June 12, 2009.
So, here I am starting yet another 'personal space'. But this one will be a bit different from the other ones which I maintain primarily for personal and social purposes. This one will be primarily about my political activity. Events and observations that relate to the two main aspects of my life since I retired - the labour movement and the movement to achieve equality and dignity for transgender people.
What do they have to do with each other? Aside from me?
They need each other! Times are changing!
When I first put on a shop stewards badge 35 years ago, or so, an openly gay person as president of a major local of a major union would be news for the tabloids.
But by the time I retired, in 2006, the Vancouver Local of the CUPW had had three that I can think of - just off the top of my head. Even the relatively small Local that services my home town has had a lesbian at the helm for many years. The fact that gays and lesbians have been able to be open about who they are and still get the respect that they deserve has given confidence to people like myself. To be open about who they are, to 'come out'. I may have waited until I retired and would no longer have to face the inevitable stresses that would come at the work place. That was my decision - besides, I couldn't find a fashionable pair of steel toed boots. But many more are not going to wait.
There are going to be more and more people 'coming out' and/or 'transitioning' on the work floor. The Labour movement is going to have to deal with this. One of the most basic premise of that movement is to remove the ability of the boss to discriminate among workers for whatever basis: family, age, race, religion, and more recently, sexual orientation. There are policies in effect in many labour bodies that add 'gender identity or presentation' to that list. But how ready are the education departments of most unions for the task of reducing workplace harassment of trans people? Or of preparing shop stewards and other front line union representatives for dealing with the multitude of problems that arise when someone decides they can't - and don't have to - hide any more? Does every union have the appropriate language in its Collective Agreements?
Are the unions ready for this? Not even the best are! But it is going to happen regardless.
When the Stonewall 'Riots' happened way back when and spawned what is now called the Gay Liberation Movement, the press, at the time focused on the leadership role of the 'transvestites' in the 'riots'. Somehow, that got forgotten in the intervening years. and the trans people watched the gays move forward and waited - and learned. But we are not waiting any more and we have learned But like the gays back then and like women at about the same period, we need more than just our own strength to move the mountain of prejudice that surrounds us. We need what someone once called 'the big battalions of the working class'! Why? Because not only does the labour movement have more money, more members and more POWER than our organizations, they are there where we meet the world first hand - where we work. Where we earn our daily bread.
We need each other!
I am a long way from being the first with a foot in both camps and even farther from being the only, but I am going to devote this site and myself to seeing to it that this necessary alliance comes about - and bears fruit._____________________________________________________________________________________________________
June 13, 2009.
It's taking me longer than I thought to get this up and running! What with a bout of the 'flu', meetings and stuff.
I thought I would be recording and commenting on recent events by now and here I am, introducing myself, instead.
I am Marie (for about 50 - 60% of the week, anyway). The 'Details' part of this space will fill in some of what you need to know about me. I just thought a little history would be interesting to some.
I, like most trans people, have known since I was very young what I was. But only a few other people did. That began to change on St. Patrick's day 2006 when I retired from Canada Post. With more time on my hands - and no need for steel toed boots, I was being myself a lot more often. So, 'coming out' to more - and eventually all - of my friends was a simple defense measure. It meant that I no longer had to hide the makeup, etc. when people came over.
'Going public', on the other hand didn't start until I attended the 2008 convention of my Union, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers - for the first time as a guest instead of a delegate. As soon as I saw that there was going to be a 'Trans Caucus', I knew I was going to attend. That decision could only be reinforced by the inspiring speech by one of the noon speakers - Shannon Blatt.
I was appalled, though, when I got to the caucus and found that I was the only one there who was trans! Out of 700 or so delegates? I think not! My Union (of which I am proud, beyond words) was reaching out to a community and to a part of their membership that they didn't know I was a part of and others like me were still hesitating? That was a situation that could not be left unaddressed.
But to be of any use in helping to address it, I was going to have to do a lot more than come out o a few more friends and acquaintances. That is how it started.
When I got back to Vancouver, I started to investigate the local situation including the Trans Alliance Society (TAS) and talking to other trans people I knew. One worked as a cousellor in the Trans Health Programme. So I booked an appointment with her to ask what she thought - as a front line worker in the field - The labour movement could do for trans people. Meanwhile, since I was being 'Marie' more and more often anyway, I was doing things that I would have done regardless, like voting and going to the counter demonstration against the reverend Phelps without bothering to change back to my old appearance.
A few health problems caused a delay in going fully public - although I think most of the community nurses in the East End of Vancouver now know, and that was progress of a sort! February and partial recovery brought me to attending the TAS Annual General Meeting and voting for my friend Victoria as the new chair to replace Raigen who was stepping down. February also saw my using my status as a 'lifetime member' of the CUPW for the first time - to join the Human Rights Committee of the Vancouver Local. March saw me accept nomination to the TAS Steering Committee to take on 'labour liaison'. At the same time, I signed on to a trip to Cuba (a reward to myself for having survived the ordeal of January and February). The trip included a visit to CENESEX - the Cuban Centre for Sexual Education and I knew I wanted to know more about that than I was going to get in a single afternoon meeting. So, a friend and I rented an apartment for a week after the trip so I could go back and talk to people there.
So, you are almost up to date and I can start to talk about (more or less) current events. The trip, itself and my report on it are history now but they are not part of my 'coming out' or 'going public' - in Vancouver, anyway - so I will make them the subject of the next post, and then we will be current.