There’s Worse Things Than Being Alone

It’s funny how a move can shake up your life, change your perspective, force you to do things differently, but we always find ways back to who we are. Not that I think we are doomed to repeat things over and over. Just that we keep finding our way back to ourselves. We all have life changing experiences, but I know first-hand that amazing things can happen that change your perspective that just don’t last forever. Probably the most notable moment in my life like that was when I was hit by a car leaving the 400. It may be a reminder of the fragility of life in that moment, or for the days after, and it still is one of those things I look at and realize could have happened in an entirely different, and possibly deadly, way. But it was nine years ago, too. I just don’t think about it that much anymore. So I guess it’s not the events, but rather whether we can make lasting changes coming out of those events. I certainly realize that it could all be over tomorrow. But you got live like you’re gonna die tomorrow and plan like you’re gonna live forever. It’s a delicate balance. When is challenging yourself to do something taking care of yourself? When is telling yourself not to do something taking care of yourself?

Have I made any lasting changes here? Of course. I’ve gotten better at honestly answering those questions at least. But I find myself troubled by many of the same problems I experienced in the Twin Cities. Whereas I felt many of my friends were going in different directions with their lives in Minnesota, here I’ve just found it difficult to even make those friends in the first place. It’s still a pretty sparse roll call when I’m trying to get people together, which frequently leads to the same result. I do a lot of things alone. I have yet to really develop the same level of community with the music venues in this town. Some things I knew wouldn’t be much different, but I guess I was hoping for more in that regard. It’s not a bad town to be trans in, but it’s not much different than the Twin Cities in that regard. There are still a lot of assholes everywhere, which I’ve said before and I’m constantly reminded of. This move didn’t make my life easier, but then again, no one said it would, and I didn’t believe that it would anyway.

Even if it feels like it gets harder each day, I do a better job of taking care of myself. Whether that’s remembering to floss or paying more attention to what goes into my body or getting in a few runs a week. Or being honest with myself, at least. Sometimes it’s just processing how I feel. That could be the totality of feeling like I am an outlier in a lot of ways. Whether it’s as a bike commuter or as a vegan or as someone who still goes out on a Wednesday night for a show or as a trans woman, I feel like I’m in the minority a lot in regards to the decisions I make. Or perhaps not necessarily a minority, but someone for whom systems are not designed. In other ways, I am not. But I don’t make those decisions to consciously being different in any regard. I make those decisions because they are the right decisions for me. In some ways, I think being trans makes it a lot easier to make those decisions, because really, what other decisions am I going to make that are harder or people are going to treat me worse for. People laugh at me when I say I bike everywhere, they scoff at me when I say I’m vegan, but that’s nothing compared to moving through the world every day as trans, and as someone who is definitely perceived as trans with frequency. And I say this as someone whose experiences have been fairly tame. Many people might not believe that I could live without bacon, but many people straight up refuse to accept that I’m a woman.

But there a lot of positive ways in which I feel like an outlier too. When I look at all the great people in my life, or I think about the fact that modern technology means that even if I spend a lot of time alone, I rarely spend a lot of time lonely. I know my problems are fairly minor, and even if I get piqued fairly frequently. I have multiple friends I went to high school with only a few miles away that I’m still in touch with. And I live 2,500 miles from where I went to school. I feel like I will always have a home in Minnesota, even if I don’t live there any more. I have the means to go to all those shows on Wednesday nights, and have a drink or two, or a good meal. I can go to those cities and see you. That is a rare thing, and rarer yet for many trans folks, to have that security and means. And as frustrating as it is, there’s a reason people keep moving here, and it’s not just the jobs. There’s just something about this place. If I end up leaving tomorrow or I’m here for the rest of my life, there’s still a chapter of my life where I can say “this is my chapter in San Francisco”. It’s not perfect, but it’s important to remind myself of in those moments where I feel like things aren’t going anywhere, when I’m frustrated because I’ll never be one of the pretty ones, when I can’t seem to get anything done after work because all I want to do is sink into the couch. I remember that things are going places, that there’s a lot more to life than a pretty face (though it never hurts), and some nights, it is okay to sink into that couch. It’s just important to not keep doing those things.though. I don’t want to deny my feelings, but I don’t want to be captive to them either. And if I force myself not to dwell on whatever has me down at the moment, it’s pretty easy to see things are pretty fucking awesome. There’s worse things than being alone. As a car reminded me nine years ago.

Too Much Democracy (Or One Voter’s Guide To Civic Duty In San Francisco)

If you’re a resident of San Francisco, then a couple weeks ago like me, you likely received a 200 page Voter Information Guide & Sample Ballot. The number of pages is not a typo. California, in general, and San Francisco, in specific, remain somewhat extreme examples of direct democracy. I don’t remember voting anywhere else in my life (Iowa and Minnesota) where the process and the amount of work I needed to do to be an informed voter involved this much research. In an effort to ensure that I do that research, I thought I’d write a bit about the process, and really the book itself, because it’s a gem

Pages 0-13 Table of Contents and general information

I am sympathetic to this section, and the efforts of the city. It’s all important stuff (where to vote, language services, how ranked choice voting works). My favorite touches are the exhortations to recycle this voter guide and the fact that they have to explain the very purpose of the book (Purpose of the Voter Information Pamphlet, page 3), but the best is a note on page 3 telling you to go to page 153 to find out how to save paper. But this is the kind of basic stuff that is required, and therefore I have no issue with it. In addition, it highlights the multiple channels and resources for voters, and if there’s anything other places in the United States truly should emulate about the voting process in San Francisco, it’s that. Early voting, vote-by-mail, language services, accessible voting are all things this city seems to do well.

Pages 14-15 Candidate information

It’s nice to see the offices and their duties clearly explained. By far the most interesting aspect is the listed yearly salary. That way you can see just how much Ed Lee is making to not really do anything to make this city a better place to live. Segue…

Pages 16-18 Candidates for Mayor

Did you know there are 6 people running for Mayor in San Francisco? Which makes you wonder, if there are 5 other people running, how are there no legitimate challengers to a mayor that anecdotally not that many people seem to like? Still, I can’t bring myself to vote for Ed Lee. From his sycophantic support of the Twitter tax break (which, I agree is complex, but c’mon…) to his perplexing vow to veto relaxed Idaho Stop enforcement for biking, I’ve just never read anything that has made me excited to say he’s my mayor. Stuart Schuffman (known better as Broke-Ass Stuart) gets my protest vote.

Pages 19-20 Candidates for Sheriff

Three candidates, but this is really a two person race between challenger Vicki Hennessy and incumbent Ross Mirkarimi from what I can see. Mirkarimi is a deeply flawed incumbent. He may be noting aspects of his tenure like pushing to house trans inmates according to their gender identity (while still highlighting his and most cis folks’ unfortunate and weird obsession with trans folks’ genitals) but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan as to how to accomplish things like that and it contains weird onerous requirements cis people would never have to do. Hennessy seems to have walked back some of her criticisms of sanctuary city status, but essentially seems to be saying she reserves the right to reach out as necessary, whatever that ends up meaning. Certainly Kathryn Steinle’s death was senseless and tragic, but I was glad to see the city reaffirm its sanctuary city status recently. Mirkarimi has other issues (previous domestic violence charges, the prison fights, etc) and it’s dismaying that he is not on speaking terms with the Mayor, because that seems problematic. The totality seems to be he has more problems than pluses. To that end, even if I’m not entirely sold, I think Hennessy is my choice.

Page 21 Candidate for City Attorney

Page 22 Candidate for District Attorney
Page 23 Candidate for Treasurer

Three offices, three unopposed incumbents; the only real question is whether they deserve a vote or not, but that has no real impact on whether they get elected. I’m not seeing much negative news about Dennis Herrera, George Gascón, and José Cisneros. It’s there, of course, but nothing that says stay away, or merits a protest no in my opinion.

Pages 24-25 Candidates for Community College Board

Four people running for the remainder of a one-year term that we’ll vote on again in 2016? Yep. The three that stand out are Wendy Aragon, Alex Randolph,and Tom Temprano. Alex Randolph, the incumbent, is an establishment choice, with the endorsements to match. Both the challengers do as well in that regard. This is one of those things where it feels like they’d all do a pretty good job. In a coin flip, I like what I’ve seen about Tom Temprano, and while I think any of them would do a good job, he gets my vote.

Page 26 San Francisco’s Supervisorial Districts

I’m sad the guide doesn’t say anything about the Farallon Islands, which are technically in District 1, though that probably owes to their remote location, lack of humans, and rodent infestation.

Page 27 Voter Bill Of Rights

Again, just some good solid information that’s good to share with people and make known. See, sometimes we get stuff right here.

Pages 28-39 Sample Ballot

Yes, that’s how long it is.

Page 40 Local Ballot Measure and Argument Information

This apparently explains the logic of what’s going to fill more than half this book. In seriousness, though, again, transparency, it’s a nice thing

Pages 41-43 Words You Need To Know

Why yes, there is a 3 page glossary of words and terms. A shocking number of them are for Props G and H, so at least we’ve all learned something about clean, green, and renewable energy.

Pages 44-45 An Overview of San Francisco’s Debt

Wait, I thought we were all so rich here we didn’t have that.

Pages 46-58 Proposition A – Affordable Housing Bond

San Francisco has been doing a system of charter amendments and propositions since 1898. The public library has documents going back to 1907 online. Some of them are the very foundations of the city, setting up maintenance and operations for Golden Gate Park, for example, or setting up the recall mechanism for voters. It’s actually kind of entertaining to dig through if you find yourself with some time. Take, for example, Daniel S O’Brien, who wanted to remind voters even in 1925 that he was, in fact, “a native-born San Franciscan”. Several other candidates that year also made sure to state some variation therein, a reminder that geography as a qualification is not a new thing. By far the best line from that 1925 guide, though, belongs to Julius S Godeau when he said:

Cemetery Removal – I am for the orderly and decorous removal of the City cemeteries. Without confusion, these cemeteries, lying in the center of the City, should be removed and the people of the Richmond District given free and direct transportation from their homes to the downtown business section. (Always providing that the people vote their removal.)

May that also serve as a reminder that we have been dealing with many of these issues for a long time. That was not the first time the City voted to move the cemeteries, but as anyone who’s been to Colma knows, the City did eventually do just that. It’s also a reminder that we seem to be revisiting the same issues again and again. Of course, circumstances change, so it makes sense that votes change.

Back in the present day, Prop A, in short, is asking us to bond $310 million for affordable housing. It requires 66 and ⅔% to pass. This is really a no-brainer in my opinion. Do we need a lot of other solutions? Of course. But arguments against that we shouldn’t put any money in at all or worse yet, that it doesn’t do enough strike me as callous and disingenuous.The city has lots of goals and ideas, but this is a tangible commitment. Let’s make that commitment, San Francisco.

This is also a moment to talk about Dr. Terence Faulkner, J.D. or whatever other appellation he uses. Once you starting bringing the Vikings into your rebuttal, welp, I’ve got nothing else to add. Sometimes, I agree with him though, so make of it what you will. But not in this case. Yes on Prop A.

Page 59 – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This seems like a weird spot to slip in an FAQ, San Francisco.

Pages 60-64 Proposition B – Paid Parental Leave for City Employees

Basically, this proposal is to allow both parents to take full parental leave (12 weeks) if the are both City employees as well as amending the fact they have to use all other leave first by allowing them to retain 40 hours of paid leave.

One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself going through all these props is “should this be a Prop?” In this case, I’m not really sure this is what the proposition mechanism should be used for. I’m having a difficult time finding exact numbers on how many City employees there are, but it looks to be somewhere around 28,000. Considering how many of them are likely married or partners, this just isn’t a high impact issue from a cost perspective, so I don’t think that’s a persuasive argument. Where it is a high impact issue is setting a positive example for other municipalities to follow. Is it enough? No, we need much better leave policies for more than just City employees. Still, let’s be in the lead on something that the United States is abysmal at. Yes on Prop B.

Page 65 – Be A Poll Worker on Tuesday, November 3!

You know, that’d actually be pretty cool to do. I doubt volunteer time would cover it, since it’s paid, but maybe next year.

Pages 66-72 Proposition C Expenditure Lobbyists

This prop basically expands the definition of who is a lobbyist and requires them to pay some additional fees and complete additional registration and paperwork. Yet I’m not really sure this is something that’s necessary. Or that this is the means that it should be done by. I just don’t think this really makes the process that much more transparent, and it seems more likely to impact smaller entities adversely. And all the other municipalities might have disclosure requirements but does that really stem the flow of funds? This just doesn’t seem to be how you truly fight that. Money might be a problem in this city, but I don’t think it’s all that secret. It’ll probably pass, even if I don’t think this should really be something we use a prop on, but since they’re asking me, I’m voting No on Prop C.

Page 73 Ballot Drop-off Stations Outside City Hall

The City really wants you to be aware of the ways it does things well. They even advertise those coveted “I Voted” stickers.

Pages 74-91 – Proposition D Mission Rock

This is a bit wordy, and kind of a two-part issue. Should the city increase the height limit for development at the Mission Rock site from one story to 40 to 240 feet, and should the city encourage the development of that site, including eight acres of parks as well as housing, of which at least 33% will be affordable.

Should this be a prop. Hell no. Every section of the guide has a how “X” got on the ballot, and this has a nice story about how it got there by the number of people who signed an initiative ordinance, blah, blah, blah. But really, how did it get on the ballot? You’ll have to look back to Props B and C in 2013, which involved the 8 Washington project, which the City rejected forcefully. I didn’t agree then and I don’t agree now, but 8 Washington was also practically an exhibition on how to not make something happen. The City gets so caught up in what kinds of development fit its character that it seems to end up with very little to nothing. Emboldened by that, Prop B passed in 2014. They might have celebrated how it’s changed everyone’s development plans, but the irony of this is it also makes everything take longer and cost more, and not necessarily for much benefit. Now you have to win public approval for a project that I’m guessing a bunch of people out in places like the Richmond and Sunset will rarely ever see, unless they go to Giants games. Approval of this project would be a forceful statement about how the winds have changed in just a year. Here’s what I don’t get about the idea. There are places along the waterfront that are literally zoned to a height of 0 feet. I run by these lots all the time, and they are a sad sight. People would rather keep empty piers and parking lots and the views of expensive condos across the street because of character. Character is an intangible; I like character too, it’s tough to make a reasoned argument based on it. I don’t think it can ever be totally ignored, nor should it, but it’s worth remembering that. 8 Washington lost because of a different climate, a poor vision, and a lack of affordability; Props about waterfront development passed in elections that simply didn’t have as many voters. I just don’t think a waterfront wall is a reality, and frankly if it is one, I welcome it. I’d be more concerned about rising sea levels than a blocked view myself. But that’s not what we’re voting on (yet). I’m dismayed I even have to vote on this, but if I have to, you can bet damn well it’s going to be a forceful Yes on Prop D.

Pages 92-97 Proposition E Requirements for Public Meetings

The gist is should the City be required to stream City meetings, allow comments from anyone watching remotely, play pre-recorded comments, and allow requests for discussion of specific items at specific times. Got all that? Because I’m not sure. The City already broadcasts many of its meetings, has agendas available, and allows opportunities for people to speak or submit pre-recorded video, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be played at the meeting. So basically, it’s just more, more, more, but more of…what? It would increase staff, have some one-time costs, and generally feels like a very San Francisco kind of ordinance. It seems like a good idea, but what does it really do? The remote testimony portion is the part that definitely sticks out in a negative way. On top of the fact that they would have to broadcast four times as many meetings. Most of which I’m guessing people are either showing up for if they care. And I am sympathetic to increased access. But it doesn’t really seem to do the job well. Come back with a better thought out Prop and then maybe we can talk. No on Prop E.

Pages 98-113 Proposition F Short-Term Residential Rentals

Prop F is all about codifying the rule around short-term rentals to a further degree than they currently exist, dropping the number of rentable days on all short-term units to 75 regardless of hosting, and increasing paperwork requirements, but I think the sticking point for Airbnb, or why they’ve spent so much on it, seems to me to be allowing interested parties to sue hosting platforms instead of just the City.

Where to start? I have read a lot on this, from this awfully slanted No on F post that went viral to this much more even-handed response that seemed to generate as much response (locally at least). I’ve lived here long enough now to see Airbnb make more than a few stumbles, but their ill-fated ad campaign about how the City should spend its taxes after spending so long fighting paying those very taxes. It’s really baffling. They’ve obviously taken a lot of heat in regards to people pulling rentals off the market or evicting tenants to convert them to temporary rentals, and obviously it’s having an impact, but that seems to depend on who you ask and exactly what you count. I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who will disagree with that statement in general, though. Airbnb is one of the few of these sharing economy services that makes any sense at all to me, though it still has the same general impact of shifting who pays for what. Airbnb lines their coffers because they pass on so many expenses to you, the owner of that temporary unit. They might finally be paying the hotel tax, but they still don’t have to wash the sheets, or pay or a doorman, or anything. Your gain, of course, is taking advantage of that extra room. Or maybe an entire unit. That’s where things get a little nasty, it seems. But even if it’s people renting out a room, that’s an impact. Of course, if it’s there home and they are just looking for some extra money, Airbnb might make that easier, but people have been renting rooms for a long time. The problem seems to be who is renting those rooms, actual residents of the City or visitors. In a healthier environment, it’s doubtful anyone would care that much.

But I don’t need to tell you San Francisco is not a healthy rental market. Every newspaper of record has written about it. You don’t need me to tell you about it, whether you live here or not. You’re probably sick of hearing about it. Guess what? We are too. That’s where ideas like this come from. And in general, I don’t think a lot aspects of Prop F are problematic. But I also don’t think they are all that different from the current rules. And more importantly, it circles back to whether the City should use the Prop mechanism for this. And that’s where I think this fails. Props are very hard to change. So is that the process by which we want to govern something like this that is relatively dynamic? And more importantly, are you just doing this because you don’t like Airbnb, and by extension, many of the new tech companies? I am not a huge fan of them. They are tone-deaf, and like so many tech companies, they think they’ve invented something new when they’ve just moved the work around. They serve a narrow clientele, and while I have periodically used them, I do so with trepidation because I can’t exactly screen for transphobic hosts. I have a lot of complex feelings about Airbnb. I do not think they are changing the world. But I also don’t think a Prop is the best way to govern this, or to show our displeasure with them. I may not be a huge fan, but No on Prop F

Pages 114-122 Props G and H Disclosures Regarding Clean Energy

I am grouping them together because they are essentially the same, however G couldn’t be withdrawn. Both address CleanPowerSF and definitions about what’s renewable. I don’t think it’s going to cost anyone anything. I don’t think it really matters that much to be totally honest. But if that’s the case, why are we taking time to vote on this? Is this something the entire City really needs to vote on? The Yes vote here states essentially that we’ll use the State definition of some terms, and that we’ll urge CleanPowerSF to…do something? I do not understand why this is a Prop at all, and it’s somehow two? I know, I know it’s because PG&E got G on the ballot in the first place and it has a poison pill regarding what’s entirely green energy and a lot of other wonky stuff. So the idea is we vote for H to prevent G from happening, which no one even seems to support anymore anyway. No on both Props G and H for me, and no more thought at all about this other than to say, maybe you can see why San Francisco is a little screwy now?

Page 123 Voter Bill Of Rights

So good they had to print it again 96 pages later.

Pages 124-139 Proposition I Suspension of Market-Rate Development in the Mission District

Shall the City suspend the issuance and permits on certain types of housing and business development projects in the Mission for at least 18 months and establish a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, to paraphrase the booklet.

The Mission Moratorium, as an idea, is an expression of many things, but mostly, I see it as an expression of anger. Anger that the city is changing. Anger that people are moving into the Mission. Anger that people are being evicted. Anger that long-time businesses are moving or going out of business. Anger over who this city is for, and who it intends to serve. Anger over the economic and racial disparities that are further highlighted and exacerbated by much of what’s changed there in the past several years. To that end, we get a Prop after it did not get the nine votes they needed from the Supes to pass it earlier this year. Not it only requires a 50%+1 to pass and it’s in our hands.

I understand that anger. I just don’t see this as the solution. You can call me a dirty urbanist or a believer in trickle-down or whatever. But we need more housing, overall. Do I agree we need stronger components in terms of affordable housing? Definitely  But I don’t see how this solves it? When I read memos like this, I don’t see many plans, just this idea that we need more affordable homes. It’s inchoate. It’s an idea. How are those places being built, though? Prop A? The taxes and money made by the city off those deplorable luxury condo residents? How is it addressing the high building costs in this city, and how is putting up yet another barrier helping that? Many have stated this is like a time-out. But the city isn’t waiting. People are still moving here. And they will keep moving here. Do other neighborhoods need to step up? Of course. But part of what makes the Mission appealing isn’t just its hip new bars and restaurants that people so readily decry, but the fact that BART runs right under it. The core, though, is who the city is for, who is a true San Franciscan, who deserves to be here. This is the angle where I think racial and economic justice makes sense. Those are questions we keep asking, frequently at the expense of newcomers. Have I been here long enough to not be one? Am I still a gentrifier even though I don’t live in the Mission, don’t work in tech, and definitely don’t make as much as the tech workers? Am I more a resident because I try to engage with the culture more? Is it easier to feel better about the fact I have had good fortune because I’m not just another white dude? I don’t know. There are a lot of questions here. My main question, though, is what are we doing to make this city more accommodating not just for the new folks, but how we do it conscientiously with the people who have been here. I don’t see how this addresses that.. As I’ve come to say to myself a lot recently after seeing it online, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. But this is neither.

I think this will pass, and I’m terrified at the thought of other neighborhoods also asking for the same dispensation instead of stepping up and trying to help make up for the fact that this is going to make things even tougher for a while. Of course what do I care, I have rent control. Well, I care in that I want there to still be a city around me. I care in that I’d like the option of moving someday if I wanted to. I care because I care about my city. I do think we need more substantive plans to address those disparities. I do feel bad about the problems in this city. I do want to do more to help, I do think we all want this city to be better, but I don’t think this is it. No on Prop I.

Pages 140-145 Prop J Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund

This is about establish a fund for what are Legacy businesses. At present, legacy businesses have to have been here for 30 years or more, founded or currently in the City, that have contributed to the neighborhoods they are in that have maintained the physical features or traditions, as they define it. Think things like the Taqueria La Cumbre (secretly a great late night option…just saying) or Anchor Brewing, Cliff House or Tommy’s, Silver Crest Donut Shop or the Little Shamrock. They are things that contribute character to a city, no doubt. The Prop is designed to create a fund for businesses on that Registry, while provide grants and expanding the definition of what can be a legacy business. I don’t think there’s a problem with legacy businesses, but I’m not sure the definition needs to be expanded or that is what I think the city should be spending money on. Historic preservation certainly matters, but what’s historic? It’s a tougher question to answer than you think, and as we approach the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, it’s worth thinking about the challenges there in. The idea of preservation is worthy, but the actual act of it represents a challenge. What maintains something as historic? Its use? Its look? Its location or primacy? These aren’t easy questions. I don’t really feel particularly qualified to address them, but they certainly impact me, because they impact the development of the places I live and have lived. Lowertown in Saint Paul is a curious example of that, with a lot of old buildings that have been converted into condos which certainly adds a cool character to it, but where some of those buildings worth preserving. It’s always a difficult question. I don’t really know. But I can look around and see things that don’t get developed because of that. It’d be great if another theater or similar concept moved into the Alexandria Theater space. But if it doesn’t, how long should we just let the husk of that building sit there undeveloped and unused like it has since 2004? I don’t know. There are other theaters with the same issue not all that far away. This is by no means me advocating just tearing all of it down and building whatever new thing you can. But things aren’t valuable inherently because they are old. And it’s worth a reminder that everything old was new once. Where does that new stuff go in? Sometimes it goes into old businesses. I think we can continue to grapple with questions of use and history without this fund, and I don’t think the definition of what’s a legacy business really needs to be changed at present. Not everything will be a legacy business. And if everything were, would anything ever change? I know that’s not what it’s about, but it’s a question to keep in mind. For me, this just doesn’t seem like a thing we need a Prop for. No on Prop J.

Pages 146-152 Prop K Surplus Public Lands

This is about expanding the threshold for allowable uses of property, and expanding the percentages, essentially. At present the City uses surplus property for housing that is affordable up to 60% of the area median income. Basically this raises the threshold to anywhere between 120% to 150% the median while still putting some requirements on how much needs to be affordable for people in lower thresholds. It basically gives them the ability to use the surplus land to create more housing and loosens the process a bit to push it more toward developing that based on what I’m reading about it. That can all be a little fuzzy in the abstract, but the City does provide the table on their website so you can see what they are talking about. This is one of the few things that almost everyone in the current government agrees on. Which is saying something. The City needs to build more and this is a good use of City power to do such. Doesn’t mean housing is going to magically appear, but this is a tangible step toward making more of that happen, especially in the affordable column.

Page 153 – You Can Stop Receiving This Pamphlet

Yes, please

Pages 154-155

You just read 150+ pages, so here’s a couple reminders about where to vote. No really, maybe you forgot in all the time you took researching and reading about these Props.

Pages 156-195

This is the actual text of and how it will go in the Charter, if you find yourself wanting to read even more about that. Which again, kudos to the City for providing that, but I’m no lawyer, but hey, Prop D has some pretty slick looking maps

Pages 196-197

Visit to see all the stuff you just read and more!

Want to learn even more about elections in San Francisco? At this point, no, not really. Is it possible to actual excise some of what I learned out of my brain?

Page 198 Index

It’s in index. Yes, the voter guide requires both a Table of Contents and an Index.

Pages 199-200 Ballot Worksheet

All that to vote on 7 offices (8 if you live in District 3, but I left that out since I don’t) and 11 props. And they only provide 10 lines for notes?

Congrats! You made it. This certainly made me take more time to learn where I stand on some of this stuff, and I can see a shift in my voting patterns even from the last time I voted. I don’t want to say I’ve become more skeptical of Props because I was the first time I voted, but I have thought more about their broader purpose, and the question of whether they are necessary. In this case, I don’t feel like nearly as many are. That will shift from year to year, and I may not find myself on the popular side of several of these (in particular, F and I), but I feel like taking time has helped me get to a more reasoned position. But The City is squeezing everyone these days, it seems. Do we have time for that? And do we have the qualifications? That’s a question after 200 pages that I still do not equipped to answer. Direct democracy is a great concept, but in practice, I’m voting on a lot of things I don’t understand all that well. I don’t ask you how to stop money laundering. So why am I supposed to know the ins and outs of a legacy business? Some of these things seem like matters the entire city should tackle, but others feel like they are better handled by the people we are ostensibly electing to handle them. If we’re not given that, then we could all use some more time to learn and develop informed opinions on these issues. How many people are actually stepping up to share their opinions on the direction of the City come Election Day? We shall see.


Every few months, I vacillate between disclosing my trans status on dating sites. Right now, I’m in one of those phases where I’m very up front about it, to the point where I am directly challenging any dude who wanders through my profile to get over themselves if they cannot square finding me attractive with the fact that I’m trans. Because really, the two do not have anything to do with each other. If I’m an attractive woman to you, it shouldn’t matter whether my path to womanhood was less normative than the path to womanhood for a lot of others out there. But it does matter. Quite a bit in fact. Some people pretend to be polite about it by saying things “oh, you’re trans, not really into that” like they are enlightened but this attractive person suddenly changed a little bit. The reality is they had a perception of me that changed but they never should have had that perception in the first place. I wish people stopped thinking they knew something about me that they don’t really know, but I’m not sure how to change that other than to keep saying “stop doing that”.

This is inevitably more of an issue with cishet dudes. Or at least dudes that appear to be cishet based on what they say about themselves, though I try not to make too many assumptions about that. Because I don’t want people making those assumptions about me. Even a cishet dude deserves the right to declare his own identity, though does he really need to in a world that assumes that already? No, which is why they never have to. And when you’re set as the default in society, it contributes to that feeling that it’s everyone else’s responsibility to tell you how they are not that. But even when I tell them that, right up front, in direct terms, it’s still an issue. But why?

Well, that’s easy. It’s a challenge to the way we traditionally see heterosexual masculinity. Or rather, how we see men with trans women. Which is to say that we don’t see those men as entirely heterosexual because for the most part, no matter how open-minded people claim to be, they have a lot of trouble seeing trans women as women. It’s why people say about normatively attractive trans women that they never would have known they were trans. Or put another way, it’s a system of saying, I just thought you were normal. But as soon as that’s known information, you can see the wheels turning in their heads, trying to figure out how those individuals are trans, if you will. People spend a lot of time questioning the authenticity of most any trans woman’s womanhood as if cis women are a monolith with one shared history that we somehow missed out on. We have a long way to go in that regard.

In my experience, at least, most guys who find me attractive and continue to once they know I’m trans don’t identify as straight. Which is fine, you do you. These are guys who are comfortable with themselves, and that’s all the better. That’s not a problem to me. I certainly understand the pressures if men feel constrained from expressing the quite natural variations in their masculinity and heterosexuality, so I kind of get why that is. But the problem does affect me. It affects how those men react to me when we’re having a good conversation and suddenly the shut it down as soon as my trans status becomes common knowledge. One doesn’t need to look that far to see how the intersection of trans status, along with other factors, leads to far more violent reactions on the part of men than a simple dismissal.

Even if I understand the pressures, though, those guys have a lot less to lose than any trans person. They have to apologize away their attraction; I am expected to apologize away my entire existence, or at least there seem to be a significant number of people who expect me to. I won’t. I’ve grown past that. I am not sorry for who I am, and I won’t apologize for finally getting over significant societal pressure to not be myself because it makes you uncomfortable. So you’ll have to excuse me if I am a little frustrated because you can’t get over what people will think of you for finding me attractive. You won’t get fired for it. You won’t get kicked out of your home for it. So I’m not all that sympathetic. Certainly there are men who don’t feel that way. I’ve just had trouble finding them. Too bad that is not the default.

Perpetual Motion

Every October, I pay the fee and remember that I have this place on the interwebs that I pay to use. I certainly don’t have to; nonetheless I continue to and have it. In a sense, it’s good. It reminds me to write, something that may never pay the bills but is essential to my well-being. Learning to be a more open person and share what I’m going through with my friends has been an important point of development for me in the past few years, but I still manage to work out some of what’s on my mind best when I sit down, in front of a keyboard or with a notebook. It has always been and always will be a necessary action for me to process things. Whether I share that with you or keep that to myself.

But sometimes life gets too full, and even writing for myself goes by the wayside. It’s never the best decision, but again, it gets back to what is necessary. I know you’d like to think I’m a single person with piles and piles of time at my disposal, but I get the same 24 hours you do. Perhaps I have different responsibilities and privileges which mean I have more of an opportunity to determine how to use that time, but that is a different discussion. The older I get, the more I try to take care of myself, the less time I feel I have to do it. Put in your eight, get in a run, bake something good, find some time to get to the shows I must get to, and figure out how I can make it all keep going. There’s a degree of prestidigitation to it all. We keep going because we must. One more mile, the next load of laundry, whatever it may be. But then we stop. And that time doesn’t just sit there. Stop running, stop cooking, stop reading, stop writing, and something will fill that space.

The challenge, then, is figuring out what to do, or put another way, what is right for you while balancing that against what you must do. After all, most of us have to figure out how the rent or mortgage gets paid, and we have to figure out how to get enough in our pockets to make sure. In that sense, how do I put writing back into that? What goes? What stays? Recently, I started playing trivia more regularly with some friends. It’s great. It’s something I’ve missed. But that means that’s one less night a week at home to make dinner easily, or make sure the laundry gets done. On the other side, it’s a good excuse to sneak in a run beforehand, not having quite enough time to get home and do anything. Or to explore SoMa a bit more and find a new favorite bar in the neighborhood (Local Brewing Co. if you’re keeping tabs).

At times it feels like perpetual motion. But that’s a mirage, too. At some point, even all this worrying will stop. At some point, time must have a stop. I don’t say that to be morbid, I say that because it’s true. In the meantime, what can I do better today than I did yesterday? How can I make more of what I do have? What do I want to do with the energy previously spent on all the obnoxious paperwork that goes along with being trans now that I’m almost done (one more trip to the SSA…)? How do I fit in volunteering to try and give a little more back? Do I want to be as serious a baker as I joke and you cajole? What do I want to do to make sure I’m getting in three or four runs a week? How am I going to fit watching hockey into my schedule now that it’s back? Will I ever read a book again (don’t answer that)? Am I going to be smart enough to realize that I want to do a lot of things, but sometimes I do just need to sit on the couch and watch mindless television? Sometimes it’s just using the space a little bit better. I was able to sell a ticket to one show and buy tickets to another all while milling around Hardly Strictly thanks to my phone. Modern life is pretty nifty sometimes.

It’s important to ask questions, to ask yourself if you are really doing what you want to do, or at least doing the things you need to do that give you time to do the things you want to. I don’t think the questions will ever stop. No more so than what needs to be done, at least. At a certain point, though, you have to set that aside. Or at least I do. I could spend your entire life trying to think of an elegant solution that I may never come up with. I am one who does better doing, no matter what it is I’m doing. It doesn’t always work out. Nor does it mean I don’t plan things (I do, occasionally excessively). It just means sometimes what looks so well planned and executed to you is just happenstance. Sometimes it fits together because I was just spinning it together as I went along. Social media makes it look neat, all well-prepared meals, good beers, great bands, and beautiful vistas. But that is curated. Life is overcooked lentils, warm shitty beer, terrible sets, and worse views just as much. Life is messy. Me? I’m just out here trying making the most of this mess.

The Cure Wrote A Song About This

The Cure Wrote A Song About This

I opened my eyes, closed them again quickly. I tried opening them again, but the bookcases spun too quickly, so I settled on the slowly moving darkness behind my lids. The Current warbled in my stereo speakers and I could just make out the faint strains of “Inmates” by The Good Life. I groped for a glass of water on my end stand, but didn’t find one. I rolled to my left and bumped into someone. Her hair smelled distinctly like jasmine. I put my right arm over her and pulled her closer. “Mmm…Chris”

She rolled over to face me and propped herself up on one elbow. “Who’s Chris?”

I forced my eyes open. She looked back at me with her narrow green eyes. The comforter came up to the top of her pert breasts, but she did nothing to hide them. Short red hair framed that face. Who’s face…I squeezed my eyes shut for a second. “Wendy…” I trailed off.

“I guess I’ll give it to you on the second try.” She smiled and pulled closer to me under the covers. I realized I was naked then; so was she. She purred and rubbed her chin against my stubble, giggling slightly. I laid there for a bit caught up in her ministrations.

“Wendy.” Her hands roamed underneath the covers. Louder, I spoke her name once more. The bile in the back of my throat built as I pushed her away. I tried to sit up, but I only made it over to my right side before I started vomiting off the edge of my bed. Last night’s Zombies and Soho Pizza spilled all over the floor while I coughed and retched. I felt Wendy recoil in the bed, but she kept her left hand on my shoulder, rubbing it periodically while I emptied my guts onto the bedroom floor. We stayed in that position for five minutes until my coughing subsided. Jiha Lee and Tim Kasher sang on the speakers while she stroked my hair.

“Do you need anything?”

I shook my head, almost started vomiting again. My mouth didn’t work for several seconds. I needed a glass of water. “What are you doing here?”

She stopped with her left hand. “What did you say?”

I spoke slowly and with a greater emphasis on each syllable. “What are you doing here?” The covers moved as she pulled them up around her body. She hit me hard with her right hand on the shoulder as she moved across the bed. The covers flew over my body down onto the floor over the vomit.

“You are such an asshole.”

“What?” I rolled over to face her, but she faced the opposite wall of my bedroom. She pulled on her panties while continuing to look into my closet. “What did I do?” She bent over to pick up her bra and slipped it on, turning back towards me as she clasped it behind her.

“I can’t believe how much of an asshole you are.” Wendy shook her head, squatted down and picked up her pink sweater. “I just can’t believe you’re such an asshole.”

The bile tried to force its way up again. I clamped my mouth shut until it worked its way back into my stomach. “I don’t even know what I did.” She laughed as she pulled the sweater down over her head.

“You don’t even know what you did? You called me, you asshole.” I watched her bend over to pick up her skirt and boots. I fumbled around on the end stand and found my cell phone. Scrolling down the list, sure enough, there was a 515 number in the outgoing list. I flipped it closed, laid it back on the table while lying down, and sighed while Wendy dressed silently. The bed shook as she sat down to put on her boots. I opened my mouth, closed it, instead watching her zip up her boots.

“I can’t believe it. You don’t even remember last night, do you?” She grabbed a pillow and threw it at me. I caught it with some effort. “You called, you said you wanted me here, and you don’t even remember!” She stood and flared her nostrils. Her hair switched back and forth while she shook her head. I clutched the pillow.

Her boots clicked on the hardwood as she walked towards the door. I watched her. In the doorway, she turned back to me. “I don’t even know why I answer when you call.”

“Jesus, just let me explain.” I shifted the pillow around my body to prop myself up. Wendy stopped once more in the doorway and swung. Her hair whipped around as she put a hand on one of my bookshelves.

“You are such a fucking asshole. Goodbye.” She picked up my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and threw it across the room. The red book hit the wall next to me as I pulled my knees up and covered my head with my hands. I heard the door slam, but didn’t uncover my head to look.

“Goddamnit.” I heard some voices in the kitchen, obscured by my now closed bedroom door, but instead of finding out what was going on, I just sat on my bed. Rubbing my eyes with my right hand, I picked up the remnants of my dictionary with my left. Pages scattered and fell on the floor as I lifted up and inspected the broken spine. More pages fell on my bed and the floor. The room spun once again, slowly now, and the stench of vomit filled the air. I sat up on the other side of the bed where Wendy had just been, fished around for a pair of boxers, and slipped them on. I pulled The Head On The Door off of my cd shelf and rolled back over to my stereo. I buried my head in the pillow face down and hit play.

During “Close To Me”, someone knocked on my door. I mumbled into my pillow, and then rolled over so I could say it again. “Go away,” I yelled to the door.

“Not an option.” Mark opened the door with his left hand and carried a steaming mug in his right. He walked over to the bed as I pulled myself up to a sitting position. “I thought you could use this. At least that’s the impression I got from Wendy.” He chuckled and handed me the mug.

“Fuck you too,” I hid my face in my left hand and took hold of the proffered mug in my right. Mark retreated to the papasan and sat in it observing me. The coffee was strong and black and burned my tongue. Mark watched from the chair, eventually folding his legs under him and sitting Indian style. He smirked at me, occasionally nodding slightly, but said nothing while I sucked down the coffee. After I finished the coffee, I set the mug next to me on my bed. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Mark looked at the floor by my end stand. “Your room smells like shit.”

“Vomit, actually.”

“Good, I see your sense of humor is intact.”

“Why’d you let me call Wendy?”

Mark shrugged from the wicker chair. “I tried to stop you. You almost broke my watch when you tackled me in the living room.” He pointed to a butterfly bandage on his forehead. “Luckily, it’s only a scratch, but I figured I shouldn’t take your phone after that. To your credit, you didn’t call Wendy until after we got back from the Dragon.”

I squeezed my eyes shut and rubbed my left hand along my face. “We went to the Dragon?”

“Yeah…you were in rare form. Did you and Christine have an argument?”

I shook my head. “Something like that.”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Doing those shots of Jack.”

“Shit man,” Mark stood up. “That was at 8:30 last night.” I looked over at the clock. 12:41. “You don’t remember anything after that? Not the beer bong at that house part on 26th or the shots of Jag?”

“Ugh,” I moaned and looked at my bed. “My God, if Christine finds out that I slept with my ex-girlfriend, she’ll kill me.”

Mark shook his head. “Rightly so.”

“Listen, you can’t tell Chris about this, alright?”

Mark looked back at me as he walked towards the door. “Why would I?”

“Just don’t, alright.”

“Alright, alright,” he shrugged. “It’s not like I was going to anyway.”“What the hell am I going to do?”

Mark stopped once more on the other side of the doorway. “I’d clean up that vomit first, man. It smells like shit.” I picked up the phone and scrolled through the list until I got to Christine. Mark popped his head back in the room. “And I’d lay off the liquor. You know, at least until tomorrow.” I grunted and hit talk.

The Fear Again

Chris rolled off of me, onto his side of the bed, and sighed. I smiled a wan smile, not that he was bad. He was his usual skillful self. I was just tired. “Love you,” he murmured into the pillow. I ran my hand across his shoulder, but I could tell he was already asleep. He was just one of those people who can do that. God I envied that…

I looked at him for a bit. Or towards him at least, it was too dark to make out more than a silhouette. My eyes would adjust eventually, but there were probably things I should do besides watch him sleep, like sleep myself. ButI had to go the bathroom before anything. No amount of lying and bed and staring at Chris or the ceiling was going to change that. Carefully, I made my way out of bed and down the hall. Are the creaks in the hardwood louder late at night? Why does it always feel that way? I shut the door. The toilet always sounds so loud late at night too. Everything sounds loud. Is it the quiet everywhere else that causes it? I never really liked quiet. It’s why I love living in cities. There’s always a bit of a hum, the cars on Fulton, the foghorns, the drunk USF students, the overhead wire. Even at night, the city is alive. Even a relatively quiet city like San Francisco.

Back down the hall, and I still found all the creaks like always. Chris managed to pull a bit more of the comforter onto him, so I tugged on it gently as I climbed back in. Reflexively, I wanted to double-check my alarm now that I was back in bed, but it didn’t matter. Chris’s would go off first. It was still weird to have him here all the time now that he finally let the lease go on his place at 43rd and Moraga. He was here most nights before that anyway, but it was nice to occasionally roll out of bed on the weekends and go to walk to Outerlands or Trouble. Or the beach. It was a cool location. But I was closer to just about everything else, and my place was much cheaper. Our place, I corrected myself. I liked how that sounded. Even if I was still getting used to it.

I stared at the ceiling, but I wasn’t a back sleeper. I rolled onto my side, only to roll back over again. Why couldn’t I just turn my brain off? Why did it feel so different now? This was far from the first time Chris and I had slept together. We’d practically lived together the last two years. But practically makes quite the difference, doesn’t it? I took a couple deep breaths. Here comes the fear again. I wanted to do was get up and drop This Is Hardcore onto the turntable. Neither Chris nor my neighbors would appreciate that. I got out of bed and pulled my robe off the doorknob before shrugging it on. I ignored the creaks this time as I walked down to the kitchen, pulled out a tumbler, dropped in two ice cubes, and poured in some Black Label. Fishing my keys off the hook by the door, I walked out of my place, glass in hand.

The street was quiet, except for a late-night jogger. I sat on the steps. It was a cool night, and the fog had rolled in heavy for the first time in a while. Now that I was outside, I could hear the horns more clearly, rolling in over the Presidio. It was a night a lot like this that I met Chris. I was sipping on a Sunshine Fix at Social Kitchen, he was there watching a Giants game. It was an odd year, so everyone was predictably down on the team. Michael Cuddyer had just homered to give the Rockies a lead when he cursed under his breath. He was wearing a Giants hat, which explained that. No one is from here, but everyone is a Giants fan.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll get it back.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, the Rockies are terrible.”

He turned a bit more fully toward me. “Sure, but it’s just not looking like their year anyway.”

“Oh, c’mon, the Giants have won two of the last three World Series. They can’t win it every year.”

“I’ll take every other year.” I smiled at that, and I turned toward him. I can tell you that home run happened, but I can’t tell you anything else about the rest of the 9th. The next time I looked up,  when Chris got up to get to the bathroom, the post-game crew was busy dissecting everything wrong with the team and 30 minutes had passed. I slipped my phone back into my purse and thought for a second, but not too long, when the bartender asked me if I wanted another. Soon I had another Sunshine Fix and Chris was back.Turned out, he also worked in the Financial District. We kept talking, and wonder of wonders, turned out he as a true San Francisco local. I had only come here for a beer, and I found myself sipping on my third. Chris picked it up.

“So what about you? What’s your story?” he asked.

“I was offered a job that I couldn’t say no to.”

“That good? You’re saying you’re a keeper?” he smirked.

“Well, maybe not that good,” I laughed. “But how can you say no to this city?”

“That’s why I came back. No matter where I go, San Francisco will always be home. I know it’s out-of-control in a lot of ways. But it’s where I want to be.”

“How do you know that?”

“I don’t know…it just feels right, you know?” He shrugged at me, and the conversation stalled for a second. Life is made in those moments. I could have reached for my phone to check the time, or excused myself without another word, or I could have said nothing at all, but it turns out, all I had to do was listen. “Say, you want to go for a walk?”


“This is the best time to see Golden Gate Park. Nice, foggy night. C’mon, I’ll keep you company.”

“Are you sure you don’t have any ulterior motives?” I asked with mock demureness.

“I assure you there’s nothing ulterior about them,” he said as he scooted closer. I held his gaze for a second. His eyes were very green. Did I want to have that conversation right now? Not with a one-night stand. Not if I didn’t have to. Of course, that’s the kind of conversation that helps make sure I get up the next day. But again, before I had too long to think about it, he kissed me.

I didn’t like taking guys back to my place normally, at least not guys that I’d never met before. But it was closer, and we did go for that walk. It was brisk, and foggy, and we were both a bit underdressed for the fog that had rolled in, but the Music Concourse was beautiful like that, with the fountains lit and no one around for once. We ended up on the steps I was sitting on that night too, with his arms around me until I invited him inside without a word. I sipped on my scotch and laughed a bit to myself, thinking about the next morning. The night, there’s nothing bad about that, nothing to regret. And if it goes well, you wake up alone, or in your own bed after making your way home. If it doesn’t…well, it’s certainly nice waking up next to someone, but it can become awkward fast. For me it was when I reached over to turn off my alarm and someone was in the way. I’d always had that fear.

A bus pulled by and I swirled my scotch, watching it seep down the walls of the glass. It’s a funny thing, fear. How it can control your actions. How it can control who you are. How malleable it is even after you conquer one facet of it. For so long I feared being myself. I feared taking anyone home, or going home with them. And once those fears abated, it became something else again. Now again, it was something else. The fear wasn’t that I would wake up next to Chris, but that I wouldn’t. I wonder when it shifted, but like many things, it is impossible to pinpoint. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that one day, he’d walk out the door and not come back. Even as more and more of his stuff ended up at my place. Until all of it ended up here. And now…I still always feel like the end is near. Not in a real way. It’s just hard when you tell yourself for so long that you’re unloveable to turn that switch off. Even when there’s someone right up there in bed right now doing just that. Well, he’s probably sleeping, but you get the point.

My glass was empty, and it was chilly just sitting here, so I pulled out my keys. Back up the flight of steps, keys back on the hook. I locked the door behind me. I couldn’t see anything, but even with all of Chris’s stuff here, I knew where to go. I made my way back down the hall and didn’t worry about the creaks in the hardwood. I shrugged off my robe and put it back on the door handle. Chris was very warm as I climbed back into the bed and pulled some of the comforter onto me. I kissed him on the cheek and he rolled over and put an arm around me. “You’re cold.”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Let me help with that.” He pulled me a bit closer, and we slept.

Repeating Myself


There are a number of sadly typical recurring scenes in my life. For example, here’s one at random:

“Can I get your name?”




Or here’s another one at random:

I exit a bathroom as a woman walks by. She goes back, looks at the door, and gives me a look again.

These both happen…more than you think. Or maybe as much as you think. That probably depends on your perspective. I could pick a number of other random examples. Most of them are relatively benign, like those. Though I’ve certainly had some experiences that have been outright hostile, most of what I experience feels benevolent in intention. They just want to get my name right. They just want to make sure I find the right bathroom or they are in the right one. That probably owes itself to the ways in which I experience privilege in conjunction with the ways in which I do not. Still, I find I spend a lot of time asserting my identity, always repeating myself.

Here’s another example at random:

I am finally updating my passport. I have a legally amended birth certificate. You’d think that’d be good enough to satisfy the Passport Agency. Changing the name on a passport isn’t all that difficult. After all, cis people do that all the time, so there’s a system built for that. Changing your sex on a passport, though? Since I got a passport with my original birth certificate which had my assigned sex at birth, I require a doctor’s note. At least as far as I can tell from the scant available information online and from someone I spoke to on the phone. Perhaps, after I go in to get that updated, they will tell me I never needed that. But I can’t tell based on the information available, and I don’t want to have to spend even more time dealing with them, so I’m in the process of getting a note from my doctor. The idea behind having a doctor provide that note is that it is inherently difficult for many trans people to update their legal documentation, so there needs to be a way for trans individuals to get accurate documentation. Which is great because that’s definitely true. The problem is that requirement is wielded in such a way that even when people have updated documentation, they still need that if they held a passport that previously had the incorrect sex on it. At least as far as I can tell. Hopefully I’m the exception. That rule should be making a lot of trans folks’ lives easier. That’s the intention. They hold to an interpretation so fastidiously that it ends up making mine harder. There’s a step beyond having those sorts of rules in place. That step is understanding why they are in place and having a more dynamic system, or better yet, not being in the business of acting as arbiters of ideas like sex and gender when no one can really give a good answer as to why they are.

These all come back to a central point. People don’t trust trans people to accurately speak for themselves. Many people only begrudgingly accept who you are once someone official signs off on it, once you’ve done enough to satisfy them, if there’s ever enough. This can’t be who you are unless a doctor agrees. You can’t get this gender-affirming procedure covered by insurance unless a couple doctors agree. You can’t update this document unless you have that gender-affirming procedure. You couldn’t have said that was your name. Are you sure you checked the right box? Are you in the right place? Is this for your spouse? There’s a thin veneer of politeness over some of this. After all, someone could not have just heard me. I could have just checked the wrong box. But it happens to me too much to just be that. And transphobia is so ingrained in the system that many people don’t think of it as inherently transphobic much of the time. But it’s not just direct actions that are transphobic. Transphobia isn’t just something you participate in actively. Like other forms of discrimination, a lot of it is systemic. It always takes a toll. It always takes more time and energy. Every interaction leaves a scar, everything has an extra step.

There are lots of trans people out there doing lots of amazing things despite much steeper barriers than those examples. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what we could do with all that time if we didn’t have to spend so much time repeating ourselves. I wonder how many more of us would still be around if we didn’t spend so much time repeating ourselves. I want to see that world where we don’t repeat ourselves not because we’re inured, but because we don’t have to. That’s a world where you trust us, you support us, you believe us. That’s a world I want to live in, that’s a world I keep pushing for and supporting in the ways I can, that’s a world I want others to live in. If I have to keep repeating myself to try and make that happen, so be it.

The High Cost Of Living

Recently, I finally got a court order from the County of San Francisco to update my birth certificate. That was $480 plus a decent amount of time. Then I dropped that, more paperwork, a certified copy of my legal name change (another $400+ piece of paper) and another $22 in the mail, shipping it off to the Commonwealth of Virginia. By early September, I should have an updated birth certificate. Then I can get a passport and an updated California driver’s license. Never mind that my Minnesota license is already correct, California wants some different paperwork and my license expires on my next birthday. Sometimes I wonder, how much did it truly cost? 

It’s a trickier question than you might think. Let start with what I needed to update the birth certificate. I am able to update it because I have a vagina and that’s what the state I was born in requires. Seems a bit arbitrary, no? And I have that because my insurance was so kind as to cover my “sex transformation” (as they put it. No. Really) as long as I had all my paperwork in order. I paid my deductible ($2,000) plus some other incidentals since unfortunately I didn’t live 20 miles from San Mateo like I do now (probably another $2,000 or so with travel and hotels). I was out of work for a while after that, too, though thankfully FMLA came through for me on that, but that’s not a given. That vagina requires some minor maintenance, and will forever, but there’s worse fates that dilating, and that’s a fairly minor cost, all things considered, but it’s nonetheless a little time and money, so consider a few bucks every month or so for that as well. Prior to that, I paid about another $500 to make a consult happen. I didn’t need it as much as I needed peace of mind it provided. That, of course, is just my experience. Costs vary wildly, from upwards of $20-25k to others who’ve had similar experiences to me.

Now in order to get insurance to cover the procedure in the first place, I needed two letters from doctors. I had good insurance and lived in the Twin Cities where such a thing was less of a hassle but it’s still a hassle. Now to get those letters takes a while because there’s a degree of time required before they will give them to you. The gist is usually that you are “full-time” (which is a ridiculous term, but bear with me, there’s a lot of ridiculous jargon when you go through the front doors of the gatekeeping process like I did) for two years, which means you are living in your chosen (read: actual) gender for at least two years prior to surgery. Or maybe it’s only one? Either way, the gatekeeping process doesn’t exactly have a vested interest in pushing you along (you’re paying the bills after all). I always felt I was marking time. At best, that’s a few years meeting with doctors. Pretty frequently. Again, fortunate to have good insurance, but even with a decent co-pay I was probably spending a good $60-70 a month. Without it, it would have easily been double. Or not possible. Getting insurance to cover it in the first place was a whole to-do as well, though that only cost me time in the end. Ignoring that, that’s still conservatively about $3,000 over four years or so.

Medications don’t come cheap either. Well, spironolactone wasn’t that expensive, $5 or so, but estradiol, even when covered, ran me $28-35 for eight patches. And you have to take more estradiol at the beginning because you still have all this damn testosterone. So it was two patches twice weekly until miracle of miracles it’s no more spiro and half as much estradiol. Now through some strange act of fortune, even my estradiol is generic (all praise $7 meds) but drug prices always bounce around and it’s not given it’ll stay that way. I’m not here to project, though. I started medically transitioning in May of 2008 at which point I was probably spending about $60-70 a month on meds; after surgery that dropped significantly, but until recently I was still spending $30-35 a month, roughly. Let’s say I’ve probably spent $3,500 or so on meds the past 7 years. Pre-tax fund because, again, I won the insurance lottery.

There are lots of other things too. I never had much facial hair, and it’s nice and dark and I have fair skin, so I only had to pay for several sessions of someone shooting my face with lasers. Is that required? No, but I am guessing you’d have a hard time finding trans women who haven’t had at least some who transitioned after puberty, provided they can afford to, because facial hair is hella triggery for pretty much anyone I’ve met, though I’m sure some people care less than others. That can range wildly in price, but I would say it’s probably another $2,000 that I spent. And if you are going to have GRS, at least the doctor I went through wanted me to get some laser on my groin area as well. Again, probably spending $3,000-4,000 on that all told by the time it’s all said and done. At least. And while you might not care that much, if you are going through the traditional gatekeeping process (its own bullshit topic for another day), your doctor might. Hopefully that is getting better, but there’s a certain amount of performative femininity required when dealing with people like that. And sure, it seems stupid, but if you weren’t getting laser, they might wonder if you really want to be yourself. Which, again, is ridiculous, but these are the kind of people you’re dealing with and they wield an outsize influence on your life.

And of course, as a trans woman, welcome to the higher incidental cost of everyone giving a fuck about how you look. And with the trans component, welcome to the additional balance of trying to be yourself in a world where many might say too much femininity is just buying into toxic standards for women and not enough is you not trying hard enough as a woman. If they think of you as a woman at all. This is ignoring, of course, that maybe you wanted to do these things for a long time, but you felt constrained by the narrow norms of being socialized male in our society. There are still higher incidental expenses for women in terms of personal care. We can want that to get better and change and still acknowledge that it exists. Plus it’s an exciting time of trying to do all these things that you may have felt you couldn’t do openly before. I certainly spend more on my personal grooming now than I did before, because I want to. No one is making me. My hair doesn’t stay this color on its own, though. This is much harder to put a price on, because much of it just stems from how much more I care about how I look now because I finally look like me and that’s worth spending money on. Still, that cost is there to a degree.

By now, hopefully you are beginning to see how paradoxically interconnected it is. It helps to have a good job and good insurance, but it can be hard to get a job when your legal documentation doesn’t match your actual identity. And it can be hard to update that legal documentation without a job. You may have to out yourself in the process of employment because of that, or in an attempt to determine whether or not you will get sufficient medical coverage, even if you have no desire to be out to your employer. And even if you have a decent job at the start of actually transitioning, who knows what might happen? Financially speaking, there’s a good chance your wages will stagnate or go down even if you are the exact same employee you were before. You might even be better now that you can bring your authentic self to work, but that’s no guarantee you won’t find yourself on the way out soon enough. And there could be whole new problems that come up and make the job untenable. Then what? How much is enough? How do we justify that to ourselves? What bargains are you going to make to be yourself after a life of already making lots of bargains to not be yourself? It sure is satisfying to say none, but that is a difficult path.

Can you put a cost on truly being yourself? No, but is there a cost? Definitely. Not just in the money that you have to spend, but in how society will treat you. Even in my life where things have worked out well, it’s hard not to wonder if my male coworkers doing the same job as me are making much more (probably), if they have a better chance to move up to whatever’s next (also probably). I am sure they feel more comfortable taking chances. I do now, but there was definitely a time when I couldn’t afford to, lest my insurance change. Which is still a privilege, of course. That I have good coverage at all puts me in a different category. But it’s still a tenuous relationship. Luckily I haven’t felt stuck at a bad job because of it. But since that isn’t a given, that was a cost I had to keep in mind. It is better than having nothing at all. And we should address that as a society. But you can see how it affects how you think of things, no? Better doesn’t mean it’s as good as it should be if we’re talking overall goals. There are more important people to reach first than me. But like most things in life, it’s not a simple linear progression. We can simultaneously be working to make this better, but we should keep in mind that circumstances are statistically much worse when factoring in race, class, education.  Hell, I experience it because I’m a woman and our systems are much better equipped to handle binary than non-binary folks. I may be trans, but I still experience a lot of privilege because of who I am in other ways. Lots of folks can’t just sit down and tick off the costs they’ve paid for stuff like this because they don’t have the money, insurance, and access or the systems aren’t set up for them in the first place and we aren’t doing enough to ensure that they enjoy those things.

Soon, I’ll have paid the last simple, pecuniary costs of my transition. Really, I already have in that things like new IDs and passports are incidental costs we all pay going forward as we get older. I never feel like I’m done in the sense that I’m always trying to be more me, and I already largely feel I closed that initial chapter years ago. This is more of an epilogue or an afterward. One last thing to do before a checklist I laid out many years ago is done, really, truly finished. Even if I thought I could, it’s hard to put a number on it, but it’s easy to see the costs are too high.

It’s Something You Learn

It’s Something You Learn

“I’d love to see that beautiful mouth on my dick.”

You think about what you would say in those situations

will all that verve telling him to go fuck himself, though

it’s difficult in the moment to actually say those words.

But it’s something you learn to say because

tonight it might be the corner of 18th and Van Ness,

tomorrow it might be at someone sidling up as you order a Racer 5

or waiting at 16th and Mission to catch the next BART,

hell, it could even be someone swinging by your cube.

But it’s something you learning to say because

it’s important to call out that kind of behavior,

to put the onus back on back on them,

after all, it’s something you learn to say.

In The Right Place

Pull out a fresh towel,

wipe down the plate,

one, two, three times,

top left cabinet, middle shelf,

grab the next one,

until the rack is empty.


There’s still (always) a full sink,

so run the water, pour in soap.

My parents probably wonder

where this person was years ago.

I do too, but it’s not like

anyone else is here to do them.


Besides there’s simple pleasure in

taking care of what I can,

right in front of me, making sure

everything is in the right place,

ready to go the next time I bake

cookies at midnight on a whim.


The bubbles are poised,

ready to attack.

So shut off the water,

drop the dishes in,

grab a sponge and

start scrubbing again.

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