Archive for October, 2013

Why Don’t You Stay Behind?

When I look around the Twin Cities, there are fuzzy, gray figures at the edge of a lot of those places, people, standing on the periphery, that I never got to know so well, that remain undeveloped in my mind, out of focus while I stand at the Entry or while I drink at the CC. In some cases, they are people I knew long ago. In some cases, they are people I never really got to know. There’s a darkness that starts to settle after a few days here, as the long shadows of my time here begin to creep into view. There are names that I don’t think about much, and even though it didn’t seem that way at the time, names that I have forgotten. But something’s still there.

A week is just about the perfect amount of time to be here. I am, perhaps, justifying my own decision to use a week a vacation here, but it doesn’t feel that way at all. As I sit in the terminal waiting for my flight, it feels that way. There’s always too much to do. At least that’s how I feel when I travel. Whether it’s a totally foreign destination or someplace that I know quite well, the list of things to do is always longer than the amount of time I have. Or the amount of money. Or my ability to schedule. I know that I missed some people; I know that some people missed me. It happens. I know that it was not intentional on my part, that things just fell through, that there are some people I definitely should have tried harder to schedule with or get in touch with. And others may also share in those feelings. As I told a friend, I try not to get too presumptuous about that sort of stuff. It’s a little careless of me to think that just because I’ve been gone for half of 2013 everyone’s gonna just clear their schedule for me. And I can’t pick my trip to fit everyone’s schedule. Hell, I have enough trouble making an itinerary that fits my own. But a week is enough time to hopefully fit in as much of that as possible. As I look down the list of things I set out for myself, I got through most of them. But the longer I’m here, the more there’s that creeping feeling, the more some things I thought I’d forgot come to the foreground because there’s nothing in San Francisco to remind me of them.

It’s not like it’s all terrible things, either. Some of them are certainly bad memories. But most of them are just inchoate sorts of affairs. Budding friendships cut off by circumstance. Opportunities that I didn’t take. Reminders of decisions I made and the occasional consequences of them. I know this all sounds vague, but it’s hard to pin down, which is why. It’s obvious what kind of memories I get when I pass by 2703 Aldrich to the degree that I lived there for a tumultuous year and a half prior to transition; it’s the last place I shared with Christian, where we hosted an amazing Tetris party, but also where our friendship dissolved. It makes sense that I’d be flooded with a mix of conflicting feelings when I look up at that second-story balcony. But it’s less obvious what sort of memories kick up walking toward Lake of the Isles, or in the parking lot of Pizza Lucé. There are weird, dissociated memories of talking with people at the 400 for hours only to realize you never spoke with them again and that place isn’t even there anymore. Perhaps it’s not so much that I see good or bad things here (though I certainly have my share of memories associated with places) as much as I just see a lot of potential. Perhaps it’s just because I haven’t had time to build up those sorts of memories in San Francisco and I’m at such a different point in my life that I will never, ever view it like I view the Twin Cities. Whatever it is (and I struggle to come up with an appropriate name), it certainly feels unique to this location.

A week is enough time to revisit some of those feelings. It’s enough time to see old friends, make a couple new ones, and go all sorts of places that I feel welcome simply based on the virtue that they know me. Sometimes they know me as nothing more than the person who always orders the #7. Sometimes they were already asking questions about life in the 7×7. Sometimes it was just the simple statement that I had not come in for a while. I am glad to relive all of that. I am glad that I managed to coalesce friends into coming out to happy hours, into playing poker, into playing Innovation, into sharing drinks at the CC, or whatever else it was. I wish that I had more time sometimes, that I had thought to organize a dinner last night a few weeks back instead of just kinda bouncing it around with some people without making plans. But like I said, other feelings also start to creep in. The longer I sit here, the more I begin to doubt myself. Why the hell did I go through all this trouble to move? Why leave this behind?

It’s that potential again. What would have happened? Of course the Twin Cities are full of little memories that make me wonder that, but moving to San Francisco? That’s a pretty big what if scenario. I doubt there will be many others in my life of a similar magnitude. For whatever reason, all the other stops in my life do not feel as riddled with reminders of the decisions I made. I never seriously entertained staying in Virginia for college, nor did I want to. Nor did I seriously entertain the notion of staying in Iowa for more than four years. And while I can certainly think of memories that invariably cause me to wonder how things might have gone differently. I don’t get reminded of those sorts of feelings the same way in Virginia or Iowa. Or perhaps I do. Perhaps that’s why it’s always hard for me to go back the first time. I have, perhaps, just forgotten what those feelings are like for those places.

But shake it off. Those feelings are always there, just a bit. It’s natural to wonder what would have happened to have done just about anything in life differently, big or small. But it’s useless to dwell on it. The older I get, the more going to Virginia feels like a vacation, the more foreign it becomes. My parents live in a house I have almost no associations with. My friends, for the most part, do not call the Commonwealth home anymore. The places I remember are now fairly distant memories and I rarely see any of those things when I make it back to Virginia. It’s hard to imagine that Minnesota will ever feel like that, but I don’t really know if it will. I could just as easily spend the next 10 years on the West Coast as I could come back. Part of the idea of moving to San Francisco was being open again to where that undercurrent in life will take me. What opportunities in life will I follow? What will I gain? What will I give up?

We make those choices all the time. And this trip was always going to be equal parts reveling in all that I have, the memories, the friends, the places, the things I learned about myself both in Minnesota and as a Minnesotan, and seeing occasional reminders of the things I no longer have, either as much or at all, in my life right now. And what I do with those feelings is on me. Stay too long, and those hypotheticals and negatives may subsume all the positive stuff. Hell, they are probably comingling all the time. The trick is to avoiding letting the hypotheticals and the negatives consume all the positive stuff. This trip was the right balance of great new memories, and a mix of nostalgia, great old memories, all that I left unrealized and some negative thoughts of things I miss, that I never will find again.
The last song I heard as I pulled my rental into the Ace lot was “Blue” by The Jayhawks. It is a song I very much associate with Minnesota. It’s a perfect song for this feeling. I don’t know how to answer many of the questions it poses right now. I’m still thinking about it hours later, at the airport, on the plane. It is, of course, just a coincidence, a quirk of timing, or as another musician still heavily associated with Minnesota after all these years best put it, a simple twist of fate. The last song could have just as easily been a meaningless affair by a band that I do not care about. That it worked out that way is nothing more than how things came together, like so many other parts of my life. It is no more significant than whatever significance I assign to it. I logically appreciate all of that. But none of that changes the way that it made me feel. Whether it’s a requiem or just a simple farewell I’m still not entirely sure.

One Night Only

On Thursday night, ASIWYFA, TTNG, and Mylets rolled into the Triple Rock to play what I have no doubt was an excellent show at the Triple Rock. I’ve seen several Sargent House bands this year. One of those bands (Deafheaven) has arguably made the best record to come out in 2013. Top to bottom, it’s been a pretty strong year for them. I like their music. But I didn’t make it to the Triple Rock like I thought I might when I was originally sketching out this plan. One of my friends who I know I wouldn’t have seen at the show was out of town. A couple other people didn’t seem that interested. And a lot of people I know here don’t go out to see live music all that much. Conversely, I have a group of friends that I have had the pleasure of playing poker with on Thursday nights over the years here. It’s gotten tougher as the years go on, as kids get older, as we all get more commitments in our personal and professional lives, as many of us move on to other jobs in other cities. That’s the way I went, and a couple other people who were fairly regular in the past couple years followed suit and pursued opportunities outside of the Twin Cities. From what I gather, and even what I experienced while still here, it’s a bit harder to get everyone together. That’s just part of growing older if you ask me. But last Thursday, there were enough people to get a game together. There were enough of us to sit around, trade a few stories about where life is, drink a couple beers, and casually play some cards. Most everyone there I hadn’t seen since I left town. I was not going to pass up that opportunity.

It’s no secret that I love live music. You never know what you are going to see when you go catch a band. I mean that in both exceptional ways (like Yo La Tengo doing Troggs covers in honor of the passing of Reg Presley since he died earlier that day) and totally unexceptional ones (I’d provide an example, but that’s somewhat contrary to the point, isn’t it?). It’s one of the reasons I love to experience music live. Of course there are questions of whether or not a band will be able to deliver a sound, or the same emotional impact, or how they might change it up in response to a lack of that instrumentation life, etc. Sometimes, another artist joins another artist in ways totally obvious, but still fantastic (Kronos Quartet on “Yesterday” at Outside Lands). Other times, it’s just kind of a train wreck (here’s looking at the time Britt Daniel came out for an encore with The Handsome Furs). The point being, anything can happen. Some bands are quite regimented and their sets never change on a tour, yet the experience is still different in a different city because of the room, because of the fans, because of how the drive went or what they had to deal with to get there or what day of the week it is. It’s an unpredictable enterprise, seeing live music. The best experiences are just because of proficiency (though that certainly can help), but there a combination of these inchoate factors that one can never quite explain. It’s reason enough to go to a show every night of the week if I can.

But that’s not what everyone I know wants to do. They don’t want to be up late, constantly rifling through their pockets and purses for earplugs, wondering when the band they actually want to see will be on. I can’t blame them, either. Sometimes, it’s just tiring to go stand around for four hours hoping to see something amazing and only end up seeing something mediocre. As much as the band’s experience that day and the venue can inform the show, so can yours. Some days I don’t want to go out, even when I have tickets, and I do end up blowing things off. Some days I go and I have a mediocre experience, but it beats the hell out of whatever that shitty day was. We constantly argue and try to assign rankings to our favorite albums and shows and festivals and what not, but that’s the nature of a subjective enterprise. I can’t decide some days if I’m trying to justify why you should go to more shows or why I go to so many. But other times, the lights are low, and there’s just some perfect moment, like Tim Kasher ripping through a cover of “Worked Up So Sexual”, and I just know. Of course, that moment might not work for you if you don’t love The Faint, if you haven’t spun Blank Wave Arcade as many times as me, or if you just don’t like bands doing covers. And even though it’s hard for me to appreciate, for a lot of people, they just don’t care about music like that. Those people aren’t even going to be at Rickshaw Stop on a Tuesday for a chance to have that moment anymore than they’ll be at the Fillmore the next week or First Avenue tonight. And there’s nothing wrong with that, even if it seems strange and foreign to me.

A lot of my friends are those people. And they are deeply passionate about things that do not resonate with me in the slightest. Honestly, it’d probably be a little weird if all of my friends were as into music as I am. It’s good to have some friends that are, of course. Many, even. But all? I’m not so sure. And it’s good to touch base with those people, and hear about how their kids are doing and whatever the next fishing trip is and who exactly is doing what. It’s good to see a lot of people again after five months and hear about what’s been going on while occasionally laughing at some old stories that only we will understand since we were all there for it. You never know when you are going to get the chance to do that again. I never know when I might get to see the bill that was at the Triple Rock again either. I skipped it in San Francisco…it was a tough weekend musically with Hardly Strictly. But a lot of music is also one-way relationships. That’s just the nature of how it works. There’s nothing wrong with that. I am quite passionate about something that (in most cases) only cares about me in the generic sense of a ticket sale or a record or tape sale. Not all cases, of course, but many. On Thursday, I passed up a chance to strengthen and explore one of those one-way relationships. I am guessing I would have really enjoyed the show based on what I’ve heard of the artists and what I’ve heard about the tour. I probably would have gone if I’d still lived here. Of course, maybe we all wouldn’t have gotten the energy together to play poker if I still had that condo over in Lowertown. It’s useless to speculate. What does matter is that we all did come together because we can’t all get together to play poker anymore. And that is a chance to enjoy, strengthen, and revel in the two-way relationships in my life. These days, that’s one night only too. And like those bands, who knows when I’ll get to see it again?

Find Out

On Thursday afternoon, I was rolling down Franklin, with some spare time, so when I crossed the Mississippi into Saint Paul, I decided to hitch down to the Ramsey County World War I Memorial. It’s over by St. Thomas, with a beautiful overlook of the Mississippi. It looks like this. If you’ve driven along the river south from Marshall, then you’ve probably seen it, even if you didn’t know what it was. I used to ride my bike by there quite a bit, and stopped a few times over the course of the years. It’s a nice quiet spot for reflection, befitting the memorial. And since I had a little time, I figured it was worth paying a visit.

Like I expected, like so many things here, it’s changed ever so slightly. Perhaps it’s just for cleaning; perhaps it’s just something I never noticed previous winters in terms of car; perhaps they were stolen. I am not really sure. I suppose it doesn’t really matter why they aren’t there in the sense of my individual trip there, but the plaques that are on the memorial aren’t there right now. Granted, it’s been a bit since I’ve been there. But not so long that I forgot what was supposed to be there.

I also noticed as I was walking up that there was some new signage for Shadow Falls. I lived here a long time and never heard that name. I knew what it was referencing, but I’d never been back there. So I did what anyone would do. I hopped a fence and hit a path down toward those falls. In fairness, there was probably a way to the path that didn’t involve that, as it was well-maintained. This wasn’t trailblazing. I wasn’t going to see something that no one else had ever seen. But I was going to see something that I’d never seen. Even in a decade here. Even knowing that there was a little waterfall back there (you can hear it if you are on a bike or walking or running right through that area). And that’s all it really was, a little waterfall. It’s definitely no Minnehaha, tumbling down 53 feet, enough to create a grand spectacle when there’s a lot of water. It probably wouldn’t freeze up quite like Minnehaha either, though they did have a picture on a plaque of someone there in 1900 that looked conspicuously similar to what’s behind Minnehaha in my experience, just in sepia. Unfortunately, I won’t be here this winter to find out what that might look like. I will miss my winter explorations of the crazy, frozen landscapes. But that is neither here nor there…

What does matter as that even in the midst of this trip, there are still time for new things and new experiences. Certainly any experience is a new one from the pure sense that ever moment is not quite like the last. But most of this trip has been little atavistic impulses, the places that for me say 23 or 27 or 31. The first 60 hours on the ground here, I’ve managed to work quite a ways through my checklist of things to do while I’m in the Twin Cities, with dinners like a Margherita D.O.C. and Surly Hell, trips to the C.C., Liquor Lyles, the two Bulldogs I wanted to get to, the Herk, a good run along the Mississippi up through Mounds view, etc. And those are great things, most of which I’ve shared with a lot of great people that still call here home. But I’ve done all of them before. There are new places to go, new things to try, new people to meet. It can be a challenge when you take a trip back to someplace you know. Trips back to places are reminders of what we left behind, races to visit the old things on a clock. But they should also be about new experiences. Even if it’s only been a few months, I know longer live here. I barely feel plugged into what’s happening in the Bay Area. How can I possibly stay plugged into what’s going on here? There’s always time to explore new things, whether that’s just getting out of the rental car and going to look at something I never noticed before or listening to the people on the ground who know what’s happening here.

Today, it’s looking like another stroll into the past. A buttermilk scone I’ve been craving, bingo, and a great Halloween party are all good excuses to see old friends and favorite haunts. But hey, if you want to bring someone I don’t know to bingo, that’s all cool too. And for my part? I need to remember to look for the new things even when visiting old places (or at least, remembered places). Because you never know what’s there that you just never saw before. Go. Look. Find out.

For Real

Even though I’ve been to San Francisco as a tourist a few times in my life and I have called the city home for the past five months, there’s still something unconscionable about living here I have yet to correct. I haven’t been to the Fillmore yet to see a show. It’s been that odd confluence of circumstance that’s really led to it. For whatever reason, the shows there just haven’t appealed as much, or I haven’t been too happy with the price point, or I already have tickets to something else I want to go to. Because the Fillmore certainly books good bands. There’s no denying that. And tonight, I finally correct that.

Okkervil River is rolling into town. And who am I to say no to Will Sheff? In fact, not only do I get the opportunity to go to the Fillmore tonight, I also might catch shows at First Avenue and the 9:30. That is not something I can say every day. I can’t say for certain (yet), but I know that First Ave and the 9:30 are special places. I have some great memories at both institutions. Now I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make the other two work with my schedule, but still, just the ability is a cool thing.

I don’t think that I have a negative tone. I’m not hopeless. But there’s always been a pessimistic bent to my writing, and it’ll probably always be there just a little. I’d like to say that it depends on the format, but I’ve written many stories, poems, and posts, from a lot of different perspectives. I know myself, both as an individual and a writer. It’s how I introspectively explore the world in which I live. But sometimes, it’s nice to remember the good things. Like the fact that I only have to work five days in the next twenty. And the fact that I get to see a lot of old friends all over the place in the next three weeks. I get to visit some of my favorite institutions, musical or otherwise. And then I get to come home to one hell of a city. That’s my next three weeks. They’ll be full of firsts like tonight’s trip to the Fillmore or a Halloween trip to Lincoln Theatre to see Neko Case. I get to see an old friend get married and meet new babies. I get to laugh and tell stories, share drinks and food with all these great people that are in my life in all these places. And I get paid all the while. And you know what? That’s all pretty fucking cool.


One of the things I’ve gotten inured to over the years is the fight over pronouns and other gender-inflected language. I’d like to think that every time it occurs I’m going to be shouting from the rooftops and wittily or angrily or otherwise just replying back. That’s a nice ideal world to keep in my head sometimes. But if I’m asking for things, I’d just ask for a world where that’s not an issue. Or at least a world where other people act as my advocates more often. That isn’t the world I live in this. The world I live in? I’ve gotta fight for myself and be my own advocate because I can’t count on other people, etc, etc, etc. But in fact, it just gets tiring to point it out every time. I don’t ever like it. Isn’t that’s how any system gets you down? Certainly there are acute moments, but it’s the slow grind of having to fight for yourself or deal with something every day, every time you speak on the phone, every time you are in line to order something, every time you seemingly do anything. It’s dumb to even have to say this. I never should have to. But I’ve gotta pick my fights. That just feels like a stupid way to approach anything. And I know it’s not true. I could choose to take every single moment that anything occurs that slights me and say something. I’d like to think that’d help me sleep at night, and it looks great on paper. But I know that would be just as tiring the other way. Yeah, I could say I never back down, but at what cost?

I hardly believe I’m the only person who feels this way. In an idealized world, I’m stepping up and fighting for what’s important, like I said. Or not having to fight at all, as I said before (I’m not that idealistic). But I also have to think about the benefits. I mean, what’s the point of arguing sometimes? It doesn’t make me feel better, whether the other person feels apologetic or doesn’t even seem to care or is outright belligerent regarding the simple thought that I might understand my gender identity a bit better than a stranger. I try not to feel already defeated and say what’s the point of arguing it with some individuals if it’s not gonna change minds. That’s no way to approach life. Yet, that’s every day.

A few weeks back, I was grabbing a burrito bowl at Chipotle. It’s really no different than a lot of places nearby work in terms of the kind of staff that’s there. There’s that whole emphasis on being polite. I’m sure that some people out there really appreciate it, which is why businesses train people to do it. I personally don’t feel a particular thing when someone calls ma’am. Or miss. At least in the sense that it doesn’t positively disposition me toward a business. I do personally feel a few particular things when someone calls me sir. I’ve actually expressed my displeasure in this regard toward Chipotle before, but let’s be honest: they are not the only business that has this issue, they just happen to be one where I’ve noticed it. And whereas sometimes I just ignore the burrito maker or cashier, this time I curtly noted exactly what I was thinking, and what I think every time. It’s not sir. It’s just not. I don’t know what else they need to get that. I don’t turn every time it happens into a Q&A to figure out what assistance they need in actually being polite versus pretending to be polite. Because that’s not my fight. And for my trouble, I got a free burrito. You can imagine how excited I was about it at the time. I still ate it though.

Does that mean my gender identity is worth a free burrito? Of course not. Look, there are a lot of different ways that can play out. I was angry and I let them know what I was thinking. I didn’t curse at them. I didn’t yell at them. I didn’t throw my burrito bowl at them. I didn’t storm out without my food and without paying. I didn’t dumbly vow in the moment never to go there again, because I don’t like making promises I don’t intend to keep. And if I’d done any of those, I still probably would have felt like shit. Because the damage is already done. Irrelevant of how I react, I’ve already felt its impact. It’s already just another person in this world who can’t even respect me during a simple transaction, like so many other people out there.

That’s the insidious element in any of these interactions. It doesn’t negate who I am. I know who I am. I don’t need validation from a cashier. But I am constantly being reminded that this is how a lot of people see me. And when I start looking at it that way, what good is it to start yelling at the poor guy behind the register? This isn’t scorched earth. I’d like to hope that when I do say something, the person on the other end does realize the impact. Or at least that person thinks about the power of simple and common bits of gender-inflected language. But let’s be honest, I don’t think all that many people think about language as much as I do. I also don’t think that most of the time people are trying to disrespect me, though. Those people certainly exist, but thankfully I don’t encounter them all that much in the day-to-day. But you know, I’ve got no control over it. I don’t know if that person is going to forget the interaction five minutes later or laugh about it with his roommates after work over beers or maybe genuinely actually feel bad about it and try not to do that to me or others again. But that right there is why I should say something more.

I think a lot of people don’t realize the impact of what they are doing. I think when it comes to gender variance, there’s still just a lot of ignorance out there. I can’t change everyones’ minds. And there are going to be a lot of other people that make me feel like shit with an insouciant sir or he or whatever it may be. But if I don’t say anything, then those people never think about it. It’s not like they are going to jump online and come read this and then realize, oh, she was talking about me. And while there are definitely people who step in sometimes, who act as advocates, most of the time, those people aren’t around. I need to put it back in that other person’s hands. I can’t control what that individual does with that information. Sometimes it’ll lead to a shrug. Sometimes that person will just keep fucking up (trust me, that occurs a lot too). Sometimes that person will feel bad and give me a free burrito. Sure, it’s a weird way to try and make up for something like deeply insulting a customer. It’s more contrition than I get from most of the time, though.

It’s easy and alluring to think that the big, showy things will have an impact, that if I stomp and shout and yell that will make an impression on people in regards to gender identity. And I have no doubt that it would make some sort of impact to do that. That’s a pretty shallow image to project, though, one that I’d rather not saddle myself or others with. I can still be polite in making my point when I’m angry and insulted, even with someone who was just not polite to me. It doesn’t require a big flourish, it just requires me saying something. It’s the little things that we don’t think about too much, that we do by habit, that are really hard to change. I know I can’t always change those things and challenge those ideas. I know I shouldn’t always have to. There will still be times where the expedient thing to do is to say nothing. Or when it might downright be dangerous to correct someone. I have to think about that too. I shouldn’t have to think about that, either. I can’t deny the reality of the world I live in. But I can challenge it.

Past Perfect

Wednesday night figures to be a weird one for me. For the first time in a long time, I’ll be setting foot in Minnesota not as a resident, but as a visitor. If past experience is any indicator, the first time back will be particularly tough. It was the first time I went back to Virginia from college. It was the first time I went back to Ames from Minnesota. I’d like to think that as I’ve gotten older, I’d get better at navigating that weird sense of lost potential at leaving a place behind. But I haven’t. I know it’ll be fun. I know it’ll be great to see some people that I haven’t in a while that are no longer just on the other side of the metro area. I know it’ll be great to go into places that feel familiar, that have Surly on tap and have cribbage boards behind the bars. But those places won’t be the same.

Whenever people move on, they keep these images and ideas of places. And though I’ve obviously had new and exciting experiences since I’ve been here beyond the more banal things like finding a new favorite bakery or bar to catch a Caps game in, they are always going to be compared to those experiences in the Twin Cities, big or small. The two places are quite different, but that comparison is natural. Minnesota is what I know. It wasn’t where I was born, or even the place I’ve spent the longest, but it’s the place that feels like home the most, at least for me as an adult. I have these ideas of the places that I frequented, The Bulldog, First Ave, A Baker’s Wife, and everything I go to here is seen through that lens, fairly or unfairly. It’s in our nature to compare things. Now I’ve learned to set aside some of those expectations. It’s useless to pine for that which I cannot have here, and even more useless to worry about that when I have so much that I didn’t necessarily have before. I can run to the Pacific Ocean. I repeat, the Pacific Ocean. That’s pretty fucking cool, right? So I try to keep the comparisons to a minimum. They still crop up from time to time, of course, because it’s a natural impulse. But I do the things here that there are to do. And as much as my life a year ago was built around venues like the Entry and the Turf and First Ave and the Triple Rock, now it’s built around Rickshaw Stop and The Chapel and Great American Music Hall and (though I still haven’t been yet…but soon!) The Fillmore. It extends beyond music, of course, but that’s a nice tangible one to latch onto. So even as I logically appreciate that I’m someplace quite different, there’s still those natural comparisons going on in my mind.

But when I go back, I’m going to Minnesota, not my Minnesota. In the past few months, it’s moved on and changed and grown, too. It feels like a city in a bottle to me, this static image that I keep on a shelf and occasionally look at. Because my version of Minneapolis and my version of Saint Paul have both done that. They’ve stopped growing the same way they did when I lived there. Of course I still hear about things going on in those places. But my images and ideas of the Twin Cities don’t necessarily change much with it. Perhaps it’s a touch different in a day and age where it’s so easy to share information about those change, but the overall concept still feels the same. I’m going back a place that is not quite the same place. I no longer own that condo in Lowertown. And there’s no guarantee that the baristas and bartenders are still in the same places that I remember them being in. Certainly with my friends that I’ve kept in touch with I’m aware of the changes big and small in their lives, and I can see what those changes are much more easily thanks to the proliferation of quick communications technology. And while my knowledge base is still pretty strong in regard to what’s there, of course it’s going to atrophy. I have a lot of new things to learn, and a lot of streets that seem to make even less sense here. But gradually, my mind has started to make some order of the streets of San Francisco, of its buses and venues and bars and what not.

This trip will be my first stark reminder of those changes. Maybe that’s why the first one is always the toughest for me. This is the trip where I have to truly accept that I’ll never know the city as well as I did; even if I move back, I’ll have to learn it again. I’ll be at a different point in my life and I’ll have to grow with it again. What I expect from the places I live changes over time, even if I don’t consciously appreciate or realize it. But this will be tough because it forces me to reconcile that what I remember about places changes too. Certainly most of the institutions I’ve visited over the past ten years will still be there. But even in five months, First Ave went and purchased the Turf Club, which is a pretty big change if you ask me. None of the institutions that I remember going to have closed, at least, but they’re all slightly changing, and one day, I’ll go back and they won’t be there. And I won’t be there either, not in the same way I was.

The Twin Cities are changing on you, too, if you are still there, the same way San Francisco is changing on me, but we miss it due to landscape amnesia. Ames is still a town, but it’s hardly the town I remember, and I’m hardly the person who spent four years there. It’s a much more detached quality now, even though I still have friends there. It’s just far enough in the past now that it’s a different feeling. And I’m sure somewhere down the road, I could end up feeling the same way about the Twin Cities. Or I could end up back in the Twin Cities. Who knows? That’s a ways away.

There’s a great couplet in a great song by Keepaway (an otherwise pedestrian band) called Yellow Wings. “I think I finally know what I want/I want to be two places at once”. It’s certainly not an original thought. But it’s one that’s been on my mind a lot as I start figuring out what I need to bring for this trip. It was really hard to leave Minnesota. It’s gonna be really hard to be back there and not feel that way again. This is in no way me saying that moving here was a mistake. Irrelevant of where I am in a couple years, this is the decision I made, and one that I still think is worthwhile. It’s been fun so far to test my mettle against San Francisco, to try and tame it and not go broke, and to experience all that it has to offer, even if it’s felt hard sometimes. Sure, it’s expensive, but it’s also felt hard because I don’t know that many people here yet and any move is hard and any new situation is too. There are plenty of days where I see some concert going on in Minnesota or I see a nice picture from a state park or someone texts me a picture of a Spotted Cow from a cookout and I wish I were there for those moments. Not that I actually would have necessarily gone to that show or that park or that cookout had I been there, though. I think it’s about the potential. Right now, that potential is in San Francisco, and even though there’s no way to do them all, there’s so many things I could do. That potential used to lie in the Twin Cities. Now that potential is gone. Sometimes, I wish I were both places, and I could do all the things both cities had to offer. But there’s no way to solve that central issue. I can’t be both places at once.

But for a week, I will be there and not here in my apartment in San Francisco. If there’s a little melancholia behind a toast at Lyle’s, or a game of Innovation, or a show at the Triple Rock, well, it’s just me working that out. I accepted what I would be giving up in leaving Minnesota six months ago when I accepted this job. The first trip? It’s always accepting that once again. In some cases, I left places because my time was through there. That was certainly the case for Virginia, as I’d graduated high school, and Iowa, because I’d graduated college. In this case, I didn’t graduate anything. So maybe it won’t be the same. But I think it will. It’s still working that all out once again. Even if I thought I had it figured out as I looked at my empty condo one more time, as I shared those always amusing 2-for-1 glasses with a few of you at Lyle’s, as I got into my overloaded car that I no longer own and I plotted a course toward Pipestone, MN, the first of several stops on the way out west. Perhaps it’s just as hard for me to work out the past as it slides into the past perfect as it is for me to work out the present sliding into the past. Still, it’ll be great to see everyone. It’ll be great to look at Minnehaha again, even if I won’t get any pictures of it when it’s frozen this year. It’ll be great to have cheese curds. It’ll be great to sit with old friends and play games and meet new babies. It’ll be great to see a familiar face behind the bar at The VFW, even if it’s a salty one. It’ll be great to catch up because I have no doubt your life has changed in more ways than you have shared on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps I will even try something new while I’m there, something I never actually did while I lived there like go to the Mill City Museum. Perhaps in addition to the cities I know, I’ll see parts of the Twin Cities I didn’t know. Even if bits and pieces start to fade, there will always be new experiences to be had. For a week, all that potential will be back in the place where it rested for so long.

This time, though? I know the ending. I get on a plane and I fly to DC for a long weekend in the place where I grew up, a place that I have plenty of memories at as well. I had lived in Virginia long before I lived in Minnesota. And perhaps that right there is the key.

A Simple Exercise

This ad campaign is simple, powerful, and quite dismaying. Take a look (otherwise, this might not make a ton of sense). Individual results may vary depending on where you are, but I was still able to reproduce most of those on my own computer with four quick searches. And while we certainly cannot verify why people are looking them up, it still says a lot. I was curious, though, what might happen if I changed it from women to men; here’s what I came up with:

Men Shouldn't Modified

Men Need To Modified

Men Cannot Modified

Men Should Modified

Just something to think about. And in case I need any more reminders about the kind of world that exists out there:

Trans Women Are (resized)

At least the last option of those four is right…


One of the things I resolved to do once I moved out here is get rid of my car. I had a deadline built in since my tags were due to expire at the end of August, so it gave me something to aim for. And though I had it for the first couple months, I didn’t end up using it all that much. Then one of my brakes went and disintegrated (really, probably the best term for it). It really saved me any hemming and hawing about the issue. There was no way I was paying for an entirely new brake and tire along with the hassle of getting it registered here. Not that I was planning to keep it at that point, but it really forced the issue (a few days sooner than I would have liked). I got lucky in that I found my place prior to that, because moving without a vehicle would have been…a curious challenge considering I did the cross-town move piecemeal. So I’ve effectively been carless for two months. How’s it going?

Perhaps it’s a function of the city I live in, perhaps it’s a bit of wishful thinking, but honestly, I think it’s going really well. When I walk down 6th to the bus stop, I see a lot of cars that never really move. They must. The city has bouts of “street cleaning” on all the streets here, and even in the more residential parts of the city, it’s at least every two weeks. I walk down the streets a lot. They don’t look all that clean to me. That mattress I took a picture of six days ago? Still there if you want to see it in person. It replaced a mattress that had been there for approximately two weeks. That’s actually a fairly common thing here (way more common than in the Twin Cities). Ignoring the larger detritus left by previous apartment owners, there’s plenty of random bits of trash that gather in the city. And while I’m sure they actually do bring something through to clean the streets, any policy like that ostensibly also serves the purpose of keeping your lemon from cluttering up the street. Because there might be mattresses everywhere, but there aren’t those shitty cars that never move. Anyway, the point is, short of a private space, those cars have to go somewhere. And I really don’t envy anyone that.

Beyond that, there’s the whole act of actually driving in this city. Not that driving exists solely to be fun (though it certainly can be). I certainly never experienced that here. If you don’t believe me, go take your car down Market sometime (or better yet, don’t). I experienced times where it was less painful than others. But even a traffic-free drive usually just leads to the whole issue of parking in this city (see above). Now as much as I might extol my desire to see less parking as a rule in my enlightened urban adulthood, my suburban upbringing can be hard to shake sometimes. I just always expect there to be somewhat convenient parking that doesn’t cost that much. Even in Minneapolis, it wasn’t that hard to find free or cheap parking if you knew where to look. Saint Paul was even easier. I learned to get over the desire for miles of parking lots. But it’s taken some work, and it still irks me to pay for parking (damn irrational thoughts) even if I understand the economics of it make more sense than subsidizing automobiles with free parking (here’s looking at you, Save Masonic. One of the biggest draws of the new City Target at Geary and Masonic is the relative abundance of parking. Parking just isn’t a common thing in this city, or at least, as common as I’d gotten used to. But even pay lots and garages can be a bit of an adventure to locate depending on where you are heading in the city. Suffice to say, that’s the other reason people don’t move those cars that much. They are best used for escaping the city, not getting around it.

Then there’s the whole money issue. I’m glad to be done with that. As my exploding tire/dissolving brake issue reminded me, cars can get really expensive really quick. But they are also insidiously expensive in the day-to-day. It’s not the summer of ’98 anymore, so there aren’t exactly full tanks of gas under $10 anymore. Was I spoiled to grow up in a time that was marked by the lowest inflation-adjusted gas prices in history? Definitely. These days, we’re obviously heading the other way. Even if you have no problems, you gotta keep gas in it, on top of oil changes, filters, and other relatively standard things. Then there’s the unexpected, which cars seem to specialize in. Cracked windshields, flat tires, dropped clutches, etc, etc, etc. And who can forget fun and unexpected things like tickets? Then there are other standard things, insurance, tags etc. And parking if you aren’t lucky enough to have it or just don’t want to keep your car on the street. I mean, that’s a lot of moving parts right there, and a lot of money. Even if I only drove 300 miles a month (about a tank with my old RAV-4), had my insurance, got free parking, and took care of the relatively standard sorts of maintenance I need to over the course of having a car, I’m looking at at least $100 a month, at a bare minimum. That’s supposing I don’t drive all that much and nothing goes wrong. One ticket or one broken window sends that up. I can get a pass for $76 pre-tax that lets me ride pretty much any mode of mass transit in San Francisco. That’s what I did. So how’s that working out?

It took a while, but I’m settling into being a mass transit rider. The buses in this town don’t suck. But we like to say so. I live on the 5, which runs from Ocean Beach to the Transbay Tube as they like to say, which means it’s a block from my place and the best way to get to Hayes Valley, which takes me to the Rickshaw Stop. It takes about 20 minutes as long as the times are actually right and the bus actually shows up on time (never a given). And the 5 has a bit of a reputation the city is trying to improve. But most of the time, unless there’s something like Hardly Strictly, it does the job. Getting home’s always a bit more of an adventure when I’m out until midnight, but I’ve rarely waited more than 10 minutes on the back end and the bus usually takes even less time at that time of night (especially on weeknights). So actual transit to and from the things I want to go to in the evenings (usually shows, sometimes just drinks, occasionally just a burrito) is usually fairly smooth. And the 5 has gotten less crowded recently, so whatever they are starting to do is working.

Getting to and from work is a little bit more tedious, just because the 31BX always seems to be fairly full. The timing is pretty decent, though, and I can get from door to door in about 35 minutes. Other than biking, I don’t know how else I’d get there anyway. And biking in this city is…not for the faint of heart. Parking is $30 a day in the garage at my building. That’s not even a real number if you ask me. The express buses do the trick, and since I ride at the same time, it even gives me the chance to make bus friends. Those are my two most frequent routes.

As for getting elsewhere in the city (other venues, other taquerias mostly), I’m slowly learning which routes make sense. The 44 takes me back to La Corneta if I need a fix. The 33 can get me to The Chapel or Tartine. The 31 and 38 both do the job for some of my other evening destinations in the Tenderloin. Even if it seemed like I’d never get it, I don’t have to think about where the stops are anymore for some of them. I just know where to go, and generally when to expect which buses to be where, or how crowded they might be.

What I haven’t really mastered yet is anything that takes a transfer. Even if it involves picking up BART (which is much more frequently on time than the buses), it’s a chore, but that’s at least doable. Those trips aren’t all that frequent, but whenever I want to go to Oakland or SFO, I’ve got to at least jump the BART. But if it involves another bus? Forget it. It’s just not worth it. That is honestly one of the reasons I haven’t made my way back over to Bottom of the Hill in a while. It’s just more of a challenge to get over there. It’s one of the reasons I need to get my bike repaired. Because it puts stuff like that back in range. Or at least makes it a bit simpler. I know it sounds dumb, but it’s just a practicality thing. It can be annoying enough trying to coordinate your timing with one fickle bus. Two? Forget it.

As for other things, it’s led to subtle changes in my behavior. It certainly keeps me from buying too much stuff when I go to the store. And I find myself much more dependent on how charged my phone is. After all, if I’m at a show, I know what general buses are going to get me home, but I like to know whether it’s worth my time to wait or try to grab another route, etc. Which means that I spend a little less time playing with my phone or keep it in airplane mode between bands. I know which venues have open outlets I can plug a charger into. And then there’s all that time. I mean, I’m not necessarily saving time by taking the bus everywhere. But I definitely get to use it differently. I can read on the way in, or fiddle with my phone as I do most mornings (even if SFMTA doesn’t want people to do that). Or I can just relax and think. What I don’t really have to do too much of is stress. The bus will get there when it gets there, and I’ll get on it. Usually it’s when they say it will be (at least on Nextbus), but sometimes even that’s wrong. And I can not worry about how far the cars behind me are, or missing someone in my blind spot, or making sure I’m keeping track of multiple modes of transportation sharing the road. And I think that’s a big thing. I love driving. When I get to hit the open road and really enjoy it, there’s not much better. But let’s face it, that’s not much of adult driving. It’s a grind. Even roadtrips don’t quite have the same feel they did when we were in high school or college. It was great to drive across the country on my way out here. I’m happy to have had that opportunity. I’d love to get back in a car and do some more exploring of the US. One of these days soon, I’m sure I will. For the time being though, it’ll be with a rented car. Or with someone else’s.

I’m not gonna say I’m never owning a car again. But it’s worth questioning what many are raised to think of as a birthright. Why is it that we live in a society where we need cars so badly? Or rather, we need individual cars so badly? Why is it that whenever there’s talk of improving trains or bike lanes or bus lanes, it’s always talk of what impact it will have on drivers and parking? I think it’s societal. Just another one of those fine things ingrained in the American psyche. Obviously the automobile has an important and iconic history in American culture, from the Model-T to the Tesla Model S. It’s a big country, and there’s no doubt there’s always going to be wide swathes of it that require cars to get to. The bus ain’t exactly getting you to Devil’s Tower after all. But the car is not the be all and end all that many people think of it as. The streets in many cities weren’t originally made for automobiles because they didn’t exist at the time a lot of cities were designed and built. It can be easy to forget that. Neighborhoods existed where those freeways are once upon a time. It was a luxury item once upon a time, hard as that may be to believe. It shares one similarity with another iconic American dream, the idea of home ownership. Both are relatively prized by culture, both are relatively subsidized by government through credits and policy, and both are not necessarily the best ideas for a lot of people. Cars, though not to the same degree as homes, are expensive. Unlike homes, though, cars can get you out of a place. But as more people begin to look inward to cities, more people need to reconsider their relationship with automobiles. It is, of course, your right to choose to divest resources into owning a car, even one you never drive. As it should be.

I choose to be carless and deal with the pleasures and hassles therein. But our society needs to consider that the easier we make it to not own a car, the more people will embrace not owning a car. That’s a combination of things. Not everyone’s gonna jump up and get on their bike, even with the right infrastructure. But mature infrastructures should accommodate multiple modes of transportation. The easier we make it to get from point A to point B without cars, the more people will realize that other options are viable. I happen to live in one of those places in the US where it is possible. Or perhaps it’s always been possible and I’m just finally embracing it. Remember, a lot of people don’t choose to be carless. They are because of circumstance. In a lot of cities, the transit can feel punitive because it’s so infrequent. It might cost less, but the people who can’t afford cars (or choose not to have them) pay with their time. Just think about who’s really paying for that free parking next time.

Bound Together

Slate started a new blog recently called Outward, their new LGBTQ outlet. While there’s been some more writing out of it, it’s mostly just helped to codify some of their other writers and writing that didn’t really have a good home. It’s not particularly unique or unusual in regard to its scope. Plenty of other online publications have similar outlets for that kind of work. I do not mean to call them out particularly other than the fact that I read a lot of Slate and have been paying attention since it got up and running. I actually think they are doing an excellent job. But it mostly feels, like many similar ventures, that most of the focus is on the L and the G. Now I can’t particularly speak to the B portion of the acronym from personal experience, but I can definitely speak to the T. And from my observation, they feel underserved in the sense that they are rarely discussed.

This isn’t to say there should be a quota. I don’t think they should have to say a particular amount or have a particular focus. They are free to set the scope of their boundaries. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t (or shouldn’t) call bullshit when I see it. But the probably really goes a lot deeper than some new blog in some online publication. It really gets back to the whole core of they acronym itself, and whether it makes sense to conflate two different ideas that don’t necessarily belong together in regards to gender identity and sexual identity. Why are they still together like that? Certainly there are more specialized outlets in this day and age. And a lot of what I read in regards to trans issues comes from trans-specific sources (though, in fairness, they spark some different concerns…but another time).

Well, they are together like that because for a lot of people that are conflated. A lot of people never think too much about their gender. Okay, maybe it’s more appropriate to say they don’t question it. I’m pretty sure everybody thinks about their gender to some degree. It affects all the little things we do every day, how we groom, how we talk, all the we up to much bigger things, like what we can expect from life in general. So I think everyone’s aware of their gender. And for most people that’s an attuned part of who they are. For a few of us, there’s some dissonance. But set that aside for a second. Most people don’t think about their gender that much (or at least, don’t think about it any differently than most other people). Much the same, most people don’t think about their sexuality all that much. For most people, it’s relatively in line with what society views as normative. But for some people, that’s not the case. In that much, I think there’s a great degree of commonality that binds all those letters in the acronym.

Obviously, I’m being a bit unfair here. Gender identity and sexual identity are conflated for good reason. Or at least there’s a reason they factor into each other. That doesn’t necessarily explain why they get conflated. Sexual attraction certainly is influenced by gender. Right, if you are a heterosexual man, then you like women, and that’s a gendered group right there. If you are a homosexual man, then you like men. What makes that all more complicated is exactly how we start defining men and women, which is where the gender aspect comes into it. Because there are exceptions to be found for any nice clean idea of what gender is, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Right, try coming up with a clean definition of how you would define either gender in the binary sense. It’s fluid, and worth thinking about. Or at least being open to it. What seems like it might be a simple definition could exclude people that you would by no means want to exclude. Even the most obvious definitions have those exceptions. Right, maybe you were thinking, well, all women are XX. Chromosomal seems like a pretty solid one to rest on. Except that even there, there are exceptions. I am not a big believer in a definition like that, for reasons that are hopefully pretty clear already. Nature sure does love its variations. But I digress. In the sense that gender and sexuality are two things that obviously are related to each other and both of them are concepts that most people ought to at least be more cognizant of. I still have to remind myself that just because these are ideas that I spend a lot of time thinking about doesn’t mean that other people share that. Which in turn reminds me to spend a little energy trying to think about the things I never think about that much.

So obviously there’s a relationship there between the two ideas. And in the sense that being gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans is a (at least for most people) non-normative expression of those related concepts, I get that. When I say non-normative, I don’t mean to imply they aren’t normal in the sense that they are an aberration. So perhaps it would be better to be less pejorative and use a word other than normative. See how even a benign looking word can be so troubling? Let’s say non-majority expressions then. Because that is just a factual way of expressing that there are less LGBT people out there without an implied (even if accidental) judgment.

That kind of exercise right there shows you there’s still a lot of ground to be gained in terms of acceptance for those sorts of concepts. One might not question the use of such a word in that instance, or one might argue that it’s fine to use it in that way. But the way we deploy words, the way we group concepts, that influences how people think about them. Words are funny like that. I used to write about that periodically in my old blog. There are a lot of unconscious meanings behind words that can be implied and/or inferred, depending on which end the interpretation is coming from. And at its core, that’s why I am curious if it makes a lot of sense to keep the concept of gender identity conflated with the idea of groups that are representing sexual identity. I don’t necessarily think that it does. At the same time, that’s where the concept of trans thought and exploration is currently attached to communication out to a more mainstream audience at this time. Grouping related, but different concepts together can create misconceptions. Conversely, it also gives trans ideas at least the chance at having some larger audiences, because it’s not necessarily a given that people would spend a lot of time going down every little offshoot to learn more about it. Having a related, if somewhat disparate, home for ideas, awareness, and exploration of trans issues can be a good thing too. Being too narrow in focus isn’t a good thing, as I’m sometimes reminded when I read some trans writing that doesn’t always feel to have a great sense of awareness of that. It can lead to myopic ways of thinking.

All the groups under the LGBT umbrella obviously still have to deal with discrimination in their day-to-day existence. But the issues that someone who’s dealing with discrimination due to sexual identity has to deal with can be quite different than someone who’s dealing with discrimination due to gender identity. Though they seem to be attacked from the same angle of protecting children or protecting society as we know it. The thought that gay people are going to create a society of pedophiles is just as head-smackingly dumb as the fact that trans people are going to create some sort of weird genderless society. The related ends of gender and sexual identity are perhaps grouped together in as much as they are attacked the same way. And while the legitimate fears of discrimination and violence remain shockingly and maddeningly the same, the issues therein are quite different. Right, a gay person is not going to have to worry about jumping through hoops just to get identification that matches their identity because we aren’t in the habit of having ids that have our sexual identities on them. But we are in the habit of having identification that has our gender on it. That’s an obvious example. And in some ways, we’ll all get grouped the same. Trans women and gay men are pretty much the same in the eyes of blood donation, at least from my experience with the system. Though I got the added bonus of having to answer the female and male questions.

But when you see articles about blood donation, it’s just about how gay men can’t donate. It’s a small example. Right, there is an issue that could rightly affect both. Though I suppose if you didn’t start donating until after you transitioned, you might not have the same issue. Or you might not get pressed on it if they didn’t know you were trans and you’d just get to answer the questions as female. Perhaps I am just the outlier there. Or perhaps it’s just not something that anyone really talks about that much because no one really knows it’s an issue that exists. It was a weird and humiliating experience after a bit, so much so that I finally stopped doing it. But that’s a different story than the current narrative, and it’s not something that just tacks onto the current stories regarding the issue of gay men and blood donation all that seamlessly. In that case, it goes away all the same if they change the rules regarding gay men and get rid of those ridiculous questions. Perhaps the trans angle raises a bit more awareness for some people. Perhaps not. It’s just me reading my own experience into the articles I read. Selfishly, it almost feels like i’m trying to insert myself into the narrative. I don’t think that’s really the case those. I think it’s just something you don’t hear about.

That kind of stuff is worth remembering. Sometimes things are not necessarily attached because it distracts from a clean narrative. Or because it’s unnecessary detail to a lot of people. Now the people affected by it wouldn’t agree with that. But a lot of other people would just get bogged down by it. It’s important to remember that kind of thought process and be aware of it. And it’s important to remember that a lot of the same fears and worries keep people up no matter where they fall the non-majority alphabet soup that currently makes up whatever acronym you use to classify gender and sexual identity discussions. Fears of acceptance and of finding a place in the world. Legitimate concerns that those individuals will face outright discrimination and violence just for being who they are. Of course, in that sense, one could lump a lot of groups together. In the end, it’s just a grouping, and all groupings have exceptions. Just as I can’t given you a fail-safe definition of what a woman is (though I can give you a lot of different definitions), I can’t really provide a good rationale for what would make a fail-safe definition of what makes the most sense in terms of grouping gender and sexual identity. They do matter and they do correlate. Right now, I would like to see a little bit more on the trans end of the spectrum from outlets with broader reach. Though it’s a bit of selfishness on my part. I’m trans. I want to see more about that. Those are the issues that affect me. All the same, I like to stay informed about broader LGBT issues as well.

A lot of places still don’t necessarily have openly trans writers who are informing those sorts of columns and blogs and spaces. That certainly would have an influence. For my part, though, it’s important to remember things like Outward don’t just exist to serve me. They exist to serve a large community that, whether it should be or not, is currently bound together. Some days, I’m not sure, but most of the time, I feel like it makes some sense why all those various letters came together. Besides, Outward still a lot of good writing that keeps me informed about a lot of other issues that I like to stay informed about. I still have hopes to see a little bit more from a trans perspective. I will still keep reading. And in the meantime, I have my own spaces and my own space to think about it.

What’s Right For You?

Today is National Coming Out Day. Which means there’s lots of various articles and posts and tweets about how important it is, or how to approach it, or how you should never ask people about their coming out story, etc, etc, etc. It’s all good, really. A lot of thoughtful reading about the issue of coming out, which, while not necessarily unique in the context of gender and sexuality, has come to mean something a little extra in regards to it. Now obviously, the mechanics of coming out if you are gay or lesbian or bi or trans are quite different. The impetus behind it might be the same (to live as who you are) and the fears are generally the same. Sadly, actual physical danger is something of a concern for far too many people, but there are myriad concerns like lack of acceptance that spill over into things like how it could adversely affect one in terms of living arrangements or employment. That list could go on and on and on. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s something I thought about a lot in terms of laying groundwork. It’s one of the reasons I was happy to be placed with Wells Fargo when I went to a temp agency looking for temp-to-perm employment. I needed good insurance, after all. Transitioning also isn’t that cheap, even if you are lucky enough to have good coverage on the insurance side. So I identified how to best accomplish that. I mean, I had a general timeline laid out. I knew generally what I wanted to accomplish. I had no idea what would actually happen. Now that could just be me. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think anyone who’s deciding to come out has to think about that a little bit.

But it’s not a beautiful or succinct story. It had its hiccups. And there’s a lot of tedious realities that get in the way of what people want to hear: a nice, tidy life-affirming story. But this is not based on a true story. It’s not a movie where the lowest point is 3/4 of the way through only to have everything resolve beautifully. It is a true story. The highest point is unpredictable, and years later, sometimes still seem elusive. But it’s still important to put that information out there. Anyway, my coming out story is mostly boring, and disjointed. It featured some really agonizing discussions, some poorly planned ones, some hilarious evenings, some even more hilarious questions, some odd planning on my part to try and get face-to-face with as many people as I can, some odd pairings of people that I wanted to talk to and just happened to be around, some trial runs with people I thought would be safer to do it with, some long phone calls, a few letters, and a lot of odd conversations with my employer. It’s actually a lot of different coming out stories. I actually got some pretty entertaining and enlightening encounters out of the entire affair of coming out. And this is coming from someone who’s generally had a positive reception, both then and now, in regards to how people have reacted to me. Don’t get me wrong, I still deal with a lot of dumb bullshit (there’s really no better way to put it than that). On the whole? Things have worked out well. There’s certainly still a lot that gets me down. Anyway, I’m not here to tell you it’s the best decision I’ve made. I’m hear to show you that. I plan to keep trying to do that. There are a lot of unfortunate realities that go along with the totally awesome decision of coming out. And it’s ongoing. I’m always coming out. Or at least as someone who is quite openly trans and proud to be so, it’s something that I’m always doing. So hey, if you’re out there, remember, figure out what’s right for you. And remember, even if you can’t find some beautiful simple way to wrap it up and explain it to people when they ask you years down the road, it is your story. Go out there and live it.

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