It is time to take a look back at the highlights from the year that has passed.
I have a treat coming, Nat and I have been working together on some writing that we will publish once it has been completed. A topic near and dear to both of us, Love. You will have to wait for the finished work, that’s all I will tease you with at the moment. It is dedicated to our mutual friend Laurie who is responsible for introducing us in 2016. Nat and I refer to each other as sisters, we chose each other, joined at the soul. I think Laurie is still surprised at what she caused with a thought of, these two should meet, they are working on the same causes. So, 2017 began for me with the excitement building as Nat’s first book, Save-My-Life School was launched on January 25th.
What I loved about it, having read it and identifying with everything within it (the first section was like she was telling my life story too), was that Nat’s first book took her almost overnight to bestselling author status. It hit the top of the charts and stayed there. There is nothing I love more than celebrating the successes of those who are close to me. It was perfect timing, as the bestselling status occurred a few days after Bell Let’s Talk Day.
While I have long been quite outspoken about my own battles with mental health since my teenage years, plus PTSD and associated illnesses in recent years; I find that each year during Bell Let’s Talk Day, I meet more kindred souls who are facing the same battles, typically job-related, and this is their first time stepping out into a public space and saying “it’s my fight too.” The best way to eliminate the stigma around mental health is to have those discussions. The more people who speak out, the more people who will see that they are not alone. Studies have shown that mental illness will affect 1 in 4 people in their lifetimes. The only way that people will get the help they need, and that research will be funded, is to be that much more vocal about it.
Wrapping up January, an appearance on Rainbow Country on CIUT 89.5FM with my friend Rie Daisies, and her musical talents like you wouldn’t believe. That was truly a fun hour on the radio. Rie gave me the title that I still laugh about, “bad-ass bitch,” We are in regular communication and keep each other in fits of laughter over some of the things that happen in our daily lives.
February saw Danielle and I back in the classroom again, continuing our training for the Campus Police at University of Toronto. We do enjoy getting out there to do our own version of LGBTQ101 for various agencies and their members, both uniform and civilian. What better way to learn, than to hear it from the people who live it every day. I enjoy the interactions with the students in the classroom because it’s always fascinating to watch as you smash stereotypes in their minds and see the light dawning. By the end of the day, they understand that we are HUMAN too.
Whenever I have a friend or friends coming in to town for a visit or on business, I always try to arrange to get a lunch for Danielle and I with them. I am quite proud of the work we have done together over the past 6 years, and it is an opportunity to compare notes on how we do things here, versus how things are handled in their home city, if there is anything at all like we have built here. This time, Lee Harrington was our guest for lunch on a quite frigid mid-February day, and during the conversation we had, discovered that there are people that we could put Lee in contact with to assist with projects he had been working on for quite some time. Danielle had to zip back to HQ, so Lee and I spent another hour sharing tales from the classroom. All those things that happened when we’ve been lecturing and those moments that stick in your mind because it was funny then, but makes you howl with laughter now. From two different parts of the world, we have had similar experiences, and used similar comebacks to the amusement of the students.
March had the beginning of our Spring Lecture Series at Ryerson University. Each time is different. The best part is reading the anonymous student feedback that they submit a week later. It’s how we gauge what worked, what we need to spend more time on, what we should add for the next semester. I honestly do enjoy the three hours we spend with each one of Professor Allspach’s classes, because even in the era of everything on a handheld screen, nothing beats hearing the real story from people who have lived it.
The month of April launched with an abundance of love!! Our second lecture of the series was taking place at the Cineplex theatres that double as lecture halls for Ryerson. It has to be the hardest space we have ever lectured in. It is a little disconcerting to see a group of four students pull their coats up to their chins, recline, and fall soundly asleep! I think they are lucky there are no snorers amongst the group, because you know I would have had a field day with that from the front of the room.
The absolute highlight of this moment, was meeting Nat for the first time. We went from a solely electronic existence to actually sharing hugs in person. I’m sure you know that feeling when somebody you care for greatly, gives you one of those wrap your being up in each other hugs. I think we were talking at warp speed those first few minutes just trying to say everything we had been waiting to say in person. Nat was hosting a book-signing session later on that day at the local Indigo Books, so I was there a few hours ahead of time to walk the route I would take Nat, Kim, and Heather after the lecture so that it would be a low-trigger path to get to where they had to be. I had saved space during one of my portions of the lecture for Nat take over and rock their world.
I love so much that Nat is like us, and can be handed a topic and get up and speak from the heart in such a moving way to see a few students dab at a tear or two by the time she had finished. I brought her back up for the Q&A session too. Nat will make more appearances in the 2017 review, there’s a reason we were instantly BFFs and Sisters.
No more lectures in movie theatres, it literally takes five times the energy to generate the space, and even then it fell flat in a few places (and our slides which work perfectly in a lecture hall were difficult to read on a movie screen). What was different for this lecture and the one following is that they were videotaped for a project and we didn’t receive any written feedback from them, as that was handled on video. Before you ask, we didn’t get to see the end result.
Following our last lecture, Danielle and I had more to do. We stopped by to deliver a session for the T.E.A.R. Youth Leaders of Victim Services Toronto on anti-bullying measures and the International Day of Pink. Stop Bullying Now! is a campaign that is used in many schools. Always a fascinating conversation! I have participated with the folks on their weekly Twitter #TEARtalk chats on Thursday evenings for a few years now. These young people are really tuned in to all the important topics in this day and age, along with providing a great educational service. I always enjoy the hour we spend together in person for talks like this.
April 12th saw us coming from across Toronto to meet at Agincourt Collegiate for the International Day of Pink assembly. I am amazed every year at the level that the students ascend to with their presentation and message. They really get the Stop Bullying Now message.
From our presentation to the Youth Leaders in April, one of their folks asked for Danielle and I to come and be a part of her high school’s PRIDE assemblies in May. We sat there transfixed by the music and talks that the students had created for their presentations. I look back at what we did when I was in high school in the late 70s/early 80s and think to myself, “were we ever that creative?” While many think the future is gloomy, I think about what I have seen this year in the schools we have visited and I know that they “get it” more than we did at that age.
The following day we were at Toronto City Hall, for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The flag-raising and speakers are put together by our lovely parents and friends at Toronto PFLAG. Some folks were there early to attend a breakfast and learning session indoors before we move out to the ceremonial flag platform to hear the speakers and see the flag raised. It is a reminder that we need to keep up our efforts to eliminate homophobia, transphobia and hatred against LGBTQ2S people; because hatred kills, and the body count continues to rise each year. We got a sneak peek at the rainbow flag epaulettes and pride flag and trans flag pins that would be part of the uniform for the month of June (Pride Month in Toronto).
We had a number of history-making moments this year as well. This was definitely one of them, when on June 1st, my work partner PC Danielle Bottineau, LGBTQ Liaison Officer, and myself as Civilian Co-Chair of the Toronto Police Service LGBTQ2S Community Consultative Committee raised the rainbow flag on top of Toronto Police Headquarters. The flag flew on top of the building for the entire month of June 2017. This is the FIRST TIME in the 183 year history of the service to see this kind of recognition of not only their own LGBTQ2S members, but the ongoing work since the 1980s to build bridges to the LGBTQ2S community.
Is the work finished? Far from it. It is a process that has no end, because the work must be done, and must be maintained, while looking always for new opportunities to build more bridges. Honestly, if you had asked me in the summer of 1981, when I was a student working at 22 Division (The Ontario Experience Program) if I would have ever imagined seeing this day happen, and I would be there with Danielle to raise the flag … I would likely have asked you to share whatever you were smoking. That picture appeared in newspapers across Canada the next day. I’ll tell you how much things have changed, people asked how we pulled that one off. Simple, we asked the Chief, and he said “Absolutely, let’s make it happen!”
This month saw the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I have written about it at length, and have participated in national media stories. It is a reminder to not be complacent about life, hate can rear its ugly head anywhere at any time, so don’t miss that opportunity to tell somebody you love them.
My Sisbro, Joie Lamar had an idea; to produce a book in tribute to the 49 lives lost in Orlando that night. She gathered another 48 artist-contributors to work with her, and Cuarenta y Nueve is our contribution. 100% of the proceeds from the book will, in perpetuity, be donated to Pride School Atlanta and GLAAD. I have done much writing in recent years, but I can honestly say that this project is one of my proudest moments as a writer!
I began working with some wonderful folks at Home Depot Canada in June. They were going to be rolling out their Gender Transition Guide for all of their associates across Canada. This marked the beginning of 3 months of our work together, with the presentation, rollout, and Q&A session to come in the early fall.
The final day of Pride weekend is the annual PFLAG brunch. If you’re in Toronto, this is a “do not miss!” event on the calendar. There is an abundance of hugs and love in that space every single year. This year, after the brunch was finished and people had gone off to secure a good place to watch the parade or gone to their marshalling point, we hung out to toast the passage of C-16, the Trans Rights bill, which is now the law of the land in Canada. It has taken many versions and multiple attempts, but it finally made it all the way through Parliament. They asked me to do the toast, and I kept it simple, “here’s to promises kept … my country says that now we exist.”
One more of those little moments that demonstrate to me how far we have moved the conversation, was my being asked to write a column for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. Remembering my experience as a summer student at 22 Division in 1981, to 2017 – having the ear of every Chief in Ontario, and as this was passed around, across Canada as well.
While the summer months tend to be a bit quiet here, I was watching activities in the UK with great interest, particularly their national law enforcement campaign, #BeingYouIsNotACrime. I am always looking for new programs that we could incorporate and use here, and I would like to see a few vehicles with the Pride wrap in Toronto. It is a signal of how far we have come since 1981, and a marker of where we are at and how much further there is to go. During the quiet time, that’s when Barb, Danielle, and I, get together to look at what we would like to focus on for the second half of the year, what new programs could be examined, and my usual thing about what new educational pieces can we offer for our CCC members.
My dear kittens, it is okay to not be okay. I put this here as a reminder to all of us that you cannot be the picture of sunshine and happiness every moment of every day. The summer was rough for me. Too much downtime is not a smart choice, and I find it is something that others with PTSD deal with, that when we are not busy or working on something, it causes other issues to dominate. I know when we compared notes, Nat and I found ourselves stuck in depression level 3 for most of the summer. I swear it was the conversations we had that kept us both working at climbing up out of the abyss of depression and anxiety (ask Nat about my idea at Thanksgiving on what to do with the turkey twine).
Closing out the summer, I was part of an Interview & Hiring Panel at TPS for a consultant to be added to a project. Quite the experience in the methods and questions used, and the three of us could not speak with each other outside of the room or discuss our impressions until the final meeting to review. I would take part in something similar again without hesitation, it was much different from my previous life on Bay Street.
Wrapping up Pride season in the UK, and I was loving how colourful their Pride uniform epaulettes are. Both the rainbow flag and the Trans flag. We had our first time here with a small flag on uniform epaulettes, but, I’m pushing to see something like this across Canada in 2018.
That picture was the highlight of my summer. I had known the result of the search for three new Deputy Chiefs for a couple of weeks. I was waiting for the official announcement to be made so I could discuss the news! Barb is a treasured friend of some years, our interactions are not always talking shop. Her partner is absolutely adorable; we have compared stories and shared tales of growing up, our histories, and the things that cause us to light up, love of animals, favourite pastimes, and sharing a good laugh. But, I must say, after more than 20 years since we last saw a woman at the rank of Deputy Chief, to have TWO women now is one of those history-making moments. I am proud to know both of them well. To have a member of our rainbow family rise to this rank, is amazing.
As each year passes, the conversation about mental health occurs on a more regular basis throughout the year. Yes, we start the year with Bell Let’s Talk Day, but that conversation must continue. One of the days you will see any of our mental health warriors being even more visible is on World Suicide Prevention Day. If you’ve read Nat’s first book, you know well her experiences with this, and for those who have known me long enough, know that I have had two attempts in the past, and a long list of friends who were taken by suicide. All it takes is a minute to have a conversation, check in, offer an ear/shoulder, you will save a life.
Mid-September was the Lunch & Learn event at The Home Depot Canada’s head office to officially launch their Gender Transition Guide nationally. I offer so many high fives to the people I worked with for three months to get ready for this event. I did get the usual laughs in the usual spots … I may be rough as a badger’s arse sometimes, but I’m hilariously funny in certain moments too.
I had a teachable moment happen during my arrival. I like to get in an hour early, sit in a coffee shop and people watch and get a feel for the energy of the place. In the reception area, the guard referred to me as the guy who is here to do a talk – to an HR staffer. Oops! I let it slide in the moment, as it caught me off guard, but it did give me a way to drive a point I was making home to all the people in the room.
I stayed an additional two hours after the presentation to chat with people one-on-one, and had some contacts to pass along from my mental Rolodex to a few trans associates who were present. I loved hearing from their head of recruiting that they were planning multiple campaigns to hire from the trans communities across Canada. Considering that the unemployment rate is ridiculously high, any positive step I will celebrate! Many lessons to be taken from that experience to be used for other organizations.
Great excitement in October, Natalie published her second book, Daily Lessons From Save-My-Life School on the 10th. Lessons, readings, meditations, things to consider, and more, gathered and curated by Natalie from her travels, with space for your own notes as well. RUN, do not walk, to your local bookstore and buy this perfect companion book to Save-My-Life School. Nat is busy writing another book currently. Two bestsellers, I think three is very much likely to happen in 2018!! I’ll let you know as soon as book #3 is ready for the bookstores!
I received such a great belated birthday present on the 24th. Danielle and I were scheduled for a Ryerson guest lecture, and some of my most favourite friends and people I truly adore, were actually going to be present! This would be the last time I would do this version of this lecture. I lay it out there, quite bluntly at times, my own story. From being a survivor, to battling mental illness/PTSD. I will post some of the feedback from this latest lecture.
I had been hoping for some time to have my friend Laurie come out to see Danielle and I delivering one of our lectures. Her schedule was a bit iffy, but it suddenly had an opening for her to attend, and imagine my excitement when she gave me the news. The morning of, she messaged me to ask if her work partner could come with her, and finding out who it was, oh hell yeah!
We were due to meet beforehand at Balzac’s Coffee on campus for coffee and introductions and then head over to the lecture hall. Such a powerful and amazing group we had with us that day! My BFF Ashley is always my anchor in the room when she sits in. If I get triggered by something, my mind will derail and I’ve been known to stop talking mid-sentence when it happens. If I look at Ashley, she has this “you can do it” look that she gives me, and I find my way back in that instant. I swear she is my good luck charm, anything she attends is always a successful event. I can tell you that I adore her beyond words, and we have some of the most in-depth, soul-baring conversations. You can see why I trust her implicitly. This time, her co-worker Dion was coming to observe our lecture. My friend and PFLAG Mom, Marla, one of those people with a heart as large as the city was there with us. Marla took this photo, here is our group with Professor Allspach:
Now, there are various lolcat versions of me in front of a room teaching, but Stephanie caught me using “the look”:
November saw the activity levels continuing to rise. Kicked off the month with a belated birthday lunch with Marla and Anne, and nothing tops 3 hours spent with two PFLAG Moms over a tasty lunch! Saturday the 4th, was time to get out my cheerleading gear and get ready to make some noise! My BFF and chosen sister, Darla, was back to Florida to conquer her next IronMan triathlon. She wanted so badly to beat her time from her previous year. Weather conditions refused to cooperate, but, she was still in the top portion of her categories, and always #1 in my heart and mind. I will eternally be proud of her, not just for her triathlete accomplishments, but for multiple other things that she’s too humble to mention, but mutual friends made sure I knew about.
Ashley and I were honoured to be invited for dinner and conversation at the house of our professor and her wife. Amazing meal, and the conversation for the entire night was incredibly fascinating! Of course, our hosts are both university professors, we discussed some of the most in-depth topics during the evening, and we received some great advice on possible paths for both of us to pursue in future.
A few days later, in The Village for multiple events, beginning with a lunch and learn session with Lt. Jim Young from Orlando PD who was in town for the week and was discussing events surrounding the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. The work that continues to be done with the local community, and what lessons learned could be used here in Toronto. After that, we literally crossed the street for a new session of Coffee With Cops and a chance for people in the area to meet our guests from Orlando PD.
Next day, finally a chance to spend a few minutes to chat with my friend Pete (Ice Cream Dad – not my story to tell, only Pete can do it justice). We were gathered at 14 Division for a Lunch & Learn session with Chief Mina of Orlando Police Department. It was an in-depth look at the events of the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the work done with the community since that night.
Early Friday morning, a return visit to chat with Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. I was there to discuss the history to be made in Toronto and across Canada on Monday 20th November. You see, the coming Monday is the 19th annual Trans Day of Remembrance, and because of the large number of conversations had across Canada, from coast to coast, police services would be flying the Trans flag for the first time in their history, or, would be taking part in local observances. I know we inspired Vancouver PD to take part along with us marking a historical first in Toronto to see the flag flown on top of Toronto Police Headquarters.
Thanks to Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon for being our photographer after the formal observance was complete. Deputy Chief McLean, PC Danielle Bottineau, and I, with our flag flying for the first time in the history of the service on top of HQ. The second photo is with our PFLAG friends and family. We have come a long way in the 6 years that Danielle and I have worked together. We did a brief and simple ceremony, with Acting Chief Ramer speaking, then me, raising the flag, then the moment of silence. Now, there is no more powerful photo from that morning than the one with all the senior command during the moment of silence in remembrance of the dead. It was a moving sight to see those in attendance holding hands during that minute.
A special day; even managed to tape a quick segment earlier that morning with my friend Meaghan for that day’s edition of Toronto Police News. I received photos from VPD of their flag-raising ceremony on their headquarters building as well (so proud of Velvet and Dale and Chief Palmer for making it possible).
What made the day special for me, was Nat’s presence. I honestly thought Nat was going to levitate she was so excited about the historic moment about to happen. We try to be in communication at least once a day for at least a few minutes, and there are times when a conversation will last several hours.
Weather and traffic coming into the city had delayed Nat and Kim, but as soon as they reached the lobby, Pete and I went as fast as we could to get downstairs to bring them up for our post-event breakfast in the boardroom. We could go together and look at the flag flying. Those who know us well know that nothing else will happen until we have had time to have a moment together. We never knew that Kim had captured that moment for us, and then sent us the photo later that afternoon. I also sent this to Laurie with a note, “You, my dear friend, are responsible for this.” I think it speaks for itself, this is us every time we are in the same physical space:
That is my greatest moment of 2017, nothing from the year could even come close. Nat added one word to the photo and tweeted it:
Kim, I owe you an abundance of hugs for capturing that moment. We are both still receiving comments about that photo. Nat is right, there is always an abundance of love present.
The following week included being the guest for the hour on Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo’s radio show “3 Women” on CIUT 89.5 FM. First time we have ever had the chance to chat at length. I am looking forward to when she brings back her previous show “The Radical Reverend” and picking up the conversation where we left off. One other great note from the show, the second call-in guest so thoroughly impressed all of us in the studio that we have been working on a joint nomination for them for the 2018 INSPIRE Awards. In the same week, I did an interview for an article which was published this past week by IN Magazine … you can read it at this link: Our Stories On Our Terms.
Finally made it to December and to kick off the month, we were finally able to host our community celebration/party for Barb’s promotion. I enjoy these moments, I get the opportunity to visit with all of my favourite people, have a conversation, get caught up, and share some laughs! Told Nat and our mutual friends, at one point in the evening, a few of us stopped to look, one of the guests at the party entered and we swore up and down that it was Nat … same haircut, same eyes, same smile, and we caught ourselves gawking open-mouthed. Thank heavens Giselle was there and went over to explain.
Why leave when most were just shifting into party mode? Our host Christopher, myself, and Danielle all had to be at the Toronto Police College (TPC) at 8am the following morning for the annual CPC Conference and training session. Yes, CCC and CPLC members who attend receive the same training that front-line officers receive on the chosen topic for that year.
The following Wednesday morning, was another packed day, as Danielle’s counterpart from VPD was in town. I was so excited to finally meet Dale in person and share conversations over coffee. Interesting to discover, different parts of the country, same issues! Brought Dale in briefly to see a bit of HQ, and to meet my friend Stephanie. She’s absolutely one of my favourite people, we’re on that same energy wavelength. There is a group of us and we’re all Empaths. I know that if it is possible, we will be visiting Vancouver at some point in 2018, and I look forward to meeting friends at VPD who I know electronically. I’d love to spend part of the time shadowing Dale on his rounds during a typical week. Here’s a few photos:
People may be familiar with missing person cases in the downtown core, some of which are now being handled by homicide and other units. Because of the massive amounts of misinformation being spread online, a Community Update meeting was scheduled for Friday morning (December 8th). Family members, community representatives, community liaisons and uniform members had 90 minutes in private with the Chief. He answered everything raised in that room. It was fascinating when we went downstairs to the media studio for the joint press conference to hear how much of our concerns were brought up with the media. The following week was taken up with year-end meetings to review progress made, what worked/what didn’t, and plan for the new year coming.
We had one more memorable moment before the holiday break, a special treat really, coffee with fabulous friends for the morning of the 20th, catch up on various topics, plan some activities for 2018, share some stories and enjoy each other’s company. A friend from the TPC and I had been trying to find a time to meet up and chat over coffee, and once we found a space in everyone’s agenda for an hour, imagine my delight to spend time with Aimee and Laurie (who got hugs from Nat and myself that morning), and joined later on by Danielle.
Danielle and I had to head up to TTC HQ to deliver a training seminar that afternoon for new fare inspector recruits. It was our first time delivering this material together, we have multiple customized sessions depending on the class and requirements.
Those are the highlights from 2017. Some history-making moments, a number of things that need work to improve for 2018, and a year to be rather satisfied and proud of the accomplishments made. There are other things from the past year which really deserve their own post, that will be coming throughout the next month.
What does 2018 hold? Well, the first week in saw me going outside of my usual topics and being part of a panel delivering a lecture on LGBTQ healthcare for 250 graduating doctors who are transitioning to residency. I think we performed well, we have been asked back to do the same or similar lecture for future classes. It was worth a try for me, and it proved to be successful. I’m sure much more will be coming in the new year that should be a stretch and an opportunity. If Nat has her way, the new year will also include my moving to her city so we can spend more time than the previous few times per year in the downtown core for work-related events.
I hope your year was as productive and enjoyable kittens! Happy New Year, and here’s to 2018!
Remember to tell your loved ones, every chance you get, how much you love them.
Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.