Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Recent Posts

  1. Being trans-inclusive takes work

    An example of how easy it can be not to include trans people, and some practical tips on how you can do better.

    Social media makes it very easy these days for companies and organizations to virtue-signal, i.e., to claim to be inclusive and supportive of marginalized identities. But people who experience these marginalizations know that, in reality, most of these companies are not actually inclusive. This usually isn’t malice but rather just not bothering to think about us at all. Today I want to share a fairly minor example—something we call a microaggression, because it didn’t stop me from using the service, but it was still hurtful. I’m actually surprised how much it affected me.

    Being a dutiful daughter, I volunteered to order some pet supplies on behalf of my dad. (Forty-pound bags of cat litter can be heavy!) PetSmart has set up a curbside pickup system, so I figured ordering online and picking it up would be easy. Indeed it was—aside from the single complaint that is the focus of this whole post, I have to say that PetSmart’s site and the process were one of the smoothest experiences I have. They’ve got this down.

    Almost.

    See, when I looked at their website’s instructions for curbside delivery, I was faced with this:

    Bring a valid driver’s license or government‑issued ID. Once you arrive at the store parking lot, call the store & select option

    I haven’t legally changed my name yet,…

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  2. Collapsing the gender wave function

    As with most of you, my emotional state is all over the place right now during this pandemic. However, being trans and having recently come out complicates the picture for sure. I’m largely doing fine, and staying at home is giving me lots of chances to experience euphoria. (Thank you, online shopping!) Nevertheless, not going to work and seeing my colleagues and students means I miss out on other, daily chances for affirmation and to further my social transition.

    I feel very lucky that I came out when I did. Originally, I had considered waiting until May or even the end of June to transition in the workplace. Can you imagine dealing with that in this current situation? I probably just wouldn’t have, and I would have chafed and felt extremely … constrained. My heart goes out to all the trans people who were planning to come out and currently feel unsafe or suddenly unready to do so. Fortunately for me, I came out and transitioned in the workplace just before this all started. Even as the entire world feels uncertain, I get to ride that uncertainty towards, hopefully, a new certainty about myself. However, the most complicated part of…

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  3. Star Trek: Picard is Star Trek meets Mass Effect

    A long time ago now, it seems, I wrote a post about how the then-new Star Trek: Discovery was #NotMyStarTrek. I haven’t watched later seasons, but I stand by the post in general. You can imagine my delight when Patrick Stewart agreed to star in a new Star Trek series that is actually a sequel. He reprises his role as the venerable Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    I like Star Trek: Picard much, much more than Discovery. For some people, this show still won’t be “Trek enough.” There’s a lot more violence (which I don’t like) and profanity (whatever); the show is definitely trying to appeal to what audiences have come to expect since the Star Trek I remember from the late ’90s, early ’00s. Nevertheless, about 8 or 9 episodes into the season, I finally realized why I was enjoying this series so much: it reminds me of Mass Effect.

    Spoilers for the entire first season of Star Trek: Picard, , as well as the Mass Effect trilogy, follow!

    With some notable exceptions, like the time Star Trek: Deep Space Nine visited Earth for a two-parter, the Star Trek universe has…

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  4. Becoming Kara

    At some point, I’ll talk more about reaching the conclusion that I’m trans. For now, I thought I’d talk about choosing a new name. Choosing a name actually was one of the things that helped me accept my trans identity, actually!

    First, a little update! The current situation (the 2019/2020 pandemic, for those of you lucky enough to be reading this in the future) has certainly thrown an interesting twist into everyone's life and timelines, including mine! Certain aspects of my transition are delayed, and experiences I might get to have (like going shopping with friends) curtailed for the time being. Nevertheless, I’m trying to make the most out of my weeks of mostly staying home. I'm shopping online, trying out different outfits and makeup looks, and when I do go out, I push myself to be a bit more daring than I otherwise might have been, since I have so few excuses to get dressed up and try new looks for, say, work or hanging out with friends. I’m pleased to report that I now have quite a nice professional wardrobe, complete with proper footwear, and I’m working on the casual wardrobe now. Prior to the shutdown of our…

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  5. I'm regenerating!

    My friends, the time has come for me to say, "Hello." But no lengthy introductions here, no cute anecdotes. Let's get into it.

    I'm transgender. I am a trans woman. I am a woman.

    My new name is Kara (Car-uh) and my pronouns are she/her. Yes, this includes when talking about or sharing things I've posted in the past, even though my old name is still on there. Check out my name policy for more clarification.

    GIF of the 13th Doctor saying, 'I've had an upgrade, hi!'

    I personally love the metaphor of regeneration for my transition, because it captures the intensity. It reinforces the adage of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Like the Doctor in Doctor Who, my appearance will change—and I’m excited for this (tights! dresses! OMG). Some of my mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, and behaviour will change; again, I’m excited to explore how I want to express myself and my femininity.

    At the end of the day, however, each regeneration of the Doctor retains her essential personality traits: her commitment to social justice and equity, to science and curiosity. Likewise, I’m still the same person at my core, because I am not changing who I am. I am just finally recognizing and…

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  6. Tolerating intolerance is always a bad look

    A local organization called the Urban Abbey is allowing an anti-abortion film to be screened in its space. This is not about free speech. It's about bad decisions.

    When you first opened your doors, I was rooting for you. I am not religious (far from it), but the idea that an inclusive, Anglican ministry was rehabilitating a beautiful building in Port Arthur’s downtown and planning to help the poor and vulnerable? I could get behind that. Unfortunately, events of the past week have demonstrated how easily a few poor decisions can undermine years of effort. Your decision to allow Thunder Bay Life to screen the film Unplanned at the Abbey is nothing less than an abrogation of your duties to those very same people.

    As an educator, I am ashamed that, somewhere along the way, myself and my colleagues have failed to help people understand the nuances of the concept of freedom of speech. Legally, morally, philosophically, freedom of speech has always been a quixotic, paradoxical, complicated phenomenon. These days, colloquially, it has morphed into a bludgeon with which to silence and a shield behind which to hide and claim undeserved neutrality.

    Deplatforming is not the same as the suppression of free speech. If Thunder Bay Life were denied the use of the Abbey’s space, there are other places it could screen its film. Charter rights to…

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  7. An open letter to Thunder Bay city councillors re: library cuts

    What follows is a letter I emailed to city councillors Albert Aiello, Mark Bentz, and Brian Hamilton.

    Dear Councillors,

    I'm writing to convey my dismay and disappointment regarding your stances on the operation of the Thunder Bay Public Library, as reported in the TBNewsWatch article of Jan 26, "City council eyes cuts to public library."

    Closing a branch merely to save money might seem like no big deal for those of us privileged enough to drive in this city. For many, including those who rely on TBPL for essential services like Internet access, this creates new hurdles. What may be a 10- or 15-minute walk for some neighbourhood kids or someone who needs to check their email suddenly becomes a bus ride of half an hour or more. While it may be true, as Coun. Bentz's research suggests, that Thunder Bay has more branches than comparable cities, I'd suggest that's not germane: just as TBPL is itself a leader, rather than a follower, when it comes to library innovation and community outreach, so too should Thunder Bay lead rather than follow what other cities do.

    Coun. Aiello's suggestion that the library reduce its collection development budget comes from a…

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  8. The battle over education isn't about the money

    The government is keen to make the battle over education all about the money. But it isn't and has never been about that. This is about ideology, plain and simple.

    You have to hand it to Minister Lecce: he has at least been consistent about his talking points. He repeats them, almost word for word, in every interview and press conference he gives. He's fighting for the students, and teachers are refusing to negotiate in good faith because we want an unfair amount of compensation. His government is the reasonable one, the one that has “moved” on negotiating positions like class size and mandatory e-learning, while we teachers have stubbornly refused to accept the offer of a 1% wage increase for each year.

    If you take Minister Lecce at his word, then no wonder you see the unions and our job action as petty. His government is just trying to pay down the debt created by those irresponsible Liberals, and if increasing class sizes and moving students towards e-learning to cut education worker positions is how they need to cut costs, well … that's what has to be done, right? Yes.

    The problem is that it's not that simple. It's never that simple.

    Both sides have been throwing numbers out into the void like they're going out of style. Lecce keeps repeating that OSSTF's cost-of-living increase in wages (which…

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  9. We are not the enemy

    Tomorrow my local district of OSSTF, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation, is holding its strike vote. This vote determines whether we union members give our leadership a mandate to engage in job action, once we are in a legal position to do so, if they feel it is warranted. This could take many forms, from work-to-rule to rotating strikes to an all-out strike. It’s not something we do lightly. Although the Ford government is sadly not unusual in its unproductive approach to bargaining with the unions of teachers, support staff, nurses, and other public sector employees, it is certainly more vicious and more perfidious. No other government has so quickly sought to shift the rhetoric and vilify hard-working people, like myself, for seeking to preserve the education system we have and obtain minimal cost-of-living adjustments to our wages.

    At 30 years old, I’m young enough that the last time teachers went on strike in Ontario, I was affected as a student instead of a teacher. This is my 7th year of teaching. During the previous contract negotiations 4 years ago, there was some discussion of striking, and I wrote a defence of striking as a response to a letter…

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  10. Supercut

    "And in my head / The visions never stop / … There's just a supercut." (I know it's a song about love and loss, but I still love supercuts, mmkay?)

    A very young me and my brother, standing next to each other on the sidewalk, in windbreakers.

    I'm in Grade 4, and I'm holding a book from the school library all about idioms, which is entirely on brand. I already knew I wanted to be a teacher by that point, by the way. (The kid on the right is my younger brother, Brad.) And we're wearing fluorescent windbreakers, the height of ’90s fashion!

    Me standing next to my friend Lauren, who is much shorter than me.

    Although I'm sure I can find photos between 1999 and 2005 if I look somewhere, most of my extant digital collection dates back to 2005, when I got my first digital camera. Here I am in 2008, a year out of high school. I visited my friend Lauren, who lives in Ohio and whom I had only known online, for about 3 years. It was my first time travelling by myself, and back then going to meet someone you'd only ever known online (and stay at their house for two weeks) was still quite adventurous.

    This also begins my long history of awkwardly taking photos with people who are much shorter than me.

    Three women I worked with at the art gallery and me sitting in what I believe is Applebee's. From left to right: Dayna, Thea, Brittany, and me.

    You know what the secret is to avoiding awkward tall shots? Take the group shots sitting down! I believe this is in an Applebee's in 2010. At this point I had…

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