National Pride Month 2017

This Pride month, I remember how much of the American LGBTQ+ movement’s progress has cost the lives and livelihood of real people.
Last year’s Orlando massacre is still fresh in my memory, still real, still keeps me indoors when I want to go out. I felt it from miles away, alone in a tiny apartment, in a Southern city I knew perhaps three to five other people in, fleeing transphobic family and fleeing another in a series of transphobic housing situations, and trying to start a life in whatever place would have me. I go through periods where I can be kind of a shut-in, but Orlando undid the small confidences I had built that helped me leave my house to do things like buy groceries, shop for clothing, take walks, ride my bicycle, make eye contact with strangers. It did not create, but it did exaggerate very real agoraphobia and social anxiety, and it really undermined my ability to trust the essential goodness I want to believe lives in other people enough to not think they mean me harm. Perhaps being able to think other people don’t mean you harm is a privilege I can no longer claim. I called a suicide hotline later in the month, needing to talk to someone about how vulnerable and afraid and targeted and defenseless and helpless and hopeless I felt.
That fear of the outside world seems very, very rational and very, very real when the longer you live, the more it seems like America wants to define itself by how many people like you it can kill because of who you are, how many lives America can make more difficult and outright ruin and even end at the policy level, how much care America can refuse to provide those who need it, how alienated and anxious and depressed and brimming with self-loathing America can work to make its queer citizens.
If I try to do anything when I write about my experiences, on the rhetorical level, I try to document and report and explore and pinpoint and give names to the effects of these practices, of this culture of hate, on the individual. I want that to be enough to work as resistance, but I know it isn’t.
The world will be there. We can change it. These days, this is where I find hope.
That is what’s on my mind this Pride month, which our current administration refuses to acknowledge exists. The gesture, or lack thereof, seems at once so laughable and so sad. Trying to pretend–believing–millions of people don’t exist, pretending we don’t deserve basic human rights, doesn’t make us disappear, doesn’t take away our humanity. But it does wound, and it does encourage other people to do the same. For better and worse, I try to take those wounds and turn them into better things, like community, like love, like art, like compassion, whatever I can with what I have.
I have been out as a trans woman for five years. I was twelve when I knew I was trans, but it took fifteen years to admit it to myself and to feel ok about my transness enough to tell other people. I have only recently begun exploring my sexuality enough to know I am bisexual or somewhere thereabouts.

So this Pride month, I am going to go to Pride (my first ever). And I am going to look people in the eye. And I am going to trust the throng of people I will let myself be vulnerable with–my beautiful queer family–to look back, and to invite me closer.

(reposted from my facebook)

Big News

I have news, and it’s perhaps the best news an author can get!

Sundress Publications has picked up my debut collection of poems, The Body, Lined with Diamonds! I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Sundress. They make beautiful books, and are wonderful people. Tentative release date of late next year!

http://www.sundresspublications.com/

Bicycles in the Desert

Last night I dreamed we rode bikes through the desert, from the evening through dusk and into the morning. It was beautiful. I mentioned how beautiful it was. Dream-me knew beauty, and me-me thinking back on the dream knows it was beautiful too. We discussed how orange the oranges in the sand were, which blue the blues overhead, the sunsets blazing purple and pink and blood and honey into the clouds, the sky on fire, dawn warming the frozen out of the air. Gazing at a scrubby city from up on a high hill, its grid of empty streets, spackling of lamps going out as the sun floated higher. The air like the cool side of a pillow. The dust crackling quiet beneath our tires. The road barely a hum in our frames.
 
Then we got hungry and went to a Papa Johns but nobody would look me in the eye or answer my questions, and I kept going from person to person asking to pay them for food they wouldn’t provide. I didn’t know what was up until we were on our bikes again. It was because I was visibly trans, and my visibility made everyone uncomfortable. The realization made me feel we were in danger.
 
We got on our bikes and headed back to the car, and I lost you almost immediately on a particularly dark patch of road. You took a turn before I did, a car passed between us, and you disappeared. I figured you rode ahead. I rode through a grassy small town for a minute, hit a steep hill, got off the bike, and stared at a beaten down house. White paint peeling off the weatherbeaten clapboard, little weeds growing up through the porch, an off-kilter telephone pole slacking the lines in the backyard, shingles slowly lifting against the hot wind. I looked back, couldn’t recognize anything (the desert was gone), and woke up.

WTF at the UWM

Angry post: heartbroken that a trans sister had to go through this in the name of bullshit nazi free speech rhetoric on campus. I’m reading the student’s letter to her college president and being like, “yes, preach it sister,” and also being like “why can’t so many cis people see the difference between harassment and free speech when it comes to blatantly transphobic attacks like this?”
 
So, cis people: read her account of what it’s like to be constantly and actively misgendered toward the letter’s end. Then tell me I’m making too big a deal out of people getting my name and pronouns right (family has told me this). Tell me I shouldn’t spend money on lasering my beard off (family has told me this, former friends have told me God made me a certain way and that shouldn’t change). Tell me I need to be more patient with my misgendering family members (family). Tell me I should just “smile more” to life hack my way into something resembling improved mental health (friends). Her account is better than anything I’ve ever tried to write about being misgendered.

http://overpasslightbrigade.org/hates-insidious-face-uw-milwaukee-and-the-alt-right/

On (Alternate) Realities

*Note* this post is in parts reflective, in parts analytical, and dwells in the abstract

Yesterday I canceled my subscription to the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game I play (Eorzea, I miss you already).


Partly because I want to do other things. I miss reading casually, new stuff, in the afternoon, in bed late into the night. I miss being fit, and doing fit person things, a casual jog, a quick walk after dinner. I miss eating well. I have been wanting to learn to cook new things, for years: Thai food, Mexican, Greek. I miss my real life friends. I miss having what feels like a real life. I have let the game consume all these things.

Partly because the appeal of alternate realities, alternate identities, alternate systems of effort and reward…I think I have let them color my real life more than I was aware.

Party because I want to stop believing that not-reality is superior to reality.

Rather than participate in an alternate reality as an attempt to attain what lived reality does not provide (gender congruence, financial stability, no fear of discrimination, direct recourse against it if it occurs, cisgender privilege and/or passing privilege, feelings of independence, of strength, of toughness, of forward motion, of control, of accomplishment, of esteem, of belonging), I want to take the energy I devote to the game and apply it to my real life again. I want to locate those things within it, and not need to jump into a proxyverse to get them. I want to get them in the life I wake up to instead of the life I log in to.

Here is my bias: waking reality is garbage, overall. We’re duped into trading our health, our youth, our time, our labor, our lives, for pittances that don’t provide what we are promised they will. Industrialized societies force humans to partake in sociopolitical systems that dehumanize, isolate, exhaust, and break us, as individuals, as groups. The few benefit at the expense of the many. We work and work and get nowhere and nothing changes. American life is a scam. Our species is destroying the biosphere in the name of cheap profit–we cannot live without a biosphere; profit is meaningless without a biosphere; yet on we march deeper into suffocating oblivion. The legal system, the stories we tell each other, the expectations we are taught about people, the language itself, our American culture has no room for trans people in it. We are fighting for room. We are making it, slowly. The constant fight sucks. It frustrates. It exhausts on top of all the other exhausting things.
 
Still, knowing all this, I also know I used to enjoy reality much more than I have in recent years. I want to believe I can do that again. Even in these apocalyptic times, I want to believe reality can sustain me, like it used to. Even with all the garbage.

I am not sure how this will happen. I keep thinking of that line from Rogue One, “rebellions are built on hope.” My rebellion here is returning a significant portion of my being to reality. My hope is that reality will not crush me and drive me away like it so often has. Or that if reality crushes me, I will become better from the experience of learning how I fall apart, and how I come back together, and how to remain coherent in all this disorienting madness.

Forgive me for being abstract and figurative. I suppose I am rather abstract and figurative.

Redistributing my realities means more than “I’m stopping playing video games for a while.”

Staying as deep and as long in game as I have means more than “I haven’t been the same person since my father died four years ago and I used video games to create some form of solace after, and I miss the person I was before.” More than “I get to be as close to cisgender as I will ever be, in-game, which consoles my gender dysphoria in a significant way.” More than “The small achievements I earn in-game convince my major depressive disorder to cool out.” More than “Social interaction from a relatively safe place at my keyboard behind my avatar in a world designed around cooperation and sharing helps my anxiety disorder avoid triggering.” More than “I get to be around affirming people in an affirming environment as long as I stay logged in.” More than “In-game realities have, for years, made more sense than out-of-game realities, so I stuck around.”

Leaving that behind means I am attempting to reclaim my lived experience from a force I consciously sacrificed much of it to in exchange for comfort.

This experience, then, will be necessarily discomforting. I hope the discomfort will be useful. I hope, after some time, I can learn to feel more like myself again, without the necessity of an avatar.
~Z

National Coming Out Day

1.
I came out to myself as transgender four years ago, when I lived in Flagstaff, meaning I decided to try accepting my transness instead of continuing to fight, ignore, and deny it. This was a birthday present I gave myself. I was twenty-seven. It was April. I was still reeling from a September breakup caused by coming out to the person I was dating, and I had been dealing with the emotional damage by, well, being tremendously depressed and drunk for most of the next year.

Coming out to myself was a moving-on gesture. I thought of it as simplifying. It meant “Now I don’t have to lie to anyone about this part of me ever again.” Continue reading

Fear and Passing In Gameland

1.

Know what? Ever since I got back from Minneapolis last weekend, I haven’t worked on my voice at all.

I don’t want to. I feel like I have to (in order to pass, in order to feel safer, in order to access the privileges afforded cis women). Feeling like I have to makes me not want to do it.

I don’t want to feel like my transness is some kind of performance, like performance is an innate part of it. I don’t want it to feel forced, I don’t want it to feel like something I can fuck up. If it feels forced and tenuous, it stops being fun, it stops feeling…something like authentic, whatever that means.

I don’t want my appearance, or my manner, to feel like something I do, especially something I do to appease anyone, something for anyone besides myself.

So I don’t know where I’m at with my voice anymore.

2.

A friend told me years ago that the most radical thing (or one of them) an oppressed person can do is to live as if ze is not oppressed. Meaning to afford oppressive forces no quarter on shaping one’s existence, or to disregard those forces and demand to be treated fairly when they arise.

I’d like to live in a world where no matter what kind of body you have, or voice you speak with, or clothes you wear or can afford, people treat you with dignity. I do not think this world is that world. I think it wants to be there though.

I see trans people on facebook, on twitter, and often I see images of trans people who look super natural and at ease in bodies that aren’t easily categorized. They look like they can touch something vital  and good and fulfilling that way. I am assuming of course. I am assuming they are not-passing intentionally. I assume if they wanted to, they could pass, though I know this is wrong of me, to make an assumption about someone, and to assume passing is possible where perhaps it is not.

I want to be one of those badasses who lives as if ze doesn’t waste any time caring about passing. I used to know what that was like, before I started transitioning. It was infinitely easier. OF course, then, I didn’t have to try. I didn’t even know what passing was.

I want to be radical and let my body act as a message, as confounding evidence against the gender binary, as evidence of the value of femininity, as evidence of gender equality, of gender fluidity, against biological determinism, yatta yatta. But I don’t actively encourage those messages in my appearance. Maybe they’re there whether I want them to be or not. I would like to be IN YOUR FACE trans. For now, I am not. I am afraid, anxious, somewhere on the spectrum between reasonably and unreasonably fearful/anxious. Maybe that’s the anxiety disorder doing the thinking. Maybe that’s the transphobia I internalized when I was growing up in a transphobic home.

Considering I am trans, I would like to unlearn that very pointed and particular fear. I would like to reach into my skull and pluck out the bad circuits, the ones that get caught in paralyzing feedback loops and keep me indoors and afraid of nothing more than phantoms I invent and situations I recreate in my mind’s eye.

No good comes from this fear of and disdain for myself that keep me from celebrating myself. I would unlearn them as swiftly as possible.

3.

I have been thinking about fear a lot recently. How it shapes me and my decisions. I am learning fear is a significant dimension of my transition so far, larger after the PULSE massacre, larger when examining possible futures after the presidential election (i have not decided how to vote yet). I would like it to be a smaller part of my life. More useful, less of a barrier.

Recently, the leader of my guild (a loose group of gamers who share a chat box and help each other out in-game) said some transphobic stuff. This was a tremendous surprise, because this was the nicest, most welcoming, and most helpful group of gamers I had ever met online. I probably jumped between twenty or so guilds before I stopped playing World of Warcraft this spring. I left them all because of insensitive and hateful language that nobody seemed to care about. I don’t play games to invite more hate and judgment into my life.

She wanted me to not post about anything related to my trans experience in guild chat. I had mentioned something about trying to change my voice in guild chat, since I was out to the guild already, but some people were curious. Many players thought I was male. Some said it was because of how I write. I guess I don’t pass even when my body isn’t a factor.

When I pressed the guild leader for why, she invoked religion. To her, trans people are violating our bodies–given to us by god under some sort of unspoken contract–by changing them, because god makes everyone perfect and so undergoing a gender transition is sacrilege and *gasp* offensive. I told her that made me feel silenced and hurt. My attempts to educate her (I was trans all my life before I started transitioning, you don’t need to change your body to be trans, what about puberty, what about illness, what about healing, what about medicine, doesn’t Jesus’ apparent message of love apply to everyone, lepers, sinners, prostitutes, the ill, thieves, etc) of course failed. I expected them to. Her mind was made up before we started typing at each other. And if the Trump nomination means anything, it means that in some circles, information, facts, and truths no longer change people’s minds. At one point, she said something like, “I don’t hate you, I just think you’re defying the will of god.” I told her I would probably leave the guild, and did.

I felt awful. Existentially disappointed. This was the best guild I had been in ever. It felt like a family. I’d been in it for three months but I felt like I knew people enough to be open with them, to be out with them, vulnerable.

I spoke to some other guildies who were on, because I needed help figuring out how to leave, and they expressed surprise and mild outrage, said they wanted to have words with her.

I learned from a friend a few days later that there was a voice chat (like a conference call through a separate communication client) between the guild leader, a bunch of officers, and other members about what had gone down. Some officers (high-ranking members of the guild with responsibilities like recruitment, raid organizing, managing the guild bank, etc) stood up for me, called her on her hate, and left.

A few of us banded together (classic RPG lingo) and formed our own guild, to make an lgbtq-safe space. I’m still friends with the folks who went a separate way after they left, and we chat on occasion, help each other with in-game stuff, run dungeons together. You know. Normal gamer stuff

I did not expect people to stand up for me. It was really refreshing to learn they did. Gamer culture is notoriously awful at inclusivity, at sexism, at queer-bashing. Women are basically invisible in gamer spaces. Trans women and other lgbtq folks  might as well not exist outside of the epithets players insult each other with. To be a part of a space where I don’t have to fear that is a big deal.

Words hurt. They have consequences. As a writer, my existence is a consequence of words.

I spent the better part of three months deciding when would be a good time to tell the guild I was trans. I asked for female pronouns a few weeks in, but I worried about outing myself, though I wanted to be out, to have more authentic, whatever that means, relationships, to not have to erase parts of my history or mark them as unshareable.

Visibility matters. The more visible trans people are, the more acceptance we create, the more normal we seem, the more immediate trans issues and lives can become to people who don’t otherwise know or encounter any of us. It’s a very, very small way to help the movement for equality, but it’s there and it’s real.

I don’t want to worry about being out any more. Yet I feel I have to. The trans people I admire don’t appear to.

Now that I’m in a safe space in-game, where most of my social interaction occurs these days, that’s that much less worrying to undergo. That fewer things to fear.

4.

I need to go shopping for clothes tomorrow for an interview. Though I would like the clerks to treat me a certain way and to call me certain things and not others, I will try not to care.

The Voice

So I couldn’t sleep again tonight, which led me to Youtubing transition stuff.

My transition has been stalled–beyond buying clothes, finding a doc in StL to run labs and renew my meds in April, and that one laser appointment I had when I visited Corvallis in May–since I lost health insurance over a year ago. It has since become mountingly frustrating to do, well, almost anything that involves interacting with people who aren’t trans, friends, on the other side of a computer, or allies (read: 99% of the public, from pizza guys [almost always guys] to baristas to bus drivers to librarians to clerks to servers to people sitting next to me and not doing anything in coffee shops to nice folks striking up conversation in passing at the grocery store or at a wedding or really everywhere).

Thing is, I’m a social creature, or at least I used to be, and I don’t want to let that go (I’ve tried and I can’t get it off me). I’m still trying to figuring out what I’m doing with makeup (almost nothing), which can get expensive and bring its own set of frustrations (why won’t my eyelids stop trembling and just ACCEPT the eyeliner?!). So I’m trying some new stuff with my voice, because it’s free.

I don’t have the deepest voice, but my natural voice is firmly in the male register. It used to be deeper. I used to WANT it to be deeper, so I could hide better in the maleness I encouraged people to read onto me. Smoking made it way deep when I was an undergrad (eight years smoke-free this month yaaaaay!). It’s better now, but I still feel it outs me perhaps more than any other gender cue (which produces more anxiety than it should, but that’s a separate project). I have felt there was little I could do about my voice. I mean, even on days I shave my face and my pits and my legs, I can’t shave my voice. I can’t tweeze my voice into a better shape, or take pills to alter the shape and feel and proportion and chemistry of my voice.

Youtube sez it takes months for a new voice to feel natural, but I found some vids with some tips, and in just a night now I can speak in a less masculine register (I had already been paying attention to inflection and pitch variations, which are FUN) and sound way closer to what feels good

….for a few minutes. Folks, talking is HARD. My throat muscles get sore. Not my throat. My throat is amazing (well I think it is), but it’s the muscles that shape my voice that are getting sore. Fast. So while I might have found a place close to the WHERE of my voice (above my Adam’s apple, but closer to it than to my jaw, for now), the HOW will take some time.

I’m writing this for myself, to have a record of how my transition went, and so it can maybe be a resource for allies and other trans folks in a similar position(s) as myself. But I’m also writing this particular post for my friends and fam and other people in my life I see often.

I may sound different for a bit.

In the past, I probably would want feedback on something like this. I asked some of my MFA cohort for feedback on my outfits and my use of makeup when I started transitioning two summers ago. While that was tremendously useful then, and I totally appreciate their help, transition-related feedback has become less useful.

This is partly me wanting to resist something I’ve noticed people do (people here means “folks who aren’t in my MFA cohort,” since I don’t see y’all except, well, almost never, because the reality of geography D:). People comment on my appearance way more often than they did before I was transitioning, and think they’re helping.

I know that’s something American culture does to women–teaches us our appearance is the most important part of us. Fuck that and I hate it. It’s objectifying, degrading, insulting, damaging, and expensive. However, my appearance IS an important part of my life right now, for safety reasons. It can also be fun. I would like it to be more fun.

So in a way, that sort of attention is helping, and in a way, it isn’t. Though appearance comments might be intended as confidence-boosters, the attention they draw to how I look recently makes me feel more uncomfortable than before we started talking about my appearance, which is something I frequently feel I have less control over than I probably do, and is something that matters more than it ever did (though it shouldn’t).

If I want to talk about my voice, or how my clothes fit, or my hair, I will. And I have! And what I’ve learned so far has been useful and awesome.

But not now. This is gonna take a while, and probably suck for a bit. I don’t need to know you know my voice sucks when I already know it.

HOWEVER: people I spend a lot of time with will know how I talk, will probably hear ticks I’m not aware of. My last therapist once told me my voice drops especially lower when I’m thinking aloud or contemplating something. So I realize some people may be in a better position to tell me how I sound than me.

I am using a voice recorder. I’m reading my poems aloud in femme-voice and playing them back, so the exercise becomes useful for my writing too, and so I’ll want to do it more. I also really like my reading voice (I have no shame in saying I love the sound of my own voice…I’m a writer, a poet of all things, and this is a blog. Writer clichés, fulfilled!). My current reading voice took years to develop, and I can’t replicate the type of fluidity and…precision of tone with my femme voice that I can produce with my male voice, so I’m entertaining keeping male-voice around for reading events until femme-voice is ready for something as demanding as that.

Voice recorder is helping me learn how high/low in my throat the pitches live, and being able to locate them physically on my body has helped a lot already, on day one of the voice project. Knowing where they live can also be a good way to gauge my progress: as I push into higher registers, I’ll be able to feel them.

But would I ever have noticed that my voice gets low when I’m thinking aloud or contemplating something, by using voice recorder? Never.

So maybe some feedback here could be useful. Maybe it’s best to just say I’ll ask for feedback if I want it, so please withhold any critiques unless the subject is there already. Yeah.

(But if you want to lavish me with compliments, tbh, it’s been a shit month and my self-esteem could use a boost)

Voice Feminizing Links!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWHGS7s7ffY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIydrtPplqw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a02_j7PGTPI    (i think her voice and mine are kinda close, our male voices. listen at her go!)

ZPH

Continue reading

Thin Rimmed Purple Glasses Anti-Ode

I’ve been doing this thing where I wake up when it gets dark, play video games and talk with the cat and adjust the A/C and open/close the windows all night, make tea and take meds in the morning, and pass out again before noon.

I will pass out again here soon methinks.

I get on a plane Friday then I get on another plane Monday then I have roughly a week in Knoxville and I go back to St Louis.

I do not know what to do.

I accept that I am powerless to change many things.

What else do you do with them?

I accept that I cannot become comfortable in public overnight, that healing takes forever, that the people who make me feel loved live far away–even when we live in the same city–that I don’t have any formal-ish or dressy tops for the wedding and none of my clothes fit like they did last summer.

I accept that hell is other people and they are everywhere.

I accept the fear that made me lie forever about my gender, the same fear that kept me from transitioning until passing–hiding–was out of the question, and I accept the consequence of that fear is these new fears now, is my relationships now, is my body now, is the out-of-reach price tag of continuing to transition, is considering why would you want to eventually buy the privilege of nobody noticing you (because you used to feel safer that way, noticeably more anonymous).

I accept that my awareness of my fear does little to mitigate it; I accept that my awareness of my circumstances does little to change them.

Still I distance myself.

Still I type in these white fields.

Still I sit and game in the night and sometimes I wonder why I avoid the day.

The cat gives no fucks.

The cat sits and purrs in my lap because it likes my lap.

It leaves my lap when it does not.

The cat knows three things: things the cat likes, things the cat does not like, and how to tell me.

My cool purple glasses broke because they know fragility.

I can still see through them because they are not completely any single thing.

This is a cry for help, among other things.

Sorry if you, like me, feel you can do nothing.

It is morning–beware: another day approaches.

What I Miss

1.
According to the facebook memorybot, June 13th is the day I started hormone replacement therapy, two years ago. I started taking anti-androgens to lower my testosterone levels so my body would eventually become receptive to estrogen and start feminizing itself, which I hoped would mitigate the incapacitating gender dysphoria that had taken over my waking life. Two months later, I was popping green estradiol pills under my tongue. Continue reading