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?
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.
When discussing something, relaying a story, or describing an event the logical place to start is at the beginning. So, with the fifteenth anniversary of Breaking the Silence that would seem to be with Ivan Coyote’s performance on Friday evening. I’ve got a couple clips that I know you’ll love.
…However, that’s not where I’m going to start. I’m going to start at the end. Or, well… almost the end. The last session of the day, before we all gathered for the conference’s conclusion:
“Sex, Gender, and How the Heck I Fit into it All.”
I had printed 25 of the handouts I’d created, expecting 15 – 20 youth. We had 176 (it was 176 or 172, I can’t quite remember) registrants, and five options in each session slot. And with a title like mine, I didn’t expect a huge turnout. Not when competing against some of the amazing options that were presented this year. I figured by printing 25, it would give me a little wiggle room, and also allow me to share a few copies with people who were in other sessions, but were still interested in the topics I addressed.
Walking up the stairs to find the room I was presenting in I passed two people who had veered off into the other upstairs lecture hall – I’d attended a session earlier in the day there (a great one by Jim Drake on personal narrative). I kept walking… And that was when I realized, the throng of folks walking up the stairs with me were headed into room 103… into my session.
The room was already packed when I walked in, and more people kept coming. I was shocked! And I’ll admit it, I was suddenly nervous. My throat swelled, my legs felt weak, my stomach did a little turn. These are not feelings I was used to, however they weren’t entirely foreign either. I remember them well from the days I first entered politics when I feared I wouldn’t be good enough, days long past now.
George Georget, a fellow member of the board gave my introduction. He’d asked if there was anything in particular I wanted him to mention. There wasn’t really, and I told him as much… but I didn’t want to leave him lacking for something to say, so told him he could always just tell them I was a Mom and photographer. I didn’t need to be worried. He had plenty to say, all of it lovely. I thank him for that. 🙂
I began by apologizing for my lack of handouts, and asked that they share in groups of two and three… just so everyone could see what I was referring to. I began handing them out. Then realized it would be a lot more efficient to enlist a little help. I handed some to Chance Briere, an absolutely wonderful young man I met this Summer and am proud to call friend, and some to a woman across the row from him and asked for their assistance.
Still feeling a little shaky, and surprised not only by the amount of attendees by also by their diversity (I was expecting youth only, but there was a brilliant array of ages, it was inspiring to see them all gathered for a session I thought would have such narrow appeal), I began to speak.
It took two or three minutes, but I found my voice… the same as it always was. Honest, open, and willing to talk about anything.
I didn’t expect the laughs, loud and openly shared. I didn’t expect the cheers, unbridled and on point. I didn’t expect the types of questions, asked with heart and intention. I didn’t expect to inspire or to move people… but that seems to be what I did.
Very honestly? I was presenting a mainly informational session. I knew I wanted it to be more of a discussion than a lecture – but I came prepared with an activity, just in case questions were slow to come. I didn’t realize that I would touch lives, or give people hope they didn’t arrive with.
To everyone who came up to me afterwards, to shake my hand, to get a hug (or two or three), to share a story, to ask for help… THANK YOU! I appreciate each one of you. You are truly amazing people. You have touched my life. You have inspired ME. And to all of you who wanted to do the same, but for whatever reason felt you couldn’t. Thank you for being there, for listening, for asking questions, for returning my smiles when I met your eyes during my talk. I know I won’t change the world, but I believe that you can.
Now, for anyone who would like to see it, here is my handout. Please feel free to share it wherever and with whomever you like. I only ask that you refrain from editing it or claiming it as your own. 😛 If there is interest in a printable version (do let me know if that’s something you’d like to see) I’ll find the best way to make that available.
I’ve been out sick the last couple of days. I’m still sick today, but have a little less cold and flu medicine in my system – which gives me a spank more lucidity. So figured I should make an attempt to post something through the haze in my head.
One thing I envy children is their resiliency, their ability to bounce back and to just keep going. Lily-Ann is the one who passed this virus on to me, but did it knock her out? Heck no. She had the sniffles, but was determined to just keep on keepin’ on. Her contagious period occurred while she was out of school on the weekend, and she wasn’t about to miss any of the fun. She had a runny nose, but was otherwise unaffected. Me, on the other hand… I’m a wreck.
I was out cold all of yesterday, stuck in bed, loaded with a plethora of remedies (both home and store bought). Drippy, sore, cranky, and exhausted. And today I’m not much better – though trying to make due with a little less of the store bought remedies… but as soon as I’m done this blog post it’s back under the covers for me.
There isn’t much I envy of children, but that ability to bounce back is truly a remarkable thing… and it’s not just virus related. They have an incredible capacity to fight back, to push until they see things righted. If only we could harness that power – the good we could accomplish.
Ahhh well… That’s enough musing from me. My typing skills are getting worse the longer I’m attempting lucidity. And I’m also beginning to drip on my keyboard – and that’s the kind of lovely image I strive to leave y’all with.
Keep your friends close, and your netti pots closer. 😉
There’s a ripple going through society, criticising youth for being lazy kids who want something for nothing… but you know what? That same ripple has been going through society since the dawn of time.
Let me set the scene:
Two cave men, long scraggly beards, haggard and worn, old men by thirty, sit by a fire about ten feet in from the entrance to a cave. One of the men, hunched over with hands closer to an apes than a modern mans, grabs a stick from the dusty rock floor and pokes at the embers of an almost extinct log. He grunts, a sound full of disgust, and motions towards the lanky cave youth just outside the dank cave who is carving the first wheel. If we were able to listen in I’m sure his grunts would translate to something along these lines: “Darn kids today, don’t know the value of a well skinned hide. All they want to do is play with them damn rocks when they should be out hunting down mammoths. Lazy no good kids. Why in my day…”
Like I said. People have been complaining about youth since the dawn of time. And why? Because our values change with each generation. People grow and change. And as we get older, we understand less about the things that the next generation values and appreciates. But that doesn’t mean they are any less ambitious or driven than we were. In fact, some of the most amazing people I know are the youth of today.
Young people willing to shave their heads to help raise funds and awareness for Cancer research – youth like Lexi and Sara. Young people willing to walk away from their cushy lives here in Canada and live and learn in Ghana – youth like Corbin. Young people willing to volunteer their time creating opportunities for other young people to find a sense of family in what started as a group of strangers – youth like Derrick and Sara. Young people willing to go into schools and talk about bullying and hate, to help spread a message of hope and acceptance – youth like Sarah. Young people willing to speak out when they see something happening that is wrong or unjust – youth like Mitch. Young people creating amazing pieces of art that has the potential to change the way people view our world or themselves – youth like Zacery and Vincent.
…and that’s only a small handful of the truly amazing young people I know.
The youth of today deserve our respect. Sure, they may do things differently than we did, but that doesn’t devalue their actions or their potential. They are capable of some pretty incredible things. I know I am hugely blessed to be involved in so many incredible young lives – even just as a cheerleader.
The next time you are sitting in your yard, or in your house, and you happen to catch a glimpse of a young person doing something that you may not value yourself… think for a second. They may just be about to create their generations “wheel”.
Lexi is a pretty amazing person. She’s a young woman with a true heart for children, and believes deeply in doing what she can to help aid those in need. I met Lexi this year at Camp fYrefly.
Before seeing her for the first time, Lexi and I had many conversations. Seriously, we talked on the phone pretty much every other day for the last couple of weeks leading up to camp. So when I saw her standing in the lobby a big grin spread across my face. I felt like I already knew her, and was so thrilled to meet her in the flesh.
During that amazing weekend, Lexi and I had many chances to talk, and I always enjoyed hearing her point of view. Like many of us, she hasn’t had an easy time – yet instead of focusing on herself, she chooses to invest her energies ensuring others have a better time of it. So, when Lexi told me of her plan to help former child-soldiers I really wasn’t all that surprised.
Lexi is hoping to raise $1000 in the next two months. If she succeeds, she has pledged her head… well… her hair anyway. So let’s help Lexi face Winter in Saskatchewan with a freshly shaved dome. Whether you can contribute $5 or $100, it will all go to a great cause!
Lexi, what first drew your attention to the need for a rehab center for former child-soldiers?
What first drew me to the need for a rehab center is that children that are coming out of the LRA need someone there to help bring them back to be the child that they were before they were taken and forced – brainwashed in a sense – to kill many and steal away more children. Every child needs to have a good life without fear.
What made you decide this was important enough for you to take action?
I always wanted wanted to help but never really knew about it too much. Now I know that me, even fundraising, will help children out in Uganda. I am wanting to raise 1000 dollars to help contribute to the building of a rehab center.
In addition to making donations towards YOUR campaign, what can others do if they too want to get involved?
Anyone who would want to help shoud go to invisible childrens website, and go to their build a fundraising page. Start doing small things like bake sales, car washes etc.
If you would like to contribute to Lexi’s fundraising campaign, or if you are simply interested in learning more about the former child-soldiers and the hopes for this rehab center, head on over to http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise/ic?fcid=135944. To learn more about Invisible Children (the non-profit Lexi is fundraising for) visit their website and learn about their projects at http://www.invisiblechildren.com/protectionplan.
Lexi, I am super proud of you, and am rooting for you (get it… rooting… as in the roots of your hair? okay, bad hair joke. and yes, that was another one… get it? bad hair? okay, I’ll stop now). Very honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of you. This is a truly fabulous thing you are doing, and I am behind you 100%. I know it’s not much, I wish I could do more, but I am thrilled to be the first donation on your way to your fundraising goal. Good luck!