, so we weren’t able to stay till the end as I’d originally planned. Thankfully Derrick was there, and so graciously offered to man the table for the last couple of hours without me. I am sooo grateful for his help today. He was awesome!
The girlie was tired before we even arrived. She has her “sleepover night” with my parents every Friday… which meant she was up SUPER early today (they wake up WAY too freakin’ early at that house). So by 10:00 when we swung by to grab her, she was already several hours into her day (at home she wakes up about 8:30 or 9:00). So yeah… tired girl before we even got started – which made for a much harder day than I’d have liked.
Thankfully (because he was there to help with the girlie) this was Damon’s first year at the Pride Parade and Street Fair. He has always had to work the Saturday it was held, but this year, the start of his holidays coincided with the event. So it was a real treat to have him there. He’s not much for crowds, so I know he felt totally out of his element, but I appreciated that he came. I think he’d have loved Pride back in the day when there were only a couple hundred folk out. LOL
So… here are a few pictures. I’d hoped to grab a family photo with the three of us all in our Camp fYrefly gear: Lily-Ann in the dress I made, me in my altered t-shirt, and Damon in his… but, like I said: cranky girlie. LMAO And without being free to wander at will, pretty much all my photos were of the fYrefly crew. But I snapped away, just the same.
I just got home from a Programming Committee meeting with Camp fYrefly SK. Super exciting things on the horizon. The next couple months are going to be pretty amazing, and camp this year really is going to the best yet. If you haven’t got your application filled out yet, I strongly urge you to hop on over to the Camp fYrefly website as soon as you’re done reading this post.
Application deadline for Youth Leaders and Adult Volunteers is June 15th – that’s only a couple of weeks away. And the camper deadline (though it hasn’t been officially set yet) will not be much past that. August may feel like a world away at this point, but it’s closer than you think.
It’s going to be a crazy busy Summer for me. So very much to do, but such exciting work towards such an amazing end!