Kyra Philbert is impotent

Today, between client visits, I cry and listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Helpless. I’ve learned the importance of naming my emotions aloud. Helpless, I sing between small sobs, Helpless. The sweeps force me to take an indirect route to get to my destinations. I repeatedly pass the various barricades, but I do not enter the foray.

My assignment isn’t within the 00 to 200 blocks of Hastings but it could be. In morning huddle our manager is present. I know why she is here, my colleague whispers to me before we begin. Days before, there were leaked documents from the City of “Vancouver” [on unceded traditional territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations] announcing plans for public safety. (what public? safety from what? safety for who?).

In the meeting, we makes plans for our personal safety, as health-care workers who go provide care in people’s homes. Bring your ids with you, our manager cautions us, they will be checking. People live there (you know that right?). I’ve been in nearly every building along that stretch. People live in those tents too.

The forecast anticipates rain for tomorrow.

There are not enough shelter beds.

The last time I went to a shelter, folks were smoking drugs openly in the space.

What are you? a Christian! a client asked me this incredulously after I requested she hold off on smoking her crack until I left her room. I’ll just go to the kitchen, she said, not quite grasping that in her small studio apartment, going to the kitchen wouldn’t prevent me from getting a second-hand high. All the other nurses let me do it. I feel guilty but not enough to stay. Not even a week later I have the experience in the shelter. I stay because it is not my client who is smoking, and this man really needs care or he’ll likely lose his hand. He already lost his housing due to police involvement from a mental health crisis. Discharged from the hospital to the shelter. Helpless. I don’t ask the people smoking to stop because I don’t want a confrontation. I leave unsteady on my feet with dilated pupils.

Today I see multiple older Asian senior widows wearing layers and layers of clothing I peel back to take their blood pressure. In their neatly tided homes, I check that their medications are on track. They are in their 90s and living independently with some supports. They are polite, and offer me snacks. I use a translator on my phone to communicate with them. Sometimes I wonder how strong my Cantonese would be if I started taking lessons when I first started this job in 2016.

Today (like everyday) I wondered why some bodies seemingly hold more value than others.

I asked my colleague how her visits went. It’s like a police state out there, she attests, as she describes having to wait and then be inspected at the border before she could gain access to go see a client and provide care.

Constables in Vancouver make between 77,983 and 111,709$ as a base salary. There were over 100 officers involved in today’s decampment. The police budget increases continue. The people living in tents are in situations of extreme poverty. There isn’t more addiction or crime… it is just more visible.


This is about how we as a collective chose to treat one another. This about our values and our ethics. This is about how we show up (or don’t) for each other. This is about (in)justice. This is about privilege. This is about violence. This is about capitalism. This is about community.

but mostly

this is about

how sometimes

I don’t think

what I do matters (helpless, fruitless, useless, powerless)

and I still






to show up

and stand up

and learn

and fail

and pivot

and try again

and do my work anyways.

Why are you still a nurse? ( a recent question by a new acquaintance, a now-artist reformed nurse). The answer: for the money… but also because I guess I do think this work holds meaning, as a way to express my social justice values.

This work that does not get noticed

or seen

because it is so



fucking small

yet, here I still am.

(and if you read this, then here you still are…. and thanks…)

Kyra loves Drag: March 2023

I go a matinee performance of Starwalker, a musical by Corey Payette. Its world premiere, the show was co-produced by Urban Ink, Raven Theatre & The Musical Stage Company. The Cultch’s York theatre is packed; I had decided just a few hours before to attend and I purchase one of the last available seats in the house. As a professional queer, I am excited to witness queer joy on stage.

Starwalker is a rebellion through an outpouring of joy. It recognizes our shared history, our complex relationships, as we build towards a new future bursting with love.”
[Director’s note, Corey Payette]

Starwalker follows a young Two-Spirit person – Star – in a journey of self-discovery, courage, and vulnerability. This growth is nurtured through Star finding romantic love with Levi, and Star’s adoption into the drag house Borealis. When they met, Levi tells Star that Mother will love them due to the synchronicity between names: Star/ Borealis, as both relate to the night sky. Levi then takes Star home to the house to meet the family.  

Set in “East Vancouver”, specific neighbourhood undisclosed, we learn that Mother Borealis managed to purchase a house when that was still a realistic achievement (many years ago; hold for laughter). The house is a centre hub of activity with the drag family Borealis living all together. However, not all is well at home. I mean this literally, Mother is sick! She refuses, despite active encouragement, to get assessed by a physician. Mother minimizes the concern for her health and keeps the level of its severity from all but her eldest child. Despite its promise of joy, the theme of medical trauma is central to Starwalker’s dramatic plot.


Theatre is all about the suspension of disbelief… but it took every ounce of will power to not stand up on my chair and yell out the referral number for Home Care services (604-263-7377) when all the characters are under the delusion that Mother *has* to go to the hospital to die. Calling this number would have connected the chosen family members of Mother Borealis to a community health nurse.

Community Health Nurses (CHNs) work closely with your family doctor to plan and provide your care. Part of the nurse’s role is to provide information about physical comfort, medications and procedures. The nurses will listen to your concerns and talk about choices to help you and your family make decisions. They assess and discuss with you the type and amount of help you and your family may require and adjust these as your needs change. They can also refer you to other team members as needed. Nurses are available 7 days a week to visit homes based on assessed need. Community health nurses will provide you with the information for contacting evening, weekends, and on-call services.

[Vancouver Home Hospice Palliative Care Service brochure]

Not knowing about community health nurses creates a significant conflict. Mother is clearly unwell and in need of medical intervention, but she has also been very clear in her wishes: no hospitals. Sissy respects this despite the great distress it brings, whereas Levi identifies that Mother is no longer in the correct state of mind to make this type of decision. There is concern that Mother is suffering unnecessarily. Not to mention that it is very emotionally upsetting for the rest of the family to see Mother’s decline – feelings of fear, helplessness and uncertainty in the face of severe illness abound. (me: oh no! this seems so hard! I or any of my colleagues, could come by and sort this out!).

Star, who has experienced significant trauma in hospitals relating to their upbringing, is avidly against Mother going to the hospital… mostly because Star themselves does not want to go to the hospital. In a beautiful scene, with great stage lighting, Mother ends up being taken away by EMS at the end of a righteous drag show held at the House of Borealis. Mother is brought to Saint Paul’s Hospital (meanwhile, my CHN brain is going… what neighbourhood are they in East Van to be brought to SPH and not VGH… are they in *gasp* my catchment!?! When I asked a CHN colleague who had also seen the show, her theory was that it was in the “cool” part of East Van… likely around Commerical Dr. [Robert & Lily Lee] but really, East Van could also represent: Ravensong, Evergreen and South! ).

A map of East Vancouver…it actually looks like my catchment [Pender] is not in East Van!

Mother’s hospitalization triggers the climatic fight between Levi and Star: one begging for the other to show up, be vulnerable, trust, face fears; the other lost still within their past, …yet

(As I kept my little community health nurse butt in my seat and my mouth shut)

Mother could have had a home death! Mother could have been assessed by a community health nurse, who maybe would have called her doctor and got her all comfy and her paperwork sorted! Star could have shown up for Mother and the family while also not been stressed or forced to go the hospital! Mother’s wish to not go to the hospital could have (easily) been respected while simultaneously Levi’s concerns over her need for medical attention could have been met…

I knowwwww, it’s a play and a 5th business nurse character who swoops into the second act doesn’t perhaps hold the same dramatic tension… as Star showing up, performing ceremony and with the family giving Mother “permission” to die. Mother also dies very beautifully, with this super amazing costuming from the hospital bedding into a sparkling flowing gown… but I’ll just say, we can get a hospital bed into your home!

So I must at least pitch a 5th ! As we build towards a new future bursting with love, consider the importance of community health nursing! Consider our luck to live in a place that actively invests in a home dying program… consider that Mother might have also passed away at a hospice (yet another alternative to the hospital). Consider how this theme of medical trauma resonates for folks who watched the show… and how many could have learnt about home death or community-based nursing as viable options within our city! Consider art as propaganda spreading the message that HOME IS BEST !

Alright, I will come down off my soapbox… as I really did enjoy the magic of Starwalker, and I hope to see more works that blend drag into theatre/theatre into drag while being geographically rooted here in the city (on the unceded traditional territories of xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh nations.). I also would really be into a drag family literally owning a house in East Van and regularly performing in said house and attending very regularly– and then if this happens irl, that someone is sick… CALL ME OKAY?

Crowdsourcing Art!: Feb 2023

If you know me irl, you might know that I do not enjoy having a body.

I have no problem with your body. Your body is great, it’s lovely, it’s wonderful, it’s acceptable in all its imperfection… but me? I’m just a floating head…That’s where I felt safe (past tense, because I am challenging this belief!). I know conceptually I have a body…but that knowledge (LOL) is not embodied. I don’t mind attention, like you can look at me when I shared an idea, or knowledge, or advice… but to look at me because I *exist* otherwise? Intolerable.

In the summer, I had a very humiliating experience: I was attending a show, minding my own business, when the host stopped mid-way through his speech to draw all the attention of the very large room to me. The host wasn’t trying to hurt* me…in fact, he was giving me a lovely compliment, but I was incredibly embarrassed… to be suddenly and unexpectedly placed into the spotlight. I turned red. I broke out into sweats. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. I felt a deep deep shame. I know I was asked if I was okay, by the bar manager who had come to take my food order… by my friend at the table. I could only gasp. I heard a buzzing in my ears. I was working hard to hold back tears.

I was so frightened, I had lost my voice… but the answer was obvious: no, I was not okay. I wished to leave immediately… but how could I? The show had now started, the lights were bright, I was clearly visible, to leave would draw even more attention and perhaps hurt the host’s feelings…what was the big deal anyway? I was just overreacting! So, my body stayed, but me? I left.  

Self-criticism appears to have a very different effect on our body. The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain, and is designed to quickly detect threats in the environment. When we experience a threatening situation, the fight-or-flight response is triggered: The amygdala sends signals that increases blood pressure, adrenaline, and the hormone cortisol, mobilizing the strength and energy needed to confront or avoid a threat. Although this system was designed by evolution to deal with physical attacks, it is activated just as readily by emotional attacks. By ourselves or others.

Dr. Kristen Neff, The Physiology of Self-Compassion

Disassociation (a freeze response), shaming myself and then denial! Also, fun survival fact about me: I laugh involuntarily when I am scared (and sometimes angry). In addition, I have been trained to use humour to defuse emotionally uncomfortable situations! There’s pros and cons to this strategy… but it’s really hard to express what your needs are if you are not connected to yourself, and laughing at yourself… and it turns out my body is part of myself.

Sooooooooo, I am very intentionally trying to find a sense of safety in my body. That’s my focus right now — it’s been *incredibly* hard, but I am getting better at it. In my body, lives all these experiences (like the one above) that I now have to confront (instead of avoid). I now have to be here, mindfully, with my body… and trust that it knows what it’s doing. Our bodies has a self-healing system, and according to Dr. Kristen Neff, we can hack into it with soothing touch! In doing so, we engage in an effective self-compassion strategy.

So enjoy the podplay I made all about self-compassion! You’ll be guided into a self-hold — and thus you will active that care system! It is designed for Trout Lake, (on unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations) but I believe you can do it wherever, since you are basically just moving your arms. I am curious to know what you think, so please report back!

Here’s me acknowledging my body. I feel disgusted!
[photos by Chelsey Stuyt photography]

(*to be frank, I’m not actually sure what the host’s intention was. The host never apologized or acknowledged how frightened I became. Later, he told me he enjoyed seeing me be publicly humiliated like that. He did it again to me at another show, but I was somewhat expecting it, surrounded by a very large group of folks I knew including some of my best friends, in a smaller venue and so I felt a lot less threatened. Folks came up to me after and stated I “handled” it a lot better than before… again, because there was a clear recognition that I was not okay the first time. I hold myself accountable here. I never expressed my need [a boundary: do not call me out on the mic at shows]. I also never told the host about my internal experience; and if I did, I likely diminished it/laughed it off… so I didn’t call for a repair: I was really scared, can you please acknowledge that and help me find safety again?, and of course, I am responsible for staying with someone who told me how he got pleasure from publicly humiliating me without my consent [another example: holding a poll with his friends to determine if I cry too much] .)

Fool Master

Working as a nurse has given me the (financial) freedom to travel a ton, move spontaneous, take a variety of classes and go to lots of parties. I do not get emotional satisfaction from the work, and I do not get virtue points (but I do notice others endow me with them. I invite you to experiment with this, the next time you talk to a stranger who you won’t meet again, say you are nurse. If you are a nurse, say you are a sex worker. Please report back if the stranger had a different response to you regarding moral assumptions about your character).

It was requested that I explore the trope of the high school mean girl who goes into nursing. I mean, the logic is flawed. I offer the following arguments:

(1) gendered profession, specifically “traditionally” female occupation. Relating to assumptions around female/ femininity & caretaking.
— In Canada, about 91% of nurses were female in 2021 (CIHI, 2022).
— Historically, the body of the trained “modern” Canadian nurse was a white middle-classed ciswoman (McPherson, 2003). Prior to the era of the “modern’ nurse, much of Canadian health care was provided by nuns or lay women. Thusly, the female high schooler, bully or not, has a higher probability of entering a female profession like nursing.

(2) the ideals of nursing – compassionate and caring – make a strong contrast between the profession’s virtue and the cruelty of adolescent behaviour.
–reinforces a binary between “good”/”bad”
–accusation of bullying are an ego hit for the profession, resulting in defensiveness + more attention to the trope
–more interesting/memorable for the person looking up their bully due to the [moral] expectation that nurses are good/nice/kind/caring/compassionate.
The public’s perception of nursing generates expectations for the behaviour and morality of the nurse that may or may not align with their lived experience/ impression of the human being doing the work.

(3) Nursing is a job. People, in all their complexities, do jobs to survive in capitalism.


In my final year of high school, I made a video yearbook. Most of the footage has me behind the camera – but in this short clip, I am the subject.

Context: We are in chemistry and setting up for an experiment. I recall that in the end, we needed to use another group’s data to complete the lab report. I also know, I tried to get even more safety goggles from surrounding groups, but my other classmates were unwilling to give them to me as they were working. Finally, my intention was purposefully to be funny/silly, and my speech is improvised.

C : Say hi Kyra, the fool

K, in a serious voice: Hi, my name is Jessinta Kyra Philbert [N: and I look like an idiot], and today, I’m looking at children… in chemistry.
As you can see, I’m being extra safe by wearing as many safety googles as I could get my hands on.

A: Practicing for journalism school Kyra?

N: Yeah, you sound kinda stupid.

K: N____, A____ secretary.

A: I’m not the secretary! I got turned into secretary ’cause N can’t do his job properly.

N: I told you I wasn’t going to be secretary.

K: This is Kyra Philbert, reporting.

N: Get this on film! [*throws a balled up piece of paper at Kyra’s face*]

K, in regular voice: *laughing* I hate you!

Kyra- the fool.

What strikes me – beyond the casual violence – is that I didn’t go to journalism school. Not even comedy or an arts degree! I went into nursing! A choice that everyone thought was bizarre. A choice I double-downed on, in part, because everyone else thought it was a terrible idea.

I wouldn’t say I was mean in high school but I also wasn’t particularly nice or kind. I was known for being weird, smart, social, funny and emotional. (My whoremoans were next level. I am thankful everyday for wise ageing and less raging).

I went into nursing because I wanted a university degree, able to work immediately after and to be financially independent. I also went into nursing because I did not feel brave enough to be a creator.

I cry at the start of every movie
I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too
But I’m working for the knife

I used to think I would tell stories
But nobody cared for the stories I had

Mitski, “Working for the Knife”

Working as a nurse has given me the (financial) freedom to travel a ton, move spontaneous, take a variety of classes and go to lots of parties. I do not get emotional satisfaction from the work, and I do not get virtue points (but I do notice others endow me with them. I invite you to experiment with this, the next time you talk to a stranger who you won’t meet again, say you are nurse. If you are a nurse, say you are a sex worker. Please report back if the stranger had a different response to you regarding moral assumptions about your character).

Speaking of nursing and morality!
I have completed my master’s of science in nursing thesis. It is written in an academic style, but also I think there are some spicy moments (particularly in chapters 4 and 5). If you like my favourite theorist Sara Ahmed, you will appreciate the sweaty, sweaty, stinky conceptual work I’ve done in these 92 pages!

[and full disclosure, I do not feel “proud” beyond intellectually. I feel that I should be proud. What I notice is that I’m fixated on small errors that are now forever viewable; that I got an 90% (A+) but immediately obsessively googled to see what the average thesis grade was at UBC… and then felt relief in my shame when I saw the ‘average’ for the course was 91%– validation that I am not actually good; that I feel bad for feeling bad; that I am not meeting expectations; that I am forever difficult; that I had a series of escalating meltdown writing the acknowledgement/dedication because it brought up a lot of complex feelings for me; that I amplify those complex feelings by denying them; that I amplified them more by shaming them: you are a fool!] So I hold of this suffering, imperfection, and self-criticism in love and kindness while sharing in the spirit of common humanity.

Nurse Angélique : revisioning French Catholic nursing history as an ethical intervention in contemporary Canadian nursing practice

Finally, I am grateful that I am experimenting in creation more.
Two quick things:
(1) Thanks to everyone who voted in my last post, please look forward to a podplay experience in Trout Lake, about self-compassion and intertwining! Available on spotify here; or feel free to read about the process
(2) Save the date(s) peeps on unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations: I’ll be hosting a weekly event over 5 consecutive Sundays evenings in Mount Pleasant specifically to showcase queer performance art. March 19th to April 16th, 7pm-9.30pm. READ MORE

Crowdsourcing Art!: December 2022

Last year, I had the pleasure of nerding out in an interactive storytelling course. Our first major assignment was to create a podplay. A podplay is a location-specific auditory theatrical format developed by Adrienne Wong during her time as Artistic Producer of Neworld Theatre.

The synchronicity of my life meant that I was also taking an Indigenous New Media course where we had a field trip to experience a podplay. The podplay, Ashes on the Water (2011), was written by Musqueam theatre artist Quelemia Sparrow. The experience brings the audience member from Main St & Alexander to CRAB Park while sharing important learning of our local history – the Great Fire of 1886 and the birth of The Paddle Song. (As an aside, I am such a big history nerd and I love walking tours and I love fire. This podplay was *chef’s kiss*).

Podplays explore the relational tension between the private [inside your brain via your headphones] and the public [the outside environment/physical space where you are having the theatrical experience]. They are special in the sense they are site-specific but not necessarily time-bound. There is also an intimacy produced in the experience as the audience member engages in the work individually. The outside world is in constant motion around the audience member beyond the control of the artist – for example, when I did Ashes on the Water, there was an encampment at CRAB park with someone having an active crisis during the entirety of the experience. Witnessing a person crying hysterically, picking at their skin, and wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather was a potent reminder about the ongoing reality of colonization on these unceded lands. Facing that while simultaneously hearing a narrative around the bravery and strength of the Indigenous women who paddled across the səl̓ilw̓ət from the community of Ustlawn (Skwxwú7mesh Nation) to save the early settlers. Our entire class discussed the emotional juxtaposition… but that was beyond what  Quelemia Sparrow could have predicted 11 years ago as the playwright.

The Janice Nicole Bryant memorial in Sept 2021 (left) and Dec 2022 (right)

Anywho, the podplay I made is entitled Future Focused Daughter. It touches on a variety of subjects including Vancouver’s lost streams, anti-Asian violence and MMIWGs, specifically Janice Nicole Bryant… her memorial is at St. Catherine’s & E 7th… but does not seem to be up right now… it has previously been removed and her mother rebuilt it… so I hope it will be recreated again (and better protected) to honour Janice’s spirit & her mother’s vow to keep it until Janice’s murder is solved.

It’s under 5 minutes long, and if you like it- let me know and help me design my next one using this quiz! I’ll release it sometime next month!

May I feel loved

I have a rule about when I have an experience of shame: I tell 3 friends immediately.

I do it because cognitively I know that shame thrives in secrecy and silence (thank Brené Brown!)… so by sharing this experience with folks I know love me, I receive empathy and understanding. In turn, the shame can’t survive.

It is super hard.

Now here I am, not just telling my close circle about my shame… but writing about it publicly. The shame I’ve been carrying for much of my life is destroying me. I need to let it go… and I recognize putting it all out there is how I will facilitate that process. My conscious journey with shame beings in 2017. I had a breakup that prompted me to seek intensive therapy. It was a very valuable experience. Now, 5 years later, my focus is no longer on changing myself… but embracing the person I am. I want to be perfect, and never hurt anyone ever… but it’s not realistic and it’s not serving me. So, in an act of self-compassion, I share my shame as I find my strength in my extreme softness.


I’m on stage in an improv class. There are 3 other players with me, and we’re doing some sort of theatre game. I approach my improv friend Iris and get quite close. I do not touch her, but I am closer than I would get to a stranger. She shifts away from me. I do it again. She does it again. I do it a final time. She again moves. I had initially thought we were playing, but something in her body language is telling me that I’m invading her space. I stop. Instead, I turn and do the same action to another classmate, who leans right in. The scene carries on, class continues, and I forget.

Until days later, I am walking along Broadway when Iris texts me. It was a sunny day, and I had been feeling pretty good. Iris lets me know she felt uncomfortable with me getting so close in the last class. She assumes I have a crush on her. I recognize that she is giving me valuable feedback on my behaviour, and I’m certain it was very hard for her to send that message. I apologize profusely, promise to not do it again and clarify that I don’t have a crush on her.

Meanwhile, my body is breaking down. I don’t know what is happening. I am mortified… but it’s more than just feeling embarrassed. My face is bright red. It’s winter, I can see my breath but now I’m unbearably hot. I am sweating. I am shaking. I want to die. I want to jump in front of a car, and just die. I want to curl up into a little ball and hide forever. I feel so gross.

I have thoughts like:

She thought I was being sexually inappropriate towards her!

I’m a predator!

I am an abuser!

I cannot keep people safe!

I don’t know how to respect boundaries!

I am bad!

The thoughts are intense. The feelings are super big. I am worried I will act impulsively. I take 3 big deep breaths. I scan my environment and note 5 things. I calm myself down enough to call a friend… to ask… if I am abusive…if I am respectful… if I am good… because I am not so sure anymore.


The worksheet my counsellor Winnie gifts me begins with a questionnaire. Do You Suffer from Debilitating Shame Due to Childhood Abuse? It is adapted from Beverly Engle’s book “It Wasn’t Your Fault”. I picked Winnie specifically because she gives out homework. I need homework. I need tangible things to hold and do so I feel like I am making progress. I know how to do homework. I am good at school, and I am good at learning. It’s the only shred of hope I have.

At the time, I am living in absolute agony, but it’s mostly invisible. By all accounts, I’m doing well: I go to work. I go to school. I pay my bills. I see my friends. Talk to my family… but I’m crying a lot.

My roommates have requested I stop crying at home because my sobbing is disruptive to them. I regularly crawl out of bed at 3 am and sit in my car… but the tears won’t flow there. I try to cry in public, but strangers approach to comfort me and then I end up reassuring them. I only feel safe in my bed… it’s the only place my body wants to release… I memorize my roommates’ schedules to know when I can feel as big as I need.

I’ve stopped sleeping.  

I’ve stopped eating.

I’m in physical pain – my heart is aching all the time.

I’ve made plans to end my life.

I think about dying all. the. time.


There are 35 items on the questionnaire. A series of yes/no questions.

-Do you believe you made it difficult for your parents or others to love you?

-Are you a perfectionist?

-Do you feel you are basically unlovable?

-Do you feel ugly – inside and out?

-Are you a people pleaser?

-Are you afraid of what you’re capable of doing?

-Do you always blame yourself if something goes wrong in a relationship?

-Do you neglect your body, your health, or your emotional needs?

The instructions at the end report there is no formal scoring, but “if you answered yes to many of these questions, you can be assured that you are suffering from debilitating shame. If you answered yes to just a few, it is still evident that you have an issue with shame.”


I go home for the holidays. It’s incredibly expensive to fly cross country, but I’ve been really struggling. I think that being with my family would be healing. It is, but ways that are not immediately or obviously. Here are three vignettes of that visit:

(1) Mom
My mom is planning a holiday party. She wants me to pick up dishes for catering and is incredibly stressed. She is requesting my help, and I want to help her… but she’s not listening to my boundaries. I am telling her no about the timing, it doesn’t work for my schedule, but she keeps pushing. I ask her why she is focused on me when she could request my just-as-capable brother’s assistance. She tells me that I respond better to guilt. That I am easier to manipulate.

(2) Dad
I try to talk to my dad about his behaviour when he came to visit me in ‘Vancouver’ (on unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) during the summer. He interrupts me, do you blame me for your breakup!?.

I don’t blame him, but I explain that I have only ever introduced one partner ever, who I was deeply in love with, to my family… and they actively mocked me during the entire interaction… my competence, my character, my concerns…and the reality that she broke up with me later that same night… and used their behaviour as evidence of my failings… was not a coincidence… “I don’t blame you, but… ”. He has stopped listening because he tells me he knows me better than I know myself. He informs me that I’m just being overly emotional again. He refocuses the conversation on my reaction about the breakup. You are ruminating, he tells me.

(3) Stepmom
I don’t exactly remember what preceded this incident, likely I had an emotional reaction. My stepmom comes into my childhood bedroom. She has known me since I was 8 years old and was integral to raising me. She tells me that she loves me because she must as family but doesn’t understand how I have any friends. My friends have a choice to have a relationship with me, but she doesn’t. She informs me that I am so unlikeable.


I am a child. I am in the green basement of my childhood home. I’m upset about something. It doesn’t matter, it never matters, what I am upset about. I use my words. I am ignored. I get louder. I am ignored. I get louder, and louder and louder. I am ignored. I do something bigger, something I know cannot be ignored. Maybe I break something. Maybe I punch. Maybe I just keep screaming.



Dad who has been so silent until then

grabs me


drags me up

Kicking/ Screaming / Biting

The three flights of stairs




To the bedroom

That was assigned to me

Because when they asked me which bedroom I wanted, I said the blue one that looked out over the backyard… but was told that I actually wanted the yellow one… which is bigger… and fit the bed they had already decided I would have.

Where I am to stay. Alone. And “think about my reaction”. And why I can “never control myself”.


I am a child. We’re at a cottage. Grandpa Rex is there. My mom works for him.  Maybe there is a business meeting happening? I am fuzzy about the details, but I know I am upset about something. It doesn’t matter, it never matters, what I am upset about. Mom listened to me, and we’re doing Kyra’s emotional management plan. Where I go to my designated safe space—to feel however I want to feel and self-regulate. Alone.

Suddenly, Grandpa Rex comes in

And hits me


For being too loud

And annoying

And emotional.

It is one of my only memories of him. He dies before I turn 8.


I am a young adult. My mom tells me she must “walk on eggshells” around me because I am so emotional.  She has told me this for a long time. She is reading the book, stop walking on eggshells – a very helpful resource for friends and family for a condition that *I do not have!* – She has a very close friend, a child psychiatrist, who makes bold claims about me without knowing me…and reassures my mom that I am the problem… which she takes the liberty of sharing with me… to remind me that I need to do better around controlling my feelings.


We’re in the backyard, it’s the summer. My best male friend is over with my family. We are having a small party before I go back to university. The mood is light. The jokes start… how no one will ever want to marry me. How I’m ‘too’ much, ‘so difficult’, loveable but only after overlooking all of my horrible, tremendous flaws. I have so many. I would be lucky if anyone expresses any romantic interest in me at all. They would all commend the person who could love me.

Everyone is laughing hysterically.


In my family, it was clear that as a girl/woman, the pinnacle of my existence would be my marriage. My capacity to be a wife… and then eventually… a mother.


My shame, particularly flairs up in romantic relationships when I feel emotions… specifically negative emotions. My shame blooms if I think I’ve crossed a boundary, even if it was a boundary I couldn’t have possibly known was there. Even if I stopped immediately. Even if I rationally know that there is a big difference between abusive behaviour and accidently crossing boundaries.


There are racial elements to this… and this shame extends past my family of origin into society at large. The Combahee River Statement must write that Black women are inherently valuable so deep runs this racial shame. How I am seen as a Black woman… needing to be put back in her place. How I was treated as a Black girl, denied a childhood in so many ways. Viewed as aggressive when I’d disagree or when I don’t behave in legible ways. Severe punishments for minor infractions.


Winnie helps name the experience with Iris for me: “shame spiral”. I had never heard that term before. She gives me the handout on debilitating shame- the one I am quoting now. She tells me the antidote is self-compassion. She is impressed with me that I shared with others. “That was exactly the right thing to do.”.

After many months, it’s her kind voice that replaces the hypercritical voice of my ex living in my head. An auditory hallucination of my shame, replaced by empathy.


Shame is busted with empathy, and you can also give empathy to yourself through self-compassion. A final exercise from Engle’s book. You use this sentence, and fill in the blank with as many responses as you can think of

Given my history of abuse, it is understandable that _________

I believe I am unloveable

I feel unattractive

I struggle with expressing my anger

Apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong

Restrict my food intake to punish my body

Take all negative feedback as truth

Believe others over my own instincts

Run away when I get scared/hurt

Accept harsh criticism by my romantic partners

Ignore my own desires to prioritize others/the group

Fear I might hurt others like how I’ve been hurt



Shame is a really sticky beast! I’m not sure how to end this… beyond that self-compassion is a really useful tool… and that more vulnerability will make the world a better place… Brené Brown says “vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” and I want to be able to feel loved.

For I am enough.

A Nutmeg Princess

If I were to go out for Halloween this year, I would dress up as the Nutmeg Princess. “Nutmeg is very good,” Grandma informs me. I am interviewing her for a GRSJ course where I am to talk to a family elder about folk medicines. “Good for everything” she emphasizes. She lists a bunch of its purposes including as an analgesic. “Put it on the pain” she directs me.

I have never been to Grenada. When I was a child, and I dutifully would respond with the ‘expected’ answer [“Grenada”] to the inevitable question posed to me by a new acquaintance [“where are you from”]. I knew they were asking why I wasn’t white because they never cared about my Magyar-ness or my multi-generational Scottish settler family living in Guelph. The adults would often correct me – oh you mean Granada, the place in Spain. “No,” I would insist. “It’s a small island in the Caribbean, located just above Venezuela. It’s the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world.” Of course, Grenada is named for the place in Spain… but I did not know that then.

A map of Grenada. It’s actually multiple islands. Including Carricou where my Grandma was born. She told me it used to take 6 hours by ferry to get there, and now it’s an hour on the road.


My first queer love is giggling hysterically because I call my paternal grandfather ‘Old Daddy’. I don’t think it’s funny. I am super hurt that she thinks a core part of my identity is so mockable, but I am laughing along. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Old Daddy was born in Sauteurs, Grenada. The name literally means “jumpers” in French, so named for the Carib people who chose to launch themselves off cliffs into the ocean rather than be subjected to slavery by the French colonialists. My family doesn’t teach me that, this is from my own learning as an adult.

My first queer love’s cousin later shares that their grandma is brown (like me) from the Caribbean (like me). I’m hurt she never told me this information. We never directly talk about it. Instead, she shares excitedly at finally being old enough to be gifted her own rum cake for Christmas. A delicacy soaked with care by this mysterious brown female ancestor that takes months to prepare. We break up way before then…but in the time between, I wondered each time as I caress her pale white skin, how many generations it would take for my own Blackness to be erased. How long until my descendants laugh uncontrollable at me and my brown otherness.

In her memoir, Shame on Me, Tessa McWatt writes (p.18):

“It’s my African ancestor—my great-great-grandmother—on whom I focus my imagination. She is the gap in my family’s storytelling that I need to fill, though I can’t trace her precise roots in Africa. Hers is the story that has been buried deeper, most painfully ignored. Hers is the story that bear such deep shame it has been erased. But the body is a site of memory. If race is made by erecting borders, my body is a crossing, a hybrid many times over. My black and white and brown and yellow and red body is stateless, is chaos. Her body is stolen territory.”

My relationship to my own brown body is inevitably shaped by shame. Grandma very strongly believes that “no one in our family was ever a slave”. She also feels that she has never experienced racism in Canada. I respect her conviction, but I do not hold it. The disconnection within my own family and the realities of being Black from the Caribbean is not a Grenadian trait. See the work of Malcolm X, Audre Lorde and the people’s revolution led by Maurice Bishop.


The author, unhappy, age 18

I have been to a slave castle in Ghana. I have seen a Door of No Return. I felt dread in my entire body during the tour (for this is an industry for economic gain & profit now. Small children yelling ‘oburoni’ at me and trying to sell me a spin toy right outside the castle gates.). I’m 18 years old. I had wanted to go to Italy with my high-school friends. My [white] mom said she would fund my airline ticket but only if I went on this trip instead. Her cousin, a researcher, has lived in Ghana for many years and is planning on returning home to Canada. This is a great opportunity to see the country with an expert. I’d go for three weeks there. The compromise is that I will join my friends in Croatia for a week. “You will get to connect with your roots!” she’s so excited about it.

Years later my mom visits me in ‘Vancouver’ (on unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) . We have a fight about this trip on Kits Beach. “I didn’t want to go!” I yell at her, “I felt forced to say yes”. That’s not her memory, she shouts back at me: “well you could have said no Kyra!”. She forgets how persistent she can be… particularly when she is enthusiastic. Her friends nicknamed her the bulldozer. She is also my mom; I wanted to please her. I do a lot of people pleasing but I am rarely credited for that labour…She is also my mom; I am dangerously similar. Yet, my mom cannot argue that I was miserable on that trip. That I made everyone else on the trip miserable. By the end of the conversation, we’re laughing again. Lighter, after all, what’s done is done.


So here I am at a famous slave castle, trying to hold back tears while our guide is pointing out a line on the dungeon walls where the colour changes. “That’s how high the excrement was” she informs us. The walls are permanently stained, the line is higher than you are imagining. It reaches my belly button. The enslaved Africans [nations unknown] stood [my ancestors but also somehow not my grandma’s], shackled to the walls while their skin got peeled off from the acidity of all that literal shit.

There are other things I remember from the tour: a schoolhouse where the mixed-race children [products of rape] of the enslavers learned; the shiny plaque on the wall commemorating the recent visit by the American president Obama; the beauty and tranquility of the ocean from the governor’s quarters.


Nutmeg is not indigenous to Grenada. It’s a transplant, brought from the Moluccas (Indonesia) to the small volcanic island by the white Europeans, for economic exploitation.


Grenada. A place I’ve never been. It was Old Daddy’s dream to go back and swim in the ocean before he was too immobile from his Parkinson’s. My entire family, except for me, went in January 2014. My university told me if I went I would [very very likely, read: absolutely] be kicked out of the nursing program. That it would be unprofessional of me. I did not have any clinicals, or quizzes…just lectures on med-surg… slides read verbatim by bored professors, pulled directly from our textbook.

Last year I was a TA for a nursing program in the lower mainland. It was a required course, but I found out when only 20 of the expected 140 students showed up that they are not mandated to attend lectures. The course was about cultural safety and equity-based nursing practice. Each course had a guest speaker, a welcome by a brilliant Coast Salish Indigenous elder, and such important only can be experienced by attending learning.

It is hard to not feel resentful. Resentful too of a family that chose to go on this important trip during an impossible time for me as a university student…a family who never seemed to see me. Old Daddy died in the late summer of 2017. He got his final wish. He had to be carried into the water, but still.


I dream of islands, jumping off cliffs and sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor.


One of the only connections I feel I have to Grenada is from my childhood. My [Black] Daddy reads a book to me, published the same year as my birth. The Nutmeg Princess by Richardo Keens-Douglas, illustrated by Annouchka Galouchko. The story takes place on the Isle of Spice, a stand-in for Grenada.

This story is how I know about the relationship between nutmeg and Grenada– but not the larger story: about how and why that connection existed. The forced movement of people and plants for profit.

I watch a video of the author telling the story online for a festival. His accent is clear and crisp, lightly flavoured with some flakes of mace. He does not sound like my family; they are the whole seed. Old Daddy and Grandma are speaking English, but I’d have to turn to Daddy for a translation. Daddy tells me had an accent when he was a kid, he’d say “axes” instead of “ask”. He actively unlearnt it.

I hunt down the book, located at a branch of UBC library’s but not the public library.

The Nutmeg Princess, a young Black woman, incredibly beautiful [the beauty radiates from her soul]. She’s sometimes sad, sometimes happy. She sings. She chills in the middle of a lake, at the very top of a mountain. The princess only appears when the nutmeg is in bloom. She can disappear quickly – in a blink of an eye. She wears a blue dress and has long braided hair. At the end of each of her braids is a small gem, a diamond. The Nutmeg princess is invisible to everyone but a few who really believe in her and care to see her…fully/unselfishly/authentically…


Last night, I did end up going out for Halloween.


I’m walking along Commercial drive towards the parade of lost souls. I hear my name “KYRA!” I pause and search for the sound “KYRA!” .

The street is busy, the rain hasn’t come yet… but suddenly I spot her. One of my best friends in the passenger’s seat of a car. She’s just leaving a drag show.

 “What are you doing?” she asks me, the cars behind begin to honk. I tell her about my plans, “it will be fun” I say. She’s never heard of the event, but she trusts me. She spontaneously joins me and off we go on an adventure. We wave goodbye to her friend, the driver.  

I’m surprised that she saw me… there were so many people walking, but she sees me! So many fun costumes, flashing lights, sparkles… I’m wearing dark leggings, a toque and a winter jacket. I smell like campfire smoke, after a failed attempt at camping the night before (drove to the site, started to get set up. Forgot my tent poles. Returned.). I am not radiant at all. She asks how I am doing, “I’m so sad” I tell her, “but I’m trying”. I force myself to smile. My brain screams don’t cry, don’t cry, my gut soothes: crying is okay, release! release!, my heart wonders when can I come home?

She reminds me we became friends when I was incredibly sad. When I just began to practice self-compassion. I ask her if I’m always sad. “No,” she says, “sometimes you are happy”.

The author, happy as a child.

I tell her about my costume. How I am a Princess that only a few can see. How much it has warmed my heart that she saw me. That she sees me. We march in a parade, we take in some funky brass music, we watch a fire show, we get expelled by witches, we dance. She asks me about my future. I tell her about my confusion, my uncertainty but also my ideas. By the end of night, my smile is no longer forced. Suddenly, I’m at at the start of something new… and I cannot wait! [But don’t get me wrong, I still don’t know what ‘it’ is!]. However I feel I can face it with a deep and genuine joy.

I don’t need to a princess for everyone. Just for folks who really want to see me as I am [compassionate mess/ full spice/sometimes happy/sometimes sad/dreaming of water]. In return, I promise to see you too.

In love/in kindness/ in endless compassion.

Kyra Philbert is a LOSER

Vancouver Reddit users casually mock me

Well, the results are in! I did not get elected for ‘Vancouver’ City Council during the October 15th, 2022 municipal elections. Unlike most of Vancouver’s Reddit community, I don’t need to imagine getting less votes than Amy “Evil Genius” Fox nor Rollergirl. With a resounding 3 382 votes, I’ve lived it, and I can use my creative thinking for other things. Also, it was super exciting. I absolutely thought I would get 50 votes max. If you voted for me: wow! thank you! endless gratitude for supporting my vision for radical, intersectional, queer, feminist, compassionate healing…Considering that I did no active campaigning, made no promotional materials, talked to no strangers (dangers), put up a few social media videos to my 300 then followers, got zero media coverage and did one debate (thanks Vancouver Public Space Network!)… I feel proud of my first foray into politics!

I’m not even remotely upset about my defeat… I am way too focused on that a ton of people voted to increase the police everywhere: schools, parks, every city block?

Excuse me while I go vomit.

I am in anger and disgust now. Honestly- I spent Saturday night, and nearly all day Sunday and Monday just bawling my eyes out. Sad about our new reality in a police state. Sad about the scary drought/fires/smoke. Sad because I was not expecting this result (naïve much?). Sad that I feel so betrayed by fellow citizens. How dare you! All these folks claim to be concerned about the DTES and helping people… so like my job for the last six years… ? They are concerned about Chinatown and helping the seniors out… so again, my job for the last six years…? They claim they want nurses providing an empathic response… so again, my literal job for the last six years. They claim they want solutions… but what outcome are they looking for?


To add insult to injury, the major elect, Ken Sim, and his party are trying to make nurses complicit in their pro-police agenda- particularly mental health nurses. Today, on CBC radio, he stated “to give your listeners a little bit about my background […] my background is in nursing… so we understand the moving parts” [11:03-11:09] – I am not a journalist, but I can tell you, he is not registered with the college. Being an employer of nurses is not the same as having a “background in nursing”. As a self-governed profession, ‘nurse’ is a protected title. He did not say, “I’m a nurse” but he certainly implied he had an expertise in nursing that that he may or may not hold. Nurses are a highly respected and trusted profession in Canada. He is falsely leading the public into a belief that trusted professionals, like nurses, think more police is a good idea. In actuality, many Canadian nurses are calling for the complete abolition of both the police and prison systems.

Screenshot from google re: the rules about calling yourself a nurse in BC

Can an actual journalist investigate Ken Sim’s claim about his ‘background in nursing’ and if it is misleading to people ? Can you also ask the BCCNM if it violates the use of the reserved nursing title?

I mean, maybe I am wrong and Ken Sim does have a real background in nursing. In which case, I want to know: where did Ken Sim get his nursing degree? Who is Ken Sim’s favourite nursing theorist? What is his area of clinical expertise? Where has he practiced?

Until then, if you want to hear Stephen Quinn interview an *actual* nurse, you can listen my interview with him from May.

Nursing, like policing, is a problematic institution. It is based in white ideology, it has a history based on anti-Blackness, and that context has had very direct harms for folks of colour. Nursing, like policing, are composed of individuals – some are very lovely people (and some are murderous assholes)! However we work in *systems* and those systems make us do things that are straight up racist like birth alerts! Or arrest people because they peed outside! I am including myself in this.

Here’s a scenario : a young brown person is brought to the emergency room by the police. They are there to have their dog bite wounds treated, sustained during their arrest. Their crime was shoplifting (total amount, under 20$) and then fleeing. The police dog was deployed to apprehend the suspect/victim. The person was bitten on multiple points of their body, notably their head. Police dog should be trained to release their bite on command. The patient was bitten by the dog on their head/face repeatedly. The extent of the damage is deeply disturbing: They will require extensive plastic surgery, their vision will be forever impaired and they will have an obvious lifelong facial disfigurement. Worse, their healing outcomes are poor: the nurse expects that the person will develop infections and require repeated rounds of IV antibiotics due to the nature of the trauma [dog bite], and the conditions of the patient’s lifestyle (poverty, insecure housing, malnutrition). Each probable infection represents the possibility of a preventable death from sepsis. The police are joking in the trauma bay and minimising the harms the patient will now have to live with for their rest of their life. They do not reconsider their actions until the nurse informs them how much money this dog bite will cost our public medical system… their empathy is with the tax payer, not the real human whose life they have forever fucked. The patient is discharged back into police custody. The nurse is very distressed, and wants to take action. They are actively discouraged by hospital leadership from calling in a complaint to the VDP about the behaviour of the police re: excessive force. The nurse is reminded that VPD is a community partner. The nurse does not feel safe nor supported by the larger medical system. The nurse does not feel like they are acting within their own moral framework, nor their professional ethics. Still, the nurse does not report. They go home, cry in the shower and try to scrub off the shame/guilt/disgust.


It’s not a personal insult to be critical of the systems we engage with, particularly if they are harming people. I am certain lots of people went into policing because they wanted to make a positive impact in their community! However, structures of power need to be actively unlearned. Nurses have an ethical obligation towards social justice. Nursing is very actively trying to address its racism problem. My own scholarship does this– no one bats an eye when I tell them that nursing is racist… it is a fact! A necessary fact to openly acknowledge to shift the profession towards anti-racism.

Meanwhile, while I was calling the police complaint line during the ‘freedom convoy’ in Vancouver [which happened while our CAPITAL was OCCUPIED! Hello, it was fricking domestic terrorism! just need to go vomit again] – and I stated a fact: the police are a system build on racism. I was told not to be ‘controversial!’.




The complaint officer kept interrupting me, and comparing his experience as a white man going abroad to my own ! He demanded that I listen to him, while he spoke soooooooo slowly about *his* feelings of becoming cognisant of his race for like 2 seconds in a temporary position of his own making as the benevolent Canadian on voluntourism!… he said this to me while I was actively fearful for my safety within my own city [on unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations] .

He said this to me while I was getting ready to march back and forth at Main & Kingsway holding a little dinky sign in an effort to delay traffic slightly.

He said this to me while I spent the day bawling because I was so scared. My co-protesters were trying to be positive, with music and fun outfits. They were trying to cheer me up because I was very miserable and clearly alone… but (a) stranger danger (b) I did not want to have to mask my feelings for the comfort of randos when it was a very scary/upsetting situation, (c) I think crying was an appropriate response to what was going on!

taken from a Vancouver Sun article. Note the wig & fun nurse outfit? I did not look this joyful.

He said this to me while his colleagues would yell at me to hurry up. “Ma’am! I’m worried about your safety!”. I would think that I know how to cross a goddamn fucking street! and they don’t care about *my* safety because if they did I would be sipping tea at home, not actively witnessing people honking their cars [and drive in from the burbs while unnecessarily emitting fossil fuels!], trying to block access to the major hospital, yelling transphobic stuff and doing white power gestures.


Eventually I said to the complaint officer, “I’m pretty sure your job is just to listen to my concern and log it… and I want you to do that now”. Judging from that interaction, it is clear to me that there has been very little critical thinking within the VPD about their social responsibility towards dismantling the systems of inequity. The focus is repeatedly on ‘public safety’– well safety for who? from what?

I am so sad and scared, yet again.


The mayor elect Ken Sim’s rationale for mental health nurses working with the police is there would be a more ’empathic’ response. He claims he wants to be evidence-based. So let’s explore that claim – that nurses working with police generate more empathic responses- with a recently published academic article about mental health, policing and nursing in a British Columbian context. The lead author of the article, Maja Kolar (they/them) is a registered psychiatric nurse, holds a master of science in nursing, and very cool.

Kolar et al. (2022) employed critical discourse analysis to examine the provincial legislation The Metal Health Act (1996) and its interpretive handbook, the Guide to the Mental Health Act (2005). The act directs the involuntary and voluntary psychiatric treatment for folks in British Columbia experiencing mental health issues. Nurses, physicians, and police officers are professionals who regularly enact the act, which gives them authority to intervene on someone experiencing mental health issues. Kolar et al. identified “the need for protection” as a central discourse within these texts. The authors affirm the term protection is never clearly defined within the act but rather broad allowing the safeguard of the enforcers while legitimizing involuntary psychiatric treatment.

The police are given power via Section 28: Police Intervention for public safety to bring someone experiencing mental distress in for a medical examination in a hospital setting. This form of policing is considered an enforcement of protection through containment. Kolar et al. comment that this type of policing reinforces both the criminalization and stigmatization of folks experiencing mental health issues. They also highlight the danger of police intervention which “increases the likelihood of involuntary treatment, as well as detention, incarceration, violence, and in extreme circumstances, death of people experiencing mental health and/or substance use issues”(Boyd and Kerr, 2016; Wilson-Bates, 2008 as cited by Kolar et al., 2022, p. 11). Regarding my own profession, nurses might make clinical assessments on recalling a patient on extended leave based on missed medication or appointments. Together, a nurse and police officer might work together to locate a patient “for apprehension and transport to hospital” (Kolar et al., 2022, p. 11). Kolar et al. are mindful that neither the act nor the guide pays attention to nursing practice. The result is an invisiblization of how nurses might be complicit as agents of enforcement, within these structures of power that actively harm. Not to mention nurses acting in ways that go against our professional ethical obligations and best practice: harm reduction/ trauma informed. My own experience validates this concern.

Ken Sim’s claim that the nurse might provide a more empathic response is not supported by this evidence. The empathic and compassionate response I would want to provide to patients is made impossible by the presence of police. Perhaps he is conflating the presence of the nurse with less lethal outcomes for folks… but that does not mean it is a ‘good’ solution. Kolar et al. actually recommend intervening on social conditions like poverty, racism, unsafe housing, transphobia, and colonialism. What if we actually did stuff to prevent the need for a mental health crisis response in the first place?


There is a cycle:

without equity action to address the social determinants of health

a person’s mental state deteriorates

so badly

that eventually

they fit the criteria

to be removed



for ‘public safety’

by police

[and nurses]

and sometimes police + nurses working together.


I could not find any academic research about Car 87/88. This is the program that Ken Sim wants to expand by hiring all these mental health nurses. However, I can share from my experience working in a major emergency department in Vancouver that Car 87/88 were mostly bringing people in from their extended leaves [recalling]. My interactions with the teams were positive, and I think they do an important service for loved ones wanting to assist someone in crisis and de-escalating that situation.

However, the larger conversation that dominated the election was about ‘public safety’, crime and the DTES. Ken Sim stated in his CBC interview that increasing Car 87/88 alone would not be enough. “We need to go upstream, we need to figure out what the root causes of these challenges are and it could be… mental health, addictions, people experiencing homelessness…” [0803-0813]. Okay, well, that’s easy enough because it’s poverty.


For a long time, Vancouver’s DTES has been a containment zone. According to Dana Culhane (2003, p. 594) “Public health and law enforcement authorities, in an effort to respond to these “twin epidemics” [Kyra note: HIV + IV drug use] have treated the Downtown Eastside as a containment zone, rather than as an enforcement zone: few if any arrests are made for simple possession or trafficking of small quantities of illegal drugs, or for soliciting for the purposes of prostitution.” Now in 2022, we have even more epidemics to add: Covid 19, opioid poisoning crisis, missing & murdered women… [which is still happening, vomit, like the circumstances of Chelsea Poorman’s death that the VPD ruled not suspicious].

Screen shot of the DTES from google

Yet where is the DTES? It is obvious to me that this area is a heterotopia. The city has historically used this space to contain all its undesirables. The DTES is simultaneously Chinatown [headtax], Japantown [internment], Hogan’s Alley [destruction for the viaduct] and Strathcona [for ethnic Europeans like Italians, until they got absorbed into white]…

screen shot from the Chinatown Business Association website

The new mayor will have a “satellite city hall in Chinatown”. The Chinatown Business Association is focused on the promotion of Chinatown with their first item being (1) security patrol [aka, protect settler capital] and then (2) cleaning graffiti [aka beautification]. Their website make no mention about the other places/spaces that encompass Chinatown (for example: DTES/Hogan’s Alley). It focuses on tourism, profit, and revitalisation… which means

the undesirables

the trash

[the poverty]

must be contained… elsewhere.


The police might be up for the job… but I really hope nurses take a clear stand against this. This work goes against all evidence and our professional values. There is nothing that suggests nurses are ‘more’ empathetic to these situations other than that they get forced into being complicit and maybe make it less likely the police will immediately kill someone. There is no rationale that the police could not get training to be more empathic themselves (and clearly they desperately need it!).

The evidence for the root cause of these problems is overwhelming. The evidence against doubling down on policing is also overwhelming. Yet Ken Sim wants us… so as nurses, we have the power of the powerless here. All nurses can take a radical stand and refuse to do this outrageous work. Instead, that money can be reallocated into actually addressing the social determinants of health with radical interventions of care: finding safe & secure housing for people, feeding people and ending poverty.

I hope that we are supported by our nursing leadership at multiple levels: our major union [BCNU], our professional associations [CNA, NNPBC], our major employers [like the health authorities: VCH, PHSA, Providence], our college [BCCMN] and all our nursing scholars/researchers in the lower mainland. It would be very impactful if all these groups– who have made pretty significant claims of anti-racism and equity– now enacted their politics! Statements/press conferences/ big stink. The use of nurses for pro-police rhetoric must be challenged.


There is certainly a way for Chinatown to be fabulous, and everyone to have a cute time… but it’s not achieved through policing! The police only deal with a situation, after it has already happened. We got to invest in prevention and intersectional equity. It’s great that the new mayor has endorsed all the equity policy asks from women transforming cities’ hot pink paper campaign, among them washrooms for all, healing lodge, and alternative non-police models to community safety. These were also election promises, that will make an actual difference. I want to see how Ken Sim follows up on those.

but what do I know… I’m a loserrrrrrrrrrr

Kyra loves Drag: October 2022

Based on my love of unruly femininity, I’m sharing with you my absolute devotion to the work of Bongganisa (they/she)! Bong was generous enough to let me have an exclusive interview with her. The photos are from their instagram, and are used with her consent. Finally, I end this post with some other musings on the local drag scene here in Vancouver.

Vancouver is located on the unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Nations

The last time I saw Bongganisa– their name a play on a Filipino meat stick known as a longgonisa- she was hurling her body onto the grass by Í7iy̓el̓shn beach. Whereas other drag performers might gently, gracefully, and gingerly lower their bodies down to earth for stunts, Bongganisa flings, throws and yeets herself as if tumbling off a cliff.

In other performances she might forgoes lip-syncing completely to instead laugh manically or run into the audience with outstretched arms or my personal fav, hide in plain sight. The power in their movements, always consistently timed with the intense emotionality of their performance reminds me why they are my favourite drag performer in the city.

Bongganisa holds your attention, even while she is perfectly still. Her uniquely deranged aesthetic combined with a portrayal of ugly feelings, leaves one captivated. Ugly feelings–despair, disgust, guilt, rage, fear — I am not suggesting watching Bong is comfortable or pleasing but I am promising they reliably deliver a memorable audience experience that will leave you wondering… wtf?

An interview with Bongganisa

In August 2022, right after the Vancouver Pride season, Bong was generous enough to let me ask them a few questions:

How would you describe your drag?

Bongganisa is an unhinged woman. They are a manifestation of tumultuous romance in a vengeful ghost format. She also wears a lot of head pieces!

What do you admire most about the “Vancouver” Drag scene?

I am really drawn towards fucking things up, and this is a local speciality. The abnormal really speaks to me because I find it so inspiring.

Top moment in “Vancouver” drag History?

My personal top moment ever in Vancouver Drag history was being asked to join the House of Rice.

[Kyra’s note: House of Rice is the only all-Asian drag house in Vancouver. It showcases the talents of the queer Asian diasporic community — with mother Shay Dior at the helm & her many, many children. House of Rice hosts a super fun party RICECAKE and monthly drag dim-sum at Cold Tea Restaurant.]

Thanks so much!

You’re welcome!

Kyra’s Top 3 Bongganisa Factoids:

  1. She is a fashion designer.
    Bongganisa creates all her celebrated looks — a rare talent in an era of online shopping– Bong is known for serving ‘I actually didn’t know you could wear that’ with an unparalleled flair. Recently I sent them a message complimenting a fashionable creation to be informed “it’s just tablecloths lol”– if only we could all rock dining room vibes so casually… but if we could, we wouldn’t be so (rightfully) obsessed with Bongganisa!
  2. They are the ‘most bizarre’
    Not only is Bongganisa a drag icon, they are also a heavy hitter in Vancouver’s vogue community. She is in Kiki House of Andromeda and won ‘most bizarre’ during the 2022 pride ball. Bongganisa consistently brings her dancing skills into her drag performances in unusually charismatic ways. We have all seen a dip (also known as a ‘death drop’), but have you seen one with a head ricocheting so forcefully you wish they had a helmet? you will if you watch Bong!
  3. She went to art school.
    That’s right, Bongganisa is more than a terrifyingly beautiful face– they also have an expensive piece of paper that validates her talent! Although art school might have refined her skill set, it’s really Bongganisa’s passion that fans the fire within my heart– and that’s something that cannot be taught (but they also have a degree in teaching! SHE IS MULTIFACETED!)

Musings on YVR Drag

I started regularly watching local drag in 2018 at a now defunct weekly show in East Vancouver. Full disclosure, it had a reputation for being sorta trash but that was the charm. So, if you really like polished queens emulating femininity as soft, beautiful, lovely… well that’s just not my vibe. I am into weird, unnecessary, excess and gender play that disrupts those traditional tropes.

I recall attending a drag show on Commercial and being accosted by pre-queers (aka ‘heterosexuals’) who wanted to share their knowledge about my culture as they just loveddddd drag. They had driven in from a suburb to see the show — their first live show ever— and were amazed to see that drag was more than cismen in dresses being sexy pretty ladies. Of course, they didn’t even know to bring cash to tip since that’s not a part of what is seen on T.V….

Which brings me— inevitably, to money! Currently, we live in a capitalist society and drag artist need to be supported financially by the community. There is no Canada council grant for ‘gender fuckery’ (yet)— so tip your performers! Remember that drag usually involves hours of prep: the application of makeup, creating elaborate costumes, and rehearsing —before the artist even reaches the stage.

However, there is a real clear favouritism of this ‘commercialized’ drag that has been popularized in mass media: polished performances by AMABs of a particular form of femininity. That is what those suburbanites ‘expected’ to see…how else do those expectations manifest? It would be very interesting to do an intersectional comparison of tips, bookings, and general reach of our cities’ performers. This analysis would also need to include the format of their drag…it also might vary by performance. Yet this returns to us, as the audience. Whose shows do you go to? Who are you following on social media? When you only 5$, who are you tipping? When you compliment a drag performance, what matrix are you using to evaluate?

Here I am at Drag Dimsum, where the effervescent Maiden China (she/they)
got my heart all aflutter.

All this leads to being conscious and curious about who might be gatekeeping your conception of drag. In Vancouver, there are very few cismen drag performers, we are so blessed with many non-binary talents! For instance, comedian, singer and drag artist Toddy (they/she/he) won a 2021 televised competition and the title ‘first child of drag’.  Or Mx. Bukuru (they/them), a founding member of ENBY6, who is so sexy, powerful and embodies Black Excellence. However, I strongly recommend actively seeking out performances by Kings. Drag Kings engage in an exploration of masculinity. Consider King Fisher, Skim & Jeff Garbage [a wonderous alter ego of Rose Butch].

I wonder… how is new talent being forged in Vancouver? Who gets mentored within the community? How can a drag artist do something that might ‘fail’ when they rely so much on tips [which in turn, relies on playing to audience expectations of ‘good’ drag]? What is our responsibility as the audience to challenge those expectations and support our artists?

Lastly, I wish we had a local regular [weekly] show again for artists [of all levels] to try new acts in a low stakes’ situation…ideally not in the west end or all the out by UBC (but do check out UBC Drag!)… but like close to a sky train east of Main St? in Mount Pleasant…? on the Drive? I miss the community building of a space where folks can eat together, sit together, and attend at a very low entry cost (under 10$). If you have a space where that sounds like it could be possible, let me know! I’m ready to sit on the floor, watch more weird queer art and CHEER [and tip!] my heart out!

Heart Direction

These days, I have been asking for clarity.  I feel directionless. I feel exasperated. I feel exhausted… ‘cause I’m not sure if I am staying on the unceded lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh and Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm territories known as Vancouver. I’m sure this is an odd thing to read from someone who is running for council in the upcoming Vancouver municipal election. However, it is my reality.

I love Vancouver. I loved it from the moment I step off the plane for my first ever visit. I had a deep sense of belonging here, and my life made so much sense after I moved here. I love it when I glance at the mountains or go to go the beach or see a big giant tree. I love when it rains. I loved discovering myself here. I identified as straight when I moved six years ago—and now I am a professional queer! I feel like I’ve bloomed into my most authentic self. I’ve had so many beautiful precious moments here. I’ve had so much fun! I’ve felt so much love and given so much love. I’ve gotten to perform as an artist here. I’ve gotten to enrich my thinking as a scholar here. I’ve solidified my nursing practice here. I have rich, meaningful, and deep relationships with a community of brilliant, socially conscious, and radical folks… lately there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t run into someone I know! I love that. I feel so grateful.

Here I am co-hosting the 2022 Pride Parade at Denman Mall

Even better, in the last few weeks these spontaneous encounters have involved getting feedback that the work I have been doing matters. I feel seen/heard/validated in so many ways by my community here— and that is a wondrous gift. I want to be a mirror and shine that kindness given to me so generously back for it is so heartwarming.  

Yet, I am truly uncertain if Vancouver is still my home. The chances of me being elected are very slim…[of course, if I was, then I would be devoted to being a great disrupter here for the next 4 years]. As a registered nurse, I am not lacking in job opportunities. I am however lacking in housing security. I am also missing the sparkle I once had about this city as

–favourite arts venues get demolished for luxury housing projects

–cherished friends move to suburbs because Vancouver rent is too high

–extreme poverty is sooooooo normalized

–capital is repeated prioritized over people

I recognize I have mind-blowing amounts of privilege. Yet still I am suffering. I’m waiting for some sort of sign about what the next chapter of my life might involve…I’m looking for that click I have felt so many times before when the stars aligned, and I just knew what I wanted/needed to do. That click I felt when I first arrived in Vancouver and thought: I belong here!

But all I feel these days is

so sad that our planet is dying.

so sad that people are dying preventable deaths.

so sad that many are just ?okay? with the state of the world.

I’m just so so so sad…

My grandma calls me brave. You’re so brave Kiki, she tells me. She thought I was brave to move so far from my family, by myself when I came to Vancouver. I didn’t feel brave then, I felt like I was following my heart. I don’t feel brave now. I feel sore, raw, and porous. I feel like I’m waiting. I am waiting.

I’m waiting for my heart to tell me what to do next…

and I’m wishing…

I wish that you follow your heart as well… (if that feels good for you)… and I hope that in doing so, we all might make this world lovelier, warmer, kinder for all of us.

When I feel those waves of this endless sad, I put my hand over my heart. I tell myself, this is a moment of suffering. I let my tears flow without judgement, after all, crying is just a biological response. I’m gentle with my nervous system. I practice my self-compassion.

I’m not brave, but I do try to be courageous.