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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged gender

IMG_5128The trans pride flag at George & Orange.

Yesterday was Transgender Day of Remembrance. Cobourg Queer Collective describes this day as a day where “we remember and honour our transgender siblings who have lost their lives due to transphobia: from hate crimes, from illness, from murder, from suicide, from substance abuse. And we acknowledge that transgender people of colour and two-spirited Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by this due to racism and xenophobia.”.

I started my day by checking in with (and being checked in with myself) by a few transgender and gender variant queers in my life. This is something that happened throughout the day, and it was the most powerful thing I experienced throughout the day (which is saying something, because there were tons of powerful moments). These check ins weren’t heavy or energy draining, quite the contrary, actually. They were gentle and energizing:
“Hey, how are you doing today?”
“I’m feeling good, stoked for some events today”
“Awesome, I’ll see you there!”

These simple questions are transformative. They go to highlight one of the many messages tied to this day- we are not alone. The work we have done and are doing, both personally and in the context of our communities, is noticed by the people around us and this day is a time to be conscious with the space we create and the energy we put out into the world. We are all capable of caring and being cared for.

At 4, I went to George & Orange, a wine bar and restaurant in Cobourg and held a chair while my friend, Ariel, stood on it to put up the trans pride flag in front of the restaurant. Her friend, Jenna, is the owner of the restaurant and has been a long-time supporter of transgender rights, even flying the trans pride flag for the entire month surrounding Pride this year.

IMG_8268Jenna and staff at George & Orange.

“Trans Day of Remembrance is about celebrating the lives of people who have lost their lives to violence against trans people in the past year and years past, as well as raising awareness about discrimination against trans people in general,” Ariel shared, “”Jenna is a good friend of mine, I also used to be an employee here. She’s always been an outspoken supporter of the transgender and LGBT community in general- and also of me as an individual.”

It was powerful to see that flag flying out front of this local, small-town, woman-owned business. It was also powerful to feel the loving energy that filled the place as the staff, Ariel, and myself chatted about what this day meant for us. The restaurant also planned to support the efforts of Cobourg Queer Collective, who would make their way to the restaurant after the rally they were holding later that evening.

At 6:30, Cobourg Queer Collective, lead by Ashley Bowman and Kim McArthur-Jackson, met outside of MPP David Piccini’s office on Division Street in Cobourg. Although this wasn’t the original location intended for the event, Cobourg Queer Collective stated, “This year, we will also recognize that the forward momentum that we had hoped was happening, seems to be reversing in many areas. In our own province, our governing party (the Ontario PC Party) felt it appropriate to acknowledge our trans siblings plight by putting forth a motion to further marginalize them, by not acknowledging their gender identities and removing mention of them from school curriculums. While the leader of the party had stated that this will not move forward, it should NEVER have come up to begin with.”

46508459_1945928008775805_4744591144292188160_nPhoto by Jay Boyd-Stofleth of rally participants with MPP, David Piccini.


There were around 50 people in attendance, including PC MPP David Piccini himself, who attempted to answer the many questions people had for him while also listening to the speakers.

“It’s pretty amazing to see quite a few people here. This cause is very close to our hearts as allies and we’re so happy to be here. I’m hopeful that our MPP will recognize that Northumberland County will be unwilling to accept the level of prejudice that the PC government is considering putting in place,” says Heather J.

While some people’s motivation for attending the event was largely political and about using their privilege to make systemic change, for other people, especially trans and queer people, this event was about just being there with a shared intention.

“I’m here to show solidarity for trans people who have lost their lives,” says Natalie K., “I just felt it was important to show up, maybe take some pictures, and be a part of such an important event in our community.”

46499318_2492231567484224_6765956174316568576_nPhoto by Jay Boyd-Stofleth of event coordinators, Ashley and Kim.

Event co-organizer, Ashley, says she’s “hoping to achieve more awareness of trans issues at both a local level and a provincial level” at the third annual Transgender Day of Remembrance event for Northumberland County.

Overall, the day was powerful, though it also left me with a few questions. Why only one local business acknowledging this day? Why only a single event in Cobourg? Why nothing at all in Port Hope or the rest of the county? These events take an incredible amount of work to coordinate and it’s easier to hope that someone else will take on that labour. With such high rates of violence against transgender people, next year, lets do even better.

46508674_339706093275213_6089201377236484096_nPhoto by Jay Boyd-Stofleth of the rally.

Big thanks to Jenna, Ariel, and George & Orange and Cobourg Queer Collective for the work they put into commemorating this day!

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May 11 LIVE on Northumberland 89.7.

LISTEN HERE if you missed it live!

Join Lyss and guests, Jesse, Zoe, and Olivia of Deviants and the Odd Man Out to discuss things like:

  • Their new album, Sink or Swim

  • The process behind the album

  • Songwriting process, reoccuring themes lyrically

  • The progression of the band (how and why it started)

  • Music Series: A Place for Deviants

  • Upcoming shows (lots of local shows coming up!)

  • The local music scene

  • Making a living as a musician

  • Being a transgender musician

  • Parenting when you’re when a trans punk band

    Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 10.03.29 PM

    Deviants and the Odd Man Out are a three-piece, ear-influenced grunge band who writes original songs, plays locally often, and loves to have fun and get their message out. 

    Their brand new album, “Sink or Swim”, is officially being released June 2, but you can buy it starting NOW. Contact the band via social media to get a copy!

    From Gareth Vieira’s interview with Zoey on Dispatches From a Small Town: “If we can even show 1, 2, 3 people it’s okay to be who you are and that you can do normal things, maybe we can have some influence on the next generation behind us. Honestly, at the end of the day, we just love playing music.”

    shows

 

  • Featured Music

 

“Oh Oh Oh” and “Don’t Wanna Know” by Deviants and the Odd Man Outdeviants

 

 

Searching For a Former Clarity” by Against Me!

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“One fan wanted to know which older Against Me! songs referenced Grace’s wish to transition before she did. She said, “‘Searching for a Former Clarity’ with the line, ‘Confessing childhood secrets of dressing up in women’s clothes. Compulsions I never knew the reasons to.’ Both ‘The Disco Before the Breakdown’ and ‘Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%’ are about gender dysphoria. ‘Pretty Girls,’ pretty much all of [Against Me!’s 2005 album] Searching for a Former Clarity is about it, I guess, except for the obvious anti-war songs. At the time, the band was facing intense scrutiny from the punk scene about the politics of what label we were or weren’t on. That album was me saying, ‘I don’t even care about these things. Do you really want to know how it feels on the inside right now and what I’m really thinking about?'” – Rolling Stone

 

I’m a Transvest-lite” by NOFX

nofx-irving-plaza-21

“We have a song on the album called I’m a Transvest-lite where I talk about crossdressing and how I secretly did it when I was a teenager. And now I’m open about it.

After this record, pretty much all my secrets are out there, so I’ve lost all pride and shame, which are two things no one really should have.”  – Fat Mike via CBC

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CW: rape, sexual violence, gender-based violence, restorative justice, hollywood, violence against women, masculinity, emotional labour, men’s mental health, #MeToo campaign, gender

 

 

Nearly a decade ago, I read a book called “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio and it kind of changed my life. It’s a book that’s far from perfect, but it was perfect for me to read at the time. I had been sexually assaulted and slut-shamed a few months prior, and was coping by self-harming, writing songs I’d never show anyone, and listening to a ton of Bikini Kill in my bedroom.  Although I was always told I was an emotional being, not a logical one by most people when I was growing up, I know now, looking back, that I’ve always been a very logical and analytic person. I wanted to understand what had happened to me, and I desperately wanted to be well. “Cunt” was just what I needed to begin to feel knowledgable about the dynamics behind why gender-based violence happens and empowered regarding what comes next.

So I did a lot more reading, went to university for Women’s Studies, focused my work on sexual violence prevention, and produced 6 plays about the stories of sexual violence survivors (directed 2 of them). Then I moved to a rural community where I situated myself firmly on the ground of anti-rape advocacy. This whole time, I was in and out of therapy, I was writing, I was learning to form positive relationships, and I was working hard on my own (continuous) healing process. For the better part of ten years, my life has largely revolved around gender-based violence. Why it happens, what to do about it, how to live through it. It’s complicated and layered and non-linear.

During my first week of university, in 2009, when I really started to dedicate myself to this subject, I remember introducing myself to people who asked what my major was only to have them scoff at me and tell me we don’t need to study gender and that I’d never go anywhere with that degree. During my final semester, in 2013, I remember trying to write a major research paper about the representation of non-binary gender and having a difficult time finding academic resources on the subject- to the point where I used blog posts and tweets as sources for my academic paper.

Four years later, that paper is now so outdated that you couldn’t pay me enough to let you read it. But at that time, it was pretty cutting edge and I was really proud of it. That much changed in only four years.

Over the time since I first read “Cunt”, there has been a MASSIVE shift regarding the topics of gender and, more specifically, gender-based violence. Especially recently, with the viral social media #MeToo movement and the trend in Hollywood where serial abusers are being called on their behaviour by the women they have assaulted, discussion around gender and gender-based violence is becoming mainstream. And I get it: it’s a lot to ask someone to radically reconsider who they are and the way they exist in the world, which is what happens when you ask people to critically reflect on the ways gender rolls are constructed.  But at the end of the day, I would like to believe that most people don’t want nearly every woman in their life to have experienced gender-based violence in some form, as evidenced by the massive success of the #MeToo movement. And I want to believe that anyone is capable of doing better.

I also want to take just a moment, before I continue, to be extremely clear that I am referring to women in this essay because women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence. And even more disproportionately affected by gender-based violence is women of colour, indigenous women, immigrant women, queer women, women with disabilities, transgender women, and women living in poverty.

I’ve recently had some friends who know how obsessed I am with gender-based violence ask me to comment on the discourse rising in mainstream culture. And my over-all comment is that it’s amazing and important that light is being shed on gender-based violence in mainstream culture. With that being said, that discourse is overwhelmingly immature (which is to be expected!) and I urge people to listen to the survivors who have been speaking out about these topics and symptoms for longer than it’s been cool (even, arguably, safer) to do so.

Regarding discussion in mainstream culture on the topic of gender-based violence, there a few specific subjects I’d like to share my thoughts on. Here they are in a slightly more digestable format:

Yes, people who have been doing the work around these topics should have their voices magnified over the opinions of people who are just starting to think about this. And no, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging you’re just starting to learn about a subject and listening to the people who have put in extensive time and energy around it.

Hopefully, by this point in the essay you already get my perspective here. But I’ll give you a metaphor to help communicate my point.

I drive a car pretty much every day. I own one, I know a little bit about how it works, I live in a world where there are lots of cars around. But I am far from a car expert. I haven’t really spent that much time thinking about how cars work, or the history of cars. I don’t know statistics about cars off the top of my head, and I haven’t spent years tinkering around under/inside a car, examining parts and trying to figure out what makes them work best (or at all). So when I take my car in the mechanic for maintenance and they tell me that I desperately need a part replaced or my car is gonna be seriously messed up, I’m not gonna go “well, I haven’t noticed anything wrong with my car, my car gets me to and from work every day and it’s fine”. If I have time, I might educate myself on the part of the car that’s apparently damaged, I might call a friend who has spent a lot of time and work learning about cars, I might consult a few other mechanics, but I’m not going to consider my limited knowledge on the subject equal to theirs. I’m going to listen and try to learn more.

To be clear, it’s not a matter of anyone being “better” than anyone else or attaching value judgements to knowledge that people do or don’t have, or recreating power dynamics. It’s about knowing when to share your perspective and when to sit down and listen.

I also want to be clear that the time and space I’m referring to need not include formal education, however, participating in formal education does take a lot of time and space. It’s not a reason either way to invalidate the type(s) of work a person has put in.
Don’t derail conversations about gender-based violence by centring the conversation around men as victims.

There are many cases where men experience rape and sexual assault. All sexual assault survivors deserve support and space and communities, and I do not, for a moment mean to diminish the importance of men’s mental health. I’d like to be clear that it’s not men who are the problem here. There isn’t even a one-stop answer regarding what the problem is. But a major part of it is the way that masculinity has been defined and then systemically privileged . A key component of the definition of masculinity is being more logical than emotional and being emotionally strong. This doesn’t leave much space for men to cope with their every-day feelings, mental illness, or trauma. As a result, there are many men who struggle because of this definition, as well as women and femmes who are, by negative definition, left to bare the brunt of the emotional labour.

Constructions of gender are not innate, they are something we can actively work to redefine- if you’re willing to do the work.

Although all gender-based violence statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, over 80% of sexual assault victims are women and something like 99% of rapes (against people of all genders) are perpetrated by men. When you derail conversations about gender-based violence to redirect the conversation to focus on men who are sexual assault survivors, you’re taking up a disproportionate amount of space.

Instead, I would encourage people to actively dismantle gender roles and to make appropriate space for men who have been victims of sexual assault to talk about it and heal. This isn’t going to happen through derailing women’s social media posts about gender-based violence.

Don’t derail conversations about gender-based violence to make disproportionate and inappropriate space for conversations about false allegations.

If you think being a man is scary right now because you’re worried about false allegations, maybe you should consider how scary it has been to be a woman or femme throughout history. Only between 2-4% of rape allegations are falsely made.
A study a few years ago found that 1/3 college men would rape a woman if they knew they could get away with it. According to a far larger study done by the UN, most men actually don’t believe that they are raping women.

What this shows is that a lot of the “false allegations” are made when a man didn’t understand that what he was doing wasn’t consensual. Again, this is related to the construction of masculinity- and not just that- the construction of femininity as the negative definer of masculinity. This is why learning about consent is REALLY important.

Exclusion isn’t restorative justice and it will usually result in more problems than it prevents.

There are cases where people are part of a community and they harm people in that community over and over again. There’s a clear pattern, and then when confronted with being called in (not out), they repeatedly get defensive, aggressive, and refuse to listen and (un)learn. In that case, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone not to be part of a space/venue/show/event/whatever. There are also situations where a survivor may not feel safe being around someone who has harmed them, and that’s valid and well worth working to navigate, based on the specifics of the situation.

There’s this thing that often happens now in popular culture (and in communities) where someone is exposed for something problematic they’ve done and then everyone either jumps on the “I’m so edgy” bandwagon (spoiler: condoning people hurting other people isn’t edgy, it’s just shitty) or boycotts their existence. The person accused of perpetrating harm immediately gets banned from community spaces, blacklisted from work opportunities, and abandoned by a good portion of their support system.

I get why this happens. It’s a reaction that many feel is justified, and I believe in providing space for that. But I also don’t think it’s particularly useful in a larger context. When we position people as inherently a perpetrator or inherently a victim, we do justice to no one. Reducing anyone to such a simple definition simply doesn’t allow for the root issues to be addressed or for working towards a place of healing, learning, or reconciliation.

That being said, restorative justice and accountability are complicated and fuelled concepts that don’t have any definite definition. I recommending reading up about it and talking about it a lot. It’s really complex.

There’s so much more to say, but I’m so tired. I’m excited for these conversations to be on the table in mainstream Canadian culture, not just in women’s studies classrooms or rape crisis centres or teenage girls’ bedroom floors. But there is a lot of work to do, and there will be growing pains. Please. Do the work, listen to survivors, and do better. Because we are all capable of doing better.

 

By Lyss England

A few nights ago, there was a fatal shooting at my local hospital. A couple in their 70s who had been spending the summer, as usual, in Northumberland County were patients in the hospital for undisclosed reasons when the husband, Tom Ryan, shot his wife, Helen Ryan, before being shot and killed by police. Immediately, there were vague reports released on social media by local media, and immediately, people began speculating.

The overwhelming response I observed was that it was a mercy killing where Helen must have been terminally ill and her husband, graciously, had agreed to end her suffering. Within the next day, the story was uncovered that Tom had been a “violent, horrible man” who Helen’s cousin, Connie Woodcock, had expected would potentially kill her eventually.

“I did expect him to kill her sometime. We are all shocked it happened, but not terribly surprised,” Connie told Northumberland Today’s Pete Fisher.

I’d like to believe that the reason so many people immediately assumed this to be a mercy killing is due to people wanting to believe the best about one another. However, I think that this reaction is also, at least partially, due to our culture’s tendency towards sticking our heads into the sand when it comes to intimate partner violence and unhealthy dynamics in relationships. Maybe it even has something to do with the dynamics associated with ageism, where few people realize that domestic violence is an issue for seniors who have been married for a long time.

Even with the #MeToo campaign going viral, and the more local expression of solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence, Take Back the Night Port Hope in the very recent past, there were only a few women I knew who were whispering amongst each other, do you think this may have been intimate partner violence?

The standard gendered expectations are often our default: he was protecting her. As it turns out, Tom Ryan had been controlling for a long time in ways that many intimate partner violence survivors can relate to. Helen’s cousin Connie told Pete Fisher,

“He had threatened Helen many times. She had no money of her own,” she said. “I thought at times that she was right over the edge too, except when I spent time with her she started to be more normal and like the person I knew as a kid. He completely had her under his thumb.”

This kind of behaviour is common in many relationships. Sometimes it is obvious to friends and family members, but often, it’s far more subtle. In fact, there are similar toxic relationship habits that are relatable for far too many people. Some of these habits may include:

  • Feeling as though your partner is your “everything”
  • Constant communication (phoning your partner multiple times throughout the day, getting angry when they don’t respond instantly to texts)
  • Expecting your partner to solve your problems
  • Expecting your partner to change for you
  • Spending little to no time with your friends, only spending time with your partner
  • “Keeping score”
  • Being dishonest to “keep the peace”/Being afraid that if you don’t be dishonest to “keep the peace”, that your partner may be so upset that they may harm you or themself
  • Threatening suicide or self-harm if your partner does something you don’t want them to/tries to leave
  • You guilt your partner into doing what you want them to do/not doing what they want to do

Sometimes, it can be really dangerous for women to leave abusive or unhealthy relationships. Sometimes, it can also be really dangerous for men to leave abusive or unhealthy relationships too, but the reality of the situation is that women are disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence. And even more disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence is women of colour, indigenous women, immigrant women, queer women, women with disabilities, transgender women, and women living in poverty.

Regardless of identity, one way to work towards less intimate partner violence is to talk about healthy relationships. Some qualities of healthy relationships include:

  • Regular check-ins/Setting aside time to communicate (being honest about what’s going on for you and asking how things are going regarding the relationship for your partner goes a REALLY long way)
  • Respecting each other’s privacy
  • Knowing and being able to list positive qualities of your partner’s close friends
  • Thinking your partner has good ideas
  • You trust your partner
  • You appreciate and value your partners growth
  • You support your partner in their goals and accomplishments that they’re proud of
  • You can name things your partner enjoys
  • Even when you argue, you are able to acknowledge that your partner’s feelings are valid and that they have some good points that you may just disagree with
  • You compliment your partner
  • You enjoy spending time with your partner
  • You say positive things about your partner to other people
  • You and your partner each have your own friends, hobbies, and interests, as well as shared friends, hobbies, and interests

It’s important to talk about these things. It’s also important to talk about the role toxic masculinity played in this murder, as well as in intimate partner violence in general. While women are expected in our culture to be polite, caring, and submissive (an expectation that is changing, but still systemically ingrained in Canadian society), men are expected to be the opposite. Strong, emotionless but for anger, controlling, in charge. Basically, constructs of masculinity encourage a kind of spiritual death that isolates and dehumanizes men, and feeds violent behaviour, especially in relation to women, who are constructed as opposite these highly-prized masculine traits.

While constructs of femininity have been and are continuously going through a radical reconstruction, constructs of masculinity, by their nature, have not evolved in the same way. Further, the radical reconstruction of feminine gender appears, in 2017 Small Town Ontario, to be causing a reaction in the form of hypermasculinity. It makes sense- an action results in an equal or greater reaction.

So let this be a call of anyone who bothers reading this to work harder on doing that work that healthy relationships require and to magnify is voices of survivors of intimate partner and gender-based violence.

And let this be a call to the men reading this to do that work required to redefine masculinity- because the current construct isn’t working for anyone, when you really think about it.

Resources (to be added to):

Healthy Relationships- LoveisRespect.org

50 Characteristic of Healthy Relationships- Psychology Today

Healthy Relationships vs. Unhealthy Relationships- Kids Help Phone

10 Habits of Couples in Strong and Healthy Relationships- Bustle

Worried Your Partner is Emotionally Abusive?- Everyday Feminism

10 Toxic Relationship Habits- Everyday Feminism

How to Recognize and Respond to Intimate Partner Violence- Everyday Feminism

 

 

tbtncrowd
Photo by Walton St. Photography.

Mission: Take Back the Night is a community based event to protest the fear that women and trans people have walking the streets at night safely. Take Back the Night is also a grassroots event that honours the experiences of survivors of sexual violence, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and survivors of state violence such as police brutality, racism, ableism, sexism, and other forms of institutionalized violence. The goal of the event is to offer Northumberland County residents an opportunity to stand together in solidarity against institutionalized violence and oppression as a community. The event is free to attend.

When: Thursday, October 19 at 7PM
Where: Memorial Park, Port Hope (the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Wendat peoples)

People of all genders are welcome at this event, which centres the women and femmes who disproportionately experience gender-based and sexual violence. Men, we invite you to walk in solidarity with us.

Peer support will be available if you find yourself in need.

There is an after-dark walk component to our event, so you may wish to bring along a flashlight or be sure to have your cellphone charged to use the flashlight app. Choose your footwear accordingly.

Our itinerary:
Meet at 7PM at Port Hope’s Memorial Park to gather, get direction, and hear a few songs and stories.

Then we walk together, on a short, accessible route through Port Hope’s downtown, through a quieter, more dimly lit stretch along Lent’s Lane and back to the park via Dorset and Queen Streets.

We’ll close out with a few more performances back in the park, and then all are welcome to join us for a low-key debrief with snacks and music at Green Wood Coalition’s space on Ontario Street.

thewalk
Photo by Walton St. Photography.

Theme: “We are Not Unfounded

Earlier this year, the The Globe and Mail released an investigative report into police rates of designating sexual assault reports “unfounded,” meaning officers don’t believe a sexual assault took place. Across Canada, the rate is nearly 20%. In Port Hope, between 2010 and 2015, 45% of reports of sexual assault were labelled unfounded.
Because we believe survivors, Port Hope’s 2017 Take Back the Night event will have the theme “We are not unfounded.” Join us on Thursday, Oct 19 at 7PM.


Press Releases:
Press Release in Northumberland News here.
Press Release in Port Hope Now here.

Official Photos From Event: 
Official photo album by Walton St. Photography here.

Articles About the Event:
“A Cobourg woman speaks out on workplace sexual harassment that left her terrified” here.
“Port Hope’s Take Back the Night walk resonates in an era of #MeToo” here.

Contributing Artists:
Read Jenni Burke’s blog post about Take Back the Night here.
Read Cassie Jeans’ poem “For my Sacred Sisters who are Healing from Shame” here.
Listen to/watch Winona Wilde play her song “Chick Singer” here.

Sponsors:

Racine Financial
Long and McQuade
Emulate Global Printing and Finishing
Green Wood Coalition
Walton St. Photography
Port Hope Public Library
Royal Ribbons

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Display to promote the event at Port Hope Public Library. Photo by Gareth Vieira.

Performers:

eileayisha.jpgEilé and Ayisha Hannigan

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Jane Storie

natalie
Natalie Galloway

 

brooke.jpg
Brooke Sterzenegger

kim
Kim Doolittle

devients
Deviants and The Odd Man Out

hailiah
Hailiah

TBTN Planning Committee:
tbtncommittee

“We’re a diverse collective, and together we share a common interest in making Port Hope a safer and more supportive community for all of us.”

Gareth Vieira
Jenni Burke
Ashley Bouman
Avril Ging Ewing
Lyss England
Jeff Caine
Meghan Sheffield
Ariel Reilly
Marcela Calderon Donefer