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.

#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

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rainbow

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We’re right in the dirty middle of Pride here in Halifax, NS.
Hearts are racing, pulses are beating, our breathe comes heavy, and we’re all about to reach our collective Rainbow Climax.

This will be my fourth year “working” Pride.
I say “working” because that’s what I do during Pride Week – I work it (not werk it).
As an employee of the queerest sex shop in town, and the one & only distributor of all things rainbow, Pride for me means a week of loooong days dealin’ dildos & running workshops.

And for a long time, that is all Pride meant for me. A whole lot of work.

I always kind of felt like it wasn’t really my party.
See, I’m not the gayest girl I know.
I ain’t no hard as fuck femme, nor a babely butch. I don’t call myself gay, queer, bi, trans, or even straight. I’m no bear, no cub, no otter. I’d love to be a leather daddy, but that’ll have to wait for another lifetime. I can’t rightly claim to be a boi, a dyke, a lesbian,  or gender queer. I would not say I’m a twink, a fag, a queen, or a king.
I can wiggle my way into jeans that are too tight & shorts that are too short, but I just can’t seem to make any of these labels fit my contours.
Maybe my official colour is just a shitty brown, smooshing together all the colours of the rainbow into some unnameable desire to love and fuck all the sorts of people there are. Is there a colour for sort of straight ? Or a colour for kind of queer? What do you call yourself if your indifferent, in the middle, and just plain easy?

Anyway, being of an undefinable sexual orientation, I’ve always kind of felt like Pride ain’t my Party. I mean, I look straight and I am most often in straight relationships. I have never had to experience any social exclusion or state oppression on account of my appearance, or my gender identity, or my sexual orientation.

So, Pride has been something I work, not werk.

But, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, as I restock rainbow boas and redesign the placement of the rainbow Beanie Babies, and I realized that sometimes I’m a bonehead and that sometimes I am wrong. The kind of person I fuck  is actually pretty irrelevant to celebrating Pride. Pride is about a lot of things. It is about celebrating who you fuck, but it’s about so much more than that too. (And bear with me, because I’m about to lay on the camembert.)

Celebrating Pride is about celebrating the right to love. While everyone’s right to love whoever they want should be obvs, it clearly isn’t. Across the United States, the same-sex marriage debate continues (for reals). In Canada, you can marry whoever, but fucking whoever is a bit more problematic. For example, men can love other men, but if they have sex with them, they are banned from donating blood, furthering homophobic ideas about the sexual practices and STI-statuses of gay men. Closer to home, just last summer a hunky pair of gays I know had to deal with homophobic assholery when they showed their love by sharing a kiss out in public. So, evidently the right to love whoever you wanna is still up in the air. Considering this, Pride Week, and it’s unabashed Rainbowed celebrations, are pretty important.

Celebrating Pride is about celebrating the babeliness of whatever hot bod you got. Bodies that are queer, that are trans, that don’t conform to that messy gender binary the world somehow still believes in continue to face systemic oppression on the regs. Bathrooms, forms & bureaucracy of all sorts force us into one category or another, and leave no room for anything else. Even getting around, especially by air transit, isn’t allowed if your body doesn’t fit in with the powers that be. The Identity Screening Regulations applied in airports across Canada indicate that a person can be disallowed from flying if  they “do not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.” While the state continues to oppress all gender non-conformers without inhibition, Pride Week is important in that it has the power to bring trans issues to the forefront.

Celebrating Pride is about making the world safer. That the world is still unsafe for all us sexual deviants shouldn’t shock you. But, if it does, I ask you to recall the multiple teen suicides that happened just two years ago across America, as gay teens (or teens who were perceived as gay) ended their lives rather than continue to deal with the pain and violence inflicted upon them by their peers. If it shocks you, then you should know just two weeks ago in Edmonton an openly gay university student was beat up while his attackers issued homophobic slurs. And you should know that in Canada hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are more common than any other form of hate crime. Pride works against this violence by making LGBTQ communities more ubiquitous, showing that there are in fact strong queer communities in big cities and small towns all across the country.

There are still a lot of qualms I have with Pride. It’s heart-breaking that it has become a corporately sponsored parade which is permitted by the city, rather than a march performed in fierce opposition to those systems in power which exclude queer bodies. The overwhelming presence of government and corporately sponsored floats has turned Pride into something that can be bought – it too often feels like it’s about pink dollars, not politics. Businesses participate in the parade while they continue to show little to no visible support of LGBTQ rights throughout the rest of the year (since when is the Mac Pass gay?). And the purchasing power of big business and government bodies means that Pride is shaped by capitalist interests and values, eliminating it’s ability to critically examine and work against the systemic oppression that continues to marginalize queer voices. As Pride has aged and grown bigger, it has lost it’s political edge, something which isn’t worth celebrating.

Luckily, the Rainbow Season offers up radical alternatives where folks can celebrate themselves without buying into corporate Pride and depoliticized parades. This year in Halifax there is The Dyke and Trans March and Queer Punx Come Out!.

Pride, especially the alternative events such as these, is important, regardless of whatever colour you are on the rainbow, even if that colour is poop brown, even if you are straight, even if you are undefinable. Because Pride is the opposite of shame. It’s about loving something the world tried to teach you wasn’t worth loving, was in fact worth hiding. And celebrating that, that unwillingness to be shamed, should be everyone’s party.