The Wrong End Of Synecdoche

Apparently when I don’t have cable and the only internet I have at home is on my phone, I read. Who knew? Since getting back from Minneapolis I have actually read a couple books, and that long, long reading list I have? I may make progress on it finally (just kidding, it only gets longer). One of the books on that list is Steven Hyden’s Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me (YFBIKM). I’ve long enjoyed his Twitter feed, enjoyed his work at Grantland, and continue to enjoy his work at Uproxx so I figured I would also enjoy this as well. And I did. Quite a bit actually. But I was struck by a couple things. Since I haven’t been reading as many books recently, I really noticed the difference between a couple thousand words and tens of thousands of words. Even in a book where each chapter is ostensibly interchangeable (though not really) there’s still a difference in the scope, and that difference plays out on the page. What one does in a thousand word review is inherently going to be more concise. It has to be. A book allows for a more leisurely kind of writing. For example, I noticed the much larger pop culture lens he approaches music criticism from, especially vis a vis other art forms such as movies which are mentioned quite prominently throughout the book. That kind of space allows more easily for those digressions. After all, there is still plenty of space to make one’s point. Now for my own digression…

The Daily Show (TDS) recently compared the uproar over the new iPhone 7 design to the uproar over us trans folks having rights and being treated like everyone else and all. It was one of those jokes that I’d put in the category of “well-meaning, but poorly executed”. The short version is we shouldn’t care about either, which, okay…I get the point you’re trying to make, TDS, but that doesn’t mean you made it well. Much of that comes down to pretty simple issues of phrasing. The joke positions itself by saying that trans folks used to have a thing but now they don’t and worrying about that is a ridiculous use of one’s time. My interpretation is that is specifically pointed at trans folks that used to have a penis, so trans feminine folk for the most part. And while the joke argues we shouldn’t care about the genitalia anymore than we do about the jack on our phone, it still positions itself in relying on the genitalia of trans folk. That it’s no longer there implies a certain sort of experience, not one that everyone wants, needs, or may ever have to be comfortable with themselves; there is no monolithic universal experience for all trans folks. The joke itself isn’t necessarily virulently transphobic as much as it relies on lazy stereotypes of what it means to be trans. Or, put another way, it reflects how cis folks process and think about our trans experiences all too frequently. Which is still, sadly, very much focused on genitalia. To me, that is the next level that’s so hard to reach with many people. Most people I know aren’t openly transphobic in terms of how they act. But like any form of discrimination it’s not just about being overtly discriminatory. Many people are not overtly so but still propagate discriminatory systems through the way they talk, the way they act indirectly. With some people, it’s a matter of challenging direct actions. But with many people, I’m not challenging active transphobia as much as I’m pushing back against passive transphobia, words and phrases we have never really thought about the true meanings of. Just because we don’t want be a certain way doesn’t mean we aren’t that way. I’m no different in that regard. It takes work, and constant reminders to challenge ourselves and listen when others challenge us. When I look at that joke from TDS, it seems there was no on in the room to say, hey, I get what we are trying to do, but that doesn’t make the point and here’s why.

Which brings me back to one of the non-music aspects that stuck out when I was reading YFBIKM. Here’s the pertinent bit:

When you’re trans, it’s pretty easy to end up on the wrong end of synecdoche. As a society we frequently use this kind of rhetorical short hand. But a penis is not a stand-in for a man anymore than XY chromosomes (if that’s even what one has) mean male. There are plenty of people who will tell you otherwise, but science and personal experience back me up on this one. If sex and gender were that simple we simply would not see multifarious expressions of each in our species (or many others for that matter). This phenomenon is at odds with our need to be clever about how we discuss men and women. Yes most men probably are XY; so are some women, and so are some folks who fall into neither of the majority categories we organize into in a binary society. That may be an inconvenient fact to many, but that doesn’t change that it’s a fact. And for many people, I don’t think it’s inconvenient. I just don’t know if they ever thought about it in that context. Which isn’t necessarily a problem. Much of life is about what one did before, but it’s also about what one does next. Will you make the changes to avoid a phrase or word once you realize it’s problematic? If not, why not? What is your loss in that situation? The loss of clever shorthand for something? I’m not asking anyone to do anything I myself am not trying to do. Being trans doesn’t give me a pass, it just makes me more sensitive to the ones that obviously pertain to me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t used words and phrases in the past that I should not have. English is a great, deep language that still has so many other fun words and inclusive ways to say what we mean. Of course it takes more than this to affect true change in the world. But how we think and talk about subjects does matter.

It’s not a binary world, even if most of the discussions in the book based on binaries. I’m clever enough to appreciate that kind of irony, you know? This didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book at all. It’s just one of those things I noticed and it got the wheels turning a bit. I don’t know how to turn off that part of my brain. I always notice it. Perhaps you didn’t; perhaps you don’t ever have to think about it. But perhaps now you will next time.

You & I Go Together Like A Cherry & A Spoon

The Twin Cities have an allure I cannot deny. I feel it in the anticipation between trips back, from the first sip of Furious once we’ve reached a safe cruising altitude to the last gasp to cram in just one more sight or sound before I resign myself to returning to Terminal 2. It’s in the latest building converted to condos in Lowertown, the next declaration that Uptown is finally over. It’s in the bike lanes, the lakes, the palpable fear in August there will not be many more days like this. Because there won’t be. So we must live them all because winter is coming and with it, a different pulse, an icy resolve to keep that vivacity alive, no matter how early it gets dark, no matter how many layers it takes.

But here comes that ambivalence again. I love the permanent autumn of San Francisco, watching fog roll over the Presidio through summer until we get our oddly placed one in September and October. It feels weird to bike without a hoodie and a toque whenever I leave. I could live in the bulk section at Rainbow, and I can always get a good burrito. Minnesota is where I’m from, but California is where I live, and will for the foreseeable future. Even as horribly broken as it is at times, it’s still an amazing place. Though honestly, I’ve been served up a heaping amount of dumb luck which I plan to keep on taking advantage of, so what do I know?

Invariably, any discussion of San Francisco turns to how much it costs to live there, or by proxy, how much it costs to live anywhere else. And it’s hard not to notice that everywhere you go. Most taprooms have $5 pours instead of $6. Everything costs just a few cents less at Target. Perhaps it’s a function of how I spend my time and money, but a lot doesn’t seem to cost that much less. I know it adds up; it’s an extra beer here or there or a couple more shows. Then again, I wouldn’t be making the same money in Minneapolis as I do now. Perhaps I could parlay that if I really tried, but I know what the pay scale is at Wells. I’m just trying to be honest here. While it’s not just about the money, I do like paying the rent. Well, I don’t, but my landlord likes it when I do. Still, who doesn’t live in San Francisco and have a escape route? It’s just as essential as an earthquake kit, and much the same you never know when you’ll need it. Because when you do…

So I idly browse Craigslist in Minneapolis (and let’s be honest, Portland). It’s nice to daydream in those bad days. Then it’s nice to go for a run and look at the Bay Bridge and say to yourself, “That’s the fucking Bay Bridge”. And remember how I mentioned those heaping amounts of good luck? The apartments aren’t that much cheaper everywhere else because of that. If I were rent-poor I already would have made my escape. Though you may doubt it, I’m not that much of a fool (most days). If I think about it, I can frequently pinpoint the frustrations that leave me feeling like it’s time to get out of here. Work is frequently the culprit and the best paths up seem to be elsewhere some days, Charlotte or back to Minneapolis or just anywhere but here. Perhaps the future for me is NoDa, but it’s more likely Northeast. It’s always been Minneapolis, it always will be.

My only constant sometimes seems to be that ambivalence. I don’t see it as a negative. It’s important to question yourself. Just don’t forget to live your life in the process. I appreciated getting caught in a storm in Minneapolis. Because it’s novel. Because it was a reminder I definitely was not in San Francisco in August. I appreciate falling into old patterns when I am back. I miss the fog. But I don’t pine for it. And it will be waiting for me anyway. If I don’t ever appreciate being in Minneapolis, then I should just get on the next plane out of town. Minneapolis is never just a vacation. It’s so effortless. If it ever is right then I probably will move back. Until then, I’ll dream about that investment property I can Airbnb all the weeks I’m not in Minnesota. It’s a good dream, and if it ever comes true, then perhaps it’s more than that. But for know, I have a life to live back in the City that I don’t exactly shy away from. And I plan to live it

The calculus remains the same, though. Minnesota has made an indelible mark on me; how do I keep the Twin Cities a permanent part of my life in more than just memories? That’s what every trip back is about. I didn’t figure it out anymore on this trip than the others. But between sidling up to the bar at The Depot or biking the Greenway most days or wandering the Fair or chatting with the wonderful people at Bang, I found what I was looking for. Minnesota is a part of me. We will always go together like a cherry and a spoon. Which perhaps doesn’t make sense, except that it makes perfect sense. Perhaps you just don’t understand. Perhaps you just need to go to Minnesota to find out

Going Home

When I went to college in Iowa, I went as a Virginian. When I moved to Minnesota after college, I was still Virginian. But I moved to California as a Minnesotan. Something happened in those intervening ten years. I wonder about it a lot. Virginia will always be where I was born, nothing can change that, it’s what the birth certificate says and everything. But where I’m from? That will always be Minnesota. I live in California as a Minnesotan with Midwestern roots and even if I stayed here for the rest of my life, I’d still be more Minnesota than anything else. You can see it in the First Ave hoodie and the love of Doomtree, you can see it in how well I still know the streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, you can see it in how often I go back. It’s the place I go back to; it’s the place I’ll always go back to. It’ll always be the place I wonder about leaving, the place I dream about going back to when I’m low, and the place I still try and figure out how I’ll own a second home in even if I never leave San Francisco (because who can afford a first home here?)

I used to think each trip back would get easier. But now I’m not so sure. This has…not been the greatest few months professionally, and San Francisco has always been a tough city personally. I love it, its hills, the ocean, the Pliny on tap, how much music rolls through town (and how much is still here if you don’t believe the lies), how much different nature is just a few short hours away, how easy it is to get so many places in the US and internationally when SFO is your home airport. But it is hard to connect with people here. We all seem overburdened, and it’s hard to escape that feeling we are all plotting our exit strategies. It’s hard to afford all those shows. It’s hard to keep up here, even if you are fortunate. I don’t know if that’s a function of the place, of my age, or of everything else in my life. 2+ weeks back in Minnesota and Iowa both makes me homesick and reinforces that it’s not where I live anymore. Perhaps it just the deep ambivalence that is a hallmark of who I am. Ambivalence or no, I need to step away from the fog for a bit.

A trip back to Minnesota and Iowa isn’t going to solve my problems (as much as people seem to like saying that). Perhaps it will provide me with some perspective, though. Or perhaps it’ll be nothing more than a couple weeks away from some of the other problems in my life. A couple weeks to play games with old friends, to see a couple old friends get married, to eat Pizza Luce too many times, to bike to the new breweries in Minneapolis and Saint Paul while still hitting the “old” ones that aren’t so old. It’s amazing how time passes, how there are people that I met there and I realize I have known them 10+ years now. In Iowa, I’ll see great friends I’ve known even longer. I’ll see the campus I first went to half a lifetime ago, as a quite different person. Hell, it’s August, the Four Seasons Fountain might even have water in it. Time is a constant, yet time comes at you fast. It’s funny like that.

Sometimes you just have to appreciate something for what it is. I learned long ago that you cannot make problems go away by ignoring them. But sometimes you do need to step away from them for a bit. Sometimes you need to go home, to go someplace you are comfortable, to go someplace where people know you and there’s nothing to explain. Sometimes you just need to drink an EPA, play some cribbage, watch the Twins, and feel like it’s still 2006. Even when it’s not. Even when it’s materially different and you know it. There’s a difference between pretending and forgetting. I try not to do the former, and I wish I were better at the latter at times. Right now I just need to forget some things. Or remember some things I’ve long since forgotten. Perhaps something long ago will remind me of how to proceed here and now. Or perhaps there’s no need to ascribe any significance to it. We go home to get away from it all. We go home because it is hopefully a safe place. We go home to forget and remember all at once. Home is a construct. Home is the City of Lakes. And even if it’s only been a few months, I’ve been gone too long.


I’d like to think of myself as straight. I know, I know, it’s so boring. Who wants to be straight anyway? But I think I’ve done enough self-examination to know where I stand on this. Perhaps the act of being straight is nice and easy for those of you out there who are (raise your hand, most of you). Actually, it’s pretty straightforward for me too (pun totally intended). Perhaps you’ve never really thought about it, though, so let’s pull apart some of the constructs of heterosexuality for a minute.

Like any social construct it hasn’t been around forever even if we feel like it has. That’s not really the point I’m trying to make, though. When I say heterosexuality, I am talking about attraction to people of the opposite sex. But there, we’ve already made a misstep. Or we haven’t made a misstep but it would be more appropriate to say heterosexual attraction consists of two people from the two opposite sexes that the majority of folks ascribe to. It’s an important distinction. The majority is no more normative than the minority. All variations are normal; some are just composed of more individuals than others. As we use that term, though, even if you’ve never thought about the lexical properties of it, those are properties that are implied therein as most folks use it.

The lexical properties of heterosexuality also imply cisness to many people. It is a limited view and a terrible assumption, but in my personal experience, it’s quite prevalent. I’m not here to extol the virtues of passing (far too much emphasis is placed on it, for the comfort of cis folks, not the well-being of trans folks) but I understand why anyone would want to. It fails to address the underlying problems, but I get not wanting to be misgendered during simple day-to-day transactions. I get not wanting to draw the wrong kind of attention to yourself that may lead to something much worse than being called sir by a bouncer at a bar. It seems like it may make things easier to some degree, but I think that is an illusory sort of comfort. A lot of this is about illusion, after all. It’s the appearance of normalcy so many folks seem to crave. Add to that a rather limited view of masculinity in terms of what is or isn’t acceptable, and it’s not a great world out there for trans women who are attracted to men. Masculinity is such a fragile construct; anything that shatters that illusion is dangerous. Even appearing to be in a relationship with a trans person is a real blow to that construct, especially if you are a cishet man.

At best, I am moving through a world that treats me like a woman. At worst, I am moving through a world that still treats me like a man (trust me, there are not really any ancillary benefits to that. It’s not like I get paid like a man). And sometimes, I am moving through a world that doesn’t quite know how to treat me, that doesn’t really see me as female, but also doesn’t see me as male either. It happens less now, but it still happens. I have no problem being straight as much as it is difficult to find men who accept me as who I am. Which necessarily affects my chances of dating. I am not, and will not be, your secret shame. I am perfectly happy to remain single instead of hidden. I spent far too much of my life hidden to go back into any sort of situation like that. I’ve been on enough first dates to know. I’ve seen the look that says “you should have said something”. I’ve been in conversations that stopped as soon as I say I’m trans. I don’t run from it any more than I grab a megaphone and shout from the hilltops that I am. I shouldn’t have to do either. I am proud to be trans and live openly, but that doesn’t mean I owe any man anything in regard to who I am.

To bring it back to the idea of heterosexuality, in my experience, most men who are willing to being in a relationship with me don’t identify that way. Which isn’t a problem, I honestly think it’s awesome that people find who they are. It just says a lot of men seem to have to break out of the limited constructs of masculinity and heterosexuality before they are comfortable with the idea of a relationship with a trans person. While I personally identify as straight, there’s a good chance anyone open enough to be in a relationship with me may not. Which is funny when you think about it. Or perhaps I just laugh because sometimes it’s better than crying. Within all of this, I wonder if how I identify necessarily affects my chances of meeting folks. But I don’t think that’s it. All I’m trying to be in this world is who I am. And who I am is a straight trans woman waiting for a world to catch up.

More Or Less

Like many folks, I’m excited for the season finale of Game of Thrones this weekend. It’s been fun watching the women take the reins this season, even as it’s had some missteps, and I’m curious to see how they will shape affairs heading into the next season. But I’m also excited because that means the last thing I want to watch is over for the time being. Sure, I’ll come back for Last Week Tonight later, but that isn’t exactly appointment television as much as it is television I can watch. Which means I can call Comcast bright and early on Monday and tell then I’m canceling my cable.

It’s been fun to have. I watched a lot of hockey this year, and it was great to be able to watch Sharks games this season. But like many things, I wonder about the cost. Cable is not cheap, and my time with Comcast is nearing an end anyway as Sonic rolls into my neighborhood quite soon and I can leave behind their middling internet for gigabit fiber (and apparently a home phone?). Sometimes living on the west side pays off, and in this case, it’s a boon to be in the Richmond or the Sunset. I look forward to not only getting faster service, but paying less for it.

I also look forward to moving away from my television more. The thing about having cable is it’s very easy to start using it. It’s insidious how it pecks away at one’s time. It’s fun to believe the internet invented that phenomenon, but it’s existed as long as we have had convenient distractions. Perhaps you don’t have that issue, but I certainly do. And even if it’s just Sportscenter on in the background while I’m doing something else, it’s on, it’s there. Streaming services may have perfected the “one more episode” model of sucking us in; add that to all those channels at your disposal. I feel like there were quite a few shows I added to what used to be a tighter rotation of what I was watching in previous years. Because I could. Because I was paying for it. To say nothing of the many, many hockey games on most nights. I enjoyed it, but now, I feel it’s time to renegotiate my relationship with television.

Given that time is finite, what do I want to do with the time I’m allotted? What will I do with the time I get back because I’m not watching a baseball game I really don’t care about that much as I surf the web? What else should I be consciously trying to change about what I’m doing? I don’t like making completely intangible goals, though some of these inevitably appear that way. Like, sure, be more present is a great idea, but what does that mean? And why are we judging whether we’re using a device as being present? Maybe I’m talking with a friend half a world away with my phone while at a show? Maybe that’s a cool thing too. What I’m looking at and thinking about are more tangible uses of time and what I have here. Moving to San Francisco, I winnowed out a lot of stuff, but it builds back up. And some of it I never use. What should I do with those board games that collect dust? What about the books that do the same? With that in mind, here’s some things I’d like to be better about going forward.

Listen to records more

I have a decent record collection; I like it; I don’t play it all that much anymore. It’s hard to listen to a record and watch tv. There’s lots of stuff I own that I don’t have digitally. There’s lots of stuff I never think to play when I’m using my phone because I don’t see my collection in the same way. It’s time to find some of those records I forgot I had, to spend more time with those records that I cannot listen to any other way (that goes for the tapes too). I have it because I like it. So I should use it. This is a pretty easy one because I feel I’ve barely been listening at home recently. It may also finally give me the motivation to either get wireless speakers or a shitton of speaker wire and some Goodwill speakers for the kitchen too.

Read more

I should qualify this. I do lots of reading. I think most anyone in this day and age does. But I’d rather do more in-depth reading. Novels, non-fiction, whatever. I’d rather just spend time with a topic beyond a few thousand words at the most like I do on the internet. Some topics only require a few thousands words; many require much more. I have books on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read for years now. I have a library card. I live walking distance from both Green Apple locations. I should be able to do this. One of the projects I stalled on was the Hugo/Nebula winners. It’s time to get back into that. Another easy one, since I haven’t spent much time reading anything of length recently, which I’m ashamed to say as an English Lit major.

Run more

The funny thing about television is how it can dictate a schedule if the main reason you have it is for live sports. That’s the main reason I had it, and those game times are set. I can catch up with a show in a couple days, but that’s not how live sports works. That’s why they charge the most for that package. The funny thing about living on the West Coast is that sports are on at weird times if you grew up following an East Coast team, like 4 pm. Which is awesome, it’s fun to watch a Caps game and still have my night, but something’s gotta give in that equation. One of those things that gave more often than not was going for a run. Then you might have a couple beers, and then you’re like, should I really go for a run? And then you don’t. While my mileage is up from this time last year (254 miles at present) I’d like to up that. I’d like to become more consistent about how many times I’m getting out in a week. I’d like to become more consistent about running when I’m on vacation. Can’t hang that all on the tv. But it’s one more excuse at times.

Bike more

Two weekends ago, I took the ferry over to Alameda and biked down to Hayward. It was a nice ride along the Bay, through quite a bit of land I’d never really spent much time in. There’s so much I haven’t seen in the Bay Area, not that you can do it all in three years by any means, but there’s so much more to explore. I still need to figure out a random weekday to go to the Pulgas Water Temple. John Muir’s home is calling my name. I still haven’t tackled Mount Tam. It takes a little more planning, but it’s easier to bike to many more places than you think much of the time. My mileage is down from last year (only 1,592 miles at present), and it only looks that good because of a really strong past few weeks (thanks Vancouver!). I have a slightly shorter commute now (cut about 1.5 miles round trip) so some of that is to be expected. But it’s time to start making that up on these longer summer evenings and weekends.

Write more

I always say this. It’s always true.

Drink less

I enjoy a fine adult beverage. But I feel I’ve probably been having more than I should recently. Sometimes it’s just saying no to that last one of the night that you don’t really need. Sometimes it’s just not having one at all on a night like tonight. I’m still gonna go to Novel Brewing tomorrow because it sounds awesome and I’m gonna be in Oakland for work. I’m still going to try lots of new and exciting breweries and distilleries and bars and visit old favorites. I will still throw back a few with you the next time we see each other (if that’s something we do together). It’s just cutting back on the reflexive drinks. Especially now that I rarely ever drink soda, it’s very easy to just order a beer with a meal or open one at home. And that’s not a problem. But everything is a balancing act. I feel like I may have gotten a bit out of balance on this front over the past few months. It’s just something to be cognizant of.

Put things off less

It doesn’t really take that long to do the dishes. But some nights, I was racing to get dinner in before a show would start, and after sitting on the couch for an hour, I’d lack the motivation to finish up the dishes properly. I don’t think that’s magically going to change, but not having something like that I’m dedicating my time to should make it easier, no? I hope. And sure, some nights I’m just barely getting the laundry out of the machine before rushing off to a show, but most nights, I have the time, I just don’t use it for those little things that take 10-15 minutes when I should. I should figure out what I’m bringing to work the night before instead of the morning of. I should wash the dishes as they come up so I don’t have a nightmare scenario like I’ve had this week (in fairness, I made a lot of brunch). I should put my laundry away in a timely fashion because dammit, I just should. Living alone is nice, I don’t have to worry about pissing anyone off with that kind of stuff. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone light that fire under you. I gotta do it myself. I’ve been abysmal at it recently, so it time to be better.

Sleep more

I get enough sleep. But I could stand to get a little more most nights. I should be in bed by 11:30 unless I’m out. Instead I fritter away who knows how much time in front of a television. TV is weird like that. Granted, I can still do that with the internet, and probably will. But a girl can dream.

Get out more

It’s been a while since I made it back to Corona Heights. Or Tank Hill. Or McLaren. It’s been too long since I made my way to Mount Davidson. Or Mount Olympus. I haven’t stopped by Retrofit in a while. Or any of the other fun vintage shops up and down Valencia. San Francisco has a lot of nice parks and quirky little spots, I’ve been to a lot of them. It’s time to get back to some of them again. It’s time to take advantage of these longer summer evenings, and since our weather is broken, that goes double for the outdoor stuff. The tv is still gonna be here when it’s dark and the shops are closed.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning how to renegotiate our little habits. And change is a good opportunity to examine other ones. I am a big proponent of the fact we should always been examining our lives, making tweaks and changes, big and small, as appropriate. We can’t just wait for January 1st, and besides, that’s an arbitrary date. I’ve been looking at some of the little things I’ve been doing and thinking to myself “why am I doing that?” I’ve been asking, and I’ve had some reasons, or more likely, excuses; now that some of them are gone or will be soon. I’ve been awful with the deck this year, though I have been doing it. It’s designed to make me do some of those things outside of my comfort zone and make me reexamine my relationship to some things. I should pay more attention to it. I should pay more attention. Perhaps with one fewer distraction, now I will.

You Were Not Always You

I haven’t done this every year. But most years, June rolls around, I count to a new number, and I reflect. Some years I say it better than others. I’ll always remember June 2nd, 2008. It is a tangible date made whole, the culmination of actions and decisions and truly it will always be one of the most realized days of my life. Though the act of coming out, of truly being yourself, has more than a single date attached, I hope some day this is something most younger people will never understand. But I don’t think we’re there yet. And there are always going to be folks who just need more time to figure out who they are, even in a more open world. Perhaps you have never had a date like that, perhaps you will never need one, though it is worth remembering that is not the case for everyone. That’s why it’s important to be openly and visibly trans, to foster a world where, if you do not yet know that date, even if you are not aware that is how you will be yet, hopefully the date you get to be your best self is coming soon. Not everyone gets to show up and just be themselves. Most of us have to find ourselves, in a world that still does not want us to do that.

If you are so fortunate that you’ve never had to think about anything like this, perhaps reflect on those who will never be fortunate enough to be themselves. Perhaps reflect on that cost. Perhaps reflect on that loss. We have a lot of work yet to do to create a society that allows each of us to show up as ourselves. When I talk about showing up as myself, that doesn’t mean I’m always walking into a room waving a trans pride flag. Part of being who we are is just as much getting to bring all of who we are as it is not having to put that forward if we choose not to. Much of that gets back to agency. The same agency to be ourselves applies to telling our stories or how we show up to anything. Some of us have less choice in that matter, of course, not fitting into the strict rubrics of what we expect from the gender binary. That’s what causes that tension, that’s what makes it so hard to be ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to tell our stories if we choose. That’s why it’s so important to not fit in, to be not who everyone has told us we should be but who truly are, in whatever way that is.

The past year has been a pretty good one for me personally, but in the broader scope, it felt like a backwards slide. I finally changed my birth certificate and passport, finishing off the last tangible documents I needed to take care of, which I assure you is no small feat. But it feels like much of the world around me is moving in a different direction. As trans visibility increases, the reaction is not celebration, but reactionary fear. Cities and states reject expanded equality protections on the grounds they include trans people. Some places have gone so far as to outright criminalize the act of using a public restroom while trans. I feel like I see more people baselessly comparing trans women to predators. And while I’m heartened by the lack of success and pushback I see in some places, there are still far too many outlets that do not challenge these lies about who trans folks are. They uncritically promulgate fear without facts, failing to mention there has been no instance of anyone pretending to be trans to do this. And as even respected media outlets continue to fumble in their coverage, promoting outright hate, it’s trans folks who pay that price. It takes a toll. For me it’s just a mental one; for less fortunate trans folks, particularly trans women of color, it’s much more than that.

Perhaps I’m just more aware of it. I am definitely more aware of my relative position within the overall community than I was eight years ago. One of my goals in the past few years has been to get more involved, and I feel like this is a year that I have finally done a good job of realizing that goal. Not that there is a right or wrong way to be involved. Sometimes it’s the conversations over a dinner or a drink, personalizing while also highlighting I have had a fairly exceptional experience in most regards. Sometimes it’s just taking a few hours a week to volunteer at the SF LGBT Center. Sometimes it going into a space that ostensibly is supposed to include you and doing the work to make sure it is more inclusive, which is why I recently got involved with PRIDE through my employer  again.

That, perhaps, is the best extension of where I am now. I still take care of myself. The whole idea of coming out, of being my best self, it’s been about self-care. Hopefully, I take better care of myself at 35 than I did at 27 because I’ve put in that work. But I am less centered on taking care of myself than I ever have been. Because I don’t need to be anymore. I was not always me and lots of other folks helped me become the person I am now. You were not always you, either. We all need help sometimes. Perhaps more than we would like to admit. Though, I think that is more something we need to change about our society. I could have never done any of this by myself. I am the beneficiary of the hard work and sacrifice of many trans people who came before me. My life may not be easy, but it is certainly easier because of the work of many people I can never properly thank, many people I never can or will know. The only way I can think to thank them is to keep doing that work in whatever way I can. Even if it’s better than it used to be, it’s not nearly good enough. There is still more to do. I can’t wait to see where we’re at next year.

We Are Not Alone

When I walked into the room, I knew I’d be the only trans person. I experience that feeling a lot. Unless it’s a PWR BTTM or G.L.O.S.S. show, I know what kind of crowd I’ll see at the Rickshaw or the Knockout. When I sit at the bar at Church Key, I know who else is coming in for $7 beers; hint, it’s not a lot of other trans folks. But this was different. This was an LGBT focused event hosted by my employer. There were over 30 people there. But I still knew. Well, I don’t really know. We never really know. That’s what makes moving through any space as an out trans person so important.

I was having a conversation with someone about my professional goals, talking about how I want to keep moving up in the company. Obviously this is not an entirely altruistic goal. I’m a good employee and I feel I bring a lot of value, but I also like paying my rent, and San Francisco isn’t getting any cheaper. But I also want to provide an example I’ve never seen as a trans employee rising through the ranks. I don’t know any out employees in senior leadership positions. That’s a gap we still haven’t closed. It is better than it used to be, but coming out can still have an adverse affect on one’s career. I want to see that example of someone moving up, of someone not being held back because of who they are. I think about possibility models, and we’re not all going to be actors, models, writers, and activists. So sure it’s a little selfish, I want to get mine, but I also want to be that person who shows others being yourself won’t hold you back, no matter what it is you do. I want someone else to see that. I want to become the example I never had.

There is power in harnessing being that out person. I don’t want to be THE trans employee. But I am a trans employee. I own that. There is power in being that out person willing to start those conversations. Not that it is any trans person’s job to educate others. Many folks just want to live their lives.I can only provide one person’s experiences and thoughts. I don’t speak for the entire community anymore than anyone else. But I do have the capacity to have those conversations. Some of that is the fortune of a life that has unfolded quite well. So part of me that likes to pay back that relative fortune by giving back where I can, whether that’s time, money, or words. But I just like having those conversations. Not everyone does, but I think that’s just who I am, who I’ve always been. Hopefully it’s better than 2008, but there’s still a chance that I’m the first trans person someone actually meets.

A funny thing happens when we start telling our stories. We realize we are not alone. Our stories are acts of recrudescence, and in that renewal we forge connections. Despite our differences, many of us have more in common than we sometimes remember. With an LGBT audience, there is the shared experience of trying to figure out who we are in a world that goes out of its way to bury examples of who we are, of who we can be. The shared pain of being punished by a world for who we are, the shared joy of overcoming that. It can be easy to focus on the differences, and we should talk about them. HB2 affects me on a much more personal level, just by virtue of the fact it was explicitly passed to try and keep me out of bathrooms in many places in North Carolina. But it’s not my struggle alone. It never was, and it never will be. These bathroom bills may explicitly target trans women, but they rely on noxious enforcement of specific gender norms about who looks like they belong in places. That’s something anyone who’s a little different than society tells them they should be can understand. And I was in a room full of people who are a little bit different than society has told us we should be.

I can’t reach everyone, of course. But it’s not about reaching everyone. It’s about reaching those I can. Sometimes it’s just starting those conversations. Sometimes it’s standing up to be counted. Sometimes it’s pushing back when the next person shares some terrible meme on Facebook. The most powerful tool I have is my voice. And while I don’t go looking to pick fights with bigots, I also won’t back down. I refuse to be silenced. Other people need to hear our voices. There are still folks out there who need to see they are not alone. Keep talking, keep reaching out, keep an open mind, keep hoping, and keep working toward those hopes because they just don’t happen on their own. That’s what I can do. The next time I walk into that room? Hopefully I won’t be the only trans person there.

No One Tells Me To Smile

“What’s up baby?” He almost whispers as he gives me an upnod. It’s like he doesn’t want anyone else to hear. I almost don’t catch it as I am running by. It’s unwanted male attention in its mildest form, not lascivious but still uncalled for. Harassment almost seems like too strong a word yet that’s what it is. By the time I process all of what just happened, I am already gone, 10 strides up the street and more focused on finishing my run than anything. But it sticks with me. Both in the sense that it was unwanted and it is exceedingly rare in my life, which I appreciate. But I never like dwelling on why.

I am in a Uber in Charlotte, on my way back to the hotel. The driver of the Dodge Charger, he’s telling a story about helping these two women change a tire. He keeps laying it on thick, all hand gestures even as he speeds down I-85. He spits out a string of puerile terms to describe what he seems to think is just his objective appreciation of these two women, slamming, smoking, and so on. Objective and like an object are so similar and yet so different. I am reticent to say anything, so I opt to say nothing at all. I just want to get back to my hotel safely. I know the tenor of these stories, the way men talk when they don’t think women are around. I still hear them with far too much frequency.

My contact in Charlotte is introducing me to folks in the office. It’s good to put faces to names, but this is the entire reason I dreaded this trip. Once or twice, people are pretty good about pronouns. But over and over? I’ve heard this script before. Before long it’s just he, over and over. Did everyone else notice? Of course they did. Later I learn someone did notice, but was just following my lead. Maybe I should speak up. But I don’t know what to say. It’s hard enough with people I know better; it’s even more difficult on a work trip surrounded by strangers. No one else says anything either. No one else ever says anything. I tell my boss about it after the trip. He gets madder than I did about the whole thing and asks if I want to do anything about it. I say no. He did the exactly the same at our last team gathering.

I sip on a Metro Lager at Sutter St Station. I am running early for a meet up with a guy from a dating site. He comes in a couple minutes early and gives me that look. You know that look. Actually, hopefully you don’t. It’s loud so he asks if I wanna go someplace quieter to talk. I agree and finish my beer though I’m in no rush. I already know where this is going. The first thing he says when we get outside is that I didn’t say I was trans. He demands to know why. I respond with a question, why I am obligated to make that one of the first things I say about myself? It’s a valid question, one he doesn’t even attempt to answer, one no man in my experience ever attempts to answer. He then demands to know if I am fully trans. I wish I didn’t know what he means by that. But I know exactly what he means. I have spent my whole life trying to distance myself from people like this. But there’s just as many of them in San Francisco as there were in Minneapolis. I tell him that he can keep walking toward the Ferry Building. I turn back towards Sutter St Station.

This is all just the past month or so. I am sure there are more examples, but I forget more than I remember. I don’t know how else to survive. Next month will provide more anyway. I know I am luckier than most, that despite the psychic toll, what I deal with is largely benign with regard to me well-being and safety, and much less than many trans folks. That realization leaves me speechless some days. I know who I am. I don’t need the validation of others. But it’s hard to shake those specters. After eight years, I thought people would be better. Certainly many things are. But not nearly enough. I can’t keep waiting for the world to catch up. But I can’t make it move any faster either. No one wants to be harassed and no one should be. It’s rare anyone touches me awkwardly; no one tells me to smile. I am grateful, since that should not happen anyway. But it’s not because men have magically figured out how to treat me alone better. Without asking, I’ll never really know why. But I know why.

Questioning Myself

Do you remember when you were good at anything?

I turn up the music in my headphones and look back at the screen. Two cubes over, coworkers drone on about whatever they grilled this weekend. Typically meaningless Monday banter about what we did this weekend. As opposed to typically meaningless Friday banter about what we are going to do on the next one. How often do our visions of the weekend on Friday line up with the sad realities of Monday? Or do we just need 48 hours to come up with more meaningless banter? I don’t know. Some people seem to be an endless wellspring of that. I start hammering at the keys.

Do you?

The cursor blinks as I stare down unending strings of numbers on the screen. No matter the education, this is life for so many of us. Or life for me. The only suite you and I will ever know anything about is the Microsoft suite. How many widgets do I have to move today? Or how many bits and bytes do I have to move since I have nothing to show for what I do every day? It’s not like I can ever point to something and say “look at this thing I made with my hands”. I won’t ever be able to take any of this home and say “I did this”. In fact, if I took any of this home, I’d have to find something new to do rather quickly.

Were you really ever?

My boss sends me an email. Can we meet in 15 minutes? Of course we can. It may be polite to put it as a question, but it’s a statement. The illusion of choice. I’m sure plenty of smart people somewhere have written volumes about why that matters, the difference between being asked and being told. But is there a difference when you can see right through it? How many relationships are built on false politeness? How many people do you tolerate because you have to? How many do you actually like? I shake my head and get to work on my first widget of the day. They don’t produce themselves, and if they did, then they wouldn’t need us anyway.

Do you remember what that was like to care?

The door clicks behind me. My boss begins with a grandiloquent speech. Tightening belts, hard times, everyone making sacrifices, and then she slides a piece of paper across. This is how many extra dollars all the widgets I produced last year are worth. I was shocked by the number years ago, now I’m just inured. How much is your CEO worth? A lot more than you. At least he looks good in a suit. Sometimes I think that’s the only qualification; you’d think he could buy better ones with all that money. My boss has been talking the entire time, so I nod. Keep it up and next year something good will happen. Next year. Carrot and stick. Mostly stick. I’ll get less for the same number of widgets next year, because now I have to do more to get the same. That’s how it’s worked every year. It’s perverse, but nonetheless true.

Did you ever actually know?

No, no, go to lunch without me. I can’t stand the thought of staying late just to hear about your dog. Maybe at a happy hour. At least then there’s beer. And we can say the things we want to say. We still speak in code though. Everyone still has rent to pay, so it’s hard to be too truthful. It’s all qualifiers. It seems, I feel, I believe. But we all know. I know you get paid for me even though I do more just because you’re a man. I know we can’t talk about that either. They say it would breed resentment, make us less productive, but I’m no fool. Information is power. None of us have power; no one intends to change that. Please, though, tell me more about your dog.

What happened to you?

Another email. They are switching the creamer in the office to a cheaper type that lasts longer. Also, please bring in your own mugs. For the environment. Next email. Record profits. We couldn’t do it without your excellent work. Yet another email. We’re going to need those widgets a bit quicker now. I hear muttering from a few other cubes around me. I guess that’s just less time I spend reading Buzzfeed. It doesn’t really matter how many widgets it is. Less Sisyphus and more Zeno, but neither of them ever finished. I roll my shoulders. Time to start pushing again.

Is this it?

I power down the computer. It’s not my computer. Nothing here is mine. There’s been a string of break-ins so lock it in the drawer. I’m the last one in the office, so there’s no one left to say goodbye to. I grab my things, out the door. Make sure it’s shut. We wouldn’t want another break-in after all. Down the stairs, and already I can barely stand the thought of doing this all again tomorrow. I match my record of making it to the platform before feeling that way. How much longer can I do this? Either way, I have a train to catch.

You Know I Dreamed About You

One of the cool things about modern life is the ability to connect. As a trans woman, that would have been awesome when I was younger, but I was not quite savvy enough for the channels that were there then. These days? A Twitter handle and a hashtag will do the trick. And once you end up connected to the periphery, you soon find yourself connected to exactly as much as you want to be, whether that’s a lot or a little. Perhaps I would have been more connected, but I had already been out a long time before I really came to Twitter. No matter though. It’s still nice to be connected to a community no matter when you find it. One of the messages I see kick up is that you (you being the trans person) are worthy of love. Which is all fine and well. It’s a great and true message. But where do I find that?

Perhaps at a previous in point in life, I’d feel that I were not worthy of love. I am wise enough now to know that is not true. But I feel live pithy wisdom elides over the gap between “you are worthy of love” and “you can find the people who are willing to be those people”. Which hey, I get it, we all face that. It’s neither fate nor does it happen on accident. Some degree of it is just putting in the effort. It’s not the most glamorous way to think about relationships perhaps. In a society that shoves true love down your throat it’s definitely not how you want to think of it. But all relationships are work. Love doesn’t obviate the need for effort. Perhaps it makes it easier, but it certainly does not obviate it.

I’ve mused on it before. I still don’t know an answer. I vacillate between whether I need to put more work in or not. Sometimes I agree with that, but I don’t know, at a certain point diminishing returns kick in. There’s only so many guys you can meet that are already in relationships, guys you meet who can’t get your name right even though it’s simple (and yes, I know what that means, thank you very much), only so many “ur hot” and 5,000+ character exegeses you can receive on dating apps before you just realize that you are working with a limited pool. There’s nothing wrong with me for being trans, but I still need to bridge the gap between nothing being wrong with me and finding a pool of guys that I connect with that also feel that way. Then narrow that pool a bit more and find guys that I actually click with. It’s not so easy. It’s especially not easy when you are trans. It’s easy to blame yourself. It’s easy to say so many things are wrong with you.

But like I said, even when you realize it’s not your fault, that there’s nothing wrong with who you are, that doesn’t change anything. I’m still moving through a cissexist world. I’m still judged not on how much I am like myself but how cis I seem. Or I have to find people who exist outside those standards, but good luck with that. This isn’t to say that it’s easier or harder than it is for other people, but just to say that it’s hard. It’s really fucking hard and I want you to understand that. Even if the rest of my life is in order, it still feels like there’s a big hole there. Part of that is societal. Even as more people live alone, it still feels like we should all be together. Some of that is messaging, but some of that messaging comes from how we feel. Beyond that, I still feel like learning how to form relationships is a skill I just missed out on, something that a lot of trans people miss out on when they don’t get to have a normal adolescence, and now I don’t know how I am supposed to catch up. I still have to deal with the fact that somehow disclosing trans status is a material admission that could have an effect on my personal well-being, not just something about me like where I grew up. I may see examples of positive relationships, I know they exist and certainly can be (and am) happy for people who have found them, but they still appear Barmecidal at best from where I stand.

So how do I connect with the person I’m looking for? How do I find him? What do I try now? Who else out there can’t decide between whether “Slow Show” by The National or “When You Sleep” by My Bloody Valentine would be a better first dance song? I don’t know. I go through fits and spurts of just not trying at all. I am ebbing out of one of those, but there’s still that hopelessness, gnawing, waiting to pull you back in. Everyone interesting I meet personally is in a relationship anyway. No one is going to try and set me up with anyone. I’m not saying you should. I am saying that to point out subtly how you think of me. I don’t think that’s just my personality. But again, that’s not a challenge. It’s just an admission of how the world thinks of me. A better world does not mean a good one. We are not there yet. Plenty of people don’t think of me as a man, but that doesn’t mean they think of me as a woman either. I’ve written a lot of these entries before. Chances are I’ll write quite a few more. It’s how I process these kinds of feelings. I’m good at being alone, but I’m terrible at being lonely. Like anything, though, it’s a skill. You learn how to live with this feeling. Even if you want it to change. Even if you know there’s nothing wrong with you. I may have come that far. I may have done all that I can. Perhaps I just need the world to catch up. Perhaps it just won’t. All I can do is keep dreaming about that world. All I can do is keep trying to make that dream real. We all need to dream. If we don’t dream, we die.

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