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. ūüôā 

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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

On Defining Self

#30daysofpride: day 9: What subculture do you belong to?*

I have never really fit well into a specific group. In high school I hung out with the punks and stoners but didn’t consider myself a punk or a stoner. I hung out with the academic kids but didn’t keep my grades up at all, and over the years that lack of ease in a specific social group has carried over. 

I feel some connection to geek culture, to autistic communities, to non-binary communities, to the disabled community, to the chronic illness community, to transgender communities, to parenting communities, activist communities, multi sexual communities, kink communities, ethical non monogamy communities, art communities, fiber arts communities, literary communities, birth communities, and academic communities. But none of these sub-cultures explain me so thoroughly to leave it at that, to feel comfortable summing myself up as just this one specific thing. Just like everything in this world, each one of those sub groups has problems that need addressed or dealt with. 

In reality, just like anyone else I am not one thing, I am many things, I am none of them. I am myself. I am the sum of all my histories and all my futures yet to come. 

But I really like Dr Who, so there is that. 
*the original question used the word tribe, which is problematic for many reasons. Non indigenous people should not use the word tribe when we mean village or subculture, read more about some of the problems with that word here.

Allowing Myself to Flourish

Recently I bought myself a pronoun bracelet.* 

I dithered over the decision for weeks. Could we afford something so “frivolous”? Was I being selfish? What if I spent the money and then found the sensory experience off putting? Or I just didn’t end up wearing it to often?

Still I couldn’t stop looking as my dysphoria was creeping back into the edges of my life and whispering, always whispering painful things in my ear, until the weight of my sadness started crushing me. 

I have social dysphoria mostly with a smattering of physical dysphoria thrown in for good measure. I have developed a tenuous truce with my body over the years. It is lumpy, bumpy, and not congruent with my self. It is sick perpetually, weak, tired. I feel these things in my bones but it has also grown and fed four magical children, for this I am eternally thankful. 

Still the inability to bind due to my health combined with having small in arms children often means I get immediately socially coded as a woman even among close friends and family which causes me a deep and permeating despair. A despair so deep that when I do get inevitably misgendered by a loved one often all I can do is cringe internally. 

My hope is that with the bracelet I can simply point at it to remind people rather than trying and failing to navigate spoken language in that moment of high emotion. Even if that doesn’t always work, making my identity more visible, when generally I am invisible, gives me strength and peace. 

So finally I found this simple and perfect solution. It was six bucks with shipping, which was a price I could afford even with my heavy spending anxiety. I chose both pronouns and the colors. It isn’t fancy, and it probably is a bit to delicate for how rough I tend to be on jewelry but I love it. It allows me to feel more authentic and in charge of myself when illness and disability often takes away my sense of personal agency. I may not be able to many of the things I want to do, but I can do this.

 I can be me. 

I am me no matter what.

And now I have a way to remind you too even when the words twist up and hide behind my toungue. 

* I got the bracelet here. They sell Queer Pride, Autistic Pride, and Spoonie/Disabled Pride jewelery. I want so many more things from them.

The Interplay of Multiple Points of Oppression and Privilege in My Day to Day Life part 2

Today I am talking about the aspects of my life that are impacted by various forms of oppression or marginalization. Often times these are much easier for us to identify because we can see how our experience differs from the majority, and because it often leaves us feeling sad, angry, frustrated, scared, or alienated. In short, it feels bad. 

To reiterate, being oppressed in one area does not negate privileges in other areas. They may impact each other in various ways but they do not negate each other. A cis, queer, white person still has both cis privilege and white privilege and will therefore still have those protections as they move through the world, which is a very big deal. Queer and transgender PoC do not have that protection which deeply impacts their experience of and safety in the world on every level. 

So let’s start with what my identity is and isn’t. 

I am a chronically ill, invisibly disabled, autistic/neurodivergent, queer, multisexual/bisexual*/pansexual, nonbinary transmasculine, greyromantic/nebularomantic, and poor person. I also identify as demisexual, ethically non-monogamous, and pagan but as a liberal white person I find myself not overtly negatively impacted by those identities. Whiteness moving in more liberal circles makes being demisexual, “polyamorous”, and pagan, even in the unusual ways I may express those things, more or less accepted and even embraced as being “quirky”. Quirky in my experience is often either a sign of other privileges that person posesses or with more marginalized people, tokenization at work. 

I also have some situational or relative privileges which impacts the way I am oppressed. Because people in general expect  and assume parents to be cis gender and heterosexual, when I am with my cis male nesting partner and kids, especially when I am with my toddlers, I am not usually read as transgender at all, which means I usually don’t read as queer either. This protects us socially from homophobic harassment, me from transphobic harassment, and means both my relationship and children have more legal protection than I have or have had when in relationships with women, femmes, or folks socially read as “women”.  But the trade off here is that it erases my identity entirely. It is lonely, anxiety causing, infuriating, and upsetting, but it is less likely to be dangerous.

Other ways in which the complexity of passing privilege exchanges increased physical and social safety for erasure and dismissal for me personally is that my disability is invisible and most people seem to see me as weird or quirky rather than neurodivergent. This is a mixed social bag but is in most cases,  physically safer for me as a white, “educated”, disabled and neurodivergent person with a home and relative stability. It means instead of violence and dismissal as a human who deserves a life, I get a lot of isolating microaggressions and disbelief. 

One last relative privilege that bears reiterating is that as a white person raised and encultured as a “woman” I am more likely to be written off, dismissed, or scoffed at than violently attacked or murdered. Trans women and femmes of color, especially black trans women and femmes are frighteningly more likely to be brutalized and/or murdered. I should not ever leave them out when I am talking about multiple levels of oppression and privilege.

So where does that leave me? Well let’s talk about that. 

As a chronically ill person I was ever so politely forced out of my good stable job I had held for 8 years, almost 2 years ago exactly. I can no longer work outside my home or attend any social anything except in situations where my exposure to airborne chemicals, scents, smokes, and illnesses are at an extreme minimum. I am therefore perpetually under or unemployed, which impacts our ability to simply live reasonably. I can not attend support groups for my other identity aspects, social occasions, or gatherings because they will be inevitably to smokey or to perfumey. Most of the time I am unable to leave my house more than once or twice a week for anything more than a brief sedate walk. I am consequently locally, socially isolated and constantly both stressed and carrying an immense amount of guilt about our financial situation. 

Because my disability is invisible and varies with the ebb and flow of my illnesses, people often underestimate how heavily I am impacted, or disregard my struggle entirely as “made up”. I have only once or twice had people offer or ask about accommodation that might make it possible for me to attend something, mostly I am made to subtly and not so subtly understand that my affection, my friendship, my love, my time, and companionship is disposable, expendable, and categorically not enough to merit any time or effort. 

On a personal level it is nearly impossible to maintain local friendships, no matter how good our intentions may be. People tend to need time and energies I simply do not have, everyone slowly falls away. It isn’t their fault, it’s hard to be friends with a distant memory. 

As a neurodivergent person I have some social and physical difficulties, we would be here all day if I started listing every single potentially negative impact or aspect of oppression, of every single one of these identities. In the case of autism one thing that is weighing heavily on my mind lately is selective mutism and difficulty with words, compounded by sensory issues and anxiety. Lately I have been so stressed I have been unable to maintain contact with most people, and unable to reach out or converse “normally” when people reached out to me. This difficulty reached its apex three days ago when my brain became totally bogged down with so much anxiety and autistic burn out that it became almost impossible for me to speak, write, or even make simple decisions. My way with words was simply not there. This obviously has social impact, it understandably alienates most people but also it impacts my ability to contribute to my family. Writing, reading, my brain, and my hands encompass the entirety of my ability to contribute financially to my family’s well being. If one or more of those become compromised, it can be catastrophic for us….the stress of which only increases the depth and width of my burn out and anxiety. 

This very article has been written in fits and starts, in an exhausting struggle for the correct words and with twice as much proofreading needed, because of the complicated for me interplay between my need to earn a living and my need to honor my own reasonable boundaries and limits.

The overall arc of my queer, gender, romantic, and sexual identities are a complex stew of moving parts so rather than have this go very long. I will touch on that in the next installment of this series. 

*there are some generational differences in how people use the word bisexual, as a nonbinary transgender person who grew up using bisexual in a trans and self inclusive way,  I use the definition of bisexuality, genders like my own and unlike my own, or more generally, attracted to more than one gender.  

~~~~~~

Read the first installment or third installment of this series here. 

Generations

I have never liked shopping. Years of being hauled through row after row of pink fluffy torture/girl things made me infinitely defensive. Even once I was old enough to control where and how I shopped I did not enjoy it. I surveyed a store for possibilities, went in, checked sizes, made a choice and got out. It was efficient. I was even weirdly proud of it. Hullo unexamined internalized misogyny.

As I got older, came to realize my gender identity, and come out as the transgender person I was and am, I came to understand my shopping discomfort a bit better. Shopping still isn’t really fun for me most of the time. Clothes either don’t fit me right or are way out of my price range (boutique queer clothing companies I am looking right at you). It can be really exhausting and depressing. 

So that is where I was in my relationship with shopping when my daughter came into the world. When I was young and imagined having daughters, I imagined being the perfect tomboy’s mom, the mom I would have wanted. Of course things never turn out the way we expect them to. My daughter started choosing the bright and beautiful things as soon as I thought to offer her a choice. She fully embraces and loves everything about her girlhood…and she is no doubt a girl. She tells us that as well.  Z is in fact every aspect of girlhood that intimidated me as a child. She is everything that I was sure I would never be able to successfully parent, and she makes it an absolute joy. 

She is also, like myself, autistic, adverse to change that she hasn’t initiated herself, and has very specific sensory preferences and needs. So seasonal clothing and shoe style changes have sometimes been stressful for her and I. It can take time to get accustomed to shoes or clothes that touch our bodies in different ways. As such we have been going on sandal test runs the last few weeks, trying all the different types of shoes and walking away if it gets uncomfortable or overwhelming for her. 

It was under these conditions that I found myself sitting on the floor of a shop, surrounded by a pile of ultra femme sandals, two toddlers, my nesting partner, and enjoying myself immensely. She so earnestly loves shopping for frilly, fluffy, pink, and pretty things. It is impossible not to share in her joy as she hunts down unicorns, rhinestone rainbows, pink superheroes, and cute skirts. This week we had success too. She found a pair of shoes that were both glamorous and felt good on her feet. They have silver butterflies. She is stomping around the livingroom in them right now, singing about lunch. 

So at almost forty years old I have learned to appreciate shopping, fashion, extremely girly things, and even the color pink. I am extremely late to the party, my sincere apologies for all the times I thought all those things were insufferable. I have learned better now happily. I have the best, most fabulous teacher. She says she is a princess queen, and I for one believe her. 

Fluid Mom

Today I have a special guest post from my dear friend and talented artist, Caro, on the intersections¬†of personal, gender, and parental identities. This is a topic¬†that is¬†most dear to my heart and experience. I know that this beautifully, vulnerable comic really spoke to my parenting life, I’m sure it will speak to many others as well.

fluidmom1fluidmom2fluidmom3fluidmom4

 

Caro Fréchette is a Canadian sequential artist and author. They have published several short stories, both sequential and traditional, as well as two graphic novels, five novels, and one non-fiction book on writing. They were the editor and director for the French Canadian literary magazine Histoires à boire debout.
You can follow their online comic Some Assembly Required on Tapastic: https://tapastic.com/series/Some-Assembly-Required1 
 
Get in touch:
Twitter: @CaroFrechette1