Holding hope for Indigenous girls – guest post

Holding hope for Indigenous girls – guest post

Image description: An Indigenous woman with stars in her hair, carrying an upside-down Canadian flag that reads “151 years of resistance.” This amazing art was created by Chief Lady Bird (on Instagram @chiefladybird), and was donated for use in this project when Michelle Robinson requested this as the image for her post. I am constantly astonished at the talent, creativity, generosity, and ethic of community care present on the margins.

This is a guest post by Michelle Robinson, the first Indigenous woman to run for city council in Calgary.

I am Michelle Robinson, a proud mother, wife, owner of 2 dogs (3 in my heart,) a proud Dene, Flames fan, and Calgarian. I have lived, worked, and volunteered for over a decade in Ward 10. I chose to buy a home in Abbeydale, raise my daughter, and enjoy my life with my husband because of the great people, food, and businesses.

I was born, started elementary here in Calgary and have lived in Fort McMurray as well as Sylvan Lake, before returning to Calgary in 1995. My working class family raised me with pride and this foundation gave me the determination to work full time while attending night classes at SAIT to complete geomatics drafting. My background is in the oil and gas industry, geomatics, crime prevention, family violence prevention, poverty and harm reduction, and cultural diversity education with police inclusion.

My passion is in creating healthy and safe communities where all can thrive. I support families of missing and murdered Indigenous people here by volunteering with the Sisters in Spirit Committee. I volunteer with the LBGTQ2+ community by passing policies of inclusivity and continuing to advocate. I work on policy development on many issues at both federal and provincial levels. I advocate for human rights with a cultural lens, and volunteer occasionally at my daughter’s school.

I enjoy reading books, scuba diving, motorcycles, watching films, swimming, pow wows, exploring Alberta, walking my dogs and relearning my culture.

This post is part of the Feminism from the Margins series.

Content note for references to anti-Indigenous violence, sexual abuse, domestic violence.


I am listening to my daughter having a sleep over with a friend and they are giggling away. My girl is 10 going on 30… I joke but not only does she seem wiser, she has grown in her 10 years with knowledge I didn’t have.

I watched my parents beat each other. My girl has heard snippets of my experience but has never seen that. She will never have that trauma of watching people who say they love each other, treat each other that way. There was no Awo Taan Healing Lodge in Calgary then.

((giggling in the background))

By the time I was her age, my parents split but the visits were so hard on me, I had migraines at her age from the stress. They even had another fist fight on the visit, in public, in Rotary Park in Red Deer in front of tons of witnesses who did nothing. My daughter will never have that and thank gawd for that. I ran away from visits and resented so much.

((giggling in the background))

I think about the gap when I saw my mother for the last time my parents were together, how violent that was. I didn’t see either of my parents for months and was confused.

((giggling in the background))

I didn’t know if my mom was even alive for years. I cried every night thinking about her. I thought of her beautiful black hair and her unconditional love. I had to finally ask if she was even alive to find out she was. We lived and left the town of Ft. McMurray. This was before I was 10.

((giggling in the background))

The sad thing is, I know I’m so privileged. I stayed with grandparents. I had my father. Eventually I had my mother and her entire family every other Saturday for 2 hours. By this time I was taught how awful women and Indigenous people were and I was ashamed of my own Indigenous family. Of course I hated myself too but didn’t understand internalized racism at all.

((giggling in the background))

I NEVER want another Indigenous girl to feel self-hate. I don’t want another Indigenous girl to feel hurt. I want every Indigenous person to feel pride, self-love, healthy relationships, unconditional love from their family.

((giggling in the background))

I know in my first 10 years of my life there were things I didn’t know until later. Indian Residential Schools, incest, divorce, healthy relationships, internalized racism, structural racist policies, legislative racism, Indian Act, misogyny, colonialism, legal divorce proceedings, are just part of a dynamic it has taken me 41 years to get to and yet I keep learning new things everyday.

((girls come down for juice and snacks with fun joking and convos about youtube))

We didn’t have books about any of these topics. We had Little House on the Prairie, where natives weren’t human but savages. Settlers were brave, courageous and good Christians which was reinforced by the 7 Christian churches in Sylvan Lake in a town of only 3000-ish. The books I had access to didn’t reflect me, but I read Nancy Drew anyway.

((giggling in the background, acting out “refreshing” iced tea commercials straight from our fridge))

When I was 10, Lois was murdered in her bowling alley by gunshot in Sylvan Lake. Her husband Alex LaFramboise was charged and convicted, but the conviction was dismissed. I walked to and from school by the RCMP detachment that brought in a white trailer for her murder investigation. But one day that trailer left. Even when someone is found guilty of killing a woman, there is no guarantee that justice will be served.

((girls go upstairs giggling))

I already knew women didn’t matter to the law by then. This was without internet. I had internalized misogyny by then too.

((girls are watching an ipad together with giggling))

Last week, Samantha was given a cheque from her school to give to Awo Taan for a fundraiser she did on June 21. She walks up and down stairs that have #MMIWG2 signs, in a house with pictures of Colton Crowshoe, and Janel Squirrel on shelves or pinned to curtains.

((giggling))

Today my husband and I had an argument and Samantha cried. We all worked it out and went for a pancake breakie with friends.

((giggling))

So if that is my story, privilege and all, imagine how other stories of 10 year old Indigenous girls are today… in many ways, absolutely nothing has changed. In some ways, things are better. No matter if it’s better or not, their stories of their lives, matter. Their journeys matter to me.

((we get kisses good night))

I share on Twitter and Facebook a missing 10 year old girl from Vancouver – MaryJane Tom – and log off to do prayers for her and many others as they go on their journeys.

“‘Kay girls – time for lights out.”

((more giggles))


Update: MaryJane Tom was found safe.

Read about Colton Crowshoe.

Read about Janel Squirrel.

Read about #MMIWG2 (Missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirits) at the Families for Sisters in Spirit.

Donate to Awo Taan Healing Lodge.


This post is part of the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on (approximately) the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, let us know!

Also check out the other posts in the series:


Tiffany Sostar is a narrative therapist and workshop facilitator in Calgary, Alberta. You can work with them in person or via Skype. They specialize in supporting queer, trans, polyamorous, disabled, and trauma-enhanced communities and individuals, and they are also available for businesses and organizations who want to become more inclusive. Email to get in touch!

Selling Out the Sex Workers: guest post

Selling Out the Sex Workers: guest post

Image description: A close-up of a cat baring their teeth.

This is a guest post by X.

X is a full service sex worker living in Montreal and dreams of one day writing fiction with realistic portrayals of sex work in it.

This post is part of the Feminism from the Margins series.


I logged into Facebook on March 21st and felt my insides turn cold and heavy.

“The fuckers sold us out,” I hissed at my computer screen. Everything I and my community had tried to raise awareness about, attempted to fight against, had come to fruition. SESTA-FOSTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), legislation intended to hold website publishers responsible for content such as sex work advertisements posted by third parties, had passed.

We braced ourselves as we entered into a new era of prohibition.

Almost immediately, various platforms began self-censoring in preparation for the bill to be signed into law. Craiglist removed their personal section wholesale rather than deal with sorting through listings that might be ads. Reddit removed any subreddits having to do with escorting or sugaring. Google began deactivating the email accounts of sex workers and removing anything deemed pornographic from Google drives. Websites used for blacklisting bad clients also disappeared rather than face legal consequence. While the concept of a free and open internet dissipated, sex worker communities went into panic mode. With the addition of the disappearance of Backpage, a major advertising platform internationally, livelihoods and lives are in danger.

I am a Canadian full service sex worker and am in my fourth year of working in the industry professionally, though I have engaged in other kinds of sex work throughout my life. I am in a privileged place, white, able-bodied, and living in the grey area of Canada’s Nordic model approach to prostitution. The immediate aftermath of SESTA-FOSTA left me feeling anxious and stressed – I would have to find a new server for my website, register a .ca domain name, and with the loss of Backpage I would have to fall back on other, less dependable avenues of advertising. But as multitudes of regional advertising platforms in the USA began disappearing, many of my colleagues have been pushed to the streets. Acquaintances and friends are facing homelessness, and accounts of the missing and the dead circulate regularly. Smelling weakness, pimps and blacklisted clients have started moving in to pick off the vulnerable. Legislation such as this, while frustrating for me, is deadly for the more marginalized of our community. So why is it being touted as protection?

How did this happen?

When speaking to friends outside of the industry about the current legal climate, they expressed sympathy and cursed Trump. However, this was a bipartisan effort, voted in with a majority of 97-2. Kamala Harris, a democrat, was instrumental in bringing down Backpage. I watch the likes of Amy Schumer and other celebrities, campaign “for” us, “for” our safety.

The sentiments are clear: Who could do such a job? Who would willingly lower themselves to participate in such a disgusting and denigrated occupation. Surely sex work must be synonymous with exploitation!?

And no wonder the general public must think these things about us, when dead hooker jokes are a mainstay of comedy, when we are perennial victims and easy targets to be gruesomely abused and killed in every kind of fiction. SWERF (sex work exclusionary radical feminist) organizations use misogynistic and dehumanizing rhetoric to push through agendas that diminish our dignity and limit our ability to work safely, all in the name of advocacy and liberation. No wonder the greater public is ignorant of and confused about our situations and realities.

Despite all the effort that’s been expended to paint us as helpless and without agency, unable to consent or make choices for ourselves, the sex work community is large, international, and very connected.

Like any other diverse community, we are far from perfect, but we share information on bad clients, exchange knowledge, and do our best to look out for each other. We run our own organizations and community outreach programs, we hold conferences, network, raise funds for those in need.

What we want is pretty simple: safe and clean places to work, an environment amenable to screening clients, legal recourse should we be assaulted or otherwise harmed.

And these demands aren’t by any means secret or hard to find – we are on Twitter (in numbers so large, we literally call it Switter), we have blogs, we do interviews. How interesting that this legislation will serve to drive us off of public platforms, sever our lines of communication and silence our experiences. Had anyone thought to consult us, listen to us, we could tell you that structural oppression is what creates the conditions for exploitation; Racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, ableism, systems of power embedded into the fabric our society. But radical resistance and confrontation of systemic oppression is not on the agenda here. This is just digital NIMBY-ism: They just don’t want to see us, think about us, they need to keep us as the Other.

So tell me again how we’re being saved?


Learn more! Read Tits and Sass, full of writing by and for sex workers. (You could start here, with Sex Workers Are Not Collateral Damage: Kate D’Adamo on FOSTA and SESTA.)


This post is part of the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, get in touch!

Also check out the other posts in the series:

I Will Not Be Thrown Away: guest post

I Will Not Be Thrown Away: guest post

Image description: A black and white photo of the back of a Black woman’s head in a head wrap. Photo credit: Mel Vee. Mel Vee is an aspiring photographer and her guest post series will feature her photography.

This is a guest post by Mel Vee.

Mel Vee mesmerizes, captivates and incites with her spoken word. She is a passionate advocate for the power of narrative to heal and liberate. A general disturber of shit, Mel Vee seeks to blur and disrupt all kinds of distinctions. She is a core member of the Uproot YYC, a grassroots collective for artists of colour dedicated to uprooting systemic barriers in the arts community. She was a member of Calgary’s 2017 slam team, who were semi-finalists at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and co-creator of The Unlearning Channel podcast.

This post is the second is a four-part series, one per week for the month of May. Together, this series will comprise the third entry in the Feminism from the Margins series.

Content note for rape, sexual assault, descriptions of misogynoir.


I learned from an early age that my body was not my own.

My Black body was created to be of service to anyone who showed up and demanded it. This Black body, the only home I have on this speck of stardust navigating the cosmos, was as foreign and alien to me as those distant galaxies.

Why should it have been any other way? I received the message clearly that my body was a means through which others could actualize their own wants and desires. My body was not a safe nor joyous place; not a place to be treasured and tended to gently. My body was a vessel – to serve others, for men’s desires, and for birthing children, but never for me.

My education in the precarity and disposability of the Black female body began at home with the women in my family. Their necessarily strong, beautiful black bodies were always in service to others. Most of the women in my family were and are never still.

One aunt, whom I love dearly, always comes to mind. As far back as I can remember, she was always in motion, toiling away for others. She toiled in her home, at her work as a nurse’s aide and in her church. She did it all. Raised a family, held down a career, opened her home to countless unwanted and discarded people in the community and never spoke a word about her struggles to anyone. No one ever questioned what toll this constant availability and service would wreak on her body and mind.

Her pace continued unabated for the entirety of my childhood, adolescence and early adult years until one day, the inevitable happened. She snapped, culminating in a one month stay in a psychiatric ward. People whispered about what might be the culprit for her decline without ever approaching the truth, that she was used up until she had nothing more to offer.

Barely a few months of marginal concern went by before things returned to “normal”. The unceasing demands, the perpetual toil and the complete disregard for her well-being until her health completely failed and simply never returned. She now spends much of her time bedridden. I feel blessed when I receive a message from her because it means her pain eased up just enough to manage a text. My aunt, once a pillar of our family, reduced to sending texts during a brief respite from her unending pain.

Her body bears the cost of continual and unceasing labour for people who took and took and left her an empty shell. Her body is racked with osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and she constantly struggles to maintain a healthy weight. I am certain some will attribute this to the inevitable ravages of age, but I know in my bones biology is only one part of the narrative.

Her body fought back in the only way available, it shut down. My aunt toiled for years without rest for others. Everyone around her demanded more and she gave more. When her health declined, all the people who had taken from her vanished, without a trace. I wish I could say my aunt is an isolated case, but this is the fate of many women in my family. Our bodies, time and energy are used up until there is nothing left and few, if any, stick around to pick up the pieces. My aunt cautions me continually about her fate and encourages me to take care of myself. It is a grim reminder that I take to heart.

What is most grotesque about the situation of my aunt and so many women like her is how normalized this is; how people expect the Black female body to be at service and at the ready.

Our bodies are not meant to be lovingly inhabited by ourselves. The roots of these expectations are deep, undoubtedly tracing their history to chattel slavery where our bodies were literally not our own. How do you love a body that was never meant for you to enjoy; a body that was historically regarded as property and in contemporary times is a reminder of your presumed inferiority?

My own body bears the scars of the precarity and disposability of the Black female body. My left arm is scarred from my wrist up to near my shoulder. All of these wounds are self-inflicted. Even after a decade of being free from self-harming behaviour, my scars are still visible. I wear them openly as an act of defiance, to hold a mirror up to a society whose violence I internalized and enacted upon myself.

I had no shape, no words for the anger and hatred I felt for being born in a Black female body; a body people regarded as valuable only so far as it could serve. I lashed out against a world which continually shows its brutal and naked contempt for me and people who look like me. I lashed out against the one person I knew had no recourse. Myself. I lashed out because rage is all I could muster. Someone had to be punished for the wound of being a Black girl in a society drenched in anti-Black racism and misogynoir.

In the process of addressing trauma and healing in my life, it has become evident that my internalized misogynoir had caused me to disassociate and distance myself from my body. I became an unwilling occupant in a body that others had treated with the utmost contempt; culminating in rape, sexual assault and violence. I sought to protect myself emotionally in the way traumatized people do, by distancing myself emotionally from the source of pain, my brown and despised body; a body that was valuable only to the extent it could serve.

I am now undergoing the painful but enriching process of coming home to my body; the process of reclaiming a body others have treated with contempt and disrespect. I am now learning to inhabit my body and treat it with love, respect and dignity. I am learning slowly to prioritize the needs and desires of my body. I am learning that my body is worthy of fighting for and keeping alive.

I am coming home now to this brown body after 28 years. I am coming home to this brown body which has been the site of so much grief and violence. I am coming home to this brown body where I laugh, love, fight, move, dance and sing. I am coming home to this brown body, imperfections and all. I am coming home to the only body that will carry me until I die.

I am reclaiming my body in defiance of a society that regards brown bodies with violence.

I am reclaiming my body in honour of all the Black women who no longer can.

I am reclaiming my body so others know it is possible.

I am coming home to my brown body, in the only home I will ever know in this beautiful and sometimes terrifying cosmos.

I am finally coming home.


This post is the final piece in the third contribution to the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, get in touch!

Also check out the other posts in the series:

Never Ever Follow Those White Kids Around – a brief personal history of race and mental health: guest post

Never Ever Follow Those White Kids Around – a brief personal history of race and mental health: guest post

Image description: A close up of bright greenery with an out of focus cityscape in the background. Photo credit: Mel Vee. Mel Vee is an aspiring photographer and her guest post series will feature her photography.

This is a guest post by Mel Vee.

Mel Vee mesmerizes, captivates and incites with her spoken word. She is a passionate advocate for the power of narrative to heal and liberate. A general disturber of shit, Mel Vee seeks to blur and disrupt all kinds of distinctions. She is a core member of the Uproot YYC, a grassroots collective for artists of colour dedicated to uprooting systemic barriers in the arts community. She was a member of Calgary’s 2017 slam team, who were semi-finalists at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and co-creator of The Unlearning Channel podcast.

This post is the second is a four-part series, one per week for the month of May. Together, this series will comprise the third entry in the Feminism from the Margins series.

Content note for racial violence, intimate partner violence, suicidality, graphic description of self-harm.


I learned from a young age that I was valued less than others. My brown skin, femaleness, queerness, working class family, speech impediment and quiet, thoughtful nature, mistaken for mental slowness, marked me for hardship and struggle. No one told me in those exact words, but no one needed to – that much was obvious.

My mother was the first person to impart this lesson and spell it out for me but she did so from a place of love. “NEVER EVER follow those white kids around; think they’re better than you! Don’t believe them, they are not better or worse than you. They are human, same as us. But they will think they are high and mighty because they’re white,” she warned us.

She was specifically referring to my cousin, who hung around the playground and in class desperately following white kids around for their coveted friendship. It is a painful memory to reflect on now. My cousin with her dark brown skin, boxer braids and almond eyes following around blonde and brown haired, blue and green-eyed girls with impossibly straight hair and pale white skin.

They were the epitome of beauty, goodness and wholesomeness and my cousin desperately wanted to be beautiful and good and whole like them. She followed them around like a shadow. They often shooed her away, cussed her, threw things at her and even made fun of her. One time she came home to her mother in tears after one of the white girls spat on her and called her darkie; tar baby. My mom was quiet, but her knowing eyes said, ‘See, this is what I warned you about.’

Looking back, I cannot blame my cousin for wanting to distance herself from her blackness. All I learned about Black people in school was that we were slaves. Our history began with slavery and ended with Martin Luther King Jr (bear in mind this was taught in a Canadian school – hello Black Loyalists!). The only Black person I remember seeing in an elementary school textbook was a hunched over Black woman, obviously enslaved or a sharecropper, with a filthy black and white handkerchief on her head, glaring into the camera from a cotton field. That was it. We had no history prior to enslavement; there was no mention of Africa prior to European colonialism, the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade, current and global Black independence struggles and the connection to diasporic Blacks or even Black people during enslavement who resisted, taught, created art or invented.

Our history was reduced to this picture of a tough-looking, stooped over woman with a mean glare.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my mom was doing her best to shield us from a tide of white supremacy which would seek or simply by design devalue the lives of her children – which taught and continues to teach that we were nothing more than the descendants of enslaved people who contributed little to history; that we were less than Europeans and non-Black People of Colour. Our skins marked us as inferiors. Her efforts in hindsight were commendable, given the impossible nature of the task. I remember she blasted Peter Tosh’s African as her primary act of Black affirmation and pride regularly. Her favorite lyrics were:

Don’t care where you come from
As long as you’re a black man, you’re an African
No mind your nationality
You have got the identity of an African

She would belt out, “As long as you’re a Black man, you’re an African,” much to my chagrin. In spite of her efforts to instill in us a sense of pride in our Black heritage, her African diasporic consciousness was no match for the cruel reality of the white people around us, who viewed us as novelties at best or troublesome inferiors at worst; nor the pervasiveness of white supremacy in public and private institutions and in social life.

As a result, I had few friends during my formative years. I followed my mother’s stern warning but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret when I saw my cousins, who she chided years ago for following white kids around, now had the cool (read white) kids as friends. I realized though that my mother’s words rang true; nearly any Black kid I noticed hanging around with white kids in my junior high and high school would be following along behind them, like a shadow.

The Black kid in the social group always hung out precariously around the edges, as though they never truly belonged. Thankfully once I entered junior high school, we were no longer the only Black family in the neighborhood, but the dynamics remained unchanged. There was an implied subtext of the Black kids being other than or merely tolerated.

The Black kid in the group also always served a chillingly particular purpose – the comedian. If the Black kid was not providing amusement, they were swiftly ostracized as I was. As a nerdy, smart, quiet and thoughtful sort not accustomed to serving up guffaws, I had no purpose to the majority of the white kids around me (with the exception of my small, racially diverse band of merry misfits). Not only did I not entertain the white kids around me, I was also a threat to them academically and intellectually, as I was always at or near the top of my classes in those years.

A Black kid with a brain who refused to debase herself for the entertainment of whites? That was completely intolerable and I suffered the social price. Black kids were allowed to hang out with the white kids, so long as they knew their place.

In spite of myself, loneliness crept in when my merry band of misfits and I parted ways for high school. For the first time in my life, I felt utterly alone. Since I stubbornly refused to sacrifice my stellar grades for the cheap compensation of male attention (which I cared for little as a budding queer), I watched from the sidelines as the white girls who were former friends and acquaintances begin to reach those adolescent milestones and I remained stubbornly inexperienced. Although I sensed a budding attraction to women, I couldn’t shake the sting of being spurned by the mostly white boys around me. My brown skin, chemically relaxed hair (which was never silky straight like the other girls), thin frame and nearly non-existent breasts marked me painfully as the other. The few black boys and boys of other races worshiped the white girls – I was non-existent to them. I had not yet met any queer people or girls who liked girls. I was awkward, out of place and alone.

Unsurprisingly, my mental health deteriorated.

Accustomed as I had become to spending the afternoons alone in my bedroom after finishing my homework, on one particular day I sat down on the floor in silence and stared at my arms. I had already begun self-harming by then as a way to express the rage I felt towards myself and my circumstances but something inside of me snapped.

The last thing I recall thinking that day was how much I hated my brown skin.

It always got in the way; it made me different.

I did not remember how I got the razor but before I knew it, I had a huge slash on my left inner forearm. It was the deepest cut I had ever inflicted on myself. I did not recall wanting to cut that deeply, but in the fury of my self-loathing I simply had no control. I panicked. I had always heard we were the same colour underneath but now seeing the white flesh beneath the brown skin was too much. I became nauseous, and in my panic I did something uncharacteristic of myself – I got help. My mom freaked out when she saw; she didn’t know whether to cry or scold or pray. Instead, she called my aunt who was a nurse’s aide at the time. They both kept talking to each other while my aunt did her best to stitch me up. They both spoke as if I was not there:

“Why would she do something like this?”
“The poor dear…”
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!”

My aunt, finally coming to her senses, said there was no way they were taking me to the hospital.

“They’ll take her away. There’s no way we are going to the hospital.” And that was that. My mother and aunt knew instinctively getting social services involved would be ruinous to the family. My mom and aunt didn’t bet their and my collective well-being on the charity of social services, a fate we had so far escaped.

Unfortunately for me, the lack of intervention (partly due to that understandable resistance) contributed to further decline. The situation grew more dire as I became involved in an abusive, tumultuous relationship with a white girl who exploited my mental health struggles for her personal gain. She was the first person to ever express any interest in me sexually and I was hooked.

Due to her erratic and abusive behaviour, I became estranged from my family for a few months and opted to live with her and a friend of mine where I deteriorated even further. I learned intimately the extent to which a white person would weaponize their race against mine to exploit and cause destruction. My partner continually called services on me, which led to a trip in the back of a police cruiser. Calling the police on a mentally ill Black person can lead to violence and death – I cannot stress this enough. It is an extremely hateful and vile thing to do. Yet when she was confronted about her despicable and nakedly abusive behaviour by various people, the white girl waterworks began and that was the end of the conversation.

Of course, she was well aware of my struggles with race and with mental health – it was why she singled me out of the crowd for her predatory behaviour. Yet it never ceased to astound me how a person who claimed to love me could also attack with such racist vitriol or stay silent when others did. But instead of being furious at her blatant racism, I began to loathe myself and my race more intensely. Not wanting to be victimized further, my desire to identify with the oppressor grew stronger in a mistaken bid to become the abuser instead of the abused.

When that relationship reached its terrifying conclusion, I was thrust into the world of mental health professionals. The mental health professionals I encountered were exclusively white. I never encountered a single mental health care professional of Colour. The mental health professionals I met with expressed puzzlement at my suffering. By appearances, I was raised in an intact family (I did not disclose the volatility of my home life and my father’s explosive rages and violent outbursts), had stellar grades, played sports, worked part time and volunteered regularly.

I never told a single health care professional the real reason I began self-harming – I hated myself. I hated my brown skin, African features and curly hair. I now cursed my dear mother, who so tenderly attempted to prepare me to live in this racist society, for not being white. I was so close to being white and she was the reason I wasn’t. She received specific vitriol for the then-perceived mortal sin of being Black. I internalized the rampant and unabashed racism of the people around me and it was quite literally killing me.

I planned to end this post on some highfalutin note about how considering the impact of race and systemic inequity on mental health is a moral imperative blah blah.

But I believe that would be too simple of an end. That much is obvious.

Instead, I want to stress the importance and deep implications of the fact that the mental health of racialized people in a white supremacist society is not only simply complicated and impacted by race, but rather that being racialized itself can be a cause of mental health trauma.

This is the controversial part.

I am not a psychologist nor do I claim any expertise in the area. However, my lived experience speaks for itself. How does a queer, young, working class Black woman talk to an aging heterosexual middle or upper class white man about her most vulnerable life struggles? How can you possibly be vulnerable with someone who may have no frame of reference for your life experiences or worse may become hostile at the suggestion that race could be a factor in mental illness?

Though I did find understanding mental health practitioners in time, I never discussed race with them. Yet it was and still is vital for my mental health to be able to talk about what was actually near and dear to my heart – the complex stresses of my life being devalued based on who I am and navigating through the compounded effect of trauma on marginalization.

This is the key message that is missing desperately from the mental health conversation. Most people do not know that I have struggled with my mental health for a reason. The mental health profession as a whole is not equipped to deal with race in a way that is clinically significant to racialized people. I believe this is why I am becoming more candid about my mental health struggles – I want people to understand how psychologically scarring racism can be and how redressing justice can be powerful for improving one’s mental health.

I want to end with a thank you to my mother for her ceaseless efforts to affirm our Black heritage and instill racial pride.


This post is part of the third in the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, get in touch!

Also check out the other posts in the series:


Further reading on racial trauma, and mental health among Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour

Prioritizing: guest post

Prioritizing: guest post

Image description: A black and white close-up of wood, twigs, and metal twine, with dry grass in the background. Photo credit: Mel Vee. Mel Vee is an aspiring photographer and her guest post series will feature her photography.

This is a guest post by Mel Vee.

Mel Vee mesmerizes, captivates and incites with her spoken word. She is a passionate advocate for the power of narrative to heal and liberate. A general disturber of shit, Mel Vee seeks to blur and disrupt all kinds of distinctions. She is a core member of the Uproot YYC, a grassroots collective for artists of colour dedicated to uprooting systemic barriers in the arts community. She was a member of Calgary’s 2017 slam team, who were semi-finalists at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and co-creator of The Unlearning Channel podcast.

This post is the first is a four-part series, one per week for the month of May. Together, this series will comprise the third entry in the Feminism from the Margins series.

Content note for suicidality, illness, and threatened violence.


Wake up early for a change. Stop being such a lazy fuck.
Go to morning meditation – it is important for you to be there.
Make your partner breakfast and lunch.
Try to make breakfast for yourself but you’re distracted. Will get back to it later.

Your friend is suicidal and she needs help – she doesn’t have much support.

Brush teeth.
Put on clothes.

Another friend lost her job – she might be homeless soon. You have to help somehow.

Put on shoes. Walk out door.

Another ambulance is at the house across the way. Last week there was a man covered in blood wielding a knife. Need to look for a new apartment. Another item on the to do list.

Your friend could stay with you if she needs to. You don’t just leave friends like that.

Walk back from meditation. The community is struggling and needs money. You decide you should probably volunteer more.
Do dishes.
Plan for the next meal. You have no energy to cook but cannot afford to eat out.

You remember the days where there wasn’t enough food in the house and you ate peanut butter for dinner; sardines if you were lucky. Curse yourself for being so damn ungrateful – at least you have food to cook! Hear your father’s voice remind you of how ungrateful you are.
Feel shame.

Think of resources for your suicidal friend.
Know mental health resources for LGBTQ folks are often a joke – but you try anyway.

Realize you should exercise – it’s important for your health. Promptly delay exercising by answering emails. They never stop coming; someone is always itching to hit send.
It’s the same old – “We need you to volunteer. This is an important cause. We can’t afford to pay you but we appreciate your time. You can build up your profile. It’s only temporary.

Your aunt is sick again. Her no-good kids keep hitting her up for money. She needs someone to talk to even though you could use a quiet moment but you love her and it’s the least you can do.

The timer you set to write for 10 minutes has 8 seconds left. Guess you won’t be writing today.

Deadlines are piling up. All the shit you said yes to is finally catching up. You vow not to say yes to anything else EVER AGAIN and yet you say yes to even more.
You still need to exercise.

Go to work. Radiate warmth and kindness to people with a pathological sense of entitlement.
Be expected to have read every book written in the span of human civilization. Get cussed out for daring to manage others expectations and refusing to tolerate abuse. The customer is always right. Fight back tears in the washroom. Remember this job is all you have and your mother told you never to rely on anyone for money, especially a man. Smile even bigger at the next customer.

Yet another friend is about to be out on the street. You want to help but you just cannot. Feel helpless. Useless.

Go to your second job.
Meet one friend for coffee after.
Go to that show tonight. You need to show your face or else people will think you don’t take this seriously and that you’re not paying your dues.

Your partner is tired from their job so they cannot really help with chores. You try not to get upset because they are not trying to make your life difficult on purpose. But still…
More emails and texts.
A friend you rarely see becomes upset and demands to know why you don’t have time for them.
You cannot think of a good reason to say no and they are not that bad. It will only be an hour.
Schedule her on the only day you had free.

Another friend is having a breakdown. They simply want to talk.
Your partner is in the mood even though you barely have the energy to keep your eyes open but you can’t remember the last time you two had sex. Feel ashamed.

The laundry is piling up. The floor needs to be vacuumed. That’s for another day.
Try to go to sleep. Spend at least an hour wondering how your life got like this. Wondering where you went wrong, if you went wrong, if you should be more selfish. What should you cut?
Realize you’ve already cut everything extraneous from your life.

*Sigh*

Realize you don’t even have time to appreciate the irony in this.
Know you will do it all over again the next day. And the day after next. And the day after that.
Know you will keep doing this and know you can’t stop. Know that you want to stop but also know you never will.


This post is the third in the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, get in touch!

Also check out the other posts in the series:

An Open Love Letter to My Friends – guest post

An Open Love Letter to My Friends – guest post

Image description: A person stands in a forest, looking up. Photo provided by Michelle Dang.

This is a guest post by Michelle Dang. Michelle is a cis woman of Vietnamese heritage living on the stolen Aboriginal land of the Jagera and Turrbal peoples (Brisbane, Australia). Michelle is a community worker, narrative therapist and writer. Most of her writing and practice is on feminism, transformative justice and anti-violence work. She will accept any ice cream or basketball challenge. The author can be contacted at michelledang5@gmail.com or follow Michelle on Twitter @dang_power


My beloved friends,

I am writing this because you have shouldered me up. This letter is to all my friends and especially to queer folk, people of colour and those who live on dangerous intersections. If you didn’t already know, I want to tell you now, I love you.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I am alive because of you, that energy and blood runs through my body because of you, that my existence and presence is because of you.

I was deep in the land of hopelessness, succumbed to the hate directed towards my body.  We were never meant to survive[i]. You pulled me in, whispered to me that I had more soul in my little toe than the entirety of the white supremacist shit hole I was in. It was your relentless insistence that I matter, that we matter, that we are magical that pulled me out of the pit of despair.

Of course, the pain I am speaking of is one you know intimately. That pain stems from our relationship with whoever our personal Rose is.  Rose, aka White Feminism, aka Colonial Patriarchal Feminism[ii], aka Trans Radical Exclusive Feminism, aka Sex Worker Exclusive Radical Feminism.

Looking back, I can see why I fell for Rose. War and western imperialism had displaced my family from Vietnam. When we arrived in Australia, little did we know that we were moving from one occupied country to another. I was yearning for a place to call home. A place that would not replicate the violence I witnessed and experienced in my family, in my homeland or on the stolen land I found myself on.

At the time I had met Rose, I had just left a toxic relationship with Lena, aka Social Work, aka International Development. I was very vulnerable.

I was charmed by Rose’s sweet talk about unity, agency and empowerment. I believed that she would offer refuge to a brown broken-hearted girl like me. I believed that we were bound together through a shared rage at the patriarchy.

And yes, in the beginning, she embraced me, like her own. She showered me with compliments, telling me how valuable I was. She reassured me that she understood my pain, that she would fight for me, for us.

But when the honeymoon was over, I realised that I was escaping patriarchal violence within the home, and within sandstone buildings, only to meet it once again within colonial patriarchal feminist organisations. I could see the tricks and tactics of perpetrators played out on coloured and non-conforming bodies within these structures. Sweet feminist words were used as a smokescreen to cover daily acts of minimisation, silencing, gaslighting, invalidation, intimidation, isolation and bullying.

We were never meant to survive.

But we can leave evidence. Evidence that we did survive. Evidence that we matter. That we resisted and persisted. That we gave up, not on liberation, but on empty promises. So, I give testimony to the ways I have survived, the ways we have survived:

I survived because I stopped giving any more time and energy to a relationship that did not value our hopes, dreams and dignity.

I survived the contradictions and cognitive dissonance, like the time Rose spoke over me to tell me the importance of maintaining a safe space for women.

I survived all the white tears, like every time Rose cried about how horrible racism is, but threw me under the bus when I asked for accountability.

I survived numerous lectures about ‘unity’ and how my feminism is divisive.

I survived, by rolling my eyes every time Rose insisted she was neutral.

I survived by not expressing myself. Because there is a cost to naming racism.

I survived by expressing myself. Because there is a cost to not naming racism.

I survived the nausea that would wake me up every morning, because my gut knew before my head did, that I was entering a war zone. Racism is an attack on the body.

I survived because of Sara Ahmed, Audre Lorde, Mia McKenzie, bell hooks, Vikki Reynolds.

I survived (and my cis privilege allows me to survive) after daring to dream that we could dismantle the gender binary system, as though the act of pointing out cis violence causes the loss of something: harmony, peace, white cis power.

I survived when Rose racially attacked me because it so similar to how POC survive racial attacks on the daily when we snap back at men who sexually harass us.

I survived because you believed me and understood that I was not being over-sensitive or dramatic. Because white feminism has become a master at victim-blaming.

I survived by printing and reading revolutionary black feminist material courtesy of Rose’s printer, and it felt good.

I survived that time Rose and her cronies ambushed and cornered me and aggressively interrogated my feminism because I troubled their feminism.

I survived because of your unapologetic declarations that we are magnificent, legitimate, sufficient and beautiful.

I survived that time we publicly denounced Rose’s hate signs against sex workers at Reclaim the Night, and I was told I was rude and to stay in my lane.

I survived by refusing to enter mediation with Rose so ‘we could resolve our differences’. When harm occurs, what is required is accountability not mediation.

I survived that time Rose misquoted Kimberlè Crenshaw to say that intersectionality was just about racial liberation and not trans liberation.

I survived because as Sara Ahmed would say, I snapped[iii], I left.

I survived because I have my ancestors’ fighting spirit running through me. We were not erased by colonisation, dispossession and genocide and we will not be erased by colonial patriarchal feminism.

Thank you for being fierce, determined and unruly. You created what was not there. You wrote me in to history, you wrote me into existence. Because you dared to deviate, you carved a space for me to deviate. Space for me to breathe. Space for me to survive. Space for me to rest.

To my dear friends, fuck I love you.  I love us.

Yours,
Michelle

This piece is inspired by Mia McKenzie’s ‘An Open Love Letter to Folks of Color’ in Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender and all the love letters I have written and read.


[i] ‘We were never meant to survive’ is the beautiful line that is repeated in Audre Lorde’s poem, ‘A Litany for Survival’.

[ii] Cheree Moreton coined the term Colonial Patriarchal Feminism or Colonial Patri-Fem for short, to describe how white feminists stigmatise and silence the one black voice in the organisation/environment.

[iii] Sara Ahmed uses the term ‘feminist snap’ in Living a Feminist Life as an act of resistance. This is when we have reached a breaking point, “when what you come up against threatens to be too much, threatens a life, or a dream, or a hope” (187).


This post is the second in the year-long Feminism from the Margins series that Dulcinea Lapis and Tiffany Sostar will be curating, in challenge to and dissatisfaction with International Women’s Day. To quote Dulcinea, “Fuck this grim caterwauling celebration of mediocre white femininity.” Every month, on the 8th, we’ll post something. If you are trans, Black or Indigenous, a person of colour, disabled, fat, poor, a sex worker, or any of the other host of identities excluded from International Women’s Day, and you would like to contribute to this project, get in touch!

Also check out the first post in the series, All The Places You’ll Never Go, by Dulcinea Lapis.