I am an agnostic at this point. I do think that there are forces that we don’t know and can’t comprehend, but I don’t believe in any one ideology. I was raised pretty Christian. My mom was Christian, my grandparents are WWII Austrian Catholic. My dad…we don’t even know what he is. He never says anything about religion. So it was never really enforced. Sometimes my friends would bring me to church, or my grandparents. And then one of my friends invited me to Bible camp over the summer. We were like ten, it was a lot of fun, archery and kayaking. And also some low-key sermons and chapel. I kept going back because I liked the friends that I made at that camp. I remember getting in my teen years, and thinking, ‘this is getting kind of heavier and more serious’. I leaned very far into it at first, I was kind of a zealot. One of my best friends was a Satanist, and I remember just railing on her. I later apologised, we’re still best friends! But there was a lot of her telling me to go away. That’s kind of what I feel with anybody who’s really uppity with their views. And to be honest at that time I wasn’t particularly respectful of other people. I really did believe that I found the proper way to be in the world, and I didn’t look down on anybody for different views but I would definitely try to persuade other people. Because that’s what I believed.
As I was getting older, like 16/17, and the more I got into human rights, I started realising that they didn’t sit together for me personally – but this is not to say that Christianity and human rights are fundamentally opposed. I generally don’t like organised religion because of some of the divides that can make. It has the power to do an awful lot of good and a lot of bad in the world. I just wasn’t really finding a good community that actually accepted people the way that they say they do. I ended up getting kicked out of that Bible camp because I was really queer friendly and asked too many questions. And the more I got into feminism I started realising how I thought the world should really be. In a large way I actually do consider feminism my religion. Because to me, human rights is the highest power in my life.
I went to the university of Calgary and was becoming more socially conscious. I started out being a white feminist, quite frankly, because I hadn’t even heard of intersectional feminism. I had a really great mentor, he made this really great space for queer folks to come and hang out in at the university that was safe for everybody, and I got to be a volunteer there. I got matched up with him as a mentor, and I remember saying to him that I am not a feminist, I am an equalist. And he just looked at me and was like ‘Oh sweetie, take a women’s study course’ [laughing]. He seemed like a really smart guy and the more I got to know him I wanted to be more like him. So I ended up taking a women’s study course. And that is where a lot of my previously really bigoted and close-minded opinions started to get opened up. You know, the first time a I saw a hijab I thought they were really beautiful. But then someone, obviously a white man, told me they were a symbol of oppression, I was like, oh well, I don’t support that. But then through the women’s study course I learned a lot more and started meeting those people that were affected by those different ideologies and biases in the world, and the next thing you know I started organising and protesting with the Calgary Muslim community. Going into that class was a really big turning point for me, and being held accountable to that academic community where you were never going to be ostracised but holy hell are you going to be held accountable, to the people there, and whoever you’re going to influence.
I am a really big picture person. So unconsciously I was always looking for what is the highest authority. What is the common denominator between everything that I believe in and value? And for a long time I did think that was Christianity. As, at least in my experience, it started to conflict with what I thought was right in the world, things like gay rights, things like being a woman with a masculine personality that has agency and independence, I started looking at, well, what ideology, what category is that now? And it turned out to be human rights. To me, a human right is, even if you don’t like it, this is inalienable. And I am actually really interested in materialism, not buying as much as you can, but the Victorian, aesthetic kind of materialism. Where it’s just about: maybe there’s an afterlife maybe there isn’t. But I’m here right now and what can I do with today? And maybe nothing matters more than that. I’m not really willing to battle over if there’s a god or not. But I’m willing to fight for who’s here right now. And so that’s why I settled on human rights and agnosticism, because I don’t pretend to know anything about a god or gods that exist, but I’m here for other people.
I am lowerish income, and I do feel conflicted when I can’t afford ethical meat, or clothes, that are not from I don’t know where. This isn’t meant to be a cop-out answer at all, but I think that change needs to happen structurally, as opposed to just me making more money. So it’s not that I’m not responsible for the consumerism that I practice, but there has to be a structural change where anybody should be able to afford clothing and food that doesn’t violate other people’s rights.
I am a very fiery person, I am a very masculine personality and I present myself as very femme. That tends to really confuse a lot of people, and I don’t really like it. I am a very affectionate person and very capable of tenderness or nurturing. But a lot of that gets really pushed aside pretty fast, when the first thing that people know me as is as an activist and a feminist, because when I’m in those spaces I’m very commanding and dominant.
One of my favourite things that I heard about religion is that Christianity is about orthodoxy, so right thought, and right heart, and Judaism is about orthopraxy, so right practice. I liked hearing about the Jewish faith that, whatever your beliefs are, whatever you’re doubting, is for you, it’s about ritual and community and coming together. And you are supposed to wrestle with your beliefs. And even though I’m not Jewish, I really liked that description a lot better than being told what to think, in Christianity.