Raandom thoughts inspired by television

1 – Winters in the west can be especially nasty. Just ask anyone who lives in Manitoba or Minnesota if you doubt me. It wasn’t a fashion statement that the Winnipeg police wore buffalo hide coats in winter, it was because they were warm. Yet this week alone about 50 people have braved sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and walked across snow-covered field in hope of finding refuge in Canada. These people are, or were, all refugees living in the US, some of whom had already been granted the right to live there. They are taking this difficult trek and risking hypothermia because they are aware that if they presented themselves at the border crossing at Emerson Manitoba they may be refused entry. In this particular area, there is no physical barrier separating our two nations, so it is easy to gain entry to either country.

When asked, many of these refugees state they are afraid of what is happening in the States right now and don’t feel safe. And given this week’s shootings in Kansas and Washington state, I don’t blame them. The election of Donald Trump appears to have triggered a wave of xenophobia among many of his followers and emboldened them to the point these followers feel they can shoot or kill anyone who looks or dressed differently with, if not impunity, expectations their actions will be feted by others with the same mind set

Had these people tried approaching the customs house at Emerson, they would have been refused as I wrote above. There exists an agreement between the US and Canada that in essence says that refugees who arrive in one of these two countries cannot use that country as a jumping off point to the other. I’ve heard on the news this may be called a doctrine of “First Safe Country”. But, these people no longer feel America is a safe county, hence a two hour walk across snowy fields in temperatures as low as twenty below F – around -35 Celsius – to seek sanctuary in Canada.

On the news this morning I heard an interview with the Canadian Immigration Minister who stated both the RCMP and Canadian Border Security Agency have sufficient resources to deal with these arrivals. But rather than round these people up and ship them back to Minnesota, the Minister (and this makes me proud to be Canadian) has given the town of Emerson $30,000 to help with the costs of hosting these new arrivals. Further, the news reports that most of these refugees do qualify for Canadian residency. There may be charges after the applications are processed for entering Canada illegally, but I don’t think these people are worried about that too much. We the north – home of the free.

2 – Earlier in the week I watched a documentary on the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent manhunt for those responsible. Just after this happened, I wrote a piece in which I voiced the view that we, journalists, bloggers and anybody who writes opinion pieces are also Charlie. Charlie Hebdo is a publication that relied heavily on satire and while we who also write may not resort to that particular form of writing, we sometimes venture into sarcasm or some other form, such as allegory, to make our point. As someone who is willing to put their point of view “out there” for others, we are bound to upset some of our readers. It may be said that if we’re not upsetting someone, we aren’t doing our jobs properly. In the gatherings after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo many people held signs reading “Je suis Charlie”. For people who write and post their views and opinions on various topics, and I include myself in that group, I think we could modify that sign to read “Nous somme Charlie”, for in our own way we may be just as controversial.

Cat.

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Everyone needs a hero

Everyone needs a hero. Whether it be a fictional character such as Superman; an historical figure, or someone from our own lives, there is usually someone who inspires us enough they deserve the label “hero”. For me, there are five people I esteem enough to call heroes, whose actions and attitudes lift them beyond the everyday.

For me, the first of these is my best friend, someone who loves me without reservation. I won’t go into detail to preserve her privacy, but in her short forty-something years, she has survived much that would break lesser humans. And no – being my friend is not one of those things.

Another person is also a personal friend named Angelena Bonet. She has suffered so much in her life – devastating heartbreak; sexual assault as well as being beaten and left for dead. This amazing, strong woman has turned her misfortune to good. In her Facebook profile, she describes herself this way: Documentary Filmmaker, Singer/Songwriter, TV Host / Producer & Humanitarian.

Being trans, obviously I consider Caroline Cossey a hero. This lady has, over the years, broken so much new ground for the trans community it would be criminal to leave her off my list.

And there are a couple of Canadians I include on my list. The first of these is retired General Romeo LeBlanc. General Leblanc was in charge of the UN force in Rwanda. He did his best to stop the massacre but was handcuffed by unreasonable orders from the UN that prevented him from taking effective action. Still, he did what he was able.

Finally, just to show that as I’ve aged I haven’t lost my rebellious streak, I include Louis Riel. For those unfamiliar with the name, or are not versed in Canadian history, Louis Riel led the Northwest Rebellion in the late 1800’s that eventually led to Manitoba becoming a province of Canada. He was later elected to Parliament, but fled to the US to avoid prosecution. He eventually returned to take his seat in the House of Commons. Unfortunately he was arrested, tried and found guilty. He has the distinction of being the only sitting member of Parliament hung for treason for his role in the Rebellion. (And yes, I’m sure we can all think of a few politicians we’d like to see swinging from a gallows.)

As I said, everyone needs a hero. Why not share yours in the comments, along with the reasons you feel they are heroic. Be certain to get their permission before you use their names, please.

Cat.

We must support our US friends in their fight for equality

In a posting on her site dated December 31, 2016 editor Jillian Page mentioned that she had considered shutting down LGBT Perspectives. In that posting she mentioned something that I’ll admit I take for granted and that is the incredible advances the Canadian LGBT communities have made in the decade since same-sex marriage became law of the land.

At both the federal and provincial levels laws have been enacted that give us the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other citizen of whichever province in which we live. As well, at the federal level, and not widely publicized, in February 2016, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced that Canadian citizens would be allowed to self-identify when it came to changing gender on federal documents, except the passport. You still have paperwork to fill out for that one. Otherwise, all you need is provincial documentation showing the changes to change any other federal ID.

While we revel in our new-found recognition, we must remember that our sisters and brothers south of the Canada/US border aren’t so fortunate. The different system of government in the US gives each state power to make its own laws. Consequently, members of the LGBT communities, especially the trans community, face a patchwork of laws with which to conform and hoops of varying sizes at different heights to negotiate to accomplish anything. This is true even with the Obama administration and from what I’ve seen, the difficulties will only increase under Trump.

I have seen estimates that put the number of trans Americans at 10% of the population, which translates to about 30,000,000 people. To put that in perspective for Canadian readers, that’s only slightly less than the population of Canada. Thirty million souls. Think about that number for a moment. According to pronouncements, both now and in the past, a Trump federal government and states governed by members of Trump’s party are declaring war on these people, either reducing or removing whatever protections previous administrations put in place. Perhaps one of the ,most egregious of these laws was North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill”. From other reading I’ve done – and no, I don’t just rely on a single source for information – this is typical of what our sisters and brothers can expect to face over the next four years.

While we sit here north of the 49th parallel or Great Lakes, perhaps smugly because we haven’t had some of these struggles, we must not forget those who went before us that are the reason we have what we do. We must support our counterparts in the US in any way we can, even if it’s only to offer moral support so that even if they fail, those who follow will enjoy our freedoms.

Cat.

Bring him to justice – Canadian justice pending

He’s coming back. According to an article in today’s Jamaica Observer, George Flowers has lost his final appeal against extradition to Canada. A representative of the Toronto Police Service will be travelling to Jamaica to escort him back to Toronto to face justice in a Canadian courtroom.

I must admit I have mixed feelings writing this. On the one side, I have some concerns for his accusers; that they will have their carefully reconstructed lives ripped apart by his lawyers in court; that the secrets they’ve been hiding for many years will be exposed. On the other side, that George Flowers will finally face the justice he so richly deserves is satisfying. Full disclosure here: I know people he dated, some of whom have tested HIV positive, so I am finding it difficult to remain neutral in this, but I will do my best.

His sexual assaults date back at least twenty years and he has played the Jamaican legal system for at least three years. Finally though, he has run out of options and the Jamaican courts have said to Canada “you can have his ass, just come and get him”.

I’ll write more when I have more details, but in the meantime I ask for your prayers for his victims.

Cat.

How to be you in five easy steps

NOTE: I live in Ontario, so am speaking of my own experiences. Depending on the jurisdiction in which you live, you may have to do more travelling.

Okay, now you have your new documents showing your new name. You sit there staring at them because the government has finally acknowledged you are who you say you are. Don’t get too comfortable, for there is still a lot of work to do before you’re done.

For me here in Ontario, some of it is relatively painless. Ontario operates locations under the name “Service Ontario”, which are essentially one-stop shopping locations for dealing with provincially issued documents. There are two types – government run locations and franchises. Most transactions can be handled at franchise locations, but for modifications to health cards, you need to visit a government location as the franchises are restricted in the health information they can access. Once there, you can modify not only your health card, but driver’s licence, vehicle ownership or the Ontario identification card (if you don’t have a driver’s licence). There, one stop and all your provincial documentation has been changed to your new name.

The federal government also operates a similar service, called logically enough, “Service Canada”. Again, one stop and you can change the information on all your federally issued documents except your passport. The Social Insurance Number controls all government access, so changing that will change your tax records and, in my case, my federal pension records.

But you’re still not done. You have bank accounts and credit cards to change. In my case, that involved a simple visit to the bank where everything was done within five minutes. And something you may not have considered: if you rent, you’ll need to sign a new lease in your new name. You hope the landlord still wants you as a tenant as you prepare for this step.

What else? Well, what about your cable and cell phone? Those can be settled with a quick visit to the nearest location of your service providers, armed with your documentation. Ontario covers the cost of most drugs for seniors such as myself, so you’ll have to give your pharmacy the new information as well, as well as advise your doctor of the changes so he’ll get paid for treating you.

In the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area, transit companies operate under an umbrella company called Metrolinx. Through Metrolinx, I have a pass (electronic ticket actually) that allows me to travel on any transit system under their control provided I have sufficient funds on the card. Naturally this has my name on it, so that must be changed as well.

These are the things I have to change, or have already changed. You may have others, such as gym memberships or gas company credit cards that will need to be attended to before you’re done.

Welcome to you new name.

Cat.

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

Adolescence for trans 101

This could very easily be subtitled “Things I’ve learned over the past nineteen years”.

No matter what your age, when you begin this journey and start hormones you will revisit what may not have been one of the more enjoyable parts of your life – adolescence. Some people experience the wonderful affliction known as acne (ugh). I’m not an expert, so I’m not going to discuss that. But there are other areas where I may be able to provide advice and/or information.

Let’s start with makeup. A good rule of thumb when it comes to makeup is “less is more”. Keep in mind that the use of cosmetics is to enhance one’s natural beauty, not create a mask. If necessary, ask a friend for advice and help. Have her show you how to apply it properly. I have been fortunate in that my best friend did hair and makeup in the Toronto film industry and has been extremely helpful. If you are unable to find a friend to help, consider going to a stylist for tips. Personal observation – I know some makeup artists will tell you that you need foundation, but keep in mind that most foundations will clog your pores.

Okay, we’ve got your face made up, now to decide what you’re going to wear. I’m not going to bother you with a lecture on dressing in a style appropriate to your age. I can’t, unless I want to be a hypocrite. I’m 71 years old and very fond of miniskirts (much to the chagrin of my BFF), so all I’ll say is wear what you feel comfortable wearing. In defence of my minis, I drove a cab for seven years and found I did much better on tips whenever I wore a mini. Also, dress appropriately for the weather. If you live in Canada or the northern US, you’ll probably find that in winter fashion goes out the window in favour of comfort.

Wait, you’re not ready to walk out the door just yet. There’s a couple of things you still have to practice and master. First, your voice and speech patterns.

Unless your normal voice sounds like Barry White, you can probably get away with just raising the pitch of it. I was fortunate in that my normal voice wasn’t that deep, so I can get away with very little modification. I tended to stutter, so had adapted the technique of using a more breathy voice and a slower tempo when I spoke. This had the advantage of greatly reducing the stuttering. A speech therapist noticed this and said I should keep it up for it also made my voice sound more feminine. Something else you have to consider is speech patterns. You may not have paid much attention too it in the past, but women don’t use the same speech patterns as do men. As a writer, I’m constantly paying attention to speech patterns as well as dialects whenever I’m out for possible use for a character. Listen to women speak and you’ll see what I mean.

Next, men are usually more aggressive than women and this shows in their gestures, which tend to be “large” for lack of a better word – more sweeping and aggressive. Women don’t tend to do that, so you’ll have to learn to dial down the aggression in the movements. This will take practice on your part and you’ll have to monitor your actions carefully until the more refined movements become second nature. Yes, there are women who do use grand gestures, but they are usually considered less than ladylike.

Something else you will have to work on is the way you walk. Men usually have a longer stride than women and walk at a faster pace. This too will take practice and constant monitoring on your part. I found one way I was able to slow my pace and reduce the length of my strides was to wear heels. I just couldn’t walk as I used to while wearing heels without putting my ankles at risk.

Hair is another area you may have to consider. If you’re able to grow your hair out, more power to you. I couldn’t do that because I started in my mid-50’s. My hair was reasonably long, but wouldn’t grow out any more. Since I’m not fond of wigs (they feel like hats) I went for weaves. Yes, they can be expensive and have to be replaced every two months at most, but they do work. When they got to be too expensive for my limited income, I did have to resort to wigs. The estrogen seems to be affecting the growth of my hair and it is now growing at a rapid rate, so after consultation with a friend who does hair and makeup in the Toronto film industry, and my hairdresser, we decided to let my own hair grow, then have it shaped into a bob. Once it reaches an acceptable length, we’ll colour it.

Please, please bear in mind that much of what follows is applicable in the Province of Ontario only. Laws and requirements will vary with your province or state of residence. Since you now look like the person you always knew you were, it’s time to change name and gender on your documents. In Ontario, it is possible to change the name on your driver’s permit simply on the strength of a letter stating such change is necessary from your doctor.

The rest of the documents require government forms and a lot of patience. Changing the name on your birth certificate requires sending them all kinds of information – the names of your parents; information on both your financial history and criminal background. This latter information is to make sure you’re not changing your name to avoid criminal prosecution or escape bankruptcy. They will also ask why you want to change your name and what name you want. Once you have the form filled out, it must be notarized. **HINT** Most lawyers will charge between $75 and $100 to notarize a document. Most town and city halls have a “commissioner of oaths” on staff who can do the same thing for much less. In Ajax, where I live, the cost was $20. When you’ve followed all the steps, you need payment of $137 then send everything to the Registrar-General for the Province of Ontario. And you wait.

In October of 2013, the government of Ontario changed the requirements for changing the gender on birth certificates. Surgery is no longer required. Another government form (and payment of $97) along with a letter from you doctor stating the doctor has treated you for “x” many years and the change is necessary. After notarizing this, it to gets sent to the Registrar-General. And more waiting. They usually say 6 weeks.

On the bright side, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced in February 2015 that citizens would be allowed to change their federal documentation on self-identification. So once you have your Ontario documents, you can change any federal documentation at no cost. Except the passport. This will require applying for a new one in your new name and gender and paying the appropriate fee.

 

Surgery is a very personal decision and I won’t try to influence you one way or the other.  Personally I will say the clinic declined to operate on me for other medical reasons.  If you decide the surgery isn’t for you, or like me there are other medical conditions, there are some alternatives to the full SRS.  There is an operation called an orchiectomy, or orchidectomy, that removes the testes.  This greatly reduces the amount of testosterone the body produces.  There is also a version of this surgery that also removes the scrotum.  Either of these will leave you with what is effect a catheter made of your own flesh.

Breast enhancement is another area of concern for many trans women.  In Ontario it is considered cosmetic and not covered by the provincial health plan.  But, there are certain conditions that will be covered. One of these is called “aplasia”, which basically is lack of growth of breast tissue. If you’re not happy with your breast development, discuss these possibilities with your doctor, but I warn you, many doctors are not aware of the conditions or that they are covered under OHIP.  I have in my possession (somewhere) documentation from OHIP that describes these covered conditions.  Send me a personal message and I’ll send you copies of what I have to show your medical practitioner.

I hope the things I mention in this essay will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and minefields as you embark on your new life. If you live in Ontario this may help you navigate the government requirements. And the federal information may also prove helpful.

Enjoy your new life – you’ve earned it.

Cat.