Hello! My name is Naz Afsahi and I am so excited to be joining Shameless as a blogger.
My Shameless column will deal primarily with issues related to race and representation, and trans rights. The idea is to alternate between these two topics, but if a pressing issue arises on either topic, this schedule may change.
My interest in the above topics arises from my personal life experiences and the people who have helped to shape who I am today.
I self-identify as a Persian-Canadian, though it took me a long time to come to terms with what that meant to me and how I perceive my hyphenated identity (which I hope to share in a separate post). I feel that sometimes, as Canadians, we have this perception of being part of a nation that is all-embracing in terms of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, or, that we are somehow a “race-neutral” culture. Perhaps this perception exists, in part, because of official state policies like the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
However, my personal experiences and interactions with others call attention to the lived reality that race and ethnicity continues to be a contested area in our culture. In particular, I feel that we must continue to examine and challenge representations of race and ethnicity and the ways in which gender becomes integrated with those fields. For example, I don’t feel that a particular piece of pop culture that is deemed “low-brow” or just programming-filler (MTV productions spring to mind) should escape critical analysis as all media exists within and contributes to a discourse on a given topic. I love various “low-brow” TV shows and think that they have as much to teach and reflect about our culture as other types of programming. Jersey Shore anyone?
As for my interest in trans rights, it stems partially from my own questioning of gender norms and exposure to human rights concerns from both an activist and an academic point of view. My Master’s thesis focused on the discourse of transsexuality, and examined how trans identity is spoken about in feminist, medical, and legal documents, as well as in major Canadian newspapers. In my next post, I am looking forward to talking about (the now defunct) Bill C-389, a private member bill that was introduced by Bill Siksay, the MP for Burnaby-Douglas and the GLBT critic for the NDP. This version of the bill was the third time since 2005 that Siksay has attempted to pass legislation that would add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. Currently, neither the Canadian Human Rights Act nor the federal hate crimes laws provide explicit protection from discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Sadly, if changes are to be achieved, another version of the bill must be introduced at first reading in the House of Commons in a new session and must go through all stages of the legislative process regardless of the progress made in a previous session with a similar or identical bill. Although Bill C-389 has perished with the spring election, I hope to bring some light to what Bill was able to achieve and to create a conversation about what we need to demand from our next government.
I’m so looking forward to getting started!