Sunday, 31 May 2015

YES to Marriage Equality

If I can say one thing -

Congratulations Ireland!

If I can add another one -

Congratulations Canada on ten years!

(If I can add a third thing to say? Congratulations Ontario on the vote for Bill 45! I wonder what McDonalds will resemble with menu calorie postings. Plus cheers to banning flavoured tobacco!)

Celebrating YES in Ireland. Photo taken from

Photos loaded ethernet wires and Wi-Fi signals of couples kissing and smiling in Ireland. I imagine wedding halls are filling with reservations. Pictures of the red, yellow, blue and purple stripes joining the green, white and orange have flashed on my screen this week. I'm pleased that the majority of those that voted in Ireland chose marriage equality. I'm proud of the 1,201,607 individuals that voted on a yes, whether they were LGBTQ themselves or allies. 1,201,607 million supporters of the right to have an official document with a man's name and a man's name or a woman's name and a woman's name or the name or two of an intersex or questioning person! 1,201,607 million believing in a type of bond which needs no gender to fulfill.

Meanwhile as Ireland celebrates its nascent success, Canada celebrates its first decade. Ten years from the 26th, Canada's court ruled same-sex marriages legal.

My only concern is that Canada's legislation was chosen by the law while Ireland's legislation was put to a vote. Though Ireland used democracy at its basic to bring the law, putting itself ahead many countries without democracy, a vote was used to legalize a human right? The right to choose to marry shouldn't be upheld on the sole idea that the majority want it. Take a look at aboriginal rights and disability rights. Progress on them didn't occur because the majority stood for it and progress may not have happened if we chose to simply uphold the views of the majority. LGBTQ individuals deserve to have the same rights as another person regardless of the number of votes for or against themselves.

Meanwhile, we're not where we need to be with LGBTQ rights yet. The law in Ireland will allow religious congregations to refuse holding a same-sex wedding. Outside Ireland are countries where homophobia is still a crime. In Canada, a Torontonian MP was caught this year criticizing lesbian couples parenting in 1999. Yet we've come this far from decriminalizing homosexuality and now allowing same-sex marriages in both countries. We need to celebrate the couples that married and will marry in love regardless of their genders. We need to celebrate the successes made in this world in Canada, Ireland and many other countries. At the same time, we need to reach out to LGBTQ individuals and continue to show our support for them. We need to stand up where we see wrong. We need to advocate for global human rights. We need to end discrimination worldwide, whether it remains under the floor of the CN Tower or blazes in Russia.

Meanwhile, we have a reason to celebrate for one more country has joined the ranks of those which legalized same-sex marriage. So as we wait for menu labeling to come into effect, go celebrate. Hopefully there'll be fewer cigarette butts outside the restaurant door and perhaps replaced by a pride flag in the air.

Pride Toronto, 2014. Taken from

- FA

P.S: On the topic of marriage equality, what happened with the training guide by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to detect marriage fraud? Racist and classist. It targets ethnic groups and immigrants in terms such as "University-educated Chinese nationals marrying non-Chinese" and "Photos of activities taken in the Niagara Falls area, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto." (I've heard of and know successful couples in both situations.) It discriminates against low-income individuals with "Sponsor is uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare" and "Couples who do not have a honeymoon, not even a couple of days away, usually because of university and/or no money" as conditions. (Only in a country without child marriage and child labour laws would I worry about a person's education level when getting married.) What happened to the Canadian Charter of Human Rights? Is this called standing on guard for thee or protegera nos foyer et nos droits? (The final line in the French anthem translates to Protect our home and rights.) The right to marriage stays true regardless of income, education, ethnic background, partner's ethnic background, personal choice or how much a marriage differs from the traditional white-dress-suit-and-bowtie-lavish-rental wedding.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Autism Positivity: Inclusion Made for the Autistic

Autism Positivity 2015 Logo
Autism Positivity started in 2012 in response to a person typing into the Google search bar, "I wish I didn't have Aspergers." What started was a collaborative space of bloggers uniting in support of the anonymous person with blog posts titled "To I wish I didn't have Aspergers . . ." followed normally by sentences of "I know how you feel" or my favourite, "When I see the words “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s/Autism”, I would love to be able to say “I can only imagine what you’re feeling”… but the truth is, I probably know exactly how you’re feeling. (*gasp* an Autistic person with empathy?!)" Since then the bloggers have returned annually to spread the positivity.

At five months and a day (Happy fifth month, Arriving at. Awetsome! Yes, I'm big on counting ages and birthdays.) as an Autistic, official social justice blogger, it's time to join in Autism Positivity 2015. This year's theme is called "Love, Acceptance and Self-Care." So what in the name of binary digits and hexadecimal codes (Yes, there is such thing as Base 16. Numbers 10-15 are letters A-F. Hey, why don't I just call myself 25, then?) do I have to offer?

The subject of inclusion.

I'm not sure that academia has a word for it. Programs exist which state they will help Autistics. They include therapies, counselling programs, summer camps and specialized classes. They are made with the intention to teach Autistics skills, help Autistics communicate or overcome Autism. "Overcome," "help communicate" and "teach skills" sound positive. They sound inclusive in bringing Autistics closer to being a part of the normal population.

In reality they exclude Autistics in showing that they aren't at the same level of treatment as their peers and their community as long as they remain Autistic. Research showed by the British Columbia Association of Community Living demonstrated that "students with disabilities who are part of an inclusive learning environment attain higher academic outcomes" and that "children and teens with disabilities who have been part of the regular school community have increased peer connections, friendships, and greater social skills as a result of their inclusive experience."

We aren't at the zenith yet in progress for Autism inclusion. I heard about summer camps with programs just for Autistics. I came back from the summer after Grade Nine knowing that my high school was introducing a semi-segregated class just for Autistic students. Another teacher assured my concerns that it wasn't for students like me and so I had a regular timetable. To this day I still don't understand why the students in its classroom are there; I believe they have the right to have a normal timetable just as I didn't have a special class for English, Math and Chemistry or a support worker collecting information from my teachers about my progress. From what I heard, the program's Autistics have been bullied at the school which I was never bullied at. I shudder at what might not have come to play if I had been segregated; segregation was one of my fears when I was younger. What about beyond the elementary and secondary school level? Stories circulate of Autistics being unable to earn stable employment or employment in their field because they were discriminated or an employer believed they were inept. In reality, organizations such as Autism Speaks still call Autism a burden and exclude Autistics from having the say on Autism itself. We need to make inclusion more common than an overcrowded train heading downtown at 8:45 in the morning at a time without a relief line and many businesses downtown.

What helps?

We need to end segregated school and camp environments. Let Autistics be in an inclusive education program where they can have a timetable and classrooms just as any ordinary student. Include them in extracurricular activities and in daily student life. I once approached a professor while he was playing a video in a lecture, asking if he could keep it down. He respectfully reduced the volume and apologized later. When the radio played in the mornings at my high school (I being the early bird every morning), teachers unlocked classrooms for me to get some studying or extracurricular work finished. My own co-workers at my summer position turn the volume down when I ask. This is inclusion.

Employers, don't let your hiring and work practices discriminate against Autistics. See the positive in the workers arriving at the job interview typing their answers to you, not looking you in the eye or closing their ears. Give a chance. There are abilities in the person and screening them won't improve the Autistic workforce gap - or the disability workforce gap - or any workforce gap for any discriminated group!

We must end stereotypes. We must challenge the current ideas of Autistics being burdens and lacking empathy. (Explain where Autism Positivity came from if Autistics lacked compassion.)

Egale Rainbow Lanyard
If you are not Autistic, carefully consider how you can fully include someone who is - why only Autistic? Autism Acceptance will never be enough and I disagree it will ever fully manifest alone. Some of us in the Autistic community also experience homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, queerphobia, racism and sexism. Women are often misdiagnosed due to what many attribute the stereotype of more males on the spectrum than females. We need to include the LGBTQ community. We need to promote women's rights. We need to end racism. We need to stand for disability rights. Every person has the right to live in a safe dwelling in a safe community with a stable income. Every person has the right to an inclusive learning environment in an inclusive community regardless what gender they have, what religion they have, what race they have, what sexual orientation they have and what disability they have.

Then let's bring things simpler and ask ourselves: how can we be more inclusive?

- FA

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

IDAHOT 2015: Ending LGBTQ Discrimination

Egale Lanyard

It's the International Day for the Elimination of Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

I was astounded a few years ago when I first heard of a person being discriminated on the job for being gay. I couldn't understand why the gender an employee was attracted to was an employer's concern. I was also shocked to hear that homosexuality was criminalized in Canada until 1969. ("There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation," stated Pierre Trudeau.) There are countries where it is still illegal. I cannot understand the law's concerns with the gender a person likes.

Fast forward to now. The results of a study spanning one year and a half released by Egale Canada in 2011 showed that "more than one in five (21%) LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation." "74% of trans students, 55% of sexual minority students, and 26% of non-LGBTQ students reported having been verbally harassed about their gender expression." "Almost 10% of LGBTQ students reported having heard homophobic comments from teachers daily or weekly." A poll released in 2011 showed that about one in ten of LGBTQ employees are discriminated on the job. In Canada, 30% of all suicides are taken by LGBTQ individuals. These are only a few statistics.

Why do we still have not only students bullying LGBTQ students but teachers too? Why is the share of suicides by LGBTQ individuals high and why are they committing suicide? Why are the statistics I mentioned above still true, that Canada has not progressed to fully uphold the human right to be any gender and any sexual orientation? No person should be fearful of abuse, harassment or death to be any gender or switch genders. No person be in fear feeling and living any sexual orientation whether it be liking the opposite gender, their own gender, both or still being unsure. No person should fear backlash for being queer. Unfortunately the LGBTQQI2SA community still has reason to fear.

We must work to end the hurt and hatred. We must not only keep advocating for fair treatment of all genders and sexual orientations, but be the fair treatment. We need to create a society of self-advocates and allies. We need to include LGBTTIQQSSA individuals in society. We need to feature LGBTQSSA individuals outside their stereotype. For example, about two years ago I tried reading a teen book which featured a gay character calling another male he just met 'honey.' Most I know would ask a person near their age out before calling them 'honey.' Instead of stereotypes of the person who 'acts girlish' as gay or the tomboy being lesbian, why don't we show individuals acting more as an Ellen Degeneres or a Jeremy Dias? Sitting on a talk show and asking others how their social lives are going. Running an organization. Or Bertrand Delanoe, the previous mayor of Paris in power for 12 years? The times that I've met LGBTQ individuals, they weren't stereotypes but persons.

We need to educate those young and old that it is acceptable to be LGBTQ. We need to educate that it is
wrong to be discriminative and act quickly and with strength on any discrimination we see. We need to point it out when we see it instead of dismissing it. Legislators, create policies which give LGBTQ individuals the same rights as your legislature's best-treated citizen and taxpayer. Employers, practice fair hiring practices. Teachers, stand to bullying the moment you see it and be an ally. Meanwhile your timetable may have a lunch break and a spare between your classes, yet it has no space to schedule discrimination. Bullies, end hurtful actions for you have no right to put down another person for their gender or sexual orientation. You have no right to put them down for anything, in fact - race, religion or disability!

Pride Flag at Toronto's City Hall
Let's not forget to include tackling the other pillars of discrimination while we're at it. Stand up, for the LGBTQ population comes from multiple races. Stand up because disability-diagnosed LGBTQ individuals experience additional discrimination and the combination of ableism with homophobia, transphobia or biphobia. Stand up because LGBTQ individuals have a range of religions and we live in a world still with religious discrimination in every country and border. Stand up because gender discrimination intertwines with homophobia, meaning that being lesbian and gay are treated differently. Stand up because discrimination isn't equal.

Now I address the LGBTTIQQ2SA community. If you are Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgendered, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning or Two-Spirited, remember that there is nothing wrong with you. You have every right to have a crush on any gender you feel or be any gender you feel, just as I have the right to be a woman and like guys, just as Barack Obama has the right to be a male and kiss Michelle Obama on the lips. You deserve the same rights as us, whether it be marriage, fair employee treatment, healthcare access, education, freedom and life.

So let's wave our Pride flags. Let's build inclusive polices. Let's be role models of inclusion ourselves. Support those in the same population as Bertrand Delanoe and Ellen Degeneres. If an inclusive society for LGBTQQI2SA individuals is a high-rise condominum, we've come far in the storeys we've built. Let's get out our blueprints and minds and become safety engineers, inspection engineers, construction engineers, architects, construction workers, maintenance workers and building code legislators.

- FA

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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Colour, Health and Reason: Above the Rule

Recently a flyer came to a friend's home when I was visiting her, alongside a couple of flyers for local stores' discounts and a City Councillor promoting himself to his community. It advertised what it claimed to be a fitness location. Pictures of treadmills. A mention that it had a spa and a tanning bed.

What was that? You misread me? The treadmill, then the tan.

In late 2013, after the Canadian Cancer Society advocated from 2005, the Ontario Government passed a bill banning anyone to let a person below eighteen use a tanning bed for anyone under the age of 18 or to advertise to them. Samely, tanning salons must pose warnings. Anyone looking under twenty-five must be asked for ID before tanning. Anyone tanning must wear protective eyewear. "Artificial tanning lights can emit rays five times stronger than the midday sun" and "20 minutes in a tanning bed is 10 to 12 times more damaging than being exposed to the midday summer sun." I applaud the legislation. Tanning uses artificial UV light (natural UV light coming from the sun) to increase melanin (skin pigment) concentrations in a person. Ultra-violet light can alter one's DNA and potentially build the code to cancer and so UV light increases a person's cancer risk. There is no need for a person below the age of eighteen to expose themselves unnecessarily to light which alters your DNA, potentially creating the code to cancer. When I volunteered at the Canadian Cancer Society in the summer, 10 AM glasses of water accompanied reading the bulletin board in their kitchenette from successful Relays for Life to reading about a melanoma survivor who tanned until she was diagnosed.

At the same time, I worry for what happens to those at or above the age of eighteen. What stops them from using a tanning bed, just as what is there to stop a person above the age of 18 with a piece of ID from buying a bottle of wine? Common sense. Yet you pass billboards of tanned models in Guess clothing, both male and female, the very-light not as frequent and the dark a rarity. Though tanning ads might not be targeted towards youth, they still suggest that tanning is attractive. So-called fitness areas are incorporating them, promoting both the run and the radiation as healthy. Meanwhile in high school, my best school-based education on the risk between UV light and cancer came in Chapter Six in my eleventh-grade Biology textbook accompanied by a picture of a tumour, Grade Eleven Biology being optional to take in the first place.

Why do we still live in a world where we allow others to promote that one skin colour reigns over another? Tanning salons, Cosmopolitan using black models to show trends they called outdated but none to show their accepted trends and Freddie Gray targeted for making eye contact with police? Why is there still the ability in society to promote that your colour is your rank, that one's melanin concentration could have a mathematical relationship with worth? Colour should be beyond calculus.

Furthermore, why should a salon ever promote that a person should gamble their life to change their skin colour?

What do we do about it? Amongst the more-suppressive-more-secretive argument, I feel we must close tanning beds and end their ability to advertise. We must educate those eighteen and above with solid statistics about how tanning can increase the incidence of cancer, that in harm it is more of a cigarette than a candy. We must educate those younger than eighteen to understand the dangers regardless of taking a Science class. (Though with a Science passion I still recommend eleventh-grade Biology.) We must stop promoting modelling agencies and advertisers to make skin colour their marketing strategy. It is time we increase our stance on indoor tanning.

- FA

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015


C-51. The Anti-Terrorism Act.

In PDF format it is 74 pages. According to Janyce McGregor and Kady O'Malley at the CBC, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that terrorists target Canadians "for no other reason than that we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents."

The bill gives the Canadian Security Intelligence Services additional powers. They can apply for a court order to "remove terrorist propaganda from the Internet." It means they can "counter-message" or "disrupt radical websites and Twitter accounts." They can also suspect Canadians of joining extremist groups and cancel their flights or travelling plans, "block any financial transactions linked to suspected terrorist activity," seize shipments which one could employ in an attack or even "switch, or make suspect equipment being shipped unusable as part of an on-going investigation." Meanwhile I recommend you to also read or at the Walrus for some more information.

Let me quote a paragraph from one of the sources I just reccomended. According to Craig Forcese and Kent Roach at the Walrus, "CSIS was designed with a broad mandate but limited powers. Until now, it has been an intelligence service—which is to say that it collects and analyses information, and supplies threat assessments to the government. When it was created in 1984, parliament approved CSIS’s mandate as one that excluded 'kinetic' powers—including the power to arrest or otherwise do things to people in the physical world (except when necessary, for example, to install a wiretap or listening device)." The bill was made to

The problem with Bill C-51 is its restraints to the freedom of speech. The bill targets "'activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” that includes 'terrorism,' 'interference with critical infrastructure' and 'interference with the capability of the Government in relation to ... the economic or financial stability of Canada.'" In this broad scope can come those whom Harper has not supported, including Aborignals, environmental advocates and Muslims. What if it also included those against the Conservative Government yet not against the right to life? Two prestigious lawyers fear it will target journalists and academics. Businesses including Mozilla and public unions including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers oppose the bill. In fact, According to experts in British Columbia, 56% of Canadians oppose the bill.

Several things concern me. The first is that it does not fit our charter. Clause one states, "Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (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 (d) freedom of association." Clause fifteen states that "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability." I disagree that C-51 can work with the charter. Second, it concerns me that despite many large demonstrations which filled public spaces, a large plea by citizens, businesses and unions end it and an alost 60% disapproval, the government passed it. Is this democracy, a system where the government is the employee to its people? I disagree.

Spreading fear over knowledge and disabling the freedom of speech, culture and religion do not belong in Canada. If we are to combat the threat to peace, we must rise above and not wobble near similar levels of injustice. Rise above those that threaten the freedom of speech, those who make us reflect upon the hours we could spend in school without bomb threats, those that design fear and propaganda to gain followers. Choose truth and open discussion over fear-inciting. Use the power of education to build a society of informed, active individuals and let us hold the power of the freedom of speech.

- FA

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