Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Recent Posts

  1. The audacity of coming out

    The transphobic narrative is a lie. Let’s spend more time talking about how awesome it is to finally be yourself.

    In two more days I go back to school. I’m doing my best not to think about that and distract myself with other thoughts, such as how far I have come in the 18 months since I came out as trans. Last September 2 was the first time I wore a dress to work and felt like I was fully inhabiting my new self. In a case of déjà vu, school for me shut down in March 2021 about the same time it did in March 2020, and we are returning—physically to the building—on September 2 once more! So this Thursday will be a kind of anniversary for me, a very affirming one.

    Trigger warning for a brief but intense description of the transphobic violence in our society including suicide and murder.

    As many trans people will tell you, there is a big difference between realizing you’re trans, coming out, and starting some kind of transition. For me, these three events happened to coincide closely. That’s not always the case. Lots of trans people spend years knowing they are trans, from childhood or beyond, but they delay coming out for a variety of reasons that are often structural. Many trans…

    Read more…

  2. Neither angels nor demons: it’s time we stop treating teachers as exceptional

    Teachers in our society are subject to vocational awe, put on a pedestal and told we should be grateful for the role we play. But this exceptional reputation is really just a smokescreen for devaluing our labour and refusing to address the problems with our education system.

    Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a “normal” job. I know, I know—there’s no such thing as a normal job. The 9-to-5 staple of TV sitcoms is, depending on whom you ask, an endangered species or a myth that never existed in the first place. I get it. Similarly, I’m not trying to romanticize other jobs or insist that teachers have it worse than the rest of y’all. Certainly I’m not being called at 2 am because a server went down or harangued by a client because the pipe I supposedly fixed is leaking again. Every job has its challenges and struggles. Yet I feel that teaching and some similar professions face an interesting paradox in which our struggles are invalidated by the myth that we asked for it, that by signing on for this profession we signed up for these struggles and that makes it ok to perpetuate them.

    I’m going to use teachers throughout this piece because it has a narrower specificity than “educators” and I want to speak specifically from my experience as a public (secondary) teacher. Moreover, I recognize that the word teacher holds a venerable connotation in our cultural consciousness…

    Read more…

  3. One issue is many

    So Canadians will be heading to the polls on my birthday. Not the birthday gift I wanted from our Prime Minister, but I guess it’s the only one I’m going to get. We had a federal election only 2 years ago. Justin Trudeau claims it’s important to give us all a voice in who will be steering the country out of this pandemic (which is still happening). I am all for participating in the democratic process, but the cynic in me thinks you really just hope you’re going to get a majority this time.

    Anyway, I used to talk a lot more about politics on my blog (I used to blog a lot more in general). Nowadays I mostly yell on Twitter; last week I explained that I am a one-issue voter in this election. Nevertheless, I feel like it’s necessary that I register my opinion here, in a less ephemeral place than Twitter. I want to be able to look back in five years and know where I stood at the time.

    As I said in that tweet, the one issue on my mind for this election is climate change. I popped an allergy pill almost every day…

    Read more…

  4. Socialized male

    In which I talk to my cis allies about my personal take on the idea that I was socialized male and what that means for my lived experience as a woman.

    Arguments against the idea that trans women are women tend to fall into two camps: biological (“there are only 2 sexes and you can’t change your sex”), and social (“gender is a social construct and you are socialized in a certain way from birth, so you can’t change how you’ve been socialized—once male, always male”). Julia Serano has written an excellent piece tearing apart both approaches. This post is not an argument. I am not trying to convince anyone that I am a woman. I don’t need to do that, because I don’t need you to believe I’m a woman for me to be one. Indeed, I find the whole notion that some people feel that they get to “debate” me and other trans people about our gender to be tiresome.

    Instead, I’m writing this post primarily for my cis allies who might be curious about this whole “socialized male” idea. I’m talking to all of you, particularly my cis women allies but cis people in general, who support me, affirm me, love me, accept me, and are just here to listen and learn from my experiences. I am sharing here, not debating with TERFs. I hope…

    Read more…

  5. Queerness as context

    Knowing I was ace didn’t automatically mean I identified as queer. It took me years of learning (and unlearning) to embrace the larger community.

    I’ve pretty much always known I’m ace (asexual) even before I knew the label for it. But for a long time after I knew the label, I didn’t really know (or understand) that means I’m a member of the queer community.

    Partly this happened because asexuality and aromanticism are often excluded. I guess we’re super threatening or something, running around helter-skelter all not being attracted to all y’all. Oooh, so scary. And this exclusion and erasure means that LGBT identities are quite visible as “queer” but other identities, not so much. (That being said, you’re probably aware that even those four letters have fights sometimes—there are people who think it should be LGB, and there are people who think it should be LGT, because biphobia is a real problem in our community too!) So, growing up, when I was exposed to examples of queerness and Pride, it was always about an overt performance of gender and sexual diversity that didn’t reflect my experience.

    My personal experience of my asexuality has been absence of sexuality. I say this because there are many diverse experiences of asexuality. Some asexual people, unfortunately, do not come to an understanding of themselves until later in…

    Read more…

  6. Ratings are not recommendations

    A caveat lector for those who enjoy my reviews: sometimes new information comes to light that changes my opinion of books or authors I’ve regarded highly in the past.

    This morning I woke up and checked Twitter and then kind of (but not really) regretted it. See, the hive mind often keeps you helpfully informed of things you ought to know, especially when prominent people are being problematic—yet once in a while, it fails to do this. Such was the case with the revelation to me that Caroline Criado Perez is a TERF and indeed has been for a while, and cue my headdesking because last November I gave her book Invisible Women 5 stars and a glowing review.

    GIF of Picard facepalming

    This threw me into somewhat of a quandary. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the book. I think it makes salient points about the problems that women (both cis and trans) face in a society largely designed by and for men. But I don’t want to be supporting the livelihood of people who do not include me in their feminism.

    Options ran through my head:

    • Remove the review. This feels ahistorical though. I said what I said; my opinion is changing in light of new information.
    • Revise the review to be more critical. Without re-reading the book, though, this feels disingenuous. Also, as far as I recall, the

    Read more…

  7. Pride isn’t up for debate

    When we allow elected representatives to debate recognizing Pride Month and symbols, we send a message that 2SLGBTQ+ people’s rights are up for debate.

    Last night, the Toronto Catholic District School Board trustees voted to officially declare June as Pride Month henceforth, and to fly the Pride flag at all TCDSB schools, as well as its board office. This is a sharp contrast to what happened at Halton Catholic District School Board last month. This is a victory and should be celebrated as such. The TCDSB is one of the largest school boards in the province, certainly the largest Catholic board in Ontario. Hopefully, other Catholic boards that haven’t yet followed suit will take this as a sign to do so—this could lead to significant, meaningful change in the way 2SLGBTQ+ students feel represented and welcome within these schools. Kudos to teachers like Paolo De Buono who have been campaigning for better 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion despite facing significant personal reprisal, as well as to the students and student trustees who lead the way on showing us that these issues are indeed important to them.

    Yet amid that feeling of triumph, I also feel compelled to ask the question so many were asking on Twitter last night and during the HCDSB board meeting: why did this come down to a vote at all? Why…

    Read more…

  8. The childhood I didn’t have

    Wearing a dress to prom. Figuring out my style over decades instead of a year. Seeing myself represented on TV. Not having to go through the wrong puberty.

    These are just some of the experiences from the childhood I didn’t have.

    Today is the International Day of Pink, a day started here in Canada dedicated to anti-bullying, and specifically dedicated to stopping bullying against those who experience homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. So I thought it might be important today to talk about that last one, because something has been sitting with me for a couple of weeks now.

    Thirty-three states have introduced anti-trans legislation this year alone, sometimes more than one bill per state. It’s staggering. Politicians see the issue of trans rights as something up for debate and something they can use to capitalize on votes from their base. Meanwhile, those bills that pass into law strip trans youth of healthcare, of supports, and in some cases criminalize parents who support their trans kids and force state employees to out LGBTQ+ people under 21. Make no mistake: this is a coordinated attack on the existence of trans people.

    But Kara, you say, you’re in Canada! It sucks and…

    Read more…

  9. Not like other girls: Why I am proud to be visibly trans

    On the International Transgender Day of Visibility, I reflect on why it is important to me that I am a visibly trans woman.

    Today is the International Transgender Day of Visibility. As its name implies, the goal behind this day is to celebrate the existence and contributions of trans people in our societies. I feel like, in 2021, we need this day more than ever.

    On the one hand, it is true that, over the past decade, the visibility and acceptance of trans people has increased markedly. If I had realized I was trans and come out in 2011, I would not have had the same level of access to the services I can currently receive, nor do I think I would have had as positive an experience.

    On the other hand, the past couple of years have seen ever more backlash—likely in response to the increased visibility of trans people—particularly in the United Kingdom and United States, but also here in Canada. The UK media is a bastion of transphobic takes, and trans people in the UK are constantly under threat of losing what patchwork health services they currently have. In the United States, multiple states are attacking the right of trans girls and women to play women’s sports—a red herring that has way less to do with “protecting children” than it

    Read more…

  10. Review of Moxie

    I review Netflix film Moxie, which I thoroughly enjoyed yet also find very problematic and unsatisfying! Intrigued? SPOILERS AHEAD.

    A film by Amy Poehler comes to Netflix, based on a young adult novel about a high school girl rediscovering her mother’s feminist roots and feeling empowered, as a result, to stand up and say something about the atmosphere at her school? Count me in! I really enjoyed Moxie, and overall I would recommend it (especially to a younger audience—of all genders, because men need to learn about these issues too). It is a good movie. However, it is not a great movie. It is a very messy movie that often trips up in its eagerness to tackle as many feminist issues as it can. Moreover, despite its theme that girls and women can be empowered and do anything as long as they take a stand, the movie itself feels limited by the very nature of what Netflix seems to think will sell on its platform.

    Spoilers ahead! Also, content warning for the discussion of misogyny, racism, and rape.

    Diversity is Not Enough

    The movie’s casting is diverse, and the narrative attempts to be inclusive in its portrayal of feminism. Poehler’s character, main character Vivian’s mother, acknowledges that her own experiences of adolescent and young adult feminist movements in…

    Read more…