I was honoured to be invited to be an opening speaker for Slut Walk Guelph, Ontario, 2017! You can find some pictures and coverage of the event from GuelphToday.com
Here is the transcript of my talk:
I get to talk about sex and gender pretty much every day. When I’m not talking about sex and gender, I’m listening to or reading about others’ thoughts, knowledge, and experiences around sex and gender. And sometimes I’m even getting paid to do it, because I do research, teaching, and outreach in these areas for a living. Yep, I study sex and also trauma, and sometimes how the two of those intersect. I’m pretty much living the dream.
When I am not officially doing work in these areas, I’m still navigating them. As a trans person of the gender-queer non-binary sort, and as a very, very sexually queer person, sex and gender are a constant thing to figure out in my life. And I don’t mean figuring out my own gender and sexuality, because (contrary to many stereotypes about queer people) I figured that shit out long ago, thank you very much. I mean figuring out how to deal with everyone else’s issues. It is figuring out how much risk and how many of my resources I’m willing and able to dedicate to avoid being rendered invisible or silent, to stay safe, and to remain my authentic self and to insist that others put aside their stereotypes to respect me and all of my lovely rainbow demographics.
I have to think about these things all the time because other people don’t.
This is the nature of power. Power, as I define it, is to have higher influence with lower costs or consequences. It’s when someone can ‘forget’ to include queers in their policy making or budget or research study, and they don’t take the hit for it. We do. Power is when an authority figure can blame violent crime on your clothing and assume that’s that. Power is when systems can decide not to investigate homicides of trans people of colour and nobody but their loved ones grieves the injustice of it. Higher influence, lower consequences.
We’re here at slut walk to take back that power. And I hope we’re here at slut walk to remember that it’s not enough for us to seize a bit of that power for just today. It’s not enough to be satisfied with scraps of power. And it’s definitely not enough to be happy when we hold a bit more power than yesterday while ignoring those who do not. When we gain the ability to create change, we look around immediately and use it in the service of those who are still suffering higher consequences. We serve the oppressed among us, or else we serve our oppressors.
Power is the ability to influence things wither fewer consequences. And violence is any action, inaction, words, or silence that support imbalanced power. When we laugh about prison rape jokes we commit violence against the already incarcerated. When we show up to support women’s rights, but fail to demand justice for people of colour, we support violence through racism. When we cheer for gay rights and agree we’ll circle back for trans right later, really, …maybe, we commit violence against all those outside the cis-gender binary. Make no mistake about it: sexism, racism, heteronormativity, transphobia… they’re all intimately intertwined with what brings us here today.
In countless interviews, speeches, and casual conversations I have asserted that one of the most politically powerful acts of resistance that we can engage in is to be ok with who we are, as we are. How will they scare us and what will they sell us if we are happy with ourselves? If we are vibrant in our gender and our sexualities, in our skin and the rest of our bodies, then what else could we put that energy toward accomplishing? It begins there: exploring and finding joy in our honest, real selves. Which is a lot of work, don’t get me wrong. But it still isn’t enough.
How do we ensure that those who suffer the greatest consequences, the greatest oppressions, are the heart of our efforts? The leaders when decisions are made? The most protected and supported among us until we all reach equal footing together?
We’re here and we’re half naked in early April because people keep telling us that sluts deserve to get raped. That it’s ok to rape people. Because people keep telling us that their opinions and interpretations and desires about our gender and sexuality are more important than our safety, freedom, and self determination. We have all been told to ignore and accept this sexism, just as we have been told to ignore and accept racism, ablism, homophobia and transphobia, and all of the other tools and methods of violence.
And we refuse. We are here to refuse ALL of this. We are here to use our bodies and words to change power and burn down oppression on every level.