Back in November, I lamented about not being able to find much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of a psychotic episode. In the past few weeks, two such books sorta fell into my lap, so I want to mention them!
My spouse picked up a book called Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind from the library last weekend. They pointed it out to me, like, eh? You’ll want to read this! This weekend, I was super sick, and I binge read it in 2 days, while trying to stay warm on the couch. It was compelling for so many different reasons, one major one being that I could relate to so much of it. The author, Jaime Lowe, was also hospitalized for a good chunk of her senior year of high school, and she also just took the pills without much reflection for years and years. Like, it’s something that is a thing now. (Although, for me, it was Depakote, and not Lithium.) She had another manic / psychotic episode when she tried to get off Lithium at age 25. I successfully(?) did get off all my pills in my early 20s, and that was my new normal for a long time, until I had 2 subsequent manic / psychotic episodes in my 30s. She had to switch off of Lithium because it was killing her kidneys, and she had a really hard time stomaching Depakoke, but she finally did get through it.
Having to switch sent her on a spiritual journey to learn about Lithium as not just a psychotropic drug but as an element, super common in nature. Which made the book encompass much more than just her mental health trajectory. The best thing about it though, was how thoroughly and deeply she gets back into that headspace of being so completely out of her mind. The slightest suggestion toward a minuscule thing could send her on an all-day (or longer) journey to do and/or be that thing. She devastated every aspect of her life that second time around. I was surprised by the fact that everyone around her wanted to keep her out of the hospital for a second time because she was no longer an adolescent and the adult ward was apparently to be avoided at all costs. As a result, she was in that state much longer – days, weeks… I was brought to the hospital like, BAM! So fast my head didn’t get a chance to spin out too far too fast with too many repercussions.
The second book I’m reading with a portrayal of a breakdown is called The Petting Zoo, by Jim Carroll (of The Basketball Diaries fame). He wrote this book in 2010, and according to the forward by Patti Smith, he died at his desk while writing. He had finished it at the time of his death, but it was still in the editing process. A few people had their hands in trying to edit as close to Jim’s style as possible. It’s fiction. It’s hard for me to get through (probably largely because it’s fiction – I almost always gravitate toward non-fiction and memoir). The book opens with the main character, Billy, in the midst of a manic frenzy. I didn’t know the book would be about that at all – nothing about that on the back cover summary – I bought it on a whim from a record store that was going out of business. So it was interesting to get thrown into that unexpectedly, but I gotta say it felt lacking in… something.
Billy has some kind of crisis over an art opening at the MET and how what he saw of this one artist affects how he’s approaching his art for his own upcoming show. He careens off down the steps, on his own, into the Central Park Zoo, more specifically a side spectacle, an outdated petting zoo. From there, he flees down the street, in his tuxedo and fancy shoes, to a building that reminds him of an Aztec temple. He then hits his head and his eye on branches or something and starts shouting something about a knife. He has a momentary black-out and the cops pick him up. At which point he comes back to reality, and that’s it. Although the aftermath ends up taking longer, red tape and everything. He has to stay overnight in a mental ward, which is just kind of looked at as a novelty, a curiosity, a stop-over.
In conclusion, real life is zanier (or at least more compelling to me) than fiction.
Every year around this time, I revisit the first time I was hospitalized, which was Veteran’s Day weekend in 1999. It used to feel like the worst thing that ever happened to me. And, in terms of fallout, I still think that it was – it just no longer feels that way.
Two years after this hospitalization, I wrote an essay for a class, including every little thing I could remember about the experience. A few months ago, I gave that document to my therapist to read over. I didn’t necessarily want to delve into it or have her probe me about it. I just wanted for her to have read it. And she really only said one thing: “There were always questions about whether you had been in a psychotic state or not. This definitely shows that you were.” And, strangely, I was satisfied with that. As if I could lay to rest whether I needed to be there or not. For the most part…
I’m currently giving my most recent hospitalization (from 6 months ago) the same treatment, as best as I can remember. I’m up to 2,500 words so far, and only about 15% done. I don’t have any plans for it other than just something that I want to do for myself. We’ll see. I feel like there’s not much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of psychosis. (If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!) That does not mean I have lofty goals for where I could take this writing; it’s just a motivating factor, something that pushes me to try to capture it as best as I can.
Here are the other posts I have made, yearly:
Continuing to work through a specific trauma – Four 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.
That specific trauma is still there – Three 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 no longer a big deal – Two years ago, 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.
Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change – Then last year, I wrote about how other things were going on, and I really didn’t have the space or time to reflect. Which was perfectly fine. Between the election results, working on getting my name legally changed, and other emotional markers, it just didn’t come up.
This year, I am thinking about it, but it is more in terms of “one of the times I was hospitalized,” rather than, “a traumatic event – the worst thing that ever happened to me,” etc.
I’ve been thinking of all the little occurrences that go into the bigger story. Like, for example, in that state, my mind was so malleable and adaptable that it seemed like, theoretically, anything could be true and just as easily, not true all at once. Which is one of the reasons I avoided watching any TV. (There were two TVs on the unit – one played music and had legalese constantly scrolling, in both Spanish and English – like a “know your rights” kind of thing. The other TV had a remote and listing of channels, and we could watch whatever we wanted, 24/7.) At one point I did sit down, and there was a documentary on about pineapples. (Er, rather I’m sure the documentary was on something more broad, but I saw the pineapple part. I started yelling about the unlikelihood about these pineapples growing. Don’t pineapples grow on trees like sensible fruits? What were these miniature pineapples growing up from fronds in the dirt?! A patient who knew-all immediately matched the intensity I was spewing, and argued for the realness of these pineapples.
A few months later, my spouse’s aunt was visiting from Hawaii, and sure enough, she grows pineapples on her property and sure enough, she had pics to prove it. I can now accept it fully.
A few days ago, I found out about an upcoming project called We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology, edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton. It is slated to be released in January, pending enough funding through their kickstarter campaign. When I first checked it out, it had been “live” for one day, and had already reached $15,000 of it’s $17,000 goal. Today, a mere 5 days later?!!! It’s at $35,126 – more than double of that goal!!!
That means, I’m assuming, that the artists are going to get paid even more $$. They were going to be getting paid $25 per page – I wonder if that’ll get raised to $50 / page. Hopefully!
I pre-ordered my copy and cannot wait to get to read it in its entirety!
In the meantime, I asked one of the authors, whom I met online through a Facebook group, how they got started / how they found out about contributing.
Me: How did you get into graphic arts? Do you have formal training or are you mostly self-taught?
Kyri:I have been drawing since I was old enough to have motor control to move a crayon around, and telling stories for almost as long as that. My early focus was on animals, but I branched out to people, stories, and comics in late elementary school when I discovered manga. That’s held on for the long haul. I went to a liberal arts school instead of a traditional art school, which turned out better for comics anyway because I could minor in creative writing. I focused mostly on printmaking in college, which translates really well to comics – a lot of thinking in sharp black and whites and the graphic quality of lines, and how a reproduced image reaches large audiences.
Me: How did you first hear about this project?
Kyri: I’m part of a comic creator’s group in Boston, the Boston Comics Roundtable, and someone there signal boosted the open call for submissions – I can’t for the life of me remember who. I almost didn’t send in a submission packet, and actually ended up submitting something a week late, because I was a little intimidated by the people in charge and the people who were already part of the project. I’m so glad I pushed past my fears, though, and I’m really excited to be published alongside all these fantastic trans artists
Me:How did you narrow down the story that you wanted to tell? Is it your “quintessential” coming-out story, of sorts, or something more tangential?
Kyri:I knew when I first saw the open call and the concept for the anthology that I wanted to do something about my bodily experience with both gender dysphoria and chronic illness. I have fibromyalgia and hypermobile joints, and it really affects how I’m able to present on any given day. Binding can really hurt my ribcage if I’m not careful, and sometimes the compression just ends up hurting my muscles because of the constant contact, even if I’m binding correctly. Being chronically ill also means I’m not as fit as I once was, and the extra weight means I get misgendered constantly, even when I am attempting to present androgynous/masculine. I think that most people tend to think of the thin attractive model of androgyny when they think of what it means to be agender or demigender, and there’s just not enough discussion around diversity of trans bodies outside of our community. There’s also this pervasive and weird idea that you can only be “one thing” so convincing people I’m both trans AND have an invisible disability is an ordeal sometimes. I wanted to do something to touch on all of that, and ended up with an autobio comic in which my body is compared to a house.
Kyri Lorenz: Hailing from the mountains of Northern Colorado, Kyri Lorenz is an agender jack-of-all-trades creator with a long history of meddling with concepts of nature and identity. If it involves creation and inspiration, Kyri is there, getting their mitts all over it and learning how best to make it serve their whims. Most of the time, this is easy and the technique or medium is more than happy to comply. Sometimes, it takes a little more finagling, but there’s always something to show for it at the end.
They got their BA in Visual Arts from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and are currently living and working in Cambridge, MA. See more of their work at kyrianne.com.
There is still roughly one month left to pre-order your copy, and to get additional perks if you’re into that. Just click on this donate link! DONATE NOW.
Content note: This post might not make a whole lot of sense unless you really like 70’s and 80’s music and/or gender. And writing and the English language…
In my city, there are two chain-type places to go to get an average oil change within about a half-hour wait. One also sells it’s brand of oil (nationwide? internationally? not sure). The other is more of a gas station / car wash place.
For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them:
LV – the oil specific place
SD – the gas station
I almost always go to SD because my parents give me coupons for free oil changes there, every xmas. And also because there is one on my way to / from work. About 3 years ago, I started trying LV a couple of times, but I concluded that it was too expensive, and I switched back.
I was overdue for an oil change, but I didn’t want to go to the SD in the suburb where I work, cuz I don’t really want to be seen out and about, while I am out of work for medical reasons. So I went to one in a further away suburb. I had been there once before, and it was kind of anxiety provoking (in my head, at the time).
Why? Because the style was Drive Thru, as opposed to giving the mechanic your keys and sitting in a waiting room. “Drive Thru” is one of my longest lasting fears, almost bordering on a phobia before I reigned it in a few years ago. This included parking garages, anything with a “gate,” car washes, etc.
Anyway, I made it through no problem, but I was noticing all these little “masculine touches” / masculine underlying communications, body language, etc. Stuff that’s barely worth paying attention to. Stuff I generally am not around because normally I’d be sitting in a waiting room. An example would be a giant truck in line honking, just because he(?) wanted to get an attendant to come over ahead of time for some reason. (As opposed to reading signs to find out the information). These are all assumptions, of course, but I’m just saying I was in tune to things in a different way than I normally would have been. And I was the opposite of anxious.
While waiting in my car, I was listening to a mix CD that a friend gave me in our early 20’s. Before he hardly knew me. And now he’s one of my longest-lasting, solid friends here locally.
While hypo-manic currently, I’ve been spending most of my time at home organizing and cleaning and catagorize-ing things. One thing I uncovered was this mix CD, which he had titled, “A DRUM IS A THING IS A DRUM,” (all caps.) which, for me, is reminiscent of Wire’s album (one of my favorite albums ever,) “A BELL IS A CUP UNTIL IT IS STRUCK” (all caps.) The song that stood out the most, from the others was:
T-Rex – Jeepster. So GLAM / FLAMING / FLAMBOYANT!
When the CD ended, I could overhear what was playing in the garage / mechanic dock. It was:
Elton John – Benny and the Jets. SO GAY!
Anyway, I got the oil change and then went to this place that used to be called The Stereo Shop. It’s now called something like, “Digital audiophile visual environments.” I wanted to go there because there was a used cd / record store in the back of this high end Hi Fi Sound Equipment store. When I got there, I asked the guy at the front about the cd store, and he said it wasn’t there anymore. It had moved. I asked if he could write it down for me, and he did. I don’t think any music was playing in there, or if it was, I didn’t pick up on it.
Back in my car, I was listening to a station that claims it is the only station that matters (that’s their “tag line.”) A song came on that is unusual for their roster, and also happens to be a song I sing along with / almost know by heart. That would be:
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs SO GLAM!
I got to the new location, and realized they didn’t open for another 45 minutes. So I went down the road to another record store. When I walked in, what happened to be playing?
THE CARS – MOVING IN STEREO!!! In my book, it doesn’t get any more classic / fabulous than that.
I was really just browsing, not looking for anything in particular. A bunch of stuff popped out to me as “must have’s.” I got a handful of 7-inches, and a couple of records.
I’d recently started thinking I need to upgrade a few records, if I come across copies in better condition, because I am a DJ (That’s a Bowie song!), and it sucks to play crappy sounding vinyl.
Five days prior, I’d told a friend that I probably need a new copy of Culture Club’s “Colour by Numbers.” Me ‘n this record have a loooooong history together. It doesn’t get any more basic than that. Sure enough, at this record store, they had two options!!! Either:
An original, still factory sealed, for $9.99, or
An original, still with the plastic plus promo stickers saying “Grammy Nominee,” and “All New Songs!” (and then it listed 4 song titles. This one was $10 even.
I went with the one with bonus stickers!
(PS – $10 is pretty much the most I’m willing to spend on a record, and it better be pristine and/or hard to find!)
Another exciting find was:
PETE SHELLEY* – HOMOSAPIEN* (Elongated Dancepartydubmix) !!!
Anyway, back to the story: So I bought this stuff and went back to the music store I had really wanted to check out. It was small and quiet (I think he was playing music, but I have no recollection of anything playing!) and there were just a couple of older dudes coming in and out, with special requests and just to shoot the breeze. I was only there for about an hour, but I left with a HUGE HAUL. I spent more on records and cds than I ever have before (meaning within one store at one time.) Almost everything I found was $5 or under, and it was an extreme pick-through type situation. Meaning, don’t go looking for anything in particular, just start looking at everything!
I had a nice conversation with the owner while he rung things up (in a way so as not to distract him, haha, he was super methodical with his calculator and his mechanical receipt machine.) I told him he’s got lots of great obscure stuff, and I might be back within 6 months or a year or whatever. He asked me if I live here or am passing through. I said I went to his old store with my mom a lot and he then seemed to maybe remember me. I said I do live here, I’m a DJ, I like 80’s music, etc. It took him a long time to ring everything individually, so I started browsing to pass more time. Found 3 more cds to buy, and then, as a last minute thing, the “DAVID BOWIE” category within the records popped out. There were two records in there:
DIAMOND DOGS* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $15.98 and
LET’S DANCE* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $9.98
I bought Diamond Dogs because that more or less completes my Bowie On Vinyl collection (no new pressings or record store day garbage, haha.) I left Let’s Dance behind because I already have it, but, hey everybody,
LET’S DANCE, everybody, DIAMOND DOGS and BENNY AND THE JETS included! We’re all HOMOSAPIENS, we’re all JEEPSTERs, MOVING IN STEREO, sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll…
*All Capital Letters
This is, by far, the longest post I’ve ever written.
Does the song “Bye Bye Love” by The Cars have 3 F-Bombs in it? Also, are they saying, “It’s OMG Style.”???
Pete Shelley was the lead singer of original English punk-rockers, The Buzzcocks.
Another exciting find was TWO copies (one for me, one for my friend) of a pink marbled vinyl original 7″ EP by The Stranglers from 1977, one of our fave bands! They were $4.00 each. (Hugs Work!)
I’m listening to The Cars S/T debut while I write this.
If you haven’t yet, check out the music video for “Hello Again.” It’s prob on youtube or some shit.
Last month, I wrote about coming out at work, and I left a few loose ends that I want to circle back to.
Real quick first though, I wanna acknowledge this blogging milestone! It’s been 3 years and 6 months now. Which is 42 months, meaning I’ve averaged close to 5 posts per month. And that’s been fairly consistent: I haven’t had times of being prolific followed by times of not writing anything and back-and-forth. Same with word-count – posts have been no more than 1,000 words, no less than 600 words.
Although it’s been moderate and steady, the way I feel about the writing and the blog changes fairly drastically and frequently. Sometimes I feel like I’m an objective observer, recording down what has transpired. Other times, I have put so much of myself into what I write, that the process, and the feedback I get has helped boost me up through some really difficult times. So, thank you, for all that feedback! Sometimes I’ve felt like there isn’t much point to continuing; I have nothing to say. Other times, I feel super good about this ongoing personal account of experiences that are valuable for others, and myself, to look into / look back on.
I’d say, currently, it’s mostly the first thing: I’m an objective observer, writing down what is happening and feeling kind of distanced from it. And that’s OK – it’s not going to always feel this way, I have learned.
So, in that vein, here’s that account I said I would write, of my first month being out, at work: A quick recap – I had talked to my supervisor, co-workers, 4 teachers, the principal, and the assistant principal. I had also gotten things moving in the HR department, and we were just going into Xmas recess. During that week when kids and teachers were out, I though it’d be a great time for my co-workers to start, while it was just us. I wrote, ” I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.” The first day, my supervisor called me through the walkie talkie, “[old name], can you get a 20″ red pad?” Me, “It’s going to be Kameron now.” Long pause. Her, “Kameron, can you get the 20″ red pad?” Then when she saw me, she said, “You’re going to make me practice now?” “Yeah!” And we were off! With, as I hoped, my co-worker leading. But the thing was, I didn’t actually have to correct anyone.
When break was over and everyone was back, I told 8 more people in person, and also had a 2nd, much more productive, conversation with the principal. More details are in the post, How I became “Mixter”. We talked about how to come out and the timeline, how my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door, and bathrooms. She told me I could think about these things and get back to her tomorrow. That all sounded fine, but as I went about my cleaning routine that night, I thought about how tough it is to just catch her, and what if it’s a while before I am able to get back to her. Plus the monthly faculty meeting was the following morning!!! (And even though I don’t attend these, that’s a great place for school announcements.)
So, I left a note on her table that night, so that action could start rolling ASAP. The note read:
Here’s what I”m thinking:
Fac Meeting – a heads up about a forthcoming email
Email – That I’m changing my name and that I’m now using male pronouns (he/him/his)
Sign on Custodial Door – Mx. [last name] (pronounced Mixter). I’m comfortable answering any questions about this.
also a recommendation if you one day have a transgender student:
A podcast called “How to be a Girl,” told from the point-of-view of a parent – with lots of input from her 8-year-old daughter (male to female). They talk about school, friends, privacy, etc. The parent is a great advocate.
There was some slight confusion in which the principal included all this information in the school-wide email, where, for example, I had only intended the podcast recommendation to be for her. But, I realized, the fact everyone received all of the above was actually way better! It gave people more context, which, I really really really think helped the information lodge into their brains better. Like, I have not had to correct anyone, once! Which is just completely blowing my mind. People seem more into addressing me by my name than before. Some people have decided to call me “Kam,” instead, of their own volition, which I’m OK with – it’s just plain fascinating. (My one co-worker / ally has been calling me, “Killa Kam” for a while now. Haha.)
A barrier between me and other people has definitely started to lift, just within this past month. I have had more conversations with more people about a wider variety of things than ever before. This is what being a person within a work environment is mostly about. The connections are what make it something more than just a random assortment of people that you (seemingly) have nothing in common with.
I wanna just keep running with this!
PS: This post has 882 words. Haha.
PPS: Posts coming soon about this amazing podcast, “How to be a Girl.”
About a year ago, I featured the story of an internet friend, here: Guest post – Kale
We lost touch for a while, but as the year came to a close, I wanted to see where they were at, transition-wise and otherwise. We corresponded for a bit, and they sent this update:
Hi! My name is Kale and I wrote a guest blog post for Kameron over a year ago when I first started taking testosterone. I live, mostly, in Newfoundland, where it’s cold and grey a lot of the year. I suppose it goes without saying that a lot has changed for me in the past year. I’m writing this today after making a monumental change to my appearance and expression of self this very morning. After five years of having them I decided to cut off my dreadlocks. I know some of you might be thinking “what does that have to do with taking testosterone or being transmasculine?” Well, I believe that all the choices we make about our bodies, not just the big ones like taking hormones or having surgery, impact our experience of self enormously. And though I hate to think on my dreads in a negative way I know they were a kind of crutch for me for a long time. If you think about it dreads are very gender neutral. Whether a man or a woman has dreads it doesn’t matter; the dreads will more or less look the same. And certainly once my dreads were long enough they obscured my neck, my slender feminine neck.
Well after a year it seems my neck isn’t as slender as it once was. In fact a lot of things about my body are very different. It amazes me how I can feel so much the same and so very different all at the same time. On the one hand the differences feel right to me, feel like the me I always expected to be, and I know that makes a huge difference. On the other hand I know there is so much about me that is the same, the integral parts of me that will never change, no matter what. I think a lot of folks, myself included, fear changes that will alter who they perceive themselves to be. It’s a legitimate fear but I don’t think it’s grounded in any reality. I know that I am the same person I’ve always been except now I feel closer to that person and so much happier. I should say that I identify with being transmasculine but do not feel comfortable with many labels. Every label I’ve ever tried on did not fit well enough to make me feel comfortable with it. Right now I like to say that I do not feel like a man or a woman. I feel like myself and that person has masculine and feminine traits.
Generally I feel more attuned to my masculine side and that was a huge factor in my choosing HRT. Being read as female, therefore feminine only, made me feel very unlike myself. I could not live that way feeling like no one saw me for who I was. A year later my voice is pretty low and I have the faintest line of hair over my upper lip. My veins pop out of my forearms and my pecs and shoulders have muscles they never had before. Strangers almost always think I’m a man. This is my new reality. It generally feels good to me but it’s not perfect. I’m not a man. I don’t really want to consistently be thought of as one. I take what I can get though because in this society being seen as neither a man nor a woman is a pretty unrealistic goal. I feel closer to my masculine side so being read as a man is less difficult than being read as a woman.
The other huge reason I chose HRT was my association with my genitals and my experiences of sex. For whatever reason I am cursed with the desire to have male genitalia. It fucking sucks. I cannot imagine having bottom surgery despite the fact that I really would rather male genitalia. I’m so not ready to even entertain that idea and I don’t know if that will ever change. I wasn’t entirely sure what testosterone would do for my relationship with my genitals but it certainly seemed worth trying. This was hands down the best choice of my life. I can’t express how thankful I am that I had the ability to make this choice. Before HRT I often could not derive sexual pleasure from my junk; it just didn’t feel like it was a part of me. That feeling was exasperating. I felt incredible guilt because I loved my partner but I could not enjoy sex with them. I don’t know how to describe the difference in my genitals other than it feels like what I imagine having male genitalia feels like. I have experienced some clitoral growth but it’s so much more than that. The difference is mind blowing, truly, and I wish I could find the words to express what it actually feels like but I can’t seem to. I hate to use the cliche but it’s so accurate; my body feels like my body now.
Despite all the ways I am so thankful for testosterone, I don’t like to put excessive emphasis on HRT. It was right for me in that moment in time. It’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone. And certainly I don’t think HRT is the only thing that’s helped me with my sense of self. If I want to I can think about my dreads negatively, as being a crutch. Or I can think about them positively, as being a big part of how I expressed myself authentically. Having dreadlocks and using HRT are both choices I made to feel closer to the person I feel inside. There’s so many ways that we can learn to be happy in our own bodies and the only thing that matters is that; each individual person’s happiness. I am so happy I found the courage to choose HRT but there are still days I look in the mirror and wonder who I am, what I think I’m doing. They’re less often, definitely, but they’re still there. This life is a journey, happiness is a journey and there’s no end until you’re dead. I wish I could say HRT made me completely whole and happy and yay now my days of feeling dysphoria and sadness are over! But it’s just not true. Happiness is not something you attain once and that’s it; it’s something you have to always work for. My intent in saying all this is to remind folks of certain realities. And I need to remember them as much as anyone. Life is hard. Go easy on yourself. Love yourself, no matter what you may feel sometimes. If there’s one thing I’ve taken out of this last year and all my experiences with my changing body it’s this.
I like how Kale starts this piece with hair-related changes, and then gets more into it from there. I also use my hairstyle to obscure my slender feminine neck! What are some things you do to help feel more congruent with your gender identity?
If you’d like to write a guest post, please go for it! You can just click on “ask me something” at the top of the page…
I started writing occasionally for a website called Transgender Universe. Here’s the first article that I’ve posted! It’s about pride flags being burned in my neighborhood, following the election, and then an impromptu rally, as a response to this hate crime.
(This first appeared on Transgender Universe, here: From Burning Pride Flags to a Neighborhood Rally)
The morning after the election, I woke up to a text from a friend who said, “Hi! We’d like to get a rainbow flag to hang at the house in solidarity after what happened yesterday. Do you know where we could purchase one?” When he had said, “what happened yesterday,” I figured he meant Trump, but once I got on facebook, I saw that two pride flags had been burned in my neighborhood the evening before. Talk about getting hit close to home! It is being investigated as both arson and a hate crime, but so far there are no suspects.
So I looked up information for the gay pride store that had been a mainstay in our city, first opening in 1989 as a leather and fetish supplier, and later changing ownership a couple of times and morphing into a place that had something for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked and saddened to learn that it had closed in August with the death of the current owner. So instead I recommended a couple of novelty stores to my friend, hoping he’d be able to track one down.
“AS THE EVENTS UNFOLDED, IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THERE WAS NOWHERE, LOCALLY, TO GET A PRIDE FLAG BECAUSE EVERY PLACE HAD SOLD OUT!”
As the events had unfolded, it became apparent that there was nowhere, locally, to get a pride flag because every place had sold out! A fellow neighbor had ordered 120 more flags, and she was formulating a plan to get these out to people and acquire more, flooding the area with rainbows.
On Friday evening, another friend in the neighborhood had texted me to see whether my spouse and I were going to the rally in the morning (I feel fortunate that I have so many friends who are in the loop, because there are times when I am totally living under a rock!). I said, “Yes,” as if I knew all about it (ha ha), and we made a plan to go together.
And so, my spouse and friends (a queer couple with a 10 year-old son) and I walked over to a nearby park Saturday morning, carrying signs and wearing fun outfits. As we approached, I felt a wave of emotion, moved by the size of the gathering, the amount of rainbows flying in the air, and the openness of everyone there.
Mary Moore, the organizer and the neighbor that ordered the flags, stood up on a table to announce the intentions of this rally: to hand out more flags for community members to show solidarity, and to show LGBTQ+ members in this neighborhood how much support is out there. Mission accomplished, by leaps and bounds! There were so many allies and families, along with people who identify as LGBTQ+. I walked around the outskirts of the crowd, taking photos and scoping out all that was happening. There was a station for people to make rainbows out of ribbons, as well as a spot to make construction-paper rainbows. Someone was doing face painting, and there was also a place to sign up to order a flag, because the 120 that Mary had ordered for the rally had sold out in 9 minutes!
The director of the local gay alliance also stopped by, got up on the table, and delivered a similar message of hope and love. I started to feel more comfortable, and moving into the crowd and approaching people with signs, asking whether I could take their photograph. I saw a couple of acquaintances, and where I would normally be too shy to strike up a conversation, in this environment, I went right up to them to say hey and chat for a while. My spouse and friends also connected with neighbors we know, as well as meeting a few new people.
I posted a photo album of the event on Facebook and watched my social network do its work, spider-webbing outwards from friends I had tagged, to friends of friends and beyond. I also messaged Mary, the organizer, to thank her and to ask her a couple of questions.
“…I LEARNED THAT SHE HAS BEEN AN ALLY AND SUPPORTER OF LGBTQ+ RIGHTS FOR A LONG TIME.”
We talked on the phone for a bit this morning, and I learned that she has been an ally and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights for a long time, even doing advocacy work in Washington DC. She said that for the past 8 years though, she could ease up because there was someone in the White House who was pushing for the same things; she could focus on her career, working as a lawyer in private practice, and on her family.
She first heard about the 2 flag burning incidents from a friend, while picking her kids up from daycare. Her husband had heard about it through the website, nextdoor.com, which acts as a community bulletin board and a way to connect with others nearby. I just joined, myself, to see what it’s all about (and to try not living under a rock quite so much). Sure enough, 5 days ago, there was a post from one of the victims of the hate crime, stating, “I hang a rainbow flag on my front porch and someone burned it down. Thankfully my house didn’t catch fire. The [police are] currently investigating; please keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in the area.”
And then, as a response, Mary Moore created the event, “Let’s Gather to Support Our Community.” She wrote:
In response to the burning of two rainbow flags in [our] area, let’s stand together and show that our community is tolerant and welcoming, regardless of who you love, where you worship, where you were born, your political affiliation, the color of your skin, or how much money you have. Many people in [our] neighborhood have been buying rainbow flags to put out in solidarity and to give to friends. … Would people be interested in organizing a central meeting place this weekend or next to give out flags and just to stand with our community in solidarity? … Please comment below if you would be interested in a gathering like this, if you have or can buy flags to distribute, and/or if you can assist with finding a location for this gathering. If there is interest, then we can set up a formal event on here.
I know that this is just one of many issues and injustices within our communities and that we are all so very busy, but we have to start somewhere and do what we can with what we’ve got every day. Let’s not be bullied or let our neighbors be bullied.
It all came together from there. I want to personally thank Mary Moore for showing my friends, my spouse, me, and everyone else who could be there for how much we are supported by our neighbors!
Regarding our rainbow flag status: We don’t have one, but when we moved into our house ten years ago, we dubbed it the “Rainbow Ranch” (it’s really a Colonial), and I spray painted a rainbow on our garage door. I sure as hell hope that never gets burned down – we just put a new roof on it a couple years ago!
Content note: crassness, body humor
1: “We’re Trendy”
My spouse and I were at a bar on the beach with another couple a few weeks ago. My friend (who is also trans) and I went to go get us some drinks. It was packed inside, and we had to squeeze past a long line for the bathrooms to get to the bar. On our way back with the beers, as we were squeezing by again, a woman was saying, “Hell, with this line, I could just go into the men’s room. You know, like transgenders. That trendy right now.” And, without really seeing her or stopping or anything, not missing a beat, I said, semi-loudly, “We’re trendy.” My friend repeated, “Yeah, we’re trendy.” According to my friend in the re-telling, she had a taken aback type reaction, but I didn’t see it; I just kept walking.
2. “Nearly A”
Last night on our way to go brush our teeth, my spouse looked in on our guest room / my gigantic clothes pile. There was a bra on top of one clothing mound, and she picked it up and said, “What is this?!!” I told her it’s a bra. She kept it coming with the, “Why do you have this?” and “Where did this come from,” etc. And I said it was mine and I was saving it for if I ever wanted to dress up like a girl.
“This is so tiny; it’s a training bra,” she said.
“No it isn’t! This was my bra!!!” (I was being mock angry.)
I started fumbling with it in my hand, looking for a tag so I could prove to her it was a bra. It was kind of curled up, so I unrolled it and showed it to her.
It had a model number, and then it said, “SIZE: Nearly A.”
We both burst out laughing.
3. “A Bag of Dicks”
Today, I was filling in for my supervisor, so I was working the day shift. The principal wanted me to clean up the front of the school, pick up sticks and garbage, sweep the walkway, stuff like that. So I did that for about an hour and a half before I decided that was good enough. I took the bag of trash around back to the dumpster, and as I passed the cardboard dumpster, I noticed a feminine looking backpack, a style that seemed older than elementary school age kids, just perched on top of cardboard boxes, at the perfect height where it was right where those side slide-y doors open. I flipped the flap of the bag, because I’m that kind of curious, and with just a glance, I realized that it was filled with dildos and vibrators, of all sizes and shapes, all of them different shades of pink. I quickly put the flap back and walked inside, mulling this over.
I texted my spouse:
“There is a bag of dicks in the cardboard dumpster today.”
“Haha, what?!” and then later, “What were the bag of dicks?! Haha”
“Like, literally! i took a pic on my crappy phone but didn’t turn out great cuz i wasn’t gonna touch them”
“Haha, why did the school have those?!”
“Someone swung by for a secret dump”
I then texted my co-worker, who was going to be at the school within the next half hour:
“There’s a bag of dicks in the cardboard dumpster.”
I just left him hanging until he got to work (I also texted some friends about the bag of dicks). Then, since this was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened at work, I brought him right out to show him. He was pretty surprised, but I do get the sense he’s seen lots of weird stuff in his time. He asked me if I told anyone about it and what should we do? I said, “No!” Just my spouse, and I was gonna just dump it in the actual dumpster, not the cardboard one. But, like, maybe a little later (cause I was pretty sure he was going to investigate on his own). Sure enough, later on he approached me, and told me that he did a little digging and there were some latex gloves in there too and gym socks and also a gift card for Subway. Haha. He said, “fly your freak flag” a number of times. I felt a little more emboldened next time I went to throw out trash, and rooted around in the bag with my gloves on before throwing it into the trash dumpster. Yep, lots of dicks in there.
Originally published in the zine, Not Trans Enough. Written by geoff; reprinted with permission.
if you were to look at me or hear me speak, you’d probably think that i am a cis dude. i could list off all the reasons why that isn’t so. i could just say that i am genderqueer. i could make it known that i am non-binary. or i could just share all that i know about these aspects of myself. i definitely do not look, act, or sound genderqueer or non-binary and i am especially not thought of as trans. well at least i feel that i do not look like or live up to this cultural imagination of what it means to be trans, genderqueer or non-binary.
i never “came out of the closet.” i never had individual conversations with friends or family members. i didn’t even have a facebook status update sharing this new and important part of my life. i never came out. i never really changed my outward appearance to become genderqueer although i wish i didn’t have facial hair. instead i started to live my life more openly, honestly and more as my true self. my process of becoming genderqueer was an inside job.
genderqueerness appealed to me because it meant that i no longer had to live like a man. it meant that i no longer had to fall short of the ideal of being a man. it meant that i could start to reject the masculinity that is toxic and violent. it meant that i could be this tiny five foot one and a half tall person trying to live a just life in an unjust world. one thing it didn’t mean was that my male privilege just disappeared once i started to identify as genderqueer.
yes, i still benefit from male privilege even though i identify as genderqueer. this male privilege is complicated and contextual. it’s something i never really thought about or ever needed to consider. i feel genderqueer on the inside but i know that most people read me as a dude. being a genderqueer tomboy femme feels right. although my gender identity challenges gender expectations, i still live in this world that genders people as men or women. as de from my interactions with people that are close to me, i get gendered as a man. even though i identify as femme, i do not experience constnt sexual harassment, gendered or sexual violence.
in my early 20s and before i ever identified as queer in any way, i used to wear women’s pants by goth brands like lip service and tripp. the pants were skinny enough to fit my slim petite figure but were really tight around the crotch area. i also used to wear cyber goth platform sneakers. i had a pair of “swear alternative” shoes that had a 4 inch platform. i only wore them out once. i stopped it all. i couldn’t deal with the looks and i didn’t feel comfortable or confident in what i was wearing so i stopped. i was scared. i stopped expressing this femme aspect of myself to feel safe. i traded aesthetics for security.
“not trans enough” deeply resonates with me. this statement expresses my sentiments of feeling out of place within the “trans community.” it conveys the discomfort that i feel when i say that i am genderqueer, that i use they/them pronouns when i am surrounded by people that have an authentic trans story to tell. the “real” trans story that’s about experiencing struggles, dysphoria and medical transition. i do not wish to put down any of these struggles or experiences rather i hope to add my experience to diversify the trans narratives. i share my experience to validate it. i share my story to affirm other peoples’ sentiments if they too feel “not trans enough.” i think that all trans people are amazing. i dream of a future where trans people don’t constantly live with discomfort, where trans women and transfeminine people do not face disproportionate rates of violence against them, where trans people do not just struggle to survive but thrive and where trans people are honoured for the beautiful people that they are.
geoff is a mixed race gender queer of filipinx descent living as a settler on colonized land known as toronto, turtle island, traditionally land of the haudenosaunee, mississaugas of the new credit, huronwendat and other indigenous peoples. they identify as a sober addict in recovery. they wish to politicize their experiences with substance use and sobriety while unraveling the limited representation of the addicted body. more of their work can be found at https://livingnotexisting.org/
This piece was first published in the zine, Not Trans Enough. Written by Rhiannon Robear; reprinted with permission.
One night this summer, I was at the gay club looking glam, and having a smoke break outside with my friends. A cis gay guy came up to us and started talking about trans things in that “you’re a visibly trans and/or gender non-conforming person so I’m about to lay down all my trans knowledge, thoughts, and critiques for you” kind of way (a.k.a. completely unasked/unwanted). Overall it was a real drag, and I brushed him off mostly, but then he held my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “baby, I know you’re trying to be the belle of the ball, but the reality is you’re built like a 6 foot amazon linebacker, and you need to work that.” I was taken aback like where the fuck do you get off telling me who I am and what I should do. But as much as I hate entertaining cis-notions of what trans people are or should be, what he said was true, and deep inside me I knew I felt that and it was the first time someone told me that I could &should be a woman on my own terms.
The reality is: I’m 5’11, probably between 250-300 pounds, hairy as all hell, and I wear size 13 women’s shoes: I’m a big girl. I spent years of my life identifying as a gay man, and trying to work at accepting and loving my body & myself in a culture that taught me that being fat & being femme made me undesireable, unattractive, and inferior. It took me YEARS to be comfortable with who I am, and that process has changed me, and how I value myself – simply put: I don’t do things for other people anymore, I do things for myself.
I identified as non-binary for the past two years, and over this time, I’ve slowly began to come into myself as a woman, and I’m currently in the process of coming out as a transgender woman. It’s very exciting and liberating and I’m now out at work and am ‘test driving’ my new name and pronouns. This being said, what I am most dreading about coming out isn’t being faced with disapproval or abandonment (I am privileged with supportive family and friends), but more about those in my life forcing feminine ideals upon me when I start to identify as a woman and not strictly non-binary.
In a perfect world, would I like to wear a full face of make-up, have minimal to no body hair, have a feminine physique, and be read 100% of the time as a woman? – SURE! But the reality is, I work two jobs, I’m a full time student, and I’m involved in a couple different organizations, and I don’t have time for that. My emotional well-being is like, “you work at 8am, you don’t have time to put your face on for an hour every morning,” “you literally can’t even reach your back hair, how are you supposed to regularly keep that shaved,” etc. Luckily for me, I think that the resilience I learned as a fat & femme gay man allows me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of others’ perceptions. I also recognize the privilege of being comfortable enough with myself & my gender to not be dysphoric to an incapacitating extent wherein I need to hold my body to a standard for public consumption.
Why yes! I AM a woman with a hairy back – if it bothers you I’ll hand you a razor and you can shave it for me! Until then please fuck off with your gendered policing and let me live my life on my terms.
Rhiannon Robear (she/her) is a 24 year old white trans woman living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a social work student, and is involved in many different campus and community organizations devoted to trans, queer, and feminist justice. In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, and watch tv shows. Feel free to follow her on twitter @haliqueer or email her directly email@example.com