Monday, December 22, 2014

Amazing. It's the little things and the big changes.

Today my boss called me amazing. It might seem like a little thing, but she's something of a hero to me. A woman who has been fighting for the rights of queers like me and families like mine for almost 2 decades; the most determined, dedicated, and powerful provincial level politician, having become the longest sitting Opposition MLA in Alberta's history and having been the catalyst for positive, feminist change in that time. So, coming from her, that made me feel special and good. Keeping in mind as well that, at my last job, I had a boss who was such a homophobe (I don't know why she hired me, to be honest; we were in grad school together so she knew) that she couldn't once bring herself to utter my partner's name, though she did rounds in our department every morning, asking about people's families. When she stopped at my desk, faced with photos of my two bio children and two step children, my partner and me, she could barely contain her discomfort, usually managing to stammer out a question about my evening or some such. She did her utmost to make my family invisible. In that job I got the workplace in the news multiple times for initiatives I'd initiated and undertaken, I spoke at several conferences, I published regularly in a review journal, and I made it into one of the most prestigious journals in our field for innovation. But at my performance review, she wanted to talk about my "excessive" use of sick time (which was less than the time allowed) because of my children's specialist appts. (Other staff in the dept did bare minimum and exceeded sick time, with her consent.) It was suggested I file a human rights lawsuit against her... but I just wanted out, away from a person so hateful and ignorant. I could list more that she did; the lawyer I spoke to said it was an easy win case, but it would take time and energy and frankly, she'd stripped me of that. So I quit. My mental health was more important; my family was worth more. I spent some time figuring out what to do. I loved the field I had gone to school to work in, but most positions in the field were either not compatible with the predictable scheduling needs of my bio kids (they have autism, as I've said, and need routine in a serious way, a way I believe should be respected) or they were jobs I didn't want to do (I might be trained to do Records Management for an oil company with an MLIS, but doing such a job would be as soul-sucking as the one I had left.) So I waited. And waited. And then the job with the politician I most admire came available. And I babbled nervously through what might have been my worst interview performance to date (most stellar would have been the phone interview I did that landed me the job in Toronto back in 2004 when I had built a website to guide my interviewers visually through some of the questions that were less easy to do by phone, and I had them mooing and quacking and laughing with me...) But I ended up working for her through a few twists of fate. And now I get to do some amazing things, be part of some amazing things. And today, I got told I was amazing by someone I have always thought is amazing. It might have been one of the best Christmas presents ever (though she took us to The Nutcracker Unhinged as a Christmas gift and that was pretty great too.) 2014 has been a trying year in many, many areas of my life, of my family's life. But work? It's the best job I've ever had (and I've had some amazing jobs with some inspiring people, the above mentioned aside) and I am so grateful, not just that I get to do what I do, but who I get to do it with. Yes, my politician boss who is a superstar is wonderful. I also get to work with three other amazing women. For a while with a ridiculously fun and wonderful man who I affectionately call my work husband or my beard, depending on the context. I have a feeling 2015 will be more amazing, whether the word is directed at me or not. Things are on an upturn. Despite the horrific state of provincial politics right now, I think we'll see better in the year ahead. And I'll get to continue working in an amazing office with amazing people and use the word amazing and FABULOUS as much as I want with as much gayness as I like and I will be valued for it. That, my friends, is fucking amazing. (I am too, too tired to proof read this, so my apologies for spelling or grammar errors, run on sentences, or any other writing missteps.)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Visiting the Legislative Assembly of Alberta

We talk politics in this house.  A lot.  Not just since I started working for MLA Laurie Blakeman; we always have.  We talk about a lot of issues.  Nothing gets sugar coated for our children.  We don't want them in the dark about anything.  I think it's much better they know all and know how to ask questions and learn to think for themselves.

This week, because of the outrageous happenings in the Alberta Government (the Conservatives in power, that is) we've been talking more exclusively about politics.  Imogen has taken a keen interest.

On Thursday, she had the chance to attend the Assembly and was introduced to the House by Laurie, who is one of Imogen's idols.  (The other is Laurie MacFayden, my close friend and a talented poet and painter.  Imogen has good taste!)

Here's video footage of my fabulous daughter being introduced to the Assembly, the place, at present, she hopes to work some day as she would like to become an MLA when she grows up.  (Also a singer, an Olympic athlete, a writer, an artist, and an ice cream scientist.  I applaud her ambition.)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Alberta Conservative Politics Under Prentice-- REPREHENSIBLE

In politics, there are different parties and different opinions.  There are issues open to debate.  There are human rights laws that shouldn't be debatable, but Alberta thinks otherwise... none of this is what I have to talk about today.

Today I saw Jim Prentice's PC Party and the Wildrose Party engage in an ORCHESTRATED SILENCING of Laurie Blakeman's Bill 202, a Bill that proposed to protect LGBTQ students, their allies, and children of LGBTQ people in law.  It hurts no one who believes in Lakes of Fire and is homophobic; the Bill contains opt-out clauses.  It seeks only to make schools safer places for students quantitatively more prone to self-harm, bullying, and suicide than other groups.

But all that aside.  It was a Private Member's Bill.  Those only get to be discussed on Monday afternoons from 3-5 in the Alberta Legislature.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are strictly government (ruling PC party) business.  So today, two bills were up for reading and debate.  Bill 201, from Joe Anglin, the raging homophobe who left the Wildrose because they are not homophobic enough, which dealt with transparency of energy regulators.  An empty bill that every backbench MLA in the PC and WR party stood to speak in favour of, ranting on about lines on their own utility bills, using points of privilege to argue WITHIN THEIR OWN PARTIES to delay the ability of MLA Laurie Blakeman to speak to her Bill 202.

They did it.  They stalled and wasted time with points of privilege (meaning the time allotted the debate pauses while point of privilege is considered, but absolute ending time, 5pm, goes unchanged.)

Who did it?  Janice Sarich.  Dave Quest.  Rob Anderson.  Joe Anglin.  Linda Johnson.  Frank Oberle. And more.  This people who are supposed to support democracy instead colluded to argue with each other on Bill 201 which they ALL SUPPORTED.  They played childish, stalling, democracy-averting games to ensure the clock would run out and MLA Laurie Blakeman would not get to read her Bill.

Everyone already knew her bill was dead.  Prentice, the premier, has first reading, second reading, committee of the whole, and third reading all scheduled for this week.  His bill, that does not support students in any way other than allowing them "legal recourse" if their school won't support a GSA (you know, those independently wealthy 15 year olds whose parents don't support their gender identity or sexual orientation, be they in public or faith based schools) will be enshrined in law by Thursday at which time the Speaker will call session (Prentice having prorogued it because he was NOT ELECTED when session was supposed to begin) and MLA Blakeman's Bill 202, which could have helped innumerable students, including my own children, will be dead on the floor.

But the PCs and WRs would not even let her speak.  They babbled about the oddness of acronyms for British energy regulators.  They read off lines from their person utility bills.  THEY ALL WANTED BILL 201 passed.

This was orchestrated silence.  They did not want MLA Laurie Blakeman to table letters from parents, teachers, homeschool parents, religious community members, about their support for GSAs and Bill 202.  They did not want her to have a chance for Albertans dissent to appear in public record.

THIS IS NOT DEMOCRACY.  In democracy, there is debate; there is not childish stalling and silencing of voices that do not align with the ruling party.

Those MLA names up there, the ones I mentioned who spoke, all no one back benchers; they did all they could to subvert democracy today.  Take what political stance you will, but do not claim that their actions are just.  What those people did today was gag the voices of thousands of Albertans, refuse them voice in their legislature.

And those not named?  Mr. Thomas Lukaszuk sat sprawled in his seat, smirking and laughing at MLA Blakeman, pointedly looking at me in the gallery, then at her, and laughing.  If you think he or Heather Klimchuk, who have clearly only paid lip service to the LGBTQ community, care one iota about queer youth, you are wrong.  They have been silent (thought Lukaszuk has a media mouthpiece wife who has managed to get him airtime when he wants it) through all of this.  Klimchuk is, very unfortunately, the MLA representing the riding I live in, and she, oh so eager to pose for photos with Lukaszuk and Kris Wells (don't even get me started on him-- see Kikki Planet/ Kathleen Smith's reasoning for his complete and utter failure of the queer community,) you are wrong.  Have they crossed the floor to protest this extreme social conservatism?  No.  They are career politicians who care about their next election; neither gives a damn about LGBTQ youth unless it serves them politically.  If they did, they'd speak out.  They haven't.  And Sandra Jansan who supported MLA Kent Hehr's Motion in the Spring Session to mandate GSAs if students requested them?  She's the one presenting Prentice's Bill 10.

This government is corrupt.  Don't be fooled into thinking Alison Redford was alone.  Or Ralph Klein was alone.  This is a government with a 40 plus year sense of entitlement that thinks Albertans are lemmings who will vote for them time and time again.

These people are authoritarian and dictators.  They manipulate systems to silence dissent.  THIS IS WRONG.

I have never in my life voted for a conservative of any stripe (they like to change their colours often- PC, Conservative, Reform, WildRose, Canadian Alliance) and I never will.  Until today, it was because I disagreed with their platforms.  After today, it is because they are heinous creatures who have no respect for the citizens of this province and this country.  And because their platforms are awful.  (Don't even try to argue that you're a fiscal conservative.  Every party in this country is fiscally conservative; it's all about social conservatism and social liberalism... the conservatives in this province are fascists.  They proved that today.)

MLA Laurie Blakeman, you are my hero.  You are, as you know, my daughter's hero.  You fight for basic human rights, for people at risk in various demographics, and you are genuine.  You put your heart and your soul into what you do; you're not there for airtime and expense accounts (cough... David Xiao;) you are there and you get voted in time and again because you listen to the people and you fight for the people.  You are democracy in action.

The PCs and the WRP are despicable.  I allow people, as I said, to agree with their platforms.  I cannot.  Their tactics fly in the face of democracy and civility.

To anyone who voted for them and especially anyone who chooses to vote for them in the future; YOU carry the weight of dead children on your shoulders.  YOU have voted for people who shut up and won't allow debate.  YOU have voted against democratic principles, against freedom of speech, and against common courtesy.

It is shameful.  Read about the Nazi Party.  Look at Prentice's government and the Conservative dynasty.  If you vote for them, you are complicit.

And I will be writing to my MLA, the Education Minister, and lodging complaints to the Human Rights Commission EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. my child comes home having sung O Canada or having read a book with opposite sex parents; because the default is not what's legislated; under Prentice's Bill, and indeed, the Alberta Human Rights Act as it stands, I have a right to be notified in writing, in advance every time patriotism, religion, or sexual orientation is mentioned in class.  Heterosexuality is a sexual orientation.  National anthems are patriotism.  To those who agree that we all have rights, not just that Conservatives have rights, I urge you to join me.

Don't let the bastards drag you down.  And don't let these assholes get away with fascism.