I smoked my first joint in Grade 9 with my best friend. I have never again laughed as hard as I did that night. But I also felt a calm that I remember quite well, that I still feel every time I smoke.
That calmness helped with many things. And when stoned, my mind wasn’t hung up on the words “you’re not a real girl, and you’re a failure for not being a real girl.” Instead, I composed songs, stories, and poems. I connected with my friends. Finally, I relaxed … and I started shopping in the boy’s section.
I quit smoking pot regularly in Grade 12 and stopped completely in college. But my still-undiagnosed Anxiety remained, and I strove to fit social expectations. I constantly reinvented myself, trying to find the woman I was expected to be. I kept it up for almost twenty years, always unsure.
After being laid off in my mid-thirties I had a breakdown. Soon I started smoking pot again. It helped with my medications and counselling. I learned about medical cannabis. I got better. My brain was finally calm and clear; I paid attention to what it meant to be myself.
One day, I got stoned before cross-dressing at a costume party as David Tennant’s Doctor. I never felt more like who I was supposed to be and knew this was the way forward. Though it took time, counselling, and research — and watching Mr. Angel on Netflix (thank you, Buck!) — I finally started living as Jay, as myself.
Cannabis was part of what made it possible for me to be healthy and happy, and to come out as trans.
So transphobia, unwarranted anti-trans statements, and uneducated claims denying my gender — and the genders of other trans people — from within the cannabis community hurt. But they don’t hurt just me or other trans people, those words also hurt the cannabis community.
I Can’t Tolerate Intolerance
Let me explain why with a metaphor that Twelve High Chicks readers are familiar with: medical cannabis.
So, say you’re one of the many medical cannabis patients effectively treating a diagnosed medical condition.
Experts in diverse fields have discovered many different ways that medical cannabis treats your condition — chemists, biologists, and pathologists all agree with cannabis activists and first-hand accounts that you are and should be a medical cannabis patient.
You spoke to your doctor at length and they agreed you should use medical cannabis. Your entire medical team has followed all of the advances in research, in education, and application of medical cannabis. You yourself spent a significant amount of time researching its uses, its benefits and dangers, and its history before agreeing to it.
Medical cannabis has drastically improved your quality of life, and you’re prepared to use medical cannabis for the rest of your life to keep that quality. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
Now say you also belong to a community organization, perhaps an environmentalist group. It’s something that is very important to you, is a topic that you care about a great deal, and you want to help get more people interested in it.
You have spoken with other people that use medical cannabis and many of them are curious about your group. You know environmentalism is good for you so you have hope it will be good for other medical cannabis patients too. And you’re excited to see the growth of your organization; the more people that participate in your group the more likely this positive interest will reach even more people.
You’re doing something good for the environment, for your community, and for your fellow medical cannabis patients. Yay, you!
So, now imagine one day there’s an article published about how a business has decided that medical cannabis won’t be allowed in their building.
Someone from your environmental group replies. They’ve been in the group for a very long time. They’re vocal and visible, and therefore viewed by outsiders as a spokesperson. And they put themselves forward as an elder in the group and for environmentalism at large.
They’re not a medical cannabis user, and they don’t run a business that has to deal with a similar decision. In fact, nothing about the article has anything to do with them. They don’t even address the questions brought up in the article.
They just state that medical cannabis doesn’t exist and cannabis users are confused about its use.
When asked to explain, maybe they reference Schedule II. They refer to outdated D.A.R.E. and the dangers of Reefer Madness. They cite their high school science, long since disproved or debunked. They’ve never actually looked into current research on medical cannabis, they know nothing about it.
Environmentalists without an opinion on medical cannabis wonder what the hell it has to do with anything. People in the group that have already educated themselves tell the opinion-haver they’re wrong, that they’re being damaging to the medical cannabis patients in the group and elsewhere.
Maybe the anti-cannabis argument is pulled apart, the logical fallacies ridiculed. But other anti-medical cannabis people join in the vilification, with worse claims and even less compassion.
The opinionated person doesn’t educate themselves. They don’t apologize for denying the existence of medical cannabis patients’ needs. Instead, they make demands of medical cannabis users: to explain medical cannabis, to apologize for not being nice while arguing, to tolerate a difference of opinion.
When those demands aren’t met, medical cannabis users and their allies are accused of being the ones that are unaccepting, and blamed for the argument. Medical cannabis users are told they should tolerate opinions saying that they’re confused or drug-addicted.
The argument makes medical cannabis patients unsafe. Even if the current argument “only” frames them as mentally ill or confused, and not horrible, dangerous drug addicts, it adds to an environment that belittles and erases their existence.
When people have their experiences erased, they become easy targets. And those claiming to support them while demanding they tolerate ideas that increase bullying, aggression, and violence are not allies.
Through all of this, medical cannabis users and the actual allies that have been thinking about joining the environmentalism group paid attention. They know this person is presented as an expert in the group. Even if you now told these other cannabis patients that they’re welcome, why would they believe you? Why would you still believe it yourself?
A community divided doesn’t stay a community. Soon enough groups fracture, infighting increases as people lose trust in each other, and organizational effectiveness drops as involvement does too.
But there will still be someone demanding marginalized, at-risk groups tolerate their baseless, harmful “opinion”. Not understanding is not an opinion, and we don’t have to tolerate it.
Featured Image incorporates the trans flag created by Jennifer Pellinen used under common license, and cannabis plants shot by EDI-Easterbrook Digital Imaging for Twelve High Chicks.