Archive for December, 2014

Let The Man Go Through

I am used to running around tourists. It’s one of the perils and privileges of living easy running distance from the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, and all the other wonderful things that make San Francisco the city it is. And I don’t blame anyone. When I moved here, I wondered if I would ever get used to all of it; now I wonder how you ever could. So I get why people clog the Coastal Trail on a holiday weekend, visiting or back with their families. Honestly, it’s great to see so many people out, using all these wonderful parks and trails, seeing the sights, and just generally enjoying the beauty of a pretty wonderful place on what was a crisp, but excellent day to appreciate it all.

What I don’t get is how unmindful people can be. They close a stretch of road in the park every Sunday so it’s an open street for biking, running, walking, skating, whatever. But there are people out there every weekend that don’t pay a bit of attention to the space they are moving through. They have no awareness that someone might be trying to bike by as they aimlessly weave or run past as they casually walk four abreast on a path that barely holds three. I see a lot of surprised looks whenever I run by, like its unusual that anyone else would be using that path even though seemingly everyone is out using the path. Normally I can circumnavigate with minimal fanfare. There is enough space in most places in the park that I can easily go around (though it is frequently me and other runners I see sidestepping pedestrians, not the other way around). And while I wish it weren’t like that, I still don’t have to say much, which I like. I enjoy being out there by myself in those situations, even if I am surrounded by people. Unfortunately, I hit some trails that were a bit more congested by the ocean, and I did this all around sunset which made for a busier time than I normally experience on, say, a weekday night, a more regular running time for me.

When I run I don’t normally interact with people, much more than an “excuse me” or an “on your left”. That couldn’t be helped today, though, not with how busy it was out there. Not having to substantively interact with people is one of the aspects I love most. Because every interaction with someone is just another opportunity for someone to say something like “let the man go through”, as someone did on my last run. And look, I get it, I asked Santa for boobs again this year and he still didn’t bring them. Maybe next year. More seriously, most of my workout stuff is fairly gender neutral, even if it’s all women’s clothes. I am not working out to show off my body, I wear things that are comfortable. Which for me is looser, longer stuff. While it’s cut a touch different, most of it you’d probably find just as easily in the mens’ section. But that does not mean that I am gender neutral. I am still a woman. I would like to think there are plenty of aspects of me that showcase that fact, thank you very much. Of course, I run into issues like this all the time, not just on the trails. I had a cashier call me me sir the other day and then say it was hard to tell because I was wearing a toque when I corrected her. Because obviously you never see a woman in a winter hat. People are quick to look for sources of blame and not so quick to just honestly say “I am sorry, I fucked up.” Not that I gave the person on the trail had the opportunity; I wasn’t about to stop in the middle of my run and have this conversation. And even if I did stop, it’s rarely a conversation. More of a one-sided statement to be honest. People are so rare to trust me about my gender, if their continued behavior after I call them out is any indication in many cases. I am not surprised if, as soon as I am out of earshot, they go back to misgendering me or they do so later when they are recounting stories of that annoying customer who just insisted she’s a woman.

It didn’t really bother me though. I know this seems like a lot of words for something that didn’t bother me, but it just got the wheels spinning halfway through a long run more than anything. Obviously it’s frustrating to live in a world where these kinds of disrespectful acts occur on a daily basis. And it’s shitty to say I’ve learned to live with it. But I have. I simply do not have the energy to fight every slight and slur. And many of the people who do say these sorts of things aren’t worth it. I respect the people who seem to always have that energy to always fight, but I don’t know how they do it. Just in the sense that I do not know where that wellspring of energy comes from. Yes, in an ideal world I’d always challenge people who misgender me. Fuck, if we’re wishing for an ideal world, trans folk wouldn’t go around being misgendered on a daily basis. But that world is a ways away, it seems. I’d at least like to see a world where one of the children turned to their parent after they said “let the man go through” and said “she’s not a man”. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of the person behind me in line at Target to say “Why’d you call her sir?”. That to me would be some tangible progress that I haven’t seen much of in the past seven years. No matter where I go there are always people. I have no real control over how they address me, but it sure would be great if I wasn’t the only one who said something every time. If I say anything at all. It’d be nice not to worry about whether I have the energy. We all need a hand sometimes. Who I am does matter independent of all of this. I am not looking for validation from other people. Just respect. I know I am a woman just as much as all those people don’t seem to. And nothing anyone else says changes that. All I’m asking for is a little mindfulness. Step aside when someone is running down the narrow path and you are walking two abreast. And if you don’t know what to say, you don’t have to say anything. I’d just appreciate if you’d let me through.

Never Content

Objectively speaking I have a hard time thinking of when things were going better. I take better care of myself. I have much better habits in terms of the little things, what I eat, taking my medication regularly, exercising. I have the facility to do what I want to a great degree. I have a job that pays me well that I actually do like that challenges me that also doesn’t keep me there too much. I get to see and do and experience lots of cool things and hopefully be a part of leaving things a little better than I found them. And best of all I do all of that while being myself. But lately, I have just had an increasingly hard time with it all. I still show up to work, I still go to shows, I still double-knot the trail runners before I head to the Presidio, but it feels like just that much more work to get off the couch when I get home, to get back out after sitting down, to do more than hit play on the next episode of whatever. To not feel like it is too quiet in my place and it’s too much work to find someone or something to help enliven it. To even do the quotidian things, to make sure the dishes get washed, the trash gets out and the laundry gets done. It’s hard not to look at stacks of dishes and piles of clothes and not feel like entropy always wins. Because it always does. It always will. No matter how hard we fight, in the end, it must win.

But I am not just some 18 year old who realized that for the first time. If anything the reason behind many of my decisions is that everything ends eventually. How much of that time do I want to look back on and see the half-realized individual I was for so long? Every day that fraction get smaller and smaller, but it’ll still always be a fraction of my life. That will never change. I know worth is a relative matter, but I know that being who I am and bringing all of myself to what I do in my life matters. Because that’s all I’ve really got. Many days I use that as a call to action, the motivation to try and make positive changes in my life, to get going and do whatever it is I have been putting off, whatever it is that won’t be coming around again. Most days I try to push. Lately, I feel like I am being pulled. And I can’t really figure out why.

I’m not going to lie and say being trans doesn’t impact my life negatively at times. Not because there’s anything wrong with being trans or I am unhappy with who I am but because there are people who think there’s something wrong with being trans, and unfortunately those people are still the people who make lots of decisions that impact my quality of life. But the impact in my personal life to a large degree has been positive. I feel it has made my friendships stronger and makes me more engaged personally and professionally. Still, I’ve mentioned it before, and I can’t rule out the psychic toll for being trans in our society. But I don’t really think that’s it in totality. There are still plenty of aspects to how people treat trans individuals that need to change in our society. But that is always there and doesn’t feel any more pressing than usual. I know that feeling. It’s not that feeling.

Perhaps it’s the loneliness. Then again, that’s not new, and I doubt that’s entirely it. I function pretty well alone. I don’t really hang my head and stop doing things just because I’m by myself. And when I look around, I know I do have friends here. Besides, I know that feeling well, and I know when it’s more acute. Again, that’s just something that’s there, and not even something that’s just there in my life. It’s something that’s there in lots of our lives.

No, I think it gets back to the difference between happiness and contentedness. I am happy. I lead a good life, I have been fortunate, I continue to be. But there’s always more to do. If I ever have all of my own affairs in order, so what? First, it’s doubtful that I ever will because it seems near-sighted to think life will ever be like that. I may have everything I wanted at this moment a year from now, but will that be what I want then? Second, it’s near-sighted to think only of my own life, my own affairs. Now some of what I do hopefully has an impact on that, be that little decisions like leaving another seat on the bus for someone who needs it more when I bike or making decisions about what I eat or what I use at home that perhaps have some small impact. Some of it hopefully has more direct impact beyond those rather modest sorts of measures.

But content? I doubt I’ll ever be content. There’s always something more I could be doing to try and leave the world a better place than I found it, to be a better person. And I don’t think I’ll ever be content with the person I once was. That person did things wrong; that person was ignorant of many things, some of which had consequences I no doubt did not intend. I do not want to be that person, yet I am undoubtedly still that person, and always will be. The more I learn, the more there is to learn. The more I get from the world around me, the more I have to give back. If I feel a bit worn down, perhaps counter intuitively, I feel that is a sign that I am not doing enough. Entropy may win, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make things better in time we have. Entropy may win, but we have to keep fighting it. The problem then is not that I’m fighting entropy. It’s that I’m not fighting it enough. Obviously I still manage, if I’m getting out there and doing my thing. But I can’t be content with that. Before I get distracted again, though? There’s more to do.

Someone

My life is full of great people I love and care for, but I doubt most days there will ever be someone. That feeling laces itself into the way I process my life, when I say not entirely joking I’m going to spend the rest of my life in this one-bedroom in Inner Richmond alone. It laces itself into buying single tickets to concerts and checking with little more than my calendar before I make the purchase. It laces itself into the way I act when I’m around other people, especially new people. It’s frustrating going through the motions when I know where those motions most likely lead. That may sound overly pessimistic or self-fulfilling; I try to push that line of thinking aside. But understand that as much as I enjoy meeting and interacting with new people, it’s also just another opportunity to be insulted and let down, intentional or otherwise. If I’m wary it’s because I have reason to be.

It’s something that’s frequently on my mind, but someone shared this piece that got me thinking about it again. Even as someone who’s lived in urban areas since college, someone who has never been married, someone who is much closer to being on the right side of the age divide in terms of finding more accepting people, a lot of those points resonate. While I’ve probably never used the word despair, that’s an accurate word for the feeling. I can, and still do, lead a fulfilling and full life. I have been and continue to be quite fortunate in so many other regards that it can help assuage that feeling. But I never have a plus one when I’m invited to something, and I frequently account for the odd chair at the table. I don’t see that changing any time soon either.

Being open to possibilities is great thing. Whether they are good or bad, it was something I had to figure out how to do when I came out, something I’ve tried to hold onto as an attitude since. Many trans individuals steel themselves for the inevitable losses. We celebrate when they are minimal. Think about that for a minute. The best case scenario for most trans people coming out and being themselves is hopefully we don’t lose too much. I didn’t lose my job, or my place, or my family, or most of my friends. In being myself, I’ve picked up a lot of awesome people along the way, and I definitely feel better sharing who I am with the people in my life. But instead of it just being a given that people will not be awful, it’s the hope that the fewest number possible will be. Imagine how that informs someone’s life.

If learning to be open with myself and others was a major hurdle, learning to be realistic was not. For years, I was barraged with messages that I could not possibly be a woman, whether it was because I saw no examples, what box someone checked when I was born, how I was socialized, or how I felt I would never fit in even if I managed to get over everything else. Learning to get over all of that does not equate to learning to forget it, though. I will always be tempered by those experiences. I thought for so long being myself, my whole self, was not possible. Even if I’ve since learned my definition of realistic needed some work, I’ve fostered an attitude where I’m still constantly surprised about the good things that happen. Even if so many things have gone well, I have to be aware things can all change quite quickly. So the realistic part of me still finds the idea of dating daunting. Finding a guy who is open-minded enough to see me as who I am, a woman, not a fetish, not someone trying to turn them gay or whatever other bullshit masculine philosophy they uncritically buy into, is a tough thing. That’s the baseline I’m working with. That’s before hoping that all the strange little things that happen to make a relationship happen occur. I know that’s possible, I see examples of it, but so far, I’ve been let down far more often than I’ve been picked up.

Still, I know I have to try. At least in the sense that things do not just magically happen, even if the deck is stacked. If I don’t feel like putting in too much sometimes, can you really blame me? If I spend nights alone in my apartment occasionally overwhelmed by despair? Why put in the effort on something that doesn’t feel all that likely anyway? Those feelings don’t exist in a vacuum. I have all these other great things going on in my life that take effort too. Is some of that learned societally? No doubt we are also barraged with messages supporting notions of the magic of romantic love and special someones. There are aspects worth breaking down in how we view relationships, how we treat people both in and not in them. But I think our desire for companionship and finding people who gets us runs deeper than that. Perhaps I’m a bit too cynical to uncritically accept the idea that there’s one special person out there; rather, I think that one special person is perhaps more fungible than we’re willing to admit. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to find out for myself. I want to find someone who sees me not just as who I am, but someone who sees my possibility, someone who sees the best version of me. I constantly face the feeling that I don’t deserve that, or that I’ll be lucky to find that, feelings still deeply ingrained in me. There are parts of this that I have to work on. I freely admit that. But it’s not just on me. There are wider aspects that others have to face such how society treats trans people, our rigid notions of masculinity. I can’t do this on my own. I don’t want to do this on my own. And I shouldn’t have to.

Maybe The Time Is Right

Maybe The Time Is Right

The speakers hiss as I drop the needle
onto what was once my parents’ copy of War.
Over the years, I’ve traded plastic for wax.
Though I flirted with vinyl in my youth,
it took me a while to admit I’m a woman
whose style is more LP than CD.
Maybe it’s just the time is right,
that it’s easier now, though there’s a lot
I missed out on as a teenager and
it has cost me quite a bit to make up for that.
Turns out the records my parents gave me
are just a few of the many I’ve had to replace.

 
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