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.