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Haunting Again.

Well. today I go home. Last night I was digging around in a box in the closet in the spare room. I found photo albums and scrap books. it was late so I only got through one scrap book and one album. But what a journey that was…oh my. The scrap book was, and I think it’s not accurate to call it “scrap”, it was a collection of cards celebrating my older brothers’ birth, and then offering condolences at his death 14 months later. There’s a card from my maternal Grandma and Grandpa, and favourite Uncle, Tom–he would have been 15 at the time of Scott’s birth, and in the note in the card, Grandma had written, “Tom just smiles all the time thinking of Scott”.

with that book, there is also a broken paper bag full of cards and letters, nearly all of them letters written to my grandparents or from aunts and uncles, friends and relatives. They are all about Scott. His short life, his death, his good nature, his sunny disposition. One of them, written by my dad the day before Scott died, was to my mom’s parents and Tom. It began: “Our little boy is dangerously ill again.” Dad wrote in his cramped neat script, “we had Rev. Bechal up last night at midnight. Scott’s condition was so bad that I broke down and Edith suggested we call him and he came over. he made me feel a lot better I can now face this trouble knowing that if he is taken from us he will be taken care of better than if he hadbeen able to stay with us.”

Later on, a letter from my mom’s sister, Auntie Mick, said, “Edith I hope you don’t mind, I showed your letter to Reverend Ash, and he said it was the most wonderful letter he’d ever read–he asked to use a sentence of it for his sermon…” The sentence said that God must have seen what a happy good natured boy Scott was, and had a selfish moment and took him up to be with Him.

Mom was mad. She stayed mad at god, and I think she still is. Takes it personal. Well, you know what, she was so protective, and worked so hard to keep that boy alive and healthy and for all that, there was in the end nothing she could do.

There was lots of talk about god and his will and heaven and better places and so on in the letters of condolence. And after the expressions of grief and sympathy the writers talked of the weather: “we had a few days rain, it came at just the right time this year. Looks like we’ll have a good crop” or ; “the garden hasn’t done so well, had a few potatoes but that’s about it, a few beans and carrots but only enough for us” and then, almost all, “Edith, come for a visit for a few days if you want to, we’d love to have you.” That last invitation extended only to Mom because it was assumed that Dad would have to be right back to work. Which he was. He went back to work a week later.

I don’t know if Mom went away, but I do know she was back to work within a few weeks. I don’t know what she did for paid work then, but from a letter dated in early October of that year, she detailed some of the things she’d been up to: Washing and waxing the floors, hanging out laundry, canning choke cherries and beans and making jam, baking and writing letters, hundreds of letters (She sent a thank you to everyone who wrote and sent cards; she did the same when my dad died 45 years later) and “I went through Scott’s toys to give away, but I got them all together and couldn’t manage to give any of them up quite yet”.

These are all things that women do. That people do. The men go out in the public world and churn away making money, the women make the beds and wash the dishes and wax the floors and mutter under their breaths about the selfishness of god and stew tomatoes and keep the connections between old friends and family alive and make community and mark the lives of the dead and soothe the illnesses of the sick and … Dad worked for the department of highways in Saskatchewan at the time and he handed over the money to Mom so she could buy the floor wax and the dish soap and the canning supplies and the fabric for curtains and the final swaddling for their small son.

I’m going back to Vancouver today. I’ll hit the ground running–no canning for me, i’m preparing for a workshop this weekend, and plotting with some radical women action against men who buy women’s bodies for sex (what shall we call them, these guys? ‘johns’ is too benign, for what they do), and writing a paper for a conference and stepping back into relief work and … you know how it goes. My world is not the world i’ve been in the last few days–every day go to the gym and talk about the past and remember the farm and tease Mom and make lunch and … Life was simpler then.

Next post, i want to write about how my Aunt Lorna (not really related, but one of Mom’s oldest friends, and my godmother, too) and my Mom talk about sons. I had a few “huh” moments yesterday as we visited over waffles and raspberry sauce. but now i have to go play one more game of crib with my Sainted Mother. Oh! and i want to tell you about the other photo album, too–the one from the mid-late 40s and 50s–pictures of my mom as a girl with my aunt and uncles and some of my dad as a young man. my big handsome Grandpa and my shy sparkling Grandma.

I love Mom so much. I know how lucky I am, believe me. she protected me and my younger brother with the same ferociousness that she did Scott. Never gave up.

Gone

Every time, it seems, every time I’m home there is death around. last night I heard that my old buddy from College, Joey, (AKA “Tomato Joe”, AKA, “Thomas Lawrence Meehan”, AKA “Lawrence”) died a few years ago. He was 48 when he died, must’ve been 2006 or 2007. Mom and I were eating dinner with John and Thelma from down the hall, and I asked if they were from Red Deer. They said, “No, Trochu” and I said, “oh! do you know my friend Thomas Lawrence Meehan?” and John said, “oh, he died a few years ago”.

Oh Joey. He came to Red Deer College in January, 1981. We became friends. He was a big lumpy farmer guy, with a face like a sack of potatoes and one weepy eye–glaucoma. we were in the same drama classes–readers’ theatre, improv, i don’t know what else. And we were both in “The Importance of Being Earnest” that spring. I was Assistant Stage Manager and understudy for the Nurse character, can’t remember her name–he was the understudy for the butler, I think.

Joey was like a brother to me. Much to his chagrin, apparently. Deb told me he was totally in love with me. Sometimes when he was hammered, he would read me his poetry. When i was heartbroken after a break up, Deb and I drove out to his farm by Trochu and hung out for a weekend. We went driving around at night, drinking beer and chucking the bottles out the window. Singing and laughing. Taking stupid chances. How Joey got glaucoma in the first place was drinking beer and driving, and he fell asleep and drove off the road.

another time, I went out there for a day, just to visit. We seeded one of his fields together. I sneezed my fool head off, and so did Joey. Both of us violently allergic. It was lots of fun driving the tractor, though. We went back to the farmhouse and by way of staving off the allergic reactions, drank vodka. I don’t know how I got back to Red Deer that time, but I went right to work, waiting tables at the Pizza joint. Drunk. i didn’t think of myself as an alcoholic, then. I thought Joey might’ve been, though.

Typical.

Many years later, I heard from Frank, my former Fiance’, that Joey had nearly died–“all his organs just shut right down”. I called him up, left a message. Some time later, he called me in Vancouver, left a message. He sounded a bit drunk, he said, “I love you”, before he hung up. I called back and left a message on his machine, “I love you too”. and it must’ve been shortly after that that he died. I never heard from him again.

This morning Colin A. called for Mom. His Dad was one of my dad’s best friends (I wrote about them in a twenty-five word story somewhere on this blog, early on). We went to his twin brother, Curtis’ wedding in Campbell River many many years ago. Their mother Jean was one of my mothers’ best friends. She was such a beacon, was Jean. Jean and George had Sheila, too, older than Colin and Curtis. And Sheila took sick some time ago and last night she died.

Sheila and Rick had a garden centre out at Sylvan Lake. One summer Dad and I went out there to get a hanging basket for Mom. We had iced tea with Sheila and Rick. Sheila was so much like her mother Jean. Beautiful curls, open face, laughter and kindness spilling out onto everyone around. Rick not so much–but he loved Sheila, and I’m sure she kept him human. Much as Jean had done for George.  the tenderness these women had for these men spread through them to all their relationships. Women can do that for men, it seems. George, for example, was upright and somber. But showed such tenderness and love to my father in small manly ways. He is now 95, George is. He will miss his daughter something awful. Sheila was good to my parents, too. She invited them always to the A. family reunion, and reminded Mom that the Grahams were part of their family, too.

Later on, maybe in a few days, Mom and i will go see George and bring him some Welsh Cakes.

of course death is inevitable. the older we get the more familiar we become with mortality. it creeps up and runs over our toes in the night, whispers in our ears as we’re looking for pickles in the grocery store, “I’m right here, hello.” We can’t be too confident, ever. Try to make sure we’re in shape to go if we have to.

goodbye, Joey. You were a good friend to me.

Goodbye, Sheila, you were so good to my parents. Thank you.

December 6

I’m sitting in a coffee shop on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. There’s a guy here, sitting the next table over who is often here. He taps his foot compulsively as he reads the paper and sips his coffee. i’m wearing earplugs, but I can hear him tapping. no rhythm, either. Drives me CRAZY. taptaptaptaptap. tap. taptap. tap. taptaptaptaptaptap. taptaptap. grrr.

21 years ago today Marc Lepine shot 14 women dead because he identified them as feminists. There is nothing on the news today about it. We are still under seige. women in general, feminists in particular. The transition house where i work is always full. The women’s centre where i work, too, sees around 300 women each day. All are suffering. Many are in flames.

What happened to feminism? What has happened to us that so many of us are still suffering so much? There are women impoverished, desperate to find a home, desperate to feed their children, desperate to belong somewhere. Feminism could have been that somewhere, but it’s not.

then again, it isn’t supposed to be a ‘somewhere’, not yet–it’s a MOVEMENT. But what’s happened to the movement? Sometimes it seems that we’ve moved, but only deeper and deeper into a rut, not out of the trouble that patriarchy has got us into. so many of us go down in flames, burning alive sucked into the muck.

tapping man is gone. good. I was gonna stick a stir stick into his forehead.

I get so wound up by such little things, eh. There’s a fucking war going on, and I want to amputate tapping mans foot. argh.

i’m going to work this afternoon, in fact. to the transition house/ rape crisis line. Who else marks December 6? Is it only in Canada that even a handful of women remember this massacre? Was it then, in 1989, that the women’s liberation movement began to unravel or had it begun before that? One of the women Lepine shot, one who survived, said, “We are not feminists” as he leveled his rifle and took aim.

We are not feminists. She said.

It did not matter. Feminism had carved a spot for her in that classroom, for her and eight other women in a classroom of more than 60 students. Even if she ‘only wanted to become an engineer’, Lepine saw a feminist. He saw his hatred of women reflected in her audacity. The audaciousness of a woman wanting to become an engineer! He thought it was all about him, her desire for a profession in Engineering, he couldn’t, (as my mother might say), ‘see past his own eyelids’, and he saw his hatred for her reflected back to him and thought it was her hatred for him. silly little man. He did not see that there were more than five times as many men in that room–he only saw that he was lonesome and frightened and men had abandoned him and women had taken their places where he thought he should be.

Really, though, i’m making it up; I don’t know what he saw. He forgot what his mother had tried to teach him. He let the abyss of despair suck at him ’till only rage and fear filled him and he couldn’t see his part, but had to blame someone, so it was the women. The feminist women.

Oh, little man. You did not see the great power you had, you only tasted the rusty, sour taste of death–you gave up.

Why, when men give up, do they so often take women with them to death? why do they insist we suffer for their unearned and squandered privilege? What’s the point of that? Men kill their children, they kill their wives, they kill their girlfriends, their mothers, their aunties and they kill strangers before they turn the gun on themselves, why? There are many many examples of this so much that ‘murder-suicide’ is a common term. And we know without being told who the murderer is. He is the man. He holds the gun.

The life of death is male. It does not have to be this way. But it still is.

December 6, 1989, I know exactly where I was. I was on the third floor of an old house in a working-class neighbourhood in Vancouver. There were three other women there with me, and we were taking stock of the work of the week. We were counting the women who had called the crisis line, the women who were responding to male violence, the women asking for help, for protection, for strategies of survival. We were counting and we were telling the stories we had heard and we were trying to figure out how, between the four of us, how we could hold the front-line. How could we answer the phones and invite the women and keep the wheels turning and the lights burning. Then the phone call came, “Drop what you’re doing, turn on the TV, a man has killed women for being feminists”. We watched in shock. we wept into each others arms. we knew what this meant.

A few nights later, the other rape crisis centre in town held a vigil. We were grateful to gather. But I wanted more than candles and silent grieving. I wanted righteous flames, and women’s voices raised in terrifying keening–the grieving of the active ones–This attack was about US. All of us. He named other women he wanted to kill, and they were women who dared to fight back and dared to take their space, and dared to speak on behalf of women, and dared to stand up for other women.

Some of my friends there, at the vigil, they were angry because we were mourning so publicly these 14 privileged women, while many more women in prostitution in Vancouver had died, vanished, burned up in the crucible of patriarchy and we barely whispered their names, if we even knew them…

It’s been 21 years. Every year Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter hosts an entire day of feminist action–discussions, films, panels, lectures, interactive displays–about male violence against women. Every year they and many other radical feminists, labour activists, warriors of many sorts, call for an end to prostitution, a guaranteed livable income, freedom for all women (and therefore all men, too)–and devote the whole day to figuring out what that freedom could look like and how to get there together.

It’s the same gang I was part of all those years ago. There are many more than four women now holding the front line, many more than the 8 or ten who were part of the collective then. There are hundreds of women who have been part of the work since then, (and men too, raising money and handing it over and addressing their own sexism), hundreds of women who have answered the call to imagine freedom together.

But we have a long way to go yet. We are not yet free. It’s 21 years later. We are still in danger of men’s rage because we are feminists.

I’m really glad there are so many more of us now. Thanks, women. Don’t give up. Never give up.

Sharon at the doorway (part one)

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When I think of her, of that last week when all of us swept the path clear before her, when we cradled her and Mike as best we could and walked to the doorway all together–I think of trying to tell an epic story. I think of Ereshkigal, “the fearsome woman under the earth”, and how when Sharon meets her, well, there’ll be some conflagration goin’ on in the underworld, that’s for sure. I’m sure they’d get along like a house afire. it was really something, you know, hanging out with someone as they’re dying, all that past, all that emotion, all the the weight of  love and sorrow and anger in the room–I thought i’d always remember, every detail of that week. But I don’t. I remember bits.

Sharon’s wheezy chuckle, getting fainter and fainter as the days ticked on, as she herself slipped away, got smaller and smaller. She was so big, I remember her as a big round vital woman–loud, kinda obnoxious and know-it-all sometimes. Generous as anything.

One night in the ward, Laura was there, too, Mike’s sister, and we were talking with Sharon, well, more with each other, Sharon was in and out of the conversation as wakefulness came and went like clouds scudding across a sky– I told Sharon, I said, “We’re gonna get a bench for you at Trout Lake. The plaque’s gonna say: In loving memory of Sharon Molloy: heart as big as the prairie sky–and farts as windy.” she practically snorted the oxygen tube out of her nose at that one.

And the day her brothers came to visit. Molly and Pat. Molly’s name is something regal like John Alexander or something, but everyone has called him Molly for most of his life. He was in the Armed Forces. they have nicknames for everyone there. These big men, they were so uncomfortable in the face of their big sisters’ mortality. They stood at the foot of the bed, looking at Sharon, not knowing what to say. What do you say to the sister who babysat you and kept your secrets from the old man and gave you scrambled eggs and kisses in the morning when you were all little, but she was bigger than all of you? When you see her there, as if she were shedding her skin, the final transformation taking place before your very eyes? it’s almost obscene, the intimacy of dying. Sharon had nothing to hide, everything that mattered to her was in our hands now. The brothers stood. hands awkward at their sides. Then they backed out of the room and looked kind of shocked-like at one another.

“Sure makes ya think about what’s important” said Pat. He’s younger than Molly.

“Sure does,” agreed Molly. He nodded, stuck his hands in his pockets. Lifted his shoulders to his ears.

“Gotta take time for the important things” said Pat, “while ya can. While ya can.” He looked up, kinda sideways at his big brother, “I got an idea,” he said, and touched Molly on the shoulder, laid his big hand on Molly’s shoulder, “Let’s you and me this summer, let’s go out to the lake in my boat. You come over for a couple of days, we’ll do some fishing.”

and Molly, he barely looked at Pat and then, it was almost as if it was reflex, he just said it, without hardly thinking, “Ah. I can’t. Gotta work.”

Molly retired from the Forces a long time ago. I can’t remember if he told Pat before that little talk or during or when, but now he works at a Home Depot in the city where he lives–

Ah, c’mon, Molly. Why didn’t I say anything then? Why didn’t I say, “Are ya paying attention? your sister is in there dying, and your brother here, he’s offering you something life-affirming! Take it, Molly, take it–you may never get another chance–”

But I didn’t. i watched that whole thing go down, and I didn’t say a word. I made a note, “i have to remember this”. I did not act.

there was a little portable tape player in Sharon’s room, where we played as much of her favourite music as we could. Stuff that we listened to when we were College girls right outta high school (but twenty years apart)–The Police and Supertramp and the Stones and Blondie and the Parachute Club (but they were later) and music that she and Mike loved, like U2, and Bob Marley, and hippie stuff from when she was a young mom in Edmonton, working at the Bank of Montreal, trying to be all urban and sophisticated.

She was always sophisticated. Always yearning to learn, always asking and thinking and talking and teaching. She had a baby and was married at 15, and before that, she was the oldest of six, so she never really had a childhood, or a youth to mis-spend. No one expected girls who “got themselves pregnant”  in the late 1950s in small Prairie mining towns to finish high school. Those girls, they were supposed to lie in the bed they’d made. Not Sharon, though. Oh no. She brought her baby to school with her and she got her Grade 12 diploma, and damn them all, she was smart and determined–she wanted to learn. She wanted to go through the doors that an education would open for her.

But those doors were difficult for her to find, even at that. Her husband was a brute, turned out. And there wasn’t much money, and the kids to raise (a girl, Sheryl, born in 1957 and a boy, David, born in 1962-same year as me) — until she went to College in 1981 at the age of 38. That’s where we met, she and I, Red Deer College. I was 18. She was my first grown-up friend.  I was all freaked out about the age difference, i had to call her “Mom” for at least the first year of our friendship, ’cause every other grown-up woman in my life up till then i had to call “Mrs.” or “Auntie”. In fact, a couple of years ago, I called Mrs. Munro, “Mrs. Munro” and she said, “Oh for heaven’s sake, Erin, you’ve lived in Vancouver for 20 years now, you can call me Colleen.”

That was a bit of a digression. sometimes my stories do that. zip around. I don’t think that Sharon ever met Colleen. anyhow it doesn’t matter. Sharon and I smoked each others’ cigarettes (I’m sure I smoked more of hers than she did of mine) and took classes together and talked about boys we liked–she had a big crush on a kinda rugged, troubled Newfie named, oh what was his name? Gerard? and I was all hung up on a beautiful young man (who smoked a lot of dope and knew all too well how handsome he was), named Phil. Sharon had a thing for the depressive, reclusive types. She was so gregarious and hopeful herself. I wonder what that was about?

Sharon’s daughter had a daughter and they were both at her side that last week, too. I hadn’t seen Carrie-Lynn since she was a little girl who would rush into my arms, ‘cept for once just after Shari moved to Van in ’91, and Carrie-Lynn was living at her dad’s , I think, in Surrey. By the time Sharon was on her way out, Carrie-Lynn had two children of her own. She showed us all pictures. Sharon was sewing pyjamas for them when she died. I guess Carrie-Lynn took them with her and finished them.

It’s late now. I have to sleep. this will have to do for now…part two will be soon, I expect…

memorial mementos

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I said i’d write about the memorials the past week. Two Gitksan women died within a week or so of each other, both well-known and well-loved of a certain neighbourhood in Vancouver–the notorious Downtown Eastside. you know it. it was “skid row” before it became  a place on the margins of the direction from which the sun rises.

down.

east.

side.

town.

it’s its own town, that place, for sure. sometimes it might just as well be a different planet. But Phillipa Ryan was an intergalactic warrior, and you could find her at demonstrations for Palestine, Chiapas, at Take Back the Night (when there was TBTN in Vancouver–it’s been a few years now), the February 14 Women’s Memorial March–all over the down town; all over the up town. She was in the face of The Man.

She worked at The Dugout, a drop-in centre in that marginal downtown town, and organized with Grassroots Women and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center Power of Women group and she wrote for The Dominion and she hollered at cops and she was filled with righteous rage, and not a shred of hatred. She said, “I will die undefeated” (according to someone’s facebook page, I don’t know that person, but she knew Phillipa, and it sounds like something Phillipa would say)–and she did. She died undefeated, the revolution not yet accomplished, but her belief in its aims and its eventual success undimmed. She was not everywhere, she did not protest for the sake of protesting.

She worked for freedom. She believed we could accomplish an end to racist imperialism–she knew women did not want to leave their homelands, she didn’t want to leave her homeland, but poverty brought her to the city, as it does many people from the reserves.

She believed we could accomplish an end to pimping and trafficking of women’s bodies. She knew we could end the flesh trade on the streets, in hotel rooms, in the sweat shops, from the docks–she knew that all women suffer when one of us is bought or sold; when one of us is beaten or raped. She knew we could do better. Knew it.

She believed we could accomplish an end to wealth, and equitable redistribution of resources. She herself lived redistribution. When the Dugout got more of something than they could use, she would walk it over to the Women’s Centre. When she came to a meeting, or a conference, or a roundtable discussion, she brought something to share with everyone–candy, or cookies or some sweet things. She was a participant in the Flesh Mapping Conversations (see http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca click on “events” go to Flesh Mapping) in 2008. For 16 days she came, every afternoon, and brought a bag of candies to share. Not only that, she shared her prodigious knowledge of the history of colonization, and the traffick since contact with Europeans, of Indigenous women, and the links between the oppressed people of the Americas.

I was there, too, most of the days. A little intimidated by the women around me, not always confident that i deserved to be among them. But finally, little by little, I realized that full participation was not just a privilege (though it was certainly that) it was my responsibility to speak with authority. After all those years of answering phones and going on raids and writing speeches and going to court with women and opening the house at one a.m. for another woman and her kids and talking with women through pelvic exams and memories of incest and cooking meals with women from a half-dozen different nations and — there was a lot I had learned that it was (is) important to share with other women…

Anyhow. so I finally stepped up, and offered some serious and important contributions to the conversations. At the celebratory dinner on the final day of the conversations, near the end of the night, Phillipa and I were at the coat rack at the same time, and she grinned at me and said, “Well, looks like you grew up, eh?” I can’t remember if she said, “finally”, but if she did, it was kind, because she was, as Lee said of her, “kind and disciplined”.

She looked at everyone, and she saw them. She had regard for everyone, and treated everyone with respect–but she did not suffer bullies or fools. She was filled with rage. righteous anger. knowledge, understanding and unshakable faith that what she had to offer mattered. And so did her comrades in the glorious struggle. All of us–from the West Coast to the Nass Valley; from BC to Pakistan to Mexico to Palestine. At her memorial, women and men from all of those places spoke about her ferocious love, her bright humour, her anger, her discipline–all of what she meant to them. And weaving through all of those stories was her belief in the freedom we will make together.

That’s how she could do it, all those meetings, all those demos, all that talking and writing and hollering at the cops–she knew we will win. so now we’d better use what she taught us, the gifts that she offered.Continue to make freedom together.

And Marlene. Marlene’s memorial also featured The Women’s Warrior Song…sung by women, to lay the cedar boughs along the path for the deceased to follow to the next leg of their journey. Our voices quavered more singing Phillipa home, but for both women, our upraised fists were joyous, determined. Marlene had some trouble all along. her health was poor–lupus, arthritis–she died, apparently, of an aneurysm. Sneaky sudden devastating.

Marlene’s mother had also died young, when Marlene was still a child. She graduated high school, came to the big city, nearly got lost–found work (she always worked)–saw her kids on holidays and some weekends–fell to drinking for periods of time. The despair of poverty, the weight of her potential, the rage she could not acknowledge–class race sex inequality all of it squished her–

but she rose. Her colleagues and employers knew we could depend on her. Knew she would be level and fair. Knew she would do her best to lead and to follow with integrity. She worked and she went to school and she loved children and old people and she threw herself into learning and walked miles and miles to serve her elders, make a difference, love her children–she had a grandchild, too, a little boy named Thunder–her quiet son Chuck’s little boy. both of them were at the memorial, and her stricken daughter-in-law, Lisa.

We were there. the women she worked with, and the women she grew up with, and the women she drank with, and the women she learned with, and the women who supported her and the women who fought with her–all of us also women who loved her. Men too. Cousins and friends and colleagues and men who were of the Gitksan nation, too. Not her boyfriend, though. Nor her ex, the one I met. She deserved ever so much better than she got from men.

We all do. All that suffering? it can all be traced back to male domination of women. all of it. no surprise there, eh.

A week before she died, Marlene went on a kayak trip with some people from her work. She had never been in a kayak before, a little afraid of them, she was. There are pictures of her that day. She is shining joy. A fear faced–an adventure. The company of women. Sunshine, water, some space to breathe clean air.

Those were two women. Two well-loved and honoured women. Two of too many gone. I have the service folder from Marlene’s memorial. I have a scarf from Phillipa. I have these mementos. And the memories and the challenge to rise on their behalf, in their memory. To rise and make room. To make freedom together.

man troubles

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so, I was working in the drop-in when this guy came in. now, this is a place that’s for women–but it’s this weird kind of parallel universe where you don’t really have to actually have been raised female, look female, act female or talk female in order to be considered female. never mind that the gender training you received well into adulthood was to be a man–you can just sashay in there and say, “yea. i’m a woman. I got a piece of paper from this doctor who says i’m female.” or not. whatever. makes me wanna set my fuckin’ hair on fire. So…here we are, a big man with a goatee, track pants, big belly, deep voice, “I was born female”, he says, “i don’t understand what your issue is, I’m a woman and I should be here.”

yea, I think, I’m a fucking dolphin and they still make me pay to go to the aquarium, and then i never get to swim with my people…suck it up, princess…

My co-worker says, “i can’t even talk to him, i’m so angry–that’s not a woman’s beard, that’s landscaped.”

another co-worker came in at the same time as upon our man, and was the first to speak to him. whew. i don’t like it when it’s me, ’cause there’s been a ‘draft’ policy for years that kinda changes all the time, and I’m the most outspoken proponent of having the place be “women only”, so i fear that people think I hate trannies, which is not the case, I just…dammit, I just want there to be some place around that’s for women only. please?

Anyhow…so my co-worker, you know, we’ve all been in these fights about being essentialist and exclusionary and bigoted and oh my god transphobic , and she doesn’t want to do the wrong thing, and she wants to be inclusive and good–so she does the wrong thing. lets him walk through the women’s centre to get a coffee, the crowded women’s centre–and promises that we will bring him lunch outside.

give ’em an inch…

As he walks, there’s a ripple of murmur and grumble in his wake. I hear women say, “they shouldn’t let it in here”. Which, you know, is true–except for the “it” part. He’s human, he deserves dignity, respect–even if he does not offer it. He’s damaged, he can’t–letting him walk through the centre was no favour to him or to the women who are there. he gets his coffee, ambles back to the door, leaves. but hangs out close to the door, looking in whenever a woman opens the door to come in or go out.

i go out to ask him to please move to the back door, where my co-worker will give him a lunch. he asks why he can’t come in. I say because your right to self-identify does not trump the womens right to a safe place. i wanted to say, ‘if you are, as you claim, a woman, you would understand immediately what the problem is, and take care of the women around you’. If he were a butch woman, he would not have behaved with such entitlement and belligerence. No way. Even the women who become constructed men, ‘transmen’, and want to still use women’s spaces–they (because, hey, they’re women) will ask in advance if they can come in. They will call a meeting or something–and they’ll back off if told ‘no’. They won’t shout and holler and call in the lawyers. Not in my experience, anyhow.

I suspect, too, that transmen don’t have any trouble getting into all-male space because men don’t gather together to protect each other, to figure out what it is to be male in a world dominated by women–they do it to protect unearned privilege and power–they are not under siege. Unless they are Aboriginal men or refugees or African-Canadian or in some category of “other”. And I don’t know about the intent or structures of those groups. I suspect they need women in them, though, to help them be human.Plus, men don’t really see women, unless they’re, you know, ‘girl from ipanema-ish’. So women can ‘pass’ for the most part, seems to me.

anyhow. so. buddy ate his lunch outside. He pouted. We ignored him. He left. i have no doubt he’ll be back. There are more and more men who come in there. They do not all live “as women” outside, they say they are women when it suits them. Some are consistent, they go around claiming to be women and accessing women’s spaces and we make room for them because, oh, you know, it’s so hard for them (and perhaps we are afraid of them…as we are afraid of men, as a class–isn’t that so? hell hath no fury, I tell ya…). Yea. they do have it hard, but maybe they feel bad because they know, whatever it was that drove them to get all hacked off and tucked in and implanted is still there, they’re still not who they want to be, but there they are now, among women, and they still don’t fit, and how uncomfortable is that? and because they’re men, they get all weird and entitled and defensive.

and dangerous, as well. nothing worse than a damaged man powerless in the world and cornered. yikes. And the women in the women’s center, they know all about the harm that damaged and angry men can do. Even here, in a place that’s supposed to be for women, they are not safe from the rage of men. good lord. The centre has had to ban some of these guys because they’ve harassed women outside, gained access to them inside…not all of them, for sure, but c’mon. Not ONE woman has been found to be a danger to the rest of the women as a whole like some of the men (trannies) have been. What does that tell ya?

ach. apparently there are ongoing discussions in staff meetings about what to do about the men. this is a divisive and troubled discussion here at the drop-in, as these discussions are at every space that women have carved out. once again, men getting in between women’s relationships with each other, sucking up resources we could be directing toward women’s liberation (or at the very least, a little solace in captivity).

argh. see? all this energy on a post about men. i’m gonna write a paper about prostitution and harm reduction now. and go to the gym. Squats, Deadlifts–Core strengthening for the glorious revolution. I’ll tell ya about the two memorials i went to this week, too–some time, i promise. later.

i will

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…soon post about Phillipa’s memorial/wake/ceremony/feast

She was a wealthy woman, was Phillipa. you could tell because she was always giving. always. sweets. presents. food. heart, her big heart. laughter. rage. love. righteous angry tenderness. all at once. she knew, she taught us so that we know, that we will win. i’ll tell ya about it later. i’m full and sleepy.