If it hurts, change it pt 2: sex & gender

From the beginning of time until recent years, the junk or lack thereof between your legs has been the dividing factor, the fork in the road, for how your life would be expected to play out. Weird social experiments aside, people tend to be named and raised based on the physical attributes assigned at birth. While I don’t think there’s anything overtly wrong with this (as I’m not a doctor or a parent but I would imagine for the first few years of a child’s life it must be nigh impossible to determine a child’s leanings in terms of gender preference), I do think there is a problem in resorting to stereotypes and unnecessarily gendered products, commercials and media to form a child’s idea of who they are and their place in society. Also, I think if a kid wants to play and/or express themselves in ways that deviate from their physical/biological sex it should be encouraged but not forced.

I also think most of the hurt people feel when they deviate from these norms come from too many people being raised on the same misconceptions and stereotypes. Because people aren’t being opened up to the possibilities everyone possesses as human beings, we try to limit each other to our expectations of them based on nothing more than the skin we see before us.

Hit me like a man (Love me like a woman):

Growing up, I did not relate to the feminine.
In my adolescent mind, to be a girl was to be weak, secondary. The Damsel in Distress.

As a result I got heavy into sports, I wore boys clothes, I hung out with the boys; hell, I beat up the boys (sorry Sam for all the kicks to the balls I thought were so funny in the 4th grade. Not sorry to Josh and Darren who bullied me in 7th grade until I experienced my first ever rage-induced blackout, picked Josh up by his shirt and almost clocked him in the face. Seriously, you got so lucky I never hit you dude. You might not have a nose today if I had.)

I went into martial arts and weight lifting, I cut my hair and dismissed all the things I thought would make me seem girly. Even if I secretly liked them, I thought giving in to the female would make me weak, would make me somehow less-than to the males.

I realize now that I never wanted to BE a boy. I just wanted to be on the same playing field. I wanted to project strength, and to do that I thought I had to reject beauty.

That, to me is what needs to change. The expectations placed on people based on what they look like. Because that is all gender is. It’s what you look like. It’s how you present yourself to the world and it’s quickly becoming an outdated, limiting concept.

It’s time we change how we treat people when they express themselves. People are more than  what the look like. We all have the capability of being multifaceted. Boys can dance, girls can fight. And just because (s)he does one of those things doesn’t mean (s)he can’t do the other as well. I’m glad the youth of today (at least in this part of the world) are being introduced to more varied concepts of gender identity. I hope it’s leading us to a better and more understanding future.

Man, I feel like a woman (and vice versa):

Transgenderism is in the headlines a lot lately. People, when they say they’ve been born into the wrong body above all else need to be believed. They should have every right to change their bodies to match who they want to be.

I can’t imagine the hardship that would come from truly living in a body that did not correspond to my brain and heart. Especially as a child trying to find where you fit in in the world. I think if a biological boy wants to wear a dress and play with the girls (s)he should be able to without discrimination. Same with a biological girl who wants to wear boxers and rough house with the boys. A child should be allowed to live the life they understand and feel comfortable in. This documentary from 2007 is a really great example of the impact that acknowledgement of gender-identity and positive parenting can make on a young trans-gendered children. And this follow up shows why people try to get treatment started before puberty.

That said, I understand the fear people have about these things. It’s an expensive, permanent change that is essentially being thrust into the hands of children. People we don’t trust to get a tattoo or even be alone in the house for an hour, are being given the decision to alter their bodies forever.

I honestly don’t know what to say about this, other than the fact these kids have their own journeys and I think it has to be obvious at some point if a kid REALLY believes they are in the wrong body or if it is just a phase like I went through. I think that once a child’s determination has been set and they’ve been through therapy and they know what they want, society should be as accepting as possible. It is important too though, to maintain a healthy skepticism about crazy parents who just want to alter their children’s gender for their own purposes.

Some kids may get a psychiatric diagnosis when they are just hugely uncomfortable with narrowly defined gender roles; or some may be gay and are coerced into treatment by parents more comfortable with a sex change than having a homosexual child, said Moon, who teaches at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

If your gender is hurting you, change it. If your sexuality is hurting you, change it. If your misconceptions are hurting your friends, family and the people around you… I think you fucking know what to do.

 

 

 

If it hurts, change it pt 1: religion

I keep reading all this crap about burkinis and how nuns are still allowed their habits on the beaches in France and how this poor woman was essentially forced to strip by police and I keep hearing that it’s in the name of public safety and/or feminism. But can we realize that it’s not about either of those things? That it’s our tribal brains lashing out at people who wear their god on their sleeve?  After all, all religious thinking is, in my opinion outdated and patriarchal, but even Christians are trying to use feminism (ha!) to lash out against Islam.

I understand that people are afraid. Things are crazy and unfortunately right now Islam has been the most visible symbol of the unrest going on in many parts of the world. These people who stick out of the white crowd like sore thumbs with their religious garb and (for the most part) their brown skin. (I’m not even going to get into the race argument right now. Stay tuned for parts two and three.) And while religion and culture are no excuse for abuse, they don’t have to be synonymous either.

I tend to agree with the secular idea that religious symbolism in general should not really be a part of public life, but over the years I’ve come to understand that removing religion from society is a fantasy. At least for now.

I’d love to walk into jewelry stores and not be bombarded with the ancient torture device that is the crucifix hanging around the necks of all the headless mannequins. I’d love for the hijab to be nothing more than a headscarf anyone can wear when they’re having a bad hair day or when they feel like covering up. And I’d love for the crescent moon to mean nothing more than the natural progression of the moon’s orbit around the earth and for the Star of David to be just the easiest way for a little kid to learn to draw a star. (Small digression, all of my kindergarten Christmas art projects feature a Star of David because the two overlapping triangles was the only way I could draw stars. I wonder how my Catholic teachers let me get away with that subversive-ass Judaeo shit)

But, I have learned to accept that what I want can’t be projected onto other people simply because *I* want it. And that’s not to say no one wants secular culture. China has been secularized since Mao, and National Geographic says “The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion.” There are a lot of people who side with Bill Maher  and his quest to debunk, dismiss and otherwise destroy organized religion from the main stream.

I would argue, however, that any stance that one group holds, if it negates the opportunity for collaboration and understanding of those in opposition, it will end up only creating more of the same harm and hurt that it was seeking to dismantle in the first place.

Because prejudice comes from the tribal, lizard-brain part of our evolution that wants to seek out and destroy differences, it makes sense to me that we have these problems. But you know what would make more sense? If we can use our long lifespans and ability to look back in history and strive to evolve enough to see that our patterns of dividing, conquering, raping and pillaging hasn’t been the most effective way of creating peace. Except, wait for it, The Mongols! #CrashCourseWorldHistory

Even Genghis Kahn though, whose armies killed and conquered millions and whose direct descendants number in the tens of millions today, acknowledged that fighting religious belief was just too damn hard and instead settled for creating super strict laws throughout his empire of religious tolerance.

While I don’t believe in religion I do believe in philosophy, and in every religion there are great philosophies. Even this post could be seen as a testament to the Evangelical serenity prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”

While I don’t believe in religion, I do believe in culture and freedom of expression. There is something to be gained from listening to voices you aren’t used to, or that challenge your own thoughts and ideas.

I believe in choice and I believe in freedom and I believe that we as a species are more than our prejudice. That we can get along without needing to assimilate. (We are not Borg!)

I believe that if what I am doing is hurting you, I can change it.

TPP Today

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http://canadians.org/sites/default/files/tpp-and-you-infographic.pdf

I’ve been wanting to write about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement for forever now, but it’s so hard to pin down exactly what the fuck it is that I’ve been treading water just waiting for the fragmented information to soak in and start to make some sort of sense.

Because the TPP is such a secretive document it’s hard to find all the awful things it threatens to bring in one place. So here’s my attempt to be something of a one-stop-shop for what you should know.

What is the TPP: 

LABOUR

  • It’s a super-secret trade agreement that’s been set up by the 12 different countries around the Pacific that account for about 40 per cent of the world’s wealth.
  • It aims to lower tariffs on goods and services ranging from agriculture products to automobiles to sea food and beef, thus lowering the prices for consumers.
  • One of the other ways it’s hoping to slash prices is by making it easier for businesses to outsource labour while lowering the standards of pay and job security.
  • It will make it easier for corporations to sue and take action against government decisions. Think Tobacco companies suing Australia for educating smokers on the harms of cigarettes.

MEDICINE

  • According to Doctors Without Borders

    On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

    The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines

  • This will affect Canadians trying to get a hold of cheaper generic drugs and may put people at risk of having to go without medicine that they really need.

CLIMATE

  • The Council of Canadians summarizes the TPP’s threat to global environmentalism in some pretty concise and terrifying terms

    Environmental protection measures: The TPP will include an environment chapter that U.S. negotiators would like to be enforceable. But the 11 other TPP countries, including Canada, object to the idea that protecting the environment is as important as protecting corporations from government regulation. The reality is the TPP cannot and does not pretend to help reduce emissions or protect the Earth. It will, however, put a screen on all environmental policies to make sure they do not hurt trade and investment. The only winner from this situation is climate change.

THE INTERNET

  • Julian Assange the founder of WikiLeaks has been outspoken about the effects of the TPP on online security.
  • For a written bullet-point with the full details of the dangers TPP presents online check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s website, but I’ll try and break it down to some more digestible bites here:
    • TPP wants to make it easier for big corporations to come after public individuals over copy right infringement and make current intellectual property laws more strict.
    • it wants to extend copyright protection on corporate-owned works (think Mickey Mouse) up to 70+ years after the death of the creator. Good bye project Gutenberg and funny Robot-Chicken style parodies of pop culture. Especially because they are also trying to limit and further restrict the concept of Fair Use, meaning companies couldn’t make things available to the public even if they wanted to because their industry investors would be able to decide to file a lawsuit against them if they thought the company was being too liberal with its distribution of information.
    • even if you aren’t directly infringing on their crazy copyright laws, the TPP wants to make sure you’re not getting too computer savvy either. They want to make it a separate offense to be caught bypassing digital locks (also known as technological protection measures – TPMs) no more bootleg streaming Game of Thrones, and expect to be locked out of more youtube videos saying “content not available in your country”
    • and all of those problems are compounded by the fact the TPP wants to adopt some pretty heavy criminal sanctions for things as basic as file sharing.
    • most terrifying might just be the section on journalists and whitsleblowers:
      • Dangerously vague text on the misuse of trade secrets, which could be used to enact harsh criminal punishments against anyone who reveals or even accesses information through a “computer system” that is allegedly confidential.

Please, please, PLEASE if you read all the way to the bottom of this and are worried about the future of the Canadian/world economy, the safety of the internet, the environment, access to medicine and/or the well being of workers around the world sign any of these petitions to stop the TPP from taking root in Canada.

https://letstalktpp.ca/

https://secure.canadians.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1899&ea.campaign.id=43987

http://campaigns.msf.ca/tpp/?gclid=CjwKEAjwxeq9BRDDh4_MheOnvAESJABZ4VTq8-GFvG4iszSm3ooX_IxDtkQBEiMl5dYXDTti7iOUHRoCbiLw_wcB

 

 

 

 

Is identity just a myth?

This weekend, while a short one, has been a bit of a head trip for me.

Last minute my mom calls and says my dad’s 60th birthday get together has been moved up a week. I ordered my gifts online. So they were in the damn mail. Happy 60th. I.O.U. Daughter of the year, amiright? Plus my man couldn’t make it. Probably for the best since the last time he came over to my parents house he was sick with allergies for three days in December. Merry Christmas.

Anyway, I’m rambling but I’m trying to set a scene before I get heavy.

My aunt, uncle, my mom my dad and me sitting in the back yard of my suburban childhood home (well, teenage-hood home) cicadas humming up a storm in the heat and an order of Mandarin fake-chinese food and a few rounds of Mt. Gay rum and diet Pepsi  bringing us together. My little brother had to work a shift at Pizza Hut so hid in the basement until he had to leave. Probably to avoid being teased by his tipsy big mouthed big sister.

White Wonder-bread ain’t got nothing on us.

My family is a group of news junkies with a lot of different opinions and experiences fueling those opinions. We’re also drinkers. Every gathering is a game of word-based Russian Roulette, and I think that’s just how we like it.

I used to hate it as a kid. Grown ups yelling about things in the world I didn’t understand or care about, and then the fall out when people ran out of facts to back up their opinions and so would resort to just cutting up their opponent on a personal level. I’m not trying to bad-mouth my family. I think a lot of white-bread middle-class families have similar experiences. In fact I think being force fed too much politics too young is at least subconsciously part of why I went to school for journalism in the first place.

If you’re noticing I keep referring to my family as white and referencing our socioeconomic status as suburban-Canadian middle class, it’s because for as long as I can remember I’ve hated that we had things that other people don’t for reasons I could point to but not articulate. And it’s only recently that I’ve been starting to forgive myself and my family for their colour orientation and privilege. Even though the idea of white/straight privilege is wrong on its face, it’s not my parents’ fault they were born who they are and they’ve reaped benefits from it. They work hard. They’ve earned what they have. It just sucks that not everyone who works hard gets back what they put in. Just to be super-duper-absolutely-fucking clear: I’m not saying I forgive the culture of white privilege that has plagued the world since England and the Norsemen built their first ships and thought “I want that.” But I do forgive my family for when they say things that to my ear makes me cringe. I’ll call them on it, but that’s all I can do. Maybe it’s not my place in the grander scheme of things to be offering forgiveness. But to me, their upbringing is as foreign to mine as anyone’s. Maybe I’ll change the word ‘forgive’ to just withholding judgement.

I think the Catholic in me is still obsessed with forgiveness and blame. Sin and punishment. Reality, though, is so much messier than all that shit.

I just finished reading Eddie Huang’s Double Cup Love and I’ve been listening to a lot of Angel Haze, Eminem, The Pretty Reckless and old-school P!nk. So my brain has been bubbling over thinking about race, culture, identity, gender, sexuality, rage and why I get angry at the things I get angry at. Why I think the way that I do and if knowing yourself is a goal that can ever truly be accomplished, or if it’s just an ever changing fluid exercise that isn’t meant to have and end.

And maybe anger is only as good as who and what you’re directing it at.

An argument between two white Canadians about hijabs

So. This is a weird one for me because the person I was arguing with is a very strong-minded, smart, mostly liberal person who happens to be a white man. Not as white as me, but for those who know me know that’s a level of white impossible to achieve without either being born with albinism or an appointment with the late Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon.

On this occasion, I think being a white male who’s watched too much news and been sleep deprived for a little too long might have had something to do with his opinion being so far from what I thought it would be.

We were discussing an interview Stephen Colbert had with Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad among other things, and my friend was astounded that I supported her wearing the hijab.

There’s good reason for him to be surprised. I’m anti-religion, feminist, queer,  liberal thinking and very stubborn in the face of people dictating what I should or should not wear.

He said my supporting the integration of the Muslim religion into Canadian/”Western” culture is hypocritical to basically everything I stand for. He also made a remark about how women only wear hijabs so they don’t have to style their hair every day. I’ll get to that one. Last. I’ll get to that one… just, lol, yeah… later.

 

Case the first: who is Ibtihaj Muhammad?

She’s an American Olympic athlete. The whole system had to change to accommodate women wearing hijabs in the games, and in this hate-filled prejudiced climate against Islam it takes a lot of guts to stand in front of not just a nation but the world and stand your ground. So yeah, in this case my feminism trumps my atheism. Mostly because I kind of see this emergence of Islam in the mainstream as not exactly a good thing, but a necessary thing. I think the more religions the masses are exposed to, the more likely everyone is to see the inherent problems within the systems of each organized theism. It’s kind of like a sunburn; with each “new” faith we’re peeling back the mystery, learning new philosophies and (hopefully) seeing religion for the opiate of the masses that it truly is. It also, I think, serves to normalize multiculturalism in a very visual unavoidable way. In the same way, it raises the discussion of feminism and makes us ask the question, is it more sexist to make a woman cover herself, or make it mandatory for her to wear little more than a thong as her “uniform.” Which leads to;

Case the second: Is the Hijab an affront to feminism?

Personally, my opinion is that it can’t be sexist if she chose to wear it. If she wasn’t coerced by the fear of hell, or being disowned by family, or beaten, etc. If it’s something that makes her feel in control of her own body and sexuality I absolutely see it as her right to wear it. If it wasn’t seen as a form of religious and ethnic appropriation, I would love to rock them some days. They can be absolutely gorgeous in terms of fashion. Definitely a much classier way to cover up than a hoodie. And in Canada? Perfect winter attire! No more frost-bitten ears, or having to wear both a scarf AND a toque to keep your head and neck warm. Plus, again it’s one of these visually unavoidable things that force people to have this female equality discussion. I hope one day the hijab debate is at the same level the pants over skirts debate from the 1920’s is today: Irrelevant and entirely dependent on what you feel like wearing that day. But of course I understand that not a lot of hijab wearers would agree with this argument because it is so central to their religion as to be inseparable in their minds. I’d argue though that in 20 years or less, for better or worse, it will become more a fashion statement favoured by professional women who are sick of their cleavage and calves being leered at in the office than a religious statement. One thing time and exposure does to cultural identity, and better than anyone ever expects, is water it down to what will make the biggest buck for the people who stand to make some money off of it.

Case the third: Hijabis just too lazy to bother styling their hair

I know he said this as a “joke,” but c’mon. I’m not letting you live that shit down, man.

first of all, what high-fashion rock have you been living under that you think girls with free hair aren’t too lazy to style it every day? How have you been able to avoid the greasy atrocity that is the “messy bun”?

Also, I have never worn one, but a quick google search shows tutorial after tutorial and not to mention the different kinds of scarves on the market, for styling your hijab. so it can’t be THAT much easier can it?

It’s self-indulgent blogging time! Self-indulgent blogging time! (wayyee at wayyeeat)

Title – sung to the tune of Peanut-Butter Jelly Time. Because I was on the internet one day in the early 2000’s.

Also, I watched that episode of Family Guy today. Which it just dawned on me… the term “rerun” is becoming obsolete I think. God. 25 is a weird year.

But anyway. I recently asked for tips on how to improve this dumbass blog.

Nobody had any answers. Probably because no one reads this. Probably because I keep trying to write news based on written news that I dug up after trolling the internet for so long my brain is fried before I put fingers to keys to even figure out my own thoughts about the information I have just ingested.

Instead of taking time to think and feel, I regurgitate copy just for the sake of having written something. Just spit it back out for the sake of speed, because I’m lazy. Also, for the sake of feeling smart and hoping I can convince the rest of the world of it., but lack the life experience and research and time to do anything other than rip off the info someone else took the time and energy to put together. Plus, it’s an awfully nice way to avoid having a REAL opinion that someone might (god forbid) disagree with or (god… even more.. forbid) correct me on.

But anyway, maybe if I have a couple glasses of wine I’ll start to think my thoughts are worth sharing. I’m probably wrong. fuck it. That’s what booze was invented for, right? Making decisions you know are bad so much easier to put into action?

Shit, already at 300 words and I haven’t said a goddamn thing.

Fuck it. (oh cool already on my second ‘fuck it,’ things must be goin’ real well.)Haven’t used my interview skills in a while.  Let’s see if we can practice two skills in one go.

Steph’s 5-W question period

Q: Who Are You?

A: Stephanie. 25. Caucasian. Sexual identity: ambiguous. Good paying but unfulfilling desk job that’s so close to being the profession she wanted that it’s a cruel funhouse mirror that shows her what she wanted to be when she grew up but makes it also look about a zillion miles away.

Q:  What do you want?

A: I want to witness humanity and bring a level of insight to a  discourse that actually means something and could potentially help people. Help create a better, more understanding future. Make a legacy. Make a difference. Speak truth to power. Experience the pulsing, beautiful mess that is the human race and see how the human experience is translated across cultural and physical borders and boundaries. All those clichés and more.

Q: Where are you in relation to that?

A: Not close. Not far. Infuriatingly lodged in the middle. (lower end of purgatory.)

Q: When are you going to get around to fixing that?

A: I guess when I stop focusing on the fantasy and romantic adventure of it all and start planning out practical options and solutions. When I learn to parse my own bullshit to find the nugget of truth that is what I really want that’s wrapped in the bullshit of the reasons I create for myself to justify what I want because in my brain, what I want isn’t good enough. There has to be something MORE to it than that. Or maybe it’s when I stop putting my petty desires for the comfort of the present above the potentially more satisfying future.

Q: How the fuck do you think you’ll do  that?

A: No comment.

 

Mental health is deadly serious, information and understanding are the only cure


Two years ago a 12 year old boy from Toronto cut the alarm system in his family home so he could sneak out.

That sentence might make him sound like a smarter than average, normal preteen.

His reason for sneaking out is heart breaking. The history that lead him to that day is worse. And the fallout after the fact is down right rage-inducing.

Two years ago, Chazz Petrella left his house. He climbed his favourite tree, where he would often go to calm down after bouts of rage and depression uncommon in children his age, especially from loving and supportive homes like his.

This time, though he never intended to climb back down.

The 12 year old boy hung himself.

This kid went through more in his first decade of life than most people go through by the time they’re 30.

By the time he was nine he’d been diagnosed with ADHD, and to cope with the medication and his problems in school Chazz had turned to smoking.

Cigarettes would be bad enough for a kid his age, but his parents also found weed and home-made pipes stashed around his room.

THE KID WAS NINE.

Chazz would have breakdowns and experience anger beyond the normal tantrums of moody or “spoiled” kids. And those bouts of rage and frustration that, as a child, Chazz could not communicate or control  – made him feel guilty and remorseful for what he’d done to the people and things around him.

But his parents never lost hope that one day they’d find the right help, the right medication or that Chazz might even age-out of his behavioural problems.

By the time he was 10, he’d been in and out of different schools and eventually ended up in an institution. A nice one. And it was a last resort for his parents. But even that didn’t last long.

His doctors filed report after report about what Chazz needed, specifically psychological testing, and yet the home simply refused the recommended treatment

His parents and psychiatrist were rightly skeptical about whether he was getting the right treatment at the place that was supposed to specialize in troubled and mentally unstable youth, and so after only six months, it was more or less back to square one.

then there were more school problems.

No tests were done.

Chazz ended up in another institution.

He didn’t last long their either.

Still, Chazz went untested and therefore, likely, improperly treated.

Chazz came home again.

He ended up in an emergency crisis center after a particularly terrifying outburst.

Then he went yet again to yet ANOTHER institution.

This time, things were so good his parents were able to find their hope again. Until he got kicked out. This time, not because of his behaviour, but because of funding.

The option that his parents were given was out of a twisted fairy tale. They could give up all parental rights to their son and he could stay in the facility, or he could go home and have no more support.

His parents, understandably, could not reconcile making their child a ward of the state. So he came home in time for his 12th birthday.

Soon after that, Chazz was dead.

That’s the condensed version of the story if you don’t have time to watch the video. And is an explanation of this child’s past so you might better understand the pain his family is going through in the present.

After waiting two years, his family has learned that their child didn’t get the care and understanding he needed when he was alive, and he won’t be getting now that he’s dead.

They have been denied a coroner’s inquest into what happened to their son.

His parents are not the only ones who think their son deserved better, that mental health sufferers and their families deserve better. And that an inquest could suss out a lot of the problems that exist in the current health care system, and help the future generations of children like Chazz.

Ontario’s advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman, said Chazz’s case is crying out for an inquest. He has also written to the chief coroner.

“I can’t see an inquest at this point in time that would be of more interest to the public than the heroic battle that families and children struggling with mental health issues take on each and every day, ” he said. “There are so many families in this province touched by that battle.”