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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Transy Christmas arguments with the family

Last year around this time I wrote a mopey post titled Christmas in the closet. Since I'm no longer in the closet to my parents, this year's post is somewhat less mopey, though not exactly mope-free, as we shall see.

I spent the 24th and 25th at my parents' house, as did Carson and Jamey, my brother and sister-in-law. My parents live in a small basement suite, and with the five of us humans there, plus their two dogs and one cat, no one gets much personal space.

Every year mom and dad insist on making a huge deal out of the holiday. We have to have an elaborate family meal on Christmas eve, then a large traditional breakfast Christmas morning, and finally a traditional turkey dinner Christmas evening. The result is that, with the exception of the gift exchanging, we spend nearly all our time in the kitchen, frantically preparing food or washing dishes. By mid-afternoon on the 25th we're usually all a bit snippy and short-tempered.

It was during this mid-afternoon time of snippiness that I went to put some music on with my mom's laptop. "Play something by what's-its-name," she suggested.
"Mom," I said, "I think I know who you're talking about. And that's not cool."
"Well, using 'they' is too confusing," she countered. I was right about who she meant.

My mom's really into indie rock. Recently I'd introduced her to music of Rae Spoon, which she loves. Rae is an Alberta native (though now living in Quebec) who, in addition to making some really groovy tunes, happens to have a non-binary gender identity. They prefer the pronoun "they."

"Who are you talking about?" Carson asked.
"This person is a transgender person who doesn't belong to either gender," mom explained. "It wants to be called 'they', but I think that's too confusing,"
"But mom, you can't call a trans person 'it'," I said, "that's cruel!"
"Yeah," Jamey added, "that sounds really de-humanizing."
"Well, what am I supposed to say then?" asked mom. "I'm not saying 'they'."

I sighed.

"Look mom, I totally agree that it's confusing, but I'm willing to call them 'they' in spite of that, if that's what they want. That's just being respectful."

For the record I'm not a huge fan of singular 'they' and I'm personally hoping that 'ze' or one of its variations (zie, xe, etc.) catches on instead. Even so, I believe that respecting other peoples' pronouns is more important than my private linguistic pedantry. Amazingly, I managed to correctly use Rae's preferred pronouns throughout the entire argument without a single slip-up— I think I deserve some kind of tranny award for that. :)

"Fine!" mom decalared. "From now on the pronoun I want to be called by is 'dumbass'. Unless you're calling me by name, that's what you have to refer to me as."
"Oh god," I said, facepalming. "Mom, come on..."
"Well, see? Just because you tell people what to say doesn't mean they actually have to say it."

I guess what she was trying to do was to use humour to illustrate a point, or something? That's not what it felt like though: it felt like she was just mocking me for being trans. And mocking the enitre community I belong to. Stunned, I sat down on the couch and fought back a few tears.

When she noticed she'd hurt me she came over and apologized. I said "okay," but I still felt pretty awful for the rest of the evening. I suppose I sulked for a while, though I don't think I meant to— I'm just really bad at pretending to not be sad.

After dinner I left with my brother and sister-in-law and we went to hang out at their apartment. All three of us had found Christmas to be generally stressful and unpleasant this year, and it was really helpful to be able to talk about it with them afterwards.

While I was there my dad called me to make sure I hadn't driven home and hanged myself, (of course he didn't say so, but I could tell that's why he was calling)— my parents are certainly aware of the stats about trans people, even if they could stand to learn a little more about pronoun etiquette. I assured him I was fine, and he sounded very relieved when I told him I was with Carson and Jamey.

I spent a good chunk of Boxing Day relaxing and sipping coffee, and felt a lot better about everything after that.

On a lighter note, Carson and Jamey got me nail polish for Christmas! After I unwrapped it, my brother was careful to point out that the two of them had chosen the colours together— in other words, that it wasn't just his wife shopping for the "girly" stuff. He's so cool.

Yay! They obviously know me pretty well. ^_^
I love my family, and I like Christmas. But I'm sincerely hoping that next year my parents can be convinced to celebrate it on a smaller scale, for all our sakes.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Disorientation

I usually do it without even thinking about it, but it's always kind of funny to me when I catch myself. My roommates are all boys, and when I'm just hanging out with them around the house I tend not to be overly concerned about my appearance. But when a girl comes over... quite often I'll slip off to my room, quickly dab on some foundation, maybe a bit of mascara, tie my dreads back (they look a lot more feminine that way), take my glasses off (they're a very masculine style, and I can see well enough without them), and spritz on some floral perfume. I come out again, still presenting as a boy, but feeling just a little bit prettier.

It's silly of course, but what can I say? I'm attracted to women, and like most people who are attracted to women, I want to look good around them. It's just a little disorienting when you happen to be a queer woman presenting as a feminine man around straight women.

Then again, my orientation has long been a source of confusion to me, just in different ways at different times. The thing is, while I've always been primarily attracted to women, I've never quite been exclusively attracted to women. As far as I can tell, I can be physically attracted to people of various different genders, but am romantically attracted only to women. Figuring that out would have been difficult enough on its own, but growing up trans made it more complicated still. For that matter, so did growing up religious.

I'd never heard of transgenderism or transsexuality when I was a kid. At most, by the time I was in my mid-teens I had a vague idea that there was such a thing as a "sex change", but I didn't have a clue what one might entail, and just assumed it was some kind of bizarre fetish thing. Certainly, at that age, it would never have occurred to me that someone changing their sex probably had feelings very similar to, if not the same as, the ones I was dealing with.

So, not having a concept of trans-ness, I made the best use of the meagre and distorted concepts I did have: I knew I was boy because everyone said so and I had boy parts; I knew, in some vague sense, that some aspect of me was deeply and fundamentally feminine; and I knew, because I'd learned it from my culture, that feminine boys were gay. Not surprisingly then, when I finally became honest enough with myself (around 19 or 20) to admit that there was something "different" about me, I thought it might be that I was gay. This despite the fact that I was primarily into girls.

There was another concept in vogue at the time that helped me make sense of that inconsistency: the so-called ex-gay movement. Nowadays of course the ex-gay movement is widely discredited even in most Christian circles. But this was back in 2008 or so, and we evangelicals all thought it was legit. There were stories everywhere of people whose homosexuality had been "cured" by their faith in Jesus. Some of them had even gotten het-married and had kids. They all smiled as if they were happy. And it was in this context that, desperately trying to make sense of my gender and orientation, I thought I might be one of them.

My feminine personality is that of a gay man, I told myself, but I'm mostly attracted to women because Jesus is healing me. Yeah, that makes sense, right?

Now I find it downright embarrassing to admit that I ever thought something so stupid. I will only say, in my defence, that if you've never been deeply religious you probably have no idea how badly it can screw up your ability to think.

And so it came to pass that, in the summer of 2010, while camping out with two fellow believers in the beautiful Alberta wilderness, I came out as "possibly gay" for the first time. Except you don't say "possibly gay" when you're an evangelical Christian coming out to other evangelicals; you say "struggling with homosexuality," because you have to pretend being gay is bad even if you can't for the life of you think of a reason why.

"I struggle with homosexuality," I said.
"It's okay," they assured me, "it's no different than any other sin. We all struggle with sin."

The second time I came out was much the same. But the third and final time something important happened.

It was late 2011, nearly a full year before I gave up on faith, and about a year and a half before I figured out I was trans. I had joined a small group bible study that met weekly, and at one particular meeting the discussion turned to the question of why homosexuality was wrong. We knew it must be because the bible said so, but we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why. It didn't seem like it hurt anyone, and God wouldn't just make up arbitrary rules, would s\he?

It seemed like a good time to come out to the group. "That's actually, uh, that's something I struggle with, personally." I said quietly. They all thanked me for trusting them enough to share that with them. The discussion would simply have continued from there, except for the curiosity of one group member.
"Wait. How does that work?" he asked.
I looked up.
"I mean, sorry if it's a personal question," he continued, "but like, do you actually find men attractive? Like, are you attracted to men the same way that I'm attracted to women?"

Not a very tactful question perhaps, but I'm glad he asked it. Because, for the first time in my life, I was forced to try and put into words how I felt. No longer could I cling to the ill-fitting constructs I'd been using to understand myself. "Um, well, for me personally it's not so much about being interested in men, it's more like..." my mind raced, trying to find a way to express something I'd never had a name for, "...it's more like... I guess I've always felt a bit like a girl trapped inside a boy's body."

Even as I said it, I knew it wasn't a totally accurate description of how I felt. But it was much, much nearer the truth than everything I'd been saying up until then.

To illustrate what I meant by it, I told them about a time I'd seen an adorable pair of red strappy high heels in a store and felt almost heartbroken that boys couldn't wear shoes like that. (Obviously, high heels are absolutely not what being trans is about, but I was still over a year away from even learning the word "trans"— at the time it was probably the best explanation I could give.)

"I don't think that's gay," responded the guy who'd asked the question. "I mean, not if you're not attracted to men. I don't know what it is, but it isn't gay. Gay guys like guys."
"Maybe," I said. "I don't know."
"Well, they do."

The room fell silent for a moment, then one of the women spoke up. "I feel really sorry for someone like you," she said. Her eyes shone with compassion. "Like, if a girl wants to wear boy clothes, people just think she's a tomboy and nobody has a problem with it. But if a boy wants to wear girl clothes, in our society people judge him for it. And that's just so, so unfair."

I appreciated her concern, but inside I was thinking: No, you don't understand. This isn't something that's wrong with society...

This is something that's wrong with ME.


Evidently no one present that evening knew what being trans was. If they had they'd probably have said, "but of course you're transgender!" and I'd have gone home and googled the word and learned I wasn't alone and gotten a year-and-a-half head start on figuring out my identity. But that's not what happened. And in a way maybe it's for the best. Getting out of religion first and then learning I'm trans has meant I've been able to work out my identity without needing to worry the whole time about what God thinks. That seems to me a much better way to go about it.

So, I didn't learn I was trans that night. But I did learn that loving cute shoes doesn't make you gay, and that was an important thing to learn, too.

In 2013, when I did finally learn the word "trans", I was amazed to discover that the "boy trapped in a girl's body" formula has been so over-used that it's become cliché. To this day I'm still not 100% sure if I made it up that night or if I'd heard it somewhere before, but I don't suppose it matters either way.

Of course, just learning I was trans did not mean I instantly and automatically understood everything about my orientation. For a while there I worried that maybe who I really was was a lesbian, and that my limited interest in men was just some kind of penis fetish arising from a subconscious heterosexism that viewed female sexuality strictly in terms of being penetrated by a man. That is to say, that I liked the idea of being with a man because in some twisted way I thought that's what would make me a woman. Soon enough I realized that's probably not where that interest comes from, that I probably don't have such insidious ideas lurking in my subconscious, and that even if I did (or had at some point), that wouldn't make an interest in men bad in itself— heterosexism is the problem, not heterosexuality.

The most important thing I've learned, though, is that a sexual orientation is something to be enjoyed, not worried over. I'll probably never understand how butch women can make my heart skip a beat, or why I think Eddie Izzard looks gorgeous in a dress but not so much with a beard. I'll probably never understand why I find narrow hips and broad shoulders sexy in other trans women even though I dislike those features in myself. But it doesn't matter.

Perfectly understanding myself is not a prerequisite for being myself. And I can continue to make myself look pretty around girls, disorienting though it may be.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A baby step

So, in my previous post I wrote about my attempt to visit an electrolysis clinic and set up an appointment. In the end I decided to do something easier than either calling or talking to them in person: I just sent an email. It was a baby step, but it was a step in the right direction.

And the electrologist emailed me back with a whole ton of information about prices and techniques. So I guess now I'm going to call them some time this week and set up a consultation.

I am slowly moving forward. :)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Dancing, and other things

Hmmm, it seems I took a little unplanned break from blogging there for about a month. In some ways I was taking a break from life too, I guess. But now I'm getting back into things.

Yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, I took an actual real step toward transition. Even though it kind of ended up accomplishing nothing. But still, it felt better to at least try to do something.

I figured out a while ago that I want to get electrolysis for my facial hair. I also decided on which clinic I wanted to go to. But I spent a long time putting off making an appointment. Yesterday I finally metaphorically grew a pair (of ovaries???) and made up my mind to do it.

Calling to make an appointment was pretty much out of the question, however, thanks to my phone anxiety. So I got in the car intending to drive over there and talk to them in person. I doubled checked Google maps before I left: yup, it's in a mall in a part of town I'd never been to before.

But when I got there I couldn't find the place. I walked the whole length of the mall, and all around the outside, too. And it just wasn't there. Confused and a little disappointed, I drove home. Looking again at their website when I got back, I discovered they're on the same property as the mall, but in a different building. Oh.

So I guess I'll be heading back there tomorrow.

In other news, I've been learning some valuable lessons about not trying to put my entire life on hold until I get this gender thing sorted out. The thing is, at times I've felt like it's pointless to spend time with people or make friends while I'm still mostly living as a guy. But that's really not a great way to go about doing things— I just ended up being gender dysphoric and lonely.

So, in the past couple weeks I've actually been, like, going out and having fun with other humans. The past two weekends me and some friends went out the bar and danced. That was a brand new experience for me. I've always loved dancing, like at weddings and, uh... in my room by myself like a dork, but for some reason I always just assumed I wouldn't enjoy the bar scene. Turns out I shouldn't make assumptions.

And yes, I would have enjoyed the dancing more had I been presenting female, and even more so if I actually had a female-looking body. But the thing is, it was fun anyways. And when you're really getting into a song you start to forget yourself, and all that gendery stuff matters a little less.

Currently I'm out to some, but not all, of my friend group. I am now even more motivated to tell the rest of them so that we can go out dancing with me in girl mode. :D

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Employment

I got my first job when I was seventeen, working as a cook at a McDonald's, which I did full time for a year. Since then my employment status has been punctuated fairly regularly by things like moving, going to school, travelling, and just plain old getting laid off. The result is that, in the nine years I've been in the workforce, I have a worked a staggeringly high number of different jobs, none of them for longer than a year, and most for less than six months.

Sometimes I wonder if that's a reflection of my non-comittal personality.

The second job I had was with a company called Acklands-Grainger, picking orders in a gigantic warehouse. They celebrated their 125th year during my time there. Those of us in the warehouse were given a celebratory pen, emblazoned with the company logo. It was a pretty nice pen, actually.

I spent two summers working for the public works department of a small town with the improbable name of Sexsmith, Alberta. We refered to it as "Sex Town." Perhaps we had juvenile senses of humour, but we had fun.

Sexsmith's quaint little Main Street
Image from here

I once worked on an assembly line in a factory that built trusses. We worked 50 to 60 hours a week there. The overtime pay was fantastic, but I just couldn't handle spending that much of my life in a factory. So I quit and used a bunch of the money I'd saved up to travel around Japan for a bit. It was worth it.

Another time I had a warehouse job I was overqualified for simply because I spoke fluent English: (seriously, the ad I'd responded to said "only minimal English skills required."). This was actually really cool, as it meant many of my co-workers were immigrants, some of them brand new in Canada. I got to work with people from Ethiopia, Cambodia, China, Namibia, India and other places besides. I learned how to greet people in Amharic (sälam!) and Mandarin (ni hao!). Unfortunately, as much as I loved the diversity, it didn't make up for the terrible management and even worse pay. I wasn't sad to leave that place.

Up until last Friday I was working as a shipper\reciever for a concrete specialist supply store. It was the smallest company I'd ever been a part of: there were only six of us. I got to drive a forklift around and phone shipping companies. But, as you can imagine, the concrete business slows down a lot during the winter, and my boss figured that with November here they could only afford to keep one person in the warehouse. So I am now, once again, unemployed.

This isn't entirely a bad thing, actually. I have a bit of money saved up at the moment, and I should be able to get EI, so I'm not in an urgent panic to find a job right away. That means I can take a bit of time to look for a place I think I'd enjoy working at, rather than taking the first thing that comes up.

It's also an oppurtunity for change. Other than my stint in a McDonald's kitchen, every job I've ever had has been general labour. I've never worked in customer service, and I think it might be nice to try something new, if I can. I would also love it if I could get something that's part time, as that would allow me to take a class or two starting in January.

In other words, while being laid off means not making money, which is unfortunate as I think about going back to school and the cost of transition-realted things like electrolysis, it also means having options. And that part of it I rather like.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Stupid tunnel

This whole is thing is stupid.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it's there. I know it's real. But I've stopped moving towards it. I'm no longer putting one foot in front of the other. And why? Because... it's too dark, I guess? I mean, come on, you could stub your damn toes walking around in the dark!

So instead I'll just sit down here and bash my head against the tunnel wall for a while.

Of all the lights at the ends of tunnels that Google images returns, I like this one.
Image from here.

Okay wait, what does this metaphor even mean?

What it means is, because I haven't been taking any actual steps toward transition or even making any effort to express my gender, I feel depressed. And because I feel depressed, I lack the motivation to take those steps or make that effort.

And I am just barely restraining myself from actually bashing my head against a wall— that part's nearly not a metaphor.

Stupid tunnel.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

My mom wrote a letter

Driving home from work last Wednesday I heard the familiar ping of an incoming text message. I checked it when I got home. It was my mom, saying she needed to talk to me, and asking if now was a good time to call. I texted back "sure" and my phone promptly rang.

"I think we should tell your grandparents about your being transgender," she said, after the initial hellos.
"Uh, okay. You mean like, soon-ish?"
"Yeah. I think they should know. And I'm sure they'll accept you."

She explained that her parents and my dad's parents had both specifically enquired as to how I was doing recently. Both of my grandmothers are active on Facebook— (that tells you something about my age, eh)— and she figured that some of what I'd been posting recently might have made them wonder about me.

Personally I thought that she might just be reading into things, making connections between phenomena the way our brains tend to do. But regardless, my grandparents have to learn at some point. So I said okay.

As we talked about it it became apparent to me that she had, in fact, already written out an email to her parents and my dad's parents explaining the situation. She was phoning to get my permission to hit the send button. So I asked her what she'd written.

"Like, it explains that you feel like a woman trapped in a man's body, and that..."
"Uh, well,"  I interrupted her, "that's not the terminology I would use."

(Of course, the old "x trapped in a y's body" is a reasonably good answer to the what is trans? question if you're talking to someone who's completely unfamiliar with the concept and have at most one second to explain it. But otherwise it's pretty inadequate.)

"Oh," she replied, "what would you say?"

And if I had had the presence of mind to do so, I might have come up with something like, "I feel internally that I am mostly female, despite the fact that my body appears male, and this incongruity causes me a significant amount of discomfort."

But instead I said, "Oh, I don't know. I guess that's close enough." (Not a great answer on my part, I know.)

At this point I asked her to just read me the whole thing, which she did. And for the most part it was pretty good: explaining and clarifying some aspects of what trans is and isn't, as well as stating that I'd always been this way and that my parents' relationship with me was still good.

Unfortunately it also included some theologizing that I found a little unpleasant. There was something along the lines of: "We don't know why God allowed our child to be born with this condition, but we believe all things happen for a reason." She actually felt the need to clarify that they believe God intended me to be born with a male body.

That stung a bit, to be honest. Personally I think that "a thing happened, therefore God wills it" is a pretty horrifying way to look at the world. But I didn't argue with it being in the letter: she was writing from their perspective and if that's what they believe, it might as well say so.

After reading the whole thing she asked, "does that sound good?" I said "Yeah, I guess so" and she sent it.

And then she started talking about Minecraft and how monsters had recently blown up her house. (She and I play on the same server, along with my brother, which is pretty cool). And I realized that I am a lot more comfortable talking about video games with my mom than about my gender.

This was over a week ago now. I haven't heard anything from her about how or if my grandparents responded, but I'm not too worried about it. They're good people.

Mom's letter may not have been the exact words I would have chosen. But I am certainly glad I didn't have to be the one to write it, coming out being pretty low on my list of favourite things to do. So... thanks ma! :)

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sad songs

Gender isn't always at the forefront of my mind, contrary to what you might think from reading this blog. There are times when it matters less. Sometimes, especially if I'm focused on a particular task, I can forget about it altogether. This happened the other day at work. Which, of course, was nice.

It didn't last very long, though. Without really thinking about it, I started humming a tune, as I often do when I'm working. Then I started singing the words to it, again without really thinking about what they were.

The problem is, the song happened to be For Today I am a Boy, by Antony and the Johnsons. And the words I started singing were:
One day I'll grow up, and I'll be a beautiful woman
One day I'll grow up, and I'll be a beautiful girl
But for today I am a child
For today I am a boy
Well... crap. So much for not thinking about it. I was pretty bummed out the rest of the day.

I've got to hand it to Antony Hegarty, though. He* is very good at capturing a certain mournful feeling that can come with living in not-quite-the-right gender.


Oh gosh. Now I just listened to this song again and I'm actually crying.

So... just to balance things out a bit, I'll add that I had a great weekend hanging out with friends and with my brother and sister-in-law. It's not all bad! :)

*He prefers male pronouns, even though he doesn't identify as male.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Facebook and bigotry

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to this darling photo and blurb about two Iowa women finally getting married after more than 70 years together. It's pretty darn heart-warming stuff.

I did so knowing that some of the people I'm friends with on Facebook aren't exactly open-minded. I knew it was entirely possible that the comments could devolve into a stupid religious debate about whether or not homosexuality is immoral. But even if that happened I assumed everyone would at least be charitable about it.

But nope. That didn't happen. The charitable part, I mean...


To be honest I was pretty upset about this last night. Remember, this isn't just some random person on the internet; this is someone I know personally.

The tricky thing is, I'm ultimately a recovering bigot myself. So I know that people can change and I know that simply returning insults does nothing to help that process.

And that makes it very hard to know how to reply, or if I even should.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lovely Blog Award

Okay, before I get to anything else I first have to mention that it actually snowed here this week. The only consolation is that Calgary got more than us. (hehe)

That aside, I am the recipient of a Lovely Blog Award, thanks to Because I'm Fabulous. Thanks, Michelle! :)


I'm supposed to write seven things about myself. So... here goes:

1.

I am very interested in space travel. Okay, actually like, kind of weirdly obsessed with it. For some reason the idea of visiting other worlds has completely captured my imagination. I’ve spent a lot of time reading all about the history of space age, and the great scientists (Tsiolkovsky, Goddard, Oberth, etc.) who helped to bring it in. And I’ve spent a lot of time reading about what its future might look like, too.

Sometimes there is a small amount of sadness that accompanies this interest— I mean, there hasn’t even been a moon landing in my lifetime, it feels like we’re going nowhere! But I can always indulge in hard sci-fi to make up for it.

Suffice it to say, if humans haven’t landed on Mars before the end of my life, I will probably be very disappointed.
Sunset over Gusev crater on Mars. This is another world. And we can go there! I find that thought exhilarating.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell

2.
I loooooove sushi. If I head ten different lifetimes I could devote to mastering different skills, in one of them I would be a sushi chef. For this lifetime, though, it’s just a hobby. And I still don’t make it nearly as often as I would like.

3.

Music is a hugely important part of my life. Not just listening to it, but playing it, too. I play drums and flute, but what I'm best at is piano. I’ve never had any music lessons (other than voice), I just started mashing keys until it sounded good.

Eb2 to A5
I can sing a bit, too. I hope it doesn’t sound braggy, but one thing I’m quite proud of is my range: I can hit notes as low as Eb2 and as high as A5. I’ve decided that if I do transition, I will continue to use that entire range, even the low notes. I refuse to pretend to be less capable than I actually am just for the sake of passing.

Oh, and I like writing songs. I started doing it when I was 12 and have never really stopped. That adds up to a lot of songs. A small handful of them might even be worth listening to. (And yes, an embarrassingly high number are about space travel).

I don't know of any experience I enjoy more, or find more rewarding, than performing music in front of people.

4.
I don’t play a lot of video games but when I do it’s usually Minecraft. I main Kirby in Super Smash Bros. (deal with it). I tried Dwarf Fortress once but gave up in hopelessness and despair.

Dwarf Fortress: I don't know what the hell's going on, but I'm pretty sure I'm losing.
Image credit: Casey Johnston

5.
I have an intolerance to citric acid. This means that my body doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme it needs to digest it; (this differs from a true allergy, which is an immunological response). Apparently this is a pretty rare condition— yay, I’m special!

So, I can eat small amounts of citric acid (which is good because it's in everything and you need it to live), but I do have to watch how much. Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.) are completely out of the question. Things like cherries and grapes are okay in very small amounts. Anything with tomato sauce is a bad idea. I definitely can’t drink wine.  :(

6.
I used to be a bad-ass anarchist. This was an extension of the religious views I held at the time. Basically, I saw Jesus’ teachings as requiring absolute non-violence, and I saw the state, the military, and capitalism as inherently violent and therefore needing to be opposed. (I wasn't the only person to get that from Jesus, by the way, Christianity has a long tradition of anarchist thought).

Since then, as I've changed from a believer to a skeptic, I’ve had to move away from the kind of moral absolutism that underlies anarchism. It’s very easy to be an absolutist when you’re basing your beliefs on “the infallible word of God”— much harder when you’re basing them on the entirely falsifiable findings of science.

To be clear, I still care about social justice, I’ve simply de-mythologized it. I now think violence is wrong not because God says so, but simply because it hurts people. (This is an improvement, because, like, there were a lot of things the God I believed in said were wrong that didn't actually hurt anyone.)

7.
I'm not originally from Alberta: I was born and raised in British Columbia, (Canada’s western-most province). It’s been eight years since my family moved here but in a way I still feel like an ex-pat. I am, it seems, a child of the Fraser River, and the forests of Cascadia will always be my home. Oh yeah, and go Canucks!! :)

Okay, I'm sure that was way more than I needed to write. Ayways, the actual rules for the award are as follows:
1. Thank and link back to the person who nominated you.
2. List the rules and display the award.
3. Include seven facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 10 some other bloggers and let them know about the award.

Since it's a chain-letter-y type thing, I will add that I'm passing it on obligation free: if you want to take part, go for it. If not, that's totally okay too. :) And so, I hereby nominate:

A Part Time Girl

An Unexpected Queerdom (although clicking over there her blog seems to be down at the moment...)

Two Spirits - One Halle

Cassidy's Quest

Transfinite Love

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Casual misogyny

I was walking down the street last Sunday. It was getting dark. I was in a sort of androgynous mode, by which I mean I wasn't making any attempt to pass as any particular gender. Like, I was carrying a purse, for example, but only because it's what I keep my wallet and phone in.

A very drunk man stumbled toward me and grumbled out, "Heeey, gorgeous! How are you??"

Okay, casual misogyny. That's a new experience. I looked down and kept walking. As I went past he said, suddenly and loudly, "Hey, wha—? Maaaaaaaan! You're a man!!"

I continued to ignore him, and he wandered off. The whole experience was kind of icky, though— certainly a "transition milestone" I could've done without.

The world's a different place when it sees you, even if only for a moment, as a woman.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A very gendery day

I somewhat outed myself as at least gender non-conforming on Facebook today. I posted a happy status update about "listening to Wintersun and painting my nails". And it felt good to simply express how I was feeling.

Now of course, my gender non-conformity isn't news to anyone who sees me on a regular basis, but there are a lot of people on Facebook that I haven't seen in quite a while. Most of these are friends from the conservative Christian community I was a part of in my "previous life," before I moved to Edmonton. I can't help but think that many among that group might be close-minded about all this gendery stuff.

Wintersun, the band I mentioned, is a heavy metal group from Finland. I listen to fairly wide variety of music genres, but metal is what first got me into music as a teenager, and it will probably always hold a special place in my heart. Lately I've come to appreciate a certain defiant attitude that pervades a lot of metal music: it's the same kind of defiant attitude it takes to go out into the world as a boy with a kick-ass shade of red on your nails.
Defiantly pretty
I was at the mall today— the very big one that Edmonton is sort of famous for. (As a side note, it's kind of weird being from a town whose greatest claim to fame is having a very big mall. Two years ago, when I was in Japan, I found myself chatting chatting with a local fellow who spoke English. When I told him where I was from he said, "Oh, Edmonton! I've been to your mall. It's... very big." What else is there to say?) Even with my red nails, my cute flats, my purse and the quick dash of mascara and I'd applied, I was in boy mode. I wasn't wearing any foundation to cover my beard shadow, and I was flat-chested (as in no bra, just a t-shirt over my ordinary male torso).

When I had to pee I opted for the men's room. I figure that if I'm presenting somewhat ambiguously, the fact that I'm standing at a urinal should tip the scale toward male for anyone present who might be confused. It's always stressful though. I was glad there were lots of people around so I didn't have to worry about getting beat up. When I washed my hands the guy at the sink next to me stared at me the whole time. I was very, very glad to finish up and get out of that gendered space.

Immediately after this I went to buy some souvlaki at the food court. The cashier called me "ma'am." Like three times.

Holy shit, are you serious?

I remembered many years ago, when I was doing a very good job of suppressing my gender, that I used to get taken for female now and then because of my long hippie hair. At the time this bothered me (because, like I said, suppressing my gender), so as soon as I could I grew a hippie beard to go with it. That seemed to convince everyone I was a man. Heck, I nearly convinced myself.

Nowadays, of course, I am generally very happy to be seen as female, because I'm beginning to accept that that's who I am. But in this case it kind of freaked me out. It's stressful when you don't know whether the next person to look at you will see a man or a woman. Or at least it is to me.

What I gained today is an even deeper respect for genderqueer and other non-binary people who present androgynously on a regular basis. Navigating a binary world that doesn't have a category for you is just plain hard sometimes.

(And in case you're wondering, I spent like five minutes taking pictures of my fist and another ten messing around in GIMP to produce the illustration for this post. I am far too easily side-tracked, it seems.)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Wibbly-wobbly


That's just something I came across on the interwebs recently and wanted to share. I thought Michelle (who reads this blog) and Jeremy might appreciate it, among others.

For those of you who don't watch Doctor Who, or at least haven't seen season 3 yet, it's referencing the Doctor's wonderfully unhelpful explanation of how time works. The episode in question, Blink, also just happens to be my favourite Who episode of all time. (Though I still have a couple seasons of Matt Smith to watch before I'm all caught up.)

The original line is clearly the writers' way of telling the fans "don't bother trying to figure out how time works in this show; you just have to trust us when we tell you the Doctor can't cross his own timeline and stuff." And of course, that's often how gender is, too. Ultimately, we kind of just have to take people's word for it that they experience it the way they do.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

I'm a Ms.

I received a generic form letter the other day. It began "Dear Mr./Ms. [last name]". I took my thumb and covered up the "Mr." I looked at this amended version, and it made me smile. Dear Ms. [last name]. It was just... right.

I'm a Ms.

I find this surprisingly reassuring. Every now and then I'll get these sudden doubts about my identity. I'll think, What if I'm actually just a feminine man? What if this is all just about the clothes? What if I'm just trying to delude myself into thinking I'm female to avoid the stigma that society puts on men who like skirts? What if I medically transition only to figure out I'm not a woman after all and spend the rest of my life dealing with transition regret?? Aaaaaaahh!!!

But the difference between Mr. and Ms. has nothing to do with masculine or feminine. And it has nothing to do with clothes. It only has to do with male or female.

It's just another sign that I'm headed in the right direction. Even if I still don't know where I'm going to end up. :)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

One year (and a bit)

I missed it at the time but a couple weeks ago was the one year anniversary of this blog. Looking back I can honestly say I didn't really expect to still be writing this thing a year later. Also looking back, I can't help but notice that I started off my inaugral post with the word "ahoy." What the hell was I thinking??

(Probably the same thing I was thinking when I came up with the name Fjärilar och Zebror...)

Since starting this blog I've learned a lot about myself, and a lot about gender in general. I've gone from identifying as an ambiguously gendered boy, to an ambiguously gendered non-binary person, to an ambiguously gendered girl. (Though in retrospect those first two identities were more hopeful than honest.) I've also accomplished some pretty scary things, like coming out to my brother and sister-in-law, leaving the house for the first time, and coming out to my parents.

Many of the posts I've written have helped me deal with depression, or to face some of the confusion and doubts I've had about who I am. In some ways writing a blog is like therapy. Only cheaper. :)

And I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read this thing. (And to be honest, I'm still a little amazed that anyone does.) When I started it I expected to chronicle how I was feeling about the various trans milestones I would pass, hoping that putting my thoughts down would help me process them. And that has indeed happened. But what I did not expect is that I would find an actual blogging community, nor how much I would come to appreciate it.

Thanks! ♥

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sexism, shoes, and apologizing for femininity

Yesterday evening I picked up the book Whipping Girl by Julia Serano, and by two in the morning I was already nearly 200 pages into it. Time flies when you're examining systemic cissexism! :)

One point she makes is that our culture has a (often unconscious) tendency to see expressions of femininity as artificial and impractical, whereas expressions of masculinity are seen as natural and practical. She argues that this negatively impacts all feminine people, including men and women, both trans and cis; but that it is especially harmful to feminine trans women. After all, why would anyone go to such great lengths to choose artificiality and impracticality over more sensible options?

And reading about this I realized that I sometimes see femininity and masculinity in those terms as well.

Like when it comes to shoes.

Back in this post, for example, I was a describing an outfit of mine and wrote: "I had decided to femme it up a bit with a tunic, tights and silly high heels."

Now, why would I feel the need to describe my heels as "silly"? They weren't particularly silly, after all: just plain black shoes with a tall heel. I think it was a way of apologizing for being feminine. I was trying to say: yes, I know that heels are impractical and that I wore them anyway, but it's okay because at least I recognize that it was silly of me to do so.

But, as I see it now, there is a big problem with deciding that a certain style of footwear is impractical. Namely, that whether or not something is practical depends entirely on the goal of the person using it. If your goal is to hike up a mountain, then yes, high heels are very impractical. But if your goal is to feel sexy, you might find high heels to be very practical indeed— (depending, of course, on how you express your gender and sexuality). I certainly do.

Both of these items are in my closet. I own them for different reasons.
(And really, it's not like a suit and tie is good for much else besides feeling sexy, either. But when was the last time you heard someone call such masculine clothing silly or impractical?)

It just goes to show that there are lots of subtle messages I've picked up from my culture which are still influencing how I think about gender expression. In the future I'll be a little more careful to remain as unapologetic about my femininity as I am about my masculinity.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Fishes and mermaids

This didn't hurt as bad when I was in denial about it.

It's strange to think about that, but it's true. Up until least year I'd spent my whole life trying very hard to be a boy. And even though I knew that something was amiss, and that it was gender-related, I had never experienced anything but life as a male. And just like a fish doesn't know it's wet, I never knew how crushed I could feel by living in the wrong gender.

Things have changed now, of course. I've seen, and more importantly been seen as, the real me. And going back to the pretend after experiencing life as myself can be fucking hard. I'm not an oblivious fish anymore: I'm more like a mermaid, cast back to sea after knowing what it's like to live on land.

Like this chick
And so there is this paradox, that accepting my trans-ness has given me the chance to do something about it, (for which I am very glad), but it's also brought into focus a whole lot of pain that was once vague and ill-defined. And today especially, for whatever reason, I'm having a really hard time with it.

One thing is clear though: the only way through it is to move forward— going back now to the denial that once numbed this pain is no longer possible, nor is it desirable, and honestly, I think it might even kill me if I tried. So... forward it is.

By the way, I actually had a dream the other night that I was turning into a mermaid. It was more like a nightmare, actually. Perhaps it means I spend too much time thinking about gendery stuff!

Monday, 7 July 2014

A hairy situation

[EDIT: In the time since writing this post I've come to recognize that some of the terminology I used is problematic and culturally appropriative. However, I've decided not to change the wording of the post, because it reflects the understanding I had at the time.]

"What the fuck is that?!" enquired a customer at my workplace last week.

I looked up startled, then looked around, completely baffled as to what he might be referring to. He was clearly staring right at me. Had I been doing something odd? Did I have something on me? Was there a slimy space monster bursting out of my chest like that horrible scene from Alien?
'Cause that would definitely warrant his question.
One of my co-workers, we'll call him Stan, saw that I was confused. Stan works in sales and apparently knows this customer well enough to make a little joke at his expense. He smiled and said, "Don't worry, Tyler. He's just jealous he 'cause doesn't have any!"

Ohhhhh, it's my hair!!

I gave a half-hearted, awkward laugh. Most of my time at work is spent in the warehouse, but occasionally I have stuff to do up front. This means I occasionally interact with customers. And this particular one was a little cantankerous.

"That shit looks like it's flammable," he continued, "I think you should cover that up."

I shrugged and went back to what I was doing. Stan asked the customer what he needed and the two of them went off to find some product. I heard the customer add, "I've never understood why someone would fuck up their hair like that."

Stan, clearly adept at using humour to defuse awkward situations, responded, "Ah, you never know— maybe some day I'll head off to Vegas and come back with a head full of dreadlocks!"

"Ugh," said the customer with obvious disgust, as I tried and failed to picture Stan with dreads.

Next week it'll be four years since I started my dreads. Back then I reminded myself that different people see the world differently, and to some people dreadlocks might look stupid, and I can be okay with that. So this fellow's comments didn't really bother me. Mostly I'm just amazed that anyone takes the time to say mean things at all. It's hard to imagine what the point is.

I'm glad my co-workers have got my back though. I mentioned in my previous post they didn't seem to mind my pretty nails. They don't seem to mind my goofy hairstyle, either. :)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Very short term goals

So, I started a job a couple weeks ago. I'm now working in the warehouse of a small company that makes and sells concrete and related products. It's pretty cool, I guess. In any event, none of my co-workers said anything mean or treated me any different when I showed up on my second week with my nails done. That's an improvement from my previous job.

Between the depression and the gender dysphoria, it can be pretty hard to make myself get out of bed in the morning. The though of presenting as a boy all day is so dismaying. This past week I managed it by setting myself very short term goals. When I woke up I would tell myself, "Okay, forget about going to work: for now I'm just going to go pee and brush my teeth. Once I've accomplished those tasks I can think about maybe getting dressed and making breakfast, but let's take things one at a time."

And so far it's been effective. At least, I haven't missed any work yet.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

"Are you a dude?"

And my technicolour bag threw off the whole outfit!
Grrr. Some day I'm going to invest in a black purse.
I was walking to the bank yesterday, about two blocks from my house. I had decided to femme it up a bit with a tunic, tights and silly high heels.

"Excuse me, ma'am?" said a guy at a bus stop as I waked by. When I didn't stop he continued, somewhat more urgently, "ma'am? Excuse me, ma'am!"

Suddenly I realized he was addressing me. "Uh, yeah?"

He gave me a story about not having enough money for the bus and asked if I had any change to spare. For the record, I'm pretty conflicted about giving alms to panhandlers. I'm sure it does nothing to treat the actual causes of poverty and often just enables bad habits, but at the same time I find it really hard to say no when I'm asked. For better or worse, I gave him a dollar. (Incidentally, I feel like I get panhandled more often when I'm presenting as a woman. Is that, like, a thing, or am I just imagining it?)

As soon as I started talking to him I saw a look of confusion cross his face, slowly replaced by one of dawning realization. Afterwards, as I was turning to leave, he asked me, very straightfowardly: "are you a dude?" Phrased more politely, this might have been: what gender(s) do you identify with? And that, of course, is precisely what I'm trying to figure out myself.

To borrow a line from The Lord of the Rings, that question "needed a week's answer, or none." I chose the latter option: I gave him a smile, said "maybe!", and continued on my way.

This exchange confirmed two things for me that I'd previously suspected. It confirmed that I do pass as female, at a glance, at least some of the time. And it confirmed that I'm quickly read as male if someone's actually paying attention to me, and especially if I'm talking to someone face to face.

Oh well. As much as part of me would like to pass all the time, the good thing about not passing is it means being visibly trans, which helps raise awareness that people like us do, in fact, exist in the real world.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Becoming real

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder...
—Regina Spektor, The Call

Not so long ago, the female version of me existed only on the internet and in the confines of my bedroom. "Ashley" was a name I used here and in a crossdressing forum. I would dress as a girl in my room, but I was still in the closet to my housemates, so I couldn't even open the door. I would snap some photos and post them online so that I could be seen by someone, somewhere.

But as I've been coming out to more people and going out into the world, that has been changing. Now, as Ashley, I've felt sunshine on my face, and grass beneath my feet. I've been smiled at by strangers (and once pointed and laughed at, but I won't dwell on that). And last Sunday I had two more important experiences as part of this gradual process: I introduced myself as a girl to someone I'd just met, and I visited my mother.

According to the website of my local Pride Centre, there's a trans social mixer that meets there the last Sunday of every month. I'd been wanting to get involved in the community, and to interact socially as a girl, so I decided to go. And oh my goodness was I nervous. Meeting new people and being in new social environments just scares the shit out of me. I parked my car around the block and spent nearly ten minutes sitting there just convincing myself to go through with it. But I when I finally walked through the door I discovered I needn't had been so nervous: I was the only one to show up.

The only other person there was one of the people who run the centre. He told me that the guy who organizes the mixer was running late, and that he doubted anyone else would come. "Now that it's summer and the weather is nice, the number of people attending this thing has dropped," he said, "but you're welcome to stay and see if any one else shows up."

I decided I'd wait for a bit. "I'm Steven, by the way," he offered. (Not his real name.)
"I'm Ashley," I said. We shook hands.

I'm Ashley. It was the first time I'd said those words out loud. The first time someone had known me by that name outside of the internet.

I chatted with Steven for about fifteen minutes before I left, but no one else came. It was kind of disappointing. Having made the effort to look like a woman I didn't want to just go home. I texted my mom saying I could stop by for a visit if she wasn't busy, and gave her the heads-up that I was in girl mode. (My dad was out of town for work.) She said I should come over, and that my brother and sister-in-law were there too.

And the whole experience was actually very normal. We all just hung out like we usually do: our regular, goofy selves. The only time the subject of gender even came up was my ma noting how the dogs made no distinction between boy mode and girl mode, which lead to my sis-in-law and I wondering whether animals would notice if someone were on HRT. I'm so glad to know I can be myself around my family.

I wore my locks in a bandanna: sort
of a transy pirate look, I guess? :)
Like Regina said, it started out as a feeling. At first my female self was nothing more than a vague sense that something was wrong. Then she was a hope, then a reflection in a thrift shop mirror, then a girl in a photo with an unspoken name, then a smiling stranger passing people on the street. At last she's meeting people and hugging her mother. She is becoming real.

At first my male self was nothing less than an unquestionable reality— all I knew and thought reasonably possible. Then he was a weight whose absence I could imagine, then a prison whose walls I had walked briefly beyond. At last he's rapidly crumbling around me.

And I look forward to a day when he is nothing more than a memory.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

What I should have said

(Sorry, this post is going to be a bit of rant.)

Earlier this month one of my roommates moved out and a new guy moved in. This means I am once again no longer out to everyone I live with, which is mildly uncomfortable for me, but whatever. (This new roommate is from Ireland, which, in addition to my German roommate, means my house is filling up with Europeans!)

Anyways, a bunch of us were sitting in the living room chatting the other day. The CBC news was on the TV in the background, and Chantal Hébert came on to talk about some political thing.

Ms. Hébert is a fairly well-known commentator and pundit here in Canada, and she has a very distinctive look. By which I mean, she wears basically no makeup, no jewelry, has bushy eyebrows and keeps her unstyled hair tucked behind her ears. I'm not that interested in punditry, but I think she is awesome: here's a woman who obviously gives no shits about our culture's silly beauty standards, and yet has a successful career as a talking head on television. It's clear to anyone that she's there to discuss politics, not to be a pretty face.

"Wow," said the new roommate, glancing at the TV, "I'm sorry, but that woman looks like a transsexual."

Oh my goodness. What a thing to say. And do you know what I said in response to this? Nothing, I just shrugged it off. And now I'm annoyed at myself for that, so I'm going to write down my thoughts to get it off my mind.

Okay, first of all, there's a no such thing as looking like a transsexual: the range of what they\we look like is identical to the range of what anyone looks like. A pre-transition, closeted trans woman might be indistinguishable from a cis man, and a trans woman who's been on hormones for a while might be indistinguishable from a cis woman. And of course, the inverse applies to trans men.

Secondly, his comment clearly implies that looking like a transsexual is a bad thing, which is obviously so very offensive for, like, all the reasons.

And lastly, his comment seems to overlie an assumption that women ought to wear makeup and look pretty, simply because they are women. Which is, you know, pretty darn patriarchal.

So... there. I guess now if I hear a comment like that again, at least I'll know how to respond! In any case, I shouldn't be angry with him because it's clear he simply hadn't thought through the implications of that statement and was unaware of how stupid a thing it was to say. But that's precisely why I should be educating people when stuff like this comes up.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Little things

My previous post was kind of mopey. Hopefully this one will balance that out a bit, 'cause I'm feeling pretty good right now! :)

It's not the result of any big accomplishment or anything: just a bunch of little things. But sometimes the little things can matter a lot.

First of all, I mentioned before that I was having headaches and fatigue— it turned out I had a bad sinus infection. I saw a doctor about it and got prescribed some anti-biotics and am feeling much better now. (I didn't talk to the doctor about being trans; I figured I'd deal with one issue at a time).

Secondly, I finally got around to painting my nails and shaping my eyebrows after a long time of not doing either. Those seem like such superficial things, but they really do help me deal with the gender problem. I'm always surprised by how much better I feel with pretty nails, and by how much easier it is to see a woman's face in the mirror when my eyebrows are arched. I've also been making an effort to shave every day, which of course is tremendously helpful.

And lastly, I've started to be ever so slightly more out on Facebook. There are a number of people in my life whom I interact with primarily through that website, and, as in any social context, I want to present myself to those people as the person I actually am. This slightly increased outness includes posting a link to a brilliant trans-themed music video by the band Arcade Fire (which is by far the queerest thing I've shared on Facebook), as well as updating my profile picture to something that looks decidedly feminine (at least to me).

Feminine and kind of artsy!
So yeah. I have nothing particularly exciting to report, but a bunch of little things have conspired to make me happy the past few days, and for that I'm grateful.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Struggle, decision and hope

Today it's really hard. And it's not just the gender issues, it's a whole bunch of things. I've always suffered from depressive episodes and I seem to be in the middle of one right now. I've also been having headaches and trouble sleeping for the past two weeks. And now that school's done I need a summer job, but I haven't found one yet and I'm running out of money.

And as much as I'd like to think that all these other problems would magically go away if I were living as a female, I know that's not the case. So I can't even really blame gender.

Aaahh bare shoulders aaaaaahhh!!!
(Actually I look pretty good here, I think)

I did get manage out in girl mode once last week. In fact, I'm kind of proud of myself: it was my first time going out with bare shoulders and bare legs. I felt a lot more vulnerable not having all the layers to bundle up in like I did during the winter. But it was a beautiful day, and it felt so good to take in the sunshine as me. I'm not under any illusions of having passed, but I did get called ma'am by a cashier. That was nice of him. :)

On Saturday I was at a restaurant with a couple of friends. I think our server might have been trans. She was certainly tall enough for it, not to mention the broad shoulders, huge hands and small bust. She was very pretty.

Envy isn't the right word for it, but there's a certain feeling I get when I see other trans women having the courage to be themselves. And every time I do it's one more nagging voice saying: Ashley, you need to do something about this gender problem. And while that tends to trigger the dysphoria, it's also kind of inspiring. (The same thing happened when my classmate at school started presenting female.)

And that brings me to the question: what am I going to do about it?

While I still haven't totally figured that out, I have made one decision: I need to get to a point where I can function normally before I go back to school. I failed a lot of classes these past two semesters, and most of the problem was my inability to focus on anything when the dysphoria struck. It doesn't make sense to keep throwing money away on classes when I'm not dealing with the issue. So I'm going to see a doctor sometime soon-ish and maybe start counselling. I'm going to return to my local support group. And I'm going to start electrolysis.

That last one just makes a lot of sense. I've realized that even if I decide not to transition (which seems unlikely), I'm still never going to actually want a beard. Even if I am just a feminine male (which I doubt), I still have a gender identity that's incongruous with facial hair. So transition or not, electro is a good idea.

What this means is that I won't be going back to school in the fall, since I can't afford both that and hair removal without going deeply into debt. I might go back to school in January, or I might just take a whole year off from academics. We'll see how it goes.

I'm also starting to reconcile myself to the fact that HRT may be in my future. There are a number of reasons why I don't want this. The biggest one by far is my desire for biological fatherhood— I want babies!!— but also lots of little fears about the phyisical and emotional changes that would take place. But at the end of the day if you need HRT you need it: it's not like gender dysphoria gives a shit about your hopes and fears.

So yeah: I'm struggling today. I'm pretty darn depressed. But I can see the steps I need to take (find a job, see a doctor, start electro...) and for now that's giving me something to work towards. So, in a way, I guess I'm sort of hopeful too.

They say it gets better. I hope they're right.

Out in the sun last week.
See, I was happy then at least! :)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

"Pretty"

I was visiting my mom the other day and the subject of my gender issues came up. She admitted she still had a lot of doubts and confusion, which is understandable. (She also told me my dad was having a easier time accepting it than she was, which is kind of what I expected.) I tried to address some of her concerns, but I don't think I did it very well. At one point during the conversation I offered to show her some pictures of what I look like as a girl. She seemed curious and agreed.

I grabbed a computer and brought up a photo from New Year's Eve. "Wow! I love that dress,"she said. "You know, you're actually really pretty," As we continued to peruse photos she added, "I think you're prettier as a girl than you are handsome as a boy!" I grinned and said, "I hope so!" :)

As much as I loved the affirmation of my gender, it was also slightly awkward. When you come out as trans there are certain gendered aspects of how you relate to people, and of how people relate to you, that have to be relearned. Of course, my mother never called me pretty when I was her son, so this was one of them. Afterwards she asked, "It's okay for me to say you're pretty, right? 'Cause you want to be pretty, right?"
"Yeah, it's okay," I said, "I'm just not used to it."

It was a little weird for both of us. But that, I'm sure, will change with time.

In other news, as of last week it's been one whole year since I figured out I was trans! (Perhaps some time I will write a post about how that came to pass, but not today). I've come a long way since my first terrified foray into the cosmetics section, but more and more I'm realizing I still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The strangest thing happened...

I put my books in my bag, donned my shoes and walked to class, trying to recall kanji characters I should have memorized by now. We had a quiz today I hadn't really studied for, and, even worse, I had missed the previous lecture.

I'm taking Japanese as my arts elective this semester. I'd spent a few weeks in Japan in 2012 and wanted to learn more of the language.「みなさん、こんばんは」 said our sensei as I came in and sat down: good evening everyone.

And then I noticed it. One of my classmates— a guy, or so I had thought— was dressed as a girl.

Or was she? Yes, I decided, that's definitely a woman's jacket. And arched eyebrows. And makeup. She was clearly presenting female. That's strange, I thought. At first I worried it might be some kind of transphobic joke: perhaps "he" had lost a bet or some stupid thing like that. But when she opened her mouth to ask a question, and I heard her straining to speak in a higher register the way a lot of new trans women do, it was clear to me that this was serious. I guess she's a girl now, I said to myself.

Later I would learn that during the previous lecture, the one I had missed, she had come out to the class as transsexual, stating that she would be presenting female from now on. Ironically, I had missed that class because of my own gender dysphoria: it was one of those times when I just couldn't bear the thought of interacting with others as a boy. Of all the classes to miss, I miss the one where someone comes out as trans.

There are two things about this that are kind of blowing my mind. One is the statistical improbability of it. There's only 21 people in that class: the odds of selecting 21 people at random and getting two closeted trans girls must be pretty low. The other is that I hadn't noticed anything before. When I tell people I'm trans the response is usually along the lines of "well obviously." But in her case, I didn't pick up on any clues. (Well, there was the time she crossdressed for a skit, but it was done so deliberately badly I didn't think it meant anything...)

I didn't get a chance to talk to her after class, and now there's only one class left before the semester ends. I don't actually know her very well, and I don't really know what I would say— ("I'm a girl too, let's be friends!" ??), but I feel like I should reach out in some way. We t-folk gotta stick together, right?

"I'm a girl too!"

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Seven trans musicians that inspire me

I figured I would take a break from the navel-gazing introspection that typifies this blog and share with anyone who's interested some of the trans musicians I find inspiring. I love that there are artists out there who have experienced, and can sing about, some of the same struggles I'm going through. And, as a bit of a musician myself, it's encouraging to hear that a woman can sing with a "male" vocal range and still sound amazing. So here, in no particular order, here are seven trans musicians that inspire me:

Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace fronts a punk band called Against Me! and generally kicks ass. She began transitioning in 2012 and came out to the world with a really great story and interview in Rolling Stone magazine. The band’s next album was the aptly named Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which was released last January and dealt heavily with the subject it was named for. I deeply appreciate how Laura’s songwriting is so unapologetically honest when she's describing the shittiness that is gender dysphoria.


Rae Spoon
Rae Spoon blends folk, indie rock, electronic and country music in a way that’s unique and beautiful. Assigned female at birth, ze lived as a man for years before coming out as genderqueer. Ze has an evangelical Christian background, and I feel like I can hear in some of zir lyrics the same sense of having been betrayed by the church that I’ve experienced in my own life.


Ataru Nakamura (中村  )
Ataru Nakamura sings pop music in the broadest sense of the term, ranging from stirring symphonic pieces to jazzy, cabaret-inspired rock. She transitioned as a teenager before beginning her music career, but came out to the press early on. What I love about her is that she is so amazingly talented. Unlike a lot of pop singers, she writes her own lyrics and composes her own music. And in addition to her gorgeous voice, she is a very capable pianist and drummer. (And she rocks the kazoo!)


Lucas Silveira
Lucas Silveira plays rock and roll in a band called the Cliks. Their tunes are catchy with a vaguely 50s-ish aesthetic. He's stated that he wants to be seen primarily as a musician rather than some sort of transgender spokesman. That being said, it’s kind of interesting to hear how his voice has changed from their earlier recordings since he started taking testosterone in 2010.



Belle Nuntita (เบลล์ นันทิตา)
Belle Nuntita sings typically cheesy pop music, but she does it very well. She became a celebrity overnight after apearing on the TV show Thailand’s got Talent in 2011. Since then she has been raising awareness about the challenges trans people face, as well as continuing to perform and record her music. She has a deep voice for a woman, but it still sounds unmistakably female, and somehow I find that combination very sexy. :)


Titica
Titica is a rapper with a penchant for very high energy, techno-inspired beats: it’s the kind of music that would be a ton of fun to dance to, even if it's not what I'd typically listen to. She’s from Angola, which is definitely not an LGBT-friendly country, but even so she’s very out and visible as a trans person. Between her dance moves and her outfits, it’s obvious she is very, very comfortable with her body. Which I think is pretty great.


Mina Caputo
Mina Caputo started out playing metal in a band called Life of Agony (which may actually be the metaly-est band name ever), but left the group in 1997. Since then her solo work has taken on a softer, more introspective tone. She began transitioning in 2011. Her song Identity contains the lyrics, “I know I’m not a man \ I know I’m not a woman," which is sort of how I feel some days.


Are there any trans musicians you appreciate that aren't on this list? Let me know!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Community

I miss the sense of community I had when I was a conservative Christian. Even though that community didn't exactly foster critical thinking, even though I had to work so hard to hide all my doubts about basic tenets of the faith, and even though no one really knew me 'cause I was lying to all of us about my gender identity: still, in a way, those were some of the closest friends I've ever had.

I moved to Edmonton in December of 2012; before that I'd been living in a town called Grande Prairie. In Grande Prairie I played piano at my local church, and I helped out with the soup kitchen they ran. I attended a weekly bible study group, and I lived with all Christian roommates— (one was even an ordained clergy member). One of the main reasons I moved was to get away from all that. By the end of 2012 it was finally becoming apparent to me that I was losing my faith. I needed space to ask basic questions about what I thought was true, and I wasn't going to find that space in the evangelical Christian community. So I got out.

I moved to Edmonton because that's where my family lives and I thought I might end up going to school here, (which in fact I did). I found the space to ask questions, and in that space I discovered and accepted that I am transgender. But what I lost in the process was a close, loving community. I still keep in touch with some of my old friends through Facebook, but I feel like we're drifting apart. It makes me sad.

I suppose what I ought to do is get involved in the queer community here in Edmonton. (I went to two meetings of my school's queer social club, and one meeting of a trans support group, but that's all.) To be part of a community again, and one where I can actually be myself, would be fantastic. I'm shy and making friends is hard, but still I should try.

Oh, and guess what? I got to see Laverne Cox speak last Friday! She gave a talk as part of my school's pride week, it was really good. Even though I went by myself, it was very refreshing to be in a huge room full of people who accept the legitimacy of trans identites. That's precisely the kind of community I want to be a part of!