Student Life

A transnational quest for love

“Love is about practice; it’s about learning to do it well on a daily basis,” said La Mackerel during her keynote performance lecture. Photo by Sandra Hercegova.

Kama La Mackerel’s keynote showcased her personal journey through space and narratives

Kama La Mackerel, a multidisciplinary artist, arts facilitator, educator and community worker, was born in Mauritius, an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean.  She left her homeland when she was just 18, in part because, “I was queer, and I wanted to live a queer life—something that, apparently, I could only do abroad, beyond the boundaries of the ocean that surrounded my home,” La Mackerel said.

In honour of Concordia’s first Winter Pride Week, La Mackerel presented a keynote performance lecture on March 2, titled ”There is Enough Space for our Narratives in the World.” La Mackerel performed an intimate form of spoken-word poetry and song chanting to share her life journey. She crossed oceans and continents, running away from herself and her past while searching for love and acceptance. She has many theories about why she left Mauritius. However, she insisted, “just for today, we will say that I left my parents’ house and I left the home-island because I went searching for love.”

Her quest began with a full scholarship to the University of Poona in India to study literature and philosophy. After finishing her undergrad in India, La Mackerel moved to Peterborough, Ont., with a full scholarship to complete her master’s thesis at Trent University. Three years later, she moved to Montreal and began working with the queer community.

“The queer community taught me a lot of things. It taught me a lot about sex, a lot about consent, desire or not being desired,” she said. La Mackerel co-founded Qouleur, an annual arts festival and healing space by and for Montreal-based trans artists of colour. She is also the founder and hostess of GENDER B(L)ENDER, the city’s only monthly queer open mic.

In the summer of 2017, La Mackerel launched Our Bodies, Our Stories, an arts and performance mentorship program for queer and trans youth of colour aged 16 to 24. “It’s been really meaningful for me to work with youth, and I am learning and I am being so inspired,” La Mackerel said. The program focuses on discussions through storytelling: “We come across the questions of silence, lying and the question of truth and the multiple ways in which we have been told that our truths and voices are not valid,” she said.

La Mackerel emphasized the importance of educating and empowering youth. “I am always talking about what we will be building for the next generation.” The mentorship program allows her to look back at her teenage years. “This is me speaking back to 15-year-old me and saying, ‘You didn’t have it, but the next generation will.’”

If La Mackerel’s transnational journey taught her anything, it’s that the world is more open than it seems. “There’s a lot of relationships to be built. There’s a lot of new kinship to reinvent,” she said. “Maybe there isn’t enough space for my narratives in my home, but I know now that there is enough space for my narratives in the world.”


Student Life

Exploring LGBTQ+ literature on campus

Queer between the covers hosts a colourful book and zine fair

Concordia’s EV atrium is often bustling with students, walking in all different directions, in a constant hurry. On Feb. 27, though, students slowed down and took a moment to pass by the Queer Between the Covers (QBtC) book and zine fair. The book fair was one of many events organized for Concordia’s first Winter Pride Week, which ran from Feb. 26 to March 2.

The QBtC book fair collective provides the Montreal community with written works about queer topics by queer authors. According to Dorian Fraser, one of the event’s organizers, the fair had been in the works since September. The collective’s table was filled with zines and literature about LGBTQ+ topics and experiences, which were available for purchase on a pay-what-you-can basis.

“Our goal is to showcase the community’s voice in a public space, so that marginalized individuals feel like they have a safe place,” Fraser said, just as someone walked by and noticed the theme of the fair. “Oh my god, I love this,” they exclaimed. “I feel at home.”

According to Fraser, the fair was also an opportunity for individuals to learn about services available to them on campus and in the community, such as the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

Lucy Uprichard, a member of the QBtC, said many of the zines and books for sale were shipped from the United States, the United Kingdom and even France. A very rare find, Manifeste d’une femme trans et autres textes by Julia Serano, a trans-bi activist, was available for purchase at the collective’s table.

Laid out across tables, the books and zines created a beautiful display of colour. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Kersplebedeb Publishing and Distribution, a radical left-wing publishing house, had a whole library of books at the fair, including feminist and anti-homophobic content.

Behind the tables, Montreal-based queer freelance artists showcased their artwork, designs, zines, clothing and accessories, like pins.

Artist Kay Nau had her art on display at the fair. “I do a lot of exploration of line work and experiment with the background and the foreground,” she explained. A large part of her work is inspired by her experiences as a black woman, including people’s misconceptions about her hair. Many of the drawings and paintings she had on display featured inter-racial and homosexual couples.

Artist Fat Kitty Rising had patches layed out with embroidered sayings, such as “Anxious mess” and “Fat babe.” They said they uses embroidery as a coping mechanism for their chronic physical pain, as well as their anxiety disorder. Their collection also included patches with the different astrological signs on them.

Many of the other tables exhibited zines about homosexuality and being transgender, as well as comical zines created by the various artists in attendance.

For Sorya Nguon-Bélisle, a photographer selling her magazine, J’ai choke, “showcasing my work like that is vulnerable in the same way people I profile show their vulnerability.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

Disclaimer: Corrections have been made to the original article.
Student Life

Transitioning to a universal healthcare system

Activists discuss challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces when seeking medical treatment

“The problem is not being trans, but being trans in a transphobic society,” said Devon Simpson, a street worker for Head & Hands, a Montreal-based organization that offers medical, legal and social services to youth. As part of Concordia’s first Winter Pride Week, the School of Community and Public Affairs hosted a panel on Feb. 27 titled “Universal Healthcare, Really?” to discuss trans people’s lack of accessibility to healthcare.

Canadian society has come a long way in the last decade with regards to LGBTQ+ rights. However, a closer look at Quebec’s healthcare system reveals significant systemic discrimination against trans people, explained Simpson, who establishes liaisons between trans people and Clinique 1851, a clinic on Sherbrooke Street known for accommodating trans people.

The panel’s mediator, Kimberley Manning, a trans youth advocate and principal of the Simone De Beauvoir Institute, focused the discussion on Quebec’s outdated healthcare system when it comes to doctor’s practices and the treatment of trans people.

According to panelist Dr. Charles-Olivier Basile, a family physician in Montreal who treats trans people, only a handful of clinics have a doctor who specializes in or understands trans healthcare, so access is limited. When he was in medical school, Basile said he realized there was a significant lack of emphasis on trans healthcare.

Gender dysphoria is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which provides the criteria needed for a psychiatrist to make a diagnosis and allow the person to move forward in their transition. Therefore, going through the healthcare system in order to transition is a must, yet trans people cannot just walk into any clinic to receive hormone therapy. “Nevermind how hard it is to find a doctor, the access to care is very territorial and many [trans people] do not have the material means to get across the city,” Simpson said.

Part of the care trans people seek is an explanation of all the risk factors associated with a particular surgery or treatment so that they can give informed consent before proceeding, explained Betty Iglesias, a Montreal-based trans advocate and former outreach worker for Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec.

For many trans people, the idea of seeking medical treatment, even outside of their transition, can be stressful and uncomfortable. “They even fear not knowing if their chosen pronouns will be respected,” Simpson said. As a street worker, Simpson gives their phone number to trans individuals in case they need help navigating these challenges.

Panelist Caroline Trottier-Gascon, a Concordia PhD student researching the history of trans communities, emphasized the fear trans people face when they have no choice but to go to an emergency room for an injury such as a broken leg. In those situations, trans individuals often must explain to a doctor why a certain painkiller or medication will not interfere with their hormone therapy or other ongoing treatments, Trottier-Gascon explained. “This delays the process of their treatment,” Simpson said, adding that these inquiries by doctors “may be in good faith, but sometimes it comes from ignorance.” Not having their physical appearance match the sex on their ID card can be another source of delay in these situations, Simpson said.

In addition to limited access, not all aspects of transitioning are covered by medicare, such as breast augmentation and voice therapy, Basile said. Even when certain treatments are covered, there are still additional hidden fees associated with transitioning which should be covered by health insurance plans, Basile explained. Although Montreal is a go-to destination for trans Quebecers to find a community and the healthcare they need, according to Iglesias, the system is far from perfect.

“It’s an active decision to not properly train medical professionals about trans healthcare,” said Trottier-Gascon, adding that, until this type of training is implemented, Quebec’s healthcare system will not be truly universal.

Feature photo by Sandra Hercegova

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