Lately I’ve been baking a lot. Perhaps you’ve noticed. While there are plenty of places with vegan items here, there are not just great vegan bakeries at every corner in San Francisco, irrelevant of what you may believe about the city. While Arizmendi is always guaranteed to have a muffin or two as well as many great breads and focaccia and Hayes Valley Bakeworks has a great muffin and a Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodle that you should try whether you’re vegan or not, I can’t just walk down to Cinderella and grab a blueberry brioche like I used to. I am aware of the ramifications of my decision to go vegan. I’m not complaining. Just observing. Besides, even if you have no dietary restrictions (medical or self-imposed as in my case), there are still too many places in the city to try, and chances are you have found your rhythm, the places you go to, and the things you enjoy. I have been in the process of rewriting that memory, and I find that it’s just not as easy to find a good cinnamon roll as it was before. Which has meant a lot more time in my kitchen. The results have been rewarding. It’s been figuring out how to put together many of the foods I enjoy. In addition, it’s a great distraction. I can’t afford to divert my attention lest I screw up what I’ve just put fair amount of time and money into.
But if I’m being honest, I’m looking for the distraction just as much. When I’m out on a run, at a show, catching a drink with a friend, or baking, I don’t spend too much time looking inward. Even when I do things alone. Even when I spend a lot of time thinking. I don’t know if it’s the stimuli around me, but it doesn’t really matter. When I get out of my apartment, or when I find something here that totally engages me like baking, I just don’t spend much time in my head. And I don’t really want to right now. At least in the past couple weeks, I’ve had a rough go of it. I know I can’t push myself all the time. The bike-work-bike-run-cook-bike-show-bike-sleep days sure do pass the time, but I just can’t do that to myself every single day. There is value in doing nothing at times, or at least setting aside time where life isn’t non-stop. But on those days, I don’t have time to spend too much time looking inward.
Why has that been such an issue recently? I have had a hard time figuring that out. Is it because, when I take a hard look at myself, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough in ways that matter more? That’s certainly there. But how am I measuring that impact? Perhaps a better way of stating that is to say I don’t feel like I am doing enough to make things better for other people. Which I do think is something I can put more energy toward. I have spent a lot of time making decisions and changing habits to improve my life, or at least making decisions that have had a positive impact on me in terms of taking care of myself. What am I really doing for the people around me, though? Do I just need something more tangible that I can see the results of? Like I said, I think there is some merit there. I could be doing more in that regard. Or I could at least be spending some of my energy on more focused items, volunteering at a shelter or for a phone line or a bike valet or something that I can point to and say, this is what I’m doing. There are plenty of things that I’m passionate about and yet for the most part, I tacitly support them. Or at least I passively support them at best. Perhaps, as it is for me when I am out doing something, it would be better for me to be active.
That is something I’d like to do better. But I don’t think that’s all of it. I think it’s just the weight of being trans in our society. I just spend so much energy dealing with everything that goes along with that. I may not have to jump through the hoops of gatekeepers at doctor’s offices anymore, but every bigot out there acts like a gatekeeper. Whether it’s constantly being called sir whenever I make a work phone call to being accosted in a bathroom to trying to be a resource for people even when I should probably say I don’t have the energy to engage this right now, I feel like am always on. That feeling never goes away. When I’m out on a run, when I’m at that show, I get the feeling that I’m frequently being read as male. Not because I’m cynical (well, I am, but that is neither here nor there in this case), but because I have a large body of work to prove that point. I have people staring at me when I come out of bathroom stalls, I have artists misgender me when I go to buy their record (let me tell you, not a fun experience), I have people say let the man go through to me when I’m on the trails of the city. Transphobia is so systemic that it doesn’t matter where you live. There’s no good place to be trans in a world full of transphobes. Maybe there are a few less of them here; maybe the laws are better. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good place to be trans. We have a long way to go before anywhere is a good place for trans people to live. I am cognizant that circumstances for me are better than they are for a lot of trans people. But we can do better. We have to do better. And to that end, there are certainly things I can do better.
Perhaps it’s just the totality. These are the thoughts I live with constantly. I am either trying to figure out how to do more because I am one of the lucky ones and I feel I should do more or I am living with the reality that if I’m one of the lucky ones, the world is still a pretty shitty place. Usually I’m struggling with the push and pull of those two poles. There’s always going to be something though. It took me a lot of time to come to terms with who I am. But that’s not a neat story with clean act breaks. Even when I finally came out, I still had to work for years on many issues. I am always a work in progress. I’m finally at a point where I’m comfortable with my self-image. Part of that was changing the things I could; the other part was learning to accept there are a few things that I can’t change, or at least that I can’t change directly. And that those things might not even be bad, just that I was socialized to think they are bad. Whereas six years ago I might have wondered what I could have done better to make that person not utter something gross or transphobic, now I am more confident; I don’t have to do better for anyone else. I don’t have to look a certain way to please other people. I have to look like myself. That is a way I can do better, by being me in a society that definitely does not really want me to be myself. Confident in that knowledge, though, how do I affect change? How do I make things better going forward? Just carrying that attitude certainly helps, but what more can I do? That took me years, and it didn’t magically happen. And while all that’s going on, I still struggle to deal with fear for my safety, with the loneliness, with lack of what I feel is true acceptance by even those closest to me. I don’t let those factors rule my life anymore, but I’d be a fool to ignore that they are always there and they are always something I have to engage. I get why a lot of trans folk have a hard time. There’s so much to unlearn, so much to always be aware of. It’s fucking hard.
There are some things I can’t just explain away, but some things do not require explanations. I can’t think up an answer to how I feel; this is just how I feel right now. And that’s okay. If I don’t want to spend too much time dwelling, if I don’t think that it’s doing me any good to spend too much time in my head, Minimalist Baker is just a couple clicks away, and then I’m figuring out how exactly to tweak that chocolate cake, what consistency I want out of my frosting, and sometimes I need that. Even if trans issues are always on the periphery, they can’t always be directly on my mind. They can just be too consuming, too draining to think about constantly. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to spend so much energy on them if they were on more peoples’ minds a bit more. That, however, is much more of process. There’s no simple recipe to making a better society. It’s dirty, it’s messy. The results are unpredictable at best. Though I guess the same could be said of baking much of the time.
A funny thing happened when I spent a little more time baking. I found I liked it. And that I’m actually pretty good at it. Much like I am really quite a bit better at being myself as opposed to who people think I should be. There’s always a reward in finding those things you are good at that you may have previously not known about yourself. I’d rather focus on that thought than on not focusing on anything at all. But that’s not always where I’m at. Right now, I also need the escape my kitchen provides most of the time. I am a trans woman before pretty much everything else most of the time. That is the first thing about me, even in my own mind. I’m not ashamed of who I am, but I wish it were a matter-of-fact statement, not something so obviously loaded in the minds of many. Besides, I’d rather be known not as a series of descriptors of who I am but rather what I’ve accomplished. Perhaps in the future I will be truly good at baking, perhaps I’ll have a shop of my own some day. I don’t want to be the trans woman who happens to be a good baker any more than I want to be known as the baker who happens to be a trans woman. If I’m being honest, I’d much rather just be known as a baker.