Moderately Fucked Avenue

My Dysphoria has been very bad lately. Winding it’s fingers around my every word and thought and shaking until everything is mash and muddle. 

I am getting to a place again where I really need low dose T and top surgery or a nonbinary radical reduction to function in this sick and broken flesh house emotionally. Unfortunately those things are inaccessible to me due to finances, executive dysfunction/neurodiversity, and disability. 

So I’m stuck not passing at all. To be clear I know my body is a transmasculine body because it is my body and I am transmasculine, buuuuutttttt very few people can see *me* underneath how they interpret my gender presentation, even other queer and trans people, honestly even other nonbinary people, myself included, often struggle with separating our understanding of gender now from the concept of immutable gender/sex/gender presentation that we were raised with. 

As a culture we just aren’t quite there yet. It takes a lot of work and bandwidth even for nonbinary trans people to do the internal work we need to do, to avoid ascribing gender roles to secondary sex characteristics and gender presentations.

 Which unfortunately in my case, for a lot of reasons, including but not limited to disability,chronic illness,  age, and body shape means most people see me as 85% middle aged (girlwoman) mom and 15% might be a lesbian or something™. It forces me into a socially isolated space in which I have to step into these wrong assumptions about me to exist at all. 

Not existing isn’t really an option. 

Being forced to exist twisted into someone else’s shape is harmful in the short or long term. My mind and body rail, twist, and wail at the constant indignity and implied gaslighting. it’s an exhausting cycle that sometimes I am able to navigate and sometimes I am really not. 

Right now is one of those times of not, I’m sure I will get there eventually. I’m sure eventually the words will loosen up, unstick from their mire and play willingly for me. I hope. I try to stay patient and positive or something. 

ha! 
…Or something. 

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A Brief Repose

just let me breath this night air a moment

let me remember how to feel joy in my heart

cool night air whispers 

whisking away a year and a life of pain

I remember what it means to relish life 

to be thankful for the little things

I remember what it means to love you. 
I do love you 

with every grain of my being
tomorrow we go back to a life worth living

tomorrow we go back to the fight

but just for this brief and shining moment
we rest

Telescoping

The fatigue is never ending 

bone deep silent screaming

can exhaustion scream? 
the weather shifts and my body crumples

falling.tumbling.stumbling 

weakness like hard cold hands pull me back into this place again

realigned and readjusting

trying not to curse my own name
can you believe I have value with so little productivity? 

Question heart

hands shake from medication and determination

pushing through or laying still

eyes slide over me unseeing

invisible 

I press my flesh into unreasonable contortions

sticky sweating slow implosion
persevere or something

it’s all the same

Fatigue

​I am tapped out. Exhausted. deep exhausted. The kind that rattles your bones and slithers beneath your skin, weighing you down. soul heavy.

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Still I knit. knit. knit. gotta earn that grocery money. medicine money. dentist money. Gotta earn my right to live. 

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I want pizza, a gallon of coffee, to not have to worry about groceries so much, to not feel so guilty about everything. 

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I want to feel not quite so tired, I want my muscles not to burn all the time. 

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But I am here in this life, at this time,and this is what life is, so I will watch this show, close my eyes a bit, and keep going. 

Knit. knit. knit. 

A History of Sorts

Or a reflection on my relationship with body hair

I’m not sure when exactly I became aware of my body hair. I do know that by 6 or 8 I was regularly shamed for having legs that were too hairy, by both female peers and their mothers. I had so many conversations with supposedly concerned women and girls who felt it really important to tell me how hairy I was, how ugly it made me, how boys would mock me and men would never love me, how it was a clear sign of yet another way that I was “weird” and other. I would sit in the sunlight and stare at the fuzzy blonde halo on my legs with a quiet desperation. 

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By third or fourth grade I started asking my mother if I could shave but she always laughed it off because I was too young and she didn’t have any leg hair to speak of so she didn’t think I would either. “But mom,” I’d wail, “my legs are already more hairy than yours!” She always told me I was exaggerating or being melodramatic. 

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My mother who had her own complex relationship with body hair, had barely any blonde hair on her legs, but still shaved pretty regularly. She would sit in the bath tub and talk to me about the miserable necessity of shaving your armpits, dissecting the femininity and ugliness of her own armpits as she went. At the same time she told me about 60’s era feminism, bra burning, and hippie women who didn’t wear underwear or shave. She always spoke with admiration but always ended each lecture explaining to me why I should choose to shave. When she drank too much she had a tendency to take off her clothes. Her friends, via shaming her and lecturing me, always hammered home the point that not shaving might be a theoretically fine choice but in the real world only sloppy, trashy women or unrealistic and naive idealists didn’t shave. 

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By highschool I had become mostly desensitized to it, or so I thought. I had a vague nebulous sense of shame and anxiety associated with my body hair, but that was basically my default setting at that time so it didn’t seem unusual. At fifteen I got basically adopted by the punk and stoner kids who seemed to be more accepting of me and my different way of being than most people. It was a welcome relief but still confusing in many different ways. 

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I remember sitting during lunch talking to two tiny, thin, white, allistic, probably lower middle-class, feminine, punk rock girls about the fact that they didn’t shave their armpits or legs and being amazed that no one ever said anything to them. They had unobtrusive thin and blondish body hair that everyone but the most jockiest jocks either didn’t notice or didn’t care about. That was amazing. It was the first time that I realized that many different things go into how people can respond to the same thing. My larger stature, size, poverty, “oddness,” and hair color, and queerness gender presentation meant I got more negative reactions than they said they did. It doesn’t stop there either race, visible disability, attractiveness by European beauty standards, and body size are among many more aspects of a person’s identity that impacts how much they will be punished for straying from social norms. 

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By this time I had taken to shaving my legs about once every two or three weeks, when the hairs tickled in the wind. The same punk and “alternative” girls who talked about all the punk rock or grunge goddesses and how they didn’t shave or perform perfunctory feminine coded hygiene, would inevitably upon seeing my dark half grown leg hair or armpit stubble, talk to me about shaving. 

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“Don’t you shave your legs? I couldn’t stand that, it would just make me feel gross. But that’s cool, you are brave, my boyfriend would hate that though. Haha.”

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oh. ummmm. Thanks?

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My first serious boyfriend convinced me that I should shave my pubic hair. He told me that all the bad ass, gorgeous, local girls that I was both intimidated by and crushed out on definitely shaved, that it would make it easier for him to “go down on” me, that if I shaved it meant I was an empowered strongwilled woman who didn’t give a fuck about out dated gender norms and expectations. I was 16 and new to relationships so didn’t realize what a line he was feeding me. 

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Throughout my late teens, twenties, and even early to mid thirties my body hair routine was a balancing act of what bothered me less. Executive dysfunction and unrealized dysphoria made it difficult for me to shave as often as women “are supposed to.” But if I went too long between shaving the negative pushback from peers, family, and strangers started making me feel more and more ashamed to be performing “woman” wrong. Since longer hair anywhere on me was an overwhelming and tickly sensory experience I just kept shaving oftenish without much reflection on why I was making the choice. 

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At 27 while pregnant with my second child, I realized I was transgender. Pregnancy had always been an emotionally fraught time for me though it was difficult for me to name why. My pregnant body, and even specifically my vulva, which could not be shaved after five months was routinely shamed for being disgusting, wet, swollen atrocities by my then husband, family, fellow pregnant women, and other mothers. I accidentally cut my vulva trying to shave while six months pregnant so that my then husband could have sex with me without “all that gross hair haha.” Because pregnant vulvas are extremely blood engorged I bled so much from the not terrible cut that the water turned brown enough that the same husband thought I needed to go to the ER until the bleeding slowed down. 

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Realizing I was not a woman was a powerful moment of clarity for me but my relationship with shaving was still not done. By this time I was firmly attached to the sensory experience of being shaved. Even openly declaring myself a femme trans man, partners and friends seemed most comfortable when I was more shaved than not, even as they verbally supported my potentially not shaving. So I continued on not really examining my relationship to my body hair. 

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I spent most of my early thirties working in an office as a single parent and only sort of out as trans. I told people, but minimized myself to ease my office experience. Slowly over years of office work, pressure from superiors and implications of promotions that would help me take care of my children I slowly slid into a super geeky femme gender presentation and shaved weekly to keep up appearances. 

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Two years ago I had to quit that job, my health had gotten so bad that I was no longer able to keep up there. My gender presentation took an immediate steady slide back to my default more soft masculine presentation…and still I didn’t quit shaving periodically. If you asked I would tell you that it was for sensory reasons that I shaved, and that as true but not entirely true. 

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Last year I finally decided to try and grow out my body hair (but not my head hair, I can only handle so much hair touching my skin). The first three months were sensory hell, my legs tickled constantly, it was too much. My nervous system was screaming at me. So much so that I even shaved once more only to discover that now shaved was sensory hell as well. Yay? Yayyyy….

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After that it got a bit easier, these days it doesn’t bother me too much though my legs still feel too much for my taste. I have, more or less acclimated. Now that I am older, heavier, more clearly masculine presenting, and more overtly verbal about being nonbinary transmasculine no one really offers opinions on my body hair…but boy do they still look. Being unable to bind, chronic illness and pain weakening my body, always having a toddler on my hip, and not fitting into easy male stereotypes means I don’t ever pass anymore. From the disgusted looks I get these days, I take it I don’t look “right” in regards to what most people see womenhood as either. I don’t mind the confusion too much as a nonbinary person but I have noticed that increase in disgust did seem to coincide with when I decided to stop shaving for good. 

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I still don’t know what it all means exactly but I do have a long and storied history with hair. How about you?

Doing ‘Well’ when You are Chronically Ill

My health has been doing relatively well lately. That is to say, I am not in an illness or pain flare currently. But what does that even mean for me and others with chronic health or pain conditions? 

For me, it means I may feel “ok” as long as I am sitting and doing quiet non physical things. It also means that simple activities like sitting up from laying down, standing up, or walking from one room to another doesn’t give me an asthma attack. 

However even when my baseline health is slightly improved I still have to be careful. Just because I can walk slowly doesn’t mean that cleaning sprees or even small organizational tasks won’t cause me asthma attacks and pain flares. I know at this point that keeping a decent base line of health, that allows me any sort of quality of life requires I not push myself. Pushing myself only results in my ending up overextended, which in turn could result in a days, weeks, or even months long flare. 

What this usually means is that I have more emotional energy to worry and plan but not enough physical energy to do even one quarter of the things that need doing. Things that need doing because of my health. 

I day dream, worry, and plan a lot during these times, about things like getting a part time job (how long could i keep it before i got sick again? could i even get hired? could i find a job where I was sitting all day and not talking on the phone? what hours could I work? how would i avoid smokers and perfume wearers? how much worse would it make my next flare? would it cause a flare in a few months? weeks? days?), cleaning house in ways i haven’t been able to contribute in recent years, and making unrealistic lists of things i need to do now that I might have energy.

 I’m never able to get as much done as I had wanted. Even when I am feeling ok, my stamina and health just aren’t what they used to be. I try to balance guilt for not being able to do more and realistic expectations given my limitations. Ideally I would prefer not sliding into a pit of internalized ableism and self loathing because I am not doing more. So I work hard to maintain the best balance I can, no matter how exhausting it is.

Sometimes it even works. 

Catching Hell and Making Lemonade

Confessions of an Urban Shaman

(Black Mirror, season 2, episode 2)

“Help me please! I’m a human being!”

This then is the mistake we make, affording ones self the illusion of humanity.

No doubt I’m not the only person to watch this episode and draw some disturbing parallels. I immediately fell back on an episode of Prison Break, the scene where Adina Porter’s character Leticia is murdered by an FBI agent (of state). I couldn’t watch another minute afterwards, but was instead propelled further towards dissecting how anti-blackness is subtly rubbed into our wounds at every turn.

Consider also how not so subtly our efforts at moving towards spiritual, economic and physical liberation is placed on a similar plane as facism. In particular when there are so many black women on the front lines, making strides, building networks, bringing down statues, visibly not giving two fucks about Eurocentric ideals surrounding decorum. So anytime I gain…

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