Bikers and Transgendered Sexuality

Photo: There’s a Gay Biker’s Motorcycle Club! Who knew?

Okay, So I’ve received some really great feedback from the first ranty blog post, which came out of my brain after more than a year of engaging with people who are worried about the sorts of bodies that are occupying public washrooms.

I do stand corrected, I think, as I’ve gotten this piece back more than once:

I understood “transsexual” to refer to the sexual practice of cross-dressing, which is how it was initially explained to me, alllllll those years ago. In fact, the term cross-dressing or transvestite is what I should have said!

Transsexual is used to describe someone who has actually undertaken medical steps to change their body from one gender to another. Right? Yes. I think we agree on this definition. If you don’t agree, please comment below! I really appreciated and enjoyed all the awesome feedback on the first article.

Transgendered is how someone identifies – it’s about their spirit within the body they were born with. Transsexual, apparently, refers to someone who has undergone physical transition, but for that person’s whole life, before transition, they may have identified as transgendered.

Does this make sense? If not, ask!

Now, here’s a thing that came up during this particular podcast that got my mind really spinning out on these issues. For those who have watched “Sons of Anarchy” there’s a transgendered woman (mtf remember?) called Venus. I *love* her. What’s even more awesome is she gets involved with one of the more twisted bikers, and ultimately becomes a part of his character’s redemption. That was something I didn’t expect from the series and was very, very happy to see!

It’s not a show I recommend, by the way, Sweetie and I just watched the first season and couldn’t really STOP watching. I actually broke my rule of not watching shows that include sexual violence. It’s just not my kind of entertainment. But we were sucked in, and even though we’d cringe and fast-forward through some scenes, especially in the later seasons, we couldn’t stop watching that show! I think it’s because of our background in bikers. I’ll explain:

Sweetie actually worked in a leather shop in London, Ontario in the late 90s, a time when the biker wars were culminating. I have a feeling at least one of my long-term readers is going to chime in with biker stories of her own. Let’s watch the comments and see!

My Dad has told me stories from the 80s when my uncle’s Quebec hotel was a favoured hang out of a particular leader of a notorious biker gang. For my uncle’s part, he made it clear he didn’t want anything illegal happening at his hotel, and the arrangement ended up actually keeping trouble off the premises, because this biker really loved this hotel and bar of my uncle’s, and didn’t want it to get shut down, and so put out an “order” that no other members were allowed to frequent this bar or hotel but him and his personal guests. They ended up being really great bouncers. Whenever a customer would get rowdy, the biker dude and his cronies would carry the guy out by his elbows and pour him into a cab.

I actually have a story of a biker bringing me home when I was 13 years old and babysitting the neighbour kids, thus frightening years off the life of my mother. I’ll save that one for another day.

No, it’s short, I’ll tell it now. I’m already on a tangent, come along with me!

I was 13 and not legally allowed to work, but I had places to go, things to see, furniture to buy for my future apartment, and while I wasn’t really into childcare, I babysat because that was an income I wanted. I put out fliers in our mostly white middle class neighbourhood in North Bay, Ontario, and soon I had a new client, who regularly got me to look after their two kids.

It was a very easy job because the parents would go out around 9 pm, and usually come home between 1 and 2 in the morning. As a teen, I enjoyed staying up late, and the kids were already in bed by this point, so I would show up and watch TV. Pretty sweet gig for teenage Kate.

This is why it’s not an awesome idea for kids to care for kids: at 10 or 11 pm, there was a knock at the door.

I ANSWERED IT. I freaking answered the door! Looking back, I can’t believe I just opened the door like that! After living in a city for 10 years, I would NEVER just open the door without knowing who was on the other side!

So I opened the door, and there is a tall, burly, bearded guy in leathers, patches and bandanas standing in the door. He asked for the parents by their first name. I said, “THEY’RE NOT HERE RIGHT NOW!” DUMB MOVE, past Kate. So dumb!

So he said, “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just wait here until they get home.”

I had no idea how screwed up that was. But here’s the thing – he didn’t scare me one bit. It didn’t occur to me that I could be in danger, even though in retrospect, through an adult’s eyes, this was a very dangerous situation.

He asked “Do you know when they’re going to be home?” I told him they were usually back late.

“Oh, okay. How about I go out and rent some movies?”


So he left to rent some movies. I didn’t call the police, it didn’t even occur to me. I was a very go-with-the-flow sort of kid. I didn’t call the parents because they never left a contact number. He came back, and I let him in again!

We watched PG movies and talked about horses until three in the morning. Turns out this dude grew up on a farm, and he had a lot of stories. Looking back, that’s probably part of the reason I was so relaxed. I associated the smell of leather with only good things, and this big, burly biker dude kind of looked like my Dad. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. I had no problems with this guy.

The parents eventually turned up, and the biker met them at the door. When he came back in, he said to me, “Hey, they’re back and they’re really drunk. I’ll take you home to make sure you get there safely.”

“I can walk, it’s just up the street.”

“I’d really feel better if I just took you home myself.”

So I rode home with this guy, in the parent’s borrowed / stolen car (AAAAAA!) and nothing bad happens. He just took me home, and said he’d come back the next day to give me a ride on his Harley. I thought I’d made a new friend!

Well, I can’t recall if my Dad came out to meet Biker Dude when he dropped me off that night, or when he came back in the morning. I remember watching him and my Dad shake hands, the Dude’s eyes open wider in surprise, and they had a discussion for a few minutes. Apparently he told my Dad that he shouldn’t let me babysit for those parents anymore, because they “owed a lot of money.”

My Dad said he could not let me take that ride on the Harley, but thanks for making sure his 13 year old daughter made it home safely.

My mother was horrified. I think my Dad was calmer about it because he understood this code of honour thing, and he was probably able to name-drop that upper-level leader who used to stay at his brother’s hotel.

I actually had a pretty good impression of bikers as a result of that experience until I moved out to BC and heard other people’s stories. The moral of this story is not that bikers are all good guys. Many of them are terrible people. Oy. The horror stories. But this particular guy behaved like a decent person on this particular occasion.

Oh, and Kat’s friend’s place in London was robbed by bikers while she was visiting. Her friend’s roommate was a stripper who also, apparently, owed a lot of money. They took everything in the house, including her friend’s comic books, which was very upsetting to him. He had no idea his roomie was in debt with the bikers, and argued his stuff should not have to go to pay her debt! They apologized as they stripped the domicile clean, but it was also very clear you did not want to interfere with these guys. So he got robbed, and he moved out that day. This is not the first time I’ve heard of bikers robbing people. Those folks I babysat for probably got robbed that night.

So anyway, this is how Sweetie and I ended up getting sucked into this series about bikers, they had a presence in the political background of our childhood and teen years, because in the 80s and 90s the Hells Angels were making a huge bid to expand and take over a lot of territory. They were organized, they had this code of “honour” and they did a lot of public outreach. Toy rides, summer fun biker games, motocross tournaments. We recognized a lot of those elements in Sons of Anarchy.

So back to Sons of Anarchy, and the redemption of Tig, the notorious hit man, and his love-interest Venus.

I heard a guy say that Tig must be bisexual because he was having sex with Venus, who is a man.

I disagree. Maybe you’d agree. It doesn’t really matter how you or I might categorize Tig, or how Venus’ anatomy might factor in. What actually matters is what Tig might call himself, which is probably straight. Straight-ish. Hetero-flexible. In general, Tig’s character demonstrated he is into women. Venus was the enchanting exception to his otherwise pretty straight rule. We see that guy burn through a lot of women in that series. (The female characters in Sons of Anarchy are truly terrible. I found it hard to like any of them!)

I’ll compare it to myself, and my Sweetie. Both of us have had long-term relationships with men. I identify as gay / lesbian because I’m *primarily* attracted to women. Sweetie identifies as bisexual and she always has. She didn’t identify as straight during the 9 + years with her first partner, and she doesn’t identify as gay now. Ever since she was a teen she’s asserted she is bi. She really knew herself, actually. When you think about a teenage girl being that assertive about her identity at that time. Telling her mother, all her friends, in the 90s. Not letting anyone erase her sexuality just because she’s in a long-term monogamous relationship.

Sweetie, before I snapped her up, was just as likely to date a man as a woman when she was single. Not me. I dated exclusively women after I came out. So whatever label someone chooses and tells you is the thing they want to communicate to you about how they want to be understood.

That’s why you wait for someone to tell you, or you ask politely. You don’t have to worry about “figuring it out”. Isn’t that a relief?

So it’s not up to us, outsiders, to tell Tig the fictional biker that he’s not really straight if he’s having love and bedroom feelings for Venus.

AND it’s not up to anyone to tell Venus what her sexuality is, either. Neither Tig nor Venus talk about labels. I remember a T-Shirt on church street somewhere that read, “Labels are for soup cans!” Labels are useful, important even. This is why we fought for equal marriage, and this is why we must advocate for transgendered rights and respect too. Words have power. But as far as a person’s sexuality label, that’s something they choose for themselves, and they’ll tell you if it’s relevant. Need to know basis.

One woman I knew who frequented Goodhandy’s in the early 2000s wore a t-shirt that read “Transgendered Lesbian!!! BEWARE!!!” With a big biohazard symbol. It’s possible that biohaz symbol could have indicated her HIV status, now that I know a bit more about that stuff. She literally wore this T-Shirt to the trans bar so that she didn’t have to spend the entire night having the same conversation, over and over. She wanted women to approach her, and she was really only interested in dating people who were cool with the things on that T-Shirt.

A year or so later, she said she had moved on to only dating other T-Girls. Her dating pool was very small, and I often think about her and wonder how she’s doing. We had the same doctor so we ran into each other a lot, as we both had some chronic health issues to deal with.

Wow, this is the blog entry of tangents, isn’t it?!

She self-identified as a transgendered lesbian. Fair enough, that tells you what you need to know, when you’re going to the trans bar to pick up a date! But in line at the grocery store, it doesn’t really matter what label she’d use for herself, so it’s really none of our business. Unless we’re on a date with her.

What is very rude, is to say she is a straight man. No. She’s a woman. She presents as a woman. She had probably done a lot of work in her transitioning by that time. Her sexual orientation made a pivot, and what’s the word we use to describe a woman who’s interested only in dating other women?

You got it!

So you can imagine how this works if you start as a woman. The interesting thing to me is that many men who were born as female (ftm) would frequently identify as lesbian before they transitioned. As a man, they would then identify as straight. Or bi. Or however they wanted to identify. Again, not up to us, the public – only up to him.

In the years before gender transition was a known and semi-accepted thing, masculine gay women identified at “butch”. This was considered even WORSE than being a plain old lesbian. If you had to be a woman who was into other woman, the culture thought you should at least be an ATTRACTIVE (femme) woman! To be a butch lesbian was to fail completely and entirely as a member of the female gender. On top of that, some of those old-school butch lesbians were actually transgendered men. They were seen to be failing at a gender they didn’t even identify as.

It’s a very challenging life. There was even a time when you could be arrested for indecency if you were wearing gender inappropriate clothing! So if a butch lesbian decided to wear men’s underwear, pants and a man’s shirt to an illegal gay bar and was unfortunate enough to get busted that night, she could be charged for every single item of men’s clothing she was wearing.

There are stories of groups of trans people getting busted and piled into the back of a police van, giggling in nervous terror as they stripped down and swapped clothing items in an attempt to reduce the charges that would be leveled against them! As you can imagine, trans folks in police custody were routinely abused. They still are in many areas.

I’ve met straight men who used to be lesbians, a lesbian who used to be a straight man, a gay man who used to be a straight woman, and some “gender variant” / androgynous folks who identify as neither male nor female, and also don’t identify as gay or straight but simply “open”.

So how do you tell what someone’s “deal” is? First you ask yourself how this applies to you. If you need to know because you want to date this person, or set them up, then it’s appropriate to ask in the same way you’d ask about the pronouns. As a friend, or observe and infer, or after a get-to-know-ya period of time, politely ask yourself.

You don’t need to demand this information while policing a public washroom, or just to satisfy your curiosity. That’s weird. And rude. And I know that none of my readers would ever do this, but I hope you’d say something if you saw someone else doing it!

This concludes my rambling blog entry about bikers and transgendered sexuality! As always, please feel free to post your comments and stories below! I would love to hear from you, and I’m happy to be corrected by those who know more about this than I do!

PS: I’m a lesbian, except for about 10 seconds in the first episode of Sons of Anarchy when Charlie Hunnam puts on that bullet proof vest. Sexuality is more like colours in a rainbow, rather than black and white. That’s why we fly the rainbow flag at pride!

PPS: Sweetie and I will 90% probably be attending Vancouver Pride this year!!! We haven’t attended a Pride festival since 2008 and I’m SO looking forward to it!

The Session Shuffle

Dear Friends & Clients!

If you are waiting on me to get back to you about a special appointment time for your pet, and you do not have an email from me in your inbox right now, please email me again.  I am 90% sure I’ve gotten back to everyone, but I want to make 100%, so I’m posting this just in case.

I have a list of friends who have had to say goodbye to their animal friend recently, or who are helping their dogs through the last weeks of their life.  This is quite an unusual coincidence of events, as I’ve never before had so many requests for some end of life communication in such a short space of time.

I wonder what’s going on, on a grand scale, that there seems to be a sudden shift in pets and people who seemed stable for months, and are now getting ready to leave their bodies.

If you are experiencing this, please know you’re not alone.  Of the people who have requested sessions, this is just a small percentage of people who are going through it right now.

A tip for those who may be thinking about booking and haven’t yet: Please go ahead and book for the next available session time, and email me if you have a pet who is at the end of their life and I will do my best to fit you in on my days off.

I have been there, my friends are there right now, and I want to do what I can to help.  It is easier to organize who gets what spot if you book the first available session, and then I can shuffle you forward as my schedule allows.

Remember to be kind to yourself and others; smile at strangers, you never know what that person may be coping with.

Next time you see a facebook meme about trans folks, here’s what you need to know!

A couple of years ago, a client said to me that he thought I must be spiritually more evolved because I’m gay. He’d read somewhere that queer people are more spiritually evolved (than who?) because we’re up for the challenge of being different.

Honestly, I think that theory’s crap. I’m not somehow more spiritual or evolved because of my sexuality. But it might be nice if that view extended to my trans-gendered friends who are under fire right now with this stupid bathroom issue in the United States.

I’ve been gently but firmly providing feedback to the folks on my facebook feed for over a year, trying to dispel the harmful myths about trans folks. I kind of snapped when I was listening to a friend’s podcast, where her co-host said he wanted a “hetero-only bathroom” and didn’t want to hear a transman pee. That made me very, very angry.

I guess my tolerance has limits.

Here’s the thing. Gay people have been targeted for decades. Every election year conservative politicians in the US, Canada and in other countries (too many to list, google it) gay folks are dragged into the public arena once again and held up as pedophiles, perverts and predators. So normal people, those queer folks who aren’t one of the 3 Ps (which is almost all of us, as most pedophiles and predators are actually straight men) have had to defend themselves not only from the direct attacks, but the years of violent backlash that all this fear and hatred whips up.

This is why parents sometimes cry if their kid tells them they’re gay. Parents are afraid for their kids, because they see the hatred, the violence, the unfair impact on the quality of a person’s life just because they’re gay.

I start with my own experience because I can speak from it, and also because most people now are cool with gay folks. Pop culture has turned around. There are still stereotypes about lesbians being combative, masculine and undesirable, and gay men being effeminate, comical and stylish, but for the most part gay people just aren’t hated the way they were in the 80s and 90s. Well done, North America.

The gay folks aren’t good punching bags anymore. So now the conservatives are targeting the trans folks. There are even fewer transgendered people than there are gay people, and it’s completely unfair to expect trans folks to be able defend themselves alone from this cultural assault. They’ve been taking beatings alongside and in addition to gay folks this whole time.

Let’s lay some vocabulary down so we can have a better conversation.

First, the difference between cross-dressing (aka transsexual) vs. being transgendered. Cross-dressing (transSEXUAL) is a fetish. That’s the “sexual” in transsexual. There are people, generally straight men, who enjoy wearing women’s clothing because it turns them on. It’s a fetish. And there’s nothing wrong with that, provided you don’t involve others in your fetish without their knowledge or consent. Who cares if a guy likes to wear women’s underwear? Who gives a crap if he likes to put on makeup as a part of a thing that gives him a thrill? He is not hurting anybody. Leave the cross-dressers alone.

This is Kurt, he’s cross-dressing. He’s doing it more for the political / disruptive statement, but some guys do this in their own homes, for fun. Cross-dressing for Kurt was a part of his performance. It wasn’t his gender expression. This is clearly a guy in a dress. Not a transwoman.

Cross-dressing and transgendered is easily confused because of fabulous drag shows. The gay community has a history of being accepting, so all sexual minorities tended to band together in the bad old days. That’s why there is so much open fetish display at gay pride parades. It’s about airing out everyone’s closets. For some, it’s just being gay. That was a bad thing that used to have to be hidden. Back before there was gender-reassignment surgery, trans folks were absorbed into the gay communities as a type of gay. Cross-dressing the fetish was imposed upon transgendered people because that’s the only way we had of understanding them.

This is why there’s a rich and fun history of “drag shows” in the gay community. Men dressed very convincingly as women, and women dressed very convincingly as men. Sometimes that’s fetish play, and sometimes it’s a chance for transgendered people to just be who they feel they are, inside, just for a night.

This is a pic from a Pride Parade. If you were there, you’d address these folks as women – they’re presenting as female. If they don’t live all the time as female and just enjoy doing drag shows like this one, when they’re in their street clothes, they’re probably behaving as men. But you can’t tell from this photo. One or all of them might be transgendered, and feel like women and live as women all the time. You don’t know.

That’s why this can get confusing for people who aren’t in the queer culture. You don’t have to figure this stuff out. But if you got to know some drag queens, you might find a couple who are transwomen. Not all drag queens are trans women, and not all trans women perform in drag shows!

All you really need to know is a person presenting as a woman, you treat as a woman – you use the proper pronouns for a woman and you be polite. Oddly, the folks in the above picture is what people seem to fear is going to show up in the stall next to them in public washrooms. Unless you’re actually at a drag show or a pride parade, you will *never* pee next to a drag queen. So don’t worry about it.

The key thing about understanding trans gendered versus transsexual / cross-dressing / drag is to know that a transgendered person *always*feels like they’re in the wrong body. It’s not a turn-on or a performance. The whole world is relating to them in a way that feels wrong. This creates a condition called “gender dysphoria” which is a state of misery created by feeling like one gender, being in a body that does not reflect your gender, and having everyone around you treat you as the person they believe and expect you to be, which you’re not. It is misery.

Gender dysphoria does not create transgendered people, it’s a side effect of being transgendered in our current culture. We still have such rigid gender-roles that when someone in a male body feels and behaves like a female human, all hell breaks loose. Little boys acting like little girls get beaten up, and little girls acting like little boys are called “tomboy” until they hit puberty and then the physical violence gets even worse. Lots of transmen have had experiences of other men trying to “teach them to be a girl”.

Trans people are the subject of violence, not the cause of it. Trans people are the prey, not the predators.

Growing up, I didn’t know of any transgendered kids. I only knew two other gay people, who were so gay they couldn’t hide (called passing for straight.) Those gay kids were regularly beaten up. I didn’t even recognize myself to be gay. Gay kids ended up in the hospital, why would I look at that part of myself??? That’s how toxic the culture was, and that was only twenty years ago. Transgendered kids existed in my time, in my high school, in my friend group even – but they were hiding, desperately trying to conform, miserable and afraid. And that is so unfair.

Two of the trans folks I know right now are kids. Little kids. Not quite teens. Kids who are clearly presenting as girls even though their birth certificates say male. Their parents, bless their hearts, accept their kids for who they are, and a transgendered kid is not seen as having a perversion or an illness, they’re seen as having a medical condition that requires hormone therapy to ensure their ability to develop and thrive. These kids will hopefully not suffer as terribly from “gender dysphoria”, because they will always be surrounded by family and community who accepts and understands them.

More parents, thank God, are accepting their transgendered kids:

These kids are being sucked into the trans bathroom bill bs on facebook. Their parents have had to restrict their use of facebook for their own well-being and safety.

Now, a bit more vocabulary: What do you call a woman who “used to be” a man? A male-to-female transgendered woman, or, MtF. The way a person presents is the gender you call them. Presenting as a woman? You use all the female pronouns. Doesn’t matter if the pronouns match what’s in her underwear – what’s in her pants is not any of your business. If you’re on a date, the subject will come up well in advance, I assure you.

All you need to know is a person in front of you presenting as “she” gets called “She”. Not “he-she” or “she-he” or “tranny” – those are bad words. Mean words. Don’t use them.

Ditto with a transgendered man. Trans men used to be called “butch” lesbians, back in the bad old days. They’re the stereotypes every lesbian finds herself facing in pop culture. Deep voice, cut-off jean jacket, flat chest, hairy armpits. That’s the stereotype, but the reality is a whole scale that ranges from very masculine to androgynous. If you see a masculine-presenting person you say “he”. It doesn’t matter if the pronoun matches the birth certificate classification, what matters the most is that the pronoun you use matches the gender presentation of the person in front of you.

How do you know which to use? Well if you’re being introduced, the name will often tip you off. Marilyn, Jennifer, Tamara – if the name is female, use female pronouns.

If you ever end up meeting an androgynous (looks gender-neutral) person, use your common sense. Some people *are* gender neutral. They don’t identify as male OR female. They may pick an ambiguous name, too. In this rare circumstance, you can either listen and hear what pronouns his/her friends are using, or you can just ask. “So, your friend Jesse – what pronouns should I use? I’m not sure.”

There are actually gender-neutral pronouns that are being put into use, but they’re not widespread yet. That’s varsity-level gender politics, and if you get to the point where you can use them freely, I applaud you. Remember you can always use the plural “they / their” if you’re not sure or can’t find a good time to ask. Never say “it” or “that”. A transperson is not an object, or an animal.

So just as a male born trans-woman is called “she”, probably uses a female name and is referred to correctly as a “MtF transwoman” a female born transman is called “he”, probably uses a male name and is referred to correctly as “FtM transman”.

Here’s an example of a transwoman.

She wouldn’t be safe using a male public washroom. Don’t make it illegal for her to use the ladies’ room. She’s a MtF transwoman.

Here’s an example of a transman. I actually met this guy at a Toronto Pride briefly, he’s very famous for being a transman and talking about declining genital surgery:

He’s also famous for being in porn. A lot of transfolks turn to or embrace some sort of sex work because hormone therapy and the various surgeries are very expensive. Isn’t it amazing how much of our bodies are just hormones??? This is incredible to me. Anyway, if I saw this guy in the ladies’ room, I’d be shocked. I might even feel so uncomfortable as to leave the washroom. Don’t make Buck use the ladies’ room. It’s just ridiculous. Buck is a FtM transman.

Do you see how that works? If someone started as female and he is now presenting as male, Female to Male, = FtM transman. MAN. Use male pronouns. Just respect how people present themselves, be open to feedback, and you’ll be fine.

So, now you all know what I’m talking about when I say “transman” and “transwoman” right? Get comfortable with that.

Remember, there’s a cross-dressing fetish that’s out there, but it’s DIFFERENT from being transgendered.

In the world before hormone therapy, transgendered people fell into different categories depending on the culture. Some cultures recognize five different genders. Some cultures explain gender and sexual differences with spiritual beliefs about male and female aspects mixing at different ratios.

Some cultures, unfortunately, recognize only two genders, and have such strict gender-roles with severe consequences to deviation from the accepted norm.

This is where the hate crimes and violence comes in for me and my community.

This bathroom debate in the US is ramping up the mis-information and the fear about trans folks. When ignorant people are afraid, they hate. The post terrible memes on facebook, disguised as jokes, which circulate and creates more hate. That hate inevitably turns into real violence. Real sexual violence. And real murders.

This violence and these murders don’t make the regular papers. You’ll only hear about them if you subscribe to some form of gay news website. They’re frighteningly common, like subway suicides. A regular event. Unworthy of news coverage, because if you report one, you’d have to report them all.

If you’re lucky enough to know a trans person, you’ll have the chance to see and hear about how the world treats them, and how they cope with constant oppression. Trans folks are at a much greater risk of suicide, especially in their teens, and just like gay kids, trans kids are extremely likely to end up homeless before they’re 16. A transgendered adult is already a survivor. Respect that.

If a person is transgendered AND a member of a racial minority, their burden is almost unfathomable. Even within the relative safety of the gay community, they’ll still encounter all the racism of the larger world. There is no safe place. Here are some articles about the shocking violence against transwomen of colour:

Hate crimes against trans women is on the rise, because of this stupid bathroom issue. Straight people spouting off about things that will *never* affect them personally, and it’s blowing back on the people who are already being forced to carry a too-great-risk of physical harm.

Seeing friends getting beaten up, attending fundraisers for transpeople who are recovering from sexual violence, holding space and candlelight vigils for ANOTHER bashed-to-death sister. These are things I experienced in my 20s when I was living in Toronto, and a part of me will always be there.

Thanks to marriage equality in Canada, my partner and I can blend into our tiny community in Ucluelet. We forget we’re supposed to be different. That’s the way it should be. But for trans folks, you aren’t allowed to forget you’re on the front lines in the gender wars, and the bodies are your friends, people you admire, women who are stronger than you.

So, my friends, when you see a facebook meme about “next time I see a woman in a dress try to use the ladies room I’m going to beat his ass!” please PLEASE help me explain to these people all of the problems in that sentence.

A man in a dress is not a transgendered person. A cross-dressing fetish is not going to end up in the ladies room. Transpeople are more afraid of you than you are of them. Trans women and trans men deserve a stall in whatever washroom they feel comfortable in.

Sure, gender-neutral individual washrooms are great too, but there should not be legislation forcing people to use one. And there’s no reason to segregate washrooms any more than there was reason to have racially-segregated drinking fountains. They’re not available everywhere, and again, believe me, the trans folks have been dealing with this bathroom issue for longer than most of us have been thinking about it.

Gender-neutral washrooms are a part of the solution, but legislating their use is creating more violence. The real solution is acceptance and common sense. If a transperson is using a washroom, it’s because they have to pee. They will probably look for a gender-neutral washroom, often because they feel safer. We need gender-neutral washrooms anyway, for parents with little kids, for disabled people who are more awkward about their bathroom process and need extra privacy. Yes please, we need more gender-neutral washrooms – not legislation. Bathroom laws will make the burden on trans folks even heavier, and it’ll create yet another daily obstacle.

Please join the conversation, because it’s exhausting and we need the help.

(The top photo is of Nina Arsenault, a transwoman from my Toronto community, born and raised in Northern Ontario, like me. She’s a survivor, a teacher, was a sex worker, and has lived through more than I can convey.)

Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll get into sexuality, surgery, and trans people. Please feel free to post your honest questions in the comments!

Ep. 47 ~ The very worst haunting ever.

2016-05-17 andrea's ghost stories 2

Part TWO is out!  Remember, at the end of last week’s episode, how Andrea said “It gets worse”?

Now you can find out how.  This is the very worst haunting experience I’ve ever heard, and I have no doubt it’s true.  Because of the crazy-scary nature of the story, including the violent assault, I think this kind of story generally isn’t told at all.  For most people, sharing a “haunting” story is strange and vulnerable enough, without sharing these details.

Trigger Warning: If you don’t want to hear about the violent assault of this negative entity, you can skip forward eleven minutes.  





Ep. 46 Guest! Andrea’s Ghost Stories!!!

The long-awaited ANDREA EPISODES!  This is part 1 of 3 installments, and Andrea BY FAR has the greatest variety of ghost stories that have shifted her with first-hand experiences from being a bit of an agnostic / nihilist to believing and knowing there is really something to this haunting / spirit thing!

Here’s a breakdown of the episode:

The kitties welcome Andrea to the studio

Haunted B&B in Sooke, BC!

The can opener incident!

Andrea’s sister’s haunted rental house in Toronto on Ruskin St. Andrea’s first hand experiences with a VERY aggressive spriit.

Kate talks about the best prank Erik Medhus ever pulled on her

Pranks and messages from spirit friends

Protecting your home from negative energy

Andrea’s spirit friend offers support to her baby

How sensitive people can physically soak up energetic impressions and illnesses from others

Neat stories of paranormal experiences

More crazy stories from Andrea’s sister’s place!



Oh yeah, it’s Prince, y’all!

So, I have a running list of celebrities that I’d like to speak with, and for me, this isn’t so much a to do list, as a suggestion. I keep the list based on reader’s suggestions, and based on personal interest. But honestly, it’s really up to them. Which one of them wants to speak?

As a rule, I like to wait at least a year after death. I don’t want to hop of the celeb-psychic bandwagon of taking advantage of media hype. Prince, though, well, this this just kind of happened. Which is the best way, really.

I’ll preface this to say, I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m really not that familiar with Prince’s work. Yes, he’s ubiquitous. I’ve certainly heard his music. But he’s not the icon for me the way he was and is for so many others – and the grief that’s surrounding his death is audible and palpable when I turn my attention to his photos on facebook. Great musicians don’t just make music, they help people understand and love themselves. People love Prince for this.

I was in the car, listening to a podcast host talk about Prince and how much he meant to her, how she cried for two days after his death, and how his music helped her. Suddenly, there he was, right there and available, just as though I was on a phone call with his podcast host and she was asking me to tune into a loved one, someone she shared a connection with, and there was Prince, so accessible and happy to talk to me.

So of course, I had to follow that up. The first thing he said to me, in his small, soft voice with this unusual cadence, almost like he is turning his lips around the words differently than most people, like he needs to be careful to speak softly because every part of him wants to be ecstatically loud so he has to exert effort to be quiet: Hello (smile) You know, I just love psychics. I used to go to séances in the 80s and spoke to Marilyn Monroe! You should really talk to her, she’s just an incredible woman. I love her.

This, I think, is the beauty of Prince. He’s like, “Hey, we have this thing in common, let’s not make it about me, let’s talk about this other icon.”

So here we go, picking up where we left off:

K: What did Marilyn say?

P: (smile in a mischievous, secretive way, turns his head away from me a bit so he looks at me out of the corner of his eye) She said she loved our energy! She warmed up the room, we checked the candles, because the room was getting’ all heated and sweaty you know, like that. (Gives me the feeling of a flush, and the desire to take a deep breath.) I loved séances, back in the day. They fell out of fashion for a while, it used to be this fun thing you could do at parties.

I never had questions to ask Marilyn or any of the others, either, I just wanted to feel them in the room with us. I heard their energy, like music, you know. Everything around me in a séance was like watching coloured lights, like being high, in a way, high on the afterlife! (chuckle / giggle)

K: Thanks for talking to me,

P: Thanks for talking to me! I like to talk to everyone – I want to inspire as many people as possible. All of them. You know I checked our Michael first thing, right? And all the others. It’s funny how they all accept me, and I still feel separate from them all. I guess I’m just the beautiful mythical creature in heaven! One of a kind – I always knew I was!

K: Is that what you like to teach? I have a lot of questions, I’ll try and ask them all at once, and you can answer them in whatever order you want.

P: That’s the beauty of telepathic communication! Okay, you go now.

P: Okay, I will answer your questions in reverse order, because I enjoy symmetry. No I did not die by accident, it was my time. I felt called to go, and I left in peace. I know this is very hard on my family, and they will keep my memory alive. (Sister – he sends so much love to his sister.)

K: I just need to pause while I look up if I got sister right.

P: You got it right, my sister and I are very close. Okay, you ready to continue?

I lived a magical life. My life was a miracle, and full of miracles. I was amazed that I was allowed to live as long as I lived, and I’m so happy that I didn’t have the fear when I was younger, in my 20’s. I see that fear in so many people, fear of that would happen to them if they said how they were really feeling. So I said it for them, and I think that’s why they love me.

K: (my eyes are tearing up, because his love is so strong.)

P: You ask if I accomplished what I wanted to with my life, and I ask you, what is an accomplishment? What is a goal? (Gives me the feeling of euphoria) That was my goal! I wanted that for every one – for everyone to feel loved and happy, and to at least know they can get there. My music was about giving others the key to that feeling – of feeling okay, and happy, and delicious, sexifying glorious beast of themselves! Unhindered, you know? Humanity, unshackled.

If we’re all busy being our most beautiful selves, people don’t really hurt each other, or themselves. Hardly at all. You forgive, when you’re in that state. I struggled to understand unhappy people. I felt like, people just need permission to go do what makes them real! That’s all of my work, all of my art, telling people and SHOWING THEM, life is beautiful when there are no rules.

K: That’s really beautiful. That state of euphoria, it’s almost orgasmic.

P: It is orgasmic – without the coital (raises his eyebrow, and his mouth makes a flirty smile). It’s sexual potential, to be sexual is to be uninhibited – and to be uninhibited creates happiness, art, humanity, beauty.

I think the hardest thing about being alive, for me, was to see other people suffer. I especially hated to see my sister or my mother cry. I wanted to fix it for them, so when I was small, I could play them a song, be silly, get them to feeling happy again. That’s what showed me the transformative / transmutive power of music and art. Uncompromising art. It moved people, and it can move others from a place of unhappiness, to okayness. Music heals. I wanted to heal the whole world, and in the 80s, I believed that I could.

K: Did that change over time? Did you get discouraged?

P: (Soft laugh, self-deprecating) No, I never stopped trying to heal the world! As I got older I started to believe that the world’s problems were too big for me. I always was a Peter Pan, I didn’t want to grow up. Adulthood will come and getcha! My sister was always telling me I needed to take better care of things, adult things, financial things – I preferred to leave all that to her and to people I trusted to oversee.

I think, I felt it was time for me to go, and that I would go when I could. I felt like I had done enough in the world, and my records could play my songs better than I could. I felt my energy waning, my mortality catching up with me. And I missed being young. I felt tired. It was my decision, and I hope you can respect that.

K: Sure, we don’t even have to talk about it if you would rather talk about something else. I’m up for any conversation.

P: I felt like I should die while we still had a black president! I don’t want to see the outcome of this race!

K: Not what I was expecting! Do you care this deeply about politics?

P: ART IS POLITICS. Art in pure form is always a political act. (Shows me himself, divided in half, a masculine version with dark features on his left side, a fairer feminine version of himself on the right side, as though he were split right down the middle.) Showing both sides of myself was always a political act. My mama always told me to be careful with the girly stuff, she loves me, she was so worried for me. My father would try to do boy things with me, baseball and all that, but he accepted me, loved me, and I could tell he was worried for me.

(smiles, reminiscent.) When I was a child, I didn’t see any of those differences, and I feel like so much of my life, and my art, is helping the child in me find the child in you, that we’re all just playing this game and making up the rules, so why not include everyone? I didn’t feel the need to change, I wasn’t going to ask anyone else to change! I knew I was loved and worthy of love. I also knew that other people didn’t feel that way, they didn’t have a mama and a papa to love them like I did.

I wanted my music to MAKE them feel that love, and know it’s out there for them. It still is! I haven’t changed! Just left my body! My wardrobe is better than ever! Gravity is such a downer, look at this fabulousness! (Shows me he’s wearing a – okay, this is complex so I’ll describe it top down.

He’s wearing an exaggerated flock of seagulls hair style, (Call them Elvis curls, girl.) Elvis curls, then. Gerry Curls on the sides, he’s showing me. He’s got a thin beard that travels along his jar line, then jumps up to join a thin moustache, nothing on his chin. He has a thin, straight nose, a beauty mark on his cheek that sparkles (Like Marilyn!) and he has heavy, beautiful thick eye lashes, liner, purple eye shadow that shimmers, and his skin shimmers with a bronze sparkle. Moving down to his throat, he has a lovely warm body smell, a mix of an aftershave that seems familiar and a warm clean body smell under it. He’s wearing a black tie tuxedo – but wait, let me describe it before you picture it.

The tux part is only the top half of his outfit. He has a waist, like he’s wearing an extra-tight cummerbund or maybe a corset under it. It nips in at the waist, and is quite tight, but he’s showing me he can breathe. His shirt is buttoned tightly and instead of being white, is a pale pink, with gold buttons, and there are red sparkly rubies or other bright red stone set into the buttons on his sleeves.

The jacket part of the tux is, of course, purple. A soft lilac, complimentary to the shirt, thick brocade / silk, just luxurious and rustly. Very warm. It has long tails – and here’s the part where gravity takes a role.

You make your own gravity. So the tails of the tux are floating out behind him like he’s floating in water – or just the outfit itself is defying gravity, because his body looks like he’s standing, not floating.

Under the formal jacket, where the waist nips in, a skirt begins. It’s a glorious skirt, full length, with pointed shoes showing from under it. The skirt doesn’t seem to be defying gravity as easily as the jacket. The skirt is iridescent, it’s hard to describe it as a colour, and it’s hard to even describe it as a skirt – because it’s not something that looks out of place at all – it’s gives the sense of being heavy and luxurious, but you’re aware of his body underneath it. I can’t even decide if the skirt is embroidered or not, it’s always moving and shifting.

The effect is very beautiful.

P: This will be my next album cover!

K: Did I describe it well enough? Anything you want to add?

P: Just that I look gorgeous in it!

K: You do!

P: I remember when Kurt Cobain wore that shift dress thang. I loved it! (Perplexed feeling, like “why does he want to look ugly?” but non-judgmental, just curious and empathetic.)

I thought that, I was coming at it (art/creation/music) from this angle (beauty, joy, passion, ecstasy, romantic pain) and he (Kurt) was coming at it from underneath. (Anger, hopeless pain, skepticism). I listened to his music, and it made me feel sad. I always respected him as an artist.

K: Yeah, the heartbreak over your death reminds me of the mourning after Kurt’s death. And Michael Jackson’s too.

P: (his face seems to widen, his cheeks get a bit larger as he smiles, and I’m to understand he looks more like his mother) Don’t be saaaaad I’m gone, children! You have Mama Beyonce! Ain’t she just fabulous right now? Oh, I’m so proud of her! There are so many right now – Gaga, you know. There are many you don’t know, girl (to me) you need to get out there more!

It was just my time to go home. We all know when it’s out time.

K: I believe it. Did you always know you’d be a famous artist?

P: I always knew that if I just did the things my body and my soul wanted to do, that God would look after me and everything else would take care of itself. It was more than that, I had to stay true to myself. You’re asking me if that was my greatest challenge, and I have to say, it was never really a challenge for me, in the way that you’re asking me.

I knew that it was my job to follow the breadcrumbs. Like I was some kind of dormouse, I only had to see the next crumb. When I was a little child, it was making my family around me happy. It was making myself happy too, and every child should have the opportunities to make themselves happy.

When I started to grow – I’m not going to say “Grow up” I’ll say “Grow out!” like hair, you know! When I started to grow out, and I found that there were certain aspects of myself, which did not conform with the expectations of others. I did not conform to the image of a black man. I could not be a black man, in this way. I would fail at being that kind of black man, and so, there was no one to be but myself.

I have to thank my family, for loving me, unconditionally. I didn’t need the love or approval of anyone else. I had my family. When I picked up, I was about three years old. I loved it, and my mother thought I was just the light of her life! My sister then would say I was stupid, but even then, she’d listen to me! I could change the room, and I loved making music. It was a better way to communicate.

(What he picked up, he shows me a miniature guitar, a ukulele maybe? According to the internet, his first song was written on a piano at age seven.)

As a child, I felt a bit, unheard. All children feel unheard. I’d shout at the top of my lungs, and I’d get told, “Stop shoutin’!” But if you were SINGING! That was shoutin’ people loved to hear. So I learned to sing. Not only do people like to hear you when you sing, but they stop what they’re doing and listen with a part of themselves that they don’t even listen to themselves! Do you get what I’m saying?

K: Yeah, I understand, they’re setting aside everything they’re thinking about. They stop thinking and listen to you completely.

P: They listen with their soul. And I liked that, singing for a person’s soul. My mama’s soul. My aunties and sisters and cousins. I liked performing too, at the church. I would ask my mother, “Mama, can I play music at the ____?” She would always say yes! I think she was my first agent! She would explain to me that I had to share the stage with other kids, so they could feel good playing to their parents too.

K: Did you know then you wanted the stage to yourself?

P: (Tilts head to the side, like he’s holding in a laugh) Yes, I believe I always wanted that stage to myself! I wanted to be heard! Oh, you understand my first songs were truly terrible, right??? I wrote some HORRIBLE love songs! (Shows me himself, surrounded by a group of close women friends, everyone just busting a gut over the lyrics of some of these old songs.) They were *poetry* back then! I didn’t mind though, I paid them no mind!

K: I understand you had to put up a fight with some record producers early in your career? You turned down some deals because –

P: Because I didn’t want to produce Pop Garbage! That was a garbage deal, and I was a bit dramatic about it. The music inside me was like a fire, and I was the dragon. I had to be a dragon, you couldn’t dress a dragon up, and make him pretend to be something less amazing, less beautiful, than what he already was! I wasn’t going to do a deal on those terms. I had all this energy, the fierceness and the fire – those were fighting years for me. I missed the energy of those days.

You know, me and Michael, we had a lot in common. We were both sent down, around the same time, to do similar things. And we went about it in similar ways. We are brothers in song. But Michael, he had it harder than me. That’s all I’m going to say about his life, he can speak for himself. We came to similar ends – we started to feel so tired, and felt the life force that used to fuel and overwhelm us, retreat back into heaven, and ask us to follow.

Hey! (excited, switches gears) I talked to these two girls through their Ouija board! (Not young girls, she’s showing me they have drinks, but he’s saying girls because they’re giggling, they’ve known each other since childhood and revert a bit to their childhood state when they’re together.) I think I scared them a little! Hey girls! Shout out to you, boo!

K: Did you always feel different?

P: Yeah, I was obviously different as I grew out. I learned to talk like this, with my inside voice, and I embraced the part of me that becomes a woman at times. I never rejected my masculine side though, I loved that part of myself too, just as much. David Bowie? He got it from me! I teased him a bit about it when I got here, of course, it is an artist’s greatest flattery to see their work stolen! The 80’s was a new sexual rebellion, and there was the HIV / AIDS epidemic. It was a dangerous time to be a male who looked like a female. David and I, we were on the same side.

(I asked if they ever played a concert together, and got a yes – with a qualifier from Prince. As though, yes, they were in the same place at the same time, not on the same stage. I googled “Did David Bowie and Prince play together?” And didn’t come up with anything obvious, so I won’t pursue that question.)

K: So, was there any one thing you wanted to say with your music? Is it too many to mention?

P: It’s a good question, I think most artists have the same point of view influencing all of their work. I would say different things with different collections. Touring would have a theme. It’s a shame you never saw me in concert, friend, I was (incredible / fabulous / amazing / the best!) I understand why you don’t like crowded spaces, you can see it later!

Overall, the work of my life has been: push limits. Push on those limits that hold you back, and grow out. Grow out, grow up or down or sideways, it’s all beautiful. We are all beautiful, we can learn to see the beauty in each other. We can feel the ecstacy of touch, love, understanding and acceptance. All my life, all of my work has been showing this in different ways, to different people. At one point, my dream was to make a song for everyone – so that every person on earth could find a song that I created that spoke to them, so that they would know they are beautiful and loved.

K: Did you do it?

P: Only time will tell.


It is with sadness and some relief that I mark today, the 1 year anniversary of my mother’s death.

This photo is a replica of the one used at her funeral service.  My dad has one in his bedroom.  The heart-shaped box contains some of her ashes, and Sunshine’s ashes are in a container behind this photo.  

The green hummingbird holds a lot of symbolism.  My mother identified it as my sister’s totem, the ability to adjust, move in any direction, travel great distances, be a warrior, and travel to dream worlds when necessary.  

This time last year I woke up to the text that Mom had died in the night, and I spent the morning in grief, shock, and relief, staring out my bedroom window to the backyard, which was suddenly alive with hummingbirds.

The orange cat belonged to my Mom, she bought it to symbolize her childhood cat, Tiger, and it was one of her favourite trinkets.  

The brown bird I asked to have, it was a constant presence in my childhood and is included in my earliest memories of my mother, when it was just the two of us, most of the day, while Dad was at work.  

The abalone shells are a rare find out here on the coast.  While they can be purchased online from farms, finding one in the wild are rare.  These are two of the three I’ve found wild.  The rainbow shimmer of the abalone shell symbolizes communion with the afterlife, and is traditionally the shell if choice for smudging and cleansing ceremonies.  The third shell, I use for this purpose.

Finally, within the smallest shell, are two herkimer diamonds.  My friend Candis gave them to me a few years ago, after finding them in a remote river in the Kootenay mountains.  I was surprised that diamonds could just be found laying around, and that these diamonds, herkimers, are not considered to be valuable in the way that our engagement ring diamonds are.  

To me, the diamonds symbolize what you choose to believe, how to hold the complicated memories of the past.  What you decide is precious, so often, is simply what we declare to be so.

Love you, Mom.

Ep. 45 Carly’s Ghost Stories, Part 1!

Woo hoo! I have at least FOUR ghost story episodes coming down the pipe for you guys! I have to pause a second to give myself a little pat on the back for accomplishing my winter time goals this year.

Today, and next week will be part 1 and part 2 of my talk with Carly, who is a hospital co-worker of mine and, I’m grateful to say, a wonderful friend.

From a full-blown apparition to spooky malevolent black mist, Carly has seen wide variety of paranormal phenomenon during her years working as a nurse in Tofino and other remote communities!

We had such a great conversation, we couldn’t cram it all into one episode, so we had to split it into two!

I hope you enjoy it!

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast on your iphone / ipod / apple device click here.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast on your android / other device, download the Stitcher app and then click here to subscribe.

Or you can download the podcatcher of your choice and then use this feed to subscribe:

What would you tell your 16 year old self?

Kate 1996

This is me in 1996.  I was in high school, with a lot of stuff behind me, but some of the toughest stuff still ahead.

Look at this kid.  I can’t believe this was me.  If I could sit her down and just give her the cheat codes for her teen years, I’d say:

  1.  Take horseback riding lessons.  You can afford it, it’s the best thing for you right now, and it’ll be harder to do later.
  2. Keep working at the vet’s, but you won’t want to be a vet in three years.  You’ll see what I mean.  When that happens, DON’T PANIC.  Just keep calm and get your own place as soon as possible.
  3. You’re strong enough to do things your way, on your own.  You don’t really need to wait for other people to be ready.
  4. It’s okay to inconvenience others.
  5. It’s okay to get angry and make demands.  You should.  And then go and actually do the things you want to do.  See point #3 and #4.
  6. Visit Vancouver.  You can afford it.  Just go to the west coast so that you’ll *know* how amazing it is, and know that it’s waiting for you.
  7. Nursing isn’t going to work out either, but it’ll be a great education.  Move to Toronto, but don’t worry, you won’t stay there.
  8. Take night school.  A lot of night school.  Night school is the coolest. You will MUCH PREFER night school to full-time college, they get right to the point.
  9. YOU’RE GAY.  Yes you are.  Yes you are.  No, you really are.  You’ll see.  And it’ll be fine.  See point #3 and #4.
  10. In two years, it’ll get hard.  But then it gets better.  So much better.

What would you tell your 16 year old self???

Hunting & Animal Communication

I do believe in responsible hunting. Not trophy hunting, where animals are hunted for display purposes, and prime animals are picked off and removed from the gene pool prematurely. Not flush-hunting, where a bunch of people go in with 4×4 vehicles, make a ton of noise and scare all the prey animals to one end of the forest where the humans are waiting with guns. And certainly not spring bear hunts, baby seal hunts, canned hunts, gross abuse and over-harvesting.

There is a big difference between hunting as part of your relationship with the natural world, as part of a traditional and sustainable means of occupying our planet, and hunting for bragging rights, tourism, and testosterone.

Real hunters know the difference. Sadly, irresponsible hunting and over-harvesting has given all hunting a bad repuration.

In my father’s day, hunting was a traditional part of the average Canadian’s ability to sustain their families, at least in rural areas outside of cities. When he left to hunt rabbits, partridge or deer, he’d check in on the neighbours to see what they needed. Rabbits used to be incredibly easy to harvest. You would literally “go out and get a rabbit”.

There are many different methods of hunting. The fur trade created a lot of waste, and a lot of unnecessary suffering for wild animals. Snares for rabbits, when properly set, would kill them before they even knew what happened. A good bow hunter could drop a deer without disturbing the rest of the herd. An elk can help feed a family for a year.

Wild animals are often healthier than our farmed animals. They don’t grow up on feedlots, they live on huge territories, expressing every element of their natural beings. For all prey animals, being hunted is a part of their life, and humans are not the only ones who hunt them.

Farming has taken over hunting, and factory farming has added a new imbalance for our animal friends. I believe in farming too, but I also believe in hunting, and in permaculture. If we manage our wild places in the way they were traditionally managed by our nations First Peoples, we can find the land yields a LOT more food than it can possibly produce while we farm it. This is why fencing off property and tilling the soil seemed like an insane idea to most First Nations people.

I think I’ve talked about how, as an animal communicator, I’ve really tried to go vegetarian. I was veg and then vegan for years, until my dreams, my body and my cravings brought me back to eating meat. That return convinced me that my particular body doesn’t want to go without meat. I can survive without it, but I can’t really thrive. I did learn a lot though, and returning to a diet that includes meat has forced me to learn even more.

Maybe it’s because my father was a hunter, a real hunter, that I’ve always believed we should be utilizing the forests in a more responsible way. Understanding responsible, respectful hunting helps me see hunting as a way to improve animal welfare, and create balance with our environment in general.

There was a big uproar this past week in my hometown of Ucluelet, when a man was caught and convicted of poaching from a newly re-established elk herd not far from my home. The elk used to live here, and were hunted to oblivion, except in the north end of the island. The First Nations communities are generally working together to bring this traditional food source back to our area… and so they were outraged when the Ucluelet hereditary Chief was caught poaching these elk out of season. He has been removed as chief, an extremely rare occurrence – this shows the seriousness of the poaching offence.

In this week’s podcast, I read a piece shared from a lovely Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations lady named Tsimka Martin, as she tells the story of her people’s traditional whale hunt.

Whale hunting now is associated with massive industrialized vessels, overharvesting, and inhumane slaughter. Yet whale hunting was not always so. The whale hunt used to be an essential part of survival for the First People of Vancouver Island, and the Tla-o-qui-aht were famously skilled.

I’ve seen the dugout whaling canoes, carved by Tsimka’s family. They’re huge – but not compared to a whale. Although the canoes would be filled with strong hunters, a whale is a good match. These people did not harvest the animals from a place of entitlement, they asked for sustenance and received permission.

Telepathic animal communication and prayer were even more important than the strength of the hunters and the sharpness of the harpoon.

Please listen to Tsimka’s story, and think about humanity’s relationship with the environment, with the animals that sustain us. Think about hunting, what is it, and what it could be.

Here, the traditional whale hunt is no longer practiced.

Animal Communication is not a new thing, in fact it’s an incredibly old thing.

In the Ucluelet / Tofino area, we are extremely fortunate to have access to culture sharing by the original people who have lived on this land for longer than recorded human history. These incredible survivors of colonialism and genocide have kept stories such as these sacred and secret – and now have begun to share the history they have saved.

Through this culture sharing we discover that animal communication was essential to the survival of the Nuuchahnulth peoples. Tsimka Martin, a woman of Tla-o-qui-aht heritage, shares an important part of her culture in the March 2016 Tofino Times. This wonderful article is shared in this episode.

Kate has also encountered this description of animal communication during

whale hunts in Anne Cameron’s book, Daughters of Copper Woman. You can buy that book here.

You can watch a video of Tsimka Martin on one of her traditional paddle school excursions here.

You can see some photos along with another version of Tsimka’s article here.

If you visit Tofino, you can go out on a traditional canoe with Tsimka or a member of her community through the T’ashii Paddle School here.

Kate Sitka is an Animal Communicator & Spirit Medium located in Tofino, BC.

You can find her blog and learn all about her services at

Book a Session with Kate here!

Questions? Comments about the episode? We love your feedback!


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