I first launched this blog in 2014, thinking I would be back into writing like I had been in previous years, banging out 5,000 word essays on an almost daily basis.
Then, life happened, with all the joys and sorrows and ups and downs that go with that roller coaster ride. To say that things got just a teensy bit busy would be a huge understatement, but those who know me best know that I love nothing more than having mountains of work waiting to be tackled, and a pile of books on topics to be researched, educating myself on new areas, so I can pass the knowledge along from the front of a lecture hall or classroom later.
Seeing as I had no particular attachment to anything posted, I decided to scrap it all and begin anew.
“What’s happened in the meantime?” I hear the regulars of the old haunt asking.
This year will be my 35th year involved in activism and advocacy work. I began as a scared senseless teen launching into the battles for LGBTQ rights, lived through the horrors of the 80s, and once things seemed to be on a steady upward climb, focused all my energies in the fight for rights for my trans family. Where I was always most effective was any role behind the scenes, in meetings, offices, boardrooms, etc. It’s still my preferred place to work, even though I have been forced to be very visible for the past 5 or 6 years. In the last 27 years, I have become an advocate for mental health.
For the past 5 years, I have had the honour of working with our Toronto Police Service’s LGBTQ Liaison Officer, Danielle Bottineau. Goodness knows we have both learned volumes of information from each other, with Danielle teaching me all the finer points of her job, and I’ve shared my life and lessons and the lived experiences of the transgender community with her. The biggest bonus to come out of this working relationship, as I tell students in our lectures, is that we have become close friends outside of the work we do, and enjoy each other’s company over a Starbucks whenever we can steal away for a few minutes. Danielle is one of very few people to ever see me without my usual barriers and walls and such in place … I don’t trust many to see me in a raw state.
Oh have things ever raced along over the past three years. Imagine me, someone who had a lifelong phobia about being in front of a camera working on camera as a reporter? Did that. One item off the bucket list. I laughed when I found out later that I became known as “one-take Christine”… amazing, considering the first taping was an epic disaster, took over 3 hours to tape a 5 minute segment! Good thing the crew had the patience of Job that time. This past year is more my speed, I’ve worked semi-regularly in radio, producing the occasional segment and being on the other side of the table answering questions from the show host on air. I have a few awesome segments already lined up for the first half of this year, cannot wait to see them taped and ready to be aired.
Plenty of laughs, always plenty of laughs!
I somehow became a go-to person when discussing issues affecting trans folks or around the larger rainbow community. I still think my best line was 17 May, 2016, I had been asked to be on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning with Matt Galloway. I had to be checked in at the CBC building for 5:30 am. I got up at 4:00 to get ready, left my apartment at 5:00, strolled along to the building, checked in and was sitting in the green room by 5:30 a.m. The other guest arrived breathlessly just before we were due to go on air after 6:00 a.m. and exclaimed in abject horror, “You have no make-up on! Do you not realize this is simulcast live on TV in HD??!!” I looked over my glasses and replied, “Honey, it is barely 6 am, at this time of the morning, you’re lucky I remembered to put clothes on. I’m in my bloody 50s, if they wanted cute, they can always hire a model!”
Matt was a complete sweetheart who put me at ease the second I sat down across from him, and we ended up doing an extended segment beyond what had been planned, the conversation was that good (a brief segment after 0600 ended up with us on air until just before 0630). It ended up being a multiple-event day. By the time I left the building after 6:30, I had two great desires in life … coffee and a cigarette! I dug my phone out of my purse and powered it back up, and watched it go batty while walking back toward the subway line on Yonge (plus coffee and cigarettes). I have worked with so many superb TPS officers and civilians over the years, I hadn’t even realized how many were listening that morning and were tweeting up a storm as I was talking on air.
That day included 3 more live radio hits by phone, and then heading back over to the CBC building to tape an interview with Nil Koksal of the News at 6. I did manage to see it much later, and for an old war horse like me, to hear all the correct terminology and pronouns in the chat between anchors before the throw to break made me do a mental happy dance. It was definitely a busy media year. After the Orlando massacre, I did one interview for The National, taped a “My Canada is …” segment for the network’s July 1st coverage, and have done various other little pieces for CBC and Radio-Canada. Boggles my mind, because I have a face for radio!
All of this came out of what I thought would be a one-off column for Living Toronto Journal, telling my transition story as their editor requested. I thought maybe 10 people would read it, honestly … when I saw the numbers it generated, I was blown away. That led to a second column on body language, and suddenly my writing career took off. When it slowed down this past year for a breather, I was writing for one journal, two magazines, and one news site. Plus year-end and other interviews I was asked to do. I still shake my head, I’ve always been in the background.
What will be interesting this year will be to see the reaction of the regular readers to something in my upcoming work.
I have written to cover assigned topics from editors or publishers up until now. I did take on a new role with one publication, which gives me much more latitude on what I will write about. I’ll do my usual reviews of books, discuss issues that are important in that moment, produce interviews and interview series, but I will be choosing all of my topics and areas to discuss. At the conclusion of an upcoming book review, I have a “coming out” announcement for my regular readers, something I have never publicly discussed before.
They are going to discover that, like the author of the reviewed book, I battle mental illness on a daily basis, a fight that has gone on since my earliest years. Some know all of the story, some only got the sunshine and happiness bits, but I do go into some detail in our guest lectures. This will be news to readers who are not part of my online inner circle. Should be interesting to see the response. The stigma around it all is still imposing. That’s why some of us step up and speak out, to help end the stigma.
This is a new beginning here. I will be dropping in from time to time to talk about something that has caught my interest, or some event that is happening in my life that is worth discussing. That kind of stuff. Some will be short, others will be long like this, meaning I’m writing everything that comes into mind because I need some space to do something else, and the only way to get it is to write it all down.
Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.