Friday, January 29, 2010

Axis and Allies

I've often mentioned on this blog and to many of my friends the important role that Youtube has had in normalizing my homosexuality as an aspect of my social person. If I haven't done that sufficiently, then kick me in the face when you see me next.

I recently discovered this video on Youtube.

This past week has been a bit rough for me. I came out to a friend of mine in a moment of extreme frustration and weakness, and with only partial intentions of doing it. His reaction has been understanding, but also reluctant. He very strongly believes that homosexuality is a sin. He has directed me to ex-gay ministries. And he does this all in love, not realizing the torment that it has caused me.

My heart has crumbled this week.

I sent him an e-mail yesterday explaining the challenges associated with being gay - how painful it is to grow up alone, isolated, and afraid that something you do is going to out you and put you in danger. I mentioned that we, as homosexuals and other sexual minorities, are the invisible minority; we have some control over when the world more completely discovers our identity.

But let me tell you a bit of a story from yesterday. While I was at work, I noticed that one of my friends was very hurt. She and I are usually rather playful - she is adorable, and fun, and when the world watches her smile it notices what happiness looks like. That being said, when she was hurt, angry and frustrated last night, you can see the air blacken around her. Something was troubling her.

I asked her if she would be willing to cover my lunch break, because she is one of only a few people who has been trained in my position who also works during the evenings and weekends with me. In this regard, she is almost always reliable - she doesn't enjoy what I do, but she is willing to go in there on my behalf. Last night, noticing she was frustrated, I was not particularly surprised when she said no.

But eventually she came up to cover my break, with one of my supervisors (who would have been required to cover my break if she didn't). And she seemed even more frustrated. I asked my supervisor if she could cover for 15 minutes while I went up to the staff lounge with my friend and we discussed what was affecting her so much. She was willing to do that.

My friend and I went to the secondary staff lounge which never has anybody in it, and we sat down, and she told me a story. She says that she consistently felt as though some of the members of the staff were harassing her for not doing her job even when she was fulfilling her duties better than other members of the staff. While other cashiers were welcome to wait for customers at the till, she was always told to redline (meaning, wait for customers) by our supervisor. She was feeling as though she was being watched by the supervisor for when she made a mistake, or when she called in because of illness (which is very, very rare). She felt as though her relationship with her boyfriend was constantly under the scrutiny of the other staff members - as though they wanted to be involved in discussing something she feels is better kept private.

I forgot to mention that this friend of mine is a Pakistani immigrant. And, I 've forgotten to mention that she feels her skin colour is the reason that she is being targetted instead of the other, white members of the staff. That her perception of racism against her was causing her emotional heartbreak and stress, and making her want to move to a new job.

I sat there with her, as her eyes dug into my soul with such extreme sadness, and we both shed a couple tears. I have never felt emotion as powerful as hers.

And it made me much more aware of just how much pain is caused by hatred, misunderstanding, and the perception of both by those who have no option to escape it. Whose skin colour, gender, or appearance, rather than sexuality, sets them apart from normalcy. Who feel helpless, alone, trapped, and powerless as a result of things they cannot help - experiences that I am familiar with.

My heart has crumbled this week.

And then I found this video, and realized that my responsibility as somebody familiar with some of these emotions is not merely to support her by pronouncing to her my acceptance and love for who she is, but also to be her ally. To pronounce my love and acceptance of everything that she is with the rest of the world - so that the world is aware of how unacceptable it is for me, for my co-worker, and for everybody.

If you've the time, I'd recommend this article. It singularly made me much more aware of my whiteness years ago... It is called "White Privelege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. It gets my most high recommendation.

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Russia With Love!

Today, I discovered women.

Two of them actually. Now, please don't claim that I am over-compensating for years of lost opportunity - this isn't a Californian trial or something, where you get to question my psychosexual development as an individual. Instead, listen to the rest.

The two women I discovered were Russian. And they are acting as lovers whose rights have not only been denied by their own government, but, when they thought they had found a loophole, they found their rights even more disposable.

Two women, Irina Fyet and Irina Shepitko, applied for marriage certification in Moscow as a means of honouring their love. They were rejected; apparently homosexual rights in the planet's largest country are not to be recognized. So, the women came to the planet's second largest country - Canada - to be legally married, where marriage between members of the same sex has been legal since 2005. Thus, in October 2009, these women were married.

Today it was announced that, in the ensuing trial to determine whether the marriage would be recognized. The preciding judge stated that he would "have to uphold the decision made by the registry office in May. Foreign marriages accepted in Russia must involve a couple of opposite sex."

Fyet responded; "We were born here, this is our country, we want to be married in our homeland, Russia."

Russia's homosexual community, though not actively politicalled repressed, is forced underground as a result of widespread social codemnation. Homosexuality was not decriminalized from the Soviet Era until 1993 (two years after the communist state collapsed), but it would seem as though generations of persecuting homosexuality has left a considerable scar in Russia's social acceptance of homosexuals. In 2005, Russia's first gay rights parade in Moscow was broken up by neo-fascists, police, and Orthodox Christians.

It order to achieve any degree of state recognition for their love (and the rights that would result), Fyet and Shepitko will have to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, who have not thus far shown their favour or disfavour with the extension of homosexual rights. A final ruling can take as long as 5 years.

Just for love to be recognized. 5 years.


Love is an immensely rare moment. Not everybody gets to experience it. It is a shame upon humanity that, when it is felt, it is destroyed by our neighbours through the impersonal and systematic powers of the law.

This case reminds me of Rita Mae Brown.

"No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody."


I've asked this of some friends over the past week that I have met through Gay Family Values; does political persecution have degrees? And if so, at which point is one allowed to apply for political refugee status from one country to the next? Does it have to be illegal to be gay (as in almost every African state)? Or illegal to live in some neighbourhoods (as in many Caribbean nations)? Or illegal to marry? Canada could accept all of these persons as refugees because they are not permitted to live a life equal to that experienced by their neighbours - it is a reality that hurts everyday for homosexuals around the world. Does Canada have a responsibility to act as a political (if not a social) sanctuary from all forms of persecution?

Please note: I'd really be interested in discussing the philosophy of human rights; whenever the idea of "rights" comes up, I'm often conflicted by this sensativity towards a politically determined social reality (Rousseau, you genius, you were right again!). But that can't happen right now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Harper you dirtbag.

I have to work very hard, given my political distaste for almost all things conservative, to consider most criticisms of political structures in light not only of the current political discourse but also the consequences that they could have for the future. If I were to pretend that any of the governments that have sovereign control over me or that land that I inhabit were ones that I supported, would I still agree that the changes were beneficial to Canada's governance.

Earlier this week, I read this article from the Globe and Mail. "Give the house the authority" by Andrew Heard argues that the representatives of Canada's people in the House of Commons should have to pass a motion allowing for any attempt to pro-rogue parliament. I've thought about this, and it does have some limitations...

In reality, this would only be an effective means of control in a minority government, because the opposition parties are less likely to vote in favour of pro-roguing the parliament than the government. It may work in a majority provided that there was a considerable division within the party at the time. Unfortunately, it could also be used as a bartering tool in Canada's governance; where, members of the opposition will agree to vote for pro-roguing provided some of their localized concerns are dealt with once the government resumes (granted, this is more prominent in American government than Canadian, but should be considered as a consequence).

Heard's proposal does allow for more involvement in any decision to have the parliament pro-rogued - which isn't necessarily bad because it decentralizes the power away from the governor-general of Canada and the Primeminister (where it essentially rests - read the article to understand how this power has become a de facto power of the prime minister). By decentralizing the power, a proper check can be placed on the prime minister, ensuring that any attempt to pro-rogue government is actually for the benefit of the people of Canada rather than just the governing party...

Now, considering how frequently parliament has been pro-rogued in Canada throughout its history, I'm not sure how frequently this legislation would have to be enacted... but, as the current political party has used its de facto power to pro-rogue parliament as a means of maintaining political power, it would perhaps be an appropriate method of fixing a problem. For a government to pro-rogue parliament twice in 12 months is pretty much disgusting... And, though the liberal political media would like you to think that the Canadian people are not responding (and they aren't responding through overt popular discussion so much as general political fatigue... though there is a facebook group with nearly 200,000 members that has banded against the pro-roguing of the current session), Canadians do find it troubling that the government of Canada, including its opposition parties, have not been allowed to work in the government's transparent body (the House of Commons) as a result (read the initial article - it provides some polling data, which is of debatable validity, but still reveals something). What is taking place, provided members of the government is working right now, is back-room discussion about what direction the country should go in. And a lot of party politicking. The country has been sacrificed at the altar in the interest of the Conservative Party of Canada rather than the interests of the electorate...

Considering the contemporary political landscape of Canada....

Something that the Liberal Party should consider in any upcoming election is placing a well-considered policy of this sort into their campaign - it not only acts as an attack on Harper's use of current proroguing legislation, but provides an increasingly democratic means of affecting the country's governance (an angle that Harper has been able to exploit successfully thus far with the promise for fewer appointed Senate seats). Though this is not popular vote, it is a vote on a power that has been used and abused, without general Canadian support, by Stephen Harper, and could potentially be abused by subsequent Primeministers. Even Liberal ones. Even those representing the New Democrats, or the Greens. But we should get it done anyways....

Some other articles to consider, if you're interested in this.

"Halted in mid-debate" - The Economist
"Harper goes Pro-Rogue" - The Economist
"Proroguing PM takes hit in poll" - Chronicle Herald

And then, just because I really dislike Harper, I'm going to post this. A full text speech transcribed from Harper in 1997. Interesting.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


That, my friends, is a very large number. But, it is quite meaningless - we learn at a young age that numbers must always be followed by units. So here is my unit - people.

100,000 people.

Dead. In Haiti - in a single day. As a direct result of earth's tectonic plates shifting.

When I was in Poland and Israel learning about how to provide an anti-Hate curriculum and using the Holocaust as my primary case, it was always emphasized how little the number 6 million means to people.

6,000,000 people. Dead. (And that's just the Jews). Did you actually feel anything?

What we were consistently told was that the stories of individuals needed to be shared so that people could understand not just the political and economic tragedy of losing 6 million people, but the enormous personal loss felt by those who survived them.

So, when we read in the news for the next week (until another minor celebrity dies and takes up more news coverage, or another Republican senate hopeful in the states is caught sleeping with a mistress) that 100,000 people died, I am going to try to think of it in much more than historical terms.

I will imagine my brother was one of them. That his love for graphic novels, his interest in educational psychology and how to interact with students that come from impoverished homes, his extensive knowledge of beer varieties was lost. Forever. That I will never see him again - that I will never hear him laugh. Or play video games. That we will never be drunk again. Never fight again.

And then I will add another character to the story. My friend, April. Who plays the baritone and alto saxophones just right. Who communicates so much joy with her laughter that spending a moment with her can brighten your entire day. Who always accuses me of looking at her breasts and then makes the intimate eye contact that searches are a little bit of confirmation. That loves the colour purple.

That my piano teacher, Sandra, with her wealth of knowledge about not only the piano and music in general, but also the importance of God and relationship, is to be lost forever. Her appreciation for hard work, and her absolute joy for the slightest improvement in one's ability to not only make music but the enjoy it...

I will try to imagine that the 100,000 Haitians that have died in the past 24 hours were my brother, my friend April, and my piano teacher Sandra. Because that is who died - they just lived in Haiti. And they have been lost... to somebody.

I will get to see these people again, and I will do what I can to grieve with the people in Haiti in the interim.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Make a love chain!

I think of what I would do without school to distract me.

Would I rejoice in who I am created as? Or would I find myself more frustrated and aware of the turmoil that exists between me and the environment that I exist in? Would fear become even more consuming, or would some hope manifest itself and raise me like air rising in boiling water? Am I even capable of that?

I have an unfortunate confession to make. I'm reading Twilight. I will admit that I am not really enjoying it - I find the writing poor, and the characters a little too obvious at this point. Edward points out that Bella always catches him by surprise; Bella reminds me of every reason that I am thankful I was never a seventeen year-old girl. She is predictable. Consumed by love.

But Edward did provide an interesting, and familiar, commentary. I'd like to type it out, but I can't manage to find the passage. Admittedly, I'm rather embarassed that I've even read it. This book really is trash...

Regardless, his commentary is similar to this.

I've seen a lot of movies. I've read a lot books, been to a lot of plays. Listened to plenty of music. All of these forms of expression talk about relationship. Deep, personal, and intimate relationship. Something that is inadequately described at all times but almost universally understood as holy. These movies, books, plays and all of this music allow me to think that I understand love. Because I do - just as well as anybody else, perhaps.

But then tonight, I saw my best friend hanging out with her fiance. I saw love and passion in their eyes. The way that they communicated with mere slight alterations in their eyes. The curvature of their mouth. Their understanding of each other with languages so-much-more important and so-much-less obvious that words; it astonished me. And I realized that I have absolutely no idea what it is to love somebody.

Love. I can act as a dictionary as well as most, I think. But, I have no capacity to provide experience.

I try and direct my life towards things that will matter to people around me when I am gone. I'm only 23, but I try to make this my focus. Somehow I always sense that death is one step forward, though in which sense I do not know. So I spend time reading books, writing music. Grieving. Things that I think make you eternal. Relationship is foremost among these ideas.

I sang at a wedding on New Years Eve where this idea was shared.

"Love is something that you can leave behind you when you die. It's that powerful..." - Fire Lame Deer, Rosebud Lakota.

I want to have experience in love.

I wonder if I will ever be so blessed.