Tag Archives: disability

Share your experiences of dating and ableism on ACSEXE+

I just finished an amazing conversation with a good friend about ableism in dating, and the subtle ways that family expectation and judgement can infiltrate our intimate relationships. Our conversation will be posted on http://acsexe.tumblr.com/ in the next week or two! I’ve invited other people to share their experiences and thoughts on ableism and dating for the ACSEXE+ blog…

Want to contribute?

Message me or post below anything from a word that comes to mind, to an experience you had on a date, or reflections on ableism in and around relationships. Looking forward to compiling!

ACSEXE+ is a blog and video series all about sexuality and disability/ access. My main goal with this project is to share the perspectives and experiences of people in Quebec and elsewhere, in a bilingual form, to share our experiences and talk about sex and disability in a sex-positive way:) Cause sex is amazing, and disability can add layers of awesomeness to the equation! New ways of doing things, relating, communicating… I am collaborating with a feminist organization here in Montreal called the FQPN and the Accessibilize Montreal crew! Get in touch!

❤ Aimee

alouw@fqpn.qc.ca


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Well, tonight (Mar 18, 2015) I called the cops on a
bus driver. Yes. The driver of the 105, bus number 22-288, departing
concordia loyola campus at around 10:30 pm tonight, held me captive
on his bus at my stop. I was the only passenger left, he closed the
doors, parked the bus, illuminated the out of service sign and told
me I was not going anywhere.

This happened after I had requested
that he lower the bus when I got on at loyola. I had taken the
concordia shuttle from downtown and waited to take the 105 two stops
to home. I requested, he looked me up and down and said ‘vous est pas
capable de prendre la marche?’ I stared at him. I said, ‘are you
going to lower it?’

He said ’S’il vous plait?’ I stared at
him.

He reluctantly lowered it.

I sat at the front of the bus.

He said, ‘you could have said please.’
In French.

I said, ‘it’s not up to you to ask
whether or not I can take a step.’ In English.

He said ‘vous pouvez parler en
francais’.

I said, ‘yes I could’.

He sassed me.

I sassed back.

Then, two stops later, at my stop, a
guy was getting off first, and before he got off said, ‘it shouldn’t
make a difference whether someone is speaking english or french,
you’re in the public service, you should respond to your customers.’
The driver at this point said ‘oui, je comprends le francais, j’ai
juste dit…’

The guy getting off the bus said
something else and then the driver became aggressive, pointing his
finger at the guy and started to yell. Then I got up and told him he
was being aggressive and that is against stm policy, it says so right
there on the poster. (‘Pas de place pour la violence’ with a big
clipart heart)

The guy got off the bus, I sat down to
hit record on my phone because I had a feeling this was not over, and
then I found out that I was right.

The driver got up out of his seat, came
and leaned over me and said, that I was not polite.

I said that all I did was ask for the
bus to be lowered.

He said that he has children and he’s
teaching them to be polite.

I said, ‘oh now you’re comparing me to
your kids? That’s demeaning.’

I told him that it is his directive to
lower the bus and ramp whenever asked, regardless of what a person
looks like. I was angry. He was going to call the cops. He had closed
the doors, making it impossible for me to get off the bus. He
was going to call the cops?

Fuck no!

I dialed 911 and
tried to set up my call recording app.

I guess 911 is
blocked from these types of apps because it didn’t take.

I called again,
without recording and told the oporator I was being held on a city
bus against my will. I told her where and what bus number and she
said she’d send a car.

Then, after hearing
me speak very loudly, in English, to 911, the driver opened the doors
of the bus. Imagine that. He got off and talked to the driver of
another 105 who had pulled over to look out for his union brother.

I waited on the bus
for the cops. Let’s do this shit I said to myself and my cellphone
recording, fuck this. Let’s see what the cops have to say about a
male bus driver locking a woman alone with him on a bus late at
night.

The cops came to
talk to the bus drivers, completely ignoring me.

As they went
directly to speak with the drivers, I intercepted, asking ‘does
anyone want to hear what I have to say?’

One
c
op told me to go away – over there. The other, shorter
shittier cop grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away, and when he
realized I was audio recording him, he took my phone, stopped the
recording and turned off my phone, and wouldn’t give it back to me.
Schoolyard bully style.

I finally grabbed it out of his gloved
hand and started recording again, attempting to speak with the stm
cops and chef d’operations who had now arrived on the scene.

They were ‘mamming’ me, and telling me
to wait my turn, that they had to speak to the driver first even
though I was the one being threatened, held against my will and had
called the cops to help me.

The first cop, after having a little
chat with the bus driver, confronted me and told me if I ‘can’t live
in the society, that’s my problem.’ He had my bag, including my
wallet, and he threw it in the mud. He told me to go home. ’M’am go
home. You’re off the bus now. We need you to go home.’ This is
actually what he told me. As though I am the problem. I am a
hysterical, crazy bitch who should quiet down and go home. I’m the
problem. I did something wrong by calling the police when my security
was in danger. ‘Go home, m’am, go home now. Back off. Back off. When
I tell you to back off you back off.’ Me: ‘Don’t touch me, you can’t
touch me.’

Cop: ‘If you don’t follow my order I
can touch you. Back off. That’s an order. That’s an order.’

What is that shit? Am I a fucking
cadet?

Eventually an older man stm cop, a
retired military policeman I found out later, took me to sit down in
his cruiser and took notes on my side of the story. He looked me in
the eyes and answered a lot of the questions I grilled him with like,
what is the policy of the stm on ramp usage, (by saying I don’t know,
I’m not a policy guy) and sublty suggesting I request a
‘sensibilisation’ for the driver or group of drivers in the complaint
I could file. Hardly an ally, but he wasn’t harrassing or being
violent towards me, so that’s a start.

I told him a lot, recounted the whole
thing, how I didn’t answer his question about my personal, physical
‘capabilities’ and he took that as a personal affront to his pride,
and as an opportunity to hold me hostage and give me private
ettiquite pointers. I explained that asking someone what they are or
are not capable of when they request an accessibility feature, is
dicrimination. You can hear all of this on the attached recording.
The stm cop listened, took notes for his report. I asked who gets the
report, in like, 2500 different ways. He dodged my questions about
this in 3000 ways. He asked what my disability is, for the report. I
told him what I was comfortable telling him, that I use various
mobility aides, that I have chronnic pain and that any unnacounted
for movements cause me more pain. I refused to answer with any more
information. I asked him about protocol when a complaint is filed, he
told me that I should consider taking Transport Adapte. I repeated
sentences about discrimination and how scary it was to be locked on a
bus with a man. He offered to drive me home. I declined.

We got out of the car, out of earshot
of his bitchy young white Quebec-supremicist lady cop partener with a
swishy ponytail. He told me his mother is ‘handicapped’ too, and she
uses a wheelchair and she has a hard time getting anywhere, and its
not just the stm its stores and restaurants and they offer
alternative services like food delivery, but its not the same. He
said this is a hard moment and it will pass.

I said, yes discrimination is
everywhere, but the stm is a public service and it especially burns
because I pay full price for a pass every month.

And this moment may pass, but actually,
this happens every day.

Now I’m home and trying to play back
that first recording of the bus driver and little cop and it won’t
play. I think he fucked with the recording somehow. Makes sense that
a cop would learn that trick. Hopefully someone out there can help me
fix it so we can hear the first five minutes of what turned into an
over hour long complete fuck up.

I am at a loss. I am fine. I am
wondering should I get back in touch with the journalists? Should I
blockade stm meetings, should I ignore this constant bullshit so I
can get my work done? Should I move right now and leave all this
horse shit behind me, thereby kind of screwing my comrades over? I
had such a nice evening too, singing and seeing my music family, UTC.
I was listening to Canada Reads on podcast and planning the soup I
was going to eat. That driver, those cops, this constant harrassement
and abuse by the stm really put a damper on my mood.

Right now I am in calm shock and need
to eat dinner.

Le #printemps2015 arrive. There are new massive protests planned for Quebec this spring, in the tradition of the student protests of 2012. (See kind of funny photo above)

This
is exciting for me, and also concerns me. I love the idea of people
young and old, mobilizing against austerity, and sticking it to the
decision makers. God knows almost nothing turns me on more than a
demonstration in the street by the light of the springtime Quebec moon. I
said almost. I’m more than just political in my preferences, you know that.

However, like this young, normalized, white hand proudly proclaiming it’s rightful place in a mass social movement in Quebec; against austerity, against selfishness masked as an economic system, proudly aligning itself for community, marching really fast and rambunctiously down the middle of the street, it doesn’t represent all the people in the movement, nor the people most affected by austerity. 

My comrade Laurence Parent tells it like it is in this article recounting when a healthcare professional recommended she eats frozen microwave dinners 365 days a year to accommodate cuts in her province- funded homecare services, that had previously provided funds for meal preparation, like for actual food. http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/laurence-parent/repas-surgeles-a-saveur-dausterite_b_6778700.html

Now that’s something to say Esti! to. (Esti = Quebec version of Fuck)

Or the story that recently came out in the Journal de Montreal, about long time disability rights activist, Deborah Kennard, who is not being released from hospital to go back home after a stay, because the residence where she lives will not agree to pay for nursing care to meet her healthcare needs. http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/03/14/confinee-a-lhopital-en-attendant-une-decision-administrative An administrative loophole has turned her into a prisoner of the hospital. Austerity has extended that sentence.

I’d get out on the street to protest that shit.

But I’m not sure if the young, healthy, only-been-in-the-hospital-for-a-broken-arm-at-age-6 fist in the above photo is aware of these realities. I’m not sure if they know that parents with young children who need physiotherapy and speech therapy at an early age to assure their positive future, have the role of physical therapist being thrust on them due to budget cuts in the CLSCs (community health organizations), as if a parent who is exhausted and working full-time can moonlight as a top quality physio therapist as well, to compensate for a failing economic system.

I will hear chants about students’ tuition and a lack of jobs for young generations this spring, but will I hear the tens of thousands of people expected to take to the streets yelling about homecare cuts, and being allowed off the bus with a ramp, like I am so often refused http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/conflict-ramps-up-walker-reliant-rider-complains-driver-left-her-stranded-1.2258406, and having access to the accessibility devices that suit them best, not just those provided by the province’s favourite company? I don’t know.

Will they protest the age-old, and personally consuming excuse that ‘we can’t accessibilize transit in Montreal, because… austerity.’ As though the decision makers on the board of the STM are not at all responsible for mis-spending and complicity in the failure of past accessibility projects like the elevator to nowhere in the Place Bonaventure metro station (subway system in Montreal). http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/Montreal/2015/03/02/004-ascenseur-station-bonaventure-metro-montreal-accessibilite.shtml, or could not, while doing other repairs and closing down Beaubien station for an indefinite amount of time, also work on installing a damn elevator. But no, that would cost too much. Because… austerity.

This is not just a rant.

I sincerely hope that when that fist and the throngs of people that join it take to the streets this spring, accessibility will be on people’s radar. That when people yell about austerity and resist the police who will inevitably come to silence them, they will be doing so for people who are not there at the demo, not just themselves. That they fight for people who are stuck in the damn hospital waiting to get their lives back on track, waiting to do their life’s work of activism again, if only they weren’t being hospitalized, forcibly.

I hope that when the young folks take to the streets they yell extra loud for the folks who got fucked by transit on the way over to the square, showing up late to the demo or just giving up and heading home.

I hope that they pay attention to their surroundings and don’t kick canes out from under people’s hands like they did in 2012 to me, as I struggled up that very same hill on Berri street (pictured, weirdly, above). I wrote about that experience here: http://aimeelouw.blogspot.ca/2012/07/a-qui-la-rue.html I hope that they read our posts, share our perspectives and enact the community that they are advocating, on the streets, on transit, and in their everyday interactions. Because austerity for many, is a constricting force on our daily lives. It squeezes and pushes and there is no way out. Unless everyone gets on board and starts yelling and tweeting and writing and recording and works our collective magic, to make sure austerity is the thing that gets squeezed out this #printemps2015 (spring2015).

My little, kind of cold, also white, arthritic hand says to the fist above: take me in your hand, and let’s join a million other hands of all forms and colours with all the real, daily concerns they have written on their palms, and let’s do this thing together. Open that fist and leave space for all of us who are being harmed by the decisions that lead to austerity and the decisions that are made in austerity’s name. Lower your hand and follow our leads. 

Link

Some thoughts on Ray Aldred’s piece on sexual oppression and disability.

Thorough article, lots to think about, thankful for your candour in sharing personal experiences of micro aggressions related to disability. I can definitely relate to kids wrapping their fingers around my wrists and saying iiiiits sooo smaaaalll! Funny, I’d forgotten about that unwanted attention I received until I read this.

Budding reflections..

In terms of the sexual oppression of disabled people as rejection, I would add to your analysis that some male sexual or romantic partners, particularly in hetero relationships are drawn to disabled women for the reverse of the reason that you argue they are desexualized. Disabled women are seen in need of care, and certain men want to ‘provide’ for them sexually, and want to feel extra strong and virile, in relation to the perceived weak woman. To me, this is an amplification of cultural trends in hetero relations where men are to be strong, and women to be passive.

Similarly, some disabled people are overly sexualized, particularly because of their perceived deviance from the bodily norm. In some instances, perceptions of disabled women’s sexuality is placed directly in their disability. There are pornography sites directly marketed to men with disabled women fetishes. In my personal experience I have had men come on to me expressing curiosity or sexual interest because they want to know what its like to have sex with a woman with a physical disability. Gross.

On that note, some women (and girls) with disabilities, in looking for social and gendered acceptance, contribute to their own hyper-sexualization in an attempt to gain power through sexualization. Similar to (disabled or non) women, say in a workplace where the only way to be heard is if you wear lipstick and stick your tits on the board room table.

Either way, its seems disabled people are objectified, ie subject to scrutiny that, like the continuum of empowerment you mention, is on a spectrum – with the extremes being complete desexualization and hyper-sexualization.

When you mentioned the fear non-disabled people have of hurting disabled people, particularly during sex, I reflected on the image we have of ‘normal’ ie hetero able bodied sex being rough, quick, focused on penetration, and physically all encompassing. The image in pretty much every hetro rom-com ever of a rather violent beginning wherein the male partner chases then grabs the woman, plants a sloppy kiss on her, they rip each others’ clothes off and then he mounts her like an orangutan and they do it (in out in out, she lying there, he working it) for five minutes, is a very narrow view of a particular type of sex. The idea we have from popular culture, sex ed classes and portrayals of sex all around us is inherently ableist and hetero-centric. There are a million ways of having sex, and I would posit that if our cultural narratives around sex opened up in terms of diverse sexuality and feminist sex, or at the very least a branching out of the verging-on-rape-fantasy described above, there would be less ableism in understandings of sex as well. Queer sex, slow sex, oral sex, gentle sex, kink… The rainbow, which is left out of popular discussions and portrayals of sex, includes many body types and ways of being.

This is not to say that the incorporation of queer sexualities into cultural narratives of sex would do away with ableism, but could be a departure point for a broader discussion of diverse bodies, ‘modes of performance’, and expressions of sex.

What do you think? Am I romanticizing queer sex? Is it just as ableist?

Definitely more thoughts to come, love the discussion possibilities this piece offers. And I hope to hear your reactions to my thoughts/ interpretations!

Disability, Sexual Oppression, and What Sex Can Be

One Year.

I’m not that good at remembering numbers. Except birthdays of the people I love and old addresses. But today I found myself rolling around in Parc Lafontaine waiting for open hours at the pool. I started off on my regular path, by the water, watching the sun set, then I found myself going farther, past the volleyball and picnic tables. Past the shady parts with the tall trees, past the open field, back to Sherbrooke street, in front of the Notre Dame Hospital. I noticed the west entrance was blocked off and being renovated. I noticed a lot of people in pale blue hospital gowns in wheelchairs smoking with their families and I wondered if they were jealous of the speed of my scooter. My mind wandered to thinking about how much better it is than those hospital chairs and how it wasn’t that long ago since I was in one, and then it hit me: its been a year to the day that I broke my femur. How the hell could I forget that?

A year ago this morning, I went from running around my apartment getting ready to rush out the door for my last day of a job, to lying in a puddle of half-drank cat water in my underpants, water seeping into my menstrual pad. I went from calling for my neighbours to help me, to crawling on my back to reach my phone and calling various people until I reached my brother and Hannah and they convinced me to call 991. It’s been exactly one year since I was being carried down my two flights of stairs on a rickety stretcher by two first responders who I worried might have a cardiac arrest before we made it down. My leg was in a temporary cast made of recycled cardboard, swelling to widths I’ve never seen. One year since Hannah and I had fro-yo in the emergency room, the nurse unable to take that sweet contraband away from me. You’re not supposed to eat anything until they know for sure that you’re not going to need surgery. Its 11:00pm, about the time a year ago that I was parked in the dep* parking lot across from my apartment in Pascale’s mother’s car as my brother made neighbour arrangements for my cat and packed a few week’s worth of underwear and any dresses I had and grabbed the bananas I told him about on my table because I didn’t want them to go bad.

One year.

Of hospital visits, of language barriers, of waiting rooms, of pain medication schedules and brother-provided gluten-free beers to help the codeine kick in. Time spent in the oldest and heaviest wheelchair you can imagine, bathroom breaks timed out, crying on the couch because the woman wasn’t going to come in the morning and I didn’t know how I would pee, trying female urinals, failing at female urinals. A year of relying on family members and friends who gave new meaning to the word: solid. A vow never to flake-out on people again and a year trying to put that into practice.

One year full of physio, getting boss in a wheelchair, getting rejected by bus drivers, learning that little steps are the biggest, learning that one step into a building may as well be a million. Being told about the importance of walking, of exercising, of keeping my weight down, of taking pills everyday; being told I need to get back to normal, get on with my life, stop spending my mornings at physio.

A year full of regret and missing my old apartment, that I would sometimes jealously peep into if I went to the dep and it was dark out and the lights up there were on. A year full of fighting my shrinking self-confidence and resisting microaggressions and bullshit from people on sidewalks and hiring committees. A year of looking for that spot where my identity is formed, and trying to spread it around a bit; make it less dependent on walking. A year of doing everything in my power to get up and walking again and then building a more fitting vision of how to get around, as I’ve come to understand that walking too much is not good for me. And too much is not a fixed amount. A year of building-up muscles and the strength to fight for myself, when in the past I didn’t feel authorized to. Time spent in the pool rediscovering my love of water and discovering a new love with J.

One year of wearing crocs at all times.

Well I didn’t know what to think about it. I didn’t know how to feel when I finally remembered. So I rolled over to the bench across the street from Notre Dame where I had sat with Deon, Pascale, Mum, and Joe after an x-ray check-up. It was the time before the doctor told me the bone had healed, but it had been doing well. A year ago we sat there, I craving sushi, my mother craving answers in a language she could understand, my brother craving country air, Pascale craving to get on the highway already, and Joe probably craving a cigarette or the feeling of nothingness in his mind that he was accustomed to. Today I sat there in my scooter thinking, god: a year ago I had no idea what was in store, what kind of weird shitstorm I was going to be at the eye of along with many other Montrealers; what discriminatory underbelly of the city I was going to be exposed to. I had no idea I would be living the ‘don’t get mad get political’ mantra every time I left my freaking apartment.

Five weeks less than a year ago I sat at that bench in a relationship that was no good for me, with the idea that after this bone healed everything would go back to the way it was before: painful, exhausting, bull-headed, metro-taking normalcy. I had needed the changes this accident forced on me long before that day.

And half a year ago during rehab I had no control over how I got places. I just sat there, waiting. Sometimes for a ride or energy to walk that never came.

Today I sat there, hearing the howl of a husky dog and of skateboards taking quick turns and I thought about the people who have helped me out in so many ways.

Mum, Jo, Lyssa, Hania, Rosie, De and Pascale, they all stayed with me, making sure I had anything I needed or wanted. They fed me and watered me, and made me laugh and hung out with me when I was grumpy.

De busted me out of the hospital that first night, convinced that the country air would be much better for me than the stale adult wing of the hospital, complete with a barfing guy across the hall. He barbequed hardcore pork for dinner almost every night; claiming that the calcium from the meat being cooked on the bone would help me heal. I believed it.

My mum flew across the country to help out in any way she could, spending the majority of my leg-straight-in-a-splint-don’t-move-it-can’t-move-it time. This was a challenging time and she strengthened by example, never letting up on the care I needed, just like she never did when I was younger, in and out of doctors’ offices, blood tests and brace fittings. She lifted, supported, fed me, fed my friends, gave me flowers when we found out the bone was healed, and bought me a badass pleather jacket to replace the one that was fraying. I swear she always knows what size to get.

De and Pas were both my primary caregivers for weeks. They took care of everything. I don’t even know half of what they did because I was hopped up on many opiates. But their kindness and solidarity got me through seriously challenging times, and their laughs and focus on daily dinners and playing songs and getting outside in the sun taught me the relief there is in daily activities with people you love.

My dad came to Quebec for the first time since the ‘70s to take care of me too, bringing Afrikaans cured meats and supplements. He pushed me around the streets, and surprised by how friendly all the gentlemen were in Montreal (in the village;)

Pascale’s mother hosted me and various family members for many weeks, feeding us and being patient.

Rosie spent her only week off over a two year period taking care of me, pushing my chair through the gnarled and rocky streets of Saint Henri.

Naike took me to a righteous Haitian voodoo concert and took me camping. Lucy blocked traffic on Atwater street, lent me pillows and an espresso machine for far too long, offered to stay with me, and kept my spirits up over shared spirits.

Nat took a surprise trip into town for brunch.

Lyssa clipped my toenails one day on that raunchy green couch, and it was the sweetest.

Brennan and Jesse came to visit, brought the kids, even with the business that having two young ones and busy lives brings.

Nic and Steph rode their bikes over to me at like 8 am to help me in the washroom, on several occasions, lifting me like it was nothing. And Steph lent me a bizarre games to play to keep my mind occupied. She made me a friendship bracelet that is still wrapped around my leg. And she laughed her ass off when she saw the photo of my croc in the metro reminding me its good to laugh at absurd situations.

Pauly helped me arrange much needed personal care, and scored me an amazing wheelchair through his contacts with all the right people.

Gifty came over to visit and develop a special bond with Klava the cat.

Julie came over to help me take evening pees, hung out with my dad, and brought her guitar. She and I sang songs even when I thought I really didn’t have it in me to sing. And it always made me feel better.

And about a million other people sent me thoughtful messages, called me up to see how I was doing, and offered support.

I want to say thank you to everyone who helped and supported me as my leg healed and to everyone who’s been there for me since, showing me alternatives to a rather oppressive social emphasis on walking, supporting my battles with the STM, coming together over politics and drinks. Travelling with me on the road to acceptance and defiance (of my body and the city, respectively).

You are awesome, like a big storm rolling in except its not destructive its protective.

As I sip celebratory red wine and express these personal thoughts for anyone who will read them I think about the challenges we’ve overcome together, and the challenges and uncertainty I’m still facing. Yes it’s been one hell of a year. Yes, I’m still standing. Yes I have a ride so I can sit. My bone healed and is stronger because of the break, and I’ll tell you, so am I.

Cheers mutherfuckers!image

image

*dépaneur: a Quebec way of saying corner store. With liquor.

**Names:

Mom, Jo – parents

Lyssa, Deon, Brennan, Jesse, Pascale – siblings and sisters in law

Joe – an ex

Lady names – friends (my Montreal family)

J – My partner

Link

Here in Quebec, the ‘week of handicapped people’ organized by the provincial ‘office for handicapped people’ has just ended. The week is complete with movie screenings, accessibility audits of commercial areas, and a picnic in the park. No talk of criticism of inaccessible transit or cuts in homecare, or political action of any sort. Here is my article for the RAPLIQ journal (an awesome Montreal-based disability justice organization).

*Please note, my use of the word handicap is a translation of the French word for what we in English generally refer to as disability now. Don’t be turned off. Or maybe do be turned off. I know I am.

What’s your Handicap? Reflections on the Word and the Week · RAPLIQ

Where have I beeen?

Recently, my posts have been short and mostly about photos of silly things in Montreal’s architecture. Or various cats in and around various mobility devices. While fun, I feel I need to tell you where I’ve been and what is goinnn onnn in the Underwater City!

Well, I’ve been hustling. Hardcore.

I applied for some funding to produce the UWC Zine I, and got it! Its going to be a comparison of aspects of accessibility in five regions of the country, based on interviews. I’m setting up interviews and writing for that. Stoked! You have to wait!

I’ve been writing an article for the RAPLIQ bulletin, a really awesome organization here in Mtl who fight for disability justice. They are the royalty of disability activism. My article was translated by a fabulous editor and translator, and will be published next week. You have to wait for that toooo.

A poem that I’ve shared with you before is set to be published in the À qui la ville zine, produced by an awesome crew dedicated to a more inclusive Mtl. Stoked to be a part of this. But, you know the drill, have to waaiiiit!

I’ve been looking for work, to fund my unhealthy writing habit. No just kidding, I’ve been looking for part time work with youth. To get me away from the computer and back with kiddies- by far the best people ever.

And what about the documentary??
My lovely friend Lucy and I are preparing to shoot a promo video based in Mtl and integrating some of the footage from the trip across western Canada J and I took a few months ago. Its happening!

A painting? What painting?
Glad you asked! Said lovely friend Lucy has been working her buns off creating a beautiful work of art to accompany my poem in À qui la ville, and to perhaps, if she lets me, be used in other aspects of this ever-growing project!

So that’s my story. I will share things with you as they come out, and until then enjoy the cat photos and pictures of banks and other unfortunate places. And keep on fighting that ableism!

Don’t Touch My Scooter

I’m going to tell you a story about a protest I went to two days ago in favour of accessible transit. I’m going to tell you a story of someone who tried to steer my moving scooter while I was driving it during the demo because I was blocking a police car. I’m going to tell you why I was doing this, and the reasons why it is not ok to touch someone’s mobility device. I’m going to tell you why I think it is important to take up public space and assert our right to protest, and i’m going to tell you why i believe in diversity; of tactics, of bodies, of realities and the wisdoms that come from different experiences; why I believe diversity in a movement strengthens it.

But first…

Don’t touch my scooter.
ok. bottom line, don’t touch my scooter
not when its moving, not when its still, not when i’m in it, or not when I’m far away. Don’t touch my scooter.
All body politics aside, all body politics that say that a scooter or any other mobility device is an extension of my body, all those politics aside, don’t touch my scooter.

Not when I’m rolling along as part of a demonstration. Never touch my scooter.
All discussions of political tactics aside, the type of discussions that make you feel that its ok for your particular tactics to trump mine because they happen to fall in line with the law, all those discussions aside, do not touch my scooter.

Not when I am the only one on the left side of the street, the side farthest away from the majority of people demonstrating, and being intimidated and approached by police on two sides. Not then, not ever. Never touch my scooter.

I know the police are coming, I can see their flashing lights in my rear view mirror, I can see the cop coming towards me on his feet, and this is a personal and political choice that I am going to be true to.

I have thought long and hard for many years through many experiences, through many interviews with a multitude of people with diverse tactics, I have thought through some experiences in which I too, attempted to quell someone’s political voice and lived years to regret it. But have taken the opportunity to learn from that experience and grow as a political person. I have taken years and I have researched and I have written about diversity of tactics in social movements. And I have come to the conclusion that I choose to block cop cars when I am part of a demo.

The first time I heard the term lateral violence, I didn’t know what it meant, and it was being hurled at me from the lips of a very angry woman.
I was standing on the steps of one of those iconic Montreal statues trying to wrap up the speech a young woman was giving at a demonstration I helped organize. She was putting forward an idea that people in the group did not agree with and there were mumblings of ‘what should we do’, and ‘people are getting uncomfortable’ and ‘someone should go up there’. So I went. I felt if no one else is going to, I will. I tried to silence her because I and the group and seemingly, the majority of the crowd were not comfortable with what she stood for. I felt i had some authority over what was said because i was part of the organizing group.

I thought in my impulsive decision to go up there that it would just seem like I was facilitating the speakers and that it was time for the next speaker.
It didn’t seem like that.

It seemed like a young white woman of English and Afrikaans heritage was telling a young Navaho woman to step off the speaking pedestal. It seemed like an outsider, someone from the colonial group was telling someone whose people have been told how to act, what to say, what language to say it in, what ceremonies are illegal, where they can stand, live and build, it looked like that she was being told where to stand and what to say.
It looked like that because it was like that.
An act that I thought was relatively benign was violent to the person on the receiving end.
I was ignorant and unaware of the power dynamics and history of appropriation that I was a part of.
I was young.
I was not given any benefit of any doubt.

Let me tell you what I learned from this uncomfortable night:

All people in a movement, supporters, people directly affected by the oppression they’re resisting, we all have a place in fighting injustice. Movements are for everyone who wants to fight injustice. However, the voices that should be amplified above others are those of the people directly affected. We need to hear from the people being squeezed. Out of their territories, out of their ways of being, out of public spaces, blocked from transit, kept in poverty, institutionalized. These are the people who have the experiences that we need to build our movements on, they are the visceral knowledge holders.

I also learned that no one should belittle anyone else. Belittlement, dehumanization, these are the things we’re trying to resist; lets build an alternative to power structures that privileges some voices and perspectives over others.

Most importantly, I learnt the value of believing that no one knows what’s better for another person. We are responsible for ourselves, we are autonomous, agency is critical. I find this equally important in the anti-colonial movement as the anti-ableism movement, as many of us have been controlled our whole lives, physically, emotionally, medically.

Agency looks different for different people, maybe it looks like having the space to ask to be fed, maybe it sounds like ‘can you carry my purse, its too heavy’, maybe its taking a rest when everyone else keeps going. Maybe it feels like being guided at the right pace, being supported financially, has the motion of a flurry of words spelled into the air by diligent fingers. Maybe it smells like no one’s wearing perfume so neurodivergent people’s senses don’t feel sick. Maybe it looks like a bright shiny red scooter going at the pace and in the direction that its driver feels is right. Maybe it resembles these things and seven million other things. However agency manifests, it always looks like people making decisions for themselves or having final say in what happens in their lives, where they go, how they get there, and with whom they go. Agency looks and feels like choice.

I felt an overstepping onto my agency when someone attempted to redirect my scooter.
I felt my agency being pushed, belittled, edged over to the sidewalk, by the police cars that wanted to pass to open up a lane of traffic or make the demo take up less public space or whatever the reason they wanted me to move over.

So why didn’t I just move over for the cop car?

It strays a little from the whole don’t touch my scooter angle, and I don’t feel like I need to justify my political choices. But in the spirit of dialogue, I’ll tell you the story of why I didn’t want to scoot the hell over.
I feel the police exist to maintain the status quo. I felt their presence at the march was to diminish the amount of space we took up, to restrict our actions. As someone who has spent her life having her actions altered, splinted, redirected, this affects me in a visceral way. And I find it important to resist bodily control by the state that is at once personal, emotional and highly political.
What brought me out in the pouring rain to be part of a demonstration was the desire to break out of the status quo. The status quo is the thing that keeps us out of buildings, that passes laws against making buildings accessible because it would cost them aesthetic continuity. The thing that keeps people with disabilities in poverty and often dependent on abusive systems for support. The status quo is what keeps us subjugated in Quebec society. I came out in the pouring rain to speak out against that status quo and its oppressive force on my body and life. And of those of the people whom I love and of those who I don’t know.
I came out in the pouring rain to express my political opinion. And to manifest my political ideas and personal desires for autonomy into physical action.

The police were there to control the demo, to keep the peace/ quiet.
The peace/ quiet, in my opinion, is what made onlookers check us out and think, ‘oh that’s cute, the people in wheelchairs are rolling around on the street’.
In this ableist and inflexible environment, in which having 7 elevators out of 68 in the metro system is seen by many as ‘they’re trying, give them a break’, I feel my role in this movement is to make noise, take up space, not to keep the peace. Because for me, peace and quiet sounds a lot like the silent isolation a snow bank muffling outside sounds after ploughs have carelessly barricaded the entrance of a supposedly accessible building; the silent snowy night outside the pool when a person has parked in a handicapped spot without a second thought, that person being a parking enforcement officer; the echoing silence of no one saying a word, no feet shuffling when someone who clearly needs a seat on the bus gets on, scans the seats and exhales and holds on tight, hoping there aren’t too many sharp turns.

The tactics and role I choose to take are to be big, with my comrades, take up space and be seen, on our terms.
Not to feel pushed, at risk, like I so often do in public spaces.
I did not come out in the pouring rain to feel pressured. Like I should shrink.
Not by the police, and especially not by someone who has built a name for herself as a member of the disability community, who’s work is based on the tenets of independence, autonomy, agency and choice, and who took the choice to try and alter my path.

The police were there to escort the demo. The organizers alerted them of the trajectory of the march. That was completely in the realm of their agency to do so. Everyone has different political tactics for different reasons based on their experiences. Its probable that the organizers wanted demonstrators to be safe from traffic, from getting ticketed if the demo had been declared illegal. I respect people’s political choices, even if I disagree with them. It is not my right to impose my way of demonstrating on anyone else. That is sometimes hard, especially when we are convinced that we are right. But this movement is based on diversity and respect of difference. To impose our will on others would go directly against that most basic foundation of the anti-ableism movement.

I ask for that respect to be returned back to me.

Respecting people’s diversity of tactics, the only hope that I have is that people have thought their chosen tactics through, thought critically about them and not just based them on the fact that certain things are legal and certain things are not legal; certain things are part of the status quo and certain things are not.

I hope everyone at the demo on Tuesday thought critically about the tactics they were employing and didn’t just follow the leadership of people holding a banner.
I hope that we can reinforce each other’s political desires and be in solidarity to build a movement even though its clear we disagree on our use of tactics.
I hope that we can be together at a number of demonstrations, expressing ourselves differently.
I hope that we can respect each other’s choices in the actions we take, the different paths we go down.
The more angles and approaches covered in a movement, the more chances of a wide-reaching success.

But most of all, I hope that you never, ever touch my scooter again.
It is a violation and shows a lack of respect for my bodily autonomy. Like you knew what was better for me than I did. Like you felt entitled or responsible to take charge over my body, my wheels, that symbol of freedom that carries me where I want to go, to so many places I have not been able to go the last few years: a park, a long walk, wandering up hills, around and around. That practical liberation that means that my actions are not dictated by pain.
I hope that you didn’t feel entitled to touch my scooter because you are friends with the organizers. I hope you didn’t feel entitled to do so because you were walking and I was not.
I wonder, would you have taken my cane out from under me? Steered my walker in another direction? Or was it something about the fact that I was seated and you were standing that made you feel more authority over my body?
But all these other questions aside, I wonder if you’re reflecting on what happened Tuesday in the streets between us, and whether you’re open to having a dialogue about it.
I wonder if you’re questioning your actions?

I wonder if this is the first time you’ve heard the term lateral violence?

I wonder these things as I also wonder at the power of a single act, a single gesture that carries with it the statement that you feel authority over Where. I. Go.
A single act that could have caused us both harm.
A physical act that read plainly as a book in my hands that you felt power over me and did not hesitate to try and exert it.
I wonder at the strength of a single gesture.
And I wonder if the police officers sitting behind me in their warm van perhaps would too, take note of the single act of me not following their demands.
I wonder if that could have had an effect on the onlookers driving by on Renee Levesque, or the people trying to cross the street and not being able to because I was holding up traffic. For one half hour on a tuesday afternoon, drivers, pedestrians who don’t normally face systemic barriers in their commutes other than potholes and road closures, face a seemingly benign barrier to getting where they need to go. For one half hour period, some people, who don’t have to consider it every time they leave their homes, were faced with an unexpected blockage of their daily routine, a phenomenon that people with disabilities, unfortunately have come to expect on a daily basis.
I wonder if that too would have had an effect in addition to the whistles being blown and the placards being held and the chants being chanted. I wonder if all of the actions that we take can accumulate to create some sort of change. To create a culture of resistance not a culture of compliance. With the end goal of gaining true autonomy and choice.
I wonder if we can work together enough to make that happen.

But more than that, more than anything else, I wonder if you’ll remember these words:
Never touch my scooter. Ever. Not when its moving, not when its still, not when I’m in it, or not when I’m far away.
Don’t touch my scooter. Ever.
Don’t touch. My scooter.
Never. Touch. My scooter.

There’s something absolutely necessary about mobility. Not so you can go to work or buy apples, but so you can see things, sense things that are unsensable if you’re not moving.

There’s something exhilarating about moving. Not moving like running or cycling, or any of those other things that I used to think were the only association with this sense of exhilaration. No, the kind of moving that makes the air rush past your face and gets dust on your lips and in your eyes a little bit. The kind of movement that, as its happening you go, oh, look at the cool architecture on that old bridge column, but you can only look for a fleeting moment because you have to keep watch on what’s ahead. You have to keep looking forward.

Mobility is liberating. Deciding to cross the river on a bridge going your own pace, waving runners past and winking at cyclists, its liberating. Deciding to go buy shampoo because now you can. Deciding to go home because now you want to. Not because the ride you booked is scheduled.

Knowing that even if pain is stopping you in your bipedal tracks, you can make new, wheeled ones. That you don’t have to depend on your tired parts to carry you, frustrated and hurrying, wishing you hadn’t brought so much stuff, getting impatient with the crosswalk light not changing fast enough or the city not putting a bench there for you to sit on. Knowing that mobility doesn’t have to be sparked by muscles and neurons. It can come from other electrical sources, that can be recharged nightly.

That absolutely necessary something about mobility, is going for the sake of going. Its filling your mind and your senses with new things, things you haven’t seen in a long time: the olympic stadium, the river from above, a decrepit looking ferris wheel, spring storm clouds rolling in. Its about breathing in the city, smelling all the hops and roasted meat and cigarettes and exhaust, feeling trucks barreling past you and pedestrians strutting along. Its about being in the city, but more importantly being a part of it. Connecting and sensing it on your body through your eyes and on your face. The absolutely necessary something about mobility, is experiencing your surroundings, not just being transferred where you need to go. There is everything to see between here and there.