In the midst of all this rise of fascism and overt racism in the world, I have been waging my own personal battle of love with my mom, who is the last blood family member that I keep in touch with–before this summer the last time I had seen my half brother was at least 5 years previous.
 
Both of my parents struggled with mental illness throughout my childhood, and I have inherited that legacy from my mom as well as intergenerational trauma. Recently she stopped responding to my text messages and suggested it might be better if SHE were the parent I was estranged from, rather than my father, whose danger to my life and limb was cause for my departure over 13 years ago. I feel so scared of losing my mom as well, but I feel like in order for our love and respect for one another to thrive I also need to assert some boundaries, and especially limit her ability to use my father as a reminder of how deeply she can wound me.
 
On Tuesday I started attending a 10-week Generative Somatics group oriented towards QTPOC survivorship. I am feeling really good and also really challenged by it. I feel like in being estranged from my blood family I am also cut off from parts of myself, including my body and allowing myself to own my feelings about being a mixed race kid whose family is divided by racism and trauma.
Each day my homework is to spend time centering myself, feeling my connection to the ground, the connections between each part of my body and the others, to feel myself in the world, eyes wide open, a part of the past, present, and future. I do not know what this holds for me, but I am willing to find out.
-RD
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Trigger warning for sexy bits:

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Bird song, bus motor, traffic.

What am I to do? Everything I taste reminds me of your cunt.

Phantom scent that catches me around a corner, imagining your press into me as I lean against a wall.

I hear you in my ears,

husky whispering dirty while you touch me, crying out as you come.

–When the only sound is bird song, bus motor, traffic:

dust, settling in the heat.

-RD

 

Dear Healthcare Provider:

I just wanted to thank you for being kind and generous with me today, your difficult patient who didn’t want to talk much and tried to dictate their own care and frowned during the entire appointment, feeling exposed, hurt, scared, worried about cost and humiliation.

See for me, being sick or injured, as a trans person, as a person underinsured by medicaid, as a person living under the dead limb of student debt in an economic storm–sick or injured is the most vulnerable place I can be. The scariest place I know is up on that examining table, every inch of skin I expose to you during our medical encounter a mile of inroads I have given you. I am weary, I am wary. I am taut to snap back if you show yourself a trap, a bully with a stethoscope, a critic on call.

Thank you for intuiting that I was not grumpy for the sake of grumpy, but worried about cost, slipping me a much-needed supply for my healing that would have been a squeeze in my budget, a budget already stretched thin on imagined money, loans and credit cards. I am up to the neck in debt and forever climbing, even while knowing that some day soon there are medical expenses coming that should be (but won’t be) covered by insurance, and that those things will cost me more than a whole year of college, more than a third of my annual income in my yet-to-entered field, my yet-to-be-gotten job.

Thank you for intuiting that I was not being stoic for machismo, but stoic because the masculinity I was socialized to does not go to the doctor til that dying breath, and while I am working on cowboying down and learning that having my masculinity recognized in the world does not mean self-neglect, I live with my father in my head calling every injury and illness overreacting, so if I am unprepared to tell you how and when I hurt, it is because there is a devil on my shoulder telling me self doubt is the best reaction to somatic pain. It is a long road, and my heart is only beginning to learn how to listen to the rest of my body.

I work in healthcare because of how hard it is for me to access it. So thank you for taking down the gate for an hour, so I too might have that thing we all need, care for the carer.

Respectfully,
A trans nurse

Trigger warning for: suicidal ideation.

I know I’m not the only one
whose confidence gets mowed down at odd moments
whose sense of deserving is skewed by doubt
who believes their claims to accomplishments or identities to be
somehow less.

Dear impostor in the mirror: I’m here to tell you
you are not an actor
you didn’t get the role in the play for looks
you’re living the story.

It’s yours, whatever you make of it–
exposition, conflict, resolution, and
if you don’t get it right every time
that’s what adds interest to the narrative.

I overheard someone giving writing advice today,
and I’d like you to live it out:
“…it’s not that your character achieves the goal they set out for,
it’s the things that happen along the way.”

I know it’s scary out there and sometimes
you think about just couch camping forever
or jumping off the Aurora Bridge
but don’t you know
they built a fence around that bridge
and don’t you know that
there’s more for you, outside the door.

It might be more struggle
I can’t guarantee it will be all
sunshine and roses or
cafe au lait and croissants
especially since right now all you can really afford is
intermittent sunshine and drip coffee.

Yet I think you know:
this conflict just adds interest to the story and
overcoming the impostor is your first assignment.

Dedicated those living in the margins.

editorial note: a revised and expanded version of this post is awaiting publication elsewhere. I’ll link when it appears. whee!

Tattoos? I got em. Scars, too, but we’ll save that for another day. This is written in part as response to this.

My biggest tattoo is a chest piece, depicting in cartoonish allure my first road bike, Vera, as drawn by one of my best friends, with wings sprouting from the bottom bracket shell. Beyond the bike in the foreground is a roadway and the rolling hills of Orcas Island. Birds are silhouetted aloft in the distance over the sky. The whole scene is framed with salmon berry leaves and a banner beneath proclaims JOURNEY, as taken from this poem, Velocipede:

cog teeth willing, speed and
journey.

I hadn’t planned my tattoo as a chest piece at all, but the more we planned the tattoo the more elaborate it became, and the more apparent that the finer details (lugs, etc) would not fit on my upper arm and still remain unblurred over years and healing. So. My chest became the new canvas.

It hurt like hell, some of it–but it also hurt good. I like getting tattooed. I like the process of planning, inking, and healing. It feels cathartic.

Does that make me dangerous? Maybe. Maybe it does, because I know the power of my body to heal, again and again. Healing is a transitory point, a place of great vulnerability and great power.

When I show someone my tattoo, I also expose my chest to them. I was reminded of this as a friend was peering at it yesterday as we sat on the porch. She gestured to the rest of my chest (breasts, if you wish–tits to me). “They’re nice!”

And I came up with what I always do. “Cheaper than top surgery.”

***

I’ve been binding for the last year or two, and for the first time acquired a “real binder earlier this year, which pancakes my tits to my ribcage. It leaves a little to be desired in presentation (there are hilarious bulges near my armpit region, for instance) and comfort, but my clothes finally fit right, and I feel so much less self conscious. Less self conscious getting dressed, less self conscious being out and about in the world.

Will I get top surgery? I get asked this a lot by a select number of people who seem to be very invested in how my gender transition will play out. A couple of those people are people with whom I have had sexual and romantic relationships, and a couple of them aren’t. I don’t know why they’re so invested in my body (yo, it’s mine!), I just know that they are.

Top surgery is expensive. Top surgery is invasive. Top surgery has the potential to remove sensation from my nipples, something that would be sexually…un-gratifying. And I’m still on the fence about “to babies or not to babies”, and if I become a carrying-parent, I want to retain the option of breastfeeding. That last one feels particularly pertinent to my current romantic relationship, which is with a person who definitely wants to babies, and does not have carrying (uterine) capacity.

I’m not particularly invested in “passing” as a man, my gender is more complicated than man/woman or male/female. It does feels disrespectful and it makes me itch when people call me by the wrong pronouns (she/her). It feels schizophrenic* when I have to use my legal name (a name I no longer use, otherwise) to access emergency medical care, my bank accounts, or even to fill out paperwork, though thankfully my new and temporary employer still calls me by my preferred name–I haven’t talked about pronouns with them. Instead our customers seems to call me by whatever pronouns are handy, which seems to work okay for now, though I expect it to create complications eventually. At least there’s a safe place to pee!

My whole life I’ve been told that I must be a dyke because of my gender. Even my mother thought so. As it turns out, the people I’m most often attracted to are people who are also masculine-presenting in some way. Is that a result of internalized misogyny/sexism? I don’t know–I think that I’m still working on the part of myself that has learned to dismiss femininity out of hand, but I also had the example of my mother, a strong, capable hard femme, to deter me from internalizing at least some of that shit. I can break open societal expectations about gender and sexuality simply by holding hands with my handsome bearded sweetheart while crossing the street.

I live in an in-between place. A journey is an in-between place, but it is a powerful one. My sight lines constantly expand and contract as I travel. I am constantly in motion, even when sitting still. The journey is the point, not the endpoint.

*I have mixed feelings about using this word in this context but have failed to come up with something more appropriate. Feedback, if you have any?

yeh, it’ll probably make you cry, too:

On my fourth date with Andrew, the confessional moment came between sips of red wine and the casual, cautious touching of my elbow. We were two people trying each other on for size, and the fact that I’d written an essay about my deformed body didn’t automatically mean I don’t fit. Andrew couldn’t have known what it felt like to hear a man say he’d read my essay and see him stay — and not only stay, but ask me out again. For me, he was the antidote to the trauma of Ely. Dating is traumatic enough without worrying that your date will lash out at you for disappointing him. To have my body taken off the table as a deal breaker was an unspeakably amazing thing. It meant that if Andrew and I don’t end up together, it won’t be because I’m not perfect but because we have no chemistry or I don’t know enough about art or he doesn’t get my sense of humor or because it just doesn’t. It will be for any of the reasons people sometimes just don’t work out. And that matters. For me it matters the absolute most.

from here.

cut the string

05/21/2012

we went down to the lake in the twilight, telling stories, comparing notes on loves and friendships gone awry, gone missing. i’d spent nearly the whole afternoon writing and writing, pages upon pages of letters to grief, people who are still in my heart but the mutual injuries i need to let go of. they add up and become leaden–a school of gray-dappled sorrows drawing me into the muck. there’s life there, too, but if i don’t surface i will suffocate.
so i cut the string and set them adrift to the bottom. it will take some time yet for them to settle, become a part of the landscape of waving fronds and scaled bodies, splintered wood slathered soft in algae.
maybe you’d be surprised at how much heat a paper fire can generate (maybe not).
and yet. how slow it takes a cord to sever.

 

confidential to F.: IT’S WORKING.

signal boosting

05/03/2012

excerpt from How to make love to a Trans Person, by Gabe Moses

Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.

read the rest here.

shine a light

03/12/2012

sub·ver·sive/səbˈvərsiv/

Adjective:
Seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.
Noun:
A person with such aims.
Synonyms:
ruinous – destructive

Dear ____,
My friend A and I had dinner the last time she was in town. As we sat across the table from one another, she asked me, “How would you describe your sexuality?”
Not skipping a beat, I responded, “Subversive as fuck.”
She smiled. “Can you tell me more about that?”
I made allusion to some of my sexual exploits of the last few years (fisting boys, sucking cock, loving all of it) and we moved on to talking about her recent experiences, and then on to gender (“How’s your gender feeling lately?”).
By definition, subversive means seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution. That sure rings true for my life, my gender, my sexuality.
Most cultures throughout history have had a more complex understanding of gender than the dominant culture you and I are immersed in (see this map for an introduction: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/two-spirits/map.html). For instance, indigenous peoples of the Americas had a variety of genders, and recently native folks sometimes refer to being gay/lesbian/trans/queer/etc as being ‘two-spirit.’ I like this term a lot, though it’s not one I use for myself (y’know, I try to avoid cultural appropriation and all), because I feel like it conveys the complexity of a gendered life that colors outside the boxes of male and female, as well as the duality of my own identity. My friend F sometimes explains their gender identity as ‘a scraggly boy holding hands with a disheveled girl.’ I am like this but not like this, there are different characters but the duality is similar.
I think of my gender identity as oppositional, subversive, constantly pushing. I am part of the new guard of western culture, carving out space (and with it, slowly, safety!) for the other. The gender binary does no one any favors, it excludes the lives, bodies, and experiences of so many people. It excludes me and mine, for sure. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier if I would sit down and shut up, pass. Check the M box or the F box. But ultimately I would be perpetuating a whole host of things I don’t believe in, from the gender binary to the notion that trans people are somehow a shame and must pass. I have been and am all of these things: stone butch, nelly fag, femme boi, drag queen, faggot. Think of me as that crossdressing boy in a sequined dress, all limp wrists and sassy swagger, glitter intermingled with stubble. But think too of the Amazon who removed her left breast with a sword blade so as to better fit her body to her bow, a taut rod arched to defiance. Or sweaty bike boy, grease streaked across the cheek and creased under my nails, grinning and pungent after climbing yet another hill. I am all of these things; look at me not through a box but through a prism.
Gender is dynamic and infinite. What is acceptable now will have changed vastly by the time you or I die, hopefully of old age. It seems my generation is set on deconstructing the gender binary a bite at a time, and I am glad to be a part of that. We make ourselves safe by making others safe, too. You can be a man who cries at films, I can be a boi with bound breasts.
On one of our first dates you asked about my relationship with M and said something to the effect of, “I just kept seeing him treat you like a woman.” I tried then (and try still) to imagine what you meant. How does one treat a woman, specifically? The only things I can imagine are the grossest of things, the purchasing of affection by rings and chocolate, or the domineering of ones partner, all things that would never have even occurred to M. M treated me simply as myself, beloved co-conspirator, hotly desired lover, fellow purveyor of absurdity. And he trusted me with my strength, whether that be my fist inside of him as he came or my strength to weather my life’s trials and tribulations (and there were so many at the time). Thus, I can’t imagine any other way for he and I to have met but as individuals.
It seems you know already that reconciling what you’re seeing is up to you. I am writing this in part because these are things I have needed to put words to for quite some time, but also in part because I want to try to make it easier for you to somehow expand your world’s vastness to include mine. If you are having a hard time seeing me, break out the prism and shine a light–not on either/or but AND.

With warm and fond regard,
RD

bailamos

11/21/2011

for C.

it seems appropriate that in Spanish a verb is conjugated by pronoun. to do together is different than when you or i do so apart, after all.
there has never been much in the way of a unit to our relationship, and i love this, so respectful of our autonomy that sometimes i ache to introduce this timbre to other relationships that tug at my heart in different ways, tug others’ hearts different ways.
people ask so much of the people they share their bodies with, and it is so often too much for anyone to bear–for me to bear, for you. it seems we are perpetually pulling back from people who want more from us than we could ever give.
our relationship is process, constant journey, being reimagined radically at every turn. i love that we dance so far apart at times–in other rooms, other cities, we do our turns, but still return and press palms, come together with sparkling revelations and experiences to exchange.
refresh, renew and move along.
circulate.
estamos muy cerca, y mas.