Archive for July, 2014

Sic Semper Tyrannis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bike Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just For A Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Are Days

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

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

Show And Tell

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

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

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

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

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


So the Bold Italic put this piece out here about a protest tomorrow regarding the ban on blood donation for gay men (San Francisco loves a good protest). A gay man cannot donate because of who he has sex with, which is wrong, of course. We all get that. There are plenty of heterosexual people who do not have particularly safe practices when it comes to sex that won’t get turned away. If you’re a straight man, then it’s a pretty clear cut issue, and the questions are pretty simple to answer due to that. But you could go out and pick up a different woman every night and still donate (provided you don’t think any of those partners hit any of the few questions that regard that). If you’re a gay man with a committed partner that you’ve been with for years…well, too bad. So sure, I get it, that’s unfair. It’s an archaic requirement from a time when everyone was quite fearful of AIDS and they didn’t really understand it.

To be clear, I fully support removing those barriers. This is 2014. We’ve gotta have a better system than that by now. Especially when blood is so hard to find. So in general I support the idea that there’s going to be protest called the National Gay Blood Drive. Good. We need to get rid of that requirement as a society because it’s not sound and it doesn’t particularly accomplish anything other than discriminating against certain groups of people for no good reason. And sure, LGBT San Franciscans, as the article implores you, bring your straight allies. By all means.

But you know what gay men don’t get denied when they go in there? Their gender. As someone who donated quite regularly prior to transitioning and still did so afterwards for a while, I got to experience the frustrations first hand. I still had to answer the questions as male (and as female…it was a weird system), and for donation purposes, I’m still treated as male. I’ll probably always be treated as male the way the system works. It was both humiliating and eventually the reason I could no longer donate. Where’s the visibility on that though? Why doesn’t anyone ever mention that when they talk about this as an LGBT issue?

This is one of the things that’s frequently frustrating about the greater LGBT apparatus. This is an area that should be a bridge between cis gay and bi men and trans women who have sex with men, in whatever designation they may choose that fits that. Or really, any trans woman that just wants to be treated like a woman. Though the reasons vary for why it’s insulting (because I’m not male no matter how much the FDA insists), there’s still this system in place that’s denying fundamental aspects of who we are, that we are to be treated differently, and that there’s something wrong with the very blood we have to give. But instead, it’s just another instance of erasure of trans identities. And you know, I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with it. And I’m not trying to make a ton of assumptions. But go to their Facebook page and it says right there’s it’s targeting the FDA’s ban against gay/bisexual men donating blood.

So yeah, I get it. It’s fucking insulting. It’s fucking insulting to me too. And look, I get that every article and every protest and every little thing cannot be a catch-all. But if this is ostensibly targeting an LGBT audience, why not think about the T as well next time and their place in that same discriminatory apparatus? To be clear, I don’t necessarily feel like anyone is trying to exclude those voices. But it does read like they never particularly thought to include them either.

I, for one, look forward to the day when I can give platelets again. I was a pretty great donor in that regard, and I didn’t mind sitting in the chair watching a movie and letting Memorial Blood Center do their thing. The free cookies were nice too. But if they remove these barriers but still treat me as male, then what’s the point?

Within And Without

Somewhere around 6th and Market I saw someone holding up a sign that said “I put on a binder for this?”. And while I cannot empathize with that specific feeling (my troubles have sort of gone the other way in that regard) I can certainly empathize with the general feeling. I was only misgendered once this year, for example, by someone who otherwise seemed like a cool person. You know, except for the part where he disrespected the core of who I am. It shouldn’t even happen once, and it especially shouldn’t happen at an event that is ostensibly celebrating all the letters, though it rarely accomplishes that. In a time when strides are most certainly being made, when Janet Mock, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Jewlyes Gutierrez, and Chelsea Manning (represented in absentia by Lauren McNamara) are marshals in this year’s SF Pride parade, it can be easy to hope that things are better than five years ago the last time I volunteered with Pride (albeit in the Twin Cities) when I saw very little trans recognition, or even last year when I attended and felt quite alienated in the process. And in a lot of ways they certainly are. It’s great to see that kind of visibility for trans women. What about trans men, though? Or non-binary individuals? And what about seeing that throughout the crowd? That sign, it’s a reminder that we still have a ways to go in terms of trans representation, in terms of how we are treated, in terms of how welcome and appreciated we even feel. In a space where so many people are openly and jubilantly supporting or showing gay and lesbian individuals, rights, and expression, it’s another reminder of how the other parts of that acronym lag behind.

One might say there’s a more complicated dynamic in showing you’re trans. It’s not like I went through the crowd trying to identify trans people. But I didn’t do that with gay or lesbian or bisexual people either. It’s not like I assume people are cis or straight or anything. It’s so rarely any of my business. Many people made obvious displays of it, though, through clothing, signage, actions, etc. and while I didn’t thoroughly analyze the crowd like I said, I also didn’t really see that many people who were proudly broadcasting their transness. And hey, that is a deeply personal decision that I totally understand. But this is supposed to ostensibly be a place to do that. Then again, there’s a reason people started Trans March. Continued marginalization within a space that is supposedly there to support us is one of those reasons.

That wasn’t the only reason I found it a frustrating experience again. Of course something like Pride is always going to walk a very fine line between remembering what got it all started and what gains still need made and celebrating the gains that have been realized. I am not saying people shouldn’t celebrate that. I am thankful every day I show up to work that I work for a company that is largely supportive, that will not fire me, that may not completely understand the nuances of my reality but does at least try to support them. That’s no small thing, even these days. But there is still so much yet to do. Take a minute to recognize the progress and then remember that it’s time to get back to making progress. That it may be just a small action doesn’t really matter. Many of us are only doing little things. Those little things add up though. Besides, sometimes they become big things. Any of those little cases where someone staked out and fought for those rights could lead to that person being the plaintiff in the next major case for LGBT rights for all we know. Reach out to the people in your life, make the difference with the people you cross paths with. Do not denigrate that work. Certainly the big momentous things matter too. It is great that there are multiple trans celebrities that you might know; that is great visibility for other trans people, or just individuals who are questioning their identity in that regard. The more variety, the better. But you and I, we probably aren’t going to be having conversations with them anytime soon. And just because I am aware of all those people doesn’t mean the people I cross paths with are.

But there is still this prevailing sense of tokenism. Then again, I realized going in I would probably feel that way. While working on a separate issue at work regarding a little matter of wording, HR basically told me to work through Pride (the internal organization, not the parade and associated events). Yet I don’t really feel like they have any apparatus to handle my concerns, at least that I’m presently aware of. That’s frustrating. But it also means perhaps it’s time to agitate again, to try to create that apparatus within the organization. That may not end up being successful. I may have to take another route. But if I am going to attempt it, then I need to get involved in Pride. Someone needs to be that trans person who shows up and says I am here, who’s not just trans but is willing to be open about it. Because like I said, that’s not what everyone wants to do. It’s not what I wanted to do for a long time, beyond my small sphere. And certainly there are probably trans individuals doing that right now within my company, and there are definitely many that came before me in that regard as well. Again, it’s not to denigrate what they’ve done. Hopefully getting more involved will help me connect with them and learn that history. My lack of awareness is my own fault. And these changes? They’re all in the future. When will those kinds of efforts cone to fruition? Maybe soon. Maybe next year. Maybe in a few years. The first step, though? That’s just showing up.

Pride was exactly what I thought it would be, which is to say, a mildly underwhelming experience personally that I could still appreciate beyond myself. I am happy to support and celebrate the victories of my fellow LGBT compatriots; hopefully they are starting to come around to supporting the struggles we experience as trans individuals, to celebrate those victories as well. If people were celebrating that, though, it was mostly tacit as far as I could tell. Lots of people have been working to make that more visible, more demonstrative. In a few ways, though not nearly enough, it was. It’s beyond time I started doing my part.

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