How is this object or story important to you?
Buttons and protests have always been a big part of my life. I went to a very political pride with my mom as a 10 year old, and in high school I was going to regular protests. Buttons are a good way of capturing a snapshot in time of what is important to you and who you are as a person. There are some more personal parts of me in these buttons—my love of books and cats. I got the "I Love Pussy Cats" button at pride when I was 19 and proceeds went to the Toronto Cat Rescue.
I am a settler. I come from a settler background, and acknowledging that I live on native territory is important to me (in relation to the medicine wheel button). It's something I want to look at in terms of how I can support it. Friends of mine, who are First Nations, went on a cross nation walk to end violence in their communities. What I do in solidarity is give them money and post their information on social media. However, the walk is theirs to do. If I can take a step back to let an indigenous person have a step up, I try to, and I am still often oblivious to my white privilege.
A big part of my identity is being trans, which really influenced my involvement in community organizing. Starting in high school, I was organizing with anti war movements, environmental movements, and queer movements. I started a GSA in my high school, which at the time, was unheard of. That was in 2003, in Ottawa. That activism led to the creation of Trans Youth Ottawa, which I helped lead and create. That experience led me to do more community organizing with PTS Ottawa and the Dyke March. That is how I was led to the CLGA and Toronto. After working at PTS, I went to Ryerson, which is where I got my Ryerson Our City Our Pride button. I moved to Toronto and started Ryerson in 2012 to on my Masters of Social Work.
It's really because I'm trans that I came to the CLGA. Seeing what has happened to other trans folk who aren't as boisterous and angry is what brought me to the CLGA—which is related to We're Beautiful When We're Angry. I got that from the CLGA itself.
In my opinion, the most pressing issues for trans women are HIV, sex work and criminalization, homelessness, and the violence against trans women. I'm not a sex worker but I've had friends who are, so it's very important to me. I got the Keep Your Laws Off My Body from a recent sex work rally, but it's really the abortion struggle and the right for choice. For trans folk, there's a lot of laws regarding our body.
I'm second generation queer, and with my mom, I used to watch Better Than Chocolate. That's related to my Book Junkie button. I am a self professed bibliophile. I have at lest 1000 books in my apartment. Books are radical meaning, and there's so much they can say about our history and who we are as people that often isn't captured elsewhere. We look at a person's bookshelf and you can tell what they're into. And it's one of the reasons why I like working at the CLGA—I can be surrounded by the smell of old things, including old books.
The most recent button is the Reclaiming Our Leather History button. I identify as a Leather Dyke. I've always felt a certain distance from the Leather community despite being part of it. One of the important things about Leather pride is that it says all sexuality is okay as long as it's consensual. Some prides have tried to make themselves "homonormative" by getting rid of the leather folks, and technically, there are still laws that make certain forms of BDSM illegal. I think we need to, as queer folks, in my opinion, reclaim the parts of our history where we're considered perverts, weirdos, etc., and say that it is a part of our history. We shouldn't fall into the broader conceptions of what's acceptable, rather we should support all consensual sexual expression.
What does it add to the story of Toronto?
So many of them are intricately related to movements that have related to Toronto over the years. For example we have some feminist protest buttons. One is from the 1960s or 1970s, which is why its not in the greatest shape. It was passed down to me from a friend of my mom's who is from Toronto. Also buttons from Youth Line—a Toronto based LGBTQ youth support line—is one that a lot of my friends growing up used, especially when they were suicidal or homeless. I'm heathen clergy, which is is a form of Paganism, and the term poly comes from something published by a pagan priestess in the US. The polymory community has certainly grown in Toronto. There have been attempts to have poly recognized as a legitimate and legal orientation, since it's illegal to have more than one spouse in Canada. That is something that is near and dear to my heart. I fought for same sex marriage. I remember being at Parliament. To a certain extent, I wasn't fighting for my own right to marriage because it could still only be between two people.
I personally think the poly and same sex marriage protest movements are aligned, but in practice they aren't because the public mainly knows the abusive or oppressive forms of poly relationships.
How did you acquire it?
I acquired the medicine wheel button in Ottawa from a two spirit Anishinaabe Algonquin teacher who I greatly respected.
How old do you think it is?
Varying ages, ranging from 1970s to near present