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Archive for December, 2010

For the final journal entry, I will be commenting on trans issues.

There were many important issues that our guest speaker addressed during her presentation to the class. First, she clarified the difference between trans and cis. Generally, the term ‘trans’ means something that changes or transitions, it refers to specifically gender-variance, and can be used as an identifier for transsexuals and for transgender individuals. The term ‘cis’ on the other hand, generally means something that stays put or does not change, and can be used in identification as cissexual or cisgender person. Being trans or cis has nothing to do with your sexual orientation, but only with your sex/gender presentation/experience.

Of great importance to me as a counsellor, the guest speaker went into some detail about the violence that transwomen may experience from their partners. Transwomen often experience internal struggles with negotiating body image and gender, and this is something that abusive partners may take advantage of. Abusive partners can seize/hide/throw out hormones, dilators. Abusive partners can make negative and oppressive comments about the woman’s body. These acts, while not physically violent or abusive, are violent in another way: they take away what is most important for the woman, which are the tools necessary to keep her female body (transwomen need to keep up their hormones and use their dilators, or testosterone levels will rise, menopause will hit, and the outcome of surgeries will be ruined).

The guest speaker also talked about trans issues at the social and political level. Cissexism and cisnormativity, which refer to the privileging of, and invisible normalcy and assumptions associated with being cisgender. Transphobia, is the irrational fear and/or hatred of trans or gender-variant people. We see cissexism and cisnormativity in employment discrimination, in public washrooms which force people to identify as ‘man’ or ‘woman’, in the lack of support and resources available for transpersons, in the effects of bullying, and in the hundreds of transpersons who are murdered every year. As a counsellor-in-training for all women who experience violence, I must be aware of the issues that affect transwomen, and this session proved to be extremely useful.

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December 6, 1989. It has been 21 years since the Montreal Massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. I was four years old when Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women, injuring another 10 women and 4 men.

remember me, december 6 2010

We remember those soldiers who fought for our safety and freedom every November 11th. And they deserve to be remembered, I am not taking anything away from that. But we also need to remember the women who lost their lives due to violence. Furthermore, we must recognize that this act of violence was targeted specifically at women, and was one incident of a wider societal problem of systemic violence designed to oppress women.

The Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centre of Peel held a fundraising gala on December 5, 2010, to raise awareness of the issue of sexual violence against women. “And Still We Rise” was the theme of the gala, focussing on three words: “Revive! Resist! Rebel!” The gala was dedicated in honour to the 14 women killed on December 6, as well as the 582 First Nations sisters who have been disappeared (murdered/missing) throughout Canada.

Today I choose to remember these women:

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student

Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student

Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student

Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department

Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student

Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student

Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student

Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

and

Canada’s Stolen Sisters

Take a moment today to remember these women. Say their names out loud. Say the names of the women in your life who have experienced violence. Say your own name.

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The Western medical system has a long history of power abuse, oppression and discrimination. The Western medical model is premised on the notion that doctors and other medical professionals are in justified positions of authority, and hence are able to make health decisions for the purported benefits of patients. This necessarily implies an imbalanced relationship in terms of who has power and authority and who does not. Medical professionals of the Western world are given the power to control the bodies of patients, deciding what drugs they need to be taking, what surgeries they have access to, and even what bodies are permitted freedom in society and what bodies must be kept locked away in mental health institutions. Sometimes these doctors are correct, and the outcomes of their decisions benefit their patients. Other times they do not.

In my placement, I find myself struggling with the issue of the diagnosis of mental imbalances for women who have experienced violence. One client, H, is a woman who frequents the Centre on a regular basis. My supervisor, who is H’s counsellor, has told me that H has experienced sexual violence, and that it is likely that H suffers from a few mental health imbalances, as the paranoia and delusions that H experiences are vast. Just recently, my supervisor approached me and asked that I assist H at the Centre in booking a flight to leave that same day. Both my supervisor and I were wary of H leaving the province, but H was very adament that she needed to go away. As I was booking the plane ticket with H, she was literally unable to proceed with the process without constantly describing her assaults and the effects of these on her life. I tried to intervene and focus her on the task at hand, but her traumas combined with undiagnosed mental imbalances seem to have frozen her in a space where she is constantly consumed with the trauma. We booked H a 4:30 pm flight, but H continuously got sidetracked, and did not end up getting into a taxi to head to the airport until less than an hour before her flight. I spent the rest of the weekend thinking about if she made it to her destination safely, what she would do when she got there, and even where she would stay (she does not know anyone out there anymore, so I sent her with contact phone numbers and addresses for shelters, hospitals, etc).

So I have a very difficult time when contemplating the pros and cons of mental health diagnoses. On the one hand, I want to respect the rights and choice of my female clients in their decision to seek treatment (medicinal or alternative) for their mental health imbalances or not to seek treatment. Yet on the other hand, I feel myself wanting to refer some women to seek treatment, particularly the women who clearly have mental health imbalances but do not realize it (client H), as going untreated/undiagnosed could be extremely detrimental to their safety, health and overall quality of life.

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