Prodigy or Parody?

I think I’ve always known that I might not be entirely… normal in the gender department. Purely by fluke, I seem to have grown up hitting milestones in my personal life (in regards to gender diversity) which correlated to the milestones North American pop culture was hitting at the same time. As I explored what it meant to be a woman, and whatever else it was that I was feeling, I was also being shown that it was okay to not necessarily be “one or the other.”

Since I was raised on a steady diet of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was often exposed to gender diverse people through Oprah’s interviews with them. Although these conversations were always novel, to me, they never felt wrong or impossible. Little ten-year-old me thought: Of course there are men with uteruses. Of course some women used to have penises. I wasn’t freaked out by any of it. Gratefully, neither were my parents, and I was able to have very open conversations about it all with my mom.

She had always done her best to help me feel safe to express myself in whatever way I needed to. Neither she nor my dad discouraged me from being friends with the boys, or wearing more masculine clothes. They weren’t bothered by me being the boy when I played make-believe with my sister and friends, and they didn’t mind that many of my friends and teachers gave me male nicknames over the years. Even when I started to write male characters almost exclusively, they didn’t get annoyed.

My mother, did, however, instill a very strong sense of girl power in me from an early age. I was overweight and taller than everyone else from day one, so my mom did her best to help me to feel confident in my own skin. She called me an “Amazon woman” for as long as I can remember, told me to use my feminine powers “for good and not evil,” and taught me about feminine divinity. She helped me to celebrate every stage of puberty; every way my body changed was another step toward Womanhood, and I was trained to be thrilled about it.

For most of my life, I think I was pretty comfortable with all of that. I still am, I suppose. I really enjoy traditionally feminine aesthetics, and many days I enjoy my feminine curves, and putting on makeup and jewelry. I still feel strongly connected to this image of the “Amazon woman” that my mom presented, and I’m still happy and confident with the way that I look… on the days that the gender dysphoria isn’t there. Continue reading “Prodigy or Parody?”

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#YQL – Taking Pride

Despite having recognized my queer identity at a very young age, I haven’t been able to attend many pride parades. Until very recently, I had only been to two parades, both of which were in Edmonton.

Thankfully, I added a new pride celebration to my list back in June. The Lethbridge Pride Parade was located on a downtown street, ending at Galt Gardens, a local hangout spot nestled between the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and a popular mall. Onlookers lined the street for a few blocks, clustered together on the sidewalk and sitting in the back of their cars to escape the muggy heat of the day.

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Onlookers wait for the parade to reach them.

The whole of downtown Lethbridge was bursting with rainbows. A variety of local boutiques participated in a last minute window display competition, and the pride flag flew outside of City Hall. Rainbow crosswalks were painted throughout the downtown core, and are still in place almost two months later. It seemed that Lethbridge Pride Fest did a great job developing initiatives for local businesses and government to engage in.

It was also nice to see that the parade took place on such a central road in the downtown core, although my friend and I almost immediately noticed that the street wasn’t blocked off. Participants in the parade were forced to walk or drive on only one side of the street, as cars whizzed on by beside them. Continue reading “#YQL – Taking Pride”

The Devil Went Down to LA: Lucifer Review

As far as major network shows go, Fox’s Lucifer is pretty good. Its first season, which aired from late January to late April of 2016, featured thirteen episodes of varying quality. It was off to a shaky start, but finished out the season with a consistent tone and interesting characters.

Based loosely off of The Sandman and Lucifer DC Comics, the show’s titular character is depicted as a cheeky Englishman with supernaturally irresistible charm. As the fallen favourite son of God cast out of heaven for refusing to follow orders, Lucifer Morningstar (played by the dreamy Tom Ellis) has reigned over Hell for millennia. However, sometime before the beginning of the in-show timeline, Lucifer became bored with Hell and decided to move to Los Angeles to run a night club instead.

This remains one of my biggest problems with the premise. Of all of the places in the world, why would Lucifer pick LA? I can understand running a night club; the show uses the club’s setting as a scene for all sorts of debauchery that seems right up Lucifer’s alley. But LA? Not Amsterdam, Vegas, Hong Kong? There are so many more interesting settings, in my eyes.

Oh, and also, Lucifer is a police procedural. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who is confused. Continue reading “The Devil Went Down to LA: Lucifer Review”

Rx Marks the Spot: Finding a Queer-Friendly Therapist

In 2006, when I was eleven, I attended a camp for young writers, and I fell hard for a boy that I met there. I had a crush on him from the first time that we spoke. One day, we walked together as all of the campers made their way down to the river. While we were walking, I remember him mentioning that he identified as bisexual. I had previously assumed that everyone was capable of having feelings for anyone, like I did. Once he corrected me, I knew that I had a new label for myself.

Being in therapy had given me other labels, already. At that time, I knew that I had clinical depression and an anxiety disorder. As the years went on, I was able to overcome my depression, but added Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the diagnosis list instead. A few years later, I gained a new diagnosis: having some of the traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. My internal life has often felt like a collection of acronyms: BPD, LGBTQ+, PTSD, with a nice marinade of anxiety and dysmorphia just to keep things interesting.

In a dream world, my sexuality would never have had a negative impact on my treatment for mental illnesses. Unfortunately, not all mental health professionals are well-educated in what it means to be young and queer. (Hell, not all mental health professionals are even good people.) Continue reading “Rx Marks the Spot: Finding a Queer-Friendly Therapist”

#YQL – There’s No Place Like Home

The city I live in now, Lethbridge, is very well known for its wind. It’s not a rarity for winds to gust between 70 to 80 kilometers per hour on any given day (that’s 44 to 50 miles per hour, for our American readers). March 5th, 2016 happened to be particularly windy: research tells me that it got up to 34 km/h that day (21 m/h).

Although I’d already been living with the Lethbian wind (yes, we’re really called Lethbians) for about six months, I’d somehow managed to forget that factor while my friend and I were getting ready to go see DarkMatter perform. When we arrived, our carefully coiffed and sprayed hair was utterly destroyed by the wind. This wasn’t lost on the local hosts of the evening, who made more than one joke about the windy state of affairs. All of us guffawed merrily, and I, for one, felt slightly less bad about looking like I’d just arrived in Oz via tornado.

However, that night was a bit like arriving in Oz. When I’d told people up north that I was moving way down to Lethbridge, I’d had a lot of warnings about how conservative (and windy) the city was. I figured that since I would be attending a pretty liberal University, I’d probably be sheltered from the conservative ideologies of my fellow Lethbians. While this ended up being true, I also learned that night that the greater community wasn’t entirely conservative, either. Continue reading “#YQL – There’s No Place Like Home”

The Other Closet

My journey to accept feminism has been, perhaps rather predictably, deeply influenced by the women I’ve looked up to in my life.

My small-town upbringing showed more in the feminism department than many others, probably because I’d never cared enough to research feminism for myself. If I had researched it earlier, I would have realized that it was really about equality for all gender identities. Instead, I thought that to call yourself a feminist meant that you were also a misandrist, and I often ignorantly equated the term with women who verbally or physically attacked men.

Now that I call myself a feminist, I find these admissions shameful and upsetting. However, I think it’s important to be honest about it, because I know I’m not the only one who has walked a similar path.

From mid-2013 through to the summer of 2015, I worked as a receptionist and sales person in Edmonton, Alberta. I grew up a lot during my time in that job, although that’s hardly surprising since I was only eighteen when I started there. It just so happens that Mo (yes, that one) was my coworker at that job.

One day, feminism came up in the workplace. Myself, Mo, and our manager Barb were discussing the term. I honestly don’t remember the contents of the conversation, but I do remember saying my then go-to line when someone talked to me about feminism: “I’m not a feminist. I don’t like any sort of -ism. I want everybody to support each other. One gender isn’t better than the other…” and so on, and so forth. I’m sure you’ve heard this kind of response before.

I remember that Mo seemed pretty affronted, and I think that my declaration ended the conversation. It didn’t come up again in the workplace, but because I had always looked up to Mo and appreciated her opinions, I started to second-guess myself. Was I wrong about feminism?

I knew I had been wrong about feminism when I watched Emma Watson’s 2014 speech to the United Nations in support of the HeforShe campaign. I am very much a product of the Harry Potter generation, and I grew up worshiping Hermione. When Emma Watson left the franchise and set herself apart as an activist and talented actor, my admiration followed. Hearing the true definition of feminism from Ms. Watson led to a deep shift in my life. I remember crying when I watched her speech, both because of my awe at her strength, and because of the shame I felt for my own ignorance prior to that moment.

By the time I started university this past September, I was already identifying as a feminist. I didn’t know very much about the theory’s history, or its different branches, but I knew that I believed in equal rights and intersectionality. I hadn’t met anyone who had openly identified themselves as a feminist to me, aside from Mo, so Tumblr and Facebook were really my only outlets to explore feminism.

And then I started school, and the flood gates opened up. As I learned more and more about feminism, I realized that more and more of my friends were identifying themselves as feminists, and I was less and less inclined to keep myself in the feminist closet. In particular, two amazing professors helped me to embrace my feminism: Dr. Andrea Cuellar and Natasha Fairweather.

Dr. Cuellar covered women & gender studies for a significant portion of her semester-long class on Anthropological Archaeology. Her approach was one of ruthless honesty and critical thinking, regardless of the gender or theoretical standing of the authors we were studying. It’s no exaggeration to say that by the end of that semester, Dr. Cuellar had razed my ideas of gender in history to the ground, and then completely rebuilt them.

For example, my idyllic view of the glorious “Mother Goddess” who had supposedly presided over most of human history was destroyed. It was largely replaced with an understanding that humans have always been flawed and confused when it comes to the idea of gender identity. Even in cultures where sex/gender dichotomies (themselves questionable sometimes) seem not to have been important, there were usually other ways of dividing the population and subjugating the many in support of the few. Dr. Cuellar showed me that feminist theory is an excellent middle ground for archaeologists and anthropologists to take – and I could also see that it served as an excellent standpoint for me to take in the rest of life, too.

Likewise, Natasha Fairweather often used feminist theory as a more well-rounded alternative to the often polarizing extremes of Sociological thought. She was my professor for my first Sociology class, in the same semester as Dr. Cuellar’s Anthro/Arky class, and I could probably sing her praises for an entire article. It was Natasha who gave me a proper timeline of the waves of feminism, and introduced me to the various identifiers that feminists use (ie. Liberal, social, radical, etc.). It was also Natasha that showed me how one could actively integrate feminism into their life, both personally and professionally, without becoming a misandrist.

During this very formative semester, I posted something on Facebook about being a feminist. Shortly thereafter, Mo sent me a text that said she was happy to see that I was identifying myself as such. She told me about how shocked she’d been when I had actively denied being a feminist, back in Edmonton, because everything she’d known about me prior to that moment had indicated that I was a feminist. I felt intensely gratified that my friend had recognized this change in my thought.

My feminism is something I wear on my sleeve, now. I talk about it regularly. I do my best to educate my friends and family when they have questions, and I also shut up and listen in the more common event that they know a lot more than me. Hell, it’s even become a significant part of how I choose what TV shows to watch (Jessica Jones or The Ascent of Woman, anyone?). My feminism is central to my identity, right up there with my sexuality and spirituality. I am intensely grateful for the many amazing women who have guided me to this place, from friends, to coworkers, to professors. Because of them, I’ve learned that the patriarchy hurts all of us, regardless of our gender identity, and that we all need to actively work to eradicate it.

I’m proud to say that I’ve come a heck of a long way from the naïve girl who moved to Edmonton back in 2013, and I’m very excited to see where I go next. I want you to know that if you’re questioning your identity as a feminist, it gets better. Go ahead and come out of that other closet. We’re waiting to welcome you with open arms.


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Out of This World

Go ahead and try to hit me if you’re able,
Can’t you see that my relationship is stable,
I can see you hate the way we intermingle,
But I think you’re just mad ‘cause you’re single!

Estelle’s rich voice moves effortlessly over a catchy synth track. The music is paired with animation of a curvy, three-eyed woman singing while she fights a tattooed woman with a gemstone nose. They also happen to be on a spaceship. This clip was my introduction to Steven Universe, and if that doesn’t make you want to watch the show already, then I’m not sure that we can be friends. (Full disclaimer: the show doesn’t always feature sweet musical numbers like this.)

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Jasper (left, Kimberly Brooks) fights the agile Garnet (right, Estelle).

The Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe might seem like a lot to take in, at first. Thankfully, the series takes it slow with its world building. The show’s namesake is a pre-pubescent human boy… sort of. He’s also the son of Rose Quartz (Susan Egan), leader of the Crystal Gems. Rose Quartz sacrificed herself so that Steven (Zach Callison) could be born. Since then, he’s been raised by the remaining members of the Crystal Gems: Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), and Pearl (Deedee Magno). His very human dad, Greg Universe (Tom Scharpling), is also an important presence in his life.

The Crystal Gems are a group of rebellious aliens who have been protecting Earth from their Homeworld for thousands of years. As the newest member of the group, Steven struggles to control the powers that he inherited from his mother. However, what Steven lacks in badass alien abilities, he makes up for in pure joie de vivre. He’s always asking questions, seeking adventure, and demonstrating an unmatched compassion for those around him. Steven is a grounding force for each of his super-powered guardians, and a deeply loving son to his bumbling father.

Of course, Steven’s not the only reason to love this show. All of the characters are charming and interesting in their own way, if not a bit perplexing at times.

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I’m talking about you, Onion.

On top of the stellar cast, the series is beautifully animated, well-written, and features an outstanding soundtrack. As if all of this weren’t enough, the Emmy nominated Steven Universe is also very queer-friendly. All of the full-blooded aliens in the show (both Crystal Gems and Homeworlders alike) present as feminine humanoids who use she/her pronouns – automatically making any romantic pairings between Gems queer. Warning: there be spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Out of This World”

Boxed In

When I ended my last relationship, I decided that from then on, I was only going to date people who identified as women. Although I’d been emotionally attached to plenty of my female peers over the years, the closest I had ever come to actually dating a girl was when I was thirteen. Knowing that preteen relationships are hardly a paragon of stability and understanding, I was determined to try again.

Unfortunately, this decision also coincided with a return to the dating apps which had led me to the not-so-great relationship I had recently left. Some of you may find this shocking (none of you will find this shocking), but people tend to make really big assumptions about who you are as a person when they look at your online dating profile, and they tend not to change those opinions once they’re formed. Continue reading “Boxed In”

Quietly Queer

About a week ago, my grandma called me. We barely got through the pleasantries before she started to cry, and thanked me for the card that I had sent her. When she told me that she wasn’t sure that she “deserved all that,” I immediately started to choke up, too. I had sent her a Mother’s Day card on a whim, just to tell her that I loved her and was inspired by her. I’d barely even thought about it. But to grandma, it meant the world. This is the kind of relationship my grandmother and I have. It really is something special, something that I struggle to put into words.

When I lived in Edmonton for a couple of years, I had a lot of trouble with housing arrangements, and ended up living with my maternal grandparents for most of my time there. It was hard, in the beginning, but as I matured and we got used to each other, it became intensely positive. We would all go on little dinner and ice cream dates, sit out on the deck and chat, eat slices of apple before bed. She would hold me when I was crying, help me when I was in crisis, and make me laugh every day. We became dear, dear friends. The entire time, I was keeping a secret. Continue reading “Quietly Queer”

Vampires and Werewolves and Queers! Oh My!

I would make out with almost every protagonist featured in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. There, I’ve said it! Each and every one of them has their own delightfully unique appeal, once you’ve seen past their (usually numerous) faults. With the third season having premiered in Canada on May 3rd, I figured that it was a good time to review how the show has dealt with queer relationships up until now.

First, it’s necessary to say: this article will contain minor spoilers. With a cast as numerous as Penny Dreadful’s, there’s no way for me to explain any of these relationships without naming names. I’m going to do my utmost not to reveal any of the biggest twists of the series, but you’ve been warned! Spoiler-y content below. Continue reading “Vampires and Werewolves and Queers! Oh My!”