So You’re Having An Abortion (in Halifax, Nova Scotia)

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pro choice

On October 5, 2011 I had an abortion in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I had an abortion and it was a surreal, confusing, and alienating experience. The lack of information and resources was mind-boggling. The silence and sense of shame I felt was isolating.
You should know that when I had my abortion, I already had an exceptional amount of experience as a patient under my belt. As a person with a (dis)ability I had been navigating the medical system for 16 years at this point. I knew how to access the healthcare I needed – knew how to talk to doctors and how to assert myself. And when I had my abortion, I had been working as a sex educator for 3 years. I knew all about the resources available to me. And when I chose to have my abortion I made my decision without any uncertainty or regret. I was entirely confident in my decision. For an array of reasons (I am an urban-based, formally educated, middle class, white cis-woman) I am in a position of privilege. And still, with all of these tools on my side, I came through that experience feeling totally bewildered and unsupported. To this day it remains one of the hardest things I have ever done, not because I didn’t want to do it but because it felt like the rest of the world didn’t want me to do it. It was fucked up. It was a wake up call about how hugely important the pro-choice movement is, and how remarkably powerful the anti-choice movement remains.

The abortion debate has been raging forever. Today we’re seeing anti-choice ads all over the Halifax Metro Transit buses and bus shelters. (If you find them as hurtful as I do, you can donate money here to a pro-choice group soliciting funds to put up counter ads). I do not want to humour that debate here. The following essay WILL NOT question a person’s right to choose. If you have stumbled upon this post and you do not (and are unwilling to) believe in the right to choose, then stop reading now. But, if instead you are reading this because you are interested in sex and everything related to sex (pregnancy and abortions being two such things); if you are a feminist; if you have found yourself pregnant by mistake; if you have had or may in the future have an abortion; or any myriad of reasons that have made you an empathetic person, then please continue. The following aims to be a helpful guide to having an abortion in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I will tell you all about what to expect: the appointments, the procedure, the stuff you may hear and the things you may feel. Or at least my experience of it all.
When I went through my abortion a veritable coven of powerful women showed up on my doorstep. They had each had abortions of their own before me, and they gave me invaluable pieces of wisdom and advice. I would love to be able to pass some of those golden nuggets on. If you are seeking out an abortion and are feeling afraid & confused, then I hope this information can provide some reassurance and guidance. Trust me in this – you are not alone.

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The Test:

Acquiring the test and having the courage to even seek it out is one of the most difficult parts, or at least it was for me. It requires a certain level of acceptance. But once you got it, it is all yours and it can be almost relieving to feel so proactive. I got my pregnancy test at a Shoppers Drug Mart. It cost me $29.95. If this doesn’t fit in your budget, pregnancy tests are also available for free through the South House, here in Halifax. If you don’t happen to live in this city, check out sexual health centres and women’s advocacy groups in your area to see if they offer this service. Once you have it, you can take it home and pee on it. Peeing on the stick is fairly easy and the box provides helpful instructions. (Though to be honest, I did accidentally piss on my hand.) Wait two minutes and you will have an answer, YES or NO, in all caps. Typically, the kit comes with two testing sticks, so you can double check. The test does not give false positives. If you get a yes, it is a yes. However, it may provide a false negative, so keep that in mind.

The Appointments:

Typically, there are two appointments that you have before you have your abortion. The first is for an abortion referral. The second is for a blood test and ultrasound.

The First Appointment

Once I knew for sure that I was pregnant, I immediately called the Halifax Sexual Health Centre (HSHC) for my referral. I called them rather than my family doc because I had been there before and I hoped they would be able to get me in to see a doctor faster. Plus, I liked the anonymity of the HSHC. I didn’t really want my family doctor to know. But you can also get a referral through your family doctor if that is what you prefer.

If you go with the HSHC, when you call to book an appointment, ask for a “T.A”, which stands for Therapeutic Abortion. The receptionist will ask when your last period was. As is explained on the HSHC website, if your period was less than 3 months ago you will be booked in for an appointment in probably about a weeks time. But, if your period is more than 3 months late the receptionist will most likely put you directly through to the nurse. In Nova Scotia abortions cannot be performed after 15 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy. So, if you are over 3 months late they will try and help you move through the process more quickly.

When you arrive for your appointment, you are first brought into a room with a nurse to talk about your decision. The nurse will ask you some questions about yourself, mostly things like: when was your last period, when did you take the test, and are you making this decision with or without a partner. It is mostly logistical questions. The nurse then explains your options (T.A, continuing the pregnancy, adoption). They will detail what exactly having an abortion involves, and give you some pamphlets with information about the procedure.

Next you are brought into a second room. This room is an examining room and you have to get up on a bed and take off your pants and underwear. A doctor comes in and examines you. In my experience, the doctor put her gloved fingers inside my vagina and told me I was about three weeks pregnant. I remember finding this really disconcerting. If she could put her fingers inside me and know that, would everyone be able to somehow tell? It made me feel weirdly visible.
After this, you are almost done your first appointment. You go to the receptionist and they book you in for your second appointment to get blood work and an ultrasound done. This happens at the hospital, not at the HSHC. At this time they also book you in for your abortion, which also happens at the hospital.

My experience at the Halifax Sexual Health Centre was a positive one. No one ever tried to convince me not to go through with my procedure, nor did I ever feel like judgement was being passed on me unfairly. I did have to argue against getting an IUD, something which was strongly encouraged by the nurse, but this was easy enough for me. I am adding this caveat not to imply that the HSHC is not always a positive space, but simply to point out the truth that this situation is rarely an easy one. No matter how helpful and fair the medical providers may be, you may have to rely on your own strength and will at times.

The Second Appointment

The second appointment for the blood work and ultrasound happens at the hospital. I had to wait about 2 weeks in between my first appointment and this second appointment.

The point of getting the blood work and ultra sound done is to tell exactly how far along you are, and to make sure there aren’t any complications (for instance, is the pregnancy in utero or ectopic).  When you go to the hospital it will say on your chart that you are terminating the pregnancy. This ensures that no one congratulates you or tries to show you the ultrasound, if seeing it makes you uncomfortable.

In my experience these procedures were quick and painless. I brought two friends with me and they were able to stay with me almost the whole time, except when the ultrasound was being performed. For the ultrasound you are brought into a quiet, dark room. You lie one a table and a nurse rubs the ultrasound machine all over your belly. It is cool and wet and I found it kind of soothing. For this you need to pull your pants down a bit, but you don’t have to remove any clothing. When you get blood work done they just take blood out of your arm. You don’t have to lie down, or go in a separate room or anything at all. All you have to do is roll up your sleeve.

The Way Your Body May Feel :

In Nova Scotia there is legislation in place (which I still can’t understand) that states that a person must be at least 8 weeks pregnant before an abortion can be performed. This is to ensure that the abortion procedure “takes”, though I know that other provinces do not enforce this seemingly arbitrary waiting period. In my experience, this is the hardest part of getting an abortion. To be forced to be pregnant for two months felt like a total bullshit punishment from the state. I am sure that this waiting period is also a symptom of Nova Scotia only having four hospitals that will perform abortions. With few resources, many people end up waiting in line as I did. This lack of resources is also bullshit.

I was pregnant for nine weeks in total. Those nine weeks were one seriously intense roller coaster. It’s strange to write about them now because that whole experience all seems very far away and resolved. But at one point I felt totally shamed and out of control and alone. I remember wanting to Google the symptoms of being pregnant to see if everyone felt the way I was feeling, but I was too afraid. I tried to once but the congratulatory nature of all the pregnancy blogs made me sick to my stomach. In fact, everything made me sick to my stomach. Vomiting was something that my body loved doing when I was pregnant. Here is a quick list of some physical symptoms you may be experiencing if you are pregnant & waiting for an abortion:

  • you may be sick to your stomach in the morning, or at other times of day
  • you may feel more tired than usual and require more sleep
  • you may find the smell of cigarettes and alcohol really repulsive, even if you are normally pretty into consuming these things. If you do consume them, you may find yourself feeling really nauseous
  • you may find your sense of smell is heightened (for me this part was actually kind of cool)
  • you may find you want to eat strange foods (I fell in love with mac n’ cheese)
  • you may find your junk smells different/stronger

The Procedure:

On the day of the procedure, you have to get up really early. You must be at the hospital at 6:30 in the morning (!). They don’t schedule you in a specific time for the procedure, you just show up and wait along with the other people having an abortion that day.

You are first brought into a waiting room where you can wait with your friends/partner/parent/whoever. It’s just a regular waiting room, like any other. You wait there for awhile, maybe 30 – 45 minutes, and then they take you to another waiting room. You must go to this second room alone. You are separated from your people and led through a maze of hallways to another section of the hospital. This is for the protection of those performing abortions. It may feel very scary, but don’t worry, you are just one step closer to it all being over. You wait in a second waiting room for awhile, and then a nurse calls your name. She brings you into a tiny room and asks you questions about how far along you are, if you have a support system, how you are feeling, etc. I remember I really liked this nurse and she made me feel safe. However, I was also really frustrated that I was going over all the same information I had already had to tell so many other people. I wish I knew what the value was of this mini pre-abortion interview, but I still feel confused about it. Anyway, when it’s over and you are done chatting, you return to the waiting room. There you may wait for one hour or a few, depending on how many people are in line before you. Eventually, your name will be called again. You are led into a room and given a dressing gown to change into. When you’re all changed and ready, the nurse will offer you Ativan, opiates, or both. These drugs are to help you stay calm and endure physical pain. I chose Ativan, which was an oral pill that made me really loopy for the whole day. Next, you are led into the room where the procedure takes place. You get up on the bed and put your legs in the stirrups. A nurse comes in and sits with you. This nurse will stay with you throughout the whole procedure. In my experience, the nurse let me hold her hand and squeeze it very, very hard at times. She was very kind. But before this, the doctor comes in and explains to you what is going to happen. They tell you that it won’t take long (between 5 and 10 minutes) and that it may hurt. They put a speculum  inside your vagina and use a needle to inject your cervix with a local anaesthetic. Then they use a series of rods to gently dilate your cervix. Next, a hollow tube (about a millimetre wide) is inserted through your cervix and into your uterus. This tube is connected to a suction machine which will empty your uterus of its contents. Once this is inserted the doctor walks off behind you to operate the machine. You can’t really tell where they are going, or at least I couldn’t. (For me, I was very glad that the nurse stayed and sat with me so I did not feel so alone.) Then the doctor turns the machine on and there is a loud noise and it hurts. It may hurt a lot. It feels a little like menstrual cramps but more extreme. But it does not last too long.

Now, you have had the abortion. The nurse will put you in a wheelchair and lead you into a room to recover. She will give you a pad to put on because you will be bleeding a lot (I brought my own reusable cotton pad and you can too, if you like). You sit down in a big, comfy chair and they bring you snacks – cheese, crackers and cookies. They keep you in there for around 30 minutes to monitor your bleeding and make sure you are ok. Other people are in the room with you, also recovering from their abortion. When I was in that recovery room I cried A LOT. I cried because it was sad and hard and it hurt a lot. It also seemed like a safe place to cry. I am sure they see a lot of tears there. The nurse’s acknowledged and normalized my reaction, and responded by telling me I was brave and bringing me extra cookies. There are also counsellors on hand who you can immediately go and speak with if you need to. I chose not to do this. (I did however contact the HSHC a week later and ask to be referred to a counsellor to talk about my abortion. The person I saw was nice, and it was free, but I only saw them once. I think there is a maximum number of visits you are allowed before it stops being free). When enough time has passed the nurses say you are good to go, and you are reunited with your friends. (I can’t say what would happen if there was more bleeding than usual and the nurses deemed you were not “good to go”. I think this is pretty rare. I assume you would be admitted into the hospital and they would try and sort out whatever complication was occurring.) Depending on the drugs you took, you may feel very loopy and strange all day. You are told not to take a bath, so that bacteria does not get into your body. You are also told not to have sex for three weeks.

After your abortion, you will bleed for awhile. I bled for about seven days, just like I was having a period. So don’t be alarmed by the bleeding. If it feels excessive though, than you should probably make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

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If it was not already obvious, I am not a doctor. I am a woman who had a surgical abortion in Halifax two years ago, and all of the above information is based on my own experience. Nothing I have said is a hard and fast rule nor a universal truth. Having an abortion is not often easy. Those of us who have done it may have each felt vastly different things about it and had vastly different experiences of having it. For example, in other provinces (such as British Columbia and Alberta) medical abortions are an option, which means you can take an oral pill to cause the abortion. Or some people may choose to have a herbal abortion, which is a whole other style of doing things. But while there is no one, single, universal abortion experience, I believe it can always be helpful to have an idea of what to expect.

These resources have more information about having abortions in different parts of Canada:

The Morgentaler Decision
Regina Women’s Health Centre
The Kensington Clinic, Alberta

If you have had an abortion and would like to share your story, check out this website.

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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.

To All Perpetrators of Street Harassment: Fuck You

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finger

I know I gave my official notice and said BRB and all, but this felt so pertinent, and it is all such fucking bullshit, that I had to write a thing. Even if I am on blog vacation. Even if this isn’t about sex.
Because, it is the season.
Finally, the sun has shone for a full 24 hours in this city on the edge of the world, and pale, pimpled legs are poking out. Our layers are shed. Our knees are exposed. And it feels so fucking good. Striding down the street, sun on shoulders, strappy summer clothes exposing soft skin, and for a minute you feel beautiful and alive and safe. And then it happens. Again and again and again.

“Slut!”
“Girl, you’d look good on me.”
“Your ass is so fat!”

Etc., etc., etc. Cat calls from cars. Verbal harassement from stoops. The intrusive, hurtful, and damaging hollers. They are commonplace, status quo, predictable, and expected. They do not vary much in their intention, nor their intonation. The intent seems to  always be to objectify your body. The tone seems to always imply shame. It happens every time I leave the house, and it has worn me so far down that I want to write about it, scream about it, kick about it and cry about it.

When I leave my house, I am usually wearing whatever I want. My little yellow house full of rad women is a magic safety zone. It is easy to feel safe & supported & in love with my body when I am in between those old, crumbling walls with my roommates. So I walk out the door fearlessly, in dresses and lipstick, and I hop on my tricycle to bike to work.
I ride a tricycle because I am a person with a disability (PWD, for short). My tricycle is BEAUTIFUL. It is red and worn. It has two “normal” wheels, and then two smaller wheels affixed on the back to keep me balanced. It was built for me a few years ago by a friend. It was built out of a place of love, and it was built just for me, just for my body. It is my prized possession, my point of access to the city, the thing that gets me going and keeps me moving. I ride it because it feels so good. I ride it because it gets me to where I need to go and it gets me there fast. I ride it because I am not ashamed of being different.

However, based on the reactions that I get, I presume that many people believe I ride this red tricycle because I want to be taunted, harassed and verbally assaulted. I guess people think that because I look so different that I am asking for it. I guess people think I should be more shameful and less brazen. It feels like they are always trying to back me into a corner and out of sight with their words.

“Those are the biggest training wheels I’ve ever seen.”
“Gotta get rid of your training wheels some time, girl.”
“You look like a big baby!”

I hear this all the time, every day. I never know what to say. Should I stop and explain to every person I bike by that yes, I know I have “training wheels”, yes they are big, no I will not get rid of them, and by having them I am not soliciting your commentary?

I don’t have the time for this kind of dialogue. If I tried to explain to every single person who I am, why I am different, why they do not have the right to comment on my body, then I would never get anywhere on time. And on top of that, I would be exhausted and probably broken, because facing ignorance and engaging it in conversation takes a whole lot of energy.

So I just smile and keep biking. If it feels safe, I flick them off or tell them to eat my asshole. Most often, I just try to let it slide off of my thick skin and not hurt me. This is easy enough for me to do. I have been a PWD since I was 9, and so have had to develop a pretty serious hide. It envelopes the softer me and protects me from ableism. It lets me love myself even though I am not like anyone else, allows me to know I am sexy and smart and valuable even if I don’t conform to a hegemonic, able-bodied standard of being. And it lets me get yelled at without getting hurt, most of the time.

But not everyone has this luxury. Not everyone has a skin as thick as mine, nor a support system as broad and strong as the one I have. So, when I was yelled at by three men a couple of weeks ago, I decided to yell back. Not for myself, necessarily, but for all of the people who want to walk past their house without getting assaulted. I yelled back because I am strong and it was safe and it felt so good. It happened like this:

I biked up the empty street to a breakfast date. I saw the three men huffing smokes and crushing cans on their stoop up ahead. I had a pang of concern, as I often do when I see groups of men and I am alone, but what could I do? I kept going. And as I approached them it began. Taunts about my “training wheels”, pointing and jeering. I paused and considered saying something, defending myself. But the facts were this: they were three men who were all big and broad. I am one woman who is small and (dis)abled. I can not fight or kick, nor even bike away quickly. My body keeps me slow. So I paused but said nothing, and as I passed them their words got louder and as I biked away, vulnerable with my back to them, I looked behind me to see them mocking me, imitating the way my body moves.

It stung, of course. But I could shrug it off, right? I always do.

But then it hit me – this time I did not want to fucking shrug it off. Every time I shrug it off, I allow it to keep happening. It can feel like when I say nothing what I really say is “It’s ok, you can say what you want”. But I did not want these assholes to be allowed to say whatever they want. I did not want them to hurt people. I did not want my body to be policied or mocked and I did not want that to happen to anyone else either.

So, I got to my breakfast date and then I gathered a Girl Squad. Within an hour, I was on my way back to the men’s stoop with three tough-as-fuck female friends who fully support me by my side. It was daytime, and the streets were busy, and due to a marathon happening nearby there was plenty of cops around. (Normally I do not trust the police, but in this instance it felt sort of o.k to know they were nearby.) When we arrived, the stoop was empty but we knocked on the door. The men came downstairs and I told them I wanted to speak with them about the way in which they had verbally assaulted me earlier that morning. At first, they denied the incident, as though I would really have made that up. At first they slammed the door in our faces and told us that they didn’t have time for our shit. But, we did not want to give up. We banged on their door and called them cowards and would not leave until they faced us.

Eventually, they came back down stairs and opened their door. Eventually, they looked at me, in all my difference and all my anger, and apologized. They stood their silently while I told them why yelling at me is a fucked up thing to do, why yelling at anyone is a fucked up thing to do, and why feeling the entitlement to take up so much space that you think you are allowed to comment on how someone else looks is a fucked up symptom of some seriously patriarchal bullshit and they should work on their shit and not be such cowardly assholes. And then they said they were sorry. And we left.

That situation was incredible. I have never before faced the people who yell at me . I have never before confronted someone and forced an apology. I have never before felt so victorious. The conditions were perfect – I had a crew of strong women with me who did the perfect job of having my back but letting me have the verbal space. It was daytime and their were lots of people around, so we felt more safe. The cops were nearby, limiting what kind of serious violence or trouble could arise. Situations like this are rare, and though it was terrifying and difficult I am glad that we did it.

However, this does not mean that things are forever changed. My body will keep getting yelled at because it looks different. And this is ableism, without a doubt, but street harassment has all sorts of roots. It draws on all the “isms” and “phobias”- sexism, racism, and homophobia, to name a few. My roommate has slammin’ curves and tight clothes. She can’t get two feet from our door without getting called out. She looks how she looks because it makes her feel good, not because she wants the general public to ask her for a blow job or  tell her she looks fat. But she has to endure this kind of commentary either way, as if she asked for it. She, like myself, and like so many women and LGBQT folks, has to have her sense of safety compromised because she looks how she looks and walks where she walks. Our mobility is limited, our routes are changed, and our outfits are reconsidered if only so we don’t have to deal with other people’s words. Street harassment is a form of gender-based violence that affects so many of us that it is almost normalized.

But I do not want it to be normal. I do not want to let it keep happening. I do not want to shrug it off. I do not want to have words hurled at me, or to feel as though I should change my clothes or be ashamed of my beautiful bike.

I want to yell back. I want to scream a big fuck you at all perpetrators of street harassment. I want to school all of them, so that they take up less space and stop using their words with such cruelty.
Of course, this is not realistic. I can not go around hollering back at everyone, and neither can you. It would be tiring, redundant and most of all dangerous. However, there are some things we can all do:

1) If you are currently someone who yells at people on the street: STOP. It is not a compliment. It does not feel good. It is a fear-inducing reminder of all of our collective vulnerability and it makes us feel ashamed and angry and unsafe on our streets.

2) If you can be an ally, be one. If you are a big, strong, intimidating person (or if you are with a group, because there is often power in numbers) and you see someone getting harassed on the street, stand by them. Ask them if they need help, or just be nearby in case they may need help, and so that they feel less alone.

3) If you are harassed on the street, you can Hollback on this website. Remember that though it may feel good to scream back in person, throw eggs, or do whatever, this may limit your safety, especially if you are alone. Yelling back is fucking great, and if it feels right go for it, but if it doesn’t, share your story online.

4) Read more about street harassment and how we can work together to make it intolerable. Check out this and this.

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.