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

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?

I’m Not Your Exception

CN: discussion of microaggressions, gendered expectations, transphobia, transmisogyny

There is a thing cis people often do when trans people come out to them. They say something like, “I just love you for you” which might sound good in theory, but allows the cis person in question to not have to confront any of their ideas about gender identity and presentation. This glossing over often becomes the order of business anytime the trans person is interacted with, so the cis person never has to do the work to realign any of their perceptions or ideas about that particular person’s identity or gender on a larger scale, at all. 
 “you are just you” they tell us, or “I don’t even see gender” thinking that this is the peak of acceptance and allyship. 

But gendered thinking is programmed into our culture, and if we aren’t actively breaking those subconsciously held ideas about what makes men, women, nonbinary people, and anyone else who they are, down, than we are indeed treating people in a gendered and potentially problematic way no matter how hard we try to ignore it. These implicit biases do negatively impact cis people as well, but are more directly harmful to trans people, especially multiply marginalized trans people, such as black trans women and femmes who are being murdered at terrifying rates because of the dangerous combination of transphobia, racism, and transmisogyny/femmephobia. 

The end result of this can and does play out even with our allies, who possibly subconsciously categorize us by how they as cis people view our adherence to binary gender rules that they haven’t done the work of examining. This means that the only trans people who get implicitly and correctly gendered with any consistency are binary trans people who “pass”. That when allies haven’t done the work of examining what “man” and “woman” mean to them, they may use the right pronouns, they might even use the correct labels but their gender coded treatment of us will still show that cognitive dissonance. 

For example, I have seen repeatedly, nonpassing transmasculine folks being automatically lumped into women only space, or allowed and encouraged to behave in a very misogynistic way that is only accepted specifically because they are still basically perceived as non threatening “woman”…which will suddenly change and no longer be encouraged when and if they begin “passing”. Inevitably if we trans folks say something about how uncomfortable we are with this implicit gendering, we are usually told, “oh I don’t mean you, you’re fine!” 

 That exception made for us, never feels like a compliment, it feels like the cis person in question doesn’t really take our gender seriously, it’s a verbal head pat. Now for me as a white, transmasculine person, this type of behavior is frustrating and hurtful, it means I get dismissed as cute, snoodly, funny aderble boy lite™. 

For transfeminine people, especially nonpassing or non traditionally pretty (by European standards) transfeminine folks this is down right dangerous. It is why trans women and femmes are often/usually considered potential threats or predators. It is why even supposed allies say they “understand why terfs feel that way though it’s wrong”, or think that trans women benefit from male privilege. These implicit biases play out in ways that directly result in the villainization and murder of trans feminine folks.

Instead of making their trans friends exceptions to their internalized rules of what gender identity and presentation is, allies need to be working harder to rewrite those internalized rules entirely, in the mean time working harder to pay attention to how they think of and treat the trans people in their lives, what the subtext of their treatment really means, and the impact they have both with their direct friendships and in the wider world. 

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.

My Heart, My Heart

#30daysofpride: day 8: Who is your greatest supporter?

This might be the easiest question to answer so far. The most supportive person in my life is my nesting partner. No one in my life time has been so lovingly supportive and radically embracing of all that I am.

Before I met him I was certain that I would be fundamentally alone for the rest of my life. I joked that I was not fit for human consumption. It seemed impossible to ever meet a person who understood all the ways I never quite fit in. This person has renewed my faith in the power of human connection. Even now, years later, I am daily thankful for his presence in my life. It is better for knowing him. Even when things get stressful or strained, the complexity of living this life, when one of us mess up…I never forget how powerfully thankful I am to have met him, to be in this life with him. 

I also have two long distance lovers, queerplatonic-ish or romantic best friends who have always been as supportive as they have been able to be, and they deserve a mention as well. 

As well as a network of friends across the very world who help me in every or any way they can. I try to return the support and love any time and any way I am able. I hope I’m a decent friend, even with all my different ways of being. 

I am eternally thankful for each one of these spectacular people, and my life as it intertwines with theirs. 

~~~~~~~~~~~

My love is unbound 

rooted in stars

woven into the very fabric of our universe 

my love feathers out through the galaxy

sun and strength and fingertips 

I love you eternally 

rebirth and death and struggle

I love you ferociously 

sweet whispers 

sweet dreams

Sweet, delicious, something 

tucked between you and me

sacred

my love, my sweet

Queer Identity From Outside the Queer Aesthetic

#30daysofpride: day 7: Going off book

Today I want to talk about being queer when you don’t fit into the accepted idea of what queerness should look like. 

To begin with I want to step away from the idea that queer culture or queer people are beyond reproach, or that our attractions or social politics exist in a vaccum. We do not, our subculture is just as rife with problematic aspects and oppressions as mainstream culture. As such the expected and accepted visuals that embody queerness are inherently just as problematic and othering as they are in broader mainstream heterosexual colonized white culture.* 

Now that I have touched on that, I want to turn back to something a bit more reflective on my own personal experience. 

When most of us think of or talk about mainstream queer aesthetic what do we mean? Typically within mainstream white american culture queerness is expected to be young, white, thin, abled, neurotypical, cute/sexy/attractive, androgynous, stylish, fun/funny, and hip….however that may be defined at the time. 

So what happens when we actual flesh and blood queers don’t fit that stereotype? We are rendered invisible. 

That invisibility can be complex and is experienced most aggressively, most violently by PoC, and especially multiply marginalized black queer and trans folks. With a huge portion of that violence focused on black trans women and femmes.  

The invisibility, othering, and dismissal that I personally experience starts because I am not young, thin, neurotypical, or able bodied.  

Our local gay and lesbian center, which has a wide range of support groups, is small and extremely smokey from years of second hand smoke. I can’t really go in there without giving myself an asthma attack…so i end up shrugging it off like everything else in life. Most the local community is centered around bars or kids. Bars are also outside of my abilities at this point…and in a different way play groups are as well. Movies and coffee shops are about all my tired body can handle…and even then I am likely to have to cancel.

Because my health so often reacts poorly to exposure to anything and everything out in the world, I’ve developed anxiety about leaving the house, anxiety about negatively impacting my health when I have no easy access to doctors or more medication, when an ER trip would be at least several hundred more dollars in debt. No body wants a friend or lover that can rarely leave the house. This means I carry my invisibility even more heavily. 

Because chronic illness has swept away my body’s assertive swagger, because it has swallowed whole my ability to breathe and bind at the same time…

because my body is to round, soft, and old to be seen as queer, androgynous, or masculine…

because I can’t afford and don’t particularly want a flashy turquoise undercut, geeky bow ties, a universe of button up shirts and sweater vests. It is a fine style, it reminds me of my childhood actually…but preppy geek chic or conversely Desperately Seeking Susan meets Morrissey wide brim hats and suspenders are just not my personal style. (honestly I’m not sure that there is much available right now that is my style but even if there is, I can’t afford it)

because I do not “pass” as male and have a cis male nesting partner who also doesn’t fit the queer aesthetic stereotype…

Because I have children with that nesting partner, whom I grew and nurtured inside my body…

Because my Nonbinary partners are to far away away to touch…

because I am ethically non monogamous…

My experience is often dismissed as heterosexual (or having passing privilege within the cis gay community), an assumption that inherently misgenders me. The cis gaze deciding that because they think I look like a cisgender heterosexual woman to them, that my experience must be that of a cisgender heterosexual woman.**  

 I am told to be greatful for being misgendered…and I do appreciate that I by no means have it the worst. There is so much work to be done, I need to do my part as well to help my more vulnerable trans family live in a world that wants them dead or decimated. 

But I am not a woman, my experience is not a woman’s experience, full stop. My experience has not ever been and never will be the experience of a woman. Because I am not a woman. Being perceived as a cis het woman not only directly misgenders me because I don’t fit that stereotype, it also means I am denied my own community in many ways…repeatedly…exhaustingly. Perpetually outsider, I am further isolated. withdrawn. further stressed and depressed. 

humans were not meant to live alone, without community 

But I don’t pass the rigorous testing I don’t guess. 

I don’t pass. 

Because I don’t pass or fit that stereotype I am subjected to constant microaggressions from people who don’t think I look trans “enough” for them to bother remembering that I am. 

A constant message of never being quite enough 

inadequate

It presses down on me rendering me sensitive and jumpy, quick to defend myself and impatient with well meaning but harmful allies. 

I am far from the only person who is socially othered by the wider queer community for not looking “right”. It is a problem that impacts many queer people, across many identities. 

I know I feel it in my bones. 

Queer inclusion needs to change…and if we are not truly doing the work, to change how we think, how our communities work, then we are leaving people behind, doing to them what was done to us. 

*for more information on the oppressive politics of sex and friendship please follow and fund Rhizome Syndrigast Coelacanth Flourishing who’s wisdom and work has forever changed the way I think and talk about social politics. 

**There are indeed some legal protections for being in a legal marriage with a person whom the government sees as being “the opposite sex” regardless of how meaningless that term may be to a nonbinary person. I’m also less likely to be attacked physically if I am misgendered heavily enough-consistently enough that I do not appear to be a threat to those cis people, basically if seeing me cis people think they see a possibly strange fellow cis person. (Whiteness also emphatically protects me from physical reprisals even for being visibly and noticibly trans or gender nonconforming) It is important to acknowledge the complexity of the situation.