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Happy PRIDE Week Saskatoon!

Welcome to the 20th anniversary of Pride week in Saskatoon!  Yep.  20 years of Pride.  It’s a pretty amazing thing.

I’ve only been attending for five or six years now…  maybe seven.  But even in that short a time, the leaps and bounds taken have been amazing.  I remember it only being a handful of people out, but we are now seeing thousands of people every year – and the number is growing exponentially every year.  It really is an amazing thing!

So, here’s a brief run down on a few of my favourite Pride events:

Picnic in the Park (formerly known as Family Day) – Sunday June 10th, 11:00 till 4:00 @ Kinsmen Park.  Burgers and hotdogs available for $2, pop for $1.  There are always lots of fun games for the kids, as well as face painting.  And this year there will also be a softball game for the “grownups”.  Bring a blanket, or just hang out on the grass.  🙂

Welcome to the Gaybourhood – Wednesday June 13th, 12:00 till 3:00 on 21st Street West between Ave C and D.  Free Burgers and hotdogs.  Free live music and performance art.  This one is always a lot of fun – and I’ve been there every year since it’s first.  Is this three or four now?  LOL  I can’t remember.

Mosaic Art & Fashion Show – Wednesday June 13th, 7:00 until midnight @ the Albert Community Center, 610 Clarence Ave S.  Tickets are $15 at the door.  This will actually be the first year I’ve attended this show.  I’ve always wanted to, but the timing just never worked out for me before.  And even better?  I’ll actually be debuting several pieces from my Power of SHe project at the show.  So you’ll definitely want to come out for this one.  Lots of great art will be available for purchase (including mine).

Pride Parade and Community Fair – Saturday June 16th, 12:00 till 7:00 @ Victoria Park.  The parade starts at 1:00 and the entertainment on the free stage will be starting up at about 2:15.  Beer gardens, lots of vendors (both food and awesome wares), some fabulous community and non-profit groups will be there with info…  It’s always an amazing time.  So come on out!  As this years Pride theme says, “OUT is IN!”

There are lots more events as well – these are just my personal “must attends”.  You can get all the details at http://www.saskatoonpride.ca/.  And remember:  You don’t have to identify as a member of the acronym community to attend.  Allies are HUGELY important, and everyone is welcome!

 

OUT is IN - Saskatoon's 2012 Pride Week

 

A2Z – Ubiquitous

bloging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - ubiquitous

 

So…  for the last week, whenever I’d think of the letter U, the word ubiquitous would pop into my head.  It’s one of the few cool U words that I actually know and use.  I kept putting it out of mind, but it kept popping back in like some annoying song that Barney the purple dinosaur would sing.  *shudders at the mere thought of Barney*  The kid knows zombies and lycanthropes, but we’ve banned Barney in this house.  Anyway…  The word just kept coming back to me.  And you know what?  I’m going to go with it.

Ubiquitous.  It basically means that something is everywhere, ever present but not omnipresent.  It’s just a fancy way of saying something is everywhere.  In the summer ants are ubiquitous.  Got it?  Or should I pull out and quote my dictionary?  Oh heck…  Okay, here’s the dictionary definition:

screen shot that includes my dictionary app and the definition of ubiquitous

My desktop and the dictionary app, complete with the definition of ubiquitous.

 

So there you have it!  “Present, appearing, or found everywhere”  I don’t know why I fought the word, it really is absolutely perfect.  Whether or not we are noticeable, there are members of the acronym community everywhere.  If there are people to be found, you’ll find members of the pride community.  We aren’t always “flamers”, though it can be delightfully fun to stand apart from the crowd.  Sometimes we blend in with everyone else, completely unnoticed.  Unnoticed but ubiquitous.  😉

Okay, I’m off for the night.  Clearly I’m in a rather goofy mood.  But I figured I’m allowed…  ’cause today?  Today is one of those barf rainbows and crap glitter kinda days.  LMAO  Yep, today you’d see me from a mile away.

A2Z – Removing Stigma while Reintegrating Socially

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - Removing Stigma while Reintegrating Socially

So yeah…  it’s Friday, and here I am… blogging.  I know, I know.  I don’t blog on Fridays.  But I’m breaking my rule tonight with a double letter post.  That’s right, here we are with R and S…  and all so that T will fall on the 21st.  LMAO  Not sure why that’s important?  Well, just make sure you come back tomorrow.  😉  Now, onto Removing Stigma while Reintegrating Socially!

I’ll admit, I’ve never had to come out to my family and friends as being a different sex or gender than I was assigned with at birth.  For that?  I feel very blessed.  I can only imagine how difficult it would be, and how brave you would have to be.  Coming out to yourself, and finding who you are when it doesn’t match who you’ve been told you are takes courage, but then going even further and coming out to everyone who knew the OLD you?  That takes big freakin’ brass balls.  And I have SOOO much respect and admiration for all of my Trans brothers and sisters.  It’s hard enough to live authentically in our world, but to live authentically when you face that type of obstacle?  It takes someone who is amazing: amazing, incredible, and fierce!

After all that?  Well, the good news?  Stigma just falls away when you get to that point.  When you are ready to take your life back and live for YOURSELF?  Your TRUE self?  Then anyone who matters will be so in awe of everything you went through to get there that the only thing there will be LOADS of freakin’ respect.

No, that doesn’t mean it will be all roses.  There are going to be asses in your life that will make things hard, and they may even make you question everything you’ve lived through up until that point…  but cling to the fact that you are amazing, and that you DESERVE to be yourself.  You have a right to live the truth, to be who you are, and to do so surrounded by people who get just how long of a journey authenticity can be.  So forget the h8rs, you don’t need them, and be gentle with those who are trying (but may occasionally misuse a pronoun or old name) they’re worth the reminders.  It won’t be easy, but once you get there it is SOOO worth it.

Nothing but love!

And know you aren’t alone.  If you are in Saskatchewan, check out TransSask at http://www.transsask.org/ and if not, check out some of the resources listed in my A2Z Community post.  Building a community of people who love and support you is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

A2Z – Pink Prom

Blogging from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - Pink Prom

On March 30th, Saskatoon had it’s first prom…  well…  first as far as I’m aware, and as far as my parent’s and grandparent’s are aware – and that’s as far back as this city really goes.  So I feel I’m pretty safe saying that it’s a first for this prairie city.  Anyway…

It was an amazing night.  Some folk I talked to were concerned about a city-wide prom, with people from any school welcome to attend.  There was talk about things like school rivalries and the possibility of fighting.  All I could really do was smile.  These were obviously adults who just didn’t get it.  This  was an event I knew our youth would rally around.

Prom is an amazing right of passage, and one we’ve never had here.  We’ve all watched the movies, read the books, heard the stories.  Prom is supposed to be amazing, and it’s something everyone deserves to experience.  And at 34, I went to prom… and just like all the teens in the movies, my parent’s bought my dress.

Saskatoon’s first prom was made even better by being a part of Pink Revolution (an anti-bullying week which made it’s debut this year).  So huge thanks to the Avenue Community Center and all their amazing volunteers for making it happen.  Both Pink Revolution and the Pink Prom were ground breaking events and I sooo look forward to them happening again next year.

As the official photographer for the Pink Prom, I organized my first ever photobooth.  No, it’s not my typical photography (usually on location in the study of life and love) but it was sooo much fun.  I was happy to donate my time and skill for something so incredible.

me at the prom - a self portrait

Yep, that’s me at prom.  🙂  Wanna check out the rest of the action from my photobooth?  Head on over to http://td365.smugmug.com/  Prints and other cool items are available!

A2Z – Love & Marriage

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity

 

I’ve been out sick the last couple of days, and am just as sick today as I was yesterday…  so really shouldn’t be blogging at all.  BUT I hate to miss a deadline, even a self imposed one.  I knew I could fit L and M into one post, and as long as it went up on Sunday I’d still be on schedule for the Alphabet Blog Challenge.  Of course, I figured all this out on Friday afternoon, when I figured I’d b all shiny by Sunday.  And now it’s Sunday.  And the last thing I want to be doing is blogging.  Seriously.

Being sick sucks.  But want to know what makes it easier to get through?  Knowing I have the love of someone who will see me through it all… someone who doesn’t care if I’m dripping mucus from every orifice, sinuses unloading in all sorts of unattractive, downright, inhuman ways…  And you know what sucks?  Knowing that some people are denied this same gooey “stand by me” melodrama that marriage provides.

Sure, you can stand by someone without a contract (and lets face it, when you get down to brass tacks that is what marriage is), and for those who are content doing so without?  Well, I think that’s great!  In fact, I know some happily unmarried folks who have been in a state of unwedded bliss for almost as long as I’ve been alive.  However, for those who WANT to be married, they should have the same right to do so as anyone.  Some chicks marry chicks, some doods marry doods… get over it people.

I, for one, am glad this is one area in which the Canadian government hasn’t seriously screwed over it’s people.  This is one thing which they’ve gotten very right.  It shouldn’t matter what parts a person has, love and marriage are about what’s in your HEART not what’s in your PANTS.  And now that I’ve made my point?  I’m closing up my computer, and crawling back into my flu-induced stupor, feeling much better for NOT having missed my deadline.

A2Z – Kinship

Blogging our way from A to Z on issues of sexual and gender identity - K is for Kinship

 

The acronym community is vast and varied, full of many types of people with a wide range of beliefs.  Yet some folk seem to think that there should be this instant kinship or camaraderie between all LGBTT2QIA individuals.  The fact is, kinship is a choice, and often something you have to work at.

In this day and age there is a huge separation in class amongst gender variant and sexual minority individuals.  There are some who believe the fight is over and we have won.  This is especially prevaelent among upper class, white, gay men in their 40s… there is an entire subculture made up of the “suburbian gay”.  We fought the good fight, we have marriage equality (in Canada), so now we can go on living our lives of privilege.  It can be hard to find kinship in a population who doesn’t live the fight every day that some of us do.

For my trans brothers and sisters, the fight is especially brutal today…  and it is just beginning to get the focus it deserves from some segments of the media.  Transphobia is alive and well, I am afraid to say.  And it can be found even in the hearts of those who claim to be allies of the community.

So… kinship is not as easy as one would think.  Finding a kindred spirit is, as always, a difficult and amazing thing.  So when you do find someone with whom you share that instant connection, don’t let them go.  They are worth fighting for.

And yes, I realize this post ended up being a little rambley.  My head is fuzzy thanks to a cold…  and even a neti pot isn’t about to save the cloud that is inhabiting my brain.

So yeah…  my point…  Kinship.  It really is a choice.  You can decide to find it, even amongst a diverse population, or you can create for yourself an island – big enough for one.  But that is a very lonely place to be.

 

the april alphabet blog challenge.  blog your way through the alphabet, one letter at a time.

 

A2Z – In Flux

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - In Flux

 

If you haven’t figured it out already, based on reading from A to H, I’ll state it here nice and clear; generally?  I’m fairly anti-label.  But when push comes to shove, I identify as “In Flux”.

The idea of people being in flux is a fairly natural one.  We are constantly growing and changing.  The more we learn, the more we evolve.  Who I am now is not even remotely close to the person I was 20 years ago, or heck, even five years ago.  So the notion that we must have a constant and steadfast label that applies in all instances seems ridiculous to me.

Not only do I change from decade to decade, year to year, but from hour to hour and day to day.  How I feel right now, laying in bed, blogging is very different from how I felt even twenty minutes ago while I was reading a novel to my daughter.  So if I change as often as the air in my lungs, how can I be expected to identify as something constant?

Some days I feel very “girlie”, others I feel far more “butch”.  I’ve always identified as female, but what that entails is different based on the circumstances surrounding me and within me.  So I am IN FLUX.  It just makes sense to me.  In fact, it’s one of the few things that is constant and unchanging.  I can say with certainty that I will consistently and constantly remain as an every changing and evolving person.  😉

What about you?  Do you identify as a static being with a label?  If so, how do you identify?  Or are you, like me, constantly in flux?

 

P.S. – if you are up for it, I believe I posted a photo of a button a dear friend and artist made for me.  It’s me, holding a label that says “in flux”.  I think it’s on a post about AKA (the art gallery in Edmonton, Alberta).  Scavenger hunt?  😉

 

 

the april a to z blog challenge

A2Z – Heroes

Blogging our way from A to Z on issues of sexual and gender identity - Heroes!

Heroes.  They are something we should all have, and they come in many shapes and sizes.  Some may be the usual suspects, heralds of a cause, but others can be found unexpected places.  In truth, I believe everyone has the potential to be a hero.  And I can’t think of any better way to demonstrate this fact that to share a few of my local Saskatchewan heroes who also happen to be members of the acronym community.

Mikayla Schultz is the founder of TransSask (support services).  She is a tireless advocate and campaigner for equality.  Through tremendous efforts, she recently put government to the test and had many successes with the signing of a declaration formalizing March 25-31 as Transgender Awareness Week in communities across Saskatchewan.

Don Cochrane is a former University of Saskatchewan professor, who continues to educate everyone he meets.  His groundbreaking work into subjects of importance to the Sexual Minority and Gender Variant community continue to force change, improving the lives of everyone in Canada.  You can see his hand all over this province, and especially at the annual Breaking the Silence conference here in Saskatoon.

Sarah Houghtaling is a local high school student.  She strives diligently to make lives better not only for those who attend school with her, but for minority students across our province.  A student activist who’s name I highly recommend taking note of.  She’s one of the many young people who WILL change our world for the better.  If you are ever able to attend one of her talks, DO!  You will be inspired.

Kay Williams is one of the most outspoken allies you will ever meet.  A determined advocate for her son, and a helping voice in a confusing world for parents new to the world of parenting LGBTT2QI children and youth.  Kay is a proud volunteer, and one of the founding members of PFLAG in Saskatoon.  She also was awarded the Peter Corren Award for Outstanding Achievement this year at Breaking the Silence – and yes, I teared up during her acceptance speech (which I recorded, and will share at some point).

Four individuals, all unique, all at different stages of their journey, all willing to do whatever it takes to see things become better for those around them.  All four are heroes, and all four I’m proud to call friend.

Who are the heroes in your life?

A2Z – Family

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - Family

One of the most difficult things in the world is coming out to our families.  There is so much emotion wrapped up there, that it can be hard to separate our own fears from reality.  And listening to the coming out stories from previous generations only reinforces that sense of fear.

I had the privilege of serving as coordinator for a youth retreat last Summer, for Sexual Minority, Gender Variant youth.  During an exercise led by our Artist-in-Residence, Spencer J. Harrison we all got the chance to share coming out stories while in small groups.  One young man’s story in particular made me cry – and not for reasons you might suspect.

At first he didn’t feel he should contribute to the discussion, he didn’t feel that his story was worthy of sharing.  Upon encouragement, he opened up and told his story.  The story of coming out to a family who loved him and supported him – a family to which it didn’t matter what his orientation was.  Unwavering love and reassurance.  And that is what moved me to tears.

More and more people are realizing that orientation doesn’t matter, a person’s sexual desires don’t change who they are as a person.  More and more families find it easy to accept the idea that one of their children may be pansexual, bisexual, asexual, homosexual et al.  More and more young people have GOOD stories to share – and those stories are so worth hearing.  And in those instances where the outcome isn’t so positive?  That’s where community comes in.

If your family doesn’t accept you for who you are, they don’t deserve you.  Family is a choice, and is built on love.  So whether family of blood or family of choice – surround yourself with people who know how amazing you are.  Because you really are incredible!

 

 

a to z, april blog challenge

A2Z – Expression

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - Expression

 

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.

the ginderbread illustration by Tobi-Dawne Smith

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.

Expression.

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.  😉

Expression.

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…

Expression.

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.

 

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