I haven’t written one of these since 2014! That’s way too long! My spouse and I just watched Another Earth for the second time, and I had forgotten that the protagonist, Rhoda, is a high school janitor. Heads up – this post might contain spoilers! And also, although I’m being critical and having fun with it (the portrayal of a janitor), I actually really do love this movie (hence, the wanting to watch it for a 2nd time!)
She doesn’t start out as a janitor. She’s a promising student that just got accepted to MIT, but her path takes a sharp turn when she kills a wife and child in a drunk driving accident. She spends the next four years in prison, instead of college, and when she gets out, she struggles with even wanting to be alive. When talking to a social worker about a job placement, she says,
“I don’t wanna really be around too many people or do too much talking.”
And that is, in a nut-shell, what being a janitor is all about! She gets placed at West Haven High School. We see her in a bunch of scenes at work. I’ll try to break it down a bit:
Uniform: She’s wearing workboots in the style of Timberlands. She has a hoodie and a full-body jumpsuit on over that. Plus a beanie. It is winter, but this is what she’s wearing while working in the building, and she is WAY overdressed! I’d be sweating bullets in this get-up, plus the footwear is too heavy-duty. Even running sneakers would be better – you do a ton of walking as a janitor. I wear a t-shirt, pants, and sneakers, and I still get hot – school buildings are usually kept super warm.
The Work: We see her pushing her cart through the building, mopping halls, and scrubbing at bathroom grafitti. This is fairly realistic, although where I work, we have an auto-scrubber for halls, and I’d never use that much elbow-grease on anything the way she’s going at that grafitti – I’d blow out my ligaments! I already struggle with “tennis elbow” from regular repetitive motions. Not worth it!
Storyline: There’s a sub-plot where her co-worker, Purdeep, is noticeably blind, and you’re left wondering how he gets his job done without seeing. Then, one day, Purdeep isn’t there, and Rhoda asks about him. The reply? He’s not coming back because he poured bleach in his own ears. This was the 2nd incident – he had previously blinded his own self by pouring bleach in his eyes.
“He said he was tired of seeing himself everywhere.”
Later on, there’s a scene where Rhoda visits him in the hospital, and she writes letters on the palm of his hand in order to communicate with him. It’s a tender connection, but other than that, I’m not sure what’s being coveyed through this other than here was a janitor who incrimentally lost his mind and self-destructed. ???
There’s one other scene, early on, that I think is really relevant. She runs into an old classmate at a corner store, and from his demeanor, it’s apparent he’s super surprised to see her, and he knows all about what happened to her, going to prison and everything. Their dialogue reads, starting with him asking,
“So, are you working?”
“West Haven High.”
“Yeah? What do you teach?”
“I clean the school.”
“Oh, that’s cool. …That’s probably very … therapeutic.”
It might not be apparent from the words, but his tone is sooo condescending, his classism is really shining through. I often tell people that I’m a janitor, and I feel fortunate I don’t come up against this kind of bias, generally. But there was a long period of time where I did feel shame about my job, especially because I work for the same school district I went to school at, and I too was a “promising” student, and I actually did go to college (and not prison), and I would brace myself for those moments where I might run into someone I knew from school.
In November of my senior year of high school, I had an appointment to see a counselor – my mom had set it up for me. I’m not sure who she contacted or what route she took to find this person – I should ask her. I never ended up going to them though because, a week before the appointment, I went to a psychiatric hospital. I talked to people there. And when I got out, I started seeing a therapist who was affiliated with that hospital. I went to her for the rest of that school year, plus my freshman year of college. I remember talking to her on the phone from my dorm room, and seeing her whenever I came home on breaks.
She quickly and easily became my favorite adult. I always looked forward to seeing her. I didn’t talk much. I had no template for how to converse, basically. She chipped away at that naturally, gradually, over time. Sometimes we would role-play. I often came home from our sessions and wrote out, word-by-word, our conversations. It’s really neat to read back through those!
She was the first person to ask me about gender, and specifically, if I was comfortable with my female body. I had just seen Boys Don’t Cry (my mom was reluctant to let me see it, but I was persistent, and she took me), and I told my therapist all about it. She asked me about different aspects of my body, and I admitted that I don’t like this or that about it, I don’t shave my legs, etc. But I essentially told her I couldn’t see myself as a man.
I started to go to a youth group through the local gay alliance that spring, and it was super helpful to be able to talk about those experiences from the group, with her. Plus I had a crush on someone at school – in my memories, it feels like 90% of our sessions were taken up talking about that, specifically. She always made me feel like there was potential and hope there. In the end, she was right. Kinda. In some ways. But that’s a different story!
Last week, I uncovered a cassette tape that has her name on it, in my handwriting. I knew exactly what it was – I always knew this tape existed. I had just misplaced it for a long time. I’d been passively searching for it for years, actually.
I put it in my tape deck, which is right behind me where I’m sitting now, and pushed “play.” I thought I would have some visceral or nostalgic reaction to her voice, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. It was just her, reading from a script, going through a guided relaxation full of visualizations. It was kinda cheesy. Nothing that actually felt like a connection.
As I was planning my radio show this week, I incorporated about 2 minutes of this tape, layered with an instrumental track.
When I went to therapy on Wednesday, I brought all this up – finding the tape, planning on including it on my show, thinking about her again. My current therapist knew her – they were collegues. I told her I was thinking about trying to contact her, but I was at a loss because she got married (changed her name) when she moved to North Carolina.
I’ve half-heartedly tried to “google” her once or twice, a long time ago. For whatever reason, it felt super weird and I didn’t pursue it any further. But actually talking it out, at therapy (and I’m talking about the here-and-now, current therapist) made it not seem strange at all. People do these things. They reach out, try to find important others from their pasts, all the time.
I’m gonna do it! I’m pretty sure I tracked down her phone number online. Now I just gotta figure out what I’d say in a message. My voice sounds male now – I’m gonna have to explain that. I have a different name. Yet another coming out. What am I gonna say?!
Stay tuned for the conclusion, where I actually talk to her, if it all works out…
A couple of weeks ago, a new zine, made by non-binary people, launched. This first issue’s theme is sexuality and romance, and it can be purchased here, on Etsy: Mx. Zine
The cost is sliding scale / pay what you want, and all profits will be donated to Trans Lifelife (a crisis helpline for trans people) and/or Black & Pink (queer prison abolitionists). How cool is that?!
I just got mine in the mail, and I highly recommend it. It’s 16 pages of poetry, photography, drawings, mini-comics, and prose. It’s on really nice paper and is in color. I first found out about it from AJ, a member of a facebook group that I’m also a part of. I reached out and asked them a few questions to get a better sense of the scope of the project.
Kam: What is your role in the group, and how did you get involved?
AJ: I don’t have an official name for my role in Mx., but I’m somewhere between an organizer and editor. I’d had the idea for a collaborative project made only by non-binary people, and had quite a bit of support from the community, and was able to gather a group of interested NBs. I laid out the basics, but a lot of the details were fine-tuned by suggestions and polls. Then people submitted their content, and I arranged it into the final product!
Kam: What are some of the long-term goals for this project?
AJ: I really hope this will head in the direction of a queer based distro, where we’d also distribute music, art, and other zines. I’d love to see the proceeds from that go towards getting radical queer and feminist literature into the hands of young queers.
Kam: Do you come from a writing / publishing background? Have you made zines before?
AJ: I do a lot of writing for fun, but it’s not exactly a background. I’ve made several small zines before, but this was the first big project.
Kam: What are some ways newcomers can get involved?
AJ: Join our Facebook group! It’s a general group for recruiting and updating on upcoming projects. Our next issue will be along the lines of Queer Liberation and Revolution, and we’d love to hear from new contributors! https://www.facebook.com/groups/mxzine/
Kam: What are the pros and cons, in your opinion, in using a printed medium when so much around us is digital / digitized?
AJ: I’m definitely one who prefers holding what I’m reading, but also it can be a lot easier to get out if we’re going through a distro (which I’ve been working on trying to do). I also find people more likely to pass around and share zines rather than sending files. People who might not have a computer, or who have a hard time reading from them also benefit from physical copies.
There are definitely benefits to having it digital as well, and it makes it accessible to more people. People can zoom in for larger text or invert the colors if that helps them. We’re also making a text-only document with image descriptions that will be available upon request.
Kam: How did the title for the zine get selected?
AJ: The title Mx. was decided by a poll in our Facebook group. I wish I could tell you who suggested it, but I’m not sure. The runner-up was “Enbious Vibes,” which I also liked a lot.
Kam: Do you yourself identify as non-binary?
AJ: Yes! (In fact, everyone who collaborated on the zine identifies somewhere outside the binary.) I label my gender simply as “Queer.” I’ve bounced around with different labels since I was thirteen, but I feel this describes me best, at least at this point in my life. I don’t like trying to use more specific labels (e.g. genderfluid, demi-boy/girl), since so many people define them differently. I do love that there is so much new terminology floating around, and there can be a lot of personal empowerment in choosing a specific classifier for yourself, and then fine-tuning its description to best suit your experience. Me personally, I feel empowered by emphasizing the blurry lines of gender.
Thanks to AJ for the interview, and, again, get yourself a copy!!! Here: Mx. Zine
I’ve been a part of an all-volunteer, community radio station for over two years, and it’s been an incredible experience, across the board. I’ve met a bunch of new people, learned how to use technical equipment, and have found my voice in a very fun way! The station is a combination of music shows of all genres, and talk shows covering an array of topics. I listen to a lot of them, on-and-off, while I work. A few weeks ago, a friend alerted me that one of the talk-show DJs was perpetuating a transphobic paradigm. I downloaded the show to hear it in its entirety, and then I decided to write him a letter in response. Essentially, he sought out a video from a certain Dr. Michelle Cretella and took her side, as she chipped away at the topic of puberty blockers for transgender teenagers.
I decided not to link to her video, here in this blog post, because I’d rather people not see it! But if you want to, you can totally search it out (and it would probably make the following letter I wrote make more sense.) I watched it. It was terrible.
Here is an edited version of what I wrote and had delivered to the DJ:
Dear [Radio DJ],
I’m a fellow DJ, and I’ve been enjoying tuning into your show for a while now. The first one I heard was all about the importance of eating healthy, nutritious foods, and I was totally into it.
Your show from two weeks ago, and your discussion about transgender puberty blockers as institutionalized child abuse, however, hit me right in the gut; I feel so strongly that I decided to write from my own experience in the hopes that it’ll bring up new considerations.
I found the video clip that you shared to be sensationalistic and oversimplified. It is not all of those things all at once: puberty blockers, “mutilation,” sterilization. It is a very gradual process, and it involves listening to the child at every step of the way, which, it turns out, is actually a worthwhile thing! Children start to understand gender at around age 3. If their gender is incongruous with their sex, it is certainly possible for them to start to feel this as young as they are. The key questions medical and therapeutic providers keep in mind, over time, is: are they consistent, are they adamant, and is it increasingly apparent that they are becoming more and more uncomfortable?
If so, preminary actions can be taken to alleviate these intense feelings, and none of them are “undoable” at this stage. Maybe the child wants to feel out what it means to be called a different name and be referred to with different pronouns. And then, possibly, maybe they want to switch back. No harm done. Children can be very much androgynous before puberty hits, as they are testing out what feels right. I can attest to this 100% – I was a tomboy who was often “mistaken” for a boy. It was vital for me to be able to explore this without much pushback.
Dr. Michelle Critella hit the nail on the head when she said, “If a child can’t trust the reality of their physical bodies, who or what can they trust?” This is at the crux of what it means to be a transgender person. When puberty hits, their bodies betray them in monstrous ways. Many of the changes that occur at puberty cannot easily be “undone.” Namely, voice drop and body/facial hair in boys, and breast development in girls. Puberty blockers essentially allow for bided time. More time to understand the situation of the child, now bordering on a teenager.
At this stage, the best thing to do is to keep options open as the child continues to grow into who they are. If they can put off puberty for a little longer, it can literally be a life saving pathway. Down the road, they may be turning to more permanent changes, such a surgery and hormone replacement therapy (taking hormones that fit with their gender identity.) And yes, “sterilization” is one of many factors that would have to be a part of the discussion (and that’s a complex thing in and of itself that I’d need to learn more about. Basically, there are options.) These choices, which are being made by both the transgender person and their family (ideally) and a therapist, are far from “institional child abuse,” because the alternatives are far more drastic. Suicide, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, physical and sexual abuse, brutal bullying, are all very real for transgender teens. If they are listened to, believed, and being guided through steps that help them holistically, there’s nothing better than that!
Being transgender is not a “lifestyle” and it’s not a choice. It runs much deeper than that. It is at the core of who someone is, and people grow into their true selves in myriad ways. If they start to know that pathway as early as the age of 3, then, yeah, that could be one of the ways someone gets to where they need to be, as they continue to figure it out. During your segment, you questioned, “Who are they?” “They” are transgender people and the allies who listen to them.
If you’re interested in continuing this conversation, I would gladly be a guest on your show. Better yet, it’d be amazing to get a group of transgender people with very different backgrounds to come on and speak from their own experiences.
Let me know if that could work out.
-Kameron, fellow DJ and transgender person.
I’ve been binge-listening to Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, a podcast hosted by comedian Chris Gethard. The premise is so super basic: He “tweets” out the phone number when he is in the studio, and whoever ends up getting through talks with Chris, anonymously, for exactly one hour. Sometimes it’s just chit chat, sometimes the caller has an agenda and they want to make the most of this platform. Sometimes it’s funny, but more often, it’s sad, intense, and heartfelt. I’ve heard the experiences of someone in an abusive relationship, someone who escaped from a cult, someone who was a heroin addict, someone who was in an inappropriate relationship with their teacher, and so much more – including two episodes in which the caller is a trans-person.
What Not To Ask A Trans Person (Episode #54) In this episode, Chris deviated from the formula a bit – every so often, instead of taking a random call, he’ll ask people to leave a “pitch” as a phone message, and he will reach out to one of those people. In this case, the caller is a 28 year-old transman who is engaged to a transwoman… and, unfortunately, that’s about all we get to know about him as a person. The majority of the call is Trans-101 stuff – we are STILL only at this basic level with the general population. Chris puts his foot in his mouth a couple of times (he makes it clear this will be inevitable.) At one point he uses the word “transgender” as a verb, when he meant to say “transition.” Also, this exchange was super cringe-worthy:
Caller: “Even people who are not in any way transphobic, most people don’t know a lot about the experience being trans or the trans community, so they tend to be very curious. And this is fine, except that often it ends up that often trans people end up being … put in a position of having to answer all their questions, sometimes very invasive questions … like, what your genitals look like.”
Chris: [Talks super eloquently about mental health in the trans community, transphobia, and other vulnerabilities. Then says] “I do like that the first one you did mention was people asking you about your genitals. That’s gotta get real old real fast. That being said, on behalf of everybody who is wondering, I wonder what your, what your eh, your your…” and then he trailed off. DUDE. The caller handled it really well, making it super clear that that’s not a question that you ask people.
Chris: “Are there any stories… Is there any real life shit you can put out there and just make it eye opening of like, ‘yeah, this shit is real.’ You know?”
Caller: “You know, like, I think … the biggest thing is like, maybe stop murdering trans people.” He said this so casually that I laughed out loud.
One other thing that the caller pointed out that I’d never really thought about before was when talking about the high percentage of trans people who have attempted suicide – I always saw that as some concrete indicator of how outcasted the population is, how brutal society has been toward trans people. But for someone who is apt to brush that off and think that trans people are just mentally ill to begin with, that person will just cement it in their mind further that of course trans people want to kill themselves. They’re crazy. That’s demoralizing to think about.
Coming Out, With Katie Couric (Episode #77) This one also deviated from the normal format in that it was the second episode ever where Chris had a co-host. (The first one was episode #37 with Hannibal Buress.) Apparently Katie Couric reached out to him, really wanting to come on his show! The only thing I’d heard about her, any time lately, was that she botched an interview with transgender model Carmen Carrera in January 2014, asking things such as, “Your private parts are different now, aren’t they?” And then later, Laverne Cox stepped up, came on her show, and told it like it is, namely, (and yep, I’m reiterating this from just a few paragraphs ago) That’s not a question that you ask people!
Since then, I’d basically villified Katie Couric in my head, just assuming she’s too mainstream and out of touch. But, as she tells it, she had the opportunity to just edit all that garbage out, and she decided it was important to leave it in as a teachable moment, and admit her mistakes. And then! She went on to produce, along with National Geographic, a whole documentary called Gender Revolution, which came out in February of 2017. I had no idea.
So when the random caller for this particular episode happened to be a trans-woman (and she had no idea Katie Couric was there with Chris when she called), it feels serendipitous. And it’s a lot more interesting and personal than the other episode I’m highlighting, largely because it feels more meandering and off-the-cuff. Chris, again, is a little off (he isn’t usually, haha!) and Katie Couric is super thoughtful and poised. I kinda like her after this, even. The caller is at the very beginning of her journey, as a 20 year-old junior in college, studying math and economics. She has only told 6 people so far, and she’s just dabbled in painting her nails, little things like that. She’s been on estrogen for two weeks. She’s not yet comfortable seeking out support from other trans people, experimenting with clothing in private, anything along those lines.
It’s super interesting to hear from someone who is just starting to feel out her gender identity, as opposed to many of the voices from the trans community who seemingly have a lot of it figured out / are much further along in their journey.
Highly recommend these episodes!
Thank you to Self Made Originality for including me in another round of the Liebster Award! It’s been a while. Looking back, the last time I had a go-around was 2 years ago! So, the way this chain-style, community based award system goes is, if you’re chosen, you then choose a bunch of other blogs you like, and it branches out from there. I imagine the pattern of these awards swirling, dead-ending, and splintering/multiplying, over time, forever and ever. It’s a great opportunity to find out about other blogs and connect with one another.
I tend to not follow the rules completely, but if I do nominate you, here’s how it’s supposed to go:
1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award logo.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
3. Nominate bloggers who you think are deserving of the award but also help promote newer bloggers with less followers.
4. Tell the bloggers you nominated them, in a comment on their blog.
5. Give them 11 questions of your own.
So, when answering the questions posed, I’m going to do a combination of questions from a couple of sources, just answering the ones I feel like answering (if I nominated you, go ahead and answer these, and/or make up your own to answer. And if you wanna display the award logo, just google image search “Liebster Award.”)
- What inspires you most when writing/blogging? Real life experiences, and a self-imposed “quota.” Basically, if I haven’t written 2 blog posts in a month, minimum, I start wracking my brain for something to write about!
- Are you religious? No.
- If not, why not / What holds you back? I grew up in a religious household and went to church regularly. (Episcopal church.) As I got older, I found other things to fill that same space in my soul. Volunteering for various things and creative endeavors let me explore spirituality without the rigid rituals.
- Did you enjoy your education? (high school, university, etc.) No, I did not. I would not trade it for a different path at this point because who knows where I would be without that structure. But I would say my high school and college years were the worst, in terms of mental health issues, loneliness, and just feeling very very lost.
- What is your dream job? Honestly, the job I have right now is pretty ideal. I don’thave to interact with people much at all, I listen to podcasts and radio shows all day, I stay physically fit… I guess my dream job would be phasing out working full time and making a living out of working part time, plus DJing and/or writing.
- Boxers or briefs? Boxer briefs. Although, today I wore boxers (one out of only a handful of days I’ve worn boxers, and it was pretty great.
- What important values do you live by? Everything in moderation, avoid debt, help others when you have energy and it feels good (otherwise don’t worry about it), try to leave a record of things that are important, connecting with people is one of the most worthwhile things to put energy into (even if it’s often hard), just do your thing.
That’s about all I got for now.
Check out these awesome blogs:
One other thing I wanna mention: I used to pore over many many blogs. I probably spent between 1 and 2 hours every day, reading other blogs that were written by people who identifiy as transgender. And in recent months, that has tapered off. I’ve tried to pinpoint why, exactly. Maybe I’m not searching for myself in others’ experiences as much as I used to? I have made it, in a lot of ways, to the other side of my journey (getting on hormones, getting top surgery, legally changing my name, coming out at work, etc.)?
Maybe. I guess what I mean to say is that I miss connecting with other bloggers through shared experiences. And I’m not totally sure why I’ve slowly gravitated elsewhere – it seems like a natural progression, at this point. As of now, it hasn’t affected my interest in writing blog posts. I hope that doesn’t waver, and I do hope I again become interested in checking in with other bloggers more frequently!
Here it is, finally! Photographic proof that my name plate finally arrived the way I want it, after many delays and a mix-up. If you want to read about the backstory, here are two past posts:
From December: The “Mx.” got way delayed
From last January: I came out at work, cont’d
The short version is that I asked for the Mx. a year and 3 months ago, following my legal name change. A full year passed before anything happened, and it came through as Kameron [last name], which was not what I wanted. So I talked to the principal again, and luckily, she was pliable. A month ago, I saw a name plate in the admin. assistant’s trash (only because I empty her trash), that said, Ms. [last name]. Meaning, that Staples messed it up even though it got submitted the way I wanted it. Another week passed (during which time I was wondering if I’d have to check back in with the admin. assistant or not. Glad I just waited.) and, finally, there it was, on the custodial door.
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: