Monthly Archives: March 2017

All-Gender Washrooms: A Trans* Issue and Beyond

Content warning: Transphobia

None of the authors of this post are transgender or gender-variant. For that reason, we are cognizant of the privilege we have to advocate for transgender rights as allies who do not face the repercussions that transgender, or gender-variant people continue to face today. Many transgender and gender-variant people have advocated for revisions to the structure of bathrooms, and for that reason, we write this op-ed in solidarity.  We also recognize that all of us are settler students on the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Prior to colonialism, indigenous conceptualizations about gender and sexuality were thought of differently. The existence of two-spirit people, which offered a different understanding about gender and sexuality from contemporary Western ideas, makes our discussion about transphobia a reconciliation issue, too.  

Do we have separate male and female washrooms at home? While this might seem like a redundant question to cisgender people, or those who have a gender identity that corresponds with their sex assigned at birth, the topic of gendered washrooms is a highly pertinent matter to trans* and gender non-binary people. Most individuals take using public washrooms for granted on a daily basis. However, for many trans* individuals, using gender bathrooms can be a daunting experience when they are interpreted as being in the ‘wrong washroom’. In 2011, the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust conducted a study that found school washrooms were an unsafe environment for 79% of transgender students.  Moreover, the debate surrounding transgender and gender non-binary individuals using washrooms is not just confined to schools; rather, it is a highly contested focal point of public policy.

The debate surrounding transgender people and washrooms made headlines on March 8th, 2017 when the Texas Senate passed a bill criminalizing transgender people for using washrooms that do not correspond to the biological sex on their birth certificate. Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst, a key proponent of the bill, stated that this policy is not about transgender people but about “deterring sexual predators”. However, she simultaneously states that “the god I believe in . . . said there was man and woman,” which seems to interfere with her support of gender-neutral washrooms. Before we comment further, let us note that one of the authors of this text is a self-identified Christian; the purpose of this text is not to discuss the origin of gender fluidity, though this is a worthy topic of conversation. Instead, we are exposing the disconnect between her arguments. Is this bill about sexual predators or about the origin of sexuality according to religious texts? We argue that religion should hold no qualms with meeting the needs of others through single stall all-gender washrooms, whereas sexual harassment – an issue of real concern – can occur in any venue at any time.

In fact, we would argue that religion invites its adherents to welcome all people at all times, whenever possible. And, since we all have gender neutral washrooms in our homes, why don’t we have them in public washrooms? That being said, we raise the following questions and, in response, make policy recommendations:

First, is criminalizing transgender people for using the washroom based on the ‘privacy and protection of people’ an excuse to discriminate? To address such a concern, we feel the need to emphasize there is no evidence or empirically sound research that suggests transgender people are disproportionately sexual predators. In fact, similar rhetoric was employed against gay men when homosexuality was publicly stigmatized. (See the infamous ‘psychologist’ Dr. Paul Cameron who spread such nonsense.) Our concern is that this stereotypical logic fails to acknowledge that transgender people are in fact more likely to face harassment and violence in washrooms than cisgender individuals. To demonstrate this, survey data from the United States found that 70% of transgender people have faced harassment in public washrooms, while a similar 2013 American study on 6450 transgender and gender non-conforming respondents, the largest study presently conducted on transgender discrimination, found that 78% of transgender people experienced harassment, 35% experienced physical assault, and 12% have been sexually assaulted.  The study further locates washrooms as a prevalent environment in which these events occurred.  

These alarming statistics demonstrate the urgency of addressing the safety of transgender individuals at an institutional level, which can be solved, in part, through the consistent and intentional implementation of all-gender washrooms. When did washrooms begin to be institutionally segregated by sex in the public, one may ask? After all, could all-gender washrooms be more than just a trans* issue?

The washrooms that many cisgender people take for granted, ourselves included, are in fact the remains of an 1887 Massachusetts law that later expanded across other states requiring public washrooms to be segregated between men and women.  One might assume that the creation of these washrooms was ‘logically’ about the biological difference between cisgender men and women, but this was not the case. According to Professor Terry Kogan, who teaches law at the University of Utah, as women were entering the workforce, stereotypes about women being ‘weaker’ and more ‘fragile’ led to the development of multiple gender-segregated spaces including separate reading rooms for women in public libraries, separate seating areas in train cars (towards the back so their ‘fragile’ bodies would not be damaged in the case of an accident), and of course, bathrooms. So as views around women have shifted, and we no longer encounter libraries or trains separate for women, why are bathrooms still segregated?

Before we begin to make policy recommendations, it is essential to acknowledge the arguments for keeping washrooms separate between men and women:

  1. Male sexual predators lurking in washrooms
  2. The importance of privacy
  3. The costs to tax-payers of changing to all-gender washrooms

For the first line of reasoning to be valid, there must be evidence that male sexual predators ‘disguise’ themselves as women. A lack thereof makes the first point problematic.  That being said, articles like “5 Times ‘Transgender’ Men Abused Women and Children In Bathrooms” suggest cisgender heterosexual men have used all-gender washroom policies on a handful of occasions for harassing and spying on women. By prohibiting transgender people from using the washroom under the fear of permitting sexual predators ‘disguised as women’, laws like the one recently passed in Texas do nothing to solve the issue of misogyny and abuse on an institutional level. Rather, this should be addressed through education on masculinity, and by imposing penalties on those who harass or spy in washrooms instead of placing the burden of the problem on transgender individuals.

The second critique of all-gender washrooms is that they violate privacy, arguing that all-gender washrooms eliminate the privacy between men and women if they may freely intermingle in a shared space. Our solution to this concern are single-stalled toilets or urinals with locked doors, which guarantee privacy for all those who wish to use them. The only shared space would be sinks.

Finally, the third criticism of all-gender washrooms, that of costing public tax-payers money, is an argument that could equally have been made towards the rights of people with disabilities requiring accessible washrooms. Would someone argue that building wheelchair ramps, accessible sidewalks, or the installation of braille in elevators are a ‘waste’ of public tax-payers’ money? We think not. See this article from a transgender man who also uses a wheelchair.

Despite these three common arguments against all-gender washrooms, policy changes towards transgender rights, including washrooms, have already unfolded on a municipal, provincial, and currently, federal, level. We support these policies, while we also believe that institutions must ensure that the needs of all individuals are met – including transgender individuals.

In 2014, the Vancouver School Board amended their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities policy to protect transgender students by providing access to the washroom and change room that corresponds with their gender identity. The most important amendments to the policy included having students addressed by preferred name and pronoun, alongside having at least one all-gender washroom at all Vancouver schools and worksites. Perhaps one of the most convincing arguments to support the policy was made by Fiona Chen, a Taiwanese immigrant mother who defended her trans son’s right to safely use washrooms:

For a long time, my child had very dry lips, and I didn’t know why…He would not drink any water at school to avoid using the washrooms….I strongly believe in the urgency in passing this policy. I…believe these policies will provide a safer learning environment for my child and other kids.

As Chen argues, guaranteeing trans* students with a safe place to use washrooms is not merely about respect for trans* rights, but also a health concern if her son refused to drink water out of fear from harassment in washrooms.

On a similar note, in July of 2016, updates to British Columbia’s Human Rights Code also entrenched transgender human rights by adding “gender identity or expression” to the code. Currently, Bill C-16, which would add “gender identity and gender expression” to the federal human rights code, is being considered.

Importantly, as of March 17, 2017, Vancouver’s City Hall changed the signage of their washrooms to indicate an all-gender washroom:

“Everyone has the right to safe and inclusive washroom facilities. This change is another step forward towards ensuring equality and inclusion for all,” says City Manager Sadhu Johnston. “This updated signage aims to help trans*, gender variant and two-spirit individuals feel safer accessing the washroom facility they most identify with.”

This move by Vancouver’s City Hall is a component of a more expansive policy passed by City Council in July 2016 aimed at expanding all-gender washrooms across the city.

Now, how are all-gender washrooms relevant to UBC? We propose that UBC should consider this matter with increasing attention: all buildings should have at least one single-stalled all-gender washroom. In the long-term goal, we propose that UBC should reconfigure gender-segregated washrooms into all-gender washrooms. We understand that this recommendation includes logistical, economic, and architectural discussion. However, this does not diminish the importance of the goal for the student community – both trans* and cisgender students.

Last December, UBC amended their Discrimination and Harassment policy to explicitly reference “gender identity” and “gender expression” under the interpretation of discrimination based on “sex”. This slight, but crucial, change to UBC’s policy signifies a growing interest to accommodate the needs of trans* people. According to CJ Rowe, the former Director of UBC Access and Diversity, “some of the challenges faced by transgender individuals…include difficulties in changing personal information on the UBC Service Centre, using washrooms safely, and using changing rooms in the gym.”

Rowe’s comments are convincing to the argument that UBC should take the responsibility to protect trans* rights. As some readers may be familiar with, on November 19, 2016, UBC’s Dr. Mary Bryson, Senior Associate Dean of Administration, Faculty Affairs & Innovation and Professor, Department of Language and Literacy Education, Faculty of Education, debated Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, over whether or not  “gender identity and gender expression” should be added to the federal Canadian human rights code. The hateful transphobic backlash Dr. Bryson received as a gender non-binary individual who uses the pronoun “they”, signifies the need for protecting trans* rights. Having all-gender washrooms is only one right step forward to further the rights of trans* people.

With all that being said, if all-gender washrooms are still a daunting thought to you at this point of the article, we would playfully ask you to reflect on the following question: do you like eating at Cactus Club English Bay, studying at Starbucks, or sipping a latté JJ Bean Coffee? Beyond the tasty food and caffeinated delights, you likely didn’t realize that all of these venues have all-gender washrooms. There’s a good chance you used one without realizing it!

On a final note, to any single mothers or fathers reading this, if you’ve ever felt uncomfortable bringing your young child of the opposite gender into the public washroom you use, consider all-gender washrooms as the solution.

After all, food courts are not segregated by gender, classrooms are not segregated by gender, so why are bathrooms segregated by gender? UBC, we believe that it’s time to take leadership, to advance the rights of transgender students, faculty, and staff, and to invest in all-gender washrooms. For a link on where existing all-gender washrooms on UBC’s Vancouver campus are available, please visit this link.

Open letter against transmisogyny and anti-sex work rhetoric in Vancouver

In the spirit of anti-hate and a truly intersectional politics, we the undersigned express our solidarity with trans women and sex workers by denouncing discourses and practices that engender a culture of discrimination towards trans women and sex workers, prevent their access to health and social services, and otherwise expose trans women and sex workers to harm. In the wake of a protest and open letter by sex workers, trans women, people of colour, queers, and people in solidarity with them that demanded changes to the structure and content of a local space opened by individuals with a history of transphobic and anti-sex worker practices, we have witnessed widespread and targeted expressions of transmisogyny and anti-sex worker rhetoric.

In light of this, many of our energies have been diverted into a campaign against individual protesters, instead of much needed conversation around the high rates of discrimination, violence, and harassment that is caused to trans women, and how the criminalization of sex workers, clients and third parties in the sex industry contravene sex workers’ rights to safety and self-determination.

Thus:

  • We advocate for actions and initiatives that centre and are led by trans women and sex workers. We commit to creating broader public understanding of the harmful consequences of transmisogyny and anti-sex worker sentiments. We support the rights of trans women and sex workers to resist spaces and organizations that are unsafe to them. We value their voices and testimonies.
  • We strongly condemn a radical feminism that perpetuates violence on women’s bodies through the discrimination of trans women and sex workers. People who gaslight, exclude, misgender, and troll trans women and sex workers are not feminists in our eyes, but bigots. Projects that welcome support from these groups and their hate-lobbying leaders endanger the lives of sex workers and trans women.
  • We denounce hypocritical and opportunistic uses of the term inclusivity. Genuinely inclusive initiatives must demonstrate accountability and actively give power back to marginalized people. We will not be misled by fraudulent claims while transmisogyny and sex worker phobia proliferate unchecked.
  • We recognize that transmisogyny and sex worker phobia are inextricable from the same systems that uphold settler-colonial violence, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, ableism, and homophobia.

As a result of toxic ideologies, trans women and sex workers have been outed, attacked, and denied rightful access to housing, safe spaces, and social services. We will not stand idle while their lives and safety continue to be put at risk.

SIGNATORIES

Please email swtw.openletter@gmail.com to add your name or your organization’s name to this letter.

ORGANIZATIONS

221A
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC)
Access Gallery
Arsenal Pulp Press
Artspeak
Alliance Against Displacement
All Our Bodies Zine
Babe Bang
Black Lives Matter—Vancouver BC
The Capilano Review
The Consent Crew
DDOOGG
Denim Vest
Diversity: Arts Music & Entertainment
Erotica Electronica
Fillip
FIRST Decriminalize Sex Work
Gays Against Gentrification
grunt gallery
The Independent Marxist Coalition
Kenora Pride
The Khyber Centre for the Arts
Killjoy QTBIPOC Collective
Leftover Crafts
LIVE Biennale of Performance Art Society
The Mainlander
The Naked Truth
New Forms Media Society
Open Relationship
Or Gallery
Other Sights for Artist Projects
Out on the Shelves LGBTQ2IA+ Library
PACE Society
The Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres (PAARC)
Period at UBC
Pleasure + Protest, Sometimes Simultaneously!
Poetry is Dead Magazine
The Pride Collective at UBC
Progressive Librarians Guild at UBC
Publik Secrets Artist Collective
Queer Animal Qllective
Queer ASL
Radical Access Mapping Project
Radical Spirits
Red Gate Arts Society
Rent Cheque
REVERB: A Queer Reading Series
Room Magazine
Spartacus Books
Selectors’ Records
Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)
Subversive Music
SWAN Vancouver Society
The Talon UBC
The Toast Collective
Trembling Void Studios
UBC Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC)
Unit/Pitt Projects
The Vancouver Dyke March and Festival Society
Vancouver Status of Women
VIVO Media Arts Centre
The Volcano
WePress Community Art Space
Western Front

INDIVIDUALS

Allison Fernie
Danielle St-Amour, Executive Director, Art Metropole
Jayce Salloum
Jenn Matsui De Roo, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Joelle Barron
Kaurwn Bliss
k.ho, Photographer
Magnolia Pauker
Luey Mcquaid
Jodii Grono
Frances Mahon, Barrister and Solicitor
Brixton Driedger
Emily Guerrero, Librarian
Jasper Lastoria
Olivia Toews
Ada Wolters
Vilayvanh Sengsouvanh
Nikki Zawadzki
Emily von Euw, Author
Lois Klassen
John Brennan
Sierra Skye Gemma
Christy Brookes
Keri Korteling
Claire Forsyth, Librarian
Mya Hardman
Sasha Bondartchouk
Lorraine Kecker, Parksville, BC
Roz Maclean
Taylor Cmajdalka
Vida Beyer
Jonathan McPhedran Waitzer
Alyssa Dusevic
Alex Dasein
Natalie Bocking
Alison Bosley
Brenna Bezanson
Casey Stepaniuk, Librarian
Esther Shannon
Courtney Bea
Dot Grossman
Sasha Wiley-Shaw, Poet & Activist
Alexis Rensing
Marlo Turner Ritchie, Consultant
le thi huong ly
Suzanne McCray
Kyla James
Hannah Guinan, Artistic Director, The Khyber Centre for the Arts
Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes
Mathieu Youdan
Lucinda Murray, MLIS Candidate
Kristine Andersen, Vancouver BC
Cameron Lee
Trina Ricketts
Stormy Allen, Portland, Oregon, USA
Shilo St. Cyr, SASC Manager
Amber Louie, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Alicia Nauta
Eyvan Collins
Marilou Dumas-Babin
Jen Weih
Leigh Matthews, Writer
Darrah Teitel
Vanessa Fernando, Registered Social Worker
Kate Cawker
Deanna Saunders
Deann Louise C. Nardo
Susan Steudel
Anna White
Paul Gluska
Velvet Steele
Andrei Mihailiuk
Joseph McGuire
Bridget Brown
Raven Salander
Helena Palmqvist De Felice
Tuesday Andrich
Heather Mclean, Glasgow UK
Joslyn Nerdahl

An Open Critique of Sophie Gregoire Trudeau

Dear Mrs. Trudeau,

By now, the reality of your Women’s Day Instagram post, where you showcase your husband’s activism, has reached hundreds of thousands of people, and the backlash has been swift and brutal. It is not my intention to approach this with anger, or contempt; but rather with this letter I attempt to educate you on the power of your words and the impact of the statement you have made. As we both claim to be feminists this discussion should be unbiased, and I do hope that if you read this, you take this as the educative, well-meaning discussion I am presenting it as.

Feminism, at its core, should be an intersectional1, interdisciplinary2 movement to clear the path of mutuality for all genders, races, religions, etc. Your statement, as well-meaning as it was, is problematic on several levels, and these are issues I want to bring to your attention with this statement. These points are: your statement’s undermining of the purpose of Woman’s Day; your lack of trans-inclusive language; and the assumption that every female-identifying person has close relationships with male-identifying people.

First of all – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is, for the most part, attempting to improve the issue of mutuality3 (albeit in a way that alienates women of colour and First Nations women especially, partly through his support of environmentally and socially destructive trade deals) in Canadian politics. His acknowledgement of the patriarchy (as it pertains to white, able bodied women) is refreshing, as is your stance on the body image pressures female-identifying people are bombarded with on a daily basis. I understand that you meant to showcase how appreciative you are of your partner’s understanding of gender inequality – but Women’s Day was not the time to draw attention to that appreciation. International Women’s Day was started in the early 1900’s to empower female-identifying people, to remind us that we do not need a male-identifying person in our lives to be able to live live to the fullest, to succeed in anything we wish to do; and indeed, to feel romantically fulfilled. I ask you to perhaps understand a little more that your words, although not purposefully causing harm, drew attention away from women-identifying people on a day when we were supposed to be celebrating them. A romantic partner is wonderful to have, but not a constant in everyone’s life, and in choosing to showcase your husband, you also alienated the platonic and non-sexual bonds that could have been honoured, as they are just as important as to personal well-being as a life partner. “Take a picture holding hands with your male ally”, you say; I say, do that another day. I ask that next year, you draw your inspiration from one of the female-identifying person in your life, and put forth how they inspire, support, and further your life. For this day is about drawing attention to them.

I would next like to draw attention to the trans-exclusionary, and/or binary-perpetuating language. To “draw attention to the men and boys” in our lives excludes those who may identify as something other than society would like them to. It alienates those who choose not to partake in the social construct of gender, and it perpetuates the binary of “female vs. male”, instead of breaking it down. It is important to get more male-identifying people to understand and further the feminist movement; however, it is even more important that we do not rely on the white gender binary to achieve that goal. “Feminism is for everyone” and your lack of intersectionality distances you from those you are trying to empower; and with the sheer amount of power you hold as a global political figure, that is a travesty, at best.

Thirdly, and finally, I would like to draw attention to your problematic assumption that every activist has “male” allies. Many of us have wonderful male-identifying allies that we would like to discuss the furthering of mutuality with; and many of us do not. For whatever reason, be it abuse, the loss of those friends and allies, or a lack of appropriate ally-ship – putting importance on the gender identity of a feminist ally is problematic, and that should not take a great deal of explaining to truly understand. Allies can take many shapes and forms, and the only way to widen the net of allies is to stop putting criteria on them that is out of their control; ie race, gender, age, and ethnicity.

So to conclude, Mrs. Trudeau – your feminism is needed in the world due to your power and sphere of influence; however it is now teetering dangerously close to the abyss of White Feminism. I urge you to take this opportunity to self-reflect and self-educate, and perhaps do some reading, if you have not done already. Some personal favourite of mine include:

bell hooks: Ain’t I a woman?: Black women and feminism

                    Outlaw culture: resisting representations

Chandra Mohanty: “Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity”

Judith Butler: “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” (1988)

Audre Lorde: Sister Outsider

Angela Davis: Women, Race and Class

Every activist makes mistakes at some point in their career as self-identifying feminist. I know I have, and I know many others who have too. I urge you to look at this, Mrs. Trudeau, and self-reflect. Even though one should take time every day to support and appreciate the women-identifying people in your life, as only appreciating them one day out of the year is, in and of itself, an act of violence; if you take one day and only one day in the next few years to focus on a woman in your life, make it Women’s Day. Your husband can step aside for the day. As a feminist, I’m sure he would be happy to.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Lauryn Collins [UBC English Lit Major, GRSJ Minor, and Apprentice Social Activist]

Event preview: Women resist!

On March 11th from 6–9pm, the Canadian chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) along with a number of its allied and member organizations will be hosting “Indigenous and Working Class Women Resist State-Sanctioned Violence”, an evening of performances, speakers, sharing, and food at the Grandview Calvary Baptist Church (1803 E 1st Ave), in honour of International Women’s Day. We acknowledge that the event is taking place on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people.

While International Women’s Day began as a celebration of working class women’s resistance to capitalism, the ruling class has appropriated the celebration over the years in order to strengthen their interests. We seek to reclaim the roots of International Women’s Day by celebrating the resistance of indigenous women, working class women, and gender-oppressed peoples to state-sanctioned violence under imperialism, which is core to the way modern capitalism functions.

There are multiple ways in which imperialism and state-sanctioned violence affects the lives of women across the world. Women are on the frontlines of resistance against the plunder of multinational resource extraction companies in across Canada, Latin America, India, Africa, and the Philippines. In particular, we remember Honduran activist Berta Caceres for her dedication to environmental justice. Furthermore, Lumad (indigenous people in the Philippines) and Adivasi (“tribals” in India) women are often the leaders in their communities in defending their ancestral lands against exploitation. Women and gender-oppressed people are also on the frontlines of resistance against militarization in their communities. For instance, Filipino women rallied against continuing US occupation of the Philippines as Jennifer Laude was killed in cold blood by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton. Further, women and other gender-oppressed people are used as cheap labour by the state, when for instance, the vast majority of Filipino domestic workers who work abroad under the Labor Export Policy are women. These women regularly face abuse from their employers in employment programs that deliberately keep them vulnerable through precarious jobs and status. Finally, missing and murdered indigenous women continue to be ignored by the State, not only in Canada, but also when extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of human rights activists done by the state occur worldwide.

As we see that imperialist and state-sanctioned violence against women and gender-oppressed people take similar forms across the world, it is imperative for us to “connect the dots” so we can strengthen solidarity and resistance against these systems. As such, we invite everyone to see what is already being done by organizations such as Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Migrante, Gabriela (Philippines solidarity organizations); Ayotzi 68 (Latin American solidarity organization); East Indian Defence Committee; and Grassroots Women (local grassroots feminist organization) in their resistance against imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy at this event. Long live international solidarity!

Speech Given at Portal Park, February 5th, 2017, at the Stand Against the Ban Rally

As-salamu alaykum, peace be upon you all, friends, comrades.

Today I stand here in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attack in Quebec. I stand here with the victims of Trump’s ban, and with all the victims of Trump’s America. I stand here in solidarity with all those who live their lives in fear, in terror, here, in America, and elsewhere. I stand in solidarity with the Muslims of the Middle East, of Palestine, of Iraq, of Syria, of Afghanistan, of all those other countries bombed by the US, invaded, destabilized, all of those victims of the imperialist force that is the US.

I stand here with them because the terror all the white allies have started feeling now, all the terror they feel at the madman who sits in the White House, this is not a new terror to us.

We, as Muslims, have lived with this terror for a long time now.

We, we have been targeted repeatedly by the imperialist force that is the US, and we have grown accustomed to living our lives in fear, living our lives as the representation of everything America hates.

And here, to all the allies who stand with us in solidarity now, I am here also to charge you all. I am here to tell you this, this is the fault of all those who tolerated the invasion of our nations, the fault of those who justified the bombings and the drones that targeted our cities and our villages, the fault of all of those who rallied behind imperialist propaganda, who were fed the lies that the Americans were coming to liberate Muslim women, that the Americans were coming to bring democracy to our nations. I am here to tell you this is the fault of all those who cheered as the so-called New Atheists spoke of the so-called evils of Islam, of all those who believed the pinkwashing of the Israeli state, of all those who cried authoritarian and dictator at our governments, governments propped up the imperialist force that is the US, governments created when Britain and France and all the other imperialist nations carved up our countries.

I am here to charge all of you, all of you who let our people be called terrorists and who would stay silent when we were painted with a single paint brush as monsters. I am here to charge all of you who gave platforms to the Sam Harris’s and Steve Bannons and the Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s of the world, all of you who let those who would preach hate preach it, all of you who let yourselves be used as tools by an imperialist force. I am here to charge all of you who claimed Muslims cannot be feminists, who claimed Muslims cannot be queer activists, I am here to charge all of you who looked at me askew when I said I was Muslim and Communist and told me, me who has practiced my faith and worked for communism for as long as any of you, told me that I could only be one or the other. I am here to charge all of you white queer folk who spoke over Muslim queers, all of you white women who spoke over Muslim feminists, who told them to take off their hijabs, who dared tell these women they were oppressed when these Muslim feminists did more for any of their sisters than any white folk ever could. I am here to charge all of you who watched those movies where we were all terrorists and militants and cheered when my people were killed. I am here to charge all of you who joked and laughed when people called us bombers, who turned away when we were targeted, who let the Chapel Hills and the hate crimes committed against us be buried in the back pages of the news, who didn’t believe us, who cried lone wolf when we got targeted again, and again, and again. I am here to charge all of you who demanded I give a different name when you heard mine, because you refused to pronounce it, because it wasn’t Western enough for you, the name used by my people for generations wasn’t easy enough to pronounce for you, wasn’t white enough for you.

I am here to charge all of you who would raise your fists at Trump’s oppression but would cheer on as Obama’s drones murdered my people, who hurrah’d when Hillary pushed for military interventions in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya. I am here to charge all of you who let imperialism and neoliberalism and capitalism do its murderous work in areas of the world you would rather forget.

I am here to tell you that this, this is a collective sin, and a sin we all have to face up to.

This is a collective sin and now is our moment to atone.

This is our moment to build a movement.

Because if not now, then when?

Here I stand to tell you, this is our moment in history. This is our collective challenge. This is the crisis of our generation. If generations past had the Great War, had Stalingrad and Normandy, had Vietnam, had revolutions across the globe, we have this, we have Trump’s America.

If you have ever claimed that you would not have stood silent when the Nazis dragged the Jews away, I invite you to join us. If you have ever believed that you would have stood up to oppression, to injustice, to tyranny, I invite you to join us. Now is the time to agitate, now is the time to organize. I’m asking you, don’t just come to rallies. Join clubs, join groups, join parties, join unions. Organize, strike, let your discontent be heard. Join an organization, any organization, and fight for justice. Find a cause, find your courage to stand up. This is the time to be ready to open your doors to any refugees, the doors of your houses to any refugees, anyone fleeing from the oppression of the imperial force that is the US. I am not only speaking of Muslim refugees, I am speaking of queer folk, of trans folk, of women, of Sikhs and Mexicans and Communists and Anarchists, all those people who will be targeted by this tyrannical state. Now is the time to work to your limits – if not now, then when? It will be tiring, it will be exhausting, but I promise you, put your all into this fight now, put your all in this turning moment of history. The time to rest will come, it will come, but only if we put our all right now. Now is not the time to rest, and if we don’t do the work right now then the moment to rest will never come.

This is not the time to stay on the defensive. This is not the time to try and simply hold onto any gains that have been made. This is the time to be aggressive, this is the time to not only defend what rights we have gained but demand more, demand them all, demand we be treated with the respect and the dignity that has been denied us so long.

I – we – don’t need allies who will tweet words of support and tell us how love will overcome and show us pity, and shake their heads when our people are murdered. We don’t need pity, we don’t empty words. We need – I need comrades, comrades who will stand with me and build real movements, who will fight with me for the rights of Muslims, for the  rights of women, for the rights of the working class, for the rights of queer folk and trans folk, who will fight for the rights of the Black people being murdered daily by the police of these governments of North America, who will fight for the rights of the indigenous folk whose lands were stolen and whose voices were silenced. I need comrades who will fight for the rights of all, so today, I stand here to invite you, fight with me. Fight with me against the decades of oppression, against the decades of marginalization, the decades of idleness and looking the other way, because another world is possible!

Thank you.

How Your Partying Alienates Your Friends Who Live With Disabilities or Chronic Health Issues

I’m the type of person who gets great joy from  spending time with friends, it’s a way to relax and decompress particularly after a long week. In theory, I like the idea of partying, and going out dancing as a way of letting loose. But because of the way parties are or what going out dancing looks like, I often don’t go out because I know I won’t have a good time.  It may appear that I am not disabled, but I have anxiety and chronic pain and these two things often don’t mix well for partying.

The combination of anxiety and pain leaves me feeling depleted a lot of the time, with very little energy. So sometimes I don’t go out because I know I’ll be miserable while out, and then totally exhausted and depleted the next day. My body is also very sensitive to alcohol, so I don’t like drinking much and a lot of party culture is based on getting really drunk. However, I think some changes could be made to make partying more accessible to people like me, a few small changes can be made to allow people like me to have a good time, that really won’t hinder partying that much, so everyone can have a good time!  Below are some problematic phrases that are common in party culture and some ways that I’d LOVE to see party culture change to make itself more accessible.

(1)  “Going out is only cool or fun if we go out really late”. Not going out until 10 or 11pm totally does not jive with me. Put simply, my body cannot handle starting to party at 10 or 11pm most of the time. I’m simply too tired, not to mention that if partying starts around 10pm, it won’t end until 2 or 3am, that just does not work for me. I understand that events often don’t start till 10pm, but I think if events want to be more accessible they should consider starting earlier; even starting at 9pm would make a difference for me. However, I understand that this is not possible in some cases. If a group of your friends is going out to an event that starts after 9pm, consider having early pre-drinks at someone’s place, so that if one of your friends wants to socialize but doesn’t want to go out dancing or to the party they can still join in some of the fun and not feel totally left out.

(2)  “Partying is only fun if you’re really drunk/high” I’m lucky that I never have had friends push me to drink or do drugs. But I think this needs to be said, don’t push your friends to drink or do drugs if they don’t want to. For people with anxiety, drugs and alcohol can amplify anxiety, or other underlying mental health conditions.  If you know a friend of yours doesn’t drink or do drugs because of anxiety or for other reasons, support them in this decision. For me personally, drinking a lot can make my anxiety really bad, so if I do drink I often only have a few drinks. I also want to acknowledge potential risks associated with drug use.  I have no intention of shaming drug users, but because of the increased drug risk in Vancouver currently, and street drugs being contaminated, the risks associated with drug use are currently high. Consider doing naloxone training and if you do the training carry a naloxone kits with you. So in the case of an overdose, you can save someone’s life. (Look here for more info!)

(3)  “Don’t be a party-pooper and go home early!” When I do go out, I go home “early” by partying standards, usually between 12:30-1:00am. My body just cannot handle staying out past that time. Before a night of partying, check in with your friends about the time they want to go home, make sure your friends know that they can be honest with you if they want to go home early. If you have a friend who wants to go home earlier than everyone else, make sure while everyone is still sober you figure out a way for your friend to get home safe. Please honor this, it could really make a difference if a friend goes out or decides to stay home. This may mean helping your friend look up a safe bus route, walking them to a bus stop and waiting with them till their bus comes (and then going back to the party), or everyone pitching in a few dollars so they can get a cab home. Your friend may not want to take a cab home alone because of the cost (and therefore choose not to go out). People who go home in groups, and split the cost of a cab, may not realize how expensive a cab ride cab ride can be on your own.

(4)  “I just like to go wild and dance with whoever I want!” For people with anxiety the idea of going out dancing can be totally overwhelming. Clubs are loud, busy and dimly lit, all of these things can amplify anxiety. Before going out check in with your friends about what they want the night to look like, are they okay with being left alone from time to time? Do they want to stay in a group? Do they want a “buddy” who keeps an eye on them and hangs out with them all night, even if this means accompanying them to the bathroom? For some people with anxiety the idea of being left alone on the dance floor, even for a few minutes can be enough to skyrocket their anxiety. Having a friend they can trust near by them in eyesight or at arm’s reach for the entire night can mean a world of difference to them in terms of having a good night or an awful night. Because clubs are loud it can be difficult to talk. If a friend is worried about a possible anxiety attack perhaps before going out, come up with a signal that you can do (i.e. some kind of hand motion) that means “I need some air, can we go outside and talk?”. It’s also important to check in about where on the dance floor they want to be: some people like being in the middle of it, while for others that may be too overwhelming and they need to be on the sidelines.

(5)  “I like to dance all night long without any breaks, it’s fun! No one needs breaks” This is very ableist. Because of chronic pain, I physically cannot do this, and if I do, I’m left in a lot of pain the next day. However, sometimes I’m forced into this, because no one asks if I need a break to sit down, or get some water. Throughout the night, check in with friends to see if they need a break. They may not want to ask you because they are afraid of being a “party pooper”, but would very thankfully have a little break if someone else asks. Another thing that you can do is call ahead to see if the venue has seating, this way, if a friend of yours has chronic pain, they’ll be able to sit down and rest if need be. If a venue doesn’t have accessible seating, consider a different venue.

(6)  “Oh I love strobe lights and flashing lights, it makes dancing so fun and it looks so cool”. I don’t deal with seizures personally, but for people who do; bright flashing lights can induce a seizure. Certain types of lighting can induce migraines. For me personally, flashing lights while they don’t induce seizures for me can give me anxiety. This also ties into planning ahead (see #7). Once you know where you and your friends want to go, be an ally. Call ahead to see what kind of lighting they use, and ask if they use flashing lights. If a place says they use flashing lights, find a place to go to that does not.

(7)  “Let’s just make up plans as we go along”: honestly this is one of my biggest pet peeves about party culture. If you want to really respect and honor your friends who have anxiety, know that last minute plans really make a lot of people with anxiety REALLY uncomfortable. Try to make your plans at least 10 hours in advance, even a day in advance. (Trust me: this may seem like a total pain in the ass to you, but your friends who worry about this kind of thing will LOVE you for it.) A few times, friends have been making plans really last minute and I’ve decided not to go out because I’ve found the whole situation too stressful. Someone is not “fussy” if they want concrete plans in advance, they’re just trying to take care of their mental health. For me waiting to hear back about plans when people are taking a long time can actually make me physically uncomfortable. Quiet often, people with anxiety need to be able to plan things in advance to feel comfortable. Also, if you have friends who need to go home early before other people, this will give them time to figure out how to get home safely (see #3).

(8)  “Don’t worry about seeing so-and-so, it will be fine” In particular, queer party spaces in Vancouver or other specific party spaces are small. Your friend may have anxiety about running into an ex, an ex’s current partner, a former friend, a crush or someone who they just don’t want to see. Validate your friend’s concern and anxiety. By saying, “don’t worry” you may be making them feel dumb and self-conscious about their anxiety. If there is a certain person your friend is worried about running into, and they have shared this with you, make a plan in advance about how to deal with the situation if it arises. Ask your friend questions like: “If I see this person, do you want me to alert you?”. If you do happen to run into this person, honor your friend’s wishes; make sure they feel safe and comfortable.

(9)  “I don’t need food, I just looovveeee alcohol” Some people like eating lots of food when they’re drunk, others don’t. For people with chronic health issues, food can be important in maintaining energy and blood sugar levels. Before going out, check in with friends about food-related needs.

(10) “Come on! Just come out, I promise it will be fun”: Sometimes, despite someone really wanting to go out, they just can’t, for pain, exhaustion or other reasons. Trust your friends to know their bodies, and tell them that you understand and you really hope they can go out next time.  Realize that them deciding not to go out probably was a tough decision to make, and that they probably are upset for having to miss out (FOMO is real y’all).  Keep on inviting them though, they probably want to feel included, and if you change the way you party to make it more accessible they are probably more likely to come out partying another time. You may not realize it, but this different outlook on partying may be the deciding factor on a friend staying in or going out, or them feeling safe and respected as opposed to disrespected and upset. A lot of these can be incorporated into the way you party regardless if you know that you have friends who have disabilities of some kind. At the base of all these ways to make partying more accessible is communication. Always be in continuous communication with your friends about how you can make partying as enjoyable and safe as possible!

I recognize that this article is written from a very specific perspective and does not take into consideration people who have physical disabilities. I chose to write this from my own personal perspective and the article reflects this. They are many more ways that partying can (and should) be made more accessible that I have not touched on in this article.