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.


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.

How To Fight Loneliness

By Sunday afternoon, I still hadn’t run into anyone I knew during Outside Lands. That was not entirely surprising. My friends here did not get tickets, nor did I know anyone coming from out of town. Not that it was going to stop me from going. I can be a bit iconoclastic in my concert-going, to the detriment of hanging out with people. I try not to be, but I have a habit. I’ve been here a while now and I do occasionally run into friends at shows, friends I’ve made at shows. It’s no different than it was in 2010 when I didn’t know anyone at shows, or had lost touch with a large subset of someones I used to know. Slowly, I’m getting there here as well. I knew I would.

Doing things by myself is a skill I’ve had a lot of practice with. As an only child I learned it’s not hard to entertain yourself. But going out to see a show? That’s a social thing, the kind of activity most of us only learn to do in groups. It’s something I had to learn to do on my own. And eventually, I got really good at it. It’s neither better nor worse than going with friends, but it certainly is different. Occasionally, I wonder if I’ve gotten too good at it though, if I don’t put in the work to invite and agitate as much as I should. Not that getting people to do things for fun should necessarily be work, but we’re all adults with finite amounts of time. Besides, there’s not a lot of exertion involved in sending that text or throwing together an online invite somewhere. But for the most part I don’t. I either go or I don’t, almost always by myself, hoping that I may occasionally see someone I know.

There’s another kind of loneliness when I go to most things by myself. When I look through a crowd and I see couples everywhere. They were there at The Good Life; they were there at Xeno & Oaklander; they were most certainly there at Outside Lands. Not that I have to go to shows to be reminded of that. But it’s still a lonely feeling. It’s been a long time since I’ve come home to anything other than an empty bed. Coping with that kind of loneliness is a learned skill, too, another one I have a lot of practice with. Most days, I doubt that will ever change. I wasn’t great with relationships before because I wasn’t comfortable and I certainly wasn’t being myself. I found it quite difficult when I wasn’t be authentic and true to myself. I don’t have that problem anymore; unfortunately, the converse is a lot of people are uncomfortable with who I am. Even with people who have been greatly supportive, I still get the sense that some people see me less as a woman and more as not a man. There’s a distinction there, and it isn’t even a fine one. That’s a pretty basic way of viewing someone. Even among open-minded people, that feeling still hangs there. It could all be in my head, but I doubt it. I know I don’t live in a world that truly accepts the truth of my womanhood. I hope I can help change that, but it doesn’t change how frequently I am reminded of that in the present.

I don’t need statistics to tell me that to live authentically is to set upon a challenging path in so many ways. I’m not doomed to live alone forever, though it definitely feels that way on the worst days, those brutally honest nights by myself in my one-bedroom. Plenty of trans people have great relationships. I know that. I see evidence of that all the time. For me, aside from a few random dates (definitely nothing serious), it’s been quiet the past few years. It is, perhaps, in my nature, something that has nothing to do with me being trans, though it can be hard to untangle all of that. Besides, that has no bearing on the times I’m having a good conversation with a guy that I think is engaging and attractive who then proceeds to misgenders me. That has nothing to do with me (or everything to do with me depending on how you look at it). I know that. That doesn’t change how frustrating and disappointing that feeling is. I am the happy with who I am, how I look, how I project myself out into the world. It took me a long time to get to the point where I felt those aspects aligned internally and externally. But it remains a challenge, finding people that I am attracted to that accept who I am.

Sometimes I feel like I go out so much because then I don’t think about it. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, as I can point out the above examples, but when I’m out, I’m put in situations where I react a lot more, or just act. Either way, I don’t tend to just sit there and think because there’s too much going on, the converse of what happens a lot when I’m at home. I also never know what’s going to happen when I’m out. Ideally, it’d be nice to meet someone who also shares that same spark for live music. But it could also be at Eats sitting at the bar discussing Woods and local venues and the differences between Oakland and San Francisco over brunch. It could be at the bike shop the next time I go to get a tune-up. It could be the next time I stop at Bi-rite to get some ice cream and end up spending 30 minutes talking with someone. Hell, it could be on Twitter for all I know. In the end, it’s not any different than making friends. It’s going out, it’s meeting people, it’s putting yourself out there, in whatever form or fashion that may be. It’s knowing that irrelevant of how it’s been the past few years, it could be different tomorrow. It seems a bit reductive. And if I’m being honest, that is a bit facile. Though I am much happier being myself, being trans doesn’t make it easier. There’s that much more I have to be on guard for, for my own safety. Still, I have perhaps gotten too good at doing things alone. Most of us have to crack that door a little for one reason or another to let someone in, even if we leave the chain on to get an idea of who it is first. Most of us have to ask, to say what we are thinking, to take those risks and open up. And it is a risk. I definitely am not a huge fan of rejection. But I can text a guy just as easily too to try and get things rolling. I deserve to steal a kiss between songs just like that couple at The Good Life show. I deserve to nonchalantly hold hands at the Xeno & Oaklander show. I deserve to share a $50 blanket and some body heat with someone at Outside Lands. I deserve to love, and to be loved, as I am, for who I am.

Many days, that feeling remains elusive. I know that. Like the music I love so much, it’s hard work to find it. The specter of loneliness, it will always be there, it has been there for a long time. Even though it makes me uncomfortable at times, I would rather engage that feeling full on than deny it. I can try and try and try and still go home to an empty bed. I know that. I’ve gotta try. Because if I don’t believe I have value, if I don’t believe in myself, then what do I have? Engaging the perpetual feeling of loneliness is always a bit terrifying because it means engaging thoughts of self-worth. That is much easier these days, but it’s still not necessarily a fun topic to think about, honestly evaluating yourself. There is another reason I tend to do things by myself, a sometimes stubborn streak of self-reliance, almost as if to prove to myself I can do this without anybody. I can’t do everything on my own, though. I can run from it, or try to engage it, or try to push the thoughts away, but I cannot fight that ineffable feeling that I will always be alone by myself. I cannot fight loneliness by myself. Whether it’s someone to help me move the couch in or just someone to curl up next to on it, I can’t do that without other people. But I don’t really have any solutions. I like when there are clean and simple answers. I like defined ends. I like goals to work toward. This is not something that works like that. It’s a constant ongoing process with myself, with others, one with no guarantees, one that still terrifies me sometimes. The same could be said of just being myself, of being honest, of being open. Irrelevant of what happens going forward, I will probably always feel that way. And that’s okay.

I Will Be

Last week, for the first time in a long time, I managed to get all of the dishes clean save a couple containers in the fridge. In those containers? Prepped food to expedite cooking dinner the next day, because I was just sitting around anyway, so I figured why not take 15 minutes, cut some vegetables, dehydrate the soy curls to marinade them, and just basically be ready to go the next night? It was my bargain to myself for stopping for a burrito on the way home that day, and it’s definitely made the next day a little smoother. I’d like to think that by 33 I’ve learned how to be a functional adult, but most of my life still feels like a series of bargains. There will still be too much internet to keep up with, too many cursory distractions today, tomorrow, and the coming days. Which isn’t to say that I shouldn’t spend some time with those distractions. We all need them sometimes. But perhaps sometimes is getting to be too much time some days?

There are a lot of things about that first paragraph that look a little ridiculous on their face. Soy curls? Clean dishes? Running? Who am I? If you know me, you know this isn’t in my nature. Or it least, it didn’t used to be. For the few of you who have lived with me, you know that’s especially true. But why isn’t it? And if it isn’t, why can’t I change that?

Half the reason I did all that was to make it a little easier to go for a run. Which is a consideration I never used to make. After all, I never used to run. And though I am having trouble keeping a good rhythm this summer with everything else going on, I still carry on trying to forge an identity of myself as a runner. I may have finally found that rhythm, and little things like that, taking a minute to take care of something when I have the time instead of putting it off for later when I don’t have it and then making excuses, they can make the difference. Though it may have seemed to be anathema at one time, now it is simply a reality that I am trying to live up to. I did this once before, when I became a more dedicated bike commuter in the Twin Cities, And once again in San Francisco just a couple months ago when I vowed to start biking to work because Muni was just getting too frustrating to justify when I am able to get on my bike and get to work quicker, albeit a bit sweatier.

While I made a conscious choice to become a vegetarian, it wasn’t really a terribly explicit one. It just…seemed like a good idea at the time? After a couple years, it has become habit. It didn’t magically make me eat better either, but over time, I’ve gotten more conscious about what I eat, where it comes from, and what it means to me. It is perhaps an expression of that. And it’s an ongoing one, as I continue to negotiate the difference between what I want, need, and enjoy. I can’t envision a future where I don’t drink beer. But things change. It’s a possible future. Just like a few years ago, I didn’t necessarily envision a future where I didn’t eat meat. But I don’t.

I know a lot about not being the person I feel I am. I had years of practices. But that elides the fact that before I came out, before you knew me as Jane, before I started living as the woman I knew I was no matter how much society tried to tell me otherwise, before I stop telling myself otherwise, I still tried to be a fairly authentic person. I still wanted to be me. There was just a pretty big internal negotiation in regard to who I was, who I am, who I will be. And that’s an ongoing process for everyone. We’re always learning how to negotiate that. For example, there are words many of us once used to say that we probably never thought about that we wouldn’t utter now, at least, out of context like we once did, as slurs. If you’re in my age range, think about how much you and your peer group uncritically uttered all sorts of awful things, words like gay and retarded that we just used so flippantly. Perhaps you had a different peer group, or a different upbringing. But I had a pretty smart group of friends and we still uncritically said a lot of things that we shake our heads at now for saying. Of course I know now that I wasn’t a very good person for throwing words like that around carelessly, for callously not thinking about the consequences of what I said, for not being critical of my own word choice. I’m not trying to absolve myself. That’s something I live with. I don’t think that means we were all terrible people. I’ve done some things I’m not terribly proud of, had some habits that I wish I didn’t, and otherwise done and said a few things that I don’t feel represents who I am. Though, obviously, if I said them, if I did them, they do represent who I am. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say they represented who I was. They did not always represent who I wanted to be, or at least who I thought I was. But I can’t change who I was. I will always have to live with the person I once was.

What I can change is who I am, and who I will be. Which, over the process of time, becomes who I am. Identities are forged; we are sometimes stuck with identities that are outmoded, out of our control, but we all have become different people over the years. That’s just part of growing up, of growing older, of changing, of learning. Some of it is perhaps a conscious decision to try and do things differently. Hopefully much of it is. Some of it is just the slight unconscious things we pick up along the way. Much of it can lie in factors that are sadly out of our control, life circumstances that dictate many of those decisions. I get that. I am in a fairly fortunate situation to do some of the things I do, whether those are my choices as a commuter, my dietary choices, my decision to actively support a lot of live music, or even just living authentically as me. I get that’s not everyone’s situation, and I’ve never been terribly comfortable with the idea of trying to tell other people how to live because I think that’s a naïve thing to do.

What I can do is tell people where I’m coming from and let them decide on their own about the decisions they make in their lives, who they are, who they want to be, what they want to do. I can tell you why bike commuting is a good idea for me, why I like to run, what works about being a vegetarian for me. That doesn’t mean I expect other people to suddenly change, or value what I do, though, much the same I hope no one suddenly expects me to change many aspects of who I am and what I do. I can’t change anyone’s minds. All I can do is put the information out there and let people do with it what they will. Well, not really. Hopefully, I can also help try and make the world a better place were people have the freedom to do that too. Either way, though, it’s an internal process. If that leads to change, what I can do is support that, even if I don’t understand it or agree with it. For me, it’s just remembering to be critical of myself whenever I say “that’s just how I am” or “that’s just what I do”. There could be, and probably are, very good reasons for it. But I should be able to at least articulate them to myself.

I don’t harbor any illusions. The dishes could well pile up again at some point. I may choose to stop running at some point. But maybe not. Perhaps I’m just stuck thinking of the person who has always done that. But perhaps that person doesn’t live here anymore. It is hard to say in the present I’ve turned a corner, but it’s easy to ascribe to the past when I did. Life is funny like that. As for who I will be? I will be me. And hopefully, that’s someone who’s always challenging herself to be authentic, to be true to herself, and to be better.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

My Facebook feed was peppered with posts about marriage equality in Virginia, a nice, but ultimately unsurprising thing to see. Which is really weird to type. Maybe surprising a few years ago, but not at this point. With many states, it’s become not a question of if, but when, thanks to a robust interpretation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It is a nice thing to see still. Personally, I’m all about marriage equality. It’s a good thing for trans people, especially since many of us identify somewhere on the spectrum other than heterosexual, but I wouldn’t say it’s much of a priority. Not when we still need things workplace protections, quality medical care, access to education openly as who we are, etc. Not when we still have to fear for our lives simply for being who we are. Marriage is pretty far down the list if you ask me. But I am proud of my birthplace, the Commonwealth. It just became a more open place to live freely, in a way I did not expect this soon.

My Twitter feed was a different story entirely. The New Yorker saw fit to publish some transphobic drivel like it was “presenting both sides”. Now it’s good to see on some subjects in some places people are starting not just to realize (I think we all know) but to act upon the inherent flaws in that sort of idea. I haven’t read the New Yorker article; I don’t think it’s germane to my general understanding of the situation. This isn’t meant to be a point-by-point takedown or anything, anyway. I’m sure others well meet that challenge. It was enough that a lot of people were incensed and sent the usual range of angry, sardonic, wonderful, maddening tweets that happen when someone says or does something like this vis a vis trans people/issues. I assure you, it happens far more often than you think or possibly realize; perhaps you are not aware of that at all. Perhaps you do not have so many windows into that subject. When one of the people quoted in the article goes out and says this about how you used her words, well, let’s just say that’s not a good sign. But like I said, I can’t really comment on it specifically, and I’m sure wiser people than me will have plenty to say about it. Besides, I’m not sure I need to read yet another baseless argument on the existence of trans women.

As I’ve seen echoed many times and will echo again, we’re right fucking here. Why are we still debating that trans individuals exist? Why are we having this discussion ad nauseam even though it’s pretty obvious we exist and there seems to be plenty of evidence to support that? We are all around you. Even if you aren’t aware of that. Well, we’re not quite everywhere, because there are a lot of systemic barriers to the mere open existence of trans people, let alone trans people in positions of power or authority. There are no trans Senators or Congresspeople, and though progress does seem to slowly be happening at lower levels, there’s still a paucity of trans people in positions of authority like that. We are not taking over the world; we are not a cabal. But we are here, trying to live our lives in whatever capacity we are able to, the same as most everyone else, freely and openly as who we are, or at least as freely and openly as we choose to be without any reprimand.

Tools like Twitter have been great at giving trans individuals a voice. It’s great that we can all connect; honestly, it’s one of the things I love about my Twitter feed is I’m finding so many interesting trans voices. Beyond that, I have access to voices on a number of subjects that I find myself not all that aware of. I don’t necessarily always agree or understand because we all face different obstacles, but it’s great to see that information, to challenge myself to think about my own positions, to be more empathetic to others, and to just learn more. Twitter has been great at helping to amplify those voices. But at some point, those voices need to break through beyond a largely trans audience. Certainly, I’ve gotten to know people through Twitter, but Facebook is still where most of the people I’m actually friends with are. The ones I see shows and play board games and share meals with. And though they obviously know me (and some of them definitely know a few other trans people), I rarely see them post anything about trans issues. I largely only see trans people talking about trans issues, unless it’s some sort of awful, irresponsible platform that someone is using to attack trans people. And I get it, it makes sense, of course we’re concerned. This is our lives we’re talking about. But it has yet to achieve that same level of consciousness with the greater public like an issue such as marriage equality. Certainly, I saw gay friends share the news about Virginia, but I saw many straight friends share the same news. There’s not quite the same equivalence with trans issues yet. I understand that kind of affinity. I am much more likely to donate or participate in a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis or lymphoma since those are health concerns I am much more attuned with due to what some of my family members have gone through. Just like I would hope I can help inspire a few people in my life to pay more attention to trans issues. Though just exposure doesn’t necessarily equate to action, it’s important to humanize something so that people see people on the other side, not words and numbers and statistics.

But if we’re gonna talk about numbers and statistics, it’s hard to ignore one: 9%. That’s, at least according to this oft-cited report, the percentage of individuals who report having a close friend or family member who’s trans. I’m not entirely certain why that’s the number that gets batted around, but that certainly seems to be the source. And irrelevant of the efficacy of that report or what the actual percentage might be, I have no trouble believing it’s not too high. So how do we change that? Well, the big goal is obviously working on creating a better society where people are willing to be more open about being trans (if they wish to). You could well know trans people in your life that you just don’t know are trans; choosing to share something that personal about who you are with others is an intimate decision, and plenty of people have cause not to. Our society isn’t exactly kind to openly trans people. Because helping to enable sharing who we are with other people, in whatever capacity individuals choose, helps personalize the issue. And it’s a lot harder to hate people than it is to hate ideas or abstract thoughts. Not impossible, certainly, but definitely more difficult. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I like to have conversations with the people in my life and why I’m very open (at least, in most contexts). I’m not giving anyone the definitive take on being trans (because what does that even mean?), but I am giving you a take, my take on being trans, my thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, challenges, etc. And I am personalizing that issue for you when I do that. I can only do that for as many people as I can reach, but that’s what I plan to do: to reach as many people as I can. It’s not a contest to reach more than the next person, just an ideal to do as much as I can do, in whatever small capacity that is.

That’s not really what you can do, though. What you can do is pay attention to issues like this and call bullshit when you see it; what you can do is call out transmisogyny when you see it; what you can do is respect the gender of the people in your lives if you are having trouble with their transition. I assure you, things like that matter. I can still think of a few meaningful interactions years later when friends stepped in to correct someone who misgendered me so that I didn’t have to expend that energy. It’s not big systemic things I’m asking for from everyone (though I’ll take those). Because I do think those little actions, those changes can help pave the way for bigger changes.

I don’t say this like you need to retweet it or share or anything. But I would ask you to consider what voices you are amplifying when you come across them, when you do share them, and generally what you are sharing. It’s great that in the Commonwealth two consenting adults who love each other can get married and that’s that. It’s great to see so many people that don’t have a direct interest in marriage equality share that, revel in that, and generally appreciate that Virginia took a positive step today. But it’s still the same state that adopted this insidious policy in regards to trans high school athletes, the same state that requires gender confirming surgery before you can update your birth certificate (though, that’s better than some states still), the same state that I could be fired in just for being me. Celebrate, Virginia. It’s a fine day for you, one I never would have seen coming…but there’s still some more tyranny to rout out, and we need your help. Hopefully, knowing me, you can see why. Now let’s get to it.

Bike Share

Last weekend, for the first time, I took advantage of one of the city bike programs that seem to be spreading from city to city throughout the US. I never really had cause to use it in Minneapolis and still don’t in San Francisco, as that’s what my own bike is for. I’d thought about jumping on one when the initially unveiled it in the Twin Cities, just to see what those giant green bikes were like, but I guess my curiosity wasn’t worth whatever it cost then. But in Chicago, I had a great opportunity to try them out. At $7 a day with unlimited rides under 30 minutes, it wasn’t much more expensive than trying to take the bus and figure all of that out, and it certainly gave me a good deal of flexibility. Here are some observations based on a couple days of pedaling around Chicago on a Divvy:

The kinds of trips I took were just about perfect for these sorts of bikes. It was about 4 miles from where I was staying to Union Park, where I was going every day, with a direct route down a road that (mostly) had a bike lane. With the 30 minute cap before you incur a fee, that’s seems to be the idea behind it, or at least the intent behind the fees, to keep you from riding too long, to keep the bikes in circulation, whatever. Anything under a mile feels fairly walkable to me (well, that’s not true…everything is walkable in San Francisco). But a bike really helps make those trips between 2-5 miles a bit more manageable. Honestly, I doubt it would have taken me much less time to drive the same distance, especially factoring in parking by the festival. Not that a car was an option I had on the table this weekend. Just comparatively speaking.

Speaking of driving time, I think that is one of the most worthwhile aspects to these kinda of programs. I already know that it doesn’t take much longer to ride on those short trips. In many cases it can be shorter. Hopefully more people realize that after some time in these.

The stations themselves were frequent enough that I didn’t have to think about it too much. While it would have been more difficult 10 years ago to implement an idea like this, now you’re a smartphone app away from being able to not only find the nearest station, but the availability of bikes. Of course, you still have to have that smartphone. The stations also do a good job of telling you where nearby stations are if you have issues (no space to park, no bikes, etc.), provided you know the city in question. Each morning, I was able to pick a station appropriately close to wherever I had breakfast, and I even was able to entertain the notion of hopping on one of the bikes to go a bit further to get my breakfast. The access really broadened my thoughts about where I could go in the city without dealing with cars or transit.

Nothing will ever break those bikes. It felt like pedaling a solid mound of stone. But that’s what they are designed for, aren’t they? They need to withstand multiple rides from people in addition to the streets of Chicago. Halsted had some potholes that would put Interstate Park to shame. While I’m sure they do have issues occasionally (and I did pull one that had a seat that would not adjust), on the whole, they are built to withstand whatever abuse you might put them through. Which is good, because I’m guessing they need to be.

You aren’t going anywhere too quickly on them. Because of their weight and their relative simplicity (three gears), you aren’t gonna see anyone whipping through city streets on those. Again, I’m sure that’s somewhat by design. I had to make some minor mental adjustments as I rode because of that; I saw lights that my brain said I could make only to remember that I was not on my own bike and I was not getting this thing through the intersection in time. That is probably okay especially for safety’s sake.

I can’t make a direct line comparison (I haven’t ridden my bike in Chicago), but it’s easy to imagine that other vehicles on the road treated me differently than they would have had I been on my bike. Again, it was just a thought I had. I don’t really have a way to test that, so take that as you will.

The process isn’t that hard, but it still feels a bit long. I get why they need some of that information. I get they have to ask those questions. Perhaps I could have registered some information online to make it quicker. And it wasn’t that much. Just that the menus took a bit more navigation. I don’t know why they asked for my zip code, whether it was to run the card or to run some metrics, or perhaps both. But it also didn’t feel like much more than the CTA asked me when I tried to get train passes. So perhaps I’m just spoiled with my own bike and a Clipper card.

The app is a pretty great thing. It’s nice to be able to look up the stations, and more importantly whether or not there are any bikes there. Unfortunately, it didn’t save me any time because…

I discovered multiple stations in Chicago where the card readers didn’t work. Due to the nature of the system, you have to dip your card (their terminology) every time you get a bike. Which makes sense, but is unfortunate when you find a station that doesn’t work. I had to go to three stations both Friday and Saturday night before I found a bike either due to that issue or lack of availability by the time I got to the next station.

I cannot imagine using a bike like that in a city like San Francisco. Chicago is blessedly flat. I already bike everywhere. I’ve gotten used to the constant hill-climbing that is riding anywhere in San Francisco. Don’t get me wrong, the payoff on the downhill is nice. But it was a nice change of pace to be someplace where there was almost no climbing the entire 4 miles. On one of these bikes, it just seems like it’d be a slow and tiring affair. That is probably why there only seem to be stations down in the Financial District, SoMa, and such. The converse is they are much better suited for a city like Chicago.

Who compromises the annual user base? I saw a few of them. Or at least, that seemed to be why people could just go up and use something (a key?) directly next to the bike to get one while I dipped my card and waited for a new code. I am mostly curious what the reasons. $75 isn’t that much (which is what I think the annual fee was), but I wonder who those people are. Because if you were doing a lot of riding, it seems like even just finding a cheap beater bike at a local shop or on Craigslist would also be an effective option. Then again, if all the rides they are doing are short distances, and they don’t have the space, and more importantly, they don’t want to deal with the occasional hassle of owning a bike, I can totally see any of that. There are definitely valid reasons for not wanting to own a bike. I feel like they are less extreme than not wanting to own a car (it’s definitely significantly cheaper), but they are still valid. And now I’m just a bit curious. I hope they gather that kind of into to strengthen these programs.

I saw quite a few people on them. This is a good thing. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to not ride a bike, and for plenty of people it’s not a good option. But for a lot of people they are a good option. So if this is something that gets them out there using them more, that seems like a great thing to me. Even with the dipping and the codes and finding the station, it’s a pretty quick to get the bike and get moving. It’s even easier to get rid of the bike when you are done, just find a station and lock it in. Bikes are a great way to get around for short trips. And having a system that makes that easy is a good thing. These systems definitely make it easy.

It’s not like I’m trading in my bike tomorrow. But I can see the appeal of these sorts of programs. And I’m glad to see they are finding users. More people on bikes hopefully helps beget better infrastructure for bikes. More people on bikes hopefully helps those people recognize what it’s like to be a bike on the road the next time they get in their car. More people on bikes is a good thing. I can’t wait to see more of it.

Just For A Day

By the Sunday of Pitchfork, I was just plain tired. My legs are still a little sore today, and while I did a fair amount of walking (and some biking) in Chicago, it’s not like I feel like I did significantly more than I do many days in San Francisco. Though I did do a significant amount of just standing around. As I watched the bands that day play some of the best music I’d seen yet that weekend, I still felt it through my body. Some days I wonder if I’ll ever recognize when this world of live music has passed me by. When will I not have the energy to keep up with new music? When will I not have the energy to see all these bands? When will I not have the time? I suppose money could be an issue, but that’s sort of gone the opposite way as I’ve gotten older and further along my career path thankfully. I am now much better equipped to afford the shows I want to go, and I go to so many of them because of that. Of course, the next potential promotion or move at work always brings the possibility of less flexibility, as work responsibilities may grow or make it harder to plan for shows in advance. I don’t really see myself moving into a position like that, as that’s the balance (I’ve gotta be able to enjoy my free time, right?), but priorities change, so it’s probably more accurate to say that I don’t see myself moving into a role like that at present based on where I’m at. I hope, like a few people I know who continue to avidly see shows that are well older than me that the answer is never. But it’s hard to say. And like I said, any number of things could occur that would affect whether or not going to as many shows as I do is a priority anymore.

I always have stuff like that on my mind at shows. The first strains of Slowdive washed any of those thoughts away though, replacing them with all the feelings those beautiful, gauzy, shimmering guitars evoked as not quite dusk settled over the festival. I’m not 18 anymore. I was comfortably away from the stage, not close enough to get any impressive pictures (or impressive bruises during the bands that get people moving). Not that Slowdive is one of those bands to get the crowd moving quite like that. It was more of a sway, or to keep in spirit, the crowd catching the breeze. Perhaps I will be up front at the show at the Warfield, or maybe even at FYF, but that was not me on Sunday, and unless it’s someplace small like the Rickshaw or the Entry, I’m not likely to be that person as much these days. As much as I would have loved to have been right up front, to get a picture of that amazing dress that Rachel Goswell was wearing, it just wasn’t in the cards on Sunday considering my other priorities. That wasn’t something that I went for any of the days of Pitchfork. The closest I got to any of the stages was during Mutual Benefit. And that was only because I was able to walk right up on Sunday morning. Even the shows at Bottom Lounge, I stayed further back. I didn’t wait in line to be the first one in to see any of the bands. I cooled my heels two of the three days enjoying a beer across the street at Kaiser Tiger, because I’m not getting anything by Three Floyds once I get back to San Francisco, or even the next time I’m back in the Midwest. As I sipped a beer on Sunday just after noon because I got there so early, it couldn’t have been more obvious that I wasn’t 18 anymore.

When I was 18 the only artist I knew was Beck. While some of that was because many of those bands didn’t exist back then, it’s also endemic of the change in my tastes over the years, the gradual broadening. I also didn’t know the bands that influenced them then either; I don’t think 15 years ago I would have cared all that much about Slowdive. But you know, 18 year-old me wasn’t always that smart. What did I know? I had the opportunity to see great bands when I was younger at events like HFStival and Tibetian Freedom, but they were never the draw. It’s hard to believe that I actually saw Pulp. I don’t remember it, but I know I was there at that time, and by the accounts of reviewers then (thanks Internet!) it wasn’t all that memorable anyway, but 33 year-old me is still a touch embarrassed about that one. Then again, that’s a function of time, of changing tastes, of greater access. Besides, go to enough shows and you’ll have some moments like that too.

I came to Chicago to see music, and that’s what I did, with all three days of Pitchfork and two after shows on tap for the trip. As I struggled to stay awake during Deafheaven on Friday, I wondered if that was too aggressive. It certainly wasn’t the band’s fault. Even with some technical difficulties, they played another epically fantastic set, just like they would on Sunday. If I struggled to stay awake, it was because I’d been standing around for parts of 10 hours after spending the morning and early afternoon wandering through Lincoln Park and the nearby neighborhoods. It had nothing to do with the quality of the music and everything to do with my lack of preparation. If my schedule was too aggressive, I had no one but myself to blame. I was the one who purchased all the tickets, didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and didn’t necessarily ration my energy that well that day; I knew what I was getting into.

Because I also came to Chicago to relax. If I talked a bit more during some sets, well, it was because it’d been a while since I’d been to anything with anyone to talk to. It was because I was not standing 10 feet from the stage talking over an artist, but comfortably several hundred feet away. Besides, festival etiquette is a bit different from club etiquette. I still wouldn’t have been talking up front, of course. But I wasn’t up front. And I’d also already seen almost every band on the bill I’d already wanted to see, excepting Slowdive, Speedy Ortiz, and St. Vincent. I saw Beck as a teenager. After this weekend, I can say I’ve seen both Dum Dum Girls and Deafheaven five times, Perfect Pussy four times, Neutral Milk Hotel even three times (I may like them a bit too). Of course there were still plenty of things to discover and see. I say it more to reinforce how important seeing live music is to me as opposed to anything else. When I like bands, I like to support them by buying their records and going to their shows. But a festival isn’t really anyone’s show.

Perhaps that’s why it felt different. A club show, hell, even an arena show, at its best, is like a fine meal, with distinct and meaningful courses and a sense of flow and order. A festival, it’s more like a buffet, with a panoply of options and far too many things competing for your attention. Should you try all these things you haven’t had before or just fill up with what you know you like? It’s a valid question. And while both are enjoyable experiences, they are different kinds of enjoyment. And personally, I know I’m a club show girl. Not even a big club too. I love places like First Ave and the Fillmore, but for me, I love those little 200 person clubs the most. I know that’s the experience I prefer over the festivals, given the option. But there’s something magical about the spectacle, about all the other experiences that these festivals pull in these days, the food and the music and the clothes and whatever else people are hocking in the various spaces around the festival grounds. Still, it is a spectacle. It’s hard to argue that. My inability to stay focused during that is on me, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are more events than a single show at a single club. Or rather, they are a disparate collection of events all occurring at the same place.

This summer is my biggest festival summer in a long time. I think the last time I even attended three in a summer was 1999, but even then, only one of them was a multi-day affair. This summer, it’s one bigger one down, with Outside Lands and FYF still to come. And Treasure Island looking a bit further into autumn. I did Phono Del Sol, that’s small and local and very chill. It just felt like a great day at the park with my favorite food trucks, friends, and great music, so I don’t really think of it quite like these other events. I doubt next summer I’ll be as aggressive, but who knows? That’s easy to say now and harder to actually truly determine. Even though I’m still a bit achy today, still hoping to get back to a regular running schedule, and better yet, a meal schedule that resembles something like regular people that contains things like vegetables, I know there was value there. Because just for a day, I was in Chicago with however many other thousands of people seeing Slowdive play their first US show since ’94, where I wanted to be. It can be easy to gloss over the negative experiences as time passes, to hold onto the positive. Or to do the exact opposite. When the reality is most of these events are a combination of a lot of little experiences that tilt either good or bad that make up the entirety of the day. I’m sure I’ll ask myself the same kinds of questions before, during, and after Outside Lands too. Why’d I come? What was I thinking? What was I expecting? And then I’ll look down at the schedule and head to whatever stage I need to get to next. Certainly there are plenty of ways to support the music you love. But for me, the most tangible way I can do that is by showing up. Sometimes these bands have outgrown my favorite clubs; sometimes, they never even played them in the first place; sometimes it’s their only show in town. In the end, it’s the same reason I try to get myself to any of the venues around town (or elsewhere) any night of the week. Because I want to have the experiences, because I love these bands and their music and I want to support them, because I never know what might happen next, because I never know if I’ll get that chance again. Isn’t that reason enough?

There Are Days

There are days where nothing turns out right. There are days where I just feel like an asshole all day because I’m stuck wondering when I’m gonna see the sailboat. There are days I have trouble deciding whether I’ve still got time to learn new skills and figure things out or whether I’m always just gonna be that somewhat unempathetic jackass I’ve always been. There are days like yesterday, where it definitely felt like it was more of the latter. There are days where it’d probably help if I didn’t feel betrayed by my very body, if I didn’t have to pick up the phone and tell every person I speak with, no, it’s not sir, if I didn’t have to question whether there was just the slightest hint of incredulity in the voice of the employee when I said, yes, my name is Jane. There are days when all that compounds. There are days where everything feels just a bit harder. There are days where I feel like I never fit, and I certainly live in a society that does very little to ensure that there’s space for someone like me. There are days where I look down and I wonder why estrogen didn’t do a little more for me. There are days where I wonder when dilating became so perfunctory, when something I wanted for so long became so ordinary. There are days when I know other peoples’ lives are certainly not perfect and yet I can’t just help but feel jealous that certain things didn’t break a slightly different way. There are days where trying to deal with the little mistakes we all deal with become just that much harder on top of the fact that it’s always a fight just to find people who respect who I am, where I can’t help but feel that many of the people I meet don’t necessarily think of me as male, but they certainly don’t think of me as female either even though I am. There are days where I don’t feel like I’m good at anything. There are days where I wonder if it’s ever gonna work out. There are days where I wonder if I’m ever gonna get my shit together. There are days where I know I’m not getting any younger, and I’m probably be judged for that differently now. There are days where I wonder if this is all a joke, and if so, why it was played on me, on so many of us for so many different reasons. There are days where I wonder what kind of world creates so much variation in the species and so much rigidity that it is punished. There are days where I cry because sometimes that’s the only thing left to do. There are days where I wonder why I ever left Minneapolis for Saint Paul, let alone Saint Paul for San Francisco. There are days where this move feels like the biggest mistake in a life full of so many mistakes. There are days where I wonder why I spent the money at the door. There are days where I know I’m going to go out and not talk with anyone, because sometimes it’s better to not talk at all than have to correct someone when they get my name wrong. There are days where I wonder what kind of jackass has to volunteer a statement like “that guy has a peach purse” when I’m unlocking my bike. There are days where I wonder if I just started living too late. There are days where I keep planning things to do but I’m still not sure how I’m going to make it all happen because money and time are finite and I can’t keep pushing that away forever. There are days where I know each day is a little bit closer to the end, and days where the end feels that much closer. There are days where I realize this may be the best it will ever be, that I may already be past that. There are days where I wish nothing more than the ability to go back in time and tell myself to start being honest with myself sooner. There are days I know that no matter how hard a time I have with it, some things just aren’t mine to decide, that so many things really aren’t. There are days I still feel let down by some of my best friends, even though we’re no longer friends and that was years ago. There are days where I know after that day things will never be the same between us, and not in a positive way. There are days I legitimately think I’m spending the rest of my life alone, in this apartment or another one like it. There are days I wonder if I’ll ever have anyone over again, if I’ll ever play those board games, if I’ll ever pull out more than 50 different records and tapes. There are days I wonder what the hell kind of life gave me the agency to ponder all of this because sometimes it feels like too much. There are days where it is too much. There are days where I’m frankly amazed I’ve made it this far given all of that. There are days where I say I don’t mind being 6′, 2″ but I’d really rather be 5′, 8″. There are days where I want nothing more than to sink into the background and yet I always feel I’ll stand out. There are days where I lie and say that I’m okay with the fact that I can’t have kids. There are days where I tell you I’m happy and I am most certainly not but we don’t need to have that discussion right now. There are days where I know it could be worse, but that definitely doesn’t make me feel better when I think about how many people it is worse for and how little I do about it. There are days where I truly wonder whether or not I have anything worthwhile to give. There are days I wonder why I’m not doing more to make that happen. There are days I don’t need you to say anything, I just need you to listen. There are days when you just want the same. There are days there’s no one here and I wish there weren’t 2500 miles separating us all. There are days I wonder if we’ll ever see each other again. There are days I wonder if any of this will make a difference. There are days I wonder why I write, whether I even have anything to say, and whether anyone will even read it in the end. There are days I know things like this are the most honest things I write, because these are the few times I truly embrace my hypocrisy. There are days I can’t help but wonder what it’d be like to be cis, but I don’t know if that means I would have been happy being assigned male or I would have been born so that I were assigned female and that thought exercise terrifies me just a little. There are days I feel so let down by gender while simultaneously hoping to find comfort in it. There are days I just want to lie down next to someone on this couch. There are days I know I screwed up, there are days I know I will never change, that I never can change. There are days I want one specific person here, and I wonder if he would be if I’d played my cards in another manner, but I know that’s all irrelevant. There are days where I feel so alone. There are days that will never change, that you will never understand, that I’m not sure I rightly understand either. There are days I know I can never explain this to you, that every time I try, it’s just an attempt, full of big words and facile logic that I hope resonates with you because that’s the only way I can think to explain things. There are days where I wonder why I can remember anything at all. There are days I wonder where my childhood best friends are now. There are days I wonder what they’d think if we meet again. There are days where no matter how well it fits, that dress is never going to fit right, or at least I’m going to feel like everyone will see it that way. There are days I know you feel the same way about whatever it is that keeps you up at night. There are days I know you look at my life and wonder why yours couldn’t be that way. There are days I wonder if these feelings will ever go away and I know the answer is probably no.

But then there are days like tomorrow, and those are the days that it can all change.

Show And Tell

Yesterday rounded out a busy week for me musically, with eight separate shows in six days (Cloud Nothings/Metz, Amen Dunes, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Running in the Fog, Wild Moth/Creepers/Creative Adult, Bart Davenport/Extra Classic/Your Friend, The Antlers/Yellow Ostrich, and Phono Del Sol if you’re keeping score at home). I didn’t even see all the bands listed in some cases, trying to get from venues or make sure I had time to get food or go for a run or just sit on my couch for a minute and do nothing. And though I go out a lot, it was still a bit much for even me. Sunday night is a rare quiet night followed by a couple more shows before I go to Chicago to…see more music. In fairness, though…Slowdive. Another Deafheaven club show. Really, those two things are worth the price of admission right there. And I know, it’s great to have the opportunity to see all this wonderful music, and I am fortunate to have the disposable income to spend on it. I may not make music anymore and I was never particularly good at that end of things anyway, but it means a lot more than playing bass or piano. These days I show that by going out to see bands, by buying tapes and records of bands that put out the music that means so much to me. A couple of those above shows were free and I made sure to buy a tape or a 12″ at those shows. I enjoy a good beer and I like to support the venues I like by putting a couple bucks back in the coffers with a drink or a snack. These events don’t happen in a vacuum, and even if I didn’t pay anything to get in the door, the shows are most certainly not free. Most bands put in a lot of effort just to be there, even if they’re local. I am not saying that I am going to make everything, even all the events that have value to me, because my resources are finite, but if a band came 2,000 miles with no guarantees, the least I can do is go 5 miles, spend 10 bucks, and see for myself what everyone else is talking about. That’s to say nothing of the actually effort that goes into creating that music, the amount of time that takes, the practice, the tinkering, the getting it right. Or the effort that goes into making sure that venue is open, has people there, and it’s worth their while to open the doors and let all of us in. Obviously, attending shows and buying records are not the only ways to support music; you could be making it or helping to put it out or any number of related efforts. But for me, it’s the most tangible way I can support music and the people who put in that effort, frequently for little more than love of what they are doing.

I haven’t seen it as much with the musicians I know and follow (seems to largely be writing so far) but Patreon pages are definitely seem to be cropping for creative types, and I have noticed a couple musicians post pages. It is a logical extension I suppose. One of the great aspects of the Internet, especially Twitter in my personal experience, is how it has helped me connect with musicians and labels that are producing so many things that I thoroughly love and enjoy. It is only logical to leverage those more direct connections. But I have been a bit soured on paying before there’s a product due to my experiences with more than a few music-related Kickstarters (not here to name names, just saying) so for now, I think I’ll just continue to buy what’s in front of me. Of course short the support they may need, does that product or show happen? It’s a valid question. How early in the process do people have to start showing that support now? Am I just seeing it more because as much as I still enjoy my bigger bands, I am definitely more on the front end than I sometimes rightly realize? How much more should I do to help make that happen? Is it inevitable that we ended up here due to fractured nature of the music business, the lack of money, the over saturation of product leading to a diluted pool of diminishing funds to spread around? More people compete for less and less while we paradoxically have the resources to consume more and more music as that money floods into technology that makes it easier to find? It would have been a task even 5 years ago to Berlin Community Radio, but every week, No Fear Of Pop comes up in my feed and talks music from all sorts of places. And while some episodes might feature a band that I already know and love like Fear of Men, there’s still plenty of other artists that are featured or get played that I know nothing about. I certainly do not have a pulse on the Berlin scene, but the fact that I know anything about it at all is kind of amazing. That technology enables that is a pretty cool thing. But the level of commitment I have to put in to learn that is really quite minimal. Sure, you gotta figure out what you like enough to start following it on a service like Soundcloud, but after that it’s passive capture. Identify what is making music or informing you of music that you like, and there are so many tools that help funnel that to you. The names of the tools may change, and they may come and go with some frequency these days, but they are not going away as much as people are just trying more and more ways to share all these discoveries.

Of course, it’s not just easier. Or that’s a simplistic way of looking at it. It might be easier to access all this music, but it’s so much harder to sift through it, to truly find something with meaning. At the end of the day, how many people really want to put in that effort? It’s tough just to find good aggregators, those good labels and writers and sites that help me find stuff. What is worth my time and money? How many listens does a song or a band deserve before I’ve made some decisions? Is it even worth a full listen? Ultimately, I rely on fairly simple means to determine that; how many times do I keep playing that song? Does the record stay on the turntable or in the tape deck as I just keep flipping it? Do I find myself going to see the band again and again? There’s nothing particularly scientific about it at the end of the day. Though, to some degree, there is a science behind what is pleasing to the ear, but some of that is also cultural as well. Needless to say, music theory has never been my greatest strength. To a degree, there’s always something ineffable about the art we enjoy and appreciate. It’s something that I’ll never be able to articulate, and every effort is just that, an effort and nothing more. And so while I am listening to quite a bit, I’m still relying on a pretty archaic but effective means like most of us: how does it make me feel?

I suppose that’s what I’m always looking for, that feeling. You can’t make everything. But hopefully, you get the opportunity to make the things that matter to you. You never know what you’re gonna get that night, and some shows aren’t memorable for the right reasons, but they sure are memorable. Other shows are memorable for the right reasons, those indelible memories that you’ll carry with you until you die, moments with friends that you’ll always reminisce about, events that you will always have the mark of being able to say “I was there for it”. There are records like that too, first editions that sit on the shelves, 7″ limited to 300 copies that you were lucky enough to add as a part of your collection. And there’s always supremely how the music makes you feel. As The Antlers played a good live arrangement of “Epilogue” I both understood why it was arranged that way and wished for the bruising, cathartic closer that it is, a song that five years later still makes me cry just a bit, especially in the context of the record. I understand that music isn’t that important to everyone; it’s a personal decision where we put our effort. I can’t even make all the shows going on in my own city, let alone all the shows that are going on elsewhere. When I go to Pitchfork, I am undoubtedly missing out on things happening right here that I would probably go too. But adult life is decisions. For some people, it’s not a decision; it’s just that music isn’t that important to them. I respect that, but as someone who values it so much, I suppose there will always be a bit of a disconnect between myself and people who feel that way. My more carefree 20s have bleed into a more rigid time in my early 30s, as it’s harder and harder to find time with some people, between kids, jobs, and the fact that we all just have a lot of things going on in our lives pulling us a lot of different directions. The converse for me, though, is that I am single and I don’t have kids, so I have plenty of disposable money for all this music that I love. That’s why I’ll be at Pitchfork. That’s why I’ll be back for The Replacements at Midway. It’s why I can literally go out every night of the week if I choose.

Not every week is gonna be like last week. There are always a lot of shows that I want to see, but there are other things I want to do to. Sometimes it’s just getting a beer with a friend. Sometimes it’s realizing that I would like to just sit down and watch the X Files. There’s nothing wrong with those honest decisions. Just make sure they are that. It is perhaps idle small talk to comment on how much I go out, but realize there’s a reason there too. And if you want to do it…well, do you really want to do it? Perhaps music just isn’t as important to you. That’s okay. Or perhaps you just show that appreciation in a different manner. Hopefully something is that important to you, at least. Me? I’ll keep going to those shows. Because that’s what I do, that’s how I give back to the bands and the people who have done so much for me. You can keep asking me what band I’m going to see tonight, and I’ll excitedly tell you as you zone out just a bit because I may as well have been speaking a foreign language. Perhaps I am. Perhaps all the listening, all the going out, part of that is just keeping up that proficiency. Besides, you never know when you’re gonna get that chance again. It seems ludicrous to think there will ever be a time in my life where music isn’t this important. But I’m not in the business of forecasting. The bands that I see, they don’t owe me anything. One might argue that with an attitude like that, the opposite is also true, that I don’t owe them anything. But I think it’s the other way. I owe it to them more than ever to show that, as they get fractions of pennies from Spotify or nothing at all from so many other sources. I owe it to all the people who put in the hard work putting together the shows or putting out the music I love. I owe it to them to show them that, to tell them that when I talk with them outside the club or as I’m picking up their new record. Idle, forgotten words in so many cases, perhaps. Though…maybe not. Besides, it’s the least I can do.

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