Gender Eye-Dentity

Does it matter what I look like, that you think me boy or girl?

Does it matter if my hair is short; or long, and holds a curl?

Does it matter if I feel as if, Nature got my body wrong?

Because I see the world from eyes, that sing a different song.

Why does my self offend you? Why can’t I wear a dress?

Why are adults so scared to know, ALL the ways that I am blessed?

At one I signed to say, what at two I could read out.

At three I dressed in mummy’s heels and danced myself about.

At four I asked to be a girl, at five I watched my teachers start to hate.

At six we moved to feel more safe; and I am stronger, now I’m eight.

But bullies come from all backgrounds, all kinds of occupations;

They judge me ‘weird’ and silence me; I’ve become a ‘bad’ relation.

But what if they are incorrect, and there is no ‘boy’ or ‘girl’?

Then the only ‘deviation’, is in how we see the world.

I see in all of Nature, a great diversity;

If God loves all our features, then why can’t I be ME?

You ask me what I need today.  I want to raise alarm:

I need more superheroes, to rescue kids from harm.

Please tell your friends and neighbours you know someone just like me,

That despite my gender questioning: I’m as normal as can be.

This child is not an enemy, no matter which bathroom I choose,

If you can’t begin to understand me, then both of us will lose.

The right to be just who we are, without judgment or rebuke;

And live the life we feel is right, with dignity and truth.

(This poem was written by me, with the help of my family, October 2012)

What Pride means to me.

August 21, 2017, Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa,  Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

Good morning. Thank you to CAS for inviting me to speak about what Pride means to me.  And thanks mom and dad for the intro.  I love you.

This year’s Pride week theme is “Just Be”.  For me – this is what so many transgender and gender fluid activists have been working toward for so many years – the right to just be themselves, and be accepted by society.

When I was three and a half, I told my parents I was a girl, not a boy.  They need a little time to adjust, so my social transition to a girl happened in steps.  At home, I wanted to wear fairy wings, dresses, and high heels, at school I wanted to wear nail polish and pink scarves.  I wanted to be called she, and I wanted long hair, and I wanted to pick my own clothing.  Luckily, my parents let me ‘just be’ myself.  Unfortunately, my neighborhood at the time wasn’t so kind.

Strangers thought of absurd ideas, and said crazy things like: “your mom influenced you to be a girl”, or “you’re so confused”. Some people even thought I was too young to know my gender identity! Too many people even today confuse sexuality with gender identity.  It was just odd to have total strangers treat me differently because they didn’t know that sexuality is about who you love, and gender identity is who you feel you are.

At my first school, the teachers made me walk in a separate line, made me eat lunch by myself, and watched me get bullied. Maybe they thought I deserved to be punished because I was not a typical boy.  So, we moved away from that small town and came back to Ottawa, so I could start grade 1 as the girl I knew I was.  It still wasn’t easy and I still get bullied occasionally, especially after I appear in any media, but I am learning to be resilient – as bouncy as possible.  Last year this kid kept bugging me at recess about whether I was a girl or a boy, but I have been working hard on using my wits and words instead of getting angry, and so I said to him: “Why does it matter to you who I am??”  He still bugs me though.

It turns out, I have to do this every year of school, because not everyone understands yet.  But I am lucky because I have a safe place to ‘just be’ – at home with my family.  Some kids don’t have that – they aren’t safe at school or at home.  So, this year we became a foster family so we could offer a safe place to kids who don’t have that.  Too many kids need a place to ‘just be’.

Me and my mom decided we would also try to make a difference by hosting workshops about gender diversity all over Ontario.  We try to get people to understand what it might feel like to not feel right in your own body, and this year we hope to reach even more people.  I have a webpage now, and we go to classrooms and boardrooms and ask people to walk a mile in the shoes of a gender variant kid.  We hope maybe we are making a difference – maybe adults will share what they learn from our story and make their home safer for kids like me.

My first Pride Parade was in 2015 and I loved seeing so many people come out on that sunny day to celebrate diversity.  It gave me hope. I was riding on the Gender Mosaic float, and it was awesome because I danced and sang the whole way! I loved that so many people were coming to a parade just to celebrate the LGBTTQ+ community! It was the first time I thought to myself, “Look at all these people just like me, celebrating who they are!” That’s when I felt truly accepted.  I found my community, and I knew I would never be alone.

The following year, inspired by the love – I set out on a mission to spread the word – that kids like me are just fine – no matter how we express our gender identity.  I wanted to ask parents to let us kids ‘just be’ ourselves because some of my friends – their dads or moms or grandparents, won’t honour or respect them, or force them to be a certain way or dress a certain way.  I spoke up because I wanted more kids to raise their voice – and be unafraid.  I volunteered to do a lot of interviews with news channels and radio stations, all to show that kids like me just need love, and protection from heartless people who would rather hurt and judge us, than understand.

Because of this work, in 2016 I was chosen as the youngest ever Grand Marshal of Ottawa Capital Pride.  All I did was raise awareness for our community, and I got something as amazing as that! Plus, I got to ride in the 1.4L MultiAir-powered I-4 turbocharged Fiat 124 Spyder! If you are like my mom, and you don’t know cars that well, I should explain that it is a special car because it is a convertible from a good Italian car maker.

It was such an honour to be chosen and I am so grateful to have had such a special experience.  I wish all kids could feel like that – like they too were the grand marshal of their own Pride parade.

This year Fire Chief Pingitore and Danielle Cardinal have asked me to be an Ottawa Fire Service Ambassador so I get to ride on a fire truck.  Pride for me is not just about the amazing vehicles I get to ride in…but it sure is exciting to ride a fire truck!  I am really hoping for a Lamborghini next year!

After every Pride Parade, I come home with sore feet and a filled heart, always remembering that it is okay to ‘just be’ myself. I want everyone to feel that kind of confidence and acceptance every day.  So, I tell everyone who will listen to me, to ‘just be’ kind, ‘just be’ understanding, ‘just be’ fair, ‘just be’ accepting of us kids, if you want us to be grown ups who have Pride in our true selves.  Maybe we can create a world where we can all: just be.

Thank you.

Parkour

May 2017

Even though it sounds very new, my subject today actually has a long back-story. Whether it’s on buildings that would give tightrope walkers vertigo, or in your neighbourhood park, it can be done anywhere. Everywhere, if you’re experienced enough. Have you guessed what I’m talking about yet? Parkour.

What is parkour? I bet that a lot of you have heard about parkour or freerunning. If you haven’t, or are unsure what it is, then I will explain.

Parkour is a extreme sport in which you must use any weapon in your arsenal (your body doing special movements, basically) like vaults, wall runs and slides to get from point A to point B. Some athletes use it as a workout to train leg and arm muscles, along with muscle endurance and stamina.

“Parkour” is french for “free running”, and was first developed in France. Raymond Belle is said to have “invented” parkour, but it was really a group effort primarily lead by Raymond that developed the sport. His son David continued the sport in the late 1980’s, followed by Yamakasi, who has his own style that he teaches. In fact, parkour is really all about your preferences, not your teacher’s preferences. Go with what you feel comfortable with. Also, they don’t plan our routes beforehand, and they use the objects around them to get where they want to go.

So what is the difference between parkour and freerunning?  Not many people know that there is a slight difference. Parkour is getting from A to B in the most efficient way possible using any sort of movement or combination of moves. Scale walls with wall climbs, hurdle over obstacles using vaults, or head downwards using your roll to handle those far falls.

Freerunning, on the other hand, is using your environment to have fun; to show off using more stylish moves like flips and wall-pivot vertical spins, also called wall spins. It’s a cross between parkour and gymnastics, and looks AMAZING.

It takes the multiple years of getting parkour perfected, plus a few more years to learn and master the flips. But challenges are learning experiences too, so go ahead if you so desire! It’s all up to you.

Where can I go to learn parkour? Well… this one is tough, actually. There are a few parkour academies in the U.S., like the famous Tempest Parkour & Freerunning Academy, but not many here in Canada. But don’t worry, not all hope is lost!  OCR Academy here is the first obstacle training gym in Ottawa – and currently the only one.  I have been dying to go here, but I’ve had a lot to do, like this speech, for instance! If you ever want to learn about OCR Academy, then there is a website to explore to find out where it is, and you’re set for a visit!

Thank you, and have a great day!