Another stellar turnout at the Ethnic Aisle: this issue, we’re all about booze. From Asian clubs and Greek metaxa to Hennessy, enemies and a rant about St. Patrick’s Day, you can check it all out here.
In the Globe, on parenting, gender and kids before puberty. I interviewed a lovely Hamilton family with a darling MTF girl named Rose.
Happy Pride! The latest issue of the Ethnic Aisle is all about sex, gender, bodies and big ol butts. As always, I am so proud of what we’ve put together: this issue has our first audio posts (from Mc Jazz and DJ Cozmic), some art, some fiction, some amazing stuff.
Open File has me reporting on the trial of Byron Sonne, a computer security consultant who was arrested three days before the G20 summit began in Toronto in June 2010. He says that he was documenting the summit’s $1-billion-plus security measures to evaluate how effective they were. After searching his home, police charged him with possession of explosive material; Sonne says the chemicals found in his home were for separate, un-related hobbies.
Here’s a backgrounder on the case.
A mid-November update, when the Crown conceded that Sonne’s rights were legally breached when police lied to get ahold of his identification.
An hour-long video of one of Sonne’s interrogations by police.
Last week’s story, which includes testimony by a military expert in IEDs, and photos of Sonne’s home lab.
From Saturday’s Globe, parenting tips from families with two moms.
This was interesting to research – when my editor told me he wanted a story about young adults with gay parents, my response was “what about them?” He thought that bullying, etc., would be hurting their development, I thought they’d be normal and boring. I talked to a bunch of families across Canada, including those parented by two dads. I tried very, very hard to find families from outside of urban centres (and some people of colour) but had no luck, which is revealing in itself.
We went with this angle for the final piece because the research about above-average emotional development in lesbians’ kids was so interesting (Deborah Foster from Athabasca U and the National Lesbian Longitudinal Family Study, if you feel like reading more). Now I’m getting feedback, positive and negative, from as far away as Australia. Hot topic is the way that we rhyme.
I once dated a man who wore this rhinestone-studded bullet shaped necklace. Yes, I did.
Everything about that is embarrassing, including the fact that this embarrassing “man” told me that he spent $600 on this, a shiny bullet dangling from what appears to be a chain that was once attached to a bathtub drain stopper. That may have been a lie, since he lied about everything. The going price for the Marc Ecko Loaded Bullet is now about $250 on eBay.
Let’s call him Leb, for Loser Ex-Boyfriend, and also because “Leb,” is a term I heard used disparagingly to refer to Lebanese people when I lived in Ottawa. Leb wasn’t a Leb, or maybe he was. See, Leb didn’t know what race he was, and in my humble but correct opinion, that was a big part of his many, many problems.
Leb was adopted in Quebec, in the mid-1970s. He grew up outside of Edmonton, where he was regularly called “nigger,” or maybe, creatively, “sand nigger.” I’m not sure quite how much he was teased and bullied (see: compulsive lying) but at some point decided to take on whatever tough-guy persona he associated with the n-word. His powdery-white parents bought him everything he wanted (including a Porsche) but he still did break-and-enters, just to be a badass. Or something.
In the mid-1990s, Leb moved to Ontario. Overnight, Leb became white. Maybe Spanish or Algerian, but basically white. In Alberta, Leb had been a black guy. Here, he was a white-guy-trying-to-be-a-black-guy.
By the time we hooked up, Leb was pretending to have a sense of humour about this (i.e. saying to friends, “help a wigga out”). From time to time, he’d mix up his hip hop gear with a Diesel-type look; on these occasions, he’d say something like “today, I look like a Gino.” Leb had a brown-girl fetish and while I knew deep down that was idiotic, I kind of liked it for a minute. It was especially intriguing to Leb that I was Trinidadian, since apparently his biological father was too (possibly a lie). He’d ask me all the time if Trinidadians were “smart” and whether I thought he was brown or black.
Fetishists make the current object of their obsession feel like the centre of the universe. And y’know, it was more attractive than I expected, because yeah, every day of my life I’ve been suffocated by tv shows and magazine covers and everything and everything else focused on the apex of beauty, white women. It’s childish and dumb to say “white girls are flat-assed and ugly.” But hearing it was strangely comforting. I knew straight off that Leb was a racially confused soul, but that didn’t bug me at first. What it took me far too long to accept was that he was a lying liar who threw distasteful and scary temper tantrums and planned on funding his champagne lifestyle by bullying money out of me, his friends and his ever-infantilizing parents. Why am I telling you this shame-inducing story? Don’t judge me.
The particular nexus of low self-esteem/absolute insanity that led me into this “relationship” is not something I want to revisit, but in my defense, I did protest the Marc Ecko Loaded Bullet. I pointed out that it was bullshit of the first order to appropriate violence as something shiny and fashionable when one had grown up in a dangerous, strife-ridden suburb called Spruce Grove. He told me that it was just a cool, shiny object and I should stop overanalyzing everything.
But that’s me, dog, I was born overanalyzing. So, I’ve thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and—I don’t think you’re brown OR black. You are totally Portuguese.*
This post is part of the Interracial Dating issue of the Ethnic Aisle, the only publication for which I would publicly regurgitate this much TMI. Inspired by the piece Negroni Season, which made me laugh, cringe and empathize until my abs hurt.
*”White” people in Trinidad are descended from Portuguese colonizers. They’re pretty mixed by this point though. They kind of look Lebanese.
At Open File: a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with Salaam, Toronto’s Queer Muslim community.
A few years ago, the window display at Get Outside at Queen and Spadina stopped me in my tracks. There, among the trendy leather moccasins, was a family of Native dolls posed in front of a teepee. There was a bare-chested, six-packed chief dad, a scantily clad, pigtailed mom, and their cute, primitive little kids. I pitched this as a story to a local weekly—I wanted to stop some passers-by and do quick streeters on whether they had the same reaction I did—but they didn’t buy it. So I just went home and muttered to myself.
Native fashion makes me feel weird. It so often reduces a huge and complicated group of people to caricatures. I feel weird, too, because I only know a handful of indigenous Canadians, and only in passing. I’m not trying to adopt anyone’s battles, or be an expert on a topic about which I actually know nothing. But I think it’s fair to say that freezing Native people into Pocahontas poses in order to sell furry mukluks is basically bullshit. Newsflash—we’ve all come into the 21st century together. Or actually, we haven’t: as of this past February, 116 First Nations communities in Canada didn’t have safe drinking water. I think this is what really angers me, that so often Canadians use art, design and culture to reduce Native people to cartoons while ignoring both their painful histories, and their difficult present. Don’t even get me started on Will and Kate watching “aboriginal” dancers (no tribe mentioned), or Stephen Harper putting on a headdress and face paint. No really, don’t get me started. Go look at Kent Monkman’s paintings instead.
Back to fashion: apparently Navajo prints and colours are currently “in.” The adoption of any culture’s art or fashion aesthetic by the mainstream is always cause for an eye-roll. What’s in today is of course out tomorrow, and boo to you, fair-trade Indian cotton, the customers are now bored by your livelihood. The thing is, though, that Navajo design (and embroidered cheong sams, and intricate mehndi) is gorgeous. I’m going to save myself the embarrassment of trying to articulate this fully, as fashion-speak isn’t my forte: let’s just say the colours are vibrant, the prints are bold, the turquoise-and-silver jewelry is stunning, and if you want to know more, hit Google. A good place to start would be the Beyond Buckskin blog, where Jessica R. Metcalfe writes lively and knowledgeable stuff about Native fashion, including celebrating non-indigenous designers who work respectfully with traditional artisans when adopting these ancient arts.
If you’re going to wear Navajo, good for you. It’s some eye-catching stuff. What would make it even better was learning a bit about the history of the people who made it—let’s start with the Long Walk of 1863 and 1864. This is paraphrased from the site Legends of America:
“After years of war and starvation with the United States, 8,500 Navajo and Apache men, women and children were marched almost 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo, a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. The ill-planned site, named for a grove of cottonwoods by the river, turned into a virtual prison camp. Bosque Redondo was hailed as a miserable failure, the victim of poor planning, disease, crop infestation and generally poor conditions for agriculture. The Navajo were finally acknowledged sovereignty in the historic Treaty of 1868. They returned to their land along the Arizona-New Mexico border hungry and in rags. Today, they are the largest Native American community in the United States.”
That’s a pretty ferocious history, wear it well.
This post is part of the Ethnic Aisle, a blog about race, ethnicity and diversity in the GTA.