Gay Pirates EP

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, named Evan Westfal.  He said, “Thanks for sharing your blog with the world,” and he directed me to his website where you can stream his music.  He recently put out a new EP, called “Gay Pirates.”  He says, “I was hearing a lot of love songs, but none of those love songs had any queer representation. I wanted a narrative that spoke to my identity as a gay man. So that is how gay pirates came to be. I describe the EP as a series of lamentations and exaltation of a very gay love.”

You can check it out here:  Evan Westfal

The music is fun and catchy; the lyrics are full of stuff like coy promises and sweet deceits, treasure chests and booty, tight shirts, resiliency, and a “raging sea of hormones.”  My favorite is probably the title track.

I asked him a couple of questions, because he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and because I was really curious what it’s like to live in Edmonton.  He said,

If I had to explain Alberta to an American, I would say that, culturally, it’s the Texas of Canada. Politically Alberta is fairly conservative, and it’s also a Province that is rich in oil. A lot of our citizens are tradespeople that work on oil rigs.  As for my city, Edmonton itself is a really cool city. A river valley runs through the centre of the city, it’s rich in wildlife and flora. The city has a fantastic pride centre, and lots of other queer organizations. To answer your questions regarding weather and topography, Edmonton is really cold in the winters, and really hot in the summers. You are correct, the surrounding areas are prairies.

The pride festival is really cool. Edmonton had it’s first parade in the 1990’s, and it was very small, and most of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. Flash forward to the millennium, and things have changed quite a bit. In the last few years our city hall has raised a pride flag, the Edmonton public school board was a marshall for the parade, and the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton raised the pride flag. Each year over 30’000 people attend the parade. This year the pride festival’s theme is “one pride many voices.” The festival says they’re taking strides to become more inclusive. I think this is a great approach, as pride could definitely stand to be more intersectional and welcoming.

I asked what his musical background was, and also what instruments he plays / does he collaborate?  He said,

My background with music begins with my schooling. I am a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, it’s a musical theatre program in Victoria, British Columbia. I think you’ll notice some heavy influences of musical theatre in my songwriting. I then decided to focus on commercial contemporary music, I achieved that through matriculating at MacEwan University. As a musician I’ve had the opportunity to sing backing vocals for Josh Groban, to play for the opening ceremony for the Edmonton Pride Festival, I’ve performed with Opera Nuova (an Edmonton based opera company), and I’ve produced and performed in many cabarets. Right now I’m working on a music video for my song “Gay Pirates,” it should be out in a month or two. As for instrumentation, I play the piano and sing. On my track Gay Pirates, I wrote all the song, but I had some great musician’s record with me. I have to send a thank you to my drummer Julissa Bayer, guitar player Andrew Brostrom, and Bassist David Pollock.

He also mentioned that he volunteers with an outreach program called fYerfly, so I asked him to elaborate on that too:

fYrefly is a great program. The name is an initialism that stands for: fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah! You might notice the Y is capitalized, that’s because youth are the most important part. fYrefly originated as a summer leadership camp for LGBTTQ2SIA+ youth between the ages of 14-24. I attended the program as a teen, and it changed my life. For the first time in my life I got to be surrounded by people like me, I got to share a sense of camaraderie, and I got to feel pure acceptance. I loved the experience so much that I spent over a decade volunteering for fYrefly.  Every year it’s a treat to see the difference the camp makes for youth.

I’m just going to repeat that acronym:  “fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah!”  Haha, I love that!  Evan will be performing for the opening ceremony of the Edmonton Pride Festival, coming up on June 10th.  If you’re able to get up there – I just looked it up, and for me, it’s 34 hours away, by car!  It’s up there!

Also, related, here’s one of the first posts I ever wrote – an experience I had at a wedding:
Effeminate Pirate Orders Fruity Drink on Party Boat


Big, Burly, and Beautiful

This piece was first published in the zine, Not Trans Enough.  Written by Rhiannon Robear; reprinted with permission.

One night this summer, I was at the gay club looking glam, and having a smoke break outside with my friends.   A cis gay guy came up to us and started talking about trans things in that “you’re a visibly trans and/or gender non-conforming person so I’m about to lay down all my trans knowledge, thoughts, and critiques for you” kind of way (a.k.a. completely unasked/unwanted).  Overall it was a real drag, and I brushed him off mostly, but then he held my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “baby, I know you’re trying to be the belle of the ball, but the reality is you’re built like a 6 foot amazon linebacker, and you need to work that.”  I was taken aback like where the fuck do you get off telling me who I am and what I should do.  But as much as I hate entertaining cis-notions of what trans people are or should be, what he said was true, and deep inside me I knew I felt that and it was the first time someone told me that I could &should be a woman on my own terms.

The reality is:  I’m 5’11, probably between 250-300 pounds, hairy as all hell, and I wear size 13 women’s shoes:  I’m a big girl.  I spent years of my life identifying as a gay man, and trying to work at accepting and loving my body & myself in a culture that taught me that being fat & being femme made me undesireable, unattractive, and inferior.  It took me YEARS to be comfortable with who I am, and that process has changed me, and how I value myself – simply put:  I don’t do things for other people anymore, I do things for myself.

I identified as non-binary for the past two years, and over this time, I’ve slowly began to come into myself as a woman, and I’m currently in the process of coming out as a transgender woman.  It’s very exciting and liberating and I’m now out at work and am ‘test driving’ my new name and pronouns.  This being said, what I am most dreading about coming out isn’t being faced with disapproval or abandonment (I am privileged with supportive family and friends), but more about those in my life forcing feminine ideals upon me when I start to identify as a woman and not strictly non-binary.

In a perfect world, would I like to wear a full face of make-up, have minimal to no body hair, have a feminine physique, and be read 100% of the time as a woman?  – SURE!  But the reality is, I work two jobs, I’m a full time student, and I’m involved in a couple different organizations, and I don’t have time for that.  My emotional well-being is like, “you work at 8am, you don’t have time to put your face on for an hour every morning,” “you literally can’t even reach your back hair, how are you supposed to regularly keep that shaved,” etc.  Luckily for me, I think that the resilience I learned as a fat & femme gay man allows me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of others’ perceptions.  I also recognize the privilege of being comfortable enough with myself & my gender to not be dysphoric to an incapacitating extent wherein I need to hold my body to a standard for public consumption.

Why yes!  I AM a woman with a hairy back – if it bothers you I’ll hand you a razor and you can shave it for me!  Until then please fuck off with your gendered policing and let me live my life on my terms.
Rhiannon Robear (she/her) is a 24 year old white trans woman living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  She is a social work student, and is involved in many different campus and community organizations devoted to trans, queer, and feminist justice.  In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, and watch tv shows.  Feel free to follow her on twitter @haliqueer or email her directly rhiannonmak@gmail.com


Can hormones change my sexual orientation?

This was a huge reservation for me, before I started testosterone.  I had read enough personal accounts and spoken to enough friends that I had this somewhat common narrative in my mind:  someone who is FTM was primarily attracted to women before starting hormones.  Orientation then opened up / shifted, and this person now is attracted to both / all genders, or is now more attracted to men, or even exclusively attracted to men.  One common idea surrounding this is that the person always was attracted to men (if even just on a subconscious level), but could not fathom being intimate with a man, while being seen as a woman.  Another related idea is that the person identifies so strongly with being queer, that once he is finally perceived as a man, a new type of queer identity is now possible – one that may have been appealing all along.

OK – I’m done with the generalizing!  It’s super uncomfortable for me to paint broad strokes and write about a hypothetical person in such a detached manner.  I just wanted to get some initial thoughts down, some type of framework in which to plug my own narrative into.  Whether these ideas are all that accurate or common is largely beside the point.  The important part is that they were looming large for me.  I had some serious fears about it.

While I was coming out (sort of?) as a lesbian (sort of?) in my late-teens, I was mostly just befuddled.  I didn’t really understand physical and sexual attraction.  I thought I was probably just a late bloomer.  Now I understand that I’m probably a demisexual.  Although this (somewhat recent) revelation is fascinating, I don’t feel a strong attachment to this label or a strong need to figure out my sexual orientation in all ways, shapes, and forms.  It never caused me to feel much of a disconnect from others.  I mean, I generally felt a lot of disconnect from others, but I didn’t look to my sexuality as a way to figure out why that was.  It’s kinda, meh, for me…  Fascination, and not a whole lot more.  (Which is interesting because I usually love love love picking things apart!  Haha.)

I’m gonna jump over a whole bunch of years and land somewhere in my late 20s.  I’d been with my partner (she is a cisgender female, for the most part) for about 4 years at this point, and we were experiencing a long-term lull.  We weren’t connecting.  Everything felt dulled, foggy, I think for both of us (for different reasons).  I was feeling more and more drawn to guys, all around me, and could not sort out whether that was because I needed to be a guy, or if it was a sexual orientation thing (again, the lack of the physical attraction part was confusing.  It was more of a cerebral thing.)

I kind of decided that it was both.  I fantasized about a totally different life, where I was a guy, and I was with a hypothetical guy.  However, I did not want to break up with my partner.  I strongly felt that the tough place we were in was circumstantial and situational, and that we could work our way through it.  I wanted to work our way through it.  I wondered if a big key to working our way through it was:  for me to transition.  I felt this heavy burden of a circuitous fear:  I need to transition in order to get out of this place and improve our relationship; if I start transitioning, my gut is telling me that I will be even more drawn to guys, and I will want to end our relationship in order to pursue that.

I vividly recall, at one point, completely breaking down and telling her, while crying, that I was attracted to masculinity.  She didn’t seem surprised, or threatened; she didn’t shut down.  She stayed there with me, in that moment, and replied, “one of the many pitfalls of being in a queer relationship.”  I appreciated that reply so much, in the moment.  It felt like relief.  Sometimes, I make things overly-fraught; she brings it back down to earth.

She has since elaborated that she did indeed feel the heaviness of the situation.  Although we weren’t talking about all of this directly at the time, she recently told me that she knew.  And that she was going to support me in transitioning (whatever that looked like to me) unconditionally, at the risk of losing me along the way.  Wow.

While trying to sort that out, some life changes occurred that vastly improved things.  My partner got a new job, we shifted our approach to friendships, I went back to therapy.  Our relationship improved by leaps and bounds.

It was about two more years before I really found myself at that crossroads of needing to try testosterone (although I no longer planned to transition in that common-narrative way).  That fear was still there.  Although it felt like we had a solid foundation to work from, I worried, would things shift between my partner and me?  Would I start to be drawn exclusively to men?  Where would that lead us?  I started testosterone anyway.

Testosterone has changed things for me, but not in those ways I feared.  I’m attracted to my partner and also I’m attracted to men.  Sometimes I’m attracted to women; mostly, I’m attracted to androgyny and effemininity (effeminate men).  I don’t know what that all adds up to; I just call it “queer.”  The nature of attraction feels a little less cerebral, and a little more physiological than before.  I like that.  I think I still fall under the category of demisexual, for sure, but it does feel different.  My partner and I talk about all of it.  None of it is threatening to her.  None of it feels worrisome to me.  It’s all just puzzle pieces, that, although not straightforward or common, make more sense to me than my sexuality has ever made sense before.


I am not “your,”or anyone else’s, janitor

Dear (anonymous) Sir,

A few days ago, you asked the internet through a google search, “does my janitor who is a male like me and im a male (gay)?”  And the internet took you to my blog, in the hopes it would help you find your answer.  (Yes, the internet does have its own hopes and dreams!)  I highly doubt you found what you were looking for, so I decided to fill in the blanks, in case you try again in the future.  I will be taking some liberties and making some assumptions, in order to create a concise response.  If I am off base, please, call me out!

I’m sorry to let you know, the internet cannot answer questions that are this specific to your personal experience.  You can glean a whole lot of information that might help you put words to your feelings, which is super helpful.  But the internet does not know your situation, does not know your janitor, and does not know anything beyond whatever it is that people write on it.  Is there a chance that your janitor wrote about you on the internet?  Yes, maybe.  But you will not be coming upon that writing by asking in that way.

In order to learn more about this, you would have to interact in real life.  Also, you may want to ask yourself instead, “Do I like my janitor, like, do I like like him?  And if so, do I want to do something about it, despite potential consequences?”  You might want to weigh the pros and cons.  You might want to feel out the situation in more nuanced ways before jumping to conclusions or potentially propositioning him directly.  You could ask for advice from people you trust and are close to.  Hell, you could even anonymously ask for advice in myriads of places online (again, I’d suggest focusing on your own feelings and not your janitor’s)!  But you will not come upon much success by googling it.

Equally important though, please disregard everywhere in the above paragraphs where I indulged the idea of “your” janitor.  He is not your janitor.  You do not own him.  You may not know this, but he doesn’t actually even work for you!  I am going to assume you are not his direct supervisor, and are instead someone who works in a building (as a lawyer, businessman, teacher, or some other profession where you work in a space.)  And he cleans your space.  You, in a way, do own that space.  It is sort of “your” desk, “your” trash can, “your” chalk board, etc.  That is fine.  But, again, he is not “your” janitor.

Let’s go out on a limb and imagine you are his supervisor.  In this case, and only this case, it could maybe be appropriate to call him your janitor.  My supervisor does this – she will refer to us (the people who do work for her) as “my guys.”  This has the potential of fostering a sense of camaraderie, like we are a team, and she is our leader.  This could be OK.  But to singularly be someone’s something, even in this context, would be strange.  If you are his supervisor, I’d suggest cutting out the “my janitor.”

I’m just going to say this directly, as a janitor who cleans classrooms.  I am no one’s janitor.  I am employed by a school district.  My salary is worked out through the annual budget, which comes from taxpayers.  I am in a union; I pay a union due, and they do work on my behalf.  I clean classrooms that are, spaces owned (in a way) by teachers and utilized by students.  I do not work for teachers.  If teachers have a problem with my work, they could go to the principal and/or my direct supervisor.  The reason she is “my” supervisor is because, ideally, she has our collective best interests in mind.  And because she is above me, on the power scale, and it is therefore obviously not actually owned by me.  It is more appropriate.  “My boss.”  “My professor.”  “My doctor.”  “My therapist.”  These are common and straightforward.  “My busboy.”  “My waitress.”  “My maid.”  “My landscaper.”  This is a different story; this is slippery.  Watch your step.

Sincerely,
Not Your Janitor