torstai 6. heinäkuuta 2017

Helsinki Pride 2017, Acting Against Discrimination



For me this Helsinki Pride was full of political substance. As a representative of Dreamwear Club I attended numerous political meetings and panels.

The first of this kind was on Tuesday. It was about non discrimination at work places arranged by employer organizations, labour unions and the Non Discrimination Ombudsman.  They had a Finnish carrier Finnair as an example of non discrimination policy. I was not convinced it would be the policy they have instead the diversity of the background of the staff to get their result in that area. So it was maybe too an easy case.

                       The panel of trade union, employers and officials


I told them about our survey about gender diversity at work places last year. I also emphasized the importance of being proactive to be ready in the situation where the workplace faces the fact a qualified employee turns out to be neither cis nor hetero. I also told about our educational material about how to get the equality plans live at the work places concerning the gender diversity.  

                                 

On Wednesday noon I took part in the evening about Transact, arranged by FinnishAmnesty, and Finnish LGBTI organizations Seta and Trasek. I had told about our visit to minister Juha Rehula who is responsible of this matter. In 2015 he showed us some sympathy but due to agreement made during the government negotiations he couldn’t do anything. Now he was a protector of the event, though not present. Instead him his successor and thus soon coming new minister Annika Saarikko was there with opening words. Unfortunately she rushed away before the discussion.


                                               Annika Saarikko

     The panelists, Jeanette John from Norway, Sakris Kupila and Panda Eriksson

We heard about the legal situations in four Nordic countries. Of these four only Finland still have infertility demand in the law before one can change her/his legal gender. Denmark has the most advanced law allowing a person just change the gender code by self determination. Norway and Sweden are also heading for more liberal direction.  They told there are some severe problems even in their legislation but compared with Finnish situation it’s much better in every other three countries.
Demand on non fertility is announced to be a violation against human rights by European human rights authorities. So in Western Europe only Finland, Switzerland and some minor countries has it in their legislation; Belgium just got rid of it.

In FInland there are two papers for the new trans legislation: One was done during the former and more liberal government and the other is a initiative made by a Member of Parliament. Neither of them contain self-determination and both have some inadequate changes to the rights of young trans people. So we hope the new minister Saarikko will start preparation for a new law which has the elements a modern transact should contain.

In late afternoon I attended the other panel discussion arranged by the LGBTI networkof the Finnish Parliament. The audience asked them about the situation of the maternal law initiative, transact and the situation of LGBTI asylum seekers. The LGBTI asylum seekers have quite hard difficulties on the other hand because of the discrimination they face in their accommodation spaces and on the other hand because of the immigration authorities who don’t believe their stories.

                The members of Parliament answering the questions from the audience 


I asked the Members of Parliament whether they are aware of the situation of the name law preparation. It turned out they weren’t so I gave them an advice to take the issue to their agenda: The new law would propose almost all the names should be gendered so it would make the non binary people harder to get the suitable names for their gender expression. Opposite to Swedish legislation the new proposal doesn’t even identify the possibility for a person to have both male and female names. They appreciated my notion and promised to do something.

After three such political sessions I decided to do something else. So I went to Lavatanssit (dance hall ball) to meet friends and shake my legs. The band is always the same and always as fascinating: The Vallila Tango Orchestra playing Finnish traditional dance music with some energy by its British singer with genuine rock background.



Thursday was reserved for some rest and household but it didn’t go that way: A friend from Bureau of Non Discrimination Ombudsman called and asked me to the meeting – time for getting ready and be there was two hours! Five years ago it would have been totally impossible but now I've grown faster and could made it - I was amazed! 

The agenda was co-operation with police and LGBTI-people. The relations between these groups haven’t been especially warm. The main reason for that is the conversation on a closed and secret FB group for policemen was revealed and it contained lots of racist substance. On the other hand the Non Discrimination Ombudsman had invited many authorities to join Helsinki Pride on their truck which had waked anger among many people who think such institutions may not be supported or let be pink washed under the rainbow flag. Many also reminded that the Pride movement has originally started to resist police violence in Stonewall riots.

In the meeting representatives of Seta and Trasek told they have got a lot of hate messages after been in media. They also told they were not taken seriously enough when they reported this to police. One problem is misgendering and problems with ID card. According my experience such problems are far more frequent with other authorities than police. Still another problem is a thought that police should treat every customer equally, many times interpreted that they should do it in same way which makes it insensible to needs of the customer.  Seta and Trasek people didn’t tell incidents where police has been an active part of LGBTI-hate though. 

I’m very much concerned the fact that the total amount of hate speech increases the tolerance to interfere to the matter which could on the other hand increase the feeling to be mistreated for being a discriminated minority and on the other hand encourage the hate speakers do it more and more openly.

                                                    Bee Bailey


There were two special guests in the meeting: Bee Bailey from British National Trans Policeassociation and Rob Verf from Dutch Pink in Blue. Both told their associations had been founded for need for support to trans or gay policemen. Gradually the official police organizations had found out they could use the special skills and network these LGBTI organizations have. So nowadays they have their own budget and extra time resources for their special tasks. They also make the rainbow issues known among the other policemen. Rob stressed out that they may not change attitudes of every policeman but they can guide them to adopt this aspect as a part of their profession. As not every policeman is capable to handle these kind of cases in Netherlands there are a center in every major town where members of discriminated minorities can report crimes against them to a person who is not a policeman.



                The whole symposium, photo by Seta

In Finland the situation is totally different. There is only a few openly gay police and there is no education on LGBTI issues in basic or continuing education of police. We offered our help to this matter and encouraged the Finnish gay police (we had one in the meeting..) to get organized – for their own and also for the customers benefit. The members of the Police Board of Finland told us that they will start a program for anti discrimination including LGBTI issues very soon. Rob told the progress in Netherlands was very slow and step by step and I’m afraid it will be even slower in Finland. But I’m sort of thrilled that I could be a part of such an important change, however long it will take.



On Friday I finally could do the domestic things, such as laundry, dishes and baking my traditional mushroom pie for the picnic on Saturday. In the evening we still went to the opening of the exhibition of our artist friend Maimu Brushwood. She performed her poems both on video and in live session. After that we still wanted to visit a Pride supporter Hotel Clarion which happened to be very near the art gallery.

                                    Maimu in action



                                          At Clarion

On Saturday we naturally took part of the Pride Parade. The weather was quite chilly - again. We marched in the Gender Diversity Block containing somewhat 350 people. There were about 35 000 people in the whole parade which is about the same as last year. There was much less audience along the parade route though, due to not so good weather.

                                      Tuija ready for the parade

                                     

Maybe the other thing was there was a warning of Nazi raid. There had been some incidents in the Parade during the years, the worst being an attack with pepper spray. And the a small number of Nazis were active also this time, mostly just making videos of us. We tried to stop them video shooting the trans kids we had in our block to cover the camera with a rainbow flag in a fishing rod. There also were some hard criminal Nazis openly near the parade but actually they were strictly guarded by their “personal police”. Finally it turned out the worst thing for us was a plastic bag of horse shit and even this action was stopped very discretely by police. Also the Nazi demonstrations near the parade were stopped.


Actually there was an incidence from the other extremists: Two anarchists sat in front of the truck where the guests of the Non Discriminating Ombudsman were. They were moved away very fast and since they resisted they were also arrested by police. I’m not happy about such an activity: The actions should direct to the accurate and acute problems - even against the police if needed. Now the police taking part to Pride parade as a guest is expressing goodwill to rainbow people and also an important sign to the police staff. On the other hand we have been very much sheltered by police against Nazi attacks many years. So for me maintaining the thought of the relation between police and LGBTI people in the times of Stonewall riot is a mere romantic radicalism without any wish to make the world better in this area.     


The parade ended to a nice Kaivopuisto park where we had our picnic. My pie was a success, I had no problems to get rid of it. 

           Meeting Rob and a Finnish police chief Måns Enqvist at Kaivopuisto Park


After a short time at the park we headed home to change for the last traditional act of our Pride schedule: The Sherry Coffee Ball by lesbian organization Mummolaakso. The music was not live but the DJ Laila-Annikki has a sense of the audience to make people move. And I moved, indeed!


Happy and hopefully warm enough summer for everyone!


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keskiviikko 5. heinäkuuta 2017

June 2017; the global warming cancelled...?

My summer started in the middle of June. Or only my holiday started, the weather didn’t seem to agree. There were only some single warm days between periods when the big turbulence targeted us its northern side with cold winds. So the nature has been about two weeks behind its normal schedule what comes to growing and blooming.



                         The first holiday day happened to be one of the rare ones.


The weather was still o.k. in Helsinki when we headed for Krakow. There the temperature was about 12 centigrade and hard wind from North felt so familiar again. We had something to wear for both cold and warm weather with us so our big suitcase was quite full.

We spent our first day at the Krakow old town.  Krakow has been a former capitol of Polish reign and it showed in many old houses and especially the huge Wawel Castle. The town is still partly under the construction and not as refined as for instance Prague.



                          At the main market square of Krakow




                       In the streets of Krakow old town



                        At the yard of the Wawel Castle



                        A view to the river Wislawa from the Wawel Castle


Krakow has always been the center of Polish religion life and it’s full of churches and cathedrals – many of them from the middle age. Some are said to be built to reconcile the sins of the king and it seems the sins used to be enormous...




                            One of the numerous cathedrals


On the second day we made a trip to Tatra mountains in the South West part of the country. The population there uses a dialect resembling Slovak language and I very much doubt they were asked to join Polish nation in the middle of the 18th century when they were integrated to Poland both nationally and to the Catholic Church instead of their own religious tradition.

In Tatra region we could see villages with old houses totally built on beech logs. Our guide had an idea to visit some places there but the problem was it was a time for Sunday mass so no one was there to open the doors. The only place we could visit was the local museum where an old lady told us stories from old days.




The walls of the houses are very clean because the lady of the house must wash them every spring. You can also hire the cleaning woman to skip that hard work...



The Tatran women seemed to wear sort of semi folk costumes with a long skirt made of a special kind of flower patterned fabrics.



We went to the top of the high hill to see the wonderful valley of the Zakopane city. Because of the thick fog we saw nothing. Well, we saw it after entering it in a tramway down the hillside – still without any views. Zakopane is rather a small town but being a center of the Polish winter sports it’s full of hotels and tourists.    


                A view to the the Zakopane valley from the hill.... use your imagination!


                      A view from Zakopane to the hill we just visited




In Zakopane we had our lunch and we wanted to have some rural food. And rural it was, a huge amount in very cheap price!



On the third day the heat wave entered us in Krakow so we could use our summer dresses at last. We spent our time visiting the places with Jewish history. The old part of Krakow called Kazimiera was once an important place for Polish Jews. Actually it was a mixture of Catholic and Jewish town and the ghetto was even further from the Krakow old town. There we visited a synagogue and had a Jewish lunch.



                    A Jewish lunch at Kazimiera market square



                    An inside view of a synagogue in Kazimiera



          The Jewish cemetery. The stones are from the relatives who have visited the tomb.


We also visited the ghetto and the Occupation museum founded at the Schindler mills – the actual place for the Spielberg film List of Schindler. The ghetto was totally wiped away and rebuilt so there was nothing to see in that respect.



                      A fragment of the wall, the only reminiscence of the ghetto



The Jewish population was almost totally destroyed and nowadays there aren’t many living in Kazimiera. While there were many Poles who tried to rescue the Jews the Polish people seems to have difficulties in recognizing the fact that many participated to the holocaust and many were anti-Jew even after the war.



                     On the sunny bank of Wislawa


On our fourth day we left the sunny and warm Krakow to enter Helsinki which was rather chilly again. The same evening we had an appointment with our friends Jula and Martina from Nurnberg Germany. We had a dinner in a nice restaurant Kappeli in the heart of Helsinki discussing about trans policy situations in Finland and Germany among others.


                     With Jula at Kappeli  




Last year we skipped the cold Finnish Midsummer when we traveled to Pärnu Estonia. This time the trick didn’t work: Our Midsummer in Viljandi in Southern Estonia was as cold as it was in Finland. Viljandi is the fourth biggest town in Estonia but while there is only three bigger cities it is populated only with 20 000 people. As a typical Estonian town it has a ruined medieval fortress and old town with wooden houses.   




                       A scene in Viljandi




                      The fortress ruins of Viljandi



In Finland we have our Midummer bonfires called “Juhannuskokko”. The Estonian parallel to it is “Jaanituli”, meaning about the same. The smell of Jaanituli is different from Juhannuskokko because the differencies between wood material: Juhannuskokko consists mostly of conifer like spruce and pine and Jaanituli contains mostly leave trees like elm and beech. Last Midsummer we saw and smelt Jaanitulis only from far away. This time we visited the official Midsummer festive of Viljandi with rather big Jaanituli.


                      At the Jaanituli in Viljandi



As the summer is so late we really saw roses called “Midsummer roses”. Normally they are blooming at the time of Midsummer in Central Finland.



Though the weather was rather chilly it was not particularly rainy. For that reason we had a good conditions to make an excursion to Viljandi Soomaa (marsh area) national park. It has many kinds of environments, from thick forest and open marsh to fresh meadows. We chose the latter and enjoyed a nice walk in the beautiful semi cultural landscape.
  



                           The Soomaa landscape



While we had a lot of time during our way back home we also stayed for a while in Tallin.



          At the market square in the old town of Tallin.


I also took part of the belly dance summer course of my leader Marinka. This time we had a Finnish music to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the independent Finland. It's based on Finnish folk tune with rap elements. The story is about the boy who is a little bit wild. "Lempo" is a name for a Finnish spirit who is also wild and sort of erotic. There's a funny coincidence in the words: A common Finnish folk song refrain "Jalajalla jalajala jalla vei" resembles the Arabian saying "Yalla yalla" (Let's go !)   :)



Photo by Marinka Nyqvist

The performance took place in the street near the dance studio between our journeys. The weather was cold again and it has been raining. Luckily the sun started shining just when we started the video shooting.  Our bodies had produced heat enough to resist coldness of the Northern wind. The loud speaker used in video shooting was so little we couldn't here all the silent places of the music. You may see the result here.





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tiistai 13. kesäkuuta 2017

Oh my May 2017

In my last blog I hoped for a warmer spring from now on. It didn’t happen: May 2017 was one of the coldest as long as I can remember. There were a mixture of sleet hail, snow and water mostly available.

Luckily some days were warmer, including the Mayday when it was possible to enjoy sunshine at the garden. But it didn’t last long... 

The other exception was 19th of May with 26 centigrade warmth. We were at Hauho meeting and I took an advantage in going to swim. This time the water was really freezing after so long cold period so I didn’t swim very long time. 



However I didn’t feel myself cold after swimming and I also enjoyed the warm and pleasant evening outside - the only one of this kind in May, unfortunately.






The Hauho meeting was sort of normal and the program was mostly based on our own activities. I gave a couple of lectures according to my blog articles which also paid quite a lot of attention.


Our oriental dance group decided to do some costumes by ourselves so we had a sewing session at Leppävaara library. There is a facility for sewing with a couple of sewing machines and a broad board for cutting fabric. Our master seamstress Katri even brought two sergers with her. First we went to a fabric store to choose the right material. I chose dark lilac velvet-like fabric for a skirt. Our leader Marinka had patterns which I had tested earlier. I also bought some satin ribbon to fix a top which had a hole under the armpit.  



                                               Photos by Marinka Nyqvist

I have had bad Karma with sewing machines so I wanted to have some support with using it. With the help of two Katris I managed to accomplish my goal, a skirt, mending the top and also shortening a long skirt. We had fun and the library audience was interested in us. A member of personnel wanted to take pictures of us and she published some of them on the library Facebook site.

Katri (the one mentioned first) had been busy with her serger: She made white tops for many of us. This made some nice unity to our appearance when we danced Myrskyluodon Maija based on a story of a Finnish woman in the 19th century. 


                                             Photo by Marinka Nyqvist

The performance in our spring show was a co-production of two groups, our Marifet and Hile. Marifet also danced a more traditional dance Mish Fadilak. We had quite a hurry in the dressing room because we had to change the costumes and jewellery and even strengthen the makeup between the dances. Hile had even less time for that so we had to help them to change.


Photo by Monna Timonen

Partly because of that hurry and partly because my long lasting flu I got my dance didn’t gospecially well. I’m still happy with the dance season and I decided to go on with it by taking part to the summer course of Marinka.


I also visited The Helsinki World Village Festival. It was situated partly in the park and partly at the square in Helsinki Downtown. There had been a refugee demonstration camp from February at the square. A racist organization The Finns First also had their counter demonstration camp at the same square. The police did allow the place in spite of the fact there would be some provocation between the demonstrators. The Finns first camp situated on the area The World village rented for their purposes. First some Helsinki official decided to chase both camps – for equality reasons! The decision was repealed and the both camps were allowed to stay. So when I went to the festival area I happily walked through the refugee camp but for some reason passed the nazi camp with distance.



There was nice ethnic music at the festival but because my flu I had to restrict my desires to dance along it. Instead I stayed some time at the table of the LGBTI organization Seta to talk with people about this kind of issues. 


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maanantai 1. toukokuuta 2017

Chilly and versatile April 2017


This April has been full of different things, some somewhat usual and some not.

One of the items of the month is the trans legislation. As I have told before, there are some severe defects in the current law which regulates the change of official gender. The worst is the one which demands a person to be castrated/infertile before the legal gender change. This is the one international civil rights authoritative have blamed Finland. The other one is the age limit of 18 years. The third is the connection of legal gender change to medical studies which makes the whole process really long – and also very expensive to the society.  

The previous government made a paper for the initiative to change the two first defects. However the Christian Democrats blackmailed the other parties in the government to stop the process. The current government is not willing to do anything to the matter due to the True Finns, very populist racist and anti LBGTIQ party.

But we won’t give up...

Last summer a network called Translaki.fi (Trans law) was founded. It has been active in this matter to promote better trans legislation. Actually the goal has been thrown even further, to the right to totally determine one’s gender – as it is allowed in Denmark and in Malta.

One of the branches of the network is an informal LBGTI network consisting of members of parliament. Together with it the panel discussion about the matter was held in the beginning of the month. All the parties in the parliament was present in the discussion where the representatives were asked if the back our aims. Surprisingly only the Christian Democrats were strongly against and their representative even tried to use her authority as a gynaecologist to assure the gender dysphoria could probably be just a phase in young people’s life – I hope she’s never going to meet such a person at her professional practice! Even the representative of True Finns was for our initiative, though she had to admit she’s one of the very few people in the party thinking this way.



                   At the Parliament promoting the better trans legislation.

In the end of the month the network organized open discussions in Helsinki and Turku. The main issue was what kind of official gender registrations we should need to avoid problems. In Finland we have the end of personal identification number indicating the gender male or female. For some transgender people present in the discussion wanted to continue this practice because it is so important for them to have this code number changed. On the other hand non binary people didn’t like the idea because these two codes don’t indicate their identity and they can have severe problems with such misgendering almost daily. So the next proposal was to add “other” or “gender X” to third alternative. But this practice would out some people who don’t want to be outed. For me the best solution would be a personal identification number without any gender codes – gender things for example for statistical purposes could easily be in background data and not showing in the identity card. This kind of practice would also be in coherence with international aviation regulations and would not threaten people’s safety when travelling in LBGTIQ-unfriendly countries.



                    Kasper Kivistö as a speaker at open discussion session  

What comes to another political issue, implementation of non discrimination legislation at workplaces, I was interviewed in a labour union magazine. The brief version is here. I have prepared material for education in this issue and quite soon I could educate shop stewards and HR personnel. I only have had difficulties in finding partners for it’s quite hard to do it totally on your own.


My personal life has had night and day activities. What comes to nights, I’ve been at Mummolaakso (The valley of old ladies) ball and at the theatre seeing a piece with drag ingredients called Jemina


                              With Thea at Mummolaakso ball



                        With Tuija, Hannamaria and Susanna at Jemina performance
  
The biggest day activity has been my new bicycle. So far I have used my spouse’s bike but I wanted to have my own. We went to the bike store to buy it. There were two trainees who mostly wanted to hide from us. Finally I managed to nail one of them and found a nice lilac DBS with seven gears. The regular sales person was also a bit confused and asked first to whom the bike will be registered – the thing which was more than obvious. He also managed to spell my male name in a way it was not Finnish at all!  
  
After all the bike was nice and I will use it when biking to work next time.


There also was another incidence in April which wasn’t particularly pleasant. But maybe it just belongs to women’s life these days...

When I was shopping in a big market at a mall I hear a voice behind me. The voice came from a rather small black guy dressed in a dressy white suit jacket and a baseball cab. The voice said some flattering comments of my look and proposals to do something more with him. I tried to ignore the incidence. 

When I went to my car some fifteen minutes later in a car park hall I heard the same voice: He had followed me all the way! I replied that’s something like "Hey, now I don’t like the situation" but he wouldn’t stop. So finally I turned to him, looked straight to his eyes and said: "Beat it!!"   

It worked.

However I felt very uncomfortable after the incidence. But maybe someone would say: "Welcome to women’s world!"

If he spotted me as a trans person it may have showed the sad situation of the sisters in some other countries where trans women are regarded as free chase. Afterwards I thought I could have spared a little of my time to make a conversation with him to make some facts in Finland clear about the rights of women and especially of trans women. But the situation in big car park with no one near us was too creepy so maybe it was better just to get rid of him.  


And to close up the month.... 

The weather has been chilly and there has been a lot of showers of water in every possible forms. At the end of the month even the ground was covered with about five centimeters layer of snow. My spouse had been ill quite a long time and she was too impatient to just be at home. So we decided to go a bit southwards and took a ferry to Tallinn. 

The First of May is one of the big events in Finland. It's celebration starts on 30th of April - the student may start it even a week ahead. The day is both for students and workers. The tradition has it's nice parts but on the other hand it is celebrated mostly with lots of alcohol which makes the celebration rather unpleasant every now and then. In Estonia First of May is not such a big event: The students go mostly to the university town Tartu and the tradition of worker's day is not very popular due to not so happy reminiscence of the Soviet era. So Tallinn was rather peaceful and the celebrators there were mostly Finns.

Because the weather forecast was awful also in Tallinn we had organized a sort of indulgence day for us. It included mostly indoors activities like some shopping (naturally...), different kinds of care literally from head to toe, ...


                                                 ...a nice dinner, ...



                              ...swimming at the hotel spa pool... 


                                       ...and some Fresita for a recovery drink or night cap.


Unlike the forecast has said the weather was not that bad and in fact the sun started shining which made the spa warm like in summer. The nice thing in this kind of spa swimming was that we could go there straight from our hotel room and avoid any confusion concerning the dressing room.

It seems we managed to bring the sun and warm air with us while the weather has totally changed while we made our trip back to Finland. So I hope May will be warmer and better for any kind of outdoor activities.

                                         Waiting for summer at home at First of May 

  




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