Blog Series

We have always remained connected to one another in small and big ways

November 7th, 2019     by CJ Blennerhassett     Comments

Illustration: Beena Mistry

For our fifteenth anniversary we’ve reached out to the Shameless community and asked what the magazine has meant to them. What has Shameless meant to you? Talk back to us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Read past entries in this series: Melinda Mattos, Marta Balcewicz, Manisha Claire, Jessica Balmer, Kaleigh Trace, Jean Boampong, and Denise Reich.

Image credit: CJ Blennerhassett

I came to Shameless in 2012 as an editor by a group of wonderful humans, most of whom are still involved in the magazine and whom I have come to know well. At the time, I was moving through a period of deep grief and, numbing myself somewhat to that fact, moved to Ontario, hopping off the plane with far too many bags, on to a new career path. I had interviewed for the position of front-of-book editor in the middle of a Sunday, for me partway through my sleep, as I worked nights. I left a relationship and, on top of that, was facing another, bigger kind of loss and grief.

I carried all those bags and went from the airport straight to meet Sheila, still our magnificent editorial and art director. She gave me a hug and picked up a bag and we ate, I don’t remember what, and drank water in the hot Toronto sun. She was my first connection to a new chapter in my life, a new career, and to all the other people involved in the production of this wonderful, radical, heartening magazine.

This is for me what makes Shameless most special. The relationships, beginning with Sheila and then formed with countless others in the making of the magazine, through organizing, creating and laughing together. As a staff, we have always remained connected to one another in small and big ways.

Many of us who are settlers on this land, and who take up space in independent media, are privileged enough to have developed our politics academically through learning, reading and working with and for communities. We have participated in marches and signed petitions and done what we can, when we can. Others have developed our politics through struggle and trauma, strength and resilience. No matter what experience we bring to the magazine, the politics form the foundation of our work at Shameless — an inclusive feminism that strives to celebrate the diversity of our readers — have at their heart a focus on connection. On relationships. On why and how people show up for themselves and the people in their lives, and even the people they’ve never met.

So many of us, both staff who have worked at Shameless and readers of the magazine, were youth without access to the kinds of stories the magazine features — stories about some of the most powerful young women and trans youth who awe me with every issue. They are people doing innovative, grassroots work and movement building. And those doing the equally important work of honouring their truths and telling their stories and living their lives every day.

In 2018’s New Media issue we featured a 10-year-old advocate and big sister. Angela Guardiani wrote then: “Ocean Ruel chose her own name a few months ago. When I ask her why, she tells me that she’s been thinking of the ocean for a while, its sound and power. ‘It’s a more authentic name for me.’” Shaunga Tagore, astrologer, cosmic coach, storyteller, wrote in the Summer 2017 Mental Health Issue: “We live in a world saturated with very real limits, hierarchies and exclusions. We don’t see our bodies or stories represented in mainstream art cultures, or we don’t see thriving models or art created in the way we want to create it. For a lot of us we internalize the voices that say: ‘No, you can’t do it. No, you shouldn’t do it.’”

Zephyr, an Ojibwe youth featured in the Summer 2014 Fashion Issue said, “I’m feeling like more and more people, with this new vocabulary being invented, are learning more about themselves and their gender identities. In talking about it and discussing it openly we’re normalizing it and making it easier for people. Someday it won’t even be a thing, hopefully.” Paiger France, 12 years old, featured in “She’s Shameless” (Food Issue, Winter 2014) wrote about racing ATV’s and dirt bikes, “banging handlebars in a sport dominated by boys was awesome!” She wrote about her business, Paiger’s EGGSpress Enterprises, where she delivered farm-fresh eggs to neighbours, including her local senior’s residence: “The only doll I ever owned was a four-foot rubber lizard that I found chained to my Nana’s front yard. I carried Lizzie with me everywhere, even though he was bigger than I was.”

Miya Saluja, 12 years old at the time of publication in our Winter 2012 issue, spoke about her time at Girls Learning Code, “I felt happy that I could actually accomplish something like that. I want to make my own video games so that I can say, ‘Look, Mom,’ or ‘Look, Dad, I made this game by myself.’ You get to sign your name on it. ‘Made by me,’ she said, giggling. “It felt really cool.”

Maya Burhanpurkar, featured in Issue 25, volunteered at a hospital in rural India when she was eight years old during the time when the H1N1 crisis was at its height. At 10, she built a laboratory in her parent’s basement in Shanty Bay, Ontario to do develop the world’s first intelligent antibiotic, one that can selectively kill harmful bacteria while preserving beneficial intentional bacteria. Fourteen years old at the time the we featured her in the magazine, Maya spoke about her research which had moved on to working on the safety of two Alzheimers’s drugs, the detection of the time integral of distance, and filming a documentary on the effects of climate change on Inuit communities: “There will always be all these obstacles and barriers in your way whether it’s living in a rural area or being a girl or being young. It’s all about persisting and getting through those barriers.” She is now researching quantum topological phase transitions for achieving room temperature superconductivity under the Dean of Physics at Harvard University.

This is only a small collection from some of the 90 stories I had the privilege of working on during my time at Shameless, stories of relationships big and small that have impacted both the way our readers look at the world and the way they feel seen in their own lives. So much has changed in my own life and in the world since meeting Sheila that day I moved to Ontario seven years ago. I have helped publish 18 issues of Shameless, become a midwife, caught two next-generation Shameless babies, and am on my way to re-establishing a life in my home province of Nova Scotia. I am so thankful to all the people who I had the great honour of working in relationship with over the last seven years. I am humbled by every staff member, writer, volunteer and youth involved with Shameless, and I will carry you with me in all that I do.

Tags: body politics

« Abortion Talk: Five Reasons to Ditch “Women’s Health” and Switch to “Reproductive Health”

The Talking Back Feminist Media Conference: Complete Conference Schedule »