Lay Bare The Cupboards

I used to clean when I was putting stuff off. Now I clean to put things back together. Perhaps that’s a subtle distinction, though that could be said of many things in life. Either way, I have spent today giving my kitchen a thorough cleaning, one it has deserved for some time now. I have been cooking a bit more the past couple months, so it was definitely overdue; besides, it was nice to do something automatic that gave me time to think. Not that I don’t normally have time to think. Just that it gave me time to think in the proper reference. It’s been a while since I sat down to write. I’ve jotted down a couple things, as they’ve come to me or as time has allowed, but mostly, I just don’t feel like I’ve had much to say recently. I could say it’s because I’ve been sick or because I’ve had a lot of shows or whatever I might say, but it’s more honest to say I just did not feel like putting time into it.

We are all the authors of our lives, as much as circumstances allow. I’d rather write my own story, because if I don’t, someone else will. But sometimes that means not writing; sometimes that just means getting out there and living. Sometimes it doesn’t involve getting out there at all, but that doesn’t equate to sitting down with a notebook or jotting notes between sets or firing up Word when I get home. There are shows to go to, baked goods to make, runs to go on, beers to drink with friends, and friends yet to make waiting in lines at shows or at the tables of Zeitgeist. In the end, though? Writing is how I organize my thoughts best. It’s how I explore those thoughts best.

I feel like I’ve had nothing but short thoughts recently, pithy little things that play well on Twitter. Sometimes the pithy plays host to quite real fears, sometimes a tweet lays it bare, but the nature of the medium makes it funnier. Or at least makes it seem funnier. A meditation on comparing mixing bowls and food processors might lead me to joke that I’ll have nothing left for a wedding registry (but that’s okay, they are going out of style anyway). Behind that, though? There are those real fears of loneliness, isolation, and sadness that it seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Sometimes the only way to beat those thoughts is not thinking about them or avoiding the long-form, sticking to a little tweet and another drink. It is, perhaps, just a safe medium to put something out there. For someone else and myself. Sometimes I want to get it out because I don’t want to think about it any more.

Other times, I feel like I’m just covering the same ground, explaining the same frustrations again and again. Explaining things I shouldn’t even have to explain. I am glad I’m a more open person now, but that means I have to remind myself that it’s not my job to explain who I am to everyone. Still, I am pretty open to talking about my life experiences, and I feel like it’s a pretty easy thing for me to do. But that’s just one trans woman’s experience, and not even a terribly interesting one most of the time. And while it can be a humanizing sort of thing to do, sometimes it just feels like it’s never going to reach the people that I would really like to reach, irrelevant of whether that’s me taking a few minutes to talk or a few minutes to write or whatever it might be.

Every time I spend some good time cleaning my kitchen, I look for a better place to store something, a better way of handling it or labeling it or making it accessible. Sometimes things just stack up because I don’t want to deal with them. And sometimes my thoughts are like that too. Sometimes I’ve just have to take stock of what’s kicking around in my head or on my phone or in my notebooks, clean it up, put away what’s worth keeping, and throw away the rest. I’m going to have to deal with the mess eventually. There are still going to be the joys and frustrations that I deal with daily in the process of living an authentic life whether I share them with you or not, the fears of loneliness, the annoyances of missed socialization, the happiness of finding that next vintage dress that fits just so, or anything in between. Every act of talking with someone or writing is an act of precision, of trying to figure out an even better way of explaining what I’m thinking and how I am processing life, whether that’s how I eat or who I get around or who I am on a fundamental level as a woman, to myself and to others. It’s time to lay bare the cupboards, give them a good wipe down, and stock them once more. Metaphorically or otherwise.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

1

My employer has a pretty standard set of interview questions, and since it’s been a long time since I interviewed externally, that’s all I’ve had to deal with over the years. They are much more focused on how you’ve handled a situation in the past and much less concerned about how you will handle hypothetical future situations near as I can tell. I’ve also been on the asking side, so I’ve seen some of the methodology. But I can tell you the book does not have any of those esoteric questions (at least that I saw) about what kind of pizza topping you’d be or how to solve random problems that you would never actually encounter like what you’d do if stranded on the moon with these five objects or where you see yourself in five years. This isn’t to denigrate those questions. Well, except for the last one. That one, while not worthless, is the kind of question I like least, a question that just opens people up to poor answers. Seriously, what are you going to say to a question like that? I understand the point, but I can’t even tell you what I’m going to be doing tomorrow, let alone in five years. I can tell you what I plan to be doing (which I see as the point to some degree), but the problem is the further away you get from what you are trying to forecast, the more difficult it gets, the less useful that plan becomes. I am working in a role that essentially didn’t exist 10 years ago, and sometimes I’m applying for jobs that didn’t even exist five years ago. I’m supposed to forecast that? Anyway, it’s really hard for us to figure out where we are going. It’s great to have ideas about where you want to go; I have them too. It’s just important to occasionally look back and see just how off-base they were because we’re really bad at predicting the future. It’s hard enough to trace a path back. If my previous boss had asked me where I saw myself in five years when I got my last job, I probably would have said Wells Fargo, but I don’t know if I would have believed it. I probably wouldn’t have said San Francisco. If I had, it would have been a guess on a very long list of guesses.

2

Recently I decided to go vegan. I’ve been building to it for a while, honestly. And I had just reached a point where I said to myself, you know what, why not? If you want some grandiloquent explanation as to why, I’m afraid I don’t have one. Health is a consideration, of course. And ethically speaking, I get the arguments, but that wasn’t a tipping point for me. It’s the same with the environmental impacts. I get all of those things, but I can’t give you a nice succinct statement as to why if that’s what you really want because I don’t have one myself. Because I can seems like a weird way to answer that question, but it’s the closest to the truth.

Now I’m not here to tell you what you should do. All we can do is put information in front of each other. It’s up to us as individuals to decide what to do with it. And honestly, I don’t really care what you choose to eat. That’s up to you. That’s not a judgment, either. That’s how I approach my own life as well. I have to be the one to make the decisions, no matter what anyone else says. It’s something I learned to truly embrace when I came out, and it’s been a guiding force in my life ever since. Many things, we have to do ourselves. This isn’t to say that we don’t have good support networks that help us, or that some of us don’t have better opportunities or access than others. Some of us obviously do. I’m no exception. It’s just to say that even with those sorts of things, we all still have decisions to make that no one can make for us. Whether we can follow through with them? That is a different discussion altogether. But in this case, where I am right now, with what I have access to? I can.

I live in a time where it’s easier to go vegan because there are a lot more options. I have access to tools, simple things that make life easier like a smartphone that can help me find places nearby that I might not have known about otherwise or even a reliable internet connection at home to figure out the same things. I live in a place where I really have a lot of options when I go out to eat, or even when I’m buying groceries. Of course it still takes effort; there’s still work and considerations and questions when I go out. There’s still habits to change. But mostly, it’s just that I’m in a different place in my life than I was years ago, a time and place where it just makes a lot more sense to me. Whether it’s because the ethical cost of the decisions I make wears more on me now or it’s because I’m more cognizant of what I put in my body because I just can’t get away with what I could even five years ago or just that I can is hard to pinpoint. It’s probably all of those things, and a lot more. Was it a possible future in the past? Of course, because here I am. Was it a probable future? That, I’d have to say, seemed less likely even a couple years ago. And yet, here I am.

3

The Golden Gate Bridge is about a mile and a half across. I’ve walked it a couple times and I’ve ridden my bike across it a couple times as well, but finally, on Saturday, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: I ran across it. It was kind of annoying, to be honest. Super-windy and full of tourists that weren’t paying any attention. And while I’m used to some degree of that in Golden Gate Park, at least there they can hear me when I try to get their attention. But the views? You really can’t beat them. Plus, it’s a beautiful run to get there from my place, up and through the Presidio and out to the old batteries. I ended up going it was just over 11 miles. It was a nice way to kick off my Saturday morning, though it meant I didn’t particularly care to do much else the rest of Saturday.

I’m not entirely sure at what point the switch flipped, but since I’ve lived here, I’ve come to think of myself more as a runner. I hated it in high school, and over the years had sporadic bursts where I tried to run a bit more, but I never really put anything solid together until just before I moved here. And while it’s still a challenge to get out as much as I’d like, I still find myself at least doing a 4.5 mile loop through Golden Gate Park with enough frequency, down to the bison and back, more often than I even thought I would when I moved here. Part of it is a function of the fact that it is a bit more difficult to just get on my bike and go for long bike rides here. Part of it is that I have spent more time running. Once a three mile run seemed to be an insurmountable challenge. And though I was out for quite a while yesterday, it didn’t really feel like a challenge in that same way. I was pushing my body, sure. But I knew I could do it. Like most things, a lot of running is mental. And it took me a long time to get over that initial hump, to get to that point where what was once felt like a long run is now a short run, to know I can do it instead of wondering if I could. Though I’d still like to do a better job with it, it’s less a question of when I’ll run and more a question of when I’ll do the other things I need to get done after work.

4

I know there are reasons why people do, but I still can’t fathom why so many people choose to drive in this city. Even when I moved here initially, when I still had my car, I chiefly drove it once every week or so to make a Target run. It was not something I used to get around town. Have you tried driving here? It’s awful. And though it took me a while after I got rid of it, I have finally become the bike commuter I knew I could be if I just didn’t have a car. Of course there are times I miss it. I probably would have gone to Bridge School with a car; not that it would have necessarily been quicker, just that it would have given me greater latitude. As it was, I didn’t particularly want to deal with Caltrain, and no one I knew expressed any great interest, so my next trip to Mountain View will just have to wait.

As long as I live here, I don’t envision a future where I’ll own a car. But there I go again, forecasting. It’s hard to say. What if one of the parking spaces opened up in my building? Or if I were making more money? Or if my job were no longer in the Financial District? Lots of things could impact my decision vis-a-vis car ownership. Lots of things enable it right now, the fact that I’m able, that I live close to where I work and much of what I do after work, that it’s actually basically the fastest way to get from place to place much of the time. Suffice to say, I don’t see a time where I will enter into getting a car again lightly. I will definitely think about the impacts a decision like that much more. I no longer view driving as a birthright, something that was just what you did to get around the suburbs and reach your far-flung friends. But it stands to reason that if 33 year-old me has a drastically different view point on the issue than 18 year-old me did, who knows what 48 year-old me will think? At present, I do not know exactly what circumstances could change my opinion that I am a bike commuter and a bike commuter first. But that’s still a pretty new label for me, so perhaps I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself.

5

Tomorrow morning will be like any other morning. I’ll get up for my 9-5. I bike in and it’ll take me between 24 and 26 minutes depending on which lights I catch. I’ll get a coffee at Coffee Bar, hoping the medium roast is the grab and go; I used to be a dark roast kind of person; then again I used to never drink coffee. I will sit at a job I’ve had for a year and a half and now people will ask me questions because I’m one of the experienced ones. I’ll eat a lunch I brought in because I’m in one of those phases right now, and when I’ve pushed enough widgets, I’ll reverse the bike ride back out to Inner Richmond. If there’s time, I’ll go for a run. If there’s not time, it’s probably because I’m going to a show. The World Series may well blow all those plans up. Because really, that’s all those things are. Plans. Some of those plans, like my job, are a means to an end, and something I’d never consider blowing off. You just can’t do that. Or at least I can’t. Not where I’m at right now. But most of those plans are highly fluid. Perhaps one of my coworkers will suggest Tlaloc and instead of leftovers, it’ll be an ensalada nopales and that wonderful pumpkin seed salsa they do so well. Perhaps I’ll get a text that an old friend is in town and wants to grab drinks somewhere after work. I still have the plans. I still have an idea of how tomorrow is going to go, and I still made preparations for those plans. But if you really want to know how it’s gonna go? Ask me again in a couple days.

Good Exercise

When I tell people I bike commute, there is something a general flow to the conversation that follows. It doesn’t vary that much now that I live in San Francisco, though my perspective has changed now that I don’t even own a vehicle other than my bike. In general, there’s admiration mixed with some incredulous statements (good for you!, I don’t think I could do that, etc) that segues into questions/statements about the general danger of biking. Now, I don’t need anyone to tell me that biking isn’t the greatest here. I bike on Market Street several times a week, and I get all the examples I could ever want. But something else curious happens every time I have these conversations.

I generally don’t pay much credence to Willie Brown’s columns, and this one is no exception, but there is an odd observation at the end about bikes. I’m not gonna link, because he doesn’t particularly deserve the clicks in my opinion, but here’s some random text from the end of his most recent opinion piece:

Willie Brown

People say things like this a lot about cyclists. I’ve gotten used to hearing it. I’ll give you a minute to get past the astonishing random sexism there. Perhaps I’ll save that for another time, but right now, I’d rather focus on the other aspect of that which I hear a lot: an unsubstantiated opinion about cyclists. That isn’t based on anything. I don’t even know how you could determine the age of the cyclists you see. There are plenty more where that comes from. Sometimes people tell me that cyclists should stay in their lane (even on roads where signs explicitly say cyclists have full use of the lane, even in situations where motor vehicles are parked in the bike lane); other times they just say they shouldn’t even be in that place (even though bikes have just as much right to be on the road as other vehicles, so much so that it’s recognized by law), or follow the laws of the road if they want to ride on the road (while ignoring the differing mechanics of biking versus driving or ignoring the fact that drivers frequently don’t follow those same rules). Most people will profess at the beginning of the conversation that they do not bike commute, and don’t even go out much except for an occasional social ride, yet they seem to have “the solution” to whatever the bike woes of a place are. I rarely have conversations like this with other cyclists. In those situations, I tend to have conversations about routes, preferences, secrets, gear, whatever. The conversation might be focused on bikes, but it’s quite a different conversation.

San Francisco likes to tout its mileage of bike infrastructure, and looking at a map like this leaves you with the impression that there’s quite a bit. I guess there is if you are counting the roads where they drop an arrow on it and indicate bikes will be present, but as someone who’s ridden quite a bit of it, I still haven’t found a good east-west route from the Financial District to Inner Richmond. Perhaps my perspective is skewed by the fact that my east-west ride in the Twin Cities was Summit and The Greenway, two really fine examples of on-street and separate bike lane systems that I didn’t have to share with pedestrians or even cars all that much, but there’s definitely nothing like that here. San Francisco certainly does some things really well (the green waves are quite nice) and has strong organizations like the San Francisco Bike Coalition fighting to make things better here, to make more bike-first routes. I am not saying that I have any brilliant new ideas. I don’t honestly. I think a lot of the ideas I’ve seen are good, but it’s a matter of getting from “we have an idea” to “we have the means to accomplish it” to “it’s done”. And no matter what that is, that’s a tough thing to accomplish in this city. Plus, I get that it’s not just going to become the bicycle utopia I’d like to see. I want East Bay bike infrastructure in San Francisco, and that’s just not going to happen overnight. Of course, there are different elements that created that infrastructure in Oakland/Emeryville/Berkeley. Perhaps we will get there some day, but it’s a long game. Which is why, even if I jest a bit about the protected contraflow bike lane on Polk (which I’ve never used since I’m rarely in a position to), I know that what is two blocks today could be two miles in five years. It is an important step, and nice to see.

Here’s what I see when I bike. Yes, I do see bikes run lights and stop signs. I also see cars do that. I see buses rumble through intersections when they should probably wait. I see pedestrians step into the flow of traffic even though there’s already a car coming and at that time they do not have right of way as dictated by the traffic signals. I see cars block pedestrians by trying to get through an intersection when there’s no space. I see cyclists ride through pedestrians when they don’t have right of way and probably shouldn’t. I don’t know what the impulse is that drives that behavior. I’m not going to claim to be immune to it. I am definitely not claiming I haven’t done some of these things (in most modes of transit) I don’t know if it’s just that we all think our time is more important or that we are all in our own little worlds at times. I am sure there are probably studies on these issues that point all sorts of ways. What I do know, what I do observe, is the mode of transportation isn’t what drives this behavior. It’s us. So it feels a little strange to lay it on a particular vehicle type. For me, I know not all bikers are like that, just like I know not all drivers are and not all pedestrians and so on and so forth. But that attitude does have impacts.

We all have a lot of affinity with drivers because most of us are or have been at some point a driver. I do think that affinity matters. It influences our perspective I live in a city where most people are multimodal when it comes to getting around. That increased modality leads to increased affinity, whether it’s with transit or walking or bike or driving. What I think would be a good exercise is for people to increase that modality. There are going to be people who still make lazy judgments and assessments with no experience. But something I’ve noticed in other areas of my life is what people are most frequently missing is perspective and exposure to different ways of thinking, of being, of doing things. I don’t say this to justify some of the things I observe when biking, or even some of the things I do (like I said, I’m not immune by any means), though, like I said, I think there’s a far broader reason than “it’s a bike”. But I do think it’s an important exercise, and not one that is all that hard. It takes me less time to bike to work than any other means of getting there. It takes me less time to bike to just about anything here in the city. It is the best way for me to get around, the least time consuming, the most flexible. I also live by myself, have no kids, and am able, which invariably affects my perspective on the flexibility of this means of transit. Biking isn’t the right answer for everyone, but it probably is a good answer for a lot more people than just me and the others I see riding around. And even if it isn’t something you end up doing full time? I think you’d be amazed at how you might see your city, your commute, and your fellow travelers differently. Besides, it’s good exercise.

Forget-Me-Not

Perhaps you don’t know, but October 11 is National Coming Out Day. I wasn’t going to say anything (last year’s entry sufficed in my opinion), but I saw something earlier that I felt deserved more words than a few pithy ones with a tweet. Facebook had the following in their Trending section:

Facebook fail 2

Which, hey, cool National Coming Out Day is trending. But…maybe don’t casually erase trans identities in the process of saying that? Not to lay it all on Facebook or anything. This just happened to be an example I saw that got the gears turning. Plenty of people do this all the time. I am not immune myself. I am sure I do it in ways that I don’t necessarily think about, on issues that I lack the same level of sensitivity on. This is just as much a reminder to me on other issues as it is to others on this one. I am not saying whoever puts together the little bullet points for that section set out to do it. Words are finite, and only getting more so as we try to find ways to say as much as possible with fewer and fewer words. I have seen some articles recently about how that affects how we talk, how we reach consensus (or don’t), what effects that as on our word choice, mostly in regard to Twitter, but any time we aim for brevity those sorts of phenomena are potential issues. And it could be that. But in this case, I don’t think it’s really the case because when it comes to trans issues within the LGBT sphere, it’s far more common that they are just forgotten. To be clear, I have no issue with just discussing issues in regards to sexuality. There are plenty of great discussions to be had, and plenty of voices I’d like to hear more from on those issues. Just maybe don’t use LGBT when that’s all you mean. The words we use to discuss issues have an impact. They have meanings. A tacit omission is an omission nonetheless. Because perhaps it was just implied. But that in itself shows how frequently people conflate concepts of gender and sexuality. And to some degree why they are together in this regard. I’ve talked about it before. I am guessing this won’t be the last. But perhaps it wasn’t implied, it was just forgotten. And if you don’t think about that? I think you probably should.

I Wonder

I know that I am a fortunate trans woman in many ways. I get that. I understand that I have plenty of other things going for me. I would like to live in a world where everyone has that experience, and I hope to do my part, whatever that is, to help move in that direction. For me, I think it’s important to acknowledge when I experience privilege just as much as when I don’t, because it helps me critically think about the world in which I live, and the ways I interact with it. While I am trans, because I am white, because I came from a degree of means where I didn’t worry about where my next meal would come from or whether I could do things frequently, because I am college educated, because I have a job, because I have stable housing, because I’ve never really had to consciously worry about many of those things, those are all ways that I experience privilege, and that lens invariably affects how I view everything. Because of many of those advantages that I enjoy, not necessarily because of anything I did, I enjoy greater access.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there are a lot of layers when talking about trans experiences. Of course no two experiences are alike, but in a general sense, there’s the initial layer that exists of just being able to find those basic things, access to basic services. And that’s something we really need to do a better job with as people. It’s one of the reasons that as the paychecks go up, I try to find ways to put more of that back into a system that gives back, financially trying to direct something towards institutions like the Transgender Law Center or the SF LGBT Center that I know are trying to do good things, that are trying to help with the most basic elements of access, safe housing, jobs, medical service, legal service. That’s why when I see someone trying to raise funds for surgery or basic needs, I try to do what I can. Even if it’s just a little. I want to be able to enjoy life. Beyond that, though? I want to be able to give back. There are lots of ways to give, of course. Being able to help out financially is just one of them, but I feel like I have a responsibility to do that since I am in a fortunate position. It is literally the least I can do, to give back a little out of each paycheck, something that requires very little thought on my part. I wish I had enough so that I could give to everything that I see. I do not. But I am on the side of the divide where I can meet my basic needs, because life has worked out that way, because like I said, I still have a lot of things working in my favor just because of who I am. Everyone should have access to the same things, but I’m not so naïve as to believe that everyone does have access to the same things.

However, there are still challenges when you have a supportive employer, there are still challenges when you have insurance coverage. Because unfortunately, the people checking the boxes, the people on the other end of the phone, the people at the doctors’ offices, they might not be transphobic, per se, but they still stand a good chance of being trans-ignorant. There’s still a good chance that I’m the first trans person a lot of people are interacting with. And it’s an even better bet that they haven’t thought about the impact of something they take for granted (say, the immutability or difficult requirements behind updating certain pieces of information within systems, like sex or gender markers) because of their experience, or lack thereof, with people who are not cis. I constantly pay the price because of a box some doctor checked 33 years ago. I constantly pay the price because I continually encounter people who do not deem me a reliable narrator when it comes to my own story. Every trip to Target results in someone calling me he or him or sir. Every phone call is still stumbling over pronouns and not believing they heard me correctly when I said my name is Jane. I don’t think those people are inherently transphobic in many cases as much as they have not challenged themselves to think about how they experience privilege as cis individuals in society and what assumptions that may lead to. The thing is, those people are still the ones making those decisions frequently, and the lack of diversity informs how they experience the world.

I remember how hard it was to get everything properly covered when I first got hormones. I certainly had the privilege of insurance that said they covered it and the funds to cover my appointments and prescriptions on the front end, something that I am cognizant of. But it was still a fight to get my insurance to cover my doctor’s appointments for quite a long time. They kept telling me to look in-network for my various needs, and I kept telling them their network didn’t address my needs even though their policies supposedly stated they would cover what I sought. Eventually, that all got straightened out, and now it’s a pretty easy process. But I’m always wary. I always know that even though I have the privilege of good coverage, I’m still at the whim of the people who populate that system, of a doctor or a pharmacy that decides they don’t want to cover that. It’s a different fight, certainly, but it’s a fight nonetheless. And it’s still a problem.

This is not to compare problems or say what is worse. Both overt and less obvious forms of discrimination are bad, and I am not interested in rankings because that’s worthless. Well, maybe not worthless, but not what I’m here to do. It’s just to say that even when it looks like as a society we are past something, we aren’t usually. Though I am guessing you probably realize that. If we pass trans-inclusive legislation but it is still enforced by transphobic individuals, or people who aren’t necessarily explicitly so who still end up enforcing and implementing transphobic rules, then how much better is it? Why is the burden on us to have to do so much more? Of course just having access is a barrier, but once inside that system, we still need to find the right people, the ones who fairly enact the rules, the ones who understand them. That is that next layer. Changing the rules doesn’t change the fact that as trans individuals the power is frequently not in our hands when it comes to our needs and care. We are at the whims of employers, doctors, insurance companies, landlords, whoever, really, and though there may be rules against discrimination based on us, there is an energy required to fight that, and that’s not even a fight we are guaranteed to be successful in.

Hopefully some of that gets better for a generation that comes out younger. Hopefully a lot of this will make no sense to them and I’ll just be the old woman complaining about those things the kids just don’t understand because they’ve grown up with better access, and the systems have grown up with them. But it’s also important to remember that it’s just going to take different people different spans of time to figure out who they are. I didn’t have a particularly dysphoric childhood; I knew that something wasn’t quite right, but I think even given a more open environment, it still might have taken me until I was in my late teens. I lacked the vocabulary to articulate to myself who I was for a long time, let along to others. And once I realized that this feeling I was feeling was something, it still never really seemed possible to me. Of course that was informed by external ideas of what it meant to be female. I could also see the social cost, so it took me another decade to come to terms with that and actually be authentic. But I still deal with that social costs every day. I hope that the environment is different in the future and that anyone can explore those thoughts and feelings when they arise. But people are still going to live in environments where they cannot freely explore their gender. Hell, we currently live in an environment where there still is a great cost to exploring gender and transgressing against norms and expectations, whether you are trans or cis.

Even as that gets better, it’s important to remember it is going to take different people different lengths of time to put together who they are. There are going to be trans people who don’t come out later in life just because that is how long it takes them to personally figure out who they are. And that’s okay. But we shouldn’t forget them. Sometimes I wonder if people are more comfortable with the thought of people transitioning younger because it makes them more comfortable to deal with trans people who are less trans, so to speak. Not that I think they are or would be unhappy bring open about being trans, just that they might be more likely to be perceived that way by many. Perception can be more powerful than reality, after all. They don’t have to interrogate how they think of gender if people are more conforming or at least meet the expectations they think others should meet more easily. Would people be more comfortable with me if my voice sounded “more female”, whatever that means? If my shoulders were less broad? If I fit into an idea of what they think a woman should be and didn’t have to challenge their own notions and limited categories of femininity and masculinity? Because I am not unhappy with who I am. I am unhappy with the way I am treated because of who I am, and because of that I spend a lot of time wondering: What if I fit in better, not because I particularly feel unhappy about me but because I am tired of the cost of dealing with other people being awful all the time? Of course, that isn’t addressing the root problem. The problem does not lie within any trans individual. But I think it’s natural to think about if you spend so much time listening to people refer to you on a daily basis as male, if you spend so much of your time being willing to have these conversations and it seems that few people are listening, if you spend so much time being expected to, if you spend so much time seeing very few people say anything to support you in those moments. At a certain point, it’s not living authentically, it’s pain avoidance. I spent so much time living up to certain expectations of who I should be that I don’t want to go back to that. But I am also tired of being totally broken down trying to buy a couple things at Target when someone asks what can I help you with sir, or when the cashier and another customer both agree he was first in reference to me. I try to not spend much time thinking about things like that, I try not to spend much energy on it. By how can I not? It’s rare that I deal with overt discrimination, which is just a function of some of the ways I experience privilege. But I certainly deal with nefarious forms of it all the time. And it’s still always more. The burden is on the trans individual to do more in the eyes of most people, to blend in, to provide more paperwork, to provide an explanation, to provide something to assuage others, something more than other people are asked for in a lot of instances.

There’s a net effect to all of this. Whether it’s the basic struggles or the more subtle ones, I never turn off being trans. I can’t speak to other experiences, but based on what I see and read, I think I’m not the only one who feels that way. Which isn’t to say I am uncomfortable acknowledging I am trans. I’m proud of and happy with who I am. I just wonder sometimes. I wonder what trans people could do if they didn’t have to spend so much of their energy meeting basic needs that shouldn’t be so hard. I wonder what life for trans people would be like if the step up weren’t from outright denial of service to de facto denial of service in most cases. I wonder what else we could accomplish if we didn’t have to spend so much of our time fighting, pushing back, or just wondering whether we should, whether it’s worth it. I wonder what trans people could do if we could just live our lives, if there weren’t gatekeeping hoops that denied or warped so many who wanted access to basic care, if we could just be authentic, free from the concern that we might lose our jobs, our homes, our families, our lives just because of who we are. There’s a psychic and emotional toll that goes along with being on all the time, with thinking those kinds of thoughts. Perhaps you understand it for other reasons, as being trans certainly isn’t the only way to experience it. Perhaps you understand it for many other reasons. Mostly though? I wonder when we’re going to get there. If we’ll ever get there. I don’t like to frame it in that fashion, but if I’m being honest? That’s what crosses my mind. But I don’t wonder for too long usually. Because there’s still so much more to do, and only so much time to do it.

The Next Step

A while back, I initiated a conversation with my employer to address a couple issues I noticed regarding a document targeted toward employees transitioning in the workplace. At the time, I wasn’t particularly sure what (if any) impact it might have. While I was mildly dissatisfied by the outcome to some degree, I also knew that it would take more than a couple conversations and emails to foment change. I said what needed to be said at the time and tried to figure out what to do next. A few weeks later, someone contacted me about using a quotation of mine that arose from those discussions for a somewhat updated take on the bulletin. When the updated post finally went up this week, it was nice to see that many of the items I’d mentioned in terms of phrasing and word choice had been addressed. I am heartened that happened as I wasn’t sure when that might occur given how long things like that can take sometimes. As I have stated before, I do feel like my employer on the whole is trying to be forward thinking about creating an open workplace for trans employees. But even in the places that like to view themselves as forward thinking, we have a lot more work to do to create those kinds of workplaces.

Model View Culture also recently published a piece that reminded me of one of the aspects of the “Transitioning In The Workplace” bulletin that I didn’t bring up then that still bothers me now. As a culture, even in supportive structures for trans individuals, we place a lot of emphasis on coming out and the immediate events that follow. Even if structures exist so that trans individuals don’t have to be their own advocate, we wait for those moments to educate, to make changes to corporate policies from HR or insurance. There’s so much focus on what to do at the point that changes are visible and apparent to others. I understand that it’s a tangible moment for others; of course, it was a significant and tangible time for me as well, but I had already been doing so much. For me, it was the fruition of a lot of planning, something I had been building to all my life. For others, short a few conversations, it was the first time they encountered the reality that I was trans as opposed to just the idea. In terms of the workplace, there was a flurry of activity, changing names on emails and name plates, updating gender flags in systems and such, but then there really wasn’t all that much at all. Most of that is a one-time event, and most of the support is focused on those sorts of one-time events and the immediate days before and after coming out.

Unfortunately, there’s so much more support that’s needed. Those changes are important, and obviously it’s nice to remind people to be sensitive about pronouns, what kinds of questions are inappropriate, etc. But where’s that reminder a year later? Where’s the support structure that continues to exist for that proactively, before trans employees have to complain about potentially distressing workplace situations? So far, everything I’ve seen has been voluntary. How hard is it to put a couple slides addressing some of these issues in the yearly required training? It might not reach that many people, but currently, the only training that seems to exist occurs when someone transitions, in the departments those employees are in. We’ve got better reach than that. Putting that information in front of people proactively can help show trans employees that they are valued. Putting that information in front of people can help illustrate that support exists. Putting that information in front of people can help show them that being authentic and being who they are is possible.

Beyond that, where are those structures to help employees who didn’t transition in that department or with the company when they take a new position that may not have had that education? What about structures to support employees who would rather handle their on-the-job transition with more discretion in terms of who it’s communicated to and how many people that information gets out to? What about the resources for the employees who do not want to be out on the job? What do those resources look like? What about resources for the employees that transitioned years ago who want and need support that is different than someone who just came out? What about the resources that proactively address these situations instead of reactively addressing them? I’m glad to see they listened, but there’s always something more to do, something more to learn, something to improve. Those are next conversations to start. As someone who wants to do more and would like to make a difference, who wants to push those conversations and ideas forward, that’s the next step. Let’s take it.

My Next Boyfriend Will Have To Sign Waivers

Stumbling across my old poetry reminds me I should write poetry again. I should work on that. Anyway, this one made me smile and I hadn’t thought about it in a while:

My Next Boyfriend Will Have To Sign Waivers

Poetry is a savage art, he tells me as we lie in bed, I know
as soon as I get up you’ll be finding some new diction to dissect me.
I run my fingers through his hair and tell him that’s not true.
I’ve always been good at lying in bed and pretending
things are not going to change even though I know each time you get up
to put on your jeans, it’s one time closer to you never coming back
to this bed with me. I won’t cut your head out of pictures,
I don’t even know if we have any pictures together, and maybe I
won’t tell the other girls how you were in bed, good or bad, no I’ll
just pick up my pen and practice my savage habit and 200 people from
Portland to Murfreesboro will know exactly what I think, but don’t
worry, I would never use your name and besides, I warned you when
you first bought me a drink, and hopefully you won’t do anything
rash because I do like my furniture and I don’t want to have to change
my phone number, and it would do me credit to think of you as
something more than inspiration, but unfortunately you are not.

Dynamics

If I’ve learned anything as I’ve gotten older, it’s that I need to shut the fuck up a lot more. While there are occasions where I have something worth contributing, frequently I just need to stop and listen to what others have to contribute. Whether it’s being better about not interrupting others or challenging myself to listen or be intellectually curious about topics which make me uncomfortable because they force me to examine the ways in which life has been good to me just because of who I am, I always want to improve how I communicate. I can always be a better person. Hopefully I’m a better person now than I was ten years ago, and I continue to challenge myself in that capacity ten years from now.

However, I’ve also learned I need to speak up more in the context of what matters, at times when I do have something to say. Because I can’t count on anyone to do it for me; because rights are not guaranteed; because it deserves to be challenged, even if no one is listening. It’s always important to speak when I’ve got something on my mind that deserves to be said, especially within the framework of my experiences as a trans woman. It’s just one experience and one voice, admittedly a pretty fortunate one and definitely not an authoritative one (nor should it be), but there are occasions I may be the only trans voice in a discussion that desperately needs it. I encountered such an occasion recently, when a friend shared something that has been floating around I wholly endorse and I thought I should share a few words after someone else left a couple comments that deserved to be challenged. As I interpreted his words, the crux of his argument centered around the fact that it was important to be able to discern other peoples’ gender in the sense of how to treat them. The example given involved honorifics and pronouns, which is a topic I already find tired. While my comments were admittedly pointed, I did not think they were excessive. I do not see discerning someone’s gender when I encounter them as an important determinant to showing them respecting, nor do I desire to live in a world devoid of gender. They are not mutually exclusive ideas to me. I am female, and my ability to express my femininity is important. I do like it when people recognize that. That does not mean I need every stranger I encounter to call me ma’am, though it’s certainly preferable to constantly being called sir.

The idea that anyone needs to be able to determine someone else’s gender is predicated on the assumption that gender is privileged information. Or that our outside interpretation of someone’s gender is more important than their personal experience with gender. If you need to know someone’s gender to know how to treat them, it doesn’t seem like much of a step to say that you are going to treat someone different based on that information. I don’t see why it matters in terms of how we interact with people in terms of just treating them with respect. Given how frequently people misgender trans and non-confirming individuals, it seems reasonable to say the assumptions people make regarding gender are for their own comfort, not for the individuals they interact with. I believe the way to avoid that is to not make those assumptions at all. I understand that runs contrary to how our minds work, organizing all the information we’re constantly taking in. But we can change how we process that information.

These thoughts mostly pertain to meeting strangers or individuals we have limited experience with, not people we have an established relationship with. None of this means gender doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. I never said gender doesn’t matter though in this instance I was accused of it. But in the context of treating fellow people with respect, it shouldn’t have any affect. If you treat someone differently based on how you interpret their gender, why? I know it has an effect, and I know there are reasons. Women speak differently around other women than they might when a man is present because of the dynamics of such differences. Women get interrupted by men, or have their basic competence questioned by men because men can do that; women can just as easily do those things (we have the ability) but there’s a different social gradient, and definitely a higher social cost due to the way we treat women in society. It doesn’t mean women shouldn’t speak up more; we should. It shouldn’t be a consideration anyone has to make, but it is. People speak in a freer manner in an environment they perceive as safe, and part of what makes an environment safe can be that gendered breakdown. So of course gender matters in how we interact with people. To say otherwise is a lie.

As I stated above though there’s a dynamic gendered interactions, a dynamic gets at the way we discriminate; that dynamic is power. One of the other points he made, the point that really angered me because it read as if he was wielding it to simultaneously ignore and invalidate what I said was that he understood the distress of being misgendered because it happened to him when he was younger due to his long hair. This ignores a major issue: if someone perceived as cis is misgendered, the reaction is different. Because the dynamics are different. Just because a cis person is misgendered doesn’t magically connote an understanding of the constant dissonance, struggle and violence of dealing with being trans. Of course it can still be a negative experience. I am not trying to denigrate the experience. I know it isn’t pleasant when it happens to me. Certainly people apologize to me, but just as many people remain indifferent toward trusting my own experience with gender. Some even become openly hostile when I challenge them. But there’s a degree of false equivalence lurking there. If you are cis and you have had genuinely distressing experiences where you were misgendered but everyone sees you as cis after that, then people will react differently, and most likely in a more deferent way in regard to your gender since it is still more privileged in our society to be perceived as cis (whether you are or not). I am left wondering why those kinds of experiences seem to frequently elicit the opposite reaction. Why wouldn’t they engender empathy? Isn’t the lesson that we should be more careful when relying on gendered assumptions based on looks, mannerism, dress, etc.?

Why do we not trust people when they tell us their experience with gender? Why do we not respect individuals if they don’t want to share that experience or information? It is their story to tell (or not). Why is it something that we need to be able to determine when we are meeting people? Why should it have any predication on how we treat each other in those initial interactions? I feel like this need to know prioritizes our comfort over theirs when we do it. It’s still something I need to challenge myself about as well. Being trans doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of transphobic thoughts and actions, and that’s something I constantly need to challenge myself on because I definitely don’t want to do that. That is not who I want to be. Shouldn’t we be more busy trying to break down the orthodoxy of a patriarchal society that leads to differences in how we interact based on perceived gender instead of worrying whether it’s ma’am or sir (or something else entirely)? Isn’t that time better spent?

One of the things I have picked up as I’ve gotten better at listening is sometimes people don’t have much to say at all. I am fond of noting I can’t change anyone’s minds; I can only talk about my experiences and let them make their own decisions and conclusions. The same is true of anyone. If someone doesn’t want to listen, there’s not much I can do about it. But I don’t have to keep talking with those people, I don’t have to share my space with them, and I definitely don’t have to listen when someone is loudly talking but has nothing to say, especially when it’s coming from someone who’s shown no capacity to do the same courtesy. I will still challenge transphobic thoughts and attitudes when I see them. But I’d rather listen to the more interesting voices in the chorus, so I’m going to spend more time focusing on that. Even if the dynamics are currently such that they are harder to hear. Hopefully one day those voices will be nice and clear.

Feedback

Since FYF is soliciting feedback, and since I was going to write something about it anyway, here’s an open letter I wrote to them:

I don’t have a problem waiting in lines. I’ve stood in many before, and I’ll stand in many again. I have waited many hours to be up front at venues in my life. But there has to be a sense of purpose to a line. Things can take time, so I get that aspect; sometimes, it’s because something’s free, which I also get; time is just another way of paying occasionally. It’s problematic when there’s no sense of purpose to the activity, though. That was what Saturday felt like when I showed up to FYF. By happenstance, I walked by the front entrance before finding the end of the line (which, all told, had to be about a half mile of walking by my estimation) and the most disturbing thing I noticed wasn’t the slow pace so much as the lack of movement. No one was going in. As I wended my down the block in search of the end, I couldn’t really understand how this had happened. There were delays at Pitchfork when the scanners didn’t work properly, but I don’t think I waited more than 30-40 minutes the entire weekend across the three days. I eventually made my way to the back of the line, and I waited. We were so far back that we were almost at the VIP entrance. And then I stood there. Again, as luck would have it, after an hour of inching along (I’d gone a few hundred feet at most), people just started going in the VIP area, which led to the same gates as the regular entrance. Like that, after standing in a line that barely moved for over an hour, I was waiting to get through security. I am not sure if anyone encouraged us to do this in an attempt to ameliorate the situation, or if people just started doing it and therefore it was a thing that was happening. After an hour of standing on concrete and pavement in the sun, I don’t think anyone bothered to question it too much. I felt sorry for the people stranded, and it was not the most ethical decision I’ve ever made, but I was tired of standing there without purpose and I also wanted to see Slint, which I didn’t think was going to be a problem when I showed up by 2:45 pm.

The problem with the line was a nice portent to a weekend full of problems. When I got to security, I had to discard my metal water bottle. Because in one part of the information available online it said “non glass or metal water bottles” were not allowed. Which, while lexically confusing, I do understand. Unfortunately, the problem was that was under the list of allowed and prohibited items; elsewhere, in the FAQ, it stated that reusable water bottles were allowed as long as they were empty. I grabbed my bottle from Outside Lands and didn’t think much of it. In a push notification from the app, I was reminded not to forget my plastic water bottle. I think you can see a pattern here. While all the various bits of information were trying to say the same thing (you are allowed one empty plastic water bottle), they all actually different things. Consistency in messaging is important. There’s no reason all three outlets couldn’t have been worded the same. In fact, there’s good reason all three should have been worded the same. While I was having quite the argument with security about this, I decided it’s just a water bottle, something that would make my weekend nicer, but not ultimately something that’s irreplaceable like the time I’d spent arguing about it was. I was also offered the laughable solution by security of going and putting the water bottle in my vehicle. Security seemed utterly oblivious to the nature of the line, a problem they helped create as they they were too busy pulling apart every bag and doing what appeared to be too-thorough gender-segregated searches. I went down the wrong line first (no signage), switched to the appropriate one when I realized what was what, and then didn’t receive a search at all after I got into a shouting match with security about the poor messaging around the water bottles. I am not sure what the motivation was for that level of searching, but it seemed odd. Again, different festival, different circumstances, but no one was cupping anyone’s bra at Outside Lands a couple weeks prior. It looked grossly unnecessary, and even though I didn’t get one it made me uncomfortable, especially after I had already been misgendered by security twice at that point.

You might note I’ve gotten several hundred words in and haven’t said anything about the music. In that case, I hope this experience somewhat replicates what Saturday felt like. I finally got inside, and hoped to grab a map but I didn’t see where anyone was handing them out. This turned out to be no major issue, but I still went the entire weekend without figuring out where anyone got one. I had made it onto the grounds in time to hopefully catch Slint, who was just starting as I got in at 4 pm. The Arena really seemed liked a missed opportunity. It took so long to make your way down to the floor, or to get into it in the first place, that I didn’t end up making it to the stage until 4:20 pm. I watched the rest of Slint, and didn’t end up going back into the Arena for the remainder of the weekend. Turns out it saved me some trouble, as it sounds like it involved more waiting in lines. While I respect the idea of having a stage like that, in reality, it just didn’t work that well. Sure, sound bleed sucks and some bands look better on a dark stage, but one of the reasons festivals are nice is usually you at least have a shot to see everything. The Arena, with its capacity issues, created another frustrating layer in a weekend full of them.

Lines were the theme of the weekend, and the overall festival followed that by having a very linear layout. While it wasn’t too problematic in terms of finding things, it did take quite a while to get from the Main stage to the Lawn stage even though they technically weren’t all that far from each other. And while I didn’t have any issue figuring out where the stages were, there was an acute lack of signage throughout the grounds. I didn’t even notice a posted schedule until the next day, right by the entrance in an area I never went back to after entering, even when I made my way over to the Lawn stage.

But you come to FYF for the music. I went three years ago and had a blast. It’s hard to beat the quality of the bands at that price, and now that I live on the West Coast, it’s an easy trip down from San Francisco. I said before the line-up was announced that if any other festival besides Pitchfork had Slowdive, it’d by FYF. I know that you get that caliber of band. Seeing Slowdive again was one of the main reasons I purchased a ticket. And by the time they took the stage, most of my negative feelings had dissipated. They delivered a glorious set, a beautiful dusky wash like the LA sunset behind us. From the thrilling punk of Against Me! to the well-dressed, even better delivered post-punk of Interpol to the wonderfully lit and lively Ty Segall, Saturday was a wonderful experience musically. I already knew it would be. It was almost doubly rewarding on the heels of such a frustrating afternoon.

One of the things I respect about FYF is their responsiveness. This wasn’t just evident on Sunday, when the line process was much smoother, there was free water to assuage those of us who’d lost our bottles the day before, and the Arena was expanded (though the lines still looked like a mess). This was evident in the run-up, in response to artists that cancelled for one reason or another; it’s evident in the responses I’ve seen since. I don’t expect things to be perfect. I understand that executing an event like this is difficult. And FYF seems to have something of a reputation for trying. There is something to be said for being willing to try. And sometimes, failing is a cost. I’m not a big believer in saying I’ll never go again. I still think FYF books the caliber of bands that I will always consider it. Because while it won’t be the Blood Brothers or Slowdive next year, it’ll be someone that’s legitimately worth catching, who delivers that gut punch or that swoon that music has so sorely missed for however long they’ve been gone. On paper, I thought Sunday was the weaker of the two days, but it didn’t show in what I saw, and as opposed to the day before, I actually got in plenty early with time to catch all of Joanna Gruesome’s set. Built To Spill delivered one of the best sets of the weekend, it was fun to catch bits of up-and-comers like Benjamin Booker, and Presidents of the United States of America delivered the type of fun, nostalgic set this child of the 90s expected. By the time I got to the measured lackadaisical headlining set of The Strokes, I didn’t need anything else. I’d gotten everything I came for. Musically, I had a wonderful time, and while all the other aspects of a festival are nice and can enhance the experience, it doesn’t matter how good the food is if the music isn’t.

On things that didn’t quite fit into the narrative, I thought the food was good. There were really good options but it seemed the best stuff had long lines, though I didn’t find I waited too long for anything. As a vegetarian, I was glad to see plentiful options, from the poutine truck to the vegan pop-up to Tony’s. I could have eaten at the Sage truck all weekend. While it was great that there were food options built into the alcohol gardens, I didn’t go in any of them all weekend, so I’m not sure what I missed in there. The free water and charging stations were nice touches, though it seemed the only stage you could take in from the charging stations that I found was the Trees. Again, I never located a map, and I didn’t want to spend too much time poking around on my phone as I wanted that battery power for other things. The fact that there were real bathrooms was definitely appreciated, though as is fairly typical of any festival, the portable toilets were quickly out of toilet paper, and I couldn’t particular figure out the lift in separating those by gender. The passage between the Main Stage and the Trees felt quite constricted at times, and the same was occasionally true of the passage between the Lawn and the Trees. All told, it felt like there was plenty of space, but not where you needed it at times. I never got too close to the Main stage, but I had no problem getting right up to the other stages when I wanted to. Parking wasn’t a huge issue, and getting in and out via car was pretty easy all told. Overall, the festival experience was a great one musically, and an occasionally frustrating one logistically, but it’s still something I’d probably do again. While there are certainly problems, I have faith that FYF will try to remedy them, and many of the problems seem to be the kind borne of ambition, of trying to do more and still deliver an amazing experience that’s fairly economical. The stories of those of us who waited in line will linger, they will eventually be what most frustrating stories become, funny stories that we can tell later, badges of honor, something to commiserate with other festival goers about when it comes up in conversation. And if they keep a few people from coming back next year? Well, at least it’ll be easier to get in, right?

Like, Etc.

One of my friends shared this article about quitting liking things on Facebook. As if to prove one of the points, I never saw another friend share it even though a mutual friend first posted it. It could be because I wasn’t all plugged into Facebook much of yesterday; it could be because it’s infuriating to figure out how to get the information I want versus the information Facebook thinks I want. I’ve grown more entrenched with my use of Twitter, which does not do that at all and only recently added features (at least in its native form) to control that beyond unfollowing people. Perhaps that has made me more aware of it. While I’m not totally in agreement with the conclusion the author comes to, I do appreciate the general ethos. I am, perhaps, a bit specious of the conclusion that commenting instead of liking will foster an environment where we’re all better at connecting; that could just be me. Commenting carries different weight, different social protocol even, and if my comment was merely to signify “I acknowledge this” or “this made me smile”, then I’m not really sure that counts as true engagement in a meaningful way that exceeds the like. Though it definitely does seem to be an action Facebook wouldn’t like. The actual effects do seem to be true in the sense of what shows up. At least to some degree, Mat Honan liking everything illustrates that. That article also seems to hint at the fact that Facebook might not take too kindly to doing that. Which makes me wonder what might happen either way, if we all stopped liking anything or if we all just started liking everything, irrelevant of our feelings and stances on the subject. Needless to say, it sounds like Facebook would become a different tool than it currently is. Of course, I’m sure they’d figure out some way to adjust. Besides, engagement is still on us as individuals. And while things are different over at Twitter currently, they may not stay that way forever. In the end, What does it mean when we “like” stuff around the Internet? I really find that Anil Dash piece sort of nails the idea that even if we aren’t entirely aware of it at the time, these actions do have meanings to them.

What does it means to be a conscious social media user in 2014? Because that’s what those articles and ideas are exploring. It’s worth thinking about. These tools are embedded in our lives. Those tools can certainly change, but we are always going to have something. It may not be a company we know the name of know, it may not even be a tool that exists currently, but the impulse behind all of it is an utterly human one, to stay in touch, to reach out, to share. From the standpoint of simple mechanics, texting isn’t so far removed from the telegraph. It’s a tool that closes distance, a tool that keeps us in touch with each other. And even if the fav or the like are only the head nods across the room as so many people have indicated, they are still tools we use to acknowledge that. Perhaps we nod too much and don’t say enough, which is one takeaway from not liking things. Or perhaps instead of nodding to people, we are nodding to corporate sponsors and aggregators too much whose goal is to just keep us nodding.

Therein lies the challenge of how use those tools. With that awareness, I can make some decisions. I sometimes like stuff not just because I like it, but also because I am aware that my liking it may bump it up in that algorithm for other people to see and I think they should. Of course, I don’t have all the tools at my disposal to totally evaluate what happens. I am mildly curious to see the effects of what might happen if I liked all of my own stuff now. I am guessing Facebook has had time to navigate around that in terms of its algorithms, but perhaps they do not worry about it. Perhaps they rely on our awareness of the social cost of doing that, of what friends would think, how that reaction can keep us in line. That is perhaps what they count on to keep you from liking everything. Though that can’t do anything about you liking nothing, and it still seems we’re a ways from reliably mining information from the written word. Given the annoyance that people express with what Facebook decides to show based on our likes, we’re a ways from reliably drawing too many conclusions from that as well.

I try not to get caught up in it too much. I don’t rely on Facebook to tell me anything specifically because I am aware of the fact that I might not see it, much as I know I cannot necessarily rely on it to reach all of my friends. If I have something I want to say to specific individuals, I try to make sure I do that directly. When I am planning something, I either make that effort with a number of individuals simultaneously or I try to saturate Facebook enough to get the message through, fully aware that not everyone sees everything every time even as I worry that I keep going on and on about it. I hope that it will tell me most of what I want to know, though. Because I do want to see what’s going on in my friends’ lives. I do want to see what they think is worth sharing or worth talking about.

In the same vein, I try not to get caught up in the gamified aspect of how many people liked a picture or a status, of whether that pithy tweet got a retweet or not, though it can occasionally be entertaining to try and craft a status or a tweet that has that effect on purpose. Obsessively looking to see if I’ve got a new notification doesn’t make it happen, and isn’t particularly a healthy way of approaching these tools anyway. Not that I succeed 100% of the time, of course. But I am trying to use the services, not let them use me (at least completely). Obviously they appreciate the data that I give them. In return, I use services like Facebook and Twitter because I want to see pictures of my friends’ kids, I want to hear what they have to say about their lives half a world away, I want perspectives and rapid information on current events (though, that’s really more Twitter because the two services are different), I want to read articles and posts that get me thinking and challenge my view points. I like cat pictures as much as the next person; I like them a whole lot more when they are my friends’ cat pictures. I doubt I will stop liking things on Facebook. I definitely will not start liking everything. I am aware those functions are just nods in a world where maybe we don’t have time to do much more, or maybe that is all the engagement that we currently want, to acknowledge that we appreciate it in some little way. I am aware that they perhaps have effects I do not completely understand, or that I at least only partially understand. If I have something to say? There’s a little box right below that status. Don’t worry, I’ll use that. We’ve got that tools. If I have something to say, I’ll say it. Hopefully you will too.

 
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