Friday, July 24, 2015

Rape Culture Update: Yes, even the young folks in Edmonton...

Edmonton is a cesspool of misogyny, and has been for decades. It's considered one of the worst cities to be a woman, anecdotally AND statistically. We have literally the worst wage gap in the country. Woman make just over half of what men do. We have some of the worst domestic and animal violence records in the country. Those go together, as harm to more vulnerable beings, and perps work their way up the food chain as they are emboldened, due to encouragement by the culture around them. We have one of the highest underage prostitute rates in Canada, especially for native women. All of this is in large part due to the tarsands economy. Studies show that places that rely on that kind of resource concentration, particularly those that require such environmental destruction, and high pay for high risk, with disposable workers, are far more prone to importing vulnerable sex slaves, taking out the instability on their families, and treating women like the earth they are forced to rape for their jobs. It's a cancer (which we also have one of the highest rates of) that disproportionately affects women, and increases the culture of sexual violence.

Since my previous post on my assaults was published, all the old rape culture chestnuts have been hauled out and dusted off by his camp. Which still surprises and of course deeply disappoints me. I had thought that with all of our work on this issue, his cadre would be less inclined to perpetuate such garbage. Even in this place...  For more proof, here is how the cops reacted.

Rape can't occur if the relationship was consensual.

Up until the 80's in Canada, it was still legal for a husband to be able to rape his wife. Because rape originally means a 'violent and unlawful taking of property". Since she was his rightful property (and being a cold bitch denying him sex amarite?), there could never be an unlawful taking. Therefore, no husband can rape! Ever! It was one of our greatest achievements, and still is bizarre that we had to fight for it, that sexual assault could now be a crime for intimate partners. Seriously. This isn't a Thing. I freely admit that I was in a consensual sexual relationship with Ryan, and would do so again, in a heartbeat. I still deeply care about him, which is why I wanted to arrange a meet and settle this without destroying his life, because I still think he's worth it. That still doesn't mean that he achieved consent on these occasions. And that is where the problem lies. Mistakes can be made, and that's where communication and forgiveness come in. If he doesn't learn this lesson, I can't be sure he won't do it again. I would take a bullet for him, and forgive him the moment he sincerely asks, but I will not usurp the Truth for his sake. The boys in my camp think he is human refuse and shouldn't be allowed to walk among others, and it is a source of much consternation that I hold my view. Attribute it to PTSD, or sexual abuse training, or entralldom or Fate. But how I feel is the Truth, and I stand by it until it changes.

My rep. (What was she wearing?)

The fact that I have worked hard to overcome my issues and appear as sex positive, particularly in public, is no longer a source of praise for my bravery as I try to reClaim my sexuality, but an indication of 'how I operate'. The fact of the small number of sexual partners that I have ever engaged in intercourse with in my rather longer lifetime (I mean, duh) doesn't matter. It's how I 'appear'. Because he just assumed? And that somehow justifies rape, right? I'm still having trouble about how that one works, quite frankly... Prostitutes can still be raped, you know. Every. Single. Act. to another human body must be consensual. Especially ones that involve bleeding.  It's kinda mandatory. Regardless of what I was wearing or how friendly I am to him or other men at events, or how much I try to forge trust bonds with others...

The rep of brutal honesty and total integrity that I have spent a long lifetime building up doesn't seem to enter into it, though. Remarkable how that works...

No one forced her.

I had really thought we had finally gotten rid of this one as a society at least. Consent is more of a 'Yes' thing, not a 'I didn't hold you down' thing. And anyone who suggests that I would seriously recommend running away from. Because they have indicated they are kinda rapey. I went into such painful detail for a reason. Consent can sometimes be harder to achieve, especially in more difficult circumstances. That's why communication, particularly ahead of time for people like me, is essential. As well as continual checking and aftercare. And let me reiterate this - especially when you make someone bleed for you. Because it's an actual crime. Yah-see?

Her boyfriend is a...

Of course they have to attack his character as well. It's kinda necessary, since I'm one of the few folks who has an actual witness. Rumours are already being flung at him, too. Somehow, that means he isn't reliable or to be trusted.. The undercurrent of racism inherent in these claims (he's Chinese/Filipino) makes it all the more charming. I'm not quite sure how that is supposed to make what Ryan did seem all better, or maybe they are trying to pretend that we have concocted everything, for some monumentally bizarre reason, but this does seem a necessary tactic to protect their friend. Which brings us to...

She's making it all up (false rape claims)

Because for some reason, I'm laying everything on the line: my marriage, my home, my career, their careers, my kids, my family... Everything. Just so I can smear this young man and ruin his life. Even though I never came forward at the time, and didn't want to now, but for the fact that he was suddenly went out of his way to get in my face and hurt me more, and not admit that any of this happened. It forces me, in the name of Justice and Truth, which are a big deal to me as a spiritual elder, to come forward to protect any other women he might try to do this to, and to get him out of my spaces so I can at least have some small joys in my life.

And just when I thought they had covered all the bases, here's a new one that was just hurled at me last week. If there's a rape apologist award, this one takes it!

If a much younger man rapes you, you're a pedophile!

Okay, ladies, keep that in mind. Stick entirely within your cadre, or you deserve to be raped, I think is the takeaway here. I'm not quite sure the reasoning on this one, either... If young men con seniors out of their life savings, the thieves get a free pass, because the older folks shouldn't have trusted them? How about murder? Those older persons shouldn't have been hanging with them in the first place! Oh, wait... No. If a young man is old enough to buy a condo, drive his own car, get a job and sign contracts, he's old enough to take responsibility like an adult for making the choice to rape someone. Even if that someone is older and took him at his word like a grown up. The trusting and relationship part is not the mistake here.

That one came from a few new twists on this whole story. I am a fairly well known member of the poly and pagan communities. There is much overlap naturally, and in an attempt to introduce Ryan to other folks that he could connect with, I took him to a poly potluck, a monthly meet up put on by the Polyamory Edmonton Association. I was still very nervous about being his only contact to these communities and wanted him to have more exposure as just himself. There was only six people there this time, since those are less well attended than the drinks nights for example. There I hung out with some old and some new, including one young man, Damien Hildebrandt. I did my best to let Ryan get to know everyone, but also not let him feel alone, so I concentrated on being *with* him and also social, including talking alot to Damien. He seemed reasonable and intelligent, so the time went by pleasantly. Later, he Friended me and Ryan, which I almost always accept, my FB being more buisnessy than not. We chatted at some length, and he shared his loneliness and insecurities. His plight appealed to my compassion, 'cause I remember what that is like, and he seemed to need a friend, so I offered to take him out to dinner to discuss it. He knew I had a husband and I came to the meet with Ryan, so it's nice to hang with folks who aren't polyphobic. The evening was a bit awkward, but I felt enough sympathy to invite him on another one. I did find his arrogance and privilege his main issues, however. He really did think he and his opinions were all that and a bag of chips, and even though I tried to gently probe that, he was bulletproof on it. And at no time was there even a hint of a physical relationship. I can do that. I actually *like* hanging out with people of totally different ages in a complex and satisfying manner that isn't sexy times. Shocking, I know...

It turns out, I knew his mom, too! Sherri Ingrey was a long time FB correspondent of mine from the pagan community (hence how Damien and I were able to hit so many topics) and she chatted to me about our going out. She expressed only amusement at the time, even though her son is much younger than I am. (And not, say, the horror and disgust she later pretended.) I did mention, delicately, how his arrogance was hard to get around, and she concurred. She insisted that it was his father's flaw, whom she no longer got on with at all, and she hoped her son would grow out of it. Our next dinner out went even less well, and I distinctly remember his racist comment that cooled me completely. I was done with him, and was rather distant the next times he tried to contact me. I didn't actually want to hurt his feelings, so I didn't want to critique him, but he really was unpleasant. He stopped bothering to communicate with me in late August, and I thought that was the end of it, and I had successfully Ghosted. Guess what?  Hel hath no fury like an entitled man scorned! Imagine my surprise when I saw him *at the courthouse* attempting to get the judge to accept him as Ryan's spokesperson. The judge didn't allow it, of course, because he's not a lawyer, nor does he know anything about this case, so he can't even be a witness. Other than he saw me and Ryan together once, while we were still in a relationship. And we don't need a witness for that... I still haven't figured out, or been able to ask him, what the f*ck that was all about! Because he unFriended me that afternoon. Apparently, he had just remained Friends with me all this time to stalk me on Ryan's behalf or something. I mean, deeply creepy. And it gets worse. It seems that he is the source for 'how I operate" or the main trashing of my 'reputation' as an excuse for my rape. Since he did see us together, that must mean I'm either lying or I can't be raped in a consensual relationship? Polys, snatch this one up fast! I have no idea why he's still single. He's clearly a catch. Except he might rape you if you get into a relationship with him, and he's more than willing to use your polyness as a slut shaming justification for it.

Naturally, I assumed his mom would be revolted by this turn of events, and would want to smack his bottom thoroughly for the rape apologist harm he was doing to my life. I mean, *I* would certainly want to know if my son did that. Hah. No such luck. She seemed already familiar with this (thanks for the heads up, Sherri) and called me a pedophile, which she needs to look up the definition for. Persons who are of legal age have agency, and are treated like adults in every possible institution. They aren't children, which is the "paedo" part of that. There have even been relationships of age disparity throughout history, and as long as there are no great power issues, like old men forcing girls to marry them, those relationships can offer much exchange and affection. We even have an idiom for it! There are plenty of happy consensual May/Decembers (even though I'm not really December yet, more of September), and even if you call all of them pedophiles, it still doesn't make it so. And it certainly doesn't give anyone a free pass to rape. I normally don't blame the parents for rapists or their apologists, but in this case, as a rape apologist herself, she's clearly a contributor.

So really, the *only* people making a mess out of my life is Ryan, of course, his female allies Izzy and Roo that I still keep trying to protect and I'm so disappointed in, and this Damien and his mom. All the stories and smearing come from them, with other folks repeating without considering the source. Or even thinking about it, apparently. I mean I know he's charming, but doesn't *anyone* bother to look at these for more than a second to see how stupid, impossible, and repugnant this narrative is? What have we been working for all these years in fighting these incredibly harmful rape culture myths? It almost seems wasted...

Ryan's honour must be taking huge hits for this victim blaming and manipulation. He's willing to corrupt the truth and all of his circle, when the only thing he is currently protecting is his rep, and his desire to go where I usually am while I'm actually there. He's not even defending himself from criminal charges or civil claims. I have yet to do those, because awful for me (I'm pukey enough as it is), but I will if I have to, to force him to hear how much he can hurt others, and has already hurt me. I can't imagine what horrible tactics he'll pull out if he makes this continue. All I have ever wanted is an acknowledgement, and an intense discussion on consent, to make sure he understands. Mistakes can always happen. I could easily chalk all this up to his inexperience and sudden freedom and forgive him and let this go. But not if he is willing to harm me even more, by denying these events and defaming me, simply to protect his rep alone. Because then, he's becoming an actual dangerous rapist. And that I am required to fight. I promised to teach him, and I don't break my word, no matter how much this kills me.

I miss my crew from #Artsjam at the Legislature. Just one of my many losses from all this.

Monday, June 29, 2015

An Appointment with My Rapist *Trigger Warnings*

Admit it. You'd do almost anything for that. I know I did...

How the cops reacted. Hint: you can guess.

How social circles reacted. Hint: you can guess.

I shake with terror. I can barely breathe. I made an appointment to see my most recent rapist. For over a year, I lived in dread that he would show up at an event where our mutual friends were. I've tried to speak to three of them about it. They won't believe me. They shut me down, or actually say that it didn't happen. But I really hoped that I could make them see it someday, when they knew me more or were willing to listen. I wasn't nearly as confrontational or blunt as I could have been, and am rather known for, but I didn't want to lose them because of him, too. ("What abusers count on is the silence of survivors, and the supporting of that silence by the community." ) I also suspected that he was grooming other victims, so I wanted to both keep an eye on them and warn them, and that meant sticking around. A young woman named Izzy in particular was vulnerable. She has been able to avoid most of what I went through because she has insisted on no sexual intercourse, which she brags about, and that gave me more time. Which I needed, since I was so devastated that I was almost immobile and could do very little. Hearing about his predation would have spurred me, but I both couldn't see him, and yet was desperate to know if he was harming more women.

We managed to avoid him, only hearing stories that he had arrived when we had not. I started to feel safe. Maybe he wouldn't feel it necessary to increase my pain by taking away yet another piece of my life. But of course it was too good to be true. While I was chatting with those mutual friends, he came without warning. I jumped up, dry mouthed and shaking, and started to pack my gear, and he sat down where I had been. Many came by to hug him and wonder why he wasn't around lately. Each friendly pat or word to him was a blow to me. It took me awhile, but I was able to get up the strength to confront him and demand an audience. I had to interrupt because he wasn't going to stop talking to acknowledge me, even though I was right beside him, waiting. I told him he could meet with me or talk to the police. It was his choice. He was indignant, but I was firm. I gave him a week. I still had to contact him to make the arrangements, though. I really needed this, so I told him to do everything he had to do to make himself comfortable, so that he would agree. He decided on the most inconvenient time and place for me possible, or almost, and decided he was bringing his two girls, Izzy and Roo, for his comfort. Yeah, I'll bet. They are the ones I was most worried about, who don't believe me, and who are in the most harm's way. I love them both dearly, but he has their complete trust. He's such a progressive gentle feminist!  He would never Ghomeshi me. Izzy even considers themselves dating these past two years! Though she lived in another city for most of it, and really, I know *exactly* when they would have gotten together. Which is why I felt like the risk of my further vulnerability from an intervention wasn't as vital just then. If the girls do come, I will have to shatter everything. As much as I loathe all of this, and exposing my own pain even more, I have no choice but to be as frank as possible and destroy as much of his narrative as I can. For their own safety. Which they will hate me for, and never, ever thank me. I will be the Bad Guy by insisting that we talk about this. I will take that hit and sacrifice any relationship with them to make sure they have more tools to protect themselves. If I can, I will negotiate a peace treaty that ensures he stays away from me for as long as necessary, and I need to be convinced that women aren't in danger from him anymore. It's a long shot, but beating up someone once doesn't make them a thug. It's the habitulizing and the minimization of the criminality that makes one a thug. Or a rapist. (Though my boyfriend insists that it only takes one murder to make one a murderer. Go figger...) Maybe I really was the only one, and he was just experimenting with that kind of hard core sexuality. And maybe he really didn't understand that consent for that kind of damage means discussing it thoroughly beforehand, including safety, before all parties can agree properly. Maybe he didn't mean to harm me, no matter how much he actually did. I really do need to know.

It took me a long time to acknowledge him as my rapist. I'm still stuck on it sometimes. Obviously. As a past survivor, figuring out how to contextualize sexual violence is a far too everyday event. From childhood, my experiences were minimized, shut down, and the deafening silence which was enforced was considered the most preferable response. No child should have to experience their first sexualized encounter as a stepbrother sneaks into their room late at night to put their penis into your open mouth. Not me and not my even younger brother. I remember hearing the door open and knowing, as only the instinct of an aware animal, that someone was entering stealthily to do harm, but not what that harm consisted of. I remember clutching my stuffed elephant Elle, hoping that if he sees that I'm just a child, he will have pity and not harm me. But for all I know, that show of helplessness turned him on even more. To this day, I have no illusions that stuffies help deal with fear. Because they don't protect you. Nothing protects you. Not ever. And why did I pretend to be asleep? He was huge and bigger than me and what the fuck was I supposed to do? Damned if I knew. I certainly never considered biting it off. I was 9. Those became routine, of course, and dismissed in various ways as I grew up. Whether I tried to speak about it or not. At 16, when I finally got up the courage to speak as bluntly as I could to my mother, which still wasn't much, filled with shame and all the other victim baggage, I still recall her saying "Awh, is he touching your widdle body again?" So..she knew. All that time. And never protected me. So I learned then how much I wasn't valued, how I was to be pimped out to save her relationship with her partner, the boys' father, and how I was supposed to keep silent or be mocked.

All this informs my later experiences of course. From relatives attempts to molest me in public in front of other family members to abusive partners to assaults from strangers who come into my home selling insurance to men who answer roommate ads and then proceed to convince, coerce and then abandon, once they got the tap that was clearly their goal all along. As I got older, I did actually attempt to do what victims are supposed to do to earn the right to be believed and protected - I tried to report to police. The insurance guy who I could not get out of my house and continually groped my breasts when I was 25, calling me a 'fun girl', was a pretty clear case I thought, but it still took so much for me to feel justified enough to try to make a statement. Edmonton is a particularly bad place in Canada for violence. It has one of the highest levels of animal and spousal abuse in the country. (They are related, in that other lives and bodies aren't valued, and power, entitlement and the ability to create suffering are identical.) So despite the shaking, I got myself physically down to the main police station. After getting through the receptionist, saying what I needed, which was humiliating enough, a policewoman deigned to come out to speak with me, in the waiting area, to tell me, most sympathetically, that I had to call in to start the case. I mean, I just couldn't make a statement here? Apparently not. The guy was still trying to come back into my house, so I finally got the courage to call the station. The male officer on the other end barely listened to my story and then burst out laughing. "Oh, yeah, that's sexual assault all right!" All the while. Laughing. Needless to say, I didn't complete that complaint, and when the assailant kept calling me, though shaking, I was able to find the words to keep him away. And I guess that's all that matters, right? The fact that the officer acknowledged that it was criminal, but that somehow it was a matter of jest is a reflection of how rape culture silences victims and protects those who commit sexual violence.

Sought Me Out

One of the aspects of rape culture is the silencing of victims, encouraging them to believe that they are responsible for preventing sexual violence. We are supposed to watch out for those who would harm us, and stop them from doing so. Even if we can't tell them apart from the "Good Guys", the ones who demand we trust them, and why should our past pain paint all of them with the same brush? But if we guess wrong, and trust the wrong ones, we are still to blame. Because hey! We should have known, right?

As a semi-public figure, and a survivor, I am very familiar with online violence, as well as the up close and personal kind. I am often attacked online, though not usually to the extent that my racialized sisters report, or those who confront misogyny professionally. And as a pagan elder who teaches anyone who asks and  is dedicated, I not infrequently receive unsolicited communications from young men who ostensibly want to study but really want to indulge in all this 'sexual magic' and pagan freak sluttiness they keep hearing about. My radar is pretty tuned to them, and usually it doesn't take long for their agenda to reveal itself.(This white boy, for example, I rejected rather harshly when he applied for training. And you can see why. He subsequently confused me with someone else he didn't like, then apologized because he claimed non-nureonormative, so I forgave him. THEN he spent the subsequent years posting crap. Because Wiccan Do No Harm! It's seriously scary to be a woman with a voice here sometimes... These people are just awful.) Since I know my own prejudices, though, I do make it a policy not to assume, but only to watch for, and create a few easy tests that almost always expose them for the posers they are. Most of that ilk, for example, will hightail it as soon as they know I'm married. That doesn't matter for my sex life, of course, since I'm poly, but it does clearly show *their* intentions. However, I have always been hopeful to receive an inquiry from a young man that seems sincere and genuine. In October of 2013, I thought I had actually found one. He contacted me through my Abbey, and made very respectful inquires. He did fit the profile for the danger signals, though - beautiful, privileged, newly legal, formerly fundie Xian looking to finally explore new spirituality, first out in his own place away from his parents... The most likely scenario that he was just interested in some hot pagan action in his current no consequence and obligation free environment. Because I had met those entitled a-holes many times before. But I never brush off, because I understand the stereotyping, so no matter how many times I encounter this dynamic and it goes badly (though *never* this badly before), I need to give them the benefit of the doubt. For Justice. This particular one worked so hard to stand beside me, to give every indication that we were growing as best friends, teacher and student, as well as helping me in my work. He didn't leave, he performed every task, no matter how difficult. He made time in his first year university schedule when I requested it. Though I tried not to... In short, there was every indication that this one, finally, was worthy of my trust and putting the energy into for a long term and intense relationship. Much like my now journeywoman, I began to have hope that this lovely, charming, dedicated young man was going to be in my life for the rest of it, as we worked together and taught each other. Because as a mentor or best friend, this is the one of the highest goals. For someone who has been so hurt by men, this kind of trust does not come easily. I try very hard to keep my shields lowered deliberately for that reason. Yes, he was barely legal, and I had ethical questions about that, too, but if I am to respect agency at all, I can't make decisions for folks that are of age. Not for women, and certainly not for men who own their own apartments and don't have major power discrepancy concerns. (When my husband met him, he called Ryan "the Enemy". I brushed off his advice as 'overdramatic.' But he's always been a better judge of character than me.)

So when he first started to make even slightly rude jokes, I sidestepped. I mean, I make rude jokes, too. I'm a grown up. But still, trying to make sure here... But he worked so hard at convincing me. By the time November rolled around, I was hooked. But not yet sunk. This was very traumatizing for me, in part because he triggered so much of my own PTSD. His energy, his style, his story of his own abuse and our sharing brought me closer to it, and more raw that I had been in decades. My compassion and pity for his victimization and isolation and suffering overwhelmed me.  I shook and cried and was able to shatter my shields more than I ever had in my life, and it was terrifying. It was however incredibly freeing, because we began to work through some of our greatest pain, exploring our spirituality, dark sides, and healing those. Of course I had done the same with my journeywoman, but we worked on different areas, since the synergy varies with the relationship and the persons involved.  I had always thought that I was simply doomed to hear the screaming in my heart and my head for the rest of my life, with variants on the volume, but he changed my belief in that. There was, finally, someone who could actually help this part of me heal. I had never thought that was actually possible, and I sang with the joy of that discovery.

No Because Unsafe

Doing rituals at my house was always problematic, especially at night, since my house is a zoo. What with kids and husband and all that. He lived alone, and so it was a natural to have them there. He spent so much effort on convincing me of our relationship that I admit I totally fell for him. And after the rituals, he wanted to prove it. The first time he tried to push me for actual intercourse, though, I balked. I have always had an arrangement with my husband to play safe, as nearly all polys do, and he refused to use any protection. I really thought about it, because he was just so much and nearly broke my resolve, but while I was considering, he withdrew consent. He picked himself up, moved away from me, and refused to engage me as he intimated that I was to leave his presence and his home. In silence. I literally couldn't move. His sudden and complete rejection shattered me to my core. I almost forgot I had a body. We had become so close, and shared so much. I was recovering and rediscovering my own worth as a person, I was finally feeling intense joy at my own sexuality for the first time in my life, and he was rejecting me because I wanted to keep myself, my husband, and ultimately him, safe. My brain knows it's a abuse technique. I'm pretty goddam well versed in this. But when the one you opened up to, who made such an effort to be there for you and convince you that you really could become the person you always wanted to be, and thought you would have been if you weren't broken, demands you break your word and treats you like a object to take risks with, well, it's just devastating. I finally did manage to move, much to his annoyance, since I had collapsed on the floor, and walk out under my own power. (He wrote to my journeywoman that night claiming that he thought he was going to hurt me. I didn't know that at the time, and at the time of this writing, I still have never seen that correspondence, because it wasn't addressed to me.) But now the games and abuse began. I waited for a week to contact him, and he was cold and distant. Naturally. I held back, keeping out of his way for as long as I could, but I was desperate to repair this. He occasionally engaged with me on FB, though would Friend and UnFriend me on perceived slights, but sometimes, shadows of the depth of our relationship were still there. He still invited me over to his house in text usually, so of course I went. And he still kept coming closer, and on, to me, and then changing his mind, calling it 'bullshit', and seeming to regret it later. He would dismiss me after, by silence and just his hand in the air. I should take my leave quietly and not bother him now. He didn't push for intercourse again yet. I couldn't have cared less, I wanted to be with him so badly. But after all, you know, he HAD a real girlfriend. In another province, usually... I would text him and if she was with him, he'd be entirely cold, warning me that he was with "his girl'. Because I wasn't her. Obviously.

Did I mention the blood drinking?

And the blood drinking. When he cut himself to make his offering to his Deity, he made me lick off the wound. Again, without warning or consent. I shook with terror, because I know how much it puts my body at risk, but bravery! And commitment! I was convinced that someone who wanted this kind of bond with me must want me in his life for a long time and cared about me. Francis believes it was entirely because he got off on controlling me.  This is why it can help to examine the evidence from different perspectives...

If he had said that he wanted to experiment, which was reasonable being newly out on his own, or wanted us to be causal, or asked for training, or to be friends - I would have been happy with any combination of those. I'm perfectly capable of handling many kinds of relationships, and I'm always honest and clear. Poly kinda insists on that. But he kept switching intimacy levels and I had to follow all of his many changing cues...

This went on and on. I went insane. I seriously worked out for the first time in years, hoping to earn him with a new hard body. I grew my nails because he always requested being raked with them. (He prefers being a maso sub, doncha know...) I wrote copiously. Like, 20 pages a day. I went more mystical than I have ever experienced as I attempted to contextualize and regain control on my emotions and my life. I was always at risk at various times in the past. My anorexia for example, which I've had under control for more than a decade, came back in full force. At one point, I literally could not put anything in my mouth for nearly three weeks. Food is nurturing and love and control issues. I made a rule to eat after dark, and that kept enough calories in me so I didn't noticeably lose too much weight.  Yay. Pro tip: Call it fasting and no one will comment. They may even praise your discipline! I was in such despair that no joy or worth or comfort could reach me. There were many, many episodes where I had to convince myself to keep breathing. Because I really, really didn't want to.

Because if that is what he needs, right?

I finally couldn't stand it anymore, and tried to cut myself off. I wrote him an artistic love letter in early January and sent it to him in the mail. I was pretty desperate and poetic at this point, and that was one of the only communication avenues left open that he hadn't punished me for using. For almost two months, I hoped that I would be able to get him out of my head by not contacting him at all, but it only got worse. Around the end of February, I decided to break radio silence one last time. My text messages were laid back and casual. He responded in kind, and eventually, he requested that I come over to his house and he would be ‘fully submissive in whatever manner I pleased”; his main kink being masochism and submission. I was nervous, but agreed. I’m not very comfortable with domination. (Copies of all our SMS available to those who think I'm making this up!?) I'm like "what?" Yes, I know. I should have run. But seriously. Have you SEEN him? And I hoped so much that my best friend was back. So I did. And that night, he was all over me. Turns out he had just broken up with his girlfriend the week before, but I didn't know that yet. I just got the timing right, I suppose... But even with all the mention of consent I made, he never brought up the condoms again. And I made the decision that if that is what was necessary to be with him, I would break my word, take the risk of STD's and pregnancy (I have kids with my husband and we used condoms. I wasn't on the Pill!), and go without protection. It was very hard, but I convinced myself I was being courageous, and this relationship could change my life. Because brave and healed sexuality! But realize - he never asked. He didn't know any of that, and I don't know if he cared. In the same spirit of bravery, when he fisted me so hard that first night that I bled all over his sheets with the microtears, I didn't protest. He never asked, but I hoped that we would talk about it after, since he must like that, right? And GGG! I can handle this... I'm no prude...

I don't know how many times I used the word 'terrified' to him in our correspondence. With good cause. I should probably count. But he forced me to discuss things when I didn't want to or had too much trouble with, and didn't talk about other things when I needed to. His gaslighting techniques were impeccable. I still hoped to reach him. I remember once asking him how do I access his compassion. He never responded.

He summoned me by text usually once a week. Condoms never came up again, nor did anything else he wanted to try before he did it to me. Our talks were deeply moving, though, and I mostly loved the time I spent with him. And I loved him personally very much. His hurting me was clearly an oversight, or he just didn't understand, right? He couldn't hear me, but he was young. We could fix this. I just had to get through to him.

The second last time he summoned me for one of his shower cuddles was in March of 2014. While we were actually in the shower, he said "There is something I'd like to try." This must be big. He didn't just start doing whatever it was, which was his usual habit. I'm in for a penny, in for a pound at this point. I've already worked so hard to overcome my fears and try to move ahead on this new adventure that I wanted to be up for anything. Turns out, anything was anal. With no prep, no discussion, no protection, and no lube. I admit, that shocked even me. I have never done that before or since. It's not as though I never wanted to, and I really did want to try it with him at some point, because he was my new dream, but like that... That was awful. It was incredibly painful, and I couldn't transpose the pain into pleasure or contextualize it or anything. And I gave birth naturally at home without drugs. Twice! So I do know how to do that somewhat. But I couldn't say anything. I was too shocked. And he was hurting me so much. Afterwards, he must have considered it a rather unsuccessful or unsatisfying experiment, because he *never mentioned it again.* I felt like I couldn't even use that orifice for a week. It bled and was torn. I tried to bring it up a the next day, all casual and everything, but he wouldn't deal. His complete and utter lack of concern for my well being was devastating. Even more than usual. But he was done with me. There was no other conclusion that could be drawn. Even in my devotion and bravery and adoration... He had gotten all he wanted, so I was disposable. (In his restraining order, he claims we made a mutual agreement to break contact that point. What he means is, he wanted to completely stop communicating with me after that. Because he sure didn't tell me, and I most certainly wouldn't have agreed to it. Not even a 'break up' text!)

Civilized folks generally agree that the person being penetrated should have the most control for consent to be valid. Most people would also consider rather dangerous anal sex, especially for the first time, without full discussion and agreement beforehand, as non-consensual sex. And what is the term for non-consensual sex? Rape. His abandonment immediately afterwards is kinda the clincher - that we really weren't in a relationship and that he manipulated me into those situations for that purpose. But still. I was desperate and hopeful. There has got to be some way to get through to him. It couldn't have all been a lie...

I Let Him Cut Me and Invite a Friend

This wasn't the usual pattern for me. This was new.  For most of my life, including nearly all the time with my husband, sex was always half pleasure, half pain. Too intense, and it was like knives. Not enough, and negative imagery, particularly coercion and gangs, was one of the only visions that would get me off. It was very unpleasant in my head and in my body, but I was resigned to it. It was my Fate, and that is all I would ever be able to get out of it. (I'm even worse now, for some reason, only now without any hope in sight.) The synergy that I had with Ryan was the most soothing balm to my pain that I had ever had. All of a sudden, it was all good. All the time. I was supercharged. I could actually orgasm without pain or shame. It was joyous and freeing and releasing. Even with the acts he continually shocked me with. I finally saw a chance to heal that part of my life completely, so the risks and the bad relationship practices (which were obviously just a lack of experience and not deliberate viciousness on his part, right?) were worth it. I would have done almost anything for him. But now, he was abandoning me. He didn't even tell me. He just cut off contact. I was worthless and used up. My despair and desperation spiraled me out of control. I was non-functional. I had been shown what I could be like, how I could live, but that was never going to happen again. Small wonder that I tried to find any excuse I could to see him again. And this one was a doozy.

I asked him to cut me. He's a cutter, you see, and I'm totally not, so it wasn't outside his experience to help someone with that for the first time. So on April 15, 2014, we arranged for a meet up at his place, as usual. I got dressed in my black garter belt and stockings because I know they are his favourite, and headed out. He sent me a text message *en route* that he had a friend over, and would I mind that? But  I didn't check my phone before I got there, so I didn't know until I arrived and saw them both. Now, this was to be a very intimate evening, and very possibly my last with him, unless I could make some serious inroads on his feelings, so I knew, when he had invited another, that he was setting me up for a threesome. I knew it. I've had them before in my life. They are almost always fun, can often be spontaneous, but they aren't just 'set up' by one person. That's more of the sleazy non-consensual kind of evening... But I would do almost anything at this point, and the instant I saw him, I knew I would do this, too. I didn't protest, but my heart fell. He used a disassembled disposable razor blade in the shower on my arm. (I didn't even know you could take those things apart!) I tried, but I couldn't do it myself. I was so scared and shaking. I still have the scar. Then, vulnerable as I now was, he ordered me to invite his friend into the shower with us. Again, I did as I was told. How could I not? Again, there was no discussion of protection, and the boys were both bareback. I couldn't say a word. His friend spoke only to him, not to me, and asked the things he could do to me. He even asked Ryan if he could come inside me, and I was so shocked I almost found my voice then, but Ryan answered that probably wouldn't be a good idea. I was so relieved that he finally thought a bit about my safety that I was grateful. Grateful.

He made some comments that gave me some insight into why this kind of evening. They had had a threesome once before, with the friend's girl, and I was his payment back. A transaction, if you will. He also thought of us as his "high sex drive" friends, so in part I think he was pawning us off on each other so I could be pushed off without too much trouble. But I will probably never know. Because he never asked me ahead of time, and never discussed it with me after. You know, like one would in an actual relationship, and not just a fleshy Thing.

After a few rounds, Ryan got a text from Izzy to join him. So he left us - me - with this stranger in his apartment, while he went to the person he cared about. I was destroyed, but there was nothing I could do. I stayed with his friend, doing my best to seem all sex positive and giving and crap, because I hoped that would please Ryan. After all, I was the present for that night, right? Turns out, Ryan set up his friend, too. He had never even been told my name, and he was under instructions not to ask me questions or bother me... He joined us in the shower because I asked him to (which is why Ryan had ordered me to), and he genuinely had no clue about all the subtext and lack of full disclosure and consent all around him. He rarely does that sort of thing, too, but he wanted to be all bad ass and brave and stuff. I can sympathize. He really liked me, though, and just before I left, he got over his shyness (shyness!) and asked me my name. I gave him my card. We have been together ever since.

This new relationship hasn't been without some serious problems, of course. Like starting off with a rather rapey first night. When I told him what had been going on, he was mortified and horrified. He didn't quite believe me, I think, because this was his friend, and insisted on seeing all the correspondence, to make his own assessment. I permitted it, despite my deep embarrassment at my own lack of control and wisdom. I told him I forgave him for the first evening, but he is now livid and enraged that he was an unwitting participant in harming me. He wants to see Ryan punished in every possible manner. He's even willing to go to jail for it, if that means Ryan does. I really don't want him making that sacrifice. Confronting him about it all, and only once when they were both present at a function, Ryan threatened to 'burn him alive'. But not in front of anyone else, of course. I remain deeply grateful to my current boyfriend for being there to witness for me, to condemn these actions as intolerable, and to support a view of events from an outsider, who is also an insider, that doesn't leave me questioning my own perceptions.

Actual BDSM is "Safe, Sane, and Consensual" 

For those of you unaware, the Ghomeshi case usefully pointed out what exactly is legal consent and what is not covered by that under the Criminal Code in Canada. BDSM is supposed to be an enjoyable game where all persons agree on roles, activities, and choices ahead of time, because most BDSM becomes an illegal act the instant consent is withdrawn. Nearly all players are therefore very careful to check with their subs or bottoms about their safety and comfort before, during, and importantly, after. Aftercare is a BDSM requirement. Most bodies and minds are made vulnerable, so the upmost concern and diligence is given for post-play. Usually a blanket and cuddling. It reinforces the trust required to ensure further play in future, to check for no unintended harm, and to prove respect for your friends, their bravery, and their experience. None of that looks anything like being fisted or anally penetrated without warning or negotiation, and then thrown out of a house in silence. With no apologies or even debriefing after. So if I can't be certain that I was an aberration, that he has learned his lesson about consent and sexual violence and abusive behaviors, then I will have no choice but to give my complaint to the police. To protect others, no matter how hard this will be on me and my family (and it will). Because you still can't cut or make another person bleed, even if they are in a shower with you. It's actually real assault. And this has really, really destroyed my entire life.

And you know, after all of this I could still forgive. I still want to. I still want to believe that he didn't harm me on purpose, and that if he understands, he will ask me to forgive him. He could still help fix the harm he caused me and help me heal. I truly don't believe, or don't wish to, that he is that evil. My current boyfriend is convinced of it, though, and he's seen all the texts and FB chats. I'm kinda glad that he is around. Helps keep all this in perspective...

I know some folks were wondering why I was offline and in non-contact mode for nearly a year. Well, this is some of what I've been doing! I hope I can finally get back to my life now. Though really, it looks like this IS my life now. A rather unpleasant Fate. Some days, the struggle consists largely of justifying its continuance.

I've never had a chance to finally confront someone who committed sexual violence on me. That's one of the reasons I need to do this. If I can meet him without my nerves making me throw up, I'll consider that a victory.


So I wrote all the above before our arranged meeting. When we arrived, only Izzy was there, saying nothing at all to me, but handing me a restraining order. You know, he didn't have to make my husband take a day off work, have us go out of our way to the other end of the city, to do that. He knows where I live... (I have often complimented him on his artistic cruelty.) There are a huge bunch of lies in the order, which he made under oath. He claims that I've threatened him, which I never have of course, since I'm closer to impeccably civil, and that we martial artists are scaring him. Him, Mr. Cadet Trained. And that somehow, even though I've gone out of my way not to be where he is, he can show up where he knows *I'll* be, then use the courts to stop me from being near my friends. It's that extra vicious touch that almost manages to evaporate that last bit of compassion and pity I had for him, that perhaps this was all just a mistake on his part, and he really didn't mean to rape me.

He claims that *we* (meaning him) broke off contact in March, 2014. Which is provably untrue. Since he enjoyed sending me abusive texts much later than that. And I am spreading 'rumours', even though I very specifically only hinted to very few, because I knew this could escalate, and I wasn't prepared for that. Now, I have no choice. He has forced my hand. We are going to the courthouse today and preparing our statements for the police. Any good wishes sent will be greatly appreciated.

In all this, I remain deeply grateful to have a witness in all this. Having a man who was there one night, who looked through all the evidence, and can offer what he has seen, is the *ONLY* reason I can go through any legal proceedings at all. By this latest tactic, Ryan is going with the 'crazy ex bitch' motif. And he might have easily gotten away with it, even with all the actual evidence I have. But I actually have a real, live, male witness to much of it.... For that, I need to be grateful. Because otherwise, I would not even be able to pursue Justice. It's almost Biblical, really. Except don't I need five males witnesses to be believed? Because they can't just take my word for it, right?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Speech for Shaw: Original transcript vs. how it actually went

The written speech was what I was originally gonna say. But all those lights...! Luckily, I'm really good at this, and can still get the message out. The tech and producer just blinked at me when I was finished. They totally advised me not to do another take and keep this one I did. I took that as positive advice, and not like they were secretly trying to make me look bad or anything. Since they seemed genuinely nice, and I just kinda assume that most people are generally good and helpful. Because I know I am. Maybe that's a flaw on my part, but I'm not changing it.

And again, this is before the orange wave, which I totally anticipated, but it was still not a done deal.

Original written speech:

Greetings. My name is Trey Capnerhurst and I'm running for the Alberta Greens in Edmonton Decore.

My 13 year old daughter said to me today "We're the heart of Canada's oil industry. Why is everyone getting cancer?" She is willing to make the connections that most Albertans are not.
One in two Albertans will get cancer in their lifetimes. One in four will die from it.  That's your kids, your family, your nieghbours... That's not normal. We have the worst polluted air in the country, and one of the highest child asthma rates on the planet. My son was born nearly perfect, except that sometimes, he literally can't breathe. That is the price we are paying for oil being our primary industry. 
Some parties want us to have even more jobs in that resource industry, because we somehow don't have enough already, and yet also expand our health care. Which is really handy, because those go together. We need to expand our gutted healthcare, but prevention saves even more money and lives.
I still remember a time when Alberta was a world leader in so many industries. Oil may have been discovered in the 40's, but it was always part of a balanced economy. In fact, oil wasn't even one of the top three in the 80's. Agriculture, forestry, and believe it or not, the arts, were our most profitable industries. The Arts alone brought in 2 *billion* a year in 80's! And all of these sustainable. We could have flourished on them for generations. Then came the push for the tarsands, and suddenly austerity measures, with slashing of social programs and the war on the poor, and all of our other industries sacrificed to the Tarsands idol. Of course we now need the tarsands, because we have no other jobs left. We could be great without the tarsands, as we once were. Alberta could still even be an energy leader, if we acknowledge that petroleum is on its way out, and we need to fully prepare for the new. Or get left behind...
 Alberta also has, for all practical purposes, a flat tax, and corporations are getting away with using our infrastructure and killing our citizens, while still paying some of the lowest rates on the planet. We could easily transition to sustainable industries if we insist that everyone pay their fair share. They've certainly got the benefits from it already...
It's time we got our head out of the tarsands.  The price is far too high; for us and for the world. We are a wonderful, caring people, and we can do so much better than this. Speak out. Demand more. Vote Green.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Toxicity and Male Aggression at the Gaia Gathering, and in the Edmonton pagan community

And with Sable Aradia

So when I was invited to speak at the Gaia Gathering, the only Canadian pagan conference, by another local pagan leader, I was very hesitant. I'm always willing to donate my time and energy to creating community of course, but the Edmonton scene has always been problematic, with no signs of correcting itself. There is a deep reluctance to address any of its serious issues and improve the local pagan community, especially in regards to victimization. With one of the panels this year on feminism and another on Guarding the Guardians, one would hope that the boys were open to making spaces safer and more comfortable for women, but alas. That is simply not on the menu. Indeed, to even attempt to complain is met with mystified stares at best, and jeers at worst. The sheer incompetence and exploitation of the conference itself was another concern. I am totally supportive of the idea of a national pagan conference, even held in different cities every year. So much so in fact, I even volunteered the first year myself as the local experienced event planner and community liaison, since the inaugural event was held in Edmonton. However, as the other planners were all from Toronto at the time, I had so many problems with their entitlement and other issues that I had to bow out entirely. They have not seemed to have learnt much in the decade they have been in operation. A few easily noted examples...

I was thrilled to meet the female keynote speaker, Sable Aradia. I would have loved to hear more from her on the topic of her seminar, but her toss out session right at the beginning seemed to cue the local power males into believing it wasn't a keynote address but a workshop. To be fair, only they seemed to think that, though. Women remained respectfully silent nearly the entire time. Yes, there is always a problem to buttonholing women, but it has been proven in so many studies that men taking over space means women retreat and are unheard. The argument to change that is usually, again, the onus on the women to "Speak up! Lean in!" But somehow, the reverse is almost never applied. Like "Shut up, and let the woman speak. It's her we came to see, not you." Which is what most of the women felt like, but are trained not to challenge or make a fuss. Even if more women spoke up, it might have seemed like a more equitable ratio, but with the constant interruption from the entitled men, most of us felt like too much time was already taken up with comments from the (men in the) audience, and we didn't feel like sharing. I'm pretty darn aggressive, but even I felt like my one tiny comment, heckled immediately by the men, was a mistake. Normally, I couldn't care less. I'm kinda used to it. However, I am one of the few local women who is a peer to the high profile males. If they are not used to respecting the opinions of others, they should at least accept that I am closer to them in status. In this community, I do expect some degree of consideration for my expertise and experience. But nope. One male even asked for my thoughts *specifically* to announce that I was wrong. Not to hear what I had to say. Not to edify or contemplate my viewpoint, which he actually *requested* of me. Not that my interpretation was wrong *in his training*. But that I was just wrong. Is there a name for men who do that, or that particular action? Mansplaining, I think...

As a guest, Sable's needs were also not met. Particularly egregious in consideration of the pagan Hospitality laws, which most paths follow in some variation. A vegan, she was wolfing down some much needed nourishment just before her address. It made the entire session late, but we were informed that she hadn't eaten in two days. I trust that was an exaggeration, because the alternative is too offensive to contemplate. When she made a slight comment on the fact after arriving, instead of humble and shame-filled apologies from those of the organizers who were there, she was actually heckled. Heckled. "You should learn to eat what's in front of you!" She choose to ignore that aggressive shouting down and continue on with her lecture, but I know I felt the violence in that statement. Your needs are nothing. You are here to serve only. You are expendable. Being invited to a city that you don't know, and need others to assist you in, and not providing basic needs like FOOD, is an injury. Throwing it back in their face is most certainly an insult. Adding insult to injury. It's like asking an orthodox rabbi to speak at a dinner, not providing him with anything, and then force him to carve the pork for it. There were other vegans there, too, which is not uncommon among pagans, who also couldn't locate food. Like me, who had no car with which to fetch some. Why on earth would anyone plan a conference where they knew that even a keynote would be unable to have her needs met?  It still astounds and appalls me.

I have also never, EVER been invited to speak at an event and then been required to pay for the privilege. I've been doing these for 30 years now, and I have never asked for cash compensation, as is keeping with tradition. My expertise and knowledge are clearly valued enough to be asked to impart them, and so I have made time out of my schedule to spend hours sharing, which I am honoured to do. However, it is apparently the policy of this conference to insist that invited presenters PAY to get in. To the event they are contributing to. When the conference is making money off of the audience members coming to see them. When I insisted that I wouldn't participate under those conditions to the male who invited me, I was angrily told I wasn't 'building community". Since I'm not a money grubber by any stretch, the attempt to shame me into paying for my own lecture was a total flop. I am able to deal with male violence in that circumstance, but it's most distasteful. However, this isn't just about the invited guests. The volunteers, the actual staff putting in their time and sweat equity to make the thing run, are *also* supposed to pay. Even when they are spending all their time at their posts, and none in the workshops that they are so keen to see. All the volunteers I saw were women, and some from several hours out of town. (To be fair, I never asked if they got a reduced rate, but since I wasn't told I could have one, I assume they couldn't as well.) I cannot begin to express my shock and repugnance at such exploitation. When challenged, I was told that this is the standard model for this event. Well, I've organized and participated in lots of national conventions and events, and I can tell you: you're doing it wrong. Volunteers donate their valuable time so *you don't have to pay staff.* That's the carrot for them. Lower income for example, can donate time instead of money, and still get a chance to participate! I know you might have cash flow problems,but siphoning off money from them for the privilege is total exploitation, and tells everyone that their time dedicated to this is just not valuable enough. (Eventually I was compted, but only because I made such an argument for it. I doubt anyone else made such a fuss over the principle, and I wouldn't have been able to attend anyway otherwise. I certainly don't have that kind of cash...)

A male of my acquaintance also offered me a shoulder to cry on, since my last year has been one of the worst in my life. He promised he was a good listener, and as my troubles do have something to do with the local community, I overcame my usual reluctance and shared some choice bits. Here's a tip, men: suggesting that the person violated should have known better is both not good listening AND victim blaming. Again. More violence is not what one expects or needs in spiritual circles. All that talk of healing energy is just crap, right?

Being high profile in anything is always a risk. Targeting for women is even more of a problem now than before the 'net. I remember a few years ago when I brought up how local Wiccans had gone out of their way to stalk and harm me and my family. I had all my documentation and proof, and presented it to the local coven for their consideration. Of course, the boys involved were local heroes! Who did great work! I know you don't want to deal with such pillars of the community being criminals, but one would still hope that truth and justice was an ideal for pagans to aspire to. But no. I was shut down faster than a choir boy accusing a Catholic priest, bizarrely told that their 'mediation' was an option, and despite all the emails and proofs right in front of them, unceremoniously removed from lists and uninvited to events I was already scheduled to appear at. Because boat rocking. Mediation of course meaning that more than one party is at fault, or that some 'misunderstanding' is the source of the violence against them. Because two sides! Even though the proof is right there... Victim blaming at it's finest. There's a reason this is the first time you've seen me a local event in ages, dudes... (This a-hole applied to me out of the blue to be an apprentice. I turned him down rather harshly after he confused me with someone else he didn't like and started hurling abuse at me. He apologized, citing non-neuronormative, and I forgave him. But he's been posting crap ever since. And everyone in the city seems okay with that. I mean, how do you 'mediate" that? These people are just awful.)

The panel I was invited to speak at, Pagans in Politics, as an actual expert, was no better. My male co-presenter often interrupted me, told me *I* had to let others finish (though that never applied to him), and actually dismissed completely my experience with the Greens and Elizabeth May, saying to my face that I had an "idealized" version. It was an utterly classic form of silencing women. Even though I've been involved for years at the highest levels and know everyone personally; his opinion, based on pulling it out of his ass, was to be the deciding one. I could have pushed it, but I already had to shove my way into the conversation, because this man was swaying the group with his obviously deep knowledge of the subject. My insistence on actually being heard as a woman who knew what was going on was somehow disruptive to the group, doncha know. Look. Just because you have an opinion doesn't mean it's right or based in reality. That's why you might want to listen to someone who is actually in the know before you form or maintain that opinion. And no. Its not of the same value, then, and we don't have to insist that it is. That's why you asked me there: because I know what I'm talking about. And shutting me down, in public, in a group I was supposed to be co-hosting, was deliberately disrespectful, antagonizing, disempowering, and downright rude. (I got it on video. Keep in mind the man was constantly interrupting female speakers all weekend, because he owns this town. And I was doing my best to control my Fist of Death as it was... He was remarkably silent during Kerr's keynote address. Hhmmm...)

Kerr and me!
I had to leave both nights early, because it was just too overwhelming to deal with. And again, it most certainly isn't all men, or everyone at the conference. Kerr Cuhulain, whom I have known about for decades and really wanted to connect with, is a high profile pagan who has done so much work in the Canadian and international community, and is one of the most delightful, humble, hard working, grounded and knowledgeable spiritual leaders I have ever had the fortune to meet. I was thrilled to have the opportunity for some serious face time, and very much look forward to a vivacious and fruitful long term relationship between our two organizations. I may even hang at his Mother House for a while and study under his group. So that at least was worth it...

I find the dismissal, exploitation and social violence of this event and community actually shocking, since I'm not really expecting it. It hurts way more than in my other circles. We're all supposed to be love and trust, right? How does that work if the men in particular dominate all the conversations, dismiss women and their opinions or their needs or their contributions, and then natter on about the Goddess? Even in metaphoric terms, she's still female, and is represented in the women physically around you. That you are exploiting, dismissing, and dominating.

The local community in Edmonton finds ANY criticism to be 'negative energy", and punishes those who bring it up, by censure and virtual excommunication. Thus ensuring that these toxic practices are doomed to continue, rather than be exposed, examined, and corrected. So many local witches and pagans have become 'solitary'; not because they wished it, but because they have felt harmed, endangered, unwelcome, exploited, or downright victimized, in both informal and formal manifestations of the community. I've heard many whispered stories that I'm not the only one. Since it's so incestuous, there is no recourse when such problems occur, and victims are then forced to explore their faith entirely on their own. Yes, there are always bad apples. Yes, no community is ever totally safe or warm and fuzzy. However, to deliberately not patrol oneself, ignore and punish those who point out problems or complain, and pretend instead there is a bubble of "light and love" around you and all you do is monumentally naive at best, and abusive at worst. The "Community" pillar of paganism demands improvement, as does the "Self" one. Neither of these are currently under serious scrutiny in Edmonton. Do we have to wait until all the local enablers of these kinds of behaviors die or move away? It does seem to be perpetuating itself, since this has been going on for decades now - and from what I saw this weekend, no end is in sight.

70's chic? Or just a terrible place to have this. Sable and I agree on the latter. Number 12 bus, the only one to get there, is a bitch, too...  And of course, no bike racks. Another blow to accessibility! Yay!

As for the conference, there was much talk of this being the last Gaia Gathering. It has been misinterpreted as being no longer necessary for the Canadian community, but the real problem is not having local buy-in, one of the first issues I warned them about, and they clearly still haven't solved. To say it was sparsely attended would be generous. When I organize things like this, I get hundreds of folks showing up. And I expect as much from a "national conference." From accessibility issues: one awkward bus route and no bike racks, to *still* not having a viable local billeting option for most conventioneers, to the utterly awful decor and lack of refreshments for everyone, Sable and I had a long discussion about it on the Sunday, and we were largely on the same page about the problems of the conference. We agreed that it has always been a necessity, and need it to continue in some proper form. I personally can't decide if I want this version to pass away, and revive the idea in a few years, or make yet another attempt to help them solve these problems so that we have continuity. We really do need this to help create and maintain communities, scholarship, and legitimacy all over the country. I rather hope they can finally start making this a more robust event, but since I have yet to see those results after ten years, my expectations for change in this, too, are also dim...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Provincial Campaign 2015 - Alberta Greens

Sat., April 11

Another whirlwind tour! Although provincial elections are rarely as lively as federal, this one started off with a bang. I was asked by long time activist and vital member of the community, David Laing, to lead off the #ActOnClimate Edmonton action. About two days before. Heh. I actually really like working like this. Gives me less time to get nervous...

I go into far more detail on my blog post on the subject "Why I became a Green", and I left out so much, of course. Such as why the current cries, and some blame, for scientists to activate now, and not in the past. As if to illustrate my points, a sudden wind burst up, knocking everything around. You should see the giant bruises on the back of my legs from where one of the signs hit me...  Ah. All for the cause. Made some great new contacts, too!

My entire speech is here. Taping makes it sound better... Did I really talk for 11 minutes? I usually make these so short. But this one - this subject really screams at me.

This year I'm standing for Edmonton Decore. I have stood for it once before, since it's adjacent to the provincial riding I live in, and still in my federal riding. However, the Alberta Greens have decided not to challenge the progressives who have already worked hard to make it to the Legislature and we are not running candidates in their ridings. Instead, we are focusing our message in places that do not yet have such a voice. So Brian Mason, the former leader of the ND's, who currently represents the riding I live in, can thank me for not throwing down the gauntlet. You're welcome. (Because he's soooo worried. Heh.)

Mon. April 13

Taking my campaign manager along to teach him the process. Getting signatures all afternoon and evening to get on the ballot. His very first encounter was greeted by a sit down invite with loads of sweets by a traditional hospitality senior Greek couple. It was certainly one of the most welcoming I've ever encountered doing this part of the work. Another unexpected surprise was Ann the Poetess, who we met in the food court of Northgate. She gave us a spoken word recitation of two of her works, but not her signature, since she doesn't live in the riding. Part of this job is the folks you meet.

And a quick word to Northgate Mall: it's actually illegal, as well as dickish, to prevent folks from getting signatures for Elections Alberta to get on the ballot. It's not partisan: it's providing electoral choice. It's not advertising; it's democracy. The returning office is actually IN your mall! I know you relented and let us do it for one night, but you still can't do that. You do not get to decide who gets on the ballot, by making it harder to get someone on. Here's a tip: you also aren't allowed to prevent campaign literature from getting to renters in buildings that you own, either. Just because you hold the space does not permit you to interfere with the election process.  That's a Real Thing. And I will make a formal complaint next time.

And my face is burnt. Even with my rare, and now apparently collectible, hunter green Tilley.

Sat. April 18

Anti Bill C-51 Rally

More Pics here:

Opening up the Week to Stop Bill C-51, this was a cross country wide co-ordination, with nearly all major cities in Canada organizing a protest. Ours had many of the usual suspects, with some new faces. And many came in satirical outfits to highlight the grim and farcical attempt at painting all activists: environmentalists, aboriginal, social... with one brush - that of terrorists. Much like our neighbours to the south, this is our Patriot Act, except that a few mentally ill murderers are not the same as fighters with a political agenda constantly maiming and killing civilian populations to control the dialog. It kinda ain't. Not even a little bit. Dissent is not terror, and the only people who call it that are those who won't tolerate dissent. Especially if our government is supposed to be listening to us, and doing what *we* tell it? If they shut down all ability to hear us, then who, exactly, are they listening to?

Come for the impassioned and knowledgeable presentations and costumes; stay for the march! From speakers on Aboriginal rights to Palestinian justice to workers rights, all of which would be targeted by this Bill, we were gloriously inspired by spokespeople from many varied, yet always intersectional, causes. Included were Native Elder Taz Bouchier who opened with ceremony, the always popular Raging Grannies, my favourite Communist candidate Peggy MortonDale Ladouceur, Glynis Lieb from CUPE,  Malcolm Azania (aka Minster Faust), Danika Billie Littlechild, the beautiful and talented Bill BourneGhada Ageel, and many others brought their colours out in solidarity, like

I was pleasantly surprised by the organizers inclusion of women and PoC. Many times, lip service is given to hearing voices that are usually silenced, but this rally had some of the most diverse speakers I've ever had the pleasure to hear. Most were women, and nearly all were PoC. Not a white man haranguing us in the bunch. Except the host, and he kept the focus on the guests. I for one was impressed, and would like to extend kudos to the organizers. It's more than past time that we made a place for those who to often have to squeeze their way in.

One of the most awe inspiring presentations was by Jenna Joyce Broomfield, a law student and native activist who explained some of the most problematic parts of the law, and then proceeded to give us a demonstration of one of the many forms of self-expression: Inuit throat singing. Subversive!
(I found to my shock that I did not, in fact, get this on video. So I'm using a link that Paula E. Kirman posted to FB from her channel. Let me know if you want me to remove the link, Paula!) 

See all of the presentations posted here:

Sunday, April 19

Blue dot action at EGS

Met up with some of the lovely folks at Earth's General Store, and stayed for a few hours. They even remembered me from my climate change speech last week! I'm totally flattered... Went into more detail about the issues, handed out a few cards, but there were no babies to shake or hands to kiss. Or is that other way around? Good thing there weren't any then! Had a lovely chat with Estefania Cortes-Vargas, ND candidate for Strathcona-Sherwood Park. We discussed at some length the current problem of the ND's shifting to a non-cooperative and adversarial model, and how that affects the Left as well as their own policies. A truly progressive young woman, who I hope to work and get better acquainted with! 

April 20 & 21

Doorknocking with the Leader, and our Crew

Me, and your Green Party candidate for Edmonton-Riverview, Sandra Wolf Lange!
Janet Keeping, our indomitable Leader, managed to make it up to Edmonton with her team for two days this week. We spend the evenings doorknocking in two ridings with fellow candidates. I was privileged to spend some quality face time both days, as well as show off my riding.

Monday night we paired off in teams and hit Edmonton-Riverview and Edmonton-Whitemud with a vengeance. In part because I forgot it was 4/20. That will tell you how much campaigning makes you completely lose track of everything else. Should've been there for the spinning alone... Tuesday we were in Edmonton Decore, right beside Northgate Mall. Met one of the ND volunteers hitting the streets, too. Lovely young man! They have such great people! I wish they would let them talk to us...

A much deserved celebration!  Kathryn JacksonSandra Wolf Lange,  me, my campaign manager, Francis Ho,  Jill Browne, and our Leader and inspiration, Janet Keeping 

Tuesday Afternoon, April 21

Shaw Interview

Local cable isn't dead! At least, it's putting up a good fight.. Shaw invited all the candidates into the studio, in both Calgary and Edmonton, to present a 90 sec speech, which isn't easy to do when they suggest you talk about yourself, discuss taxes, and throw in a health care plan. A great plan for local relevancy, and I for one applaud their initiative. Most of the Greens managed to avail themselves of the invitation, and it took alot of polishes and practices before most of us felt comfy with the timing and the material. Yes, we write all our own speeches. I know for a fact that the Liberals have their own speechwriters, for the federal campaign anyway, even for tiny ridings, so I have little doubt that the other parties have a more..consistent.. message with actual writers. But since the Greens are all volunteer, being the only citizen's action party, we do it all ourselves. And you know, we are pretty damn good!

I only found out the night before that they were using a green screen, so we couldn't wear green, black, or white. Due to my religious vows, I've only worn black and green for over 25 years, so that's all I have in my closet. Fortunately, my other colour is silver, so even though I thought it might seem frivolous, it was really my only option left. So in that spirit, I tried to get my daughter to lace me into my silver steampunk corset for the presentation, because if you can't hide it, you'd better decorate it! But she couldn't do it up, so I had to go with a silver shirt. My campaign manager thinks it was for the best. Sigh...

I wrote my speech only a few hours earlier, because I always work to deadlines, and I just couldn't get inspired before. However, my 13 yo daughter said something that totally gave me my speech. She said, and I quote, "We're the heart of Canada's oil industry. Why is everyone getting cancer?" And that kinda did it for me. She gets it, even at her age, because that's it in a nutshell.  I wrote furiously, for about an hour, and it all came together. Rearranging it was tough, though, since I didn't have time to copy it out, so with taking out the bits that were too long, and trying to point to where I was supposed to go next, it was an editor's nightmare.

They had to check to see if my green hair would scan properly...

Which is kinda what did me in when I actually got there. Shaw is Hel and gone for me, so I had to cab it. I do that very rarely the rest of the year, but I have to rely more on it during a campaign. I and my campaign manager can get everywhere in the riding by bike or bus, as we otherwise do, but some events are simply not doable in a reasonable time frame without utilizing cabs. I think of it as stimulating the local economy! But it does make for some stress, so I was a bit freaked out by the time I got there. And I actually can get terrible stage fright, though you'd never know. That's why they call me "professional"... Heh.

So, after being lead in, and ushered and maneuvered around by the lovely staff, I was set up to go. I took a deep breath, and managed about half the speech, when my edits caught up with me. I got lost. Could not figure out where I was supposed to be going next. Like the trouper I am, though, I had already practiced it earlier, and I actually do know my material and what I want to say, so I just vamped my way through it. I may have been a blunter than I would have otherwise, but I was just under time, and got in most everything I was planning on saying anyway. And the staff looked stunned. Even my campaign manager thought that was some of my best work. Apparently, we could have another take, so I suggested I try doing the speech I had originally intended, but they strongly encouraged me to keep that one. So I abide by their advice, and we kept that. (Original speech and how it actually went is here.)

Profiles of the candidates are available up to election day, and the schedule is posted on my website, my FB page, and I'm assuming, Shaw's, but I didn't check. And if anyone could record it for me, I'd really love a copy. Because I have almost no idea what I said. I mean, I know what I said, but you know... And Shaw has for some reason decided that they aren't going up on YouTube or their site, so I'm kinda outta luck, unless they relent and allow me to have a copy after the election. Because, I kinda rocked. Or, I think I did... Isn't that the same thing? Heh.

Wed, April 22

Candidates Public Forum on Education: Crestwood Community League

The Future of our Public Schools and School Closures, sponsored by Community Action for School Renewal

Me in the new T shirt design!
Supposedly an all-candidates forum: but just like the one on education held in Calgary, the PC and the WildRose chose not to attend. Or even send an excuse, I think... Much note was made of it, since it was the only one of its kind this election held in Edmonton. Despite that, however, a highly useful and productive evening was spent by all. FB listing is here, with more details and pics.

For my full answers to all the questions, check out my Youtube channel!

Actually in attendance were two Alberta Party candidates, two NDP candidates, one Liberal, and me, representing the Greens. My answers are on my Youtube channel. Thanks to my campaign manager for taking them! The MC announced that they would be livetweeting the answers, which put on a bit more pressure. However, I only looked at them afterwards, and was very impressed that someone could manage to summarize our answers so well and so quickly. I didn't quite know I was so well received until after the event, when so many participants came up to me to offer congratulations, and I looked over the tweets the next day. They do make me look pretty darn good! It's nice to have the pat on the back every once and awhile. We really work hard for this... See them all yourself, with the hashtag #casrforum 

I was very impressed with Dr. Donna Wilson, Liberal candidate for Riverview. She was clear and focused, with great answers and a real knowledge of the subject. As a prof, she could also speak to post secondary as well.Great stats! I could only really disagree on the Liberal party line of keeping government out of the schools. Well, no. That's kinda what government is *for*: collecting taxes and providing education. When we have decided on a system of public education, that's one of the things governance is for.

The male Alberta party candidate, Brandon Beringer, standing for Riverview, the only boy on the panel, held himself fairly well for his first election. He was a bit flippant, and didn't know his material much, but he kept to his script, which is what he's supposed to do, I guess. I have no clue why he thinks that the Alberta Party policy of *borrowing* to get out of our financial mess, instead of just collecting a more appropriate amount of tax from the rich and corporations getting wealthy off OUR resources, is somehow a better plan.  You know we have some of the lowest royalties on the planet, right? And borrowing puts us in *debt*? Really. Those oil companies aren't going anywhere. They could just pay their fair share. I couldn't stop staring at Dr. Christina Stasia, the female Alberta party candidate for Goldbar. The work that goes into looking like she is literally off a Mad Men set was impressive. And a bit stunning. However, she was also clear, with a lovely speaking voice, and totally knew her subject matter. I felt like I had to up my game with this crowd.. Which isn't a bad thing. 

The two NDP were right beside me. And barely looked at me the entire time. I will admit - I was very disappointed in them. As a former hard core NDP, I must say that this new route of hostility, rather than co-operation, does not suit them at all. One at least gave me the time of day, then proceeded to ignore me, but Sarah Hoffman, for Glenora, was a wall of rude. Although I admit I didn't get most of that until *after* I mildly satirized her idol worship of Notley. But really. Do the NDP think we are that stupid? Or was that just her? I know they have been instructed to say "Rachel Notley and the NDP" whenever they breathe, but she was giving the impression that Notley herself was going to build all those schools personally. She said it so often that the kids were considering making a drinking game of it. I'm glad they can't legally use alcohol yet. They'd have died from the poisoning. I personally found it deeply embarrassing and shameless, and shades of Ralph's Team and the PC Cult of Personality, were hanging over us all.  Everyone who spoke to me afterward felt the same way. I couldn't help but get a little bit angry over it. None of us mentioned our leaders. Mine in particular is an inspiration as a spokesperson, but she's not the Be All and End All of all the candidates and our platform... I did have a chance to sneak a peek at their notes, cheat sheets, and talking points. (Which we don't have, by the way. Just our policies.) I saw an actual chart comparing Prentice to Rachel, him all bad and her all good. It was eye opening - the push to manipulate, and in such a simplistic fashion. I almost got a picture of it with my phone. The candidate was rather indiscreet with such party secrets. You know we don't vote for a premier, right, Rachel? And encouraging use of your first name to promote a false sense of intimacy, countering his use of last name to indicate authority, is a rather sleazy and manufactured tactic? The best part was the end, when we all wandered around and shook hands, giving each other sincere compliments on an evening well spent. Except for the NDP, who totally ignored me. Again. I don't know if they shook hands or spoke to any of the other candidates, but their bad form and general discourtesy was highly pointed. I don't know if that was just them, or if they are under orders to snub us. Because they most certainly did. Bad NDP. No cookie.

Feature in Diversity Magazine!

Leader Janet Keeping, Sandra Wolf Lange, and me hamming it up. We have such fun in all the hard work...

Also while Janet was in town, we had a photo shoot at Diversity Magazine! See the full article here...Big thanks to editor Franklin, the Green Crusader, for the invite!

Sunday, April 26

Earth Day in the Downtown core

The martial arts Green contingent

Of course, it is the must attend event of the day.  My campaign manager and I meet another local Green, Chris Vallee, and hang out with the usual suspects. Garbaganza was in attendance, as was Greenpeace, Amnesty, Permaculture, local green hero Michael Kalmanovitch from Earth's General Store, and some new folks we said hi to. I was particularly impressed with the new vegan food truck! A great addition! We did our duty and dropped off some literature and buttons, which joined the federal swag on the table. More pics here.

Then we spent the rest of the day, for some much needed R and R, at the Legislature grounds for ArtsJam: a very loosely organized group of flow artists, hoopers, musicians, and now, the martial arts group, of which I happen to have the honour of joining from time to time... 

Sword training and one of our dapperest attendees

Hoopers and jugglers and drummers: oh, my!
Hand to hand, because we didn't bring enough weapons...

April 29

Pack the Chambers

Livetweeting selfie! Sandra Wolf Lange, your Green candidate for Edmonton Riverview, and me!

A call to action! The Edmonton City Council was meeting to discuss the motion to reduce our carbon footprint, for the *very* realistic goal of 35% reduction by 2025, and the Greens, and green minded citizens, came out in a show of support. It was just an ordinary business meeting, which happens fairly often, but in this case, we were to bare witness and demonstrate how much we cared about this plan. Several of us livetweeted, including me, and you can see most of them on the FB event.  Our mayor, Don Ivason, is a popular progressive, and even mentioned climate change! And so near to the tarsands, too... And not a single job was lost. He did, however, chastise us for not 'sitting respectfully in silence" when we made sedate polite applause over one Councillor's remarks about an hour into the meeting. You know, you ARE facing us in a semi-circle. You are OUR employees, doing work for us.  That's a democracy thing. I'm not sure admonishing us like bad children to 'sitting respectfully in silence' is the best way to address us. One attendee went so far as to call it an abuse of power. I probably wouldn't say that, but it wasn't cool, Don..

Greenies in the house!

Yes, we really do the less glamourous stuff, too, to get the job done.

Saw a sound check for a really good musician on the way out. Oooo...looked fancy! I wonder what was going on here...


May 1

May Day Worker's Rally and March

The worker's / united / will never be defeated!
I'm all scary when I'm in Fight mode..
We started off at the Legislature. Speakers went on for about 45 min, but mysteriously, the clarion at the Ledge continued for about 10 minutes during it all, making it very hard to hear the speakers. I have honestly never, ever heard those bells go on for quite so long. I'm not gonna say someone did it deliberately, but...

Much hedging around for the political Labour talk, and election was obliquely referred to, but no one was crass enough to really promote the orange party, and they were not predominantly in attendance. I for one found it refreshingly tasteful, and also did not shove my literature at anyone. And yet, not one of the speakers insisted that everyone just out to VOTE, DAMMIT! I hung out with Janis Irwin, federal NDP candidate for my usual riding of now Edmonton Griesbach. We really wanted to start the chant of Vote, Vote, Vote! but we were both too shy to interrupt the proceedings with such a political agenda. Even though a damn election and the workers should speak up with their vote! Grumble, grumble... Even though somehow we've never actually met before, we have both followed each other for awhile and made a great connection. We vowed to hang out in future and the possibly of is a very distinct possibility. Hush.

The march was one of the longest I've been in for awhile, and we ended up at Grant Notley park. Nope. No political statements there.. Heh. We didn't get permission to march, but the organizers informed the cops of our route, so there was a police escort, and we were encouraged to take over Jasper Ave! Which we kinda did. It was exhilarating! I know some folks may have had their travel interrupted, and often will whine over that, but I tells ya: your human rights are way more important, and exercising them is sometimes inconvenient for others. At least we weren't in Quebec, where they were tear gassed for the very same action. So, we get to count ourselves lucky...? Or do we have to fight harder for them?

I usually celebrate Beltaine today, but instead, I headed out in solidarity. I will have to make it up my observances *after* the election, I guess. I certainly can't take much time for them now...

Sunday, May 3

North Glenora All Candidates Forum

Well, okay. *First*, it was Artsjam,  And although I am usually the one documenting, someone finally managed to sneak pics of me. Not with any of the weapons though. Just dancing and borrowing a robe for effect. My arms still ache from swinging at my campaign manager with the Ken-do staff, too...

Then we were off to Glenora. I was filling in for David Parker, and holding up the Green banner for the riding. All parties chose to attend this one, and the format was like a quiz show, with random questions from the audience, names picked out of the bowl to answer, and one minute timed. They WILL take the mic from you in mid-sentence, btw... Fortunately, this is my sixth rodeo, so I was the only one they never had to do that to. Booyah. My answers are loading up on my Youtube channel, though not totally complete. It's hard to video when you don't know who's coming up next.

As usual, I totally got on great with the Liberal candidate. I hadn't met Karen Sevcik for Glenora before, but it was her first campaign, and obviously her last forum for it, so she was a bit more experienced in them by now. She was delightful, and not yet had her sense of humour, and disgust, crushed under the weight of it all, so we tried hard not to look appalled at the PC incumbent's Orwellian take on education funding and taxation. Sarah Hoffman of the NDP was there again, and really gives the impression that she doesn't like me. One remark satirizing her idolatry of Notley in a forum and a girl can't get a break... Heh. The first thing out of her mouth when she noticed me was "Oh, are you in the audience this time?" I have no clue why she would think that, esp. dressed all in my Greens, but I assured her I was on the panel with her. As a real, live candidate. I wasn't even snarky about it! After her brag about how many forums she's been in so far this campaign (I've still been in far more in my six times running, but who's counting?), she again dismissed me. I love working with professionals... At least this time she shook my hand afterward.

The Wildrose candidate sitting to my left, Don Koziak, had run lots of times himself, for city council and other seats, but he still shook like a leaf and looked like he was gonna puke. And he almost couldn't finish one minute for each question. I kinda felt sorry for him. But this is part of the job, and if I may recommend, you are not good at this at all. You may want to consider another way of participating in the democratic system. Oration in front of crowds is not your bag. The PC incumbent, Heather Klimchuk, flailed around like she was desperate to keep her job, but like an employee in a bad performance review, not enough to be honest about mistakes or blame. Just "how I'll do better!" Many found it rather distasteful.

And with that, and a few more blog posts, we reach the end of one of the hardest campaigns I have ever done. With the new change looming and the complete shut out of the media on the Greens, it also seems like this one will see the least returns. But we are building a party here, and more hope for the future. And rest assured, a conscience and alternative for the NDP. So keep that in mind, oranges. What you did this time, we can do next, if you don't keep your people happy. And do something about that appalling environmental record, switch our jobs and our industry green, clean up our air and water, and make us world leaders again. Properly and sustainably this time. Or your votes are ours.

Election Night after party

Greenies hang out at vegan eat and drinkery Arcadia on 124th St.