Responding to the Comments: guest post

Responding to the Comments: guest post

Image description: A tweet, retweeted by Red Thunder Woman (@N8V_Calgarian). 

Dear non-natives, dismissing Native voices fighting against the stereotypical racial imagery seen in things like mascots and Halloween costumes because you “don’t think it should be considered offensive” is ignoring the harm it does to us.


This is a guest post by Nathan Viktor Fawaz. Nathan is a settler on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territories of the Blackfoot, Siksika, Piikuni, Kainai, Tsuutina, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nation. This land is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

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


This post is an expansion of a comment that Nathan was going to share on this CBC article. In the article, Michelle Robinson said, “Our culture is not a costume. We are real people with a real culture and depicting it incorrectly just adds to negative stereotypes and adds to violence we face.”

The comment section on this article became full of comments that ranged from aggressively racist to casually ignorant.

Some of these comments included:

“As a doctor, ought I be offended at those who dress as doctors for halloween?”

“I’m pretty sure that most kids dress up like this or firemen or police men or… the list can go on an on… because it’s admirable, not because any racial or heritage put down. By this account even my 4 yr old son is being disrespectful?? Why is everyone quick to assume their a victim?”

“This is what causes magnified racism. There are cowboys, bakers, fat suits, etc. I could go on and on. Your indigenous clothing is chosen for its beauty. Be proud you have beautiful clothing to be replicated. I am fat and they are not wearing that fat suit because it is awesome.”

“Most cultures have costumes depicting them. Shouldn’t it be seen as celebrating the culture?”

Nathan did not share this comment, in part, because it is too long for a comments section, and in part because this is such a tricky topic to speak about as a settler. In many ways, this Feminism from the Margins post is different from others because it is the margins aligning with the margins to speak to the centre, it is an attempt at allyship and accompliceship from a position of different marginalization.

Nathan wrote:

I wanted to respond to these comments, because I am working on decolonizing practices and incorporating them into my everyday life. Using my privilege to comment, as a settler, on news articles and social media is one small way I am learning how to be clear and unapologetic about pointing out ways in which individuals are reinforcing the oppression of indigenous people while also trying to keep people (in this case settlers) engaged in thinking about how what they have said is out of line with how they might think of themselves as good people.

I do not do this often, because as someone experiencing disability, and as a non-binary transperson of mixed race, I do and have experienced an amount of violence on these threads, and I still struggle to read them.

I am writing about how, as settlers, we are expecting that Indigenous people, who are still in the same generation of people with direct experience of residential schools, let alone having descended from parents and grandparents who were in those schools — schools that were so harsh, in part, in order to make Indigenous people more like white people — we are expecting people who experienced abuse and torture to heal. I think we use the phrase: ‘get over it’.

And, I can see a good intention there. Trauma that isn’t transformed gets transmitted. But, being human, we all know how hard the work of transformation is.

Having never attended a residential school, nor having been raised in whole or part by someone who has, in a community of people who have, I can only think about this from an outside perspective and in terms of analogies.

It seems to me that for many years, Indigenous people have had their suffering denied, and in fact have been told that they should be grateful for their treatment, and this seems to me somehow related to the way that many marginalized people are denied self-knowledge and accurate medical care.

So, Indigenous people have worked to find language for a problem that was imposed on them and then denied by the people who imposed the problem.

When something similar happens to anyone, for example, a person seeking medical care for anything related to a brain (trauma, concussion, mental illness, injury), first we experience our health problem, and then we learn about it, and then we accept we have to do something to address it, then maybe we plan, and then we take a first action. And often, this first action is met with resistance by people in power. And sometimes also met with internal resistance, because we have not learned how to trust our own self-knowledge, and even our own dignity, or even our own integrity. I know many people who can attest to this. Many people’s experience of this is denied because doctors are supposed to be the experts, and people’s self-knowledge is often denied. As Indigenous self-knowledge has been repeatedly denied, and rendered invisible, both by people in power and people watching from the outside.

This can happen even with the best of intentions, and even by people who are well-trained in their fields. This can happen even with the best of intentions, and even within people who think of themselves as strong, who do not like to complain or raise a ruckus. The invisibilization of Indigenous experiences has been baked into our education systems, our political systems, our healthcare systems. I’m not making this analogy in an effort to devalue the knowledge of doctors, policy makers, and other authority figures, but rather to note that sometimes things are missed, and by things, I mean people and their experiences. These missing people and their experiences then become rendered as non-existent, non-compliant, or insignificant outlier rather than acknowledged as missing. Unacknowledged people and their experiences are being overwritten by what is often called the ‘common-sense’ understanding of how things are into the fabric of Hallowe’en costumes, postcards, snow globes, the names of roads, healthcare policy, access to housing and clean water.

It seems to me, that Indigenous people have a hundreds-year long history of being taken from, spoken for, and assimilated into settler culture and, it seems that Indigenous people are doing the work they need to in order to assess, make plans, and take action toward healing.

It seems to me that Indigenous people have a 112 year long wound that has been inflicted and re-inflicted on them, and that has been denied over and over, and that one part of this wound – the residential schools – only officially ended 22 years ago. Through this time, they have had the experience of being told their personal integrity is inferior to settler integrity, and that their dignity cannot be earned from us, no matter the effort.

If Indigenous people do have a history of experiencing undignified treatment and are taking collective and individual acts of integrity to reinforce the boundary of dignity, then, it seems to me, we are the people who can either acknowledge this fact or continue a history of denial.

I cannot undo hundreds of years of colonization. But I can do present day work to separate the past and present by taking a stand with my own integrity and saying: Indigenous people are calling for these costumes to be taken off store shelves, they are calling the their right to sacred practice, which is parodied in these costumes, to be restored to them.

I cannot change what a priest at St. Anne’s might have done, but I can choose to not buy a halloween headdress, or white sage, with almost no effort.

Like, I had to listen to someone explain why these costumes are a problem. Which took three minutes of time. And then simply not buy something.

This is much less dedication than it takes for me to make breakfast in the morning.

No one person can give another their dignity. But when someone, like Michelle is doing, stands up to claim it, I can certainly listen, consider the information, and support her in claiming it.

I can work to acknowledge and honour the history.

And I am delighted to do so.

I have noticed that many people do not share my delight or my perspective. And so I am wondering if you can help me understand the needs that are informing your frustration and anger and irritation.

I do not want to change your mind. And I do not want you to change mine. Because we could only ever both be defensive in that context, we could only ever fight: me to be heard, and you to be right, or vice versa. So, let us speak in the space between minds. In the pause that exits between attack and counter-attack. We just have a split-second, don’t you see?

Let’s pause it right here.

I would like to know more about your integrity. About what makes you the good person you are and how that lines up with what you have written here today.

I do not expect much in the way of exchange here. This is a comment section after all, but, I thought I would ask. Maybe there is some wounding in your world, maybe some healing transformation you are trying to make that I am not seeing.

Please help me understand.

Now. Don’t kid yourself. We cannot stay in this place of pause forever. At some point, we will each have to decide in thought, word, and action where we will land. What side we will end up on. But, for now, we have a moment, a breath, five minutes between meetings to ask ourselves if our thoughts, words, and actions are lining up with our intentions and our values.

People writing these comments wrote of Halloween as: fun, of costumes being celebrations of beauty. I agree. As we consider what Hallowe’en costumes we will and will not purchase, let them be fun, let them be beautiful, let them be celebrations of our intentions and values. Let them be on the right side of history.


Further reading:

  • From Michelle Robinson: ‪In light of the Truth and Reconciliation’s 94 Calls to Action; Business and Reconciliation, Call 92, Section iii, we the undersigned hereby demand Spirit Halloween LLC, End All Sales of Racist Indigenous Costumes #cdnpoli #IndigPoli‬ Sign the change.org petition.
  • Michelle Robinson’s podcast interview with Naomi Sayers of Kwe Today.
  • Native Appropriations by Adrienne Keene is an important blog about native representation and the appropriation of native cultures.
  • Âpihtawikosisân blog by Chelsea Vowel, particularly these posts on the topic of costumes.

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!

Lies, Damn Lies and White Feminism: guest post

Lies, Damn Lies and White Feminism: guest post

Image description: A single sunflower growing against a concrete wall.

Editor’s note: As the co-curator of this series, one thing I’ve realized over the last seven months is that when space is held for the anger that marginalized folks feel towards mainstream white feminism, that anger flows and along with it comes critical, valuable insight into how to do better. Before this project, I knew that tone policing the anger of marginalized communities was a problem because of how it harmed those communities – being silenced is further violence. SINCE this project, I am realizing how tone policing that anger also harms privileged communities because it cuts us off from the wisdom that folks have to share. This post is angry, and the author worked for months to get it written because she has experienced so much harm when she’s tried to bring up these topics before. I am incredibly honoured to host this piece, despite – no, because! – I have been guilty of so many of the racist behaviours she calls out. If you’re a white feminist and you end up reading this and needing to process it, reach out to other white folks for that emotional labour. I’m available, and so are lots of other folks.

This is a guest post by an anonymous Black woman. She is writing anonymously because she has lived experience of the backlash that can result from speaking openly about these issues.

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


Did you know Black women have superhuman strength? We feel neither fear nor pain and do not suffer (at least not to the same degree as you do), so we cannot be harmed as much as you. This makes us perfect warriors for causes that primarily benefit you. We are eager to give our labour to you without expecting or needing reciprocity. In fact, it’s an honour to do all the things for you. Our needs are always negotiable because we don’t really need things as much as you and it would be unfair to expect you to accommodate our needs or fight for our rights, especially if that interferes with your comfort because dammit, you’re marginalized too.

We don’t expect or need fairness from you because it’s not like we need that to the same extent you do. Your whiteness does not bestow any power or privilege on you that our being strong and sassy doesn’t more than make up for. We are totally okay with being your Black friend, to be trotted out as evidence that you are not racist. It’s not like we even notice you doing this and it has no effect on our ability to trust you. In fact, we don’t need you to be loyal or trustworthy because that would be demanding too much labour from you and dammit, you’re marginalized too.

It’s okay for our interactions and the division of labour between us to be decided by you or on your terms because you’re a natural leader, objective and fair. We don’t need the same rights you do – they can be substituted for nice gestures and we won’t even notice. We need you to teach us and rescue us from things, because you know better than we do, even when it is about our experiences and not yours. When you benefit, we all benefit. Your needs are representative of all women’s, because you’re marginalized too.

We will always be available when you need attention and validation. We conveniently don’t have needs that we should not be willing to sacrifice for your comfort, because solidarity. You are fragile and innocent, so it’s okay for your learning to cost us our safety and wellbeing. We have no problem with you taking out your petty jealousies and insecurities on us, because that’s not really what you’re doing. We are responsible for managing our emotions as well as yours. It’s okay for you to centre yourself and your needs in every space and situation at the expense of WOC because you can’t help it and anyway, you’re marginalized too.

It’s okay to want to smash the patriarchy and dismantle White Supremacy until those powerful White men act in ways that benefit you. It’s okay to throw the rest of us under the bus because we are too demanding anyway. We don’t mind when you point at us and cry because you’re just trying to be heard. You don’t intend for us to be brutalized or killed as a result. You’re not like those other White women who weaponize their tears because dammit, you’re marginalized too.

We will feel immediate kinship with you and trust you because you follow and repost Black people/pages on social media, are currently fucking a Black person, have Black children or just think Black people are cool and want one of your own. All of these things exempt any of your behaviour from being perceived as racist, because you’re woke as fuck and besides, you’re marginalized too.

We are not trying desperately to survive our marginalization; we also have the privilege of using the color of our skin to claim victimhood for the singular purpose of getting unfair advantages over you. We don’t mind your assumption that everyone has the luxury of doing that. The absence of Whiteness is just some minor inconvenience to us that doesn’t get us brutalized or killed. Don’t worry, we won’t upset, annoy or oppress you by calling you on your shitty, racist, exploitative, unjust behaviour because dammit, you’re marginalized too.

Hopefully by now you’ve caught the sarcasm and implication of bullshit-ery. Good.

So, you want to know how not to be a shitty, racist, fake-woke White person?

Well, brace yourself because here it comes. STOP. Do not pursue any kind of relationship with a POC until you are prepared to face some hard truths, and DO THE WORK to be less harmful and maybe even eventually truly inclusive. If you look around the room at any gathering of humans you’re enjoying yourself at and there are either no POC or only one, your group has a problem. No exceptions. I know your brain is starting to protest loudly along the lines of “But sometimes that happens without us planning it.” No, it doesn’t. Every racially homogenous group is the result of active or passive exclusion of others. If you were as uncomfortable in rooms with no POC in them as POC are, you would avoid being in them as studiously as we do.

Do not bombard a POC you’ve just met or barely know with your anti-racist/anti-oppression resume.

This includes plying us with ‘Gifts From A Woke White Person’ in exchange for being your ‘’POC friend, or worse, accommodating racist behaviour from you and your White friends and family, because gross. Gift those books written by POC to your White peeps. Better yet, read them yourself. We will figure out how to teach our children to love and value themselves. You go and teach yours how not to hate and devalue them. Deal? Gifts are not a substitute for rights or equity, and they never will be, so spare us the labour of having to smile and be polite about your patronizing, colonizing, benevolent racism. If the thought ever pops into your head to mention your POC friends, lover, children, etc. during a conversation with a POC you’ve just met, please just arrest that shit and do not allow it to escape through your mouth. We may react by smiling politely if you do any of the aforementioned, but we’re really imagining your head on a spike outside the tower of STOP YOUR NONSENSE. Not really, but my point is, it’s incredibly offensive.

If a POC can tolerate your presence long enough or trust you enough to risk calling you on any kind of shitty behaviour, understand that they are taking an enormous risk and have decided your clueless ass might actually be worth it. Don’t make them regret it by getting all ‘in your feels’ and defensive, and accusing them of not liking, or worse, oppressing you. Do not try to be in any POC’s space if you aren’t prepared to respect their boundaries or be called on your shitty, racist behaviour. If what you want is to be fed ally cookies and reassured that you’re not racist, that is racist AF. Smile, wave, and keep your oppressive ass moving in the direction of books, documentaries, artwork, etc. by POC or White Nonsense Roundup.

Never, ever use having challenges (disability, mental health, etc.) as an excuse for not being willing to do the work of confronting and addressing your racism. There are POC folks with visible and invisible disabilities dealing with the same shit PLUS racism. There are way too many POC folks living with serious mental health issues, many of which are exacerbated by our experience of racism, and with fewer resources because of systemic racism. Everything you are dealing with, valid as it is, we also deal with. And we deal with racism too.

If you ever find yourself throwing out a counter-accusation of harm when a POC is calling you on harmful behaviour towards them, just STOP. There are serious consequences for POC who dare to point out racist behaviour (right up to losing our lives) ESPECIALLY when we call out ‘progressive’ White people who consider themselves ‘woke’. Really, y’all are THE FUCKING WORST when it comes to dishing out counter-accusations and punishment in epic fits of fragility and saltiness. POC have highly developed bullshit-o-meters when it comes to detecting White nonsense. It’s how we survive living among you (those of us who manage to survive, anyway).

Expect us to call bullshit and shut all the way down if you frame resistance to harm as an attempt to harm you. Using accusations of ableism in a discussion about racism is racist as fuck. Just…NO. These may be important conversations, but when they are presented as: “I can’t do better because of X, Y, Z challenge and you expecting me to is ableist” we know you are refusing to acknowledge your own harmful behaviour and turning us into the aggressor. You’re asking us to make your challenge/s the most important one/s so that everyone else must prioritize accommodating it/them, even if that is harmful to someone else. Don’t bring your bullshit Oppression Olympics into a conversation about racism. White women are hands down the fucking worst for doing this, owing to the infusion of White womanhood with the expectation of automatic victimhood. If you are expecting any POC to accommodate your challenge/s at the expense of their safety or wellbeing, you are being racist AF. Stop it.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is rarely the case that a POC in your life has fewer challenges than you do or that they struggle any less with their challenges than you do with yours. Not being whiny and entitled is not the same as not struggling or feeling intense pain. We manifest pain differently because society has taught us that our pain doesn’t matter. And being noisy about it results in reprimand because having to acknowledge our pain, and ultimately our equal humanity, makes White people uncomfortable. Learn to recognize those differences. It will help you be less harmful and maybe even earn the trust of a POC.

It is not my responsibility to accommodate harmful behaviour at the expense of my wellbeing. We just don’t care for measuring who is the biggest victim, or who gets to use their struggle as a shield against having to work on their shit. That is YOUR preoccupation. Stop projecting your shit on to us. There is no benefit to POC from engaging in Oppression Olympics. Our communities are extremely internally diverse in terms of needs and ability, and we mostly manage to figure it out without there needing to be any competition. Try to remember that being the biggest victim has no appeal to people who do not expect to be accommodated or have their needs considered, let alone prioritized. Trying to force a POC to justify their need for you to be less harmful by pointing out your challenges in an attempt to guilt them into silence and acceptance of that behaviour is entitled and abusive.

So, what can you say instead? Try: “Because of X, Y, Z, challenge/s it will be harder for me to make the changes necessary to be less harmful. But I am committed to making these changes and would appreciate an explanation of how my behaviour is harmful or guidance with developing and implementing a strategy for addressing it, would you be able to do that or recommend some resources?” We are fucking exhausted all the time but we will dig deep and find the energy to point you in the direction of ‘less harmful’ if that’s what you genuinely want to be. Being able to breathe a bit more freely around you is worth that to us. That being said, do not ever demand our labour or accommodation. You are not entitled to either. They may be freely given and received in reciprocal relationships – the kind you have been socialized not to have with POC but can happen if you are genuinely interested.

White women, do not call yourself an intersectional feminist if you expect WOC to devote an iota of our energy to doing anything that benefits you without first being prepared to address your racism. I, for one, am DONE listening to any White woman complain about how much you are struggling or what I can do to accommodate you without your active demonstration of willingness to address your racism, and White Supremacy’s thirst for hierarchy and dominance over POC bodies. I am tired of your lies and duplicity. I am uninterested in your empty promises that you will focus on addressing your racism just as soon I do what is necessary to make you more comfortable. You cannot be trusted to hold up your end of the bargain. I make that statement with the weight of a history behind it that names you a damned liar.

Own your white feminism, and be prepared to do the work to be truly intersectional in your practice, or stay the hell away from me. You are not my sister or my friend until you do what is necessary to earn my trust.


Further reading:


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!

Three Variations on a Conversation: cis- and heteronormativity in medical settings – guest post

Three Variations on a Conversation: cis- and heteronormativity in medical settings – guest post

Image description: A head-and-shoulders portrait of Beatrice in a formal dress with brunette hair in an up-do. The portrait is by Lorna Dancey photography.

This is a guest post by Beatrice Aucoin. Beatrice is a breast cancer survivor and queer writer originally from Cape Breton. She makes her home in downtown Calgary with her wife, Brett Bergie; their son, Sam; and their cat, Tom. You can find both Beatrice and Tom on instagram.

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


“And Brett, he works at?” the doctor asks.

I somehow don’t groan. Not this again, I think. It feels like every conversation I have with a new medical professional joining my breast cancer team reaches this same point. I’ve written on the intake forms who Brett is to me, but it’s always glossed over until I say it out loud. Maybe one day my life won’t feel like I’m always coming out against being assumed straight with a cis partner.

“She,” I say.

“Oh yes, I can see ‘chief’ as part of the job title–“ she begins, having misheard me.

“Brett’s a woman, my wife,” I blurt out. “She’s trans.”

The psychiatrist looks up at me from where he’s furiously scribbling notes.

He’s just asked me how long my husband and I have been married.

“My apologies,” he says.

There’s an awkward pause between us.

“It’s okay,” he says.

Why would I think it’s not okay? I don’t need anyone’s reassurance that my marriage is okay for existing.

“I’m gay and been with my husband for 20 years,” he continues.

Then why would he use a gendered term and assume my partner is of the opposite sex? The answer pops into my mind as quickly as I’ve thought of the question: paradigms of straightness and everyone being cis are so engrained in medical culture that even a gay psychiatrist assumes that my cis female self has a cis male partner.

“That’s awesome,” I tell him on his own marriage. It is awesome, and we LGBTQ2+ folx need to hear that being ourselves is awesome. We live in a world where so many people tell us we are wrong for existing. It was only a few months ago outside of our own home that someone told Brett and me, “That’s disgusting,” for holding hands.

“Brett and I have been married for 12 years,” I say proudly.

After I establish that Brett is a woman and my wife and the person I’m speaking to apologizes to me for getting Brett’s gender wrong, we come the second point in this conversation. I have a son named Sam, and medical professionals always seem to need to know how exactly he came to be in the world. Knowing whether or not I’ve had a biological child is important to discussing my overall health and does affect understanding what went into me ending up with breast cancer at 36. But except for genetics counselling, I don’t know the relevance of essentially being asked who my baby daddy is. Maybe during one of these appointments if I don’t feel too agitated at having to come out yet again, I’ll feel comfortable enough to ask.

The genetics counsellor is looking with confusion at me. She spends much of her working life putting people into family trees that are coded in strict cisgender binaries. Squares are for men; circles are for women. I have just listened to her give a cisnormative lecture with a bunch of other people who are here for breast cancer genetic testing. My skin crawled the whole time because I worried I wouldn’t be safe coming out, and I ended up being paired afterward for a private consultation with the genetics counsellor who gave the lecture. My family blows up the circles and squares of the family tree. The genetics counsellor’s frown tells me she thinks I’ve filled out my family tree chart incorrectly.

“So how…” she begins.

“Is Brett the other biological parent?” the psychiatrist asks. (I happily note that he doesn’t use a gendered term here.)

“Is Sam adopted, or did you give birth to him?” the doctor asks.

“Brett is Sam’s biological father,” I tell all three of them. “She goes by dad with Sam and uses feminine nouns and pronouns, otherwise.”

I would like to be able to tell you that this medical coming-out conversation gets easier with time, but it doesn’t. Nor are these the only times I’ve had this conversation; these are just three recent examples of it. I get asked over and over to explain me and my family.

One day, I hope medical professionals think to use gender neutral terms in discussing a patient’s family and let patients decide from there whether to use gendered language or not. But until then, I’ll be having variations on this conversation. The more I have to explain how my family doesn’t fit with someone else’s preconceived notions of how a family is, the more emotionally exhausted I am.


Further reading:

Beatrice and I both had trouble finding further reading on this topic, because although it is an issue that comes up more frequently than folks realize, it’s not yet one that been written about extensively. I hope that will change!

For now, here are some links:


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!

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: