Monthly Archives: November 2015

seasons of gender: reflections on trans day of remembrance

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gender can be a daunting topic – daunting for trans and cis people alike.

for the latter, discussing gender can seem difficult. anxiety-provoking. tentative to engage, cis people often avoid asking about pronouns, avoid trying with pronouns, avoid learning about gender altogether. all this employed in the spirit of fragility: as if it is better to evade and notfuckup than it is to make a mistake and sit in the unease of learning.

yet the anxiety of gender, for cis people, simply ends there. for the former, gender anxiety is a different reality.

hegemonic western society conditions us to seek “normalcy,” but for so many, normalcy is elusive and suffocating, erupting along lines of sexuality, gender, race, Indigeneity, class, ability. for those of us who confront traditional gender roles on an everyday basis, asserting difference within ourselves can be emancipatory, but frightening and unsafe too.

difference is deviance. difference is a bullet in your back. difference is power.

upon contact with Turtle Island, european colonizers observed the influence of Indigenous peoples of alternate or “third” genders (and sexualities) – essentially, those who embodied fluid masculine and feminine energies. now identifying under the reclaimed term of Two-Spirit, these people were respected throughout various Indigenous nations. many were consultants, healers, and mediators between the sexes, revered and upheld for their uniquely gendered contributions. noting this power, the colonizers attacked. targeted. today, against century-wide tides of homophobia and transphobia, Indigenous Two-Spirit people and youth continue to push back against ongoing dispossession and trauma, reclaiming their identities, finding spaces of healing, and making art and rage.

difference is power.

***

today is friday, november 20th, marking the sixteenth annual Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR). in a world in which gender non-conformity is continually policed and targeted, TDoR recognizes the trajectories of difference and power, exception and oppression, and shines a light on the knotted place in which they meet. TDoR is about honouring lives, acknowledging brutality, and identifying the divergent ways power can be wielded: disciplining power in the hands of the oppressor, collective power in the hands of community.

on a cold november day in 1998, Rita Hester was murdered in her small apartment in allston, MA. she was statuesque and gorgeous and killed because she was a Black trans woman. communities mourned, then came together. the next year, two candlelight vigils commemorating her death were held in San Francisco and Boston. since then, TDoR has transformed into a worldwide service to honour the lives lost to transphobic violence. like many of these murders, Hester’s is still unsolved. it bears noting that a mere fifteen years ago, anti-transgender murderers were rarely arrested or trialled. when they were, many claimed a “transgender panic” defense: that their masculinity was so “threatened” by the presence of their victim that they “snapped” and had “no option” but to commit murder (Smith).

most murderers went free.

difference is deviance. difference is a bullet in your back.

but difference is also power. since then, transgender activists have “worked to pass groundbreaking legislation to treat anti-trans violence as a hate crime, to disallow the “transgender panic” defense, and to even preserve our identities in death” (Smith). as TDoR founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith writes, these advances “provide us respect, dignity, and potential justice for those of us who are still lost to these murders.”

nevertheless the arrogation of “transgender panic,” though no longer legally enshrined, continues abound. by the first five weeks of 2015, five trans women of colour had already been killed in the united states. five. one for every week. one for every week before mid-february. before valentine’s day. before the cusp of spring. globally, a trans person is killed every three days.

in what world does a person’s anxiety about gender warrant the cold killing of a life?

***

on november 20th, we remember. we remember here, here, and here. in the names of Lamia Beard, Penny Proud, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Vash Payne, Taja DeJesus, Diosvany Muñoz Robaina, L.A. de Souza, Mercedes Williamson, Natália Ferraz, Joyce Akira; in the names of the people whose deaths were never reported or whose lives may never be commemorated on a list, a vigil, or a candlelight service; in the names of so many more, we remember.

***

in may of 2014, Time magazine declared Laverne Cox an “unlikely icon” — and is she ever. trans, Black, femme, and bold, Cox is paving the way for thousands of gender non-conforming people across the world. from blazing onto the white, cis-dominated scenes of Orange Is The New Black to raising awareness about racist, transphobic violence, to creating a reality show about seven transgender youth and speaking candidly and eloquently on media appearances across the world, Cox has been an unwavering fulcrum for the “transgender tipping point.”

Cox is not the first, nor is she the only. today let us also honour the Black, Brown, multicoloured gender warriors and allies fighting in the intersecting trenches of trans and queerphobia: Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two transgender women of colour who ignited the New York Stonewall Riots in the seventies. Jessica Yee Danforth (Mohawk), Harlan Pruden (Cree), Qwo-Li Driskill (Cherokee), and Ken Monkman (Swampy Cree), Two-Spirit activists nurturing initiatives in decolonial academia, Two-Spirit archiving, critical theory, and resurgent art. DarkMatter, Jasbir Puar, and Kai Cheng Thom, QTIPOC educators who speak against white homonormativity, corporationalization, and nation-state homonationalisms, and who make visible queer of colour existence for racialized people like myself. Leanne Simpson (Anishnaabe) and Sarah Hunt (Kwaguilth), scholar-activists who work tirelessly to take a stand against colonial gender-based violence and its targeting of Indigenous women, girls, and Two Spirit people. the Audre Lorde Project, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, and Elixher, grassroots organizations that advocate for community wellness and socioeconomic justice for QTIPOCs, self-determination of Indigenous youth’s sexualities and bodies, and visibility for trans women of colour in love.

our communities are colourful and diverse. gender is a kaleidoscope.

fellow trans, Two-Spirit, and non-binary people, today is our day of remembrance. today is our day of visibility, of reflection, of gathering together and finding a looser, gentler breath. whether online, at the steps of a school, or in the middle of a city, spaces will reverberate with the sounds of us – murmurs and stories leaking through walls and washrooms and other borders, returning to those who came before.

we carve these spaces out everyday, but especially today they are ours. ours to see each other, to celebrate each other, to find ourselves in mirrored others, to cry with and for each other, to speak stories through tears, to share food in clamour and warmth, to ask for pronouns and get them right, to fuck up and carry on learning, to never stop remembering.

***

a friend recently remarked to me that our world is aching more than ever. anti-Black violence across schools in the united states. anti-refugee hatred throughout the globe. bombs in Beirut, attacks in Paris; a disparity of reaction. islamaphobic arson in Kitchener. colonial dispossession, intergenerational trauma, environmental racisms, militarized borders slashing territories like knives, Black and Brown collateral, communities under cold capitalism, violence against bodies of all genders and sexualities. sometimes I feel nothing and sometimes I feel everything; lately numbness has been my most salient instinct. it scares me.

there shouldn’t have to be a trans day of remembrance. there shouldn’t already have been sixteen TDoRs. there shouldn’t have to be a day where communities gather and read their dead. we need not be quiet, but we should not have to scream so loud.

today I am numb and screaming, so I write.

***

it is late november in BC and the coast is wet, misting, and still unceded. nearby, the fraser river, known as StÓ:lŎ by the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking Musqueam people, froths a dirty brown as it meets the pacific estuary. the territories here are unremitting and temperate; every morning the old pines by my window reach their arms higher into heavy skies. this land holds us, carries the weight of rain and witnessing.

writing about trans day of remembrance has been difficult. as a non-binary person, gender remains for me a tentative, unchartered landscape; feeling phony hits hard. when I read Stone Butch Blues earlier this summer, Leslie Feinberg’s words stayed with me like a warm fist. I sobbed and sobbed until my breath gaped, my chest clenching and unclenching. I didn’t know it was like that. how little I know about trans and queer hxstories. how little I know about the lives of Feinberg and so many others, our olders.

and yet whose hxstories? whose voices? whose stories about gender and sexuality are we centring? the whiteness of queer and trans spaces is not only an ongoing “trend” in communities or a problem to be “remedied” by way of racialized quotas — it is a violence upon those whose lands we walk. fellow settlers, we need to do better. how can we practice a stronger accountability to the queer, trans, and Two-Spirit folks in our communities? how can we better educate ourselves? how can we hold up the neverending cascades of Indigenous resistance from a relational, respectful distance? trans day of remembrance does not exist in isolation from these lands; it is intricately connected to the centuries of racist and gendered colonial violence that Turtle Island and its First Peoples have survived.

as a queer, non-binary Chinese settler, I often feel estranged by cries to be Out and Gay and Proud. western queerness and transness feel like imported concepts, like I’m imitating a whiteprint on drafting paper. I am the only non-binary and queer person in my family and I know nothing of my queer or trans Chinese ancestors, let alone if they exist. I know little of my culture’s conceptions of gender and sexuality. the labels of “queer” and “non-binary” serve their purpose, though not always. I have no mother tongue to soften these experiences.

last year, when my gender began to unravel in the fallow transition between autumn and winter, I felt deeply, reflexively isolated. I had just published an article about the politics of coming out, but parts of my writing felt alien. nowhere around me existed Chinese narratives about my identity. “cisgender.” Western. I yearned for a different arrival into myself.

as summer came, the upheaval slowly lifted. later it came to me. I’m seasonally gendered. or something like that. as in, my gender fluctuates with the turn of earth, with the tides, with our rotation around the sun. summer is skin on fire, shaved head, she/her. fall is compact, quieter. tight lines, they/them. winter is softer around the edges. spring is for the rising. summer, in its return, releases a new cycle of motion, shifted. no season is ever the same. it was emancipatory, arriving to gender this way. of course I am tied to the earth. of course I tilt with its rhythms. we all do.

***

gender is not simple. though it still grasps and unsettles me, tracing its shape in my own words helps me breathe a little looser. fellow trans, Two-Spirit, and non-binary people, my experience may not be your experience, but we all deserve to be known. today, amidst the sadness, grief, and commemoration, as the banners lower and the crowds part, remember that we hold power in our difference.

so on this day, ask yourself: where were you before now? where were you when you were quiet? how did it feel to search for yourself; how does it feel now? what pathways do you see leaving your body, where might gender gesture towards, and how will the seasons unfold ahead?


k. edits for The Talon and works on a team that delivers workshops on trans*-literate pedagogies to UBC faculty. they spend their time sitting under maple trees and being suspended in or by the ocean. sometimes they take pictures of cute queer ppl.

acknowledgements: maneo mohale, you catalyze and honour me so well. jane shi, kelly cubbon, zehra naqvi, laura mars, ciara-maëlle thibault, cicely-belle blain, sol diana, yulanda lui, naheed jadavji, marlee laval, afie bo, anne kessler, mary chen, matthew ward – thank you for holding me up in big and small ways. sarah hunt, janey lew, and everyone in my Indigenous Feminisms and Asian-Canadian/Indigenous Relations classes – from you I learn so much. coffee.

 

We are Here, We are Needed: UBC Students of Colour Ready to Speak Out against Racist Violence Worldwide

Next Friday, November 27th, an event at UBC is taking place where students of colour and allies will gather to show solidarity for the racist violence occurring throughout university campuses worldwide. Please join us at 2PM in the Performance Theatre of the AMS Nest, to show your support for #Mizzou, #Yale, #UWC, #FeesMustFall, #StudentBlackOut, #BlackLivesMatter and many other resistance movements led by students of colour.

Bombs, dropping across the world.

Facebook offers to change your profile red, white, and blue, forgetting lives lost in Garissa University of Kenya, Burundi, Beirut, Baghdad, Yola. Forgetting countless other places. Blue, white, and red: the colours of the United States, where Black students at Missouri University are resisting racist death threats and physical attacks in spite of a negligent campus administration.

In South Africa, Black students insist that #FeesMustFall in their historically whites-only universities. Police shoot at students with stun grenades.

This year, the University of British Columbia turned 100 years old. That means a century of colonial occupation of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people’s unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories. This year, UBC’s administration wants to increase tuition fees for international students yet again. In three years, international students will have to pay 49% more than what they do now. This year, the first brown President on campus, Arvind Gupta, resigned without explanation. Another brown man, a student, was attacked on campus several months before.

I highlight only the tip of a monstrous iceberg, the iceberg that is white supremacy. As I listened to Teju Cole speak about inequality inside the Jack Poole Hall of UBC’s newly-built Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre over a week ago, I wondered about how he has been the only non-white speaker for the Lind Initiatives series so far, introduced by Phanuel Antwi, the only Black professor in the English department where I am getting a degree. Racism on campus is not just experienced by characters in the books I am studying. Racism structures our everyday, and whether some of us will wake up to see another.

Last April, the #I2amUBC photo project reminded us that racism on campus is alive and well, but that racialized students are still here, resisting.

Over a week ago, Teju Cole reminded me that lives here are not any more important than those on the other side of the world. For some, “here” means Paris, even if they have never set foot in Europe. For some, “the other side of the world” means Black, Muslim, and Indigenous people murdered each day; refugees who live in their neighbourhoods facing deportation and violence; and all the racialized women—poor and queer and trans and disabled—who traverse the classist, heterosexist, transmisogynistic, and ableist walls that white men have made us build for them. For some, those walls are worth more than the thousands of hands who have fashioned them, combined.

For me, a Han Chinese settler who came to the unceded territories of the Coast Salish people before 9/11, from Mainland China, the racism I experience propels me to ask how I can meaningfully support Black, Muslim, and Indigenous students (among others) in their struggles. As Mainland Chinese people continue to be blamed for the housing crisis in Vancouver and as the City continues to neglect the needs of Chinese seniors in Chinatown, I wonder how the model minority myth encourages those like me to approximate and appeal to white people’s realities at the expense of black and brown bodies. I wonder why I should put up with harmful stereotypes of being docile, silent, or small, when my voice and presence are needed.

As I walk around in The Nest, I am aware that so many students speak Cantonese or Mandarin. So many of us have come from Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. So many of us are “East Asians,” as comments on Cicely-Belle Blain’s article point out. Would we all join Black folks as they are being killed by police, Muslim folks as their mosques are being burned, Indigenous people as their land, women, Two-Spirit folks, and children are being stolen? Would we catch the bullets in midair, douse the match before it’s lit, or give the land back, if we could? Would we shelter refugees in our homes in Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, Kitsilano, in Richmond, in Burnaby?

Since the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, I wonder how many youth in the Chinese diaspora have been counselled not to get political, not to speak up, and not to involve ourselves in protest movements. I admit doing so is not easy, it almost never is. It’s precisely because there are so many of us on campus that we must come together to support other racialized folks. We are needed.

I hope to see you there on Friday, November 27th.

“because i am part of the problem i can also become part of the solution
although i am part of the problem i can also become part of the solution
where i am part of the problem i need to be part of the solution”

– from Rita Wong’s “Declaration of Intent” in undercurrent

Thanks to Cicely-Belle Blain for organizing the event; Blessing Falayi for organizing #I2amUBC; Maneo Mohale and Lucia Lorenzi for the constant inspiration.

On “Top 16 Talon-Approved Initiative on Campus”

In response to concerns expressed in regards to the inclusion of the Women’s Centre in the “Top 16 Talon-Approved Initiatives on Campus” article, The Talon would like to acknowledge that we are aware of and share concerns about the history of transmisogyny within the Women’s Centre. The Talon works to end all forms of oppression and violence, so oppression of and violence against trans people in our communities is unacceptable. We do not condone practices of feminism which are exclusionary.

The article was intended to show students spaces on campus that are committed to doing anti-oppressive work, and to endorse that commitment. We did not make this intent clear when posting the article, and we should have. However, regardless of our intent, and regardless of these spaces’ commitments to anti-oppressive values, people have experienced oppressive violence in all of the spaces listed in this article – and will continue to. This is not okay. And it is real.

One of our collective members, Blessing, who is also Vice President of the Women’s Centre, spoke to the concerns at an editorial collective meeting. She is aware of the Centre’s history of transmisogyny, and has affirmed her commitment to making the Women’s Centre safer for trans women. It is important to acknowledge that previous coordinators have stood firmly for trans women’s safety and inclusion within the space, while others have maintained commitment to trans exclusionary radical feminism. In spite of efforts of the former, trans exclusionary practices have prevailed in the space, including the transmisogynist inclusion of folks who are assigned female at birth who may not be women (implying that trans masculine folks are welcome in the space and affirming gender assignment at birth contrary to trans folks’ self-determination) mentioned in the comment on the article. Since this important call-out, The Women’s Centre has changed the statement on their website. In addition, we are aware of the fact that the Centre’s membership is changing and growing.

At this time, The Talon feels that the best response is not to remove the Women’s Centre from the list, but to continue to build a relationship with the Women’s Centre and encourage more trans inclusive feminisms and practices. We strongly urge all campus communities to be more accountable to their historical and ongoing organizing, in order to create safer, stronger, and more inclusive spaces for all UBC students. As the Talon Collective, we must constantly reflect on how we can do better for our communities. We hope that this notice helps clarify our position on this important matter, as well as highlight the fact that transmisogyny should never be an unspeakable form of violence.

Excellence or Exclusion?

Excellence has been the Board of Governors’ word of choice since announcing the implementation of international tuitions increases averaging at 49% over the next three years.  But what does the BOG’s vision of excellence really look like and does it foster exclusion?

To date, UBC has published very few statistics on the economic and racial diversity of its student body, of which international students make up 21.4%. This makes it almost impossible to guess which groups will be hit hardest by the Board’s decision. We can however, safely assume that increasing the tuition by such an unreasonable amount will disproportionately affect marginalized groups, making a ‘world class education’ even more inaccessible to many.

This comes as a huge disappointment to those of us who were initially drawn to UBC because of its vibrant and diverse global environment. Isn’t it ironic that the same institution that taught us to celebrate difference is now ignoring it? According to the Ubyssey, the Board and administration have been adamant about their refusal to discuss the necessity of the tuition increases, only allowing discussion on the topic of ‘allocation’ of new ‘revenue’ in their consultations. In doing so, they have both silenced and erased the voices most integral to this debate: those that would have been affected by these tuition hikes. This erasure and the inevitable reduction of difference and diversity to follow will once again impact the range of debates and the quality of knowledge produced on this campus. The progressive and dynamic dialectic space we aim to foster is under even greater threat.

UBC’s Board of Governors has reaffirmed that wealth, not merit, determines which students are able to walk alongside its extravagant buildings and fountains. To be clear, the University is already an incredibly euro-centric and exclusionary institution due to its pricy international and domestic tuitions fees and by nature of its colonial placement on the unceded and occupied land of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people.The most recent hikes show that even being a member of the upper-middle class isn’t enough anymore; in order to attend UBC, future international students will have to be members of the 1% – the global elite. And the Board of Governors’ emphasis on fund allocation, such as the potential expansion of financial aid for a select few international students, fails to address this problem. Scholarships and aid cannot be distributed to everyone and therefore tread dangerously close to tokenism.

It is important for domestic students to note that corporatization does not stop with international tuition. When the tuition cap freeze was lifted in 2002, the cost of tuition for domestic students rose by 22% in just one year, and within three years had almost doubled. The university has a history of lobbying for the “relaxing of” the 2% tuition increase cap which was set to balance the approximate rate of inflation. If the cap were to be lifted today, domestic tuitions in BC would begin to rival those found in the United States, where tuition is notoriously unaffordable.  

To a certain extent, the announcement seems logical: faced with increasing provincial cuts to post-secondary education, the University has to generate new revenue somehow. The corporate structure is seen as a viable solution to the Universities’ funding quandary, but when business interests are prioritized, academic values are thrown to the wayside. The University becomes a brand, as evidenced by this webpage, and education is reduced to a mere product.

It’s easy to see why so many of us may be left feeling defeated or demoralized in the wake of last year’s actions. This year’s tuition hikes seem like a slap in the face to many students who feel that they are being ignored or even mocked by the BOG and administration. However, we may not have been thinking big enough.  

Appealing to the BOG hasn’t worked. It’s time to start appealing to the community at large and to begin thinking outside the context of our own university. We must understand ourselves as part of a global movement. In Germany a sustained and uncompromising student movement eventually lead to the abandonment of tuition fees, proving once and for all that it’s possible to provide higher education for free. We should stand in solidarity with other students currently mobilizing in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Chile etc. to demand that education be made affordable to all. Ensuring that future generations have access to higher education is in our own interest, and in the interest of creating a better world.  

So how can we resist as students? Well, for starters we can mobilize, both on campus and in our respective cities and communities. Attend on-campus discussions, information sessions and rallies or organize your own event. The first panel discussion will be held on Friday, November 13th in the Atrium of the Student Nest. Remember, action generates press and press leads to political pressure! Write articles, talk to people in your communities, start new initiatives and think outside the box. Spreading information about this issue will make it more visible.
While the Board of Governors may see our protests and rallies as petty squabble, not worthy of their time or attention, other Canadians are likely to sympathize with our concerns. Young people represent a significant constituency in Canada as witnessed during this past election which saw the highest turnout of young Canadian voters in recent memory. Our voices matter, and if the Board of Governors does not agree, let’s prove them wrong!

No, UBC, I won’t be white for you

Last week I was perusing the shops in our beautiful new $107 million, horizon-obliterating, architectural giant, also know as the AMS Student Nest. In one cute, somewhat bizarrely placed boutique, I discovered something very shocking: Cake Soap. Cake Soap is what I – with a penchant for Vybz Kartel and some Jamaican ancestry – would call skin bleaching cream.

Hidden among cute fruity perfumes and floral-patterned backpacks was a tube of cream that claimed it could lighten the colour of my skin by up to two shades. I was shocked. Here, in this institution that prides itself on multicultural diversity. Here, in this mosaic of a country. Here, in this big new building that is meant to make me feel special and included and valuable as a student, I find a product intended to literally burn away the skin I have only just come to love.

I told a friend about this discovery and she said, “But it’s so commonly used in many Asian cultures” which momentarily calmed my anger and frustration at the university. The shop appeared to be run by a woman of Southeast Asian heritage, and so surely it was okay for her to sell this product as a cultural practice? Can I assign my own values to others’ culturally-specific choices?

It wasn’t until a class a few days later when a conversation about the Canadian idea of “visible minorities” forced me to remind my peers (and myself) of my very visible blackness that I was again outraged by the presence of this product on campus.

Yes, many people use skin bleaching creams and perhaps my initial reaction seemed culturally insensitive, but in a settler state like Canada, it is only more obvious how all attempts to whiten, Westernise and anglicise Indigenous and people of colour are instances of oppressive and colonial violence.

For racialised people, including myself, existing on campus can be difficult. The architecture and ergonomics of the campus were built for white people (for example, try fitting a round African bottom on a thin wooden chair), the academic content and ways of knowing were inspired by and developed for white people, the halls are lined with old photos of “successful” white people and possibly even the bathroom sinks favour them. The erasure and silencing of communities of colour in Vancouver is not limited to Strathcona. In 1971, the Georgia Viaduct was completed, crashing like a steel and concrete fist through the vibrant black area of Vancouver; one of many gentrification projects that drove communities of colour out of Metro Vancouver and into the suburbs or further.

So when a white student sees a bottle of skin bleaching cream in the student union building, it can only reaffirm to them the steady and dependable message of racist white supremacy that UBC is founded upon.  When a white student, without the resources and teaching to acknowledge their own white privilege, is faced with a product that confirms the superiority of whiteness, the racialised body is further demonised. When a white student learns that people of colour purposely change their features to appear more like them, I get comments like “Wow, you’re so pretty for a black girl” or “Don’t you wish you had normal hair?” or “I love getting darker, just in summer though!”.

Skin bleaching, hair relaxing, wearing straight and/or blonde weaves and wigs, wearing blue/green contact lenses, hair removal and facial surgery are personal choices founded upon internalised racism. It is valid to make these choices, to have autonomy over our own bodies, to express ourselves creatively, particularly in a society that objects to just that, but we must also be cognizant of the logics of oppression they are embedded within.

The desire (even if subconscious) to be fairer and whiter stems from the fact that global white supremacy posits whiteness as beautiful and darkness (big lips, afro hair, small eyes, hairy arms, black irises…) as ugly, lesser, and subhuman. Within communities of colour this also means that we perform lateral violence onto one another; we attempt to hold each other accountable to standards that have been imposed upon us. Through centuries of colonisation, slavery, genocide and violence, we have taken on the mandate of the oppressor and begun to self-police. We shame those who choose natural hair over weaves and those who don’t want eye enlargement surgery and those who are okay with just being brown.

This horizontally-wielded oppression is also very gendered. In an Indian commercial for vaginal lightening shower gel, the (cis) woman is seen to only be attractive to her male partner once she has a shiny white vagina. Again, the cultural specificity is evident but the ideals are rooted in both internalised and horizontal racism and sexism. While other genders also practise skin lightening, the pressure for women to conform to beauty standards is higher. Audrey Thompson says, “White privilege depends on the devaluation of non-whites” and this is clear in the way white beauty standards are globally upheld. Women of colour are devalued by white beauty standards (and therefore the privilege of white people to have their own faces and bodies reflected back at them on every screen and magazine page) to an extent that they are willing (or perhaps forced) to mutilate their own features in order to appear attractive to both a white audience and a male audience.

People of colour are taught that to be beautiful, smart, intelligent, creative is to be white. To be accepted, revered, acknowledged, protected is to be white. To be free… is to be white. And so the only solution? Become white.

By continually employing more white professors than those of colour, teaching abundantly more material by white authors, allowing racist, anti-Indigenous chants, providing less support to disciplines of study like the First Nations and Indigenous Studies department and the African Studies department, enforcing mandatory English fluency testing, failing to provide campus-wide teaching on respectful and inclusive language, and rarely acknowledging its colonial presence on unceded Coast Salish land… UBC perpetuates a culture of racism.

UBC teaches many things, but it fails to teach students of colour that we are valuable. It fails to undo colonial processes that marginalise and stigmatise blackness, brownness and indigeneity. Apparently, it also fails to be mindful of products sold in the heart of campus that perpetuate racism, white supremacy and Euro-centric beauty standards.

my father, the creationist

trigger warnings for substance abuse/drug addiction and eating disorders

his eyes are the destruction after the dust settles
his eyes are black holes sucking up daughter’s love, swallowing loyalty whole

the wrinkles on his forehead betray a nonsensical roadmap folded again and again and deliberately ripped out of frustration at never being able to see the way. the way his eyes used to crinkle at the corners when he laughed – a full-bodied belly laugh always ending in tears of mirth – but now his smile is a grimace. his mind is a foggy marsh, a mushy soup of forestry factoids and unquestioning religiosity. he can’t remember how to spell his youngest daughter’s name or the date his son was born. what sticks to his memory is only: methadone benzodiazepine heroin methadone benzodiazepine heroin methadone

his lips are a cracked desert of hail marys and hypocritical morality
his lips are dried slugs crusted with cocaine dust and communion crumbs

he has mastered the art of missing. sprawled on the couch, spent as a corpse just before the rot sets in, riding a tranquilizer haze sprinkled with a lithium and opium rose petal daze, he blinked for two years and missed his wife’s wilting like a sunflower trapped behind venetian blinds. he missed his son’s decline into isolation and his daughter’s ascent into a dissociated state of food deprivation. he missed the pills slipping down her throat, bitter as heartbreak. but he has yet to begin missing her. what he misses instead is methadone benzodiazepine heroin methadone benzodiazepine heroin methadone benzodiazepine heroin methadone benzodiazepine heroin

his veins are van gogh’s easel, stained black with resignation
his veins are the weak strings tied to my daughter-heart

and when it beats, they threaten to break in
half this life I’ve spent hoping for divine redemption –
bless me father for I have sinned it has been eight years
since my last
confession: it has been (a week, two days, ten minutes) since my last
eat-until-I-puke three a.m. binge session
confession: no man will ever glow in the dark for me the way you used to
confession: your addiction is a cage that both of us are wasting away inside
you have never noticed me pressing myself flat against the bars
so that you wouldn’t try to touch me
when you touch me, I don’t think daddy, I think murderer
of safety, of family, of the person who ten years ago
would’ve treasured my daughter-heart,
would’ve stopped at nothing to tear down my walls
and I wouldn’t have had to ask
twice
the only thing I can say of you
is that at least you brought my poetry back
because I have not been this fucking miserable
since the first time you left,
trampled on a little girl’s trust
and expected her heart to remain intact
and when you found that she wasn’t whole, you said

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I can pinpoint every alley,
every streetcorner
my father ever bought cocaine
and how to get there on the highway

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I could tell him about every scar,
all of the trauma hidden deep in my bones
and still I know
these words would stay the
same