Within a week of me coming out at work, a new protocol had been put in place for how we should go about cleaning bathrooms. And for the first time, it applied to all cleaners in all bathrooms, not just guy cleaners going in women’s /girl’s bathrooms, or gals going in the men’s / boy’s. The timing of it was not lost on me.
1. First, call out to see if anyone is in there. If they are, wait.
2. Next, take a sign that is now velcro-ed to the back of all bathroom doors, and velcro-adhere it to the front. This sign reads, “Do Not Enter. Cleaning in Progress.”
3. Close the door, and then do whatever you’re doing, whether it’s just loading more paper towels or full-on cleaning the bathroom.
Before this, we only had to be conscious if we were in bathrooms that were opposite to the ones of our gender/sex.
When I came out to the principal and assistant principal, one of the first and only questions they asked was about bathrooms. Which bathrooms did I plan on using? If she (the principal) could make a suggestion, it would be best if I only used the gender neutral bathrooms. I was polite in response, even though I had not thought this through, and at the time, I used both the women’s bathrooms and the gender neutral bathrooms. All I said was, “A lot of people are worried about bathrooms when it comes to trans-people.”
As it is, a year later, I really only do use the gender-neutral bathrooms because different people within the school have different perceptions about where I’m at, and I want to protect myself and also foster the idea that I am neither male nor female. I didn’t plan on this. I thought I’d be continuing to use both women’s and gender-neutral ones. But I’m not.
I clean one set of bathrooms in the “centrum,” an open plan area where the first graders are taught – there are 3 regular classrooms, 2 resource classrooms, a big open area, and two bathrooms. These bathrooms don’t have doors on them, and also therefore, there are no, “Do Not Enter, Cleaning in Progress” signs accompanying them. Since I do get a head start while the first graders are getting ready to go home, I always yell, “Anyone in here?” even before just dumping the trash / cleaning the sinks. (Due to placement, there’s no way I’d encounter someone using the restroom from the sink area.)
A few days ago, I was doing my routine and called out like always. No one answered. I was putting in a new roll of paper towel. Then I heard a toilet flush. Also a bunch of kids were to the immediate right of this bathroom, putting on their winter coats and boots. I finished loading the paper towel, deciding that it would have been a bigger deal if I had just left it half loaded in my paranoia to escape the bathroom. The girl washed her hands and then I ripped off a piece for her to dry her hands.
Kids who were right there had a very lively conversation!
“There are no boys allowed in the girl’s room.”
“And also no girls allowed in the boy’s room.”
“But why is he in there in the bathroom then?”
“He has to be in there because that’s his job.”
“He’s putting more paper towels in there.”
“But still are you sure he can be in there?”
I just cleared out without further fanfare, but I felt kinda flustered. Personally, I still feel like I half belong in the girl’s / women’s bathrooms. Indeed, those are the ones I use the vast majority of the time when I am out in public.
I was intrigued that these first graders gathered that I was male. I honestly have no clue whether kids at the school I work at think I’m male or female. Whenever I’m asked (this happens so rarely), I do make a point to say, “I’m neither. I’m a little bit of both.” But short of that, I don’t have a clue what conclusions they come to!
One other thing that is tangentially related, I feel, because it concerns personal space: Since I’ve come out, had top surgery, and been on testosterone for long enough that my physique and how I carry myself has changed, I get touched a lot more at work. Some teachers pat or gently tap my shoulders and back. A few days ago, I was thrown way off when a kid patted my midsection for no apparent reason! It’s definitely different, and I don’t respond likewise with anyone, but I gotta say that I do think it’s a positive change – I think people can tell that I am more comfortable in my skin, and some of them act accordingly.
I’ll take it!
If you’d like to see what I originally wrote about this topic, back in January of 2014, here it is:
Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective
I decided to write a Part 2 because this one felt outdated. And I still haven’t covered everything, not by a lot shot! (probably part 3 will appear in the future…)
Back in November, I lamented about not being able to find much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of a psychotic episode. In the past few weeks, two such books sorta fell into my lap, so I want to mention them!
My spouse picked up a book called Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind from the library last weekend. They pointed it out to me, like, eh? You’ll want to read this! This weekend, I was super sick, and I binge read it in 2 days, while trying to stay warm on the couch. It was compelling for so many different reasons, one major one being that I could relate to so much of it. The author, Jaime Lowe, was also hospitalized for a good chunk of her senior year of high school, and she also just took the pills without much reflection for years and years. Like, it’s something that is a thing now. (Although, for me, it was Depakote, and not Lithium.) She had another manic / psychotic episode when she tried to get off Lithium at age 25. I successfully(?) did get off all my pills in my early 20s, and that was my new normal for a long time, until I had 2 subsequent manic / psychotic episodes in my 30s. She had to switch off of Lithium because it was killing her kidneys, and she had a really hard time stomaching Depakoke, but she finally did get through it.
Having to switch sent her on a spiritual journey to learn about Lithium as not just a psychotropic drug but as an element, super common in nature. Which made the book encompass much more than just her mental health trajectory. The best thing about it though, was how thoroughly and deeply she gets back into that headspace of being so completely out of her mind. The slightest suggestion toward a minuscule thing could send her on an all-day (or longer) journey to do and/or be that thing. She devastated every aspect of her life that second time around. I was surprised by the fact that everyone around her wanted to keep her out of the hospital for a second time because she was no longer an adolescent and the adult ward was apparently to be avoided at all costs. As a result, she was in that state much longer – days, weeks… I was brought to the hospital like, BAM! So fast my head didn’t get a chance to spin out too far too fast with too many repercussions.
The second book I’m reading with a portrayal of a breakdown is called The Petting Zoo, by Jim Carroll (of The Basketball Diaries fame). He wrote this book in 2010, and according to the forward by Patti Smith, he died at his desk while writing. He had finished it at the time of his death, but it was still in the editing process. A few people had their hands in trying to edit as close to Jim’s style as possible. It’s fiction. It’s hard for me to get through (probably largely because it’s fiction – I almost always gravitate toward non-fiction and memoir). The book opens with the main character, Billy, in the midst of a manic frenzy. I didn’t know the book would be about that at all – nothing about that on the back cover summary – I bought it on a whim from a record store that was going out of business. So it was interesting to get thrown into that unexpectedly, but I gotta say it felt lacking in… something.
Billy has some kind of crisis over an art opening at the MET and how what he saw of this one artist affects how he’s approaching his art for his own upcoming show. He careens off down the steps, on his own, into the Central Park Zoo, more specifically a side spectacle, an outdated petting zoo. From there, he flees down the street, in his tuxedo and fancy shoes, to a building that reminds him of an Aztec temple. He then hits his head and his eye on branches or something and starts shouting something about a knife. He has a momentary black-out and the cops pick him up. At which point he comes back to reality, and that’s it. Although the aftermath ends up taking longer, red tape and everything. He has to stay overnight in a mental ward, which is just kind of looked at as a novelty, a curiosity, a stop-over.
In conclusion, real life is zanier (or at least more compelling to me) than fiction.
Today is a year on T-injections, 50ml / week. I’d been on Androgel prior to this – from March 2013 to November 2015. During that time, I didn’t experience many physical changes at all, which was what I was looking for at the time. And it’s kind of the reason I stopped too – it became unclear what the purpose was, as if it didn’t make much difference whether I was on the gel or not.
So for that whole next year, I was trying to square away other elements of my transition, not sure whether I’d get back on testosterone or not. It just felt like I wanted to get top surgery, change my name, and transition further socially before I would potentially want to pursue a level of hormones that would definitely change things in a noticeable way. In the summer of 2016, it started to feel like the next step. I was still pretty regularly seen as female everywhere, and more than anything, I wanted to be more firmly planted in the middle.
It took about 6 months to get an appointment and get started on injections. I was doing intramuscular injections at first for about 9 months, and not liking it. The need to get psyched up in order to jab in the needle was not fun. When my endocrinologist gave me the option to switch to subcutaneous, I jumped at tat. I am loving this method. I wrote about making the switch here: 9 months on T-injections
I like being on this dose of testosterone a lot more than I thought I would. The only aspects I’m not liking are the facial hair growth and the loss of a sense of smell.
I would say that I am seen as male more than I am seen as female, now. That’s huge. I don’t want that to tip too far in that direction, but so far, so good. I’m still legally female, and I still almost always go into women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms. I’ve never been stopped or questioned.
There are a lot of changes I could write about in depth, but right now I feel like focusing on my voice. When I started Androgel, I was overly anxious about my voice changing, in particular. I think it dropped ever-so-slightly, and I freaked out and lowered my dose even further. And that worked – it didn’t change any further. When I started injections, I was aware that my voice would probably be the most noticeable thing changing, early on. And I was OK with that – something had shifted over the years.
I’m a DJ on a free form community radio station, and I’ve done an hour-long show regularly every week for the past two years. It’s been a total blast. And, it’s been a way to effortlessly track the changes in my voice. When I hear pre-T recordings, my reaction is total cringe. Which is quite the shift, since I used to want to “preserve” that register. Now I really hate it! And I love how it’s changed. I can never go back, and I’m totally fine with that!
Aaaand, here’s my face:
My spouse, spouse’s mom, and I were sitting in a “farm shop” at Aillwee Cave near Ballyvaughan, Ireland. We had vague plans to go into the cave, but more than anything we were just exploring the west coast by car, stopping at the side of windy narrow roads for pictures, looking at all the sheep, stone walls, castles, and stone-house ruins. When we arrived at the cave and realized it would be 18 Euros each, to tour it, we opted to just take a break instead: drink some Americanos, and sample all the cheeses that were made right in the shop. We picked up tourist maps and brochures, spreading them open on the counter in front of us. I noticed one point of interest, the Burren Brewery at the Roadside Tavern, in Lisdoonvarna, which just happened to be en route to our way back.
My impression of Irish beer so far had been that there are essentially three kinds: a light lager, a red ale, and a dry stout. The blurb about this brewery confirmed that: “The Roadside Tavern which was established in 1865 as a pub, was expanded into a bakery and now harbours a micro-brewery under its roof. Stop by and sample the taster menu of Burren micro-brewery beers: Burren Gold, a delicious colourful lager; Burren Red, a spicy, slightly sweet ale which even features a hint of smoke; Burren Black, a smooth and full-bodied stout.”
The town was so small that we just parked on the main street and walked up and down, looking for the Roadside Tavern. When we found it, it looked closed and there was a sign on the door that food was not being served for the next couple of months – the off season for tourists. We tried the door and were surprised to find that it was in fact open. An old gentleman was tending bar, and there were three locals just shooting the breeze. It was only 4pm, but it had the vibe that it didn’t really get much more crowded than that, even on a late night in January. It was already getting dark out, and the place was dimly lit. I ordered one of each (my spouse’s mom got the Gold, I got the Red, and my spouse got the Black.) We found our way into a second room, where a fire was blazing, giving off a warmth and a glow.
This was also an opportunity to go on our phones – WiFi was spotty throughout the trip; our airbnb didn’t have a connection. Since I don’t have a smart phone, I just stared at the fire, trying to overhear the conversations. I couldn’t make out a whole lot, but the language was definitely colorful.
The bartender went into the back for a while, and I snapped a few photos. Then I started to wander around, looking for the restroom. I went up some stairs and through a door which led to a more of a dining area, completely empty. When I came back, my spouse said they were joking about how I was leading my own micro-brewery tour. I said I was looking for the bathroom (just called “toilet” in Ireland.) My spouse’s mom pointed to another door. “It’s always down the stairs.”
I went through and there was the bartender. I looked to my left, “ladies,” and to my right, “gents.” I made a move like I was going left, and the bartender firmly, simply, gestured me the other way. I thought to myself, “well, his place, his rules. I don’t feel unsafe. Here we go…” and I went in. While I was in the stall, another guy came in and approached a urinal. I flushed, washed my hands, dried my hands, and left. No problems.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been directed to the men’s. It happened once in Turkey. And also at a clothing store, to the men’s dressing room. This felt more deliberate though, ceremonial almost. And although I don’t plan to continue frequenting men’s bathrooms, it felt validating. I really do feel like I am inhabiting a middle ground, finally.
Before we left, the bartender asked how we liked the beers. My spouse said of the Burren Black, “Better than a Guinness!” The bartender just nodded, knowingly.
Recently, while in the midst of yet another gender confusion stream-of-consciousness ramble, directed at my therapist, she reminded me, “You used to tell me that you didn’t think you felt like a man, but you wanted to be seen as a boy.” But that was like 15 years ago, when I was 20, 21 years old. At that point, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to be seen as a 15 year old boy. Right? Or at least, not nearly as much of a stretch as a 36-year old (me, now) wanting that same thing. Do I still want that? Not really, anymore. But, it is happening at this point, sometimes, more than ever before. (Well maybe not more than when I was 10 years old and there was no way to tell me apart from a boy of that same age..)
When I was first grappling with what it meant to be transgender, one of the first terms I latched onto was “boi.” It’s a deviation of “boy,” something that’s queer and edgy but also kind of just “testing the waters,” experimental, non-committal. Wikipedia has a whole slew of other meanings for “boi,” which is worth checking out, here.
It seems that this term has fallen out of popularity, similarly to how “hir” and “ze” have given way to “they.”
I gotta admit I don’t identify with “boi” anymore. Nor do I feel like I am a boy. BUT! There are certain things that are great about being seen that way. When people mistake me for a 16 year old boy, I feel like I will live forever! Hah, not really, but there is something exciting about it. I almost always get carded unless I’m at a place where people know my face. Fine by me!
Sometimes I have trouble inhabiting this body. it has gotten waaaaaaay easier since top surgery and testosterone. BUT! Do you know what’s cool about this body? The size of my body is exactly between “boy’s” sizes and “men’s” sizes, in every way. I love that – it’s kind of perfect. I can wear boys XL shirts (as long as the sleeves are long enough) or men’s XS shirts (kind of hard to find). Men’s pants start at size 28 waist, and boy’s pants end at size 30 waist. I fall right within that range – lately since testosterone, going more toward the 30. Boy’s size 20 means 30X30 which is pretty much perfect, if I can find them.
And shoes! Boy’s go up to size 6y (the “y” stands for youth). And Men’s start at size 7. Either of these fit me.
I wear unisex size small t-shirts. I wear both boy’s and men’s underwear, but gravitate more towards boy’s because it’s generally waaaaaaaay cheaper.
When I was 20, 21, a close friend and I strongly identified as “bois,” together. We played catch with baseballs and mitts, or frisbees, countless times. We peed in the woods, whenever we had to go, no big deal. We worked on an organic garden, we went camping and swimming in the lake in just our briefs and A-frame tank tops. We got free ice creams at the place my brother worked. She now identifies as a bisexual woman. And I identify as trans, as genderqueer, as non-binary, as queer.
But, although I have a history with it, I probably would not say that I am a “boi.”
I have not come up against very much resistance or ugliness as I’ve come out, in stages, in different ways, over the span of like 18 years. I’ve been called rude things out car windows. I’ve had uncomfortable and disconcerting medical appointments. I’ve faced silence-as-acceptance(?) from certain family members. I’m still dealing with people not grasping the right pronoun, or referring to my spouse as my “friend.” But these things have been few and far between, and although they do add up, they don’t feel terribly crushing. Most of the hardest feelings have come from within, and not outside forces.
Two weeks ago though, something came up that was deliberate, that would affect me long term, and that I can’t just let go. It’s my name plate at work.
I’ve worked at this school for over 10 years, and I’ve struggled to find my place within the rest of the staff. As a default, I’ve been distant and out-of-the-loop for the most part. It took me 6 years to get a name on the custodial door at all, and that only happened when a new person started and he got his name on the door. Then it was suddenly, hey, wait a minute! I had been fine without one, or so I told myself, because I’d rather not have one at all than be a “Miss” or a “Ms.” or later a “Mrs.” or even a “Mr.” All of those feel cringe-worthy and totally wrong for me. So when I was actually asked, and I said, “KT [last name]” and that was accepted, I was thrilled. That was the name I went by. It felt right. At the time.
And then it didn’t. I came out at work last December. Holy what, that was a year ago! Part of this included talking to the principal about my name and pronoun change. I also made it clear that I was not transitioning to male, exactly, and I’d like it to be known I identify as in the middle or as a little bit of both genders. She replied that that distinction was not necessary, and that was more of a private thing. PS- It isn’t. It’s my identity. Instead of deciding I needed to clarify in that moment though, I attempted to grasp onto other compromises and specifics. So that, when she asked me about my name on the custodial door, it was immediately a no-brainer. “Mx. [last name].” It’s another option, I said. It is in use. It’s a thing, I tried to assure her. I said, “If this is representing my name, then I don’t feel compelled to spell out [in a coming out email she was going to be sending on my behalf] how I am neither gender. The title will speak for itself, and people can ask me if they want.” The principal nodded. It felt very much like we had agreed on this. She had told me that it could say whatever I wanted although she would like there to be some uniformity with everyone else’s. Mx. seemed perfect. I assumed there was follow-through on this.
As the months went by and I still didn’t have a name on the door (my supervisor had ripped off my old one), I wondered what was a reasonable amount of time to wait before asking what’s going on? But then I was out of work in May for mental health reasons. And then it was summer, and stuff like that doesn’t get done over the summer. I again had a new co-worker. I decided I would just ride in on his coat-tails. It would be easier, and that was the route I preferred to take at that time. And sure enough, within the first couple of weeks of school starting back up in September, he got his name on the custodial door. And I still didn’t. It was Mr. [last name]. I went to the administrative assistant that day and asked about my name. She apologized for not adding mine to the order, and she said she’d order it right then and there. I gave her a piece of paper where I had written it out, so there’d be no confusion: Mx. [last name].
It took 2 months, but it finally came in 2 weeks ago, but it was all wrong. I checked the custodial mail slot like I do most days, and I was appalled to see two new name plates: one for me and one for my co-worker – both of them were our first and last names. No titles at all. My ears turned red, my pulse quickened. I paced around a little, trying to move forward with my work while processing this. The principal was still in her office, adjacent to the hall where these mail slots are. I started to gear up to approach her, but then I hesitated, thinking I should wait until I’m more levelheaded. I didn’t get a chance to decide because right in that moment, she left.
My first, more general thought was that this is disrespectful in a classist sense. Why should ours be the only names that don’t have a title with them. Other thoughts spiraled out from there, most prominently, “I don’t want to have to deal with this!”
When the name got put on the door, I told my co-worker that’s not what I wanted. (He failed to change out his name plate, so mine was the only one with a first name). I then told the administrative assistant, and she said this was the principal’s decision. Which I already figured; I just didn’t want to talk to her! For 5 days in a row, I gathered myself to go talk to her, only to be met with her on her way out the door right in that moment. So finally when passing her in the hall on the 6th day, I asked, “Can I talk to you before you leave today?”
That worked! I talked to her and it was no big deal on her end. I wrote out what I wanted, for a third time, and she said it’d be ordered the following day. Which was yesterday. We’ll see how long it takes this time around; at this point it’s been over a year!
Back in October, I was asked to be a part of a group performance art piece, an interpretation of John Cage’s Variations III. We were given a sheet of transparent plastic with 42 circles on it. Our task was to cut out each circle, take a 11 X 8.5 inch sheet of paper, drop the circles onto the white paper, clear any circles that landed outside of the paper and also any circle that wasn’t overlapping with another circle. Then we took a photo of our “circle configuration.” Mine looked like this:
We were then supposed to distill this pattern into a “score” that would span 2 hours (including 5 minute breaks for every “event.” According to the directions, “Starting with any circle, observe the number of circles which overlap it. Make an action or actions having the corresponding number of interpenetrating variables (1+n). This done, move on to any one of the overlapping circles, again observing the number of interpenetrations, performing a suitable action or actions, and so on. Some or all of one’s obligation may be performed through ambient circumstances (environmental changes) by simply noticing or responding to them. Though no means are given for the measurement of time or space … or the specific interpretation of circles, such measurement and determination means are not necessarily excluded from the ‘interpenetrating variables.’ Some factors though not all of a given interpenetration or succession of several may be planned in advance, but leave room for the use of unforseen eventualities. Any other activities are going on at the same time.”
So, in less dense terms, 24 performers were given a space of roughly 4 feet by 6 feet, all in one big room. And we could do any activity we chose, for a length of two hours, off and on, as was guided by our circle permutation. So, basically, I had 9 circles which meant 9 events, and I tried to have each overlap “dictate” how each of the 9 events was structured. The performance was on December 1st.
I decided mine would be about doing drag. There was really nothing else that made sense. Drag has been the only form of performance art I’ve done, and I was excited to, in a way, deconstruct and leave up to chance, the way it played out.
I brought an alarm clock radio with a tape player, 100 cassettes tapes all in a display case, 9 wigs & hats, 4 skirts, 2 pants, one dress, a bunch of shirts and coats and belts and cumberbunds, 4 shoes & boots, a makeup bag, 4 “microphones,” a mirror, a blow dryer, and a hair buzzer. I think I was the performer with the most “stuff,” and over the course of 2 hours, I proceeded to make a mess of all of it, within my space. This was reminiscent of any time I would do drag. After a show, my room would be a disaster of dress-up options.
So, for each of the 9 events, I threw “circles,” onto the ground (including cds, tokens, bracelets, and mason jar rings). I then pretended to have these circle formations dictate what I wore and what tape I played. In a vague sense. It all did work out in the end – I had 9 different outfits and 9 different songs, all chosen at random. Some of those included REM – Drive, XTC – Summer’s Cauldron, Tears for Fears – Shout, and Kate Bush – Jig of Life. I didn’t know these songs by heart, so I just pretended to lip-synch. Due to the cacophony in the room though, I was the only one who could hear the clock radio anyway – I had to hold it right next to my ear!
Other peoples’ actions included baking things, bicycling, playing instruments, creating play-dough art, playing video games, reading aloud, dancing, and much more! Observers just walked among us. It was unclear whether they were supposed to engage with us or not. One guy did come up to me and ask if he could talk to me. I said, “Sure.” He said he thought earlier I had silver lipstick on and now I don’t, so what happened? I said, “Oh, that lipstick was so old it didn’t go on right. It was all clumpy. So during one of my breaks, I went to the bathroom to take it off.” “Was that part of what was supposed to happen?” “No!” And we both laughed. He asked more questions about why did you do this, why not this?
Afterward I talked to a handful of acquaintances – it felt good to be social. That guy came back up to me and said, “You know, when you put on the lipstick, you really had me convinced.” “Convinced of what? That it looked bad?” “No, that you were a woman.” “Oh, whoa, OK, so, I’m a little bit of both. As is all this stuff.” I gestured to all my clothes and junk, still strewn about. My two friends I was talking to backed me up, which felt awesome.
I think ultimately, I was going for that response, for people to be confused about what genders I was playing out or not playing out. So even though his forwardness made me uncomfortable in the moment, it was an important element, or “takeaway,” from the night.
Every year around this time, I revisit the first time I was hospitalized, which was Veteran’s Day weekend in 1999. It used to feel like the worst thing that ever happened to me. And, in terms of fallout, I still think that it was – it just no longer feels that way.
Two years after this hospitalization, I wrote an essay for a class, including every little thing I could remember about the experience. A few months ago, I gave that document to my therapist to read over. I didn’t necessarily want to delve into it or have her probe me about it. I just wanted for her to have read it. And she really only said one thing: “There were always questions about whether you had been in a psychotic state or not. This definitely shows that you were.” And, strangely, I was satisfied with that. As if I could lay to rest whether I needed to be there or not. For the most part…
I’m currently giving my most recent hospitalization (from 6 months ago) the same treatment, as best as I can remember. I’m up to 2,500 words so far, and only about 15% done. I don’t have any plans for it other than just something that I want to do for myself. We’ll see. I feel like there’s not much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of psychosis. (If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!) That does not mean I have lofty goals for where I could take this writing; it’s just a motivating factor, something that pushes me to try to capture it as best as I can.
Here are the other posts I have made, yearly:
Continuing to work through a specific trauma – Four years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist.
That specific trauma is still there – Three years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it. I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time.
That specific trauma is no longer a big deal – Two years ago, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal. The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it.
Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change – Then last year, I wrote about how other things were going on, and I really didn’t have the space or time to reflect. Which was perfectly fine. Between the election results, working on getting my name legally changed, and other emotional markers, it just didn’t come up.
This year, I am thinking about it, but it is more in terms of “one of the times I was hospitalized,” rather than, “a traumatic event – the worst thing that ever happened to me,” etc.
I’ve been thinking of all the little occurrences that go into the bigger story. Like, for example, in that state, my mind was so malleable and adaptable that it seemed like, theoretically, anything could be true and just as easily, not true all at once. Which is one of the reasons I avoided watching any TV. (There were two TVs on the unit – one played music and had legalese constantly scrolling, in both Spanish and English – like a “know your rights” kind of thing. The other TV had a remote and listing of channels, and we could watch whatever we wanted, 24/7.) At one point I did sit down, and there was a documentary on about pineapples. (Er, rather I’m sure the documentary was on something more broad, but I saw the pineapple part. I started yelling about the unlikelihood about these pineapples growing. Don’t pineapples grow on trees like sensible fruits? What were these miniature pineapples growing up from fronds in the dirt?! A patient who knew-all immediately matched the intensity I was spewing, and argued for the realness of these pineapples.
A few months later, my spouse’s aunt was visiting from Hawaii, and sure enough, she grows pineapples on her property and sure enough, she had pics to prove it. I can now accept it fully.
I don’t have a gynecologist. I haven’t had one for probably 15 years. The reason for that is because I felt so out of place there, so I let that aspect of my health passively slip away. I’ve always gone to the dentist twice a year. I was really into chiropractic care for years, consistently. I’ve gotten eye exams. I regularly go to a therapist and a psychiatrist. I even have a primary care physician, and more recently, an endocrinologist. But I’ve neglected and avoided anything related to my junk (this is just my preferred term for what I got going on down there…)
My last pap smear was in 2012, and I went through that because it was a prerequisite for getting testosterone gel. That was enough of a motivating factor to go through that. It was super painful and anxiety inducing, but I had done it! Since then, there’s been no reason to get it done again, in my mind. Prior to 2013, I’m not sure how long it had been.
About a year and a half ago, I was on a panel with two other trans-people, in front of a group of health-care professionals, talking about our experiences with health services. I mostly talked about my experiences with top-surgery consultations, but during the Q & A, the three of us were asked about sexual and reproductive health. I was super open about how uncomfortable I am with this aspect of health care, and how I have avoided it. I even felt a stubborn pride about it – something like, “if I avoid it, that verifies how little I relate to my junk.” This really makes no sense whatsoever, and why exactly is this a point of pride? My two peers were much more proactive – they had had lots of experiences with making sure their needs and check-ups were on track.
Two weeks ago, I was eating lunch with a super close friend. She was mentioning something about her menstrual cycle and about how she needs to get her routine check-up. I told her how long it’s been since I had a pap smear, and she seemed aghast. I said I wasn’t going to be getting one either. She said something to the effect of, “But you have to.” She sort of role played a scenario in which hypothetically something scary is found, like HPV or cancer, that could have easily been avoided by just getting regular screenings. The emotions she was pouring into it were what got me. I kept going back and forth between, “OK, I will get it done,” and “No way never again!” The conversation stayed with me.
A couple of days later, I had a lump in my armpit. I’d never had anything like that before. My spouse told me I should get that checked out. This was something that was more straightforward! I could definitely go to the doctor for something like this! I called and got an appointment for the next morning. Then it dawned on me that I should be getting a pap smear. I waffled back and forth for a while, wondering if I’d be able to get myself to call back. I finally did, pitching my voice as high as I could so it would be apparent that this request would not be totally incongruous. Blah.
The pap smear was just as painful as the other times I’d gotten one, but I would say it was less anxiety-inducing. What helped me get through it was trying to stay present in the moment, in the room. I did this by talking with the nurse practitioner. “This room is cold.” “Please use the smallest one possible.” “This is really hurting.” Etc.
I gotta admit I do not know the exact reasons pap smears are important – what is being tested, etc. But I do think I will be more on top of getting them every few years from now on…
To top this all off, on Saturday we were out in the woods with some friends. Sunday morning, I felt something chafing on my chest, and when I looked, there was a tick latched in right on my nipple! Eeaughhhh!!! My spouse tweezed it and pulled it in half. Half of it is still embedded in my skin. I’m thinking it will work itself out on its own. She talked to our friend on the phone – he regularly gets ticks and gets them tested in groups, after he’s collected a bunch. So far so good but lyme disease is a scary possibility. Do I have to go back to the doctor?!
This year was the 25th anniversary of our local annual LGBTQ+ film festival! We made an effort to invite friends to different films this time around, which was fun – connecting with some people we hadn’t seen much lately was nice. Most of these links are to trailers, and a couple are to the films’ websites.
Beach Rats – I went to this one by myself, and I was surrounded by gay men, for the most part. There’s something about that that I really embrace; it doesn’t happen often enough. The general story-line is that this young man is living a double life – hanging out with his friends drinking, smoking pot, playing handball, going to Coney Island, getting a girlfriend. When he’s by himself though, he turns to online websites to hook up with older men. I like the way it was filmed. Really sparse. And the story-line takes an unusual twist.
Tom of Finland – This is the Finnish entry for best foreign language film for the upcoming Academy Awards – how cool is that?!! This was a really well done bio-pic. I really didn’t know much about him other than what I saw of his drawings. He fought in WWII. He had a complex and interesting relationship with his sister. He had a long-lasting partner. He had fans all over the world, but especially in California, and they made sure he knew he was celebrated, flying him in for parties he inspired, etc. Highly recommend!
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson – You can watch this movie on Neflix if you want. So, this is really only some of the story. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the production of this film and who’s work is being credited, which we only found out about the day before we were going to see it. Here’s one article that gets into all the details: What Would Trans Art Look Like if it Was Only Made By Trans People? To sum it up in one sentence, a trans-woman of color – Reina Gossett – has been working on a film about Marsha P. Johnson, and she had done a ton of legwork and archival studying. Then this dude – David France – swoops in with his finances and his connections and essentially steals the work that had been made thus far. So, our experience was a little bit soured, but I have to admit it was still a good film. And I hope Reina Gossett is still feeling empowered to move ahead and create her own film – the more films that will educate people about transgender people and issues, the better. I just realized I didn’t say anything about what this film is about – so go watch it on Netflix! Haha.
Alaska is a Drag – This one was kinda campy. It features twins who are stuck living in Alaska – a gay guy working at a fish cannery, learning boxing, and fantasizing about making it big as a drag queen, and his sister who has cancer and is getting regular treatments, but her spirits are high, indulging in the world of drag her brother creates. It was so-so. Definitely different, but not all that compelling.
Freak Show – This was SUPER campy. Directed by Trudy Styler (Sting’s wife!) A kid has to move to a southern state and attend a super conservative high school. His mom is Bette Midler, er, I mean, a mom played by Bette Midler. He endures bullying on top of bullying and hate crimes and more and more violence. He then decides to up the ante and run for homecoming queen. Laverne Cox has a small role – that was one of the best parts. Also, costuming was stunning, but otherwise, I wasn’t a huge fan.
Saturday Church – This centers on a 14 year old boy named Ulysses. Similar themes as Freak Show, but the approach is a little more realistic. He starts to question his gender identity amidst bullying at school and conservative viewpoints from relatives. He meets other gender variant people of different stripes, they all convene at a youth service / shelter on Saturday nights. Kate Bornstein plays the person in charge of the space!!! They eat together, attend “balls” together, and talk about hardships. I liked this film a lot!