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Content warning: This article discusses homophobic and transphobic behaviour, including slurs.
I am someone who grew up in rural town Ontario. You know, like Letterkenny. I knew I wasn’t straight since I was about 12 when I found I couldn’t relate to anyone about liking boys and connecting in other “girly” ways. I was a tomboy who enjoyed my outdoor time, four wheeling, shooting targets with pellet guns and playing sports. I had GI joes, Barbies, army toys and Furbbies growing up. I was lucky to live in a household that didn’t try to place more strict binaries on me. As I got older and hit puberty, I stopped enjoying certain aspects of life. I remember no longer feeling comfortable playing sports on “girls” only teams and never fit in with the “macho men” either. After high school, I moved to Peterborough. I was 20 years old, knew pretty much no one and frankly, didn’t know who I truly was. My first week here, I was verbally harassed on the street by three drunk white boys outside of The Whistle Stop. It felt like I was back in high school, where I got called "faggot" and "dyke" often. I wondered if I would get this a lot more while being here. Guess what? I did. Going out for me was looking down the street and making sure there wasn’t people around. Do you know that joke about gay people walking quicker? Yeah, that’s because we’re anxious people. Anyway, I would walk as fast as I could to point A to B, hoping I wouldn’t get harassed. If this doesn’t happen to you in Peterborough then consider yourself lucky and privileged.
Fast forward a few years later, I figured out my gender expression and more of myself. I’m an openly queer, trans, nonbinary person. Living in Peterborough being this person can be difficult. Surveys, forms, sports, dances classes and groups are still heavily gendered. Where do you go when you are in between? This town is isolating, and I am still faced with bullying downtown and at post-secondary. For an example, I started going to the gym about 8 months ago to work on my health. When I go, I get made fun of or often starred at in unwelcoming ways. I had an instance where someone who has starred at me many times kicked a soccer ball at my ankles to try to trip me. Laughing. I kicked the ball to the side because I didn’t know how to react. When I left, I realized it was used as a form of intimidation. Because people like that, don’t want me to be there. When violence or strict exclusionary values are in place, those little comments or looks suddenly grow numb and you have much bigger things to worry about while being in public. Why should I have to watch my back while I walk? Why do I rarely go out at night? Why should I feel like I don’t deserve to be somewhere? Why don’t I feel safe? I think a big misconception of trans people is that we are unwell, depressed or dislike something about our bodies. I tell you, when I’m actually alone with myself and my body, I feel happy and proud to be who I am.
There are many discriminations that I face here but I think the biggest one as a whole is getting jobs in Peterborough. Let’s remember Peterborough jobless rate is 7.5 percent and is tied for the third highest unemployment rate through Statistics Canada. Put being queer, trans and non-binary on top of that. And well, you’ll see how it’s hard to enjoy basic things. I only spend my money on food, rent and a few toiletries a month because that’s all I can afford. Living here with credentials, certificates, years of volunteer and work experience still leaves me without a stable, full time job. I urge the city and employers to do better and know that hiring LGBTQ++ individuals isn’t wrong or going to affect your business. Diversity attracts new ideas and showcases what people with different opinions or lifestyles have to offer. Be safe and kind to each other and know you aren’t alone.
xoxo, Gossip Girl
Queerlines is a column curated by the Trent Queer Collective in the spirit of previous years' Queerlines inserts (also curated and designed by the TQC) in Arthur Newspaper.