dear santa 2019

When Larry decided to portray you, I was introduced to a world of incredible people who set aside their lives to portray you, eventually leading to their being shaped by you and what you represent.  I thank you for Larry’s friends and mentors who continue to don the suit of red.  Many have become good friends, mentors and spiritual advisors to me.  

Having you in my life figuratively and in many cases, literally, has helped me survive the past six years as there is a constant reminder of the magick, spirit and love that you represent.  The men in the red suit who have remained in my life are blessings to me – I am reminded to love and give freely of myself through their actions.  My faith in humanity is refreshed when you reveal your presence through them.

Your biggest and best gift to me was Larry being given a focus and drive – even through the worst cancer threw at him.  Your next greatest gift to me has been that the men who portray you that stood behind and beside me and supported me when my world crumbled, many of them propped me up to ensure that I didn’t fall apart.  At least two of these folks have been a large part of my life before you entered it and they remain a large part of my life.  They continue to support me in their actions, words, prayers and deeds and they remind me that faith can be a powerful thing when given the right intent and reason.  Because of them I still believe.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically.  David has been my most ardent supporter, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  He still does.  David continues to know exactly when I’m not in a good head and heart space and he reaches out to remind me of what is important and keeps me grounded.  In him I’m reminded that the spirit of St. Nicholas and St. Francis of Assisi can still exist in an over noisy and complicated world.

Make me an instrument of your peace indeed.  David is such an instrument and he brings peace within him wherever he goes.  Thank you.

This summer, I was blessed to spend time with many others who bear your mantle and joyously bring your blessings to us.  In them, you have given me a spiritual support and guides who show me that faith is a personal thing and can be balanced with my scientific mind’s desire for rationality and evidence.  Just as I believe in your existence in the hearts of the people who portray you, I believe in a higher power that exists in the hearts and minds of people who are searching for more.

Michael, Glenn, Hal, Bruce, Lee, Glen, Leon and Stephen have shown me this higher power through their actions, words and hearts.  Again, they all have shown faith in me, when my own faith and belief in myself is often sorely lacking.  I thank you for their presence as it’s nice to have someone in my corner when I don’t feel like it’s warranted.

You have given me the drive to keep going when everything within me fought forward motion.  I continue to make and release music that represents who I am and provides a glimpse into whom I am striving to become.

You have continued to keep my family in my life and I am blessed with a supportive and caring Mother and an amazing brother, sister-in-law and nieces.

So.  For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me.  Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me, provided me strength and continue to keep me alive.

Thank you once again, Santa, for all you have given.

I love you dearly,

myke.

P.S. I’d still like to ask you for one thing. Over the past couple of months, I have missed being cuddled.  While Chloe does her utmost best, I’d still like two arms to hold, comfort and reassure me at some point.  Dating has been difficult and I’ve pretty much given up at this point.

P.P.S. Can you also try to ensure that the good things that happen to me this year aren’t immediately followed by not so good things?  I understand the need for balance, however 2019 continued to be one sucker punch after another and I’m punch drunk after two brutal years.

it’s not about the city hall forecourt

On Saturday I received a message that “we won the city hall forecourt” and that gays were welcome there once more.

I was somewhat taken aback because the recent skirmishes at Hamilton City Hall Forecourt (aka the Bob Morrow Forecourt) were not about 2SLGBTQIA+ acceptance there, but more a fight against alt-right extremism and all it represents.

I congratulated the individual on their hard work for the whole community, however…it’s not about the city hall forecourt.

Despite the mayor flying the rainbow flag (against his own LGBTQ Advisory Committee’s wishes) and the often vandalized Rainbow Flag and Trans Flag walkways, the City of Hamilton can still remain an unwelcoming place for anyone who is not a Caucasian Cisgender Heterosexual Christian.

The irony in the messaging was that at that very moment I received the message that “we won” the forecourt.  The people in yellow vests, carrying the Red Ensign flag and signs extolling hatred were encamped even closer to my home, across the street from the  church I belong to and the cafe that has served as a second home for me since my husband was diagnosed as being terminally ill.
We didn’t win – we shone the light on the cockroaches and they scattered.  This was part of their tactics as they had brought in organizers from other areas in Canada.  Ones with ties to other white supremacy groups and a more widespread network to further their agendas.
We have won one small battle but Hamilton remains an unwelcoming place for many:
– BIPOC people who, until the supreme court ruled carding unconstitutional, faced an disproportionate likelihood of being detained by Hamilton Police Services for “random” identification checks.
– LGBTQ people who have stopped reporting hate crimes and minor property crimes because the Hamilton Police Services often did not investigate and suggested that the victims brought it on themselves for being openly queer.
– People of the Muslim faith who have been assaulted, harassed, spit upon and threatened for walking down a public sidewalk.

This is due to the continued actions of those arms of the city who are supposed to keep ALL its citizens safe:

– A police service who arrested a community member after a public meeting, citing parole violations despite mounting evidence that the individual did NOT breach their parole because they were at home in Toronto on the date of the alleged parole violation, every time a new charge was cited, it was proven false and later changed.

– A police service who were told what time, where and how many Christian, right wing and fascist extremists to expect at Hamilton Pride, but still took over 42 minutes to intervene due to what amounted to not enough staff available at the time.
– A police service who later explained they decided not to protect citizens being assaulted by others with weapons because Pride Hamilton did not allow them to set up a recruitment booth at the Pride Festival
– A police service who ignored a white supremacist weaponizing a school bus when he pulled it up onto the sidewalk to disperse a crowd of counter protesters, did not even ticket the illegally parked vehicle but “negotiated” with the individual for 45 minutes to park it elsewhere on city property for free.
– A police service who later arrested a counter protester for DANCING IN PUBLIC and later re-arresting them for “parole violations” despite their remaining the proper distance away from City Hall.
– A police service who responds to businesses protecting themselves from far right extremists by intimidating behaviours, photographing them, treating them as “persons of interests” and ignoring queries as to the nature of their activities.
– A police service more intent on getting statements from people in yellow vests, many of whom aren’t even citizens of the City of Hamilton, rather than discussing the activities of these people and the harm they are causing to the city’s residents and businesses.
– A mayor who ignores the LGBTQ Advisory Committee his council selected from the community in lieu of his own hand selected committee, holding secret meetings with unknown individuals with no agenda or published results.
– A mayor who ignores repeated written requests to discuss issues in the city, opting for photo opportunities with rescue animals and ribbon cutting ceremonies.

So yes, the yellow vests have scattered from the City Hall Forecourt.  A courtyard ironically named for the Mayor who fought AGAINST Gay Pride festivities in Hamilton and was forced to allow them to happen by the Human Rights Tribunal as his activities were deemed unconstitutional.  However they are popping up elsewhere in the city, spreading their rhetoric, hatred and anger…

One skirmish is over, however many members of the 2SLGBTQIA and BIPOC communities still feel unwelcome and unsafe in the City of Hamilton.  We have a LONG battle ahead of us and until the people at City Hall and in the police service wake up and pay attention, it’s likely only to worsen.

 

six years on

Dear Larry,
 
It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since cancer took you from us.
I celebrate your life and the impact you made on the people you met.  I hope to continue to make the house a place of solace and respite from the darkness of the world.  I continue to support the Santas and help them spread the magick and spirit of the season year round.
Chloe continues to bring me joy and little moments of peace, however she is beginning to show the signs of her age.  She’s not comfortable going down the stairs anymore and walks are slowing down noticeably.  You’d be so proud of her as she road the GO Bus and GO Train to Mom’s a couple of weeks back and she really enjoyed riding the GO Train.  This means that I’ll have a little more leeway to visit Mom.
I continue to heal and grow as I explore what it means to be me.  I still struggle with moments of loneliness and anxiety, however I continue to grow in strength and resilience.
I miss you every day but also hope that I will someday find someone who will make me feel similarly to how you made me feel.  Maybe I can make them feel the way you made me feel – it would be a thrill to be able to bring such love and joy into another person’s life.
That’s the least I can do to honour your legacy.
I love you.

I miss you.

Thank you.
m.

dear santa christmas in july edition

Dear Santa,
 
It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, so here goes!
 
When Larry decided to portray you, I was introduced to a world of amazing people who set aside their lives and a part of their identities to portray you, eventually leading to their being shaped by you and what you represent.
 
Having you in my life figuratively and in many cases, literally, has helped me survive the past five years as there is a constant reminder of the magick, spirit and love that you represent.
 
Thank you for continuing to put the amazing people who support your work in my life. As I continue to meet the people who do your work throughout the year, I realize that the spirit you represent is needed more and more as the world continues to become a more dark and cynical place.
 
I realize the spirit you represent is needed more in my life as the past few years had threatened to make my life a dark and cynical place.
 
You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically. David has been my most stalwart cheerleader, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. He still does. I was able to reconnect with him this year after some time away when I was not in a good head and heart space and I’m reminded that the spirit of St. Nicholas and St. Francis of Assisi can still exist in an over noisy and complicated world.
 
Make me an instrument of your peace indeed. David is such an instrument and he brings peace within him wherever he goes. Thank you.
 
I used to think that when Larry died, that you’d be in my rear view mirror, however you continue to put people in my life who show what your spirit and magick can bring to the lives of people. Every time I pull away, another amazing human being is sent my way to remind me of the good that can be done through a moment of kindness or just an instant of connection through recognition.
 
Message clearly received! Now just to figure out how the next steps of my service and support should progress.
 
So. For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me. Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me, provided me strength and kept me alive.
 
Thank you! I love you.
 
myke.

one proud army

I have suspected Pride Hamilton 2019 will be marked as a turning point for the 2SLGBTQIA community in Hamilton. It sounds from the reports last night that my suspicions have started to bear fruit…

We fought in the 1970’s for decriminalization and depathologization (ICD 302.0) of our identity, we fought back in the 1980’s after the bathhouse raids, we fought for medical care during the AIDS crisis in the 1990’s, we fought for protection under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we fought to get married.

Now we’re fighting for our safety and right to exist in the city we call home.

The fact that individual members of the 2SLGBTQIA community made it to adulthood and beyond proves that individually, we’re warriors.

Hamilton’s Mayor and police, through their inaction and targeting of our communities, have turned a motley, disheveled group of warriors into an army.

an open letter to the mayor of hamilton

Dear Mayor, Councillor and City Clerk,

I awoke this morning to the sound of closet doors slamming shut throughout Hamilton.  

I watched, with great anger and horror, last night’s council meeting on the live stream and followed the various twitter feeds of media and attendees.

I am ashamed to call myself a citizen of Hamilton.

I am ashamed that I have given the past 20 years of my life advocating for this city as a musician and as a member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

I’ve given 20 years of my life to this city, organizing, starting LGBTQ friendly events and groups, advocating for transit and accessibility – and last night was the best display that Hamilton City Council can do to show the city is “The Best Place to Raise a Child.”

Apparently not children who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ or the children of parents who do.

In 2007, my husband got the news that he had cancer and would need a transplant or else die. We received this news and went out for a walk, ending up on Locke St. (we live in the Stipley neighbourhood by the stadium). He broke down in front of a church and I put my arm around him as he wept.

I woke up bleeding with broken ribs in St. Joe’s ER, with the instructions from officers telling me to “act less gay and maybe you won’t get beaten.” No charges were laid despite there being multiple eyewitnesses to the beatings Larry and I received.

This was the second beating we received. The first was on Hess St where we made the mistake of holding hands in public.

Our house was vandalized multiple times when we first moved in.

Each time we reported these incidents the police did nothing, beyond nod and say there was little that they could do. They didn’t even crack their notebooks and take names/details.

This aspect isn’t limited to Hamilton –  members of  the 2SLGBTQIA+ community  always must be vigilant about public displays of affection (holding hands, touching, walking close) which is why we guard Pride festivals and our safe spaces so ferociously.

With each of these events and the relative inaction of Hamilton Police Services, I’ve had to modify my expectations about policing. Make no bones about it – as a cisgender middle age caucasian male, I have it FAR easier than my BIPoC, Trans and female identifying friends.

My last glimmer for Hamilton being a welcoming city for BIPoC and  2SLGBTQIA+ people disappeared when police stood by while a 15 year old girl got her face smashed in by a man wielding a military helmet.  An assault shown on video, an assault witnessed by many, including Hamilton Police Services – who were at Hamilton Pride on June 15, 2019.

After June 15, I can say that I no longer feel safe or welcome in my city for the first time in a long while.

This is why I am being harsh on the “powers that be”

This is why I take issue with police forces being allowed, in uniform, in our safe spaces and events. There is a VAST divide between the two sides and communication has been decidedly one way…there have been a lot of demands broadcasted to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community   community but precious little listening, hearing, consideration, concession or compromise from the police.

 

Yes the last assault took place in 2007 – none happened afterwards because my husband and I no longer felt safe in our own city so displays of affection were limited to in private and we even changed how we walked together. He succumbed to cancer in 2013. The vandalism continued and the person who did it still spits at me when she walks by my house to this date – I just stopped reporting because reporting these incidents to the police is a waste of my time.
My point is things HAVEN’T changed for the  2SLGBTQIA+ community in Hamilton, just as things haven’t changed in Toronto – it took a dead white heterosexual female to get police to investigate a serial killer in Toronto while cops were busily trolling parks for people having sex.

Hamilton only has a Pride festival because the 2SLGBTQIA+ community took then mayor Bob Morrow to the Human Rights Tribunal and we fought and won our right to celebrate in the city.

In 2017, Pride Hamilton was forced to switch venues because the city “accidentally” issued a second permit to the Sons of Odin to stage a protest at the exact same time and location as Hamilton Pride. We felt unsafe with this as the timing of this protest was clearly aimed at putting us in our place.

In 2018, the Wolves of Odin were joined by professional Evangelical Protesters from Texas and Montana who disrupted Haldimand Pride and attempted to disrupt ours. Matthew Green Hamilton Centre led a counter protest which worked against them, however they vowed they’d be back.

In 2019, the protesters from Texas, Montana, “Nouns” of Odin were joined by the Yellow Vests and several “known individuals”. Who responded to the counter protests with weapons, sucker punches and garden sprayers filled with noxious unknown fluids.

Police asked in the 11th hour to place a recruitment tent in the festival, Pride organizers said “let’s talk” and then heard radio silence. This is far different than the “No Police at Pride” narrative being given.

That being said Pride started as a protest to heavy handed policing coming into our safe spaces, in New York City, in Toronto and in other cities. Society forced the  2SLGBTQIA+ community   into a corner, behind closed doors and then decided that that wasn’t good enough.

Last night certain councilors and even you, Mr. Mayor seem to want that to happen again.

I am an employee of the Ontario Government, I am a musician who supports the community by performing at and producing events year round.  I am an organizer who was a founding member of the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, I have helped advocate for accessible transit and worked with the YesLRT campaign, I have helped organize the Hamilton Pagan Harvest Festival for the past 5 years and Hamilton Pride for the past 3 years.

I was planning on retiring and opening a business and had started looking at potential properties that would allow me to do so.  However after last night, I feel that if this city will no longer support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, it won’t support me as a citizen or a business person.

I’d like to thank Councilors Nann, Wilson, Danko and Clark for their words of support and actual allyship.   I am proud to say Councilor Nann is my representative on City Council and thank her for attending Hamilton Pride.  I thank her for her statement on CHCH and continued allyship.

I call out the councilors that sat in silence through the entire charade.  In the  2SLGBTQIA+ community the statement “Silence equals death” is often used, while it is heavy rhetoric, I’ve buried friends who committed suicide due to stigmatizing language, buried friends who were beaten and murdered for being queer and buried friends who died during the AIDS crisis.  Those who remain complacent show their tacit approval of the status quo.  Period.

I express my utmost disappointment in Councilor Merulla and Mayor Eisenberger for continuing the rhetoric of victim blaming and the “two sides” fallacy.

I thought Hamilton could do better.  I guess I was wrong.

Yours Sincerely

Myke Hutchings,
Hamilton, Ontario

on selling one’s art (or not)

I spent Friday night performing my music in the courtyard of a local store during the monthly Hamilton Art Crawl.  The Art Crawl typically falls on the second Friday night of each month where the art galleries, shops and restaurants of James St. North in Hamilton stay open late in a celebration of art and community.

One of the stores has acted as a catalyst, connecting artists, artisans, craftspeople and other local businesses to the community.  The Hamilton Store has been very supportive of my music career as well, providing opportunities for me to perform in a relaxed, calm environment.

During my time in the Hamilton Store’s courtyard, I have had the pleasure of meeting local artists and makers and have been inspired by their art.  One such artist, Bernie Hudecki, has provided artwork for my CD table for one. and also another work that inspires me daily in my studio.  The owner of the Hamilton Store provides a space where artists can display their work and talk about their artistic vision to a crowd of engaged art fans and shoppers.

This Friday, I was exposed to a digital artist whose work celebrated the City of Hamilton while also providing a unique filter to view the environs that surround us all.  I was inspired by certain works and considered adding a print or two to my collection.

But.

The courtyard housed the work of this artist on the walls that fenced in the area.  The back portion of the courtyard, furthest from the rear of the store housed a local maker who was ebullient, creative, friendly and a joy to be around.  I chose the back corner in which to perch on my tall stool with my guitar and music stand.

I arrived shortly after 6pm in order to be set up and ready by 7pm.  My stool and table were in use by the artist, to hold various pieces of artwork and her purse.  We were introduced and she brusquely acknowledged me and then went back to hanging her work.

Both the store owner and I indicated that the table and stool needed to be cleared in order for me to set up.  I had asked again at 6:30 also ensuring her husband knew that I needed the items to set up.  By 6:45, they both were still occupied, so I took it upon myself to clear and move the stool and moved a different table to my area.

Both the maker and I were up and running at 7pm while the artist and her husband were still setting up, hammering nails, dropping framed prints and yelling at each other over who was at fault.  Meanwhile the crowd was beginning to filter in, having to make their way around the fallen art, the empty bags and bubble wrap and, yes the artist and her husband.

Once the art was set up, the artist retreated to the store, where she was seen to be  rummaging through the store’s stock, having her husband take pictures of various items for sale and photographing pages of books “for future” work.  Hmmm.

Once she and her husband had ransacked the store (the owner unobtrusively followed behind to tidy up things while dealing with customers), the photographer sat in a chair behind the counter and spent the evening looking glumly at the floor or in her purse.  Her husband popped out a few times to photograph the artwork on the courtyard walls while the maker and I greeted guests and customers and sold our wares.

Many asked if the artist was here – we commented that yes she was and indicated who she was in the store.  When they went to engage, she often greeted them with an uncomfortable stare and what looked like to be terse conversation.  Most walked away after a very brief conversation.

When the evening was done, I had noted two works “spoke” to me and I went to find the artist to request a card.  Stating that I was interested in two pieces, however they weren’t in my budget at the moment – a mid-scale digital print in an IKEA frame was priced at just under $300.

After rolling her eyes and groaning, she told me, “It would be nice if you had the money for them now, as I just have to take them home.  It’s bad enough I only sold one piece tonight and the store offered to take one on commission, but call me when you have enough money to buy them.”

Wow.  I can’t understand why she didn’t sell more art…the whole evening it was clear that she wanted to be anywhere but there.  She was unavailable throughout most of the night and when people did go search her out, she was standoffish (at best) to down right rude (at worst) to potential customers.

Most artists understand that festival nights such as this don’t result in actual sales of product.  What they do result in is a chance for a creator/maker to sell themselves as an artist.  I sold 1 CD and a few downloads all night long, however gave out several business cards and discussed potential bookings.  Since Friday, several downloads have been purchased.

The hardest thing for any artist to do is to sell themselves.  The second hardest thing is to sell their work.  The artist Friday night was clearly unwilling to do either and drove at least this potential customer away.

Perhaps next time, she should have someone available who is willing to be available, be open and willing to talk about her art for her.  She might find the evening had gone differently for her.