April 17, 1906

There’s a certain sense of doom that hangs over San Francisco. You see it when you look around and see so little from before 1906. Or the eastern span of the Bay Bridge. Or Hayes Valley. Or West Oakland. I’m constantly aware of that, living here. How could you not be? We don’t know when the next big one is coming, but we do know it’s coming and no matter what, we don’t truly know what it’s going to do. And while it’s doubtful we’d see something on the scale of April 18, 1906, it’s important to remember how little we truly know. I don’t think anyone went to bed on April 17, 1906 expecting much of the city they called home to lay in ruins the night after. We may be more aware, we may be more prepared, we may have better tools to deal with whatever comes next. But we may not. And it’s arrogant to forget that. We may be cavalier, joking about how the next big one will drive down housing costs, and we may put together our emergency kits and go over our evacuations drills at work. We do that to be ready, but we won’t truly know what it’s like, or how to act until it happens. The repetition of things beforehand? That is so we don’t have to think about what to do and we can just act.

San Francisco is undoubtedly an amazing place to call home. I consider myself fortunate to be able to. I never get tired of the views, of the ocean, or the bridges, or the characters that populate this place. At least, those that remain. But when people ask, am I telling them or reassuring myself? Am I in a bad relationship with the city I call home? Is this really a good place for me? Is this really a good place for anyone? But then you turn the block, look out over Outer Richmond, and catch the tops of Golden Gate and remember. You see the city from Alameda and it looks like a mirage. Perhaps it is. It certainly doesn’t feel like a real place at times. This city has you questioning why you live here and remembering why you love it in the span of one block. It might not be as foggy as they tell me it used to be, but the city still has an ethereal quality, blanketed in fog, with fog horns for white noise some nights if you live in Inner Richmond like me. If I keep telling myself how wonderful it is, perhaps I will believe it too.

I’m about to begin my third year here. It feels like half the people I’ve met have already moved or will be moving soon, half I barely see. It feels like I haven’t met that many people at all. Every year, it gets just a little bit more taxing to try to get to the shows I want to go to and make everything else work. Living by yourself is great, but I spend more time alone than you probably realize, though we have technology that ameliorates that these days at least. I love San Francisco, but city has its own problems, deep, creaking faults beneath its superficial charms. It feels like those things are never going to change, not when we have people seriously considering the idea of a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission, not as we continue to fight over a few street parking spaces that get in the way of making biking much more appealing and safe on Polk Street, not as we idly dream of a second trans-bay tube that’s 30 years away at best if it happens at all. Besides, I am not getting any younger, and my priorities as an individual shift as well. It isn’t just a pecuniary consideration. At what point does this city no longer have enough to hold me? At what point is the cost of living here too high beyond the rent?

As I begin my third year, I wonder if that would be better anywhere. Many of my issues are not place-specific. I feel constant stress about changing anything in my life, and you might too if you are trans and you are in a good situation in a lot of ways. I have found the thirties somewhat trying as my life has diverged from many of my friends because I do not have kids and I still like to go out on a Tuesday night. I had those same problems in Saint Paul, too. As much as I love San Francisco, it cannot solve problems like that. This is one of the best places for me to be professionally. But I still wonder, is it the big one I should worry about? Or is it all the little shifts that are constantly happening that I don’t notice as much? It’s not the earthquake you have to worry about anymore, it’s the notice of rent increase from your landlord, the eviction that turns your place into an Airbnb, the loss of any amount of income that allows most of us to maintain the tenuous balance we call living here, the loss of friends that help make a place something more than coordinates. Most of us aren’t prepared for that, no matter how much we’d like to think it. Every day here feels like it’s April 17, 1906. Until suddenly it’s April 18, 1906.

The Framing Business

One of the biggest issues I had to overcome in being authentic and true to myself was learning to stop lying to myself. As a trans woman, society certainly gave me good reason to, and continues to show me why, at times, I feared and worried about being myself. But I rarely worried about the economic disadvantages I might face or the fact that I be attacked just for walking down the street as myself. No, I worried whether I’d be laughed at, whether or not I’d fit in, whether I’d be pretty to be honest. And came to the conclusion I would be, I wouldn’t, and I definitely wouldn’t. I turned out to be wrong and they were vain things to worry about, foolish in retrospect. There are usually bigger concerns than wondering whether that dress looks good on you if you’re trans, though sometimes that matters to, and it feels good when it does. I have a hard time thinking of it as internalized misogyny even if it was as I didn’t really think of myself as a woman then, but certainly my idea of who I was or could be was influenced by a misogynistic construct of who or what a woman could be in our society. And whatever that was, I didn’t fit the definition.

Once I stopped lying to myself about who I was in that sense, I realized the other problems in my life were still there. Which perhaps sounds obvious to you and even me now, but at the time, the process of coming out was pretty consuming and I was fairly focused on it. I was lying to myself in lots of ways though. I’d like to think I’m a generally honest person, but who doesn’t? They may have felt necessary at the time, and probably were as I was trying to navigate my identity as a woman and not necessarily ready to share it, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t lies. Perhaps the other ways didn’t get to the core of my identity, but they still mattered. Coming out gave me the tools, but I still had to use those tools to tackle the other issues in my life. I still had to stop lying to myself about the false constraints that I put on myself, about the worship of busy-ness, about “not having time”. After all people with “less time” than me still seem to get a hell of a lot more done. I had to stop lying to myself about what was possible.

Sometimes it wasn’t necessarily outright lying as much as it was framing. I still spend a lot of time thinking about how I think about my life. I’m not that different than I used to be, believe it or not. Or perhaps I am, but the changes have much more to do with what I think is possible, trying to making those things happen, and how I choose to use the time I have in terms of what I do. There are inextricably other factors tied into it that I cannot deny, like where I live or how much I get paid, but they are difficult to separate out at this point. Some I earned; some I did not. I can and should acknowledge them, but like many things in life that I cannot change in the sense that they are what currently exists, they are just factors. I can work to change them in the future, for myself and hopefully for others, and likely they’ll change in ways that are beyond my control, but I try not to worry too much about that. I stay in my lane and try to take care of what I can because there’s so much that I cannot that I’d really rather not spend my energy on. Though you really can get quite a bit done if you think about it.

But back to the framing business. I really do think how we think about the circumstances of things has an impact along with all those other factors. I don’t mean this in a power of positive thinking kind of way, though. You can do all the right things and still fail, still not get your opportunity. Life might not work out and it might be because of circumstances outside of your direct control. Which is shitty when you think about it. I’d like to think we can move toward a world that gives everyone a fair chances, but it’s pretty obvious that’s not the world we currently live in. As an example, consider creative endeavors. There’s a lot more that goes into being a successful musician than writing a few good songs. Lots of people write good songs. There’s some luck in getting them played in the right places. Sometimes tenacity can create that luck; sometimes you just start off with better connections and resources through nothing you did or earned; sometimes you never even get that chance. Sometimes you squander all those resources and it still works out somehow. Which isn’t to say hard work isn’t a factor. It is to say that I think framing something as “if you work hard and put in your best effort, it will work out for you” isn’t any necessarily true, and is possibly a damaging way of looking at things. Though I guess that depends on how you think of things working out. There’s so much we can’t control. You might feel like the deck is stacked against you. And you could be right.

I’ll admit, thinking about things like this occasionally makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and say what’s the fucking point? But as I talked about previously, I try not to look at it in a pessimistic fashion. Of course it gets to me sometimes. But the last several years have taught me that my definition of possible sometimes needs some work. Not in a grandiloquent bullshit “you can do anything” kind of way, though. More in the sense that each day I work harder to be a better person, the person I want to be, and plenty of days I still fuck up at that. The definition constantly shifts. But I know I’m a person who no longer lies to herself about who she is, and philosophically, that filters into the ways I think about everything else. And it’s very easy to look back and realize what you thought was impossible even a few short years ago is something you’ve suddenly done. And while it’s good to have goals, it’s also amazing how much things can change in a year, let alone several.

Of course you still have to try, and of course it’s still good to have goals, tangible goals that are neither impossible nor too easy. Sometimes that means breaking the seemingly impossible ones down into more doable steps. Sometimes it just means taking the time. Sometimes that time is years. That’s how long it’s taken me to get truly comfortable with who I am, both in terms of how I think of myself and who I see in the mirror each morning. There were a lot of false starts, and simply coming to terms with my womanhood definitely did not magically solve them. Some of them have been influenced by the relative fortune I’ve experienced. Some of them have just been influenced by a change in how I think of myself. Some of them have been influenced by taking better care of myself. We all have to find the things that make us who we are, and I am still working to find those aspects. I probably always will be. I may naturally be a competitive person, it may be something I use to drive me. I may get piqued because of it from time to time, but we are all on our own journey and in a lot of ways it’s futile to compare myself to other people. Because I’m me.

For my part, I had to stop saying to myself I don’t have the time. I had to stop saying I wanted to do something in an unqualified manner. I do have the time, I just might not choose to use it. I do want to do that, but not as much as all these other things. Perhaps that isn’t a beneficial way for you to think about life, but I think it’s disingenuous how often many of us say we don’t have the time. They may be little white lies to get out of things, but I also feel that influences how we think about our lives. It’s agency, after all. Choosing not to do something is an active decision; saying you don’t have the time is a passive one. Of course we have to take care of things, we have to make sure we eat and the rent gets paid, and I get that some people have less agency in regard to how they take care of that. I get that a lot of people have to use the time they have to do a lot of things they don’t want to, more so than I do at least, and that there are some people who truly probably do not have time in the sense that they are already using all of it to try and take care of those things. Even a few years ago I don’t think I would have truly been cognizant of that. But that is not something I can say, and I do not feel it is something I should say because I don’t think it’s true of my life. It doesn’t mean I’m always making the right choices, or even using my time all that well. But I’m not this person that things just happen to. I’m this person who makes choices about how she lives her life. I am a person with agency who decides to do these things. Or who decides not to. Some of those decisions work out; some do not. And again, while some of those things are influenced by things I didn’t necessarily do a whole lot to get, some of those things are influenced by things I very much did do something to earn. And I plan to take advantage of those opportunities. I’m going to use that agency to keep trying every day to be the best version of me. Whoever I end up being.

In A Different Place

It’s easy to be cynical about many aspects of modern life. It’s important to be skeptical, but those two practices are quite different even if they end up looking quite the same to many I try to attain for a healthy dose of the latter but I am not always happy when I find the former creeping into my thoughts. As a fan of music, the last few years have given me plenty of opportunities to be cynical, especially as more reunion tours roll out and the cash registers ring. It’s important to realize that what I view as culturally important or vital again is just as likely viewed as a cash grab by someone else. I saw Slowdive three times last year. I thought they were worth the money at the time and I still do now. It seems so obvious to me that it was worth it, but it seems so obvious to someone else that they could just be another band capitalizing on the fact that their music went and got bigger after they went away. Whether it was because the music was prescient or tastes just came around or someone just decided it was important isn’t necessarily an issue. Something changed to make the idea of playing old music again live (and possibly recording new music) a more tenable proposition. And if it is just that these bands can make more money, there’s always one question that sticks with me: So what?

It’s easy for me to talk about artistic integrity, damaging legacies, cashing in, whatever. I wasn’t the one getting fucked over by a record company or an unscrupulous promoter. I didn’t play to 15 people in some long-forgotten venue in Cleveland or Portland or Washington D.C. I didn’t sleep on floors or in a van or nowhere at all. I didn’t give up parts of my life for anything creative that I’m passionate it about. It’s easy to judge, it’s hard to know. What I do know is that we live to evaluate that vitality, what matters, all of those things that we cannot objectively measure but still try to. Who is the best Brit Pop band? What about shoegaze? Best flow of all time? We can try to find science behind some of these things (and some do in fascinating little ways), we can bolster our arguments with numbers, but in the end, we are trying to establish objective measures for something we subjectively experience. How does it make you feel?

That isn’t to say that every show I go to is great, or even good. Many are mediocre and forgettable. Some are truly memorable for the wrong reasons (like watching a train hit a car that hit a deer as I once said about a particular Buffalo Moon set). Some are just pretty great in their own right. Bronze played a far better show than I thought would have come out of some sweaty basement last night. Perhaps it was because it was packed; perhaps it was because it was being recorded; perhaps they were just locked in. The least I could do is put a few bucks into the jar. On Monday, it’ll be more than a few bucks going into the jar for Ride. Is it worth it?

Worth is a tough thing to judge. But do I make money that I believe is worth redistributing to a band that has made music that is valuable to me, that has gotten me through some tough days or gotten quite a few spins on the turntable? Paying to go to a show is just as much about the potential of what might happen as what does. When the two align, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m going to see Ride over the Mats on Monday. Life is full of tough choices. I’m sure they’ll still be great at the Masonic, but will it really be a better experience than the one I had at Midway last September? Probably not. Am I justifying my decisions? Of course. But I’m not mad about it. It’s unfortunate that two shows I really want to attend are at the same time, that the Mats aren’t on Sunday or Tuesday instead of Monday. But they aren’t, and not going to this one show this time doesn’t mean I don’t continue to support them or their music isn’t still valuable to me. It obviously is, considering how much I go back to it. One person will look at my decision and say I totally agree with your logic Jane, the next will say it’s the dumbest justification for not going to see them one more time. Either way, both bands have some meaning to me, meaning that I can easily attach 40 or 50 bucks to for an experience but I can’t do everything; I can’t support every band that has meaning to me all the time in every meaningful way. But one of the aspects of a reunion tour that I think is overlooked in the cynical “these bands are just minting money” argument as that these bands are getting a chance for people to directly support them in a way that didn’t exist before. They weren’t that popular; their fans didn’t have that kind of money; their record label or whoever has ended up with the rights still makes the money when you buy the reissued LP or CD instead of them. And if it does have value to you, what is so bad about expressing that with money? Critical adoration doesn’t pay the rent.

Am I fortunate in that I have a bit more to spend on those things? Of course. There’s no denying that. I understand what it’s like to not really have much extra and still be trying to figure out how to support the music and bands you love. I have been there. I purchased many a six or eight dollar CD on sale at Tower Records or Circuit City because that was as much as I could give up at the time. I still look at records or shows sometimes and say “if that were 15 instead of 20 I’d totally do it”. I am still arbitrarily assigning value to the music that matter to me. We all are. Perhaps music doesn’t matter to you at all, which seems impossible to me, but that’s just one person’s perspective. There’s still an aspect of curation to any of our loves, what we assign value to, what we have to give, and what we are willing to give up in other regards to do that. To a degree, some of that is influenced by the decisions we make, but there’s a lot of luck there, too.

Beyond all that, just like I’m in a different place, so are these bands, whether they just reunited or they’ve been on the road the past twenty years. They aren’t just these monoliths that are making music for me to experience. They are people too. Yes, I’m sure financial aspects do matter into these decisions; but so do all the other things that make us people. Petty arguments that once drove band members apart perhaps don’t matter anymore. The project came to its natural conclusion at the time but is now undergoing a recrudescence. They actually enjoy playing those songs again as opposed to feeling like they are forced to. Records are static; bands are dynamic. A record is a snapshot of a time, it’s an artifact. A band is an ongoing concern, an organism. Even when we think of the memories we love, the great shows we’ve seen, the great tours, those are static remembrances of once-dynamic times. Perhaps a band has something to add to their legacy; perhaps not. Those are subjective experiences we’ll hash out with ourselves as we wear out the grooves on some records over others or with others over drinks as we revisit certain stories over and over and there are other bands we know we’ve seen that we can’t remember. Whether it’s five dollars now in a sweaty basement or 50 at the Warfield, we are paying for the potential and for the experience. The five says I was there back when; the 50 says this is how much it matters to me now. Neither is better or worse, though one quite obviously has a different level of access just by the amount of money attached. That can’t help but create different expectations. It’s easy to shrug off a bad five dollar show as an experience; the 50 dollar one might still be an experience, but we might not be able to laugh about it the same way if it’s not a good one.

In the end, I just want to support what matters to me. Music matters to me, and there are tangible ways I can show it. I may be able to say I saw the band back when they played a 200 person room that was half-full, but I’m not going just to say that. I’m going because I want to see that band, I want to support them, because they make music that has value to me and I want to show that. Someone has to be seeing who will be your favorite band in five years now when they are playing cheaper shows with songs that we may debate are not as good as what will come later. Maybe they’re my favorite band right now. Both claims are valid. You need the incubators just as much as you need the people who continue to show up. I am more of an incubator in my tastes. I like the small rooms and the intimacy. I like that I can go to three or four or even five of those kinds of shows over one at the bigger rooms. I want to see those bands in the bigger rooms too, but time and money are still finite aspects of my life even if they don’t seem that way to you. It’s easy to say that it won’t be better than the last time. It’s easy to overvalue the first time you saw a band, or the first record you heard a record by them exactly because of the subjective confluences that came together to make that experience what it was. Some things I can’t remember for the life of me, but I will never forget the first time I heard the first tendrils of Danse Macabre in that passenger seat of a Saturn on Arbor Street. There’s a lot tied up in the experience of a show or a record or a song that we sometimes forget, or at least don’t consciously appreciate. But music brings me so much joy. It’s gotten me through many rough times. Sometimes it’s a little thing to show that appreciate, sometimes it’s more, but either way, it comes back to the same question for me: why be cynical about showing tangible appreciation for the things I love? I like having a roof over my head. I’d like to help the bands I care about be able to do that too.

Keep Pushing

Every day I fall apart a little bit and I work to put myself back together. There are good days where I have a little bit more energy and can put it into something else. There are days, like yesterday, where I have barely have enough to get back to the bed where I started. There are days where I just don’t have enough. While you might look at that sentiment and see negativity, that’s not how I take it. I can’t remember where I saw it recently, but I saw something about how existentialism isn’t necessarily supposed to be this bleak philosophy. And that makes sense to me. I find that a good way of looking at things. It’s easy to take a pessimistic view of Sisyphus rolling that boulder up the hill. Irrelevant of your belief structure and what you believe is or isn’t beyond, we are all going to leave this mortal coil one of these days. Every day before that, we’re rolling that boulder. It’s going to roll back down. But we’re defined by that toil. What are we going to put in?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Have I been putting in enough effort? At least in the context that I do not feel like I’ve been putting in enough. It might seem strange to say, I know it looks like I’m doing a lot all the time. And I certainly am doing a lot. But I’m fairly passive about what I’ve been doing. And while that doesn’t make a difference when I go out for a run, of course no one’s going to go to a show or come over if I don’t ask. That’s never been something I’ve been great at, never particularly been something I find comfortable. And while I’d love to say it’s because I’m so self-effacing that I just can’t bear to do it, it’s definitely not that. I just find it enervating to try and organize things with other people at times. Someone’s going to cancel at the last minute, someone’s going to string you along, someone’s not going to bother to say anything at all. There were times in my life were I was better at dealing with that, or at least less bothered by the minor rejections that punctuate so much of life. I understand that we all have our own lives and things come up and all of that, so I don’t take it personally. I just don’t have a lot of success getting things like that going, or at least I haven’t in the past few years.

But more to the point, as I’ve wondered before, I think I may have just gotten too used to doing things by myself. The skills that I used to have to set things up with other people, they’ve atrophied through lack of use. There’s definitely merit in doing what you want to whether or not anyone else will show up. But the board games don’t play themselves. And there’s no one else over here to play them unless I ask. While I might intimate that I want people to come over, it’s rare that I actually ask, or set up something with a definitive time. It doesn’t have to be elegant. It just has to be.

Perhaps I have just been too focused on myself recently. Sometimes I feel lonely, not just alone. Sometimes I feel like things will never work out. It’s hard not to wonder why we toil at times, when it seems like nothing’s going right. Even when most everything is going right but it’s just hard to cut through the miasma of that feeling. But I’m not the only person that feels that. I’d be surprised if everyone doesn’t feel that from time to time. Is it worth it? What am I doing? Why am I doing it? The past few months, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into rewiring a lot of habits in my life, especially in regard to my diet, but just in regard to how I use my time and how I’ve been taking care of myself too. But part of taking care of myself is taking the time to do more with my friends. What good are all these tools that make it easier to keep in touch if I don’t leverage them? One of the reasons I put a few cards in the deck that require other people is to challenge myself to be that person again who reaches out a little more.

If one were to stretch the Sisyphus analogy a bit more, there are certainly plenty of boulders I’ve been pushing. I’ve been toiling, and I’ve been happy with myself in regard to the work I’ve put into creating better habits for myself, or at least habits that feel better for me. Perhaps it’s just tough, you can’t possibly push them all. There are always going to be too many things to do. But there are more things that I just have to push. Life frequently feels like an impossible balancing act, the fact that we do anything together seems remarkable, with so many different aspects taking all of us in so many different directions. But I think I have a bit more energy to give, and I can push a little harder. Or at least I feel like I can focus a little bit more after taking a little time to take a bit better care of myself and my habits. I do not feel like they will suffer. Some days it feels harder than others of course. This isn’t to say that trying to set up a casual gathering with friends should feel like a ton of work. I don’t think it is. But I do have to push. And the next day? I just have to keep pushing. It’s all any of us can do.

A Version

There are always conflicting ways to look at the same events, people, and actions. Non-fiction demonstrates this phenomenon. It is simply one take of the events that happened. Since we are all informed by whatever experiences we’ve been through, we end up with different versions of events, even in the smallest way. The best non-fiction tries to distill that essence, splicing together multiple narratives into one, but it always has an overriding element: what is important to the story? That depends on the story that’s being told. We debate what is or isn’t material to a story, we insist some things are done in an objective manner, but what’s material changes from person to person, and objectivity is a nice concept, but what does it ultimately mean? As people, as societies, we decide, but these are malleable concepts that change over time. But we like narratives, we like resolution. Resolution may be different to you; it may be telling the story that you set out to tell. To one person it’s more; to the next person, it’s less. Irrelevant of the style, we all have a story to tell, and each of our lives is a version.

Beyond that, I hold conflicting views of myself, often simultaneously, and you might too. Take my body, for example. There are times where I’m really happy with it, when I manage to kick out a good time on a run, when my hair falls just right with just a touch of waviness, when I thoughtlessly put things on the high shelves in my kitchen. There are times where I feel saddled by it, when most dresses I try on are just too short or too tight, when I realize that this is the most I’m getting out of estrogen and it doesn’t feel like that much, when my makeup only serves to highlight everything that feels wrong. I am much better at managing the negative feelings now, but I will probably always deal with some level of frustration with my body. Some days I feel all of it at once. I may have reached a point where I know there’s nothing wrong with me, but I still interact with a society that rigidly enforces both a consensus and their own views on concepts like gender to my detriment. At times I’m just a man pretending to them. Sometimes I’m something else entirely. Sometimes I’m a woman but I can tell there’s an asterisk attached. Sometimes I’m just a woman. I never really know how I’m going to be treated by the people around me. It might be a good way to tell if they’re assholes or not, but it isn’t necessarily something I want to deal with any time I interact with people.

Going stealth never really felt like an option for me. I’ve said that before. I just don’t think I have a body where I could get to a point that I pass that well. And I didn’t want to, particularly. It also would have meant giving up some things that I rather like.  Like my friends. But getting to a point where there was a portion of my life where no one knows I’m trans? That would be nice. Even if I don’t talk about trans stuff at work, I have been misgendered enough by people I work with over the years to know that will never really be the case. Most of the time, I’m pretty happy being openly trans, it’d just be nice to turn off every so often if that makes sense? It’s not because there’s anything wrong with being trans, it’s just sometimes I don’t want to be called sir when I’m just going to get a cup of coffee. As much as passing is a complicated concept (because, to a degree, it’s living up to specific cis standards of how people should look that aren’t that great for trans or cis people), I understand why a lot of trans people seek to. There are certainly things I have done personally to pass better. So I don’t begrudge those who do or judge people who seek to; besides, it’s restrictive of other peoples’ autonomy to say what they should or shouldn’t do. I never desired facial feminization and I still don’t. If I did anything else from a surgical perspective, that wouldn’t be it. For some people that’s important, and it helps. And if it does for them? Cool. I’m pretty happy with my face and that hasn’t changed. Just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it’s not for others. And who knows maybe I’d feel different if my insurance covered it or I came into some money. I just think it’s important to always ask myself if I want to do those things, but agency also matters.

It can be difficult to separate whether my attitude on passing is informed by my body and my body of experience. In fact, there’s no point in trying to separate it. Those experiences obviously and inevitably influence my viewpoint. If I wish I did pass a little better sometimes, it’s because I believe it would help alleviate some of the stress that goes along with being trans in our society. Sometimes someone says something about passing and I’m in a really frustrated mood and it feels patronizing because I don’t feel like I do as much as I might like in that moment; other times it looks like the smartest thing I’ve read on the topic and a nice viewpoint that I don’t have based on my body of experience. Sometimes it feels like both simultaneously. Most of the time I’m happy and I’m trying to seek more viewpoints and challenge myself to learn more and be open-minded. Most of the time I realize that there are a lot of valid ways to express the same general idea that there is no right way to be trans and I want to see that in as many expressions as possible. But sometimes I’m having a bad day, full of petty jealousy I wish I didn’t possess for a life that seems better superficially based on looks. I’m not proud of that feeling; that’s not who I want to be. So it’s something that I’m always working on. And perhaps someday I truly won’t feel that way, but that day is not today.

I could lie about it and tell you or myself a different version of the truth, but what’s the point in that? What good am I doing if I’m not being honest with myself? And how do I know other people aren’t feeling the same way about me? While to some degree my opinions is not just informed by what I think but the information I’m getting around me, perhaps I’m just focusing on the wrong input, or stuck on the negatives. It’s alluring to think of how one superficial element could change my life for the better, but in an interconnected system, it’s hard to know the outcomes. And it’s much easier to think about what positive things might change without bothering to forecast the negatives. That isn’t to say passing doesn’t confer some positive affects for the people who do, it’s to say I probably haven’t thought about the negatives, and they exist whether I realize it or not. It’s just a different version of events that ultimately still has a pretty similar outcome. Either way, I would still be a trans woman in a society that is still deeply uncomfortable with us even existing, let alone thriving. And I don’t just need to rely on my own version of events, I have seen and read many other versions to form a consensus. Objectively, we need to make the world a better place for all trans folks. Based on the narratives I see, based on my own experiences, there are still a lot of ways we can do that. They’re all important. So what’s this? This is just one more person’s version of the events to help support that point of view.

Break The Cycle

On the long list of “things I probably would have gotten done if I’d had my shit together in my college years”, I came up three credits short of both Linguistics and German minors. It was equal parts poor planning, not wanting to read The Metamorphosis again irrelevant of what language it was in, and, like I said, not having my shit together. Still, I did take quite a few classes and learn much about the structure of language and the act of speaking another language even if my German is terrible (as wonderful as Latin is, it’s not great for that). Some might say the ability to truly grasp another language comes when you are able to think in it. I get that argument, but I’m not sure I agree with it. Language is like learning any other skill. It’s repetition. It’s rote responses. I say danke, you say bitte. It’s not being able to think in it, it’s not having to think about speaking it. After all, it’s rare when I stop when speaking English unless I’m searching for the precise word, phrase, or memory. Hopefully I think about what I say, but I don’t really think about what I say if that distinction makes sense. I just say it.

Yet we all spend a lot of time learning rules we already know. Some of this has to do with writing, an inherently different act than speaking. Some of this has to do with the fact the English I speak is not the same as the English you speak and what we learn in school or at work is a standard dialect. Where I say y’all frequently in casual settings, I’d never write a work email with it. It wouldn’t be appropriate. It’s debatable what is and isn’t appropriate. Literally, to use a contentious example. That gets back to the difference between descriptive (looking at how we actually do it) versus prescriptive (telling people the right way to do it, though right can change over time) linguistics. Even with our native tongues, we all need occasional reminders when using the standard dialect (Standard American English if you live in the US like me) because none of us speak the standard dialect as our true native tongue. Further still, just because we know the rules does not mean we can describe them. You know what a gerund is, and you know how to use it properly, even if you don’t consciously know what a gerund is.

Gender operates under strikingly similar parameters. We unconsciously learn how to perform gender, and it’s definitely something we learn. We definitely get prescriptive reminders, but there are tacit reminders everywhere. One of the greatest aspects of being trans is it forces you to interrogate your relationship with gender. Much of what I found challenging the first couple years was rewriting a lot of those unconscious actions and ways of thinking. I may have always been female, but I definitely grew up learning what it meant to be a boy and to be expected to be a man in our society even as I struggled with that dissonance. I had to learn what it meant to be a woman in a much less superficial way than what I had picked up over the years. After seven years, it’s unconscious. I think about how I perform gender, but I don’t really think about it. I still spend much more time interrogating my relationship with gender than some might by virtue of the fact that I’m constantly reminded of it. But that’s okay. I try to consciously perform gender by doing the aspects that matter to me and challenging the bullshit that comes up along the way and hopefully that unconsciously manifests itself in how I live my life.

What would be great to see is more people thinking about gender in this manner. Or more to the point, more people thinking about gender as something we perform, something we do. After all, if it’s natural for a man or woman to act certain ways, why do men and women raised in different societies perform gender differently?  Or have wildly divergent expectations of what it means to be a man or woman? Those might be general concepts, but many societies have come up with multifarious ways to express what being a man or woman, or perhaps being something else that does not fit either of those, means. It’s a cop out to say that gender is something that’s innate. Like a first language, we pick it up quickly and unconsciously learn it from everything around us. But children have to learn at some point. We aren’t inherently born with gender or language. We learn from previous generations and pass it on as teachers. It’s a cycle.

So what can we do to help break that cycle as it relates to gender? Why do adults freak out when they learn that trans children are at schools when you rarely see complaints from the students themselves in these stories? Is it because the parents are shielding the students? It’s not uncommon to see someone saying “my child told me about it and felt uncomfortable”, but why do we never hear from those children? I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think the students start to learn to condemn trans identities when they see the adult condemn trans identities. There’s nothing innate about hating someone for being trans. Trans identities aren’t something to be condemned. But that’s not what most people learn. That’s why it’s always sad to see another school district pass rules discriminating against trans people on flimsy criteria based on their own fears and ignorance. Because that’s where children learn that from. And they become the adults that enforce and teach those rules in the future.

That’s why it’s important for cis people to interrogate their relationship with gender as well. Plenty do. It is one way of looking at feminism, after all. But if your feminism excludes trans realities, it’s no feminism at all. Not that I think all people seek to exclude trans realities necessarily; they just haven’t interrogated the systemic way we learn transphobia in our society. I don’t honestly think a lot of people I interact with try to be transphobic. If I’m the first person openly trans person they’ve met, then it’s possibly the first time they’ve been forced to interrogate those unconscious, learned behaviors and ideas. But if only 9% or so (at least last time I looked, that was the number being bandied about) of people consciously know a trans person, what about the other 91%? What’s their reason to learn? What’s their impetus? I refuse to believe that people can’t learn to treat trans people with respect and dignity as people since they have to learn otherwise. I refuse to believe that we can’t get to a world where trans people aren’t demonized, or called unnatural, or at least we can’t get to a world where viewing trans people in that manner isn’t rightly condemned as something naïve, ridiculous, and unfounded. I doubt that it will happen in my lifetime not because I am pessimistic but because this isn’t the kind of work that takes a lifetime. It’s the kind of work that takes lifetimes. It’s the kind of work we all need to do. Gender may be something we unconsciously learn, but it’s something we all need to consciously challenge. And it’s something we all benefit from. Other peoples’ genders need to be something we unconsciously respect, not something we consciously police. It gonna take time. So let’s get going.

I’m Not Most People

Though it doesn’t come up much outside of work, I know a thing or two about fraud. While I don’t directly deal with it in my day-to-day at present, I spent four years investigating potential mortgage fraud, and along the way, I collected my Certified Fraud Examiner credential. Merriam-Webster defines it something like this:

1 a : deceit, trickery; specifically : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right
b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick
2 a : a person who is not what he or she pretends to be : impostor; also : one who defrauds : cheat
b : one that is not what it seems or is represented to be

Professionally speaking, I spend most of my time dealing with the first definition. Manipulated documents, falsified employment, that sort of thing. In my personal life, I spend most of my time being accused of the second definition.

A lot of people position trans individuals as the other, ersatz, somehow fraudulent. Sometimes it’s malicious, but it don’t believe that to be the case with most of the people I interact with regularly. It’s just how we try to organize the world we move through. There’s a lot to be said in terms of how we unconsciously think of anyone who is positioned against society’s norms (which itself is a construct). We all do it in a variety of ways. I’m sure you can think of a few. That’s a structural element that lurks behind any form of discrimination. I’m no expert, by any means, I’m just trying to live my life in a more conscious manner in that regard, to catch myself when I do it. Because it’s difficult to try and make things better if we don’t interrogate what we position as normal, whatever normal means.

To take a recent example, the latest spin on bathroom bills are these bounty bills that have come across in Texas, Florida, and Kentucky. Media Matters put together a piece that can largely remain unchanged even though it’s a year old. There’s just no evidence allowing trans individuals to use bathrooms makes them unsafe for cis people, as various efforts claim over and over. But these bills are still driven by playing on underlying fears of who exactly trans people are. They position trans women as rapists, perverts, and all manner of nefarious individuals who are out to do everything other than what anyone who’s going to the bathroom does: go to the bathroom. They largely ignore trans men and non-binary individuals, a different problem and one that some trans men have been able to exploit to turn the tables on the “protecting women and children” line of logic.

The Florida bill made its second pass with some updates; basically, if you have identification that corresponds to your gender, you’re okay. So if I were in Florida, I’d be fine. Or at least I’d have the identification to prove it. While I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, I’m certainly not the most passable trans woman to walk this earth, and there’s not much that’s going to change that. So I imagine that I’d have to pull out that ID pretty often in a system like that. And in a system like that I imagine I’d still run into trouble. I’m not a big fan of having to show papers to go to the bathroom.

I know on the surface it seems reasonable to most people to require ID. Not that it is, but that you can make a seemingly logical argument. This is essentially the same argument made when requiring ID to allow people to vote under the auspices of voter fraud (another thing that just doesn’t happen). But I still don’t have a California driver’s license because I have to jump through a few more hoops to get that done and have it show female like my Minnesota license does. And for that privilege, it’s going to cost me another $500 or so. Which most people don’t have to contemplate when they go to get their licenses. That’s a reality for trans folks though. There are less costly options. I am fortunate that I am able to change my birth certificate. But I still have to pay for it. I still need to get a court order and send everything to the Commonwealth of Virginia and wait however long it takes. I still need to do something a lot of people will never have to do that they don’t really understand the punitive costs of. All of which helps me realize there are probably more people like me in different regards who have different punitive measures they have to meet for identification to placate the whims of a normative society. Trans people have to pay a bunch of money to get stuff like that changed, if they even can, and most of the rules are based on genitalia for no good reason. Because as a society we put a lot on what one doctor said one time instead of years of personal agency, and our laws reflect that. For most people those two things align and it’s never an issue. I’m not most people.

So how can you help? Stop perpetuating the unsubstantiated belief that trans people are deceitful or fraudulent. That’d be a great start. Interrogate how you might position them differently than cis people. Hell, just listening to trans people with an open mind when they talk about their experiences is a radical action. It shouldn’t be. But it is. It really is a radical action to believe other peoples’ experiences and take what they say to heart. That goes well beyond trans folk, of course. Learning to extend that belief to all marginalized people is a big thing. White guys if you think I’m picking on you, get over it. Everyone pretty much already believes what you say and you have all sorts of platforms to say it. Laws like these rely on common beliefs that people don’t interrogate. Proposing laws like that, that’s a step backwards. There are already enough hurdles for trans folk in our society; why make new ones? Because it doesn’t affect you? Because you’re afraid? How do you think I feel when I go a lot of places?

Listening to someone does not mean you agree with them, I’m not saying it automatically should. Personally, though, I don’t see this as a complex issue. If someone says she’s a woman, she’s a woman. Same goes for men, or people who don’t comfortably identify as either in our binary system. I don’t need paperwork or test results. That’s obviously not where a lot of people are. Thing is, I don’t think paperwork is going to make the people who try to make laws like this believe I’m a woman. They don’t want to accept that, irrelevant of what paperwork I have or what my experiences are. That’s why I see laws like this as mendacious. I don’t think they are ignorant of how difficult it is for many trans individuals to update their identification. I think they know exactly how hard it is. I see efforts like this as just another example of laws designed to legislate me out of existence. That’s my viewpoint. That’s what I’d like you to see.

The nice thing about mortgage fraud is that with the right evidence, it’s provable. If you inflate the balance of a bank statement, all it takes is a copy of the real statement to prove it. So many people want the right evidence when it comes to trans people. Trust me, people I’ve never wanted to share details of my life with have them because of the hoops I had to jump through to update all my documentation. And that’s coming from a rather loquacious trans woman regarding her experiences. That so many individuals and institutions have differing requirements for updating things like names and gender shows just how fuzzy our concept of proving it is. Which should illustrate why this is ridiculous. You can’t just provide a HUD-1 with the right numbers. And there’s no equivalent. Gender is a construct. We all experience it in a different manner. Being true to my gender is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, but it really did nothing to make my life easier. Because so many people want me to prove who I am. I just want you to believe me.

Reset

I didn’t intend to take a break from writing. In fact, I wrote a couple things, but I was having some issues connecting to the internet with my laptop at home and didn’t bother to solve it for a month, so they didn’t go anywhere. Perhaps I unconsciously decided a break was in order. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t kept myself busy, between Noise Pop and an impromptu Minnesota trip on top of trying to keep up a good exercise routine, working, etc. I certainly wasn’t sitting on my sofa thinking what should I be doing right now? There’s always something to do right now. Sometimes it’s catching the sunrise. Sometimes it’s getting out for a few miles. Sometimes it’s catching up on The Americans. Sometimes it’s just sitting on my couch spinning Cinema, Red, and Blue.

Lately, though, the room I’ve spent a lot of time in is my kitchen. While it wasn’t an explicit goal of going vegan, it has forced me try to figure out how to make the things I want to eat since they are not as easily available. That, coupled with a few timely gifts in the form of cookbooks, provided all the motivation I’ve needed to find out what works now. Not that I was much of a cook before. Perhaps it’s better that way. I think that frequently in other contexts as well. It’s hard to be disappointed with my performance when I run because I have no body of experience as a runner until the last couple years, so I have no body of performance where I had a lot of testosterone to help drive my performance. While I’m occasionally curious about how fast I could have run if I’d had the discipline I possess now when I was in my early twenties, I just don’t have that data. Then again, that kind of thinking can be self-fulfilling; I try to avoid dwelling on it too much either way. But my mind has been returning to lots of thoughts like that in recent times.

Cooking is a lot like running for me in that my mind wanders during the act, but not too freely. And in those moments, it begins to turn down different paths than the ones I’ve been on. I have something right in front of me that requires attention. It’s not really heavy lifting, though it’s obviously not as simple as one foot in front of the other, it’s still basic things when I’m in the kitchen. Chop this, measure that, mix them together, time this out. To some degree, it’s a bit of mental busy work along with the physical activity, something to clear my head because I cannot exert too much energy toward my thoughts lest I end up with burning the garlic or I miss a step and roll my ankle. And when I’m done, I find I am frequently someplace else mentally. While there’s certainly a degree of importance to thinking things through, I hope I never return to being the kind of person that dwells on things like I used to when I was younger. Perhaps you can function like that, there are, after all, different ways of living, but I cannot. Because when I get too focused in, it starts acting like feedback, and that’s not good for me. It’s that kind of thinking that paralyzed me for so long coming out, as I was too focused on trying to figure out how everything would go and not focused in enough on doing it. In a way, these activities such as running and cooking act as breakers. When it gets too much, they can help reset my mind, forcing me to spend energy on the task at hand instead of the perfect thing I should have said when someone misgendered me on BART for no reason. Because it can be easy to dwell on those sorts of things.

Whether it’s acknowledging and pondering that I sometimes feel I’m too trans for most cis people and not trans enough for most trans people as I try to figure out where I fit in or just dealing with the weight of trying to be a conscious and good citizen of San Francisco or trying to figure out all the ways I can help further support the music I love even though the world just seems to be swallowing up venues and musicians or dealing with the realities of just trying to get through each day, I have no shortage of things to think about. No doubt you can say the same, though what we ponder most likely differs. Sometimes writing serves as a way to get the thoughts out, as if I’m excising them via the written word. It’s one of the reasons I always end up back in front of a computer hammering at the keys. A few years ago, it might have been the set of keys on my piano as well. The problems will never go away, in as much as I’m always working on something. I choose to look at that as a sign that I am (hopefully) always growing and challenging myself to be better. Recently I’ve channeled the energy to be better into how I take care of myself, and perhaps the reset buttons I reach for are a reflection of that right now. Sometimes the reset button means stepping away from the keyboard. Sometimes it means stepping back.

If I’m Being Honest

Lately I’ve been baking a lot. Perhaps you’ve noticed. While there are plenty of places with vegan items here, there are not just great vegan bakeries at every corner in San Francisco, irrelevant of what you may believe about the city. While Arizmendi is always guaranteed to have a muffin or two as well as many great breads and focaccia and Hayes Valley Bakeworks has a great muffin and a Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodle that you should try whether you’re vegan or not, I can’t just walk down to Cinderella and grab a blueberry brioche like I used to. I am aware of the ramifications of my decision to go vegan. I’m not complaining. Just observing. Besides, even if you have no dietary restrictions (medical or self-imposed as in my case), there are still too many places in the city to try, and chances are you have found your rhythm, the places you go to, and the things you enjoy. I have been in the process of rewriting that memory, and I find that it’s just not as easy to find a good cinnamon roll as it was before. Which has meant a lot more time in my kitchen. The results have been rewarding. It’s been figuring out how to put together many of the foods I enjoy. In addition, it’s a great distraction. I can’t afford to divert my attention lest I screw up what I’ve just put fair amount of time and money into.

But if I’m being honest, I’m looking for the distraction just as much. When I’m out on a run, at a show, catching a drink with a friend, or baking, I don’t spend too much time looking inward. Even when I do things alone. Even when I spend a lot of time thinking. I don’t know if it’s the stimuli around me, but it doesn’t really matter. When I get out of my apartment, or when I find something here that totally engages me like baking, I just don’t spend much time in my head. And I don’t really want to right now. At least in the past couple weeks, I’ve had a rough go of it. I know I can’t push myself all the time. The bike-work-bike-run-cook-bike-show-bike-sleep days sure do pass the time, but I just can’t do that to myself every single day. There is value in doing nothing at times, or at least setting aside time where life isn’t non-stop. But on those days, I don’t have time to spend too much time looking inward.

Why has that been such an issue recently? I have had a hard time figuring that out. Is it because, when I take a hard look at myself, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough in ways that matter more? That’s certainly there. But how am I measuring that impact? Perhaps a better way of stating that is to say I don’t feel like I am doing enough to make things better for other people. Which I do think is something I can put more energy toward. I have spent a lot of time making decisions and changing habits to improve my life, or at least making decisions that have had a positive impact on me in terms of taking care of myself. What am I really doing for the people around me, though? Do I just need something more tangible that I can see the results of? Like I said, I think there is some merit there. I could be doing more in that regard. Or I could at least be spending some of my energy on more focused items, volunteering at a shelter or for a phone line or a bike valet or something that I can point to and say, this is what I’m doing. There are plenty of things that I’m passionate about and yet for the most part, I tacitly support them. Or at least I passively support them at best. Perhaps, as it is for me when I am out doing something, it would be better for me to be active.

That is something I’d like to do better. But I don’t think that’s all of it. I think it’s just the weight of being trans in our society. I just spend so much energy dealing with everything that goes along with that. I may not have to jump through the hoops of gatekeepers at doctor’s offices anymore, but every bigot out there acts like a gatekeeper. Whether it’s constantly being called sir whenever I make a work phone call to being accosted in a bathroom to trying to be a resource for people even when I should probably say I don’t have the energy to engage this right now, I feel like am always on. That feeling never goes away. When I’m out on a run, when I’m at that show, I get the feeling that I’m frequently being read as male. Not because I’m cynical (well, I am, but that is neither here nor there in this case), but because I have a large body of work to prove that point. I have people staring at me when I come out of bathroom stalls, I have artists misgender me when I go to buy their record (let me tell you, not a fun experience), I have people say let the man go through to me when I’m on the trails of the city. Transphobia is so systemic that it doesn’t matter where you live. There’s no good place to be trans in a world full of transphobes. Maybe there are a few less of them here; maybe the laws are better. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good place to be trans. We have a long way to go before anywhere is a good place for trans people to live. I am cognizant that circumstances for me are better than they are for a lot of trans people. But we can do better. We have to do better. And to that end, there are certainly things I can do better.

Perhaps it’s just the totality. These are the thoughts I live with constantly. I am either trying to figure out how to do more because I am one of the lucky ones and I feel I should do more or I am living with the reality that if I’m one of the lucky ones, the world is still a pretty shitty place. Usually I’m struggling with the push and pull of those two poles. There’s always going to be something though. It took me a lot of time to come to terms with who I am. But that’s not a neat story with clean act breaks. Even when I finally came out, I still had to work for years on many issues. I am always a work in progress. I’m finally at a point where I’m comfortable with my self-image. Part of that was changing the things I could; the other part was learning to accept there are a few things that I can’t change, or at least that I can’t change directly. And that those things might not even be bad, just that I was socialized to think they are bad. Whereas six years ago I might have wondered what I could have done better to make that person not utter something gross or transphobic, now I am more confident; I don’t have to do better for anyone else. I don’t have to look a certain way to please other people. I have to look like myself. That is a way I can do better, by being me in a society that definitely does not really want me to be myself. Confident in that knowledge, though, how do I affect change? How do I make things better going forward? Just carrying that attitude certainly helps, but what more can I do? That took me years, and it didn’t magically happen. And while all that’s going on, I still struggle to deal with fear for my safety, with the loneliness, with lack of what I feel is true acceptance by even those closest to me. I don’t let those factors rule my life anymore, but I’d be a fool to ignore that they are always there and they are always something I have to engage. I get why a lot of trans folk have a hard time. There’s so much to unlearn, so much to always be aware of. It’s fucking hard.

There are some things I can’t just explain away, but some things do not require explanations. I can’t think up an answer to how I feel; this is just how I feel right now. And that’s okay. If I don’t want to spend too much time dwelling, if I don’t think that it’s doing me any good to spend too much time in my head, Minimalist Baker is just a couple clicks away, and then I’m figuring out how exactly to tweak that chocolate cake, what consistency I want out of my frosting, and sometimes I need that. Even if trans issues are always on the periphery, they can’t always be directly on my mind. They can just be too consuming, too draining to think about constantly. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to spend so much energy on them if they were on more peoples’ minds a bit more. That, however, is much more of process. There’s no simple recipe to making a better society. It’s dirty, it’s messy. The results are unpredictable at best. Though I guess the same could be said of baking much of the time.

A funny thing happened when I spent a little more time baking. I found I liked it. And that I’m actually pretty good at it. Much like I am really quite a bit better at being myself as opposed to who people think I should be. There’s always a reward in finding those things you are good at that you may have previously not known about yourself. I’d rather focus on that thought than on not focusing on anything at all. But that’s not always where I’m at. Right now, I also need the escape my kitchen provides most of the time. I am a trans woman before pretty much everything else most of the time. That is the first thing about me, even in my own mind. I’m not ashamed of who I am, but I wish it were a matter-of-fact statement, not something so obviously loaded in the minds of many. Besides, I’d rather be known not as a series of descriptors of who I am but rather what I’ve accomplished. Perhaps in the future I will be truly good at baking, perhaps I’ll have a shop of my own some day. I don’t want to be the trans woman who happens to be a good baker any more than I want to be known as the baker who happens to be a trans woman. If I’m being honest, I’d much rather just be known as a baker.

Fractions

Tomorrow is my 34th birthday. Other than it being my birthday, it is not particularly notable nor should it be. It’s just another day to most, and just another year to me. That isn’t to say I won’t enjoy myself or it will be a bad birthday it’s just to say there’s nothing too exciting about many of them after a certain point. I can already drink, and I already have lower car insurance. Other than the reflection that we’ve taken the world for another spin and hopefully things have worked out along the way and a good excuse to pull some friends together, it’s just another day.

If anything, I reflect and realize that it’s gonna be my seventh birthday where I’ve truly felt like and been myself. I never really foresaw this point in my mid-twenties when I was still struggling to find what I needed to come out, when we drank too many snifters at The Red Dragon and stumbled home most birthdays. They weren’t grand affairs. As if you can get people out during January in Minnesota. I always thought this would be the year I’d get my shit together, and finally find the strength I needed to come out as transgender and move forward with a more-realized life than the one I was living as we meandered back to that place on Franklin or Humboldt or Aldrich depending in the year. Back then, it seemed the only thing that was changing in my life was my address. So to think about those days years ago sometimes is a little strange. It feels like another lifetime ago. In a way it was. Though I don’t think that’s a province exclusive to trans people; I would say most of us were different people 10 years ago because that’s a long time and we are all always changing, even if we can’t rightly see it happening to ourselves sometimes. But the risks of transition are something I cannot rightly explain to you if you haven’t experienced them. So it is perhaps hard to understand the fears I had and what held me back so long. Obviously, I figured that out. But that really isn’t the point I am trying to make. The point is, it is easy to look back and say we were different people because we all were, but when you are trans, that difference can definitely end up looking and feeling quite tangible. That’s reinforced both internally and externally. Me? I don’t mind the reminders; it’s just sometimes odd to to reconcile who I was then with who I am now, because we’re the same person, and yet so obviously we are not.

I have spent a fifth of my life being who I always wanted to be, who I always have been, though I didn’t have the tools or skills or support to express to act on that for so long. And every year that fraction is going to get a little bigger. But it will only ever be a fraction. It can only ever be a fraction. It while never be whole. And while some days it frustrates me, most days it’s just a truth to acknowledge. Moreover it’s just part of what makes me fundamentally who I am. It’s a tautology of course, but there’s no sense in dwelling on what life would have been like had I managed to come out at a different age. I cannot change that fraction in any way other than going forward. What I can change is to hopefully make that fraction bigger for others by helping to create that more supportive world in whatever ways I can. Or to help other trans individuals get that fraction started at all because it just takes some of us longer to get there. It’s so obvious we need it. Whatever my remainder of days may be, that is always there, always a driving force. We will always be fractions in a world that hard-codes ideas of sex and gender before we are even out of the womb. But no fraction is insignificant.

 
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