It’s my Birthday

And other random bits and bobs 

Today I turn forty. For the length of my thirties I always expected to some day develop some anxiety about aging but so far that hasn’t happened. I find myself happier with and in myself every year, though my body becomes exponentially weaker and more tired every day, though illness and otherness are perpetually isolating it seems.

In a surprising twist for me this year I had some good luck and will be able to take advantage of a scholarship for an online Doula class via DTI. They have scholarships available for both trans and IBPOC birthworkers. I have been passionate about people having the best possible birth outcome and post partum period for near 15 years. Now, thankfully I get to learn how to support that passion professionally, hopefully helping many marginalized and at risk families and helping my own family thrive. So many things could go wrong but for now I am going to go ahead and feel some hope that between my writing, my commissioned knitting, and Doula services that perhaps my family and others may thrive. 

That’s the dream right? 

But for now we are broke and I feel mildly bummed out that no one really seems to care that it’s my birthday (even though I know I am an adult and adults just don’t get fussed over on their birthday). This is something I seem to go through every year, even though I know it is silly and probably pointless. 

I’m taking the weekend off for my birthday. Monday I will have things to knit and things to write. Life will go on just fine, maybe even a little better maybe. 

That is definitely the dream. 🙂 

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Poverty Math

Talking about this gives me anxiety but being poor is not a shameful state, it’s not a moral weakness, it’s not an indication of personal failure…so I am going to talk about it anyway. 
My brain is caught in a loop right now, 60% percent running life numbers that don’t quite add up. This started this time because I have another infected tooth, right now during the holidays. So it goes like this…

I need this tooth pulled, which will cost me minimum 100 dollars. We will be able to pay for that next pay day, in two weeks. Also there is something wrong with my ear, it’s hurt for weeks, there is swelling, maybe fluid, it may be another sebaceous abscess. My immune system is so tanked these days, I get other secondary illnesses more easily. I need to go to the doctor for that as well. If I go to the er I will need an extra 20 for antibiotics for that…I’d probably need another 100 to be able to go to urgent care instead, for copays. 

Until then I’m just gonna have to take to much ibuprofen and hope I’m not damaging my liver irreparably. 

Spending money on medical stuff in midnovember will push back holiday shopping for the kids until the mid December paycheck and limit is to 150-200 spending for 5 children. Ahhhhhh 

I have three pending commissions, that will be another 150-200 dollars. Will we have the money for groceries next week? It’s gonna be another tight week. If can I can make 2-6 more commissions by Xmas it will help us with groceries and allow us to buy a small something for each one of the kids. That will exhaust me but we will survive. I have been having difficulty writing often enough so that is a missed payment opportunity. I wish my body would just give me a break. I need to be able to do both. Milton is writing a ton, but he never gets paid as often as I do for it, no matter how beautiful and powerful his writing is. If only I could make sure that would happen. Is that what we really need to get by? I better do the math again. 

We will have to wait to go to the dentist for two weeks…

…Around and around I go. 

We work hard to take care of our family with the limitations and resources we have but it never seems enough. It can be deeply exhausting, frustrating, and hopeless feeling. We keep going and we always make it, though to often it is just barely so. One way or another my brain has been semi permanently turned into a bad math hamster, rerunning and rerunning those numbers. I’m always hoping we missed something that will help, that will make a lasting difference to our well being. Sometimes that even happens, sometimes we find something, make an opportunity happen that helps. 
Sometimes. 
Fingers crossed

The Long Way ‘Round

Thirteen years ago, drenched in pregnancy hormones on an otherwise inconsequential hike, I realized I was transgender. It took me months to even be able to say the word out loud, longer to begin to tackle what, and how I would live that. 

For two years I tried to figure out what that gender place meant to me, what my identity was in the terms of the language of the time, what my transition would look like. I had so much internalized transphobia, the vanity of relative youth, and a partner who was having trouble dealing with her own unrealized covert transphobia in a few different ways. 

Eventually, after a very tense or tearful exchange at the peak of my physical dysphoria, in which she told me she was afraid of the health risks of my taking testosterone, I decided not to transition, basically, though I refused to acknowledge to myself that was what my choice meant. There were a lot of reasons I made that choice, fear, lack of sincere support, lack of ideal results, distrust in doctors, survivor/ptsd fear of surgery/anesthesia, internalized transphobia, and non binary transition being unavailable in my experience, were all big parts of that decision. 

But even a bad decision can offer a brief repose and having made any decision, there was a certain amount of relief. My instant relief also allowed me to wield my tendency for being hyper focused, in order to figuratively box up my trans status and get on with living whatever life I could. I told myself it didn’t really matter as long as my friends and loved ones knew I was not a girl. Maybe on some level, for a time, that was even true. 

When my girlfriend and I broke up later, finding myself a single parent with an office job at a very large company, I slowly put my gender even further back in the closet…I didn’t mean to do that, in fact I would have and did rationalize it many different ways if I was asked about the presentation change. None the less, I slowly shifted my gender presentation to a more socially acceptable geeky manic pixie dream girl style femme. It happened slowly over time, my work pursuit of a dangled promotion that would never come to fruition. To cope ai was almost entirely disassociated from my body during the time. I even went so far as to only own a full length mirror in which I could not see my body and head in it at the same time. 

If I was asked, while I still used the terms transgender and nonbinary transmasculine, I rarely discussed with anyone what that meant to me, only explained in cis palatable terms, and had very few healthy or protective boundaries around that identity.

It was fine I, I would repeat indefinitely. What boy wouldn’t want to have such a great rack? *bemused sigh* 

Then when my health had deteriorated so far that I had to quit that job, I suddenly found myself again, the master of my own gender identity and expression. Slowly as I started talking to people more about what being nonbinary transmasculine meant to me, my gender presentation and gender feels started sliding slowly and quickly back to where they had been so many years ago. 

So here I sit, yet again desperate to start hormones and have nonbinary top surgery, finally unafraid, feeling profoundly sad about wasting so many years of my life trying to maintain familial, romantic, and friendship relationships with people that have been burned away by time, ableism, my poor health, my anxiety, my autistic difficulty reaching out, and covert racism directed at my family. 

I remember how afraid I was that I would never be deserving of love, that no one would ever see me past everything that makes me different than them.  I wish I could have told my then self about my now self, about all the loving community I have found, how much confidence and self love I have grown, how complex and expansive my chosen family and love network has become. 

I wish I could tell my past self that I was not and am not a failure, a waste, or a “freak”. Knowing it now may not undo this seemingly wasted decade of transition pause, and it may not soothe the panic in my heart right now, it certainly doesn’t silence the constant list in my head of physical transition bullet points I will never be able to afford

~

• a wardrobe that actually fits and allows me to feel confident and comfortable in my skin

• nonbinary symbol tattoo in nonbinary flag colors

• trans symbol tattoo in rainbow colors

• low – medium dose T

• top surgery or radical reduction – no nipples or entire nipple and areola saving

~

It won’t muffle the desperation and despair  that not having access to these things causes, but it isn’t actually less than nothing either. 

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I have grown as a nonbinary man. I have grown as a human. It isn’t enough but it is something, and something will just have to do for today. 

That Thing Where We are Expected to Suffer in Inspirational Silence

There is an attitude in our dominant colonizer culture that struggling in silence is both a sign of moral superiority and open suffering is either embarassing or infuriating for those viewing and consuming that pain. This no doubt serves to weaken and divide people, communicate to them/us how little value their/our lives hold for those that would judge that perceived worth. 

If I(and others) suffer in socially accepted and enforced silence* I’m told that I am sooo brave just for living, that they couldn’t fathom living my life which they perceive as terrible beyond measure,  then fundamentally patted dismissively and sent on my way to continue not bothering them with my hardships. 

If i have the temerity to speak up for myself or others, if I have the audacity to name my pains and pressures, I am called a complainer, faker, overly sensitive, mean, fanatical, angry, dramatic, or a liar. All labels meant to take away my value, to render my feelings and humanity meaningless and empty. 

This process is even more dangerous, insidious, and pervasive for IBPOC who are less likely to be believed, empathized with, supported,  or given the benefit of the doubt by white people. Black women and enbies particularly carry intersections of oppression that leaves them most vulnerable to this slow social death in “nice” comfortable middle America. 

My whiteness, my ability to speak in a way socially acceptable to middle-class white America, and my relative stability all protect me from broader and larger social violence no matter what other ways I am harmed by my culture and my people. That is not anything that I can or should ignore. I have much relative and literal privilege and protection.

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Even with those protections, if I am silent I am a sweet nonthreatening paragon of virtue dismissed and held as example to guilt and control others. 
If I speak the shape of what harms me, speak my reality, I am an embarrassment, something to be avoided and ignored, something to be shamed, blamed, and silenced. 

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What does it say about our culture that we have so little ability to sincerely empathize with people who have experienced different things than us? What does it say about us that we would rather ignore those around us that are hurt in different ways than we are or were, than acknowledge that we are part of that harm, or that it indeed exists at all? What does it say about us that we protect abusers and ignore the abused?*

It’s been said that existing is a radical act when society wants to peel you away from the world. I think speaking in the face of that crushing pressure is radical as well, even when that speaking is to simply say, this shit is terrible, I’m tired, I’m hurting, I’m not sure I can take this anymore. It matters. You matter. Your life and feelings matter. 

Today I am struggling with financial anxiety, deep painful and abiding dysphoria, physical pain and fatigue, acute asthma, months of autistic burnout,  executive dysfunction that makes everything ten times more complex or impossible, depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and isolation. I refuse to carry shame for saying that outloud. 

I am a person not an inspirational video, you are too. 
Name your pain, struggle, your despair. 

Taste the shape of it without shame.
Share here if you feel comfortable

You are allowed to live, not just exist for others benefit, for others sense of self. 

Please also support, pay, and share writers, activists, and articles that have inspired you to be less ashamed or helped you feel less broken if you would like. Let’s give credit where it is due, spread some of that empowerment around. 

*Rhizome speaks often and with great artistry about the social pressures applied to oppressed people, especially multiply oppressed IBPOC in both wider society and numerous superficially socially liberal microcommunities, to keep them quiet and unobtrusive to the majority. I strongly suggest you check out X’s body of work. 

*Michon created the term abuse culture to describe this phenomenon, it is quite apt. Michon is involved in multiple endeavors to dismantle abuse culture including Cuil Press  and Postmodern Woman. Michon is doing important work that you should definitely check out. 

If you learn something or appreciate their work (and other IBPOC writers, thinkers, activists, and advocates) share resources and funds with them. 

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. 

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.