Missionaries in the Park

Gosh, I’m so glad you’re here. It brings deep joy to my heart every time I see people like you out and about. Every one of you is a living, breathing reminder that, no matter what challenges I face or how low I sink, I’ll never actually reach the bottom, because I’ll never be the kind of grotesque, depraved monstrosity of a human being who would set up to promote Christianity in a park full of religious minorities during Pride month. Gosh, it feels good to look something truly despicable in the face and know that, no matter what I ever think of myself, I’m still better than that.

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Missionaries in the Park
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Rando Farming

As the description of my Patreon benefits reveals, one of my pastimes is diving into the filtered folders of my Facebook and Instagram messenger accounts and engaging with the …entities…I find within. I do so while taking on comedic personas ranging from “vampiric last queen of Hungary” to “demon cultist seeking sacrifices” to “someone who collects and tans the hides of infidels.” Once each month, I perform a dramatic reading of one of these chat logs and post it on Patreon as a benefit for my patrons. I’ve been doing this for a long time and the results have been both very funny and decidedly edifying. Let’s begin.

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Rando Farming

What My Bicycle Taught Me

I recently acquired a bicycle for use as my primary means of getting around. Ottawa, where I reside, is neither a public transit utopia nor a city known for bicycle-friendliness, so this decision and my broader commitment to never driving a car might puzzle some of my readers. What did I hope to gain by adding a bicycle to my life, and how did I hope to make it work in this often infuriatingly car-centric city?

Navigating this city by bicycle for the past two months has imposed quite a few lessons upon me, some more surprising than others. Let’s begin.

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What My Bicycle Taught Me

Suburbs Are Conservative

Look at recent election maps, especially in Canada, and it is easy to spot a demographic pattern taking shape: vast swaths of residential land around cities voting conservative or worse while the urban cores they surround vote far more progressively. The US has similar patterns and maps like these are not difficult to find in other countries as well. Much ink has been spilled about the rural/urban divide in developed-world elections, but increasingly, the divide that matters is between urban and suburban voters, and the reality that makes it matter is that suburbs seem inescapably conservative. But why?

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Suburbs Are Conservative

Snow Demands Urbanism

As my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada lurches dramatically into the coldest chunk of winter for several years and I prepare for some balmy foreign travel, it is difficult to avoid thinking about how much more pleasant my existence in this snow-choked city could be. Winter often brings critics of urbanism smug satisfaction, as they look down at us mere transit users from their heated vehicles that migrate from sealed garage to sealed garage. They watch us trudge through snow or sigh in defeat when paths are blocked, often by snow cleared for cars’ benefit in nearby areas, and imagine that this imbalance is a fact of nature. Well, very little about our relationship with automobiles is a fact of nature. Contrary to their privileged imagination, it is not the dashboard vents delivering slightly burnt-smelling warmth to frozen hands on steering wheels that make winter so much easier for them. Cities are systems that reflect the forces shaping them and past the most basic physical realities, every factor that makes winter feel like motorist territory that has trapped the rest of us until spring is the result of human decisions. And different decisions could have been and could still be made.

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Snow Demands Urbanism

The Power of Urban Planning

People act like urban design is just something that happens, a fact of nature that unfolds as passively as wind patterns and desire paths. Developers develop parcels, drivers drive roads, commuters take buses, and it all happens piecemeal, one step at a time, all of them disconnected from the others and together forming a city as an accidental, organic, wild thing.

That just isn’t how this works.

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The Power of Urban Planning

Elegy for the Ones Who Never Got to Be: Trans Day of Remembrance 2022

Delivered as a speech for Canadian Heritage on 16 November 2022.

We usually hold these events for ourselves. Trans Day of Remembrance is a somber occasion we mark with candlelight, elegies, and promises to the future. Every year, hundreds of us breathe our last in Brazil and Turkey and the United States and, yes, here in Canada, and every year those of us who feel safe all being in one place at a known time gather and make our sad pledge: remember the dead and fight like hell for the living. They died unloved and endure one more cruel indignity by way of obituaries and funeral services that don’t acknowledge who they really were, and we place one wholly inadequate bandage on that wound by insisting: they never saw your light, but we did. And we will not forget.

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Elegy for the Ones Who Never Got to Be: Trans Day of Remembrance 2022

Canadian Conservatives Scare Me More Than American Conservatives

It is election season in Ontario, and for the first time, I’ll be voting. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, my citizenship is complete and my voter registration is in place. I can call myself “Canadian” with that much more conviction now, and the attention I pay to this country’s politics now weighs on a vote where it previously weighed on just my thoughts. In this unusually portentous time, I have been confronted not only with the mainstream parties, but with the tiny splinter parties trying to gain a foothold in real politics, as they litter public spaces with their signs and pamphlets. And they have reminded me that Canadian conservatives are pit-in-the-stomach terrifying compared to their American counterparts.

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Canadian Conservatives Scare Me More Than American Conservatives

Save Me From Ordinary

It was ordinary people who told me my soul would burn when I told them I am an atheist.

It was ordinary people who kept me from recognizing my gender until my 20s.

It was ordinary people who promoted a level of homework that devoured my free time for most of high school.

It was ordinary people who saw everything about me that was not useful to them and demanded that it change.

It was ordinary people who kept me feeling excluded, misunderstood, and feared until I was an adult, and sometimes still.

It was ordinary people who lied to me for fun and jeered at me for believing them.

It was ordinary people who made the world too bright, too loud, too messy, too much, and told me I was wrong for noticing.

It was ordinary people who made it so that, when I am frustrated or scared enough, I stop feeling my hands.

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Save Me From Ordinary