Yet another open letter to Joel Tucker…

I am shocked and very upset at the news that Joel Tucker, director of Washington County Libraries, has not only stood by his initial decision to censor Hurricane library staff from making LGBTQ+ displays or wearing LGBTQ+ pins, but is now also banning LGBTQ+ displays in ALL Washington County Libraries.

He claims he wants to keep the libraries welcoming and be a neutral ground, but it seems he doesn’t understand what either of those concepts mean.

When he first censored Hurricane staff, I wrote an open letter, which I never got a reply to.

In response to the saddening progression of events, here is my second open letter (as submitted through the Washington County Library System website’s contact page):

Mr Tucker,

As I have received no reply to my initial email or open letter, I write to you once again regarding your censorship of LGBTQ+ materials in Washington County Libraries.

I am an educator,LGBTQ+ ally, and MLIS candidate. When I wrote to you a few weeks ago I thought it likely that, once you fully understood the implications of your decision regarding the Hurricane library system, and listened to valid concerns from LGBTQ+ advocates, librarians, and other communities, you’d reconsider your harmful decision. Unfortunately I see that is not the case, and that you are effectively banning ALL Washington County Libraries from displaying LGBTQ+ materials.

This is a very sad day for your libraries and communities. You say you want to “remain neutral” and “don’t want to advocate for one position over another” but there are no positions involved here- just human lives. Your decision is not neutral in the slightest- it is an act that shames, isolates, and aims to erase LGBTQ+ people’s voices and rights by pretending they don’t exist.

LGBTQ+ people exist. Displays featuring LGBTQ+ content do not show any sort of position or stance- they only show real people who exist in the real world and are not going away.

When questioned you said that you do allow displays such as Black History Month because they are “not controversial”- some day LGBTQ+ displays won’t be controversial either. Do you want to be on the wrong side of history, censoring your community from access to important resources to appease the homophobic?

If LGBTQ+ content is controversial in your communities, that shows that there are people who would benefit greatly from accessing those materials- both in the LGBTQ+ community and otherwise. Banning LGBTQ+ displays severely reduces the amount of patrons who will come into contact with those materials, and so is a form of censorship.

Are complaints of controversy more important to attend to than the lives of LGBTQ+ people? Those who don’t want to see those books can walk away, put down the book. Those who need the book may never have the chance to access it because that display never went up.

Suicide rates are disproportionately high for LGBTQ+ people because of knee-jerk decisions like this one you are making- you are making these people feel like they are not fit to be out in society.

I am seriously disheartened with your current decisions and urge you to reconsider. Libraries are not a place for censorship. Hiding your materials in the stacks to avoid controversy should be the complete opposite of your mandate.
Your current vision of a “welcoming” library is not one I ever wish to visit- I hope you will think hard about the implications of your recent decisions and reconsider them.

Thanks again for your time,
-Shauna

Note: I am once again posting this as an open letter on my blog, hidengoshauna.wordpress.com

Why Cosplay?

Yesturday I came across this post by TheGamersJourney which is a response to a challenge by TheCosplayingBrooke and it inspired me to share my own thoughts on cosplay and why I enjoy it!

Cosplay is a total mystery to some people- why do we dress up as these characters, painstakingly crafting elaborate costumes, weapons and accessories? It’s expensive, it’s a lot of work, and some people look down upon it as being childish or cringey.

What’s with cosplay?

A little on my cosplay history…

My first time cosplaying was at Edmonton Expo in 2015. It was my first con ever, and I went as InuYasha. While my costume was designed by the amazing SkyCreation on Etsy, everything else was of my own making- the Tetsusaiga sword was my first weapon build, and it got tons of stares and photos- it was almost too long to fit in our truck!


A lot of my blood and sweat went into that Tetsusaiga… cutting glued industrial foam with an xacto knife is a dangerous business o.o

img_20150715_154513.jpg
InuYasha’s long haired wig was a pain in the butt, but luckily the ears I made worked well when sewn into it. I tried creating my own Beads of Subjugation with clay but they ended up being ridiculously heavy, so strung together some store-bought beads instead. I learned the trick of making realistic fangs out of acrylic nails and I’ve never looked back!


After cosplaying as InuYasha I was hooked, and I have since cosplayed Rin Matsuoka, Laito Sakamaki, Tsukimi Kurashita, and soon Krul Tepes (in progress)!


What inspires you to cosplay?

Usually I choose a cosplay project because I absolutely love the character- whether that’s a character that I am attracted to (my initial cross-plays of InuYasha, Rin, Laito) or a character that I admire or feel an affinity towards, like Tsukimi from Princess Jellyfish.


I have also started looking more at the aesthetics and style of a character- it’s especially fun to portray a character that has a unique and eye-grabbing style. For example, I cosplayed as Laito because he is my favorite character from Diabolik Lovers, but I almost chose to cosplay Kanato because he has awesome purple hair, his plushie Teddy, dark facial features that would be fun to replicate with makeup, and a really cool outfit.

Image result for laito and kanato
On the flipside of this, after having lots of struggles with long wigs, I might reconsider any future cosplay choices if they have crazy long hair!

I also consider the feasability of creating the costume- i’m still a beginner at sewing and crafting, and although in the beginning I purchased some of my pieces from online sellers, my goal is to create all of my costumes and accessories myself going forward.

What got you interested in cosplay?

Cosplay was on my radar ever since I was a young kid, I think. I’m sure I didn’t know “cosplay” was a word back then, but I used to dream about dressing up as the blue Power Ranger or Sailor Mercury. I used to pretend to be these characters when I was playing with my friends, but there was always this yearning to wear the costumes and take on the role of someone else.

Halloween was thrilling for me, and I’ve loved getting into costume for school plays and things like that- cosplay was a natural progression, I guess.


What does cosplay mean to you and what does it bring to your life?

Cosplay does lots of things for me. It gives me a new way to be creative and learn new skills- I’ve designed my own accessories and weapons, learned how to use a sewing machine, dabbled with costume and sfx makeup, and improvised materials and costume fixes.


It also gives me an immediate sense of community. As soon as I stepped into the expo hall as InuYasha, strangers began approaching and complimenting my handicraft, expressing their love of the series, and so on. I call conventions “being with my people” because it’s so fun to feel completely free to dork out and celebrate that dorkiness with others.


I love seeing diverse people of all different backgrounds and abilities, from all walks of life, young and old, coming together in celebration and shenanigans because of their shared geekiness. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of!


Who do you cosplay for?

I cosplay for myself, because I truly enjoy it, and also for the geeky community that I meet at things like conventions. Just as I feel excitement approaching someone who is playing one of my favorite characters, I love it when I see and hear excitement from others about my cosplay. When people ask to get a picture with me, it makes my day. There is something so special and magical about being tapped on the back by Miroku when I am browsing anime dvds at a giant nerdy tradeshow, and getting a picture together!

Is cosplaying freeing for you, either to be more yourself or explore different parts of yourself?

Being around like-minded people certainly does make me feel freer to be my squeeful fangirl self without restraint. Since starting my cosplay journey I feel more confident being bold and sharing my individuality even when i’m not surrounded by other geeks. It’s empowering!

Cosplay also allows me to bring a bit of the theatrical into my life. On the one hand, I get a chance to play with my own look and take on aspects of characters I find similar to myself. On the other hand, cosplaying a character like Laito, who has a personality much stronger than mine, is a lot of fun.


Participating in cosplay competitions is very rewarding even when you don’t win anything, and I am planning to continue signing up for them in the future! It’s not often I get to be on stage with hundreds of people watching me. It’s a crazy experience.

screenshot_2017-09-24-21-07-31-1.png

^Awkward Tsukimi shuffle off the staaaggeeee! (Picture rights belong to Edmonton Expo)

An Open Letter to Joel Tucker

( I have also emailed this letter to Mr. Tucker through the Washington County Library System )

Hello Mr. Tucker,

I am a library worker and future librarian, and I am writing to ask you to please reconsider your censorship of LGBTQ+ displays and buttons in Washington County libraries.

I understand that Southern Utah is a place where LGBTQ+ materials cause controversy.
However, that is all the MORE reason why it is important to have these materials visibly available.

Having displays on a theme or topic facilitates learning and discussion. Having a display on something doesn’t mean you “promote” that sort of book- but even if it did, the only thing you’d be “promoting” in this case is the acceptance, inclusion, respect, and understanding of LGBTQ people and communities. It shouldn’t be a “point of view” that LGBTQ people should be respected and treated as people rather than as controversial topics that should be hidden away in the stacks away from public view.

The mission statement for Washington County Libraries explicitly states that censorship is not tolerated and that you provide open, non-judgmental access to materials, but asking staff to take down a display is a form of censorship as it is a conscious act that will reduce the number of patrons who come into contact with those materials.

I respectfully ask that you please reflect on your policies and procedures and consider reaching out to LGBTQ+ groups for information and support in building a more welcoming and inclusive library system.

Care about your kids? Canada, Let’s Talk About Sex-Ed

In 2015, the year I graduated with my Bachelor of Education, a new sex-ed curriculum was introduced. It is a heavily updated version, the result of a lengthy consultation process involving child development experts, educators, police, and thousands of parents. It provides health information for students that is scientific and unbiased. It is inclusive and consent based.

Some infuriating news is emerging from Ontario right now as Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced that the new Ford government has made good on campaign promises to set sex-ed back 20 years to a curriculum that is so far removed from the realities of 2018 as to be an absolute embarrassment.

HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME

Fellow Canadians, remember 1998? The year of our insane ice storm that encased cars in ice, devastated power lines, ripped trees from their roots, and formed icicles as tall as your house?

Yeah, you know, 1998, when

  • Windows 98 was released by Microsoft
  • Titanic and A Bug’s Life hit the theatres
  • Pokemon Red and Blue were released in North America
  • Furby was the most anticipated Christmas gift

img_20180410_232841_285704746170.jpg

Yes, that’s when the former health curriculum was made- a time before wifi and camera phones. It was a time when cyber-bullying and sexting weren’t even on our radar, and neither were visible, meaningful discussions about consent.

I’ve seen protesters, opponents of the 2015 sex ed curriculum, holding posters saying “Say NO to irresponsible sex ed”. You know what was irresponsible? Using the 1998 curriculum for so long when it was so far behind the times.

I get it, talking about sex makes some people uncomfortable. Guess what folks, that’s WHY we need comprehensive and factual sex ed in our schools. Real sex-ed saves lives.

If you think it’s solely the responsibility of parents to discuss sex, do you trust that all OTHER parents are teaching THEIR kids about respect, consent, sexting, cyber-bullying, and sexual violence? If you read the news regularly, you know this isn’t the case, and kids suffer for it. Sometimes they die because of it.

Kids are going to learn about sex before they are adults, and not just from their schools or parents. Most grade 8 students have seen their fair share of hardcore pornography.  This is reality. Is this how we want our kids to learn about sex?

We need to acknowledge the importance of all kids receiving a proper health and sex education that will prepare them for the world.

sexed1-01

TOO MUCH TOO SOON?

There are tons of myths floating around about the new curriculum that make it sound like some pretty “explicit” stuff will be taught to young elementary school kids, but it’s simply not true. For example, consent is examined at a young age as a concept (as in “you can say no if someone asks you do to something that makes you uncomfortable”) but it is not framed in the context of sex for that age group.

For that matter, don’t believe the myth that engaging critically and matter-of-factly about sex is going to make your kids want to start trying things with themselves or others (the opposite is true). 

Kids are going to learn bits and pieces from all over the place- a solid sex ed curriculum in public schools ensures that they get accurate FACTS. Education is the best form of protection there is.

SO, WHAT IS IN THE CURRICULUM?

The 2015 curriculum is equipped for fostering safety and empowerment in students by introducing the following concepts at developmentally appropriate times from K-12:

  • Learning about the proper names of body parts, which child-abuse educators urged would empower kids to speak up about violence and abuse
  • Personal and online safety, including cyber-bulling and sexting
  • Respecting differences, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (recognizing that respecting these differences is enshrined in Canadian law )
  • Healthy relationships, respect, identity, sexuality

consent-01

For those who disagree with the updated curriculum, you have the option of pulling your kid from health classes if you like. That is your choice. Heck, you can even withdraw your kids from public school completely and homeschool them. Unfortunately, instead the “Progressive” Conservatives are regressing the curriculum for the entire student body.

Now teachers are left in the uncomfortable position of having to alter their plans toward a curriculum that is clearly not in the best interests of the students.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Some teachers are firmly refusing to revert back to the old 1998 curriculum, and in doing so are taking a stand against this ignorant knee-jerk decision. One inspiring sexuality educator in Toronto, Nadine Thornhill, is creating a video project to ensure the 2015 curriculum is still accessible to anyone who wants to access it.

Just as some educators refused to address parts of the new curriculum when it was implemented in 2016, so too other educators will now surely elaborate on topics in the classroom as they see fit regardless of the current regression to the 1998 curriculum.

I hope that school and public libraries will also increase the visibility and accessibility of titles that address consent, comprehensive sexual education, gender identity, gender expression, LGBTQ+, and online safety.

Soon I will post a blog post with recommendations of book titles on these topics.

 

 

Response to “What’s in the children’s section of YOUR library?”

The Library Think Tank group on FB recently posted a link to a video from a woman (some sort of lifestyle vlogger, I think) who has some pretty strong views on library materials and programs.

I won’t post her video here, but it is called “What’s in the children’s section of YOUR library?”

vloggerlady

The woman lives in the US, but I saw some Canadians responding in her comment section too. As a Canadian who has a Bachelor of Education, who has been working in a public library for over 7 years, and who will beginning my Master of Library and Information Studies program in the fall, I’d like to respond with my thoughts on some of the comments made in this woman’s passionate rant video.

 

“For a long time I took my kids to the library every week. I want my kids to read. I want them to develop a love of reading”

That’s wonderful. I wish more families would visit the library regularly.

 

“I brought my kid here because I thought we were going to read something like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel but that’s not what’s happening here. (They’re) trying to indoctrinate your kids”

“they read a story about a little boy who thought he was a girl…”

“the least you can do is tell parents hey, this story is pushing an agenda.”

It is unfortunate that you thought the story-time was not acceptable for your kids, but many other parents value diverse stories and want their kids to learn about families, children, and people who are different from them. Reading about people who are different than you is one of the best ways to develop empathy.

The only agenda being pushed here is a reflection of realitybased on the life experiences of many kids and people in this world. Whether you are comfortable with it or not, the library is for everyone, not just you. 

 

 “Drag queens are public libraries newest storytellers… when did it become the responsibility of the library to bring cross-dressers in to read stories to our children? I’d really love to know… this is not why we bring our kids to the library. We bring them… so they can improve their reading skills”

“Stop bringing drag queens into our library!”

As long as we live in a world where marginalized people are discriminated against, bullied, harassed, assaulted and denied equal rights in society, libraries have a responsibility to give these people voices and to make every effort to enlighten the general public that people who are different than you are not some faceless “other” to fear.

LGBTQ+ people face bullying, hate crimes, discrimination, and violence- even execution- just for being themselves.

We cannot hope to face discrimination, bullying and violence against LGBTQ+ people without making efforts to change the culture that promotes these actions in the first place. 

If you aren’t comfortable attending a Drag Queen Story Time, it’s simple- don’t go. Walk away. It’s your choice. Don’t try to take away the choice from others.

 

 “THIS IS NOT ABOUT CENSORSHIP. THIS IS ABOUT Y’ALL PUSHING STUFF ONTO OUR CHILDREN. COULD YOU JUST STOP ALREADY?”

“These are books with profanities, about sexual violence, suicide, transgenderism, homosexuality… suicide… hey, we love you library, but could you just not bring this stuff up to my kids?”

“I don’t care if you carry this stuff in your library, but the least you can do is make a section for it so that parents know what their children are reading”

“put it under gay and lesbian studies. Put it under transgenderism”

What you are advocating here IS a form of censorship.

Censorship doesn’t just mean outright banning of books, withdrawing them from the library system. Restricting certain titles and making an effort to hide them away or make them less accessible is an act of censorship. 

The library doesn’t push content on you. They provide a wide variety of materials- libraries have something for everyone. Our collections are ever-growing to reflect the diversity of our communities and our world, and to highlight a variety of perspectives on any given subject.

Libraries strive to give access to information. Again, if you want to censor what your child has access to, that’s on YOU as the parent. 

LGBTQ+ people are more than their chosen labels, or the labels we assign them. They are people with hopes, dreams, hobbies, and interests just like you. It is important that they have representation in stories because, as mentioned above, they face bullying, harassment and violence just because their identity isn’t understood. If the only people reading books with LGBTQ+ characters are those who are specifically seeking out LGBTQ+ reads, then the general public is missing out on a chance to read about someone different than themselves, and to develop empathy and acceptance. 

Furthermore, if we censored every title that someone didn’t like, there would be nothing left in the library! Censorship isn’t the answer.

Yes, some books contain content that is violent, profane, explicit, upsetting. Life also contains these things, unfortunately, no matter how safe we try to be. How can we learn about and discuss these topics if we can’t even read about them?

If you want to censor what your family sees, reads, and takes part in, that’s your choice as a parent, but that’s on YOU, not the library.

You want to bring your kids in to improve their reading skills, but that’s only one purpose of a library. Libraries are also places of programming, community, and tons more.

Please don’t boycott your library because it provides titles or programming that you do not appreciate. Talk to your library staff and librarians- I’m sure they can help you access many things that you WILL enjoy without restricting the access of others to content OTHERS might enjoy.

 

 

 

Simulation: Poverty

Today I had the opportunity to partake in a simulated role-play workshop intended to raise awareness of the barriers and challenges of being homeless and/or living underneath the poverty line. The workshop, called the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) comes from the Missouri Community Action Network, and was offered by my local Poverty Reduction Network. As someone who works at a public library in Canada and spends a lot of time interacting with low-income and homeless patrons, I am glad that I had the chance to experience the workshop.

Each participant was randomly sorted into a group and directed to a cluster of chairs that would be their “home”, complete with a detailed synopsis of each family member and the overall situation of the household, including incomes, debts, medical considerations, assets, and expenses. Those without a home were directed to the homeless shelter space. I took on the role of Albert Aber, a father of 3 who was just laid off from his job.

Each person or group had a limited amount of time (broken into 4 weeks of 12 minutes each) to visit simulated local services run by volunteer actors. We dashed from place to place with our fake money and paperwork, facing a variety of setbacks, surprises, frustrations, and injustices along the way.

Of course, no simulation, no matter how immersive or detailed, can offer a true experience of poverty. The closest I have been to poverty was when my family lived in Saint John New Brunswick and experienced the 2 year Irving strike in the 90’s. I remember coming home from school one day and finding weird film equipment in the living room. My Dad was interviewed about the brutal slog of walking the union picket line day in and day out. The film crew followed us to the grocery store to document how we had changed our shopping habits to try to make ends meet and bring enough food home. Mom says we also borrowed food from my aunt during that time.

I was very young back then, so I don’t recall those years as vividly as my parents, but I do remember their frustration. Still, for as long as I’ve lived I’ve had enough food, water and shelter to live a comfortable life, even during the times that my family encountered struggles like the strike. I am thankful for the full and peaceful life I live, and aware that I am lucky to have many privileges and supports that beneficially contribute to my life.

While a simulation could not give anyone a full perspective of what it is like to live in poverty, this is a very worthwhile workshop, because it gets participants thinking about all of the compounding barriers that can make it so hard to get out from under the poverty line. CAPS sensitizes participants to the realities of poverty and homelessness. After the role-play was done, we sat in a large circle and shared our insights and experiences.

Here are a few take-aways from the workshop:

  • When something gives, something else takes. While I was able to secure a job in the simulation and start bringing in some income again, by the time I finished work many of the community services had already closed, so I was unable to access them.
  • It became harder and harder to support my family when my wife and I were at work for so much of the simulation, and family matters kept slipping through the cracks. Our pregnant high-school aged daughter was being targeted by a corrupt policewoman, and our two young sons were taken by social services as a result of her being taken into custody.
  • Every family or person in the simulation had a different background with unique considerations and struggles- those living with mental or physical disabilities, trauma, or addiction faced additional isolation and barriers.
  • Situations became even more dire when participants missed payments, turned to pawn shops, or were coerced into taking or selling drugs.
  • Making ends meet sometimes came at the cost of dignity. Despite my character’s more advanced work experience, out of necessity I ended up taking an entry-level cashier job as soon as it was offered.

Most of the people participating in the workshop worked in public and social services and outreach, but I think this kind of simulation would be especially enlightening and enriching for those who do not as regularly encounter people who are homeless and living in poverty. Many prejudices and stereotypes persist regarding these populations, and so it is important that people have the opportunity to be sensitized to the truths that exist behind the unfortunate stigma.

My SHINee Story: A Fangirl Falls Into a Kpop World

I am 100% a Shawol (SHINee World) fangirl. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know SHINee: SHINee is a korean pop group that debuted in 2008 and dazzled the world, shook up the kpop scene, and swiftly gained a reputation for being a group whose 5 members are genuinely multifaceted, kind, funny, and dedicated.

My love for SHINee came as somewhat of a surprise, as in my tween and teen years I sort of skipped the boyband phase alltogether (despite avidly fangirling over tons of other stuff). I guess by my mid-20’s I was ready for that kind of commitment, because I found SHINee and haven’t looked back.

It all started with this gif:

kibumoddeye

I was browsing my old tumblr account one day, and somewhere mixed into the hundreds of book-related posts I usually scrolled, this gif boy introduced himself to me.

I wondered, Who is this impeccably styled, eye-patch donning, smirking man with the guyliner and flawless skin? 

His aesthetic was perfect, and his expression allured me. I had to know more!

I did some research and found out that this was none other than Kim Kibum, aka The Almighty Key, of SHINee.

kibumcommedesgarcons

^ Key with his two flufferpups, Commedes and Garcons! ❤

I found the music video that the gif came from, a live performance of Odd Eye from the Odd album. The music, written by SHINee’s Jonghyun, was sensual, playful, and hypnotic.

I fell down the SHINee rabbit hole and I’ve never come back up for air. Two of my dear friends, who are huge TVXQ fans, were excited to welcome me to the world of Kpop, of which I knew next to nothing about.

When I found SHINee (and really, kpop in general) in 2015, SHINee had already been making music for 7 years, so I had a ton of quality content to catch up on! It was also cool that the members of SHINee were all around my age.

SHINeeOT5^ from the shineeusa unofficial fanclub blog

I came to respect and admire all of the boys in the group:

  • onew
    Onew, the oldest, the steadfast leader of the group who is always making puns and cheesy gags that really crack me up. He supports the members in any way he can
  • taemin
    Taemin
    , the youngest, the maknae, who alternates between shy sweet child and expertly dancing sex god, with seemingly no in-between. His face also lends itself well to various memes!
  • jonghyunlarge
    Jonghyun
    , born the same year as me, a talented vocalist whose emotions are so true and heartfelt they resonate not just in the lyrics he writes, but in his eyes, his voice, and his tears
  • minho
    Minho
    , whose sporty competitive side didn’t really resonate with me at first (as I know zero about sports) but once I saw his aegyo and the way he soaks up every moment he is performing for his fans, I really came to appreciate. My admiration for Minho was further bolstered when I watched him in the kdrama Hwarang! P.s. his abs are the real deal o.o
  • key
    Key
    , the first to catch my eye, and the one who is especially influential to me- my bias, my muse, my inspiration. Stylish, extra, diva Key, who pampers his dogs, follows a strict skincare regimen, and teaches me that style and fashion are fun. He can pull off literally any style, and his bedroom eyes are no joke, folks. He dances energetically every single performance, and his singing voice is a sexy whine that impresses whether it’s rapping or hitting a seriously high note. His talents range from singing and rapping kpop, performing in musicals, acting (DRINKING SOLO WAS AMAZING, DIRORIIII), creating custom fashion lines, the list goes on.

18034355_10158579540990261_56020776913630207_n

^Even my car has SHINee Shawol pride!

Since I fell hard and fast for SHINee, devouring their immense backlog of music videos, albums, concert footage, tv appearances, and varity shows, I freaked out when I heard that they would be coming to Canada as the starring guests for an expo called Hallyu North.

I felt a little conflicted-  If I went it would mean a hastily planned  flight to Toronto (where I hadn’t been before), plus expensive expo tickets on top of that. Should I, a woman in her mid 20s who was saving up for her wedding, spend a ton of money to go on a last-minute trip to see a kpop band I’d been following for only a year, however intensely?

After tons of reflection, rationalizing, justifying, and consulting with my awesome then-fiance-now-husband, I came to my answer- HELL YEAH!

I decided I wanted to support SHINee on their first visit to Canada as a group. I snatched up some tickets and began dreaming of the Expo, which hailed itself as being a sort of Korean culture, entertainment, and food fest. I memorized the fanchants of popular SHINee songs and pulled anything out of the closet that even slightly resembled the Pearl Aqua Green color our fandom is known for. I got all my ducks in a row and waited anxiously for the expo date, which landed on the weekend before my birthday in May 2016.

What I didn’t plan for was the unpredictable monster wildfire that surrounded my town and resulted in one of the largest evacuations and costliest disasters in Canadian history mere days before my flight to Toronto.

^definitely one of the most surreal days of my life…

The wildfire, which had its 2 year anniversary a few days ago, May 3rd, could definitely fill its own blog post, so I will keep it simple here. As my fiance and I were fleeing the fire with our dog, we didn’t realize the scope of the situation. Before long, though, we realized that we wouldn’t be returning to Fort McMurray any time soon (in fact it was about a month that we were away before the town re-opened for residents). Since my flight was supposed to leave from Fort McMurray International Airport (which was closed due to seemingly inevitable fiery doom) I felt a crush of disappointment that it was unlikely I would make it to Toronto.

That feeling of disappointment brought with it some guilt. How could I be sad about potentially missing a concert when my father’s condo just burned to the ground and he was stranded in the north with nothing but his cat? How could I feel sad about missing a concert when teachers just drove through walls of flame with terrified students in their cars? How could I feel sad about missing a concert when many people lost their pets, and two teenagers died in a car crash during the evacuation? I resigned myself to the fact that I probably wouldn’t be able to see SHINee and reminded myself to be grateful that we got out of the fire safely.

By the time we were near Edmonton looking for a place to stay, it was apparent that we wouldn’t be able to return home anytime soon. So, I thought, if we are going to be wandering around looking for things to do and places to stay anyway, why not make the best of it and see if I could get the flight switched and go to Toronto after all?

I called Air Canada. When my call was finally answered and a man asked how he could help, everything came out in a frantic stream of babbling, blubbering in-coherency. It turns out that if you want good customer service, crying works really well!

So, we made it to Toronto. Feeling a bit guilty to be having a fun excursion given the circumstances, my fiance and I checked into our hotel in Chinatown and set about doing all the things we had originally planned- eating a delicious meal at Momofuku, browsing some local shops, and exploring Toronto.

^Thanks SHINee, for giving me an excuse to visit awesome Toronto for the first time!

I also took a few minutes to hastily write a letter to SHINee, which I would drop off at the expo entrance with all of the other fan gifts. I had planned to write them something a bit fancier than this sad looking note on hotel stationary, but hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do when she evacuates her town, yo.

20160506_084642

Finally it was time to head to the expo. We walked for over an hour to our destination, a huge expo building, and waited in the heat for several hours until we were let in with a clamour of hot, tired people (mostly girls). Unfortunately, the expo was a bit of a mess and became known afterward as a disaster. The “food fest’ turned out to be 2 food trucks with ridiculous lineups, one of which was shut down shortly after opening because they didn’t have a permit. I ate the only thing I could get my hands on- walnut wafer cookies (?) from a Korean grocery store stall. I met some other Shawol who were so kind and made me feel very welcomed, and we explored the expo together.

20160506_173821^Lynda, I took measures to protect your identity XD

The vendors were pretty scarce, several guests that had been announced did not arrive, and the concert, which was supposed to have a slew of warmup performances before SHINee, kept being pushed back as the organizers and volunteers struggled to get the hundreds of people into a coherent lineup according to the numbers on their bracelets.

20160506_172515^I mean, Hallyu North had this cute mascot, so they had that going for them? Even though he broke the #1 rule of being a mascot and began talking to me in a gruff, husky voice, but hey, whatevs.

However, none of this disorganization really mattered to me, and I was happy as a clam to be honest ( I was going to see SHINee!). It was only after talking to other Shawol after the fact that I  realized how truly poorly organized the event was. SHINee ended up having to come out later than scheduled, without the planned local acts before them, to a crowd of people who were sore and tired, in a venue that was clearly less than what they deserved, but they did not disappoint. It basically looks like they are dancing in a Highschool Gymnasium (these being the boys who sold out Tokyo Dome numerous times) but, you know what, they rocked it for us.

^Sorry that my videos are really low quality, but the boys are high quality sooooooo 😉

After the concert ended I joined the people outside who were dazed and shining like me. I chatted with a girl about how awesome SHINee was for a few minutes, and then we heard restrained screaming. We hurried over to see what the fuss was about, and it was the SHINee van leaving the arena. All of the Shawol respectfully stood on the sidewalk where we smiled and waved at the van with the tinted windows as it rolled past. From inside those darkened windows, a cell phone lit up pressed near the glass and waved back at us. I bet it was Key! It was exciting.

Later I talked with Shimmycocopuffsss (who was the MC for SHINee) during a live vid he was doing and asked him what he thought of the event. He said they asked him to be MC mere hours before the concert! He pulled it off professionally but man, SHINee deserved more preparation. Still, it was a memory I was happy to hold. I didn’t know if they would ever come back to Canada, but I hoped for it. My Shawol heart was filled, but still longed for a true concert experience with SHINee.

20160506_171900^Me & Shimmy

I wondered, would SHINee return after such a shoddy, if well intentioned, event?

The answer, again, was YES.

A more well-known company, KpopMe, posted an image on their social media hinting that a group would be coming to Canada. Shawol immediately recognized the V from the SHINee World V logo and we went absolutely wild.

It turned out that SHINee would be coming to both Toronto AND Vancouver as part of a North American tour in March 2017! I was at work when I read the official announcement, and I was afraid that when I drove home I would crash my car because I was so frazzled!

Even though we had just had our wedding recently and money was tight, I knew I had to go to this or I would regret it. This would be a proper concert! A real SHINee concert! Again I consulted my hubby and we agreed that, since I felt comfortable in Toronto, I would go alone this time so we could save a bit of money. (My dear hunbun puts up with my fangirling so well, but he doesn’t really care to join me for these kinds of things!)

I remember getting my tickets for this event like it was yesterday. I only got 2 hours of sleep because I was so anxious. I researched all of the different ways to get good seats from the tricksy Ticketmaster site. I set an alarm for over an hour before the tickets went on sale so I would be freaking READY. When the seats opened, I grabbed a decent one and felt so happy. Other Shawol told me that often better seats open soon before the concert, so I scoured the Ticketmaster site regularly and I did actually get an even better seat. I sold my old seat to a Shawol at a good discount, and she was totally happy.

And so, once again, I found myself in Toronto for SHINee (even though Vancouver is closer to where I live- the Toronto date was on the weekend so I wouldn’t have to miss much work.) I had a ton of fun exploring Toronto again, and doing a bit of a Scott Pilgrim tour.

I even visited my first Cat Cafe, where two Shawol noticed my SHINee shirt and we fangirled together! We all agreed that it was hard to function when you know you will be seeing SHINee in mere hours.

17424806_10158404526685261_2976802952361281750_n (1)

I planned to meet up with a group of Shawol for a lunch at a Korean bbq place before the concert, but I got the time wrong and I was there 2 hours early… oh well, it was tasty!

17362432_10158404526840261_3653664637194938920_n

I visited a couple of nerd shops while I was out and about- when I saw two older white-haired ladies browsing manga animatedly together in a shop, I thought “Wow. Goals. Hope that will be me someday.”

Finally it was time to head to the concert venue, the Sony Center.

Screenshot_2017-03-13-10-04-41~2

^Thanks for the reminder, NOT THAT I NEEDED IT!!!

I got there with tons of time to spare, and the first few Shawol were beginning to trickle into the area. I decided to wait in the park across from the centre, and I saw a couple of girls milling about. I thought “they are probably Shawol” and approached a tad anxiously. They welcomed me into their group like they had known me forever, and we spent the afternoon grabbing fan swag, eating, and fangirling!

One lovely thing that happened: since the concert was sort of last-minute, a lot of people had trouble getting lightsticks. As any kpop fan will know, lightsticks and fanchants are an integral part of the kpop concert experience, and Shawol are proud to show off their Pearl Aqua Ocean to show their support for SHINee. I was fortunate enough to have ordered a lighstick on Ebay that arrived in plenty of time, as well as a special Key lightstick from a small group order, but many fans were resorting to aqua balloons and cheap glowsticks. Japanese Shawol found out about this and came to our rescue, sending hundreds of their lightsticks to us freely. Even now, thinking about this kind act makes me go all misty eyed. The Shawol community is beautiful.

Finally it was time- time to enter the concert venue. Everyone lined up in a big circle around the entire building, and the excitement was palpable. Shawol young and old were literally vibrating with excitement. When we were finally let in through the doors, we were welcomed by an aqua glow.

I left my new friends as it was time to find our seats. As I was approaching my area, a young woman said “Are you Shauna?” I was like “uh yeah!?”… Turns out it was the girl I sold my original ticket to! She thanked me for selling her the ticket at a lower price, and we wished each other to enjoy the show.

I found my seat about ten seats back from the stage and sat there, shaking. I shared some small talk with the girl next to me, and looked around in awe at the other Shawol playing with their lightsticks, readying themselves, and feeling just as on top of the world as me. SHINee songs played on the speakers, and a huge SHINee WORLD V display lit up the stage. Finally, the lights began to dim and we were transported into SHINee World.

After some fanciful intro videos, the stage went dark, and the boys began to perform Hitchhiking. The show proceeded in a blur of absolute joy. Some highlights:

  • The boys pressuring Taemin to speak english and he said “Next song is… Prism…”
  • The music cutting out during Prism when Taemin was singing, and Jonghyun saying “we need your voice! We need your voice.” to Shawol
  • Key throwing subtle shade at HallyuNorth with something like “It’s our first time in Canada… well, first concert”
  • Minho playing with the crowd, flashing his smiles, and shouting “Thank you for coming. Thank you for waiting. Thank you for SCREAMING!!!”
  • Increasing my love for the songs Ready or Not and Savior because they are SO JUMPIN’ LIVE THE ENERGY WAS CRAZY
  • Key’s solo dance during Juliette
  • Shawol fanchants were ON POINT- View, Sherlock, Lucifer and Everybody were perfect
  • Taemin’s Sayonara Hitori solo
  • Jonghyun and Onew duet
  • Key’s energetic dancing throughout
  • Performance of their new song 1 of 1
  • Whenever I knew Key’s solo parts were coming up I would raise my Key banner and Key lightstick extra high and jump up happily. It’s hard to say, but I really do think he saw me and I felt his gaze on me several times
  • Our beautiful Pearl Aqua Ocean, with much thanks to Japanese Shawol

Screenshot_2017-03-27-09-51-57~2

^Screenshot from a fancam: that’s me with my pink LilFreak banner! The no-photography policy was strictly enforced, so I decided to just let go and enjoy the show, but I am grateful to those who did take some photos to help us keep the memories alive.

17424579_10158418204630261_3982613182353639963_n

^Another shot of me from a fancam, basking in the glow of SHINee XD

Besides the video and talking portions of the concert, I was bouncing on the balls of my feet the entire concert. Finally, sadly, it ended, and the boys left the stage, Minho being the last to go, waving and smiling as usual. At the end I was exhausted and, like many others, sat there feeling a sort of high, not wanting it to be over. At the same time though, I felt incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see a real SHINee concert.

received_10158408983450261^I am but a speck in the SHINee World. I have this wonderful picture blown up on photo paper framed in my room and also at my work desk at the library ❤

I joined the zombie line of people shambling slowly away from the venue towards their hotels and cars. The hotel I was staying at was just a block or two away, and I followed a couple of girls inside. Nobody said a word as we climbed the stairs to our floors- we had left our hearts in the concert hall for the time being.

I look back so fondly on that day. It was a perfect day- good food, new friends, excitement, happiness, joy, music, energy, community. I felt closer to Shawol and SHINee than ever, and still do.

Snapchat-1891515223

^Confetti, streamers, ribbon, bracelets and a balloon from the concert

Snapchat-325160999

^ Am I crazy? I don’t know, you tell me.

IMG_20170501_093134

^another happy moment ❤ Thank you Japan Shawol! On that note, my hubby and I went to Japan last year (BEST 3 WEEKS OF MY LIFE, AND DESERVES ITS OWN BLOG POST <3), and I took the opportunity to visit both the SMTown Tokyo (SHINee bar!) and Shin Okubo (Koreatown), seeking out SHINee everywhere I went.

shaunainjapan

SHINee has made such an impact on the lives of so many, both in Korea and around the world. They gave me inspiration, laughter and entertainment during some hard times in my life, and I sincerely believe that each member enjoys being on stage and interacting with fans. However, SHINee has been in international headlines recently for a heartbreaking reason.

*The following may be distressing to some readers. If you are a Shawol you know what I mean. I want to express what it was like for me personally, as I feel it will be good for me to get it out in writing, but I know some people would rather not dwell on the details as it hurts too much. Feel free to stop reading here ❤ 

The kpop industry is crazy intense. The rigorous training, schedules, travel, promotion, exercise, dieting, and so on, are absolutely harsh.

shinee21

“Idols”, such as the members of SHINee, are expected to put on a happy face 24/7 and push their own personal issues under the rug for the better image of their company. Those who confront mental health face stigma, and so some idols put on a brave face while they may be facing inner turmoil.

SHINee11

Jonghyun was refreshingly open and honest about his depression. He spoke about it in interviews, expressing how he was dealing with this pain and trying his best to get through it. Tragically, he could not. Dear, emotional Jonghyun, who had openly wept during concerts, who crooned his thoughts softly to listeners on Blue Night radio show, who always shared thoughtful reflections and deep sentiments to his fans, was not supported in his time of need. The world failed him.

jjong sad

I believe in my heart that Jonghyun did have joyful times with SHINee and with his fans. You could see it in his eyes. But then there was another side of him that was hurting even more than he let on. That, too, you could see in his eyes.

On December 18 I woke up extremely early for some reason. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and felt compelled to sit at my computer. Incredulous voices filled my SHINee kakao group chats and social media. What on earth was going on?

People were saying things like:

“Jonghyun? It can’t be true?! I won’t believe that.”

“No, don’t listen to this, we don’t have the facts.”

“That site isn’t a valid source. It’s just a rumor.”

The rumor was that Jonghyun was dead. I was so shocked I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. But the articles kept appearing, the rumors kept flying. He was killed. It was a plot. It was a suicide. It was a cover-up. It was an accident. It was a terrible marketing ploy.

What the hell was happening?

I had to go to work, but it was still unclear what truly happened. I was dazed at work, going through the motions as best as I could. By the afternoon, rumors that he was still alive (barely) in the hospital were disproven, and it was confirmed that Jonghyun was dead. Soon after it was confirmed as a suicide.

His suicide letter revealed that he was tired of carrying on for others, that he wanted peace for himself, and that his doctor told him that his personality was to blame for his depression. He finished by asking “please tell me that I did well”.

A brutal numbness followed, and Shawol came together in their grief. We worried for the SHINee members, we mourned Jonghyun, we felt guilty for not knowing how deeply he was hurting. We’re still mourning, and some of us are having troubles with our own mental health aggravated by this tragedy. I’ve heard that some Shawol have taken their own lives after Jonghyun left us, and that saddens me immensely.

Some will say to Shawol “can’t you move on by now? You didn’t really know him.”

Yes, it’s true that we fans didn’t personally know Jonghyun in his intimate private life. However, we closely followed his journey as an artist, we were inspired by his creativity, passion and kindness, his bravery taking a stand for LGBTQ+ rights and mental health in a society that still views these things as taboo discussion. We took his remarks to heart, and we truly cared about him as we do all of the SHINee members. Jonghyun was a part of our everyday lives, and losing him truly hurt. Furthermore, Shawol are a community who bonded over a shared love of SHINee, and the relationships and connections we’ve formed with each-other are undeniably real too.

“Life is a series of encounters and farewells. I believe we grow in the process.

For now, it is very sad but we will meet again.

We can hope for that day to come soon, and we will be able to greet each other with much bigger welcome.”

— Jonghyun

I hope that all Shawol can find peace when the time is right for them. Some find solace in spirituality, or religion, or things they perceive to be signs from him. I don’t know if I can feel peace that way, but it’s different for everyone. Personally, I was numb for a long time, but I have come to accept reality. Sometimes it really stings suddenly, but this is how it is now.

bty

Once again the kindness of Shawol uplifts me. Many have reached out in various ways, beginning initiatives in Jonghyun’s name to raise money for mental health causes, creating projects to memorialize him, and supporting other Shawol who were so lost in devastation that they didn’t know how to carry on. Shawol is the first fandom that I ever really opened up to and actively participated in, and it feels like one big family looking out for eachother.

One very kind Shawol extended the offer to bring messages from international Shawol to Jonghyun’s memorial in Korea. Thanks to this thoughtful person, my message for him made it to Seoul.

“Jonghyun, I hope you are finding the peace this world could not give you. You did well, and your legacy will shine forever.”

– Shauna D

Jonghyun memorial

Jonghyun left us with one last posthumous album, Poet | Artist. I try as much as I can to remember him as the smiling, happy, laughing man that I know existed on the other side of his dark despair.  SHINee is always 5. I hope that Key, Minho, Taemin and Onew know I support them fully whatever they decide to do in the future.

And Jonghyun, you did well.

jonghyUn1300