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2009 – The best of times?

I have been postponing writing this for some time because I didn’t want the last few weeks of 2009 to combine with my memories of the first few weeks to colour my review of the year as a whole. Well time has a way of dealing with adversity. But even the passage of time still lets me think: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

It was the best of times because for the first time in my life, I was not spending the greater part of my day (or week, or whatever) living a lie. I was living, the majority of the time as ‘Marie’ and, surprise(!), being accepted that way. Shopping on the ‘Drive, riding transit, going to and even chairing meetings, walking around on the streets of Havana (a dream come true!) and meeting important people, I was ‘Marie’ and accepted as such. Could it get better than this?

Well, every silver lining has it’s dark cloud! For me, 2009 opened at about 4:00 AM with the most intense pain I have ever experienced. Testicular torsion is not something I recommend! The urologist at VGH emergency said I should never let a woman tell me that “men cannot experience the pain of childbirth”. She said that what I was experiencing was essentially the same thing – the stretching of the most sensitive part of the human body. And, she noted, the swelling (stretching) in my case was truly remarkable. Followed up by an abscess a month later (the skin had been stressed beyond it’s capacity to recover) and the surgical procedure in emergency (again!) to deal with that, meant that the pain that started on New Years morning didn’t stop until March.

A flare up of my chronic pinched nerve during the summer and a sprained muscle in my back to close out the year in pain (not as bad as that at the beginning of the year, but still…) made 2009 not a year I would like to relive – on one level!

But now it is well over and I can look back on it with the memories of pain fading and instead, think "My God! I am Marie – at last!” (sorry about the religious reference – old speech habits die hard!). And now, I can look forward to the rest of my life, knowing that I am being honest with myself, my friends, my neighbours and the rest of the world!

“No more lies…!”

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Newcomers Welcome

I’ve been watching the ‘statistics’ for this blog. They tell me there have been a number of ‘first time’ visitors lately. Just a word to the wise (and you must be wise if you are visiting me, right?). If you want to understand what this is all about, read the oldest entry first. That will tell you how this all got started.
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Just a quick update

Wow! Two months gone in the blink of an eye!

Just have enough time for a brief update.

The proposal to change the Thursday drop in centre format, which was put on the back burner after numerous people protested it, is back. But this time they are actually going to ‘consult with us – the people who use it – about how to change it. So the next few weeks we will have an extra person sitting in for part of the session to talk about what changes should be made. We’ll see how that goes!

The secretary and the treasurer of the Trans Alliance Society resigned a couple of weeks ago But we managed to elect new ‘interim’ people to the offices without any problems. I look forward to working with the new officers.

The group that formed around a community response to the exclusionist policies of Lu’s Pharmacy doesn’t look like it is going anywhere but talks with the “Women’s Health Collective” are still going on. We’ll see if either bear any fruit.

I went to a ‘roundtable’ meeting at 411 Centre about senior’s housing for the GBLT community. An interesting exchange of views and information, but nothing concrete got accomplished. Maybe next time. Still got to meet some more people – including Gayle Roberts, from the Trans Health Programme Advisory Group.

The Trans Day of Remembrance group has had to reduce it’s expectations somewhat – as I thought might happen. I was pretty sure that some people were over estimating the amount of money that could be collected. But, on the other hand, it is a group of activists, not just well meaning liberals. So there will be a day of remembrance here in Vancouver and some activities on campuses as well.

Most recently, an incident in Kelowna regarding washroom use at a nightclub which TAS issued a press release about led to a flurry of calls from media in Kelowna. Interestingly, there were no calls from any media in Vancouver. Not even Extra West or the Georgia Straight. I guess for the Vancouver papers an incident involving a trans person is a ‘dog bites man’ story but for the Kelowna papers, it’s a man bites dog’ story and worth following up.

It has been suggested that I should be on the Advisory Group for the Trans Health Programme. I think I will. It doesn’t seem to be an onerous task – it only meets every few months and I think it would be good if someone who actually attends the Thursday Drop in Centre were on it.

I tried to go to the “Queer Women on the Drive” thing last night but it must have been cancelled as no one else was there. I guess I should have gone to the NDP fund raiser instead even though I couldn’t afford it – already into my overdraft protection for this month.

Anyway, I took a candle with me in my purse to light at 9:00 as requested on FaceBook by the Vancouver Pride Society and 17-24-30 in London (http://www.facebook.com/n/?event.php&eid=172687657119&mid=15555ddG5af317b84238G2722e2G7) – I thought Britannia Community Centre would be enough of a monument of Vancouver to satisfy the terms. But I wasn’t going to hang around outside in a cold rain until 9:00 so I came home and had my two minute silence here. (Picture attached)

That’s all for now! I’ll try not to let another two months go by before I update again!

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A Hedy moment!

Well, another week has gone by with lots to tell – but I’ll confine myself to Thursday and Friday.

Thursday brought another Drop in Centre and another discussion of the decision by Vancouver Coastal Health to ‘hive off’ the peer support group (the Drop In Centre) to Qmmunity and replace it with a rotating discussion group on ‘medical topics’. The main excuse for this first step in privatizing this service is ‘safety’. Apparently the group is ‘too’ poplar and has grown ‘too’ much! Needless to say, this will be a topic at tonight’s TAS meeting.

Friday, Raigen and I were invited to represent TAS at a ‘roundtable’ discussion of trans issues with Hedy Fry. There were also representatives from the Femininjas and Ambiguous, as well as Velvet Steele. Hedy did seem interested in what was said, but concentrated on the question of access to medical services.

Here are the notes I brought with me to ensure that I didn’t miss anything that I thought should be brought up:

What Is To Be Done?

We need:
•    To ensure that Counselling, Hormone Therapy And Sexual Reassignment Surgery are available and covered by Medicare all across the country.
•    To include explicit protection for all transgender people from discrimination.
    ▸    Include Gender Identity and Presentation/Expression in the Charter.
    ▸    Employment guidelines for the Federal Public Service and Crown Corporations.
    ▸    Exclude Gender Identity from Immigration decisions.
    ▸    People incarcerated in Federal Prisons must be assigned to a prison appropriate to their Gender Identity and have access to needed medical and counselling services.
•    Educational programmes for all parts of the federal law enforcement system and the armed forces
•    Educational resources made available to Employers and Unions to ease the problems associated with ‘coming out’, ‘going public’ and/or ‘transitioning’ at work.

After the roundtable we all met at a nearby coffee shop to chat. In many ways that discussion was as interesting as the one with Ms Fry. We discussed the nature of our respective organizations and what we thought we were each about. I’m not going to go into details about that here, but we did agree that we should ‘get together’ more often and I think the Femininjas and Ambiguous will be represented at tonight’s TAS meeting.

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Another busy week

Meant to post this sooner! I actually wrote it a week ago or so, but you know how it is….

Well another week gone by. And a busy one it was!

I missed going to the Drop In Centre on Thursday because I had people over for dinner. My first real ‘dinner party’ for a long time – crystal, silver, china and all! I even wore a dress! A bit of a relief after weeks of wearing jeans and a blouse.

It was nice to see some people who weren’t part of TAS or Pride for a change even if TAS related topics were a big part of the conversation. For a couple of folks it was their first encounter with me as ‘Marie’. It didn’t seem to raise any barriers. Got some more contact information for people in the labour movement for TAS – and more to come if certain people remember!

Friday another friend over for dinner – not quite so fancy – just steaks on the BBQ (and back in jeans and a blouse). But it was still a fun alternative to another meeting.

Saturday, I went to the Queer Film Festival. TAS was sponsoring “Voodoo Woman”, so we got to have a table there and say a few word before the showing. I managed to pass that ‘honour’ on to Raigen, luckily. The film was actually quite interesting and a good part of it took place in Cuba which made it even more so for me. I got a chance to talk with the director, Carolina (nee Carlos) Valencia, for a while after the movie. Now, that was interesting – we have a number of things in common yet a lot of differences. But here we are both in our ‘fifties, advocating trans rights.

Had dinner with Raigen and her husband after at Memphis Blues BBQ on the drive. Very tasty and not quite as expensive as I had been led to believe.

That’s it for now. I’m too tired for any deep political analysis.

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Back to Canada – and TAS

My friend Victoria resigned as chair of the Trans Alliance Society of British Cloumbia. She is going through a particularly difficult period in her life, so I can hardly blame her.
There was a delay in electing a new chair – for reasons I won’t go in to here. But it meant that the new ‘interim’ chair wasn’t elected until July 27th – the first day of Pride Week in Vancouver!
Needless to say, that presented the new chair (me) with a few problems! Going through the accumulated emails, including speaking invitations and Pride Parade and Festival business meant a busy week. But I got so much co-operation and help from people who had been around a while that it all happened. We missed out on a few things we could have done and were not as well organized about the ones we did get to as we could have been, but we did it!
The TAS delegation in the parade was smaller than it should have been but it did happen and so did the booth at the festival where we collected quite a few signatures in support of Bill Siksay’s private members bill as well as a few membership requests.
My thanks to all those who helped out!
God! I look aweful in this – but what do you expect after marching around the West End for hours?
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July 26th!

I also went to the ‘Moncada Day’ celebration put on by the Canada Cuba Friendship Association. That was fun too – with really good food!
I met lots of people I knew – some of whom took a moment to recognize me – but no one seemed upset by the change.
I talked to the president of the Association who seemed to like my idea about sending hair removal equipment to CENESEX and also thought a panel on GBLT Rights in Cuba might be in order in the near future.
A friendly woman took a few snaps of me and Emailed them to me the next day – I’ve included a few in the photo section.
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Pastors for Peace

Well I did go to the Pastors for Peace send off party and had a good time.
While Lisa Valenti (who participated in all of the Caravans to date) was speaking, I had an idea.
While I was at CENESEX, I’m pretty sure that I heard it mentioned that one service that was not available to Trans people there was hair removal. For those who don’t know, many Male to Female Trans people consider this a psychological necessity and especially important for those who want to ‘pass’ in their chosen gender. Many also consider it a safety issue since it is so important in ‘passing’ and being ‘outed’ can be dangerous in many situations.
I’m pretty sure that the reason this service is unavailable is lack of facilities, so I approached Lisa after her speech with my idea – to send an electrolysis machine and/or a laser hair removal system to CENESEX with next year’s caravan.
She liked the idea and so did everyone else I have suggested it to – for several reasons:
It would help provide a needed service to our Cuban sisters;
It would help to counter the propaganda about Cuba being hostile to the GBLT community;
It would raise the profile of the Trans community here in Canada;
And it would help to change the image of Pastors for Peace;
So as soon as things cool down from the recent excitement around TAS and Pride, I will be contacting CENESEX about this. If they say ‘go for it’ people should expect that I will be calling on people to help with this!
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Summer Hours!

I apologize for taking this long to bring this up to date. Even though the last entry was posted in late June, it only brought things up to mid May. Sorry about that! Summer is a time for taking things easy, though. And I have been doing a bit of that (I’m going to have slightly different ‘tan lines’ this year!). It has also been a little slow on some fronts, as well.

I’ve been having some difficulty thinking of things to say about the few trans-political events that have happened. Several TAS meetings, of course – including some “Vision and Focus” meetings to see if we can come up with some new ideas about TAS and the type of organization it should be. If you want to keep up on those things, I would encourage you to go to the TAS website (http://www.transalliancesociety.org/) and join either or both of the Yahoo discussion groups. Last weekend was a bit of a change from summer relaxation, though.

I went to the 2nd Annual Che Guevara Conference on Cuba. I had noticed that there was going to be a discussion about GBLT rights in Cuba and on CENESEX. Having been there so recently, I thought I would go along to see what people had to say and, perhaps, talk a bit about my own observations. It was interesting and even a bit fun to go to a non GBLT event for a change – it’s been a while. It was my first experience as ‘Marie’ using a microphone, but I think I did all right. I only spoke four times and my remarks were well received each time. I think I will have to start getting out to more events of this sort. I’ll probably go to the “Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba” send off celebration tomorrow.I’m less sure about the Border Crossing event at Peace Arch Park on Sunday – things are starting to get a little busy now. There is another  TAS ‘Vision’ meeting on Monday with a short business meeting before it.

Just one humorous note about the Cuba conference. Among the attendees were a number of old comrades from way back when. I hadn’t seen any of them for years. It was fun introducing myself to them and watching their faces when they realized who I was. One of them didn’t figure it out at all, even after I had spoken three times and was chatting with him, he just had this ‘don’t I know you from somewhere’ look on his face. I finally took pity on him and explained.

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