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A mutt named Nat

Allow me to introduce myself


My father arrived in Canada at the end of the 2nd world war. His family fled from communist Italy under the Mussolini regime. He recounted stories of running through fields while missiles flew above his and his brother’s heads. My mother, on the other hand, is the 1st born here from a family that has quite the tree going back hundreds of years. Originally from Egypt, my ancestors fled from nation to nation seeking peace from persecution. Being orthodox was not (and still isn’t), acceptable in many Muslim countries; my family was no different. Ah, the Ottoman empire. I digress.


From Egypt to Syria and to Lebanon, to finally land in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with a slew of other Lebanese immigrants in the 70’s, my grandfather started a new life here. He met my grandmother, my mother was born, and well, here I am!


Mutt-life

2nd born from an immigrant family and ready to take on the world. So why am I telling you all this?


You need to grasp the mutt that I was seen as for the better part of childhood and teen years to get why I just don't give a fuck, today.


Living in Quebec is, to say the least, special. A true cultural melting pot; you want to learn a language? Name it, you can learn it in Montreal. You’ll find people who speak it. It’s a true gift to humans who choose to see the shared human moments of evolution we can experience through our day-to-day social interactions.

  • I was too white for the Arabs: they didn’t accept me as one of their own

  • I wasn't Italian enough for the Italians

  • I was too English for the French: although perfectly fluent, they knew Totino was not “Quebecois”

  • I was too French for the English: Because my French was so clear, they assumed I was French

  • I wasn’t girly enough for the girls

  • I wasn’t a boy, so that settled that demographic

I felt like I was in no-man’s land for many, many years, facing ignorance and discrimination from every side of the cultural mosaic that makes up Quebec. It led to lack of confidence and self-harm. It led to 3 horrible high school years of bullying. I can still see the paper that was stuck to my locker: Die bitch, die.


Blood Is life

By the age of 15, I was drawing out my own blood. You may wonder what pushes someone to do that. I can’t speak on behalf of others who lived or are living the same thing. I can only speak for myself: It seemed the only thing that made me feel alive was knowing I bleed like the others and felt pain.


Only living things bleed and feel pain.

Eleanor

Centennial Regional High School stands two stories tall. On the second floor, facing me as I walked up the stairs, was a framed quote hanging on the wall. I had been there for 3 years yet had never noticed it. We often speak about the power of words, how they can cause harm. If this is true, then the opposite must be as well, right? And what if I decided to no longer give such importance to the name “Fat Ass”? What if I decided that the girl who told me I should be in the boys locker room during a sports meet in grade 5, had not received consent for her words to harm me?

Now 40 years old, I have understood this, dear reader. I consented to feeling inferior and gave power to words. WORDS. Not a knife, not a bomb, not a thief, not a rapist - WORDS, to cause me harm. I did that. Say it again with me: I allowed words to drive me to the point of self-harm. One more time for posterity: I allowed words to drive me to the point of self-harm. Does that make sense to you? If those words had the same effect on you as they did me, it doesn't make ANY sense.


In fact, it sounded absolutely insane to think that I gave words that power over me. FREAKIN’ WORDS, MAN!


Hence, my message is simple: There will always be bad people in this world. Words are just that, words. The power you give those words is on you, not the asshole saying them. If we stop preaching that words cause harm, that tomboy mutt from an immigrant family may not have consented to words bringing her to self-harm.


Maybe, just maybe, we can save lives like Eleanor did. Food for thought.


Thank you for saving my life, Eleanor. I wish you could see what became of me.



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