Awareness, Guest post

Attacks on Education Hurt Us All

By Sue Senior

On October 16, 2023, Sue Senior delegated to the trustees of the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB). Sue is a retired educator who worked for 30 years in the WRDSB teaching Physical and Health Education (including sexual health), biology, kinesiology, math, and a variety of extra curriculars. This post is based on the reflections she shared with the Board.

25 of my 30 years were as a closeted straight-passing teacher. I was afraid that I would not be permitted to teach or to coach and would be the object of derision and stigmatization should I have come out.

By 2008, I realized that being closeted was doing far more harm to my well-being than the risks associated with being out. By then the board had done some excellent work in creating an environment where 2SLGBTQIA+ students and staff could learn and work, knowing that there were policies in place to protect them and affirm them.

Nothing really changed for me as a teacher after coming out.

I did not make any big announcements. I just lived more authentically and was a healthier and more confident teacher, colleague, and friend, and then a spouse, with my wife whom I met two years later.

I share this reluctantly as I am aware that there are some people who believe that there is a ‘gay agenda’ and that I am speaking to you with some sort of ulterior motive. My only motive is to ensure that this board and all adults provide the duty of care that that is required when entrusted with the supervision of children.

ALL OF US have a legal duty of care, which means a duty to act in a way that avoids causing harm to others – in this case, children – when such harm might reasonably have been foreseen.

The motion before the board would undermine that duty of care if a teacher were required to report every single instance where a parent has decided what parts of a lesson are considered to be ‘not age appropriate’ or ‘suitable’ for their child.

As well, foundational to the Physical and Health Education Curriculum, it is stated that:

Research has shown that teaching about sexual health and human development does not increase sexual behaviour and can actually prevent risky activity.

Sadly, there are already students who don’t have access to the sexual health and human development curriculum due to many false notions that the curriculum indoctrinates children to being gay or transgender or makes them initiate sexual activity at a young age.

Additional misinformation is being spread based on the myth that there are only two genders: male and female. Biologically, that is incorrect. Intersex people have always been among us.

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

For example, a baby might be born appearing to be female on the outside but has mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. A person may also be born with mosaic genetics or cells with both XX and XY chromosomes.  

It is important to note that being intersex is not a disease or a disorder any more that being born with blue eyes or brown eyes or hazel eyes. There are about the same number of intersex individuals on the planet as there are red-headed people. (Here is a short video as a reference regarding the complexities of gender.)  

So, how do those who strongly believe that there are only males and females reconcile this fact? How does the school board make sure that ALL GENDERS are affirmed without stigmatizing those in the minority?

We have a duty of care for ALL students.

Back to the motion at hand and what is most problematic about being forced to report on specific content that can arise in a school day.

I can’t even begin to list the number of times that questions or comments are made in a variety of classes – often outside of the designated ‘sexual health curriculum lesson’ that relate to sex, relationships, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and loads of other topics.

If a student casually mentions their two dads (for example) when talking about their summer holiday, would the teacher be expected to stop the lesson, silence the child and/or shoo some pre-identified children from the room, or pick up the phone and call the parents in that moment?

That would be harmful in so many ways, and not only to the child with two dads! Not to mention how disruptive to the class it would be.

The classroom needs to be a place where all students feel that they can ask questions or enter a discussion without fear of reprisal or being shamed because of their life experience. Only in cases of overt and deliberate bullying or taunting of others would a teacher stop the comments being made and manage the situation appropriately.

The other situation that has me extremely worried about student safety and care relates to those students who often confide in a trusted teacher or staff member. It might be a student who shares that:

  • the marks on their arms are from a family member abusing them, OR…
  • they might share that they think they are attracted to someone of the same-sex and don’t know what that means…. OR…
  • they might indicate that they don’t want to wear ‘girls’ dresses anymore and would prefer pants and a shirt.

In all of these and many more situations, one of the very first things a staff member would do is ask if they have shared this with their parents or caregivers. If not, then the next step is to ask if they want to share with the parents and if they would like some help in doing so. In most cases, students WANT their parents to know. In most cases, the parents already know.

In cases where the information shared by the student leads the adult to believe that harm might come to that student or to others, the adult is required to report that information to the appropriate protective agency such as Family and Children Services.

So, if the policy and laws are revised as suggested to force school staff to report certain disclosures to the parents, they will be in direct contravention with the required Duty of Care.

Unfortunately, there are some children and youth who are at great risk of rejection, abandonment, and deep emotional and physical harm by their family or designated caregivers.

In other words, those children and youth would not ever be able to safely access the resources they need to navigate the situation with professional support.

I also speak from a religious context as the motion points to a broadening of religious accommodations. I am an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC). I was also appointed by the PCC to co-lead a special Listening Committee (also known as Rainbow Communion) to report on harm done by and through the Church, in all of its contexts, and to make recommendations to ensure that the harm is addressed and does not continue.

After four years of listening and work, it is important to note that all 23 recommendations brought to the denomination were adopted. The reports and supporting resources are all available on the PCC website. You can also watch a video summary of stories shared.

We heard accounts of harm that ranged from people being isolated, embarrassed, shamed, physically attacked, threatened with spiritual harm, and heartbreakingly, learned about those who tried to cope by turning to drugs, alcohol or other behaviours of self-harm including death by suicide.

It was the religiously institutionalized hypocrisy, homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism that perpetuated ongoing harm. This harm extended not only to those who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or intersex. It also affected their families, partners, and allies. Furthermore, this institutionalized fear, and even hatred, created a culture of fear and suspicion within and between churches, presbyteries and synods. I do not want to see a culture like this return to our church, or to our public school system.

While the imposition of religious beliefs has no place in the public school board, I felt it was important to underscore that not all religious groups seek to exclude and further harm those who are not heterosexual. Not all religious groups marginalize and stigmatize those who do not clearly identify and present as either male or female. Instead, I believe we must reflect on the basic values that are common to all religions: compassion; respect for the human person; and the Golden Rule of, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

These same values are part of the classroom and school ethos.

Let us continue to support, encourage and empower all students to become skilled, caring, and compassionate global citizens.

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Awareness, Guest post

Celebrating 20 Years of Marriage Equality in Ontario

By Bruce Walker

Retired Lawyer, Author, Speaker, Human Rights Advocate. Practicing law in Toronto led to involvement in many community organizations including establishing Metropolitan Community Church’s Christmas Eve Service at Roy Thompson Hall, and the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (and the Alexander Wood statue). Involvement in many community organizations and the fight for human rights continues.

Congratulations on the twentieth anniversary of marriage equality in Canada. Detractors have said gay marriages would not last, but I am happy to say there are plenty of examples to prove them wrong. Life in Canada for sexual minorities was not always how it is today. Once we were hunted and persecuted.

Legislation penalizing homosexuality entered British statute law in 1533 when King Henry VIII brought in The Buggery Act, ousting the Roman Catholic Church in favour of the Church of England. This moved the regulation of sodomy from the ecclesiastical courts and burning at the stake, to the state and death by hanging and forfeiture of property.

This law changed over time. However, the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 brought the crime of gross indecency into British criminal law. Gross indecency could apply to almost anything, including holding hands, and was used to persecute homosexuals. It was brought into British law at the height of the Industrial Revolution ostensibly to curb prostitution. Prostitution meant independence and the industrial revolution needed workers and the British Army needed soldiers.

The laws of Britain were the laws of Canada. Following Confederation in 1867, Canada enacted the Criminal Code in 1892, by importing British criminal law. However, the law was changed in Canada to provide five years in penitentiary and whipping. In addition, conviction of being a “dangerous sexual offender” by having homosexual sex subjected a person to an indefinite prison sentence. This was the fate of Everett George Klippert in 1967.

This remained the criminal law of Canada until the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1969 adopted Britain’s Wolfenden Report of 1957, partially decriminalizing homosexual acts for consenting adults in private who were 21 years of age or over. This is the legislation that former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, while Minister of Justice, famously said “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” It was 2019 before the remnants of this law were removed from the Criminal Code of Canada.

I remember the cruel sensationalist media treatment of Mr. Klippert’s appeal of his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada, which he lost. I also remember the fierce opposition to the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1969. It was horrific, but as minimal as these changes were, they were huge step forward in the fight for equality. It meant homosexuals were able to meet and begin to organize with less danger of being raided by police. Political activism came out of the closet. The We Demand Rally in 1971, is credited with being the first such public rally and Jim Parrott was there in Ottawa. Patriation of the Constitution Act of 1867 and adopting the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which took effect in 1985, was another critical milestone.

More and more activism occurred during these decades. There were also many Charter cases after 1985, as we learned how the Charter impacted daily life in Canada and the dominoes began to fall.

Marriage, which is in the jurisdiction of the federal government in Canada became the battleground for equality because of the Charter.

In Ontario this came to a head on June 9, 1994, with the defeat in Ontario’s Legislature of the infamous Bill 167 the Equality Rights Statute Amendment Act. The defeat of Bill 167 resulted in a very large protest demonstration that evening. The demonstration filled the lawn in front of the Legislature. This was when I first realized just how many of us there were. It was amazing experience, even better than being with millions of people during World Pride in 2014.

From this insulting defeat of Bill 167 came the activism that resulted in our winning same-sex marriage on June 10, 2003. This is not the forum to mention all the activists and organizations and battles.

However, information came to the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto that in Ontario there are two paths to marriage. One is to purchase a marriage license from the Government of Ontario and the second is the older religious practice of Marriage by Banns, still allowed by Ontario’s Marriage Act. There are several criteria to meet, but those who qualify can have their marriages by Banns registered and obtain a Certificate of Marriage in Ontario.

On January 14, 2001, the first legal same-sex marriages were performed in Ontario in the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto by way of Banns of Marriage. Reverend Brent Hawkes married Kevin Bourassa to Joe Varnell, and Elaine Vautour to Anne Vautour.

On June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued a Charter-based decision immediately recognizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, thereby making Ontario the first province where same-sex marriage was legal.

Same-sex marriage in Canada was progressively recognized in several provinces and territories by court decisions before being legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act by Parliament on July 20, 2005.

So, this has been a very brief synopsis of the fight for equality through same-sex marriage. This fight should have been unnecessary. It was too long, too hard, and too bitter. Following this victory, most of us married our spouses and hoped to settle into a quiet domestic life. However, the forces of hatred continue their opposition. Equality through same-sex marriage was achieved in Canada because of the combined actions of many activists and the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We now have governments in Canada that casually use the Notwithstanding Clause to take away our rights and freedoms. These governments will not stop unless they are voted out of office. Your vote matters. I know politics is messy and difficult, but voting is vital. We see the right to equality eroding in many places throughout the world including the United States of America. It has always been up to us to fight for our lives and our families. The Charter remains vital to protecting us from negative legislation. Don’t stop now. Get involved with a progressive political party that will uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and help to preserve the gains in equality we have made in Canada.

People like myself and Jim Parrott have been life-long activists but we are now twenty years older. Along with many friends and allies, we have managed to achieve great things. The day I married my late spouse was the best day of my life. Love is love. Nobody is going to do it for you. It is now up to you to defend our hard won human rights, including our right to marry, as we continue to build a better life for all Canadians. Happy Pride!

This post is slightly modified from an address given by Bruce Walker at our June 14, 2023 Celebration of Marriage Equality in Ontario event.

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Guest post

Guest post: stories like yours

This guest post was written by Cassidy Rae Proctor.

I recognized my reflection before I knew it was mine, in the pages of a beat up paperback on a library shelf.

As a child, I all but lived at the public library in my small town. I learned to read with Peter and Jane, watched borrowed VHS copies of Disney classics, and was a dedicated overachiever each year in the summer reading club. The moment I became a teen, anxious and looking for both a creative outlet and a sense of responsibility, I became an active and enthusiastic part of the library advisory group for young adults. And the week after I finished my final college exams, I began a career in public libraries that today has nearly reached the five year mark. My love for the library hasn’t changed over the years, but I have.

I first read Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure when I was around eleven years old. I had never found a character I identified as strongly with as Alanna of Trebond, a young girl disguising herself as a boy to become a knight. I had read books with fantastic female heroines before, but Alanna was different: as her story went on, it became clear to both me and her that she was a girl, but also kind of a boy, and also kind of both and neither. The idea of identity being personal and complicated, and that being yourself can be the thing that takes the greatest strength, resonated with me in a way I wouldn’t begin to understand for more than a decade. 

My journey to discovering myself would be a winding one that I would do my best to ignore for many years to come, but in a small town library, on an old shelf labeled JUVENILE FICTION, a little kid caught a glimpse of themselves for the first time.

The world and I have both changed since I was a kid, but the power of a community space that enthusiastically welcomes everyone, and provides free access to stories that allow people of all ages and backgrounds to feel seen, encouraged, educated and validated has remained, and continues to make public libraries an essential space and resource for our community.

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Awareness, Guest post

Guest Post: For Iran

By Midas Beglari

What is Happening in Iran?

On September 16, Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish women, was murdered by the morality police in Tehran, Iran; her death sparked an anti-government movement, referred to as “Woman, Life, Freedom”, in Iran and all around the world. As we share this message, Iranians inside the country are protesting in the streets, being shot at with military guns, and being abducted to unknown locations. The government has shut down internet access countrywide. Following over two weeks of protests in Iran that have left more than a hundred civilians dead (with ethnic minorities in Balochistan being especially hard-hit), the Iranian diaspora expressed their frustration with the Islamic Regime on Saturday, October 1st, the Global Day of Action for Iran, by attending demonstrations in over 150 cities across the globe. Iranian Ontarians rallied alongside over 50,000 protesters in Richmond Hill and London. Then, on October 2nd, the government attacked Sharif University, Iran’s most prestigious educational institution. Fully armed military forces with permission to open fire were sent inside the university while the doors were shut, trapping over 2,000 students, staff and faculty inside the university and its dorms. Innocent students leading a revolution for freedom were abused, arrested, and shot at by the Islamic Regime inside of their educational institution. This is just the beginning. 

Why are we taking a stand?

The biggest women’s rights movement is happening right now in Iran, but Iranians are fighting for so much more than just women’s rights. Over the past 43 years, the Islamic Regime has been systematically oppressing indigenous ethnic groups in Iran (especially the Kurds) by erasing their languages, religious identities, cultural expressions, and traditional ways of life. Right now, they are bombing Kurdish schools. LGBTQ+ people in Iran are denied basic human rights and still face the death penalty. Two queer and trans activists Sareh and Elham Choubdar are currently in prison on death row waiting for the International Court of Justice to vacate their sentences. Religious minorities, like the Bahaïs, experience extreme systematic oppression at the hands of a legal system that is built to exclude them to the point of denying them access to education.

If you care about women’s rights, 2SLGBTQ+ rights, racism, police brutality, and religious freedom, you should be standing in solidarity with Iran.

The Islamic Regime has turned the hijab into a symbol of oppression for Iranian women. When Iranian women take off and burn their hijabs, they are asking for the same thing Muslim women in the West are asking for: freedom of choice and bodily autonomy. Please be mindful of this context, and do not use Iranian women’s choice to take off the hijab as an excuse to be Islamophobic. 

How can we help?

-Share and Amplify Iranian Voices on Social Media and Use #MahsaAmini #womenlifefreedom

Write to Canadian Officials (the template can be modified) 

-Attend Protests and Learn about Global Day of Action for Iran

Sign the petition for Sareh & Elham LGBTQ+ Activist

-Bypass Internet Censorship by Using Snowflake


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Guest post

Guest post: exploring your queer identity as a bisexual person

I first encountered biphobia before I was even out to myself and a woman at a gay bar in Montreal asked my sexual orientation. When I said I wasn’t sure, she scoffed and said women who “weren’t sure” always defaulted back to men. (Ma’am, who hurt you?) It bothered me at the time, but I didn’t know why.

Now I’m proudly bisexual. I’m also in a relationship with a cisgender man, and there’s been no revelation that I was straight all along. In fact, it’s made the need to connect to my queerness stronger–not to compensate or prove something, but to nurture parts of myself that are vital to who I am, regardless of my partner.

When I asked other friends in “straight-passing” relationships, they said the same thing. They want to express and explore their queer identity, but aren’t sure how. It can be a challenge for any 2SLGBTQ+ person, but especially for those who feel excluded by others in the queer community or erased by the world at large. So how can you engage with and cultivate your queerness? With some exploration, I’ve found ways to embrace, as bell hooks put it, “the self that is at odds with everything around it.”

Engage with queer art. 

Nurture yourself with 2SLGBTQ+ culture. Read works written by queer folks about queer folks (fan fiction counts). Watch movies or shows where 2SLGBTQ+ people are realized characters who aren’t killed off for the drama. Listen to queer music artists. Hang queer art on your walls. You might even be inspired to create for yourself!

Learn about queer history.

Queer history is your history! Deepen your connection to yourself by reading up on 2SLGBTQ+ events and people from the past. Understanding queer history in Canada and globally can help you appreciate how far we’ve come—and understand where we need to go.

Volunteer for a cause.

If you have the privilege of time and energy, putting it to use helping an 2SLGBTQ+ cause is a worthy and warming use of it. There are lots of non-profits focused on a variety of queer causes, so find one that speaks to you and put yourself out there. 

Find personalized community spaces.

My boyfriend, best friend, and I play video games together. One game we like allows you to add a Pride flag charm to your character’s outfit. When you see other players wearing the Pride charm, it’s customary to do a little dance by crouching to acknowledge each other. The tiny spark I feel as I tap the CTRL key—I see you!—is weird and special.

Participating in queer spaces can be affirming and validating when you find ones that suit you. Luckily, the recent Zoom boom (sorry), means events are becoming more accessible for all. Organizations like Spectrum have support groups online and off, and also host seminars and social events. So get out there and find your own video game Pride charm crouch dance!

Riley Wignall is a writer and a total nerd from Waterloo, currently being queer as h*ck in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Guest post

Guest Post: Shedding the Cocoon of Shame, A Pandemic Self-Discovery

This guest post was written by A. Wray.

Pre-pandemic, I worked in a toxic work environment. Every day I left overwhelmed by the weight of the feelings of the people around me and ready to crawl into bed. I don’t recall where or how I learned to be responsible for other people’s feelings, but at some point it became embedded in me just like the idea that girls should be feminine. It’s the way I’ve been conditioned. 

Once I rebelliously wore my Blundstones to work (it was rebellious not because Blundstones aren’t professional but because they aren’t feminine). Wearing them to work felt bold until a coworker commented that her husband had the same pair. I became consumed by shame for not being more feminine, like her, my muscles constricting and shoulders creeping towards my ears. When I had worn make-up or dresses my coworkers gushed over how nice I looked, congratulating me for fitting the part prescribed by society. Now, they looked at me, puzzled.

Truthfully, I will never be feminine like my coworker, and I question if I ever really wanted to be. I was following the script I was given. But despite reviewing my lines frequently, I couldn’t get them right. I have been described as ‘fake’ on several occasions, but admittedly I was fake; I was faking being a woman. It was convincing enough to fool even myself. Inside I felt ugly, stuck behind a mask of femininity used for protection from threats, exclusion, and from myself. I had wrapped myself in a cocoon of shame named internalized transphobia. 

Working from home offered a break from the performance of gender with less pressure to be nice, calm, and collected. I exhaled deeper. I collected the energy I saved from not having to brace for the next rant debating the existence of trans folks. I re-invested that energy towards connecting with my nervous system, shining a light on the cocoon’s presence. Instead of being immobilized by its heaviness, I was able to shift ever so slightly. I began to release the toxic energy I had absorbed and increased my capacity to fight for my existence. 

Over time, the cocoon became less constricting. I shed a particularly stubborn layer while delivering a presentation on how to support trans folks. It was my chance to speak up, not only for others, but for myself. As I shared, I felt a warm tingly sensation spread throughout my body that lingered long after – the feeling of allowing myself to accept that I could be non-binary. An opening in the cocoon emerged and escape from the shame of not fitting into the gender binary seemed possible. I could set myself free. 

All along I thought it was my co-workers and the toxic work environment that prevented me from discovering the real me. Instead it was the part of me that was weighed down by internalized transphobia that I needed to escape. Like with most gender discoveries, I changed my hair, my pronouns, but most importantly, how I carried myself. I replaced shame with self-appreciation; toxicity with healing. I swapped out the inauthentic performance of femininity for the real, non-binary me. 

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Guest post

Guest Post: Living With Grief – A Gay Perspective

By Glenn Jamieson

As an older gay male, I was living a charmed life, was completely content, and woke up every day looking forward to whatever the day would bring.  I was in a long term (almost 40 years) relationship with my best friend and soulmate, and while we weren’t openly gay, most people who knew us knew we were partners.  We didn’t have a lot of gay friends, mostly acquaintances, but we were happy with the life we had created for ourselves.

That life came crashing down in July of 2018 when my partner suffered a heart attack and passed away.

Since that time I have learned more about grief than I’d ever thought possible.  Over the years I’d lost aunts, uncles, grandparents, a parent, and coworkers, and while each was a terrible loss in it’s own right, I never really thought about what losing a life partner would be like.

Typically, I would attend the viewing, sometimes the funeral, and would offer up my condolences and support.  Over the next few days I would think about the deceased and feel some sadness, but after about a week or so, depending on who it was, my life would continue on as it had previously.

What I never really thought about, nor could I have truly comprehended, was that for the surviving partner their life would never again be as it was.  From that day forward, from the start of their day to the end of their day, every day, they are constantly reminded of who isn’t there anymore.  There isn’t a day that goes by, and it’s almost four years now, that I don’t think of him.  

There are times that I wish someone who’d been through a loss like mine would have warned me, or prepared me, for what it would be like.  But I know that even if someone had, I still wouldn’t have been able to grasp the enormity of it.

I joined a local grief group, and while it was a help, I was the only gay person and there were aspects of our lives that I didn’t, or couldn’t, share with a group of heterosexual people who would have no idea of what growing up gay was like in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond.  My partner and I met at a time when gays were still reviled by mainstream society; we lived in the closet, and a few years later AIDS had started popping up in cities around the world.  I think those circumstances made us value each other and our relationship more strongly, and in the end, because we were all that each other had, made the loss that much more intense.

I ended leaving the group after a couple of weeks and faced the loss on my own, reading books on grief, and a year later finding a gay grief group on Facebook.  It was comforting to have found others who were experiencing the same type of loss I’d had, but unfortunately, none of them lived locally, and then with COVID, meeting others would not have been possible anyway.  In grief, as in so many other situations, it’s beneficial to be able to sit down with likeminded individuals who are going through the same experiences as you are.

I’ve found that grief doesn’t end in six months, a year, two years, or four.  The pain of the loss isn’t as intense as it was, but the loss is never ending.  I can have great days, but at the end of the day there’s a sadness that’s ever present.   I’ve spoken with others who have been widowed 10 years and more, and they’re still missing their soulmates.  They don’t share much about it with non widows/widowers, but we can talk to each other, and we understand.

I guess my intent with this post is to make people aware of how fragile life is, and to let everyone know that gay people, still, in some cases, are not treated equally, not just in life, but also in death.

If you’re currently in a committed relationship, sit down with your significant other and tell them how much you love them, and how much they mean to you.  Tell each other what you would wish for them moving forward if anything should happen to either of you.

Make sure you’ve got a will and a power of attorney for healthcare,  and for finances, for each other.  Make sure you’ve named each other as beneficiaries to your pension plans, and whether married or not, have legal papers drawn up showing you consider each other life partners.  Don’t wait to do this, do it now!

There are some in the gay grief group who have not only lost their partners, but have been left with nothing because they didn’t have the proper legal protections drawn up, and the family of the deceased has come in and taken everything, including in some cases, their home.  Love means protecting each other, and that includes in death.

One other thing I would recommend is to take pictures – lots and lots of pictures -and videos.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is priceless!  With a video you get their essence and their voice.  A lot of widows/widowers miss hearing their loved ones voices and will save messages from their answering machines just so they can hear still hear them.  Once we’re on our own all we are left with are the pictures, the videos, and the memories.

Life is shorter than one may think, and can change in a flash.  Value those you love above all else, because in the end, they’re all that matters in this life.

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Guest post

Guest post: the elusive queer bar

When I worked in renovations (I know, I know, a lesbian in Carhartt) there was a bar where trades people met after work. We would discuss the day’s problems over a cold pint, rant about customers, and make connections within the industry. It helped relieve the stress of a hard day, and garnered a sense of comradery. As a 40-year-old, single, non-binary lesbian, meeting other queers in the tri-city area has proved to be a kind of queer quest of the Holy Grail: awkward, elusive, and futile. I feel a similar need for a space to exist with like-minded folks – a gay bar to call our own.

I’m imagining a place where we can freely discuss the topics affecting the LGBTQQIP2SAA community without always having to tip-toe or explain, which can happen in mainly straight spaces. A spot where queer haircuts are the norm and suspenders glisten, where everybody knows your pronouns (or politely ask if they don’t), and Sam the pansexual bartender is a retired women’s softball pitcher who flirts with genders across the spectrum. No womanizing here, folks! Sober peeps welcome! (Sam can make a great mocktail).

Of course, the queer world isn’t always a perfect utopia, and violence, misogyny, trans-hate, and bad drunks can be found under the rainbow, too – but, having spaces to connect with other queers can provide a safety net and help alleviate the stress that individuals experience. The baby gays, late-to-lesbians, and “queeretirees” (yes, I just coined that) need somewhere to have that first date, or the one they’ve been waiting for their whole lives.

I remember going to my first lesbian dance party in Toronto years ago, and dancing with a girl for the first time. She kissed me as I twirled her around the crowded bar, and we were safe to be ourselves. While I crave that kind of experience again, I also just want a place to grab a bite with friends, or somewhere to play trivia at. A place for the local drag queens and kings to showcase their talent, for the next generation of Tegan and Sara’s to play, or for local showings of Drag Race instead of having to drive to Toronto to find some semblance of queer fun and community.

And while I’d be happy with a gay bar in Kitchener, there’s an even greater need for lesbian bars at the moment. They tend to be more inclusive, especially for trans and non-binary folx, whereas “gay bars” cater mainly to cisgender gay men, and can be intimidating to other queer sexualities and identities. There are currently no lesbian bars in Canada, and only 21 in the States compared to around 200 in the 80s. This is not a COVID-19 problem. Head over to the big smoke and you can find Crews and Tangos, Woody’s, and a number of other male-centric establishments. The nearest lesbian bar is the Cubbyhole in New York City. I don’t want to have to dig out my passport every time I want to hang out with my people.

This guest post was written by Emily Gleeson.

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Guest post

Guest post: Finding the sport that fit for me – the struggle as a POC Lesbian woman

This guest post is by Lakisha Hoover.

People often joke to me about how I navigate through the world as a triple threat: bi-racial, a woman and a lesbian.  I never really thought of these things until I got older and realized the community I grew up in lacked resources and spaces that felt comfortable. 

Attending Catholic schools all of my life, I knew I was always part of the minority –  especially within sports. There was a clear lack of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation in my city’s sport leagues, and not many people were out. I never felt safe enough to engage in the conversations everyone else had about dating and who they found to be “hot”, which meant missing out on chances to connect to my teammates when we travelled together.

Eventually I lost my passion for basketball after playing for many years and I feeling I was never going to get anywhere with it as a woman. So I slowly disconnected myself from the sport I have always loved and began playing rugby. 

Starting rugby, I was a bit worried about how I would be treated; I loved the chance it gave me to feel strong and empowered, but I was worried about how people would see me. I have heard people joke before in my small group of 2SLGBTQ+ friends  that rugby is a “gay persons dream”. Though it was a joke, I was very worried my teammates would get the wrong idea if they knew I was a lesbian. I was already fearful of being labelled as the aggressive black girl. These fears meant I never felt comfortable or good enough, and I eventually disconnected from rugby as I had with basketball and stopped playing altogether. 

Fast forward to 2021 when I found a rugby league in my city. Though it was coed and non-contact, I thought it could be a great way to build connections. However, I struggled with not knowing anyone. It was dominated by mainly men who were vocal about not wanting to play with women. Being one of three BIPOC there made me feel even more out of place. I attended a few sessions and eventually quit. I spent the rest of the summer looking into Leagues elsewhere that had a space that I could be myself. 

Recently I have signed up for the JAM sport league for co-ed basketball. Typically, co-ed leagues require two women to be on the field at all times. However, in this league there are no minimum gender requirements when playing, which means people who aren’t men are put in the vulnerable position of potentially being benched. 

Luckily, places such as Toronto offer great resources and spaces for BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ community. With the help of my amazing partner, I found an inclusive rugby club called The Rainbow Griffins. (More information can be found on Pride Toronto’s Instagram page.) And I am still

I am still hopeful for more small or medium sized cities to create the spaces bigger cities already have.

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Guest post

Guest post: straight with a twist

This guest post was written by Marci Warhaft.

“Straight with a twist!”

That’s how I order my vodka and, coincidentally, how I used to describe my sexuality until very recently. While I stand by my drink order, it turns out that I was very wrong about the second part. 

Who would have thought that at 50 years old I would realize that I was a lesbian? Certainly not the man I had been married to for 22 years or my children! Luckily, by the time I experienced my epiphany I was divorced and my kids were old enough to process it at their own paces.

Truth be told, until I was in my early 30s I considered myself 100% straight. That changed when during my marriage I developed a strong and surprising attraction for a female friend. The friendship became intimate. Our relationship was brief yet impactful. Despite a curiosity to explore what I was feeling, I didn’t believe it was the right time. Instead, I convinced myself that it was “just a phase” and stuck with that theory for fifteen more years. Even after my marriage ended, I still wasn’t ready to fully acknowledge who I was and continued to (unsuccessfully) date men. 

“Maybe I’m just lousy at love”, I’d wonder every time I ended a potential relationship. “Or terrified of commitment.”

 Last year as I was turning 50, I finally understood that neither was true. My inability to sustain a relationship didn’t mean I was incapable of love, just that I was looking for it in the wrong direction. I had reached a point in my life when I couldn’t fight my feelings any longer and more importantly, I didn’t want to. My decision was made: I was going to come out as a lesbian.

Coming out at 50 years old is tough; add a worldwide pandemic into the mix and it can feel virtually impossible! Meeting people in person wasn’t an option. I was basically starting my gay life in the privacy of my own apartment! 

All I had was social media, so I used it. “Outing” myself felt important. I suppose I felt like I needed to make up for lost time. I joined LGBTQ+ social media groups and posted a noticeable amount of gay content. A lesbian friend agreed to be my “Sappho sensei” and has supported me along the way.

 I am so grateful to be in this place of self -acceptance but did have some concerns that I know are common for women in this situation:

1.Will women I meet judge me for my experiences with men?

Some will, but those aren’t your people. You’ll find your community.

2. Is it too late?

 Absolutely not. There is no expiry date on living your truth and finding happiness.

3. Will I know what do when it comes to physical intimacy?

Don’t worry, when the connection is real, nature takes over in the most enjoyable of ways.

Regardless of how long it took to get here, you’re here now, so enjoy every second!

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