Hamilton Book Launch

Date: November 8
Time: 7pm
Location: Room 1010, Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning (MDCL), McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario

Join author and activist Scott Neigh for a talk and book signing as he launches two new books published by Fernwood Publishing: Gender and Sexuality: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists and Resisting the State: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists. Hear about some of the many struggles that have shaped the Canada of today, and talk about new ways of relating to the past as we struggle for a transformed tomorrow.

To learn more about the books and the project of which they are a part, and to read and hear excerpts from the interviews around which the books are organized, visit here. To find out about ways to purchase the books if you can’t make it to the launch, click here.

From the book jackets:

We usually learn our history from the perspective of our rulers — from the top down. In these books we learn about our history from the perspectives of ordinary people — from the bottom up. Whatever liberty and justice that communities, workplaces and individuals in Canada enjoy are due to the many struggles and social movements in our country’s history. Yet the stories and histories of those movements to overcome racism, sexism, and poverty, for example, remain largely untold, thanks to the single, simplistic national story taught to us in school. Deftly combining history with accounts from participants in social movements, Neigh introduces us to the untold histories of activists, histories that encourage all of us to engage in struggles that will shape our shared tomorrow.

Gender and Sexuality unearths a diverse spectrum of struggle through the accounts of longstanding social movement participants. From indigenous women working against colonization and Christian women trying to end sexism and homophobia in their churches, to gay men opposing sexual oppression and women fighting against hostile employers and violence, this book reveals the ways that oppressions based on gender and sexuality — and the struggles against them — have shaped our society.

In Resisting the State, Neigh details the histories of a broad range of social movements and provides readers with a richer understanding of the Canadian state and why so many people — including military draftees, welfare recipients, workers, indigenous people, psychiatric survivors, immigrants and refugees — have struggled, and continue to struggle, for equality and justice for all members of society.

What people are saying about Gender and Sexuality and Resisting the State:

“Never doubt that a few committed people can change Canada (and the world) for the better. Scott Neigh’s oral histories show not only the power of committed idealism, but also how the history of our whole country has been shaped by brave Canadians who refuse to accept the misery and injustice that surrounds us. Read these books to learn how the history of social change organizing is indeed the history of Canada — and then go out and start making your own history.” — Jim Stanford, union economist and peace activist

“This work is a treasure that provides a portal to Canadian history, bringing it alive and urgent through the voices and profound insights of veteran social justice activists, an indispensable guide for present and future generations to carry on these struggles.” — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, veteran activist and author

And even more.

Scott Neigh is a writer, parent, and activist currently based in Sudbury, Ontario. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario, from 1993 until 2004, where he was active in student, anti-poverty, anti-racism, environmental, and other social justice organizing, including as a board member of OPIRG McMaster. He blogs regularly on political topics at A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land. You can learn more about these books and the project of which they are a part at the Talking Radical site, and more about Scott here.

This event is sponsored by OPIRG McMaster, Bryan Prince Bookseller, and Fernwood Publishing.

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Radio: Prisoner justice – from speaking out to organizing on the ground

El Jones is a poet, educator, and organizer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is the city’s former poet laureate. She is deeply involved in working for justice for prisoners through a combined prisoner-led radio show and community organization called Black Power Hour. Scott Neigh interviews her about the fight against the injustices of policing and prisons, and about the importance of not just speaking out on issues but of getting involved in collective efforts to make radical change on the ground.

When Jones started speaking out about issues in general and about prisoner justice in particular, over a decade ago, it was a much different political moment. Though there are long histories of prisoner justice organizing across the continent, particularly in directly impacted communities, there was less mainstream space at that point to name the harsh unjust realities of policing and prisons, and to name the white supremacy and settler colonialism built into them. Jones initially thought she was just stating the obvious by pointing these things out, but even more so than today these truths were met by aggressive denial from many.

Thanks to Black Lives Matter and to other important organizing emerging in large part from Black and Indigenous contexts, today it is at least somewhat harder to deny these realities. More people are willing to talk about how dehumanizing and awful prisons are. More people are willing to recognize the ways in which Black people in Canada are vastly overrepresented in prison, and in all stages of the criminal justice system.

While Jones started out by speaking publically, using her platform as a poet, her relationship to prisoner justice issues quickly evolved. Over the years, it has taken the form of Black Power Hour.

When the work that led to Black Power Hour started, she was actually involved in another radio show. She was also, by that point, poet laureate of Halifax, and her words were spreading more widely. A prisoner who had encountered an interview with her where she talked about prisoner justice got in touch and wanted to share his poetry on the radio, so she had him call into the show. Other prisoners heard that and got interested as well, and eventually it became a regular thing. This original show was not actually meant to focus on prisoners, so by request of the prisoners themselves – who by this point she was getting to know – they started a new show, Black Power Hour, focused on people in prison and on Black history and other Black content.

Black Power Hour grew from there. It continues to be a radio show driven and guided by the interests of folks inside, and sometimes including content from them. And it is also a community organization – again, one that is directed by people who are in prison. They do court support work for people. They engage in collective journalism projects about what’s happening in jails, led by people on the inside. They organize political campaigns related to things like the conditions in prisons. And they engage in campaigns around wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice, particularly for African Nova Scotian prisoners. Their most visible such campaign has been against the detention and deportation of Abdul Abdi. That case reached the national media in early 2018, and at the time of publication of this episode his deportation had just been overturned by a federal court for the second time, though the struggle is ongoing. In the interview, Jones talks about the earlier stages of the campaign in support of Abdul Abdi and about several other campaigns.

Today, the political moment is quite different than when Jones first started speaking out about prisoner justice issues. The mainstream remains hostile, of course, but a lot more people are willing to say radical things about police and prisons, at least on social media. Jones recognizes the power and importance of social media – it has done a lot to drive the campaign in support of Abdul Abdi, for instance – but she is also wary of a political culture that often mistakes tweeting for organizing. The “woke industrial complex,” she calls it.

We live in an environment that makes it hard to know anything about histories of struggle or about how to actually do the hard, unglamorous work of organizing for change, but she suggests that this work is exactly what more people need to be doing. She recommends starting out by getting involved with organizations that already do good work, even if it’s not quite what you want to be doing, in order to learn how to do it. She recommends finding grassroots people already working on an issue and supporting them, rather than trying to start from scratch. And, similar to what she tries to enact with Black Power Hour, she recommends a political practice that is rigorously accountable to the people who are most directly affected by the experiences in question.

Image: The image modified for use in this post is in the public domain.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — People with lived experience of homelessness walking for justice

Kym Hines, Hugh Lampkin, and Cynthia Travers are social justice activists who have lived experience of homelessness. Hines is an anti-poverty activist involved in a number of groups in Victoria, British Columbia. Lampkin is the vice-president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (or VANDU), which does work related to social justice, drug policy, and harm reduction. Travers has been active in multiple projects related to homelessness and poverty in Kamloops, B.C. Both Hines and Travers are also active participants in the Lived Experience of Homelessness Network. Scott Neigh interviews them about the Poor Persons Walk, an action taking place later in July in a number of communities in British Columbia.

One big part of our society’s response to homelessness and poverty – that is, when we don’t just ignore such things completely – is to blame the people who face them. This happens in obvious ways in responses that are harsh and punitive but also in more coded ways in many responses that seem to be more sympathetic but that focus on charity rather than on justice. Too often, those of us who are not homeless read these experiences into a framework that attributes them to bad choices and bad luck, rather than seeing that it is systems that we could collectively challenge and change that push people into poverty and homelessness – from an economy that depends on some people living in poverty, to a lack of affordable housing, to inadequate supports for women and children facing gendered and sexual violence, to inadequate and often harmful systems for responding to mental health issues and addictions, to the founding colonization and genocide that have made North America what it is today.

The idea for the Poor Person’s Walk began in a conversation between Hines and another person with lived experience of homelessness, Al Wiebe. The idea was inspired in part by the US-based Poor People’s Campaign led by Martin Luther King, Jr., in the late 1960s as a multi-racial movement for social and economic justice (which they later learned has been revived by a new generation of organizers in the current era). Hines put the call out through the growing networks of people with lived experience of homelessness, and got an enthusiastic response.

The details were still evolving at the time of the interview, but the plan is to begin the walk on July 25th in Victoria. It will last for five days on Vancouver Island, travelling to different communities and neighbourhoods. In each location, the plan is to create opportunities to have conversations among people with lived experience of homelessness; to engage in dialogue with a range of other organizations, from faith groups to unions; and, to host workshops on a range of related topics, including decriminilization of drugs, rights related to housing, the overdose crisis, and so on. The march in Vancouver will bring together VANDU, tenants groups, and other popular organizations to do something similar. The plan is for the Victoria walkers to take the ferry across and meet the Vancouver walkers, and for them to proceed together to a final desination in the community of Surrey, where homeless people are currently facing even higher levels of stigma and repression than they do everywhere else. Similar walks may be held elsewhere, though plans in other communities – including Kamloops – are at an earlier stage.

The goal for the walk is to give people with lived experience of homelessness a chance to share their experiences, and to build skills and relationships, both among themselves and with sympathetic allies in the broader community. A key element will be elevating the voices and stories of people with lived experience as central to any approach to addressing homelessness. And the hope is that in so doing, it will be possible to weave together concern not just for poverty, homelessness, and housing, but for other important issues on the west coast like protecting the salmon, stopping pipelines, decriminalization, ending racist policing, and respecting Indigenous sovereignty. They hope to advance a vision of collective care and support, in the face of a society that currently pushes its most vulnerable members into homelessness and other forms of violence and harm.

I speak with Hines, Lampkin, and Travers about homelessness and the complex issues with which it intertwines, and about the upcoming Poor Persons Walk on the west coast. And please note that the first section of the interview includes them telling parts of their own stories – sadly, much abbreviated from the interview due to time constraints – and that listeners should be advised that some of those stories deal with difficult, painful experiences like interpersonal violence, sexual abuse, addiction, and suicide.

Image: Used with permission of the Poor Persons Walk.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Fighting for the rights of disabled women

Bonnie Brayton is the executive of the DisAbled Women’s Netowrk (or DAWN) Canada, the country’s only national advocacy organization focused on the needs and rights of women with disabilities. Scott Neigh interviews her about the issues that disabled women and girls face and about DAWN Canada’s work.

Back in 1985, bureaucrats in the federal government dealing with issues related to women and other bureaucrats dealing with issues related to disability realized that while there were multiple advocacy groups hard at work in their respective areas, there were no national groups in Canada focused specifically on disabled women. They consulted with various women’s groups and disability groups to identify disabled women who already played leadership roles, and put up the money to bring seventeen of those women together for meetings in Ottawa. Before the meetings were done, the women had decided that a one-time get-together was not enough and they started the ball rolling to found DAWN.

Thirty-three years later, DAWN is still going strong. From the beginning, its mission has been to end discrimination against women and girls with disabilities in Canada, in light of the fact that women with disabilities face among the highest rates of poverty, the highest rates of social and economic exclusion, and the highest rates of violence in Canadian society. Moreover, Brayton estimates that upwards of one-quarter of women in the country have some sort of disability – the official statistics are lower than this, but in Canada such stats are derived through self-identification, and stigma and underdiagnosis mean that many women who are functionally disabled in one way or another do not identify as such. And despite these numbers, it is quite rare for governments or advocacy organizations other than DAWN to give the experiences, barriers, and issues faced by disabled women the specific consideration that they require. Though all of this points towards a large and complex spectrum of needs, much of DAWN’s work in recent years has focused largely on the high levels of violence disabled women face.

Though the group has kept working for more than three decades, they have never had core funding, and subsist mostly on funding for specific projects and on donations. It was only in 2007 that the group hired its first executive director: Bonnie Brayton. Though not all of its staff are disabled women, all of the organizational leadership and the board of directors are. They organize their work around four pillars: education, research, policy, and advocacy. They collaborate extensively with other women’s groups, disability groups, and also trade unions.

Recent accomplishments include challenging Canada’s lack of progress on disability issues by presenting to the committee reviewing Canada’s compliance with the United Nations Covention on the Rights of People With Disabilities. They have been providing input to the current federal government around violence against women and with respect to federal legislation related to disability that is in the works. They also completed the first-ever comprehensive research report on the conditions of women and girls with disabilities in Canada, and are hard at work turning their findings into a comprehensive, long-term agenda for policy and advocacy work.

And as for what they would like to see from other activist, social justice, and human rights organizations – they are happy for the extensive opportunities they have to collaborate with other groups, but they are very clear that they want the struggles of disabled women to be taken up in a central way by all kinds of different groups, rather than falling largely to DAWN. They want groups in all kinds of different locations and sectors to do the work and spend the money to ensure that disabled women are at their tables, disabled women’s voices are central to their work, and disabled women are in leadership positions.

Image: DAWN Canada logo used with permission.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Fighting homelessness in Ontario’s past and in its Doug Ford future

Cathy Crowe has been a street nurse in Toronto for more than three decades. She has not only delivered community-based primary health care to homeless and poor people over that time, but has also been involved in a wide range of activism, organizing, and advocacy around homelessness, poverty, and housing. Scott Neigh interviews her about that long history of involvement, about what she describes as the “post-apocalyptic scene” that resulted the last time Ontario elected a hard-right government, and about her initial thoughts on what it means for the province and for those of us concerned about social justice to be facing a new era with Doug Ford and the Conservatives in power.

Crowe’s involvement in grassroots politics has stretched across many different political eras in Ontario. She was initially politicized as a young working mother in the 1980s. The Cold War was in full effect, and it was the vibrant anti-nuclear movement of that era that first drew her in. She was part of founding a group called Nurses for Social Responsibility, which existed for over a decade. It began with a focus on anti-nuke and peace issues and eventually tackled things like reproductive choice, homelessness, and pushing professional organizations in the nursing field to engage more seriously with social and political issues.

Her professional trajectory started with hospital-based work and then a stint in a private clinic before she found her place in the community health sector, where she has over the years worked in a range of communmity health centres and other organizations serving poor and homeless people.

Being a street nurse has meant providing primary health care to people experiencing homelessness and deep poverty in community-based settings – which has often included drop-ins and shelters, but also in places like encampments under bridges and in the Tent City that existed on Toronto’s waterfront between 1998 and 2002. And at every step of the way, it has also meant involvement in grassroots political work related to poverty and homelessness. Most of that has been focused on the local level – anyone following the high-profile fight against the inadequacy of Toronto’s emergency shelter system this past winter would likely have encountered Crowe’s name, for example. But many of those local issues are at heart related to questions under provincial control, and it has sometimes involved work with a national profile as well.

During the height of the cuts by Ontario’s last Conservative government, beginning in the the second half of the 1990s, Crowe was not only working as a street nurse but was a co-founder and the volunteer executive director of the Toronto Diaster Relief Committee. They played an important role in responding politically to the harms of those cuts and, in collaboration with other groups, in pushing the City of Toronto and eventually the Federation of Canadian Municiaplities to declare homelessness a national disaster. This in turn was one factor spurring the federal government of the day to take some much needed (though still insufficient) action.

The platform with which Ford and the Conservatives won the June 7th provincial election was rather scant on detail, to say the least, so the policy and spending implications of this victory remain vague but ominous. Given Doug Ford’s record as a municipal politician in Toronto, given the Conservative Party’s record the last time they held power in Ontario, and given that their campaign made promises that would result in the loss of billions and billions of dollars in revenue for the province while refusing to explain where that money would come from, social movements are expecting harsh austerity measures that will cause immeasurable harm and suffering to the most vulnerable people in the province.

Crowe’s involvement continues to this day. She continues to challenge the many ways our systems do harm to homeless people – the inadequacy and unhealthy conditions of the shelter system, the lack of affordable housing, the frequent punitive responses to outdoor sleeping, the architectural measures to make public space less friendly to poor and homeless people, the threat climate change poses to the most vulnerable people in our society, and much more. Much of the damage done to Ontario’s social safety net in the 1990s has never been repaired, and conditions for people who are homeless or living in deep poverty remain, as far as Crowe is concerned, a disaster. And as she looks towards the impact that Doug Ford’s government is likely to have on poor and homeless people, she fears that this already bad situation is about to get much, much worse. Today’s episode is based on an interview recorded only one day after the election, so it represents only an initial response to the province’s new context. Still, based on this context and on her many years of involvement, Crowe argues that people in Ontario need to start organizing and mobilizing immediately.

Image: From Wikipedia.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Pushing rural organizations to be more welcoming to trans and gender-diverse people

Behc Jax-Lynx and Cara Tierney both work with a small organization called Building through Education and Community Knowledge (B.E.C.K.), which uses educational approaches to push organizations in rural and suburban Ontario to do better when it comes to equity for transgender and gender-diverse people. Scott Neigh interviews them about the barriers that trans and gender-diverse people face, about their work, and about their broader vision for the kinds of social change that they are working towards.

Before starting B.E.C.K., Jax-Lynx worked mostly as a social worker, predominantly in mainstream social service organizations. They have long known – from their own lived experience and from the many youth that they have worked with – that the dominant model for how mainstream institutions deal with transgender, two-spirit, and gender-diverse people was, and is, seriously flawed. Even the most supportive parents of gender non-conforming kids are likely to seek support either directly from medical professionals or from social workers who pass them along to medical professionals. Under this model – based as it is in social work and medical practice – gender non-conforming youth are medicalized, pathologized, surveilled, assessed, and regulated according to standards that trans and gender-diverse people themselves have played little or no role in shaping. Even though the days of trying to force young people into the gender they were assigned at birth is largely past, they are still treated, in one way or another, as problems to be solved, rather than as selves to be celebrated. And Jax-Lynx knew that they needed to find ways to use their skills to make things better for trans and gender-diverse youth.

Cara Tierney has been a working artist for a decade. They are also doing a PhD in an interdisciplinary program at Carleton University in Ottawa, doing work related to art, education, and trans studies, and they are an instructor in the history and theory of art at University of Ottawa. Despite their own journey around sexuality and gender facilitated in large part by engagement with art, and their many years of reading queer and trans scholarly work, Tierney felt the need to develop a better sense of how these issues are playing out on the ground among trans and gender-diverse youth and their families, and to be part of working towards something better.

Jax-Lynx and Tierney met at just the right moment. Jax-Lynx was just leaving their job as a social worker and Tierney was just starting graduate school. The two of them hit it off, and pretty soon they began working together.

Given their respective skillsets, they predominantly do educational work.This work is not generally with trans, two-spirit, and gender-diverse youth themselves, however. Partly that is because youth often have a pretty solid instinctive grasp of gender politics already, even when they don’t yet have the language to express it. But mostly it is because it is the adults and the institutions that have power over the lives of trans and gender-diverse youth that need to be challenged and changed. It is both the leadership and the staff in such organizations that are the focus of most of Jax-Lynx and Tierney’s educational work.

The nature of their workshops varies with the context, but in general it is their goal to go beyond the kind of tokenistic education that many organizations do just to be able to check off a box on a diversity checklist. In their experience, a key barrier to organizations doing the work to become more welcoming places for staff and for patients or clients who are trans or gender-diverse is the discomforts, the fears, and the deep-down gut-level prejudices that a lot of cisgender people – including a lot of liberal-minded and nominally supportive people – have about them. So the first part of their workshops involves drawing out those intense feelings from participants in order to process them and begin to work through them. Once that hard emotional work is done, or at least well started, then they can begin the relatively easier work of identifying ways the organization can become more welcoming – which often involves relatively minor changes in policies, forms, bureaucracies, language, washrooms, and so on.

A key feature of Jax-Lynx and Tierney’s work is that they focus their energies on rural and suburban areas, which are often underserved when it comes to the needs of trans and gender-diverse people. They caution, however, that while the work is definitely necessary in those places, it is a mistake to assume that things are any worse there for trans and gender-diverse people than they are in big cities. In fact, they say, the kinds of fears and organizational barriers that trans and gender-diverse people face are much the same everywhere, and doing this work in small towns is not really much different than doing it in a major metropolitan area. Everywhere, organizations need to be working through the fears and discomforts of cisgender staff and making the relatively straightforward administrative changes that can do so much to make an organization more welcoming. And everywhere, according to Jax-Lynx and Tierney, we need to be working towards a future where transgender and gender-diverse people do not have to submit to being medicalized and pathologized to be recognized and supported for who they are.

Image: The image modified for use in this post (original found here) is used with permission of Behc Jax-Lynx.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Queerspawn speak out: Growing up in queer and trans families

Sadie Epstein-Fine and Makeda Zook are the editors of a new book called Spawning Generations: Rants and Reflections on Growing Up with LGBTQ+ Parents, published by Demeter Press. Scott Neigh interviews them about the importance of queerspawn (i.e. people with LGBTQ+ parents) having the space to tell their own stories, about the book, and about its launch on June 18 at Glad Day Books in Toronto.

There have always been people whose lives don’t fit within dominant gender and sexual norms, and some of those people have always had children. That is, families where the parents exist somewhere within the LGBTQ spectrum of identities are nothing new. What is relatively new is children of LGBTQ parents having the space to be sufficiently open about their lives to begin coming together to collectively recognize the distinct set of experiences and challenges they face, and to discuss, perhaps to organize, and to claim shared identities.

In North America, the most common term embraced by children of LGBTQ parents is “queerspawn” – a reclaiming in a tongue-in-cheek and rebellious vein of both the word “queer” and the idea of the kids of queer and trans people being “devil’s spawn.” That term is, of course, contested, and other people prefer to identify as “gaybies” or “queerlings” or “rainbow children” or something else entirely.

Not surprisingly, the kinds of experiences that queerspawn have of family, of growing up, of community, and of life in general vary a great deal. This reflects the great variety within the LGBTQ identities of their parents, and their own experiences of racialization, class, gender, sexuality, ability, culture, religion, geographical region, and all the rest. Also very relevant is the era in which kids in queer and trans families grew up, with the 1990s representing the beginning of a significant shift in safety and space to be open. At the same time, there are also enough commonalities to queerspawn experiences that there is growing interest in queerspawn-focused events, organizations, and publications.

Spawning Generations collects twenty-four pieces written by queerspawn talking about different aspects of their lives, covering at least some of this breadth of experience. Contributors range from 9 years old to over 60. Many are based in North America but not all. Though there are other books out there by and about queerspawn, this is the first anthology where all of the contributors and the editors are queerspawn themselves. Both Epstein-Fine and Zook grew up in families with two moms in Toronto in the 1990s, and in fact both were quite involved from a young age in advocacy for queer and trans families.

The pieces themselves range from the amusing to the inspiring to the heartbreaking. Themes of family and identity, of shame and pride and complicated ambivalence, of life and growth and loss, of community vitality and homophobic hostility weave through the book. Perhaps the most pervasive recurrent theme is the complex experiences that many queerspawn have of belonging (or not) across different kinds of contexts and different moments of their lives.

For Epstein-Fine and Zook, one of the most important things they wanted to bring to their work as editors was to create a space in which queerspawn could tell their stories in their ways. For all of the changes in the last three decades, queer and trans families continue to face hostility, judgement, and barriers, and given that context many queerspawn often feel that the safety and wellbeing of their families is best served by telling only a narrow range of kinds of stories. This collection, in contrast, is a space in which queerspawn are able to delve deeply into the messy complexity that is no less present in their lives and families than in any other. In so doing, it is able to make a substantial contribution to the growing public conversation among queerspawn, to give queerspawn new ways to see their lives reflected, and to be a springboard that hopefully will help a growing range of voices from the children in queer and trans families to articulate their own unique experiences.

Image: Book cover designed by Studio Le Burrow Inc. and used with permission of Sadie Epstein-Fine and Makeda Zook.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — From anti-privatization to pro-public

David McDonald is a professor of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario whose work over the years has focused on issues related to public services and privatization, mostly in contexts in the Global South and in Europe. Scott Neigh interviews him about his role as a co-organizer of The Future is Public, a conference happening in Montreal on June 15 and 16 that will bring together more than 150 activists, trade unionists, and researchers from across North America to discuss struggles and successes from around the world and to begin figuring out what it might mean to articulate a vision for public services that is not just anti-privatization but one that is resolutely pro-public when it comes to things like water, health care, education, energy, transportation, and all the rest.

In recent decades, all of us have become familiar with the agenda of privatization, as governments of nearly every stripe have sought both overt and covert ways to push it forward. Similarly, there are countless examples at the local, provincial, and national levels of communities, grassroots groups, unions, and others taking action to oppose privatization. Sometimes these grassroots anti-privatization efforts are successful and sometimes not, but movements have developed a fairly robust set of tactics and scripts for opposing privatization and, on the whole, have not done too badly in the Canadian context when it comes to keeping public services in public hands. Today’s guest argues, however, that we need to go beyond that – anti-privatization work is important but not enough, according to McDonald, and our movements need to shift from being on the defensive to articulating the kind of pro-public vision that will strengthen public services and take initiative away from the privatizers.

McDonald points out that privatization as we usually use the term actually encompasses a number of different things. At its most blatant is the outright sale of publically owned assets to the private sector. In the Canadian context, this has happened over the years in instances like Bell and Air Canada, but outright privatization has not happened here as much as it has in, for instance, the UK or Australia. However, governments in Canada have made extensive use of things like contracting out and Public Private Partnerhips (PPPs), in which governments retain ownership but turn to the private sector to finance, manage, or deliver all or part of the service in question. As well, public services have to a significant degree in Canada been corporatized, such that even when they remain firmly within public ownership, they have been organized like a private company, and they behave accordingly.

There are two core problems with privatization, according to McDonald. One is that private companies – whether they own the service outright or are involved via a PPP – need to make a profit. Either that means the service costs more, or it means that the company has to make up that money via reducing the amount or quality of services, cutting corners with things like safety and environmental protections, reducing wages, or some other mechanism. In addition, evidence has shown that because of this drive to wring profit from services, the cost to governments of managing and regulating contracts with private companies is prohibitive if they want to try to minimize detrimental impacts on recipients, communities, and workers.

In organizing the Future is Public conference, McDonald is in part acting in his capacity as director of the Municipal Services Project, and he is collaborating with the organization Friends of Public Services and with a steering committee comprised of people from NGOs, think-tanks, and public sector unions.

Building a pro-public movement will be challenging. We can all cite examples from our own experience to show that, sometimes, public services don’t do as good a job as we need them to. A pro-public movement has to aim not only to preserve the public character of services, but to improve them – democratize them, make them more transparent, perhaps open them up to the possibility of more participatory governance, and make them more responsive to people’s needs and to the ways those needs are different in different places and among different populations. This has implications for how organizing and mobilizing must happen. In anti-privatization organizing, the concerns, the arguments, and the approaches are largely similar for campaigns across different sectors and different parts of the world. In pro-public organizing the rhetoric, the tactics, and the goals will likely look very different from one place to another and from one sector to another.

Much of the work that has happened in this area in the Canadian context has had an anti-privatization focus. As important as that work has been, McDonald hopes that the Future is Public conference will provide a venue to begin talking about what it might look like to go beyond that. It is possible that a new organization or plans for future collaborative work might emerge from the conference, but at the very least he hopes that it will inspire participants to return to their communities and organizations and begin the work of building pro-public movements here in Canada.

Image: Modified from an image used with permission of the organizers of the the Future is Public conference.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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