Reasons to join my Patreon: when I get super busy and forget to make the review/preview posts public until 2/3 of the way through the month, you’ll have already read it, so it won’t matter! And you’ll get access to the behind-the-scenes review/preview content that gets edited out of the public posts.
Alright! This post is way late, but better late than never! Want the recap on September, and what I thought October would look like? Here it is! (October has turned out quite a bit busier than this anticipated, but that’s a story for a different post.)
21 days ago, when this was first written, it was October 1.
On September 30, the Tender Year ended. This is a huge thing – the Tender Year has been a full year-long project, and I feel… I feel a lot of things at this ending! But I also feel like this project ended at a moment when I am mid-marathon, and so it has just dropped out of my life but I don’t have time to pause and honour that. I can’t take a couple days to process, sit with what I’ve learned and how this project has changed me. So, my goal is that I will take this time… eventually. I’m not sure when.
But that’s forward to the preview, so let’s start with the review.
Early in September, I spent a whole day with Michelle Robinson and her family. I didn’t write a post about this, but this was an incredible experience. I had reached out to Michelle because I have been exploring my own spiritual practices, and had a question:
If it is true that my spirituality is connected to being present in the physical world, connected to nature in some way (which I have learned that it is),
And it is true that I am a settler on this land that I am connected to,
And it is true that plants are part of my spirituality,
And it is true that some plants are part of Indigenous spirituality, which I have no right to,
And bringing in non-indigenous plant species is tied to colonialism and could be further violence against the land,
Then how do I practice my spirituality respectfully – honouring the plants that are here on this land where I am a settler, without appropriating in ways that perpetuate ongoing colonial violence.
This is an ongoing process of exploration, and I am thankful to Michelle for her part in helping me figure this out. You can read more about this in the Patreon post, but it doesn’t feel right to share it more publicly at this time.
I also spent a lot of time working on my practice innovation project for the Masters program. I hadn’t narrowed down my focus between “using narrative practices to navigate ‘too much of a good thing’ experiences” and “using narrative practices with polyamorous communities” even last month, but in September I realized that I really did have to make a decision so that I could start writing the final paper.
I picked polyamory, for a few reasons:
First, I’ll continue the other project regardless, just a bit slower. So it didn’t feel like a very high-stakes decision, since I know that I will end up doing both.
Second, I am helping coordinate the Horizons: Conference on Polyamory and Non-monogamies in November, so it made sense to get two uses out of one project – the oral presentation that I’ll give in Adelaide at the end of this month, I will also give (though slightly expanded) in Calgary in November.
And third, I am really keen to expand the pool of resources for therapists working with the polyamorous community, because right now it is deeply lacking and this has real and tangible impacts on polyamorous folks who are looking for support.
So, to this end, I conducted both interviews and narrative therapy sessions on the topic of polyamory. I wish that I’d had more narrative therapy sessions, but that’s just not how it worked out. I really do need to figure out my marketing – I posted the call for participants once, and then never re-shared it. *facepalm*
I did 38 hours of narrative therapy this month, which is still shy of my goal, but getting there.
For those of you who are curious or interested, I do still have some of the “37 for $37” narrative sessions available (this was a promotion I ran for my birthday – charging $37 for a session in honour of my 37th birthday).
(Mid-October update: I did not write my paper on polyamory at all. I wrote it on using narrative practices to respond to the current political situation, and that is also what I’ll be presenting on at the teaching block.)
Events and Groups
September was full of events.
I planned to run the Resilience self-care salon with my sister on Sept 9, though nobody showed up, so we just chatted. I’m really looking forward to collaborations with Domini, so keep an eye for those coming in the future.
I ran the Possibilities discussion event, with the topic of “how we got through,” on Sept 18 and it was phenomenal. I am still working on pulling the resource based on our discussion together (and am leaning to a simple blog post rather than a full PDF, just because these projects accumulate faster than I can finish them!). I really loved this conversation, and some parts of it have stuck with me all month. You can read one of my reflections on this conversation in this long Facebook post. (I feel like I should be pulling more of those posts into blog posts, but I haven’t figured out a flow for that yet.)
I also ran the Bi+ Visibility Event on September 23, and it was amazing. We had a panel discussion that I was really proud of, lots of people attended and seemed to have a great time, the informational postcards turned out great, and the poetry event was small but lovely. I would like to write up a blog post about this, but haven’t had time because…
I woke up September 24, looked at the news, and realized that the following week was going to be horrific. So I threw together an impromptu self-care support group for anyone who wanted to join (we ended up with 10 participants). All week, from the 24th to the 30th, I sent out two emails each day checking in. We also had two online group chats, and one in-person tea-and-pastries chat yesterday morning. This was a really successful experience, in my opinion (and based on the feedback I’ve gotten), and at the conversation yesterday we talked about how to extend this work into the coming year, since with all of the elections coming up, it is likely to be stressful AF. I have ideas about how to do that, and I’ll write about those when we talk about October. I am also considering taking the emails and turning them into a little downloadable PDF that could be used as a “do-it-yourself” one-week self-care support. (Mid-October update: this group is what developed into the project I wrote my paper on, which Patreon supporters have access to!)
The last event of the month was the coffee chat for the Very Professional: Marginalized Professionals group. This happened on Sept 29, and I’m planning on these to be monthly. There is also a secret Facebook group (to maintain people’s privacy), so if you’d like to be added to that, let me know! I am still working out the logistics of how this group will run, but the original idea was that it would be a subscription-based support group for professionals (meaning people in “professional” careers, where the heavy expectations of gendered/abled/educated/classed/raced professionalism come into play).
I wrote one paper for the Masters program (which hasn’t been graded yet), and most definitely did not keep up with my other writing goals. At all.
Onward to October!
I did honour the ending of the Tender Year in one small way – I started a new planner today.
(A planner, open to this week, with a task-pad on it.)
Here’s what’s coming up:
October 5, 8 am: The Art of Narrative Practice essay is due. This is meant to describe, using one exemplary practice story, how I am adapting narrative practice to my specific context. I have gone through at least a dozen different outlines of this, and have no idea how to do this effectively or well. This is worth a significant percentage of my grade, and I am a ball of anxiety. One of my classmates participated in the one-week self-care group and suggested that I should write the essay on that, but since I have to demonstrate how my narrative work shifted a community member’s experience of their problem, or resulted in their feeling more connected to a preferred story of themselves or their lives or their agency within their lives, and I didn’t really do “how is this group impacting you” interviews, I don’t know how to do this. So, I don’t think I will. But it was a big confidence boost to see that a colleague sees me using narrative in innovative and effective ways!
October 8, 8 am: The draft of my Narrative Practice and Research Synthesis paper is due. This is the draft version of my final paper, and although it will not be graded, it is a big deal. And I am definitely not ready. At all. *gulp*
October 14, 1:30-3:30: I’ll be hosting the No spoons left, only knives: Honouring our anger narrative workshop. This is in response to what has been happening in the news in the last couple weeks.
October 15: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I will be resharing the collective document that I generated last year. You can find it here – it is a queer and trans-inclusive resource, and this is still a significant gap in the available resources for families and individuals who have experienced this kind of loss. If you do have a chance to read over it and you would either like to share your story, or make suggestions for content that should be included, let me know. I have set aside 5 hours on the 12th to work on this document.
October 16, 6:30-8:30: I’ll be hosting the Possibilities October discussion, and I have not set a topic yet. Ideas? Things you’d really like to discuss or see a resource (eventually) created about? Let me know. I’m setting up the event tomorrow.
October 17, 9 pm: Get on a plane and fly to Australia. (!!!!!!!)
Sometime during the week of October 29-November 2: 30 minute oral presentation on my practice innovation project
October 29: Submit research poster on the topic of my practice innovation project
October 31: Dinner with the team heading up with trans and queer youth clinic at the family therapy clinic in Adelaide, because Rosie and I have been staying in touch about their work getting this up and running, and the Dulwich Centre has authorized Rosie to hire me as a peer consultant for her work. (I have started to do some of this – there are now two therapists who consult me on topics related to transgender, queer, or polyamorous folks. That’s kind of exciting, hey?!)
So, between now and VERY SOON, I have to get a lot of writing done, come up with both my oral presentation and my poster, host a couple events, and keep up with my narrative therapy sessions (and hopefully book more of those!)
I am also working on another event, which I’d like to run before I leave.
When everything was happening with the Kavanaugh hearings, I wrote to David Denborough and Cheryl White at the Dulwich and said:
I wondered if you have any thoughts about how to pull together some kind of narrative response or project re: what’s happening with yesterday’s hearing and today’s news that Kavanaugh will most likely be confirmed.
I wondered, particularly, if there were any narrative projects or responses to what happened with Anita Hill and how that impacted people? Or other narrative responses to situations where a great injustice has been carried out in very public ways like this. The George Zimmerman trial, similar. It feels like this happens pretty often.
I don’t really know what to look up, in terms of how to find maps, or ideas for projects, or what to do. And I know lots of people are responding – the responses are both crushing and heartening – but I also see that a lot of folks are talking about feeling helpless, unable to act, disconnected from a sense of agency. There is so much hurt this week. (I mean, always. But this week has been particularly hard, as we see the rape apologists just crawling out of the woodwork.)
We are all bystanders, but we are watching something that symbolizes and crystalizes lived experiences. I don’t know how to support myself or my communities in response to this. Particularly after the news of Jeff Flake’s decision to support the nomination this morning. Calling our politicians hasn’t done anything, it seems. I don’t want to individualize responses into simple “self-care” but also… I don’t know what else to do.
And it’s just, my communities are experiencing such intense retraumatizing this week. Yesterday and today especially. And I think, there must be something? I know there are ways to respond. I just don’t know what they are or how to do them. I wondered if you might have an idea, or even just some papers I could read to start thinking about what I could do.
I put together a little “emergency survival” group on Monday and we’ve been doing daily check-ins, but I feel like I want to do something more? I don’t know. I want to do something with my hands other than hold all this grief and fear.
You both have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to putting together responses to crisis and tragedy and so I thought I’d ask about whether you have ideas, or if you know other folks who are working on this that I could support or contribute to their work, or anything like that.
Thank you. Even if there’s nothing, I really appreciate that narrative therapy has given me new ways to think through problems. Your work makes such a difference.
David wrote back and had some really great suggestions for a letter writing event, and some other potential directions for using narrative practice to respond.
I love these suggestions, so I will be putting together an event for folks to collectively view both Dr. Ford’s testimony and also the video of Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher confronting Flake in the elevator, and then facilitate a narrative conversation about this and generate letters that can be shared with Dr. Ford and Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, and also perhaps posted as open letters available to other survivors.
I am still working on the details of this, but I feel strongly that I want to pull this together and that it’s important. And then, going forward, I want to figure out how to create some kind of narrative project that does the work David outlines, of challenging, and making visible, and making visible the resistances to, and that can “problematize dominant gendered discourses of ‘pliability, friendliness, flirtatiousness, sexual availability, forgiveness’.” But that will wait until after I get back from Adelaide.
(Mid-October update: I did run this event, it was fantastic, and I will be writing it up for the next preview/review post!)
A big month past, and a big month ahead.
I do want to say, there are some new Patreon supporters this month and that means so much to me!!!
Image description: A picture of a forest. Text below reads You Are Not Alone Stories, thoughts, and resources after the loss of a pregnancy or child.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
Last year, one of my friends noted that the available resources were incredibly gendered, heteronormative, cisnormative, and overwhelmingly white. This is still the case, although it is slowly getting better. There are still very few resources that feature people of colour, bisexual people, trans people, disabled or fat people. More work needs to be done.
Creating resources that help serve the margins is exactly the goal of my Patreon, and it’s why I do what I do, so we came up with a plan last year, reached out to contributors, and spent ten days pulling together something that I am really proud of.
This resource is not perfect. Although this is the second draft, the updates were minimal this year because of my Masters program, and it is still not as inclusive as it needs to be. Our goal is to reissue the resource each year with an expanded selection of personal stories, and a refined resources section. If you would like to have your story included in the next issue, let me know.
You Are Not Alone
Stories, thoughts, and resources after the loss of a pregnancy or child
Updated for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day | 2018
This document was first created in 2017 as a response to loss resources that are highly gendered, and that implicitly assume their readers are straight, white, and cisgender. It was also created to try and provide something free and easily accessible.
This is the second version, and we hope to reissue this document yearly with more and better information and resources. The biggest change in this version is the inclusion of some of Sean Longcroft’s drawings, generously shared with this project by Petra Boynton, the author of Coping with Pregnancy Loss. Petra’s book is highly recommended as a compassionate, comprehensive, inclusive resource, filled with more of Sean’s drawings. You can also find an earlier project Petro Boynton undertook at the Miscarriage Association site, where she collected resources for partners.
Although this resource attempts to be intentionally inclusive and anti-oppressive, the two primary collaborators – Tiffany Sostar and Flora – are both English-speaking white settler Canadians, with stable housing and strong social supports. Our privilege means that we are missing nuance, and we do not see what we’re not seeing. We are open to being corrected, and to hearing from people who do not see themselves represented in this document. You can reach Tiffany at email@example.com.
This document is designed to be a grief and loss resource, and we have included abortion stories and resources. However, we recognize that not every abortion is experienced as a loss or followed by grief. (This is true for miscarriages, too!) We also recognize that it is possible to feel grief without feeling regret, and this is true for any pregnancy loss, whether it’s abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, or adoption.
We are so thankful to the individuals who contributed to this document. Our call for contributors was met with courage and generosity by people who shared their stories despite the pain that telling the story brought up for them.
We are also thankful to Andi Johnson and Randi van Wiltenburg, both full-spectrum doulas in Calgary, Alberta, who contributed not only their personal stories but also a wealth of knowledge and information. Their professional contact information is listed in the resources section.
Parents we want to honour:
- Those who have lost a child to miscarriage
- Those who have lost a child to abortion
- Those who have lost a child to stillbirth
- Those who have lost a child after birth to medical illness
- Those who have lost a child after birth to adoption
- Those who have lost a child after birth to structural violence
- People of any gender identity
- People of any sexual orientation
- People of any relationship status and structure
- People of any race or culture
- People of any state of mental or physical health
- People of any religious belief
- People of any socioeconomic status
Download the 64-page PDF here.
Image description: A tweet, retweeted by Red Thunder Woman (@N8V_Calgarian).
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.
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.
- 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:
- All The Places You’ll Never Go, by Dulcinea Lapis
- An Open Love Letter to My Friends, by Michelle Dang
- Prioritizing, by Mel Vee
- Never Ever Follow Those White Kids Around – a brief personal history of race and mental health, by Mel Vee
- Living in the Age of White Male Terror, by Mel Vee
- I Will Not Be Thrown Away, by Mel Vee
- Selling Out the Sex Workers, by X
- Holding Hope for Indigenous Girls, by Michelle Robinson
- Three Variations on a Conversation: cis- and heteronormativity in medical settings, by Beatrice Aucoin
- Lies, Damn Lies, and White Feminism by anonymous
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!
Image description: Top panel, angry cat. Bottom panel, small flower growing beside a heart. Text reads: self-care group part two: anger and hope. one week facilitated community care group. Oct 8-14. firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
The first round of the self-care group was a success.
The news has not gotten easier, so we’re back for another week of daily check-ins, two group chats, and one in-person coffee for the Calgary folks.
The goal of this group* is to collect our skills and insider knowledges – those ways of surviving, caring for ourselves and each other, navigating hard times and deep injustices that we have learned – and to share those with each other. To create opportunities for connection, to foster solidarity and a sense of agency and action, and to hold space for the many different true stories of our current experience. Our hope *and* our anger. Our despair *and* our resilience.
You can participate in this group even if you don’t ever share anything. The opportunity to share is there, but there is no expectation.
You can expect narrative-informed questions to invite you into exploring your own story, links to resources, cute pictures, and some overly wordy rambling from me.
This group is open to anyone, regardless of location.
Register by sending me a message here, or an email at email@example.com.
Participation in this group is by optional donation.
* There is another goal, which is this: I have switched my focus for my major project in the Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program. I will still be working on narrative therapy and polyamory, but for now, I am going to focus on how narrative practices can help us navigate this current political context. Keep an eye on the Facebook page and this blog for event updates.