Friday, 30 December 2011
The bullying in my home room was less, but I was still a deeply isolated, depressed person. The consuming, overwhelming nature of my crushes was something I struggled with. Looking back, I think a couple of things were happening. I was projecting my inner feminine side on to my crushes, hence I was trying to reclaim a part of myself. I was also trying to find someone to connect with as I felt almost no connection to anyone or anything by that point. When I was rejected, it felt like being annihilated. That November, 1983, I decided I would take my own life. I lived on the eighth floor of a twenty-three floor highrise. One day, late in the afternoon, I went out onto my balcony and looked down into the fog and mist that was so thick it almost obscured the ground. The neighbouring highrises were hidden above their seventh or eighth floors. With the TV on in the living room behind me, I closed the sliding door. My pet budgie was chirping away in the background. I then got up to sit on the balcony ledge. I sat there for some period of time before deciding against doing it. I made no mention of this when my mother got home from work.
Instead, I made an appointment with the school counsellor the follow day. I had a few sessions where I told her what I had almost done and what had been happening to me (minus the summer incident which I had buried in the back of my mind). I really did not want my family to find out, but my counsellor obviously thought my situation was serious enough to call my mother at work. She came home concerned one afternoon. We began to talk about how I was feeling although the "why" had become vague.
I would continue to struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies for years, but for the first time I knew I could get help. My teacher had become aware of my situation. One time, I was summoned on the intercom to the counsellor's office for a session. I left the class portable to go the main building. I heard later that someone had said something disparaging about me after I left. I also heard that the teacher had managed to get everybody to question just what they had against me; she told them what I had been going through. Everyone seemed to realize that they had none. Perhaps, at that age in those days, we could still feel some remorse. When I came back from the counsellor's office, I came back to a different class altogether.
My mother, meanwhile, had to be hospitalized that November for a cyst, the first of many increasingly complicated medical problems. I felt the sadness and fear that I might lose her. In mid-December, I she sent me back to Montreal for the holidays and she followed a week later. We were supposed to go back to Ontario after New Year's Day. But right after Christmas, my mother had to go into the hospital to had her cyst (apparently the size of a lemon) removed. It would take her two months to recover. My extended stay in Montreal would become one of the defining periods in my life; the introspection I was allowed would help me develop my inner creative resources in ways that still help me today.
To be continued ...
Edit: I will continue my autobiographical series in January as I will be preparing a post looking back at the events of 2011 over the next few days. Thanks for reading! Vanessa
Thursday, 29 December 2011
While the bullying continued at school, my mother, at odds with my grandparents over having moved to Ontario, became emotionally dependent on me. One example of this was that I was expected to buy her birthday gifts; a card was not enough. On a couple of occasions, I went without dinner over this. In retrospect, I can see that both of us were under an incredible amount of stress, but what I mis-learned from this dynamic then was that I existed for others, not myself: a "lesson" I was learning at school too. At school, meanwhile, the bullying was occasionally turning into physical assaults. While walking down the hall one day, I was kicked hard by one of the class bullies. In addition, a "friend" I had made the previous fall, himself damaged goods after living in a series of foster homes, was becoming a tormentor in his own right. Verbal abuse was standard daily fare.
In late May, my mother and I left for Montreal for an extended vacation, with me getting permission to finish my school year early; I remember how anxious and desperate I was to travel back home. It felt like three-and-a-half months of recuperation. I had lost a great deal of wait: I made some of it back as my anxiety faded, at least temporarily. I hung around with some old friends who were now in high school. One traumatic event marred that summer, though. I was abused by a relative, something that I kept hidden for many years afterwards.
The reason why I'm going on at length about this is that I feel it's necessary to see how I lost myself, or better yet how I was robbed of myself repeatedly in so many ways, in order to appreciate what a gift it was to rediscover myself later. I simply did not have an identity then of any kind, hence I had no awakenings to my gender identity or orientation. Crushes on boys were something I suppressed by amping up my crushes on girls. And I fell in love the way many girls around me seemed to. For now, what it all meant was lost in the din of other peoples projections and agendas.
To be continued ...
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
In 1982-83, there was no Trevor Project, no "It Gets Better"; in the face of bullying, one simply "had to toughen up". The first couple of months of grade seven were uneventful. But, at some point, probably around November that year, the bullying started. It had been enough time for a few guys to pick up on how quiet I was, how aggressive I wasn't. As a sad, lonely pre-teen who only vaguely realized how sad and lonely I was, I was easy to push around. What's more, my home room teacher ignored it ... that's right, the name calling, the threats, the torments were all allowed to happen. For that first year at my new school, I had no resources, and did not feel emotionally safe enough to talk about this at home. At Christmas, one of my tormentors, said "Merry Christmas" followed by a snide "Just kidding".
Relief came when I went home with my mother to Montreal for the holidays. The rest of my year, early 1983, would be worse.
To be continued ...
Sunday, 25 December 2011
I get very nostalgic and misty-eyed this time of year and its all good because it opens my heart. Much appreciated.
Again, all the best to my readers over the holidays and in the new year!
Monday, 19 December 2011
The effect of all of this was like having my world smashed repeatedly, a world that had consisted of friends and a familiar neighbourhood. My sense of myself was very vague. With so much going on around me, I didnt really have a clear sense of myself. At twelve, having been raised by overprotective family (who no doubt saw me as being weak and as an appendage), I was quite naively about most things. My friends (in grade six) had begun to mature and their conversations were about things I had never heard before. When I moved to Ontario and entered Senior Public (middle) school in grade seven, this gap between me and my peers who were growing more sophisticated would be much wider.
To be continued ...
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Here are some of my favorite TV hero/oine transformations from yesteryear:
Growing up, I learned not only not to trust myself (my own instincts), but even worse, in order that my folks found as little reason as possible to get angry with me, I mis-learned that their feelings were mine (eg. parent or relative: "You don't really like that shirt", me: "Hmmm, you're right I don't."). It took many years of therapy and assertiveness training as an adult to get this skill that others around me, outside of my family, seemed to have. However, learning how to melt into a crowd without a trace did not protect me from harshly critical wors both in the family and outside. I was too slow, too skinny, to sensitive, too smart. I was learning to hate myself.
As I went through elementary school age I gradually became the little, scrawny weird kid who cried when bullied or hurt in game sports. I had no siblings, but a growing inner world where I felt I could survive. I had a few friends, not many. I read books, was fascinated with science for a while. I wrote my first book, several pages of blue paper stapled together with a story about a stick-figure astronaut who travels to the moon and back.
I mention all this to show some of the barriers to self-awareness that would later be shattered so that I could finally begin see, and then reclaim, myself.
To be continued ...
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
During family gatherings, I played with my cousins, all of whom were girls at the time, and who played with dolls. I had no problem with this whatsoever. However, the grown-ups certainly did. There were relentless attempts to get me to play sports. I refused.
On television, I readily identified with heroines and female characters (with a couple of exceptions which I will get to in my next post). One traumatic incident stands out from this period. Somewhere around this time, I decided to wear my raincoat like Little Red Riding Hood would wear her hood and cape. My father came into my room and saw me and ordered me to take it off. I wouldn't. I was spanked. I felt violated. The birth of shame.
To be continued ...
Monday, 5 December 2011
I intended to post this last week.
On November 30, 1966, Barbados gained its independence, joining the Commonwealth of Nations; it had been a British colony since the 1600s. Barbados first Prime Minister was social reformer Errol Walton Barrow of the Democratic Labour Party. Half of my ancestry goes back to that island, hence this post. On LGBTQ issues, Barbados, although as conservative as much of the Caribbean is, seems to be liberalizing somewhat, as this November 7 article in the country's Nation News suggests. It still has a long way to go.
In any event, Happy Belated 45th Birthday to the "bearded isle"!!!
Edit: Find my tribute to my Italian ancestry here.
Sunday, 4 December 2011
Two things, a long-distance phone conversation with a parent this afternoon and a couple of YouTube videos, led to me starting a little mini-series on how I got here in life, why I've made the decisions I've made, and how many layers have had to peel off of me in order for me to finally see myself. So starting at the beginning:
I was born in Montreal on Sunday, September 6, 1970, at about ten after four in the morning: apparently a few days early according to doctors. My slightly early arrival caught a few of my folks off-guard: one set of grandparents was out of town at a wedding and had to rush back.
I have many, although vague, memories of early childhood. Music features prominently, I remember songs vividly, even though I didn't know who the artists were, I remembered the melodies, the rhythms. I remember television shows, cartoons. Households were different then, no computers of any kind, no microwaves, no cell phones or similar devices. One, maybe, two televisions (usually a large colour set in the living room and a small black and white one in the kitchen), small radio in the kitchen and a stereo in the living room. That was entertainment. We lived on a small, quiet east end street a block away from the Metropolitan expressway, and across the street from my maternal grandparents. We moved about half a mile away a couple of years later, and then, after a fire, we stayed with my grandparents for a month before moving into a second floor apartment in a block on a busy main street in the same neighbourhood. A lot of moving around in a few years.
My sense of myself was fairly neutral, or at least I don't remember anything until somewhere between three and five years. In the early 70s, women still wore wigs when they went out; both my mother and her mother did and make-up was a huge deal. I would them getting ready, fascinated. On one occasion I asked my mother to make my face up. She did. I remember a sense of lightness, and relief. But, when I asked a second time, on another occasion, she refused. At that point, I was told I was a boy ... that boys didn't wear make-up ... I remember my grandmother chiming in that God wanted me to be a little boy, not a girl. I was disappointed, even confused; why was it so wrong.
From then on, the older I got, the less confident I felt, the emptier I seemed. This could have been any for any number of reasons, but I can't help thinking that maybe, developing into a young boy, externally, never made much sense to me at some basic level, although obviously, I had no idea why. As I went through daycare, preschool and first grade, I felt more comfortable with friends who were girls. I felt our emotions were the same. Again, I had no idea why. I was sometimes mistaken for a girl. I would answer that I was a boy, although inside the feeling was hollow.
To be continued ...
Monday, 21 November 2011
Last night, at the end of an action packed weekend, I took part in my first Transgender Day of Remembrance march and memorial. The 2011 TDOR was the thirteenth annual day of international remembrance of those in the transgender community who have been murdered in anti-trans hate crimes. In addition, the Vancouver TDOR also memorialized those in our community who have died due to suicide or by lack of access to health care or social services.
This year's Vancouver TDOR march began at the Carnegie Community Centre at Main and Hastings streets and proceeded westward along Hastings, through the Downtown Eastside, to the Harbour Centre campus of Simon Fraser University. A police escort accompanied us through a rather unseasonably cold evening. The sense of collective power I felt by walking with friends, acquaintances and allies created a kind of warmth.
The memorial itself, in one of the conference rooms at Harbour Centre, involved a number of us reading out the names and details of those killed since the last TDOR memorials in 2010. During the open mic portion towards the end of the event, a number of issues about services to our community were raised; healthy and honest discussion ensued.
Through it all and some of the socializing afterwards made me realize how much I needed to connect with others in the trans community more. I am making a mental note to make more time for my friends, in particular, my new founded ones in the trans community. We need each other.
Edit: More information on TDOR can be found at the Vancouver TDOR site as well as at the main international site.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
I'm gonna make it after all!
Well, it's finally hit me. The mood chickens have finally come home to roost (mixed metaphor alert!!!). The daunting scale of my transition has finally hit me: the tediousness of having facial hair removed, bit by agonising bit, the disappointment in looking in the mirror and seeing my five o'clock shadow, the red tape I will need to go through to get my name and gender marker legally changed, telling my folks (or at least those with whom I stay in touch). Vast chasms to cross, steep rocks to climb, trecherous passages to navigate. How long, how long will this transition take me!
Here's hoping I will make it through.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Although there were many precedents (the Bonus Army of World War I veterans occupying the front lawn of the White House during the Great Depression to demand government relief and benefits, for example), King's Poor People's Campaign is great template for what we're seeing unfold all over North America and the world. King had come out against the Vietnam War in 1967, in particular, its enormous diversion of resources, financial and otherwise, away from domestic anti-poverty programs. This put him at odds with many, including some of the other civil rights leaders and the Johnson administration. In early 1968, King threw his support behind various anti-poverty initiatives and became involved with the Memphis garbage workers strike. He also traveled through Mississippi, planning for a poor people's march on Washington that spring; he never lived to see it.
However, the march happened that May and the marchers set up camp near the Washington Monument where they remained until mid-June; Senator Robert Kennedy's funeral procession made a stop there on the way to his interment. During the month, that Resurrection City was set up, there were demonstrations in front of various government buildings including the Department of Agriculture. The campaign also put forward an economic bill of rights in which it asked for the federal government to prioritize helping the poor with a $30 billion anti-poverty package that included a commitment to full employment, a guaranteed annual income measure and more low-income housing.
Ultimately, the tumult of that year, the assassinations of two civil rights leaders in particular, demoralized the movement and it began to disintegrate. Then the encampment's residents were warned to leave. Resurrection City was bulldozed in mid-June. The Poor People's Campaign continued its advocacy throughout a very long, hot summer, marching through the Republican convention in Miami and the cataclysmic Democratic convention in Chicago. Many think it failed.
Many think the Occupy movement will fail too. When faced with this belief, it helps to remember a quote from Dr. King:
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it always bends towards justice."
Friday, 7 October 2011
Here's a history lesson along with some etymology, courtesy of Wikipedia:
HistoryAccording to lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower, the terms hipster and hippie derive from the word hip and the synonym hep, whose origins are unknown. The words hip and hep first surfaced in slang around the beginning of the 20th century and spread quickly, making their first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1904. At the time, the words were used to mean "aware" and "in the know." In the late 1960s, African language scholar David Dalby popularized the idea that words used in American slang could be traced back to West Africa. He claimed that hipi (a word in the Wolof language meaning "to open one's eyes") was the source for both hip and hep. Sheidlower, however, disputes Dalby's assertion that the term hip comes from Wolof origins.
jive era of the late 1930s and early 1940s, African-Americans began to use the term hip to mean "sophisticated, fashionable and fully up-to-date". and the word hippie is jazz slang from the 1940s. Reminiscing about late 1940s Harlem in his 1964 autobiography, Malcolm X referred to the word hippy as a term that African Americans used to describe a specific type of white man who "acted more Negro than Negroes". In his autobiography, Harry Gibson claims to have coined the related term hipster in the 1940s for use in his stage name. In the 1970s, Gibson remade his act to appeal to contemporary hippies, and is known as the 'original hippie'.
In Greenwich Village in the 1960s, New York City, young counterculture advocates were named hips because they were considered "in the know" or "cool", as opposed to being square. In a 1961 essay, Kenneth Rexroth used both the terms hipster and hippies to refer to young people participating in African American or Beatnik nightlife.
In 1963, the Orlons, an African-American singing group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania released the soul dance song "South Street", which included the lyrics "Where do all the hippies meet? South Street, South Street...The hippest street in town". Some transcriptions read "Where do all the hippist (sic) meet?" Nevertheless, since many heard it as "hippies", that use was promoted.
"The Hippies" was also the name of a mixed African American and white soul singing group on the Orlons' record label, Cameo-Parkway. Another use around the same time was on the 1963 Freddy Cannon single on Swan Records, "Do What The Hippies Do".
|“||Numerous theories abound as to the origin of this word. One of the most credible involves the beatniks, who abandoned North Beach, San Francisco, to flee commercialism in the early 1960s. Many of them moved to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, where they were idolized and emulated by the young university students who lived in the neighborhood. The beats (the hip people) started calling these students "hippies", or younger versions of themselves. Actually, the counterculture seldom called itself hippies; it was the media and straight society who popularized the term. More often, we called ourselves freaks or heads. Not until later did we begin calling ourselves hippies, and by then we were "aging hippies". An alternate spelling seldom used in the United States by people in the know was hippy, but it was spelled that way in England.||”|
—John Bassett McCleary, 
Another early appearance was in the liner notes to the Rolling Stones album, The Rolling Stones, Now!, released in February 1965 and written by the band's then-manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. One sentence of the notes reads, "Their music is Berry-chuck and all the Chicago hippies..." and another sentence from the same source reads, "Well, my groobies, what about Richmond, with its grass green and hippy scene from which the Stones untaned." 
Rev. Howard R. Moody, of the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, was quoted in the June 6, 1965 New York Times as saying "Every hippy is somebody's square. And don't you ever forget it."
The first clearly contemporary use of the word "hippie" appeared in print on September 5, 1965. In an article entitled "A New Haven for Beatniks," San Francisco journalist Michael Fallon wrote about the Blue Unicorn coffeehouse, using the term hippie to refer to the new generation of beatniks who had moved from North Beach into the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Fallon reportedly came up with the name by condensing Norman Mailer's use of the word hipster into hippie.
Use of the term hippie did not become widespread in the mass media until early 1967, after San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen began referring to hippies in his daily columns.
New York Times editor and usage writer Theodore M. Bernstein said the paper changed the spelling from hippy to hippie to avoid the ambiguous description of clothing as hippy fashions.
Pejorative useTo the late 1950s/early 1960s Beat Generation, the flood of mid-1960s youths adopting beatnik sensibilities appeared as a cheap, mass-produced imitation. By Beat Generation standards, these newcomers were not cool enough to be considered hip, so they used the term hippie with disdain. American conservatives of the period used the term hippie as an insult toward young adults whom they considered unpatriotic, uninformed, and naive. Ronald Reagan, who was governor of California during the height of the hippie movement, described a hippie as a person who "dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smells like Cheeta." Others used the term hippie in a more personal way to disparage long-haired, unwashed, unkempt drug users. In contemporary conservative settings, the term hippie is often used to allude to slacker attitudes, irresponsibility, participation in recreational drug use, activism in causes considered relatively trivial, and leftist political leanings (regardless of whether the individual was actually connected to the hippie subculture). An example is its use by the South Park cartoon character, Eric Cartman.
- ^ a b c Sheidlower, Jesse (2004-12-08), Crying Wolof: Does the word hip really hail from a West African language?, Slate Magazine, retrieved 2007-05-07.
- ^ Roediger 1995, pp. 663-664.
- ^ "The Mavens' Word of the Day: Hippie", Random House, 1998-05-21, archived from the original on 2007-03-11, retrieved 2006-10-09.
- ^ Booth 2004, p. 212. "A few of the white men around Harlem, younger ones whom we called 'hippies', acted more Negro than Negroes. This particular one talked more 'hip' talk than we did."
- ^ Harry Gibson]] (1986), Everybody's Crazy But Me, The Hipster Story, Progressive Records
- ^ Wright, Morgan (03-2009), Blues and Rhythm magazine (UK) (237): 16.
- ^ Rexroth, Kenneth. (1961). "What's Wrong with the Clubs." Metronome. Reprinted in Assays
- ^ http://www.top40db.net/Lyrics/?SongID=63215&By=Year&Match=1963 and http://www.geosound.org/geonews.htm retrieved 2006-12-13
- ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0032253/bio retrieved 2006-12-13
- ^ Fitzpatrick, J. South Street: The Orlons lyrics". Retrieved 2006-12-13
- ^ http://www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/bsnpubs/vpost?id=73942&trail=345 See 2006 April 16 from "W.B." and 2006 April 17 from Boppin Brian. Retrieved 2006-12-13. The reference says that at least some copies of the vinyl record included both the then-current and former names. http://www.musicsojourn.com/AR/Soul/page/o/Orlons.htm retrieved 2006-12-13. See Disk 1, song 8, Memory Lane, and Disk 2, song 21, South Street. The reference says that the 2005 re-release of the former is credited to "The Hippies a.k.a. The Tams".
- ^ Label shots of Freddy Cannon records. Accessed 11 January 2010
- ^ McCleary, John Bassett (2004), The Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s, Ten Speed Press, pp. 246–247, ISBN 1580085474, OCLC 237866881.
- ^ The Montreal Gazette, June 11, 1963
- ^ New York Times, Apr. 21, 1964
- ^ Baby Beatniks Spark Bar Boom on East Side; Village Voice; Sep. 10, 1964
- ^ "Darien's Dolce Vita", TIME, November 27, 1964
- ^ December 6, 1964 New York Times article - "Jean Shepherd Leads His Flock on a Search for Truth."
- ^ the album "The Rolling Stones. Now!" published Feb 13, 1965 in England.
- ^ Tompkins, 2001, Vol. 7
- ^ Mecchi, 1991, 22 Dec 1966 column, pp 125-26. Chronicle columnist Arthur Hoppe also used the term--see "Take a Hippie to Lunch Today," S.F. Chronicle, 20 Jan 1967, p. 37.
- ^ San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Jan 1967 column, p. 27
- ^ Stolley 1998, p. 137.
- ^ The Lexington Herald-Leader wrote an editorial on 11/12/06 that stated in part: "Radicalized, the flower children morphed into lefty loonies who now masquerade as social progressives. No matter what they rename themselves, however, their agenda hasn't changed...For example, consider their continued belief that America's armed forces are neo-Nazi stormtroopers who delight in burning babies to further the aims of imperialistic corporations. Such nonsense, now treated as legitimate by the left-leaning media, denigrates the patriotic values and sincerity of half the nation. It undermines the war effort, insults the dead and the survivors of battle and their families, and supports the aims of the enemy." www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/editorial/15986574.htm
- ^ In the "Die Hippie, Die" South Park episode, the entire town joins Cartman in his negative view of hippies after they arrive in town for a "Hippie Music Jam Festival."
- Booth, Martin (2004), Cannabis: A History, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-32220-8, OCLC 224247248.
- Roediger, David (Winter, 1995), "Guineas, Wiggers, and the Dramas of Racialized Culture", American Literary History 7 (4): 654–668, doi:10.1093/alh/7.4.654.
- Stolley, Richard B. (1998), Turbulent Years: The 60s (Our American Century), Time–Life Books, ISBN 0-7835-5503-2, OCLC 38856277.
- Tompkins, Vincent, ed. (2001b), "Hippies", American Decades, 7: 1960-1969, Detroit: Thomson Gale.
Got it, media folks (and others)?!! And here's a history of the hippy movement again courtesy of Wikipedia:
One quote from this article is particularly pertinent:
Although there were many diverse groups and elements protesting the US military involvement in Vietnam as it began to escalate, many of the protesters, rightly or wrongly, came to be associated with aspects of the "hippie" movement in the popular view. A number of them had been highly active in the Civil Rights movement in the first half of the 1960s, traveling across the country to take part in sit-ins and marches against segregation in the South. The first draft card burnings took place May 12, 1964 in New York City. Others followed, including more draft-card burnings in May 1965 at the University of California, Berkeley (which had already seen a precedent to the subsequent social turmoil, in form of the Free Speech Movement), and a coffin was marched to the Berkeley draft board. As similar protests continued through the summer, President Lyndon Johnson responded by signing a new law on August 31, 1965 penalizing the burning of draft cards with up to 5 years in prison and a $1,000 fine, although such burnings went on regardless. In later years, the Viet Cong flag of the "enemy" was even adopted as a symbol by more radical anti-war protesters. However, the core "hippie" philosophy remained staunchly aloof to politics, and politicians, throughout this time."
(sentences bolded by me)
All kinds of people have a problem with corporate economics and culture, not just hippies. Remember this when observing the occupation of Wall Street and the movements that are sure to spring from it in the coming weeks and months.