first entry in my new journal

December 30

On the cusp of a new calendar year, I still do not know what to call myself. Gritz hangs, caught between two expanses of creamy white on the opening page of this new journal. Besides the words on the next page (creativity, curiosity, pursuit), and all of the meanings they conjure and contain, I want to find my name this year. What a year to claim a new name.

The time has come for new vowels and syllables. The little boat with wooden oars has been here for a while, in fact, sloshing algae water at the dock. It is time, it seems, to find them.

letter from early 2017

February 5

Dear Les,

It is odd to return to this blog, even for a quick second, even for a short post, and find that it has just as much traffic as ever, if not more. Most of that traffic, after scrutiny, is for a url delivering folks to a pdf of your words, a pdf of Jess Feinberg, of Stone Butch Blues.

It’s 2017 and there are many stones, many butches, many queers, and many with the blues clamoring for recognition. Clamoring for hope and good news. Hoping and itching to see themselves on pages.

I’m not butch, I say it again. I don’t identify with butch or femme, masculine or feminine, but I’m still strung up and over the binary, still fighting the gender on the little band placed around my premature wrist twenty-four and a half years ago in a hospital after doctors and nurses saw what was between my legs. Tiny holes, tiny folds.

It’s 2017 and I’m speaking. It’s 2017 and there are some things too heavy to say.

Les, I hope you are well. Wherever you are, if you care to, please send energy to the resistance.

from a distance

December 4

Les,

Somehow it’s been months since I wrote with regularity, and

I can’t give you a solid reason why. Perhaps

because coming o u t         [to my parents]

was a big focus of mine, and now that I started

I don’t know how to proceed. The stress

of the initial conversation has lifted, and I am left

with the regular, daily work, and the need

for further conversations. But sometimes,

it’s just nice to breathe, and hunker

I’m not done. The work is not

done. But I’m alive, and perhaps

that (continuing) is as how it should be.

Did I tell you a year ago I learned a favorite author has Lyme?

I know I did not tell you

a friend was diagnosed with Lyme.

They keep shining, Les,

and every day, I think we all try

to do the best

we can at the time.

jack o’lantern tinder

October 30

Dear Les,

What’s a queer

up in the ether

in the basement sweeping cobwebs

or admiring clouds past a steeple

what’s self love and honesty

what’s advertising and marketing

on a smartphone for hand

holding and/or

finding midnight

snacks with somebody

What’s looking through ads when you never even

used to know about Black Friday

I couldn’t tell you a penny from

a sigh, couldn’t tell you

a nickle from a dime, and nope

I’m not placing a value

on anybody

I’m wondering about lots of things

including tinder, and

why it feels like

I’ve stacked kindling

to burn artery and vain

with a lick, with a spit of flame

it’s difficult to swipe right or left

when you are shy

about swiping right on yourself

I’ve built this ship to do things other than sail

and swipe right

or swipe at all

Back to the beginning—

spiders weave clouds that catch

instead of give

They glow

once you see them

Fish flit below the hull of this ship

and I’m a queer up in here

what of it

On the Boulder

August 11

Les,

This summer of devastating shootings and this tumultuous election season have been enough to throw a person off balance, and after a full year of adulthood post-college living (the most expensive, purpose offering security blanket I’ve ever had), I find myself floundering in both the way I live my life (how does one do it?) and digest the world around me.

This has been a summer of heavy sorrow and celebrations—I’ve seen whales, porpoises, an octopus, prairie dogs, crawled through caves, slept in multiple states, waded in the pool of a waterfall, canoed to hot springs, and walked on pumice and obsidian. Gifts of living.

But outside of those moments or days of vacation, I wonder where and when I’ll unpack my suitcase. I wonder when I will feel free of this suspension. Free from the not yets, maybe laters, shoulds, and if onlys. I wonder when I’ll lean in, and say, “I’m here.”

Life is extra dark chocolate. Sweet, but bitter. Near liquid in hot sunshine, and a rock in the winter. Meant for eating.

I posted the following on Facebook tonight. I think it’s important to acknowledge struggles with mental health. Our great love for life, but also, sometimes, the work it takes to hold onto it.

IMG_1275.jpg

Love, I’ve worked a variety of jobs. Refereed soccer, cleaned toilets, changed linens, put mail in mailboxes, scooped ice cream, tutored writers, taken calls for a bookstore and a senator, researched markets, organized events, and opened packages. I can say with confidence the hardest work and best job I’ve ever done has been keeping myself on this planet.

My Snapchat Story Peptalk Before Coming Out

July 1

Hey Les,

While working up to coming out to my parents as nonbinary last week, I restlessly snapped some photos of my carpet (after a couple of my funny, angsty little face and messy top knot) and gave myself some advice.

I first uploaded that snapstory (a slideshow of those photos with the text I added)to share here, but I just couldn’t keep it. The video was gigantic and I can’t stand the idea of my face taking up someone’s entire screen for a couple photos when my carpet is the real MVP anyway. So I snagged the individual photos and wrangled them together.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 5.03.09 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 5.03.33 PM.png


 

Here is the advice I gave myself:

  1. Collect yourself. Be in a good emotional place
  2. Ask the other party when is a good time for them
  3. Begin with much regard for the wellbeing of everyone in the room
  4. Some casual conversation is good. It’s not the end of the world here.
  5. 4? 5? (I lose track of time so easily on snapchat) Listen to your better instincts
  6. Let’s call this 6: No matter how it goes, love yourself for being brave enough
  7.  No matter how things go, find something to smile and celebrate afterwards [like trees or the moon]
  8. And breathe.

Maybe even laugh at the business carpeting in your bedroom


What advice would you include?

I came out

June 26

Dear Les,

On Friday night, I came out to my parents. So much has happened this week and month, it was difficult for me to write anything anywhere. Tonight I finally shared some words on Facebook. I’ll include them here, but first I want to say thank you to everyone who has offered me support on this blog. Fellow queer and trans bloggers, other writers, and your own life, Les. I’m not quite done here (don’t mean for it to sound that way), but I do want to offer thanks. Writing about gender and sexuality has been a challenge lately, and I still need to respond to a post by Kameron (I appreciate your thoughtful nomination, and I want to do the same when I’m in a better headspace), but I’m grateful to have a place to help process this difficult and rewarding topics.

Below is my Facebook post.


Yesterday was my 24th birthday and yesterday was my first full day out as nonbinary trans to my parents. After years of working up to it, I finally shared that I am not a girl two nights ago. Yesterday was filled with love, sweet sunshine, and a raucous nearly naked bike ride. Yesterday I was on the verge of tears most of the day. I wanted to find a nest in which to curl up and grieve because this month has been filled with joys but also heartache and frustration.

Two weeks ago, I spent the weekend in Seattle with my cousins. On our second night, I scampered down Pike and Broadway ahead of them jumping off steps and yelling “parkour” then giggling. Passing storefront after storefront with Pride flags or safe place stickers, and with much anticipation, I finally got to skip across a rainbow crosswalk. I wasn’t thinking QUEER WONDERLAND because I question the protections afforded to LGBTQ people by corporatization of a movement, but I was celebrating rainbows. What a happy human I was to be laughing on rainbows. My cousins convinced me to remain still for a moment for a couple photos.

The next morning, while looking through those photos, I learned about the shooting in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando on Latin Night. Casualties were still being counted.

When I laid my head to rest the previous night, shots were already being fired.

My first reaction was fear that Muslim communities and brown folks would be targeted. An act of violence by an extremist is not a reason to harass a community that that extremist person claims connection to. One attack does not justify another. Hatred displayed towards one community does not warrant hatred towards another (and no, being queer and being muslim are not mutually exclusive).

In following weeks, I have been in a state of grief. What do queer clubs represent to LGBTQ folks? For some, they are the only place a person can go and feel comfortable in their skin and more safely display affection for those they are attracted to.

Last week I attended PRIDE for the first time in my life. I started coming out as queer when I was 12 but Portland’s PRIDE parade has always been on Father’s Day. Over the years, I learned to not be interested. This year, I told my parents where I needed to be (“because Orlando”), walked out my front door, and bused alone downtown. I stood in a crowd alongside the parade clapping, cheering, and weeping. 8 days prior, the faces in photos had still been breathing.

Being queer means that every time I hold hands with someone I’m sweet on, another person could perceive it as a political act. Ask any queer you know if they feel safe holding hands at night when they see a strange man or group of men in the distance. I know when to let my lovers’ hands drop. Being queer means every time I use “her” or “their” in reference to a lover, I out myself as an other. This means much less to me than it did a few years ago. I don’t care anymore. Largely because I live in a place where I usually don’t have to worry about being mistreated or fired. I also forgot how to give a damn.

Survival means knowing how to adapt.

Spiritual survival is learning how and when to stand up.

While working up to coming out to my parents last week, I read about the attack on Michael Volz, a transgender activist in Seattle. They were leaving a fundraiser for victims of the shooting in Orlando. In Capitol Hill, near rainbow crosswalks and rainbow stickered storefronts I scampered past two weeks ago, their attacker said “Hey, Happy Pride,” made a sexualized slur, then beat them to the ground.

Loving queer and trans people means I constantly pray for their safety. Especially if they are black or brown and/or trans, I wish them protection. I wish them light, love, and safety from bigotry.

I wish my friends and lovers access to restrooms, healthcare, and employment.

Being nonbinary means every time I walk into a women’s restroom, I look at the sign and think “not me.” But I have to pee. I just need a restroom. Being nonbinary but being mistaken for a girl by almost every single person in my life every single day means that I am safer than many trans people. But being mistaken by a girl by almost every single person in my life every single day means that I feel less visible and less human.

I’m human.

Emotional survival is allowing “girl,” “woman,” and “lady,” to slide off me and picking another time and place to correct someone, if at all.

Being a gender other than woman or man means that I have to explain my identity to almost everyone I meet but I do not have the time or strength to explain it to everyone I meet. Being trans means that although my parents’ love for their children is a beautiful force of light, I made sure I had emergency savings before I came out.

Because 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ and I know my parents love me to pieces but transphobia dominates our national history and broad narratives.

Survival means being practical.

I worked full-time for above minimum wages as a white college graduate before being unofficially laid off by one of my jobs a couple weeks ago, and I can’t afford to move into my own place and save for next steps in this rapidly gentrifying Portland. Imagine how greater the challenges are for queer and trans youth of color and youth without high school diplomas or college degrees.

Despite progress for most communities, we are not a postracial, postcolonial, or post any kind of systematic and interpersonal discrimination society.

As a queer and trans person, I struggle to find workplaces where I can dress in a way that does not give me excessive gender dysphoria. I struggle to find work which aligns with my values that will not burn me out.

Last night I biked shirtless in underwear with my sister and first partner/now good friend. I wore shiny green shorts, a fannypack, and a rainbow spinny hat that whirred in the wind.

We were alive and laughing, but much of the time, I was also reserved and distant. I was finally out as trans to my parents and it had gone better than hoped, and I was still grieving.

I’m working for a world in which I do not worry about the wellbeing of my loved ones and loved ones I’ll never meet because they are trans, queer, female, and/or people of color.

Survival means dreaming of and working toward a better future.

We’ve got work to do better loving each other.

We hold each other’s lives in our hands. Every day, we hold each other’s lives in our hands.

I’m out. I’m queer and I’m not a girl or boy.

And I love life. I love life, and I love you.

 

t minus 3 weeks until i finish coming out to the most important people in my life

May 24

Dear Les,

I finally caught up on my reading for all of the blogs I receive email updates from. For three weeks, I took a break from WordPress. It wasn’t premeditated; it just happened, and it was necessary. I had no desire at all to write anything for the ether-net (yourself included), and felt overwhelmed at the prospect of reading anyone else’s work, especially that of fellow queer and trans and/or nonbinary writers—whose blogs I follow most closely, but just couldn’t bring myself to read.

I think I needed some quiet and space for myself. During this period, although it was never a major source of my focus, I realized something: I’m ready to come out to my parents. I need to have the talk. After months/years of fretting what to say and how to do it, I think I’m just going to go for it. I can offer to share nonbinary/transgender informational materials and/or stories with them afterwards, including posts on Neutrois Nonsense, such as guest writer Libby’s “Loving My Agender Child.”

This isn’t as spontaneous of a decision as perhaps it sounds, and it still requires planning. For example, I was tempted to do it a couple of days ago but realized it wasn’t fair to do so right before my mother left for Pennsylvania. She and her sister who is moving to Oregon, are going to roadtrip back here together. I didn’t want to send her off with that huge news. I think it’s important to initiate that conversation when she’s in a comfortable place and when my parents are together. I’m guessing she’ll be home in 2-3 weeks.

Now that about three months have passed since my dad’s heart surgery and recovery has been going very well, I think I can now come out to my parents without worrying about my dad’s health too much. I don’t know if this fear was valid before, but I wasn’t willing to chance triggering another heart event. Telling your parents you don’t identify as the gender they’ve believed you to be since the day you were born (they saw my parts!), and requesting they stop referring to you as “girl,” even to your dog, is big.

I need to do it. I need to finally move on with this part of my life.

It’s unclear why I feel so certain (as certain/calm as I can be, I suppose), that now, or almost now, is the right time to do this. Stuff with FKS and D wasn’t the best the last couple of weeks, and that’s taken a lot of my brain and heart space. FKS bailed on her suggested coffee date two days in a row, and D and I transitioning from a kinda-relationship to friendship hasn’t been as smooth as hoped. Somehow I think these things just helped solidify thoughts on what I need for myself. Coming out to my parents now is one of them.

Also, my birthday is in a month. I considered coming out to my parents for my college graduation/birthday last year (in a “because you asked, this is what I would like” sort of thing), but it never happened. I don’t want another year to pass without telling them.

I’ve realized I’m a very private person—more private than I ever realized, even with my topless photos on the Internet. With my parents, I hold my cards very close to my chest. Largely because of my nonbinary identity, probably.

I think I owe it to all of us to finally start this conversation. It’s time to finally put words to who I am and why I behave/act the way I do sometimes.

Honestly, I think it will help me become a better person and kid.

I hope it’s not too hard on my parents. And I hope that they can eventually comfortably regard and love me as their nonbinary kid.

lemonade, cayenne, and walking away

May 22

L,

I’ve lost my appetite again. Even when I think I want food, even when I have some, I struggle to finish even half of what’s before me. What I swallow is not enough to satisfy my hunger. Hunger I know I have, even if it doesn’t quite resonate.

One of my strengths is looking for the bright sides in my life (if not the broader world when I think about systems of oppression) and looking for the best in others. There’s a lot of beauty so that’s not difficult. But there’s a part of me that’s asking to be allowed to be express my hurt, too, when something is amiss. And also, what is not quite anger (or perhaps a small dose), but impatience and sass.

My main instincts are to be gentle, compassionate, and self-deprecating, but there is both cayenne and strawberries in the lemonade I’m sipping.

Perhaps someday the gentle me will smile and bow to the sassmaster me, and the sassmaster will laugh to those who need to hear it,

“Manners and all, I’m the baddest b you’ll never have again,” and walk away.

 


I didn’t need Lemonade when it was released, but I’ve listened to it nearly nonstop the past week. Thanks, Bey.

I don’t explicitly refer to gender or sexuality in this or some other pieces, Les, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on my mind, or part of this. I don’t have energy for nouns on target today.