Monday, 29 December 2008

Quick New Year's Question

What is this thing about the person you kiss on New Year's, or the first kiss of the new year, or whatever? I've never heard of this before the last several months. My family always held hands and sang Auld Lang Syne. By always, I mean the years where we were with my extended family, which includes a great-aunt who insists on that. Otherwise we were usually asleep. Last year FG and I were on an airplane at midnight on New Year's Eve. We didn't kiss. We weren't kissing much anyway, in those days. Anyway: is this a newly invented tradition? Or have I been living under a rock, and you all have been kissing away every year since forever?

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Old Resolutions

It's obviously been too long since I blogged. My browser didn't even suggest my URL when I typed butch... though good old Kyle popped right up, of course.

2008 is almost over. It's been a big year for me. January never seems like the right time to start a new year, spring would be more like it, and in fact spring was when my new year started in 2008. But with all this New Year's Resolutions talk in the air, I remembered a post I wrote back in April about what I intended for myself and my life once we got back to Boston. So this post is a sort of accounting about a kind of homecoming, because I want to see how I've done. (The stuff in italics is from the old post.)

Friends around whom I can be myself, no playacting, no tailoring my gender to fit what I think they will find acceptable. I want to be able to as boyish, as butch, as gentle and provocative and gallant as I feel. (Extant candidates: just a few. Interestingly, nearly all are fellow grad students.)
Check. Big giant fucking check on this, yes indeed. And it's even more awesome than I'd imagined, and so fundamental that I can hardly remember what life must have been like without any of that. But none of them are fellow grad students.

A safe place to live. Safe landlords, safe building, safe street. I don’t want to waste my time worrying about roaches or fire escapes or drugdealers.
Yes, I think it's fine, perfectly reasonably safe.

Access to activities nearby, ideally by foot or subway. Readings, shows, cafes, bars.
Well, not quite. Some stuff I walk to. I drive a whole lot more than I used to do, but a lot of that is carpooling, so that's fine, and I'm enjoying the driving, too. And you know, being a designated driver is actually helpful in keeping me from drinking more than I should. The subway is a lot more stressful now that I get stared at a whole lot more. Overall, this one didn't turn out the way I'd imagined, but it doesn't make any real difference.

Enough money budgeted to look good and do things. (This has been a major issue for me—having enough money in fact, but feeling compelled to be frugal and save it while hating my clothes and my life.)
Um, yeah, I'm not having any issues with compulsive frugality any more. ::moving on::

A hairdresser I trust. (Major trauma around this one. I’ve actually been told I have too much hair.)
Yeah, I love her, in fact. She's a little pricey (for me, 'cause I'm cheap, not 'cause she's fancy) and I've been flirting with trying a barbershop. But she's also family and it's so, so relaxing to go there. (Next time: Wednesday, thank god! Getting stupidly shaggy at the moment.)

To be a part of organizations, to do something productive, to have interests that pull me outside of myself and my home. (Extant candidates: two different book clubs, one with a queer focus, the other with a professional focus. Need something besides book clubs. Politics? I really want to start acting on my convictions and working for a change. How do to that? Also, something outdoors related? Walking/hiking?)
Check on this, too, though I'm doing a lot more partying and dancing than I would have thought, and a lot less of being the outdoorsy activist type. I guess that wasn't me after all, or at least, that's not me right now.

To have regular, loving, hot sex.
Oh yeah, baby. Like six hours ago. Thanks again for my Christmas present, sexy woman.

To do yoga, eat decently, sleep decently.
Hm, yoga has been a bit intermittent, but I'm doing a bunch of other related exercise things. Eating and sleeping are fine... well, there was a certain lack of sleep this week, but it was a well thought out violation.

To be able to say no to family interactions/gatherings when I need to, and to be myself there when I say yes.
Ok, the first stumbling block. I'm getting there on saying no. Honestly I had no idea what a major issue that was for me, the sense that I just couldn't refuse my mother anything she asked for. But that's getting sorted out. Being myself with my family? It's been a struggle, with some progress. The progress is internal, though--I don't do the destructive femming-out stuff that I used to do constantly, and so I'm not so devastated inside. But that hasn't always gone over well with family members, which has caused its own kinds of stress. I said to FG this morning that I think my family might slowly be realizing what a stranger a I really am , and on some level always have been, to them.

To be busy, to get tired, to have to hurry to accomplish something because my life is so full, rather than doing every damn little thing with the perfectionism that comes from sheer boredom and loneliness.
Oh, this makes me laugh. Busy? Tired? Yes. I think I'm running at N + 2 at least, where N = the number of things I can plausibly handle in my life. And honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way, not any more.

To have a lesbian context in which to exist, to stretch myself and test myself and be myself.
Interesting to read this... I feel I've found a queer context, not necessarily a lesbian one. And increasingly I think of myself more as queer than as lesbian, per se. Something for a longer, more thoughtful post, perhaps.

To be able to buy sex toys without fear.
My only fear now is for my credit card. Shopping online is fine, and I've stopped in one of our local (good) sex toy shops and browsed though I haven't yet bought anything there. But I'm sure I will, one of these days.

To have –no, to make time for genuinely creative endeavors apart from The Career. Personal/creative writing. Maybe picking up the guitar again. Maybe a creative writing group?
Yes, though all my personal writing has been here and there's been no guitar-playing at all. But the writing I do here is very important to me. And there's the dancing, which has become a significant part of my life. I would like to do something with making things with my hands but that's a long way off for now. There was also our little porch garden over the summer, too, which has turned into an even littler window garden now.

A space dedicated to my professional work—at home or not—so that I can focus on it there and leave it there.
I have the space, more or less. Just a corner of a room but it does stay there. I'm stressed about work at the moment but this too shall pass...

To be able to seek help as/when I need it—counseling, body work, whatever. Not to have to be the Lone-fucking-Ranger all the time who doesn’t need any help. (A big issue for me.)
Well, I hate to end on a down note, but that's still an issue, actually. It's still hard for me to admit weakness or to ask for the help I might really need. That's something I struggle with and I have not found an easy fix for it. We went to a marriage counselor a number of times over the summer and early fall and it was ok... helpful in some ways, kind of useless in others. (The counselor's take on gender identity issues was to ask me if I wanted to transition, and when I said I didn't think so, to figure the matter was completely resolved, to the point of referring to me as a "lady" at one point... just to take one representative gripe.) Anyway we got to the point where the useless outweighed the useful and stopped going but there are still issues out there for me that need addressing.

One of which is that, if I'm going to claim the "decent sleep" thing, I'd better finish this post and go to bed. It may not be too interesting to read, but I'm pleased to discover that I've achieved or made progress on most of my intentions. And in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of everything that's not so great or easy, I wouldn't trade the life I have now for what I had a year ago, not for anything. I love being alive now, even when I'm tired and stressed and up too late.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, warmest wishes to all of you and yours.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas Meme

I've been casting around for something to lighten the season-affective depression mood here. And what better than a Christmas meme? Stolen from Jess.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I like wrapping paper better. And I'm cheap that way, too. But I love how easy gift bags are...

2. Real tree or artificial?
Always real, although I don't have anything against fake ones. I think it would be cool to get a live tree and plant it one day, but that's not feasible for now, given our lack of outdoor space. Our first tree together was so scrawny the lady gave us a discount. It was more like a branch, stuck into a little pine disc with a hole in the middle. Then there was the year we carried a medium-small tree two miles through the city back to our apartment. I'll never forget the look of wonder on one little boy's face as we passed. Did he think we were Santa's elves? Or the Grinch's henchmen?

3. When do you put up the tree?
My family had a rule about not putting the tree up until Christmas Eve. We'd buy it a week before and leave it outside. Then, my mom would spend all day Christmas Eve cleaning. In the mid-afternoon my dad would put the tree up, and then either he and I or my brother and I would string the lights around it. (By this time my parents had usually had their annual Christmas Eve fight.) And then, torture of tortures, we had to sit and have dinner before actually decorating the tree. But it was pretty magical to look at the freshly decorated tree for the first time, before going to bed to await Christmas morning.

FG and I are not so strict, though it's usually not more than a few days ahead of Christmas. One year we didn't have time to even buy the tree until Christmas Eve. That was some scrambling--we thought we might not find one, actually. This year, I don't know... no tree yet, but I expect one of us will suggest we do it sooner or later.

4. When do you take the tree down?
The family tradition was New Year's Day, and I've basically stuck with that. FG gets pretty stressed about the tree not staying up too long (that's *her* family trauma) so getting the tree down in an expedient, non-stressed way is something I can do for her.

5. Do you like eggnog?
I used to drink it like it was going out of style. Seriously, I'd go through cartons of the stuff. Now it's a bit too sweet for me. But yeah, I agree with Jess: add plenty of booze and it picks up considerably.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
No idea. I got a lot of presents as a kid and found Christmas a little overwhelming, honestly. I never knew how to seem appropriately grateful, and all of it was stuff I was kind of neutral about anyway (stuffed animals, Barbie dolls).

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
No. We both had creche scenes we were attached to as kids but have never found one that seems right for our household. Maybe someday, maybe not.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
I'm not great at buying presents. Either inspiration hits or it doesn't. I finally learned to stop buying people books I either loved to death or wanted for myself or both. When FG and I were going through bad times, I had a very hard time buying presents for her. She got some stinkers as a result. (How romantic is a $10 Chinese tea pot? I mean, really.)

9. Easiest person to buy for?
FG, generally speaking. The only limitation is money--there's so many things I'd like to get her. But I know she'd like us to stay solvent, too. ;)

Oh yeah, the cats are easy to buy for, too. And yes, they've got their own stockings. How sappy is that? But they're cute.

10. Worst Christmas gift ever received?
My aunt used to send, for Christmas and birthday, little dresses or frilly nightgowns. The really awful part was that she shopped for them based on my cousin's size. Although she's two weeks older, I've always, always been bigger. Luckily my mom didn't make me wear them, but they always made me feel terrible anyway. Knowing she meant well (she lived across the country and didn't really know me at all) helped, though.

11. Mail or E-mail Christmas card?
To receive? Mail. We used to send lots of cards by mail, too, but not so much any more. Yes, you see the theme emerging, we've really become pagan heathens over here.

12. Favorite Christmas movie?
It's A Wonderful Life. I know, I know. I can't help it. I cry every. single. time. Donna Reed completely melts my heart and I identify with George Bailey 100%. Zuzu's petals, the fight with the teacher's husband, oh don't get me started.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Haha, today! Except I bought FG's major present weeks ago, and gave it to her then, too.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Of course, lots of times. What am I supposed to do with all those terrible candles from random people? That's what they did too, right? There's just a few of those candles making endless circuits through Secret Santas and Yankee Swaps, I'm convinced.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
We have a little tradition of making something new each year for our Christmas celebration. So I'm going to say, whatever FG comes up with for the new thing each year. Now, there's one exception to that, when she made something so awful that words cannot do it justice. FG, this is your story, my dear. And may I suggest you beg her to post the pictures, too? Oh my god, the pictures.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
I love them all: big and darkly colored, little and brightly colored, clear, pink. For my own tree, my only preference is not to have them blink.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Jehovah (this isn't super common but I like it--it's about the birth story, and all the logistical problems of finding a place to stay, and the refrain is Jehovah, Hallelujah, the Lord will provide. I'm not really religious at all but I find that a very comforting song & notion.)
I also like Bruce Springsteen's version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and I've always loved Silent Night.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. My favorite Christmases are the ones FG and I have spent together, enjoying the peace of the day, making a special supper, playing with whatever new toys we've gotten each other...

19. Can you name Santa’s reindeer?
No, Santa did that already. It would be rude to give them new names at this point.

20. Do you have an angel on top of the tree or a star?
A funny blue blown glass ornament that I call a star but it isn't, exactly. But it belonged to my grandparents and they gave it to us for our own household and it means a lot to me as a result.

21. Open presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Usually Christmas morning. Sometimes one the night before. Two years ago, we opened them all the night before. Good thing, because FG was coming down with the chicken pox and was too sick to do anything by Christmas day.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
How stressed people get and how much negative family energy gets generated. There are such high expectations to achieve in such a short time that there's always disappointment. I'd rather have it be a time of quiet, winter-solstice reflection, without all the booze and presents and enforced togetherness that isn't always desired or appropriate.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

"You Can't Take The Weight of a Single Ounce of Shame"

If it's gotten boring over here, blame my dissertation. I'm trying to finish it this year and folks, it's getting me down. I don't want to write too much about my professional stuff here but let's just say poor Freedom Girl is probably sick to death of hearing me rant about whether I'll ever finish and why I can't write short drafts and how miserable I am. And also how working in a room that hovers around 60 degrees Fahrenheit most of the time is not impossible, but is not massively pleasant, either. End of rant. Follow me on Twitter if you want this self-pity in real time.

Jess
wrote recently about making a plan to live and eat more healthily. It's an admirable goal. For me, the thing I need to make a goal for is not so much how I eat (it's ok, I'm not worried about it, and FG makes sure I don't run off the rails too much and survive on cheese, granola bars, and coffee alone). It's more about mental health.

::crickets::

That's not easy to write about... but here it goes... as I've mentioned before, I have a problematic relationship with my family. My dad and I didn't even talk for over three years, and though things are ok there now, well, there's some leftover baggage, how could there not be? And more pressingly, my relationship with my mom is just so damn fraught. I sometimes wonder if I should migrate to Wordpress and do a whole series of ranting passworded posts about her which no one would actually have to read, of course, but which might do me some good. Is that a big hassle for everyone, the Wordpress migration? Or is there any way yet to password protect a Blogger post?

I blogress. So there are issues. And mostly I muddle through, putting FG through lengthy sessions of venting and decompressing after family visits or phone calls, but mostly getting on with life. Other times, though, I have to be honest: I fucking fall apart. The scary thing for me is that I don't know know what will set me off, or when.

As Tina would say, TMI ahead.

The other night, FG and I were messing around. And in the course of this messing around, which was getting serious but had not yet progressed to getting nekkid, she grabbed my boxer shorts, a handful on either side, and pulled me down towards her, and I freaked out. I felt myself grow cold and a wave of feeling tiny, small, helpless, and saturated with shame overcame me. Gently, I disengaged from her, and tried to explain what was wrong. Of course she felt terrible, though it was not her fault at all, really. I really couldn't move past feeling upset. She tried to comfort me and I couldn't let her even touch me. Eventually I explained enough and she went to sleep, as did I eventually; the only way I could get comfortable was curled up tight, one arm in my stomach and the other over my neck. For context... ass-grabbing is a perfectly normal & acceptable part of our repertoire. But something about pulling my shorts instead triggered something in my head. I don't know exactly what it was, though. I'm pretty stone, and that's fine with me, but this was something more, this was not a sane boundary but a minefield of distress that I've barely even acknowledged.

In the course of talking about this incident the next night, and all the feelings about my childhood and myself that it brought up, FG said two things that struck me and that have led me to write this post. One was that I really, really need to talk this stuff over with a therapist. So, I thought, if Jess can post her physical health goals, maybe I should post my mental health goals, too. I'm reluctant and it's logistically a bit challenging (see re: dissertation, above) but in the new year, I aim to start to address these problems in a systematic way, with hopefully effective professional help.

The second thing she said was that she can't be my entire support system; and in the context of that, she said how I go through life and everything seems ok, and, "I'm the only one who knows something is wrong." That's a powerful point. I think somewhere in my head I believe that if only she sees me fall apart, it means I've got it under control. Which of course is nonsense. So to lighten her burden, if only symbolically, and in a gesture of combating shame, I'm saying to all of you--I go through life, and mostly it's fine, but something is wrong, and I know I need to deal with it, and I'm working on it.

Post title: Melissa Etheridge, "Heroes & Friends"

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Monogamy, Part II

Hey, thanks for all those thoughtful comments on my last post. I'm not sure posting it was as courageous as you give me credit for--it's nothing that FG and I haven't already talked about, at length, in one form or another, for one thing. But I'm not sure my balls have ever gotten that much praise all at once, so thank you on their behalf, too.

One point I want to clarify is that I absolutely don't think monogamy is correlated with boredom. We've had boring times and toe-curling, hair-standing-on-end, scream-so-the-neighbors-across-the-street-can-hear exciting times and everything in between, through a decade and a half of monogamy. And my current thinking is not fuelled by a sense of boredom. I don't write about sex too much here but... boredom, not an issue in these parts at the moment. (FG's cough & ear infection? The two wisdom teeth I had extracted on Wednesday? Those are the obstacles to fun & games here.)

LL Cool Joe and others pointed out that there are other ways of defining faithfulness and intimacy as well, and maybe that's really the larger point I'm trying to get to: connection and intimacy (not necessarily sexual) with people outside of our singular relationship, which will hopefully strengthen us, singly & together, rather than tearing us apart.

This is a huge deal to me, perhaps more than to a lot of people. (Including, I suspect, the ever-patient FG herself.) To say that my childhood was characterized by solitude would be a serious understatement. I went to school, I had friends, but I spent unusually large swaths of time strictly alone and at home. And I also spent a lot of time being my mom's main companion. So this business of connecting to other people, and especially of finding for myself, in a variety of friendships, the emotional sustenance and support I need... well, it is a big freaking deal, and I'm all over the map about it.

I'm feeling a little radical, too, perhaps in a long-overdue reaction to my convent-like upbringing, and not wanting to place any limitations on us from the start--friendship is ok but crushes are not, flirting is ok but touching is not, this part of you is yours to share but that other part is mine alone. I'm feeling tired of relationships as possession, and perhaps it's not really about monogamy at all, but about shaking off some very, very old chains.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Monogamy

It's been on my mind lately. FG and I have been together nearly fifteen years. As readers of the last post will have gathered, we got together in high school. We've had plenty of problems over the years but we've both been strictly faithful the whole time. (Or, to be realistic, I have been, and if she hasn't I don't know about it. But honestly? I think we've both been faithful.)

Some of that time was characterized by hot sex and mad jealousy; I was insanely jealous over a series of straight guys, always convinced that eventually she was going to 'come to her senses' and 'get a real man'. (I mentioned the self-hatred and internalized homophobia sometime, right? Sigh.) And then after our marriage we sank into a long stretch of what doesn't qualify as lesbian bed death but was surely lesbian bed terminal illness. I was the one saying things like, "No, we have sex! I remember, we had it ... wait... was it last Saturday or the one before? But it was nice, right? Wasn't it?" I was so out of touch with myself that it was literally a nightmare to have to be naked and intimate; not because she wasn't sexy and hot (believe me, she always has been) but because I was so ashamed of myself and in such denial about how my sexuality and gender worked.

Part of what has been revolutionary about this year for me has been a full-on sexual reawakening. And part of the reawakening has been a new awareness of sexual attraction towards other women, and from them, too. This is true for FG, too, she tells me (though her experience of our lbti was much different from mine).

This brings up lots of difficult issues. Sometimes I think, I'm going to die and I'll only have slept with one person, and it drives me batty. And I think, I've locked up her and my own sexuality for so long--I thought on such a deep level that marriage was about deluding some pitying woman to chain her life to yours at your one moment of attractiveness--isn't it time to break out a little bit? What if we negotiated some freedom? Would that even work? Could I withstand the jealousy of her being intimate with anyone else? (Yeah, there's a double standard at work here in my head; I'm not defending it but there's no sense in lying about it either.) Would that be fair to the potential other people involved? How does any of this work in real life, outside of permanent committed polyamory situations (which is not what I'm talking about or looking for)?

As you can deduce from the previous paragraph being written all in question form, I don't have any answers about any of this. One thing I know is that the only prospect that seems just chokingly, unbearably sad is that of not having her in my life and by my side.

And the other thing I know is that I don't want to repeat the layers of jealousy, controlling, and hypocrisy that was modeled for me in my parents' marriage(s). I don't think it all comes down to sex, either; I remember my dad would be in trouble even for seeming to notice a pretty woman on the television. I don't know if FG and I ever will try sex with other people, at least as long as we're together; but I do know that I'm relieved to be done being the jailer of her sexuality, her ability to flirt and dance and feel alive outside the tight orbit of our relationship. More and more that ability seems to me to be a fundamental human right, something no one has the right to steal from another.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Damn Fine

In response to my last post, the lovely greg asked, "Do you remember the first moment that you realized you were in love with FG?"

Well! As it so happens, I do. But like any perfect moment, it requires some background.

FG and I grew up in a small, insular town where you basically knew everyone who was your age, +/- one grade. So we knew each other but we didn't start really hanging out until the summer I turned fourteen, which was also the summer before we started attending the same school. I was entering high school, she was starting at that school as a sophomore. Even that summer I was becoming infatuated... there were those endless, unspeakably fascinating conversations of early love, both of us on my kitchen floor, or over the phone while I walked barefoot on the kitchen counters or leaned out the bathroom window.

On the first day of school I remember thinking about her all day--it was a special orientation day for freshmen and new students, so she was there, and I kept imagining where in the building she was or what she might be doing. It didn't take long for us to start finding reasons to run into each other between every class, sit together at lunch, the whole nine yards. Occasionally I wondered what I was doing but honestly the drive just to be in her presence was so strong I didn't think about much else.

(Of course I wasn't thinking about whether this was a crush. I was a girl, and girls didn't have crushes on girls. Full stop, end of conversation. In fact, don't even start that conversation. That's how it went in my head.)

Towards the middle of September, or maybe earlier, I don't remember the exact date, there was some sort of assembly that was, again, just for freshmen and new students. On the way back I walked with FG and another new sophomore, who made a sardonic remark about having to spend so much time with the "damn freshmen."

FG half-glanced at me and replied, "Well, I've been spending time with a freshman. And a damn fine one, too!"

And that was it. Bang, hey presto, it's all over: I was in love. I still remember the hallway being soaked with honey-colored sunshine, feeling invincible and like my knees were about to give way, a new painful joy that started in my heart and throbbed out past my fingertips and toes.

I don't know if I said anything in more or just wandered off to my library orientation, grinning stupidly. But I remember smiling all the way through the presentation on call numbers and card catalogues, and thinking: "I'm in love. I don't care what this means. I don't care. I'm in love, and I'm never going to forget this happiness."

And I haven't.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Reflections, Miscellaneous

It's gotten a bit quiet in here.

I went to the protest in Boston over Prop. 8 etc. on Saturday. It was my first public protest and while I didn't find it transformative in the moment, I find that my feelings on politics, particularly queers politics and the politics of queers and the politics you can't avoid just because you are queer, have undergone quite a shift over the past several weeks. I was raised not to give offense, ever, to anyone, and so it's something new to stand around with 5,000 of my closest friends outside Government Center shouting about my civil rights, that's for sure. But even more new for me is the talking out and talking back, not letting a conversation peter out when I feel uncomfortable but pressing on and making the best case I can for challenging the passage of Prop. 8 in the courts or whatever it is.

All this politics, and it's all so important, and tomorrow's Trans Day of Remembrance, too. I'm not able to take part in anything formal but I'll be thinking about all those who have suffered and died for being transgender. (Well, does anyone transgender not suffer, in this society? But that's another topic entirely.) I really hope all this galvanizing over Prop. 8 ends up being inclusive and expansive. We need an end to violence and we need civil rights; we need equal protection, full stop.

And in the midst of all this, real life flows on, too, of course. I distract FG from her homework and drag her off to the bedroom (oh yes I do). And I make up for all that (not so) wasted time by making a couple of big pans of lasagna, which fed us for most of the first half of this week. I gave a presentation and it went well and I feel better about my work than I have in a long time. And I keep on learning to dance and building new friendships and rehabilitating old ones and crushing and sending cyberhugs to Jess & Tina and wishing they were real ones.

And between all those shifts in political consciousness and the press of daily life, there's still the ongoing drama of my life, the sorting out of my past and my relationship with FG and my gender, oh, always gender with me. But who really wants to hear, right now, about my complicated reaction to the middle-aged couple who, when I passed them on the sidewalk, hissed to each other "that's different" and "uh, yeah"? I'm not sure I'm even interested enough to write about it.

But I miss you all and so here is this miscellania of my consciousness, offered up from a dear friend's guest room where I am spending the night. Is there anything you want to know that I might write about? What should we write about now? Is it really the dawn of a new era, or am I just sleepy and typing nonsense with chilly fingers?

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Daily Life chez MacCool: A Photo Meme

The posting of this meme proves several things:

1. I am nearly incapable of saying no to a good-looking woman. You want more memes, Renee? You got it, baby.

2. I cannot stop stealing things from MLC, even if we would make a queer couple. (Yeah, we would. But the dogs would like us.)

3. My cats are unusually fine.

4. Blogging is my main form of procastination this week, yet...

5. I am not finding the energy to write about all the weighty, and even relevant, topics banging around in my head. Maybe one of these days.

But in the meantime, I present you with my very first PHOTO MEME!

The rules:
Get up and take the following pictures:

- your bed as soon as everyone is out of it and before you make it
- the contents of your medicine cabinet
- the contents of your refrigerator
- favorite place in your home

don’t arrange things
just take the picture
post pix without editing

It doesn't say to tag anyone, but just for good measure, I'm tagging Jess.

OK, first the bed.

Damn I love those cats. And the Red Sox.

And now the medicine cabinet.

God, that's a bit bleak, isn't it? Bathroom items belonging to the femme half of this household stored elsewhere, it should go without saying...

Refrigerator (oh, I bet the excitement is killing you).

It doesn't look great, but the brownies hidden by the foil on the bottom shelf were made by FG and totally rock.

And finally, my favorite place, which at the moment is my cozy desk area.
And there you have it.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Random Meme for a New Start

Stolen from a blogger I'm steadily falling in love with, Mid-Life Clarity. My last post was so depressing, I want something different to start this new week off.

What color are your socks right now? Black. Long black woolly socks because it's cold in here and I am planning on wearing boots later.

What are you listening to right now? Nothing. But the last thing I listened to was "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba. Remember them? Major flashback to 1997.

What was the last thing that you ate? Cold leftover pizza. Breakfast of champions.

Can you drive a stick shift? Daily.

Last person you spoke to on the phone? FreedomGirl

How old are you today? 29. I swear it's true.

What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Pro football. I know, I know, there's no defense for it, but I find it completely absorbing. I swear I feel it when the QB gets sacked. I would love to be the NFL's first female lefty QB. Don't hold your breath.

What is your favorite drink? At the moment? Sam Adams.

Have you ever dyed your hair? Nope. But I've found a gray hair or two so this may be in my future. I'd go for something totally different though, bleached or black or something.

Favorite food? Cheese. Of almost any kind.

What is the last movie you watched? Itty Bitty Titty Committee.

Favorite day of the year? Like MLC, I can't answer this one. The best days sneak up on you with their joy & wonder.

How do you vent anger? Oh, the usual ways... I throw stuff and say unkind things in a loud voice. Vent constructively? Singing too loud in the car, I guess.

What was your favorite toy as a child? I don't remember. I liked digging though, trenches and holes and whatnot. I liked mucking around generally, so I guess I'll say mud.

What is your favorite season? Spring.

Cherries or blueberries? I hope I never have to choose.

Living arrangements? Been living with FG basically since I moved out of my mom's house, over a decade ago now.

When was the last time you cried? Saturday night. A long hard conversation on all the pain we've caused each other and a lot of bottled up anger, growing up gendered wrong, loss & grief & the usual suspects.

What is on the floor of your closet? Some shoes, some bins of stuff, some cat hair.

What did you do last night? Made a mix CD, went for a long drive & walk in the dark with FG.

What are you most afraid of? Wasting my life through fear.

Plain, cheese, or spicy cheese hamburger? Cheeseburger (well, cheese soyaburger these days).

Favorite dog breed? I love them all, especially the big proper doggie ones. Mixes are great. My great canine love (so far) was a golden retriever. I dream of a german shepherd in my future. Border collies are awesome but not likely for me as I don't have a herd of sheep handy.

Favorite day of the week? Friday. So much potential.

How many states have you lived in? Four.

Diamonds or ruby? Erm, rubies I guess? I really don't care about gemstones.

What is your favorite flower? How can you dislike a flower? Daisies make me especially happy, as do sunflowers.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Limits of Tolerance

I've been trying to think of what to say next since the election. I haven't figured it out yet but I'm posting today anyway because I just can't leave that picture at the top of the page forever.

I'm deeply happy about the presidential election. I remember the sense of joy and possibility of the first months of the Clinton administration (I'm not really that old, I was just a political nerd as an adolescent) and I think that, coming after the Bush administration, 2009 is going to be some kind of something for us as a political nation. I'm looking forward to it.

And, of course, I'm incredibly disappointed that the gay civil rights movement was handed a series of eviscerating defeats. To lose on marriage in California, Arizona, and Florida, and even more hurtfully on fostering & adoption in Arkansas, during a year of progressive change and hope is demoralizing. There's been a wealth of thoughtful writing about this in our beautiful little corner of the blogosphere. Honey captured my feelings particularly eloquently: "I am left with a feeling more of being impressed than proud, fascinated than inspired, an outsider to the excitement shared by so many of the people around me."

I'm not surprised by this feeling in myself; it's as familiar as rain. The world of people who might vote for Obama and against us does not strike me as foreign; it's the limits of liberal tolerance, the sense that gay rights are granted by a straight noblesse oblige, and that we can damn well play by their rules and at their pace if we want to be granted anything at all. I was raised to think that gay people, while inherently icky, should be tolerated as human beings--as long as they didn't flaunt themselves. (Straight PDA was also regarded dubiously but only in extreme cases.) Even now only one family member has contacted me after the election out of all that I made the case against Prop. 8 to; and even he said that, after all, gay civil rights might have to wait until we'd figured out 'survival' (the economy, the environment). Linaria said it well in a comment at Sugarbutch: "There are the people who actively oppose gay marriage, and there are the people who believe it’s a “special interest issue,” and those two categories encompass everyone who is not gay in this country..." I would expand her remark beyond the marriage issue, and suggest that it applies to the whole spectrum of legal and social discrimination and violence practiced against LGBT folks. Most people I know think the right thing, on a superficial level at least, but there's only so dirty they want to get their hands. There is a hard limit to their tolerance and we're walking right into it at the moment. No wonder it hurts.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Radclyffe Wilde

For Tina, since neither of us are ready for the weekend to be over: a not so great shot of my Halloween costume... design credits to Freedom Girl, who looked smoking hot in her own costume(s), but I will leave that to her to tell you more about. (Can I mention that there were fishnets involved? Oops, I just did...)

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Basking in post-kd haze of happiness

I just saw kd lang twice, on Monday & Tuesday. It was so insanely awesome. She was funny and political and passionate and damn, she really is the best singer I have ever heard. Jess came with me to the first show and we were both in awe... getting to see kd up there, completely rocking the butch thing as Jess said, was amazing. The next night we took our beautiful dates with us and it was just as fantastic. I actually got a little teary-eyed during Hallelujah, holding T.'s hand and remembering when we first discovered this song, and thinking about everything that's happened since.

In between shows there was some great hanging out, not to mention a very tasty lasagna dinner. A weekend away with two concerts (and a dead car battery all the fault of yours truly, but let's skip over that part with a brief nod towards T.'s tough-guy femme heroism) should be the sort of thing that leaves you needing a weekend from your weekend. But I gotta say, when kd lang is the entertainment and Jess and Tina are the hosts, that's not the case. I feel relaxed and renewed and so, so glad to be here, at this moment in my life, with these friends and role models and T. still by my side.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Just a Little Post About Marriage

I'm married. All kinds of married, actually. And I don't write about it a lot, I don't even usually refer to T. as my wife, though I do call her Mrs. MacCool, just between us. Longtime readers (or those with a taste for the archives) might remember that we took off our wedding rings this spring in a gesture of ending a very dysfunctional, unhappy time in our relationship and starting anew. (I don't miss the ring, though I occasionally wake up terrified that I've lost it somewhere, grabbing my finger in confusion until I remember it's safe in my jewelry box, with T.'s rings.)

We first put those wedding rings on during our commitment ceremony, which took place in March 2002. Those moments when we were saying our vows, seemingly alone in the universe, are some of my most precious memories.

There followed a string of legal semi-commitments: a muncipal domestic partnership (or maybe two?), a whole lot of signing forms swearing that we were mutually interdependent and committed so that she could get health insurance through my work, you probably all know the drill.

And then we found ourselves living in Massachusetts once again, and we got legally married on June 12, 2005. We jokingly say that we eloped this time: it was just us and our minister (after a trip to City Hall, of course), on a drenchingly hot, sticky day. Then we went to the beach and watched barnacles open and close under water, and had dinner overlooking the harbor. It was awesome.

I think marriage has some major issues as a social and cultural institution. And I regret a lot about the ways in which I've treated my own marriage, or to put it differently, my relationship with T. in the first six years following our first ceremony. Most of all I regret taking her for granted as much as I did.

But I've never once regretted our legal union. The legal status, recognition, and protection mean an enormous amount. They take all sorts of anxieties off the table (though not all--our Massachusetts marriage is still far from equal in the federal context), and give me a sense of equality that is really something. It's not ultimately about whether I think marriage is a perfect social form or not; it's about, to paraphrase the California Supreme Court, equal protection under the law.

For a while it looked like our marriage was in imminent danger of being undone by a proposal to amend the state constitution. Our amendment process is lengthy and complicated. I thought I'd be voting on an amendment this fall, but as it turned out, our Legislature didn't let it get that far. Still, I remember the sense of threat and insecurity, which even now is never entirely absent; it's only a fraction, though, of what married queer Californians are going through right now.

On the slight chance that you're reading this, and you're a US citizen, and you haven't already done whatever it is you can do to defeat Proposition 8 in California, head on over to one of these web sites.

No on Prop 8
Lesbiandad (see the right-hand column for a full panoply of No on 8 links & info)

And finally, my own humiliating contribution to Looky, Daddy's series on Because Everyone Has the Right to Be Awesome:

Because everyone has the right to get married on the cusp of a massive gender identity crisis, and to wear the resulting bizarre pseudo-glam-rocker outfit, LEGALLY:
(cropped to remove not only my head but also the worst footwear choice of my life. My bride looked much better, I should add.)

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Because I Think Some Self-Mockery Is In Order

First off, thank you so much for your kind comments on my rant on Saturday. They really did make me feel a ton better. (The pizza & beer was good, too, but I want to take each of you who offered a beer up on your offer one of these days.)

And secondly, courtesy of the awesome Musodyke, the results of my personality defect quiz. Let's just say, when T. heard the results, she said, "This thing is more accurate than I would have thought..." But I swear, I don't look like that dude at all.

Your result for The Personality Defect Test...

Haughty Intellectual

You are 57% Rational, 14% Extroverted, 43% Brutal, and 57% Arrogant.


You are the Haughty Intellectual. You are a very rational person, emphasizing logic over emotion, and you are also rather arrogant and self-aggrandizing. You probably think of yourself as an intellectual, and you would like everyone to know it. Not only that, but you also tend to look down on others, thinking yourself better than them. You could possibly have an unhealthy obsession with yourself as well, thus causing everyone to hate you for being such an elitist twat. On top of all that, you are also introverted and gentle. This means that you are just a quiet thinker who wants fame and recognition, in all likelihood. Like so many countless pseudo-intellectuals swarming around vacuous internet forums to discuss worthless political issues, your kind is a scourge upon humanity, blathering and blathering on and on about all kinds of boring crap. If your personality could be sculpted, the resulting piece would be Rodin's "The Thinker"--although I am absolutely positive that you are not nearly as muscular or naked as that statue. Rather lacking in emotion, introspective, gentle, and arrogant, you are most certainly a Haughty Intellectual! And, most likely, you will never achieve the recognition or fame you so desire! But no worries!

Take The Personality Defect Test at HelloQuizzy

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Big Jerk

That's what the card I bought T. this afternoon says. Inside it says, sorry.

The day started off ok. I cleaned up our container garden for winter and changed the screens to storms in the front door. Then I started hanging curtains and wasting time and everything that's been making me mad recently just kind of bubbled to the surface. The high point was probably me slamming a curtain rod to the floor and making an unnecessarily jerky comment about one of T.'s family members. Nice, huh? So much for chivalry.

Finally I got myself together enough to get out of the house (civilly) and went for a six-mile walk. I kept walking until I'd calmed down and my head had cleared, and then I stopped by a pond, lay down, and let the sun soak into my face.

Lots of things have me on edge right now. I have a lot of work-related pressure, which ordinarily isn't a big problem for me. But at the moment I'm sick to death of my work. It feels like the ultimate good-girl profession, like something I chose in order to please my family and isolate myself from the world. I look at the series of hurdles ahead of me for promotion and career success and I just think, fuck it. I'm so over this treadmill. I was valedictorian of my high school class and honestly? I regret it, in a way. I regret using my being smart as a way out, as a way to be acceptable and to connect with people, as a way to 'deserve' my family's approval. I regret getting caught up in the cycle of rewards and achievement. In high school I also had a manual-labor job and I kind of wish I'd stuck with that, or something like it. Landscaping maybe, I'm good at that. Anyway it makes it hard to muster the energy to do anything work-related, while the deadlines pile up and I wonder, what am I doing?

Then there's family stuff. Not getting into that here for privacy reasons. Just adding it to my list of complaints.

And then there's the sense of loss and wasted time. I look at my new friends and acquaintances and I feel so incredibly happy. But how did I spend nearly thirty years with 'friends' who mostly actually didn't really like me? What was wrong with me? Why is this path, this life, this identity, so hard? (Cue violins, I realize this is a giant pity party, but it's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.) We went to a performance the other night that included the seemingly superficial line, imagine your life without homophobia. But as a friend pointed out, in fact, our lives would be unrecognizable had they been lived in a world without homophobia. Using my analogies from the other day, what would my youth have been like if my family had said, in addition to oh she's lefthanded, oh she has a boy soul? What if we didn't have to worry about random violence and harassment for how we look? What if T.'s colleagues' curiosity really felt only benign, and not like I was on the boundary of their definition of fully human? I think spending time with other butches and genderqueers etc. has really made me feel this stuff so much more strongly, partly because of the contrast with the sheer joy and calm and connection of hanging out with them, and partly because I see what they've been through and go through, and it's something different to see your own anxieties and heartbreaks walking around in front of you, lived by someone else, too.

And I haven't had enough time to work out, either. And I'm hungry. OK, with that, I'm off to pick up some pizza and open a beer. If you've made it through this post, I have the feeling I'm going to owe you a "Big Jerk - Sorry" card, too.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Seven (More) Things About Me

I am deeply touched by Sublime Femme’s faith that the blogging world can stand reading seven more factoids about me. Rest assured that I have re-read my first such meme to ensure that there will be, in fact, SEVENTEEN unique bits of MacCool trivia available for anyone following along at home. (Anyone? Hello out there?)

OK, here it goes.

First, da rulz:

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I started carrying white handkerchiefs (for the purpose of having them to offer to damsels in distress) not only before I identified as butch, but before I was even out of the closet. And I had no idea ANYONE ELSE had ever done such a thing outside of the movies. Imagine my surprise.
2. I broke my nose playing basketball in college. I am really awful at basketball but I was trying to impress a certain pretty girl. Oddly enough I think she was more impressed by the broken nose than my basketball playing. How about that?
3. I got two parking tickets in the last week. That’s not random, I realize (I mean, I was parked illegally in both cases) but I want an excuse to vent my self-pity.
4. The food I miss most from my non-vegetarian past is pepperoni pizza.
5. I like peanut butter & butter sandwiches much more than peanut butter & jelly. I’m not big on sweet stuff but salty stuff drives me crazy.
6. I checked Gwyneth Paltrow out on the street once and didn’t realize it was her until a block later. (The hot celebrity fan-stay-back glare isn’t that different from the standard straight girl queer-stay-back glare, I discovered.)
7. I can’t stand Coldplay and if I’m honest, I have to admit it’s partly that I’m jealous that he gets to have sex with Gwyneth Paltrow and I don’t. But I’d categorize their music under the general heading of “straight boy crap” anyway so it’s not total hypocrisy. (Apologies to anyone whose musical sensibilities I’ve just offended. I don’t mean it personally.)

And I’m tagging:

Packing Vocals

Femme Is My Gender
Queer Rose
Butch Boo
Freedomgirl
Femme Hinterland
SaintChick

Monday, 13 October 2008

Just a thought

We drove down to Washington this past weekend... well, I drove, and T. tried to get homework done. Something about a long ride makes for talking, I think. On the way down, after dark, as we passed through Delaware and then Baltimore, the discussion turned to gender. (You're shocked, I know.)

And maybe it was the dark, maybe it was the keeping my eyes on the road, maybe it was being alone in the car with her, just the two of us passing through a strange city. But I found able to say how I feel so much more simply and clearly than before.

I feel like I was born just fine. I was born with a masculine soul and a female body, but this seemed natural and comfortable to me. And then at some point, round about age 4, the terrible fact was revealed that this combination was not fine at all. It was labeled shame in the world I was born into.

I made an analogy to being left-handed (which I also am): it's the most natural, comfortable thing in the world, but after a while it is impossible to miss the fact that everything around you is backwards, designed for the right-handed people. Except that being left-handed is no longer shameful in our society.

Like the title says, this post is just for this thought, which somehow made clear to me why I don't feel like a balance of feminine and masculine but I also don't feel a desire to transition. It's because this masculine soul in this female body seems ok to me.

(This post started out as a comment over on Honey's recent post on gender, which is definitely worth a read if you haven't read it yet.)

Addendum to Thought: which is in no way to underplay how differently I live in this body, the way I walk, the way I dress, what I want and don't want in bed. And which is never, god forbid, to imply that there are neat categories, male/female bodies, masculine/feminine souls, that go without saying, that exist only as binaries, that are useful for more than strategic rhetorical aims. Indeed I realize even the soul/body distinction is suspect, and that my sense of self is perhaps worrying in its echoes of soul-culture-male/body-nature-female. And yet, and yet. How else to describe this sense of being, this embodiment?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Crush

Life has been jam packed recently, travel and more travel, work and more work, job applications and dancing and friends. I'm not complaining, in fact it's exactly what I want and what I need, but it means that I have been remiss in posting here.

And so a week has gone by and I have not even written about this amazing thing. You know how (straight) girls use the phrase 'girl crush' to mean a sort of infatuated hero worship thing in regards to another girl? It's always irritated me a little but I'm reclaiming it here, because I am seriously crushing on this person in exactly that way.

We went out the other night. From the moment she walked in the room I was in awe and it lasted all night. She embodied the exact female masculinity that feels most natural to me, but she did it with decision, certainty, panache, authority. She backed me up, humorously, when T. back seat drove (I was driving) and handled a random drunk guy on the street with grace and calm. She made fun of me when I got nervous and femmed out, and when she praised my parallel parking I let myself enjoy it, just a little, just for a moment.

This is not the eloquent post I've imagined writing all week. But this sort of thing never is eloquent, is it? But look, the thing is, I've never really met someone and thought, that. That's what I want to be when I grow up. And I've read about the baby butch thing and the butch mentor thing and I don't know if this is where this is going, really, in any more formal or elaborate sense. But I know I'm grateful to her for having the balls to exist the way she does and for letting me see it. And I wanted to let you all know about it, even in this awkward, haphazard, blushing and stumbling over my feet kind of way.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Lonely in the Desert: A Post of Unbridled Narcissism

Here I am on the last night of a work-related conference, wasting time before our closing dinner. It's been an intense, busy weekend. I'm not great at this stuff, mingling and chatting and all that. In the past I've felt ineffably backward, wrong, and out of place. This time was different, especially since I was aware of the need to forge of professional identity that will fit with my sense of self. On the one hand I felt like I was always carrying difference with me, queerness dragging behind me like a cape. On the other hand I was more comfortable with myself, and that made it easier to connect with people, too. I actually spent a lot of time hanging out with some (straight) women here and really enjoying it, not in a flirtatious sense at all but just as colleagues and human beings. That's not something I get to do very often. (Not that I usually flirt with straight women, not at all, it's usually just much more awkward and wary.)

And yet. I feel tired, I miss queer people, I really miss my apartment and my girl. Finding vegetarian food here has been a real hassle and I'm hungry. There's a black bug (or a gaggle of them?) crawling across my hotel room floor, back and forth. It creeps me out but I don't have the heart to kill it, or the energy to carry it all the way downstairs and out through the lobby. Stupid windows don't open.

I have a long day of traveling tomorrow and then the next day I'm supposed to have coffee with my mom. I haven't written much about family stuff here, partly I guess because I don't want too much of it out there on the internet. But basically things are not really ok, in the slow motion passive way characteristic of my family. My new priorities, my new outlook on life, my new independence: not really ok. And honestly, it hurts, even though I feel deep down that I'm making the right choices. This year I've felt like I'm in a battle for my own existence, refusing to live the mummified almost soul dead life I had before. I realize I've been less careful of my family's feelings, less deferential. And slowly, slowly, my guts no longer turn on a dime with their (her) disapproval (again quoting the fabulous tongue-tied).

But that's a depressing note to end on, isn't it? I will leave you with the image elevators doors closing on two women working at the hotel, a brief moment of slightly embarrassed, mostly smiling eye contact between me and the one who's just finished saying *something* about "...like Rachel Maddow." I'm taking the most ego-boosting interpretation of that one, folks. Yes I am.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Nonsense in Three Parts

I'm off to a work-related conference thing tomorrow. I'm excited about seeing a new city and hopefully making some professional connections. I'm not so excited about having to fly (all that being cooped up and shuffled about like livestock). And I'm a bit nervous about the fact that I'll have a randomly assigned roommate. With whom I will have in common: the letter "F" on our drivers' licenses. Wish me luck...?

And a few questions for you smart technically savvy folks out there...
-How do you get that cool thing where you can see who's updated on your blogroll?
-How about that Twitter update thing?
-And... what's the scoop on Twitter etiquette? Do you follow the people who follow you? Vice versa? (Hussy Red, help me out here...)

Finally, I actually dreamt about k.d. lang this week. That's how stupid excited I am for these concerts. In my dream I was in some sort of back-up chorus for her, and we were rehearsing. Oddly she was wearing not only a black skirt (which she does sometimes) but also those funny high-heeled shoes with the little tiny heel. (T. says they're called kitten heels?) Afterwards we chatted, and she told me she had to do make-up advertisements to make the money to pay her therapist. And then I rested my head on her shoulder and felt utterly at peace, and I thought, well, she smells like a butch, in spite of those shoes. No, I do not remember what butch smelled like in my dream. Good lord. Where does this stuff come from?

Saturday, 20 September 2008

All Tied Up

This is for Greg... here is the tie FreedomGirl gave me for my birthday. I'm not necessarily rocking it in these pictures, though. I'm just about the least photogenic person on the planet (please forgive the headless horseman effect, it's the only way I could bear to put these up).

For the masculine fashion connoisseurs, check out the very British spread collar. I'm a walking Marks & Spencer advertisement--I'm sure the modeling offer will come any day now.



And for the bird's-eye view...

It's Cold Outside, It Gets So Hot In Here

This is going to be a free association post.

The title is from U2's 11 o'clock tick tock, which they used to play at the end of their concerts. I used to be a very serious U2 fan, and then one day, their music just stopped doing it for me. I still like it, I don't change the station when it comes on the radio or anything, but I've just moved on. Life is funny that way.

It is cold outside. I like it, but I'm not used to it yet. I do like getting to wear jackets and stuff though. I'm a big fan of outerwear. For a while I wore the pea coat my grandfather wore in the Navy which was super cool, but I'm actually a bit big for it (I'm taller than my grandfather and my arms are longer than his).

Hot in here... not literally. This dancing thing is crazy hot, though. We've just started learning and let me tell you, this dance is on fire. I'm learning how to lead which requires summoning up total confidence and direction--you have to communicate to your partner what to do with decisive motions and the sheer force of your own conviction. I have a lot of that energy but I am used to keeping it smashed down and hidden away pretty much everywhere but the bedroom. Learning to dance in this way has so far been absolutely therapeutic and liberating, not to mention darn sexy. Of course we're both terrible so far. It's not easy. But no way am I giving up--I want to do it right.

So far I've danced mostly with my teacher--T. and I aren't really good enough to dance together yet. You're supposed to dance with a variety of people, not just your usual partner all the time. At the last class, the teacher was demonstrating the different ways of holding your partner, which range up to chests-touching-close. This is another way learning to dance is stretching me and releasing things in me. My family does almost no physical touching; even hugs hello and goodbye are quick and distant, more distant than the closest dancing embrace. And being touched has always been, for me, a complicated and fraught thing: what I could accept, what I could reject, what it meant. I realized, during the lesson, that I was so afraid that my teacher would hate having to touch me, would be repelled by having my body that close to hers. And that the human closeness that happens when dancing is actually profoundly reassuring and grounding to me, even though I have to overcome my fears about it. It warms something in me that has been cold for so long.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Survey on Transgender Discrimination

I got this from my (very sexy) local lesbian meetup group and took the survey this evening. It's one of the better-written surveys I've ever taken. And I'm not just saying that because they gave me "masculine woman/butch" as a listed identity option, either.

If you're transgender or gender-nonconforming, have a look, and take the survey if you can. (I believe it's for US residents, but correct me if I'm wrong on that.)


Comprehensive national survey on transgender discrimination launched by National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Respond to the survey online at
https://online.survey.psu.edu/endtransdiscrim/

"This is an absolutely critical national effort. We urge all transgender and gender non-conforming people to take the survey to help guide us in making better laws and policies that will improve the quality of life for all transgender people. We need everyone's voice in this, everyone's participation."
— Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
(Office) 646.358.1465
(Cell) 917.704.6358
rsklar@theTaskForce.org

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 — In the wake of one of the most violent years on record of assaults on transgender people, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have teamed up on a comprehensive national survey to collect data on discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, public accommodations, healthcare, education, family life and criminal justice.

To date, in 2008, several young gender non-conforming people of color have been murdered, including California junior high school student Lawrence King, who was shot in public during the school day. King's murder, and the murders of Simmie Williams in South Carolina and Angie Zapata in Greeley, Colo., come in a year in which we are still working to include transgender provisions in a federal bill to protect lesbian, gay and bisexual workers from discrimination in employment.

Hate crimes against transgender people suggest multiple points of vulnerability, which can compound each other: discrimination in employment may lead to unstable housing situations that in turn can leave transgender people at the mercy of public programs and public officials who may not respond respectfully or appropriately to them. These stressors add burdens in a healthcare system that is often unprepared for transgender people's needs. The list goes on. "We know that transgender people face discrimination on multiple fronts," said Mara Keisling, executive director of NCTE. "This data will help us sort out the combination of forces that leave transgender people vulnerable to unemployment, homelessness and violence."

Jaime Grant, director of the Task Force Policy Institute, noted, "There is so little concrete data on the needs and risks associated with the widespread discrimination we see in the lives of the transgender people we know. This data will help point the way to an appropriate policy agenda to ensure that transgender people have a fair chance to contribute their talents in the workplace, in our educational systems and in our communities."

NCTE and the Task Force have partnered with Pennsylvania State University's Center for the Study of Higher Education to collect and analyze the data. Applying rigorous academic standards to the investigation will strengthen any case made to legislators, policy makers, healthcare providers and others whose decisions impact the lives of transgender people. A national team of experts in survey research and transgender issues developed the questionnaire, which can be completed online at https://online.survey.psu.edu/endtransdiscrim/

Keisling notes: "This is an absolutely critical national effort. We urge all transgender and gender non-conforming people to take the survey to help guide us in making better laws and policies that will improve the quality of life for all transgender people. We need everyone's voice in this, everyone's participation."

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement's premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge. © 2008 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 1325 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Phone 202.393.5177. Fax 202.393.2241. TTY 202.393.2284. theTaskForce@theTaskForce.org.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and advocacy on national issues of importance to transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality is a 501(c)3 organization. For more information, please visit www.nctequality.org.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Clothes That Matter: A Very k.d. Sequel

At the risk of the turning my blog into a Judith Butler & k.d. lang fan site (not that that would be a bad thing, of course), I present you with the following videos. They're from around the same time, the mid-1980s, back when k.d. was the lead singer of the ReClines and I was in elementary school.

To my eyes, there's a huge contrast between the two videos (apart from the fact that Lemming Polka just rocks and it's an almost flawless performance, too). The level of confidence, of comfort, hell, just watch the videos for posture alone--k.d. alternately looks like she's ducking a blow or about to be violently ill in portions of "Hanky Panky". And the real kicker? Keep an eye out for the cowboy in red in the middle of "Hanky Panky". Yeah, clothes matter.

And k.d. lang is the best. And I'm going to see her. TWICE (thank you Jess & Tina!). I'm so darn excited.

OK, so, first, "Hanky Panky":


Now take a deep breath (if you're like me, you need one). Sit back and enjoy the awesomeness of "Lemming Polka":


And lest anyone think I'm picking on k.d. here, I offer proof that I understand: I wore a lot of skirts in the mid-1980s, too.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Clothes That Matter

Only two posts so far this month, September is buzzing away, and I have so much I could write about.

Odd times last weekend. At one social event, a woman described her distaste for “militant” looking lesbians ... then described the exact outfit I was wearing. (Striped shirt tucked into jeans, if you must know. It’s my lucky shirt, actually, the very first item of men’s clothing I bought this spring and one of my very favorite things to wear.) I knew it was about her own struggles with her sexual orientation and visibility (she’s bi and with a woman), not really about me ultimately. Still, white tall femme, as Jesse James would say? And of course I had that little moment of panic: am I an ugly, militant lesbian snickered at by all the cool kids? Sigh.

The next day was a wedding so straight, it was like queers were never invented. Except for yours truly and my faithful femme sidekick, of course. I’m exaggerating, but only a little. A measure of my own changing identity... when we were invited early this year, I joked with T. that I’d go in drag. I didn’t, of course, I went as me. Which meant wearing all men’s clothing. Which is how I would have described drag, then. Which did in fact earn me: one extremely uncomfortable older male relative, a large number of curious glances (plus one I’m pretty sure was hostile), a whole lot of feeling like a fish out of water, and the designation ‘dapper’ from the sweetheart bride who was the whole reason we even went to this thing.

During the ceremony, I got to thinking about gender theory and the latest Judith Butler book I’m reading, Bodies That Matter. The book is, in part, Butler’s response to criticisms made about Gender Trouble. Reading it, I felt for the first time like I really get what she means by the word “performative.” As Butler puts it, neither performativity nor social construction are meant to imply that gender is something you can choose to put on or take off, like the clothes in your closet. (Hussy Red makes this point beautifully in her recent post about being a femme, which also underscores how painful it is to have people suggest that your gender is like a jacket.)

So an identity isn’t performative because you “perform” it like a role, like a character you put on at Halloween. It’s performative because you create it, or a little bit of it, a version of it, with your actions. There’s no original man or woman or femme or butch or mountain-goat-gender out there, that we can each “do” better or worse. Rather, all those identities come into being, and evolve, and exist, through our doing them.

Sitting there at the wedding, the only female-bodied person in male attire, I thought to myself, I’m not imitating a thing called “man”. All of us here, any of us doing any kind of masculinity, are constantly present at its creation. We’re all a little bit in drag, and mostly not, because mostly we’re just doing us, as best we can, whatever the circumstances that might have made us the varied ways we are.

Well, it made me feel better, anyway. That, and the fact that the slightly-queer-looking caterer-woman gave me a very nice smile. That was good, too.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

names & no name

Have you helped Jess decide on hir new name yet? Well, go on, and then come back here.

I admire Jess’s decision: it takes a lot of courage and certainty to choose a new name. Me, I’m in name limbo here. My real name is ok. It’s not one of the super-feminine female names, though it’s also unambiguously a girl’s name. Sort of like the gray wool skirt of names. My middle name is in the same general category. Nothing wrong with either of them, but I’ve never really identified with them, either. When someone says my real name, oftentimes, a ghostly image seems to appear next to me: the girl I think they’re imagining, the girl I thought I was supposed to be, the girl I’m definitely not. It’s a strange, disembodied feeling, and I admit I prefer it when people don’t use my name at all.

I read an old interview with k.d. lang (shocking, I know) where she talks about the song on IngĂ©nue with the line “Where is your head, Kathryn?” For the less k.d.-obsessed, her full name is Kathryn Dawn Lang. The interviewer suggested that the line was especially personal since that was probably how she thought of herself in her own mind. k.d. laughed and replied that it was more the sound of her mother reprimanding her. She didn’t say what she calls herself inside her own head.

I don’t call myself anything, generally, or at least nothing like a name. In my own internal consciousness I’m nameless, which seems just fine to me, though I admit it could suggest some existential question.

But despite my lack of identification with my proper name, I’ve never sustained a nickname, either. In daily life T. calls me ‘sweetie’ or ‘baby’. Adorable, but not how I want to introduce myself. I’ve grown really fond of this “Leo MacCool” self, but I don’t think I want hir to leave the confines of cyberspace. Recently I’ve been trying out another nickname, derived from my last name, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit, either.

I tried this meme but the results ranged from silly to bad. Some highlights:
Your rock star name (first pet, current car): Casey Honda (um, no. Not even remotely rock star.)
Your gangsta name (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Chocolate Doc Martens (tasty lesbian treat!)
Your Native American name (favorite color, favorite animal): Blue Sheep (sheep dip gone wrong?)
Superhero name (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Red Beer (ewww)
Dancer name (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Soap Bounty (oh yeah, I think we have a winner... not. Bounty Bars are the British version of Mounds, coconut covered in chocolate. So good.)
TV weather anchor name (your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Kovaliv Kalamazoo (my personal favorite. What’s not to love?)
Spy name (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Spring Sunflowers (I. Don’t. Think. So. Seriously, if I were a spy, I’d really, really hope for something a little darker and edgier than this.)
Cartoon name:(favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Peach Boxers (awww)

So... do you identify with your name? How did you get a nickname that felt right? And how did you know it felt right? Any tips or thoughts or suggestions?

Until next time, I’m ... Soap Bounty.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

my girl is tough

I'm so glad Hurricane Gustav seems not to have a repeat of the disasters of a few years ago.

Like everywhere else, I guess, this hurricane spawned talk, at my house, of hurricanes past. Our stories aren't too impressive; forgive us, we're from the North.

Then T. said, dead serious, "I was in a Category 2 hurricance once. It wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. We lost thirteen trees. But they were weaklings."

She slays me.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

gender troubles back in the day

I'm doing a little sorting through old papers and photographs these days. Apparently I've been thinking through this gender business my whole life--well, I knew that, but apparently I've been committing it to paper from time to time as well.

Exhibit A: In which I foreshadow my interest in social construction, challenge sexism, and betray a certain confusion. Judging from the handwriting, dates from when I was 7 or 8.


What's the difference. It is true that we learn from the way we are handled. But often the problem is that we get thinking that one sex is better than the other. If you are a girl, there's no reason why you shouldn't play a sport. If you're a boy, you don't have to play sports. So if anyone tells you to be ladylike or to be a boy, just say I already am!"

Which, as T. points out, gives the syntactical suggestion that I already am a ladylike boy.

Exhibit B: In which I resurrect the most appalling sexism and use an alter ego to tear myself down. Dating from when I was 15 or 16. The background to this: Ahmad was a character I'd created. He was supposed to be Iranian (I don't know why, apologies for strange stereotyping) and the embodiment of old-fashioned, chivalrous masculinity, complete with backstory full of heroic suffering and extraodinarily good looks. In this scene, he's being interviewed by a friend's son on whether he is a sexist. I'll omit the ponderous introduction and cut straight to the ponderous chase.


Interviewer: You mean you ignore who people really are, and judge them on the basis of their gender?
Ahmad: You misunderstand. I judge people entirely on who they are.
Int: Then how can you judge them on their gender?
A: That's part of who they are, is it not? Would you not say that your maleness is an inherent part of who you are?
Int: Well, yes, certainly-
A: Then my treating you as a man is just a part of my treating you as who you are--you are a man, as well as a student and the son of a dear friend.
Int: But my--maleness--as you call it--it's not the same as your maleness or my father's maleness. They're all different. So too with women.
A: Certainly. And some woman may be timid and frightened and completely submissive while another is strong and proud of her family and respectful while a third is scheming and lustful and lazy. Naturally I would treat each of these differently, yet their personalities are all female, so I treat them all as women.
Int: Well, what if a woman's personality were just like a man's?
A: I'd pity a creature so cruelly deceived by God.
Int: But what if she was naturally like that?
A: Is a man born a cripple not naturally crippled? Is he therefore less worthy of our pity?
Int: All right, all right! But what should I put down? Are you a sexist?
A: No.
Int: But you just acted like you were...
A: You make it sound like something bizarre, when in fact I only act as it is natural for everyone to act.
Int: It's impossible! Thank you, sir, that is all!

Indeed. I had to laugh at the sheer mindless predictability of the stereotypes of the three women. But I do feel pity for who I was when I wrote this, summoning up my ideal male alter ego only to make him pronounce female masculinity a crippling deception imposed by a cruel God. Sigh. Ending self-indulgent walk down memory lane here.

Monday, 25 August 2008

gender panic-mine

We went to a movie last night, a documentary about three people transitioning to male called “Boy I Am”. (What a great title, huh?) It covers a lot of interesting ground—the intersection of race and class with transitioning genders, taking testosterone, undergoing top surgery, navigating relationships with partners and family—in a thoughtful way.

During the movie itself, I kept shifting around, absolutely could not get comfortable in my seat. Afterwards, there was an audience discussion, and I found myself unable to say anything at all. T. said some interesting things about femmes, her older friend whose partner transitioned, and some other stuff. It was a safe space to talk, you know? But I was silent as the grave.

Partly I was afraid of offending the transguys there. The drawback to the movie, in my opinion, was that it used Judith ‘Jack’ Halberstam as basically the sole representative of butches. (Halberstam is the author of, among other things, Female Masculinity, which I read this spring and found utterly liberating.) So it was too easy to conflate butch vs. transman with older vs. younger and real-life person vs. theoretical academic. (Just as a series of comparisons, not as oppositions.)

And since just about all the butches in the audience elected not to stay for the discussion... well, there I was, not wanting to recreate any border wars (butches are the real, the brave, the subversive embodiment of female masculinity! butches are just ftms in waiting, too wimpy to really do it!).

But also, I felt surprisingly emotional and conflicted about the whole topic. Shaking hands with a transguy afterwards, I found myself panicking when I realized my grip was firmer than his: is that butch-ly overcompensation? Does he think I’m a pathetic pussy, relying on an iron grip to mask my lack of ‘real’ male signifiers? (Please pardon the misuse of pussy; it’s what occurred to me at the time, sadly enough.) I’m so used to defending my right to masculinity against straight cis-men—why did I fall apart at the imagined judgments of transmen, who I would think I have far more of a natural alliance with?

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that my embrace of masculinity and butchness itself is a relatively recent and hard-fought thing. But the movie, plus a weekend in which I looked at a lot of old photographs, made me reflect what a long fight it’s been, too.

I thought about transitioning in college, in a vague, confused way. At one point in the movie, Halberstam says if someone had offered her testosterone at 19, she would have taken it; the implication was that she’s glad now she didn’t. I sympathize with that. I was so lost at 19, in terms of gender.

The movie focused a lot on top surgery, and oddly enough, that’s always been one of the least attractive things about transitioning to me, in a physical sense. A deeper voice, narrower hips, more muscle? OK, sounds cool; at times, I’ve desperately wanted those things.

But I’m really fond of my breasts. They’re not very big, but they’re not invisibly small either. They were just about the only part of a female puberty I was genuinely enthusiastic about. For some reason, they seemed unequivocally mine, a friendly presence there on my chest. How I got this in a culture that packages up breasts and turns them into objects-of-male-gaze par excellence, I can’t tell you. But I feel comforted by their presence, hidden under layers of just t-shirt and shirt back in the day, tucked into a gentle sports bra now that I’m not a skinny-ass teenager anymore. I like the way they’re small enough not to interrupt the fall of my dress shirts from my shoulders too much, yet still present and visible, confirming the female half of the female masculinity thing.

So my confused 19-year-old self thought: but to transition I’d have to lose my breasts! I can’t do that! I’ll just have to be a woman, full stop, end of story, stopping mucking about with boyishness!

Which brought its own set of troubles, because really, I feel somewhere in between. I want my breasts and my masculinity. I want to grow up to be just like Jack Halberstam. I just didn’t think a well-made documentary and a room of well-meaning, kind-hearted transmen and their allies would bring all that anxious confusion rushing back to me.

I might lose my nerve and take this picture down, but for now, here’s a reward for anyone who’s read this far through my little identity crisis: me and T., dancing at a wedding in the mists of the past. It’s incredible but true: we had NO IDEA what butch-femme even was when this picture was taken. You’ll just have to take my word for that.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

first & only twenty-ninth

Well, happy birthday to me. I am 29 today, and I will not be making this an annual event. Late-twenties-almost-thirty is just fine with me. Finally old enough not to care, finally old enough not to put up with anyone's garbage. Being young has always seemed to me to be about restrictions so I'm content to be All Grown Up.

It's been quite a year. Last August I was scared, scared, scared. About to leave for England, full of obsessive little plans and overflowing with apology. Now here I am, and I don't even feel like the same person, or rather, I feel like the person who was always deep inside me finally got to stand up and breathe some fresh air.

We went up and saw my mom over the weekend--she dragged out the baby book, of course. Funny to see all the pink IT'S A GIRL!! stuff. My birth announcement had a little pink paper diaper thing, and my mom said, somewhat randomly, 'They had blue ones for boys.' 'And green if you weren't sure?' I suggested. 'No, I bought these after you were born... oh.' Maybe getting it just a little, since she laughed and then told, again, the old stories about how all the old superstitions predicted I'd be a boy. Well, almost, right?

No big plans for today... gotta work, then some Thai food, then out for some drinks. No need to go overboard, on this first birthday where I'm actually pretty much glad I was born, even if it took me almost three decades to figure out that IT'S A BOI!!!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Butch Castration Anxiety?

What does it mean that I've dreamed my hair is long again four or five times in the last week or so? Sometimes I realize I've forgotten to get it cut, but mostly it's just this awful manifestation, hair where there was none. In one dream it was just long on the sides--I felt my neck and was relieved to discover the hair was still short and stubbly there. And recently I've thought, during the dream, 'This is just a dream,' but I still can't wake up, and then (in the dream) I think, 'Oh no, this time it's for real!' I won't get into the variations about being unable to schedule an appointment for a haircut as I suspect this post is getting too long. (Like my subconscious hair!)

(Just in case you're wondering: yes, I'm getting some.)

Friday, 8 August 2008

Long-suffering felines

We love our cats, we really do. They're great cats. But I have to admit we got a little out of the cat-care groove in England. We keep running out of cat food and having to rush out to our local natural pet food store at the last minute. And that store is run by two awesome women with a small child, so it doesn't have the most extensive hours ever.

A few days ago T. picked up some cans of our usual brand from a different store. A little more expensive, they looked a little different. Whatever. But the cats just didn't like it. They nibbled, they looked at us suspiciously. I mixed in some sardines and they liked it a little better. (Yeah, I buy sardines for my cats. You wanna make something of it?)

Today I went to our usual store and stocked up. When I got home I noticed that the old cans really were different. I looked closer: "all natural food for dogs".

Sorry, guys. We'll remember how to do this. In the meantime... anchovies anyone?

Friday, 1 August 2008

just a word

stolen from jess & tina:

1. Where is your cell phone? bookcase
2. Your significant other? true
3. Your hair? trimmed
4. Your mother? problematic
5. Your father? lonely
6. Your favorite time of day? evening
7. Your dream last night? hairy
8. Your favorite drink? beer
9. Your dream goal? strength
10. The room you’re in? airy
11. Your ex? straight
12. Your fear? rejection
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? connected
14. What you are not? sleepy
15. Your Favorite meal? eggs
16. One of your wish list items? ipod
17. The last thing you did? procrastinate
18. Where you grew up? massa-fuckin-chusetts
19. What are you wearing? jeans
20. Your TV is? leaving
21. Your pets? opinionated
22. Your computer? lap
23. Your life? changing
24. Your mood? distracted
25. Missing someone? maybe
26. Your car? silver
27. Something you’re not wearing? jacket
28. Favorite store? m&s
29. Your summer? erratic
30. Your favorite color? blue
31. When is the last time you laughed? today
32. When is the last time you cried? yesterday
33. Your health? ok
34. Your children? nonexistent
35. Your future? new
36. Your beliefs? evolving
37. Young or old? both
38. Your image? aloof
39. Your appearance? queer
40. Would you live your life over again knowing what you know? yep