Sunday, February 28, 2016

Woman Warrior

My mother and me, when I was six or seven
Photo by: My Dad - Brian Cornwall, c. 1967

I am a woman. I am proud of my woman’s body. I do not identify by gender, rather by my biology. I do not understand the purpose of gender expectations so I do not acknowledge a gender identity. I have been identified with assorted words that mean I don’t fit the sexual orientation mainstream culture. I carry experiences that most of you will never be able to fathom with respect to how I have been treated because of how I look and who I have loved intimately.

I spent decades unable to marry the people I love. Relationships that crossed borders had to end as there was no legal way to remain together in one country. I have been held back from advancement in some jobs and not offered other jobs for which I was perfectly qualified. Others have had their children taken away from them and many of us have been told we weren’t fit parents to adopt. I have been beaten in the streets for how I look or for holding hands or kissing my partner in public. Others have had their families abandon them – ashamed – choosing their religion over their children. I have been abducted and assaulted by taxi drivers when I tried to stay safe by not walking to a bar or home from one because those men knew what I needed to make me “normal.” Shame and fear often kept me from reporting these crimes.

I have been eroded by heteronormative society for decades. Some of us could not cope – some took their lives while others of us struggled with a variety of addictions, seeking any kind of control or relief from pain and isolation. Decades ago there were far fewer opportunities to find counsellors who understood issues facing lesbians. Some of us remain, standing, eroded, exhausted in fact, still trying to be heard and have these wrongs acknowledged, awaiting some sort of help or compensation for horrible acts perpetrated against us. We are weary. We do not need to hear “but isn’t it better now?”

It is better now. We are pleased about that, but it does not take away that which we have experienced. We have suffered greatly though our bodies, our hearts and minds as a result of systemic hate – much of which still exists but has gone underground, leaching up in ways that are more difficult to see or prove. The comments are whispered or couched more carefully. We are still being assaulted and cat-called in the streets by people who are terrified of difference and choose fight over flight – we are women, after all, and popular culture continues to portray us as disposable.

I am here to say, I will not stop pointing at the elephant in the room. I will not stop ensuring people are aware of what has happened and the damage that has been done. I am proud to have survived, unapologetic for the scars I bear. I am a warrior. I am more than the sum of my sexual orientation and the losses and wins I have known because of it. I will not be silenced while I have air to breath and I will not be your token queer to mark that you are "okay with the gay."

My name is Gillian. The name means youthful. I still have joy in my heart and love to give. I am from a family of warriors, of Cornwall and Jay and, while I am the first generation for a long time not to actually go to war in uniform, I have fought, strong and proud, for as long as I can remember. The Cornwall battle cry is said to have been, "La Vie Durante" translated "During Life".

May we all find peace in who we are as individuals; thus, find peace with one another: peace, respect and celebration of difference.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 28, 2016

Self Portrait
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Shipwreck Beach - Lana'i, Hawaii
Gillian Cornwall, c. December 2006.

I am re-posting this article from 2014 as the concept of choice has been at the forefront of my mind. I watch as people struggle with their environment, finding it does not fit their needs and feeling unable to change it to be the way they want within the timeframe they want or need. I get this. It is frustrating to watch something and wish it were different - whether it is our job, our relationship or anything really. The fact is, we have choice. Everyday, I revisit the major players in my life and I make a choice:
  • Relationships: I make an active choice in my relationships. I choose to spend time with people or not to spend time with them and I am blessed with the incredible people surrounding me. We lift one another up and light the path for each other. We bring things to the table to share and learn and grow.
  • Work: Some days are good and some days aren't. Sometimes I am frustrated with the glacial pace of change, but everyday I weigh it out and choose to be there or not be there. No-one is forcing me to stay. I choose it.
  • Lifestyle: I choose what I eat everyday (some days it might be donuts and whiskey and other days it might be salad and water). I'm a grown-up. I choose and accept the consequences. I choose to exercise or not exercise to the best of my abilities and in the ways that best suit my level of ability. I choose.
The systems surrounding the way I would like to live don't always fit my difference from mainstream society and so I work within the laws and systems to facilitate positive change. It takes time. Sometimes there is a price. Sometimes the price has been high, but I choose whether or not to stop or continue.



Most of the time we have choice in one form or another. Sometimes we say we don't have it when we don't want to make a difficult one. Sometimes, it is taken from us and we can only make choices about how we handle an imposed situation. 

For instance, if our freedom is taken from us and we are held captive, we can only choose the impact of that captivity. What freedoms can be found within the mind when the body is held?

Too often in my past, I have held to choices made for me by others when I was a child or those I made for myself that no longer fit. Historically, I believed myself to be trapped. I have grown more autonomous with age, more capable of changing that which no longer fits. I am capable of moving forward with less fear of loss or change. 

The unknown is probably the most terrifying thing for people to face: "What will happen if...?" 

Having been without a home in my past, seeing all manner of relationships come and go, experiencing a variety of careers, holding creatures (both two-legged and four) in my arms while they pass from this life and choosing immense changes in how I live my everyday life, I have less fear of the impact of change, regardless of the kind of choice that occurred around that change. 

A downside to choosing a life with less fear of change can be isolation - not finding like-minded folks with whom to go through life. Trust me, it's not that I don't think about what would happen if my job were taken from me or if someone I cared about passed away, rather that somewhere, deep in my cellular make-up, I know I will not only survive, but I will flourish because I choose life, truth and love over fear. When all is said and done, I will not succumb to fear. I won't let it be a self-imposed shackle to wear through my days.

Our experiences and creations all stem from how we choose to live our lives. I need to remind myself regularly that a life lived fully is the greatest life lived. I don't want to regret not saying "I love you," not taking that adventure or not speaking my truth in the face of equity and human rights or sustainability issues.

My wish is for all of us to live well, to live big, to live with an abundance of joy, love, peace and experience so 'take a deep breath and smile' (as one of my dear friends says!) and enjoy your day, with love. 

-Gillian Cornwall, edited / re-post: c. February 21, 2016
Original post: c. April 13, 2014

How deep can you go? - Protection Island, BC
Gillian Cornwall, Summer 2015

Sunday, February 14, 2016

You are Whole

Perfection in each ray of the sun, in each breath
Gillian Cornwall, c. February 14, 2016

Okay, so here's the deal, as I see it:

You need no one to make you whole; you are perfectly complete and amazing as you are. If one should enter your world to love you, and you to love them, it should only add to your already complete capacity to live your unique life. If another person depletes you over an extended period, it may not be the best course of action for either of you. If you add to the life of each other, support one another and accept one another as you were found, then jolly good!

The fact is, we needn't pair up. We can if we want to, but we cannot be completed by another. I reiterate, each of us is a whole and perfect being on our own particular path of life. As I wrote to my soul sister, the remarkable Sheila Jeffries, the other day:

"Happy Valentines Day to everyone who can feel their heart beating within their chest - each rhythmic thump is a wave of love out to the world as a gift from you to the perfect universal unity that exists within, and between, each of us ...if we just allow it to be so."

Life is opportunity to embrace the amazing machine, the open thermodynamic system, that you are. Life is your chance to be fluid, to let go, to stop holding and being afraid. There is enough love, enough energy for all. Let go. Let it flow through you from your connection to all that is - up through your feet and out through the top of your head. Let it rise up through the world and cycle down through the earth and up through your feet again. 

Gillian Cornwall, c. Spring 2014

"There is force in the universe which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results." -Mahatma Gandhi

If you aren't sharing this weekend with a lover, do not worry. You are perfect. You are whole, beautiful and full of capacity. Go outside. Smile at someone. The life you may save in doing this is the greatest love you could ever share. 

With every wish for your happiness, for your joy in the simple things and with love to each of you.

-Gillian Cornwall, c. February 14, 2016

The Golden Heart - Mystic Vale
Gillian Cornwall, c. February 2016

Resource Material: 

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Rain Coast

 Rhododendron Spring - Victoria BC
Gillian Cornwall, c. 2007

I am re-posting this poem from June of 2014 as I am ardently awaiting the joys of Spring in the Pacific temperate rainforest: the colour, the wet explosion of life, as floral fireworks. The birdsong: an orchestral accompaniment to the perpetual gift that Nature provides in her capacity for giving life and sustenance. We must respect her, at the very least, we must respect her. I am grateful for the gift of life she gives - this heaven on earth. 

This poem is an ode to the great mother - giver of life. 

Every lick of colour
sopping springtime blooms
wet paint in every green
fills the canvas of my town

Splotching pinkest pinks
Camellia upon Camellia
the fair flower that leaps whole
to the grassy bed below

Rhododendrons grow as trees here
floral monsters in pastel
a million pink and purple tongues 
catching raindrops from the sky

Now I lay me down among you
on this verdant, spongy ground
raincoat and gumboot clad
wash me clean upon this land

-Gillian Cornwall, February 7, 2016
Originally posted, c. June 1, 2014

Brentwood Bay
Gillian Cornwall, c. April 2015