Pain is relative

Content note:  blood, needles, things that might make you squeamish, self-injury.

Three days ago, I did my 24th shot of T.  I started to psych myself out – for some reason, it suddenly seemed super-difficult.  The needle looked extra long, and it has been looking that way for a while now.  I decided maybe I should stick it in a “meatier” part of my quad muscle.  I did, and must have hit a vein – it HURT a LOT and it bled quite a bit.  I just felt like, “Damn, I’ve been working myself up about the pain more and more lately.  I just wanna do it like a routine, without any glitches!”

It then occurred to me to look up the gauge online and see what was the range.  I looked at my zip-lock baggie from the pharmacy, full of my syringes.  I suddenly realized that my newer ones were a different shade of green than my older ones.  I was looking at 23 gauge versus 21 gauge.  In addition, the 21s were 1.5 inches, and the 23s were 1 inch – my fear that I was gonna hit my femur was semi-legit!  I need to go back and get more 1 inch needles, pronto!

Needles are scary, right?  It makes sense that people would fear needles.  They hurt.  Also, what about negative associations to getting shots at a doctor’s office, as a small child, vaccines and booster shots, stuff like that.

And then there’s the taking of the blood.  Like, say, you have a medical condition that causes you to need regular blood draws to make sure everything is on track.  If you are transgender, this is a common best practice.

When I was 17-21, I had to get regular blood work done every 3-6 months, because of a psychotropic drug I was on.  I can’t remember the reason why. ( To check liver functioning, and/0r cholesterol?  I forget.)  It was a hassle, at the very least.  But I did start getting very comfortable with it:  I was present, it barely hurt – I just looked away so I didn’t have to see the vials filling up with blood.

Because of this, probably, I was intrigued by the idea of donating blood.  I did it a handful of times between these ages (17-21), both at my high school and at my college.  It was one of the most bizarre things, in my opinion:  Here we are, a bunch of us, all laying down on cots.  Any one of us might pass out at any time, and that would cause a chain reaction for others to pass out too.  There are these nurses hovering over all of us, making sure we can stand up OK as if we are rising from the dead, with these baggies of blood tied to us.  They are on hand with cookie packets and juice boxes.  We can have as many as we want…

The one reason I stopped doing it was because I had a hard time maintaining the minimum weight requirement during college (110 lb).  I didn’t have an eating disorder, per se, I just didn’t have an appetite or desire for much of anything at all.  I also struggled with anemia.

And self-injury too.  In that case, pain was my friend.  I guess I can best describe it as, I would work myself up into such a frenzy that cutting my skin felt like the only thing that would bring me down.  I was hyper-ritualistic about it.  It was a fairly common occurrence for years, but never “severe.”  And I don’t do it anymore.

Testosterone has changed my relationship to pain, for sure.  I’ve written about that here:
Differences In How I Experience Pain

Here’s a quick excerpt (I wrote this somewhere around 3 years ago):

Before I started taking testosterone, I had a peculiar, but not really uncommon, relationship to pain.  In many cases, I derived pleasure from pain.  I would create sensations of pain, within my control, in an effort to calm myself.  Also, when I’d hurt myself accidentally like for example, hit my arm on a doorway, I would feel alarm, followed by an adrenaline rush, followed by a pleasant soothing wave.

Now?  If I hurt myself, it hurts!  If I accidentally ran into a doorway, it would not be pleasant in any way, shape, or form.  I remember the first few times I got hurt in little ways, in the first couple of months of being on testosterone; I was so surprised by how much pain was coursing through my body.  I just felt like, aaaaaah!  I’ve been swearing under my breath and feeling unnerved by how much stuff hurts.

So what am I trying to get at?  I guess I just want to acknowledge that sticking yourself with a needle, in an ongoing way, is a really intense thing to do.  And it’s totally understandable that some trans-people would just have a hard limit and say, “I’m not doing that.”  For myriad reasons.  So at least there are other options:

– Gels, patches, and creams (unfortunately, quite costly)
– Sub-cutaneous injections (not as deep)
– Stuff like Nebido that’s injected every 3 months or so

Does anyone have experiences with switching methods?
Doing self-injections feels like a badge of honor, but I’m not quite sure that it feels like an “honorable” thing to do…


I finally made a resource page, of sorts

This is just an announcement that I added some stuff to my blog!  For the longest time, the additional tabs were “ask me something,” “what it’s about,” and “glossary of janitorial words and phrases.”  And that was it.

About two weeks ago, an outreach specialist who works for drugrehab.com reached out and asked if I would add their website.  She wrote,

“Studies have shown that individuals in the LGBT community are more likely to use and abuse alcohol and drugs and tend to continue abuse throughout their lives. We work to spread awareness and to be an informational resource for those impacted by alcohol and drug dependence.

I believe that our website would be a valuable addition to your resources listed on your page.  Would you please review our resource and consider adding it to your website to spread awareness”

And that got me thinking, because I don’t have anything like that on my blog!  But I decided that I could – she kind of got me going to start organizing a resource page.  I told her, “I’ll need to start from scratch because I have yet to provide a resource page at all, but I love the idea, so thanks for that push!”  And then I started working.

I had always been of the mindset that although many blogs do have links to online safe spaces, hotlines, etc., I don’t need to be one of those blogs – people can google whatever they want to google and glean information from myriad places.  I wouldn’t even know how to narrow down a page.  Some, like Micah’s on Neutrois Nonsense, for example, are so comprehensive, I don’t really have anything to add!

So, mine might be a bit random, and it’s definitely not complete, by a long shot.  I included the one for the drug rehab site first, since she was the one to get me going.  I then added two overarching sites for mental health, Micah’s blog (of course!), the blog of a professional gender therapist who is very hands-on, and then two sites that are geared toward brainstorming and creativity, when it comes to gender.

You can take a look here:  LGBTQIA-GSM Resources.  Please lemme know if you want me to add anything in particular…  (The GSM stands for “gender and sexual minorities,” because there are not enough letters in the alphabet to cover everyone!)

I’ll just end with a little more information about the drug rehab website, mostly because I was so tickled that they wrote and wanted me to “advertise” for them.  It makes me feel like, wow, cool, my blog really is reaching people.  (This is something that waxes and wanes for me, whether it’s really out there or not.)  So, the outreach specialist said,

We are a free informational resource for those  battling mental health and substance abuse issues. Our website tackles many issues currently facing society today. We have a team of doctors and writers who update our content daily.
We do have a hotline that you can call with questions about different treatment options, as we know every individual is unique and so should treatment be as well.
If you want further information, check out my new resource page!!!  LGBTQIA-GSM Resources

1 year post-op (top surgery)

With everything else that’s been going on lately, I completely forgot that my one year anniversary was on June 1st.  I think I was aware on some level, because I’ve been super vocal with my spouse, the past few days, about where I’m at with this process.  So I’ll try to distill those diatribes into something that  makes sense!

Most importantly, within the past few weeks, I would say I have grown increasingly more comfortable with the off-beat sensations that I have going on.  Nothing is painful, per-se, but there’s still a lot of tenderness.  I am finally OK with my spouse resting her head there without warning, and in addition, I’ve realized that the more I ignore/avoid that area of my body, the more it will stagnate.  ???  (That’s just a hypothesis, but I hope there’s some truth to that – I’ve been trying to actively “manhandle” some spots, in the hopes that’ll promote more nerve growth, haha.)

I am over the disappointment of it not being picture perfect.  At first I was angry with the surgeon (Dr. Rumer).  I held onto this anger for a long time.  But, as I noted at 6 months, I had been poking and prodding around my rib-cage a lot more, and I came to the conclusion that my bone structure is asymmetrical, and she (the surgeon) had to work around those idiosyncracies, and in the end, I think she did her best.  I’m sure it would have looked more even if I had gone with DI, but peri was one of the things I was not negotiating on.  I already have scarring on my chest, from my self-injuring behavior years ago, and I really wanted no additional scarring, if possible.  And that was accomplished.  (Aside from my drain holes – those scars are still visible!!!)

My nipples, I believe, can be “tweaked,” (haha) for sure.  They look like they got shrunk and melted on – I think a different surgeon can really change the size and shape and it’ll make me much happier.  I am not going with Dr. Rumer any-further.  I was supposed to have my one year appointment either in person or over skype, on Thursday, but I cancelled it all together.  I am done, and am only now looking ahead to revisions.  The appt. wasn’t even going to be with the surgeon – just a nurse-practitioner, like I did over skype at 1 months, 3 months, 6 months, etc.  I’m done.

I am grateful that insurance reimbursed a large part of it – I really didn’t think I stood a chance with that.

And, just to wrap up, I want to reiterate how important this step was for me:  It’s not just that now I can wear tighter shirts and I don’t have to consider whether to bind or not, etc.  It has really affected my self-esteem, self-perception, and social comfort.  When I get dressed, I am excited to see how the shirt falls now – does it accentuate my pecs (which are now one of my favorite parts of my body), can I layer things in an interesting way, can I wear this as an open shirt and consider wearing a necklace as well?… etc.  Sometimes I will wear two outfits in one day, just to try out new-to-me fashions!

I told my spouse the other day that I used to just feel dumpy all the time, and she was shocked – she said I never looked dumpy.  Now it’s the opposite – I feel snazzy!


Priorities, at my most vulnerable

I was in the hospital for psychiatric reasons, for a week in mid-May.  It went so much smoother than my two other “stays.”  (Those occurred in 1999 and 2015).  I attribute that smoothness to:

– Having a complete social network around me for the first time in my life

– The fact that even though I had never been to THIS hospital, I was able to draw from my experience in 2015, and use that blueprint to (semi)-successfully navigate my way through, this time around.

– I was already on meds that were working pretty well, for the first time ever.  This means that my psychiatrist wasn’t just taking a shot in the dark.  She was just tweaking what was already working.  (For me, specifically, this meant getting my Seroquel (anti-psychotic) increased from 200mg, to 600mg, dispersed into three 200mg doses throughout the day, and discontinuing the Wellbutrin (anti-depressant), at least for now.*

So, what were my priorities?
1. Getting on an adequate sleep schedule.
2. Eating the hospital food without having too many digestive issues (this included not relying too heavily on food visitors brought me, even though I was so grateful that they were doing this.)
3. Interacting as opposed to shutting down:  Unless I was knocked out on meds, I was up and about, talking with people (sometimes shouting at them), pacing the halls (“going for a walk”), coloring with different medias and different methods / trying to do number puzzles (figuring out what was feeling more “right brained / left brained”), marking my turf / territory in ways that may have been specific to me (this, right here, would be a post unto itself… I’ll leave that for another day…

Some peripheral priorities / goals that I tackled / attempted and had some success with was:
1. Watching out for other people, checking in to see if they felt safe.
2. Micromanaging free-dance party / art times.
3. Getting other people condiments and other things they might need / want.
4. Modeling my behavior off of others / acting as a role model.
5. Pushing for Gym Time and Therapy Dog visits.
6. Reinforcing privacy vs. getting help.  Also reinforcing quiet hours and other scheduled parts of the day.
7. Taking a shower every day (night) at the same time (10pm).
8. Dispensing important information.
____________________________________________________

Notes:

I realize this post is a pretty vague sketch of some important things – this might serve as just an outline for me to fill in more interesting details / experiences / stories…

*I was also administered a shot, which I refer to as a “Haldol Cocktail.”  5 parts Haldol, 2 parts Ativan, 50 parts Benadryl.  Plus, of course, my Testosterone shot – 50mg.

 


I was in the hospital (again)

Oh, hey, dang, I’ve been absent for a while.  I was in the hospital, again because I was manic (the time before that was January, 2015).  This time it was a week:  from May 15th-22nd.  I’m currently out of work until June 19th.  I’m sure once I’m feeling up to it, I’ll be writing a lot in the upcoming weeks.  For now though, I’m thinking I’ll have a handful of short, somewhat abstract updates to this blog.  The first one being:

I am a transgender person and I was hospitalized for mania and my blood was tested, and I was administered my testosterone shot, but my T-levels in my bloodstream were not monitored at any point in time during my stay.

I feel legitimately angry, like, about as angry as I am capable of getting, about this.  Because I experienced some really really bizarre symptoms while there, that I would chalk up to hormonal issues, but there’s nothing for me to measure that against.

I was shouting A LOT.  Like, I am not a shouter.  I was SUPER vocal, the entire time I was there..

My menstrual cycle came back in a super condensed, concentrated form, for about 3 days…

Digestive issues…

Sex drive??  Zero

I called people out in their shit, in real time (generally something might occur to me later, what I should have said)…

I was actually able to keep my anxiety in check this time…

Smells and tastes were all over the place…

 

Blah!  When will it sink in, that transgender people face different challenges, and these need monitoring too!


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


3 months on testosterone

Today marks 3 months on T-injections.  My prescription is for 50ml / week, but I’ll admit I was using more than that for the first 6 weeks.  I’ve been doing 50 regularly for the last 6 weeks though, leading up to my blood test, because I really do want to see where the levels are, at that amount.  I have an appointment on Thursday with the endocrinologist to discuss this.  I’m going to ask to be put on a higher dose.  Which I may or may not bump myself up to.  I… just really like to stockpile testosterone and to have some personal control over it.

Changes have been occurring at a comfortable pace.  I’ve gained maybe 8 pounds, mostly in my abs, shoulders, and pecs.  I get more dark hairs on my chin and upper lip, which just means I gotta use the tweezers more often!  My voice definitely dropped within the last month – I’d say that is the most noticeable thing.  And I have mixed feelings about that, because it is such a permanent thing.  But, so far I’d say I’m getting used to it and will probably ultimately be happy about it.

We went to Easter Sunday at my Aunt’s, and it was the first time I’d seen my relatives since these changes have occurred.  I felt a little self-conscious, because they do know I’m trans and that I changed my name and some of them know about my top surgery.  But I haven’t said I am on testosterone.  And I’m not gonna.  It will just be.

Being out at work has been going super well.  Everyone is consistent with “Kameron.”  The “he/she,” “Mr.” etc is all over the place, which is overall fine by me because my gender is all over the place, and at least everyone knows that I said, “Kameron/he/Mx.”

Other than that, it’s been pretty low key.  It’s certainly not as big a deal in my head as getting on Androgel, 4 years ago, was.  I imagine I’ll be on the injections for a few more months at this point.  And then on and off of them, sporadically, for the rest of my life.  Probably.

I came up with a new term in my head, today, to describe my gender.  I’m definitely not “mannish,” but I do think that I am “male-ish.”

Here’s my face:  Other than not being able to get the lighting right, I think that my cheeks and neck have filled out a bit…

before injections

 

 

3 months on injections

Oh, also, I almost forgot!  I barely got my period this month – it was way late, and it was sooooo light, at that.  That was awesome.  It kinda freaks me out that that’s all it takes, and there are no health consequences(?) for the cessation of menses.  But, I guess it’s relatively normal, like with birth control and stuff…

Also, yesterday at work, we were using swing machines, which is uncommon (extra work over break).  And they require a lot of upper body strength.  I’d normally be sore after that, but today?  Not sore!


Drag king stories #6

First off, happy Trans Day of Visibility to you!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any sort of performing.  I felt compelled to do something for a DJ’s birthday bash at a bar, because I thought it’d be low key and fun.  And because I had a good idea.  And because this is a group of acquaintances I’d like to get to know better.  And also I had been asked about a month ago by someone in this group, and I declined at the time, but it got me thinking.

So this was last night – it consisted of 2 DJs, one other performer and then me, and an MC kind of trying to get people to play ridiculous games for a little while, and then another DJ.

My plan was to get the birthday gal situated in a chair, have a birthday song play as I come out with so many layers on (including a motorcycle helmet with a party hat on top) that she has no idea who it is, pass out birthday hats and those tootle things, get people involved in a chaotic way, and then for this song, “Strip” to play, by Adam Ant, and just start taking off all the coats and other clothes I’m wearing.  Not to the point where I’m down to underwear or less, haha, please!  My “base layer” was a vest, bow tie, pirate pants, and socks.  Plus full on Adam Ant make-up, which was one of the best parts about it!

This is not me, haha – this is Adam Ant. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any documentation, cuz I was just focused on being there, in the moment.

My drag name is Adam Andro-matic.  It’s derived from Adam Ant, but, after all this time, I had never once portrayed him!  Not sure why!  One of the first CDs I bought with my own money, as a youth, from Media Play, was the best of Adam Ant.  I know almost all those hits and non-hits by heart.  As I planned out this performance, I really embraced it / him.  “Strip” is such a ridiculous song.  The video is even more so, I just learned!  But it’s also just purely joyous, which is something I’d never gotten from it, in the past.

Last night, also, was just purely joyous.  I didn’t have any pre-performance jitters or anxieties.  Generally, my anxieties around performing manifest themselves by being too much of a perfectionist and obsessively timing things out.  This time, not at all!  I just went in there, hung out, got ready, did my thing, and then stayed in costume for the rest of the night, talking to people I’d never talked to before, getting trapped into dancing with some drunk people who seemed to really want to dance with me, etc.  The birthday gal really really loved the striptease / lap-dance, and so did her boyfriend!  She hugged me a bunch of times and kissed my cheek.  This may have been the most fun I’ve ever had, during a night I was performing.  All the stress was out of the equation.  So was the extreme elation / relief when it was over, but I’ll take the straight up fun over all that intensity!

The MC introduced me as Adam Andromeda.  Haha.  I’ll have to think on that!

Oh, and also, later in the night, I was dancing to a favorite song – “Revenge” by Ministry, when a woman I’d never seen before came up to me.  She said, “Will you come with me for a minute?”  I followed her without hesitation, and she presented her boyfriend to me.  I knew this guy!  I’m not great with faces, but I narrowed it down to it being 2 possible people…  We shook hands.  He said, “Do you know me?”  I said, “You work at [the food co-op].”  He shook his head, no.  “You work at [school],” I said next, and he affirmed that.  I see him almost every day, at the YMCA after school program where I work.  His girlfriend asked me, “Is he good with the kids?  Do the kids love him?”  I just nodded slowly, because the answer is, “No,” from what I can observe, but she seemed to want to hear good things, haha.  He said he was buying me a drink.  I was pretty much done drinking by then, but I thought it’d be nicer to accept.  I said, sure, a PBR.  A couple of minutes later, he handed me TWO PBRs.  I shook my head and kept saying, “no, just one!”  But he kinda forced them, nicely, at me.  I took them both, drank half of one of them, and put them up on a piano, for safe-keeping.  Really the only reason I would waste beer – so that I can get home safely!

Also, I saw my neighbor on the dance floor.  This tiny, older woman who is ALWAYS out at clubs and bars, dancing and not drinking.  She just seems so mild mannered!

I stayed out till closing time.  Things had gotten really chaotic on the dance floor.  It was interesting to observe, dip my toes into…  When I got home I got ready to take a shower / get all the make-up off my face.  I noticed I had a kiss mark, from the birthday gal, on my cheek.  Haha.


Saying goodbye to my co-worker / ally

My co-worker’s last day was yesterday.  He is moving on to work security at one of the middle schools.  Some people have a lot of co-workers; I really only have just one.  I have a supervisor, a co-worker, and then a 3rd person who works per-diem 4 hours per day (so, a co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same.)  We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked at the same time, and for the majority of each day, it was just us in the building (along with after-school activity groups.)

He started roughly 3 years ago, and we got off to a rocky start.  I can’t really explain it, but it wasn’t just rocky – it was jarring, and jagged.  It was, in effect, a disastrous mix.  Things slowly repaired themselves, with time and effort, and I learned a ton about human connection and priorities, during this process.  Maybe someday I’ll really write about that, but it won’t be here.

In some ways, we are opposites  he grew up in a rough part of the city and now lives in the suburb I grew up in, and he generally stays put out there.  He seems to know everyone there.  I moved to the city as soon as I was able to, and I never spend time in that suburb, unless I stop at the grocery store after work, or get gas, etc.  I feel a comfortable level of anonymity within the city…

We had a complete turn around within the time we worked together – he was the person I confided in the most. He actively participated in being my ally in a bunch of different ways.  I wrote about this a little, over a year ago, here:
I came out to my co-worker

As soon as I told him about my preferred name, he started using it when no one else was around.  He called me “Kam-Ron” at first, and then just shortened it to “Kam.”  This later became, “Killa Kam” and “Cuz.”  He lightly pressured me to come out at work when he could feel it was imminent.  I appreciate it more than he’ll know. Well, he does kinda know – I explicitly told him yesterday that I wanted to thank him for being my ally, most specifically.

Super early on, he organized a district-wide work happy hour at his dive bar.  I was the only one who showed up.  Later, he narrowed down the guest list, and our co-workers / kitchen staff hung out one time outside of work.  That was a first!  He later bonded with me through my enthusiasm with a local community radio station I volunteer with.  He came on the air with me on two occasions, taking pics and putting them on facebook and just hyping it all up in general.  One time, we met for lunch before work.  That was a first.

Last night, I picked us up some tacos from that place we had lunch the one time, and we just chit-chatted one last time.  He had gotten a bunch of cards from students, like whole classes-worth, and a couple of gifts from teachers.  He was exuberant, like he often is, gesticulating a lot, not sitting down, etc.  I was low-key, like usual, trying to offset that a bit.  While still being interested / engaged.

I’ve never met anyone like this person.  I observed the ways he navigates through situations with my eyes and ears perked.  Out of everything I learned from him, I think the most all encompassing thing was what he summed up as “teamwork makes the dream work.”  (He would say this a lot.)  But not teamwork in the way I knew of teamwork – this is a different brand of teamwork.  I thought of “teamwork” as doing the same thing at the same time with another person or group of people, until the job was done.  But whenever I tried to enact that with him, we would usually clash.  His teamwork involves a network of small favors with as many people as possible, like, “I do this, which motivates you to do that,” kind of thing.  Which may or may not work depending on the other person, but he is an extremely motivational person.  In addition to just going way above and beyond, in that rare situation which arises from time to time, just to help you out.

He made a personal connection with probably almost every single person, whether principal or teacher or part-time staff, in the entire school.  And now he’s moving on to go do that in a school that’s twice or maybe three times as big.

I’ll miss him.

I also wrote about the co-worker I had before this co-worker, here:
Saying goodbye to my mentor / co-worker
That was when he retired, two and a half years ago.


Mermaids and Transgender People

Content note:  sex and sexuality.
Also, spoiler alert for this super obscure film that is probably hard to find, but totally worth it!

My spouse and I just saw The Lure, a Polish film re-envisioning The Little Mermaid (meaning Hans Christian Andersen much more so than Disney, although there are elements from both).  It takes place in the 1980s, and these particular mermaid sisters are vampiric vamps who come ashore in order to perform as singers/dancers/strippers.  One of them also joins Triton’s punk rock band.  There is no sea witch in this version; instead, they are exploited by the humans around them, for their talents.  The director likened them to “immigrants, abused by the locals (used in the sex industry) on their way to their real goal—America.”  I didn’t quite catch that hidden meaning, although that’s super interesting; I guess I was looking at it through a trans-specific lens, and I saw a bunch of parallels that resonated.

The two sisters have two very different focuses/goals.  “Golden” wanted to perform and find her way to America.  “Silver” falls instantly in love with the young bass player at the nightclub.  Golden, very early on, warns her sister, something along the lines of, “would you be willing to eat him if need be?”  While on land with legs, the mermaids have no sexual or excretory organs.  They’re paraded around, and it’s said that they’re “as smooth as Barbies.”  When water is splashed on them (Think, 80s movie, Splash !!) and their tails re-emerge, they do have a “vagina” of sorts – it’s just super unconventional.  Also, they have a strong fishy smell (d’uh!), and another quote from the director, “they represent innocence, yet their odour and slime recalled girls maturing, they menstruate, they ovulate, their bodies start smelling and feeling different.”  The reason I’m focusing in on this in particular is because it is Silver’s motivation for what she does throughout the rest of the story.  She does want to marry the bassist, but even more clearly, she wants them to have sex, and he won’t, the way that she is.  There is a really graphic surgery scene where she loses her tail and gets new, permanent legs, fully formed with vagina and everything else.  She gives up her singing voice, as a trade off.  There then is a sex scene, which does not go as planned.  And then, OK I’m going to leave it at that, to not give away anything more!

I related to this sexual conundrum, as a trans-person.  Not literally, of course, but, in a way.  Just to cover the base-line, in general, trans-people feel all sorts of ways about sex and sexuality and their own anatomy.  It really is all over the map, from person to person.  And, as well, I’m sure, there are cis-people who feel a total disconnect, for a variety of reasons.  So it’s not really a “trans-specific issue,” but, overall, it is surely more common among trans-people.  Following that disclaimer, I’m actually only speaking about my personal experience in the next couple sentences.  I do not relate to what I have.  And I never did.  I’ve created some work-arounds, in my head, over time, that have helped.  And I’ve been able to become more present, which is nice.  But I still get hung-up.  And upset that there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

I’m not the only one, by far, who is making this connection between trans-people and mermaids.  If you are familiar with Jazz Jennings, 16 year old trans-activist, author, spokesmodel, youtube celeb, etc., she has linked the two in some very strong ways.  She even has a company called Purple Rainbow Tails, through which she sells mermaid tails she’s made herself raising money for trans-kids.  I found a really interesting article that touches on Jazz and mermaids called, Transgender Mermaids.  Here’s a quote from it!

Of course, the question that most people ask is “Why mermaids — why not some other animal or creature?” The reasons may be varied and complex, and they may vary with each girl. However, a common theme is that mermaids may hold a special appeal because they have a high level of human feminine facial features and upper body features while having a lower body that isn’t that of a traditional human female. Many transgender girls may relate to this because they know that they are truly females no matter what their genitalia may be.

Also, Mermaids UK is a support resource and advocacy group that has been around since 1995(!!!) focused on helping transgender kids and adolescents, and their families.

I was once in a really obscure play, a reworking and twisting of the children’s play, If Boys Wore the Skirts.  The original was “a satire on what may happen if women continue to copy the clothes that men wear. According to this play, in self-defense the men may take to wearing feminine things. Here we see a bunch of rugged males forced into skirts. The setting is a schoolroom in the present.”  (Present, meaning 1958.)  The version that I was in was a mature audiences, tripped-out dream-like version.  As one of the “schoolboys,” I got to imagine and create my own genital-themed skirt, called a “groinment.”  I had such a blast with this, probably much more than anyone around me could have known!  I’ll leave you with two images of what I came up with:

 

I pulled out the ol’ skirt and water-balloons this weekend, to get a photo of this creation. When I looked back at the pictures from the actual show, however, I realized I’d done a different water balloon configuration, haha. Either way works…

This is from the fashion show scene. I’m gonna spell out what I got going on here: There’s a highly delicate water balloon configuration at the top of the water slide. These pointy party hats are there to protect it. And in my right hand is a needle: I’m the only one who gets to “pop” it. (And I did, and the water actually did follow along the slide!)