Halifax Dyke & Trans March

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dyke&trans

This past weekend I spoke at the Halifax Dyke & Trans march. The march is an especially rad event, one of my favourite parts of Pride week. It is such a radical and important action because it happens outside of those events which are “permitted” by the city. It happens of its own accord, without extending any invitation to the police. And it began happening out of a need to make Pride a more radical and inclusive event, one not centred on pink dollars but instead on building community and taking back space.

When I was asked to speak, I felt unsure. I wondered about whether or not I was “queer enough” to speak at such an important, queer event? I wondered about who I am, what I call myself, how and where I fit in, and what these labels all mean? I wondered and I wondered and I wondered and I realized that the word queer fits. It fits because its broadness allows me space to wiggle in. I can take the five letters of ‘queer’ and spread ’em open, making them fit to my body and desires. They can cover all my curves, can name all my needs. Queer lets me redefine love, and beauty and my sense of self. It leans left with my politics, and fits right in between my legs. It’s beautiful and fluid and it is defined in all sorts of ways, as evidenced here.

In the end, I felt good about being welcomed into, and participating in, the Dyke & Trans march.

Below is my speech.

I spend a lot of time thinking about labels. They direct and inform everything I do, from adding the spice carefully labelled “Paprika” to my soup, to reshelving the books in the section labelled “Queer Culture”. They act as guide posts. They tell you where things go and they tell you who people are. They are powerful, helping us find community. They are potent, letting us find a place that feels right and a love that feels safe. If used incorrectly, they can be dangerous, leading to exclusion and hurt.

I have labelled myself carefully. It has taken a long, long time.

When I was nine I was in a car accident. This accident did not give me the label “person with a disability”. I spent years denying that label actually. I was not “disabled” I was just different. I did not want to be a person with a disability because in the world that we live in that label too often means “weaker than”. It means “less able”. It means “not as good as”. I did not want to be those things. But eventually, after many years of thinking and being in this world, I chose the label “person with a disability”. I chose it carefully and with pride. I looked at it and I held it and I loved it. I realized that being a person with a disability is powerful. It means that I get to think about everything critically, from the complexities of getting down the street to finding an apartment. It means that I am inherently exempt from an able-bodied and hegemonic standard of being. It means I am constantly aware of, in touch with, and in awe of my body, grateful for the way it supports me.

The label queer is one I flirted with for a long time. I have stuck it on my body and then peeled it off again, over and over. Choosing labels is not easy. I have wondered if I am queer enough. I have wondered about the way that I look, the way that I pass. I have considered the cis-men and cis-women I have loved, and all of those people who don’t conform to that restrictive gender binary who I am so often attracted to. I think about the politics I subscribe too, the way they bend to the left and are so very far from straight. I have spent a lot of time working on my own internalized homophobia and preconceived ideas of who I should be.

Today, I stand in front of you with the label “queer woman with a disability”  proudly displayed across my chest. I have metaphorically sewed it on tight, as it is not to be reconsidered. After a lot of time spent thinking, I have figured some things out. I have looked at queer, just like I once looked at “person with a disability” and I have chosen it with intention. Like disability, queer is powerful. To quote Ed Ndopu, a queercrip femme men of colour from Ottawa: “Queer makes room for my femmeness and disability embodiment. It means radiant darkness, radical love, and a million and one ways to resist and decolonize.”

The labels queer and person with a disability fit well together and I am honoured to hold them both. They fit together because they both involve resistance – resistance against those tired ideas of what and how one should be, resistance against presumed and ill-fitting “truths” about the world. And in this resistance, both of these words work to create a much-needed space – space for bodies to be whole and valued in and of themselves, space for beauty and love to be redefined.

Today, this coming together of bodies, of people who are queer, who are dykes, who are trans, who are gay, and who are allies, this is powerful too. We have each of us, I imagine, gone through our own process of self-identifying. We have sifted, or are still sifting, through our options. And we may have each arrived at different conclusions. We may each have different words that we use for ourselves. Some of us may be able-bodied, some of us may be trans, some of us may call ourselves people of colour, some of us may call ourselves gender queer. Each of these labels are very different and they speak to very different experiences and ways of being in the world. But in the act of choosing them, or in coming to hold them with pride, we have each of us gone through our own process of resistance. We have each of us in our own ways worked against systems of oppression that would otherwise call our bodies “other” or “not as good as”. We have each of us chosen to love ourselves boldly, to hold our labels strongly, and to defiantly be who we are.

It is important that we come together, like we are today, and support each other in each of our individual defiances of the norms. When we support one another  we are allowing our resistance, in whatever form it takes, to flourish and to grow. When we gather as a group we can remind one another that we are working together against systems of oppression, that we are not alone. When we march together, at our own various paces and in our own ways, outside of an officially “permitted” parade, we are resisting together as a collective and that has so much strength.

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#ASK FIRST

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So, this is what happened.

I heard Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ (who hasn’t?) and had one of those visceral reactions that you aren’t sure what to do with. My fists clenched. My stomach churned. That acrid taste of vomit reached up into the back of my throat.
Then I saw the music video and actually barfed in my mouth. Actually.
The extreme objectification of women, the laissez faire attitude about crossing women’s boundaries (“you know you want it”?!?), and Thicke’s smug expression were absolutely unbearable. Something had to be done.

Many rad folks have been critiquing Thicke and his shitty, smash hit. The ways in which it legitimizes sexual assault, degrades women, and further upholds rape culture have been written about all over the place. And still the song has continued to top the charts and burrow into our ears. So I wanted to do something different. Rather than write about all of my outrage, I instead went to my pal Mary with the inkling of an idea. She, using her extreme intelligence and amazing vocal skills, took Thicke’s song, rewrote it, and envisioned  a way better, sexier music video. Our friend Brendan shot and edited our vision, and all of our friends danced in it.

To quote Mary:

Art is powerful, and we are in awe of rad artists who write political rhymes. Writing this song and making the video is one of the ways we’re doing our best to promote enthusiastic consent and sex positivity in a shitty, heteronormative, patriarchal culture that objectifies women, normalizes rape, and blames survivors for their assault because they had “blurred lines” or because something they said, did, or were wearing made their perpetrator “know they wanted it.”

We don’t want to have to listen to Robin Thicke tell us he knows we want it over such a damn catchy beat. We wanna dance to music that’s sexy and radical.

The woman is a fucking genius. I can’t say it any better. So, I will leave it at that.
Enjoy! Please consensually get down to our version as often as you see fit.
See the original vid here, and download the song to play at all your sexy parties here.

(Lyrics & Credits below)

Lyrics

Everybody listen up
Everybody listen up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say
If you can’t read from the same page
Just watch this video
Baby and then you’ll know
To respect your lover’s lines

So he is popular, played on the radio
Makes money in rape culture by degrading you
But we don’t have to take it
Hey, hey, hey
No we can recreate it
Hey, hey, hey
Just let me demonstrate it

And that’s why you need to ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Consent is sexy
Shows you respect me
I’ll tell you what I need

Ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Cause if you grab me
I’ll get nasty
I’ll break your fucking knees

Why do fucking dudes think
a skirt means I want their dick?
I can get myself off
Keep your penis in your pants, Robin Thicke
Are you compensating?
Hey, hey, hey
You think you’re x-rated?
Hey, hey, hey
This what you teach your babies?
Hey, hey, hey

So he is popular, played on the radio
Makes money in rape culture by degrading you
But we don’t have to take it
Hey, hey, hey
No we can recreate it
Hey, hey, hey
Just let me demonstrate it
Hey, hey, hey

And that’s why you need to ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Consent is sexy
Shows you respect me
I’ll tell you what I need

Ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Cause if you grab me
I’ll get nasty
I’ll break your fucking knees

One thing I ask of you
Could I be the one who goes down on you?
Love the taste of you, the smell of you
But if you’re not into it that’s cool too
So just let me know if you want me to
Or tell me other things you like to do
Strap ons, butt plugs, back rubs and lube
If it’s consensual then it’s all cool
If you’re not feeling it, babe it’s fine
Then we can just go out to dine
Take you to the movies or for a swim
And you don’t owe me a single thing
You know I love when you ask what I want
And what I want now is your mouth on my cunt
Suck hard, lick soft, slip your fingers in
I want them all, but thanks for checking in!

Pass the vibe, get down, get up
Does that feel good? Does that feel good?
Baby like it should
Hey!

Don’t worry, I got dams, condoms, gloves to use for later
It’s good to come prepared, I like when sex is safer
Here’s my confession
Hey hey hey
I like these check ins
Hey hey hey
‘Fore we get sexin’

And that’s why you need to ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Consent is sexy
Shows you respect me
I’ll tell you what I need

Ask first
No way to know I want it
No way to know I want it
Unless I say I want it
Ask first
Cause if you grab me
I’ll get nasty
I’ll break your fucking knees

Everybody listen up
Everybody listen up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

Credits

Dance Dance Revolutionaries:
Alia
Beige Taupe
Brendan Anckaert
Cat
Emily “Bass Face” Davidson
J. Mary Burnet
Kaitlyn Ruth
Kaleigh Trace
Ma’am Stash
Rebecca R.
Smarzipan
Swayback
Tamara Huxtable
Vee

Directors: J. Mary Burnet & Brendan Anckaert
Videographer & Editor: Brendan Anckaert
Written & Performed by: Kaleigh Trace & J. Mary Burnet
Thank you One Block Barbershop and Venus Envy