Thursday, September 30, 2010

In between

I received the following email through the networks that I get queer and trans new updates from. Please read for your own info and continue below to my thoughts:

    Fwd: Information regarding MSP approved FTM Chest Surgery:

    If you know of anyone else who is MSP-approved for FtM chest surgery and has
    not had their surgery yet, would you please ask them to contact me? We will
    be actively seeking those who have not had their surgery, but if people
    approach me directly it helps the process.

    Thanks very much!

    Carol Anne

    Carol Anne McNeill
    Policy Analyst
    BC Ministry of Health Services
    ph: 250.952.1555

    Further information:

    Those who are transitioning from FtM and are approved for funding for
    mastectomy (via MSP) will be contacted at the end of this month, providing
    more details regarding where and when surgery will be done.

    * Dr. Bowman has been given OR privileges in a public hospital to perform
    FtM chest surgery. This will be available to MSP-approved FtM transitioning
    men at NO cost to them (including any consults and male chest contouring).*

    *This applies to ALL FtM transitioning men who have been MSP-approved and
    have not had their surgery*, including those who may have been on Dr.Musto's
    waitlist or on a waitlist at a private facility. This surgery will not be
    available to anyone who has not gone through the MSP approval process. Feel
    free to post this as necessary – hopefully it will control the rumour mill.

    Carol Anne McNeill
I have been approved. I was not yet on a wait list as shortly after I got my approval I started having second thoughts. These thoughts were fueled by a number of things but I will try and break them down in a way that makes sense.

Firstly I was primarily responsible for the pre, during and post surgical care of one of my best friends/former lovers. The surgery was incredibly intense, and after a few days of helping empty drains and comfort my friend because the anaesthesia had backed up his digestive system I had to bail. As he dealt with the compound pain of A)just having had all his breast tissue removed, B) having the remaining skin and muscle pulled and sutured into a way that would look more "appropriately male" C) Having drain tubes coming out his sides for a week + D) AND the OMG I haven't shat in a week and I can feel everything i've eaten slowing backing up and threatening an exploded colon feeling. For him, that procedure was self motivated. He was getting the chest he wanted, could see himself with, dreamt of himself having and ultimately what he needed to survive. He bound so heavily everyday before surgery that he was developing back problems, but ultimately if he hadn't bound so tightly or been so stealth about being trans he wouldn't have survived his everyday work environment.

I do not live with that type of pressure. I do not bind. I haven't for a couple years, primarilly because I find that having asthma and pectus excavetum I already operate on limited oxygen. When I bind that puts me at a level where I am running on constant dizziness, increased fatigue and generally, I can't do my life in a way that feels safe or comfortable. Which should, ultimately be the point in binding, to make you more safe and comfortable in the world with the way that your body appears.

I am incredibly lucky, as the jobs that I have held and positions that I have had within institutions have allowed me a freedom wherein I can express my gender queerly, I can have a beard and visible breasts, I can be publicly trans. I don't know that that will be the case for ever. In some situations within my life do I dress in a baggier shirt and keep my lips sealed around issues of gender, this is a matter of self preservation. But I also think critically about my motivation within these circumstances. For example, if I was teaching a shop class of 15 year old boys, I would most likely be on the DL. WHY? Because 15 year old boys bodies are developing in a way that causes many of them to be incredibly self concious. They are receiving media messages and peer pressures that they SHOULDN'T have breasts. Breasts to teenagers become a dividing point. A sexualized feature present on girls (who in turn become sexualized) and a mark of "Freak" on anyone else. For a person, especially a skinny person, who appears to be male and has visible breasts, this stands out as "wrong". No one in our society is more tune to what our society deems as right and wrong body presentations as teenagers. This is compounded by their own self conscience. But being a model of the error in that right/wrong system also opens space for people to expand their perceptions and lesson the pressures that they have on their own bodies. I think that body positive movements will have a great impact on the ways that the media effects body image, creating space for self love in place of eating disorders and self harm. I just don't know how long I want my body to be the front lines of that battle.

I intend to have a child, from my own body, as I have written about here in the past. I want to ensure that my child has the best opportunities to nutrition and wellness and I believe that breast feeding would be a part of that. Luckily I have a partner with fully functional breasts, not discordant from her gender identity or presentation in any way, who is into sharing parenting responsibilities, in the best ways we can. She also feels that ensuring that our children can be breast fed is in every bodies best interest, but understands my feelings around maybe not keeping my breasts that long. Having that support makes the decision a little closer to easy, but it's still so far from anything decisive.

I discussed this with a friend who has a similar relationship to his gender, who had top surgery a few years back. He's said that for him, losing his breasts was a tough decision too, but that since surgery he's felt that much more able to play with his gender. I agree with this sentiment, as I have felt so much safer to fuck around with gender since being able to grow a beard. I am a fairy of a fag more than a butch or typical (if there is such a thing) transMAN.

I don't want to lose the opportunity of a free-ride surgery with one of the most experienced and talented surgeons in the country when it's been offered to me. I also don't know if I that is meant to be a part of my transition. I feel so in between. In between genders, in between transition options, in between defending difference and comfortably cutting my way into safe conformity, in between loving my body and hating the way it's looked at and treated by a world that doesn't have space for it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In loving memory of Deloris

I never thought I'd be a car person. Then I got hit by one. It's been a little over a year since I was struck in an intersection while riding my bike. The ways that this has impacted me are numerous, but this post is not about that, as much as how it changed my relationship to the automobile.

So as I said, I was struck, smashed from the side by a luxury urban SUV being driven through a traffic circle that crosses a bike lane and thrown to the road. I sustained numerous soft tissue and joint injuries, and my bike was close to totalled. It took me nine months of completely stripping down both my physical condition and also my ride to get them back on the road, and still, I have a limited capacity compared to before. About a month or 2 after the crash my parents told me that they were planning on scrapping their old car, and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I was preparing to start a term of automotive class in January, where we were recommended to have a beater to work on. It all fit together quite nicely. I worked on the car, and developed a relationship with it. I hit the road in it in February to escape the Olympics, and found that her name was Deloris (or Del when feeling particularly butch). The first trip down the coast resulted in her heater core blowing out in Portland. I was lucky, and very grateful, for the man at the jiffy lube who showed me which pipes I could disconnect and bypass to avoid the 600$+ 2 day + repair. When I got back to Vancouver, my automotive lab partner and I disected the car. We took it apart far enough to get into the heater core (which sits under the dash, behind the instrument panels, past the steering column.) We got it apart, we put it all back together. It seemed like an endless project, and that made it that much better when we completed it. We put a new stereo in, as well as air filters, belts, a battery. We tweaked and tuned the accessories, replaced a couple tires, re-habed the brakes, balanced the wheels, replaced a CV joint on the drivers side axel. We went through the car finding problems, diagnosing them and fixing them.
All this was happening as I was going through physio, relearning ways to cope with stairs, sitting down for low things like toilets. Finding the right combinations of vitamins and pain meds to get through each day. I got to know Deloris as I got to know myself. Since the crash my medical situation has spiralled in complexity. As doctors try and figure out how they can classify my connective tissue problems I have taken at least 5 chest x-rays, 10 EKGs, 2 echocardiograms, a contrast CT, a spinal MRI, an abdominal and thorax aortic MRI w and without contrast, a stress test, numerous flexibility tests, body measurement procedures, opthomalgist's exam, a genetic screening, a chromosomal kereotyping, and have had my blood pressure taken at least 100 times. The doctors still don't know what's up.

After all the tests and repairs on Deloris we still had no idea how deep her problems ran. She was a life line for me, an access to mobility that I needed so much. She was a way for me to stay involved with community activities when the process of getting there was too much. I was able to become the sober driver. The helper who'd pick things up and make sure people could get home safe. I was the accompaniment to the big box stores, the access point to acquiring things that were just too big, too far for a bike cart or a transit trip. She was the easy ticket to the woods, making it easy to go berry picking, take dog adventure hikes, and go midnight swimming. I took her on my first date with my partner. Having a car played a big role in the role I could play in my community. As I had become the one who couldn't help move things, couldn't do the heavy lifting, the physically demanding, I had a tool, that even in a community of people who are "green" and socially conscious and don't like cars, they really appreciate having one around.

This past weekend I drove Deloris to Calgary. I was scheduled to have another series of tests done, still looking for answers to my body and it's challenges. I drove with a couple friends and as we crested the foothills and started the decent into Cow-town, she started to smoke. It was getting too hot, and there didn't seem to be much I could do to help. I added water to the coolant system, gave her a break and coasted in. We made it to 5 minutes away from our destination when she finally kicked it. We pulled over and added coolant, noticing that it was spurting out of the coolant flange. I got the part and replaced it. Probably one of the easiest repairs I'd done on the car, it had to be too easy. I went to start it up again. Dead. The battery had drained over night with an accessory left plugged in while I was in the hospital. Jumped. Still wouldn't go, we called a tow and then I noticed the broken wire between the starter and the battery. Reconnected these wires and then dismissed the tow. It was fine. Drove her down the hill and went in the house for dinner. I felt so relieved, as this was not just a matter of my car, my mobility, my way home, but also the way for my friends and the dog to get home. I had a sense of accomplishment that I had found, diagnosed and solved so many problems, all just on the side of the road, without help, with out a shop at my disposal. As I leaned over and fixed the wiring I was able to name and explain every part under the hood that my travelling companion inquired on. I felt proud and accomplished. After dinner we piled back in the car, and she was dead again. I The next day tried again, big jump from the tow truck got it going and we dismissed the truck, before noticing 10 minutes later as she sputtered and died that there was still coolant leaking from somewhere else. Somewhere less easily accessible. Luckily my friends mom purchased me an CAA membership on the Saturday, and by Monday morning it was activated and we were able to call the final tow on my account. We had it towed to a garage, and after a long day of waiting to hear the verdict, they finally told me, that her head gasket was most likely shot, and there was a possibility that her engine block cracked. Her water pump was gone and to fix everything it would take another day we didn't have and upwards of 1300$. There was no way I could rationalize spending that money. It was money I sure don't have, and more than the car is worth. She's old. She's tired. She's jenky and persnickity. So I took off her plates, pulled out that new stereo and drove away in a rental. I left her to be pieced off, or crushed, or maybe repaired on someone else's bill. But I had to leave her there.
The mechanic said that a lot of her little problems were attached to this big one. It was a number of symptoms that in a big picture were telling of something integral. It took so long, so many tests to find the problem, and even then, even at the giving up point, it could've been something bigger. Tests, tests, tests, small solutions to bigger problems. Big mystery problems that don't have names, don't have bounds, beginnings or ends.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Biological sex - gender

I am well aware that there are many people who have a gender identity that is in contrast to their hormonal sex, or biological appearance, and I am really exploring how those things feel for me as my body reassigns itself to female secondary sex characteristics.
It's been almost 6 months since I stopped taking testosterone. I was 3 weeks short of 3 years, and it had really worked its way through my body. My breasts had shrunk to almost nothing and my general muscle/fat distribution was doing things in a "male" sort of way. My face was sporting a full moustache and beard. I smelled like a man, talked like a man. Any situation that I wanted to pass in, I could, so long as I could keep at least one layer of clothes on.
I stopped taking T because I want to have a baby. I wrote about this back in April in the post "Paternity Pulsations". My feelings about that have changed, but only in the sense that I don't know that I will be a FATHER, per se. I have really had the opportunity to claim my genderqueerness this past year. Getting past the "neutral pronouns are too complicated and confusing for people" bullshit, to the point where I can admit that pronouns are complicated. Pronouns, and the genders attached to them are so complicated I don't know from day to day where I can fit within them. And I am finding myself really spun by the biological determinant bullshit that, politically and emotionally I refute beyond all doubt.
What I mean is, as my body is undoing the undoable effects of T (my boobs grew back, my beard has softened and I shaved it off, my cycles started again, I am capable of experiencing and expressing emotion with an intensity I hadn't seen for years) I am being sent on the roller coaster of SEX/GENDER. I am feeling that for me, my gender, and the way that I relate to it, and the ways I am challenged by it is shifting with my secondary sex characteristics. I find it hard to feel male as I am changing a tampon, but likewise I find it hard to feel male while I am changing oil in a car. I don't know about "feeling male", as I am not entirely sure what male is, so how would I know where to or how to feel it. I know what it means to be perceived as male, and I know that the less my body is feeling "male" the worse that perception/presumption feels. There are some parts of my body that will never be as they were pre-T. I am post-T, I can never be pre-T again. And I don't say this out of regret for choosing to go on testosterone. But I feel like my gender is BIGGER and more encompassing than one perceived biological sex can contain. This is where genderqueer feels like home, but also has its limits. I will not be losing my tits at any time in the foreseeable future. My face is not going to stop growing hairs either. I fall some where in between the boob-ed man and the bearded lady, while being both and neither all at once.
I know that this whole thing comes across as rather scattered, hard to follow and unput together. But, maybe that's the whole point. I am all over the place. I don't fit neatly in one, the other, or even the "other". I don't even do trans in a way that is expected or understood. The joys of being genderfull in a world that's still just starting to try and understand.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Deaths around me/Death surrounds me

I walked past a man wearing a t-shirt declaring "good die young" this afternoon. This very statement has seemed true over the past little while as a couple of delightful people who I knew, not well, but shared the stage with, people I shared community with, people I felt inspired by, have passed in high profile deaths. Perhaps more of my peers and former acquaintances have died and it's passed through my awareness, but I doubt that with facebook memorials and the never ending gossip mill that is social networking would allow that. This morning I turned on the CBC when I awoke to hear the host interviewing a local long boarder about the risks associated with the sport, and about Glenna. Her and I share 14 friends on facebook, and have shared space at least that many times. We both lived in Victoria at the same time, and I would party with her, watch her perform with the Velo Vixens, and generally be awe at her ability to spin fire, ride tall bikes, wear incredible outfits and be so genuinely friendly (often all at once). We weren't really in contact, but I knew that she was in now in Vancouver, and our paths didn't cross as often, but I'd still see her at events sometimes. On Friday she died in a death that's made the CBC, Vancouver Sun, Global TV and numerous online new sources. She was beautiful, young, athletic and artistic. I suppose that makes good news. Or at least sellable news, I wouldn't call this news good for anyone.
This is the second time this year that I have seen familiar faces across newspapers this year due to death. Back in November I was shocked to see the face of Pest on the front of the Sun on my way to school. She used to live in her van in the back yard of a house I lived in, often occupying our living room, filling it with song, vivacious energy and sharp laughter. Again, we weren't really in touch anymore, since we had both moved away from Victoria. She had returned to Hornby since leaving my yard and was killed on the dock where her boat home was parked. Being a fairly odd occurance, a murder on Hornby hit front pages all over the place. I was reminded of Pest's unicycling antics, bright green hair and impressive wrenching on her vintage VW bus-home.
Perhaps I am reaching an age, an age where people around you start dying, maybe this is what happens. I know enough of us who barely survived adolescence, and now a couple of us who thrived until our mid twenties, only to go out in big ways. Many of my closest friends have been suicidal at some point or another. That might be a crazies attract crazies situation, or it may be tell tale of the overlap between struggling with discordant bodies and minds and the often associated mental health challenges that come along. Or maybe those of us who've survived that and really want to be alive now have a way of finding each other. If I can think of 2 people who seemed to make the most of life, adventuring with abandon, creating and expressing the darkest and brightest sides of experience, it would be Glenna and Pest. I know that their worlds overlapped and I may be even be as presumptive to think that this drawing of Glenna's (found on her website) was about Pest's funeral/death.
As I know I am not the only one feeling the loss of these inspiring young (27, 25) women. Creators, circus performers, artists, friends and really lovely people. Gone. But from their faces across the papers. It seems to make it even more surreal. If I am to imagine the 2 of them in an afterlife scene though, it's even more surreal. I see them, both on stilts, possibly riding a comically large bike and unicycle respectively, most likely wearing skull masks and completely on fire. Entirely under control, while dancing their way through their own fiery performance of afterlife. Their tracks would paint out an abstract masterpiece and the sounds of their vehicles would combine into a discordantly sweet melody. Good, young, dead. Surreal but true. I hope that the works left by these women continue to impact the world and inspire that sense of shameless expression that they both embodied.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Man on the Street

This past weekend I put on a very pretty summer dress and went out to a local rad queer dance party. I was with a bunch of friends and I felt gorgeous inside, "fancy fancy" and appreciated. At one point I had to leave the party and return to my car. I then was making my way back from the car, to the event venue, one long block away. I walked onto the sidewalk and found myself almost matched in step with a man I had never seen before. He may have appeared much as I do on most days, mid twenties, white man walking alone along the street at night. I walked faster, not looking back and not losing step. I was very aware of his presence and attempted to walk faster, making my way to the safety of the crowd of smoking queers at the opposite end of the block. The man said, "excuse me...?" and I picked up my pace. I didn't know what he wanted, but as I was bearded and in a dress I could only assume that it wasn't a compliment. I increased pace once again when he said again, "excuse me, do you have the time?" I felt intimidated, potentially in danger and wasn't about to open my purse and get mugged for my phone. This has happened before, while in street "boy clothes". I forged forward and made it to the party without interacting with the man, except a simple "no."
I don't know if this fellow had any idea how intimidating it was for him to approach a lady, or trans person in a dress, on the dark street. Perhaps he hadn't thought about that. Or perhaps he was reading me as a man and didn't see it as intimidating. This is something that I feel very aware of, perhaps it's female socialization, growing up carrying keys between the knuckles and staying on well lit streets, or perhaps it's my existance within survivor communities. Perhaps he's never had to think about how scary he appears, not because of himself, but because of the violence that exists towards femmes, ladies, sex workers, trans women, genderqueers, and others for whom alone in the night can be or has been a scary scary place.
But the dark dark night is not always scary, and living in a gender queer existence is not a consistent feeling of vulnerability. In fact, when all the cards line up right, it can be damn right empowered. About half an hour after my first interaction with a man on the side walk I had a second. This time I was not alone, I was walking out of the party accompanied by a good friend, also gender queer presenting in a cute summer dress. As the two of us walked out, me: bearded and dolled up, friend: fresh faced from laser treatment and broad shouldered. A man who'd walked across from the corner store to small talk the door man- apparently a familiar of some sort, felt entitled to comment.
"Hey, that's no woman", he exclaimed.
Initially we both continued walking, sort of looked at the ground and barely at each other. But I became aware of the support I was surrounded with and so responded to his rude and out of place comment, first just asking him who he was talking to. I had hoped that his being forced to face the fact that he was talking about a person, in front of that person, and that person could hold their own, and could hear what he was saying so he'd better shut it.
"Well both of you I guess." he said.
I politely asked him if he knew where he was. He had no idea. I very clearly told him, and by this point I had 4 super tough friends flanking me from all sides, and a couple allies who appeared out of the crowds of smokers to hold the space, "you are outside of a very queer party, filled with all kinds of very queer people, lots with really queer genders, and if you feel entitled to tell any one of us who we are, how we can dress or what gender we can be... well you'll probably get your ass kicked. So you should go." I didn't really want to implicate a threat of physical violence, it's not my favourite, but sometimes just reminding people who don't live in fear of getting hurt, that it could happen to them this time- well it can feel good. Even as a most of the time pacifist, I get the bash-back philosophy. He became apologetic, and tried to call it a learning experience, stating that he was ignorant and wanted to learn something from us. I reminded/informed (maybe he's never heard it before) him that it's not our job as queers to teach him about how to treat us. It's not our job as trans people to teach him how to respect diverse genders. And if he really gave a shit he could go online or to the library, the internet and books are teaching resources, not people who you are harassing outside of a dance party. A party organizer showed up, and offered assistance while also commending what he'd seen, saying that it seemed that I was handling it all really well. I was so glad to have had the backing of my friends, I was so glad to know that the organizers prioritize and address these things as real live issues. Some of us live in fear, some of us less so, or less so at certain times. If we can create spaces where less people live in less fear, more of the time, where more people have more voice and less bullshit like this happens, we win. That's what community is. That's what safe space is. That's what solidarity is. That's what survival, resilience, and prosperity are.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shop Safety

I enrolled in a program to teach future high school shop teachers a little over 2 years ago. I came into it with the perspective of having been a girl in high school shop classes and seeing, feeling and living the dominant shop culture of sexism. Even when teachers are "including" female students in classes, "welcoming" them to participate in an environment that continues to be ripe with misogynist language, sexist behavior and the all around "dude-off" that some how erupts out of the combination of steel, grease and male entitlement can be toxic. I came into this program hoping that I would be able to leave the establishment with the required pieces of paper and bag of tricks to set up a shop space where this is not only acknowledged, but managed, countered, and overturned. I want to be a shop teacher because I feel that there are not enough people taking anti-oppression work, privilege analysis, and empowerment into workshops. I believe that making things is one of the best ways to develop self worth, feel pride in accomplishment and work towards becoming more self sufficient (a necessary process for those utopian anarchists waiting for the revolution, best to get some skills ready for when it all falls apart and DIY becomes not just the best and most affordable option but the only).
I was "welcomed" into the program. I spent the last two years leaving parts of myself at home and putting on a personal shield to enter the ring of the dude-off to try and pull what I could (for myself as well as the betterment of others who don't feel that they do have access to such opportunities). And I would agree- lots of people don't. I may even venture to say that I didn't/don't and have been really stretching things to make it OK enough to get through. By the end I am exhausted. What are the reasons that this program pushed me to my breaking point, what made it so hard for me to push through, why might I JUST be able to slip through on my last bits of strength if the teachers look favorably upon me?

When a person who experiences oppression, violence and abuse talks about a place feeling safe it is not only a matter of physical elements. For a queer to feel safe in a work shop space depends on more than proper guards over blades. For a woman to be safe in a shop, it often requires more work than may be required for other people coming into the setting with a different set of privileges. This is not because queers are unsafe workers, or that women are stupid and require more instruction to "get it".

A shop instructor can "welcome" women, queers, people with disabilities, and others who are often left out of industrial education into their class, but without doing a few things, personal things, the instructor risks "welcoming" those students into a dangerous situation. The reason for this lies in the default power structures existing in male dominated spaces. Women can and do become incredible trades people. Often working longer hours, for less pay, and busting their asses to produce higher quality work. Queers can produce beautiful artifacts using a whole slough of technological processes when given the opportunity to learn their way through them safely.

So when I say "safe", what do I mean here? The instructor is not actively doing anything malicious against their students, the shop set up isn't unsafe to others in the class. Namely those who don't experience oppression in the forms of risking one's physical safety outside the shop. Someone who has never been harassed, assaulted, threatened or otherwise violated because of their identity or presentation may have a default (everyday "normal") feeling of safety. Those of us who ARE subject to such treatment often walk through the world on edge. We have a guard up because we need to. We are careful because the reality of our experience is that of physical violence. Especially so in spaces dominated by people with that innate feeling of safety, the comfort in their world and their bodies that has afforded them the privilege of NOT thinking about it. Spaces facilitated without consideration to that bias automatically create a space with the potential of feeling unsafe to those who may feel unsafe in the greater world.

Many (mostly male) intellectuals at the heads of technology departments wonder why female enrollment continues to pale in comparison to the male counterpart. The female students who do enroll and stick to the programs have incredible success. And incredibly thick skin. What keeps more women and queers from having an open door to technology education?

Unchecked power and default structures of oppression do not create space for women and queers to succeed in technology. It becomes the job of the individual to create that space for success. I would like to see it become the job of instructors, in all fields, to do personal work. Unpack your backpack, take a reality check about how and why you know and feel the things and ways you do. Take a second look at language. Think critically about the ways that you present material- what bias do you come from and what bias must your students have to follow you? And most of all, who do you think deserves to have access to your lessons, and will you do what it takes to make sure that is delivered? Please comment with experiences of sexism, homophobia and transphobia in shop spaces and amazing teachers and facilitators who've created a new "normal" in their shops.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Creating Safe Spaces- proactive vs. reactive

(Trigger warning: sexual assault)
This weekend I returned to my hometown of Victoria for one of my favorite holidays of the year. A bunch of my friends and other bicycle enthusiasts organize the bike riders ball ( It is an event centered around the love of bicycles. People always go all out, decorating themselves and all types of bicycle related machines to ride through the city and dance late into the night. The VeloVixens perform and a good time is had all around.

This year, leading up to the event I heard about a discussion that was happening within the organizing body. I couple of organizers were advocating for safe space policy to be put into action, recognizing that proactive work needs to happen to create the space that is safe enough for all of our friends to feel welcome and safe. This was challenged by others who had never done such work, and I'm assuming, have never felt unsafe or oppressed in "community". I don't know what that conversation or process looked like. I have only heard about through the grapevine, and saw what actually made its way to the party.

I got myself all done up for the event. I rebuilt my bike, after 6 months since I was hit by a car while riding it, it's undergone a full rebuild. I am still not able to ride a whole lot without knee pain, but I wanted to show up on a bike, and show off my sweet new ride. I found a pretty white dress with rhinestone strapless neckline, my friends help me sew in a bike tube corset back into it to make up for my extra large ribcage. I had big hair, a flashing tiara, make up and of course full beard and entirely practical shoes. I felt hot. I was hot. I got ready with a bunch of friends and rode down to the party.

Not 10 minutes after walking in a complete stranger walked up to me, to tell me that she was "glad I was comfortable with my facial hair." I can only assume that she was trying to compliment the beard and dress combo, but no matter which way that wording is analyzed it comes off as backhanded and patronizing. It sort of set me off, but I didn't do to much with it. I was having a great time. Dancing, catching up with old friends, getting my hair crimped by strangers in the coat check. Having a gay old time. Until some man, a complete stranger, came up to me on the dance floor and grabbed my tit. I can't even begin to think of what his motives were, but my immediate reaction was to remove his hand, with the force necessary, and VERY strongly tell him that he was out of line. The more I tried to communicate with him the unacceptability of his actions the less he seemed affected. He stood where he was as I told him that he would need to leave.He apologized for offending me, and I told him that I wasn't asking for his apology, he hadn't offended me he'd assaulted me, and that I needed him to go, not apologize. Too late for words. By this point I was fucking raging, yelling in his face and telling him that he needed to get the fuck out. He quite clearly wasn't listening to me, he didn't respect me from the beginning, but I hoped that my clear needs (you: leave, get your shit and don't come back) would go somewhere. It didn't. I had backers, people stepped in, echoing the need for him to leave. I walked away from the situation and went to the front door of the party. I asked the ticket takers if there was security working the party, there was not, as this party was "friends getting together in 'safe space'" One of the door people stepped up and listened to what was happening and joined me back over to the dude who was still standing there with the first people who had stepped in. He wasn't listening to the first masculine appearing person in a dress, or the tough quebecois farmer queer, but maybe he'd listen to a slightly larger guy in a red dress. Luckily the door volunteer was committed to seeing the guy out. He walked with him to get his bag and escorted him out. Another guy who stepped in came to me after to tell me that, although this was not an excuse, it seemed as if this guy had no idea that what he'd done was assault. No idea that grabbing someone's body in that type of way without consent was unacceptable. I don't know what rock this guy's been living under, but it was time for him to learn. I hope that this experience was lesson learned for him, I hope that he gets a better idea about how to interact with other people in a respectful way. I hope that this doesn't happen again, to someone who didn't feel that they had the backing to stand up the way I did. If the party wasn't organized by friends of mine I may not have done that. If I wasn't able to look around and know that I had a whole load of people backing me, I may have kept quiet. If I had been drinking I may have brushed it off.

The fact that this guy didn't know is a problem. Trying to create safe spaces with people who are ignorant to the basic needs of safety for the people in the space they share is an uphill battle. I believe that creating a safe space requires a proactive stance around accountability. I was glad to see this poster on the door of the venue. I wish that it had been on the posters, on the website promo, on the facebook event. I wish that there was more of an opportunity for education for guys like this who "don't know" how to interact with other people respectfully, to learn what that means, and know that they will be held accountable. This conversation NEEDS to be ongoing. It NEEDS to be at the forefront of event organizing and promotion. Because if it isn't, the default is douchbaggery. Ignorance, discrimination, assault, rape, violence and hate are so prevalent in our society that they are the default. Creating safe spaces involves taking those things apart and PHYSICALLY creating spaces which are based around respect, inclusion, access, safety, fun and community.

I am very grateful for all of the backing that I had at the party. I am incredibly appreciative of every person who stood up to this predator and put him in his place. I am so thankful for my friends, who give me the confidence that when I am violated I won't be standing up or fighting back alone. Now I'd like to see how this translates into the organizing strategies of my community. It's not over.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

paternity pulsations

I went swimming last night. I had attempted to arrange it as an All Bodies Swim, setting a time + place + putting it out to the masses. I hung out and waited for other friends to join me. No one appeared, so I entered the pool. I have stopped wearing a top in the swimming pool over the last couple months. I figure beard trumps boobs, and the rest of my body sort of leans to freak already, so I may as well enjoy the ability to breathe while in the water. Moving my shoulders and arms moving freely in water is incredible. I wish for all people to know the joy that I experience through this. But lot's of my friends don't swim, haven't been in the water in years. They don't have anything to wear, their bodies don't get exposed to the level expected in swimming pools except, for some- with lovers, after building trust, coming to agreements, and in a completely negotiated environment. And some even less, but I need to float. It grounds me, it allows me to stretch, get my blood pumping and my head relaxed.
Last night I went swimming at a pool that I love. It seems as if it were designed by a bunch of gender revolutionaries and family minded individuals and (dis)Ability activists, all teamed up. The UNIVERSAL changing area is the main changing area of the place, it's made up of sections of stall/shower combo units, unplumbed changing stalls, accessible shower stalls, banks of lockers and open showers. It is open to the pool, and the first option when entering the facility. Gender neutral is the default. So I entered, switched from my carharts into my neon orange patterned shorts I just got from Value Village, showered off, stashed my stuff and entered the pool. I know that people look at me. I don't let that take too much of my attention. I think about what I would like to do, hot tub (WITH A RAMP INTO IT!!), big pool for diving and laps, giant pool with warm water and a current channel, waterslide... so many choices!!! I enter the crowded steam knowing how many eyes are on me.
The pools, all of them, were filled with babies. And dads. Every way I looked there were dad's and kids. I have been suffering from a very serious case of baby fever lately. I think about being pregnant all day every day. I count in increments of 9 months, I think about what I could wear, where I could go. I wonder if I would feel comfortable to go swimming in public while visibly pregnant. Would I feel safe? I feel like I have heard enough people say, and write online, about how they'd kill a pregnant man if they saw him, to save the baby from having such a horrid life. To have a parent who wants you THAT bad, horrid indeed. I will be an amazing father. It won't happen by accident, I don't often enough find myself in "oops, oh we may have been too drunk and I don't even know ... ahh, maybe we should have some tests done" types of situations to warrant fear. Now is not a good time. I have no money, I am not in a place to bring a baby into. I don't have room for a baby. My team hasn't committed, we haven't sorted out the details. But when it does happen it will be amazing. I will be a wonderful father. I saw the pools full of cute, obviously sperm producing men, I watched how they interacted with their kids. I watched how they interacted with me, and about me. Kids always smile at me. Maybe they know I am fun. Maybe I am the coolest grown up in the pool cause I'm wearing neon and have a twirly mustache. But regardless, kids look at me, they talk to me, they chuckle with me. And being a grown man, alone in the pool, playing like a child, walking with a limp, wearing neon and with a mustache and tits. Apparently my current look lies between a kid's fun and a grown up's creepy.
These things all combined with my eyes, red with chlorine, making it look like I am higher than I am. I lay in the warm water pool with an inflatable ball on my belly. Holding it and floating face up. I am sure that my facial expression was plastered with impregnation, morning sickness, growth, cramps, stretching, pains, confusion, feeling like I would need to have a buddy to the pool. I asked my doctor what kind of time she's recommend being off of T before trying to get pregnant. She agrees that all ducks are not in a row, half reminding me that I still need to confirm or deny my connective issues before I can know how safe it is. Or if I have some genetic , "weird and wonderful thing" (how the resident repetitively described genetics) that I may or may not want to risk passing on. She says it might take 6 months for cycles to return and my body to become a non-toxic baby zone.
As the ducks line up they say, no, not now, not yet. But ducks build nests before laying eggs. Perhaps that is really what this is all about, I must begin collecting sticks.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

husbands and husbands and wives and wives

Husbands and Husbands

While chatting about the plans for this upcoming summer with my mom, I became aware that this is a summer of weddings. I guess we all come across them, at a certain age, or in certain economic climates, or whatever the variables are that lead people to throw the party and tie the knot. This year is one of those years for me.
The conversation sidetracked to talking about a friend of my mom's whose son is heading the prop 8 campaign out of LA. Him and his team are working to get gay marriage on the ballot in California for 2012. This will hopefully give them enough time to get people on board for returning the right to marry to all in California, since that was revoked with the passing of Prop 8. They had initially intended to have it go to ballot this year, but have it fail would shut it down for too long if not ever. The religious right has put some serious backing into "protecting marriage" and "family values" (see my post Walking home for my thoughts on family values) They have so much behind them that it will take 2 years for even such a celebrity backed campaign to have enough mass to confidently make it through the polls in California. It seems preposterous to me, cause this is a wedding year. And like every other wedding that I have attended in my adult life, and probably will, they are all queer.
The first wedding is 2 friends, who my mom described in this conversation, as probably the gayest couple she's ever met. Transfabulous fags, the wedding will be chock full of slutty femmes, genderfucked princesses of all genders and lots of unicorns. And their families. Their co-workers, their community, gay, straight and otherwise.
The second wedding is my sisters. My sister and her fiancee are another type of gay wedding. It had never crossed my sisters mind that her wedding couldn't just happen anywhere, or that any old preacher wouldn't perform the ceremony. My sister hardly thinks about her gayness. Doesn't have a rooted history or relationship with the queer community. She's just a "normal" guy marrying her young femme lover. At a sailor themed wedding, with my family, so again, very gay.
The third wedding I have on the books is another type all together. They may pass as straight, their wedding may even be "straight" in the sense that perhaps folks there, not knowing that the groom is trans will not see the queerness (except of course in the guest list). Even this wedding, with the couple that appears straight wouldn't be happening in California this summer. At least not for 2 or more years. When trans people are restricted the ability to change all of their legal documents they remain under marriage legislation that doesn't seem that it should have anything to do with them. And seriously, even if a wedding or relationship appears straight, when we get behind closed doors something about getting down with trans folks is always going to be queer.
(that's my take- and know that not all trans people agree, but really- straight men aren't gonna do me [unless wasted or not really straight], straight ladies aren't always too sure about it [although often convinced after]- I can't possibly imagine how (or why) I could ever have straight sex in this trans body.)
I don't know how I feel about having my relationships legitimized by the state. I imagine that it won't be something I will ever feel entirely included in, being poly as well as queer, but I would like to know that my friends and family can do it if they want to. When the groom in the 3rd wedding was hospitalized a couple of years ago, we were all seated in the waiting room all night, and into the morning. Not being able to get reports on the status of his condition, not being able to visit, because we weren't his "family". We were the ones who drove him there, checked him in, and slept in the emergency room waiting area all night until we could take him home, to care for him. We cooked for him, we drove him to his appointments. We looked after each other. That's my understanding of family. And if his getting married allows at least one of his chosen family the access to be there with him when he's ill then I think its a good thing. If my sister's wedding allows my sister in law a chance to have a family she lost when coming out and losing her own, I welcome her with open arms into mine. If my faggy tranny friends in the prairies can buy a home together, get a mortgage and legal ties around sharing their lives, then I think its a good thing. If you want or need state legitimization of your love, your family, then you should have it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I live in a community that has roots in a bar. I exist in a community that is drowning. In a greater society where alcohol is a generally acceptable substance of choice, the queer community is sure to not be left out. Many important historical and social events of our people have happened in bars, over pitchers and martinis. I would like to attempt to re-write my future.

Being sober is an exception to the norm. Something that is often called into question, challenged and misunderstood. Not unlike my gender, sexual orientation and associated politics, many people that I meet for the first time (and some who I have known for years) cannot understand a conscious decision to not participate in the consumption of alcohol. People ask me daily, why the limp, why the cane, why the dress, why the stache, why the ginger ale? These are questions that depending on the day, the mood, the amount that have already been asked may or may not get answers. But for the sake of clarity, let me answer the last one.

I have "quit drinking" a few times in my life. When I hear other people talk about addiction, talk about the first time they experienced that certain substance and what it did to them, it makes me think of my early experiences drinking. The first time I was drunk was at a cast + crew after show party. A house full of actors, dancers and fellow stage tech nerds. A 4 pack of mike's hard. My pupils dilating with each breath. My parents picking me up too early. Sitting awake, and drunk, in bed weighing out if I could climb out the window, down the roof, and walk across town before the party was dry. 15. My parents made wine, and I found my way into the boxes of it. I created a fictitious club with a friend so we could have bake sales to raise vodka money in the halls at school. I couldn't get enough. About 8 years of my life (save for those points that I recognized the problem at hand and tried cold turkey sobriety for a couple months at a time) can be tracked as a somewhat blurry line from weekend to weekend. Party becomes party until they hardly distinguish themselves. Regular every day things became about drinking- I got so into drinking a cold beer in a hot shower that I would make a trip to the beer store before bathing. I would drink alone. I would encourage , nay pressure, others to keep up.

This wasn't hard. Being a freak in high school provided enough opportunity, although it hardly seemed so at the time. Being an exchange student in Denmark was a 12 month binge. Returning to Canada, coming out as queer, finding my way into the queer community, I found a whole world of people who drank as much as I did. Finding people to share breakfast Caesars with was never hard. Finding people who would play sports as long as there was beer involved: a breeze. All night dancing, late night pizza, stumbling home, with whoever became a lifestyle. Even as I started to pull back from that, party less, I noticed that every element of my life tasted a bit fermented.

In the fall I was started on heart medication. I was told that I couldn't drink much on the meds, or they wouldn't be able to do their job, keep me alive. I tried moderation. I tried having "A drink". I tried to only drink on the weekends. It wasn't working. As soon as I had "A drink", the line disappeared. It became not such a bad idea to have "just one more". So I had my last beer on my birthday. My date took me to the Pumpjack and I drank one last winter ale. I suppose the choice to quit could've been hard. Acting on it and sticking to it could've been tough. It sure hasn't been easy. But knowing that I was on a medication, intended to keep my heart going, which ran my body through the wringer, and couldn't give me any benefits when mixed with booze made it easier. After about 3 months I was taken of the meds. I seem to be doing ok, and don't need them as much as originally thought. Time is said to offer perspective. Sober time in a alcohol obsessed community sure does. I was able to see my patterns, recognize my relationship to booze. See it spill through my friends, my homes, my neighborhood. I could start again. My doctors haven't advised me against it. I have. I can see what that pattern looks like for me. I have broken up with alcohol. I even wrote a harsh break-up letter. And I know that even with time, hooking up with ex's can too easily be a quick trip into old patterns. The patterns that emerged out of my relationship to alcohol are not those which I wish to get back into.

But like the queer community, small and insular as it is, I know I cannot escape my ex's. We live in a small bubble. I must learn to live with alcohol while living without it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Embodying Glamour

My friend Oliver is in the process of putting a blog together about glamour/gender. I was interviewed with Sammy and Hugs on our feelings about gender, glamour, and the politics surrounding these topics. Check out the interview (2 parts):

Oliver is currently moving his blog to a new address, I will post it here when it's settled.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

walking home

I recently reunited with someone from my past who has been on a very different track over the last 6 years since we went separate ways. When we parted I was leaving the church, leaving my bible thumping high school days for world exploration, a lot of substance use and the gays. I had no idea how many times I would walk away, come out, start over and customize my support network to meet my current needs. This old friend has spent the last 6 years becoming more fundy and more entrenched in religious establishment. Now she's ready to walk away, and the thought is somewhat terrifying.
There is very slight memory of the fear that filled me when I thought that my coming out as a dyke would mean the end of my family. I came out in tears to my mother, over a focus on the family inspired article in the church newsletter about protecting family values. I was scared that my family would continue to chose the values that the church offered them. I was scared that living honestly would mean a life in which support systems are built on partners and friends, queer community centers and trained professionals. All of these things, I have found, are not so bad. In many situations having a "family" made up of people that one chooses to have in their life for specific purpose is very practical. I was also very fortunate that my parents chose to value family over "family values". I guess realizing that the last 20 years of raising kids was all to shit if you disown 2 adult queer children could have influenced that, but I think that my family has been a testament of valuing family and thinking with the heart. Every time that I have come out, as a dyke, as genderqueer, as trans, as queer, as gay, as a smoker, as a weed smoker, as a sober alcoholic, as kinky, my family has done anything they can to if not understand, support my choices and challenges.
Over these comings out and transitions I have also learned the value of chosen family. In times while I have been figuring things out, learning and growing, I have found mentors, teammates, brothers, sisters, and dear dear friends. I have lived and loved with my chosen family. We make dinner for each other, we drive each other to the airport. We cry and we cuddle. We will grow old together, we will raise each others children. Where we find each other, and how we become family is the part that may be harder to understand.
Coming from a church background it is very easy to understand community support. A group of people with shared values and motives gather in a shared space and support each other along the prescribed path. This is found in a building, classified by a denomination. Broken down into particulars and boxed accordingly. It's easy. Until you start thinking of a life outside those particulars. When your values stop mirroring those dictated by the establishment, that connection to community is fractured. Sometimes that's about being different, sometimes it's a recognition of in congruence, or a need to support loved ones who don't prescribe. But walking away from an easy access community is challenging. Especially when the practice of churches is to try and save those who stray and are lost into temptation. Taking a moment to think for one's self can be enough to get the church ladies praying for you and encouraging you to come back to the fold where decisions are pre-considered, values are clear cut.
Where do we find community? As queers we sometimes find our way to queer community centers and organizing groups. As activists we find our way to radical bookstores and communal houses. We find community in gender studies departments and dance parties. Quite often the spots that we center around are also centered on substance use (a separate post to come...). Quite often the places we find don't meet our spiritual needs (again, another post for another day...). But as they say in the church, you are never alone. Community support waits around the corner. It's safer to walk away than they will ever want you to know. I have been walking away, reformatting things and customizing my life, identity and support networks since leaving the first church (which I left to become more entrenched...) about 10 years ago. A community that expects' its components to compromise self or values for a pre-written code of accepted ways, will continue to find weakness in that compromise. The result is fundamentalism, staunch systems that become increasingly harsh and dictatorial in place of acknowledging diversity of self and experience. And that's what I love about my community, my chosen family, in recognition and celebration of our differences, we are allowed freedom.

Thursday, March 11, 2010



One of the first gendered presentation realms we are introduced to as children. I, growing up as a young girl in the 80's with long blonde hair, was not allowed to cut it. When I turned 12 and my dad's hairdresser cousin came to town offering to cut my hair and keep the 6 inch braid for my mom's mental health I started to exercise control. Before that the occasional trim, especially during the bang years, in the bathroom of my grandmothers, getting the perfectly square across the forehead snip was it. After it was an ongoing string of home haircuts, dye jobs and hair dressing school 5$ specials. I dyed my hair so much during my teen years that I didn't witness the process of my hair going from blonde to brown, it happened under layers of black, magenta, copper, fire, purple, blue, green, pink, orange, fire engine red and bleach.

After that first chop at 12 it was an going process of earning/negotiating approval to cut more and more. Eventually, by the end of grade 8 I was rocking the ear length mushroom cut. Not the most glamorous style: as always, parted straight down the middle. That haircut was a part of what led the boys I went to school with to bestow upon me the name man-child. I didn't even know how attached my hair was to my gender, I didn't have a conscious gender presentation, but subconsciously I was making decisions about my appearance that led the world to read me as male.

Now I feel that it is important to address racial assumption in terms of hair as well. I have always been read as white and I know that if the colonial intent of erasing the indian hadn't been quite as successful in my lineage things would be different. If the generational process of native women, treated as white, to raise "white" babies, all with white names and pride in their white lineage and silence and shame in their native roots hadn't been a process of eugenics which resulted in me losing my dark hair shortly after birth and becoming the passing blonde haired, blue eyed child my colonial patriarchs would be proud of. I know that if I was read as my native my hair perceptions would be different. I have had really good insight on this topic from Tobi. Hair, the way it is grown, styled, presented and read is subject to intersecting contexts. To be a native man with long hair, or to be a woman, managing limited mobility, with a short easy to maintain style is never just about gender.

I find that transition is often obsessed with hair. Ladies better grow your hair out to pass, men must be able to grow beards to be read as 'real'. This narrow minded perspective on things continues to perpetuate exclusion and discrimination within our circles. It's a challenge to our socialization to use female or gender neutral pronouns for a bearded individual, but a challenge we should be willing to pick up, as hair, and where it grows and how, does not make the man, woman, gender queer etc.

And of course what would a trans-man's post on hair be if to not address testosterone's effect on the hair line. I have been letting my hair grow out over the past 6 months, and it's almost long enough to pull into a little top knot. While doing this in the mirror the other day I noticed that my hair line is sitting a hell of a lot further back than the last time I took note of it. I thought for some reason that I would be immune to the transman's hairline blight, with a father with a full head of almost still brown hair and a fully grey mother with thick enough hair to choke a team of clydesdales. My paternal grandfather rocked a mean comb-over, and his wife didn't go grey until after she couldn't eat or hold herself up anymore. My mom's mom has lots of silver (she's always been adamant that red hair doesn't grey- it silvers) hair and her husband was dead before I can remember anything about his hair line. Even if I could remember cancer treatments would have skewed my perception. Now here I am, 24, almost 3 years on T and I am going grey more than I care to take note of and my hair line is slipping. I have grown hair on my chest, my face and belly, my legs are a forest and my arms have always been those of a pale chimp. But my head. I am having the resistance attitude, the "well if I am losing it I'm gonna hold on." I'll grow it out, continue to style it over my forehead, continue wearing hats, and possibly hold off on hair pulling (at least from the front). I figure I've got years to go before I feel a need to address the lack of hair in a more serious way, and I'd like to work all the hair I've got for as long as I've got it.

What's your relationship to hair, like it, love it, just waiting to leave it? What does your hair say about you? Are you a control freak who tops your hair into submission, or do you let your hair pull the strings? Do you participate in hair removal, extension, dying, perming? What's your relationship to how your hair is perceived?

For more on trans men and their hair check out Original Plumbing issue 2- Hair.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A fairy tale of Space, occupation, defense and solidarity

I have returned home. Sort of, I have found myself in a city in some type of bizarre explosion of horns and sirens, helicopters and hundreds of cops and thousands of drunk hockey fans. I tried to avoid the olympics but I think I may have returned just in time for the money-shot.

On a separate note I would like to talk about space, occupation, defense and solidarity. This story is about a specific incident in a specific place with specific collections of people. The story is familiar. It is told over and over again. It is a fairy tale that lives on, evolves into different things, characters shift, places change but the story is the same. So this, this is a story about space, occupation, defense and solidarity, change the elements and it may be your own.

While staying at a rad somewhat queer in all kinds-a-ways punk house in Olympia I had the pleasure of attending their final farewell party. I had met some really rad kids in Oly, found some real amazing things and was generally impressed by this capital town at the tip of the head of the puget sound. And I have been blown away by house parties in Olympia, the incredible diversity of those in attendance, the enthusiasm from the crowd and the fact that neither party attended got shut down by cops at any point, or fielded complaints of incredibly loud music, people spilling out into the yards. I am not used to attending house parties that reach such an undisrupted critical mass. I say undisrupted hesitantly.

As I said the hosts of this party were all kinds of DIY queers and friends. As were many of their friends. All types of presentation of gender were in attendance. Including the hyper-masculine generally disrespectfully acting variety that is known in various places as various things. They were practicing the art of douch baggery in numbers. There were little posses of them through doorways that were gathered in fear, discomfort and definite misunderstanding of the people whose space they occupied. They laughed out of puzzlement, fear and a sense of superiority. Their comments aimed to show that they were bigger, stronger, better at being men, ridiculously entitled and really uncomfortable. This is one incident that happened and the way I managed it. I feel like a good person to mediate in party situations because I am quite often one of the few sober ones present. I take pride in that skill and don't let it go unused. When first approached with these specimens of gender play its most unconscious form I walked through. Head on the muddy ground and posture held inwards. I felt that was stupid, I don't need to take that.

I walked into a room in the house that had been designated the free room. All things from the house that needed a new home got put in there for folks to take. 3 men found their way in too. The men laughed aloud, snickered to each other and pointed as I walked in with my black pleather booty shorts and bra, fake eye lashes and makeup in work boots. I stand 6' 1" and was navigating the crowds with a cane. I had just decided I didn't need to take their shit. I confronted them.
"Can I help you guys with something?"
"No..." "Nuthing" "Nu-huu"
"Well I noticed you were laughing, I wanted to know if you were laughing at me or with me?"
"Uh with you for sure.."
"Ya, so funny thing is, I wasn't laughing. You were laughing at me, and I don't appreciate that. How do you think you'd feel if I just stopped what I was doing to point and laugh at you and in your face all the time?"
And then they brought it up a notch.
"Well it'd be different if I was asking for it, drawing attention an all..."
"Oh, you think I am asking for you to laugh at me? Cause of how I'm dressed. Well guys you aren't exactly right, if I wanted you to laugh at me I'd of dressed up like a clown. This isn't a clown suit and I am not laughing, so you should know that your laughter is not welcome. If you think something about this *scan my body like vanna white on wheel* is funny, then y'all should leave."
"uhh oh uhhhh but.. uh...." *drunk stumbling and mumbling and looking into each other eyes for cues of how to react to having the queen sass them back. and laughter, uncomfortable "oh shit" laughter
"Ya, if you think somethings funny, you need to leave."

I know that I was not the only one catching the receiving end of their non-pliments (a negative remark phrased as a compliment), laughter and sneers. The attitudes of others in the party quickly reflected this. The room that had been set up as a make-out room had a hand scrawled sign taped up to the door saying "QUEER SPACE" taped up to the door. The room was packed with folks upset that their space was filled with douchebagery. Understandable. It made me feel militant. I was enraged that my people were held in a part of this house. A closet is a closet even if you label it as such. I thought we were past that. I stormed out, ready to spot those out of line and assist the house with getting them to move along. I would be reasonable and non-violent, clear and uncompromising and entirely hands off. I wouldn't be using tactics like cops and borders, profiling folks on the clothes that they were wearing, the way they were dancing, the colour of their skin or the people around them. I was from out of town and without personal affiliations to 99% of those present.
I chatted with others in the space who were feeling upset, some who volunteered them selves as bouncers, others who left to avoid conflict or continued descrimination, I witnessed some who drank more, got objectified more and repeated to deal. And I found that they way that each of us dealt with this occupation was completely different, in every way personal. I was upset to see some member of the queer community unable to deal with the occupiers in a way that left them feeling empowered. I want my community to know about conflict resolution, and know that the values that we gather around including respect, extend to those who don't demonstrate it. I would like to pass on these suggestions to members of the queer community in hopes that we can learn and grow from experiences like this.

1.) Use words. Learn words, practice them, listen to them and act according to them as opposed to reacting to them. Words carry long fucked up histories, and can sling daggers. They can also heal, negotiate, mend and build bridges.

2.) Playing by the rules of the occupier feels wrong. It probably always will. Sometimes it doesn't feel safe to do very much about that. A big part however of what makes that the case is due to a lack of communcation, see 1. But sometimes while accumulating skills, allies, strength and clarity it seems necessary that we pretend to be following the rules, pretend just enough for those who have a limited view on things to see, but not enough to crush your spirit.

3.)Violence is not the answer. Physical altercations are usually judged by the rules of the occupier, see #2 and #1. Plus getting beat up sucks for everyone, especially those that you were trying to defend or protect or whatever your personal motives were.

4.) Question your own assumptions. For example if you think that a couple of hets are in the make out room hogging the space and flaunting heteronormativity up in the space as some type of afront, think about how you deal with that assumption. Because the two you are assuming to act in malice may just be 2 reasonable, communicative, sex positive transfolk who won't appreciate it much when you tell them that you perceived a female bodied person and a male bodied person getting down in the queer space and that it was upsetting folks. Firstly they may not want to know that you credit their bodies differently than the they way identify or present- that's transphobia. Also, even if you had asked us what are genders or bodies included and different, it's not actually up to you if what's happening is queer or not. But you may have more luck suggesting that their are folks who want/need to enter the space and feel intimidated or uncomfortable about the level of PDA in the space. They'll probably be willing to listen. See 3, and remember that violence is not restricted to the physical.

5.) Check in. With yourself, your community, your friends and people that you feel are making you uncomfortable (see 2). I believe that we have an incredible capability from ourselves and each others. Try it.

I am sure that I will keep thinking of things that I could add to this list. I have been very pleased, and somewhat overwhelmed with keeping up to comments on here lately. I hope that this continues as an open community resource. We manage, survive, resist and deconstruct oppression and occupation every day. How do we do it? Sometimes it's changing the wording on that sign to say "Queers + Friends Space" and posting it above the bumping sound system, sometimes its chocolate bars and sometimes being all gay up in folks places. Everything has it's time a space of course, but sometimes these things aren't as far apart as we think.

Now I guess that coming back to the olympics in my town isn't really that completely different after all.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cane Dancer

This journey down the coast has been a real trip in exploring peoples perspectives on disability and impairments, and where they intersect with a handsome young guy like myself.
My relationship to visibility, pain, management and assistance:
I have a cane. I don't bust it out all the time, but if I know I am going to be walking for a long time (or conversely if I don't know how long I will be walking) I will grab it and use the prop.


1verb,propped, prop·ping, noun
–verb (used with object)
to support, or prevent from falling, with or as if with a prop (often fol. by up): to prop an old fence; to prop up an unpopular government.
to rest (a thing) against a support: He propped his cane against the wall.
to support or sustain (often fol. by up).
a stick, rod, pole, beam, or other rigid support.
a person or thing serving as a support or stay: His father is his financial prop.

as opposed to prop in the theatrical sense:
Also called prop.
a usually movable item, other than costumes or scenery, used on the set of a theater production, motion picture, etc.; any object handled or used by an actor in a performance.

Using a cane is not acting for me. It's assistance. Its a little push from my upper body to get up the stairs, along the road, across a span, down stairs etc when my knee doesn't feel like participating as much as would be ideal.

It is a signifier for those around me too, especially in new and/or crowded space, that I may be moving slowly, I am probably in some degree of pain, and I may be having a low balance threshold. Give me some fucking space. This spurs a whole other topic, in which folks generally are not providing space or consideration for invisible impairments. My body, with out a prop, looks pretty normal. A chiropractor or masseur could see how my spine twists and a thermal camera might be able to show my knee responding to being impacted with an SUV. But from the outside I look "normal". Being a "passing" transman with an invisible disability makes me sometimes feel like the parts that are the biggest things that affect how I go through the world are the hardest for outsiders to perceive.

But when they do: First and foremost it makes people uncomfortable, and they don't want to believe it. And they call me into question. The other day in Fred Meyer I took advantage of their motorized scooters to get around the store while gathering edibles. This is something I have done before out of boredom, out of laziness and because being in those stores is ridiculous and when one must enter through its giant automatic doors to find some bananas 2 km into a concrete and packaging wasteland anything helps. This particular time I left the cane in the car, walked into the store and grabbed a scooter. A sales person asked me;
"So are you hurt or something?"
I said "Yes I got hit by a car." I should have cut her off. I should have told her it was none of her business. I could have snapped back and inquired about her neoprene supported wrists. But I let her drill me. She wanted to know where I was when I was hit. She wanted to know that I could still walk. She wanted to know that her perception of me as a young able bodied man being silly in the scooter wasn't shattered. I left there angry. And then returned to a queer space. At a house party in San Francisco I was called a trooper, assumedly for dancing with a cane. Choice of words, really? This country is full of veterans my age an younger, lots with resulting impairments. So the dude dancing with the cane is a trooper??? Actually I just really like dancing and needed the cane to get into the building and appreciate the extra balance it gives me. And cause if I use it to get in and then set it aside it becomes a prop (in the theatrical sense) the act (as it becomes) is off. I encountered another woman who felt that she wanted the answers to her questions too, how long had I used a cane? Did I really need it? Oh, I have a friend who had to use a cane for a while and then got better, are you getting better? What happened? Is this an early onset condition, something acute or something recent? I felt comfortable in this space to stop her. I told her that its the first thing that everyone wants to talk to me about, and that I am frankly not in a mood to talk about it. There are other things about me that are awesome and interesting, as I am sure there must be about you, if we could move on to them and you could remember that not everyone with a disability that becomes visible to you at any point wants that to be the focus of the conversation. She first got defensive, saying that it wasn't the first thing we were talking about (I'm sorry hun, but a I like your fashion, I like yours too doesn't count as a lets build trust and comfort starter). And then walked away.
I would like to go on about the line between fetishization and a-sexualization of both trans folks and folks with disabilities, but I will save that for later.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On the Road

I got a message recently from one @feral geographer asking if this blog should be removed from its listing as a part of the queer blogs listing. I will admit I may have needed that kick in the pants. Once again its been a year since a post ++ and yet I still hold on to the attachment of having a blog. Let's be honest folks, I have had aspirations of being a blogger. I was decent at it back in the days of geocities and boy band fan sites, but these days I haven't really got it in my ritual of doing things to post public writing very often. I will once again declare to change that. Hold me to it, if you read this, comment, message me, remind me that there is a readership to which I write this. Or at least curious individuals who want to read what I have to say.

So; along the west coast I travel, just me and my little car Del (Deloris when its feeling fancy femme). Packed to the gills with my mess of cds, maps, clothes (oh so many clothes), camping gear, road food, arts and crafts projects and tools. I have been traveling solo, about which I have mixed feelings. I have been reading "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck while I rest along road sides and like what he has to say about traveling alone:
"Having a companion fixes you in time and that the present, but when the quality of aloneness settles down past, present and a forecast are all equally present."

"As the time went on I found that my reactions thickened. Ordinarily I am a whistler. I stopped whistling. I stopped conversing with my dogs, and I believe that subtleties of feeling began to disappear until finally I was on a pleasure-pain basis. Then it occurred to me that the delicate shades of feeling, of reaction, are the result of communication, and without such communication the tend to disappear."

I reached that point to a mild degree, the point where I remember that I am an extrovert and am fueled by interactions with others that I have not indulged in for days, save shopping grunts and formalities. Luckily I was to return to the homes of friends, for if I were to continue my driving alone and making noises just to remember what my voice sounds like could have driven me to a new kind of talkative delirium or unintelligible blabber.

The places I passed through and the ones I stopped in were different and yet the same. The salt water taffy made in front of you is the same shit all down the oregon coast and the tourist key chains at the redwoods are the same as the ones you'll find in the olympics and the same you'll find at the sea lion caves. The people change, but they don't. The attitudes and politics shift from place to place. I notice some places feel safer than others. Some places I will make sure to wear a shirt in the pool others I know I am welcome to be out and crude and vulgarly queer. I don't know how I can describe this, I think it will take more than some rambling musings to figure out what makes a place feel safe. What makes a place feel like somewhere that I can break my stealth appearance (no encounters with strangers have had this pleasure this time around- I think the being alone plays into this)? What about a place makes me wonder if I should peel the little rainbow triangle decal out of the window til a new sign of security has been achieved? What makes some places into suction cups for gaggles of queers and radicals? What allows other places to hold a sense of fear over those who appear "outside or different"?

What is safety?