Category Archives: Writer

Hello from my island of solace

Dear friends, I’ve been ignoring you.

No, no, your protests are charming yet inaccurate: I’ve actually been completely ignoring you, for real.  I haven’t been reading your own blogs, I haven’t been following the reader stats here at FG HQ, I haven’t been checking my FG email address, let alone F@cebook… And I’ve been severely neglecting the Queer Canada Blogs project, even though I know that several folks have recently submitted suggestions for blogs to add.

Terrible, isn’t it?

The thing is, the whole world is terrible.  Usually, that’s what this blog is about:  One odd queer rambling on about her relatively-privileged life on a fucked-up planet. Not exactly catchy, I realize, but my marketing department is rather small.

In this terrible world, there are islands of solace, and I’m currently relaxing on one.  Physically, in that I live on an island, and mentally, in that I’ve become extremely preoccupied with the minutia of daily life.  I’ve put my attention on a very short leash, and it’s not wandering much farther than making food, sewing clothing, reading books, tending the garden, and playing with the dog.  I spend all my internet time devouring how-to instructions: Tailoring, dehydrating, sausage-making, lamp crafting, reupholstering, permaculture, website design, raising goats, collecting maple syrup, etc etc etc… If it’s a skill I could possible find useful at some point, I’m reading about it.

The way I see it, I’m using this period of unemployment to shore up my resources for future times of need:  When I next have a job, I’ll likely be too busy for testing recipes or learning new DIY skills, not to mention being emotionally worn out by the toll of the usual sexist/homophobic crap that often is found in trades-based workplaces.  With that in mind, now is the time to stock the pantry!  Literally, in that I’m filling my shelves with preserves, and figuratively, in that I’m filling my mind with reminders of all the inspiration and hope I’ll be needing.

“Why doesn’t she blog more about the stuff she’s making?” You may wonder.  Well, the thing is, I want to… But I want to do it under my real name, so that I can use it for promoting the workshops I’m teaching, and maybe even someday make a little bit of pocket money from those initiatives.

Also, I’d like to have a blog that I can share with folks when they hear I’m a blogger and want to know what I write.  Often I’m cool with telling random hipsters about this anonymous little domain, but in a job interview…?  Yeah, it’d be good if I could show those people something a little less personal.  Also, my mom!  She knows I blog: She asked me point blank last time she was here, and all I said was “Yes.”  Ha!

So that’s what I’m up to.  I miss you!  And I kinda miss the fervour I feel when I’m really on a roll and blogging a lot on this site, even though it’s often born from frustration or confusion or another general attempt to process something I’ve experienced. It’s so nice to be able to avoid that right now!  And I’m not taking this chance for granted.

For now, I’m still here, but not here, because I’m oh-so-very exactly where I am.

Advertisements

Communities


For the past year and a half, I’ve been pouring a lot of time and energy into Queer Canada Blogs, my blogroll project of Canadian queers and queers in Canada. It’s been an amazing experience, especially for those moments when I’m feeling too low to blog myself: I love reading about the daily lives and loves of such a huge variety of bloggers. The project has also provided me with an outlet for my activist energy, because I get a boost of inspiration from publicizing and celebrating the radness and diversity of what it means to be queer, and what it means to be Canadian.

However, as great as online activism is, I still need to feel connected to people in my own geographic region, to build community among the people in my social scene and peer group. This need of mine used to be pretty much met by my niche with the bike nerds: I volunteered at the community bike shop every week, and hung out with other kids obsessed with bicycles, bike polo, bicycle-themed dance troupes, etc. Sure, we all share a lot of non-bike interests, but it usually comes back to bikes.

Nowhere was this more obvious than when organizing our annual bike party weekend, which has historically drawn dozens of revellers from all over the western provinces and states. Over four years, the size of the party has pretty much expanded exponentially, with last year’s event selling out at around 350 people. A note to those readers who are also event organizers: When this happens, it’s time to take stock, otherwise the growing pains are going to be fatal.

Overly-enthusiastic bike nerds that we are, we completely neglected to do this. Guess what? A lot of shitty stuff went down, and some friendships were irrepairably damaged. Beyond that, I believe many of us lost our sense of belonging in the bike community.

I’m not going into the faults and follies of our organizing collective, because that’s not my point. Instead, what I want to tell you in this: Going through such a tumultuous experience made me realize all the ways in which I exist in this world differently from people I’d previously taken for granted as like-minded community members. It was painful, because a lot it came down to the simply fact that at the end of the day, I’m queer, and they aren’t.

There is a happy ending to this story, or at least a happy new direction: After the bike party fiasco, I was feeling like I needed to spend more time among queers. So, I contacted an old friend, and got the info from her about the next meeting of the collective that puts on the local queer dance party. In a town with only one gay bar, and a massive GLBTQ2SQ population, the radical queer dance party is even more of a hit than it is in the bigger cities. In fact, during the past 6 months that I’ve been involved in putting on events, we’ve built up enough of a float to cover our own costs, and have managed to donate hundreds of dollars of our proceeds to community projects.

I’m not so naive as to believe that there aren’t also huge problems in this other community… There are! However, I think they’re more likely to be talked about, and actions taken to resolve conflicts. This is important to me, and I feel like the work we’re putting into creating safe spaces for gender and sexual diversity is really important as well… Even if to to the casual observer it looks like we’re just partying.

So the community I found in 2010 was my local queer community, or at least a small corner of it. All I can say for the upcoming year is that I want more of this: More queers, more dance parties, more games nights and talent shows and long meetings that turn into dinners and giggle fits, more chances to connect and feel like I belong.

[This is my post for Day 7 of Reverb 10, which I’m posting on Day 10… Tsk tsk, such disappointingly lax behaviour, especially considering how Amak just commended me for my blogging commitment in his comment on my last post… Ah well. It’s been a crazy week. I’ll try to keep up from now on.]

READ SOME, WRITE MORE, LIVE MOST

Ever since I was a little kid, I read everything. I read novels, I read the newspaper, I read instructional materials, I read the labels of products laying around the house. When I was a teenager, I used to get frustrated with myself for losing so much time to reading, because it left me socially isolated. I had friends and a pretty busy social life, but I’d often neglect it in favour of staying home with books, which then led to my exclusion from the latest schemes and dramas among my peers. It sucked, to miss out on these important facets of high school life, and I blamed my own weirdness. Nevermind that the escape provided by books was precisely what allowed me to cope relatively well with the shittiness of being a teen in the first place: I hated what I saw as an unavoidable weakness. In anger, I scrawled a reminder in my journal: “READ SOME, WRITE MORE, LIVE MOST!”

Now I live most, and read some, but the writing just doesn’t happen all that much. I don’t make time for it. It’s simply not a priority. And really, I’m okay with that. I’m not disappointed with myself: I never had any great plan to be a writer, and though I’ve got a lot of ideas for books I’d like to put together, they’re all based on community interview projects so don’t require huge amounts of my own creative juices like a novel or poetry collection would. While I’d like to develop my skills and frequency as a writer in the long term, at the moment I’m very content with simply getting by on what little I manage to churn out. Which is to say, this often-neglected blog. Get it while you can.

[This is Day 2 of my participation in the Reverb 10 initiative… So far, so good… But I still haven’t filled out the form committing to it.]

Nominate Queer Bloggers for the Canadian Blog Awards… Only 12 days left!

Nomination are currently open for the 2009 Canadian Blog Awards and will close on Saturday, November 21st.

As you may know, the Queer Canada Blogs blogroll is choc full of excellent blogs written by talented bloggers… Now is you chance to show a blogger how much you appreciate their hard work, by entering their name into the running for an award!

Suggested categories include:
– GLBT (Obviously! Though I’m not sure where this puts those of us who identify as queer…)
– Overall
– Blog Post
– Blog Post Series
– Personal
– Family
– Photo/Art
– Humour
– Political

…And these are just the ones for which I’m nominating my favourite blogs!


Check out the full categories listing and fill out the nomination form at the CBA website.

We’re here, we’re queer, we’re taking over teh internets…

ps. i’m famous (QCB blog review of “The World Needs More Queer Mamas” in Capital Xtra!)

queer canada blogs, our blogroll featuring queers in canada as well as canadian queers living elsewhere, now has its very own blog review column in capital xtra, aka the ottawa edition of canada’s big queer newspaper. as usual, mae callen is responsible: i’m just the latecomer, tagging along and thrilled to be given the opportunity to take part!

mae kicked it all off in august with a look at The Naked Black Guy, followed by my first review in the september issue, in which i reveal to the world how much i love queer parenting blogs. today we got word that they want us to keep the reviews coming! hurrah! i’m hoping that it’ll get picked up by the paper’s other editions too.

a note on “fame”: mae and i are both writing under our online pseudonyms, because that’s how we blog and it’d be uncomfortable to out our real-life selves for this project, especially considering that we’re specifically writing about our blog communities. i wouldn’t have it any other way! and yet, it’s a bit sad, because i’ve finally got an article published in a real paper, and yet i can’t even clip it out to show my mom because there’s no way i’d want her to read my blog. it’s a double edged sword, my friends.

while we’re talking about QCB, guess what? there’s a chance that mae and i might finally meet IN PERSON next week when i’m in toronto!!! how very exciting is that.

on public libraries, queer fiction, inefficient databases, and a homophobic software “bug”

i like to read. not a shock, i know.

i like to read books from a variety of genres and on variety of topics. in fact, i’ll read just about anything available. when given options, i’m especially fond of science fiction, travelogues by women, non-fiction historical narratives, and how-to manuals.

lately, i’ve been reading about australian history, australian women in antarctica, aboriginal australian experiences, and bike trips in australia, with a harry potter novel thrown in to lighten everything up a bit. with a holiday coming up next week, when i’ll have 12 days away from my computer, i decided that i wanted some good fiction to enjoy at the beach.

so, off to the library.

i went to the fiction section, and was quickly overwhelmed, because it was all ordered by author and i wasn’t in the mood for the long browse that may have been necessary for me to find something appealing.

well, i thought to myself, what do i want to read? i want a novel, i decided, about australian queer women. i would like to have a better idea about the lives of dykes in this country, and anyway, if there’s romance in a novel, it’s easier for me to enjoy it when i don’t have to change too many pronouns in order to identify with a protagonist.

i went to the public computer terminal and entered “lesbian fiction” into the catalogue search field. a new page appeared, with a large black square in the middle: under the image of an exclamation point, it read “oops! you’re not allowed to look at that!”

wtf?

i went back, and tried just “lesbian”.

same result.

maybe it’s under “gay”, i thought… but all that garnered was a ton of results such as under “gay men – health” and “gay men – relationships”, etc etc etc.

i tried “lesbian” again.

this time, the warning message read “if you keep this up, there will be consequences”

consequences?

if by “this”, they meant being queer, then yes, there seems to be a “consequence”: i have to deal with homophobic bullshit from software at the public library.

for a moment, i was at a loss for what to do. on one hand, i wanted to just say FUCK IT, and leave, because i shouldn’t have to out myself in order to find a good book.

but on the other hand, what about the folks coming in to the library who are questioning their sexual identity, or supporting someone who is? they’ll be even less likely to seek out a librarian’s help… i know, because i spent most of my coming out days in the library.

i took a deep breath, calmed my righteous anger and fear, and found a librarian to join me at the computer. as politely as possible, i told her what i wanted and what searches i’d tried. she told me that it was “a bug in the system” for the public catalogue terminals, and tried the same searches, with the same results.

i gave an awkward little laugh and said, “a bug? hmmm… yeah, all i could think was that that’s kinda offensive!”

she tried on her own computer, where there are no blocks (or “bugs”), and said that all she could find were some short stories. i thanked her, and went to get them: it was a collection of contemporary lesbian love stories, all by american and canadian authors.

le sigh.

i returned to the public terminal and searched the catalogue for something by emma donoghue. her novel hood is just about my favourite book, but i’ve missed the rest of her work. happily, i found one of her books. also, a sarah waters novel: i’ve never read anything of hers, but it’s been recommended. in the catalogue, i saw that they also had laurie j. marks’ elemental logic trilogy, which i’m tempted to re-read.

after examining the catalogue some more, i realized that there were no subject tags on any of the fiction listings.  this made me feel a bit better, if only because queer novels aren’t the only ones lost in the multitude of themes.  however, it also annoyed me, because it is inefficient.  what if i was on a real nautical kick, and wanted some sea-going adventures to compliment my love of  c.s. forester’s hornblower?  how would i find out about patrick o’brian?

that’s a misleading analogy, of course.  there is a very big difference between wanting a book about sailors and a book about queers. last time i checked, sailors aren’t being mocked, abused, legally oppressed, or murdered for being who they are.

i believe that fiction plays a vital role for queers learning to accept ourselves.  when i was coming to terms with my sexuality, a self-help book on “how to come out” (or whatever) was the last book i’d have taken from the library:  it was too forthright and intimidating.  but jane rule’s after the fire?  that was easy, because the story wasn’t “real”:  joining the protagonist on her journey allowed me to explore the concept of my queerness without forcing it into fact before i was ready.  through fiction, i could delve into the lives of queer women and become familiar with them at a distance that still felt intimate.

we need queer fiction to counteract the stress of homophobia, which is linked to the over-representation of queers in treatment for depression.  for the health of the community, queer fiction needs to be easy to access, and public libraries need to assist with this task.  an easy solution is the application of subject headings to all fiction, which increases its relevance to all library users:  the sailors as well as the queers.

back to the “bug”.  if the public library software won’t allow access to resources associated with a sector of society which is currently struggling for equality in the face of severe oppression, THAT’S MORE THAN A BUG.  even if the blockage of results from a search of the word “lesbian” is a coincidence, the results are offensive at best.  at worst, they are damaging, because they discourage people from finding help they may desperately need.  hell,  i’m out and proud, and even i got shaky knees at the prospect of having to ask a librarian for queer books!

my roommate said that a “bug” such as this warrants a sign next to each public computer terminal, which 1) explains that certain valid search words may incorrectly garner a warning, 2) states that the error will be fixed within a given time frame, and 3) directs clients to seek the assistance of a librarian should the error arise.

damn right!

i’m going to go write a looooooooong letter to the head librarian right now.

then, i’m going to use the internet to find some novels about australian queer women.

feeling the “why”

i had a funny moment this afternoon, where i was suddenly feeling the “why” of my decision to come to australia. there was nothing unusual happening: i was out for a run and had just reached the part of the trail that goes through the gum trees at the corner of the sports field near my house. i suppose it was very beautiful, the landscape i mean, in a dense and urban sort of way. the morning’s fog was just starting to burn off, and there were sun beams coming down through the remaining mist. for that one moment i was simply very much so present, and things felt right.

of course, everything is going quite well… i’ve got a whole bunch of work building a website that i really believe in, my roommates are great folks, i’ve been reading lots, and my lover will be here in 10 days. also, there’s a pot of stew on the stove.

altogether, an excellent celebration of my 200th post on this blog.