That’s what friends are for

WARNING: Contents may trigger memories in those who have suffered similar experience. I apologise in advance.

In all the years I’ve been writing these blogs, I have rarely delved into my personal history. Today I open that door a little. For a period of about ten years throughout my teens, from sometime in 1954 to November 22, 1963, I was physically and verbally abused by a psycho step-father. A small example: if I was alleged to have done something, he’d drag me by the ear to the scene of the supposed crime, usually something minor. I still can’t stand to have anyone touch my ears. The day President Kennedy was assassinated was the day my mother and I gathered the courage to escape. Why didn’t we leave sooner? Because we had become so demoralized by this monster we were more afraid of the unknown outside the door than of the hell we knew was inside.

Keep in mind this was in the early sixties and the support systems available today were non-existent. People were expected to “suck it up” and carry on with their lives. I suffered in silence for better than thirty years before a friend helped me place those memories behind a wall. That wall stayed intact until earlier this year. I can’t point to a specific incident, but something cracked that wall allowing memories to begin seeping back into my consciousness. Maybe something I watched on television, or something I heard, I don’t know.

This is 2019 and things have changed greatly. There is now help available for people combatting these dark memories, help that wasn’t even thought of fifty years ago. Another major change in my personal life is that I came out as transgender. That fact alone has been beneficial in this case.

In my previous, male, life, it was expected I would bear my burden in silence – I’d just “soldier on”. Asking for help was seen as a sign of weakness. Today, being perceived as a woman, I’m not bound by that convention. I can ask for help and support. And I have done just that. I spoke with my doctor, who directed me toward a support group. As well, I told both my best friend and my eldest son. The support and aid they have shown is amazing. An example: my best friend and I are fans of one particular show. I usually record the show to watch later, while she watches in when broadcast. We often talk about it and one night she advised me not to watch one particular episode since she felt it could be triggering to me.

Without the support of these two people, I don’t know that I’d have reached the point I could write this piece. But I have, thanks to their support and belief I can overcome this again.

As Ringo Starr said “I get by with help from my friends.”

Cat.

A very fine line

There can be a very fine line between free speech and hate speech but there are times when it can be difficult for the audience to determine whether the speaker crosses that line. In some cases, the listener’s perception is shaped by their personal views on the topic being discussed.

Last week a woman named Megan Murphy spoke at a public library in Toronto, and then later in the week, spoke at a venue in Vancouver. Both events were met with protests by the LGBT community regarding the content of her speeches. From what I could find on the website for her magazine, it appears she is very anti-trans, if not anti-LGBT in general.

Full disclosure here: I’m a transwoman. According to Ms Murphy, I am therefore not a woman by any definition. From articles I’ve read, she persists upon misgendering transmen and transwomen. But what really upsets me about her attitudes and pronouncements is that she has stated that when Ottawa passed Bill C-16, which, in essence, made trans people equal, in all ways, to the rest of the population, it diluted the rights of ciswomen. I could find nothing on her site to support her claim.

I spoke with two women on this issue. One said that I now had the same rights as she, and it in no way weakened her legal protections. The other said the following: Giving trans women, or trans people in general, doesn’t take away my rights; in fact, it does the opposite, because by pushing for the rights of another group of people, I am pushing for the rights of ALL people.

There you have the views of two women, one an artist and one a chef. That I now enjoy the same legal protections – and by extension, the same responsibilities – as do they, makes no difference to their lives.

Members of the transgender community already face discrimination on a frequent, if not daily, basis. There is enough violence directed toward the LGBT community and we don’t need people like Megan Murphy stirring up more animosity toward us, which her views have the potential to incite.

I have always been a proponent of free speech. It is because of that right I’m able to write some of the things I do in these blogs. At the same time, I am aware that using that right can be a balancing act because, as I wrote above, the perception of the reader can determine whether or not my words are hateful, or just mean-spirited. In my opinion, if Ms Murphy wasn’t guilty of hate speech in her presentations in Toronto and Vancouver, she was certainly skating very, very close to that fine line between free speech and hate speech and needs to be taken to task for her words and actions.

Cat.

Submissions wanted from LGBT and HIV communities

I’m a transwoman and my co-writer, a positive woman, are working on a project detailing how society treats members of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities at the various stages of our journeys. A few years ago, I spoke with a psychologist at CAMH in Toronto who thought such a book would be a great benefit to them in their work.

We have our own experiences to draw on, but would like to hear other people’s experiences. No names will be used in this and any submissions will be checked to remove any clues that might give away your location. For example, if a submission from Toronto refers to “streetcars”, that would be replaced with the term “public transit” and any route names or number removed. Additionally, specific cities will be removed and replaced with either the name of your province or state, or a more generic term such as “midwest” will be substituted. We will do everything we can to protect your identity.

We both have friends in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, so can call upon them for information, but that would be quite localized in scope. We need to hear from others, not just in Canada, but from anywhere. We especially would like to hear from transmen, for their experiences would no doubt be much different from my own. If you have generally found acceptance, great! Please tell us for that may give those just starting their new lives hope that things will get better. If you’ve experienced discrimination, or worse, please share that as well. Others need to know what pitfalls and danger may await them. Either way, we would like to share your story.

If you are willing to share your journey, you can send it to us at the following email address: 1outcastsofsociety@gmail.com Please remember the “1″ at the start of the address as the address without the numeral is taken.

Thank you,
Cat.

Bring him to justice – comment response

The following is a comment on “Bring him to justice – one step closer”:

Any word on this reprobate? This monster needs to be brought back to face justice. I understand the concern for his victims, but is it okay for him to get away with what he did and not have to pay in anyway? Does he have the right to live a free man in Jamaica while his victims have to live with what he did to them? Shouldn’t he pay for his crimes? If he gets away with what he has done, it sends the wrong message to others who may be infected with HIV and think they have the right to privacy. I think he needs to pay so it sends a loud and clear message to others.

Rather than respond directly to the writer, I felt it would be better to respond this way, for there is much to say on this.

This monster needs to be brought back to face justice. First, there is no further news on his return. I’ve been told through sources that his lawyer has filed suit against the Jamaican Minister of Justice claiming Flowers’s rights were violated by some action of the Minister. Until that case is heard, no further action on the extradition can happen. I know, I know. It doesn’t make me happy either.

I understand the concern for his victims, but is it okay for him to get away with what he did and not have to pay in anyway? No, it certainly isn’t okay for him to get away with what he did. But, look at it from the victim’s point of view. After their encounters with Flowers, many of these women were ostracised by their friends and in some cases, family. Some of the fortunate ones were able to either rebuild their lives or re-invent themselves with a new circle of friends who know nothing of the past. When (or if) this goes before a Canadian court, whoever Flowers retains to represent him will rip these carefully constructed lives to shreds, once again making these women victims.

Does he have the right to live a free man in Jamaica while his victims have to live with what he did to them? Shouldn’t he pay for his crimes? Well, he isn’t living as a “free man”. He is in a Kingston jail and as I understand it, he is in segregation so no, he doesn’t have the right. In the (extremely unlikely) case the Jamaican courts see fit to overturn the extradition order and release him, he will find his troubles have only started. Jamaica consistently ranks among the top of lists of the world’s most homophobic countries. Gays and trans people are frequently beaten and killed just for being who they are. If word gets out that Flowers, walking the streets of Kingston or any other Jamaican area, is HIV positive, or has AIDS, his taste of freedom may be brief indeed. And as this case has been covered in the Jamaican media he would find it difficult to conceal his identity.

If he gets away with what he has done, it sends the wrong message to others who may be infected with HIV and think they have the right to privacy. Back to what I wrote earlier, if he does face Canadian justice, and his lawyer does succeed in destroying the lives of the witnesses, what kind of message does it send then? Perhaps it would have the effect of keeping others from coming forward to authorities from fear of exposure in the media.

Cat.

We’re all stressed

Last night I watched a programme about the fatal collision Bruce/Caitlyn was involved in back in 2015. I can’t say when this actually aired, for I recorded it for one of those “I can’t sleep so let’s see what I’ve recorded” nights.

At one point, they had a segment with a psychotherapist – actually they had many segments with her discussing the situation – during which she said that part of the reason B/C hit the vehicles in front was that he was distracted by transitioning in view of the public. This comment caused me to exhaust my abusive vocabulary.

Granted, being part of the Kardashian circus places extra scrutiny on B/C during the transition (and that horrendous “I am Cait” didn’t help), but c’mon now – we all transition in public. We don’t go around having collisions with whatever vehicle we’re driving and some other object. Well, not unless we’re perhaps under the influence of some intoxicating liquid we don’t. Many if not most of us can’t afford to hide away in our dwelling place, only venturing out at night for bread and milk or, heavily disguised, to visit doctors, until we think we have transitioned enough to feel comfortable in daylight.

If the psychotherapist’s comment was intended to elicit sympathy for B/C, it may have worked with people not familiar with the reality, but for those of us actually going through it, it gave us a chance to exercise our command of gutter English. Does this psychotherapist not think that any person transitioning feels stress and strain? Does she not think that for some of us, doing what we do in public can be tantamount to an invitation to violence? Does she think that for people who aren’t celebrities it’s all sunshine and rainbows? Or is she only concerned with finding an excuse for why B/C was driving too fast for the conditions and consequently hit one vehicle and pushed it into oncoming traffic, then hit a second vehicle?

Listen, sweetheart, every person on this planet is under stress and strain of some kind. For many of those people the reason may not be obvious but for trans people, the reason can be highly visible. So please don’t use the fact B/C claims to be transgender to excuse his/her involvement in a fatal traffic collision.

Cat.

I think it’s cursed

Twenty years ago, when I left the family home to begin my transition, I changed not only my first name, but my surname as well to give my family some privacy.

Now, two decades later, things have changed. My ex-wife has gone back to her maiden name and through research one of my sons learned we’ve been in British North America since about 1850. Given these events, I decided it was time to reclaim my family name and heritage.

In accordance with my mother’s wishes, I also changed my first name to that which she had been going to call me had I been born female.

In Ontario, name changes are relatively simple. The forms are available online and are the “fill and print” variety. Filled it, printed it, then ran around getting the necessary signatures and a stamp from a Commissioner of Oaths (cheaper than a notary) as well as a money order for the required amount and sent the whole mess to the Registrar-General’s office. I knew it would take about six weeks to get the new birth certificate under normal circumstances. My circumstances turned out not to be normal.. A month later a large package was in my mail. The magic fingers had mis-typed my address at one point and they also wanted a criminal background check on the name I had chosen. They didn’t ask for that on the form, but they wanted it.

Phoned the police department and spoke with a lady who does the checks and explained my problem: “how am I supposed to get a background check on a person who doesn’t exist?” She told me how to do it, so off I went to my local station, filled out the form and paid the fee. Two weeks later I received the form back, properly stamped and sealed by the police department. Repackaged everything and sent it back to the R-G. Two weeks later, the R-G sent it back. This time the problem was that the teller hadn’t signed the money order and enough time had passed that the Commissioner’s stamp and signature was stale-dated. Off to the bank for a signature, then over to Ajax Town Hall to have the Commissioner sign a new form. Packaged it again and once more into the mail to the R-G.

Finally, after almost a year, I received my new birth certificate and official change of name certificate. I next took these documents to a Service Ontario location (one-stop shopping for all provincial documents) in the county seat and applied for a new health card and Photo ID. The health card took about two weeks, but the photo ID never arrived.

After a month I contacted the office of my local Member of Provincial Parliament (state congressman in the US) to find out who I should talk with. The assistant said she’d look into it for me. She called me yesterday afternoon to explain the delay, and I must admit what she told me has made me slightly paranoid. According to her information, issuance of the card has been delayed because the Fraud Unit of the Ontario Provincial Police is looking into it.

My first question is this: If the criminal background check came back clean for both my previous and current names, and the R-G’s office didn’t find anything, why is the Fraud Unit looking into it? To my knowledge, I’ve never defrauded anyone of anything. My eldest son has suggested that perhaps that I’ve changed names twice in twenty years is considered a red flag. I don’t know. I just hope they do eventually decide to talk with me about this and say more than “you’re under arrest for fraud.”. Otherwise, I’m going to start thinking my new name is cursed.

Cat.

Why go?

Today is the final event in Toronto’s Pride Month, the Pride Parade. Yesterday was the Dyke March and Friday evening was the Trans March.

It’s the Trans March I want to discuss here. A friend of mine raised an interesting point when she said the following (and I’m probably paraphrasing): I thought the aim and goal of trans people was to fit in – to be indistinguishable from regular men and women. It that’s the case, why would you want to out yourself by taking part in the Trans March?

Good question, isn’t it? Now, I can see activists and those who claim to speak for the trans community taking part because they are visible anyway. (As an aside, there is at least one group claiming to speak for all trans people throughout the Greater Toronto Area [GTA], which includes the municipality where I reside. No, they don’t speak for me. I’m quite capable of looking after myself, thank you very much.) But, if a person is fully accepted as the gender in which they present, why would they risk being spotted by a co-worker or neighbour?

Can anyone offer any ideas, suggestions or reasons for this?

Enjoy your long weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.