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Jim's Space

Where thoughts are pinned like butterflies.


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Visibility and Representation, or Why We Should All Have Pins.
calamityjim

It’s Pride in my part of the world. I am lucky enough to live in a city that wears a conservative mask but has a super liberal underbelly that it likes scratched hard and often. Pride is a big deal. There is a parade. There are events consistently through the week and then intermittently through the month. The city painted sidewalks rainbow and business all hung Pride Flags down the parade route. The mayor, the Premier, and Justin Trudeau, who really wants to be Prime Minister, were all there. I’m very fortunate to live in a part of the world where being gay is no longer demonized.

That being said, that is a privilege that many groups still don’t have. Racism is a thing, and holy shit is it a thing in Canada. If someone tells you Canadians aren’t racist just bring up Residential Schools. Super. Fucking. Racist. Transphobia is a thing. Fat-shaming and slut-shaming are things. There are still a lot of things going down that are wrong and, for some people, dangerous. And there is a sense of not fitting in.

This is my first Pride having come out as Ace (which is how I shall now refer to asexual because I’m lazy. Also, it’s a cool term for a minority. I have the best abbrevaitions. I'm a BAD Ace XD ). That means it was my first Pride where I was looking for ace representation.

And I didn’t find it.

And I felt kinda empty.

The worst bit of this was that I didn’t know why I wasn’t feeling the same bubbly affirming joy I usually get from Pride. I mean, it’s great to see solidarity. Everyone was hugging and supporting and there were a tonne of allies who were being all awesome. Everyone was very “We’re here and if you don’t like that we don’t care! Lulz!” There were street preachers this year, complete with a soap box and a Jesus Saves sign with a spelling mistake. And how the crowd handled them was amazing. A few people had friendly yet serious discussions with them, most people ignored them, and a bunch of people in rainbow gear got pictures with them. When the parade started people just shuffled them to the back. It’s a super passive aggressive things Canadians do. Just shuffle things we don’t like out of sight. It was great.

But I felt empty because this year. There were gay people and trans people and leather fetish flags and THREE tanks, which was all amazing. But I felt off.

So I got muddling over that. And while I was muddling over the next few days I had a trans woman come up to me at the bus stop and ask me for a light. And this was an interesting interaction. At first she did the hand motion from far away. When she spotted my Pride pin she actually came up to me close enough that I could tell she was trans and started talking to me. And after I caught my bus I realized that the only reason she felt safe talking to me was because of the pin. It was a sign that we were on the same team and that I was safe.

And I realize that that was why I felt so mixed about the parade. There was no one on my team there. I was standing in a sea of people feeling all alone because no one was flying the colors for my team. And I didn’t realize how important that type of solidarity was until that moment. Before I'd identified as straight, so it was easy to just assume that everyone was straight. Then lesbian, and they are heartily represented at Pride and also make it a lot into TV, with icons like Willow and Original Cindy and Dr. Torres to look up to. I didn't even have to google those names. Lesbians aren't obscure or hard to find anymore and a lot of them are very positively represented, though they still tend to get killed off disporportionately, hugs to Charlie and Tara. I'm white, so I still struggle to remember that the media is made for people of my color and I do my best to critique it when it fails. But there is a quote from Whoopi Goldberg on how amazing seeing Uhura on tv for the first time was and how important it is for everyone to have their icons. I thought I got it. I did.

But I had never really understood the importance of representation until I didn’t have any. When it is your team sitting out the feeling is bone deep. It rattles the foundations and makes you feel like dust in the universe, but not in a good existential way.  There is no asexual parade. We don’t get a thing to let people know we are out there and let people know that it is okay for us to be out there. And to let people know that if they feel the same way they do that they aren’t alone and they aren’t broken.

And this has made me realize how important having things like pins and Pride jewelry are not just now, but all the time. People need to feel included all year long. You don’t go visit your mom on mother’s day and then not talk to her until next mother’s day. You still talk to her throughout the year.

And I want to provide that. But I also want to receive it. So I am going to go out and buy myself all the QUILTBAG flags I can find and I am going to sew them into my backpack, no matter how hipster or teenage it looks. I am going to make me into a Safe Space, so queer people don’t have to worry if they see me and wonder where I stand, because I am going to be standing beside them. And maybe they will see my flag on my bag, and maybe they will ask. And maybe they will start to wear it so I will know that they are a safe space for me.

And maybe, just maybe, there will be someone carrying my flag at Pride in the next parade, telling me that I am not alone.