We are dying without you.

If this post has an impact on you, show cis friends on your social networks and ask them to join the Trans March!

Cis Torontonians, especially if you love Pride Week, grab a chair.

We need you.

This Friday, June 28th, 6:00 p.m., at Norman Jewison Park, hundreds of Toronto’s residents who are trans and gender-non-conforming (GNC) — a population estimated in the thousands — are marching for our very lives, and for lives like ours lost to depression, sexual violence, social ostracism, suicide, and murder.

Trans people are marching for basic human rights you rarely need to think about when you’re cis.

If you believe in making the lives of people who are trans a far better experience than the way things have been, and if you believe that we deserve no less the opportunities and quality of living than what you deserve as a cis person, then we need you to come to the Trans March and march alongside Torontonians who are trans and GNC.

Please don’t be a bystander. We need you with us.

March alongside us as our supporters, advocates, and safeguards. It’s the only way we can know you have our backs. It’s the only way we can know who you, the people we hope to call our allies, are.

Help us be heard, respected, and even celebrated. Help to lift us up. Help us to amplify our voices. Help us to survive, even thrive.

Start by joining us on the Trans March. Why?

Besides a great way to kick off your Pride weekend, here are a few good reasons.

Much of the cis lesbian and gay community at Pride will ignore us.

Unfortunately, too many cis lesbian and gay Torontonians will treat the Trans March as something inconsequential. Even one is too many.

Some will laugh at us. Some, like in 2012, will walk right across the March’s path disrespectfully as if we aren’t there. Some will be openly derisive.

Such cis lesbian and gay people have helped to continue a dark history of when Toronto’s cis heterosexual people treated them the same way: disrespectfully. They have turned to the master’s tools. They perpetuate hostility toward people who are trans — especially if we’re viewed as visibly trans.

Why else must we march?

We must march to end cissexism, transmisogyny, gendered essentialism, cisnormativity, transinvidia, cis-supremacist groups, and yes, garden-variety transphobia.

Our bodies and lives, and the decisions we make for them, are regulated heavily through no volition or consent of our own.

We want basic healthcare access without prejudice.

We want this access without having to “prove” to cis people that we’re “legitimate.” We want access to healthcare without having to wait months, even years before it’s given to us begrudgingly.

We want agency over our bodies, our lives, and our health. We want this agency on our terms. We don’t want to be infantilized by cissexist caregiving gatekeepers at CAMH or made to wait for almost a year at Sherbourne.

Like the struggle for abortion rights under the guidance of Dr. Morgentaler, we want unobstructed access to reproductive (endocrine) medicine, if we so choose, for our bodies and our selves.

We want equity, enfranchisement, and personal safety which only cis people have been permitted to have.

We want to be free from discrimination or preferential exclusion in employment, housing, and social services in ways which cis people don’t have to deal with.

We don’t want to be denied access to rape crisis services, gynaecological services, or emergency shelters because of our being trans or GNC.

We don’t want to placed in mortal danger by cis people who first misgender us and point us improperly to gendered shelter services, gendered washroom facilities, or even gendered incarceration by the police.

Most of all, we want respect.

Trans and GNC people are marching because we must. Our existence depends on it.

photo: luxomedia

photo: luxomedia

But many more of us cannot march.

That’s why we need for you to march beside us, to support making Toronto and Canada safer for people who are trans and GNC, who cannot join us.

Who are they?

They are trans people who are not out to themselves or their loved ones, for fear of losing everyone and everything.

They are trans people who are afraid of their parents and their classmates.

They are trans people whose intersectional barriers — as persons of colour, as persons with disabilities, as immigrants, as persons with a mental illness — have denied them the voice to speak for themselves and be respected by the wider trans community.

They are trans people who feel intimidated by a trans community which is steered by the same few faces who don’t experience those intersectional barriers. They are faces who seldom pause to step aside to let those with one or more of those barriers to lead community narratives and policy making.

They are trans people who cannot safely disclose themselves as trans to their friends, co-workers, or colleagues, for fear it will destroy their lives.

They are trans people who were treated hostilely and feel unwelcome in Toronto’s cis lesbian and gay community.

They are trans people who have been violated, picked apart, and even stalked by “men’s rights activists” and “rad fems.”

They are trans people whose life experiences are mythologized and objectified by both cis and trans people, because they are placed routinely by cis people as cis.

They are trans people whose bodies are intersex and have been made to feel shame for this.

They are trans people who have been hurt so badly by cis people’s violence, abuse, and prejudice, that they have become shut-ins, isolated from the social lifeblood which enriches the human experience.

They are trans people who are homeless, whose first priority is to find a meal and a place to sleep.

They are trans people who will be preparing for survival work for the Friday night shift instead of going to the march.

We will march with urgency.

We will march on cisnormative streets. The whole city, even Church Wellesley Village, is a cisnormative place which prohibits trans people to carve out a space all our own.

Cis people who enforce these spaces, like Toronto police and BIAs, haven’t left us alone.

That’s what the Trans March is for.

For a couple of hours, we choose to march where we will. For a couple of hours, we march to carve a space for ourselves. For a couple of hours, the path we choose is our own. As our supporters, you can walk beside us and see where it takes us!

Come to Pride with a sense of purpose.

Join us for the Trans March.

Our lives depend on having you by our side.

photo: Jere Keys

photo: Jere Keys

featured image by Kaitlyn Tikkun


A survey answer.

Recently the 519 Church Street Community Centre hosted an open poll on how to improve the Church Wellesley Village. The survey was coincident with the Jane’s Walks of 2013 which meandered through the Village — including one led by the founder of Jane’s Walk, Jane Farrow.

Survey feedback would, ideally, help to improve community and planning preparations for World Pride 2014, the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area, and other initiatives to keep the Village relevant as a queer enclave within Toronto. The survey was concluded on 5 May 2013.

Most questions were bubble-style, “pick one” responses. One question invited survey participants to describe what they think would improve the Village. This is one answer that was given.

Q: “Thinking ahead the next few years, what is the one most important thing that you would like to see improve in the neighbourhood?”

A: A structural improvement.

The social homogeneity of the Village has experienced a growing revanchism, especially in recent years as personal capital has stabilized the economic trajectory of the Village. This revanchism is an imposition of cisnormativity.

Cisnormativity is a tacit vision which ennobles residents, guests, and proprietors who are cis at the substantive penalty of residents, guests, and citizens who are placed — or voice themselves openly — as trans. Cisnormativity produces a persistent climate of hostility which poisons the joie de vivre to which many Torontonians would hope the Village might one day aspire, as their cultural memory once remembers during The Steps era.

The subset of this cisnormative environment, homonormativity, expresses as an intolerant resistance to intersectional life experiences — particularly when an individual is not white, not cis, and not a gay man.

This is not new, nor is it news. It is a chronic anaemia. Poor lifeblood subtracts from the Village’s cultural and social enrichment potential for the trade-off of a gay fiction — in which the Village, formerly The Track, came into being only because cis gay men, most of them white, rioted in 1981.

This anaemia forecloses on tacit municipal planning decisions made between the 1950s and the 1980s, which corralled together cis lesbian women from Bay Street and Yorkville, and cis gay men from The Track.

The Village is the Village we came to know because gender and sexual minority (GSM)-marginalized Torontonians took that corralling and turned it around as a queer locus of resistance to a deeply heteronormative social culture. (Heteronormativity is also a subset of cisnormativity.) Still, many GSMs have never been made to feel welcome as equal participants inside the Village.

What I’d like to see is a policy-based approach to the curtailment and discouragement of such intersectional territoriality within the CWV. This includes the review of cisnormativity in secondary planning decisions, event planning strategies, and commercial growth objectives.

[Disclosure: I share the above as a lesbian woman who is trans. I’m also an urban planner.]

Intersectionality, illustrated.

Intersectionality should seem straightforward to describe, but with so many layers and social experiences involved, visualizing someone else’s intersectional experiences can get complicated very quickly.

Describing one’s own life experiences — for example, what it means to be cis or trans — can be really challenging when those intersections aren’t shared mutually between people.

There may be other diagrams which demonstrate how social intersections manifest, but this is the model I think of whenever I’m describing intersectionality.

This diagram series represents intersectional life experiences as a gradient filter lenses. Each lens moves along an axis which illustrates how one’s intersectional placement functions as an institutional privilege or barrier.

If you find this useful as a teaching aid, feel free to link to it.

Slide 1: your core goals, dreams, and paths

Slide #1: Where you want to go with your life

Being human means to look forward to new experiences. To have dreams is a part of this. This is where the idea of pursuing happiness originates.

For this diagram, these aspirations are represented by a circle. This circle is you — or at least where you hope to go. This is also where all your intersectional experiences will interact and shape the way you’re able to see and reach those aspirations.

Words which describe aspirations are very easy to see in this slide. Perhaps this is what one’s own worldview looks like at the age of four. The world seems wide open as one is not really as aware of their own intersectional placement. Life’s chances, or Lebenschancen, are coloured by each intersectional experience one finds themselves.

Slide 2: First intersection - intersectional privilege

Slide #2: What an intersectional privilege looks like

Each intersectional life experience is a tinted lens.

The hues are arbitrary, but the tints, from nearly opaque to nearly transparent, aren’t. The social terms for what a tint gradient represents is generally beyond one’s individual control. How the world places someone determines how that lens is positioned between them and where they want to be. That’s the intersectional axis.

How opaque a lens is, meanwhile, represents the severity of intersectional inequity. A lens may be nearly opaque at one end and completely clear at the other. A best-case situation is when a lens has virtually no tinting whatsoever. That’s what facing down misogyny, cissexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, and poverty is striving to do.

Each intersectional lens is put on an axis. The axis can represent ethnicity; sexuality; whether one is cis or trans; whether one voices themselves as a woman or man; one’s economic placement; one’s physical abilities; one’s age; and so on.

This slide shows what one intersectional experience, a privilege, looks like. This lens — here, representing womanhood and manhood — is positioned along its axis with the least intersectional obstruction.

Slide #2 has the lens positioned as it is if one voices themselves as a man. Intersectional privilege is afforded to men. For women, there are greater barriers which men don’t run into. If someone voices themselves as a man, then the path between them and where they want to be isn’t obscured nearly as much as (all other intersectional experiences being the same) when they voice themselves as a woman.

Slide 3: First intersection - intersectional barrier

Slide #3: What an intersectional barrier looks like

This slide shows the same intersectional lens, except as it is positioned when one voices, or affirms themselves as a woman. At one time, this portion of the lens was completely opaque. Each wave of feminism has worked to confront how to make this lens more transparent irrespective of how it’s positioned — that is, irrespective of one’s intersectional life experience.

As a woman, one can still see where to go, but it takes more work to see and reach it. This is what one intersectional barrier can do. Polarizing debates are often built around isolating one intersectional experience and flattening all other intersectional experiences into that one intersection. This tactic makes a lot of people and their unique experiences all but invisible. That’s one way marginalized people can be hurt by others who claim to speak for everyone with the same, singular lens (such as white, cis, heterosexual women speaking on behalf of all women).

Now it’s time to add more intersectional lenses to begin approximating more realistic conditions.

Slide 4- four intersections - no intersectional barriers

Slide #4: Four intersections, with four intersectional privileges

Three additional axes are added on this slide to show in a very simple sense what happens as several intersectional experiences actually intersect and how this stacking can make it more difficult to see and reach where one hopes to be — particularly as each lens is positioned as an intersectional barrier.

The first lens, carried over from before, signifies womanhood and manhood. The second axis (and lens) signifies race, generally. The third signifies whether one is cis or trans. The fourth axis signifies whether one is heterosexual or homosexual. (These axes could signify other intersectional experiences, too, and none are necessarily required to be limited to either/or positions.)

Slide #4 represents a white, cis, heterosexual man. All his intersectional experiences negligibly tint where he wants to be, but there’s very little in the way of anything obstructing his path.

Slide 5- four intersections - one intersectional barrier

Slide #5: Four intersections, with one intersectional barrier

This slide is similar to the one before, but one intersectional axis — of sexuality — is different. This reflects the intersectional barriers a white, cis, gay man might face.

Slide 6- four intersections - four intersectional barriers

Slide #6: Four intersections, four intersectional barriers

Slide #6 begins to show how several institutional barriers seriously disrupt one’s ability to see and reach where they want to go. This slide represents the intersections of a woman of colour who is lesbian and trans. This doesn’t factor other intersectional experiences, such as age, class, and mental health. Even from these alone, it’s not hard to see how contrasted and obstructed her life chances are, versus the white, cis, heterosexual man represented in slide #4. She confronts manifold barriers where he sees very few.

Slide 7- eight intersectional barriers

Slide #7: Eight intersectional experiences, eight intersectional barriers

This slide continues from slide #6 to show how multiple levels of marginalization, as the more obscured parts of the lenses continue to intersect, can completely block where one is trying to go with their life. In this slide, those goals, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and desires are virtually impossible to see. At best, a faint hint of what could have been is visible, but still impossibly remote.

For a lesbian trans woman of colour who is poor, physically disabled, older, and a migrant (or illegal immigrant), her intersectional barriers are crushing.

Slide 8a- what I work toward

Conclusion: a social intersectionality I hope to see for everyone

This final slide is a Utopian model which won’t happen while I’m alive. Maybe it’ll never happen, but it’s probably the only way we’re going to do away with systemic social inequities. This slide motivates the social justice work I do.

Joe Clark.

“…a great site to read if you’re a fervent defender of Muslims or trannies or both, since criticism of either or both is simply not permitted.” —Joe Clark

I can’t find a nice way to say this. The longer Joe Clark isn’t being held responsible for his ongoing hostility toward people who are trans (or who are marginalized by other intersectional experiences), the longer Toronto continues to be an unsafe place for people like me.

My friends, the ones who are cis, might not need to think about this so much, but that doesn’t make the hazardousness of his behaviour go away. It’s bothersome that Mr. Clark vilifies marginalized people so eagerly. It’s more bothersome how so few of his peers stand up to him and say that it’s etiquette they won’t tolerate in Toronto.

By standing up to Mr. Clark, you are advocating for people like me. You are making Toronto a safer, better place for more people. As you begin to cover for me when I can’t be there, it shows me that you’re somebody who’s concerned with my welfare. You may not be able to call yourself an ally. You may never meet me. But when you stand beside me, you are showing a gesture of goodwill — a selfless act of alliance which never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

If you’ve never heard of him, Joe Clark is a local person who writes about typefaces, subways, web design, and “gay money” (or “fagonomics”). He is variously described online as a zealot, a gadfly, and a bigot.

Mr. Clark is a man. He’s gay. He’s white. He’s cis. He really dislikes being described as cis:

“I thought you wanted our support. Stop calling us ‘cis.’” —Joe Clark

It’s not clear for whom Mr. Clark is speaking when he says “our” and “us.” I’m sure he can only speak for himself. Maybe a few other cis people agree with him. He might rest better knowing he’s not carrying the burden of speaking for cis people — not even for the cis people in Toronto’s gay and lesbian community.

As cis people go, I don’t want Mr. Clark’s support. It’s not because I think he won’t be a good advocate. It’s that I know he’s incapable of advocating for people whose intersectional life experiences he finds so completely disagreeable. His support is an arsenic.

For several years, I’ve listened to Mr. Clark on the way he pathologizes the experiences of trans people. His attention, sometimes paired with a clinical coldness, can border on the obsessive. He’s disdainful whenever there’s a chance that known trans people could benefit, participate, or are genuinely welcomed.

Mr. Clark’s cissexist behaviour is no less troublesome than when a heterosexual person pathologizes the intersectional experiences of homosexuality. He may beg to differ. In the not-so-distant past, well within Mr. Clark’s own lifetime, this is what used to happen to cis people who were homosexual. He’s aware of this.

Maybe he hopes that people who are trans might one day fade away once cis mental health practitioners agree that being trans is not a mental illness. Maybe Mr. Clark thinks that nobody will “want” to be trans anymore. Honestly, I don’t know what goes through his mind, but I can tell it isn’t a very happy place. It’s a place of spite.

Whenever Mr. Clark brings up people who are trans, nearly everything he says about them is toxic, paranoid, and contemptuous. It’s in stark contrast to his positive work on public transportation signage and accessibility. Mel Gibson’s a very talented actor.

It’s seldom when Mr. Clark passes on challenging the agency of trans women and trans men, even when the topics have nothing to do with any of his own intersectional life experiences. For example, he remarked on the announcement of a women’s bathhouse social event:

“Let’s define ‘women’ a tad more carefully. Indeed, ‘sometimes women need a space that is just for them.’ That would immediately exclude at the very least transgenders with male genitalia. But, in one of many logical paradoxes tied in with this event, FTMs who (again) insist they are men every other minute of the year can breeze right in because they still have vaginas. Do you think any heterosexualist female, at all, anywhere, ever, wants to be in a sexual environment with trannies prancing around? —Joe Clark

Mr. Clark can feel however he wants. He can make conspiracy theories about people who are trans (or people he thinks could be trans). What’s not OK is whenever cis people quietly let him dehumanize trans people’s lives and trivialize the barriers they face without holding him responsible for the social cost of his intolerance.

Joe Clark likes to talk about the TTC, but he also likes to attack trans people.

photo: erlogan

When Mr. Clark is openly cissexist or transinvidic*, it comes with a social price. His behaviour cultivates a climate of social hostility for everyone who has this intersectional experience. As his animus for trans people is usually reserved for women (and their bodies), he adds to a misogyny which cuts across women of every intersection.

Trans women may have to put up with his abuse directly, but when we turn a blind eye to his transmisogyny, we are helping along the culture of misogyny that reduces both trans and cis women to our containers — our bodies. It’s a culture which regulates us, our legitimacy, and our subjectiveness as women based on the particular conditions of our containers.

(*Transinvidia” is an expression of discontent, resentment, and/or envy of people who are trans. It maliciously regards and begrudges the reality of trans people’s lives. It’s different from “transphobia”, because the feelings aren’t rooted in fear.)

Mr. Clark is also capable of expressing animus toward trans people who are dead. On the passing of a 519 community centre advocate, a trans man named Kyle Scanlon:

“[Kyle] Scanlon clearly didn’t want to become a ‘man.’ Were that true, he would have lived as one and we’d never have heard from him again. He became a professional transsexual, endlessly quoted in the press and appearing on TV and running a transgender support program.” —Joe Clark

There are a few cis people who don’t need any persuading to stand up for the well-being of trans people. These aren’t the cis people I wish to reach. The problem is that when other cis people aren’t speaking out against antisocial behaviour like Mr. Clark’s, it helps to produce two problems.

First, whenever you brush aside Mr. Clark’s behaviour with “oh, that’s just Joe being Joe again,” you are tacitly enabling his asocial hostility. He needs to understand that while he may think or feel however he wishes, there’s still a social propriety to which he must abide if he wants to participate.

Second, while Mr. Clark’s cissexist remarks may not affect you personally, they are affecting the trans person right nearby you. She feels it. She just can’t say much, because it may put her into harm’s way. If being trans wasn’t such a big deal to some cis people, then no such harm would lurk.

(Which trans person? You don’t see a trans person? That’s OK. It’s common for trans people to go unnoticed by cis people. Trans people, just like cis people, don’t have a prescribed appearance, history, sexuality, or narrative. We’re no less diverse than cis people. There’s just fewer of us in number.)

“If you’re a ‘questioning’ youth or a water-polo player or some kind of tranny who needs testosterone in your ass on the government dime, there’s a nice welcoming place for you in ‘our diverse communities.’ If you’re of the generation that made gay Toronto, the generation that was affected by the bathhouse raids of 1981 or was actually there, you’ve got nothing.” —Joe Clark

Here, Mr. Clark expresses his entitlement for being a man who is white, cis, and gay. This is not unheard of among men who share his intersectional experiences. It bothers him that his idealized vision is indeterminately tarnished by the messy diversity of people’s social experiences and their own needs. He waxes for a purity the way an elder on the porch yearns for a return to the traditional values “when things were better.” What Mr. Clark wants is a social conservatism as it befits his own experiences — and at the expense of everyone whose intersectional life experiences interfere with his vision.

photo: adactio

photo: adactio

“For the love of Pete, Rich, stop calling us ‘cis.’” —Joe Clark

I can see that Mr. Clark really doesn’t like the descriptive word “cis.” His desire to have his own experiences described as something other than cis is no longer being honoured by everyone. It’s because the word “cis” is as bothersome to him as “heterosexual” was to some heterosexual people a generation ago.

But both are meaningful. Each description helps bring to light the ubiquity of intersectional experiences which are manifest by the social privileges afforded when you are heterosexual and/or cis. Prior to, such privileges were called the “default” and “normal.” This shaped the way we saw things around us. If you weren’t “normal,” then you were “deviant.”

This is why social normativities like heteronormativity and cisnormativity are very real. So is homonormativity, which has a unique history. Mr. Clark advocates for a homonormativity. Like heteronormativity, it supports the continuance of a cisnormativity.

Whenever there’s a social normativity, anyone who is placed outside of those normative margins won’t experience a social benefit. Normativity can live on as a social commodity with an artificial scarcity worth conserving and controlling by anyone who benefits from it.

It’s as if a few people who are cis, heterosexual, or both, now feel uncomfortable. It’s as if they’ve lost something. They have, sort of: they’ve lost the privilege to dodge critical scrutiny, now that there’s a way to describe their experiences without using troublesome words like “normal.” They’ve lost the privilege of treating people who lack their own intersectional privilege as objects.

Mr. Clark has protested how his experiences of being cis have been described as cis. Yet he shows no compunction when prescribing — that is, to label as objects — people who are trans as “transgenders” (a thing), “transgenderists” (a hobby), and even “the transgendered” (a terrible affliction):

“…drag queens threw their heels at cops at a riot in a foreign country 40 years ago, and that legitimate gay males and lesbians are, perhaps unbeknownst to them, waging the same war against gender orthodoxy that transgenderists are. (Gay is really just a subset of transgender, they allege; transgender is really the fullest expression of Gay. If they try hard enough, gays and lesbians might someday become as gay as a transgendered person automatically is.)” —Joe Clark, on trans people needing to keep to themselves

No one can stop Mr. Clark from denying the humanity of people who are trans, even after they’re dead. Misogynists do this to women and femininity. Xenophobic people do this to people whose cultural experiences aren’t contained neatly in a nationalist, racist box. Homophobic people do this to people who are believed to be anything but heterosexual — irrespective if the subject is cis or trans.

Mr. Clark also cannot expect to have it both ways. He cannot prescribe the experiences of a very diverse population and then proscribe others from describing his own experiences (and how he uses his intersectional privilege to do the prescribing).

Now that describing the experience of being cis is possible, it is also possible to redress social orders which appraise cis life experiences over trans life experiences. Mr. Clark knows this. It’s clear he doesn’t want that discussion to happen, because as it does, it uncovers how his behaviour toward trans people has been hostile, antisocial, and really crude.

When we dispense with the humanity of others, we scrape away a little more of our own humanity. We don’t have to like everyone else. We don’t have to agree with everyone else. But we must learn to respect that people deserve the agency of their humanity. They deserve being treated as a subject. They deserve that their intersectional experiences of personhood are respected — especially by people who don’t share them.

— featured image: tantek