Sunday, October 30, 2011

Re-posted, author J Wallace: "When the boxes get smaller, fewer people fit inside"

(Written by J Wallace, re-posted with permission)

Periodically, I get asked if there are more gender independent/ gender non-conforming/gender imaginative/ gender creative/gender variant/ transgender/ trans children and youth because there is more awareness of transpeople and trans-identities in society.

The answer is always no.

More awareness may mean more legal protections, and it may mean that there are more caring adults willing to support children and youth, but knowledge of transpeople does not make children up and decide that their own gender or sex needs to be changed. Even if it did (which it does not) I'd like to suggest that there is very little cultural material for children about transpeople. Carly, She's still My Daddy is just not showing up in many kindergarten libraries. And while there are children who read 10,000 Dresses and think "I'm just like the main character" it's not like the image it paints is so alluring that other children are going to think "hey, that's not me but I wish it was". The images of trans people that young children are exposed to are few, hard to find, and seldom positive. I dream of the day that resources like Reflection Press' Gender Now Coloring Book are more widely available, and even when they are, more awareness is not going to create more trans children.

The claim that there are more gender independent/ gender non-conforming/gender imaginative/ gender creative/gender variant/ transgender/ trans children and youth because here is more awareness of transpeople and trans-identities in society, is the polite way of saying "we recruit" and it's a slander that plays into the primal fear that "we are out to get your children". The myth that faeries would steal unbaptized children persists, and I remember being told that if I was bad, the gypsies would come take me away. The culture that I am a part of has a long history of claiming that those it wants to other will 'steal the children'. The antisemitic belief that Jews steal children to make Passover matza is a gross and disturbing example, but the idea that "we are out to get the children" has been proven over and over again as a successful way to villianize whole people. We the othered then have to spend time defending ourselves, and proving that we are not out to get your children. Often we are told that the way to do this is to act as much like the majority culture as possible and to be quiet. Talk about silencing marginalized voices.

The idea that there are more (and younger) trans people because of greater awareness of trans people also serves to distracts us from what is actually going on. Peggy Orenstein in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, documents a huge cultural shift towards an increasingly rigid gendering of childhood and children. She discusses at some length the marketing brilliance of clearly defining "boys toys" and "girls toys" and how doing so means that fewer older siblings are sharing their toys with differently gendered younger siblings and thus more toys are being sold. I frequently remind teachers that childhood now is more gendered than it was when we were children. I was born in the mid seventies and grew-up with Free to Be You and Me. While the message was that "every boy in this land grows to be his own man, every girl in this land grows to be her own women" and not "everyone gets to figure out who they are and then live that way" there was more room in the categories of "girl" and "boy". I could refuse to wear dresses, mostly play with boys, try-out and play on boys sports teams, and my behaviour was seen as "feminist" or that of a "tomboy", and inside the category of girl.

The other thing that has been happening at the same time, has been happening in the DSM. The DSM III first introduced a childhood diagnosis, Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood in 1980, and at the time it required:

Table 1 DSM-III diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood
     For females
     A. Strongly and persistently stated desire to be a boy, or insistence that she is a boy (not merely a desire for any perceived
     cultural advantages from being a boy)
     B. Persistent repudiation of female anatomic structures, as manifested by at least one of the following repeated assertions
     (1) that she will grow up to become a man (not merely in role)
     (2) that she is biologically unable to become pregnant
     (3) that she will not develop breasts
     (4) that she has no vagina
     (5) that she has, or will grow, a penis
     C. Onset of the disturbance before puberty ...

     For males
     A. Strongly and persistently stated desire to be a girl, or insistence that he is a girl.
     B. Either (1) or (2)
     (1) persistent repudiation of male anatomic structures, as manifested by at least one of the following repeated assertions
       (a) that he will grow up to become a woman (not merely in role)
       (b) that his penis and testes are disgusting or will disappear
       (c) that it would be better not to have a penis or testes
     (2) preoccupation with female stereotypical activities as manifested by a preference for either cross-dressing or simulating female
     attire, or by a compelling desire to participate in the games and pastimes of girls.
     C. Onset of the disturbance before puberty. ...

The DSM IV broadened the diagnostic criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in children, with the result that children no longer had to state a clear interest in or belief that they are the other sex. Instead it said:
  1. In children, the disturbance is manifested by four (or more) of the following:
    1. repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex
    2. in boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female
      attire; in girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine
    3. strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make-believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex
    4. intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex
    5. strong preferences for playmates of the other sex
  2. In children, the disturbance is manifested by any of the following:
    • in boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear
      or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis,
      or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play
      and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games and activities;
    • in girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position,
      assertion that she has or will grow a penis,
      or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate,
      or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing.
  3. The disturbance is not concurrent with a physical intersex condition.
  4. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or
    impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
When in boys, an "aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games and activities", and in girls a "marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing." is considered a "manifestation of the disturbance" many more children can be pathologized, many more children can be considered insufficiently feminine or insufficiently masculine. It also teaches parents that their children's behaviour is wrong and not something that normal children do. I ask you, gentle readers, who's coming for the children? I

So, what "makes" gender independent/ gender non-conforming/gender imaginative/ gender creative/gender variant/ transgender/ trans children and youth? I have several answers, but I believe that key among them is the simultaneous narrowing of the cultural understandings of what it means to be a boy or girl and the broadening of the definition of Gender Identity Disorder for children. Simply put, when there are fewer ways to be a girl or boy, and more ways to be identified as having GID, more children will find that they simply can not fit into what is expected of them, and instead find themselves being pathologized.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June in Paris - 2011

One of my favourite paintings at the LouvreScammers at the LouvreJust one of the many Native appropriation images in ParisClassy BMW ScooterRuffneck Hip HopDon't you want to be tan?
Turbo DraineWarnings for food commercialsMounir est guardien des biscuitsPascal and the Mozilla Paris office treat cupboardEscargots "Papa"Salade gargantuesques Boyarde "complète"
Who needs a bell?2 Croque-MadamesSpeculoos Panna CottaAmerican Money to patch your pantsLost Unicorn in ParisJenny & the Moulin Rouge
Montmartre cemetery warning #2Montmartre cemetery warning #1Social Assistance in Paris?Jenny, Montmartre cemeteryJenny in a crypt at the Montmartre cemeteryIMG_20110611_172239
June in Paris - 2011, a set on Flickr.
So here's the most recent set of images from our last week in Paris. We've been settling in, and while there have been some low points where things seemed too overwhelming here we're really having a great time getting into a little routine here and finding fun things to do at night when I'm done working.

The pics have some stories and descriptions but let's see what else I can tell you.

We're adjusting to our tiny apartment which I have been lovingly calling "our bathroom". People laugh and think it's cute that we're so shocked by the tiny apartments but I really don't think anyone grasps how our rental is not an apartment at all - I'd be fine with a tiny apartment and understand the limits of space in Paris and the high price of real estate. We are in a bathroom however with the cheapest curtain in front of the toilet, and everything else furnishing the place is also the cheapest possible stuff from IKEA. The person who rents this 12 sq m room has basically done the bare minimum to make it rentable. I'm not going to spend a whole blog post complaining about the rental though - we're making it work. Also, my co-worker William lent us his place last weekend and will again in another week so we've had a respite and have enjoyed some space and some more comfortable living on occasion.

Let's talk about food, one of my favourite subjects. The food here is generally pretty good if you don't care much about salad. In the past few years I have started to care much more about eating greens and vegetables so it's been a challenge to basically eat bread/meat/cheese/sugar all day, every day, without any salads in there. There are salads but they are often either a) tiny and covered in mayonaise or b) topped with potatoes/meat/cheese (and maybe some mayonaise too!). So I'm definitely missing fresh fruits & vegetables in my diet. However, last night we went to a place William recommended called "Entre les Vignes" (Between the Vines). It's a cute little bistro near Gare de Lyon and it had the most delicious steak tartare ever. We will definitely go back for another round of that before leaving town. I have had a very fresh and tasty crepe on the street, a ham & cheese one so I still need to do the sweet kind at some point. I've had some South-West cooking at a place called Chez Papa which involved the above-mentioned "salad with meat and potatoes on it" as well as escargots in cream sauce with tomatoes and mushrooms and also a lamb cassoulet. I love cassoulet and want to go home and make some of my own. We also cooked at home a few times and just did some simple pasta dinners to accompany wine & reading.

Life in Paris was hard the first week because of technical difficulties. The internet in our room is incredibly slow and unreliable and Jenny relies on my laptop sharing internet so that her iPad (which does not have an ethernet port) can get connected. This means her internet window when not at school (French classes) is about 15 minutes before I go to work in the mornings. This means she has to know ahead of time everything she might want to do so she can map it out. Our cell phones here required some intensive signing up procedures including sending copies of our passports to some email address, and then getting them refilled is a whole other pain in the butt. Also, the Vélib rentable bike system wouldn't accept our credit cards at the stations so we learned the hard way that we need to buy them online ahead of time. We're starting to laugh at how often we'll try to do something only to find (regardless of the level of planning we put in ahead of time) that things are closed, we're too late (or on the wrong night), or things are sold out. Metro stations, restaurants, concerts, canal boat rides. The internet has both made it easier to make this kind trip and also removed the ability for spontaneity in travel.

We have gone to see two movies: Tomboy and X Men First Class. Tomboy was all in French and Jenny was able to follow along pretty well. I loved that movie and highly recommend it. It will probably do the rounds of the queer film festivals this summer. X Men was lots of fun for me, Jenny had a nice nap. I love the X Men mythology so much and spend a lot of time trying to decide which mutation would be the best fit for me. After last night I'm mostly leaning towards the telepathy cause it seems appropriate for a slightly controlling personality who wants to help lots of people.

Tonight we'll go see some art at Georges Pompidou where a modern art gallery lives. Also we just found out about this Claude Cahun retrospective from Onya - yay!  This weekend we might go to Versailles and try again to do the canal boat ride that takes you under the city in these cool tunnels.

That's it for now.  Gotta get to work!  Which reminds me. The Paris office has been great to me and so awesome to work out of. I really do want to see if, over time, I can work out of every Mozilla office at least once so that I can get a feel for all the different customs and office atmospheres in our very dispersed company.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Arm Tattoo

Arm Tatoo by Ludovic Hirlimann
Arm Tatoo, a photo by Ludovic Hirlimann on Flickr.

Just found out about this photo on Flickr cause it's gotten a lot of views in the past few days. Such a great shot of the Hopey hound, makes me miss her more than I already do.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Summer Travel Log 1 - California->Canada->Paris

Last Saturday started with a little last-minute cleaning of the apartment for our summer Airbnb renters before we hit the road and headed North. In the past week I have been in 3 States (CA, OR, WA), 3 Provinces (BC, AB, ON), and am now in Paris, France in the heart of the city on Isle St-Louis.

 It took us two days to drive to Victoria, and we lengthened the travel time a bit by taking hwy 101 for half of it so as to view the amazing redwood trees along the coast.  On Jenny's camera there are pictures of us driving through a huge tree - which is what you do when you take hwy 101 through the redwoods.  

We spent a nice quiet week in the woods of Victoria, getting Hopey settled in and sleeping a lot. Finally on Friday the time came to start the 16 hour trip to Paris. I'd like to say that I love flying Air Canada. It's been a while, and living in the States means often flying Delta, US Airways, Southwest, or United. Air Canada's planes are so nice and clean and big. Unlike every flight I've taken in the last year, this flight had NO issues with people's carry on baggage fitting into the upper storage areas. Also, the seats are a little wider and I couldn't measure but I think I had more leg room too. Airline promo done, let's arrive in Paris!

 Our rental is in an old industrial building with a huge door that opens into an open-air courtyard, and then 4 flights of stairs up is our 'apartment'. It's quite small, but it's quiet and we're in such a great location for the next 3 weeks. Apparently it's going to rain off and on all week, but today was a hot and sunny 28 degrees, so after a nap Jenny and I went out to explore the neighbourhood.  Here's what I've observed from our initial, jet-lagged wanderings:

  • Getting keys made is something done at the cobbler's, not at hardware stores (we visited 2)
  • At 5 or 6 pm, there is nothing slightly resembling dinner available in the local cafés and the restaurants are not open yet.  We will need to adjust to this.
  • There's some great fashion here and then, in contrast, some people who seem to actively hate fashion :)
  • I love having opportunities to speak French!  Most importantly, everyone is speaking French back to me which is a pleasant surprise.
  • Everything here is REALLY EXPENSIVE!  It makes me kind of nervous.  Will need to get out of this neighbourhood and see what it's like in less touristy areas.  We plan to get Velib bikes to explore the city tomorrow if it's not raining.
  • I bought a SIM card at the airport for 19 euros and it gives you 5 euros credit which I've already gone through by using data, however there's nothing in their rate sheet about data costs. SO there's some lack of communication here.  
  • Also this:

That, my dear readers, is the DISCO TOILET in the Creperie where we ended up eating dinner. The tiny toilet booth is a totally different experience than the rest of the restaurant. So you're eating your crepes and it's all normal (top 40 UK dance hits quietly playing in the background) but if you get up to go to the washroom, watch out! The music is loud, the little green lights are dancing, and just can't help're dancing in a toilet :)

This bridge is covered in locks put up by people, looks like mostly to commemorate their love with someone else, and I'm excited to put one up there for Jenny and I at some point during our visit.  It's so beautiful here. The stone streets, the tiny cars, even this very touristy area has a nice mix of locals going about their business and visitors walking about. There's a lot of people riding bikes around and it looks pretty safe to do that here. I don't have a helmet with me because our rentals in Prague will include them. I'm trying to decided if I should pick up one of these helmets while I'm here or wait until I'm back in SF.

There's a huge thunderstorm rolling in as I write this and I wish I had the right kind of camera to capture the lightning. Time to try and get to sleep at a 'normal' hour so that I can get the most out of Paris, Day 2.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Plaid Pants

     Last month I went to see Rufus Wainwright perform with the San Francisco symphony. The performance itself was mediocre due to being a very new piece and, I suspect, affected by the recent loss of his aunt. I still enjoyed the evening and also saw some amazing outfits during intermission. There was a group of gay men in the lobby who were all wearing fabulously fitting plaid dress pants along with other snazzy accessories like vests and suspenders.  The group of 5 men stood out to me in the crowd and I couldn't take my eyes off them.  I think one of them noticed...

    Anyway, since that night I've been planning to find myself a pair of well-made plaid pants and today, thanks to a Techcrunch article about Bonobos, I did. Now the pants were $195 and I'm sure they are amazing pants but I've learned that you can pretty much always find a coupon for online purchases so I did a quick search and found a link that gave me 50% off my first order of over $100 at  The link worked like a charm and after making my purchase I was given my own link to spread around so that other people can get 50% off too. In turn, I get a $50 store credit which means - MORE PANTS!

    If you use the link below you will get to save 50% on your first order over $100 guaranteed. It will take you to a page where you create an account, then you shop, and when you check out the form will populate the discount code field with a unique code just for you. Then you save money and also get a link of your own when you're done. Happy shopping!

    Go Get 50% off at

    Monday, December 06, 2010


    Today is the anniversary of the December 6th massacre in Montréal.  When this happened  I was 14 years old, growing up in Ottawa which is only a couple of hours from Montréal.  This hate crime had a devastating impact on the feminist community, and on young women considering studying in technical fields.

    This morning I was listening to a Spark (CBC Radio) podcast about females in startup culture and it brought up the topic of the decline in women enrolling in STEM and as I got to the office and remembered what today is I thought: "Here are 14 fewer role models, and STEM women".

    In the early 90's I lived in Montréal and was part of direct action to commemorate this day.  One year we blocked traffic in a very busy intersection near Concordia for 15 minutes, as a woman read out each name, allowed one minute of silence before proceeding to the next.  We passed out flyers to passers by and to those stuck waiting in their cars.  What impressed me at the time was how so many people were aware of the significance of this date, of this heinous crime, and that any anger quickly dissipated and was replaced by respectful silence.

    Today I'm taking 14 minutes to remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.  I'm not putting it out there in anyone's face in the same way that we used to but I'm glad to see some people tweeting, blogging, and otherwise continuing to bring it to people's attention so that they do not forget how this was a crime that can never be mistaken for anything but a hate crime against women, and feminists specifically.

    In the Geek Feminist post the author points out how today we should also be remembering other groups who are targeted and killed such as Aboriginal women and Trans women.  I want to suggest we remember that every day, and then on December 6th we can take an extra 14 minutes to remember that a guy walked into a room and specifically shot women, calling them a "bunch of fucking feminists" while doing so.  He didn't know if they were feminists. He equated them being in a non-traditional field with being feminist.  Today when a woman shies away from labeling herself a feminist I have to wonder if it's events like this that shaped her idea of why using the F word doesn't seem like a good idea.

    Something I am thinking about with regards to this event is that the gunman told the men to leave the room, and they did. They left their cohorts in the room with an armed lunatic instead of protesting, uniting, or otherwise trying to help. Similar to the use the Bechdel test to check for quality content in media - I wonder how this scene would play out today in a CS classroom.  Would it pass a Polytechnique test?  Would today's male students still walk out and leave the women behind to be murdered?

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Today in my neighbourhood:

    BP's attempt ($50 million ad campaign: to pass the blame.

    Reminds me of Eddie Izzard's gun joke:

    Consumers standing there shouting "I need OIL!" doesn't cause oil spills, being the oil drilling company with faulty equipment and no safety plan does.

    Wednesday, June 09, 2010

    Breathe On It

    Play this song while you read this - it's what I was listening to this morning while thinking about this post.

    One of my favourite things about being part of a queer community is participating in the way we perform for each other as both performer and audience. Camp, drag, drama, dance, and even the occasional spoken word piece move me and make me so proud of our colourful, creative, and freaky selves. Often our main stage celebrities are shameless and will do anything for attention but there is also room for the shy wallflowers to take the stage every so often and get in the spotlight where they will do something completely hilarious and beautiful, imprinting a lasting image of their courage on our minds.

    Yesterday I posted the following as a Facebook status update:
    It's NOT a coincidence so many cities are making alternatives to the OFFICIAL "family" Pride parties which rely on corporate sponsorship. Pride went from a march to show we existed to a bloated tourist attraction that requires millions of dollars to survive. Let's stop doing the SAME thing EVERY year, it's lazy. Get freaky on your block, love each other up in the streets, throw parties any day you want. Fuck Pride.

    This morning I showed someone clips from some performances at GayBiGayGay back in March.  Yesterday I saw this clip from QueerBomb.  This weekend I was at NoLose watching a variety of performances by very talented queers.  My community in Toronto (and a bunch of us who don't live there anymore) just recently lost the amazing community organizer Will Munro who used to bring us a monthly night of queer expression called Vaseline/Vazaleen.  That's where I first saw The Hidden Cameras back in 2001.  That where I saw homos go-go dancing in briefs with sock masks on their faces, drag queens boxing, Kembra Pfahler in blue body paint walking with bowling balls strapped to her feet with electrical tape and so. much. more.  Even I got to be on that stage a few times participating in contests like bob-for-dildos on Halloween (Vasoween) night.

    At the music festival I worked at for many years we wove performance into our daily tasks. Dressing up and impromptu dancing were staples but every once in a while we would get to do full-on theatrics for each other and for the larger community.  Whether it was a parody of a revival tent, a perpetual new year's eve party where the clock struck midnight every 5 minutes, or a silent film being acted out by monochromatic-outfitted villains and heroines, we acted out for each other intensely and with so much appreciation from the audience.

    I love us.
    We say that often. Right after someone dazzles us with an unexpected serenade or a spontaneous choreographed dance. We say that when as a large group we raise the energy level in the room above that of the day-to-day getting by. Queers do this a lot. Throw parties, freak out, rally, shout, dress up, go out and play.  We don't need Pride™and their big budget, booked entertainers, corporate floats, designated parade routes, or "no you can't bring your own water in here" beer gardens.

    Just perform for me and I'll do the same for you and we can do that whenever we want.

    Friday, June 04, 2010

    Family Car Decals - My latest obsession.

    After moving to the United States just over six months ago I started driving a car again. Spending a lot of time commuting has given me a whole new view of car culture - California car culture to be precise. Highway 280 running from SF to the Silicon Valley has shown me a whole new world where most cars only contain one person (including my own), are often hybrid or at least manufactured by Toyota, and are generally free of decals. That's probably why I started to notice this phenomenon of family car decals.

    I first noticed them in December, often in the form of varying sizes of flip flop shoes in a row on the back window of a vehicle. But lately I've seen more stick figure representations along with the occasional skull version (the goth/rocker family?).

    A quick google search turns up an incredible amount of pictures so I'll stop taking pictures of them on my phone now. I've been so curious to know why this is such a contagious sticker trend. I can't help but think that esp. in the recent years of debate over marriage and family caused by gay marriage activism that we are going to see an incredible backlash in the form of "family pride" by people with traditional hetero family units. 99% of the stickers i see depict nuclear families. Some add on a dog after the stick people. This could be because a divorced family and thus spread out family might not have one car to put all its stick figures on...or just that only families who fit a two parent/many kid mold think it's cute to get a sticker version of themselves made.

    I'd almost put my obsession with the trend aside when I saw this:
    Stick baby has two mommies. Now my fears of gay assimilation through weddings and wedding culture have been trumped by a fear of hetero-sticker-schlock mimicry.

    The debate over what makes a family is now to be discussed over the $5 vinyl cling on your gas-guzzling minivan, just like your activism now consists of clicking a "Like" button to send your outrage over a news story back to your Facebook feed.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    My new apartment

    Just a quick post - more to come. I am moving into a studio at Duboce & Church this weekend. I've basically been calling it "the heart of the gay". Already, as I walked home from picking up the keys, I was thrilled to see the gay boys on every corner. This is one of those romantic visions I moved to SF for.

    My new place is small but it's really bright and the kitchen has a full-sized gas stove, a bigger fridge than I've had for the last 6 months, and built-in shelves. There's room for my table & chairs, plus room for a nice chopping board island that I've been coveting. Though it's technically a studio and I will have to put my bed and couch in the same room there is a HUGE closet. It's about 19 feet long, walk-in, 3.5 feet wide, and the back wall (all 19 feet of it) is covered in built-in shelves. Plus the ceilings are close to 10 feet high and I can put a second level of storage up at about 7.5 feet.

    Pics to come as I work on moving myself in and taking advantage of all that space. I love vertical space.