Everyday I cry over Orlando. It doesn’t take much. A message of hope. Friends expressing their pain. Homophobic comments from religious friends and family. Anti-homophobic comments from religious friends and family.


I was looking forward to getting out and painting with my regular group. My face must have given away some of my grief. Our lovely host asked why I looked so sad.

“Orlando.” And I tried to smile and was about to ask about a paint brand someone was trying out.

“You don’t need to be so sad about something that happened so far away.” A painter said.
“You act like you knew someone there” she added. I can’t tell if she is trying to be sympathetic or accusatory.

“They are my people.” I replied.
“We are all your people” she scolded me, with a hurt tone in her voice.

I wanted to say, “No! You are not my people! I see our shared humanity but you are not of my tribe. I’ve heard you talk before. I respect your humanity, but how can you be my people when you want so many of my people to cease to exist?”

I said instead, “I have Latinx family.” I didn’t add, “I am queer.”

“You know it was staged.” The woman continued. “Trump was going to reveal something to the world that would bring those corrupt Clinton’s down. They knew that. They staged this. People get so sad about things like this and then they are easier to control.”

I stared at her. Did she believe Trump was so incompetent that he was unable to deliver anything but insults and racist fear mongering towards vulnerable populations after a tragedy? Apparently this secret world changing information took backseat to insults after people GOT SAD?

She went on, “Its because They want to control the people. Now They will use this as an excuse to make gun laws.”

I exploded, “Don’t you think that the fact that after Australia enacted gun regulation laws they haven’t had a mass shooting, or since Scotland enacted gun regulations laws, they haven’t had a mass shooting, has anything to do with why people would support gun regulation laws!!! Isn’t preventing mass shootings a good enough reason? Not to mention toddlers who…”
She cut me off. “No. I don’t believe it. Its all about control of the people. Take away their guns so they can’t protect themselves.”

“Protect themselves from whom? Obviously not mass murderers” I failed to keep the sarcasm from my voice.

“The government” she replied with sickly sweet condescension.


“You believe the government is going to attack citizens with guns?”
“Yes, dear. That’s what Orlando was.”

I decided to try a different tactic to explain my sad face.

“It isn’t just the homophobic violence. It also hurts to see homophobic responses from the Christians that…”

Another woman interrupted me. “Christians aren’t homophobic!”

“Many Christians aren’t. Many Muslims aren’t. There are still far too much homophobia in Christianity. Same with Muslims. Some good things and some bad things in both communities.”

This offended them. Minimizing the deep pain of the queer and Latinx community, and of everyone who is concerned about the depth of the gun violence is supposed to make me cheer up, but comparing them, white Christian women, to Muslims has gone too far.
Before the first woman could say anything, the second woman spoke up “I can’t be homophobic because I am not 100% straight.”


“Internalized homophobia is a thing” I muttered. I hoped they wouldn’t hear me.


They heard me but haven’t heard of internalized homophobia. I gave examples of internalized misogyny, or rather, they did, and I pointed out that women aren’t actually worse drivers. I gave an example of internalized racism caused by white supremacy. Our model, an artist from Northern India, broke her pose to nod. She knows how insidious white supremacy is. I immediately regretted the example.

The first woman interrupted to give a monologue about how she is less racist than her black friend and how she just wasn’t raised with racism and can’t imagine why anyone would think it’s a problem. I sputtered and tried to make some comment about racism in the culture but I could no longer make coherent sentences.

I was done. I retreated into my painting and marveled at the greens and reds living on the model’s face.

Time passed. I don’t know what they talked about, something about how China has a conspiracy to give us fake food. I fell into a world of colours, lines, and shadows.

Break time. The model got up.

The first woman spoke again. “I hope I didn’t offend anyone! I always offend someone.” Her tone was both proud and plaintive. She felt like she was the victim for standing up for “truth”. She demanded validation for her pain of not being praised.

The other women were quick to give it. To reassure that she has not offended them, that they are just like her and always offending people too. The model and I were silent.

I wanted to say, “You’ve done more than offend. You’ve erased a tragedy and mocked the experiences of people whose lives are at risk every day. You accused the murder victims and their families of being actors trying to deceive us.” But I stayed silent.

She looked right at me. “Don’t be so sad about something that happened so far away and wasn’t even real.”

I looked at her wearily. “Does that help you sleep at night?” and I walked out.

To be a bitch or a whore: non consent in rape and purity culture

I share the following two stories, not because they’ve deeply traumatized me, they haven’t, but because of how the trauma came. In both cases, it wasn’t so much the action but the messages surrounding them.


When I was 17 I was hanging out with my best friend at the time. I liked him. I thought I would like to kiss him but I wasn’t sure. He was sure. As we sat together on his roof looking at the stars, he leaned in and I pulled back. He waited and tried again. Once more I pulled away before he could get close. I don’t know how many times this happened. Frustrated he pinned me down against the rough gravel, his heavier and stronger body leaving me no way to escape. When it sank in that I wouldn’t be able to get up until I stopped turning my neck back and forth away from his face, I gave in and let him kiss me.  I don’t remember the actual kiss. My first kiss.

And it was just a kiss from someone I really liked. Something I would have given to him if he had been a bit more patient. Something I told everyone else was really romantic. A few years later another boy pinned me down on the trampoline we were playing on and I panicked and then felt ashamed for having flashbacks and reactions. It was just a kiss. I was far too sensitive.

This first boy apologized to me after a few years. We sat on the couch in his parent’s livingroom and watched the moon and talked. I dozed off. I woke up to some pleasant sensations. When I became fully aware of what was happening, I realized that his hands were exploring my chest under my shirt. I became horrified and ashamed and ran away. We didn’t talk about it for months and when he found out that I was sleeping most of the time, he was horrified himself.

The damage there wasn’t mostly from being touched while sleeping, but from the narratives of purity culture. Boy was the unfortunate vector, but the toxic messages about my worth and “purity” were the causes for shame.


The harm in the first scenario was mostly caused by internalized rape culture on both our parts. We both felt that he was owed a kiss. We both minimized the fact that it was assault because it was ‘just a kiss’.

I didn’t feel like I had the choice to say no. Not without calling myself a bitch.
The harm in the second was due to purity culture and the toxic narratives about a female person’s worth tied to sexual inexperience.

I didn’t feel like I had the choice to say yes. Not without calling myself a whore.

Discussing bisexuality with children

I was doing homework with my kids. Lil’T had a math sheet, C-minor was colouring and I was reading studies on bisexual parents. The following is edited for brevity.

Me: Do you know what bisexual means?
Lil’T: I haven’t heard it before but I can guess. Its like if someone likes kissing boys and girls?
Me: Pretty much.
C-minor: EEEEeeeeeewwwww. That’s GRRRROooosssss.

Me: Really? Why?
C-minor: Kissing is so gross! I am never ever ever going to kiss anyone!  (Pause) Except Peach.

Peach is our cat.

Not Queer Enough

I don’t feel queer. I feel odd.

One can be queer in a variety of ways. I am referring to sexual orientation, and though I allude to gender I identity, I recognize they are two different things although one can be an identification for the other, as visibly gender queer people don’t fit the straight box from the get-go.

I associate queerness with edginess and a lived experience as an outsider. Now that I’m not a extreme Christian, I don’t feel alienated. I’m happy being female now that the definitions of femininity have broadened and aren’t as choked by benevolent sexism or certain cultural norms that I grew up with. When I am home alone, I do dress and present differently than I do in public, but I don’t think my public persona is inauthentic just because it is purposefully inconspicuous for white cis middle class moms. I’m not genderqueer (don’t most people feel like they are playing dress-up when they try and fit in regardless of gender?).

On orientation- people are amazing and beautiful in all sorts of ways, but every so often someone demonstrates a kind of thoughtfulness, intelligence, energy, and has a certain chemical signal … A sort of strange familiarity that isn’t familial.  Of the people I have experienced sexual attraction to, most but not all are guys. Technically, that makes me bisexual.

Is it internalized homophobia that makes me uncomfortable with that label? Is it that I think I need to fit a certain stereotype and should have purple hair, one half of my head shaved, and a steady super romantical girlfriend to gain bisexual status?  Does my identifying with bisexuality take away from others who are more genderfluid and who are closer to 50-50 of being attracted to their own gender and others? I don’t face the same stigma they do. I do feel relief when someone validates that part of me, even though it isn’t a huge part, but why? Just a sense of belonging?

Justice Centre for Bigotry

I received a letter asking for money to help the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. Trinity Western University, a private Christian school, has a law program but the provincial law societies of BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia do not accept graduates as lawyers. TWU has a code of conduct that all students and staff must adhere that states they will abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between and man and a woman.” Most of the provincial law societies have found this discriminatory against gays and lesbians and therefore against our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Because it is.

The Justice Centre argues that “there is a big difference between discriminating against people and regulating behaviour through a code of conduct.” This almost sounds ok until we replace homosexuality with interracial marriage or religion. ‘You can fall in love with someone of a different ethnic background, but do not marry them or we will kick you out of our school. It aint discrimination, just regulating behaviours’. or ‘You can believe in a god, but don’t you pray to it’.

Then they have this gem:

Banning TWU graduates from practicing law in B.C., Ontario, and Nova Scotia is straight-up anti-religious bigotry. 

Left unchallenged, it could set a very dangerous precedent. Yes, of not tolerating discrimination.

If in the future the Supreme Court of Canada extends the definition of marriage to include polygamy, must people then support and agree with polygamy to establish a law school? Sigh. Missing the point. Not discriminating via actions and words is not the thought police. You are free to disagree and think terrible things as long as it doesn’t affect others.

In a totalitarian state, the answer is yes. 

In a free society, the answer is no. Ah. The Orwellian double-speak!

It then goes on to quote the fundamental freedoms in section 2 of the Charter:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (as an aside, our current government is trying to do away with this one by changing the definition of terrorist to potentially include First Nations and environmental activists and expanding surveillance and consequences for ‘terrorism’)
(d) freedom of association

Religious freedom is upheld: no one at TWU needs to change their personal beliefs about what they should or should not do with their own genitals, but they do need to stop discriminatory actions.

The truly chilling this is that this attack on our fundamental freedoms is being led by lawyers – the very people society entrusts with the practice of law in a free society. The very people who should be defenders of our freedoms, not the destroyers of it.
If those we entrust with the practice of law are undermining our constitutionally protected freedoms, what hope do we have that Canada will remain a free country?

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unless enforced, is just words on a piece of paper. It is otherwise useless to protect our freedoms. It requires litigation to give it any effect.

I think these people have no idea what ‘freedom’ and ‘discrimination’ actually mean. Which is terrifying for a school that wants its students to practice law.

Then they shared the sad news of overturning Nova Scotia’s ruling and their plan to go to Canada’s Supreme Court and a disgusting news article full of more inflammatory and misleading rhetoric painting the Unconstitutionally discriminating school as the victim for being called out on it.

Sometimes I forget what it was like to be on the same side as the Justice Centre for Bigotry. What it was like to think that most people were out to destroy ‘freedom’.

Bow down, bitches, and I shall lift thee up

One of the elders from the church I used to belong to loves Africa. Many sermons contain references to things witnessed during his travels there. Usually these anecdotes fueled the romanticized white saviour mentality endemic to “mission work”.

This elder described witnessing a traditional greeting among one particular tribe from a place I do not remember.

Women always wore a sturdy apron because when they greeted a man, they fell on their knees with their heads down. They remained this way until the man fulfilled his part of the traditional greeting by doing something that allowed them to stand back up. I forget if it was a pat on the shoulder or something else, but it hit a cringe factor in me, mostly because I had experienced something similar and felt condescended to.

I waited for what spiritual truth this greeting would illustrate. Was it maybe Galatians 3:28  “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  That we don’t need to have anyone debase themselves because Christianity brought equality? (Yes, I actually thought that, and yes, its totally colonialistic.)

No. This elder got weepy and wistful. He talked about how beautiful that greeting was. How this was a beautiful enactment of proper gender roles.

Women are always more beautiful and godly when submitting-  oh if only Canadian women could greet men like that. Plus giant aprons covering the knees mean more modesty! (aaahh!)

Because the man was supposed to use his authority (and superiority) to lift women up! After they bow down before him. Because men are like god and women are the fallen creation.

Did it not occur to him that it was actually two adult humans, both walking, until one of them had to do a display of subservience until permitted to resume to the original position? That he was metaphorically pushing her down so he could pull her up and take credit for it? (This is how it was portrayed in this man’s illustration; I cannot comment on the actual greeting habits and symbolisms of a culture I do not know.)

No, this couldn’t have occurred to him because it means starting from a position of equality and that isn’t how to do  gender roles beautifully.

The sad thing is, this elder is easily the most progressive and feminist elder in that church.

Personal Prophesies?

I’ve had several personal prophesies, of the sort where a deity is supposedly speaking through another person to give me direction. I want to see if there are patterns or codes.

Personal Prophesy the First
In a kitchen during a youth retreat, an older woman started telling me things “from the Lord”. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it felt very encouraging. Something about being seen and appreciated.

Personal Prophesy the Second
During a church service, a man I did not know was given a message for me which he asked someone else to pass on.
It was Song of Songs 4:1-7, hair like goats, teeth like sheep, no flaw…
This one made me cry. I was 17 and felt completely flawed and unacceptable.

Personal Prophesy the Third
I was helping a mature student from my grade 12 biology class to study. She ‘prophesied’ Psalm 91 over me. Its the one about not dying of pestilence, plague or warfare while tens of thousands around you do. It promises a long life.
Since I had still planned to be a missionary martyr at this point, it was probably good for me to think about the possibility of living a while.

Personal Prophesy the Fourth
This was the presbytery: the group of special men in suits that stand around you in a circle and give you instructions and spiritual gifts by touching you. I have a transcript of some of it.
– I am and need to be faithful (to god?)
– I am supposed to prophesy and sing “the things of the Spirit”
– I will exhort (that’s as close to teaching as a female can get) in church
– “be unto them as a signpost pointing the way” “lead by example” “a beacon to those that shall desire to walk with God for they shall see in thee the ways of God”
– quotes of scriptures about how important scripture is
– Psalm 91 again
– I have the gift of healing in my hands
I felt really conflicted after this. Some things sounded cool (who doesn’t want magic hands!) but there was a lot of warning me to obey church authority and a vague threat at the end that I’d never heard in one of these things before.

Personal Prophesy the Fifth
This one was the presbytery over both my lover and I.
– something about an office (referring to a leadership role in the church) for him
– “take your headship, young man, take it” (So many dirty jokes to be made)
– “submit, submit, submit” (that one was for me)
I felt really upset after this one.

Trance Prophesy the First
A friend of mine sometimes does this. It has the same cadence as the others, so I’m counting it here.
– stop doing things that build resentment
– pursue relationships that bring joy and peace and let you be yourself
– release those who delight in the negative
– don’t hold back because of others’ insecurities
– release other people’s expectations and fears

Trance Prophesy the Second
– mostly encouragement about not being less than anyone else or responsible for fixing anyone else

These last two were much more vague and could apply to anyone. Since it came from someone who knows me well, I took it as encouragement from a friend who maybe felt too awkward to say it directly to me.

While the content varies, the delivery style has been remarkably similar. Sing-song cadence, slow delivery, almost a chant, with a lot of emotion.

Burgess Shale Pilgrimage

The Secular group that we are a part of went on a pilgrimage to the holy of holies, the Burgess Shale. The place of fossils so ancient, so strange, and so integral to evolutionary theory, that all travelers must stop in awe.

It was a 10 hour trek. Our guide informed us that we went on the nicest day she had all season and that we were one of the most enjoyable groups. Apparently there is often friction when creationists and non-creationists go to look at fossils that are over 500 million years old. Many of us came from not only creationist backgrounds, but Young Earth creationist backgrounds so we felt obligated to hunt for rabbit fossils among the Odaraia latas and Hallucigenia sparsas like one of us had been told existed.

Because this was many months ago, I have forgotten most of the funny and interesting things that we learned, which is sad because we were fortunate to have a few scientists with us. There was much laughing, hiking, and sharing of food and water. It was the perfect pilgrimage.

Photo credits: John Hordyk

Paintbrush Song

This is fiction. Wordy, cheesy, melodramatic fiction. Maybe I am a sappy romantic after all.


I will be in charge of my paintbrush today. The primed canvas smiles at me, daring me to do great things. My fingers itch. The rhythm of the music around me pulsates in my fingers and I begin.

At first, I have complete control. My fingers are still stiff and rigid like the grid I am filling in. My sketch is nearly exact and ready to be coaxed into life.

The music changes and my mind begins to wander. I remember this song. Its notes gently stroke my ears, the way she did. I can feel the small of my back ache, almost as if it had been touched. My rigid posture begins to melt and I swear I can smell her. Prairie flowers, clover and hay. Dust, sweat and that sweet smell of desire floating on the wild airy notes of our song.

My eyes close and I imagine her strong quick fingers playing in my hair, rhythmic but loose. The paintbrush falls. My eyes snap open and see a dripping purple gash where my neighbour’s grandmother was supposed to be. Then I notice in the background darting figures hidden in the foliage- jumping, embracing and …

Crap. I can’t cover over everything.  I give up and let my brushes take control, guided by the music.

The music is now urgent and throbbing. The colours fly, illuminating the contours and limbs and torsos, twisting, thrashing; the aching, pounding music is now ebbing away. A new song.

My brushes softly caress the gentle curves of the newest figure, rising out from the background shapes – covering my carefully calculated sketch- with what is looking more and more like her. The music is dreamy, like the deep rose of her areoli, purple shadows pushing out erect nipples. I can’t stroke her with my fingers but my paintbrush fills in the space between us. Back and forth, up and down, around and around…

The music stops. The light is gone. Tomorrow I will start again with a fresh canvas. And I will know better than to listen to the music mix she made for me.

Vagina Dialogues

I was tucking my darlings into bed when the oldest one told me, “Mom, some people have nicknames for their vulvas. I’ve decided to call mine ‘vagina’.”

I replied that isn’t surprising because many people call vulvas ‘vaginas’, but that the vagina is inside the body and not seen, while most people don’t know that everything on the outside is even called a vulva, so they get them confused.

She thought about this for a while. Peer pressure is pretty important, and she had to decide whether she was going to believe her friends or her mom. Dilemma.

Meanwhile, the youngest one asked, “Mom, when do I get a vagina?”

“You already have one sweetheart. You were born with it.”

She: “Wow!”

Me: “In fact, you had one before you were born.”

She: “Awesome!” and got up to do the dance of excitement preschoolers do when they learn something new.

Then they asked if they could see what a vagina looked like. At that point, I realized we were well into bedtime stalling techniques.

This morning, C-minor tried distracting me from getting her to eat her vegetables by asking me what colour of blood various animals had. Now you know how to distract me- ask anatomy questions.