Friday, December 21, 2007
At the same time I just now realized that this occasional apart-ness may be an essential part of any healthy long-term, living-together relationship. There is some basic part of me that requires a small set of totally unfocused time with myself. Indeed now that I think back upon my almost 2 score years I have always needed this in one form or another of dead time. During my hermit years I took this tendency far too far; indulged too much in myself you could say. These days the most I can stand it is a few times a year for a day or two. Yet these rarer-over-time interludes are needed for some basic reason. A time to shutdown and retool well-used parts of the shop; refocus the instincts, is my best guess. Anyways, I'm well provisioned with beer, diet pepsi, chocolate, chips, good books, movies, web access, and unlimited tunes, so all is good with the world. I'll survive until my love returns.
and for those who came to this article wholly looking for some other, perhaps more explicit topic...you've bitten an illusory bait I'm sorry to say. Don't worry, I'll throw you back when I've done with you... :-)
Monday, December 17, 2007
Almost 5 trillion grains of rice have been donated in the month and a half since this was launched. I got up to 850 grains myself (and vocab level 42) in only a few minutes time.
If you go to the Totals page and click the link from there, you can see that the U.S. is almost dead last (ahead of only Greece of the 23 countries listed) in the percentage of our income that is donated as international aid. We are a truly greedy, sad excuse for a nation...
Go do your part, my fellow word warriors and join the fray...
Monday, November 26, 2007
Anyways, if you haven't yet, I do highly recommend this book. But finishing it earlier than anticipated into our Thanksgiving vacation, I had to make an emergency trip to a rural Maine bookstore for more reading. I was actually in the mood for some straight forward sci-fi, but sadly, the store we went to (a small one) didn't have anything that appealed so instead I bought a used copy of All Quiet on the Western Front, the classic anti-war tale (written in 1928) of a German soldier during World War I that I hadn't read since high school. Again, without consciously thinking about it I had stumbled across a book that I think is extremely timely and relevant to current events here in the U.S. I'm about half way through the book and it truly is a classic that brings the horrors of war and how war and violence twists and destroys the lives of soldiers in countless ways. Again, highly recommended.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
- Take 2 minutes out of your day and read this short article from Julia Serano about what this day is all about and then go out and get her excellent, eye-opening book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.
- Call or write your local congressional representatives and remind them of this day and that we won't be scapegoated.
- Be proud of who you are or let that t-person in your life know how proud you are of them.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
On a personal update - I've had my head buried in some very cool but time- and brain power-consuming library projects (launch of a newly designed library home page with integrated federated search, virtual info lit instruction pilot project, development of a library toolbar for Firefox and IE, concerted marketing project, RSS library feed integration with our CMS and more) for the past couple months and just find myself burned out at the end of the day most days and unmotivated to go sit in front of the computer some more at home. In addition, I've been busy cataloging my 1,300 issue comic collection (re-embracing my inner geek!) and have been hit with a mild case of the early winter blues - I'm never ready for the cold weather! As a result, I haven't posted to here in a while. Hope to change that...
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
- Oct.1 at Flavour Cafe in Troy: Namoli Brennet - she is an amazing folk singer-songwriter/guitarist from Arizona. We saw her in this tiny coffee shop with only about 12-15 other people. Her songs are a mix of folk, gospel, alt-country and some rock thrown in on top and her voice is similar (but perhaps a little more gravelly with not quite as much range, which fits her style) to the likes of Feist or Cat Power's Chan Marshall. There is a power there, tempered by a wizened beyond her years and curious soul. She's also TG (she had played at Albany Pride, but we didn't find out until afterwards and we missed her while getting lunch)! Local musician via Arkansas, Jeremy James opened with an enjoyable, although slightly uneven set when he got a little too experimental and forgot some of the lyrics to a couple songs.
- Sept. 29 at Rebel in NYC: Semi Precious Weapons and The Vibrators: As usual, garage-glam gods SPW rocked the house and brought the crowd to a frenzy with their standard kick-ass stuff (and my fave, "Rock and Roll Never Looked So Beautiful") and stuff from their upcoming album. They only played a short set though since they were the opening band for old punk veterans, the Vibrators. Most of the crowd sadly left immediately after SPW. We stayed for a few songs, but they sounded mostly like distortion (it didn't help that they did not have their usual drummer and were using other people's equipment).
Thankfully, most lgbt orgs and allies (sans HRC) came to our defense and combined with our own loud and strenuous voices, those who make these decisions actually heard and shifted gears. Yay for us! Now that hill needs to be climbed all over again, hopefully after the next election when we (hopefully) have a fuller democratic majority and a sympathetic ear at the white house.
More details here.
Friday, September 28, 2007
From the Washington Post (my emphasis below):As if the TG community hasn't been centrally involved at all in the LGBT rights movement from the start!!! And as if the morons in Congress really opposed to this give a shit about who gets excluded, as long as there is still someone left at the bottom to push around and help themselves feel superior! Ummm, remember Stonewall you fucking idiots?!!! Do we need to have another riot to be heard! Perhaps a mass TG peaceful protest in DC is what's needed?
"It requires time and patience to educate the public and lawmakers about how prejudice harms some people. That's what gays and lesbians have been doing in their quest for equality for nearly 40 years. And that's what transgender people will have to do. Delaying passage of ENDA, which was first introduced in the House in the mid-1970s by Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.), until the transgender community changes enough hearts and minds would be a mistake."
Worst of all, it looks like the HRC (please e-mail them - email@example.com - your opinion on this matter!) is not standing behind the many other LGBT orgs calling this omission a travesty. It's one thing for the ultra-conservative Washington Post editors to try to erase us from history, but it's another entirely when those organizations that are supposedly representing us try it...
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The original Yitszak, the awesome Miriam Shor will be in attendance for a Q&A and there will be a costume contest, so dress up as your fave charater from the movie to win fab prizes.
In addition, yours truly will be performing as one of the Hedwigs! My first time ever, so please come out and support us - I need all the help I can get!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
"For here again we come within range of that very interesting and obscure masculine complex which has had so much influence upon the women's movement; that deep-seated desire, not so much that she shall be inferior as that he shall be superior, which plants him wherever one looks, not only in front of the arts, but barring the way to politics too, even when the risk to himself seems infinitesimal..."
-Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, pg.57 (1929)
I came across this quote last night while rereading her essay on the struggle of women writers and I thought by substituting a few pronouns and select words the sentence would pretty well sum up at least a portion of today's struggle for LGBT rights:
In other words, these mostly white, christian people oppose anything that would place us on an even level with themselves, not necessarily because they hate us, but because they have a burning need to themselves feel superior to those around them who are different (and we seem like an easy target, just like Iraq seemed like an easy target to Bush in 2001).
For here again we come within range of that very interesting and all too common conservative complex which has had so much influence upon the LGBT rights movement; that deep-seated desire, not so much that we shall be inferior as that they shall be superior, which plants them wherever one looks, not only in front of marriage and equal employment opportunities, but barring the way to basic human rights and dignity too, even when the risk to themselves seems infinitesimal...
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
In our last session we did a little review of how far I've come - from a timid, totally confused transsexual with lots of self-hatred, sexual identity problems and social phobia and just entering the first stages of transition - to the confident, slightly more outgoing, definitely happier and more self-aware woman I am today. Not to say I still don't have lots to work on! I'm still fucked up like the rest of the human race, but now I have the self-confidence to tackle issues that arise myself. It took me a while to figure out how to get the most out of therapy, but I'm glad I went.
In other news:
- I'm an aunt again! Her name is McKinley and she is a shining star with dark hair! I can't wait to head out west at some point and see her!
- Had my 3rd electrolysis session last night to get rid of the remaining facial hairs that came back after laser (and there are lots of 'em!). Wow, electrolysis fucking hurts! My face looked like I'd been stung by a hundred bees last night and is still puffy today. Alas, the price of beauty...
- Jenn and I are now moved into our new apartment in Albany. It's huge and the dog and cat I think like it. We have mostly finished unpacking, with a few odds and ends to complete. It's right next to Lark St., and Washington Park and Emmitt now gets to mingle with the other dogs after work most nights.
- Emmitt is getting old. He's 12 now and has bad arthritis and limps alot. I give him some pills which helps, but they also make him drink and eat more and so he occasionally has an accident in the apartment, which pisses Jenn (and myself) off to no end. He has been in my life for almost his entire 12 years (I got him when he was about 2 months old) and I can't imagine life without him. But I just don't know how much longer he can last. It will be a truly sad day when he leaves me and I'm crying now just thinking about it.
- I sold my house about a month ago and made enough profit to pay off most of my credit card debt and put a down payment on a new used car. I am now the proud owner of a shiny silver 2005 Prius. This car should cut in half the costs of my daily commute! It's a cool car as well and I got it for a decent price. I guess I've also joined the 21st century - this is the first car I've owned that has power windows! My old Prizm was on it's last legs and luckily it survived long enough to get me a respectable trade-in value and physically get me to the dealership without conking out. It had been making some increasingly loud noises the past couple weeks and I was half expecting the piece of shit to break down a day before the trade-in and lose me that $2700 value! But my luck held out and I can travel without stress again.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
On top of that I now have a second niece! Lovely Mckinley (my brother and sister-in-law are avid hikers and live out west; my other niece is Sierra) is just as cute as her sister.
Things are only now settling down and so hopefully I'll find time to blog more and relate some of our adventures in Montreal and with moving, etc. in the near future. Peace out!
Thursday, August 02, 2007
ps: yes - I know the title mixes languages and probably mangles both of them - lol - but the mixing part was intentional!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Vickie writes: "It seems that we just do not have the terms yet, and thereThanks for your thoughtful comments! I agree - terminology is a tricky subject. One one hand having a set of terms and control over how they are used/understood is essential if we want to have any sort of movement to fight for our civil rights and gain a wider understanding in society. On the other hand terminology in the end can only be constricting - definitions always are because there will always be exceptions or else the definition is too broad to have much meaning.
are endless battles over what to call us. Actually there are battles going on
over all our terms."
Kaye writes: "I seem to gravitate towards the unusual .... as my wife of 35
years so frequently points out .... if it's 'uber niche' then that's where you
People in any group will probably never totally agree on just one set of self-defining terms. Just look at the fights over terminology in any profession or academic discipline for an example of this. Certainly I get some sense of self from being "different" (or as I sometimes put it: non-conforming), but I do also feel, like everyone, a desire to be part of a community, ideally one of my own choosing.
In the end perhaps the only thing that matters is that people needn't be restricted by the terminology and labels that others apply to them (nor by the "communities" that such labels place them in) - labels are a quick and dirty but necessary means to an end - which is understanding the world around us.
The big obstacle in my view is that so many in the TG community are in the closet or have a completely understandable and burning desire to fit in or escape persecution and or shame, that they don't get out in society as proud transgendered individuals and let people know that in the end we're just like them - diverse, fallible, human.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The reality has been very different and I've come to the conclusion that I don't really want to be normal, and in fact I couldn't even pass for normal if I wanted to.
So I've been doing a bit of reading on alternative gender models and terminology (such as genderqueer, intergender, etc). I'm still in the process of absorbing some of this dense material and as yet have not come to any conclusion for myself except than I'm not "female" in the traditional sense, anymore than I was "male" in the traditional sense when I was born.
But the biggest breakthrough for me was realizing that I don't have to adhere to the shallow, confining nature of being male or female. Life can exist and be exhilarating and fulfilling in a social sense outside those "normal" gender expressions if you can break free somewhat from caring so much about what other people think, or how they see you. I'm still a work in progress in this respect, but I feel I'm heading in the right direction...
Friday, July 20, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
"Binary" = consisting of two parts.
"Bit" = a unit of information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives (as yes or no, on or off).
With all the modern marvels of science, technology and medicine, we still assign all the complexities of gender to the most basic forms of information possible, a 1 or a 0.
Here are a couple current mainstream gender-related definitions that I think reflect the inherent bias (even in the supposedly objective medical and psychological disciplines) against we that don't fit within the traditional binary gender roles (bold = my emphasis):
American Psychological Association Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms
- Gender Identity: Inner conviction that one is male or female or inner sense of being masculine or feminine
- Sex: Conceptually broad term referring to the structural, functional, or behavioral characteristics of males and females of a given species
- Transsexualism (used for: Transgendered): The urge to belong to the opposite sex that may include surgical procedures to modify the sex organs in order to appear as the opposite sex.
- gen·der: the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex
- sex: either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as male or female
- trans·sex·u·al: a person who psychologically identifies with the opposite sex and may seek to live as a member of this sex
- gen·der: The condition of being female or male; sex. b. Females or males considered as a group: expressions used by one gender.
- sex: 1a. The property or quality by which organisms are classified as female or male on the basis of their reproductive organs and functions. b. Either of the two divisions, designated female and male, of this classification. 2. Females or males considered as a group. 3. The condition or character of being female or male; the physiological, functional, and psychological differences that distinguish the female and the male.
- trans·gen·dered: Appearing as, wishing to be considered as, or having undergone surgery to become a member the opposite sex
- trans·sex·u·al: One who wishes to be considered by society as a member of the opposite sex
Question: what is the advantage, if any, to having only one limited set of "correct" or "normal" genders (i.e., male and female) or gender expressions? Isn't it possible that the current binary model is simplistic and the result of a social construct that arose/evolved over time and was based on only a shallow survey of now outdated gender expression?
In reading a bit of Joan Roughgarden's excellent Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, she documents how gender (and sexual) variance/diversity exist in many, many different species in nature (if not all species).
Perhaps unlimited gender variance (or the idea of an endless spectrum or sphere of gender expression) is "normal" and the idea of just two genders (or even the idea that we can define what is "normal" for any physical or social function within the infinitely complex structures of life) is the "mistake?" Perhaps how society interacts with gender variant people is the problem, rather than how gender-variant people choose to express themselves...
Just some food for thought...
Saturday, July 14, 2007
the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history.
- ORIGIN C19: from Ger. Zeitgeist, from Zeit ‘time’ + Geist ‘spirit’.
from: The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Eleventh edition revised . Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.
I just watched an excellent, eye-opening, bone-chilling online documentary called Zeitgeist. It documents in great detail how certain oligarchic elements that control this country (for example, the Carlyle Group) have been systematically manipulating religion, war, mass media and monetary policy for many years and for their own gain and power. This has also directly resulted in many, many deaths (via war especially) and economic hardships both here and abroad.
I will try to add part 2of this video to my blog in a separate entry but links to the 3 parts of the movie are here:
- Zeitgeist part 1: The Greatest Story Ever Told (concerning the pagan/mythic origins of christianity)
- Zeitgeist part 2: All the Wold's a Stage (concerning 9-11)
- Zeitgeist part 3: Don't Mind the Men Behind the Curtain (concerning the Federal Reserve Bank and the conclusion)
To many of you this film may at first glance seem like the paranoid delusions of a conspiracy nut, but please watch it with an open mind and then go and check out their sources (documented in detail on the web site) and find out the truth for yourself. I especially recommend watching parts 2 and 3.
I like to consider myself fairly well-read in history and in current left-wing conspiracy theories, but some stuff I had never heard before and certainly the makers of this film bring it all together into a coherent picture that sure seems to make sense. They may not be on the money on every point, but I think it's hard to ignore the logic of the insane world-picture they paint.
Please check it out yourself and send it to everyone you know with an open mind. This information needs to be out there and discussed! And then we need to hold these fucking people accountable!
Friday, July 13, 2007
Also, the search engine's web site is here:
Transgender Information Search Engine
A Hipper Crowd of Shushers
Monday, July 09, 2007
I don't think this image will make much sense to anyone, but it's where my head is at currently and it's the best my hands can render it in under 5 minutes using microsoft paint...
Saturday, July 07, 2007
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this kind of ending, and in fact most times I, like most, prefer a happy ending. However, in my opinion, this kind of ending, mirrored in one of the most mainstream trans movies in recent years, Transamerica (another great film btw, but it has the same sort of storybook ending) can have a cumulatively negative effect upon our own community. Namely, it promotes the patently false idea that getting GRS is the end-all-be-all of our existence and that getting it will solve all our problems; resolve all our self-esteem issues; get rid of all our depression.
This point of view seems to be held by more than a fair share of sisters in the community as well for some reason. Perhaps it's like any other seemingly unattainable goal, like getting rich or becoming famous or becoming president: why dwell on any possible negative consequences when it's just a fantasy - it won't happen anyways?! I can understand that. It probably hasn't been helped by the fact that not many post-ops tell their stories beyond the immediate surgical aftermath, when the newness of our new plumbing has us still on cloud nine and we haven't yet had to return to reality. Beyond that initial post-op phase, perhaps many rightfully prefer to drift into regular life and leave their past behind. We want to blend back into society and e "normal." I can understand that, too.
But what I can't understand is why some sisters who have congratulated me afterwards think all my dreams and hopes have been met and that life has now suddenly become easy. Yes - the surgery was a huge, huge goal of mine and I feel better, more in balance for it. It was one of the best decisions in my life. But I can tell you straight up that it didn't solve any of the non-physical problems I went into it with. I still get depressed sometimes and have self-doubts and am self-conscious about my boyish figure. I still on occasion obsess about my tiny breasts and straight hips and overly large arms and excessive body hair, and extra ribs and large hands. I still have social phobia issues and eating issues and I still yell into my windshield at the cars in front of me on the road whose drivers flick their still-lit cigarette butts carelessly out the window and on and on...
The point being that anyone who goes into gender reassignment surgery thinking that once it's complete all the hurt and self-image and social-acceptance issues will magically go away is deluding themselves. But please, don't get me wrong. Surgery isn't just pain and time-consuming post-op maintenance procedures. It did have a major positive impact on my life, but not as much in the straight-forward mental and physical realms as I was thinking going in. I think the overall effect is far for intangible than that. Sort of like looking at the same detailed Dali painting twice but the second time sensing somehow that something subtle in the total ambiance of the details shown has been changed. However, you can't grasp exactly what has changed. You just know the second version is slightly less insane than the first.
I think a movie or documentary that explores the struggles of the post-op phase of transgenderism in the longer-term, if done honestly and thoughtfully, could be just as uplifting and poignant and relevant and entertaining as Transamerica or Transgeneration was. There is probably a good book or two covering this topic out there, but I don't know any titles off-hand. If you do, please post details on here!
Monday, July 02, 2007
The "iron law of oligarchy" states that all forms of organization regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations. The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale democracy succumbs to social viscosity in a large-scale organization. According to the "iron law," democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible.
We live in an age of ubiquitous surveillance, government secrecy, indefinite detentions, deteriorating spheres of privacy and civil liberties, growing economic inequalities, government-sanctioned suppression of and violence against those who question authority as well as any minority deemed an "other," and an aggregated mass media addicted to sensationalism, celebrity and profits.
Given this, the question must be asked: even if we could somehow manage to convince a majority of our fellow citizens that it is in their best interests to reject the current divisive, short-sighted and egocentric arc our society is traversing, could such a reversal ever be realized? Would our leaders and the economic oligarchs behind them ever relinquish their grip on the massive political and economic powers and tools of public influence they have amassed over the last few decades? Would anything short of utter (and probably bloody) revolution be able to wrest control from them? And by "oligarchs," by the way, I mean the constantly evolving and un-centralized group of trans-national corporations and exclusionary interest groups who share a common interest in maintaining the economically and politically bureaucratic status quo by whatever means possible.
*For an explanation of the history behind the theory of the "iron rule of oligarchy," check out the Iron Law of Oligarchy Wikipedia entry or for those with more time on their hands, the text of Robert Michels' 1911 book that originated the theory.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
"Who will acknowledge that transwomen find themselves in some of the most vulnerable positions in this society, oftentimes unable to access even the paltry privileges allowed to nontrans women? It seems to me that the pervading attitude about feminine-identified transgender people casts them as utterly reactionary, at best apolitical, and most likely a detriment to the cause of women's liberation." [p.30]
"misogyny among privileged gay and/or straight male academics actively excludes transgender women; transphobia among feminist academics casts transgender women as wolves in sheep's clothing." [p.31]
Being a long-time fan of Fugazi (I saw them in Pittsburgh in the mid-90s, and in D.C. probably 7-8 years ago), I must admit to my complete ignorance of the existence of The Evens until a few days ago when I saw an announcement in the Albany Metro paper.
Wow am I glad I caught it! The show was simply phenomenal. The show started promptly and unassumingly at 8:30; the musicians right up front with 2 lamps to the sides as the only light show and a couple of small amps behind as the only sound equipment (as Ian said - they tour as a duo in a van and are their own roadies and sound techs). Ian quickly set out to establish a bit of rapport with the audience through some dry humor and stories and anti-authoritarian diatribes, and asked that everyone sit down for the performance (which everyone gladly did). He started out saying he wanted to bring down the barriers between the musicians and audience and create a kind of communal, shared-experience that really resonated with me.
The mostly uncatorizable music is a mishmash of styles, throwing in punk, rock, folk, ambiance, protest music and harmonized vocals in varied measures. The song structures are reminiscent of Fugazi with ripping guitar riffs and crisp but controlled drums, but the vocal delivery and outcomes are very intimate and raw, and if possible, even more direct than Fugazi. They played for a bit over an hour (no warm-up band), which Ian stated upfront using dead-pan humor by saying "just to demystify the process, we'll play for about an hour tonight and you'll know when we're done when we stop playing." At one point when they were rocking out a map fell off the wall to their right (all the walls contained sloppy bookshelves with old, mostly high-school, books occupying them) and an audience member commented that they "rocked the world because they made a world map fall off the wall..."
I was also impressed that Ian made a concerted effort during the whole show to look each audience member (there were maybe 75 people attending) in the eyes at some point - his fierce but honest countenance slowing scanning the audience throughout many of their songs. At the end Ian stayed on and sold his CDs for $10 a pop - shaking each buyer's hand (including my own) with an intense earnestness that was impressive. All in all, one of the best live shows I've attended in a while and certainly doing nothing to diminish the high regard I've always had for the members of Fugazi.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The show looked very interesting, but one thing struck me as they showed all the girls auditioning for the parts in the play (and more specifically as they showed them in the promo shot all walking in a group in slow motion): they were all wearing dresses and high heels and generally presenting themselves as the very "girly" type. This included some high-profile, trail-blazing women in the community such as Calpernia Addams and Lynn Conway.
Now please don't get me wrong - there is absolutely! nothing wrong with being girly and wearing high heels - I like to indulge in it on occasion - it's just not normally my thing; I prefer a t-shirt, jeans and a comfy pair of Mudd shoes in most instances. However, what struck me as I thought upon all the instances of trans-exposure in the media I am aware of, was an absence of those whose gender expression is less oriented to the "traditional" female stereotypes (i.e., make-up, high heels, dresses, and conversely, of less "macho" transmen). In other words, it seems to me that the media (and by extension, our wider society) gravitates to those in the trans community who most closely adhere to the extreme ends of the traditional dual-gender model, leaving those of us with more nebulous outward appearances out in the cold so to speak (or perhaps we just haven't spoken up enough?).
Part of the reason for this, I'm guessing, is that those of us with a more androgynous appearance are harder to categorize and thus harder to relate to since much of how we first relate to people has to do with how they look - this provides us, rightly or wrongly, with queues as to what to say and how to say it (this probably also applies to those who don't consider themselves part of the trans community but that don't adhere to traditional gender appearances either). I think humans much prefer things that are easily categorized, easily labeled (and I supposed from the perspective of a lazy thinker, more easily understood). After all, labels and categorization are the whole basis for human communication systems. There is no way around using them, but we can fight to apply and define our own labels and make sure those labels are not used to judge us when used externally.
As I reread the above, I realize I have not communicated my scatter-brained ideas well at all, but I don't have the time at present to overhaul, so it'll have to do for now.
The readings were fun but the discussion was the best part. Attendance was around a dozen+ or so people and we got into some good, although brief, discussions about gender roles and trans labels and partner support, among other topics. Betty was also in attendance, and they both had, in my opinion, some very insightful opinions to share, as did several of the attendees. I chimed in a couple of times, although sans the wit and clear articulation of Helen, Betty and some of the others. It's awesome to see so many smart minds working within and positively for the trans community. Props out to my friend Jaye for setting this gig up, especially since we missed the panel discussion the night before (if anyone knows of a transcript of that discussion, please post it here!).
Monday, June 18, 2007
It was thoroughly enjoyable and educational and I even managed to survive the stress of co-presenting a half-assed presentation on library instruction with virtually my only preparation occurring at the conference! There are really some innovative librarians in SUNY (especially when it comes to thinking about information literacy and in dealing with the frustrating ALEPH system - thank the gods I only have to deal with the simplest parts of that monstrosity!).
I do find it frustrating, however, in trying to hold conversations with my fellow librarians because my college is just so much different than everyone else's. We have no print collections or even a library building and have very little face-to-face contact with students. Even in today's world of hyper-online library services, a majority of traditional librarian time goes to managing the traditional physical resources. So most people that can get past my nebulous gender expression and engage me in library shop-talk end up being mystified as to what we do all day or jealous that we get to work from home once a week. As I said a couple times, we are truly the black sheep of the SUNY family!
Still, I learned a lot and met some very cool people and I hope got our name out there a little bit. Now I have to think up a good presentation topic (one of my own choosing this time!) for next year's conference...
But first I have to do some more running around like a chicken with it's head cut off because I have less than a week to pack up all my shit and move out of my house and down to Albany (only to move again into a bigger apartment in mid-August!!!)...
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
And it's even more strange that I've managed this state of higher-happiness at present because I'm under a good amount of stress at work - I'm juggling lots of projects and all but managing (sans the most important elements, name and pay scale) a staff of 3 librarians.
On another note, I've become addicted to a video game. I haven't played a video this much, besides online scrabble, since my Junior year in college when all the males on our floor logged enough innings of Atari's RBI Baseball to qualify for the Hall of Fame. The even sadder part is that I'm not addicted to some souped-up virtual realty game played out of a Cube or something, but instead am addicted to a very simple computer game, Bejeweled 2 Deluxe.
This game is really just pattern recognition, except with a time limit so that efficiency of action is essential. To be honest I don't even know all the rules (there don't seem to be any instructions beyond the goal of moving jewels around on a board so you get 3, or ideally, more, of the same jewel in a row so as to remove them from the board and allow more jewels to fill their places and themselves be matched up with companions of a similar hue - it's really just a more instinctual version of Mahjong). I've always had a knack for being able to discern/decode certain odd patterns around me and devise shortcuts to traverse or bypass those patterns, and so I've become quite proficient at this silly little game in a hurry.
So I wonder why it is that, even though I seem to so easily grasp the hidden patterns of the jewels, of the TV mystery plot, of the scrambled words, of the interactions of my mind and body, and of the causes and effects of usability and organization and information, I'm so fucking clueless when it comes to so many things that most people don't even have to think about. Things like making small-talk with acquaintances and colleagues without being completely uncomfortable and at a loss for what to say, being able to understand what my soul-mate is thinking most of the time, or just being able to relax and abide a little silence sometimes...
Thursday, May 31, 2007
- A Canticle for Leibowitz: Walter M. Miller - an apocalytic sci-fi classic from the late 50's. This is a perfect mix of speculative future fiction and discussion about the intersection of religion and culture and history and politics and violence.
- Life: Gwyneth Jones - a brilliantly written work of speculative fiction about relationships and sexuality and gender roles and the struggle of women in science.
- The Plot Against America: Philip Roth - an alternative history work about if the anti-semitic Charles Lindbergh had become president in 1940 and kept America out of World War II. But much more than that, it is an intimate look at a Jewish family from Jersey from the perspective of an anguished 9 year old boy as it struggles against prejudice and fear and its own internal fractures. It's a perfect blend of "what if" fiction and actual history and personal narrative. I felt like I was there and I cried a few times reading it, too.
- Secretary: Maggie Gyllenhal and James Spader deliver subtle and brilliant performances in this quiet, dark and romantic peek into two people's intimate exploration of S&M and how if can set you free.
- Boys Don't Cry: If Hilary Swank's portrayal of the tragic boxer in Million Dollar Baby didn't convince you of her acting brilliance, see this predecessor that put her on the map. It's an equally tragic story of a blossoming but troubled female-to-male transsexual who was murdered.
- Brick: The spunky teenage son from "3rd Rock from the Sun," Joseph Gordon-Levitt, stars in this ultra-cool , hyper-literate, modern-day film noir.
- Primer: An almost incomprehensibly dense, but very thought-provoking, low-budget sci-fi thriller about time-travel. I had to watch this twice to undertsand some parts, but I loved it both times.
- The Fountain: Hugh Jackman and Rachael Weisz star in this brilliantly mystical sci-fi love story by the equally brilliant director Darren Aranofsky ("Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream"). The imagery alone in this film is like pleasantly strolling through a museum of masterpieces, some of which you know contain more meaning than you can discern at first glance.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Here it is in a nutshell: despite specific, concrete LAWS against exactly this: our government can, according to the our current "leaders", and probably has, without judicial oversight of any kind, recorded and combined into a "dossier," at least some of your phone calls, e-mails and web browsing habits, book purchases and library loans, bank and credit card records, as well as travel plans.
There is a wonderful point in the above Frontline program where one guy says that one of the main reasons for the American Revolution was to protest King George's abuse of general warrants, or "writs of assistance" that allowed his men to search inside the homes of whole towns or regions without having any names on those warrants. "They did not ask for proof of guilt; they entered and searched when and where they pleased." More details here:
We Americans need to get waaaaaayyyy more pissed off and vocal about it before our government will take notice and stop these massive abuses of power and erosions of basic civil liberties...
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Despite wave upon recent wave of good tidings, contentment eludes me. I feel more physically complete and mentally at peace with my physical self than I've ever experienced, but the empty paunch where my gender pain and general misery used to be still roils a little. I think I've stepped forward and upward on the self=confidence meter but I'm still reeling from the new heights, still getting my bearings, and for a lifelong high anxiety addict like myself, the absence of fear is just as dizzying.
To the wayside since surgery sit neglected friends and acquaintances alike and voluntary responsibilities and social contacts I worked so hard to make myself comfortable around and feel proud of. Not to mention I've neglected this blog. I can only hope I've not also somehow tainted the only contact that really matters to me: my lover, my comrade-in-laughter-arms, my best friend, my shining star, my soulmate, Jenn. It seems to be the "somehow" that always escapes me in this Second Life reality called "the relationship." Is it something in me (or something crucial missing?) that in my past drove everyone eventually silently, subtly away? Or is my own fear simply drowning out their voices, their pleas for me to hear them?
This isn't to say I sense Jenn moving away from me in any way - she has more than made it clear in word and deed she's committed to me, to us. I hope I've conveyed the same to her. It's just that I sense an unspoken "something different" between us - an unknown just as likely positive as negative, but as graspable as the morning mists rising from the Hudson across the street. I feel the uncanny pull of certain nano-moment-long panic attacks when this mist arises; clueless as to how to swim through it. Is that an excuse or a reason or just tight words slipping from a loose tongue?
I sit here burdened with elation and buoyed by fear, but I'll ride atop this wave and onto the next trusting we'll work it all out. Hopefully I'll also shake off this general life dysphoria once I've sold my house and Jenn and I have a nice apartment and have achieved a semblance of balance in living together that we haven't had to grapple with yet. We should hopefully have more time to relax, to breathe, and to enjoy ourselves relatively free of ungraspable fears at that point.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Hopefully we'll have another weekend set aside in a few months to perform again. And, believe it or not, I've been roped into possibly being a Hedwig next time! I certainly have my work cut out for me - I'll need to watch the movie like a billion more times and spend many horrifying hours in front of a mirror figuring out Hedwig's moves. Hopefully I'll be up to snuff and be allowed on stage! We'll see.
Regardless of all the bad stuff that occurred last weekend but that will remain undocumented here, I had fun this past weekend as the backstage costumier and briefly as the crowd-surfing drag Yitzhak at the end of "Midnight Radio." Hopefully next show I won't be too wracked with nerves in my new role...
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I'm sure that scares the hell out of those of my loyal readers unfamiliar with the exciting world of the library professional. Rest assured, I won't plague these pages with treatise-length diatribes on the Dewey Decimal system vs. the Library of Congress or the best way to shush a loud patron or discuss any of the other ridiculous personality traits assigned to librarians by stereotypes and shallow mass media coverage. Except, of course, to highlight the absurdity of such stereotypes.
In the last year or so I've struggled with many things, not least among them attaining geographical proximity to my girlfriend, getting my surgery done and recovering from it, and just figuring out who I am and how I want to live life fully as a woman. I think in that time I've also come to truly love and appreciate my profession and my current job. I'm one month shy of 4 years at this college, as well as 10 years in the library profession, but it has only been recently that I've realized how much I love my job.
As my therapist pointed out to me: having a stable, reasonably salaried job in which I have an abundance of confidence has allowed me to focus my energies toward overcoming some of the other struggles I listed above. I also realize that having this stable, modestly paid job in a traditionally progressive industry that was so supportive of my transition is a luxury that many of my fellow trans sisters and brothers do not.
Anyways, I'll be down in Arlington for four days in a week at the Computers in Libraries conference (which I love because it blends the tech and traditional library functions well - right up my alley - although the Off-Campus conference which is only held every 2 years is my fave) and staying with my wonderful aunt and uncle and their three kids. I'm not a serious conference goer - I prefer to attend a few select sessions, go to maybe one or two social functions and then get out and about and explore whatever city the conference is being held in. But this time is better as I get to spend some quality time with relatives who I normally only get to see once a year in the summer. The (hopefully) warmer weather down in VA is just icing on the cake...
Friday, April 06, 2007
Luckily I had done my homework and had lined up all my document ducks in a row, and so about 6 weeks after sending them my claim with all supporting documentation, they sent me back a check for all but two grand of the total. I do not begrudge that out-of-pocket $2,000 expense - in fact I welcome it - it gives me a little more sense of accomplishment. I'm the one who did this. I made it all happen and it feels fucking good.
Of course, that money will only be sitting in my bank account for a few days since it has to go immediately to paying back that portion of the cost my parents fronted me, as well as the portion I borrowed more formally with interest attached. Not to mention paying down the high credit card debt I ran up in trying to stash away cash for this monstrous expense.
I'm still shocked everything went so smoothly and as planned. In some ways it all feels like a dream that I still haven't woken up from. I sometimes feel a fleeting sense of guilt in those quiet moments. What did I do to deserve all this while so many t-girls and t-men are struggling just to survive? These waves of guilt are only temporary, but they linger around me during my recurring swings of mild depression like the scent of overripe chopped onions on the tips of my knife wielding hands...
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
"Heavy metal 'a comfort for the bright child'"
Ahhh, the sweet taste of vindication once again...
Some current, recurring habits of mine:
- Reduced Fat Devil Dogs - the devil hi'self must'a made these chunks o choco-cream heaven, me thinks...
- Lost - I'm a sucker for a mystery-puzzle to solve, even though I know the writers of this groundbreaking "weird" show are just making it up as they go...
- Regina Spektor - perfect voice, perfect words, awesome, eclectic music, not to mention hot!
- Fray - Joss Whedon's first and brilliant futuristic, Buffy-verse comic series. My head has been buried in this graphic novel version for the last couple days of reading and rereading. The combination of graphics, storyline and dialogue is breathtaking for a just-returning to the fold, old-hand comic fan like me.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
I'm no forestry expert and so have no idea what kind of wood this antiquated piece of furniture is made of, but it's far more sturdy and long-lasting than the cardboard shit they make furniture out of these days. Or at least the furniture I could even dream of affording, and if I actually had an urge to own good stuff rather than the mostly 70's-era, side of the street on garbage day crap I've always had free access to.
The deep burnt rust with a swirl of truer browns-tinted desk pretty much looks the same as it did so many years ago. I was an anguished teen who felt a need to destroy things as creatively as I was then capable. I mostly used a screwdriver and a bit of one of those foldy boyscout knives, if memory serves.
On the remaining lacquered surface, peppered randomly around the iconic placeholder name are scratched the monikers of an even dozen of my then fave metal bands; Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Triumph, Dio, Dokken and Krokus (what? the FUCK? was I thinking?? Eat the Rich I guess...).
Ok, ok, I know what your muttering to yourself under your breath right now, thinking past the Krokus mention: fuck that, let's get to the real crux of this mystery name, shall we mutherfucker?
Short answer: I have 'nary a clue.
This Harvey-figure name staring up at me from my past with no past itself vaguely disturbs me. Was this some lost to the sands of time demi-god of my patchy imaginary past? Perhaps my childhood chum Tim could (or more likely not) shed some light on the origins of the hero of this name game, I don't know (and we've lost touch for the most part, as I have with all my pre-freedom friends coincidentally, as is apt to happen anyways when you live in different cities, different states, different cultural realities, regardless of one or the other side's gender choices).
I remember this specific name, and not one of the more common ones such as Joe Blow, as my favorite D&D character - the one I fought the hardest to keep alive over the length of my multi-year fling with escapist fantasy games, the one with the deepest personality, in the imaginary dungeons of my mind. I remember him as the title character of several shorter-than-punk-length instrumental ballad-hums I often used to settle myself in quiet, alone moments. As a side bit of oral history, I still find myself humming these machine-gun, action-movie-dramatic sonic patterns. It is only just this moment that I ever made a connection between these child-like musical outbursts and my actual childhood.
Who is this still unformed figure from my past? What did he mean to me back then when I was spending hours obsessively defacing the aged wood into symbols of my uncomfortable reality?
Getting fucking old myself moment # 23: I have no fucking idea.
The portrait of that shy, reclusive boy is mostly faded to near obscurity to me. What I can't figure out, and that's certainly to my mind more important than the original quest for a hero origin story, is whether this current memory-fade-affliction is due more to the simple and natural passage of time, drug and alcohol over-use, or even some instinctual mental defense mechanism to protect the integrity of the still-forming and finally-free me?
Now I must face up to life without the safety-crutch of blaming things that seem wrong around and inside of me on the cruel fates for cursing me with the wrong body. That has for the most part been rectified to my satisfaction. Certainly there are scars left from this 30-odd year process, both physical and mental, that I will continue to struggle with and document on these pages.
I feel like I've crossed some major milestone in my life and the world before me has suddenly opened up beautifully like a flower in bloom; like I've been marching diligently down the middle of a valley my whole life and the two sides of that valley were what I thought was the whole world, but suddenly I find myself atop one side of that valley and I can see expanses of farmlands and towns and lakes for miles and miles beyond.
I realize that this is both scary and exciting. Possibilities and paths to explore have multiplied, but so has my understanding of all that I don't know, that I have yet to learn. Fear may creep in sometimes going forward, but overall this is a wonderful thing - I can move on with my life and find and achieve new goals. I feel like nothing can compare to the fears I somehow overcame as a shy, maladjusted, alcoholic boy who couldn't share any part of her secret dreams with anyone lest she become an outcast.
To this day I have no real idea how I overcame those paralyzing fears. I guess I was somehow able to realize that being a slave to those fears was worse than anything that could ever happen to me by fighting them. So I did and am here to tell anyone else out there like me that it can be done - even by a lazy, self-centered, self-immolating, irresponsible dreamer-dolt like me. But no one can force you to take those fateful steps into battle - you have to do that completely on your own and with enough self-confidence to sustain you for a long period of struggle and setbacks...now hop to it soldier!
Why, then the world ’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.
-The Merry Wives of Windsor. Act ii. Sc. 2
Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.
-Measure for Measure. Act i. Sc. 4. 5
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
- Antibacterial Soap: any cleaning product to which purportedly antibacterial chemicals have been added. These chemicals are thought to kill bacteria. They do not kill viruses, but they do kill skin cells at an accelerated rate. My hands have already tried to strangle me a couple times in the middle of the night in a desperate attempt to stop the constant onslaught of this evil, skin-cracking substance. When I got home from Montreal, I had to go out and buy about 8 gallons of this goo at walmart. I'll need to go back for more very soon.
- Dilating: gradual stretching and enlargement of a hollow structure or opening by the repeated (and repeated again and again) insertion of incrementally larger vaginal stents (see below) over time. This normally refers to childbirth, but even thinking about a woman's ability to pass a small bowling ball-sized object through there seems to me the most amazing feat of all time. Luckily for me on that count, my new plumbing does not give me that procreation option.
- Douching: the use of fluids to irrigate the vagina. In my case that involves the use of a cold vinegar and water solution via an uncomfortably contoured, re-used disposable douche bag twice a day.
- Sitz Bath: a 15 minute immersion via a small plastic tub allowing me to place my new plumbing in a few inches of warm, antibacterial-sudsy water twice a day so as to reduce the chance of infection. I call it "a demi-dousing of the derriere" in honor of its french origins.
- Vaginal Stents: a set of hard plastic tubes of varying diameters that are inserted into a hollow structure of the body to keep it open; i.e., my newly minted vaginal cavity. And no, it doesn't vibrate or even remotely give me any pleasure. At present (the quantity decreases slowly over time) I must jam 3 of these heavily-lubed torture devices into my body three times a day for 3, 5 and 15 minutes consecutively. Some days that seems to add up to like every waking moment - taken together with all of the above, it represents about 25 hours a day of hard labor...
Thank the gods I get to end 1,3 and 4 in about 2 weeks!
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Perhaps there is a part of me that craves the comfort of stealth; of not having to acknowledge my pre-transition past; of not having to deal with the possibility of being seen as a freak. But my logical mind resists that temptation. A big part of the reason I was able to get to where I am now (and ultra-happy about it) is that I realized the burden of carrying such a big secret was destroying me. I don't think there is anyway I could live that kind of life ever again; one ruled by fear of being found out. And while I certainly won't wear a sign around my neck saying "Look at me folks, I'm a post-op transsexual!", I also will not shy away from that part of me, take undue measures to hide it, or be unwilling to discuss it just because someone may be uncomfortable with the issue. I'm proud of who I am. Being transsexual is only a minor facet of me, but it's a part I'm proud of.
I refuse to live in the shadows and so I remain your faithful stealth fighter.
Next step: find her an apartment and then sell my house and move down to Albany with her. Anyone in the market for an affordable country home with 3 acres of land?...
ps: is it redundant to put an exclamation point on the end of the title?
Friday, March 02, 2007
The weather forecasts were calling for a major snow/ice/sleet storm to hit sometime later in the night and since the show was billed as starting at 7 I figured I'd be somewhat safe on the long drive back north. However, I should have known that the show would be running late (it didn't get going until about 9) and so I had to sit in the downstairs bar for and hour and a half by myself sipping Amstel Lights and reading every line and ad in the Albany Metro paper.
I wasn't really in the mood to socialize so I didn't strike up any conversations with the loose gaggle of younger lesbians around me also waiting. They were all busy in their small cliques anyway. And truth be told it's been a while since I've gone to show solo and my self-confidence in such situations is a tad low at present. So I buried my head in the paper and donned a light beer buzz, which was made abundantly necessary by the fact that the bar temperature was hovering somewhere around 50.
When they finally let us upstairs, that area was even more of a dump than the downstairs. But since there were only about 50 people attending the show, that didn't matter much anyways except for one important thing: you could clearly hear the downstairs band through the floor, especially the bass. This was not a good mix for a mostly acoustic set, and both musicians were obviously a bit perturbed by it.
Jay Brannan took the stage quietly and unobtrusively, wearing a simple pair of jeans and t-shirt, along with a shaved head, which contrasted sharply with my image of his Ken doll-like doo in Short Bus. Anyways, the younger lesbians all stood back from the stage a bit for his brief performance (he only played like 4 or 5 songs) while myself and this older guy, a hairdresser named Dave, who had just come to see Jay and left after he was done, stood right up front, where we had been sitting and chatting briefly just prior.
Jay launched into his beautiful finger-picking acoustic set. He commented sarcastically about the cold and about the thumping bass reverberating solidly beneath our feet - both of which I think put him off his game a bit and made it hard for both him and us to concentrate on his delicate guitar playing and singing. That may have played a part in why he launched into a great rendition of N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton." It was both comical and brilliant hearing this skinny, flamboyantly gay white boy sing lyrics like this:
"Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube
From the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes
When I'm called off, I got a sawed off
Squeeze the trigger, and bodies are hauled off"
Damn that boy is good! But alas he only played about 5 songs, including his sweet "Soda Shop" tune from the Short Bus soundtrack.
Bitch (with backing drummer and keyboardist) came on with a lot more energy and enthusiasm, although sadly sans her soul and band mate, The L Word's Daniela Sea. Her show was a good mixture of ripping folksy-post-femme punk songs, spoken-word and stories, and improvisational crowd repartee. And of course the loud, bass-heavy band down below distracted and annoyed her as well, but she played it off well with jokes and a challenge to play louder.
At one point during a song, a loud-mouthed girl standing front and center (she had been sitting next to me downstairs for a while and never did shut up) was screaming into her cell-phone, and everyone, including Bitch could hear her. So this penultimate performer stopped and politely admonished the girl with some light-hearted ribbing and peppered in some harmless digs at her a couple times later in the show as well. Despite the distractions, Bitch was very entertaining and funny and talented - she got some pipes for sure!
When the show got out, the storm had already started. There was a half-inch think layer of slush covering the streets but luckily it was too warm for it freeze and so the drive back, while a bit nerve-wracking, was tolerable. I got to bed around 2 am and had to get up for work at 5, but I survived!