My name is Zoe Easton and I have the intense privilege of working in schools on a daily basis, giving workshops to students about intersectional anti-oppression strategies. I take my job very seriously, as a survivor of previous abuse and erasure. I am proud to be a queer woman and I have always prided myself on being outspoken against injustices.
I have not always been a Day of Pink supporter. I pride myself upon being a critical thinker, and with that in mind, I’d like to share with you why the Day of Pink has come to mean a lot to me.
I used to be a very angry kid, reeling from the intense betrayal of an abusive relationship, my own internalized homophobia, and my mental illness that I refused to treat with any kind of seriousness. The concept of self-acceptance was inaccessible to me. I saw anti-bullying campaigns run by the very same people who relentlessly mocked me on a daily basis. The glowing pastel image of a world where everyone could love each other without incident only increased my feelings of isolation from my peers, who plastered the walls with Ghandi quotes before calling each other f*gs on their way to the gym.
I tried to engage with my peers, and was met with quite a backlash. On a daily basis, I did not have the tools to engage with my peers in a discussion on anti-oppression or even on the impact of their words. My anger for the world around me came from the hurt inside of myself and the rejection I experienced at the hands of my heteronormative peers.
Soon after beginning my work as an educator at Jer’s Vision, now the CCGSD, I began to realize that my anger was not useful to my cause. My colleagues were exceedingly patient with me, teaching me that kindness is truly radical in a world designed to harden us. Most importantly, they have taught me that anger comes from having our boundaries broken.
Approaching students, many of whom have said ignorant or unintentionally hurtful things to me, with the understanding that even bullies can be survivors, has been enormously helpful. Rather than focusing on their ignorance, I have tried to focus on every individual in my workshops are individuals with personal narratives of trauma, anger, and hurt. I draw a parallel between my own anger and their rage, and the survivor narrative that the CCGSD was formed on..
Community is very powerful. The feeling of belonging I have received through working with the CCGSD staff, has been unparalleled. Speaking to other survivors of similar forms of trauma, learning from the differences in our narratives, and improving myself on a daily basis, has been instrumental to my own healing. Perhaps most influential has been the realization that we are all survivors of trauma in some sense of the word. Though no two struggles are alike, and though many of us face multiple intersections of violence, we are not alone in struggling.
Globally queer & trans people are struggling. Queer & trans people in Canada, with no small contribution by government, continue to struggle. Queer, Trans, Black and Indigenous People of Colour continue to be erased from our communities, being passed over for promotions even within our own community. Because there is a lot of divisive language at play, I will say this: this is not a call out. The CCGSD has made our fair share of mistakes, and we are deeply sorry for the hurt and the anger we have caused.
What is important to note is that when we call out, we lose the opportunity to call in. It has always been a priority of the CCGSD to work with everyone, sometimes to our own fault. Our strategy of calling in can sometimes mean working with those whose personal politics we do not agree with. It also sometimes means working with public institutions that have a history of oppression and continue to have challenges in engaging with LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. As a non-partisan community organization, we have long since accepted that we cannot always please everyone. However, it remains a priority to reach out to communities for whom Day Of Pink may be their only access to the LGBTQ+ Community.
As an angry high school student in the closet, and then as an angrier outed student, the Day Of Pink gave me a platform to speak critically to my fellow students. The CCGSD is a community organization made of survivors of trauma. The LGBTQ+ community in Ottawa is also made of many inspirational survivors, whom we listen to with intent. We are still learning, and more importantly unlearning, as an organization. We hope that, as a community, we can continue to educate one another through action-item based discussion and kindness, the most radical tool of change.
These are the values that make up my Day of Pink, what about you?