Perfect Day Plus Pushcart

After a perfect day with the perfect person (Maurine!), electrolysis, pinball, pizza, a possum, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, I learn I have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for one of my Ace Ventura poems. There are no words. Oh wait here are some words.

2019 Pushcart Prize Nominations

Gender Flytrap is for Sale on B+N and Amazon!

Gender Flytrap is now up on Amazon (Prime!) and Barnes and Noble for sale! Learning your artwork is being sold by major retailers is a strange feeling of being super legit while not completely believing how legit you are. Links below!

Gender Flytrap: The Interview!

For your reading pleasure, an interview wherein I say, among other things, “Not much to hunt in a clementine, I suppose, when you’re a cat.” Thanks to the intrepid Jacquelyn Scott for her patience and smart questions!

“Ahead of the release of Gender Flytrap, her debut collection, Zoë Estelle Hitzel took time to speak with Sundress editorial intern, Jacquelyn Scott, to discuss the order of the book, form, the role hunger played in the work, and transitioning.”

Portion of Gender Flytrap Preorder Proceeds Donated to Trans Lifeline

Dear Readers,

Book news! $1 of every preorder of Gender Flytrap will be donated to Trans Lifeline. Trans Lifeline has saved my life multiple times, and I am proud my art can support them in return, since I would not exist anymore without their aid, and my art would never have come to be. Their work saves lives and directly impacts trans people all over the country. Preorder link below.

Gender Flytrap Available for Pre-Orders!

I am zazzed to the max and completely over the moon to announce that my debut collection of poems, Gender Flytrap, is now available to pre-order, courtesy of the wonderful Sundress Publications! Hard copies available later this summer!…/item/gender-flytrap-by-zoe-estelle-h…
Gender Flytrap Cover

Cover art by the talented Tara O’Nay!

Zoë Estelle Hitzel’s Gender Flytrap is an authentic portrayal of the constant hurt that a trans experience in a toxic, hegemonic culture entails. Hitzel’s collection delves into the multifaceted nature of prejudice from the gendered stereotypes instilled at a young age to a broken healthcare system to the realization that everything—including transness—is filtered through a cisnormative lens. In this world, trauma is inherent to the trans existence. To see and be seen begets presumption and therefore is an act of violence, a violence that dictates how a person should look, act, and even perceive the world around them. In this collection, bodies are their own entities—moldering temples furnished by others that forsake those locked inside. Here, trans identity is rejected by a world that weaponizes bodies to reinforce a binary of gender. These gripping poems explore the pain of confronting what could have been, how a rush of hormones in the womb determines the fate of a person. Here, we can ruminate on the suffering delivered at the hands of those who abide a prefabricated notion of sex and, absurdly, circumscribe what is possible for the person inhabiting a gendered body.

Early on in Zoë Estelle Hitzel’s Gender Flytrap she both catalogues and commands, “Hope to be just another/sound, a shiver/between teeth.” This book enacts and then surpasses that insistent wish, becoming a generous and necessary collection of “the body’s wide-flung wing.” How thankful I am that this writing of perseverance – which is to say, transition – exists. Buy it for yourself, then buy it for your library, then buy a copy and leave it on a bus or at a ball field. This “small sun” is a gift.
-TC Tolbert, author of Gephyromania and co-editor of Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics

Whose body is this? Gender Flytrap says, the body is territory that has been claimed, bordered, tilled, sold, and excavated. Zoë Estelle Hitzel’s words take those sales, borders, and excavations and pull an extravagant wildness from them. This body isn’t yours. It’s mine, she roars. I’ve never understood better than I do now, or with such elegance and grace, that our bodies, and our words, are not for the taking.
-Nicole Walker, author of The After-Normal: Brief, Alphabetical Essays on a Changing Planet and Sustainability: A Love Story

Zoë Estelle Hitzel earned her MA in Creative Writing studying poetry at Northern Arizona University and her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Oregon State University. Her writing has appeared in Uproot, The Fourth River, Blue Lyra Review, entropy, and elsewhere. She has taught English as a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and will be the Fall 2019 Ofstad Writer in Residence at Truman State University. She has edited various literary publications, most recently Best of the Net. Hitzel is a citizen of the wind, currently stalled over Missouri. To fund her ongoing transition, she freelances professionally as a writer and editor, scores standardized tests in multiple languages, reads tarot cards, and drums in the blues band, Deadwood.

Best Doctor’s Appointment Ever

OK, reader, I have a lot of good news to share. Are you ready for all this positivity and progress and victory? If not, this probably is not the post for you, and you should keep scrolling through dank memes and cat videos and reposts of clever tweets.

I saw a doctor I’ve seen once before at Family Care Health Center in St Louis today. I went in there with like a 10-item agenda. I was prepared to have to argue with the new doc about my treatment and to fight with her about what is and isn’t true, but she is an amazing listener, and even better, she actually did the research she was saying she would do after our last session in November. I did my research, too, so we both came prepared to meet minds and make informed decisions. I think she is a resident instead of a full MD, but I will follow her to whatever practice she goes to after this one because of this awesomeness. So the good news here is that I lucked into having a curious, listening, collaborative, and informed doctor, finally, after so many ignorant, authoritative, self-important ones.

We’re just getting started with the good news here though.

1) She upped the dose of my depression medication, so I don’t have to pay out of pocket to see a psychiatrist for that! Huzzah!

2) She gave me the OK to start estrogen injections NEXT MONTH! This is so great, as I’ve been seeking a doctor since 2017 to give me the clear and to monitor me while I start it. It’s double great because the sublingual estrogen I’ve been taking is part of the reason I had my gall bladder removed, and sublingual E can lead to liver damage, so this is not just a move toward healthy HRT–it’s a way to stop my current HRT from further damaging my organs. Technically she gave me the ok to start them today (!), but I said we should wait a month to do smarter science because of item 3.

3) She gave me the OK to up my progesterone IMMEDIATELY. She read some stuff recently that says progesterone functions as a testosterone blocker (!) which is like SUCH A BONUS to its already awesome effects of filling out my breasts and acting as a mood stabilizer and interacting with estrogen to keep me from getting all sorts of other health problems.

4) Based on the last round of labs I did in November, I WAS RIGHT in suspecting that my testosterone had climbed back up out of the female range. I’m at 91 ng/dl Tnow, which is 41 ng/dl too high to be considered in the female range. I WAS RIGHT THIS WHOLE TIME THAT MY HORMONES WERE MESSED EVEN THOUGH MY LAST DOC SAID THEY WERE IN A GOOD SPOT. Now we know precisely how messed they were, and which kind of mess, and my inner sense of “something is off here” has been validated.

5) She referred me to a local dermatologist to get a cyst I’ve have on my face since 2013 removed!

6) She wrote me the letter I’ve needed for my passport IN LIKE FIVE MINUTES DURING THE APPOINTMENT. She also commented that the language in it was offensive to her, and that this entire process seemed unnecessarily discriminatory for me to have to go through, and that it didn’t make sense since like obvi I’m a woman obvi I’ve been transitioning for five years now, and she even understood that transition is a process and that standards of completion are different for everybody (some folks want surgery and some don’t, some folks want HRT and some don’t, etc), so why are the feds asking for this letter anyway whatever here give me a few minutes. Basically my doctor is a bamf and an ally and hopefully I’ve finished this passport process because I’m mailing out the letter tomorrow morning.

7) She’s giving me access to the clinic’s psychology services so I can see a therapist and psychiatrist through them, which will be covered by their local insurance program, so I won’t have to pay for therapy, and said they are happy to refer me somewhere else if they can’t meet my needs there! So, that whole process of finding a county mental health clinic with sliding scale fees and trans-accepting providers I was trying and failing to do after I left the psych hospital is moot now. Someone from the clinic is contacting me tomorrow to set up an intake appointment for ASAP.

8) She said she is interested in the science I am reading about HRT things she hasn’t heard of, and asked me to bring her what I’ve been reading so she can integrate it into her practice and so we can both make informed decisions regarding my care through her. Was mostly referring to why we want progesterone levels to be in the luteal phase range, and evidence for why sublingual E messes with the liver and gall bladder. THIS IS HUGE. She trusts me enough to do my own research. She doesn’t think I’m crazy, incompetent, ignorant, or deceptive, like so many of my prior providers have. I’m valid. She sees me. She listens. She trusts. We are collaborating. I love it.

9) She renewed my scrip for the anti anxiety medication I have been taking that helps me sleep and helps me leave the house! She even upped the dose, and gave me license to drop it back to the current dose if I don’t tolerate it well. Again with the trust. Feels so good.

10) She told me there is current research saying the proton-pulse inhibitor I’ve been taking since surgery to help with my digestion (Zantac) can be difficult to stop if I take it for a few months (I plan to take it all year until my guts even out from surgery) because it can produce acid bounceback after stopping it, so we switched to Ranitidine, which either isn’t a PPI and/or doesn’t have a documented history of producing bounceback after cessation. BONUS.

11) I went in there with a laundry list of stuff I needed to discuss and we covered all of it. In short, I’m getting what I’ve known I needed regarding my progesterone, my estrogen, my testosterone, my whole HRT regimen, the hormone imbalance and the accompanying dysphoria that I’ve been carrying since I stopped spiro over a year ago and have been unable to meaningfully address through no fault of my own. I’m getting the followup care I was supposed to be getting after my stay in the psychiatric hospital but couldn’t because I’ve been homeless and moving around too much after surgery to access facilities due to residency requirements I couldn’t establish. I’m getting my meds renewed and adjusted. I have access to therapy again. I’m taking care of issues I’ve been carrying for years. I’m finally finishing (fingers crossed) my passport application. This session addressed SO MUCH. It was so necessary. I left it feeling like a huge burden had left my body.

TLDR: I just had the best doc’s appointment ever and I’m looking forward to another with this person next month. But mostly I’m stoked to have forward motion again regarding my healing. It’s possible. Healing is still possible. Even in St Louis.

Wish me all the luck!

Plan to Solve Everything

After two weeks out of the hospital sleeping on friends’ couches, talking about my problems and listening to advice, I think I finally have a Plan To Solve Everything ™:
1A) Problem: I’m homeless. Need shelter.
1B) Solution: Go to St Louis next week for rent-free shelter for roughly a month. Won’t be permanent, but will be more stable than sleeping on a different couch every week in Kansas City.
2A) Problem: I’m ill. Need to heal.
2B) Get in with a county health clinic for meds monitoring and therapy.
3A) Problem: I’m broke. Need money.
3B) Solution: Drain retirement money for funds to live on.
4A) Problem: I’ve been living on social services and the finite generosity of friends and family. Need stability. Need something resembling sustainable independence.
4B) Solution: Throw information in with staffing/temp agencies in both KC and StL until I land something. Scour Indeed. One job app a day. Look for data entry/data processing/technical writing/behind the scenes and away from random humans work.
4C) Solution: Once I have money, rent the cheapest place I can find that lets me feel safe. Furnished room in Kansas City plz.
5A) Problem: I’m trans and dysphoric and my transition has been a shitshow. Need safety. Need to look in the mirror and see myself. Need to open my mouth and hear myself. Need stable hormones at safe levels.
5B) Solution: Start electrolysis. Restart voice lessons once I’m recovered enough from surgery. Find a place that does makeup lessons and get a few looks in my kit. Find new doctor, take the safest antiandrogen out there to get my E levels up until I have enough stability to start E injections.
6) Oh right I just had surgery so take it easy or something.
There are others but these are the most pressing right now. The biggest challenge here will be work. I don’t know if I’m healthy enough to work yet, but I have to throw myself at this to know if I can do it or not, and with the power of better living through chemistry I feel like I can at least do the application process until I land something and go from there. Work will directly and indirectly solve so many of these problems (but only because America ties your ability to survive to your ability to sell your labor to someone who adequately values it), assuming I can find a kind of work that won’t wreck my health.
Friends this last year have been an amazing resource with things like resume building, where to apply, interview outfits, job databases, funds for my transition, and other things I didn’t know would be problems until I repeatedly failed at them or found myself out of options and not knowing what to do next. All I will ask now is that if you hear of anything freelancey or project based or writerly in the slightest, please send it my way.
I’ve already had 2 hit and misses with one temp agency last week, and am getting my info in with another today, so I think this plan has an increasing chance of working as long as I keep giving it time and energy each day.
I hate living like this. I want to be able to live a self-determined life again, and not have to struggle to meet my basic needs as much as I have been for the last year and a half.
Time to shine. Wish me luck.

Twitter Attempts to Ban Anti-Trans Discrimination

Will be interesting to see if any of this can stick to 45. In the meantime, here’s a startling statistic.

“In the UK over the last year, the number of hate crimes recorded by the police on the grounds of sexual orientation and being transgender increased by 27% (from 7,194 in 2015-16 to 9,157 in 2016-17) and 45% (from 858 in 2015-16 to 1,248 in 2016-17) respectively.”

Leaving KC

Life Update: I (hopefully) start hormone injections with a doctor I trust in St. Louis next month. As it could take months of labs to test my levels regularly and to learn how to do injections safely and reliably on myself, I will be moving back in with my mother in St Louis.
The irony of re-entering what last year was a life-threatening living environment, so that this year I can address my hormone deficiency in order to save my life (or at the very least remove the barriers living with a hormone deficiency erects before my efforts to build a livable life, dispel its constant debuffs) is not lost on me. Given my means, this is the only realistic solution I can access at the moment. So, I go to St. Louis and live with my mother again while adjusting my hormone levels. Once hormones are set and my vitality is back, I plan the next move. I don’t have the means to get my stuff back to St Louis either, so KC friends are holding on to my belongings while I get my health in order.
Depending on how the hair removal Groupons shuffle out, I may or may not be travelling back and forth from Kansas City once a month in order to do hair removal while being based in St Louis.
Voice lessons start next week with money from the fundraiser. Thank you to everyone who gave!
I’m realizing now that I never should have gone to Kansas City after my arrest. Had I not had the trauma of my arrest to deal with on top of everything else I brought here with me, maybe I’d be looking at a different reality rn. Maybe I would have been able to find work, even with my hormone deficiency and beard and man voice and the insecurities and unmanageable anxiety and real safety issues those bring.

All the planning and fundraising I did in February and March was done under the pretense that KC would be a healthy escape from my mother’s, a place with more opportunity, where I had more community, where the city offered better trans resources, where my place of residence afforded me many potential places of employment within walking distance. That was all before my arrest the weekend before I was supposed to rent the moving van, which I couldn’t rent due to my arrest, and which should have been a sign to call off the move. Friends I spoke with encouraged me to go through with the move anyway, but I should have listened to the part of me that was curled up in a ball screaming hoarse at the void every night, should have known myself better, should have listened to my instinct to withdraw and focus on caring for myself rather than my urge to take on all these new burdens as I had planned to, to buckle down and muscle up and and power through and all that.

I was so eager to gtfo my mother’s that even though I was traumatized from having to deal with law enforcement and from being back in the legal system in the same college town I fled almost a decade ago, I saw a shiny way out of my immediate circumstances and I took it, hoping things would go as I had planned before this new factor rose up and shadowed everything like a DOOM MONOLITH.

The problem was, that monolith followed me to KC. And dealing with it on top of everything else I brought took the three month buffer of not paying rent my landlady had offered me so I could have an easier time finding work and getting settled in this new city, and turned them into 3 months of dealing with escalating trauma and escalating legal consequences and escalating legal fees I couldn’t afford and didn’t know how to pay and the escalating health consequences of carrying that in a foreign city while you’re supposed to be taking on the other burdens of building a life.

This trip became one of encountering my limits and understanding what is and is not possible to power through. I had hoped it would be a trip of putting down roots and finding sources of money to get out from under my maxed credit cards (which are now in collections) and my private student loan (currently in default) and my health problems (which my new fundraiser is finally helping me address, thank you so much).

I know now that the grad school Z who can head an organization planning and hosting and running an interdisciplinary conference, be second in command running a literary magazine and managing a pool of readers and coming up with fundraising strategies and doing layout on final proofs, write her thesis, research her transness, apply to further graduate school, move twice in one school year, and come out to her family all at once…that Z is gone. Or sleeping. Or on hiatus. Maybe not forever, but for now, she needs more rest and more care than she used to, and can’t do all the things at once like she used to.
This is how I understand why I am moving back in with my mother again, after this false start, after doing all this work to get away from that place, after literally a lifetime of putting distance between me and St Louis first by travelling to the middle of nowhere for undergrad, then to the desert for grad school part 1 where I finally felt safe enough to come out, then to the further possible coast for grad school part 2 where I finally felt courageous enough and sure enough of myself to start transitioning, then to LA to try…actually what I was trying in KC (professionalizing while recovering from trauma, which didn’t work there either) then to Knoxville as a way out, then to StL to relearn I couldn’t exist there, then to Knoxville to professionalize (again abortively due to trauma) then back to StL, then to KC to try professionalizing-under-trauma abortively again, just for shits this time I suppose. 
I have learned my lesson. One cannot professionalize when one’s health is in the gutter. So I am addressing what I can with what I have. But I want this to be the last fucking time I return with my head hung low to this accursed city that sucks you in like a singularity and just won’t let go.
Still, this is what I can do for now, so it is what I am doing. Back to St Louis, to heal. I suppose it’s different this time in that I am aware of all this while returning, but it feels so goddam the same already that it is difficult–but not impossible–to have real hope that I can do what I need to do there–HEAL. I need to heal. Hormones, you come first. Voice, you come next. Beard, you’re next-next.
Still, I did a lot of work to heal while in KC. Thanks to the Kansas City Anti-Violence project hooking me up with therapy, thanks to my therapist for being a fucking badass and exactly whom I needed, thanks to KCAVP again helping me get ID, and thanks to both of them for helping me become able to feed myself through food stamps and access to pantries.
KC was not a complete wash. I reconnected with the friends I have here. I healed, I learned how else to heal, learned other angles of healing. I obtained ID, I obtained access to food, and I obtained vital self-knowledge that I NEED to put my health first in all things, or else this cycle of abortive and expensive attempts at professionalizing will continue.
Health comes first. 
If you can, consider giving to my fundraiser. It will help me get my hormones to liveable levels, finish hair removal on my face, and feminize my voice so that internally my body becomes easier to live in, and so that externally I can pass better in public. All of this will long-term help me be a healthier human and one day be able to support myself again. Thank you for anything you can give.