A report from SWTO 2014: Part 2
Illustration: Erin McPhee
To read Part 1 in this two-part series, follow the link.
Laureen (Blu) Waters, who self-identifies as a 2-Spirited Elder from the Mi’kmaq Wolf Clan talked about opening up about healing, having pride in our identities, and the freedom to love who we want. Blu mentioned women in prison, (a theme which ran through several speakers’ comments), highlighting that incarcerated women are often imprisoned simply for protecting themselves against domestic violence. Blu also reminded us of the thousands of murdered, abused, or missing women, and began to smudge to help them home, and also for anyone triggered by anything talked about.
Heather Jarvis, a SWTO co-founder, talked about how “there is no illegimate or legitimate rape,” and that “when we talk about sexual violence, we must include talking about prison reform, migrant workers, and trans rights. We have many voices and stories, and we are part of a revolution that is long overdue.” After hearing criticism surrounding the lack of intersectionality and anti-racist practices in past SWTOs, I hope this will be followed through in the future.
Flo Jo, who spoke about their experiences with sex work, identifies as a sex worker and drug user: “We’re all human,” they said. Flo Jo talked about being affected by the 60s Scoop and entered sex work when they were 13. They also talked about experiencing violence at the hands of the police, and if raped, then Flo Jo would be blamed by the work they do or the way they dress.
Akio Maroon, who is the founder of GRIND Toronto, an event that celebrates sex positivity in a LGBTQ2I safe space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour). Akio talked about Bill C-36, which Akio describes as “filled with slut shaming. It will cost women, sex workers, and sluts their lives.” Akio’s daughter, who received generous applause, was holding a large sign that said “No bad women, just bad laws.” Akio said that Bill C-36 was unconstitutional, but “We have to have hope for people to have freedom over their bodies and a government that actually listens and supports sex workers.”
“Patriarchy is a rope that is a choke chain, and a lose/lose for us all,” the White Ribbon Campaign’s Jeff Perera said. “It is not about us versus them, it’s about us. To Men’s Rights Activists, what are you doing to help healing? We need consent in everything we do. Male-identified people need to hear these stories; they are invisible for too many.”
Monica Forrester does tireless work everywhere with LGBTQ2I folks, is a trans femme, and a coordinator at Maggie’s Toronto.“All women and sex workers are slut shamed,” Monica said, adding, “Fuck you, I do what I want! No women should be stigmatized because of the way they dress. Before colonization, sexuality was respected but women’s rights were stripped and trans women were deemed not real women. My body is beautiful and I’m proud.”
Kira Andry, who is involved in so many cool things that you can check out on their bio on the SlutWalk website, talked about not opening with ladies and gentlemen, as it is a microagression. Kira talked about how trans folks are at a disproportionate risk for sexual violence and that cis feminism, which unfortunately dominates movements like Slutwalk, overlooks trans survivors, adding that “In LGBT, the T is silent.” Pride, which just passed, began from TWOC (trans women of colour), but they are not recognized, further showing why intersectional feminism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality) is so necessary.
“When reporting my assault,” Kira said, “not only was my claim under scrutiny, but my identity as well. We need to live in a more survivable world.” Kira talked about how gender neutral bathrooms are necessary because–everyone needs to pee! Ending surgery on intersex babies, less police violence, better sex ed that includes consent, shelters for queer youth, laws that actually protect us from sexual assault, and safer communities are necessary in achieving justice and ending victim blaming.
Cheri Denovo the NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park in Toronto said “I have hope [for the future].” MPP Denovo talked about the recent victory in the Ontario Human Rights Code amendment, also known as Toby’s Act, which includes gender identity and performance as protected. Although we still have to take on prison reform and tell our elected officials we do not want Bill C-36, she said “44 years ago, I stood here for free universal childcare – to be free with our children. We are all humans, not objects of anything; we are conscious people who can dress how we want”.
SWTO is an evolving, and complicated event that carries a lot of implications for people of various identities. The speakers this year offered necessary and diverse viewpoints about issues we face like prison reform, Bill C-36, the roles of male-identified people in ending rape culture, the responsibilities cis people when it comes to changing how we talk about sexual violence and gender binaries. Persons in positions of privilege need to stop dominating the discussion when trans/gender non-conforming folks need to have their voices heard in the struggle(s). The overarching message of SWTO 2014 that the way folks dress is never an invitation for assault and ending rape culture and victim blaming is a collective effort. I hope we can find a way to work together to do just that in a meaningfully inclusive and equitable way.