I decided to stop taking testosterone, for now

Two days ago, I abruptly hit a wall in my transition journey.  But it’s more like that wall had a secret corridor that I’m now turning down, without really slowing down – just taking a moment to look back, and all around me, and then moving on in this other direction.  The decision to stop T for the time being doesn’t actually mean that I’m losing forward momentum.  I was expecting it all along.  At some point.  At the same time, it wasn’t premeditated or planned  I just realized, now is the time, all of a sudden, and then I mentioned it to my spouse, and that was that.

The number one reason to stop, for now, is ongoing concerns of losing my head hair.  And the number two reason is that uncomfortable sensation of feeling overheated, which is much less welcomed as warm weather approaches.

I’ve been here before.  That was, specifically, January of 2016.  I feel so grateful to my past self for so diligently recording where I was at, every step of the way, so that I can get super specific about where I was vs. where I am!  It feels like a coherent narrative, of sorts.  In the fall of 2015, I had been on Androgel for roughly a year and a half, and I had lost sight of why I was doing it and what, exactly, was it doing for me.  I switched doses, I went off-and-on, and then in January of 2016, I just went off all together.  I ended up being off T for one full year.  And then I tried out injections, which I’ve been on now for over 2 years.

And now, again, I’ve lost sight.  I’ve been worried, daily, lately, about my receding hairline, and I can’t make sense of all the numerous products on the market to help that.  Rogaine, Finasteride, DHT suppressants, etc.  Instead of figuring out what might help, it just makes more sense for me to go off T, until I feel differently, which I know I will, again, at some point, in the not-so-distant future.

I do not look forward to getting my period again.  That is going to be horrible.

Other than that though, I don’t foresee any major issues.  Mental health-wise, I feel super stable and good.  I don’t expect that to change much.  Oh, also, I’ll be pretty happy about not seeing more and more facial hairs popping up.  Not a fan of my own facial hair!  I’ll be glad if that stabilizes for a while and I don’t have to think much about it.

I predict (and my predictions have been pretty far off, historically!) that I’l be back on T by November or December.  We’ll see!  Oh, also I guess I’ll have to tell my endocrinologist.  Do I have to go to my upcoming appointment if I’m not taking hormones?!  (Answer:  No.)


Finances and the LGBTQ community

It’s been long-known and proven over and over that, in general, people who identify as LGBTQ are worse off, financially.  Discrimination at work and within housing, along with being kicked out, disowned, or cut off from family ties, are big factors as to why this might be.  Mental health also plays a huge role.  There have been times when I was so deep into depression that I was not able to function at my job (or, in the past, at school).  Fortunately for me, I was able to take multiple medical leaves, when I needed them, with full pay and full job security.  That’s not always the story, though…

I was contacted a couple of months ago by Linda Manatt, who works for OverdraftApps.com, a company “created to increase awareness of the annual $35 billion overdraft problem in the U.S., which primarily affects the most vulnerable populations of our society. By creating content and developing tools to inform the public, [they] hope to make a positive change and shape tomorrow’s consumer finance policies for the better.”

In July of 2018, they commissioned a research organization to conduct a survey about financial attitudes and realities.  1,009 people from 46 states, aged 18- 71 participated, and 11% of them identified as LGBTQ.  A couple of other factors were isolated, including renters vs. owners and income levels, but not age, race, education level, or any other demographic.

Some of the big take-aways, as it applies to the LGBTQ community were:

  1. While only 14% of people surveyed make less than $25,000 per year, 25% of LGBTQ people fall in this bracket.
  2. 51% of the general respondents reported feeling “that the system is trying to take advantage of them when it comes to financial products.”  When isolating for LGBTQ people, that percentage jumped to 61%.
  3. LGBTQ people are 50% more likely to overdraft between three and nine times in the past year compared to the general population (18% compared to 12% of the general population.)

It is surprising how many people overall have over-drafted at least once within the past year (46%), how few people were even aware that they can opt out of over-drafting all together (39%), and how frequently over-drafting happens without their knowledge (42%).  No wonder people feel taken advantage of, purposefully!  As I was reading through the data, the overarching human emotion running throughout is the avoidance of embarrassment.  And sure enough, there’s a quote within the article to suggest this:

Paul Golden, from Nefe [National Endowment for Financial Education], provides an … interpretation on the reasons people don’t opt out more often of overdraft protection. In his opinion, “bankers [don’t] say that overdraft protection is mandatory” but they do sell it as an insurance to one’s reputation.  In his experience, this is how they are sold to consumers: “You go out to dinner with your friends or work colleagues and the bill comes up. You don’t have enough to cover it – can you imagine the embarrassment you would suffer if your card was declined?” People react: “Oh yeah, I should have overdraft protection.”

It’s like, pay $35 later for the convenience now of not having to put groceries back, in front of other people, when there is not enough in the checking account.  I’d even take this a step further and go so far as to say that people who are more likely to be singled out, to be devalued, humiliated, harassed, abused, and assaulted, are exponentially more compelled to do certain things to get out of embarrassing situations, including (but not limited to, by a long shot!) financial embarrassment.

I’d be curious what types of trends would emerge if the data had been isolated even further, to account for transgender and gender-nonconforming identities, within the LGBTQ community.  I can tell you right now that the picture would become much more bleak, very quickly.  I’d love to hear your own stories if you’d like to share, in the comments section!

If you’d like to see the full study, it is here:
Overdrafting in the United States:  Distrust and Confusion in the American Financial System

And thanks to Linda Manatt for prompting me to get out of my comfort zone and attempt to cover such a big issue, in my own, semi-personalized, way…


Two years on testosterone

This past Saturday was my two year mark on T-injections, 40ml / week (this was just recently lowered, from 60 – my initial dose was 50).  I still very much look forward to every injection (not the act itself, but the being-on-T part), and I still regularly think about the ways hormones have improved my life; I don’t tend to take it for granted.

My original plan was for this to be a short-term thing.  But I kind of love it.  I think my dose will vary over time, but I don’t anticipate stopping really, probably ever.  (Of course that’s subject to change!)  Not having a menstrual cycle is huge.  Being seen as male 100% of the time is… well, there’s some ambivalence there, but it’s definitely an improvement.   Now instead of getting confused for female, I am regularly getting confused for being very young.  Which can be awkward but mostly is fine.

I’m able to engage socially in ways I really never could have dreamed of.  I look people in the eyes way more.  My anxiety is almost zero, where previously, I was operating regularly with an underlying sense of fear and dread.  Some of these mental health changes can be attributed to finding a medication that actually works well for me, but a lot of it is the disappearance of gender dysphoria.

I’m still legally female, which is on purpose, and I still almost always go into women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms.  I’ve never been stopped or questioned.

I don’t love all of it.  I still daily pluck hairs out of my face because I don’t like them and I don’t want to shave.  I’m pretty concerned about my receding hairline.  And if I were really being honest, I liked the way my face looked before being on injections, more-so than now.  It just so happens that the way it is now reads as “male,” and that works out way better for me.  Oh well…

So here are the face comparisons:

two years

One year

Before injections


The TIC (Translating Identity Conference), 2018

In addition to the PTWC and Gender Odyssey, The TIC is a well established, long-time running, trans- and gender specific conference that happens every year at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  I went once prior, in 2005, but I can’t remember a whole lot – really just attending a workshop led by DRED, drag king, actress, etc. about gender expression and clothing as play.

This year, my spouse and I decided to check it out and make a trip of it.  In addition to the conference (which is packed into one day, this year, November 3rd), we, walked around Burlington a lot, and we also took a ferry across Lake Champlain into Plattsburgh, where we met with some friends.

Here’s a rundown of what I got out of the conference!

We eased into the day by going to Fluid Identities Within the Classroom and the Workplace:  A Dialogue Toward Trans Liberation in Binary Spaces.  It was an interactive structure where we spend time talking with the people around us and then reporting back to the whole group, and also writing our own thoughts on post-it notes that were then displayed out in the hall for the rest of the day.  It was pretty basic, information-wise; what felt worthwhile was hearing about others’ experiences.

I then went to Q&A:  Queens and Activism.  This was a presentation led by two local, politically active drag queens, in character, which was pretty entertaining.  It was framed as, “Here’s us and what we’re doing and all about us,” which could have been limiting, but they’ve been involved in so much that although it was Vermont specific, it was a great way to show both the people behind the queens, and the range of avenues to help LGBTQ people and causes, making it fun along the way.  Such as Drag Queen Story Hour.

Next up was lunch, which was provided at a subsidized cost, within the same building as all the workshops.  That was totally awesome!

Next I went to Take Your Top Off:  A Top Surgery Information Session and Show and Tell.  This was just like the show and tells I’ve been to at the PTWC, but on a much smaller scale, and with more general information provided up front.  I decided pretty much on the spot that I was going to participate, which is a huge deal for me because I’ve only been topless in front of other people (excluding my spouse!) on 2 other occasions.  I mostly decided I felt comfortable because is was such a smaller and more intimate group of people and because I thought I might likely be the only one up there who could show an example of the periareolar procedure.  And I was right on both counts – there were about 12 people up there taking their shirts off, as opposed to upwards of 40-50, at the PTWC.  And I was the only one who hadn’t had DI (double incision).  Each person took a turn on the microphone, talking about their surgeon, their experience, nerve sensation, cost, and overall satisfaction.  Then people could come up to talk to us individually.  One person came up to me to say, “I have a consultation with Dr. Rumer [my surgeon] next week.  I already paid and everything.  Should I just scrap that and cut my losses?”  This was based on me not having all that much positive to say about Dr. Rumer.  I think I did a pretty good job talking it through with this person, trying to open them up to as many possibilities as I could, something I never really was able to do for myself.  I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, but it could easily take up way too much space, so I’m going to stop here for now.  Maybe a separate future blog post!

I went to Trans in the Workplace Panel.  I always like to go to at least one panel – it’s a good way to just sit back and hear personal experiences from a good cross-section of different perspectives.  This one featured an agender person who works in bars and also is self-employed as a sex educator, a trans-woman who is an EMT and also works in an urgent care facility, a trans-man who works for the state as an advocate for those who are incarcerated, and a non-binary trans-person who is a gym teacher and also makes and sells bow ties.

Finally I went to Transmasculine Caucus, a safe space set up in a circle, with a mod, to talk about whatever anyone wanted to bring up.  I was one of the few people older than 22, it seemed, which made it tougher to feel motivated to speak up, but I did manage to talk on 2 occasions.  Topics ranged from name change and being carded before a gender marker change, to always appearing much younger, sexual orientation shifts after hormones, and much much more.

The final event was the keynote, with CeCe McDonald, a transgender prison reform activist who had been sentenced to 41 months for manslaughter.  (Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black has said she plays her character as an homage to CeCe, and she is producing a documentary about her story.)  It was very off-the-cuff, informal, and full of energy.

Compared to the PTWC, this conference was much smaller, which came with a lot of benefits!  People seemed much more friendly, just striking up conversations with those around them; it just had a more intimate vibe overall – I felt more comfortable speaking up, participating, and just people-watching / feeling a part of things.  I’d definitely go again!

 


The PTWC (Philadelphia Trans-Wellness Conference), 2018

I’m waaaay behind on this post (the conference was Aug. 2-4), but I had a lot of notes and always meant to type them up.  I was clearing off our dining room table and unearthed them, so here we go!

It’s been a couple of years since my spouse and I attended, and this time around, we made it a part of a bigger vacation, which I definitely am going to want to do again in the future – this time, we stopped in the tiny town of Narrowsburgh, NY, for 2 nights and went on a lazy river tube ride down a 5 mile stretch of the Delaware river.  Then we continued on to Philly, where we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Fortuitously, they happened to be dog-sitting / house-sitting at a really swanky and spacious condo that was only a 20 minute walk from the conference center.  Way more convenient than all those times we walked in the heat and humidity from South Philly, in the past.

The first workshop I attended was called Trans Community in Crisis:  Mental Health and Peer Support.  It was led by IV Staklo, who is the Hotline Program Director at Trans Lifeline.  This was totally worthwhile because before attending this workshop, I never seriously considered volunteering for a hotline.  And in the process of learning about it, I could completely wrap my head around that possibility – I actually do have what it takes.  (All it takes for Trans Lifeline is:  you yourself have to identify as trans, you need access to a phone and internet, you need to have follow-through and accountability and be active in the online group.)  I’ve been going through the online training to become a volunteer operator.  It’s about 32 hours of self-guided slides and webinars; it’s going way slower than I anticipated, but I’ll get there eventually.  The workshop itself was a lot of distressing statistics – things like 60% of trans-clients have had to educate their therapists.  53% of trans-people have avoided going to the hospital when it was necessary because of past trauma and harassment.  88% of trans-people have had suicidal ideations throughout their lives…  (All of these statistics are coming from the 2017 National LGBTQ Task Force Survey – I’m only isolating a few of the more alarming ones…)

Next, I went to Token:  The Role of Trans POC Within the LGBTQ Community.  The presenter was Giovonni Santiago, a transman living in northeastern Ohio.  His style was more of a motivational speaker, full of energy and personal stories to accent his points.  I especially liked the Q and A, where people asked him about burnout and how best to say, “No,” when to know that you need to say, “No,” etc.

Friday, I started out by going to Top Surgery Show and Tell.  It was my third time at this particular workshop – it’s always crowded and full of anticipatory energy.  I didn’t participate (but stay tuned for my summary of another conference, in which I did participate!)  These types of workshops are sooo important because the info that’s out there online is fairly sparse, and this is one of the few chances to take a close look in person, at real people’s bodies.

Then I went to Let’s Talk About Our Junk, led by Dalziel Leone, a transman from Kenya.  He started out by talking about his own path and then opened it up so that it was more of a group discussion.  An older person who just recently started his transition talked about choosing celibacy out of necessity, and how incredibly, he was starting to reassess all of that.  Someone else talked about transitioning within a long-term relationship, and really got into the nuts and bolts of how that played out in his case.  A younger person shared about how their parents are immigrants from Liberia, and they can’t even accept their kid being gay, let alone trans.  They said their parents’ reactions have been that Africans aren’t gay, and maybe you need to get in touch with your African roots, go back to Africa to find yourself, etc.  I found the immediate assumption of intimacy in this audience to be pretty extraordinary – oftentimes people need a long time to gear up to tough and frank conversations like this.

After that, I then went to FTM Bottom Surgery Show and Tell.  I’ve considered going many times in the past, but I always felt too intimidated.  This time I just went for it.  It was just like Top Surgery Show and Tell, but with far less people actually standing up there.  I think there were 5 guys, whereas with Top Surgery, it’s more like 40 or so.  This led to just more time to hear more from them afterwards, as audience members kind of clustered around, asking questions and getting a closer look.  At this time, it did not lead me to feel more motivated to pursue bottom surgery, but the experience was still invaluable.

I ended the day by going to Trans On Set, a panel discussion among trans media makers.  We watched 15 minutes of footage first, film reels and portfolios of sorts, from the panel members.  Then we heard about how they’ve navigated disclosing their status or not, dealing with transphobia in the workplace, stuff like that.  For me, this felt like a more passive workshop, a good way to end.

Then we didn’t go on Saturday at all!  We enjoyed time with our friends more and just had a much less anxiety-inducing time of it, overall!  Another thing that was new – my spouse attended a bunch of workshops in the “professional track” cluster and learned a lot of pertinent stuff for their future career!


5 recent LGBTQ+ films to check out

My spouse and I had a lot of fun going to a bunch of fims during this year’s local annual LGBTQ+ film festival!  I liked all the films we picked out this time around.  Here’s a little more about them (some of the links are to trailers while others’ are for the films’ websites:

Pulse – This Australian film was part of the “ImageOut There!” series, it definitely took some interesting twists and turns.  What if people could surgically switch bodies, like for example go from a disabled teenaged male body to a “picture perfect” teenaged female body?  This is what Olly chooses to do, with his/her reasonings unfolding slowly throughout the movie.  A different and unique perspective leaning a little too heavily on the fantasy of what it means to be a woman:  not much insight but plenty of pitfalls.

Man Made – This may be my all time favorite movie I’ve seen at the festival over the years.  I cried a lot (and that’s saying something because lately tears are super hard to come by!)  It’s a documentary that follows the journeys of 4 transgender men as they prepare for the only all-trans bodybuilding competition, in Atlanta, GA.  Their stories are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and they hit on a bunch of emotional points in between.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cola de Mono – This Chilean film was also part of the “ImageOut There!” series.  It’s a feature length that focuses on one family on Christmas eve, 1986.  The men in the family have been “cursed” by homosexuality, and the next iteration is now playing itself out.  It’s super melodramatic, definitely campy, but not in a fun way.  They undertones are full of hypersexuality, perversion, ritual, and horror.  The film takes its name from a traditional drink similar to egg nog, which translates into “monkey’s tail.”

 

Studio 54 – I didn’t really know anything about the behind-the-scenes, so I learned a lot!  The documentary featured a lot of interview time of the more “silent” partner, Ian Schrager (the more public partner, Steve Rubell, passed away from AIDS / hepatitis in 1989.)  My spouse pointed out that it was a smart idea not to rely on a bunch of famous people being interviewed about it – that seemed like the easy choice, but this way the film spoke for itself a lot more.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – My spouse was super psyched this was part of the festival, because they had heard of it and had just finished reading the novel that the film is based on.  It takes place in Montana in 1993; when Cameron is caught in the backseat of a car with her girlfriend, she’s sent to a conversion therapy camp called God’s Promise.  It was awesome to see this with a theater full of people because there were so many sound bites that got big laughs (although the writer and director didn’t seem to account for those interruptions, there wasn’t a beat for us to catch up, meaning we ended up missing dialogue because we were laughing so much.  At one point, the audience burst out with a round of applause!)  This was thoroughly entertaining and also disturbing – a more dramatic partner piece to “But I’m a Cheerleader.”

 


Happy pride weekend, full-on week-long style

Last week was Pride in this mid-sized city I live in.  The theme this year was “Stand Out:  [Live] in Color.”  For the first time ever, I attended a week’s worth of events; it was pretty awesome!

On Monday, my spouse plus my drag buddy and her boyfriend and her friend from out of town all went to a panel discussion / conversation called “Fabulous Lives:  [Drag] in Color.”  The purpose was largely to honor a bar owner and drag queen named  Naomi Kane who had passed away a few years ago.  Everyone wanted to share their impressions of her (both her essence, and literally doing hilarious impressions of the way she talked and her signature phrases / philosophies).  My drag buddy and I used to perform at her bar.  One of the old school drag kings from that time was on the panel, as well as the drag queen who regularly hosted the weekly show.  We got recognized as fellow drag kings; the vibe of the event was full of love and emotion for the scene and community.

On Thursday we went to another venue for a DJ night and drag queen show.  I got picked out of the audience (unwittingly but not totally unwillingly!) along with 2 others to play a game involving a bucket strapped to my groin area with a dangling tennis ball – thrust your body in such a way as to get the ball in the bucket.  I lost, but still got a complimentary beer koozie.  The important part is I felt more than comfortable up there on stage doing something so completely silly.

Satutrday was the parade.  My spouse and I (again) marched for their employer, a food co-op.  It was just us and 2 other people!  We had a lot of fun though – it felt like the perfect combination of laid-back and exciting.  We were right behind the local goth nightclub, and the DJ was driving his goth-mobile, playing gloomy / angsty mostly 80s music, which was a great soundtrack!  One of the other marchers with the club told us he’s taking requests.  I asked for “Swamp Thing” by The Chameleons.  After we were done in the parade, we stepped to the side to watch the rest.  When there was a lull, two kids, probably around age 10, ran across the street, directly to me, and handed me a heart shaped rainbow balloon.  I have no idea why, but it pretty much made my parade!  My spouse and I used the balloon in our photo shoot we did back home.

Then that night, I went out to a dance party with my spouse’s sister and a group of her friends.  It felt really good to get wrapped up in dancing.  And!!!  Completely out of nowhere, a guy approached me and said,
“Hey, are you Kameron.”
“Yea!”
“We did a David Bowie thing together.”
“Oh, yea, cool…  At The [name of venue.]”
“No, it was the one at The [different venue.]  I was the promoter.  I never paid you.”
“Oh, OK yeah I remember.”
“I owe you $50.  Here!”

And he just handed me the money!  This was like 6 or 7 years ago, and I hadn’t seen or heard from him since!  I didn’t even go by “Kameron” at that point.  I was so amazed this was happening, I gave him a hug.  He laughed.  Then I went back to dancing, but I’ve been telling this story over and over again ever since, haha.

Sunday we went to the picnic.  Saw more drag.  Hung out with friends.  Said hi to more people.
I like the fact that this year it was a full week of festivities!  Here are some pics:

DSCF4589DSCF4598

IMG_20180719_191241

getting called up on stage

And here’s my archive of past prides:
Happy pride weekend, much belated
Happy pride weekend, and The People
Happy pride weekend, and BRAWL
Happy pride weekend

 


Friends and family need to stop framing our transition as a death (open letter style)

Dear friends and family of trans-people,

It can be super challenging, on multiple levels, when a loved one comes out to you, especially if it never occurred to you that they might be transgender.  You might not know where to turn, or what resources to access to help you navigate the changes they (and you) will be going through.  There ARE resources though, plenty of them, and support groups (if not locally in your area, then definitely on the internet).  It is not up to the transgender person to be your sounding board, your therapist, your coach, or your educator.  In addition, as you work through it in your own way, please put a damper on the “transition as death” narrative.  It is trite, outdated, and toxic.

If you feel like you are mourning a death, that’s fine – all feelings are valid (etc.)  But why would this be something you need to work out publicly?  We are very much alive.  Almost always, transition is actually close to the opposite of death – it’s a time to finally feel out who we actually are.  We may have felt like a “half-person” or a “shell of a person” or, to put it in those same grim terms, like a “walking dead person.”  I know I did prior to transition, quite a bit.  Coming out was a celebration of life.  I feel like I have so much more to live for now.

When you claim that the person you knew has died, you are implying that the person we are becoming is not worth getting to know, or that we have slighted you, tricked you, we are to blame for your feelings of loss.  And, actually, we aren’t even “becoming” a different person.  We are the same person, just finally in technicolor, finally kaleidoscopic, however you want to look at it.  If you took the time to see how much we settle into ourselves, how often our worst mental-health issues start to soften around the edges, how we can be more present in the moment, more peaceful, more calm, then you might understand that it is so far from a death that the analogy is utterly ridiculous and laughable.

Please reflect on the ramifications of claiming we have died.
Sincerely, Kameron

And now for some hard evidence!  Two sources that have been recently on my radar have had me in hyper cringe mode as they talked about the “death” of their transgender loved one.

First, an episode of the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People:  I generally love this podcast, and in fact, I’ve written about it before, because there have been 2 prevous episodes highlighting transgender narratives.  If you wanna check that blog post out, it is:  Beautiful / Anonymous:  Trans-related episodes.

Episode #116, sensationalistically entitled She Killed My Father is a much harder pill to swallow.  The gist is that the caller is an only child, the adult child of a transwoman who came out later in life (in her fifties), much to the surprise of those around her.

Caller:  “Sometimes it feels like this person killed my father.  And in a way, that’s right.  You know, I, well, think about it this way:  When you lose… my father, as a male, does not exist anymore.  This person is gone.  And normally when that happens, you have this grieving period, you have this ritual, this ceremony, you can go to this funeral or this memorial service and people bring you food and people give you cards and people just give you your space and they really support you and they let you process that.  But for me, um… especially with my dad… I don’t have a dad anymore, and this person came in and said, ‘Your dad’s gone.  Now it’s me….'”

Chris:  “Wow.  This is, this is, by far, out of all the calls we’ve ever done, one that is so much to wrap one’s brain around.”

Blaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!  To be fair, I am just isolating this one thing, and of course it’s way more complex as we hear more of her story:  Her father is also bipolar, and has issues with boundaries, always wanting to be more of a “buddy” than a parent, stuff like that.  But really, nothing excuses this framework the caller has set up so starkly.  Can’t get past it!

The second instance I’ve recently come across is in a book called, At The Broken Places:  A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces.  This book is co-authored by both mother and son, and it is in many ways a difficult but worthwhile read.  It’s rich in its depth and complexity.  Both authors are not afraid to show their wounds and flaws, and, to be sure, some of that is cringe-worthy.

She (the mother, Mary Collins) delicately sidesteps the specific “my daughter has died” scenario, but she has an entire chapter entitled “Mapping Modern Grief,” and there’s plenty of comparisons to the death of her father at a young age, as well as, “I am grieving the loss of my daughter,” “I understood my daughter would never return,” and this mindboggling way of looking at it:  “My emotional journey with Donald seems to more closely mirror more nebulous losses, such as moving away from someone I will never see again.”

Not as in-your-face with the death imagery, but just as chafing, on an emotional level.


Contacting my first therapist – backstory

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…


Mx. Zine

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