Monday, October 31, 2016

The Politics of Halloween

For us theory nerds, Halloween illustrates conflict between essentialist and post-modern ideals. The politics of Halloween challenge the limits of free expression with moral claims against cultural appropriation. If you want to skip the next 800 words, you totes can wear an insensitive costume, but I don't personally understand or recommend it.

Decrying cultural appropriation is rooted in Marxist and essentialist theories. Marxism offers that culture is owned, rather than participated in, and essentialism adds that cultures self-reproduce by creating immutable stereotypes of themselves. 'Cultural appropriation is always bad' because culture is a product of labour that can/should be owned by it's "rightful" creators, who are "authenticated" by stereotypes. "This is what X people and do and look like, and you are not X people. You don't have the right to look or act like X people."

Post-modern theory defines culture as a set of practices that defines a group. More accurately than other ideas, post modernism states that culture is participated in, not owned.

Critics of cultural appropriation invoke the 'everything is blackface' approach, which, in the most ironclad irony, is culturally appropriated. Let's take a second to talk about the uniqueness of blackface. Blackface was a performance element that culturally maintained black subjugation. The practice has a specific North American history, and it is widely understood as a glorification of black slavery and suffering.

Transposing the history of blackface onto other imitations is both inaccurate and insensitive. "Redface", "yellowface",  and "brownface" are not at all the same as blackface. These imitations are not tied to the history of transatlantic disenfranchisement and slavery that black people survived. If these imitations offend your sensibilities, articulate why without appropriating the unique context of black North American history for your convenience.

Lest we forget that race is a white idea that is/was carved into 'truth' by colonial violence. It seems people are easily offended by the performance of race because they are uncomfortable with the idea that race is a performance.

Halloween costumes are created and worn to elicit three reactions: sex appeal, respect for artistry, and humour. North American obsession with 'the funny costume' is likely a result of humour being the least embraced motivation of dress in everyday life. With the broad uptake of 'the funny costume', humour's relativity manifests in a vicious politics of Halloween.

Costuming that mocks social characteristics (race, gender, religion, ability, poverty, etc...) is not acceptable. Neither are costuming practices that re-create themes of historical racism and disadvantage. Difference and disadvantage are not fodder for jokes. "Drunk Indian" and "suicide bomber" are obviously racist costumes because they mock race, religion, and idigeneity. But what about when a costume falls short of mocking and only imitates? And what if that imitation is specifically to represent a fictional or historical figure?

Ellen DeGeneres as  Nicki Minaj.

Culture as costume is a shitty costume. I may not call you racist, but I would call you lazy. "French" or "Japanese" or "Native" costumes that aren't satirized or fetishized just state stereotypes with no punch line. It's like walking into a new mixed crowd and saying "so, I hear Asians are good at math". You're likely not a bad person, but you might be hella awkward.

I have absolutely no problem with character costumes (cosplay). If you love Mulan, be Mulan, but again do so in a respectful way that doesn't mock or fetishize an entire group of people.

Cultural appropriation is a neutral process wherein discourses are re-created without concern of origin by and between distinct groups of people. There are both positive and negative outcomes from the spread of democracy to corporate plagiarism of indigenous designs. The clandestine nature of cultural appropriation is why the intent of a costume must be interrogated, and why I choose to zero in on culture costumes that mock and fetishize.

Zealous critics of cultural appropriation overreach and end up committing the 'isms' they decry. Caitlyn Jenner and "transface" drive the problem home.

In 2015, the Caitlyn Jenner costume call out misplaced transphobia. The camp saying you just shouldn't do it refuses the possibility that anyone could want to dress as CJ without out intentionally mocking her. While I don't really like CJ, I assume someone must. Ignoring this possibility reduces the inaccurate context to "dressing as Caitlyn Jenner is de facto transphobia". 

Further, It's totally OK to mock celebrities for their own shortcomings. There's a line, however, when celebrities are mocked for their arbitrary social characteristics. If you genuinely appreciate CJ, or if your costume is smart enough to mock CJ for something other than her gender diversity, give'r.

Caitlyn Jenner being mocked as a Republican and wealthy evader of vehicular manslaughter charges.
CJ has said herself that she's not offended by the costume kits that were sold. So we have a situation where the group of people denouncing transphobia are actually enacting it. Activists denied CJ full participation in her celebrity status solely because of her transness.

The difference between a lazy costume and a racist costume is intent. Culture costumes are not carte blanche for toxic call outs; they are a starting point for a complex dialogue about colonialism and power relations.

Halloween is rife with offence. People offended by costumes. People offended by censorship. People offended by public displays of bodies and sex. On Halloween and in life, we need more understanding and less judgement.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Merge or Bust

Justin Trudeau's ongoing popularity is sucking the air of out the Canadian left. Internal conflict has ripped open wounds in both the Green and New Democratic Parties of Canada, and it's time we solve two crises in leadership with one leader.

After their devastating loss in 2015, the NDP tossed Mulcair and set the stage to battle for the social democratic soul of the party. The Leap Manifesto was accepted for study by the federal NDP, much to the chagrin of their centrist governing Alberta wing. The celebrity-endorsed Leap Manifesto is a non-partisan policy doctrine that articulates a succinct socialist and ecologically conscious direction for Canada.

Notley New Democrats are ardent that a party of gradualism is the only way forward. The Leapers want a party of principle.

In Alberta, New Democratic centrism means electability, but there's no air in the centre of the federal political spectrum. Notley New Democrats are sandbagging the federal party's grasp on relevance. The New Democrats are having a hard time finding a leader. The race to replace Stephen Harper has eight candidates; eight more than the NDP has. Speculations of the NDP's collapse have been published in the Globe and Mail and on Steve Paikin's TVO blog.

The Green Party also finds itself plagued by internal conflict. Greens are fuming about Elizabeth May's audacious resistance to a democratically enacted party position to support the BDS campaign. Elizabeth's May's leadership is flailing.

With the adoption of the Leap Manifesto looming, The NDP will wade into Green Party policy. The Greens are already consistent with the majority of Leap Manifesto.

The present is the best set of conditions organizers have ever had to unite the left in Canada. Two parties are in disarray and a cohesive set of common ground policies gaining traction. For the good of progressive movements in Canada, we need to break up with centrist New Democrats and unite the Green and New Democratic partisans under the principles of the Leap Manifesto. 

The Green Democratic Party has a nice ring to it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Drag is not Impersonation

Unless it's cosplay, drag is not impersonation.

Stop saying it. Stop thinking it. It doesn't come from a good place.

Drag is a performance - of femininity, androgyny, masculinity, sexuality, raunch, comedy, dance, theater, makeup, and costume. Drag makes the illusion of gender visible and undeniable.

The "drag as impersonation" mentality shows how shameful discrimination and flagrant hypocrisy live in queer communities. Drag queens do not "impersonate" women (or even worse "females" - gag), who are not a homogeneous immutable set of stereotypes.

To impersonate, there must be a person to imitate. Be Xena or Harley Quinn or Lady Gaga. That's impersonation.

Zayn Malik in drag - Best Song Ever Video
Drag as impersonation insists that the gender binary is a useful tool reestablishing hierarchy anew. Men who impersonate women and women who impersonate men have the grandest titles of Queens and Kings. These social status markers are the product of exclusivity via exclusion. Who gets to call themselves a drag queen or king is policed like the G20.

When drag events exclude cis/trans women and gender non-conformists for ideological reasons, an unreasonable demand of information about the contestants bodies is (im)posed. Drag as impersonation justifies event organizers insisting on their right to "sex test" their participants.

Drag as impersonation is gay rape culture that perils mostly women. Once again, men are determining the value of women's bodies and doing so by insisting on their authority to know about them.

It takes concerted sexism to choose to enforce a definition of drag that (re)creates binary gender. In each instance, equality is actively chosen against, rationalized by a logic of rape culture. The proponents of drag as impersonation preclude gender diversifying drag as an art form and cleave queer communities by choosing tradition unreasonably over equality.

Let's just all get along? K.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Case for a Pride Toronto Foundation

There's a pink elephant in the room every time criticism is raised about Pride Toronto; the organization is structured to serve white gay men’s agendas. All the forays into diversity it has achieved have been tangential to pleasing this core demographic. 

Legitimate claims of racism, ableism, and corporatism marred 2016's festivities, but how couldn't they? The idea that a committee of directors, staff, and volunteers can meet the demands of Toronto's diverse queer communities is ludicrous.

Blinded by ego and good intentions, Pride Toronto suffers a crisis of representation. A small group believes they can represent a vast population across immeasurable difference. 

Pride Toronto would have to spend half, if not more, of its resources on community consultations attempting to be representative, and it would still likely fail. Please see Pride Toronto's latest community update following a most contentions town hall meeting. Denying this reality will only lead to more conflict, protest, and dejection. 

Let's raze the institution of Pride Toronto, and in its place, resurrect a Pride Toronto Foundation. Devolve the bulk of event planning to community groups through a generous granting program, and empower communities to represent themselves. This approach is inherently a better community relationship than trying and failing to achieve representation on behalf of marginalized people.

I doubt I'm alone in the suggesting we burn it down, and built it back better. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Keep Your Government out of my Pants

I am gravely concerned about the outcome of the gender and sex information on government IDs and forms consultation, which closes on Friday September 16, 2016. Each of the three themes the consultation is organized around has the potential to enact 'solutions' that are in reality reorganized forms of discrimination. 

Theme 1: collection, use, retention and display
"We need to be more mindful about why information on gender and sex is collected and displayed. To address this, we’re proposing to collect gender information as the default, and sex information only if needed. For example, sex information is required for the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP)."
In this theme, the ministry has made the mistake of assuming that gender is objective and static. Neither of these descriptions are true. Gender is a social context that has no place on any of our government identifications. I can wake up tomorrow with a different gender than I have today.

Gender is like religion; it is a private affair. You can have one, or more, or none. You can change your gender at any time needing no permission, and the only appropriate way to ask someone's gender is an open ended question, not a choice of predetermined options. Religion is not indicated on our government documents, and gender shouldn't be either.

Theme 2: third gender identifier
"For people who do not identify exclusively as male or female, we’re proposing the use of the letter ‘X’ on ID cards.
The use of an ‘X’ as a third gender identifier has been implemented by countries like Australia and New Zealand. Since Ontario could be the first province to use an ‘X’ as a third category, we will work with other provinces and the federal government to help them understand our policy."
The 'X' is an erasure of gender diversity and a marker of non-belonging. Man, woman, and other are not equal categories of citizens. As noted, gender has no place on any government ID.

Theme 3: consistency in change of gender and/or sex information
"We want to provide a consistent process for people with trans and non-binary gender identity who want to change their sex or gender information displayed on government IDs.
We also want to propose a policy where – once you change your sex information on your Ontario birth registration, you can use your birth certificate to change your sex information for any other government ID or service."
The third theme operates on incorrect definitions of both sex and gender. The idea that gender can be authenticated is false because of the social fluid reality of gender, and the idea that sex can be changed from male to female is false because of the physiological reality of sex. 

All gender identities are legitimate. Only personal consent is required to confirm a gender identity. 

Sex is a physiological designation describing bodies. All human bodies exist on a spectrum from male to female with infinite intersex possibilities in between. Intersex bodies are both born and created. People who chose sex transition use hormones and surgeries to slide their bodies down the sex spectrum, but a complete transition between male and female is impossible; genetic sex markers are present in every living cell of human bodies. 

The practice of redesignating bodies as "officially" male or female is entrenched in antiquated trans-essentialism, the idea that the world exists in men and women, and regardless of the body you were born into, you have the right to choose which to be. The point where "official" sex redesignation occurs is an arbitrary line after which the government considers bodies "man enough" or "woman enough". This point is the where health policy conflates sex and gender. 

In medical practice, human bodies exist in five sex categories: male, female, intersex, FTM, and MTF. FTM and MTF are specific types of intersex bodies. These terms are sexes, not genders. That bodies exist in these five categories is not an abstract argument; it is an observable fact.

The Ontario government has a duty to provide its citizens with healthcare, and to do so prudently, accurate sex designations are necessary. The social fact of gender and the physiological fact of sex lead me to make the following five recommendations to the Ontario government as it considers its administration of sex and gender:
  • Enact legislation requiring all public institutions and businesses operating in Ontario to define and administer sex and gender separately and accurately.
  • Remove sex/gender designations from all government processes unrelated to the provision of health services. Gender identification for statistical purposes should never be required for participation in any public service.
  • Administer five sex categories (male, female, intersex, FTM, MTF) across health policies and on health cards, and allow people who choose sex transition the option between intersex, FTM, and MTF reflecting the reality that sex transition need not affirm binary ideals of gender
  • Remove titles from all official government communications. Titles have gendered, classed, and colonial baggage indivisible from the politics of white respectability.
  • Create preferred pronoun spaces on all government forms. 
 Beyond health service provisions, keep your government out of my pants.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wanted: Anxiety Drug Advice

Medical crowd sourcing needed.

I have non-depressive Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I'm thinking the honeymoon with Wellbutrin has ended. Four months in, and I've had no relief from the feelings of being overwhelmed, which kill my productivity and create their own cycle of stress.

The benefits were pretty obvious: more energy, less death/suicidal ideation, but that's it. I'm not a depressive, death/suicidal thoughts aren't particularly a risk for me; they're just part of my mind's natural functioning.

The side effects are pretty shitty. I'm sweaty as fuck (and complimentary self-consciousness about being sweaty as fuck). Both scent and production are affected; I'm told this "may" subside. Second, If I miss a dose in the morning, I'm under the table tired. This happened today, and I had a 4 hour nap before I realized why I was so useless.

I have benzos for panic attacks (which are pretty rare now that I've cut most of the dramatic humans out of my life), but they just turn my brain down. Great for agitation, but again - that's it.

The drugs I'm on are a recipe for happy, but not productive. I'd rather be productive and miserable, to be honest. I can make my own happiness; I can't make my own antidote to debilitating overwhelmedness.

Weed helps with being overwhelmed, but depending on the batch it makes me tired. I've barely smoked any in Toronto due to financial constraints, and I'm pretty sure, even if I got medicinal, I'd have to pay out of pocket. Smoking it is also a bust for lung and oral health.

I don't know what to do. I'm seeing my doctor in 2 ish weeks, and I'd like to go with some alternatives researched. I'm critical of SSRIs because once you start them, it's recommended you stay on them indefinitely, and they're notorious for sexual side effects.

I'm curious about beta blockers, nabilone (synthetic THC pills), or if it's at all possible to get Adderall without ADD. The only thing I'm certain of is that I will emphatically be better off able to deal with/through my life than being arbitrarily happy about it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I would have voted #Brexit.

I should have written this post in a more timely manner...oops.

I would have been one of the anomalous progressive young adults who voted for the UK to leave the European Union. My imaginary vote would have had nothing to do with xenophobia and everything to do with democracy. I like the idea of triggering a series of sweeping policy changes at once.

During my lifetime, there will be no better context to meaningfully renegotiate the citizen/state relationship in Britain than Brexit. NIMBY immigration policies are complete bullshit, but broadening and deepening the social contract in the UK will not be guided by those radical minority ideas.

Progressives have many to celebrate the forthcoming policy changes. In the crassest of descriptions, Brexit is going to lay down some serious real talk on the status quo.

Foremost, new trade agreements will be written in the context of general consensus surrounding human-causes of climate crises, alarming job loss to automation, and the transition to slow and no growth economics. Brexit will acquiesce to the reality that regional self-sufficiency becomes more viable as the social and environmental costs of international trade are internalized.

The successful Brexit campaign shows that internationalism as an inherent good is too abstract of a concept to maintain broad public support. Partaken in exclusively under the condition of sovereign consent, international cooperation, aid, and trade access are the fruit charity, not duty. In the absence of a legitimate world government, domestic affairs will always top political priorities.

Brexit demonstrated that deified neoliberal policy can fall out of favor and be democratically defeated. Economists are not the overlords of the UK they thought they were. Since the Brexit vote, the "value" of the British economy has tanked, but what the fuck does that mean for real people?

Nothing. The rich are still rich; the poor are still poor, and the government is still bureaucratic.

I was genuinely excited about the success of the Brexit campaign because democracy worked. I applaud the Brexit campaign as a project of renegotiating consensus. I hate the racist reasons that motivated many UK citizens to vote Brexit, but the reinvigoration of citizen engagement is an undeniably positive outcome.

I have to be optimistic that logic and humanism will underscore the ongoing dialogue of UK politics. The British brain trust has the opportunity to address domestic wealth inequalities and accept that the challenge of indefinite existence will push humanity toward rigorous planning of economies.

Finally, to the UK youth whining about having nominally harder time living and working in continental Europe, suck it up. The loss of EU mobility is literally the definition of #firstworldproblems.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Banning Police From Pride Parades Will Cost Progressives

Calls to ban uniformed police officers from queer pride parades are the most divisive actions progressives have seen in a generation. While I’m well versed in politics of epistemic colonialism and white supremacy, the average Canadian is not. I understand the desire activists have to problematize policing practices, but I question the strategic value of this particular demand.

Say they “win” and all uniformed police are banned from pride parades coast to coast. So what? Now what? Did the lives of racialized, indigenous, and otherwise disadvantaged people tangibly improve?

Prioritizing the demand of police exclusion is choosing symbolic victory over measurable improvements in quality of life. Police exclusion from pride parades gets us no closer to living wages, basic income, national pharmacare, prison abolition, or less problematic enforcement of the rule of law.

The stinging problem is that activists are ceding the discourse of common sense to right-leaning punditry. Their critics need only mutter a single phrase to derail all the great work they’ve achieved: “unrepresentative radicalized minority of Canadians”. With five words, all their work is written off as dismissable impractical ideology.

We live in Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are an iconic internationally recognized institution. Only months ago in Moncton, New Brunswick, we commemorated the second anniversary of three Mounties slain in the line of duty in bronze. We also boast significantly less gun violence than our neighbours to the south.

It would be naive to describe the tension calling for police exclusion from pride parades as anything other than a spin war. With deadly terror attacks becoming regular occurrences in our news cycles, police forces will not lose in the Canadian court of public opinion.

As Tyrion Lannister said, “We make peace with our enemies, not with our friends.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

RE: Wheelchairs Aren't Luggage

Dear Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation

I am writing you today because of an unacceptable accessibility deficit in Canadian air travel regulations. I am a longstanding friend with Tim Rose, who recently was interviewed as part of several Toronto news features for his hardships trying to book an Air Canada flight direct from Toronto to Cleveland, Ohio for business purposes. Despite my personal connection to the story, accessibility issues in air travel are limited to neither Tim nor Air Canada.

The unnamed and unshamed problem is that structural ableism goes deplorably unchallenged by Canadian air travel policy. The speed of technological advancement is constantly redefining what reasonable accommodation for (dis)abled people means in practice, and transportation authorities have a duty to reflect the most modern capabilities of offering identical services wherever possible and equitable services where not.

Air Canada is not accommodating Tim Rose by offering to substitute the plane assigned to the Toronto-Cleveland route for a model that would meet his travel requirements, because to do so in the absence of a requirement would result in lost profit. I see no ethical argument that a policy of plane substitution isn't the best practice to achieve accessibility, but there is inaction because status quo air travel policy justifies discrimination by design as profitable.

As Minister of Transportation, you have the authority to craft air travel policy in which equity is a consideration throughout decision making, not an after thought that cracks under the pressure of profit motive. I implore you to harmonize Canadian human rights laws with common sense air travel policy and impose a requirement that all new aircraft purchases meet diligent accessibility standards. Further, Canadians deserve an expedient timeline to transition air fleets to capacities where plane substitution for wheelchair users is offered as a reasonable accommodation.

The end goal of accessible air travel policy is a fully accessible fleet. A reasonable timeline to achieve substitution-capable and then fully accessible fleets is unclear. I do not claim expertise in aircraft engineering or airline management, but I hope that you mindfully weigh input from industry leaders against the discrimination by design that continues for tens of thousands of Canadians, like my friend Tim, who just want to travel for business and pleasure like their ambulatory peers.


A sexy bunch of Carleton University Alumni at Tim & Natalie's wedding.

Friday, July 29, 2016

In Memory of Sandi (Jewer) Corcoran

I haven't posted much online about my sister's passing, but with her funeral tomorrow and me being half a continent away, I break my silence.

Sandi was 37 when lymphoma took her life 4 days ago. My heart breaks for my young nieces most of all.

Sam, Sandi, & Abbie
I can't be there to deliver this speech in person tomorrow, so this platform will have to do.

Friday, July 22, 2016

To Make Change, Measure Change

If your non-profit isn't measuring how it's changing the world, it probably isn't.

The non-profit sector only exists because of state failures to deliver human rights and equality of opportunity to their citizens. In a perfect world, there is no need to fundraise for research or social support because stable government funding would be provided by duty, rather than solicited as charity. The end game of every benevolent organization in the non-profit sphere is to be assumed by or entrenched in the public service.

Non-profits are an inherently flawed structure that delivers tangible benefits to society. They are the anti-hero of institutions.

The non-profit industrial complex describes how non-profits, particularly those privileged with charitable status, enable the wealthy to direct social programming and research on behalf of the disadvantaged. Consider that under Canadian tax lax the advancement of religion is an inherent good that entitles churches to a public financial benefit that political social justice organizations are deprived. While I wholeheartedly support amending the Canadian Income Tax Act to remove the advancement of religion from charitable status eligibility, that is not the focus of this essay.

Official mechanisms of change move much more slowly than money in our globalized world. If social and environmental problems are to be efficiently addressed outside houses of parliament, philanthropic dollars need to land in the right place at the right time.

Non-profits sustain themselves by crafting convincing firm-specific proposals that respond to one fundamental question: what information needs to be conveyed to donors to solicit financial or in-kind support? For better or worse, emotional and ideological appeals can be just as effective as hard numbers courting donor dollars.There isn't a consensus on what type(s) of information is valuable to funding proposals, yet.

Social change metrics need to become the new threshold of legitimacy for grant and donation seekers. The lofty claim of "making the world a better place" isn't enough information for governments and donors to make informed decisions allocating extremely competitive funding.

Social change is achieved through three primary mechanisms: policy progress, public opinion change, and improved social/physical infrastructure.

Non-profit funding proposals need to state the ideal they are striving for and how their program will tangibly move the world from the present closer to that ideal. Claims of social change are meaningless without a way to prove it. 

Educational initiatives need to show their plans to assess and measure how effectively they impart information and impact opinion before they're funded. If public engagement cannot be translated into positive changes then what's the point? It is not sufficient to list how many people a program or cultural text reached.

Overarchingly, the most effective non-profits are think tanks. It's time for all non-profits to act smarter and put evidence behind their lofty goals.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

On Friendship: A Biopolitical Diary Entry

Week three in Toronto, and I’ve had the pleasure of reuniting with some of my favorite people. As one with an overactive mind does, I've thought a lot about friendship since I got here.

I hope everyone has those kind of friends who you put an ocean or a half of a decade between, and when you’re back together, it’s like you were never apart, even if you’ve both changed significantly.

I’m privileged to have pockets of these humans clustered in Toronto and Ottawa, and a few spattered across New Brunswick. I realized what keeps me close to these friends isn’t the interests we have in common at all. Some of us never shared much more than a common space, but from meager commonalities grew beautiful meaningful relationships.

What keeps me close to these people is the direction we’re moving: forward. We don’t have anywhere close to the same goals, but we have goals, and they matter to us. For me that’s radical authenticity and making my best most honest crack at the kind fame that can be wielded to for good. For a few of friends it’s making sure their kids have a better world to grow up in than they did. Seeing the world, changing the world, career success; none of these dreams necessarily overlap, and that’s really cool.

Some friendships are held together with nostalgia. The old buddies who get together to relive the glory of days past. Maybe it’s a sweet escape from a life they didn’t plan, or a genuine and peaceful resignation that their best days are behind them. These are not the friends I have.

Some friendships are sewn from stasis, making the best of the here and now, supporting each other through shared struggle and social context. For me, these are the friends who’ve fallen away. My ambition and dissatisfaction with world make these people hard to hold close.

I don’t have the patience to accompany aimless people through their lives. Talent does not stand still.

I don’t need to name the people who inspire me to write a post like this. They’ll read it, and know I tipped my hat to them. Regardless of whether this post was about you or not, dream big and try hard. Failure is much less tragic than you imagine.


Monday, July 18, 2016

@PrideToronto Needs a Water Gun Policy

Dear Toronto Pride Committee,

This letter is probably one of thousands of emails you've received following this year's pride parade, but I assume no one else is raising this issue.

Your parade needs guidelines for the use of water guns. I'm not calling for an all-out ban on squirt guns, many patrons and marchers revel in the cool down, but there needs to be a governing common sense policy that all marchers agree to in writing. Maybe we avoid babies, people with electronics, people in full makeup, people who clearly present as ascribing to religious or cultural modesty, and those who ask not to be squirted.

There is a case for a full water gun ban: the PTSD trigger risk, especially if the people holding the water guns happen to be in uniform. The people holding the water guns can be complete assholes, as my posse experienced this past pride.

Three of four of us were wearing extensive makeup. We did so as an act of pride, protest, and artistry. If you want the crowd to add to the vibrancy of the entire experience of the parade, you have to respect that not everyone wants to get soaked, and front row is not a substitute for consent. I had a full (glorious) splitterbeard (split+glitterbeard - yes I invented this word) and glitter paper letters spelling "T(he)y" - my preferred written pronoun- glued to my chest, and two of three of my company were in full drag. We wanted our faces to last - go figure they each took a minimum of 30 minutes and multiple craft and cosmetic products to create.

We adapted to the water gun reality of the parade and got good at ducking and covering when the marchers with water guns approached. This strategy was effective until the Metrolinx contingent. One of their marchers recognized we were avoiding water and intentionally sought to shoot us. My friend yelled that we were in full makeup and asked him to stop.

His response was the grossest white dude privileged thing I've seen in a while. He said "then why are you in the front row?" and shot her in the face with a generous blast of water. How the fuck is that an appropriate response to asking not to be harassed? When anyone says "respect my bodily integrity", questioning it then vindictively violating it is beyond offensive. This tendency to question and ignore demands for bodily integrity is the foundation of rape culture, and it has no place in Toronto's pride parade.

So add me to the choir asking for a little more respect out of the Toronto Pride Committee.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

You Can't Sit With Us

(First blog as a Torontonian, whoo!)

I recently found out that Toronto is bidding to host the Bingham Cup international gay rugby tournament, and to this I say: "nope".

Give me the killjoy gold star, but I'm not rooting for your gay sports team. If your anything is complicit with binary gender organizing models, I will pass. It's not enough to let gay (notice I'm not using queer) people play sports. Tear the binary out of the public institutions of sport before you ask for public money.

I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't have a gay (or gender-specific otherwise) sports team, but diligence in facilitating equity should be requisite for public funding, Gay sports teams fall football fields short of this goal. (See what I did there ;)

It's an atrocity that sex segregation is inherent to all levels of professional and recreational sport.  In private, go nuts, but if my non-binary tax dollars are going to land in your pockets, I better be able to participate in my authentic gender. Sports clubs and events will inevitably be held to account for the gender discourses they (re)produce, and this accountability starts with popping the (mostly middle-class & white) gay bubble that gay sports teams are revolutionary.

The "You Can Play" campaign is a laughably failed application of gender theory to lived social exclusions. You can play as long as you're willing to pick if you're playing as a man or a woman. Sporting institutions that erase and exclude non-binary and indigenous genders are not equitable.

The Olympics have sex inspections. Do you know how dehumanizing that is for gender non-conformists? If you want public funding for sport, here's the one line litmus test: can everyone play?

Inherently, this assertion means that universally designed sports that accommodate players with (dis)abilities are more deserving of funding than ablest sports. The cultural significance of hockey should be more than enough to carry it through the indefinite future without reaching into the public purse.

We have to administer public policy for the world we want, not the world we assume. Pretending our planet is static and indestructible got us treadmill-of-death neoliberalism; we must not let those same assumptions marginalize gender diversity in sport or anywhere else in the public sphere.

If the blatant gender hierarchy of your sports club can't be profitable/sustainable without public funding, it should fail. So fuck the Olympics, fuck the NHL, fuck the WNBA, and fuck the Bingham Cup. I don't have to like you, and I don't.

Killjoy, out.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fix the Police

I'm so done with "fuck the police". It's a derailing tactic that vilifies individual police officers for systemic issues and offers no alternative solutions.

To be clear, I am writing this piece in the context of BLMTO's demand that police floats be banned from Toronto's pride parade based on the assertion that there's no pride in policing. I do not support excluding queers from a profession drenched in hegemonic masculinity from demonstrating their pride in both their profession and gender/sexual identities.

While I assume white privilege interacting with police officers, I am by no means oblivious to the tenuous relationship between political pride and problematic policing. I'm openly a drug user; I've had sex for money, and I have a diagnosed mental illness. I understand that privileged groups get to wander Toronto thinking the police are there to protect them, and disadvantaged groups exist in those same spaces fearful that the police are there to arrest them.

There are blatant problems with policing and incarceration practices in Canada, problems that can only be solved with suggestions, not complaints. I'm vehemently supportive of basic income and Angela Davis' calls for prison abolition, but in none of my conceptions of justice is the rule of law suspended.

Police forces are a necessary component of the maintenance of the rule of law, but this necessary function has, for many activists, become shamefully overshadowed by social relations laced with colonial, racialized, gendered, cissexist, heteronormative, and ablest contexts.

Fuck prisons? Absolutely.

Fuck the police? How about fix the police?

The core issue of problematic policing is that the police unjustly violate citizen rights. While this problem is huge and complicated, meaningful reform is a much more reasonable response than anarchy.

We train police forces to execute orders, observe and report, deescalate tension, and respond to crises. All of these areas are integral to the role of police in a just society, but required police training is notably lacking in critical thinking and practicing empathy.

So what can be done?

Every police officer in Canada needs to have a crystal-clear understanding of what human rights mean in practice. That starts with every deputized officer having the equivalent of paralegal training. Police officers also need to be cognizant of how social and economic contexts disproportionately criminalize already disadvantaged groups and that punitive justice ignores these preexisting contexts.

To close on a personal note, one of my friends from high school is a proud queer policewoman. My father is retired RCMP. When any group is homogenized for the purposes of articulating them as problematic, diversity is erased and justice is forlorn. When I here "fuck the police", I hear hatred for my family and friends. Exclusion is not an appropriate response to oppression.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

(Privileged) Naked Boys Singing: The Sequel

Like yesterday, but with bigger, less entertaining words...

Yup, I was curt with a community theatre troupe yesterday. No, I'm not sorry.

I definitely experienced some typical *white man reacts poorly when confronted with privilege* behavior from more than one person associated with Toto Too's Naked Boys Singing. FTR, it's a privilege to declare when a critique is "convenient" or "appropriate". Most Torontonians don't want to think about a wealthy slave-owning family every time they're on Jarvis Street, but that's the unavoidable inconvenient context.

My post was an act of protest against the lack of effort on the part of Toto Too producers to create an inclusive show. I have no enthusiasm or solidarity to offer Naked Boys Singing, and I vehemently reject that queers should be less critical of queer organizations and events on the basis of assumed sameness. Our activisms will look very different more often than not. To the quick defenders of the play, I remind you that it is more fundamental to offer accountability than demand solidarity.

I reiterate; I directed no ill words toward any of the actors who performed, nor would I, having not seen the show. In truth, I commend their audacity. I commented on administrative and creative decisions. I did so because these decisions in combination created a palpable "gay men's club" pretext for the show.

There was no effort to use inclusive language in any of the advertising, and the styling of the promotional material unarguably communicated the idea that the objectification of gay men's bodies was a large part of the viewing experience. From everything I've read, the show purposefully resists lewdness. The difference between "musical with nudity" versus "peep show with music" was blurred to the end of reinforcing the ideal viewer as a gay man willing to spend 30$. The venue isn't wheelchair accessible, and I have no reason to believe that respects were paid for our presence on aboriginal lands at the onset or that the venue's bathrooms were made all-gender for the duration of the show. (I will happily retract these assumptions with proof to the contrary.)

There's nothing "wrong" with how Naked Boys Singing was produced, but they can't have their capitalist cake and eat their queer solidarity too. To most, queer solidarity looks like commitment to liberation spaces that take into account people's financial, physical, and social means to participate. By choice or complicity, the production unfurled in a way that was inconsiderate of disadvantaged members of Ottawa's queer communities.

In capitalist terms Toto Too's Naked Boys Singing is peachy. Free labour is propping up the non-profit industrial complex and delivering a service for which there is demand. Problem: a lot of us don't want a capitalist queer movement. "Queer community theatre" means a diligent commitment to creating inclusive programming.

I could have been nice. I could have written an email drawing attention to their ignorance, suggesting they apologize gingerly for the oversight and offer the remaining unsold tickets as pay-what-you-can, but we don't live in a world where being nice gets things done.

Instead, I took a strip off a presumed "ally", nailed a catchy headline, and got 500+ blog views. Yeah, #sorrynotsorry.

In real analog life, I probably stoked tens, maybe a hundred, meaningful conversations about what inclusivity in queer community theatre settings might look like. Addressing the shortcomings of the well-intentioned is no less an important task for social change than educating the masses.