The Graveyard by the Sea

Here in Tofino, there is a modest little cemetery called “SeaView”.

It’s set back from the highway, a short drive down a dirt road to a fenced in little field dotted with flowers. This site has been in use for over 100 years. Not many people are buried here now, although there are a few recent graves. This silent, peaceful place has a feeling of being forgotten but cared-for at the same time.

There are no standing headstones, just markers parallel to the ground. That second marker on the right hand side, just at the edge of the fence? I stood in front of that marker to read the inscription… and I felt a rushing up through my feet and head. I felt dizzy and nervous simultaneously. I think this grave has a guardian that just didn’t like me standing on top of the grave.

It was a marker for a girl who died too young. It’s a very old marker and through the moss, you can make out the grief-stricken words chosen by her bereaved parents. This is the first time I’ve felt a strong guardian presence at a gravesite.

I asked Sweetie to stand exactly there, and she shivered. It was only this spot that felt forbidding and weird. We found a rose beside the fence that had blown off of one of the markers, and we placed it where we were standing, with a whispered apology. It was all we could really do to acknowledge the presence.

Everywhere else was quiet. A few spots still felt distinctly sad.

I’ve mentioned before, that I learned to read in a grave yard. In the early years of my childhood, there was not a playground within walking distance of our apartment, but there was a very old, beautiful and expansive graveyard behind the apartment building along a quiet little road. Usually, cemeteries feel more like libraries to me, but this one is different. Or maybe cemeteries feel different to me now.

I learned to ride my bike on the road to the cemetery, and my mother and I would stash my bike in the bushes and go into the graveyard for a picnic and a walk. I learned many letters and numbers by tracing my finger over the carved inscriptions in granite and marble, and saying the sounds of the letter or counting the number.

My mother taught me I could decipher the age of the person in the grave by subtracting the dates – but she always did the math at that point, because it was too advanced for me. I was probably 3 or 4 at this time.

So I have very fond associations with cemeteries. But this one, the Tofino Seaview Cemetery, I think it’s my new favourite. It’s the only cemetery I’ve encountered that has a section for pets, right at the back. The grave markers for pets were charming and endearing.

Some were rustic.

Some were very old.

And some clearly had the hands of children involved:

We encountered a surprise, back in the pet section. I photo of a laughing woman, nailed to a tree, facing the ocean and the pet graves. I think there were some ashes scattered here, among the pets, in line with the ocean.

Here’s the view, opposite the photo. A great view for bird-watching.

I definitely wish to be cremated, when my own time comes. Hopefully not for a good long while. I am banking on the longevity of *both*sides of my family – most women live into their 80s at least, and more than a few made it into their 90s. So with no children of our own, I can only imagine some great-grand niece / nephew / cousin however many times removed may want to take on the task. Or maybe a friend, or the child of a friend. Who knows. I would want it to be fun!

After scattering my Oma’s ashes in the Baron Canyon in Algonquin Park, and some of my mother’s ashes in a 900 year old cedar, I’ve been thinking about putting together a wild reverse-geocaching ashes-scattering adventure for whatever distant relative feels up to the task. If I get really wild with it, I’ll even leave some money to fund the travel. And maybe I’ll put this out-of-the-way ocean-side cemetery on my list!

I hope this entry wasn’t too morbid for y’all. I enjoyed my visit, and I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me.

Big trees, ashes, and love.

  
Well friends, it has been one busy month.  Summers are always super-busy, but this year Sweetie & I actually got summer time off together for the first time in seven years!  

We welcomed some friends from our home town of North Bay and the brand new human they created, Ginny.  You guys, I just love this kid.  I miss her so much!  She is a total badass, too.  Here she is bleeding through her leggings because she took a header down a gravel hill just before our boat ride – I thought it was over, folks!  I’ve taken falls like that!  THEY HURT!  Sliding on gravel can wreck your day, but after some love and cuddles from her parents, and some matter-of-fact first aiding, we made it out to Meares island, home of the 1200 year old trees.

The one in the background of this photo is about 900 years old, apparently.  

There’s another special thing about this tree – last time I was here, it was with my mother.  And she was pretty pissed at me.

See, the boardwalk on Meares island is really rough, and I didn’t know that Mom had become unsteady on her feet.  This was before we knew about the brain tumour.  I was shocked she was so upset that I’d wanted to take them to this trail.  Again, before we knew about the brain tumour, Mom’s emotional responses seemed extreme and confusing.  

I hadn’t remembered the trail being so rough, and I hadn’t known that my mother had declined so far in her health she wasn’t comfortable on anything but a paved surface.  Plenty of people in their 60s and 70s walk these trails.  Not Mom though. She was scared she’d be hurt.  It started their visit off on a very bad foot.

We made it as far as this very tree.  We took some photos by this tree, and a bright blue stellar jay showed himself in all his electric glory.  We have photos of him too.  If I get time to dig up those photos, I’ll post them here.

And here I am, years later, at this very tree.  What you can’t see is my Mom is here too.  In spirit of course, cackling along with her favourite aunt (they like to tag along on our vacations), but she is also in my pocket.  I brought her ashes with me, to this spot, on this day.

And I left some in this tree.  The next rain washed the teaspoon of ashes away, I’m sure, and I hope some molecules of what used to be her body will be taken up into this tree.  Because even though Mom was angry with me at the time, weeks later after thinking about it and looking at the photos, she told me she was glad to have been there, and wasn’t that Stellar jay beautiful?

Right after this photo was taken, a Stellar jay chattered, and showed himself.  I IMMEDIATELY started to cry, and explained myself to my friends who were unaware of my secret ashes-scattering mission.

My friend responded “well, good!  If we can have everyone in tears by the end of this journey, we can declare this day successful!” (Refrencing  Ginny’s painful face-plant that was referred to for the rest of the visit as The Incident.)

I love that I have a little bit of my mom in this tree.  I love that before Mom died, she promised to send me schnauzers and birds.  I see her in hummingbirds that visit my garden, in startling and delightful yellow warblers, and in the merry chattering Stellar jay, whose presence confirmed hers.

Love you, Mom.

The Cat-Mitzvah!

The Crazy Cat Lady enclosure is nearing completion of Phase 1!

Let me give you the background here: In the past, all my animals have been rescues. With the exception of Happy, I didn’t know any of the birthdays of any of my pets. I never *really* knew how old they were.

Today, my friends, Mikey and Rupert are One Year Old.

One year of age is when you stop referring to felines as “Kittens” and you start calling them Cats. It’s their Cat-Mitzvah, people! I can’t believe how excited / happy I am today. It’s really funny, I’m rolling my eyes at MYSELF!

In the past, my cats Leo and Sunshine were indoor / outdoor cats. While we were living in Toronto, they were strictly apartment cats, but once we moved to the west coast, as both of them had been identified as “strays” at the SPCA, and both clearly knew about predators and staying close to home, they had free access to the great outdoors.

With Mikey and Rupert, not so much. They’re ragdoll cats. Their ancestors have not been outside in at least SIX generations, possibly longer. Ragdolls are bred to be sociable, compliant, and… well, soft. This makes them amazing pets.

But I would not give Mikey a shot in hell at surviving outside on his own. We have actual predators out here, people. Eagles prey on housecats. Wolves actively target them. So do adolescent cougars. I can’t let Mikey outside.

Rupert, I think, would fare just fine. He might fare a little too well. The neighbours have elderly cats, and apparently the other cats in the area are beating the oldies up. I wouldn’t put that behaviour past Rupert. I’m also certain that Roo would be an incredible hunter, given the opportunity.

If it were only Rupert, I’d probably start introducing him to the outdoors on a leash, and build up to supervised, off-leash backyard time.

But I don’t want to have to rush him to the vet after getting in a tussle with another cat. And I don’t want Roo to be the type of cat who used to come beat up my Leo. Roo, at times, is more like a mini bobcat or wolverine than a domesticated feline. I think he’s some sort of genetic throwback. With his people he’s incredibly demonstrative and affectionate. He follows us around and licks us like we’re his kittens. But there is something distinctly feral and dominant about him, despite his domestication.

This other side of him supervises his brother’s litter box use (one for pee, one for poop!) and howls loudly when I mention aloud, the possibility of one day, maybe, adopting another dog. “Noooooooooooooooo!” Rupert is anti-dog.

Thanks to my dear friend for sponsoring this outdoor enclosure project.

Rupert and Mikey will soon have safe access to the great outdoors via this laundry room window. The enclosure will contain this cat tree, and a pentagon-shaped surround of cedar with chicken wire panels. I call this “Phase 1” because I plan on expanding the pentagon in the future to include a cat garden and part of the lawn.

The panels stack to eight feet high, and come up just under the overhang of the roof. The top of the enclosure will have deer netting to keep the cats in and the eagles out, and I’ll probably cover the top and two sides with clear plastic during the rainy season, depending on which way the wind tends to blow.

So that is the Cat-Mitzvah update!

In other news, folks, I’ve been podcasting! I’m not always great about cross-posting episodes to the blog, but I can see from the numbers that at least 90 of you are downloading the episode as soon as it’s released, which means – YOU HAVE SUBSCRIBED! Thank you!

You have a new episode today, and two more coming next week and the week after! Next week’s episode features a super-special SECRET guest! We had a fantastic conversation. Today, I finished off talking about my parent’s weirdly occupied house and what we did to make that place habitable while they were living there. You can listen to that episode here:

If you would like to subscribe and get the Joyful Telepathy episodes the moment they’re released, here’s what you do:

With an apple iphone or similar product, open the podcast app. It looks like this:

Then within the app, search for Joyful Telepathy, or Kate Sitka. When you find my podcast, click on it and select “subscribe”.

That’s it! The new episodes will download on to your device as soon as they’re posted to joyfultelepathy.com

If you have an android / windows / other phone, then you’ll need to download a podcast app first. There are many of them, but to make things easy I suggest you download Stitcher to your device.

My podcast is already on the Stitcher network, so once you have the app, all you have to do is search for Joyful Telepathy or Kate Sitka, and subscribe!

If you would rather have a different app, you can still subscribe to the Joyful Telepathy Podcast. What you would need to do instead of searching for Joyful Telepathy or Kate Sitka, is instead search for this:

http://www.joyfultelepathy.com/feed/

That piece of code that looks like a website address will tell your podcast program where to find the data for my podcast. It should automatically add my podcast to your listening cue and update it with new episodes.

That’s it!

In honour of Mikey and Rupert’s very first birthday, post a little comment if you like and I’ll read it to them tonight!

Stormy the Pittie and more podcast episodes!

  
Everyone give Stormy lots of love!  Here she is a few days ago after getting her SECOND knee surgery poor girl.  At this point she was pretty high on fentanyl and lots of cuddles.  This surgery was much harder on her than the first one, which surprised us both.  I told her it would be just like the first one, which was pretty easy for her, but because the injury was so much older on her second surgery, she experienced a rude awakening.

Stormy’s Mom, Carla, owns the pet supply store here and is so dedicated to her animals.  Storm pretty much required the reassurance of constant physical contact with Carla for the first 48 hours after surgery, so Carla set up a giant couch / bed and snuggled Storm for two days straight.  Here I am in the pic, clearly on my day off haven’t done anything with my hair and wearing my yoga pants, relieving Carla of snuggle duties for about 30 minutes before Storm wanted Mom again.

I’ve continued to release podcast episodes so if you haven’t already heard the latest episodes, please go check them out!  

I’ll be releasing more episodes soon, including one with a special secret guest! 

As usual, I find it challenging to keep everything updated, as summer is the busiest time for me, both at the hospital, with my psychic business, and socially as we’re having visitors this year!  So when you see some silence on the blog, be sure to check out the podcast and the Facebook / Twitter / Instagram, on the right sidebar – or scroll down if you’re on a mobile device.

As always, you can reach me at tofinopsychic@gmail.com!

HAPPY SUMMER!!!

Our Psychic Brain Waves!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how telepathic communication works. Wondering, really. For me, it’s something that happens naturally, and over time I’ve learned to enhance it or tune it down with techniques I learned through meditation and reading dozens of books written by other psychics.

But none of those books theorized about how or why this works. What’s going on?

I have some theories. You could call them hare-brained theories, given that I’ve never formally studied any of this. I have ideas.

Here they are:

I think that the “receptive” state I get into just before I start a session is either an Alpha or a Theta brain wave state.

I could be cheerful and energetic in the morning, and right before 11 am, my first session time, I start to feel *incredibly* sleepy. I almost always think “I don’t want to make a phone call, I want to go to bed.” This is a just a part of my process. It usually happens about ten minutes to 11 am. As I go inwards, my instinct is to cocoon myself, not to reach out to someone.

Incidentally, I have incredible, irrational inability to make international phone calls in this state.

(I find the above alliteration delightful, I’m going to leave it!)

When I first started doing “people sessions”, way back in 2012, I found I needed to go around the house and turn of everything electronic. Lights. Wifi. Computers. Cell phones. All of it. I couldn’t stand to have these things on before making a call. I would get angry at these devices, it was really weird.

Now, I’m used to them, or I’ve adapted to work around them. I still go around and turn off the lights upstairs, ensure my partner is on earphones for whatever she’s listening to, but I don’t have to turn off the laptop in my office – I can just close the lid. I don’t have to turn off the wifi either.

I’ve noticed that electricity can be irritating, and I think a lot of other people have too. Why do we get a sense of relief, sometimes, when the power goes out? We remember we have board games and that candles are lovely! I have the most epic naps when the power is off. In fact, I’ll flip the breakers in my house sometimes, just to have a break. It’s probably not good for the appliances, but I can get a really awesome rest.

So that has had me thinking. What about electricity and wifi is so irritating to me, especially during sessions?

I wonder if it has to do with brainwaves. My crackpot theory is that my “sleepy state” is me widening the scope of my senses, getting ready for the session. I’m turning up the volume on my environment. If I maintain this state for a longer period of time in meditation, I’ll end up turning the volume up on my whole life. Meditation can be trippy, man.

Right now I’m wondering if that sleepy state is shifting my brain function to open up reception for another’s frequency. If I widen and deepen my brain waves, getting my own thoughts out of the way, then I create space for someone else to “pop in”. Someone else’s Beta waves maybe?

I think that’s what happens when I, or anyone, picks up the thoughts of someone else. Most of us have had the experience of the phone ringing and knowing who’s calling, or thinking about getting the salsa in the grocery store because your partner really wants it but forgot to tell you. I think we do pick up on each other’s thoughts in that way.

I don’t know. But it’s fun to think about.

I also wonder what happens to thoughts when you no longer have a body? I am absolutely certain that we go on after we die. Our consciousness continues on, still exists, and is accessible. So without brains, how are there brainwaves for me to pick up? How is there thought, if my brain wave theory is at all plausible?

Or maybe it’s a complete crack-pot theory, but there’s something else we don’t understand right now, something that functions *like* brainwaves. Maybe that’s what I’m interacting with when I’m in a session, helping someone talk to their pet or loved one.

Really, it must be “something else”, because I don’t have to be in the same room with a dog to talk to him, and I don’t have to ever have known someone on the other side to be able to get them through their loved one over the phone.

That’s the other thing.

I know that many other mediums use birthdays or photos to make the connection. I do use photos, sometimes, but I really prefer to use the Love Connection! That’s what I call it. When the client on the phone thinks about someone they love, remembers them, they make their own psychic connection with that person – and I piggy-back off of it. Again, I don’t know exactly how it works, they just pop in. I know that “I’ve got them”. That’s what I say. They’re suddenly there.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes, if I’m listening to a recorded conversation, I might make a connection with that loved one AGAIN! I’m sure many of you have had this experience when you’re listening to one of the Channeling Erik recordings or videos – Erik is so widely available, a lot of people can tap into him really easily, almost accidentally, by listening to someone else making that connection.

We tend to match the activity we observe.

I have this one lady who is kind and hilarious who pretty much crashed a business phone call I was having, and she pops in all the time now! Just to say “hi!” because I helped her talk to her family. She’s such a wonderful soul to have around, she’s always welcome in my world, but it’s funny because I listen to her kid’s podcast all the time and so I regularly “accidentally” tap into her. She’s always a boost to my day, it’s like she’s a spirit neighbour. The sort of friendly person you wave to as you go about your life. “Oh how are you Mrs So and So?” “Eat the damn chocolate cake, girl, it’s not going to kill you today! Live a little!!!”

She always ate the cake, when she was alive.

Anyway.

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten in my brain wave theory. I think our thoughts and consciousness is something *like* brainwaves, but I have no idea how that happens, where the “waves” come from when there is no physical body generating the electricity. I know it must come from somewhere!

I look forward to finding out one day!

Ep. 48 ~ Andrea’s Ghost Stories 3!

The Final installment of our 3-part conversation with Andrea!

Included within:

More Hospital Ghost stories!

PTSD for us mere mortals after the tragic Leviathan II boat accident.

Where is the rectal!??? And other nursing humour.

Grieving after a tragedy, and different cultural protocols for coping with a tragic event such as the Leviathan II sinking.

Ahoushat First Nations traditional protocols for dealing with a tragic event.

"Indian Hospitals" on Vancouver Island, and the legacy of Canada’s colonial history.

The importance of kindness and small gestures, and how it makes a real difference to others.

This is the last in our Ghost Stories Series *for now* – but if any of my dear blog readers have ghost stories you’d like to share, please send me an email tofinopsychic and maybe you can be our next guest!

Have a lovely Tuesday, everyone!

Most excellent back exercise.

I have received SO MUCH wonderful feedback from those of you who are podcast listeners ever since I started posting the ghost stories! I have one more Andrea episode just about ready to go, but it has been a teeny bit delayed because:

The last two Thursdays which are usually podcast days / days off for me, I’ve been busy doing sessions. This has been absolutely wonderful and I have talked to old friends and new friends alike, however, when you do one thing instead of another thing, that other thing doesn’t get done.

Yesterday, Monday, I could have powered through and gotten the new episode up, but after two weeks of working longer than usual hours, and doing many more sessions than usual, I needed to spend the day doing something that was relaxing which I *wanted* to do. That meant finishing a flower box project I started a couple of weeks ago, and today my friend Carla, who promises me she will be a guest on the podcast one day, is providing me with lettuce and strawberries, and lots and lots of free gardening advice!

So part of the reason the episode is delayed is because I’ve been legitimately busy, and the other part is, it just didn’t take priority over my outdoor projects this week. I only get to play outdoors for entire days at a time in the summer. I can’t take these lovely summer days for granted!

If you’re interested in SEEING those flower boxes, scroll down a bit to see my Instagram / facebook posts documenting the progress! Feel free to follow / friend me, I’m always happy to friend back!

Now, in other news, I have found a particular youtube video to be incredibly helpful for me, and I’m going to share it with y’all right now. If you take a birds eye view of my posts in the past two years, you’ll find I’ve had a lot of back pain, and some knee issues. Losing weight is going to help this, but when I sustained that back injury shortly after visiting my Mom in October 2014, my back just hasn’t been the same. My incredible recliner has made the biggest difference, so has the physical therapy and my daily yoga stretches, but honestly, it’s never gone away… until this week. I’m so happy about this I almost don’t want to talk about it too much and jinx it!

But you all know that’s not how I operate, right? I find a good thing, I share it.

Here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVnLFtEkH38

I did this one first, since it’s my lower back that generally expresses pain. Not all the time, and not enough that it really interferes with my life anymore (for about a year I couldn’t go for beach walks, I can now.) But it’s enough that it restricts what I can do in a day.

I did this video after Sweetie had been doing it every night for two weeks, and kept asking me to look at her back, so see if I could tell the vertebrae looked different, since she felt so much better.

I did this video ONCE and it blew me away. It’s such small, gentle movements. I wouldn’t even call it stretches. Just motions. I’m shocked at how big a difference this made for me.

I did the low back video for a week, adding it to my physio routine and I have felt so much better, but I could now notice how locked up my shoulders and neck were. I’m always stretching those out too, but they lock up again so quickly.

Then I added this video to my evening routine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki4T7n5-MrQ

Holy cow. I feel like a teenager again. I’m sure this isn’t the magic cure all for my back that it feels like right now, but nothing, not chiro, not accupunture, not physiotherapy has restored so much range of motion for me so quickly, and with what feels like such little effort.

I have done all of the motions in the upper back and neck video before. I can not explain why the twist worked when I did this video, as opposed to other videos. It really works for me.

For those of you who have chronic back pain / stiffness, if you give these videos a try, let me know if they help you. As always be gentle and careful with yourself. This isn’t a push it or even a stretch it video. You can stay well within your comfort zone here. Let me know.

I’m wondering if this is just the magic piece *I* was missing on my own, to add on to everything else I’ve been doing to regain the physical health and strength I had when I moved out to the west coast, or if I just hit some sort of tipping point with the addition of this practice to the rest of my heath practices.

Let me know what you think of these videos, you guys. If you love them, share them around. If yoga classes in general made me feel like this, I would be taking ALL of the yoga classes! This is what yoga SHOULD do. It should restore balance first.

I’m very optimistic.

This discovery was a part of the reason I spent my day off yesterday building things instead of sitting in front of a computer doing the final Andrea episode. I could move freely and fully, and I was going to enjoy it. Today I feel strong, not sore. I hope this will continue!

So much of what I do is about the spirit world and the afterlife, helping people navigate what happens when someone you love leaves their body. Meanwhile, here we are, LIVING in bodies and coping with the maintenance!

I hope this helps you too!

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?”

“Sure.”

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:

http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/features/transgender-children-inspiring-parents

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:

http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/trans-women-of-color-face-an-epidemic-of-violence-and-murder-673

http://www.vibe.com/featured/transgender-women-of-color-discrimination-2015/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/trav-pittman/trans-woman-of-color-4-years-to-live_b_8637038.html

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/transgender-women-disproportionately-targeted-violent-hate-crimes

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.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/13/transgender-homicide-victims-us-has-hit-historic-high

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.

https://safe2pee.wordpress.com/bathroom-resources/

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!