All Great Things

It’s World Pride week, and I could not be more excited. Some of you who have followed Lipshits and Mental Fits from the beginning might remember that I first spoke openly about my sexuality in a post called “The Other, Other ‘B’ Word.” I’m so proud to say that Lipshits and Mental fits stands with the LGBTQ community, and even more proud to celebrate this week alongside them.

Although I believe that we should be proud of who we are every day of the year, Pride Week is important because it gives us the opportunity to come together and reflect on the progress we’ve made, the people who have devoted their lives to the movement of equality, and to celebrate the future of this movement.

It’s hard to grow up in a place that feels a little frozen in time, like the ground 6 months of the year. While most everybody is friendly, you don’t see a ton of openly gay couples. When I was young and visiting larger cities, seeing men holding hands and women with their smiles pressed together-it mesmerized me. The way that people strolled by without taking notice fascinated me even more. I remember wondering why seeing this kind of love felt so familiar to me. It made me warm all over, and I thought about those people for days afterward. Then I would return to the prairie, and the cold would steal my breath.

Some people I know still gain their knowledge from evening sitcoms featuring the flamboyant gay man with a cardigan around his neck, giving relationship advice at an all girls’ sleepover. For awhile, that was really the only impression that I had as well. These conflicting feelings ate my brain, and I began to see myself as a total alien. As I imagine it does for a lot of people, the confusion I felt grew thicker as I got older, like a strange haze that only I could see. The subject became important all of a sudden, and high school was difficult to navigate when the words “faggot” and “dyke” were thrown around like frisbees. I found myself saying things like “being bisexual is a fad,” even though it left a sharp pang in my chest every time.

Part of the reason that I and many others like myself hide their sexuality, especially from our peers, is because people get this weird impression that we want to make out with them or that they can’t associate with us for fear of being mistaken as LGBT as well. For those of us that haven’t come out yet, relationships can feel extremely shallow when we cannot be open about the things that make us a whole person. Many people stay silent for reasons of fear. Bullying, both at school and online can weigh on a person’s chest, choking them until they decide that it’s time to give up, to stop struggling, to cease to breathe. Add to this a volatile home life, and you’ve got a gay kid’s nightmare. No two situations are quite alike, and circumstances may vary, but the statistics don’t lie. According to egale.ca, LGBTQ youth are at a greater risk of taking their own lives than their heterosexual peers. 33% of us have attempted suicide in Canada alone, and many more are contemplating.

This number may not be high enough for you to be alarmed, but those who choose to pull the plug on life have parents and siblings. They have cousins and neighbours and best friends. Part of these people dies alongside them, their insides rotting from the words that didn’t get the chance to be said, from the guilt of knowing that it was preventable.

In 2003, a gay couple were pronounced legally wed for the first time in Toronto, and two years later, the federal government legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. I am grateful to live here, where my rights are protected. However, homophobia still hangs like a dark cloud, especially in small, rural areas. We know that if we fall madly in love, we can be wed, and that’s great, but what about the years leading up to that moment?

I don’t know about you, but I want to see more people make it to that moment. I want to see hugs at graduation and legendary touchdowns. I want to hear about sweaty hands and first loves. I want the only tears at 3 AM to be after the first love is lost. I want to see these things because it doesn’t matter if it’s two men or two women, the difference is irrelevant when I see their gums as they throw their heads back and laugh; it’s irrelevant when I see their eyes gleaming with that all too familiar shine; love.

All great songs, poems, novels, they’re written with love in mind. They search for, they celebrate, they agonize over, they curse love. Love of all kinds, wether it be a love for a human being or a love for baseball. These great songs, poems and novels are written because it is only love that can feed us and bleed us dry, sometimes all at once. A goodbye would just not be as gutting if we were watching people we disliked as they left our door and our lives. In the cold confusion that is the world, love is warm, and we forever search for, celebrate, agonize over, and curse love.

I can’t tell you where to go from here, and I certainly can’t tell you where your path will lead, because it took me 10 years to work up the courage to love and accept this part of myself. What I CAN tell you is that my life is infinitely better since coming out. I feel great about owning who I am, and I feel great about sharing my confusion with others. (Let’s be honest. I am a very confused human being.) If you are struggling with your sexuality or even simply questioning what sexuality means to you, I urge you to reach out and talk. Connect with me here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Let’s celebrate who we are, even if you feel like you have to do so quietly for now. LSMF will always be a safe place to land.

 

 

Where The Heart Is

I know I bitch about it all the time, because it’s cold and slippery and familiar, but I love my country.

Canada is a beautiful place to grow up, to make a life, to grow old. It is quiet but majestic, and I like to think that we create our own warmth around here. I don’t say enough how thankful I am to go outside into the vast nothing and, somehow, everything all at once. I can see the stars, I can catch a snowflake on my tongue.

There are times I dream of living on a beach somewhere, hearing the waves slap the shore and feeling the sun in the part of my hair, somewhere life is slow and simple. I dream of these things but I can’t imagine living where I couldn’t kiss a cold face passionately until it warmed like I gave it life. I couldn’t imagine life without the stillness of the first snowfall, the one that I always claim to have been dreading but is one of my secret and greatest pleasures in life.

Canada is a beautiful place to grow up, to make a life, to grow old. I think most people who live here would agree with me. In Canada I have rights and freedoms and the ability to feel secure in using them wherever they apply. I am free to to marry whomever I choose, to vote, to have an education and a career. In Canada I live as an equal. If all of this fell down tomorrow, and I had to leave, this is what I would remember.

I believe that under the right circumstances, our hearts never really leave home, because home is the backdrop, the setting of life piecing us together, maybe even pulling us apart. That’s what Canada means to me, and I take great pride in where I live. How could I even begin to imagine, then, what it must be like to leave it behind? How could I begin to imagine fleeing the terrain under which I gained my footing? To start fresh in a country with a language I cannot understand but will be forced to learn at rapid speed, to adjust to the culture, the atmosphere, to being the minority? It would take a great deal of strength that I’m not sure I could muster.

I hear people complain about the “foreigners” that work and live among us, and I’m not proud when I say that there have been times I’ve been the one doing the complaining. I hear people become frustrated and even aggressive towards them simply because they are not being understood. How quickly we forget that the person standing in front of us, inconveniencing our day is not a “foreigner,” but a human being trying to make an honest living. A human being who cannot understand us, but understands tone and body language and knows he or she is being berated. A human being who is fully capable of feeling shame, embarrassment and sadness.

I’m sick of people associating bad customer service with ethnicity. Why don’t we ever evaluate how we could make this situation less frustrating and deal with it accordingly? Why is it easier to yell at the young girl across the counter instead of asking to talk to someone who is more equipped to deal with our request? Why are we so quick to anger instead of seeking understanding? It saddens me to see and to hear when I know that a lot of the people who were born and raised right here in this city believe they are above working in the fast food restaurants and call centres that they so often complain about.

 Maybe if we thought more about these people than the fact that they screwed up our dipping sauce likeeveryfuckingtime, we would be able to reach that level of understanding. Maybe it would be easier to teach them with patience and kindness that we would like bbq instead of plum. Maybe if we went the extra mile for them, they would return it tenfold. If we’re not happy with the service we receive, what can we do to change that? The answer is not “fire the fucking foreigners.” The answer is to address the problem, suggest more hands-on training for the employees and for Christ’s sake, remember that they are living in a world of people just like us, who yell at them and take our days out on them because it’s so damn easy.

All I know is that if you lay down next to me and press your face to mine, if I put my hand on your chest, we will discover that we are breathing, blinking, beating. We will discover that here, in our most raw form, we are equals. We serve equal purpose in the world. I have thoughts, some brilliant and some, well, otherwise. Your eyes dart around and I know you must have these thoughts too. If we are both thinking, we will find a way to communicate. We will discover that together we are a greater force than we were alone.

How beautiful.

I Got 99 Problems, But…

Why does it seem like all of us fucking hate each other? Girls, I mean.

Maybe it’s because we do, and that’s something that makes me gloomy. Yesterday while paying for gas, I awkwardly pulled up my jeans, joking that they kept falling down and that it was a problem. The young woman behind the till snorted and said “Pretty girls and their problems,” as she rolled her eyes. I looked down, stunned and embarrassed and said nothing, unwilling to entertain an argument that neither of us could win gracefully. However, I do have something to say to her, and even if she never stumbles across this post, I’ll be glad to have the weight of it off of my chest and out of my gut.

Dear Customer Service Representative,

I’ve thought a lot about what you said yesterday, and I want to tell you why it was unfair and unkind. I meant no harm by my comment, but it seemed to agitate you. Though I do not understand, I feel badly that you felt the need to backhand me with your response. There are a few things I want to clear up.

1. If a woman is “pretty,” it does not mean that her tribulations are any less painful than a woman you might not find as attractive. I’m not saying that my day is bleak and awful because my pants don’t fit, but you must understand that being pretty does not make one exempt from life’s struggles. Beautiful women still suffer broken homes, abusive relationships, poverty, addiction and every other rut one might find themselves stuck in.

2. Pretty is relative. I’ve been attracted to women big and small, short and tall, fair and dark. People often scoff at my list of celebrity crushes and say “Why her?” and it’s absolutely crazy to me that they could find her to be anything less than utterly iridescent. For myself, I’ve been called ugly too many times to keep track of. There has been more than a few times that I wasn’t “his type.” If I had let those people convince me that this was true, I would assume that I WAS hideous, and that would be strange since you just disputed that.

3. We don’t have to be homely as mud fences to be displeased with parts of ourselves that we find less than stellar. I’ll throw one of mine out there: I hate my body hair, because it is inconvenient and has caused many incidents of great embarrassment. I spend a stupid amount waxing it off every month for the simple reason that I’ve been told I look better without it (and I agree, obviously.) Though I wish we wouldn’t have to feel it at all, every one of us has the right to feel vulnerable and insecure; this is human nature.

4. Women have fought for years for equality, for unity and for integrity. We all slip up (especially me,) but if we divide ourselves based upon these external features that we don’t have control of, we are spitting in the faces of those who stepped up and earned these rights. Their sacrifice is one that I am grateful for every day, and I refuse to engage in making any woman feel small or ugly based on my own biased perspective any longer. I know I said above that we all have the right to feel insecure. What we DON’T have the right to do is allow our insecurities to blind us into projecting them onto other people.

We will have our differences, but let them be less about her nose job or her diet and instead about our behaviour and values. Let’s spend less time ridiculing other women and instead spend more time supporting and caring for one another. After all, there’s nobody who understands the major (and minor) struggles of being a woman quite like another woman. We come from different environments but we still fight and bleed for the right to a better tomorrow. We are no better and no worse, we just are.

Karlee

PS. You are stunning, I’m appalled that anybody would have told you differently.