Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change

Game changing significance was loaded on top of more and more significance, this past week.  On Monday the 7th, Leonard Cohen passed away.  Then, of course, the upsetting election results.  My spouse woke me up to tell me the news.  I was in a hazy half-sleep, largely induced by my medications (I think), and I just replied, “Ohhhhhhh,” and immediately fell back asleep.  It was a surreal half-consciousness, and, in a way, I continued on in that space for a long time after, even now, as I try to wrap my head around it.

She also texted me later that morning saying “Happy anniversary of our ‘legal’ marriage today.”  I had completely forgotten about that.  We have much more meaningful anniversaries between us; this one is not a big deal.  But, interesting that it happens to fall on this same date.  Plus!  It was the one year mark of the launch date for the radio station I am a DJ at.  Also on this day, a friend’s father passed away.  The next day, my spouse’s sister proposed to her boyfriend!

The following day, I heard word that two pride flags had been burned in our neighborhood.  Talk about being hit close to home!  More on that in an upcoming post.  We attended a rally on Saturday morning with some friends, and the spirit of that event was totally incredible.

Also, around this time, 17 years ago, I was hospitalized for 19 days, and was traumatized by the process, for a very very long time.  I take a moment every year to think about this and reflect.  (In the past, it’d been much more than “a moment” to reflect.  For too long, it had felt like constant rumination.)

Three years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist:  Continuing to work through a specific trauma.

Then two years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it.  I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time:  That specific trauma is still there.

Last year, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal.  The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it:  That specific trauma is no longer a big deal.

This year, this personal matter has simply been buried underneath all this other stuff going on.  I don’t have the capacity to think about it and write about it right now.  I don’t see that as a problem.  It’s not like I am grieving the loss of space and emotional energy to be with this thing.  It was a thing.  And it gradually became not as much of a thing.  It is OK.

I also experienced an upswing this week.  Probably galvanized by the shitty stuff going on.  I cancelled a doctor’s appointment that I didn’t want to go to.  I called my grandpa and talked to him about different ways to save for retirement.  I solidified plans for my spouse and I to take a trip to Washington D.C. for her birthday – right around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and just in time to get the fuck out of there before the presidential inauguration.  We are going to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian, which just opened a few months ago.

I also submitted my stuff to legally change my name!  Finally!  I did this yesterday.  (This might also be a separate upcoming post.)  I also emailed a lawyer to see if he would be willing to work with me toward gaining legal non-binary status.  I haven’t heard back yet, and I realized that the timing is shit.  This is such a low priority right now, as transgender people scramble to get their Social Security card, passport, etc. in order before the Trump take-over.  And I know this lawyer in particular is probably swamped with going above and beyond to help people with this.  So, I’m going to wait on it.

But a time will come.  I know it.

Party, vacation, and TERFs

My partner and I made it through this party I’d been half-dreading, a party to celebrate our prior unification ritual.  It was a lot of things, but largely, it felt validating and joyous, in a chaotic sort of way.  It was fun; we would not do it again!  It was a different kind of experience for me; I was on a natural high for so long, it was starting to get tedious.  I mean, I’ve had a lot of extreme highs and lows in moods, over much longer periods of time, but this was somehow different.  Somehow much less scary.  I felt confident that even though I felt this way, I could depend on myself to do whatever it was I needed to do.  It was a high that was not really all that fun, in its duration.  Maybe I am growing up.

High extended roughly, from Thursday (kicking the planning for Saturday into high-gear,) till Tuesday (by then, we were in Northampton, MA for the start of our vacation, and the long drive to get there felt like it happened in a snap.)  I wasn’t hungry; I wasn’t sleeping well.  I was able to just keep going and going and going regardless.  I didn’t particularly feel euphoric or excited (I mean, I did at times, but not sustained.)  I basically started feeling like all I wanted was to get a full night’s sleep, an entire meal in my stomach, and to come down from wherever up-in-the-clouds I was.

CelebrationWOn our vacation, we stopped through Northampton and Spencer, MA before heading up to a tiny town (talking about a town with a church and a convenience store.  No gas station.) in central Maine.  We stayed with two friends who have an awesome cabin they’ve basically created themselves, over the past 10 years.  It sits on 50 acres of land, and they live there part time.  We went blueberry picking (organic!  $1.50/lb!!!), swimming in a very cold lake (when the air temp + rain hitting lake was even colder), trouncing through the woods a bit.  We kicked back, did some reading, connected with our friends, and heard stories about / met some of their neighbors.

At a rest stop on the way up there, I did an awkward dance with an older woman over the fact that I was in the women’s bathroom.  She spun around to walk back out and check if she was in the right one, sort of touching my shoulder to prevent a collision between us, saying she’s checking that this is the right bathroom.  I smiled and said, “Yep, it is.”  This, surprisingly, does not happen to me often at all.  I can’t even remember the last time.  I enjoyed the experience (since it wasn’t threatening or uncomfortable, was in a way validating.)

On our way back home, we stopped to stay in a tree-house!  IMG_0969And on our way from Maine to this tree-house, my partner read aloud an article from the August 4, 2014 edition of the New Yorker (p.24 – “What is a Woman?  The Dispute Between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism”).  I’ve never picked up a New Yorker before.  (I think maybe my partner hasn’t either, because she commented, “There are a lot of comics in here!”  Haha.)  It had been given to us by our friend in Maine, because she knew we’d be interested in this one article.

Imagine driving on winding roads through rural VT, rain coming down, having previously been bored out of my gourd, tired of our musical selections.  And suddenly being fully engaged in this topic that seemingly came out of nowhere (I mean, I know it came from the New Yorker; I just mean I wasn’t prepared for it, but it surely was a much needed distraction right then.)  At various points, I interrupted my partner to argue passionately both with the article itself and with the radical feminists the article was about.

Some of the gists:

– Not all, but some radical feminists still feel that transwomen are not women and will never be women (and that they benefit from male privilege…?).  These rad-fems continue to want to exclude transwomen from women-only spaces, and to invalidate their experiences in numerous other ways.  They reject the notion that someone could feel intrinsically female or male, and that all the ways that women and men are different are due to sociological forces and learned experiences only.

– The common term for these rad-fems is TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminists).

– Some TERFs are detransitioners, and TERFs often cite detransition as proof of the fallibility of transgenderism.  (Expert reports state that the percent of people who detransition is somewhere between 1% and 5%.  This is higher than I would guess, but hardly significant enough to attempt to build a case.)

– Some TERFs face threats, both in their personal and professional lives.  Situations have become so escalated at times, that they must be escorted by security to events and go underground in their academics.

There was so much more to this article (such as why FTMs are OK, but MTFs are a threat -???  Maybe I’ll return to the article for a more in depth future post); I highly recommend seeking it out if you can.  It was eye-opening for me because even though I’ve heard of this term (TERFs) and understand the basics of the arguments, this really painted a picture.  On the one hand, TERFs’ arguments are terribly weak and seem fueled by fear and a lack of understanding, with no efforts to begin understanding.

On the other hand, I find myself empathizing (just a little.)  “TERF” is not a self-describing term.  It is essentially yet one more slur, coming from others in sexual/gender minorities – people all too familiar with slurs themselves, usually.  These women have fought passionately (sometimes for decades and decades, creating groundbreaking groundwork) for changes in the view of what it means to be a woman, and now they’re kinda in over their heads here.  One final passage from the article that really sums up how this sub-group of rad-fems must feel,

“[These] radical feminists find themselves in a position that few would have imagined when the conflict began:  shunned as reactionaries on the wrong side of a sexual-rights issue.  It is, to them, a baffling political inversion.”



Gender identity related “to-do list”

About a month ago, I switched my Androgel dosage slightly.  From one pump of 1% daily to one pump of 1.62% daily.  I didn’t do this because I’m looking for more masculinizing changes.  (I’m not looking for this, still.)  I did it for these reasons:

  • I started on 1.62% initially, so I still had extra bottles of it.  I hate wasting things.
  • I have been told by pharmacists, twice, that 1% is going to be discontinued, and I should get my doctor to switch my prescription to 1.62%.  I’ve even been given coupon incentives to switch to 1.62%.  I think that the pharmacists are lying to me, and I will continue to ask for 1% until I absolutely cannot get it any longer.  It really freaked me out though, so I want to “test out” whether I’d be alright on 1.62% in case I abruptly need to switch in the future.
  • I’ve been feeling low, emotionally, and somewhat anxious.  I was hoping a slight increase might help jump-start me out of this funk.  (This has not happened, unfortunately.  I fully expect to be back to my normal self once summer is over though.)
  • My biggest reservation in increasing to this dosage, was my voice dropping.  That seemed like the one change that was on the precipice to shift, and I was really resistant to that for a very long time.  (Over a year.)  I continually brought it up in therapy.  (Her responses:  “Why?  Because you depend on your voice for x, y, and z?”  “Why?  Because you need your vocal range to stay exactly the same?”  “Why?  Because your singing range is of utmost importance?”  Etc.  Haha.)  For whatever reason, I’ve been letting go of that.  It’s no longer a worry.  And I’m fairly sure my “voice” is largely the same still, while my vocal range has indeed shifted, if that makes sense.

Another big change to highlight in my gender identity journey:

I finally came out to all of my extended family, on both my mom and dad’s side of the family.  I did this through emails.  (I’ve talked with my nuclear family in person.)  I largely did this because in some cases, I hadn’t shared anything personal about myself in a very long time, if ever (the fact that I’m in a relationship, the fact that we got married, etc.)  So it seemed like in sharing long-overdue news, I might as well throw in this other important-to-me stuff.  In other cases, I was inviting relatives to our having-gotten-married party (happening in 2 days!), and I needed them to know these things about me in advance.

Almost everyone at the party will be referring to me using male pronouns (my friends have been consistently doing this for years now which feels awesome), and I wanted those who didn’t know, to at least know.  I shared that I don’t feel either male nor female.  I shared that I’ve been on a low-dose of testosterone, and what that’s doing for me specifically.  I shared that my partner and I don’t use the terms “lesbians,” “wife,” etc. to refer to ourselves.  I shared that I prefer male pronouns, and I may legally change my name in the near future.  I welcomed any questions.

The most common response I got was:  no response.  Which is OK.  A few people replied in affirming ways, acknowledged what I’d told them, and that felt so awesome.  No one had any questions.  No one disparaged me or said anything inflammatory or negative.  None of the responses (or non-responses) surprised me.  None of this process changed the way I relate to my family.  In some ways, I’d like to change the way I relate to my family.  I would like to be closer with them.  But I’m not going to put all the pressure on the coming out process as a way to get me there…  If I did, everything would fall flat.

Next up on my gender-identity related to-do list:  come out at work.  YIKES!

Also, just a note:  I’ll be on a “true vacation” next week – one devoid of using the computer!!!  I’m psyched about this (and kinda really need it), but I will surely miss keeping up on blogs (it’s become a major part of my daily routine.)  I have a post scheduled, but other than that, I won’t be around for a while…

A note to my partner

This is probably going to come off as the most unromantic love note ever.  That’s OK.  That’s us!  …We have been together for close to 8 years now.  We lived together before we “got together.”  We met as housemates, which was kinda an interesting way to get to know someone (if you’re considering asking them out) in terms of feeling out potential compatibility.  A more detailed version of how we got together is here, if you’re interested:  Happy Randomtimes, today.

Last fall, we got legally married, which I had a lot of mixed feelings about.  It boils down to:  We got married for health insurance purposes (and other legal reasons that seem unclear at this time, but may be super important at later times).  We did not get married out of love.  Every day we are together, it is out of love.  Marriage has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are together or not.  It does not mean we are any more or less likely to stay together now.  It doesn’t mean that anything about how we operate our relationship has changed.  Marriage is meaningless.  So I guess I’m attempting to bring some meaning into it, because next Saturday, we are celebrating the fact that we got married.

I haven’t been in the best place, emotionally, the past few weeks, and that’s been making it feel like a struggle, to plan for this celebration.  Which is OK.  This party will happen.  It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and nervous when planning something so big.  Everything does not need to fall into place exactly how we want it to for it to be a good day.  It’s going to be a good day because we are connecting with people and with each other.  And not because the sound system worked without a hitch and no plates or glasses got broken.

But there’s kinda more to it than that.  We are celebrating marriage, and I’m struggling to understand what marriage is.  (Marriage is what you make it.)  Almost anything that is traditionally romantic, anything that is a traditional ritual for a wedding day, the roles we play… I don’t get it.  It’s not because I’m a contrarian or I’m “too cool for school.”  It just does not resonate.  I don’t wanna play those games.  In general, we won’t be.  We’re having a “ceremony,”  (er, 2 actually, an opening and a closing ceremony) but it will be fairly aberrant, bent, queer, variant, deviant.  We have no gift registry.  Our photo album is full of pictures of our friends and families.  Scrap the scrap book, and the guest book while you’re at it.  I could go on…

We’re discussing the idea of slow dancing to “Everyday is Halloween,” (Not because we wanna stir shit up, but just because that has been our wake-up alarm song every morning for about 5 years now.)  I love all of these ideas, but I’m still not comfortable playing the role of the person who is getting married (or already got married, and is now on display.)  In a way, it feels like the party was just an idea a while back, and now has a life of its own.  I think collecting some of these thoughts is really going to help me out.

So a note, to my partner:

Hey, you!  I like you a lot.  I trust you as much as one person can trust another person.  As time goes on, I just keep finding that we are super highly compatible.  You give me huge amounts of space and leeway to be myself, to figure out what I want/need, to experiment.  I couldn’t be in a relationship any other way.  I know that I often hold myself back, so I cannot be having someone else also doing that.

It feels like we’re generally in-tune, in-synch, we communicate about what is going on, regularly.  And if we aren’t, we will be again soon – I don’t feel left in the dark for long.  And if I do, it is not worrisome.  We’ll catch up with each other soon enough.  I know I’m a difficult person, sometimes.  I can be moody, and I generally need a shit-ton of alone time, in order to feel like a person.  I make things complicated when they are simple.  That’s not easy to live with.  You just roll with it.

I think that you are so super cool.  You are a strong person with values I really admire.  You stand up for yourself and for what you think is right.  You’re not afraid of confrontation.  You mold your life into what you want.  We’re molding our lives together, continuously.

Love, me.

PS- At my most recent therapy appointment, I just kept crying and crying (that I couldn’t do this marriage party thing, basically).  She suggested I write on my blog, where I’m comfortable, about it, before I’m in this less-than-comfortable situation.  That perked me up.  I said, “That’s a pretty good idea.”  She replied, “That might be it for me – I might not have any more of those; I’ll take it.”  I reiterated it was a really good idea.  Also, at the end of the appointment, she told me it was a freebie – a therapist’s version of a wedding gift.  Haha.


We took the plunge!

IMG_1546We did that thing – we got married!  And!  In the process of getting married, I came out (sort of) at work!  But first thing’s first – we got married on Saturday, at a nearby park with a stream and some little waterfalls.  We went to brunch first at a vegetarian Greek restaurant, with all our parents, who had yet to meet(!) after all this time.  Then we went to the park from there, where 3 friends, and 2 of my partner’s siblings all met up to do this thing.  My partner’s brother officiated, and she and I came up with all the wording ourselves.  Everyone stood in a circle, we did a go-around where everyone introduced themselves and said what brought them here, and then we played a song on a boombox.  Then C (I’m going to switch to “C” instead of always writing “my partner”) and I gave a 2 part lecture on the nature of love, which probably lasted over 10 minutes!  Hope no one was sleeping!  After that, we said some “agreements,” in which there was a lot of laughing and we agreed on some things.  Then we kissed (a huge deal for me because I can barely get myself to take her hand in public), played another song, and had everyone join hands and do some hippie-like circle formation dancing and spinning.  It was pretty great.  Then we broke and handed out fancy sodas, like the kinds in glass bottles, and clinked glasses and took some photos.

It was very close to how I pictured it going in my head.  Which was a huge relief, because a hang up about getting married at all, for me, was that wedding ceremonies and traditions?  I don’t get it, and don’t connect with that, at all.  So we created something we did connect with.

Right after, we took off for a fun 3 day weekend in a town about 2 hours away.  We went to some restaurants, saw 12 Years a Slave (nice “honeymoon” movie pick), went to some botanical and herbal gardens and an arboretum, went to an art museum, went record shopping, and just relaxed and stuff.

So, nothing really feels different, other than that C can now get on my health insurance!  Wheee!

The thing that actually feels like a bigger deal than getting married, is that I told people at work about it.  Basically, no one at work knew I was in a relationship until 6 months ago, at which point I told my co-worker, my supervisor, and the head of the kitchen.  But… I’ve been in a relationship for 7 years, and I’ve worked there for 6 and a half.  And I’ve even wrongly implied that I’m single.  So finally, those 3 people knew (I decided to share because I was going to be working closely with them all summer, and thought it was time to be more open.), but there were so many more people I see every day and never ever say a single thing about myself.  Teachers, admin. assistants, the principal and assistant principal, the school nurse, etc.

And I didn’t really have a plan or goal to share my news.  I was actually planning to (by default) not share.  I started last work-week that way, and it just started to feel really shitty.  Like, I was about to be getting married, and no one even knew I’m in a relationship.  I imagined they could guess I’m gay (I’d prefer queer and genderqueer, but imagine people might think I’m a lesbian), but I’d never said a damn thing.  I wonder if one day I will come out as non-binary, genderqueer, trans*, ask for a different pronoun, everything along that line…  We’ll see; one day at a time.

So by midweek, I decided to take the risk and share my news.  I wondered, how many people would I have to tell before they start spreading the word and I don’t have to do the work anymore?  I guessed 5.  In the end, I surpassed that goal of 5, and told 10 (and I’m still telling people)!  And the word did start to get around; people were coming up to me and congratulating me.  People were gushing with excitement and wanting me to bring in pictures for them to see.  People had all kinds of questions about what we were going to do.  I got a card from the whole school with a gift card in it.  The first grade teachers pitched in and gave me a gift basket.  It was as if my dark and dreary, mysterious and reserved, shy and distant demeanor at work got a huge boost, and I’ve been trying to run with that.

I could be a totally new person at work (slowly, little by little)!  I even took my hat off!  (I’ve been wearing military style caps every day as long as I’ve worked there, and it was getting old – I was tired of hats, but I couldn’t seem to get myself to take it off.  Now?  It seemed like no problem!  Hat gone!)

Licensed to wed

Last week, my partner and I went to city hall to fill out our marriage license.  We didn’t yet (and still don’t) have a definite plan for how we’re going to do this thing, other than we want to do it legally and simply by the end of this year.  And then we want to have a celebration with a big bunch of people and include a performance piece in lieu of a “ceremony,” this coming summer.

So the actual getting of the document was a little stressful – we were crunched for time and unsure about how these things go.  We gave ourselves time to get down there right when they opened at 9, and then I was going to drive her to work directly from there, by 10.  We were the second ones in line and everything went smoothly with filling out the form itself.  In the section where you mark either “M” or “F,” it said, “Sex (optional)” which was super fucking amazingly awesome and unexpected and we both purposefully left it blank.  My partner joked that it meant sex is optional in a marriage, and they want to make sure you know that going into it.

We brought up the form, and then a clerk basically typed up a new form, from what we had handwritten in.  She then asked us to check for errors.  We found two and she made the corrections before printing it out, having us sign it, and putting it in an envelope with some other information.  It was heart-racing exciting; we walked quickly out of there and talked about how we had time to spare to have some coffee at her place of employment before she started her shift.  I kinda did a victory leap down the steps and she laughed.

As we were walking back to the car, we talked about the fact that there had been errors.  Then she said, “I hope she didn’t fill in our sex markers.”  My stomach kind of dropped, because, honestly, I forgot to check that.  She pulled the document out of the envelope, and sure enough, there were two F’s typed into that section.  It felt devastating.  By this time, we were already in the car.  Our meter had run out, and we had no more change anywhere on our persons or anywhere in the car.  I started driving away, going back and forth in my mind about the logistics of getting this corrected vs. the importance.  In the end, importance won out.  My partner felt more flexible, but I needed mine to be blank.  So we parked elsewhere illegally, ran back inside, waited (because there was now a line), explained in an out-of-breath manner, crossed our fingers we wouldn’t be charged an additional fee (we overheard it was $10 for later corrections), got the changes made, and didn’t have to pay!

I did a double victory leap off the stairs, and upon seeing a man in a safety vest walking along the cars, sprinted toward ours so I could put the flashers on:  just standing, not parking illegally, sir!  Turned out he wasn’t a meter maid anyway, and I got my partner to work with zero minutes to spare.

Coming out as “getting married”

ImageHey, my partner and I have been planning on getting married!  We finally reserved a venue, this here house, in one of the county parks.  It’s starting to feel like a real deal now, that we’re going to be doing this thing…  We’ve been “engaged”* for a while now, and at least from my end, I’d been sort of putting off planning / making things more concrete.  There’s probably a lot of reasons why that is, and I’ve been de-tangling all of that little by little.  I don’t think I’ll be going into all those thoughts here and now (hint: a lot of the thoughts surround the idea that for so long, we couldn’t legally get married anyway, and more recently we can yet so many others can’t, and that’s confusing to say the least), but one thought really stands out as it relates to my current low-dose testosterone adventure:  When I started testosterone last March, I really had no idea where I was going to end up!  I mean, I thought I would end up very close to where I’ve been at already, but I couldn’t know ’til I tried it.  And I still can’t know for sure, but I feel a little more secure than I did six months ago.

In other words, I feel like the possibility to legally transition is floating around nearby me, always.  But the first few months of being on testosterone (trying something radically new) was a pretty sure bet for a time period where I might start feeling differently than before.

In some more other words, if I were going to want to legally change my name and gender markers, the early months of being on T was a time period of higher likelihood for feelings like that to emerge, potentially.  (Not to mention maybe realizing I wanted to increase my dosage and transition in all ways – physically / legally / socially / etc.)  But I didn’t really, feel that way.  Which isn’t to say I won’t at any other point in time, of course!  It just seemed like a strange time to start planning a wedding, if I was more unsure than normal what name and gender might go on our marriage certificate and other legal documents we pursue together.

Some of that uncertainty started to dissipate over time.  I’m feeling really happy with where I’m at.  Which is maybe one or two steps away from where I’ve been at before, in terms of my gender identity.  I’m not planning on taking a hundred steps closer to being seen as “male.”  I mean, my partner sees me as male, as well as all the other shades of gender I want to be seen as, and that’s really what feels most important.  I’ve been starting to feel more ready to take some steps with her toward a different relationship identity.

I don’t think I ever directly articulated this to my partner!  Guess it’s time for some more conversations!  (One of the cool side effects of having a blog, or, you know, writing in general.)

*word is in quotations because it doesn’t feel like this “stage of our relationship” has much to do with what might traditionally be assumed, by being “engaged.”  Nor will our “wedding” or subsequent “marriage” resemble much of what the mainstream might assume, by the use of those words…  for example, there’s no engagement ring, no plans to combine or share finances, I could go on, but I don’t really want to!  Why can’t there just be more word choices?!!