Such a waste

Last week the Toronto trans community lost a shining light. Trans activist Julie Berman was murdered by a man who, according to news reports, was not known in the LGBTQ community. Toronto Police Service have changed him with second degree murder. His name is available in news reports, but I will not use it here, for I don’t think he deserves any notoriety. Autopsy results revealed the cause of death was blunt force trauma. Police have not so far suggested any motive, so unless it comes out at his trial, we may never know whether that Julie was trans had any bearing on her death.

It is only within the past year I’ve become involved with trans issues and did not know Julie, partly because I don’t live in Toronto. Interviews with people who knew her show that she was extremely active in the fight against transphobia and now that voice has been silenced. Even though I didn’t know her personally, I feel her loss. She was a sister in the broadest sense of the word and as with any extended family, the loss of one is a loss for all.

I noticed one encouraging sign in the media coverage of this terribly sad event. Whether it be radio, television, online or print, not once was Julie misgendered. While it is to be expected that those from the community who were interviewed would identify her correctly, the media also did so. From my readings I know this is not always done in American reports, so I wonder if this is one more example of the differences between Canadian and American reporting.

The trans community in Toronto and beyond has had a powerful voice taken from us and it is up to us to see that her work continues.

Cat.

Inform me, don’t threaten me

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Canada is preparing for a federal election this October. While the official campaign hasn’t begun, I’ve seen some third-party ads claiming one leader or the other – Scheer or Trudeau – is unfit to govern.

In advance of the start of campaigning, I issue the following plea to the leaders of the four main parties, Ms Elizabeth May and Messrs Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau: I don’t want to hear your opinion on how bad the other party will be for Canada, I want to know how you plan to improve our lot.

For the most part in the last election the Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties took the high road. The Conservatives, then under Stephen Harper, tended toward scare tactics, smear campaigns and dirty tricks. Remember the “Robocall Scandal”?

The current leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer has, from comments made since assuming leadership, apparently modelled himself after Donald Trump. Andy, you don’t mind if I call you “Andy”, such an election campaign is guaranteed to lose my vote. Also Andy, extravagant claims and promises like we heard from south of the border in 2016 and 2017 won’t help either.

I address to the all parties and candidates: Don’t threaten me with doom if the other guy wins. Present me with reasonable, attainable options. I’m sure I speak for others when I say this.

It has been my observation that Canadian voters don’t vote a certain way because their parents did or they have in the past. They consider the issues and options before casting their ballots.

Just remember dear followers and readers, when October comes, vote for who you consider the best candidate.

Cat.

Bring him to justice – where are the words?

I’m upset with the media. For over six years I’ve been writing of the case against George Flowers, aka Mister Flowas. To recap, Flowers was wanted by the Toronto Police Service on several counts of aggravated sexual assault. He fled to Jamaica and was eventually extradited to Canada to face justice.

Other than a brief flurry of coverage when the initial Public Safety Alert was issued by the police and an interview with one of his victims, there has been nothing in the local media. The Jamaican media did publish a couple of articles related to his various and seemingly never-ending attempts to avoid being returned to Toronto. But from the Toronto media – silence. He was returned to Canada, as I wrote above and entered a plea of guilty when the case came to trial. Silence from the media for both his return and the guilty plea. His sentencing hearing has not yet taken place for various legal reasons, but I expect the same response from our media.

The tagline on this site is”a lone voice calling in the wilderness”. When I wrote those words I never envisioned the time would come when I would indeed become the sole voice talking about something this major. For over 20 years, George Flowers neglected to tell his sexual partners he was HIV positive, hence the charges of aggravated sexual assault. Since August of 2012 I have been urging his victims to come forward, but I’m only one small website. More and better coverage by the mainstream media would have reached far more people.

I’ve had messages of thanks, support and links to other news sites for these blogs from my readers, which have helped me carry on. I thank those people who took the time to write. To those who provided me with links to the Jamaican coverage, and the Court’s final ruling, I also offer my thanks. As for the Toronto media, as I said, I’m pissed.
Cat.

We can, but should we?

Monster >noun 1 a large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature. 2 an inhumanly cruel or wicked person. 3 [before another noun] informal extraordinarily large.
-ORIGIN Latin monstrum ‘divine portent or warning, monster’, from monere ‘warn’ (from the Oxford Dictionary)

In 1973, there was a television show called “The Six Million Dollar Man” and that was followed by a spin-off “The Bionic Woman” (Lindsay Wagner playing Jaime Sommers”. In 1987, there was “Robocop”. In “The Six Million Dollar Man”, the hero, Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors, a test pilot who is severely injured in a horrendous crash of a plane. Some mysterious government agency says “we can rebuild him – we have the technology.” This same agency was responsible for creating Jaime Sommers. In “Robocop”, which is set some time in the future, a cop, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is injured and again he is rebuilt by not a government agency, but a private corporation. What these three, Steve Austin, Jaime Sommers and Alex Murphy, have in common is that they are cyborgs – cybernetic organisms – in other words a hybrid of electronic, mechanical and human parts.

All this is preamble to this piece. I was watching a show called “Man Made Monsters”, which dealt with attempts by various government agencies to develop some form of hybrid creature for espionage or warfare. The early part of the show dealt with attempts to turn animals into spies. One early failed attempt in the 1960’s was with a cat. The programme showed a page from the proposal which contained three words that told me it wasn’t going to work. The three words were “train a cat”. If you’ve ever had a cat as houseguest (cats are never pets – they’re too independent for that) you know the impossibility of training them. The CIA surgically implanted a microphone and transmitter in the cat. The plan was to release it near the Soviet Embassy in Washington to eavesdrop on conversations taking place. That plan fell apart within ten minutes when the cat bolted, ran into traffic and was killed by a car. In the years since the acoustic cat, “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Robocop”, technology has improved to the point where the required components have gotten much, much smaller and it would now be possible to actually create these two cyborgs.

As part of the programme, doctors from many different disciplines were interviewed and they all said words that were a variation on a theme: We can do it, but should we? This is not an easy question to answer for there are ethical, moral and political considerations to be examined. Morally, what gives any person, or agency, or government the right to take a human being and turn them into what is in essence a monster? Who are we to play God by creating these new lifeforms?

Ethically, the same questions arise, especially among the medical community. How can any medical person take part in such a procedure – using electronic and/or mechanical devices to enhance a human body – and still adhere to the promise contained in the Hippocratic Oath “first, do no harm”? I don’t know about you, but I would think implanting such devices in a human body, other than to repair or replace a damaged limb, is harmful.

Politically such procedures would be extremely sensitive. On the international level, presuming any government is able to avoid the ethical and moral questions, doing so would cause another, much more horrifying and monstrous arms race. Using the argument “the other guy is doing it, so we have to” to quash any internal dissent each side would, or could, develop ever more grotesque and frightening entities, each less human than the one that preceded it.

Another school of thought is that we should just because we can. Right. What could possibly go wrong? We can shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, to use a common illustration, but we shouldn’t because the resultant panic would cause injury and possible fatalities. We can drive through a school zone at twice the posted limit, but we shouldn’t because of the possibility of hitting a child. We can drink too much, then get behind the wheel of a car, but we shouldn’t because we’d be a hazard not only to ourselves, but to everybody else on or near the street. We can do these things, after all, what could possibly go wrong, but common sense dictates that we shouldn’t. What makes creating cyborgs any different?

We’ve all seen movies where robots/cyborgs rebel against their human masters and take over the world, but they’re fiction, right? Uh huh, In 1979, “The China Syndrome” was released. You may have seen this movie with Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon. A reactor core melts down. The name “China syndrome” comes from the theory that a reactor core that melts down would be so hot it would melt its way through the earth to China. The movie was fiction. But just after it was released, well, perhaps the name Three Mile Island means something to you. A nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania had a meltdown and suddenly what was fiction in a theatre was fact in the headlines of newspapers everywhere. Again I ask, what could possibly go wrong?

“The Six Million Dollar Man”, “The Bionic Woman”, “Robocop” and the Terminator are all fictional characters from television or film. To use the line from “The Six Million Dollar Man”, we can rebuild him, we have the technology.” But, as the scientists have said “yes, we can do it, but should we?”

Gene manipulation is one other area where we need to ask “should we?”. Foods have been genetically modified for various reasons – resistants to pesticides, or to produce more food from a single creature. Opponents of such practices refer to these goods as “frankenfoods”. My question this: what are the long term effects on the human body of ingesting these modified organisms? Does anyone really know? We know what the companies engaging in this research tell us, but they have a vested interest in getting us to accept them. Another area of gene manipulation is referred to as “designer babies”, where you can specify such things as eye and hair colour, body type and even projected IQ? Once again, I ask we can, but should we?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know we should look at all the implications before we do answer it.

Cat.

You need to worry about this

In late November 2018, I was asked by my doctor if I could be available for media interviews in late January. St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto had conducted a study of 120 trans people and found that, on average, trans people were 60% less likely to get screened for any form of cancer. The interviews with CTV network and Canadian Press were held this past Monday, January 21 and were related to the release of this study. The study itself was released on Wednesday January 23.

in my remarks, I stated that in my view, there were two main reasons for such a low screening rate. The first of these is a lack of training on the part of the medical profession. As I’m sure my trans readers are aware, many doctors and nurses have little or no training in trans health issues. Here in Ontario it is possible to change the gender marker on identification documents without having had any surgery. So, given that documents show one gender, and the appearance of the patient matches that identifier, the caregiver may not consider screening for certain types of cancer. For instance, if faced with what the documentation and appearance indicates “male”, the caregiver may not know the person in front of them was born female and consider screening for cervical cancer.

Again, if a transwoman is present, the idea of screening for prostrate cancer may not be considered.

The second problem lies within the trans population itself. I know that we are under pressure, often self-imposed, to blend in, or “pass” as our correct gender. The one place that can be a detriment is in our health care. First, let me state I’m fortunate in that my caregiver at St Mike’s is well-versed in trans medicine. Others may not have that luxury. If, as happens, you changed doctors after you transitioned, unless you’ve had a full physical exam with this new doctor, they may not be aware you were not born as you now present. And they won’t know this unless you tell them. I know that advice is probably not want you want to hear, but we’re talking about something that may save your life so maybe – just this once – you could break down that barrier you’ve erected between now and the past.

This is something you really do need to worry about.

Cat.

I’ve had trouble in the past posting links on WordPress, so if you want the links to both the televised interview and the print interview, just ask and I’ll provide them in a response to a comment.

C.

Are they at it again?

Some of you may remember the films produced during WWII and how they all seemed to portray the Americans (often led by John Wayne) taking on and defeating the evil Axis powers. They were meant to instill a sense of patriotism in the viewers.

Again, you may remember the (usually not very good) invaders from space movies that were popular during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. In these the aliens were meant to be seen as analogous to the “Red menace” and, as with the movies of the ‘40’s, once again the Americans were always victorious.

These movies, in addition to entertainment, were intended to instill a sense of patriotism and a belief in the invincibility of the American armed forces. Hollywood has often been used as a propaganda tool, as it was during the Second World War and the cold war.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think the studios and other independent producers of television programming are at it again. By “it” I mean pumping up the patriotism and faith in the invincibility of American forces,. Times have changed greatly and too much has happened for people to believe in the infallibility of US forces but they are still a formidable opponent. Three new shows this year, “Seal Team”’ “The Brave” and “Valor”, appear to be designed to put a positive face on the military. I find it more than coincidental that we have three new shows glorifying the armed forces.

Given the Apprentice President’s words and actions, especially regarding North Korea and Kim Jong Un, and Kim’s responses, it appears war grows closer every day ( or hour – I have seen any new tweets today.) Shows such as these could have the effect of, as I said, increasing feelings of patriotism in viewers as well as prepare them mentally for the possibility of war. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and it really is just coincidental these shows all appeared in the same season, for I know that living north of the US/Canada border won’t protect me if everything does fall apart.

All we can do in the meantime is let ourselves be entertained and pray that calmer heads in both Pyongyang and Washington prevail.

Cat.

 

An open letter to Caitlyn Jenner

This was dictated to me by a friend who doesn’t have access to a computer. This friend is not trans, nor lesbian, so qualifies as a disinterested bystander.

Dear Caitlyn:

Despite what you may hear from the media and the costume makers, you are not a superhero. Despite all the media attention, know that you are the wrong person to be designated a spokesperson for the trans community. The reason is simple – you haven’t paid your dues yet. Had you completely embraced the idea of being trans, you wouldn’t refer to other trans people as “they” or “them”, but would use inclusive pronouns such as “we” and “us”.

From what I’ve seen on “I am Cait”, you live in a protected bubble in your gated mansion and have no idea with what the average transwoman has to deal. A short visit to speak with ordinary transwomen does not qualify you to speak on their behalf.

My best friend is a 71 year old transwoman and lesbian and has been for 19 years now. I’ve known her for 11 of those years and right from the beginning I saw her simply as a woman – no thoughts of “he” or “it” or “he/she” – just a very beautiful and likeable woman. Unlike many people, I never asked her what her name was; she volunteered it after about ten years. When she visits, my husband who knows of her past life, treats her as the lady she appears to be. She has been accepted whole-heartedly and without reservation by my own family. Over the time I’ve known her she has told me much of what she’s gone through – the discrimination in employment; the hurtful words heard on the streets and other less savoury things. To me, she is the superhero, not you, for she’s lived through a lot in her quest to be her true self.

If you truly want to live up to that “superhero” billing and become a true media spokesperson, donate some of your money to trans causes. Try living as an ordinary transwoman and see what real life is like. Then we can discuss your status.

Chris.

Enough nonsense

If you live anywhere in the Golden Horseshoe of southern Ontario or along the Niagara Frontier in New York State (and probably much further afield) you’ve seen commercials for Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls Ontario.

Based on their recent batch of commercials, I wouldn’t go to Fallsview.  If you’ve seen these three spots – the caddy; the bowlers, or the bodyguards – you know what I’m talking about.  If you’re fortunate enough not to have seen them, I’ll give you a brief description.

First, the caddy.  In this one, it takes place on what appears to be the final hole of a golf tournament.  The golfer is lining up his putt for the winning stroke when his caddy gets a text message.  Upon checking it, the caddy sees his friends have arranged a night at Fallsview Casino.  This sends the caddy into a fit of celebratory yelling and screaming and ends with the caddy picking up the golf ball and kicking it somewhere off the green.

Next, the bowlers.  Similar situation – bowling team all get a text about a visit to Fallsview and promptly disrupts the entire bowling alley.

The bodyguard one has to be the most irritating.  Two bodyguards step out from a stage door, to make sure it’s safe for the Big Name to exit.  They get a text about Fallsview and promptly start yelling and carrying on and flopping around on the red carpet.

Two thoughts on these spots.  First, if these people consider visiting a casino the high point of their lives,  they lead very sad lives indeed.

The second thought is this: If Fallsview Casino, or their advertising agency, think that commercials that treat viewers like idiots are going to attract people, perhaps they should think again.  To me, these ads scream “If you’re dumb enough to fall for this nonsense, come on down, we’ll gladly take your money.

I object to commercials – all commercials – that try to treat me like an idiot.  And these Fallsview spots certainly do that.

Since it’s December 31, I wish all my readers and followers a Happy and Prosperous 2015 and a safe New Year’s Eve.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Bring him to justice – progress report

Many, many thanks to two readers, cm and Concerned Follower, for providing me with the link to the following article which appeared in The Jamaican Observer of Monday, October 13, 2014:

Jamaican wanted in Canada on sex charges fights extradition

KINGSTON, Jamaica – A Jamaican man, who was ordered extradited last month to Canada where he’s wanted for trial on sex crimes, has taken his fight to remain in the island to the Supreme Court.

The man, George Flowers, is to appear in the Supreme Court today where he’s challenging the ruling in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court that he be extradited.

The order was made by Magistrate Simone Wolfe-Reece, who told Flowers that he could appeal the decision to another court within 15 days.

Should Flowers lose his battle against extradition in the Supreme Court, he has the option of taking that fight to the Court of Appeal.

Flowers, who goes by the name Mr Flowas, is wanted in Canada on several counts of  aggravated sexual assault.

He was arrested in Jamaica on June 4.

That arrest date is actually June 4, 2013.

In this case, “aggravated sexual assault” means he was HIV positive and never told any of his partners.

I’d like to say “this is it”, but I know it probably won’t be.  Should the Supreme Court uphold Madame Wolfe-Reece’s decision, as the article states, Flowers could go to the Court of Appeal.  And, in the event the Supreme Court sets aside the lower court’s ruling, I’m quite certain the Crown will appeal.  Either way, unfortunately it ain’t over yet folks.

I started the “Bring him to justice” series on August 14, 2012, a day after the Toronto Police Service issued their first Public Safety Alert on George Flowers.  I’m saddened to say that other than a brief flurry when the PSA was issued and a brief interview conducted by Global Television Toronto with one of his victims, there has been no Canadian (or even Toronto) coverage of this.  The only media coverage I’ve seen has been the above article and one other short piece in Jamaican papers.

I know it’s been a long time between postings on this matter, but I refuse to print rumour and this is the first confirmed information I’ve had since I wrote of his capture.  As more confirmed  information becomes available, I will issue updates.

Following is a copy of an email I received from the detective in charge of this case, which I feel bears repeating:

Hello Cat,

I am the officer investigating the aggravated sexual assault allegations against George Flowers.

I have stumbled upon your blog and have read what has been going on.

I appreciate you making more people aware of this investigation as we deem this situation as a major public safety risk.

My goal is to find and speak with anyone who has had sexual contact with Mr. Flowers.  They need to know that there is an active investigation and given the option of whether they would proceed with police involvement.  His non-disclosure actions are criminal whether or not a sexual encounter resulted in HIV infection. A lot of people are under the impression that if they DIDN’T contract HIV, that they have no criminal claim and that is false. The charge is for the “threat” of contracting the virus at the time of sexual contact if they were NOT advised of someone’s HIV status PRIOR to any sexual encounter.

The reason I am telling you this is because you indicated in your blog that you have spoken to other people who have been previous sexual partners of Mr. Flowers.

If you have any further information in regards to his whereabouts or anything else, I would appreciate it.  You can remain anonymous.  If you can also advise the other people who have been previous partners of Mr. Flowers of what I wrote, it would be appreciated.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call me.

Thanks in advance for your time.

Regards,

Nancy Johnston
Detective Constable #8734
Family Violence Unit
Toronto Police Service
Phone: (416)-808-5505
Email: Nancy.Johnston@torontopolice.on.ca

Note especially the bold section.

If Detective Johnston isn’t available, please speak with one of the other detectives in the unit .

Cat.

Where’s the logic?

I haven’t been feeling well this summer and as a result have been watching a lot of television. If you’ve read my postings before, you know I take great delight in ripping into commercials. Don’t worry, that’s coming, but first, something nice to say about an ad, as well as a comment on a series I’ve been watching.

1 – I’ve recently been watching a series on AHC called “Gunslingers” about some of the better known names from the old west. So far, there have been five episodes: Billy the Kid; Jesse James: Wyatt Earp; Wild Bill Hitchcock, and John Wesley Hardin. I’ve been struck by the similarity in the way most of these men died:

Billy the Kid – shot in the back by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Jesse James – shot in the back by one of his own men. What’s that old lyric “the dirty little coward who shot Mr Howard laid poor Jesse in his grave”?

Wild Bill Hitchcock (how did they get “Wild Bill” from “James Butler”?”) – shot in the back of the head while playing cards. This was the origin of calling aces and eights “the dead man’s hand.”

John Wesley Hardin – shot in the back of the head while enjoying a drink in a saloon.

The sole exception was Wyatt Earp, who died of natural causes in Los Angeles in 1927. Yeah, 1927- not that long ago really.

2 – Mazda Canada has been running ads for the Mazda 3. I’ll admit I don’t really see the connection, but I like the fact they are using Canadian sports icons such as James Naismith (inventor of basketball) and Christine Sinclair (Canada’s soccer goddess) and relating their accomplishments to the Mazda’s performance.

3 – Now the not so good spots.

First, Honda Canada (and I presume Honda USA as well) has been running ads for the Honda Pilot. Before I continue, let me ask you: When you come home, do you park near the house, or at the street end of the driveway? If you’re like me, you park near the house. Not the people in these Honda commercials. Right near the end of the drive. Are there mines in the drive so they can’t go any further, or do they just want to show off their vehicle to the neighbours. Where’s the logic?

Next, Buick. Again, a question for you: If you’re at a place that has valet parking, when you want you vehicle, do you just tell the valet the make of the vehicle, or do you also tell them the colour? In this commercial, the man simply says “It’s the Buick” with no mention of colour.. You arrogant SOB to think you’re the only person who can afford a Buick. Of course, the valet isn’t that bright either or he’d use the key fob before trekking the entire parking lot. Where’s the logic?

Finally, Ford. They’ve been running ads promoting some of the safety features. In this one, we see some amber lights in the lower left corner of the windshield and the driver tells us “the flashing lights just warned me an accident could be imminent”. Excuse me, but looking out the windshield would also tell you how close you are to that pickup in front of you. You don’t need flashing lights to tell you that if you’re paying attention to the road. Once more – where’s the logic?
The Ford commercial is a good example of how the auto companies are developing huge “nanny” complexes. They want us to buy their products, yet at the same time, they are installing all these devices to protect us from ourselves, such as lane change warnings. So many devices are being installed that supposedly protect the car’s occupants that people will rely on these devices and forget such things as checking rear view mirrors. To my mind, the only really beneficial gadget added recently has been the back-up camera.

Okay, I’ve ranted and I feel better.

.Remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.