Trigger Warning

A couple days ago I was mindlessly killing some time and unboredifying myself by clicking the random button at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. After awhile of this, a certain comic pulled up. The caption read “Who says money can’t buy happiness?” and, in the panel, an enthusiastic, smiling man was handing a syringe over to another man, raising his fists in joy, while saying “here’s your heroin!”.

It was, to put it mildly, a little bit triggering. [Read more...]

The Exceptionalization Of CeCe McDonald

Until recently, my feelings about CeCe McDonald, the young trans woman of colour who was violently attacked in Minnesota by a group of men (at least one of whom was a neo-nazi) shouting racist and transphobic slurs, charged with murder for defending herself, and ultimately convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 4 years in a men’s prison, had been primarily governed merely by sympathy and empathy (albeit very strong). I absolutely respected her reaction to the attack, the refusal to submit to being a victim. But truthfully, those kinds of situations occur very quickly, are not really governed by coordinated thought, and none of us really know how we’ll react until we’re actually living it. Also, I would understand, and refuse to judge, any trans woman who had the opposite response, such as surrendering to the attack. We are presented very frequently with representations of ourselves as victims, to such an extent that we often end up thinking of it as basically an inevitability… to such an extent that should we be attacked, our response could very easily and understandably be simply resignation and the desire to get it over with. Trans women of colour in particular live under the burden of the victim-narrative, being hardly represented or reflected in our culture at all outside of that status.

I sympathize and empathize with CeCe. I feel very genuine sadness and anger in regards to what happened to her. But recent statements from her to her supporters have allowed my feelings to grow from simply understanding the tragedy of her circumstances, and feeling an emotional connection to them, to deep admiration. CeCe isn’t simply a victim of shitty circumstances and a broken, racist, cissexist culture and legal system. She’s more than that. CeCe is a badass, and far more intelligent, selfless and politically savvy than the blogosphere really gave her credit for.

Personally, I feel the need to accept accountability for how my own fucked-up racial biases played into the distorted narrative we built around her. In retrospect, I can’t help but feel saddened and a bit disgusted by how few of CeCe’s own words and perspectives were included in the discourse surrounding her. The same old awful stories play out over and over again, even where we most ought to know better. [Read more...]

Fourth Wave: Part Four

One of the most lovely aspects of the internet, one of those that has most consistently lived up to the somewhat utopian visions the medium’s emergence promised, has been its capacity to offer a highly democratic, highly populist form of media, information exchange, communication and community.

In a recent “tranchat” (a twitter-based discussion that occurs each Sunday), the topic came up of the tension in feminism between theory or academia, and “real life” issues, everyday praxis, the street level experiences that feminism suggests the capacity to speak to, of, about. It occurred to me, though, that this tension seems much less prevalent and noticeable concerning trans-feminism. Trans-feminism has, thus far, not been a product of academia, nor is it even really practiced there… at least not in any form even remotely resembling the trans-feminism which I’m involved in and accustomed to. Trans voices are not exactly welcomed and embraced within academia, and the experiences of trans people in that milieu, students and faculty alike, are markedly different than those expressing or embodying other queer identities (totes not in a good way, either). Rather than us being the speakers in academia, we are the objects of study. Rather than theorists, we’re something the theorists struggle to explain.

Like other activist movements built from minorities (or ideological minorities) that had previously been scattered, isolated from one another in circumstantial diaspora, with very little access to information, community, publication, media, connection or infrastructure with which to organize, trans-feminism has been overwhelmingly a product of the internet. The internet in general has had an immense influence on trans people and our capacity to even exist, turning what had once been something often impossibly remote and difficult to understand, with intense limitations on who could or could not access the resources to make into a reality, into something that is far far more of a genuine, tangible possibility for those who need it. But beyond simply making our lives so much more livable, and our needs so much more attainable, and our identities and experiences so much more comprehensible, it is has also given us the capacity to find one another, communicate, and organize.

This was the spirit and media in which trans-feminism was born… isolated individuals who had been intensely marginalized from the dominant media and narratives reaching out to one another through the means that were available. It has not been something handed down from “community leaders” to “the people”, but instead something that emerged collectively. In this sense, it feels like those theory / praxis, academia / “real life” tensions aren’t as important for us. Or at least, that we have the opportunity to avoid them becoming important or meaningful. If we do this right, those tensions shouldn’t have to exist, shouldn’t have to feel at all relevant or worth talking about. If we do this right, we will always be a discourse that emerged from and between the people it speaks of, not ever having to position academics, theorists, experts or leaders to speak on our behalf. It’s a pretty awesome thing. [Read more...]

Signifying Gender

Language has for a long time been one of my big passionate interests. In addition to simply feeling an intuitive draw to it, intellectually, it also strikes me as one of, if not the, most distinct feature of human beings. It and semiotic systems in general, anyway. Lots of animals can use tools, but only human beings can pass that knowledge and innovation along, and build upon it across generations, such that we don’t need to quite literally reinvent the wheel every time we wish to roll something. Lots of animals have societies, but only human beings can record and share those social structures, adapt them into and through signs and messages and rituals and myths, build them into a culture.

Language and semiotics are, perhaps, what makes us human.

I’m drawn to it, to learning about it, to thinking about it. I love its hidden structures. I love its relativity. How much it means despite being so arbitrary and nonsensical in what is “really” there (squiggles and tongues and teeth and pixels and paper). I love its fluidity. I love its breadth. I love how it is both social and yet intrinsic, both structured and emergent, both arbitrary and indispensable, both mutable and inevitable. And in all those contradictions and paradoxes of language, I never really feel lost. It always ultimately makes sense to me. The contradictions always balance out. [Read more...]

East Hastings: A Love Story

The first thing I’d notice, the first thing signaling arrival in the stretch of Hastings street between Abbott and Main that comprised the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, was always the smell. It usually was a vague combination of industrial cleaning products, cheap native cigarettes, urine and stale, dirty clothing. Or maybe (aside from the unmistakable urine) that’s just what my brain associated from the collage of sensory information that made that part of the city so distinct from the rest.

The second distinction that becomes clear is the people. It’s not a categorical thing, like you would expect. Not as much about style of dress, or age, or racial demographics, or the various details of presentation that signify class or occupation, though all those things are certainly present in the information once you get past the immediate sense of difference. It’s mostly about movement. [Read more...]

F–k Anti-Science

Last week was a really, really rough week. Worse than usual, even. Scary terrible things happening, and very suddenly and unexpectedly, as is usually the case with scary terrible things. Lots of complex and intense feelings I didn’t know how to handle. Lots of memories of really awful things that happened to me in the past deciding they’re not keen on being ignored right now. Lots of stuff that had been building up all Spring kind of arriving at a bit of tipping point into badness. And the terrifying realization that having spent almost my entire adult life as an addict means I never actually learned how to deal with rough patches like this. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, or how to get through this, or how to cope. Just kind of have to make it up as I go along.

On Tuesday I met up with my BFF at the comic book store, and we went to sit in the nearby park for a bit and talk. She noticed that my knuckles looked rather red, and asked if I’d been punching the wall or something. I hadn’t, but it kind of occurred to me that I totally did find a punching bag of sorts that morning on the internets in the form of a nice argument against someone promoting dodgy anti-science attitudes of the lefty-academic, post-structuralist vein. The idea that science is this nasty “Western” imperialist concept that pretend it knows everything and thinks it’s the One True Path and disrespects other “ways of knowing” and tries to colonize everyone’s minds and get us all to fit into some particular Western conceptual framework and blah blah blah.

I got a tad more aggressive than usual.

I’m not sure, however, that aggression is an inappropriate response to these attitudes. [Read more...]

Free Thoughts #5: The Apple Pie Problem

Let’s say you’ve got yourself a little diner in the States.

You want to offer pie to your customers, but you’re running a low budget operation, so you can only offer one particular type of pie. To figure out what kind of pie you should sell, you ask some of your regular customers what their favourite pie is, but you get a whole bunch of different answers: pumpkin, key lime, pecan, lemon meringue, tart cherry served heated up with a scoop of vanilla icecream on the side, etc.

That leaves you without much to go on, so instead you ask these same customers to fill out a little survey ranking ten different pies in descending order of preference. You find, looking at the data, that although no one actually picked it as their favourite, apple pie ends up being the one that averages out to being the least objectionable and most consistently “okay” with people. So you decide to serve apple pie, and thanks to your maths and research, it ends up selling better than any other pie you may have chosen instead… even though it isn’t any of your regular’s actual favourite.

I’m pretty sure this is exactly why apple remains the flavour that McDonald’s consistently sells while the other couple flavours they offer rotates throughout the year. [Read more...]

Blogathon Recap

Sorry for my absence. I’ve had a bit of a crisis pop up that’s been taking up a lot of my attention and head-space.

For now, here’s a quick recap of the blogathon posts, so you can find your way through them a bit easier. I’ll have a new essay or two up a little later today. [Read more...]

Blogathon: 24th Hour

And that’s it!

We’ve made it!

SSA Week is now over, and it looks that even though we didn’t quite make it to our goal of $100,000, we did manage to raise an incredible $90,230!!!

Great job, everyone. Sincere thanks to everyone who donated, everyone who stayed awake with me and followed along over the course of these past long, exhausting 24 hours, commented, chatted, tweeted, dropped by with cups of coffee, and all kinds of other little kindnesses.

You’re a fantastic bunch of readers, and I really do sincerely love you all. You make these kinds of things worth it.

Once I recover, I’ll probably put together a little recap of the blogathon posts, with little brief statements about what each was about, to help people pick through for anything they missed or are particularly interested in.

I am almost totally definitely, though, going to be taking the rest of today, and Monday, off.

So, recap post aside, I’ll see you all on Tuesday!

For now, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite ever songs. Enjoy!

As for me, I have to stay awake just a tiny bit longer to make sure I get my methadone dose before I crash out. But after that, some wonderful, wonderful sleep.

And maybe I might get to dream about Benedict Cumberbatch again.

<3 <3 <3

Blogathon: 23rd Hour

 

Almost there…

Just a little bit longer…

Hang on, Natalie. Imagine how much sweeter your terrible, cheap, back-pain-inducing mattress will feel if you make it.

And then sleep ’til Monday. Wake up and then PARTY FOREVER BECAUSE EVERYTHING WILL ALWAYS BE GOOD FROM THAT POINT ON WITH NOTHING BAD EVER AGAIN.

I think I might be just about all used up in terms of things to talk about, or things I’m actually capable of talking about in my present state.

I wish there was some kind of grand, awesome, sweeping, thematically-unifying thing I could think of to write here, to somehow tie it all together, but I’m sorry, I just don’t have that. I barely even remember what exactly I’ve written about.

There’s a not insignificant chance I’ll want to just delete it all when I finally wake up. [Read more...]