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
I’ve had the ability to hear my voice played back to me a whole lot, lately. For the past 4 months, I’ve been doing a weekly radio show, and this going to be ongoing for a long time. At first, I didn’t want to listen to the recordings at all. Then for a while, I was scrutinizing every little sound: I keep inhaling too sharply, I keep enunciating strangely, it’s not masculine enough (that’s a big one) etc. … By now, I’ve started to accept my “radio voice” for what it is, but I’m still thinking of ways to improve at the same time.
Last week, my spouse and I worked together to produce a “Special Gay Edition” of my regular show, and we both talked together, which was really fun. We used the word “gay” instead of “queer” or “LGBTQ+” because of the era: I normally play music from the late 70s and 80s (punk, post punk, new wave, goth, weird stuff), so we put together a set list from that time period and researched the musicians. Here’s the result! (Edited slightly for anonymity.)
Here’s the playlist:
Culture Club – Miss Me Blind
Fred Schneider and the Shake Society – Monster
Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse (live)Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Cherry Bomb
Husker Du – Find Me
Wayne County and the Electric Chairs – Thunder
Wendy and Lisa – Waterfall
Sinead O’Connor – I Want Your (Hands on Me)
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette
Tom Robinson Band – Glad to be Gay
And just a quick note about blogging: for the first time since I started this blog, I’m finding myself way behind on reading others’ blogs – like about a week behind. It doesn’t feel like I can catch up at this point, and I’m not sure if this lag is ongoing or just a blip. Either way, I’m still around and I still want to know what’s going on with everyone! I’m just finding myself more immersed in music, which is proving to be really time consuming! Ultimately, it’s enjoyable – I had been going through a very long lull where music didn’t seem important to me anymore. I’m glad music matters.
I know I’m behind on the celebratory Pride post – this really is when my city celebrates Pride. Why it’s not in June, I’m not sure. Yesterday was the parade and festival, and today is a picnic. There were some other events throughout last week too, but I wasn’t really in the loop. Usually we just march in the parade, whether it’s with an actual group, or just kind of infiltrating, doing our own thing.
We dressed up in fun outfits, like every year. I gotta say though, that personally, it’s losing its excitement. It used to be such a thrill. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I’ve done it so many times, but it’s just sort of meh, now. Nothing lately has felt exciting – maybe that’s part of rebounding from all I went through lately. I hope the world takes on a shimmer, once in a while, again soon…
This year, my partner’s employer (a food co-op) was in the parade, so we marched with them. They had 2 banners, some people dressed up in produce costumes, and a couple of shopping carts holding buckets of soapy solution to make giant bubbles with. And also a dog, riding in a cart. I handed out coupons for $5 off $25 purchase – we got rid of 600 coupons!
After the parade, we went and ate burritos and then came home to relax. We watched a documentary on Tig Notaro.
Then we went out to a bar for an event called BRAWL (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League). They sporadically hold events at different bars, and it’s always a fund raiser for some organization. This time it was the gay alliance. Lady arm wrestlers take on a whole persona and have an entourage go out into the crowd and drum up bets for who will win. There are two winners – the strongest arm, and the one who raises the most $$. They had names like Malice in Wonderland and Beth Amphetamine. It was pretty entertaining. There was an announcer, referee, and DJ to enhance the hype.
I guess it was cool to see some people while we were marching and to go out to an event. I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I asked my partner about it, and she said I haven’t seemed very engaged lately. I agree with that. When will that return? She says I should just keep putting myself out there and going through the motions. I agree with that too.
Today marks 2 years! I bring this up each time I do one of these posts, because it’s that important: although I haven’t changed much on the outside, my internal world feels significantly different, and that’s why I stay on it. I don’t have any changes to report, but these back-posts say a lot:
I may be changing my tune. I might increase my dose in order to look more masculine/androgynous. I just don’t know yet. Just wait and see. For now though, here’s some pictures of my face; I don’t think I look different over time. Maybe slightly rounder face?
To celebrate this milestone, I figured I’d post an (edited) email reply I sent an internet friend. They asked, essentially, how I finally made the decision to start testosterone. They were wondering if I felt a hormonal imbalance prior to starting T. I said,
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a long-lost video about an FTM teenager, made between 1999 and 2002. It was one of those things where someone’s blog had a link to a YouTube video, and then the sidebar had other videos I might enjoy, and I was immediately taken back in time.
I saw this short film in 2002, with my mom, as part of a program at the local LGBT film festival. It immediately stood out for me, and has withstood the test of time. While re-watching it, I could just feel those memories resurface. Sitting there, as a 21 year old, thinking that this person’s story also applies to me. And can my mom tell? Am I magically sending her vibes to let her know, as we sit and watch this film together, in a theater full of people? I was also thinking, why did I not go that route of getting to be a 16 year old on hormones? I could be in a totally different place right now (“right now” meaning me in 2002) if I’d done that!!!
I don’t feel that anymore. I’m glad to be where I’m at. If I had transitioned at 16, I think I’d have been happier than I actually was at that age, but I’d have some real regrets later in life. (Meaning my life right now. Lots of time travel in this post!)
This film is seriously outdated in some ways, and also relevant and timeless in other ways. My favorite line is, when the father says, “I thought that we were just going to have a lesbian on our hands.” I laughed
It portrays different reactions from family members pretty well – the dad uses his correct name and pronouns and speaks lovingly of his son. The mom misgenders him consistently, yet you can tell the love is there. The grandma cannot get past the emotional hurt of how this feels to her. It’s kinda heartbreaking to watch, but also I just want to shake her. The sister is detached mostly, away at college, but has no problem with her brother’s life path.
Give it a watch if you’ve got the time!
Yesterday, my partner and I met up with my childhood best friend and her family; they were in town for the holidays. They have two kids, ages 6 and 3, and the three year old was overwhelmingly interested in me. I’ve never had this experience before – usually kids stay their distance, giving me sideways glances or staring and staring and staring. I’ve been interacting with kids more at school (while I’m working) a little more lately, realizing that although I’m a janitor, I am also an authority figure they see regularly, who can help point them to preferable behaviors. (No running, no going down steps sideways, no slamming and throwing your garbage in the general area of the garbage barrel at lunch, etc.)
This was a very different dynamic though. We were hanging out at a nearby public greenhouse and plant conservatory, and the three-year-old daughter took any opportunity to climb all over me, instruct me to pick her up and throw her up in the air, and get right in my face. She was overhearing everyone use male pronouns for me, and she yelled, 2 inches away from my face, “you’re a girl!” And then again. And again. “You’re a girl!” We all laughed. It was funny. Because she’s three. It was also the most jarring thing I have experienced in a very long time. Her mom went ahead and explained very simply and directly that I get to say who I am, not her, and everyone has their own feelings about who they are, and only they get to say. She tested this with, “you’re a boy!” but then went on to state, “I’ve never seen a boy who sounds like a girl.” “I’ve never seen a boy who looks like a girl.” And again. And again. Holy cow, kids love repetition!!!
She also declared many times that I am her mama. Whoa. (She later clarified that she was making a joke.) Again, all of this is funny and easy to let slide because she is a three year old, but I gotta admit it was actually hitting my psyche a little bit. It helped that her mom (my friend), let us know she often does this. She’s super outgoing, and she’ll hone in on one adult of a group she’s with, and that person is 9 times out of 10 the most handsome adult male of the group. I’ll take it!
I have been considering what might happen if I increased my testosterone levels. And these exchanges really sunk in, as one more thing, in a way that makes me feel motivated to move in that direction where I appear and sound more masculine. I am still positive that I do not want to live my life as a visible male, but how cool would it be if people had some serious trouble knowing? I would love that (as long as they were respectful in the not-knowing).
This kid’s reaction was interesting, because usually it’s kids more than anyone else, who are not quite sure whether I am a girl or a boy. If I am asked this question, it’s coming from a child. I’m usually not told, strongly and forcefully, by someone making eye contact, two inches away from my face! Haha.
Thank you PlainT (Queering the Nerd) for choosing me for the chain-style Very Inspiring Blog Award!
I’m going to move it along by selecting a bunch of blogs I’ve been enjoying lately. If I chose your blog, and you’d like to make a post following all the rules of the award, they can be found in PlainT’s post, here:
The rules of this award are…
Then I’m going to write a few facts about myself, sort of in the vein of a year end summary. I made a similar post last year; it is here:
This year felt different… in a good way
These community-driven awards are super important because it’s a chance for blog writers to connect with different blogs they might not know about yet. I enjoy seeking out new blogs regularly, and I find myself feeling invested in the lives of other blog writers. Sometimes I get bummed when a blog starts off really strong and then disappears! Here’s to the coming year, and strengthening this online community through mutual support and inspired blog writing!
A few blogs to check out (some are mainstays, some are more sporadically written than others, some are brand new)!
Next up, here are some things about me / some things I did and felt this year:
– Overall, it was a pretty rough year for me. I continued to settle into a new and improved place with hormone therapy and talk therapy, but I’m finding I still have a LONG way to go until I really am where I see myself. I want to be out as non-binary in all areas of my life. I want to go by a different name. I want all the people who know me to use male pronouns in reference to me, not just most of the people… I might want top surgery…
– I felt a growing closeness with my partner, newer levels of comfort and ease, which is great. At the same time, she kinda had to put up with a lot from me. Lots of bouts of crying. Lots of insecurity-fueled jags. I had a rough summer. And fall. And just in general, lately…
– We celebrated our having-gotten-married (this occurred in November 2013) over the summer with friends and family!
– We went on some fun trips. To Massachusetts and Maine, to Toronto, To Philadelphia for the Philly Trans-Health Conference.
– We attended a foraging workshop with some friends, which was totally fun! We learned about edible plants you can find in our region, and how to prepare them into meal-like food items, over an open fire in the middle of the woods. We did that – everyone helped cook this food we’d found, and then we all ate it!
– Outdoors times were probably some of my favorite times this year. Just going for a hike or going to a lake. My partner and I got snowshoes recently, so we can keep getting out there, even throughout the winter.
– My pet rabbit passed away, and my co-worker retired. These have both felt like HUGE losses. Work has been tough and more drama-ful than need be, lately.
– I worked on 3 submissions for anthologies this year! One is already published, and two have been accepted and are in the works, the editing stages… This feels AWESOME!
– I got involved in a local group that is putting a new radio station out into the airwaves. Currently I’m helping out a lot with their facebook page, and within the coming year, I will be a weekly radio DJ!
That was, more or less, what 2014 looked like for me.
A couple of days ago, I hit my big 1.75 year milestone! (Haha.) I’ve been doing quarterly updates about changes on testosterone, and I’ll probably just continue at that pace.
Changes: There are none to report. Nothing new at least. I had increased my dose from 1 pump of 1% (Androgel) to 2 pumps of 1%, from roughly August through November. I did this because my blood work had come back with low levels. Er, by “low levels,” I mean back into a normal female range (I believe I was at 64 ng/dl). So after increasing and having more bloodwork done, I saw my doctor in November, and she told me my levels were at 210 ng/dl. I was surprised by this – not because it’s bad; just because it did not feel like I was up in that range at all. (A female range is roughly 14-75; a male range is between 300 and 800). I had been aiming for roughly 100 ng/dl; to find out I’d more than tripled my level felt hard to believe.
I hadn’t been experiencing a drop in my voice. Or more hair on my body. Or an increase in sex drive or appetite. To clarify, I have experienced some changes over time – just nothing new in a long time. Here are some past posts about it, if you’re interested:
My doctor wanted me to decrease the dosage a little bit. I strongly feel that I am going to do what I want to do and not what my doctor wants, in this regard. BUT, I’m super curious to see what the lab work will come back as, with a slight decrease. Because so far, the amount I’m taking has not appeared to correspond directly with the amount in my blood stream. Not in a sensical way, at least. So, for now, I’m using 1 pump of 1.62%, daily.
Like I said, there’s nothing new to report. So I’m going to just riff off of one thing I’ve really been enjoying. Feeling warm!!! It’s not so great in the summer, but right now I’m reveling in it big time. I’m typing right now wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This would not have been possible in winter months before taking testosterone! (Because we keep our house pretty chilly, to try to save $$$.) I can step out of the shower and not feel like I am shaking and shriveling until the point I have all my long johns and sweatshirts on. I can just kind of step out of the shower and take my time getting dressed. I can walk around with damp hair, and it’s not intolerable. My partner reports that sometimes it is too hot when we’re sleeping and I’m spooning her, in the dead of winter, even up in our uninsulated attic (which is where we sleep). Never heard that complaint before taking testosterone.
I love feeling warm when it is cold!!!
And finally, a couple of pictures of my face, to illustrate that it is possible to take testosterone for this long and still look pretty much the same (if that’s what you’re trying to going for – I am…)
A reader asked me,
I have been researching going on T and got approved for top surgery this past summer. I too struggle with depression and am on medication for it. I have been trying to find information on it but, were you on antidepressants when you started T and if so, did it affect how the T was processed? I am curious if the T counteracts negatively in any way with depression meds. Thank you for your posts and i look forward to hearing from you!
And since I don’t have any direct experience with this, I thought I’d post here and see if others might have some helpful thoughts / advice.
I was on antidepressants for around 6 years, from 2000-2006. I didn’t start testosterone till 2013, so I’m very far from there having been any overlap. I haven’t heard of someone having an adverse reaction to being on both at the same time, or there being any issue with how the T is being processed by the body. Everything is an adjustment though, and T is a potent hormone to throw into the mix.
For me, T has acted as a pretty effective anti-anxiety substance and antidepressant. I would recommend it to anyone who is depressed or anxious (That’s a joke. Kinda, haha.)
I don’t know whether I would ever take a synthesized antidepressant medication again. I’ve been on quite a few, and they were all either not really doing much of anything, or they were flattening me out into a walking zombie. They definitely do work wonders for some people though. Testosterone has been much more effective, for me, and I don’t just mean in terms of addressing body dysphoria. I mean that it has lifted me into a new level of living, basically. I wanna say that it’s been taking testosterone + being in therapy simultaneously that’s gotten me here (a powerful combination.)
I definitely am prone to low moods still. Just this past week / weekend is a very clear, recent example. I wasn’t sleeping well, my appetite was poor, I was obsessing about things I can’t change, I had little motivation for anything beyond basic functioning level. But something is very different about these dips than where I used to be at: I know they are not going to last. I know I’ll be naturally coming out of it at any point, and once I do, I don’t need to live in constant fear of the next time I start to feel low. Because, that’s all it is – feeling low. It’s no longer body + soul crushing depression, which I’ve been all too familiar with for most of my teenaged years and young adulthood…
Has anyone been on antidepressants when they started testosterone? Did you notice anything about how the two substances might have possibly interacted with each other? What has been your experience with antidepressants?
I’ve been using Androgel, daily, for over a year and a half now. And I’m just now getting a full understanding about how the prescription & insurance industrial complex works as it relates to me continuing to get what I need. Here are a few experiences that, each taken separately, are small, but as a collection of anecdotes, are kinda mind-boggling:
– My first doctor initially tried to sway me toward a different product, Fortesta, telling me I could save big, and handed me a discount card I could activate. I went through all the hoops only to learn I was not eligible because I am not male. When I came back to him with this, he changed my prescription to Androgel without further discussion.
– Although I made clear to him that I was aiming to be on a very low dose, and see what happens from there (like 1-2 pumps), he wrote the script out as 4-6 pumps daily. This led me to be able to get 2 bottles at one time for $25. This amount lasted me for 4 months. At $6.25 per month, I wasn’t about to speak up about the inaccuracy!
– The prescription wording has changed over time (and between two doctors), and I’ve felt confused as to how that equates to how much I’m getting and how much I’m paying. I’ve paid $25 for 2 bottles together, $50 for two bottles together, and even $50 for only one bottle at one point. I guess I assumed it fluctuated in price. I thought I was paying per bottle.
– I’m not paying per bottle. I’m paying per month. My payment, I finally found out, should be $25 per month (not too bad!), but somehow I’ve continued to avoid even having to pay that much. I also have been able to store some bottles in reserves (which helps me feel much more secure since most of my visits to the pharmacy have led to some sort of questioning, calling of my doctor office, etc. Not for anything personally about me, but because of how the script was written out.)
Basically, while talking to my insurance company (using the pharmacy’s phone) last week, I learned that all that matters is how the script is written. Testosterone is a controlled substance. I always have to pick up the prescription at my doctor’s office and show a picture ID. I can never get a refill (although my doctor has tried!) If the doctor writes the dose out as 1-2 pumps per day, the higher amount is factored in. If it’s 4-6 pumps, it’s 6 pumps, even if I’m only actually using one. No one seems concerned about whether the amount correlates to what I’m doing. I can get a 30 day supply, a 60 day supply, or a 90 day supply. I’d prefer the 90 day because it means I don’t have to go as frequently. But if it’s entered as a 30 day supply, it’s 1/3 of the price. And no one actually seems concerned with whether that translates into how frequently I go to the pharmacy. Interestingly, I could pay a whole lot more to get the amount I use, or I could pay a whole lot less to get more than the amount I use. I don’t understand this logic, but I do finally understand this system.
When I was told I’d be paying $50 for one bottle and would have to come back in 2 months with a new prescription, for my 2nd bottle (due to the wording of the script) last week, I argued with that. The pharmacist got me on the phone with my insurance (which led to me finally grasping how this works). I realized the only way around it was to get the script re-written by my doctor.
I asked the pharmacist if I could get a discount card for Androgel. This is called “The Restoration Program.” Due to my experience with the Fortesta discount card, I wasn’t holding my breath. The pharmacist got me started and then handed the phone to me to complete the activation process with an Androgel representative. He was friendly and smooth. I was asked a lot of questions: name, address, email, phone number, etc. I was asked if I’ve read all the terms and conditions. Since I had just been handed the booklet with mass amounts of fine print 2 minutes prior, I just said, “yes.” I was then asked, “Are you MALE?” He said the word, “male,” in such a harsh, abrasive tone; all customer-serviceness left his voice. I paused for a good long while. Repeated the question back to him. Said, “No.” Said, “I’m not legally male; if there is any other criteria under which someone could be male, I’m interested in that.” But his helpfulness was long gone. I felt mildly humiliated; he just kept grinding it in that he could do nothing further for me.
My jaded brain (during a conversation with my partner’s jaded brain, haha) decided that men are rewarded for using Androgel because the company is trying to promote a specific type of patient for their product. Rugged, middle-aged, robust and vigorous. Masculine. Diagnosed with low testosterone, just needing a boost. Just take a look at the pics of men on their website:
I am nothing like the men on the website. However, I am just as worthy of being eligible for a discount program! I would call it “The Re-imagination Program.” Testosterone has certainly aided me in re-imagining who I am and what I can do / who I can become.
I told the pharmacist I wasn’t eligible. He acted surprised, but my jaded brain decided he already knew. The next day, I called my doctor’s office; asked for the prescription to be written the way it had previously been written. Got a call back that it was all set; ready for pick-up. Picked up the prescription, went back to the pharmacy, got my 3 month supply for $50. Anticipating more hassles in the future…