Archive for January, 2012

A Typical Week

A lot of times I’m talking with friends, co-workers, etc, and I frequently hear that I do quite a bit with my time. I don’t know what the psychology behind it is (and I’m sure it’s just my brain tricking me…I bet You’re Not So Smart has tackled it) but for whatever reason, it just seems like I get more done when I have more going on. I know, that sounds a bit simplified. What I mean to say is that when I have more items scheduled in my life, I feel it makes me better at prioritizing the time I do have to get things I need to get done accomplished. You know, the banal ones, going to Target to get more groceries and home goods, cleaning the bathroom, making lunch for the week. And yet I still find time to tear through a lot of Netflix (currently Doctor Who…seriously, how have I not previously watched this?) and get to a show or two. And spend a little too much time and money at The Depot, which I managed this week.

Too much, though, and I find that I am worn down. Some weeks, the happy medium skews towards more sleep, or a little less exercise, or a little less beer. But there certainly is a happy medium to it. I found last January to be mind-numbing on occasion because I couldn’t do anything. Not that I didn’t want to, but recovering from surgery takes a lot of energy out of you. So I basically had the energy to run a basic errand or two and watch some television, read, or do a similar sedentary activity. While I certainly like days like that periodically, I am at my best when I’m running to and fro, to catch a drink with a friend for a couple hours followed by some trivia somewhere followed by a show. But what does that typical week contain? Certainly I capture it on calendars to the degree that there are planned items I need to remind myself of, but how much time did I spend sleeping last week? Not enough seems like a basic answer most of the time. I am either lucky enough or dumb enough to be able to function decently with less sleep than some. Or again, maybe I’ve just tricked myself. It is difficult to say. But what was last week like?

I barely worked more than 40 hours, which is a rarity for me. I am usually around 45. I only biked to work 3 times (Monday-Wednesday), so I can only account for so much time doing that. Still, it’s winter biking, a mildly awful form where I am pretty sure I spend just as much time putting on and taking off clothing as I do riding. I went to three shows (Best New Bands of 2011, both nights of The Current’s Birthday all in the Mainroom for a change), made four separate visits to The Depot (where I discovered there is such a thing as too much of a mediocre thing), found some time to catch up with a few old friends in a variety of methods (from phone to Green Mill trivia to Quang’s). Somewhere in there, I found time to down a season of Doctor Who and steal the mayorship at The Donut Cooperative. Just looking at that leads to some pretty obvious conclusions of what I did (or didn’t do) with my time. And what’s important. At least to me. I suppose I could cook more. I prepare food more than you might think though. Just nothing special. And certainly I could spend a little more time under the covers. Too many days start at 5:50 am and end at 11:50 pm.

But it shouldn’t be a judgment. How I spend my time is not really reflective of how you should be spending your time. That’s what always confuses me. Everyone has to find that balance of activities. And what’s right for me certainly isn’t for everyone. Hell, I’m not even sure last week was right for me. So this week, I’m going to try and see how a week goes with a little less of The Depot and a little more of anything else. And maybe I’ll trade up The Entry for the Mainroom. Or maybe I won’t do any of that. The point is, don’t worry about what I’m doing. Because I think we all have a bit of that envy for what other people are doing. It’s only natural. But I try not to worry about that too much. If I spent too much time doing that, how would I get all this stuff in anyway?

I Take A Lot Of Pride In Who I Am

I get it. A lot of trans people just want to be left alone. They just want to be viewed as women or men. Or ciswomen or cismen more specifically if you take to that term. They want to be viewed just like everyone else. Certainly I want to be viewed just like everyone else. And I feel as a general rule, I feel like I do generally fit into society as it is decently. That doesn’t mean I don’t get misgendered constantly by people; it also doesn’t mean that every time it happens is the time to fight it. But what is just being a man or a woman? Not just for trans individuals, but for anyone?

For whatever reason, I have been reading up a bit more in terms of what’s out there on the web again in regard to the state of trans things. For quite a while, I felt much more in touch with it. I suppose going through therapy and being at a place where I saw a lot of other trans people all the time put it on the top of my mind. But then the therapy tapered off as I got to the end of the gatekeeping process, I started seeing less and less of gender variance in my day-to-day existence. Obviously I get reflections of it back at me in how people interact with me. But I wasn’t seeing it in terms of other peoples’ existence as much. Not that I don’t have trans friends that I keep in touch with. I do. While it’s certainly something we have in common, though, putting two trans people together and assuming they are going to have a commonality shouldn’t be viewed any differently than sticking two people of the same race together and assuming they’ll have a lot in common. Hopefully that makes you realize how ridiculous that kind of concept is. There are, after all, any number of ways to reflect gender identity. When I reflect on my group of friends and the variances that we have with each other in terms of things like gender, sexuality, race, whatever, I am friends with all of those people because we have things in common; all the items that make up their identity in terms of those sorts of items pale in terms of the things that we enjoy discussing and doing together, be that going to see music, talking hockey, playing trivia, playing poker, drinking good beer, whatever.

In terms of being a representative of trans people throughout the world, I am not. I never said I was trying to be. But at the same time, I am a representative of the concept to many people. That’s just facts. I don’t have an obligation or responsibility to be a vanguard to the concept. I do, however, have an obligation to look out for myself. Because someone has to. And if you don’t like what other people are saying or thinking about you, what are you going to do about it?

I was thinking on all of this because of something a friend shared recently about in which the author posited she is a transgender separatist. The argument is alluring, though with further reflection, it feels Barmecidal at best, and dangerous at worst. First, the brush the author paints with is too broad. It very much has an us against them sort of feel. And that argument just reads as reductive. Either you are on the side of the transgender and believe everything or you fall outside of it. At least that’s how it reads. Look, anyone can call bullshit on anything they want. That’s fine. If you feel like the movement as a whole is not welcoming to you because you don’t believe in everything it does, then fine. But the final argument disturbingly pigeonholes what being a true transsexual is or what one believes if one is a part of the transgender with a lack of nuance. Overall, I respect the totality of the argument in the sense of not want to be represented by people that you do not feel adequately represent you. In this case, it is because of a feeling that being transsexual is something that one moves past at a certain point in terms of going through the transition process, finishing, and moving onto whatever is next. That makes a lot of sense to me. I respect the writing as an effort to distinguish her place in all of this. I write from very much the same place in terms of trying to make sure that I adequately represent myself instead of letting other people do it for me. But it bears thinking…you can choose to not emphasis or even put away the nature of who you are, in person, in writing, whenever. But why are you making those kinds of decisions?

No one says you have to go join some parade or belong to your local PRIDE chapter to be trans. I’ve gone to PRIDE meetings through work, and volunteered at events. They don’t really have much for me personally. And no, I don’t have some innate connection with the gay rights movement. I just have the belief that it’s something worth supporting. And I don’t feel like it’s trying to speak for me. No one made me go to these things or have these beliefs, though. Certainly we all hold a number of views that are contradictory to other views. We are compassionate about the plight of one under-privileged group while not giving a fuck about others. And some of the reason behind this stuff is because of personal connection.

Changing gears a second, most of us probably know someone who has had cancer. It could be your father or mother, a good friend, yourself…really it doesn’t matter who as much as it is probably someone that you have a close personal connection with. In my case, I’ve had that experience with several relatives, but the closest connection is my father. He now knows much more about lymphoma then he probably thought he would have 10 years ago, and so do I. It is more on my consciousness because someone that I care about has dealt with it. And therefore I’m more conscious of the organizations that I can donate to or volunteer for that might directly benefit that, of the challenges he faces because of having it. I’ve found it much easier to be educated on the subject because of my personal connection with it, the same way I feel more in step with the cause of MS because that’s something that I personally saw the effects of with my grandmother.

Now think about that in regard to gender variance, or race, or religion, or sexual identity, or whatever. The more people we meet that are different than us in terms of experience, belief, attributes, really anything, the more we challenge our views, the more we humanize whatever struggles, positives, or negatives that might go along with whatever that difference is. And the more we humanize it, the harder it is to ignore. The harder it is for us to not care more about it, not want to do more to make the world a better place for people who might be underprivileged because of non-normative beliefs or facets of their identity. Maybe this is an overly hopeful philosophy, but it’s nonetheless how I feel. This is why I’m proud to be trans. I am also equally proud to be a hockey fan or be at a show on a Wednesday night or ride my bike to work because those are also facets of who I am. I feel like I pass just fine, but I am obviously still non-normative enough to get misgendered with disturbing frequency. Moreso than that, though, I feel like I accurately represent who I am. This is it. I don’t represent a movement. I don’t move in lock-step. I don’t need to be called a separatist because I don’t. I represent myself and frankly, I get by just fine being called Jane.

Long Live Live Music!

I’ve let it get much too far into 2012 without talking about the current state of music. Last year, I purchased 85 distinct physical releases between the 7″, 10″, 12″, LPs and 2xLPs (and the rare 3x or 4xLP) that have taken up residence on my “IKEA didn’t realize it, but they made an excellent record shelf” shelf. But that’s only half the picture. Most things are getting released to vinyl if they get a physical release, though there are a select many that only go to cassette. But there’s also an entire catalog of music that never sees any physical release. The demos, the one-offs, the mixtapes, in addition to LPs and EPs of the world. Some of it, as you’d expect, is half-assed, but there are just as many things that don’t see a physical release for a year or two (or ever physically) that have already been burning peoples’ ears. All that is great, and I continue to consume a lot of new music. The demise of Altered Zones has not slowed me down, as I have started following most of the blogs that posted music I enjoyed consistently, and I have found others to follow like No Fear Of Pop that fill the void. All that is fine and well when it comes to judging music, but let’s face it, anyone can make a good song these days. At least it seems that way based on the number of excellent songs that I hear from all over the place. But not everyone can play that good song live. Obviously Lana Del Rey is just the latest in a long line of bands in the past few years that aren’t ready for that spotlight. Her musical taste is excellent, and what she carefully constructs and shares with the world is also great, but there’s still money to be made in the business the old-fashioned way, by touring hard and getting a reputation as an amazing live band. A live show is an excellent way to strip away the hype and see if an artist can convey the same sense of energy, urgency, fun, sorrow, whatever. Or if, failing that, they find equally unique takes on their live performance given the lack of the studio tricks and endless takes until it’s right.

For me, that’s still what counts the most. I certainly regret missing records until they find their way to me, but the more poignant regrets are the realistic bands that I could have, but never did see. Say what you will about reunions cashing in on that feeling, but seeing The Pixies live was worth it. They are an example of a band I never had a shot at the first time, though, so it doesn’t quite feel the same. There are bands I could have seen and simply didn’t. I missed Sonic Youth every time they opened for Pearl Jam in my youth, and I’m only left to question, what the hell was I thinking? To that end, I’ve been making it more of a goal the last couple years to get to shows. Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe you’ve seen me there. While it’s always a little early to judge what’s coming through town, there are some interesting odds and ends on the horizon. Being based out of the Twin Cities, obviously, this is stuff that’s happening here. No reason you can’t take a look at what’s happening in your town. Shows and other things of musical note, in something of an order:

1. The Current’s 7th Birthday Party, January 27th and 28th @ First Avenue

Say what you will about the Twin Cities, but never say that we don’t give our listeners variety here. In addition to the long list of Clear Channel-populated stations, we also have stations like Cities 97 (a little too AAA for me, but they do some nice stuff), Radio K (sometimes a little too strange for me, and hard to tune into outside of Minneapolis), and The Current. Certainly, it deserves and receives a fair amount of criticism, but it also introduces a lot of people to a lot of music they would not otherwise here, especially on the local front. Their birthday is no exception, a celebration of local music across the spectrum, from Minneapolis’ punk roots (The Suicide Commandos) to one of its more recent buzzed-about Auto-tuned, double drumming bands (Poliça) with a lot to like in between those two ends. My money is on Low, whom I’ve never seen play a bad show.

2. Jeff Mangum, February 4th @ State Theater

Do I need to say anything? You have already developed your feelings around the legend of Neutral Milk Hotel, right? I would have to imagine that this show will be no one’s first introduction to it, that we will all know every word to every song on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and On Avery Island. It’s not as much a show as it is a coronation. Most of us who will be there didn’t rightly have the chance nor did we own the records when they came out the first time in the mid-90s now. I wonder what the attention-averse Mangum will make of all of this. He seems to be back, though, in some capacity, actively reissuing, touring. And that, that’s a good thing.

3. The Brick – Minneapolis’ newest venue

Jane’s Addiction recently announced a tour, and their Twin Cities stop is at a place called The Brick. Which was news to us here in the Twin Cities as most of us had never heard of it. It’s a new venue in the Warehouse District, sponsored by deep pockets (AEG) with aims of taking on First Avenue, or at least competing for very similar business. My favorite sentence from the press release: ” we’re thrilled to offer a first-class intimate option for the music lovers that will set us apart from others in town.” Here’s some news, AEG. We already have that, and it’s called First Avenue. Still, I would be remiss if I don’t find an excuse to get in their once, lest I judge it before I truly understand the product. So I’m withholding judgment. Is there room for another 1500+ person venue downtown? We shall see.

4. Keep Shelly In Athens on April 5th @ Varsity Theater

For my money, here’s a band that should be much bigger than it is. The world is ripe for their music. I saw them in San Francisco, and was pleasantly surprised by their stage presence. As I stated above, the live portion matters. And they have it. Which is good. I was worried I was just supporting a couple Greek people who can only make good studio music. How wrong I was. If I had to pick one show on my current slate that I think you should go to because you might also like it, this would be it. If for nothing other than to hear “Running Out Of You”. And maybe you can say you saw them back when.

5. My First Avenue Membership

If you get e-mails from First Avenue, you know by now that they have added memberships. Which means for the low, low price of $400 you can get an awesome card like me, that lets you get into shows at The Entry for free as long as they aren’t sold out. It also gives me weird but nice fringe benefits like free coat check and express Main Room entry (and a free t-shirt!). Point is, I already spend a lot of my time there. But now it’s easier. Those borderline shows, those bands I thought about checking out, but didn’t. The membership’s a sunk cost. May as well use it. On a final note, my member number is 86, which brings me no end of amusement.

6. Outdoor festival comeback

Yes, we have Rock The Garden, but it’s not really a festival. And yes, we have tons of great street festivals highlighting our great local music scene, from Lyn-Lake to Pizza Luce’s block party to all of the wonderful outdoor events in Saint Paul all summer long. But this summer, in addition to celebrating the three months that it’s actually nice, there’s going to be a few new players. First Avenue is starting their very own festival whereas Saint Paul is getting something big, though what it will look like no one knows. I just know it’s going to be at Harriett Island and there should be at least something worth talking about, good or bad. Nothing against the smaller ones that exist, but it’ll be nice to see if they can bring some big bands to Minneapolis and Saint Paul without forcing us to drive to other big cities. C’mon, we gave you Prince, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, the least you can do is give something back.

Volition

I am used to having some unusual conversations in my life. I must have inherited the gene from my grandfather that allows me to talk about essentially anything with anyone, ignoring things like circumstances, location, or how well I know the people. Certainly, I am more forthcoming than I used to be, which I believe to be a function of being happy with who I am. But I’m always surprised by the conversations and the overall general reactions. I talk about music and peoples’ eyes can glaze over as I mention band after band they’ve never heard of. Conversely, when I talk with people who plumb the depths of music just as much, it’s the exact opposite, the excited glow and effusive sharing. When I talk about trans stuff, at least most people I know and meet are pretty cool about taking it in and listening. Some are dismissive, but they at least seem to keep it to misgendering me over and over without outright calling me crazy. It’s when I talk about cycling that people tend to give me the “you are out of your fucking mind” look.

Last year, I rode about 3800 miles, which is a little disappointing for me. My tacit goal is about 500 a month, and I couldn’t ride until the beginning of April, so I was hoping for 4500, but it didn’t happen. Still, 3800 miles is a respectable number, and it’s a new year, so the goal renews. Not really a New Years Resolution, just a convenient point of demarcation, the new year. 500 miles a month roughly breaks down to 125 a week, which is not too hard to get close to when I ride my bike to work every day. And therein lies the one of the more enjoyable conversations that I have with some frequency. Here’s how it typically goes at work in Minneapolis. If I’m not at work, just imagine something that sets up the distance in the conversation:

Me – “I ride to work.”

Other person – “Oh, where do you live?”

Me – “In Lowertown.”

Raised eyebrow or similarly skeptical look
Other person – “How far is that?”

Me – “About 11 miles one way”.

Cue incredulity.

From this point on, there are a number of typical questions, but the order they go in vary from person to person. How long does it take (45 minutes one way), do you shower here (yes), what do you do when it rains/snows/etc (get gear out that takes care of it), how are you still riding in heat/cold/plague of locusts (most days, sure), what route do you take (Grand to Summit to Marshall to Greenway), do you ride up that big hill (which one?). The questions go on, and they are all specific items. There are questions about how safe I feel riding at night (not all that bad) to how I feel about riding in wind (possibly my least favorite thing in existence), whether I’ve been hit or I think I’m going to be (well, it’s road riding, not ruling it out, but no). They go on, and frequently I’m amazed by the specificity of the things that people ask in regard to cycling. Strangely, though, they never ask why.

Sure, it keeps me in shape, though frankly, probably not as much as some people imagine. I know I’ve covered it before, but it certainly does not save me money. I may not be spending it on my car (which I’m perfectly happy about) but I am spending it on my bike and various accoutrements. And I know I’ve said it before in long form, but it bears repeating because it’s a similar philosophy that carries over to the other things I do in my life, in who I am and how I choose to reflect that internally and externally. I do it because I like it, because I value it a lot, and because it means something to me.

Invariably there’s a part of the conversation where someone utters a statement like “I wish I could do that.” Here’s the thing. You can. If it matters to you, you should do it. Now I’m not saying everyone I know or work with should get out there, buy a bike, and start riding to work on Tuesday. That isn’t the issue to me. The issue to me is being honest enough with yourself to evaluate what is and isn’t important in your life and then making the decisions that help you follow through on that. I bike because it’s a good way to balance myself out. The time I spend on my bike is a bit detached from what feels like a hectic life. I’m not checking my phone, or updating my status, or particularly worrying about anything other than paying attention to the road and letting my mind go where it goes. And I assure you, it goes fun and interesting places when I just give myself 45 minutes or so to think. I like that uninterrupted time, I like the fact that I’m working off calories and keeping myself somewhat in line from a health perspective or at least balancing out some of my other more questionable choices. To me, those are important things. Just like experiencing live music is an important thing. Which is why I’m willing to go out on a Wednesday night to see a band and then get up and go to work the next day on said bike.

I get it, things come up in life outside of our control that can affect how or why we as individuals use our time. But that’s true of everyone. We are all too busy. We all don’t have enough time. There’s too much for all of us to do. Part of growing up is making decisions and sticking with them in regard to those things. I don’t really play video games much anymore. It’s not because there’s anything particularly wrong with them. I still enjoy them when I carve out the time. I will again soon with the pending release of Final Fantasy XIII-2. But they aren’t a priority like they were 10 years ago. I value different activities now. But I also know that there’s a lot more time out there to be used than we think. It may not feel like it, but remember the next time you feel crunched for time that it is likely that you made a decision that directly contributed to that crunch. I’m not saying you should not have made those decisions; I still feel all the time that I may have over-extended myself in a given day or week. So what’s the importance of biking relative to that?

Like I said before, it’s the time-out. It’s working in something that I feel I should already be doing without taking too much more time to do it. It kicks me out of bed and gets me to face the day. It wakes me up and helps me sleep at night. And if that’s biking for you as well, then by all means, join me in the too-crowded locker rooms at Wells Fargo each morning. And if it’s not that, take a minute to figure out what you need, and what provides it. And then do it. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I wish I could do that”. But it should give anyone pause. Stop and think the next time you find yourself saying that. Because if you really do wish you could do that, how are you going to make that happen? And if you don’t, why are you saying that?

The Art Of Discretion

I’m no Duke of Galstan, and certainly no Pel on my best days, but I have learned a thing or two about discretion over the years. Recently, I read a nice bit of writing addressing myths and misconceptions about trans-women, much of which I found to be spot-on. I understand that the author provided the caveat of the complexity of going into the issue of deception when it comes to sexual partners, and the link to a resource which does provide a nice explanation of it all, but I do take exception with the fact that she says it’s “[not] our responsibility to give you the opportunity to inflict your bigotry and hang-ups on us; it’s your responsibility to ask (if it’s that big a deal to you).”

There are a great many things that aren’t fair about being trans; I suppose this is true no matter which direction you transition, but I can’t really speak to going from female to male since that’s neither what I did nor something I have any desire to do. But one of the items that seems to take the most time, a really poorly understood aspect of it, is the acceptance of the amount of discrimination you can potentially come up against in this brave new world where you’re a trans-woman. Male privilege is a real thing, just trust me on that one. Or the assumption of things that go along with it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still accorded male privilege based somewhat on someone’s internal perception of my gender identity, but that is a topic for another time. One of the more nefarious things that comes along with male privilege is a total lack of vulnerability. Whether that’s socialization as a male where vulnerability is simply not valued in any way or it has more do with the fact that anyone who comes from a male, white, middle-class, Christian-based background generally doesn’t find a lot of reasons to feel vulnerability in the day to day isn’t particularly important at this time. What does matter is it’s very hard to mentally accept that you could be moving from a largely ignored class in the sense of discrimination to one where you invite it just by walking down the street, or picking up the phone, or having the gall just to be. I still haven’t figured out if I’m making sound decisions in that regard sometimes.

But it seems to me a dangerous attitude to assume that anyone should bring up the things that bother them, especially in regards to sexual partners. We have such a tough time in our society communicating about sex as adults as it is, and that’s the plain, old heterosexual sex with no complications (though let’s be honest, I’m sure most of it has enough complications). Look, I’d like to think that I should never have any responsibility to disclose that I’m trans the vast majority of the time. When sex or even the thought of it is involved, though, that changes the calculus a bit. Precisely because it’s so dangerous to enter into a potential sexual situation with someone who may get freaked out by my being trans. And no, that’s not fair at all. I totally agree that if someone found me attractive one minute and then repulsive the next due to the disclosure that I wasn’t born with my vagina that he’s the one out of line. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth taking that chance. Because something bad can happen. And I’m not really mentally equipped to understand that. Or I’m finally properly building the mental awareness to it now, several years in. Maybe I’m finally getting to the point where I can start to tell the difference a bit better, though, again, let’s be honestly, I too sexually inexperienced to really have a good handle on that.

All that being said, this is what works for me. Maybe it is true that I shouldn’t have to say anything, at least until I get to a point where my being trans may potentially affect something (such as child-bearing). In the meantime, though, I have to practice that discretion. And precisely because there’s so much more to say about it, it needs to be discussed. I know she had other points to get to, but the only way this issue gets talked about is if people talk about it. I still live in a world that I feel subjectively views me as male far more often than it ever should since it does it at all. Many in society coddle me like a child who couldn’t possibly know what she wanted, and while it’s true that I haven’t lived as a woman for all that, it’s also true that I live in a society that made it a pretty fucking scary idea to transition at all. And this is coming from someone who has had a relatively easy time with transitioning as these things go. I live in a world that conflates gender identity and sexual orientation far too often. The only way any of that gets better is by putting it out there more, by helping people understand where I’m even coming from.

At the same time, I’ve got to protect myself against the bigotry out there. Not because I need to be protected. But because it can be dangerous in a hurry and I’m probably still not as cognizant of that as I need to be sometimes. And that means having to have a conversation with a potential sexual partner early enough that I don’t get myself into situations where I feel unsafe. Maybe it means shutting myself out of sexual experiences simply on the basis of disclosing that I’m trans. Frankly, though, if a guy is disgusted by that prior to sex, he would be disgusted by that after sex too, and that means that he’s disgusted by something that is core to my being. I am proud to be trans. Even when I get misgendered. Even when I get mostly viewed as a male who couldn’t possibly be saying her name is Jane on the phone. I did this because this is who I am, and fuck anyone who can’t accept that. Not that I’d say that to their face most of the time, though. There’s that discretion again.

Scenes From A Minneapolis Gas Station

I am, admittedly, a bit biased and oversensitive to issues of gender diversity and identity. Anyone who knows me should be aware of that. Because you never know when you are just going to encounter the next head-shaking event in your life. Or at least I never know. Take this morning, for example. I wish I could remember more of the specific dialogue, but I can only remember bits and pieces, so you are just going to get my biased write-up.

I was in line at a convenience store. I have no idea how the customer in front of my friend and I identified with his or her gender identity given the plethora of terms out there; it’s against the point of try and peg it, but it is worth mentioning that there was something non-normative about her gender identity, wherever it may be on the spectrum, since it’s pertinent to the story. Anyway, said customer in front of us was really taking her time; two women behind us that were talking among themselves when the topic of their conversation turned to what’s happening to Uptown. I was minding my own business, but one of the women elaborated her point noting her relief in not having to explain the gender “confustication” (her word for when it is beyond confusion, she added) in regard to the person in front of me in line. Worse yet, she trotted out a tired line about being glad her son wasn’t there as she didn’t want to explain it. At this point, I decided to interject.

It’s worth questioning the wisdom of my actions at this point. As one of them later said to me, it’s none of my business. But it is my business. Maybe they weren’t talking about me (which they said the weren’t). But they are talking about me in general. Sure, maybe she isn’t going to explain gender identity in a negative way. I’m just picking up the tenor of a statement when I hear someone says she is glad her kid isn’t there so she doesn’t have to explain it. I am making assumptions and judging where a conversation that I’m not really a part of is going. I am fully aware of that. So as I said, I decided to interject, and even if it was just for about 30 seconds, things sure got weird.

First there was the entire business of their “private” conversation. I, for one, don’t consider a conversation at perfectly audible tones in line at a convenience store to be all that private, but that’s just me. Second, there was the point where one of them said they weren’t talking about me before, but now they were. So now when I have the audacity to question someone’s attitudes about gender identity and they realize that I fall outside of the clean lines it’s okay to question me? Third, there was the note that one of the women made that she had a lot of non-normative friends and relatives. Fourth, and perhaps most confusing, was where they said they weren’t judging and that it’s only God’s place to judge but that they get judged all the time walking down the street and stated that they got judged all the time, probably more than me. After a bit of head-shaking, my friend and I left, and that was that. It’s just another dust-up in a life full of encounters regarding my gender identity, and admittedly a self-created one. Points three and four, though, deserve a bit more thought after this encounter.

Having friends and family that have non-normative gender identities is certainly one of the best ways I can think of to become educated about and familiar with the overall concept and issues therein. But that doesn’t mean you don’t discriminate. I feel like people too often conflate the concept of having friends that are different in some way with thinking that they can’t or don’t therefore still hold prejudices against people they know. And it just doesn’t mean that. If someone considers me a good friend, that’s great. I’d like to think I have a lot of good friends. But that doesn’t mean that people I know don’t struggle with how they think of me or my gender. We all struggle with concepts like that because we all hold some prejudices about people. Hopefully, I can be there to help my friends with those struggles in regard to me much as I can hopefully count on my friends to help educate me about the concepts that I struggle with or am just plain uncomfortable with. So just making an assertion that you know a lot of people who might be non-normative doesn’t instantly instill in me the fact that you won’t still be discriminating on that basis. I really feel like that assertion needs to be challenged and broken down. I would like to hope that any of my friends and family don’t idly point to my gender identity as some sort of badge like that. It gets back to the old creative writing adage, show, don’t tell. And nothing I saw in my admittedly small sample of this woman’s encounter with non-normative gender identities instilled me with a lot of faith. Particularly the fact that as soon as my identity was presented as that of a trans-woman, I was suddenly also who they were talking about. Again, just one girl’s opinion.

Finally, I would be remiss if I don’t take a bit to talk about the weird “only God judges” portion of the encounter. First off, I spend a lot of time trying to not judge things with incomplete information. But I, just like anyone else, am making judgments all the time about people, songs, news stories, whatever…we are making them all the time. This encounter wasn’t really any different. I freely admit that I was making them. They had piqued me, nothing more, nothing less. It was those judgments that made me interject. Doesn’t mean I think those women were inherently bad people or anything like that. I am constantly judging whether to stick up for myself, especially in regard to gender identity issues. For example, I have to bite my tongue a lot at work because I’m on the phone with a client and the issue at hand isn’t my gender identity, it’s whatever concern they called with. But the time and place were quite different than being on the phone while I’m being paid at work. But for them to say they weren’t judging the person at the front of the line, or me once I had made my identity clear, is patently ridiculous. And of course those women are being judged whenever they go anywhere. Because we all are. It’s not a game to see who gets judged more. And it’s not the judgments that matters, it’s what you do with them. Look, it’s not my job to change anyone’s mind. It is my job to stick up for myself. The only thing that is going to change a person’s mind is that person’s experiences. I have the power to influence that by what I do and say and creating different experiences for an individual, but ultimately, the change comes internally.

This is, all told, a lot of words about a slight encounter. It didn’t bother me all that much, and a few minutes later, it was mostly forgotten in the sense of how it influenced my day. I didn’t go home and cry. I came home and watched playoff football. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some thought. Because much like I can stick up for myself in the small scale in regards to my gender identity, in the larger scale, I can codify those thoughts and put them out there. In doing that, I can process my own thoughts and judgments as well. And maybe put something out there that can help change some minds.

Speaking of things that can help change minds, here’s a couple interesting trans-related items that I’m hoping to take a little time to write about later:

13 Myths and Misconceptions about Trans-women – There are a lot of points in here that I agree with vociferously, but number 4 in particular feels over-simplified to me.

Work It – ABC’s new comedy not only looks to lack humor and be reductive, it also is incredibly insensitive. Sign me up!

 
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