She fought to get a mat on the sand so her wheels could take her to the sea.

The day Gabrielle Peters started using a wheelchair was the day she started learning how to fight.

Peters is prickly, and it’s earned. For years, she clammed up in the face of condescending stares from strangers, platitudes from politicians, and second-class treatment from doctors. Now, when people try to “fix” her, she recommends they “take a good, long look in the damn mirror.”

When the housing complex where she lives in Vancouver was sold to a Mennonite group that forced residents to participate in prayers in the communal dining hall, she told Canada’s largest newspaper.

She doesn’t want to be saved, humored, or, worst of all, anyone’s “inspiration porn,” that flat, familiar treacle where a disabled person “overcomes” the odds to run cross-country, throw a javelin, or juggle a dozen chainsaws behind their back stories told mostly to remind able-bodied people how “good” they have it.

Peters wants equal health care, equal access, and equal rights. She also wants to go to the beach.

Until Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, it had been more than 10 years since Peters had been on the sand. “The world I exist in was not designed for me, and the people I exist with have all sorts of messed up ideas about me,” Peters says.

A self-proclaimed “city person,” the water is her favorite place to be. The forest is a close second. When Peters was discharged from the hospital after rehabbing from the autoimmune disease that required her to begin using a wheelchair, she was determined not to let her new mobility arrangement reduce her quality of life.

But, without a flat surface, determination means squat.

She tried hiking the “accessible” trail in the city’s expansive Stanley Park to no avail. The surface was uneven, the paving was intermittent, and the grade was too steep.

A photo Peters took of the trail in October, showing pebbles and pine needles over uneven dirt. Photo by Gabrielle Peters.

Accessibility, it turns out, is subjective.

At the beach, she would sit as close to the water as she could by a paved seawall far from the tideline while her friends lounged on on a sandy section nearby. When she left, her friends would get up and move closer to the water.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a major federal law mandating equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

While many Americans, particularly those who lean left, tend to view the country as a sort of “America Plus” what we could be if only our self-involved, short-sighted politicians rolled up their sleeves, delivered a killer Aaron Sorkin-style speech, and started working for the common good on disability, Canada largely relies on a vague statement of principles laid out in documents like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which calls for “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on mental or physical disability.”

Efforts led by groups like Barrier Free Canada, Every Canadian Counts, and others to establish concrete, nationwide standards for accessibility, have thus far failed to produce legislation.

In the meantime, many disabled Canadians are forced to rely on the generosity of local governments and the tenacity of their fed up, pissed off peers like Peters to safeguard and expand their right to access public spaces.

In summer 2016, Peters (@mssinenomine on Twitter) began tweeting at the Vancouver Park Board, the agency responsible for the city’s beaches, demanding access to the shore.

The solution, she discovered, was 2,700 miles away, in Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario where the town had installed a flexible mat on the sand, allowing wheelchair users to glide all the way up to the waters’ edge.

If a tiny Lake Huron community of fewer than 4,000 people could get its disabled residents and visitors to the shoreline, Peters argued, her wealthy global city had no excuse.

The Park Board replied with a “survey of a plan of priorities for some time in the future.”

It felt insulting.

It turns out Vancouver city officials were indeed working on a solution having spent the previous two years searching for a way to open up the shoreline.

Park Board Chair Michael Weibe, who also sits on the Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, spends a lot of time on the road.

When he travels with his mother, who uses a wheelchair, he keeps a running note of “what works and what doesn’t,” based on her feedback as well as the feedback from residents who write and call his office with suggestions.

“Its always great to have such a healthy user group thats willing to share the information with us,” he says.

Part of the solution, it turned out, was in Vancouver’s own backyard.

The Park Board purchased a single MobiMat dirt cheap from an event company eager to sell it.

The low cost turned out to be a warning sign. The mat didn’t come with all the required parts, which required money the board hadn’t budgeted for and then had to find.

There was another problem too. Unlike Northern Bruce Peninsula, Vancouver has 14-foot tides. If the MobiMat was rolled all the way out to the water’s edge, parts of it would quickly be swallowed by the sea.

As a result, the mat sat in storage for the first few weeks of the summer.

Peters didn’t think she should have to wait for something able-bodied residents already had unlimited access to.

On June 23, she emailed a representative from the Park Board who had contacted her after her earlier tweets. She explained the feeling of dependency that comes with having to call in and request a beach wheelchair which are not self-powered in order to get on the sand. She explained the fear of leaving one’s wheelchair unsecured, and that many people have no desire to be pushed. She explained the longing she and others experience standing or sitting by the seawall, squinting at the waves meters away.

“I want on the beach now,” she wrote.

A member of the board followed up with a phone call a few days later. The hold up, he explained, was the missing parts, which were awaiting delivery.

For the first time, it was evident that someone was listening.

On Aug. 9, the city finally rolled out the mat at English Bay Beach.

Peters had been having health complications and had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that day, but was determined to “soak in this tiny little win in a sea of inequality.”

And, of course, to “try it out and get close to my water.”

This time, her determination was met with the right piece of equipment.

She was nervous wheeling to it. As her chair edged on, the artificial surface slowed her pace, but did not leave her feeling “tippy or off balance.” She found that it wasn’t difficult to maneuver. A small gap in one section turned out to be easy to navigate.

A few minutes later, she caught the sunset.

“You’re a trailblazer,” an older woman told her.

Peters explained that she didn’t work for the Park Board, and she left to go get a hot dog. Back near the seawall, her former high water mark, she saw a man in a motorized wheelchair and told him about the mat. She watched him power over and down the path, stopping at the edge.

As she was leaving an hour later, she noticed he was still there.

“I never spoke to him, but I think I know how he feels about it,” she wrote on Twitter later that day.

Still, years of delayed promises have left Peters feeling anxious about the mat’s prospects.

“What if no one uses it?” she wonders. “What if it turns into an excuse to not make something else accessible because it wasn’t popular enough?”

The current setup is not perfect. Right now, there’s only one mat and the beach gets crowded. Also, it can’t really get that close to the shoreline because of the extreme rise and fall of the bay.

But there are signs the tide is turning. One of the first things Peters noticed was that there was no sign alerting beachgoers to the presence of the mat. If you didn’t already know about it, she realized, you would have no idea it was there.

Peters wrote the Park Board on Twitter. This time, they replied immediately.

Weibe notes that other residents have recommended creating more sitting areas adjacent to the mat to make it a social space. Recently, the Park Board purchased nine new wheelchairs with inflatable tires that can travel over sand to the water line, though they still require the aid of a friend or lifeguard.

A beach wheelchair. Photo by the National Park Service.

“Our goal is to have them at every beach because the call in [to get a beach wheelchair] is just another barrier,” Weibe says.

Peters agrees and has a million more ideas for what the city can do next.

She wants Vancouver’s beaches to get waterproof wheelchairs powered by compressed air for use in the ocean. She wants the Park Board to install a ramp by an area of stairs near the water. She wants adapted versions of the dozens of adventure activities in the city.

“I don’t get people who see this accessibility innovation as burdensome,” she says. “It’s fucking amazing and cool and requires the best kind of integrating of tech, design, ideas, and people.”

Gabrielle Peters knows how to fight. She fought to go to the beach and won. She’ll keep fighting until every space everywhere is accessible for everyone.

Until that happens, she’ll celebrate the small victory the way she prefers. By soaking in the salt air.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/she-fought-to-get-a-mat-on-the-sand-so-her-wheels-could-take-her-to-the-sea

Trans people react to the opening of a new clinic for trans kids and teens.

A new clinic geared toward St. Louis transgender teens hopes to be a sort of one-stop shop for supporting trans youth.

After opening the first week of August, St. Louis’ Transgender Center of Excellence is already booked through mid-September. It’s one location complete with mental health, hormones, and other essential services, and it’s getting rave reviews from patients already.

“Having support and acceptance is extremely important for this patient population,” Dr. Christopher Lewis, physician and founder of the clinic, told WGN News. “Transgender patients already deal with harassment and discrimination within the medical community and that is a barrier to them accessing care.”

A supportive medical environment is a big win for trans kids take it from others, like myself, who wish those resources existed when we were growing up.

On Twitter, I reached out to my trans followers to find out what this type of clinic would have meant to them when they were younger. A few common themes emerged.

For many, it would have meant help and support for themselves and their parents.

Others remarked on how a supportive environment would have encouraged them to stop hiding, sidestepping some traumatic early-life experiences.

It would have provided a sense of identity for those who felt alone and isolated, who never saw accurate reflections of themselves in the media.

Then, the emails started rolling in. “If I’d had the words, if I’d known the concepts, if I had a supportive and professional environment to turn to. I would have been able to live without a dysphoria that came close to killing me, repeatedly,” writes Alvhild Sand, a trans woman from Norway, about what a difference a resource like this would have made for her.

“It would have been fantastic if such a place had existed,” writes Gwyn Ciesla, another trans woman, who grew up in a “highly Catholic town in the 1980s” where she was “not exposed to LGBTQ ideas or openly LGBTQ people.”

“The only tools available were in the context of education, religion, and mental health, and were ineffective because they were incomplete,” Ciesla explains. “If I had known then what I know now, and a clinic like this had been available, it would have been life-changing.”

“Given what I did and didn’t know at the time, I might not have been able to get to the point where I could take advantage of the clinic’s services,” Ciesla admits, expressing hope that “the presence of the clinic might have at least increased the information available to me and helped me to understand and begin to accept myself years earlier.”

“I only survived my youth by a narrow margin, and I think this clinic might have widened that margin a lot. I hope this clinic can do that for youth now and in the future.”

The new clinic in St. Louis joins a handful of other trans-specific children’s medical programs across the country.

One of the most notable is the gender development services at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. The sad fact is that even though the Affordable Care Act effectively banned discriminating against people on the basis of their gender identity, many trans people continue to face either discrimination or confusion from their health care providers.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 33% of trans people who saw a health care provider in the previous year had at least one negative experience, were denied care, or had to actually teach their provider about trans patients. In other words, there’s a lot of work to be done, and taking steps to ensure trans people have competent, knowledgeable medical care is a work in progress.

The new clinic in St. Louis is a big step in the right direction, providing care and benefits for years to come.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-new-clinic-opened-for-trans-kids-heres-wha-it-means-to-the-community

You don’t have to march in Pride to make a difference for LGBTQ people. Here’s how.

In June 1969, a group of New Yorkers decided they’d had enough.

Patrons of the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ bar in Greenwich Village, stood up to police officers who’d reportedly been repeatedly harassing and targeting them for their sexual orientations and gender identities. The demonstrations that ensued sparked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement.

The exterior of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images.

The Stonewall Inn riots inspired President Clinton to declare June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in 1998. In 2009, President Obama expanded on the recognition, deeming it “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month,” as it remains today.

This June feels different though.

After years of having an ally in the White House, President Trump’s administration unchecked by a GOP Congress is threatening to roll back rights for LGBTQ people. It’s crucial we stand in solidarity.

If you can make it out to a Pride march in your area, excellent. But even if you can’t (or just despise big crowds), you can still support the movement.

1. Help buy a bus ticket for a friend so they can go to the March for Equality in Washington, D.C.

LGBTQ Pride marches are happening in cities from coast to coast. But the most notable one this year will unfold in the nation’s capital on June 11. The Equality March for Unity and Pride is mobilizing queer people and their allies in support of LGBTQ rights under a new administration that wants to take us backward.

You can do this anywhere, but if you happen to know someone in New York City who is interested in going but doesn’t have the travel funds, you can buy them a bus ticket on Grindr’s “Pride Ride” to D.C.

2. If you’re visiting the East Coast this summer, treat yo’self to a scoop of big, gay ice cream.

There’s nothing explicitly gay about the tasty treats at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shops in New York City and Philadelphia, of course. But the company,which started as a food truck in 2009 before expanding into storefronts, has been a proud supporter of the Ali Forney Center, a nonprofit that helps homeless LGBTQ youth.

When you scream for (big, gay) ice cream, you’re also helping the business raise awareness and resources for young people in need. And that’s a big, gay win-win.

3. Snatch up one of these glorious Pride shirts in support of LGBTQ youth in need.

Through an initiative created by Represent, 100% of profits from these shirts will benefit The Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth, as well as the NOH8 campaign, which utilizes social media platforms to promote equality.

4. Or, if you’re a basketball fan, maybe these Pride shirts are more up your alley.

Photo courtesy of the NBA/WNBA.

The NBA and WNBA partnered with GLSEN, an organization helping to make our schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ students, to create Pride shirts for every pro team. A portion of the proceedswill benefit the nonprofit.

A critical component in ensuring classrooms are inclusive is recognizing the accomplishments of LGBTQ people throughout history.

5. Commit this month to reading just one Wikipedia entry a day on LGBTQ history and queer pioneers.

School curriculums often gloss over the history of, and challenges faced by, marginalized groups. The LGBTQ community is no different.

It makes sense that many of us haven’t learned about people like Marsha P. Johnson, Dan Choi, Edith Windsor, and Harvey Milk some of the trailblazers who helped us get to where we are today.

Lt. Dan Choi, who came out as gay in 2009 while serving in the armed forces, became a pioneer in ending the military’s homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

Each day in June, take 10 minutes to read up on a famous LGBTQ figure or moment in history. Your teammates at the next trivia night will thank you for it.

6. Now that you’re up on your queer history, email a local school or school district and ask that the students there are too.

Last year, California became the first state to mandate LGBTQ-inclusive curriculums in its history and social science requirements. As Vice reported, it may set off a chain reaction too, as other states look to include more diverse perspectives and historical figures in their classroom instructions.

Send an email or attend a school board meeting or bring it up at the next PTA meeting to get this issue on the radar in your city, if it’s not already.

7. Drop in to a restaurant or store that supports its LGBTQ employees and avoid the places that don’t.

The Human Rights Campaign releases a Corporate Equality Index each year studying and ranking businesses based on how supportive their workplace policies are for LGBTQ people.

Many different factors including if a company highlights LGBTQ protections in its anti-discrimination policies or if it offers transgender-inclusive health care benefits are considered in the index.

Target which adopted pro-LGBTQ policies and created specific Pride products for customers in recent years was a top-rated company for its inclusive workplace in 2017.

Even if you’re not marching in Pride, the way you spend your dollars makes a difference.

8. If you’re not LGBTQ and new to this whole Pride thing, set aside 30 minutes to start learning about being a good ally.

Is your child or your mom or dad LGBTQ? What about a colleague or friend at school? Do you want to be there for transgender people in your community, but not sure where to start? GLAAD compiled helpful guides for allies to do their best supporting the LGBTQ people they know and love.

Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images.

Pro tip: Do this before breaking out any rainbow attire.

9. Drink some delicious wine while supporting queer artists and LGBTQ youth in need of stable housing.

In honor of Pride month, City Winery Chicago worked with four LGBTQ artists Kelly Boner, James Schwab, Tennessee Loveless, and Sierra Berquist to design the labels for its “Playing with Labels” campaign.

Photo courtesy of Dustin DuBois/City Winery Chicago.

With each bottle purchased, $10 goes toward Project Fierce Chicago, a nonprofit that provides supportive transitional housing to homeless LGBTQ youth in the Windy City. Can’t make it to a Pride march in person? Drink up!

10. Paint your nails rainbow colors.

They’ll serve as a great conversation starter with family or friends. You can mention Pride and what the month means to you.

Plus, they’ll look great.

11. Choose one lesser known LGBTQ advocacy group and commit a monthly gift to support its work.

National organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD are helping to save and better the lives of LGBTQ people across the country. Supporting them makes a difference.

But there are many other groups working under the radar that deserve our attention too.

If you’re interesting in making donations, consider contributing to organizations like Fierce, Trans Lifeline, ACT UP, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, focused on more niche (but still crucial) issues facing the LGBTQ community, often with much smaller budgets.

12. There’s a decent chance you have at least one Facebook friend who’s in the closet. Write a supportive post noting that you’re there for them, any time.

When you aren’t open about your sexuality or gender identity, coming out can be a very scary thing for many LGBTQ people especially if you have few (or no) accepting family members or friends.

Sharing a Facebook status letting any of your friends who are in the closet know that you’re a person they can talk to really could change their life.

13. Set your calendars: Most midterm elections are Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, and the LGBTQ community needs you to show up.

Midterms never get the same media fanfare as presidential election years, even though, in many ways, they’re of equal consequence. You’ll have to do some digging on the candidates in your state vying for office in order to get a good understanding of who they are and what they’ll fight for.

Mayor Peter Buttigieg is the first openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Photo by Derek Henkle/AFP/Getty Images.

There are many crucial issues that need our attention climate change, fighting poverty, creating jobs, criminal justice reform but LGBTQ rights is an issue on the ballot too. If you can’t make it to a march, the least you can do is commit to learning about how your candidates plan to help (or harm) LGBTQ people in your area and keep their stances in mind on Nov. 6, 2018.

14. Make it a goal: For the next kid’s birthday on your calendar, buy them a book or movie that’s LGBTQ-inclusive.

The entertainment and toy selections available for kids need to get better at diversity, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ representation.

Reading fairy tales like “Promised Land” and watching short films like “In a Heartbeat” and “Rosaline” all stories for kids that feature same-sex love interests will help young queer people understand they have a place in this world, while teaching straight and cisgender kids that their LGBTQ peers are deserving of love and respect.

Photo courtesy of “Promised Land.”

15. Learn about a pressing LGBTQ rights issue in your own backyard and follow a local Facebook group to stay up to speed.

Think local: What challenges does the LGBTQ community face in your city or state?

Just last month, legislators in Texas approved a bill that would deny trans students the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender. Lawmakers in North Carolina recently tried to reverse marriage equality in the Tar Heel state. Across the country, LGBTQ rights issues are being sorted out and decided by local school boards.

It only takes a few minutes to find some local LGBTQ Facebook groups and follow them so you can stay plugged in to what’s happening in your area and fight for what’s right.

16. Share this powerful video about a transgender girl and her loving family.

Some of your friends on Facebook might be more hesitant (or outright against) watching it. But that’s the whole point.

When we elevate stories that put ourselves in the shoes of someone with different life experiences, we tend to build bridges. It makes sense that when someone knows an LGBTQ person and hears their story, they’re far more likely to support LGBTQ rights.

17. If you live in a state that’s debating a bathroom bill, make sure to call your rep preferably more than once.

So-called “bathroom bills” which stop trans children and adults from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender puts people who are already more at-risk of violence in even more uncomfortable and dangerous situations. These bills are born from fearmongering and myths about transgender people.

If you live in one of the 15 states where a bathroom bill is in the works, call your representatives in Washington and voice your concerns.

Rainbow flags and festive parades are important in unifying the LGBTQ community every June. But they’re only one component of what it means to celebrate Pride.

This June, acknowledge all the positive change that’s happened since those first rioters fought back outside the Stonewall Inn nearly 50 years ago. Then, commit to helping push that progress forward while fighting the forces trying to stall it, however you can.

We all play a part in ensuring equality.

Photo by Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/you-dont-have-to-march-in-pride-to-make-a-difference-for-lgbtq-people-heres-how

One of the Portland heroes made an emotional video for all those sending him support.

Praise and gratitude continue to pour in for two men slain in Portland while defending two young girls from violent harassment on a train.

On, Friday, May 26, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best were stabbed by Jeremy Christian after they confronted him for harassing two young girls, one wearing a hijab.

The response around the globe has been nothing short of inspiring.

There have been vigils throughout the city honoring both men, who died as heroes. Support has overflowed on social media, and Namkai-Meche’s mother even wrote a powerful open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to condemn the attack.

There was a third man on the train who was brave enough to step in as the girls were berated: Micah Fletcher. He was lucky enough to survive the fight that followed.

Now, nearly a week since the attack, Fletcher is speaking out about what he saw.

After being treated for serious injuries, Fletcher is recuperating home. He posted a video to his Facebook page on Wednesday that quickly went viral:

“As a poet, you would think that I would have the words. It’s kind of my job,” he begins. “But for once, I don’t.”

https://www.youcaring.com/survivorsofthemaxattack-833557

#ChangeHerDestinee

Posted by Micah Fletcher on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Amid all the donations and support coming his way, he wants people to know one thing: He is not the real victim.

A clearly emotional Fletcher grasps for words at times before issuing a powerful reminder:

“Can you imagine being the little girl on that MAX [train]?” he says in the video. “This man is screaming at you. … Everything about him is cocked and loaded and ready to kill you.”

“So brave that young girls experience that and still find ways to wake up in the morning with smiles on their faces, to trudge through the day and make their parents proud,” he continues.

Fletcher says that, of course, the men who died by his side while defending the women are heroes, and they deserve to be honored. But he urged his viewers not to get swept up in what he calls a “white savior complex.”

We should praise the men who stood up against it, but we can’t forget that this kind of violence and harassment continues to go on every single day around the country.

“I think it’s immensely, morally wrong and irresponsible how much money we have gotten as opposed to how much money and love and kindness have been given to that little girl,” Fletcher says near the end of the six-minute video. “These people need to be reminded that this is about them. That they are the real victims. “

Fletcher encouraged everyone watching the video to donate to a fundraiser that would provide the girls with meals, transportation, and mental health care as they recover from the traumatic attack.

Doing so is without a doubt the best way to keep the fight against hate and intolerance alive.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/one-of-the-portland-heroes-made-an-emotional-video-for-all-those-sending-him-support

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it’s got nothing to do with being a “Masterchef” champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: “How do you cook while blind?”

Ha has a rare autoimmune disease that attacked her spinal cord and optic nerve. She started losing her vision in 2004 while she was in her 20s.

Ha compares her vision loss to “looking at a very foggy mirror after a hot shower.” After her diagnosis, she worried she’d have to give up cooking. It was an interest she was just beginning to explore and one she had a serious talent and passion for. Instead of shying away from the kitchen, Ha decided to learn to navigate her new reality.

“It’s like any other challenge in life; you just face it head on and hope for the best,” she said in one of her recent videos.

A seasoned chef, Ha leans into her other senses to bring her culinary creations to life.

In a recent video for her YouTube channel, Ha wears a GoPro camera while expertly preparing a mouthwatering meal of steamed whole snapper with black bean sauce and blistered green beans. She describes it as a “typical weeknight meal,” the very thought of which separates home cooks from Masterchefs.

At home, she keeps her kitchen organized so she can find all of her ingredients at a moment’s notice.

Ha is patient, taking her time to feel, smell, prep, and cut ingredients.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/this-blind-chef-wore-a-body-cam-to-show-how-she-prepares-dazzling-dishes