I learn, revise 

Les,

I now own three books by you after adding Transgender Warriors and Trans Liberation to my collection. You tell me in your own words–words for the Texas “T” Party– that you wish to be called Les. This is information I didn’t previously know. From now on, this is how I will address you.

Wherever you are, Les, best wishes.

the stone i am

About the stone bit,

Leslie. Am I supposed

to feel swirls of storm?~

everyday i feel

ice crystals expand

my femur, eleventh rib,

and pelvis. My right ankle

creaks before freezing complet

ely. Bones grow

until i fear exhales.

if i crack open, Leslie

will I be a purple slushy,

grape staining someone’s tongue?

will I be a geode,

quartz exposed?

will i be beautiful

so beautiful

someone presses their fingers

to me,

and gasps at their own

pearls of blood?

 

from the vault (a buried draft)

December 12 (actually November 29)

Leslie,

I’ve been many people and right now I don’t know if they are mingling at a party or awkwardly holding their water bottles wondering when they can sneak home. Away from any kind of party, probably some of my selves are scampering down leaf-collaged sidewalks, or dirt paths at the base of a composite volcano called a mountain. I want to be with the scampering ones right now.

For one of the only times in the many years I’ve had this desk (it used to be my sister’s when she lived here when I was young), I am currently sitting in a chair with my legs inside its cave. I am actually sitting here. The middle righthand drawer is full of 11 years worth of bad poetry and I’ve got even more buried in this tank of a desk. I wish I knew what kind of tree this desk was borne from, but I am not that sophisticated. Nor educated to that knowledgeable extent in the College of Forestry at OSU. Surely if I had majored in Natural Resources or in Wood Sciences rather than simply minoring in NR, I would know.

All over the map, confused with my overabundance of time and need for routine, commitment, socializing, space, and place, I stare at my laptop then wonder why I am staring, and what purpose it possibly serves. I load books about writing, race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and stars seeds weather hidden thread ends in my Powell’s cart, and with my discounts I am eager to rush to Hawthorne, and gather these books in my arms like treasures. But

i want books

that i am not prepared

to read

My mind and part of my heart

want them,

another area of my organ

is too swollen

I gear myself up

but sometimes i delay

getting out of bed

because although i have hunger

i do not have an appetite

I want to be strong but

often do not even bother to

reach for the pull up bar

I add books to my wishlist

hoping that page by page,

bite by bite, pull by pull,

i will be the person I want to be.

Seizing Stripes

December 11

Dear Leslie,

Got a haircut today. Twice. Today I plopped myself in a black swivel chair in Rudy’s Barbershop on Division Street and introduced myself as a challenge kid with identity problems. A scrub surviving on the sassiness of my bedhead. I didn’t say that immediately, but I did cheerfully offer a photo of Ruby Rose’s four-stripe undercut as well as a photo of myself with that length hair sans stripes. I explained I wanted my hair longer on the top and stripes on one of my sides. My barber was reserved but friendly, a thirty-something from Phoenix. He smelled like alcohol at 10:45 in the morning.

He wasn’t sure what I was going for as we navigated length discussions about my top and sides. Toward the end, he implied I should wait on the stripes—wait until I was sure of what I wanted. I left but I knew I wanted the stripes. I’m not new to clippers, Leslie.

A few hours later I went back with my best buddy. Their favorite barber, a big bearded man from North Carolina who loves working with andro/masculine women (buddy’s words, not mine—neither of us are women, but we’re glad he likes cutting hair for folks like us) cut both of us. He shaved my left side and gave me four contoured stripes.

It wasn’t my best haircut day ever—I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with either barber and they didn’t seem to understand what I wanted (it was odd to have the second just make an executive decision on the length and angle of my stripes), but in the end, I got what I made up my mind about this morning.

I don’t know if I earned my stripes, but today I seized them.

IMG_2642.jpg
Ideal stripes. Ruby Rose (photo from Internet)
IMG_2648.jpg
Striped! I would have angled the stripes upward but Will did this instead.

Genderqueer Hair, Genderqueer There

December 7

Leslie,

I think I’ve been frank about my scrub status but I’ll reiterate if I haven’t made it clear already: I’m a scrub. Not the kind shouting at girls from the passenger side of their best friend’s ride, but I’m probably still sitting in the passenger’s side if I’m in a car—still working through that driving fear, ya dig. TLC shout-outs aside,  I’m also just a chill person when not stressing about social inequalities and climate change; I’m not into status. Although I work hard really hard and tend to do well at what I set my mind to (got a pile of awards from school awkwardly sitting on my bookshelf), I’m not into honors. Nor uncomfortable clothing, so it’s unlikely I will be caught in a pantsuit, heels, flats, ties, super tight pants, binder, corset, or anything else that will leave me cold, too constricted, or hurt my knees. I dig the collared shirt + blazer look but I always feel like I will Hulk out of the blazer despite having the build of Tinker Bell. Button-up shirts, bless their little buttoned hearts, make me sweat. I wear strictly pearl snap flannels because I like the option of tearing off my flannel quickly. I seem incapable of patiently buttoning and unbuttoning a shirt.

I’m a scrub. And maybe that’s not the best thing ever—I definitely shouldn’t seek professional success on the east coast—but I’m thankful I recognize and honor my preferences. I’ve never forced myself to be something I’m not. I’ve grown, I’ve tried new things, I continually learn more about myself and others, but I haven’t forced myself into boxes I don’t fit in terms of appearance, gender, sexuality, and behavior.

But hair is a challenge, Leslie. Keeping things in perspective, this is not a serious problem (the U.S.A’s mass shootings, criminalization of black, brown, and trans people, climate change, and Syrian refugees’ need for homes are some actual issues demanding immediate attention). But I do need a haircut.

It’s difficult finding hairstyles which suit me, and hair stylists who won’t intentionally or otherwise push a gender on me. How can I get a haircut which is neither very “masculine” (short, angular, sharp lines) or “feminine” (you calling it a pixie cut because i have boobs?)? I love haircuts but I’m tired of fretting about conversations with hairstylists. I want someone who will easily understand my meaning when I express my needs. I don’t want to get into an entire conversation about gender for them to get my fluidity.

 

The problem is barbershops feel so men and hair salons feel so women

and i am middle,

outside, a blend, a shirt that shrunk in the wash

different now but maybe one day

i’ll stretch.

I feel guilty, worrying I’m asking for a gender therapist

palm reader or psychic

someone, anyone

who doesn’t exist

When I sit in a chair.

Just read me, read me right,

I want to say. I am

so tired

of hanging much

on the coat rack

in the corner of a barbershop

or salon,

hoping the wielder of clippers and

scissors

will realize I’m not trying to be read

as pixie butch hard wispy

I wish there were ungendered ways of saying (having people get)

please give me a cut that suits me on foxy days

(it’s been so long since I’ve foxed)

all my foxy days~

dresses, legs, disco pants,

eye-liner, make-up

mesh tanks, soccer shorts,

jeans, and triblend tees.

I ask for the sun,

as a flower (don’t call that feminine)

ready to tilt in 360 degrees

 

(Some photos from the last five years.)

No More L Word

December 5

Well, Leslie, I tried. I really did. I watched an entire season of The L Word, plus an episode of season 2 and I just can’t force myself to watch more. I know many folks fan hard over the show and I’m glad the show was made because some lesbian and trans representation is better than no representation, but I just can’t watch. The drama is too much. Why so much infidelity? Why aren’t folks kinder to each other? Is it necessary to tell so many lies and manipulate others? Again, why so much cheating?

It’s not even worth it to keep watching to see more of Shane, Ivan, or the rumored Max, who I wouldn’t even know about had I not read Raye’s post. I just googled Max a minute ago, swooned over Daniela Sea’s character, and nearly felt like changing my mind about my No More The L Word declaration until I read he dated Jenny. I can’t stand Jenny. I rarely dislike anyone even if I disagree with them or find their mannerisms irksome, but alas, I resent Jenny for her faux-innocence, no conscience cheating, childish way of speaking to avoid honest conversations, and strange eye contact which I would compare to an animal’s but I don’t dislike any animal enough to compare it to Jenny. I feel guilty and soul-less writing this (where’s my patience and compassion?), but on a gut level I hate Jenny. When my buddy told me they were murdered in the last episode, I had to bite my tongue from replying, “Good.” I don’t want to ever feel that way about anyone (except maaaybe Donald Trump who unfortunately isn’t fictitious*) so I obviously shouldn’t watch a show that brings out the worst in me.

There are definitely great things about the The L Word, but I look forward to a day where there are more positive representations of lesbian and queer folks in television and cinema. I’m tired of watching shows and movies where one of the protagonists finds love (but first lust) by cheating on her boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, or wife. It will also be wonderful to watch shows featuring greater diversity in terms of race, religion, nationality, body types, class, and ability. And gender identities, of course. The options are few.

 

*To be clear, I’m anti-killing anyone!  I simply wish an out-of-touch, racist, xenophobic, sexist bigot like Trump wasn’t faring so well in the presidential election. His popularity is troubling.

I puked this morning and it smelled like a banana milkshake: how I lost my job without even knowing it then got it back

December 4

Dear Leslie,

This post is a little grimmer than usual. Puke is mentioned, if you need a warning. Other stuff too, but I figured I’d be upfront about the puke. I’ve never been much of a puker—I can go years without vomiting if I don’t catch a funky stomach bug or take wisdom-teeth-have-abandoned-me painkillers. As I’ve only had my wisdom teeth removed once and don’t foresee myself growing more wise and shy little molars, I don’t think I’ll be puking again for that reason anytime soon. But this morning I vomited during an eruption of anxiety and my poor banana. I’ve known for years that my stomach isn’t a steel trap in the morning, but it was still unsettling to gag repeatedly in the bathroom, feel my mouth fill with saliva, then finally make an offering to that porcelain deity.

Why was I anxious? Why did I puke?

Bad news comes in threes sometimes, or so I hear, and that seemed to have happened to me in the last 24 hours. It was the first piece that was really crummy and turned my stomach into a volcano.

Remember that beautiful, wondrous identity- and values-affirming job I wrote about earlier in the week? I lost it.

How could that possibly happen? I was just hired!!

There was a scheduling mix-up. Lots of folks have been recently hired in both the call center and elsewhere in the beautiful book company (I don’t want to blog its name too much because what if it’s against company rules?), so I’m pretty sure my post-training work schedule was mixed up with one of my fellow coworkers, another new hire. Before training last week, I had imagined that my standard work hours would begin this Monday—November 30. But when I received a schedule last week, I didn’t see Monday November 30, Tuesday December 1, or Wednesday December 2. I’m pretty darn sure about this because I had an interview on the afternoon of November 30 that I was planning to talk to my supervisors about. After realizing I wasn’t scheduled for that day, I commented upon that good fortune, then accepted that I would instead begin the following Monday. The date I had read was Monday, December 4.

BUT WAIT. THAT’S NOT A 2015 DATE. Correct, Leslie and WordPress. Correct, indeed. Also, I’m impressed you’re keeping track of 2015 days, Leslie. But a week and a half ago, before I was living in a week with a Friday, December 4, that date seemed solid to me.

My coworker M was to begin her standard work hours this Friday (December 4!), Saturday, and Sunday. Based upon conversations with her and our direct supervisor, as well as my schedule, I accepted that for whatever reason, I was beginning the Monday after her. Maybe paperwork needed to be processed, ya know? M had a whole week before beginning, even if she was beginning on her first normal day! What I now believe to be the case (unless I just made the worst reading mistakes of my life), is that my wonderful and busy supervisor combined my days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) with M’s dates (4, 5, 6).

What happened was this: believing I wasn’t scheduled, I didn’t attend work this week. Unfortunately, the company believed I was scheduled and skipping. With three “no calls, no shows,” it was assumed I abandoned my amazing job. You may think I overstate the greatness of my job, but as nervous as I may be about learning how to page stores (imagine my voice over the loudspeaker of the largest bookstore in the world) and the greater warehouse, and properly helping customers in a bajillion ways, I’m delighted to work in a place where I can be myself and interact with friendly, helpful coworkers and supervisors. And the work is great! Books!

Anyways, yesterday afternoon/evening as I was pondering emailing my supervisor to verify my start time on Monday, I received a call and voicemail from the local union rep asking me to call him back.

I emailed a supervisor then called the union rep.

He told me that Human Resources had notified him of a position abandonment because I was a “no call, no show” three days this week.

Life, how quickly you fall into place then apart again.

Leslie, for the past week, I’ve been pondering how to best help customers, gushing about my benefits, thinking about transportation to work and what to pack for lunches. I thought I was totally geared up for a great start next week. Instead, during my phone call, I learned I probably don’t have a job. I panicked, listened to the union rep who seemed rather disbelieving of my situation but gave good advice, and hung up. I emailed two supervisors immediately then sat with my head spinning.

After a sleepless night, I called one of my supervisors first thing this morning to leave a message then called the union rep. He told me to wait it out—if I didn’t hear anything by early afternoon, give him a call.

Sometime during this period, I puked. I can’t remember if it was before or after the morning call to my supervisor but it smelled like bananas. It being my puke. I was both disgusted and impressed.

Just before I was going to call the union rep again this afternoon, I received a call from the director of human resource herself. The director! I was afraid I was being fired by the highest up—I hadn’t expected to hear from someone outside of my department.  Yet her voice was so kind and warm, I felt like I was being hugged over the phone. After I briefly relayed my side, she told me that the head supervisor of my center (not one I emailed) had forwarded my emails to her. Everyone was flummoxed. Not normally a company to give new hires with unannounced absences a second chance (it looked like I jumped ship), they decided to believe the best and REHIRED me. I was enthusiastically welcomed back to the company.

I’m thankful. Obviously, my wondrous nearly former workplace and I both just experienced something that confounded both of us, albeit rendering one of us more anxious and desperate than the other. I’m happy and relieved to have my job back, but I have questions.

  1. If I was totally wrong about my work dates, why wasn’t I called on Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday when I didn’t show up?
  2. Why didn’t they call someone they just invested 22 hours in training? Someone who was enthusiastic and engaged during training?
  3. Don’t they have my contact information? (yes)
  4. Did they email my work email? I don’t even know how one would check that from home. I tried last night, afraid I would succeed and find a very stern email, yet was unsuccessful.
  5. Why was the union rep the first person to notify me of a problem?
  6. Am I officially “starting” my job with a huge stain on my record?
  7. Is everyone going to stare at me when I return on Monday?
  8. Was I supposed to start on Monday, December 4? Or did my brain turn November 30 into something else?

 

Obviously, many of those questions are similar, Leslie. Who knows how many I’ll learn the answers to. And who knows what it’ll be like when I return on Monday. But I am so relieved to still have a job, especially one at a great company. This whole storm of confusion aside (the director said this has never happened before), I’m incredibly happy to have a job I’m a fan of. In my stomach-churning state of anxiety and desperation last night and this morning, I examined job postings on Craigslist, Idealist, and Mac’s List, and some random internship site, and it wasn’t pretty. If I hadn’t needed to retain consciousness for a phone call, I would have collapsed on my floor.

Shout out to the local union rep for calling me. If he hadn’t, I would have cheerfully shown up to work on Monday morning and found myself without a job.

Late to The L Word, Curious about Lisa

December 2

Dear Leslie,

I’ve gotta be one of the last lesbian-ish people to start watching the The L Word, despite having known about the show for years. I previously let the show lie in the ether because I wasn’t interested in unnecessary drama, especially infidelity. Why do most lesbian shows and film feature infidelity? Anyway, my concerns with The L Word were well-founded because by the second episode,  a main character named Jenny had already ensnared herself in a messy affair with a woman—Marina.  Overall, however, I’ve appreciated the show for what it is, an often humorous look at fictitious wealthier, predominantly white lesbians and bisexual women in southern California. Predictably, I’m attracted to Shane, but I have been curious about Lisa, the lesbian-identified man Alice dates in season one, and troubled by Alice and the other characters’ reactions to Lisa’s identities.

Here are some questions I have:

Does Lisa identify herself as a man? What are her/his pronouns? (S)he identifies as a lesbian, but does she also identify as a man, or is that an identity everyone else places on her?

Is Lisa trans?

Are Alice and the other characters transphobic towards Lisa? Regardless, is the others’ treatment of Lisa’s identities problematic?

Consider Episode 7 of Season 1 in which Alice and Lisa have sex during a party on Harry’s boat. Lisa wants to use a strap-on, but Alice impatiently laughs at that and comments something along the lines, “You have the real thing. I want you to use it.” Lisa does not want to make love that way, but Alice still reaches for Lisa’s penis, coercing her into sexual intercourse without the strap-on. Afterwards, Lisa is upset and clearly feels Alice did not honor Lisa’s identities and preferences.

If Lisa identifies as a man rather than a woman, I don’t know what to make of her lesbian identity. Like Alicia, Bette, Tina, Dana, and the others, I’m stumped. But as gender and sexuality are infinitely complex with countless identities and experiences of different identities, shouldn’t Lisa’s preferences be honored?

It would be easy to laugh at a man calling himself a lesbian, but perhaps Lisa’s character on The L Word compels more critical thinking about gender, sexuality, and the ways in which we treat each other, regardless of whether we or our lovers identify with the genders we were assigned at birth.

Acknowledgements & Declarations, On Depression and Living, Post #1

December 1

Dear Leslie,

I long ago realized that I would spend my life sporadically courting depression. While hopefully most of my life will be spent engaged in meaningful, stimulating or relaxing activities full of compassion, mirth, and learning, I realized at a young age there would also be midnight tussles with inexplicable melancholy and week- or month- or years-long spells beneath weighty blankets. There are roaring empties occasionally swelling my ribcage which cannot simply be described as anything so pointed as “sadness” or “unhappiness.” I do not wish to dwell on the emptiness or melancholy now, but rather acknowledge that depression is part of my lived experience and has been a part of me since even before my first crush on a boy or a girl or a not-boy-or-girl person and my own battles with the gender binary. At the beginning of college, I weathered a particularly devastating storm of depression. Last winter, I wrote about that depression on Facebook. Feeling responsible for the impact a depression and suicide post might have on my friends, I made some commitments at the end.

What I wrote on February 17:

I’ve been composing this in my mind for weeks and scribbling it in my notebook for days, but I’ll never get it exactly right. I thought about saying something last year but didn’t so another year passed in silence. I write now because something in me needs for some of it to be said. On a day that was so damn beautiful, I need to acknowledge what could have been and also make some declarations.

Three years ago today (Monday, week 7, winter term 2012), I sat in my 8 a.m. poetry class wondering why I was entering due dates in my planner if I wasn’t going to be around to see them.

I was numb and I’d been numb since I started college. Try as I might—make some friends, talk to academic advisors, enjoy my classes, laugh as I did here and there, and even date a wonderful person for a while—I couldn’t fill the hole inside of me. For a number of reasons, including my inability to find my niche and purpose at University of Oregon, healthily process my knowledge of extreme systematic inequalities, and dissolve my self-hatred (for my fear of driving and unearned privileges) I was severely depressed. My depression had started out mild and bloomed into something that choked me. I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to live either.

Besides feeling disconnected from others, disenchanted with the world, and purposeless, I was angry. I was angry that I was so numb and resentful of my previous frameworks for understanding the world. Angry that in a phone call, my mother made me promise that if I was ever thinking of “doing anything” I call her, no matter what time of the day or night. I made the promise even though I knew I wanted “out” of this life yet never wanted to make that phone call. I was angry because I keep my promises.

If I couldn’t be free from the negative feelings, I wanted to feel my pain more acutely. I wanted to get smashed or cut myself—anything to just feel something. I either wanted to be gone or feel alive again. It is important to note that I resisted drugs and alcohol not because I am stronger than anyone or “good”, but because I am a ridiculously stubborn person with a family history of drug and alcohol abuse and a fear of addiction (as well as a white privileged belief in the importance of following rules). I didn’t self-medicate because I knew that would only mess me up more and my battle was hard enough. Instead, I sought small, positive changes I could make in my daily life, saw a therapist, and after much resistance, began antidepressants. Those things didn’t get rid of my depression but they helped get me through the very worst of it.

Many people don’t have the institutional and interpersonal support that I did. Despite not having enough money to adequately feed myself (I dropped down to 98 pounds due to depression, hunger, and antidepressants), I had healthcare, and other forms of support, too.

One of my classmates in my Inside-Out Prison Exchange class is an example of individuals’ need for healthy coping mechanisms to work through depression. R– was a good student and standout athlete in high school. One year he played for the U.S. national youth team and was so excited to share his experiences with his grandma after returning from an overseas competition. Upon returning to Oregon, however, he learned she had died while he was away. Shortly thereafter, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and told she had a slim chance of survival. Devastated, R– started self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. He began committing robberies later. This was his way of handling his pain and demonstrating some agency in response to situations he had no control over. Police who did not respond to his neighborhood (felony flats) when families called 911 let his crimes wrack up then finally arrested him. R– didn’t get the help he needed or deserved.

My recovery has been a long road and one I walk every day. I only just regained my former weight this winter after three years of trying to reach a healthy, stable body weight. I’ve gotten a lot of my memories back, too; for a long time I felt disconnected from my pre-college experiences and identities. I also took Driver’s Ed this summer after years of being immobilized by fear and shame. I passed the class and that afternoon’s accomplishment remains the freest and proudest I’ve ever felt in my life. I still struggle with self-love, but I’ve been working on it.

Here is what I know to be true for myself:

Working through depression won’t necessarily make the “haters” not hate or the people and institutions too afraid to confront their privilege and the ways their actions hurt others actually examine themselves and make changes. Working through depression won’t bring back loved ones or cure cancer. It won’t end the chronic pain or make the icebergs remain frozen. But if we are persistent and obtain &/or create some support, we might be able to come back to life in new ways and respond to these struggles in different lights. We might dance again or for the first time.

My shame and self-hatred didn’t save me or make me a better person. Punishing myself didn’t make me treat myself or others better. But being brave enough to be brave and love myself and honestly assess my actions does.

I don’t know the language any other person uses to speak to themselves and it isn’t my place to tell anyone how to live with and move through their pain, particularly when people experience pain for different reasons and in different ways. But I do know that you are worthy of your own respect and love. You are worthy of others’ too. You are so darn worthy.

As I move forward in life (the days keep passing and I am still here), I make some promises to myself:

I resolve to be my best friend, rather than just worst critic. I commit to loving and supporting myself.

I resolve to make myself laugh regularly, even if it’s just making sassy comments under my breath at food products in the grocery store, because honestly my brand of humor is my favorite and I never love myself more than I do when I’m cracking myself up.

I promise to perform more random acts of kindness.

I also promise that so long as my body is pulsing and my mind is active, I will live. I will not end my life. I’ve got more laughter in me yet, more love to give and receive, more to learn, jokes to crack, mistakes to make, and life to live. This is not an easy promise to make nor one I make lightly. But I make it anyway.

 


 

Some resources if you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide:

National Suicide Hotline: http://www.crisistextline.org/

Trans Lifeline: US: (877) 565-8860 , Canada: (877) 330-6366

GLBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564, online peer-support chat: http://www.glbthotline.org/

GLBT National Youth Hotline: 1-888-246-7743

November 30

Dear Leslie,

There are mere minutes left in this cyber of Mondays. There are also mere minutes left in this Monday in which wiser folks are offline far away from all computers, including their smart phones and tablets and watches. Really, wherever, there are only minutes left in this Monday. In some places, Monday has been absent for hours now, already off for its 6-day vacation.

There are only minutes and a month left in 2015, and I do not know what that means. I cannot tell myself or any other person what December holds or what its neighbor 2016 will bring.

But I hope there are 7 minutes full of breaths from my loved ones in this fading November, and 31 days of small and great acts of kindness, forgiveness, and bravery in December, here and far.

And I don’t know much about bravery right now, but I can say that I get up out of bed every day even when I do not know what I get up for. And many days, many hours, there is laughter.