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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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: 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: 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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Guest Post: performing bisexuality for others

This month’s guest post was written by Julia Cowderoy.

When I was 19 I posted a status on Facebook that said “when people ask me about my sexuality, I’m just going to start saying my thirst knows no bounds’. While that’s obviously hilarious I understand now that I was using humour as a faux shield against any kind of scrutiny (real or imagined). During this time I felt I had to “prove” my bisexuality in order for it to be valid. The irony of writing an essay to prove that I don’t have to prove anything is not lost on me, but just bear with me. 

I’ve realized that not feeling “queer enough” is a common theme within the bisexual community. Why is that? I’ve noticed that bisexual men are assumed to be gay, whereas bisexual women are painted with a broad brush as straight girls who drunkenly make-out with their friends for the enjoyment of their googly-eyed yokel boyfriends. In both instances, the attraction of men is the underlying motivation for expressions of sexuality.  

While I can’t wholly speak to the experiences of bisexual men, I will say that I’ve had straight men view my sexuality as a performance for their pleasure. (“Performance” is a useful word because it implies we are actors and bisexuality needs to look a certain way in order for it to be valid.) While trying to come to terms with my own sexuality I was influenced more by external sources than I understood at the time. 

I’ve had people in my life question my sexuality because I’ve never dated a woman, and recently my best friend even told me I was “90% into men”. She didn’t mean this maliciously; I’ve only dated men, so the judgement was based more on how I’ve presented than how I feel. The reality is that my attraction to people is more fluid rather than a rigid percentage. This interaction sent me into an anxiety spiral wondering if I was just cosplaying as a bisexual person this entire time.

When I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a peer mentor, I encouraged conversations about gender and sexuality. I marvelled at how accepting much of this younger generation is of sexuality and how they realize it isn’t static and doesn’t need to appear a certain way to be real. When I was that age I thought sexuality was something predetermined and permanent, and as such I had a lot of confusion surrounding my attraction to women since I considered myself straight. 

I’ve come a long way in understanding my sexuality, but there is still work to be done. I hope as a society we can come to a place of understanding that sexuality and gender are more complex than scientific definitions. And, like any sexuality, bisexuality isn’t some hypothesis that needs to be tested, experimented, cross-examined and held to rigorous scientific standards — it simply exists.

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Awareness, Guest post

Guest post: the importance of substitute decision makers

This guest column was written by Meghan Macmillan.

For many people it is uncomfortable thinking about mortality. What does it mean to grow old, to become ill or to die? These are not easy questions to wrestle with, but they are important for each of us to look at. 

Being queer, trans, or any identity outside of the cis-hetero norms of our society makes this even more important. Our doctors, nurses, caregivers are starting to get more training in diversity and how not to make assumptions about the patients they treat, but anyone who is 2SLGBTQ+ has all seen bias (both conscious and unconscious) impact the healthcare experiences of ourselves or our loved ones.   

As someone who works with those experiencing serious illness and end-of-life, I get to see the difference it makes to have these difficult conversations ahead of time. The end-of-life needs of the 2SLGBTQ+ community are similar to the general population in that it’s important to talk about what kind of care we want. However, because our community often does not fit neatly into the medical boxes of “family”, there are some additional decisions that need to be looked at to ensure our safety, dignity and comfort

When a person is incapacitated, the medical system looks to their “Substitute Decision Maker” or SDM to make decisions on their behalf. There is a legal standard that health providers go by in emergencies, unless a person has previously legally appointed someone to act for them. Depending on a person’s situation their SDM will be assumed to be their spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other relative (generally in that order). But this framework does not take into account that 2SLGBTQ+ people are often estranged from their families and may prefer that decisions be made by a friend or partners that are not legally recognized as a “spouse”.

There are many reasons that those in our community may not feel that their legal family will best represent their health decisions. Your SDM advocates for things including: medical decisions, who may visit you, who receives information about you, and the type of intimate care you receive. If you feel that a friend or chosen non-immediate family member may better represent you than the person the law assumes would care for you, then it is important to have these conversations with your chosen person and fill out the forms to legally make them your Power of Attorney. While this may sound intimidating, once your decisions are made it is not a difficult process to go through and the forms are free online.

Our health can change at any time, accidents and disease don’t recognize age. We all deserve to be surrounded by the people we love and care about in times of need. While this kind of conversation may feel uncomfortable it is definitely one worth having. Take this as the sign to add it to your “to do” list, get it done, and then congratulate yourself on some definite self care.  

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