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.

Until

Suddenly

Dad who has been so silent until then

grabs me

and

drags me up

Kicking/ Screaming / Biting

The three flights of stairs

Carpet

Wood

Carpet

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

Hard

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

;;;

Well…

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.

“KYRA!”

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 loves Drag: October 2022

Based on my love of unruly femininity, I’m sharing with you my absolute devotion to the work of Dongganisa (they/she)! Dong 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 Dongganisa– 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, Dongganisa 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.

Dongganisa 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 Dong is comfortable or pleasing but I am promising they reliably deliver a memorable audience experience that will leave you wondering… wtf?

An interview with Dongganisa

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

How would you describe your drag?

Dongganisa 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 Dongganisa Factoids:

  1. She is a fashion designer.
    Dongganisa creates all her celebrated looks — a rare talent in an era of online shopping– Dong 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 Dongganisa!
  2. They are the ‘most bizarre’
    Not only is Dongganisa 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. Dongganisa 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 Dong!
  3. She went to art school.
    That’s right, Dongganisa 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 Dongganisa’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.