Autism Acceptance Month 2021

Autism Acceptance Month 2021

It’s Autism Acceptance Month, and this month matters a lot to me! There are a few things happening this month that you might be interested in.

First, to frame my own approach to this month:

I do my best to be actively inclusive of autism in my life and my work, not only because I love autistic people (and am neurodivergent myself), but also because I work in queer and trans community as a queer and trans person, and there is significant overlap between gender and sexuality diversity and neurodiversity, including autism (see this post at Spectrum on the topic).

Being ‘actively inclusive’ means listening to autistic voices. This means using identity-first language, not using the puzzle piece or ‘light it up blue’ images, not linking to or taking any guidance from Autism Speaks, rejecting ABA and all forms of coercive ‘behavioural’ therapy for autistic kids, honouring that the spectrum of autism includes folks who have a wide range of support needs and that people at every point on the spectrum deserve dignity and agency, and really considering how we can challenge ableism and neuronormativity in how we speak about and understand autism and autistic ways of being.

So, with that intro, here’s what’s happening this month!

Maybe the most exciting is that An Unexpected Light will be reading and talking about three pieces of short writing by autistic writer Ada Hoffmann this month. If you’re part of that course, you can join us for the chat on April 18! But I’m also including the study guide here, so that anybody can participate. It’s down below.

Shiny! a speculative writing group continues to meet every month. This offshoot from An Unexpected Light is open to anyone, and is free of charge. This month, our writing prompts will be drawn from the three pieces of writing featured in An Unexpected Light (and later in this post). We’re meeting on April 13 from 6-7:30 pm mountain time. We write together, with the opportunity (but not the obligation) to share and respond to each other’s just written work. It is a lovely time! Register for the zoom link and find more information here.

Possibilities: Bi+ Community Group will be talking about autism and/in the bi+ community on April 15 from 6:30-8 pm mountain time. You can find more information and register for the zoom link here.

And I’ll be talking about autism and narrative therapy with the narrative practitioner peer consultation group tomorrow!

Here’s the study guide, if you’d like to read some excellent pieces of writing along with me.

A small study guide for three pieces of writing by Ada Hoffmann

The first is her essay, ‘Towards a neurodiverse future: Writing an autistic heroine‘ at

The second, which I would consider a companion piece, is this twitter thread on writing worlds inhabited by autistic people.

(The essay primarily addresses character, and the thread primarily addresses setting – both are important!)

And finally, not story about autism but a story by an autistic author, her short story, ‘A spell to retrieve your lover from the bottom of the sea‘ at Strange Horizons.

Before reading, consider these ‘deconstructing discourse’ questions:

  • What commonly accepted ‘truths’ or ideas about autism have you encountered?
  • Do these commonly accepted ideas match your own experience with autism, or with community members who are autistic?
  • Where have these ideas come from? Who determines which stories about autism become accepted and which stories are dismissed? Whose voices are heard, and whose are missing?
  • Based on these ideas, what kind of person do you think might be autistic? Who might have an easier or harder time accessing a diagnosis? Which autistic experiences might be more or less visible?
  • Who is impacted by these ideas about autism? Do you think the impact of these ideas might be helpful, harmful, or both?
  • What do these ideas about autism make possible in terms of available actions, ways of speaking about experience, or understanding ourselves and each other? What might become possible if these ideas changed, or if more nuance was added?
  • Are these ideas about autism in line with your values, or what you believe about how we should speak about and treat each other?

The goal of these questions is to really examine what we “know” about autism, because for many of us, unless we are autistic or have intentionally sought out autistic voices, so much of what we learn about autism comes through poor representation in media, or through highly pathologized and medicalized models of neurodiversity. Ideas about autistic folks “lacking empathy”, or stereotypes of autism as an issue for young, white, middle-class boys, or stories of autism that centre the experiences and voices of neurotypical parents and professionals rather than centering the voices of autistic folks themselves – these are all incredibly common, and cause real harm.

‘Deconstructing discourse’ questions is a practice I learned from both queer, trans, and feminist spaces, and also from narrative practice spaces. These specific questions were adapted from the series of questions offered in the BPD Superpowers document.

While reading the essay and twitter thread, consider:

  • What stands out to you in Ada Hoffmann’s essay or twitter thread about who might populate a neurodiverse world, and what their lives might be like?
  • Is there anything that surprises you in the essay or the twitter thread, or that you hadn’t thought of previously?
  • In the essay, she writes, “I also know the peculiar pain of stories that seem to betray an author’s contempt for autistic people, their belief that we’re emotionless or wretchedly irritating or just not quite human.” To me, this is the most critical reason we must examine what we’ve been taught and what we think we know about people who are pushed to the margins and subjected to medicalizing and pathologizing discourses (including ourselves, in some instances!) But particularly for neurotypical writers of autistic characters, there is the risk that in an effort to write someone unlike us in ways that will be legible, sometimes we write in ways that are incredibly painful and harmful – leaning on stereotypes that we don’t realize are wrong, or representing people in ways that are hurtful.
  • In the twitter thread, Hoffmann talks about how to include high-support people in an autistic world while maintaining their dignity and agency. This seems so important to me, because writing a truly neurodiverse world means more than just highlighting the easy and pleasant aspects of neurodivergence. Acknowledging challenges with executive function, and including people who have higher support needs, but doing this in dignifying and honouring ways feels like one of the most important aspects of writing visionary fiction.
  • In the essay, she writes about autistic villains. I love this part! I appreciate the care she brings to this, recognizing how autistic villains can work in harmful ways and align with stereotypes that vilify autistic people, but also recognizing that well-written autistic villains can work really well. What is your initial reaction to this idea? (My own reaction was that I would love to see more of these characters written by autistic authors, but not by neurotypical authors. When I examine this reaction, it’s related to how I don’t want to see queer or trans villains written by cis or straight authors because that aligns too easily with the ways in which trans and queer folks are vilified in dominant culture. And, of course, this desire to see only #ownvoices villains is problematic, because it demands that authors always be ‘out’. Layers and layers!)

While reading the short story, consider:

  • What stands out to you in this story? What particular images or phrases stick with you?
  • What do you think of the three possible futures?
  • How does Hoffmann maintain hope in this story, if you think that she does?
  • Is there anything about this story that changes how you think about your own life?

For me, the idea of respecting when someone says no to help was really powerful, and deepened my thinking about autonomy.

In a recent training with Vikki Reynolds, she said something like, “autonomy and paternalism are always in conflict, and many helping agencies are deeply paternalistic.” During Autism Acceptance Month especially, questioning whether the help we are offering or the help being offered to the autistic folks in our lives, aligns with autonomy or paternalism feels critically important.

In the story, Hoffmann writes, “When he says “don’t,” you must stop. That sounds obvious, but it will not be. It is such a small step from helping someone to hurting them, against their will, for what you think is their good. You have been hurt like that before. Take that step even once and he will be lost to you.”

I read this, and thought about ABA, and about all of the coercive therapies offered to autistic kids. “It is such a small step from helping someone to hurting them, against their will, for what you think is their good.”

I want to scream this from the rooftops all through Autism Acceptance Month. All through every month. Until every person who holds the power to help and forgets that it is also the power to hurt hears it, knows it, acts on it.

What are you doing to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month? Who are you listening to, learning from, and being influenced by?

Trans Day of Visibility 2021

Trans Day of Visibility 2021

Today is Trans Day of Visibility! Visibility is so important and so complex.

(I wrote about self-care and visibility / invisibility / hypervisibility in this 2017 blog post. And you can see me being visible today as part of Skipping Stone’s ’24 Stories in 24 Hours’ event. I’ll be interviewed at 1:30 pm mountain time, and you can watch here.)

No matter how visible you are or are not today, trans friend, know that you are loved.

Trans Day of Visibility can be hard for folks who are not ‘out’, for whom visibility is either undesirable or unattainable. It can also be hard for folks who are hypervisible, who never have the option to not be visible.

Visibility is so important, but when the focus is placed on individuals to ‘be visible’, rather than on everyone to learn how to see more clearly the diversity of the world around us, it can be a further injustice. And when visibility is the goal we’re supposed to achieve, but we are also punished if we’re too visible, this is also an injustice.

It is not the job of any individual to change the social context that pushes us away from visibility or that turns a hostile constant gaze on us.

It is our collective job to do the work of seeing more clearly, more richly, more fully, more kindly.

Ask yourself today:

  • Who am I seeing?
  • Have I always seen these people?
  • How have I learned to see the people that I see?
  • Do I see these people with kindness and care?
  • How have I learned to see people kindly?
  • Who has supported me in this learning?
  • Who sees me with kindness and care?
  • Who might I not be seeing?
  • How can I learn to see more fully?

These questions matter. Do you see trans people of colour? Do you see non-binary people? Do you see disabled trans people? Do you see homeless trans people? Do you see trans kids? Trans parents? Trans grandparents? Trans doctors and academics and car mechanics and dentists and therapists and teachers and nurses and students and professors and politicians and activists and librarians and video gamers and athletes? Do you know, with the kind of knowing that becomes second nature, that we have always been here, that we are part of the rich fabric of every society?

Who is within your frame?

How can you widen your frame?

And if you are a trans person and you don’t feel yourself to be richly and meaningfully seen, just know that it’s not your fault. It’s not on you. It’s on all of us to widen our frame enough to include you in it. That’s our job. That’s what we owe each other.

One way you can widen your frame is to learn how to imagine different worlds, and more just futures. If you’d like to do that, you might like An Unexpected Light, the online course in narrative therapy and speculative fiction that I facilitate. You can find more information here and you can use code TDoV for 25% off the cost.

On Trans Day of Remembrance in 2018, today’s grief-focused parallel event, Possibilities got together to write a letter of support to the trans community. You can find that letter, along with many others, in the Letters of Support to the Trans Community zine, which you can download here.

I’m sharing that letter again here.

Dearest tender trans friend,

This letter is the collective effort of part of the Possibilities Calgary Bi+ Community, who met on November 20, 2018, Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience. Some of us are transgender and some of us are cisgender. We met on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot and the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta (Calgary), which includes the Siksika, the Piikuni, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations. This land is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.

We recognize and honour the Indigenous people whose land we live and work and organize on, and we are interested in knowing what land you are on, too.

We don’t know who you are, but we do know that we care about you. We know that the world is hard and scary, especially for trans women, and especially for trans women of colour. We know that it can be hard and scary for anyone who is trans or gender non-conforming.

We care about you, whoever you are.

We care about you, no matter what your gender is.

We care about you, even if the only place you’re “out” is in the mirror.

We know that you are responding with skill and resourcefulness to the problems and hardships that you face.

We wonder, what kinds of problems are you facing? We’re curious about this, because we know that sometimes people assume that the only problems trans folks have are to do with gender. But we have some experience with being queer and/or trans, and we realize that sometimes the problems in our lives have nothing to do with that! We are more than just our gender. We know that some trans folks are disabled, some are neurodivergent, some are Black or brown or Indigenous, some are poor, or unhomed, or working through school. We support trans folks no matter what else is going on in your life! And we know that sometimes problems have nothing to do with identity. Sometimes it’s about our jobs, or our art, or a fight with our best friend. Whatever is happening in your life, we know that it’s probably a lot more rich and nuanced than trans stereotypes.

We know that you are the expert in your own life; you know more than anyone else who you are and what you need. We also know that sometimes that means all you know is that you’re searching for answers. That’s okay, too! You still know more than anyone else about your own experience and your own values, hopes, and dreams. It’s still your story even if you don’t know who you are.

We trust you.

You are bringing skill and insider knowledge to your life, and you are getting through. The reason we know this is because you’re reading this letter!

We wonder, how did you get here? What would you call the skills and insider knowledges that allowed you to get to this point, to where you are reading a letter from a small group of strangers? Were you looking for support? Did someone send this to you?

We all, regardless of our own gender and journey, love you. We want you to know that.

We wonder, is there anyone else in your life who loves and supports you in your journey? This person, or people, could be either living or no longer living, or fictional, imaginary, or pop culture figures that you feel supported and encouraged by. Who is on your team?

If you feel alone, we would like to let you know that we would like to be on your team.

Ivy shared that for her, the biggest obstacle has been the experience of being rejected by family members that she thought would welcome her, particularly family members she had welcomed when they came out as gay, but who rejected her when she came out as trans. Sometimes finding your team can be challenging.

This kind of rejection can happen in communities, as well as families. There can be heteronormativity even within the trans community, and if you are visibly queer and also visibly trans, this can be hard. But it’s okay. As one of us said, “You don’t have to fit into a box! It’s fluid and a spectrum and that’s a beautiful thing.”

It’s also okay to set boundaries within the queer community, within your friend community, or within your family. If a space doesn’t feel welcoming to you because of one or more parts of your identity, it’s okay to decide that’s not the space for you or to decide you’re going to advocate for that space to become more inclusive. It’s also okay to decide that you’re still going to be in that space despite its flaws. It is never your job to make those spaces welcoming, but it is always okay if you want to take on that work. You can make the choices that are best for you. It’s okay to fight, and it’s also okay to rest.

As a group, we came up with this list of skills and strategies, in case you find yourself in a situations of rejection or isolation:

  • Remember that you can make your own family. Quite a few of us shared experiences of defining family in creative and preferred ways.
  • There is no obligation to keep in contact with people who do not accept you.
  • It can help to find a community of people who have shared similar experiences.
  • Community can be in person, but it can also be online. This is especially true if you, like some of us, experience a lot of anxiety or if you’re in a more rural location.

Are there skills or strategies that you would add to this list? We would love to hear about them.

Another thing we talked about was how finding representation can be challenging, but when you find it, it makes a huge difference. This is especially true for identities that are on the margins of the margins; non-binary folks, like some of us, and also asexual folks and folks who don’t fit into recognizable boxes. One of us is on the screening committee for the Fairytales Queer Film Festival, and last year (2017) she watched 100s of hours of content with no asexual representation. We know that asexual trans folks exist! Possibilities is an explicitly ace-inclusive (and trans inclusive) space.

Not seeing representation can make you feel so alone. Where have you found representation? Do you imagine yourself into your favourite books and shows, even when the creators haven’t explicitly written characters like you? Who is your favourite character, or instance of representation?

Representation is important because of how it shows us possible stories, or maps, for our own lives. And the lack of trans representation hurts because it offers so few maps. We wanted to offer you some affirmation when it comes to your trans journey. There is often just a single story of trans realization, and it includes a specific experience of dysphoria. This does not reflect the diversity of experiences in the trans community, or even in the small group of us who met to write this letter! If you have not yet seen representation of a journey like yours, know that your journey is still valid. The problem is in the lack of available stories, not in your own story.

We want to validate that gender euphoria exists, just like gender dysphoria does, and that sometimes we come to our trans identities through an experience of validation rather than through an experience of pain. We also recognize that sometimes dysphoria doesn’t feel like dysphoria – sometimes it feels like depression, sometimes it feels like being flat for a long time – and that sometimes we only recognize that we were feeling dysphoria when we start to feel something different.

There are many paths available, even though there’s not a lot of representation of this diversity yet. Each of these paths are valid! Some folks transition medically, others socially, others surgically, others only internally – these are all valid paths.

We also wanted to share a bit about internalized transphobia, because this experience has been so challenging for some of us, and we want you to know that you’re not alone if you’re experiencing this.

One of us shared that internalized transphobia is not about hating trans people. It’s about being surrounded by negative stories about trans people and not having other stories to counter them with.

The shame you might be feeling if you are experiencing internalized transphobia is not because you are bad, it is because you’ve been surrounded by bad ideas. So many of our cultural contexts – in our families, our friend groups, our schools, our churches and synagogues and mosques, in the media and in books and movies and even music – so many of these contexts are full of dominant stories that are not kind or just in their representation of trans people. These stories are not the truth about transness. There is so much more complexity, nuance, and richness to transness. Transness is so much more than the thin and dehumanizing stereotypes available to us.

But those stereotypes are powerful. Sometimes trans folks have to pretend to conform to stereotypes in order to access necessary medical care. This is gatekeeping, and, as one of us said, “gatekeeping is garbage!”

It is not right that you have to jump through so many hoops in order to get gender affirming healthcare, and it’s also not right that so many medical professionals (even when they aren’t directly dealing with anything to do with transness!) are not aware or accepting. That’s an injustice.

How have you been getting through those experiences so far? How did you learn the skills that are helping you get through?

We wanted to make sure you know that just because someone has been labeled an “expert” does not mean they know better than you. You might find yourself having to educate healthcare providers, or searching for non-judgmental and appropriate healthcare. We want to name this an injustice. And it’s okay if you need help navigating this!

We also recognize that so many queer and trans folks have been told that our identities are mental illnesses. We have been pathologized and medicalized, and this can make it challenging to trust or feel safe accessing therapy. We want to let you know that this fear is valid, and also that it’s okay if you want to work with a therapist. We know that you are already skillfully navigating your care needs, and we want to validate that working with a therapist does not mean you are “broken” or any of the other hostile narratives that are told about people like you. Also, if you do work with a therapist, you are still the expert in your own experience! You know more than your therapist about what you need and who you are, and it’s okay for you to be choosy about the therapist you work with.

Not all of us at this event are trans. Some of us are cis allies. Those of us who are allies want you to know that we recognize our role is to listen, not to talk over or speak for you.

All of us have different privileges and marginalizations, and we are committed to using the privilege that we have (any money, influence, or power available to us) to create space for you in the queer community and elsewhere. Some of us are white settlers, some of us are employed, some of us are neurotypical or abled. Others are not. We are a group that bridges many privileges and experiences, and we are each committed to making space for each other and for you.

Some of us didn’t say much at the event. For some us, there are no words available that can overcome the great horribleness of the current political climate and the ongoing violence against transgender communities and individuals. This event was part of a larger project collecting letters of support for the transgender community, and some of us at the event were there because we wanted to write a letter but we didn’t know how to do it on our own.

It’s okay to not know how to do something on your own. Maybe you feel that way sometimes, too. If you do, we want you to know – it’s okay. Sometimes we can be part of a community even when we don’t have many words or much energy. You do not need to earn a place in the community.

There are two final things we want to share.

The first is that we write this letter as a group of people who love, and are friends with, and work with, and are partners and lovers with, trans people. We know, because we have insider knowledge into this, that trans people are loveable and desirable in all the ways that a person can be loved and desired. There are not a lot of stories of these friendships, partnerships, and other relationships, and so it can be hard to know that it’s possible.

We want you to know that it’s possible.

And lastly, this:

Even if you’re feeling completely alone, there is a small group of people in Calgary who know you are complete, and worthy of love. You don’t have to feel complete, and we have no expectations of you. Our hopes for you, and our acceptance of you, does not require that you also feel hope or acceptance. No matter where you are in your journey, and no matter how you feel about yourself, we support you.

With so much warmth and respect,

The Possibilities Group, including


All the sudden, mushrooms

All the sudden, mushrooms

The right rain comes and all the sudden, mushrooms.

A letter for our friends in the United States, following the 2020 presidential election.

From Lindsey Boyes and Tiffany Sostar

Artwork: mycelium and mushroom 2 by Lindsey Boyes

Download this letter as a PDF here, or email Tiffany to have a physical copy mailed to you. You can support more of this work at Tiffany’s Patreon.

“Mushroom Mycelium represent rebirth, rejuvenation, regeneration.”

– Paul Stamets

A small imagining, based on the metaphor of mycelium in forests. In this imagining, we are the trees.

Mycelium are fungal material, spread throughout soil and other substrates, which can fruit into mushrooms under the right circumstances. Mycelium can be tiny, or, as the Armillaria in Oregon, vast and ancient. Mycelium not only break down dead matter, they also distribute resources across ecosystems. The mycelium network within a forest can link trees across a vast distance, sharing nutrients from one part of the forest to another.

  • What is the soil in which you find yourself?
    (Your social context, your environment.)
  • Does this soil feel rich and nutrient-dense, or does it feel depleted?
    (Are you nourished and supported by your social context?)
  • Do you remember a time when you were in different soil?
    (Have you ever found yourself in a different social context?)
  • Who is in this soil with you? Who is in your forest?
    (Who is alongside you? Perhaps these are cherished companions, perhaps they are not. Forests are places of magic, and also danger, after all.)
  • What else is present in the forest?
    (Are there birds, squirrels, bears, bees, mosquitoes? What other non-tree / non-human companions are in your forest?)
  • Who are you connected to across distance?
    (What companions do you cherish and stay connected to? These may be living or not, they may know you in return or not. The mycelium network is magical because it can connect us in seemingly impossible ways.)
  • What nourishment is shared across your connection?
    (What do these connections make possible – what do they offer that you do not receive in your immediate environment?)
  • What information is shared?
    (What have you learned from these distant connections?)
  • What do the mycelium share from you, out to other parts of the network?
    (What contributions have you made, what has your existence made possible in the lives of others?)

Dear friends,

We (Lindsey and Tiffany) are writing this letter from Calgary, Alberta, in so-called Canada. From Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani) and Stoney-Nakoda (Wesley, Chiniki, Bearspaw) and Tsuut’ina land. Métis land. From the place where the Bow meets the Elbow river.

This is beautiful, breathtaking land.

We wonder about the land that you are on.

Are there trees? Rivers? Mountains?

What do you see when you look out the window, when you step out your door? What do you smell? What do you hear?

What is the landscape, and what are the plants and animals that you share space with?

What is your relationship with the land you’re on?

In an Indigenous Counselling and Trauma Work course, Cree/Métis therapist and academic Karlee Fellner taught Tiffany that the land is old enough, strong enough, wise enough to help us hold our pain, no matter how vast that pain is. As we write this letter, we are thinking about the pain that exists following the events of the last years.

The land we write this from, and the Indigenous people on this land, and every marginalized community here, is currently threatened not only by the conservative government in power in this province, but also by Canada’s ongoing commitment to extractive and exploitative relations with land and people.

We’re sharing this context because we want to be clear that we recognize as much racism, as much white supremacy, as much racial capitalism and neoliberalism here in our country, in our province, in our city, as we see happening in the US. We are not writing from a position of distance or superiority, but from a position of shared struggle against these oppressive discourses and systems. And, as white settlers, also from a position of complicity with these discourses and systems.

We planned to write this letter before the results of the 2020 presidential election came in, because we wanted to offer some care to our friends in the US. But we found ourselves, like so many other folks, slowed down by the thick mud of distraction and doomscrolling through our social media feeds. So, instead, we are writing this after Joe Biden has been named president-elect, after the wave of celebration and the deep collective sigh of relief. (We were relieved, too!)

This little document contains some of our hopes for you, and reflects some of our hopes for ourselves. It also contains some art, a little recipe, and a few reflection questions that we have found helpful for ourselves. The document comes out of our work together in the Unexpected Light speculative fiction and narrative therapy course, and we hope that this document can be a tiny invitation to imagine more just, more liberated, more possible futures.

We wonder about what kinds of futures you hope for, and how you learned to hope for them.

What are the systems and structures that you hope will change?

What do you hope will be possible once these systems change?

What are the existing forces that have the power to change these systems – what are the networks working underground to transport nourishment, encouragement, information; what are the histories of collective action, the legacies of resistance?

Do you see a place for yourself in these existing frameworks of resistance and change?

We hope that you can sink your strong roots down into the earth, and feel the mycelium surround you, supporting you and enabling you to support others.

How to Make a London Fog

To start:
2/3 mug of strong Earl Grey tea

Spoonful of vanilla sugar
Splash of vanilla extract

To finish:
Warmed and frothed milk or milk alternative

London Fogs are one of Tiffany’s most cherished soothing rituals of care, both alone and with friends. This recipe was included in the Unexpected Light course, and has become one of Lindsey’s soothing rituals, too. So, we decided to share it with you, too!

What are some of your rituals of care? Who taught you these skills? Who do you share them with?

We chose mushrooms (or, more accurately, the mycelium network!) because of the way that both hope and oppression can live underground, barely visible for such a long time, sustained by nearly invisible threads sometimes across vast distances and over unimaginable lengths of time, and then, given the right circumstances, the right rain (to quote Tiffany’s beloved Nathan), they spring up again like mushrooms.

We were thinking about how shocking the rise of fascism has been in the US and also in our own province, and yet how unsurprising, how these networks and threads have persisted. Death cap mushrooms. Indistinguishable from harmless button mushrooms when they are just sprouting.

And we were thinking about hope, too. About collective action. About the community care, the mutual aid and networks of support that sprang up in response, and that had always existed. Truffles. Precious, hidden, sustaining the roots of trees and feeding the forest, even when they are deep underground. Protecting ecosystems from drought and making the most of available nutrients in times of scarcity. (May we each be some glorious truffle-hunting animal, seeking out what is delicious and life-giving.)

What are some delicious things in your life right now?

What delights you?

What comforts you?

What brings you joy and ease?

And what are some nourishing things in your life right now?

What sustains you?

What warms you, strengthens you, fortifies you?

What brings you energy to keep working towards change?

We thought about how, in the last four years, many mushrooms have sprung up, and how some of them represent decay, rot, destruction. How the mycelium network can be so sustaining but also how it can be something other. How it can represent “ruptures in our unspoken contract of trust and care” (to quote BK Chan[1]). And also, how even decay (maybe especially decay) offers us the opportunity to take something noxious and turn it into something nourishing.

To quote Paul Stamets[2] (the real-life mycologist that the Star Trek: Discovery character is named after), “fungi are the grand recyclers of our planet, the mycomagicians… Fungi are the interface organisms between life and death.”

If we are, then, between life and death, and with choices about how to navigate this liminal space, perhaps we can learn from the fungi around us.

Have you experienced or witnessed life-affirming transformation?

What made it possible?

What supported the work of transformation

Credit must also be given to adrienne maree brown for identifying a tugging between life and death in her post on unthinkable thoughts[3], which was written specifically for movement organizers in Black and Brown organizations.

We recognize that the nourishment we find in her words was not first meant for us, and parts of it are not ours in any way. Thinking about life and death, cultural urges that sustain life or that threaten it, we must acknowledge how white supremacy, which benefits us, which makes our lives easier, makes the lives of Black and Brown and Indigenous people in both of our colonial nations so much harder to hold onto. As Claudia Rankine and Judith Butler[4] so clearly named, the scripts available to us as white people acting with whiteness lead to the death or incarceration of Black people. Access to life, to systems that support life, is not equal across social location.

And, equally true, we share adrienne maree brown’s hopes when she writes:

“i want us to want to live in this world, in this time, together.

i want us to love this planet and this species, at this time.

i want us to see ourselves as larger than just individuals randomly pinging around in a world that will never care for us.

i want us to see ourselves as a murmuration of creatures who are, as far as we know right now, unique in all the universe. each cell, each individual body, itself a unique part of this unique complexity.”

We thought about the ruptures that interrupt our togetherness and how perhaps hope can be a balm for the ruptures. We thought about hope as a collective practice (to quote Angel Yuen[5]), hope as a discipline (to quote Mariame Kaba[6]), hope as something that we can carry together.

We imagine the network that connects us to you, our friends in the United States of America, whose country has suffered such ruptures – ruptures as deep, as old as the founding of your country, so similar to the ruptures that also fragment so-called Canada. We want to connect, like mycelium. The threads and tendrils that stretch across distance, and that, given the right rain, fruit into mushrooms.

May we grow the medicinal mushrooms, the transformative mushrooms, the mushrooms that rejuvenate and regenerate. And may we also rest sometimes, knowing that this network is vast, our connections are real, and the mycelium can sustain us even in drought, and support us through transformation.

We love you, and we are stretching our roots out to you, with hope for all of us to find the way through, to do the work of decolonizing, of amending the soil, of being part of an ecosystem that is more wildly diverse, chaotic, joyful, and generative.

Lindsey and Tiffany

mushroom 2 by Lindsey Boyes


[1] Chan, Karen BK. (2020). In Calling in: Doing social justice with compassion. Webinar.

[2] Stamets, Paul. (2012). Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit.

[3] brown, adrienne maree. (2020). Unthinkable thoughts blog post.

[4] Butler, Judith and Rankine, Claudia. (2020). Visionaries Series: Claudia Rankine in Conversation with Judith Butler.

[5] Yuen, Angel. (2020). Dulwich Centre Meet the Author session.

[6] Kaba, Mariame. (2020). Hope is a discipline.

Download this letter as a PDF here, or email Tiffany to have a physical copy mailed to you. You can support more of this work at Tiffany’s Patreon.

November events and happenings

November events and happenings

You can find me at a bunch of public events this month. I’ve put them all together here to make it easier!

A jar of fairy lights on the beach. Text reads: Shiny! a speculative writing group

Shiny! speculative writing group

November 8, 4-5:30 pm mountain time

Our offshoot group from An Unexpected Light is open to anyone who wants to join, whether they’re in the course or not. October’s event was cancelled, and I’m excited about getting back to this group because it is always so lovely to share space imagining better futures, and I think it will be particularly needed this month.

To register –

A galaxy and tree silhouettes


This month, Possibilities will have two events (this is not because I am so ambitious, but rather because I forgot I had already scheduled the paint night when I scheduled the chat event with the October participants. *facepalm*)

Everything* to do with bi+ sex

November 7, 6-7:30 pm mountain time

* “Everything” includes: representation in media and pop culture; accessing sexual health care; learning how to have bi+ sex; and asexual erasure in pop culture and social spaces; and how we’re navigating sex in the pandemic.

To register –

Paint night: Galaxies

November 17, 6-8 pm mountain time

Our second paint night will be painting acrylic galaxies. I will not be providing craft packs as the default, but I will be offering to help anyone who doesn’t have access to supplies (paint in black, white, and a few bright colours for the nebulas; at least one paint brush; a sponge; and paper or canvas).

To register –

Succulents. Text reads: “Do not be afraid. Do not be cynical. Continue to trust in yourself and others. Continue to dream of collective liberation. – Scott Crow

Presentations and Workshops

PolyCon Canada 2020

My time isn’t confirmed yet, but I believe I’ll be doing a short (15-minute) presentation at 9 am mountain time on November 23, followed by a 45-minute chat with participants, on the topic of polyamory and speculative fiction. Planning for this talk has been fun, because polyamory has such deep roots in speculative fiction – Robert Heinlein’s influence on North American polyamory is significant! But I am way more interested in the speculative work of marginalized writers, so although obviously I’ll acknowledge Heinlein, I want to focus on works like NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth and the polyamorous representation in Sense8.

I will also be talking about An Unexpected Light at this event.

Anyway! If you want to get up early on a Monday morning to geek out with me about speculative fiction, do it!

Ally Toolkit Conference 2020: Free Community Day Programming

Imagining Possible Futures: Speculative Fiction and Social Justice

November 26, 3-4 pm mountain time

I’ll be presenting a workshop on reading and writing speculative fiction as a tool for social justice, for the Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Ally Toolkit Conference. Especially for allies, reading visionary fiction (Walidah Imarisha’s term for fantastical work that makes existing power structures visible and helps us imagine pathways to more just futures), can be one way to be in solidarity with marginalized communities. That’s the angle I’ll be taking in this workshop – how to use our reading (viewing, listening, etc.) more intentionally as a tool for justice and liberation. 

Register at –

If any of these interest you, I’d love to see you there!

And if you’re interested in An Unexpected Light, registration is ongoing and the course is fantastic. Join us!

An Unexpected Light special offer

An Unexpected Light special offer

From now until the end of September, use code ‘jellyfish’ for 23% off the cost of An Unexpected Light in celebration of Bi+ Visibility Day on September 23.

Register here.

An Unexpected Light is an online course in speculative fiction and narrative therapy. The course is fully asynchronous, meaning you can sign up at any time, and complete the modules at your own pace. When you enroll, you’ll have immediate access to the 95 core lessons in the course, which include narrative therapy practices, curated reading selections, writing prompts and lessons, and integration and care lessons.

The six textbooks are also included in the cost of the course, and so is access to the twice-a-month video chats, the Discord server, feedback and editing for your writing, and ongoing access to new content as it is developed.

An Unexpected Light has been designed to support participants in finding possibility – finding the unexpected light together – in times that feel increasingly hopeless and overwhelming.The course is inspired by Walidah Imarisha’s definition of visionary fiction as “fantastical writing that helps us imagine new just worlds. Visionary fiction encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, alternative timelines, and more. It is fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures.” (From this interview, which is one of our readings.)

We read visionary fiction, talk about visionary fiction, and write visionary fiction together, while also using narrative therapy to turn a visionary eye to our own lives and stories, inspired by David Denborough’s statement that “who we are and what we do are influenced by the stories that we tell about ourselves. While we can’t always change the stories that others have out us, we can influence the stories we tell about ourselves and those we care about. And we can, with care, rework or rewrite storylines of identity.” (From Retelling the Stories of Our Lives, one of our included textbooks.)

And we link these two things, speculative/visionary fiction and narrative therapy, through the frame that Avery Alder offers, an invitation to “sincerely imagine impossible things, to develop empathy towards impossible creatures, to practice being impossible. When we learn to see ourselves in the fantastical, the impossible, the absurd – when we construct new lenses by which to understand our own power and identities – we also put forward a challenge to the world around us. We challenge the reigning paradigms about what is possible, about what power looks like and who is entitled to claim it. We challenge the notion that difference is shameful. We challenge the notion that our bodies, our lives, or our hearts are shameful.” (From Variations on Your Body, another included textbook.)

Does that sound exciting?

Do you want to join?!

I would love to share this space with you. <3

(You can find out more about the course at

Linking self-care to community

Linking self-care to community

This is a lesson from the Integration and Care module in An Unexpected Light. (Each of the six themes in An Unexpected Light includes a narrative therapy module, a curated reading module, a writing module, and an integration and care module. This lesson comes from the Kinship and Community theme.)

I thought that this exercise might be helpful for those of us who are in isolation or physical distancing, because it invites us to think about the connected histories of our self-care actions. When we’re feeling alone, and floating through our houses with a sense of detachment or powerlessness, it can help us narrate the history of the small actions of care that we are relying on, and can reconnect us to small actions of care that might sustain us through this hard time.

These videos were recorded months ago, and don’t directly reference COVID19. They also both reference inviting someone over for tea – obviously this isn’t accessible to many of us right now! But video calls, phone calls, or across-the-street teas might be.

The full transcripts for the videos are included at the end of this post. If you find these videos helpful and you’d like to sign up for the next round of the course, you can find that information here. (As of March 25, there are still 15 spots available in the upcoming session of An Unexpected Light. All scholarship spaces are filled, but sliding scale is always available.)

An Unexpected Light – Actions of Care

This video introduces the idea of “actions of care” – all of the actions that we take that care for ourselves and others. This video challenges the idea that “self-care” happens in isolation, and instead locates it within a history and a community of caretaking and caregiving actions. This is part one of the lesson.

From the video:

Drinking tea is sort of a trope when we talk about self-care: “Make yourself a cup of tea”. Tea and writing is also something we think of as going together. That’s one reason why I wanted to use London Fogs as the example. 

Even if making a cup of tea is what you do for self-care while you’re writing, sometimes it can be helpful to go through a process of mapping how you learned to use tea as a self-care strategy. 

Who taught you that? 

Do you remember the first time someone sat you down with a cup of tea? 

Do you remember seeing relatives or friends or strangers looking serene in a coffee shop and thinking ‘oh, maybe I could use that skill for myself’? 

Is there a way that you can take your actions of self-care that often happen on your own and link those to your community; link them to a history and a legacy of using those skills? 

What does it mean to be tied to many other people who also use this skill? 

Is that a way that you can feel connected, and are there ways that your self-care skills and tools can actually help integrate you into your communities? 

Are there ways that you can do those together? 

Even if that just means talking about them on social media? Or texting a friend and saying ‘hey, I’m gonna have a bath. I haven’t had a bath in a while, I was thinking maybe you would want one too’. That was a really weird example; I apologize for going off the rails there, but, maybe bathtime with friends is a thing? 

But, is there a way that you can take your self-care strategies and connect them so that it’s not about you as an island; an individual isolated person having to care for yourself in a way that cuts you off from other people, that puts your needs ahead of other people’s when actually we’re all working together. Or ideally, we can all be working together. 

There are lots of things that you are doing during this time of isolation and physical distancing, both for yourself and for others.

You may be limiting your time on social media – how? why? are you connected to other community members who have taught you the value of this, or who support you in this?

You may be doing drive-past visits and chatting across a safe distance – why? whose idea was this? who is involved? how does this make you feel? what does it make possible?

You may be baking, or brushing your teeth every morning, or setting timers to keep yourself focused – how? why? where did you learn it? who does it connect you to?

Any action, no matter how small, has a history and exists in a social context. Mapping that out can be a powerful antidote to feelings of powerlessness and loneliness.

If you really enjoyed that first video, this next one expands on it to offer a deeper-dive into the narrative practice behind this idea.

An Unexpected Light – Histories of Care

Part two of the lesson introduces the narrative therapy practice that will guide you through tracing the history of your own actions of care, and putting these into a social context.

Linking actions to histories

There is a foundation of skills, dreams, and values in your history.

Although this is a bonus narrative practice, it sets the foundation for the final month in An Unexpected Light, which focuses on legacies of action. Think of this as an invitation to start thinking about your own legacies of action!

Think of a circumstance in your life that has been challenging for you; something that has required you to access self-care or coping skills. Give the problem a name. (For many of us, this problem right now might be named coronavirus, or capitalism, or isolation. If the problem you’re facing is brand new, like coronavirus, you might want to think about times in the past that have some resonance with this experience – other times you’ve felt isolation, other times of scarcity, other times when you have worried for your or your community’s health.)

The actions that we’re connecting to here do not have to be big, impressive actions. For me, it was London Fogs! They can be small things – a letter, a practice of self-care that keeps you going. The idea is to connect to the history of these actions.

The action: creating a unique outcome

As you think about this problem, has there ever been a time when you faced this problem, or a similar problem, and you responded differently than usual? Think of a time when this resulted in a unique outcome. What did you do differently?

Where were you when you took this action? 

Were there other people supporting you? If yes, who were those other people? 

What made it possible for you to respond differently in this way?

Why was it important for you to respond to the problem in this different way? What might it say about what you want for yourself and your life? 

What were you standing for when you responded differently? Can you give a name to what you are standing for, or to what you were valuing? 

The history

Have there been other times when you’ve done something similar to this?

Have these previous actions also reflected the hopes or values that allowed you to respond differently to the problem? 

When was the first time you took an action like this?

Where did you learn that this kind of action is possible?

If you’ve never taken an action like this before, can you see other times in your life when other actions have reflected your values? (For example, your action may have reflected a value of “community” or “integrity” or “caring for others” or “creativity” – are there other times when you’ve taken actions that reflected this value?)

The witness(es)

Out of all the people you’ve known, who might be most pleased to know that you’ve stood up to the problem in this way? 

Why would they be pleased? 

What might this say about their hopes for your life? 

Are there people who also hope for the things that you hope for yourself? 

Would this person say “I knew you could do this”? 

What might they know about you that inspires their confidence that you could do what you did? 

Would this person be surprised that you did this? If yes, what might they be learning about you that they didn’t know before? What might you be learning about yourself? 

The future

What are you taking with you from this exploration of what might be a very small thing? What are you going to take into the future from this exploration of one experience of responding to a problem differently? 

If you wrote up this takeaway and posted it in a place where you’d be reminded of it, what effect might that have on your future? 

If you had a way to remind yourself that you have these skills, that there are people who know you have these skills and who support you, that there’s a foundation in your history of these skills, what might that mean for you? 

(Adapted from work by Jill Freedman and Gene Combs.)

Transcription of An Unexpected Light – Actions of Care

Okay. This is a video about care-taking and care-giving and actions of care, and how our self-care is something that’s connected to our communities and to our histories.

In this course, I’d like to really challenge some of the ideas about self-care being something that we do in isolation, as little islands; making tea for ourselves, or having a bubble bath, and this being framed as somehow contrary to community care or meaning that we need to prioritize ourselves over our communities or our histories. I’d like to think about care as something that happens within our social context; something that we learn to do together; something that we do in community even when we’re doing it on our own. 

I’m going to use London Fogs as an example *gestures towards cup of tea on the table*. London Fogs are a tea beverage. They’re one of my most important self-care tools. A London Fog is basically strong Earl Grey tea. I use vanilla sugar and vanilla extract and some kind of frothed milky beverage. You can use milk, but you can also use coconut milk or almond milk; whatever, but that’s the basic recipe. 

I learned how to make London Fogs when I was in the year between my fibromyalgia symptoms becoming debilitating and when I got the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and started figuring out how to navigate that experience of chronic, ongoing pain that occasionally and at that time frequently flared into something that kept me basically in my house and on my couch. It was quite a socially isolating experience, and I found that London Fogs were something I could do even on a high pain day. I could usually bring a chair into the kitchen and go through those steps of making tea, frothing milk with a little battery-powered handheld thing and making something that was soothing. There was a ritual around it, and it was something that people would come over and we would have a London Fog together. It gave me a sense of my ability to still have value in my community despite what was at the time a new experience of disability that I’d found really challenged my sense of who I was. 

Drinking tea is sort of a trope when we talk about self-care: “Make yourself a cup of tea”. Tea and writing is also something we think of as going together. That’s one reason why I wanted to use London Fogs as the example. 

Even if making a cup of tea is what you do for self-care while you’re writing, sometimes it can be helpful to go through a process of mapping how you learned to use tea as a self-care strategy. 

Who taught you that? 

Do you remember the first time someone sat you down with a cup of tea? 

Do you remember seeing relatives or friends or strangers looking serene in a coffee shop and thinking ‘oh, maybe I could use that skill for myself’? 

Is there a way that you can take your actions of self-care that often happen on your own and link those to your community; link them to a history and a legacy of using those skills? 

What does it mean to be tied to many other people who also use this skill? 

Is that a way that you can feel connected, and are there ways that your self-care skills and tools can actually help integrate you into your communities? 

Are there ways that you can do those together? 

Even if that just means talking about them on social media? Or texting a friend and saying ‘hey, I’m gonna have a bath. I haven’t had a bath in a while, I was thinking maybe you would want one too’. That was a really weird example; I apologize for going off the rails there, but, maybe bathtime with friends is a thing? 

But, is there a way that you can take your self-care strategies and connect them so that it’s not about you as an island; an individual isolated person having to care for yourself in a way that cuts you off from other people, that puts your needs ahead of other people’s when actually we’re all working together. Or ideally, we can all be working together. 

I don’t know if this video turned out the way I was hoping it would, but that’s what I was wanting to talk about. 

Transcription of An Unexpected Light – Histories of Care

Okay. So, let’s say you watched my earlier video about linking your self-care strategies to a history and community, and you think that sounds exciting but you don’t know how to do it. This video is a bonus narrative therapy practice for you. I’m going to walk you through the same questions that I would ask someone in a narrative therapy session, and the questions that were asked of me when I was in my Master’s program that actually helped me recognize my connection to London Fogs for being as complex and nuanced and beautiful as it is. I will also write these up in a handout for you, but I thought a video might be kind of fun. 

Think of a circumstance in your life that has been challenging for you; something that has required you to access self-care or coping skills. 

Do you have a name for it? You can name it whatever you want. It might be “depression”, it might be “anxiety”, it might be “interacting with a challenging family member”, or whatever. It could be a feeling or relationship variable, or a cultural or social problem like racism, or heterosexism, or fatphobia, or ableism. Or, it could be a unique metaphor that has meaning for you. It might be, you know, “the gloom”, or “the blues”, or “the zoomies” if you have that sense of frenetic energy that becomes problematic for you. 

As you think about this challenging context, has there ever been a unique outcome? A time when whatever it is could’ve taken you over, but you managed to get the upper hand or you managed to escape from it, or you managed to shrink it down to a manageable size. Where were you when this happened? Were there other people around? If yes, who were those other people? 

So, really think in some detail about a time when that problem has been managed in a unique way. What do you think made it possible for that to happen? 

When I was asked this question, I was thinking about pain as the problem. My unique outcome was a very specific memory of inviting someone over to my house that I really cared about; that I actually had quite a significant crush on, and making that person a London Fog, and knowing in that moment, even though the pain was still present, I had an experience of feeling myself having a little bit of control and agency in my life. 

You want to make sure that the unique outcome represents a preferred experience. It is valuable to talk about times when the unique outcome has been uniquely terrible, but that’s not what we’re looking for here. We are looking for times when it’s gone unexpectedly well. And then, we want to give that some meaning. 

So, why was it important for you to respond to the problem in this different way? What might this say about what you want for yourself and your life. What does it say you stand for? Can you give a name for what you are standing for? 

For me, when I was talking about London Fogs it was important to me because I was feeling really isolated. And in that moment of making a choice to invite someone into my space and to offer to share this new skill with them, I was valuing community and connection. I was also valuing reciprocal care. I think of all those things as being connected to a really strong value of community. 

So then, once you’ve kind of mapped out this unique outcome and what it says about you, think about a past time that has something in common with that unique outcome. Were there other times when you’ve done something that reflected these hopes, values, or commitments? Describe one of those times. It might not be connected to the problem; now we’re thinking about how it connects to the skills or values or commitments that you used in responding to the problem. 

Then, you try and link that unique outcome (for me that was when I invited this person over for a London Fog and had an experience of feeling like despite the presence of the pain, I was able to act in ways that brought community into my life) to past experiences where I was also valuing community. I was able to think about the fact that I’ve been a community organizer for quite a few years before the pain showed up in the same way that it had. That means that my value of community and connection has a foundation that predates the pain in my life. Then we link that unique outcome and those skills and the foundation to significant other people in your life. 

Out of all the people you’ve known, who might be most pleased to know that you’ve stood up to the problem in this way? Who would be pleased that you are standing for whatever it is. For me that would be community. Why would he/she/they be pleased? What might this say about their hopes for your life? Are there people who also hope for the things that you hope for yourself? Would this person say “I knew you could do this”? What might they know about you that inspires their confidence that you could do what you did? 

When I was thinking about this in relation to the London Fogs, I was thinking about that, at the time I had two partners, and they had both been very confident that I would figure out what was happening. They never wavered in their support for me. And, although I don’t think either of them would’ve said: “London Fogs are gonna be the key to this unique outcome”, I know they believed in me. 

Would this person be surprised that you did this? If yes, what might they be learning about you that they didn’t know before? That can be really important, too. If you were doing something; if your skill or your foundation is something that cherished people in your life might not expect, what are they learning about you? What might you be learning about yourself? 

And then you can bring this into the future. What are you taking with you from this exploration of what might be a very small thing? Making a fancy cup of tea is quite a small thing, but it connects me to a whole history, and maybe it will connect you to a whole history as well. What are you going to take into the future from that conversation? 

And, importantly, if you wrote up this takeaway and posted it in a place where you’d be reminded of it, what effect might that have on your future? If you had a way to remind yourself that you have these skills, that there are people who know you have these skills and who support you, that there’s a foundation in your history of these skills, what might that mean for you? 

So, yeah! That comes from my Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work documentation from the Dulwich Centre. It’s adapted from work by Jill Freedman and Gene Combs, who are fantastic. I will include a link to that with this video.