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Every so often kittens, the stars align, the universe smiles, and new connections are created.

This past Friday (17 February), Danielle and I had the honour to sit down for lunch with Lee Harrington, Artist, Instructor, Educator.  Whenever I can, I like to include Danielle at every opportunity, as it gives us a chance to share about the work we have been doing for the past 5 years, her tireless efforts as the TPS LGBTQ Liaison Officer for the entire city of Toronto and beyond, and my part as the first trans woman to sit as the TPS LGBTQ CCC Civilian Co-Chair.  Typically, people leave these lunchtime conversations with all kinds of ideas about what they would like to see happen in their home cities, based on the work being done in Toronto.

Some background…

Early in 2016, I taped a couple of guest appearances on a US-based show, Changes In Latitudes: A Transgender Experience.  The host and I clicked immediately, and we easily talked our way through 3 1/2 hours on tape about our stories and experiences as people who identify under the larger Trans umbrella.  We shared our experiences, stories, humorous moments and more.  They always conclude their interviews with guests with the Pivot Questionnaire.  If you are not familiar with it, you may recall hearing it at the conclusion of episodes of Inside the Actors Studio.

The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot, after the Proust Questionnaire. The 10 questions are:

  • What is your favorite word?
  • What is your least favorite word?
  • What turns you on?
  • What turns you off?
  • What sound or noise do you love?
  • What sound or noise do you hate?
  • What is your favorite curse word?
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • What profession would you not like to do?
  • If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

These are not sit and ponder answers, you say the first thing that comes to mind.  If you want to hear the episodes, check out eps 80 & 81 of that podcast (I’m not giving it all away, subscribe to their podcast, it’s fascinating to listen to a stream of consciousness conversation!).

Lee was a guest later in 2016, and in the first episode of their conversation, the host strongly suggested that we should connect and have a meeting of the minds, as we do similar work and have a number of things in common.  I admit I did that 50 shades of red thing when hearing that shout out in episode 102.  Lee’s complete interview is in episodes 102, 103 & 104.  You may discover that Lee and I gave similar answers to a few of those 10 questions too.

Well, never ones to pass up a chance to expand our knowledge base and connections globally, we connected and began a new conversation.  I was chuffed when Lee messaged me just before the holidays last year to let me know he would be in Toronto to speak at a few events as a keynote speaker, or delivering some education sessions over the course of the weekend.  We started comparing notes and calendars and set up to meet for a conversation over lunch on Friday.  As soon as I had the date, I let Danielle know.  The one bonus to our working together over the past five years, is the education we have shared; Danielle has educated me on all the intricacies and finer points of policing, and I have given her an insider’s look to my life and experiences and my daily battles as a trans woman and mental health warrior.

Lunch was tasty, but the conversation rocked!  We launched into what we do in our respective cities/countries, and Lee was telling us of his work around the world, and that of his partner.  This is when all those small world moments start to occur. Discussing an issue that has been frustrating to move things forward, both Danielle and I said, hey, I have a contact who… discussing trans issues and lack of support, another aha moment, wait, I have a contact at this facility who may be able to provide some guidance/information with… Another conversational path leads to more aha moments, and by the end of lunch we had notes galore on contacts to share, e-mails to send, documents to forward and more.  Plenty of laughs as well… if you know me well, you know that there would most definitely be humour involved!

Danielle had to zip away to another meeting, but Lee and I had time to spare, and we ended up sharing our stories as educators, tales from the classroom, those little moments that stick in your memory because you either stopped dead in your tracks or are still laughing to yourself every time it comes up.  Those moments whether in the classroom or outside, when something way over the line is asked and how to handle it.  If we hadn’t both been scheduled for other events that afternoon, we’d likely still be standing outside trading stories!

Lee presented us with a signed copy of his latest book, Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities.  You can find all the details on his website http://www.passionandsoul.com under the books menu where all of his published books are listed.  That will most definitely be a fascinating read, I may pick up more ideas for our Ryerson lectures too.

The best part of all?  A brand new and lasting connection, many more conversations to be had in future, more sharing of resources, and shared solutions/best practices between our communities.

Thank you for being so generous with your time Lee, it was a definite honour for us to meet you, and let’s all keep on changing the world for the better!

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