My spouse, spouse’s mom, and I were sitting in a “farm shop” at Aillwee Cave near Ballyvaughan, Ireland. We had vague plans to go into the cave, but more than anything we were just exploring the west coast by car, stopping at the side of windy narrow roads for pictures, looking at all the sheep, stone walls, castles, and stone-house ruins. When we arrived at the cave and realized it would be 18 Euros each, to tour it, we opted to just take a break instead: drink some Americanos, and sample all the cheeses that were made right in the shop. We picked up tourist maps and brochures, spreading them open on the counter in front of us. I noticed one point of interest, the Burren Brewery at the Roadside Tavern, in Lisdoonvarna, which just happened to be en route to our way back.
My impression of Irish beer so far had been that there are essentially three kinds: a light lager, a red ale, and a dry stout. The blurb about this brewery confirmed that: “The Roadside Tavern which was established in 1865 as a pub, was expanded into a bakery and now harbours a micro-brewery under its roof. Stop by and sample the taster menu of Burren micro-brewery beers: Burren Gold, a delicious colourful lager; Burren Red, a spicy, slightly sweet ale which even features a hint of smoke; Burren Black, a smooth and full-bodied stout.”
The town was so small that we just parked on the main street and walked up and down, looking for the Roadside Tavern. When we found it, it looked closed and there was a sign on the door that food was not being served for the next couple of months – the off season for tourists. We tried the door and were surprised to find that it was in fact open. An old gentleman was tending bar, and there were three locals just shooting the breeze. It was only 4pm, but it had the vibe that it didn’t really get much more crowded than that, even on a late night in January. It was already getting dark out, and the place was dimly lit. I ordered one of each (my spouse’s mom got the Gold, I got the Red, and my spouse got the Black.) We found our way into a second room, where a fire was blazing, giving off a warmth and a glow.
This was also an opportunity to go on our phones – WiFi was spotty throughout the trip; our airbnb didn’t have a connection. Since I don’t have a smart phone, I just stared at the fire, trying to overhear the conversations. I couldn’t make out a whole lot, but the language was definitely colorful.
The bartender went into the back for a while, and I snapped a few photos. Then I started to wander around, looking for the restroom. I went up some stairs and through a door which led to a more of a dining area, completely empty. When I came back, my spouse said they were joking about how I was leading my own micro-brewery tour. I said I was looking for the bathroom (just called “toilet” in Ireland.) My spouse’s mom pointed to another door. “It’s always down the stairs.”
I went through and there was the bartender. I looked to my left, “ladies,” and to my right, “gents.” I made a move like I was going left, and the bartender firmly, simply, gestured me the other way. I thought to myself, “well, his place, his rules. I don’t feel unsafe. Here we go…” and I went in. While I was in the stall, another guy came in and approached a urinal. I flushed, washed my hands, dried my hands, and left. No problems.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve been directed to the men’s. It happened once in Turkey. And also at a clothing store, to the men’s dressing room. This felt more deliberate though, ceremonial almost. And although I don’t plan to continue frequenting men’s bathrooms, it felt validating. I really do feel like I am inhabiting a middle ground, finally.
Before we left, the bartender asked how we liked the beers. My spouse said of the Burren Black, “Better than a Guinness!” The bartender just nodded, knowingly.
So I went on a really big trip this summer – I visited my brother! I flew into Istanbul, stayed with him there for two nights, and then we rented a car and went up to Sile on the Black Sea, Yalova on the Marmara Sea, the city of Bursa, and Ayvalik on the Aegean Sea. We took a ferry to the Greek island of Lesbos / Midilli. We also saw ancient ruins in Bergama and went to a Turkish bath with natural hot springs in Inegol. We crammed a lot into 10 days! This was my first time overseas since 11th grade, when I took a class trip to England and Scotland. It was the first time I’d seen my brother in three years – it was pretty great to reconnect. We did lots of swimming and hiking and we also went to a Whirling Dervishes festival, which was going on continuously for 114 days of summer.
If you wanna read more, I wrote about this trip, through the lens of someone who is non-binary, here! I wrote about TSA stuff, but more excitingly, I wrote about feeling more comfortable in a “male” role in a way that I am not, in America. I even swam without a shirt on, in front of others – something that I didn’t plan on ever doing!
Traveling Non-Binary: Gender Perceptions in Two Cultures
The website is called Transgender Universe, and I’ve written for them before (this is my 4th piece). I like switching it up with blog writing every now and then.
One year ago today, take or leave a day or two, I was at an incredible record store in Concord, NH. I was still recuperating from top surgery, but the worst of it was over, so my spouse and I went on vacation for a week. (OK, for her it was only a partial vacation – she was scheduled to attend a conference for work in Concord for 2 days.
We first went to Greenfield, Northampton, and Worcester, MA to visit friends. We went hiking, swimming (well, for me, it was only up to my torso cuz of surgery), blueberry picking, and shopping. We visited a botanical garden at Smith College, and when we got rained out, we ended up on the semi-precious gemstone wing of the science building. We also tried a Gose-style beer for the first time, and we watched Straight Outta Compton one night after the baby / toddler went to bed.
After all that fun stuff, we headed up to New Hampshire, and pretty much parted ways for the next two days because my spouse had work to do. It was awesome! We first went to the local co-op together to load up on snacks and drinks. After that, we just crashed at this hotel that was getting paid for by her employer. I hadn’t stayed at a hotel in roughly 10 years at that point, so the novelty factor was HUGE! I just kept getting ice from the ice machine, checking out other places my key card gave me access to (like the gym and pool, even though I could barely utilize these perks).
On the one day, I basically walked up and down the main street and did whatever I could do, for a full morning and afternoon. This involved spending many many hours in this old-time-y record store. I even bought a t-shirt from them, to commemorate the experience:
I liked it because it is an iconic image that literally has a pitchfork in it. And often, “pitchfork” and music are synonymous in this way: pitchfork.com
But I strongly feel that this record store preceded the website by many many years. OK, so I just had to follow through and look it up: The store launched in 1973, while pitchfork.com launched in 1995.
It appears as if not much has changed in this store since 1973, which is why I was so happy to just go treasure hunting in there for hours- I got a bunch of cassette tapes that had never been opened, for like a dollar each. And I got soooooo many records for under $3. I had a blast. I wanted to get this shirt in a gold color, but they were out of that color in my size. So I settled for yellow. Not my favorite color, but not a bad one either!
Some of my favorite things to do, ever, are: try new beverages, hunt for records in new towns and cities, and go swimming! And I’m so glad that I can swim again now – so far this summer, I’ve gone 3 times!
Oh, also big news on the traveling / swimming front: I finally solidified plans to visit my brother in Turkey, next month! We are going to explore ancient ruins and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Can’t wait!!!
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.