boot labelMy feet have been bothering me all year. I thought that it was maybe just me getting old, but my lovely doctor says that it is plantar fasciitis, and that I need to stretch my feet. And I have been stretching my feet. And my feet have been getting slowly yet not entirely better.


You see, I wear work boots to work.

I have worn one hundred and fifty-dollar boots and sixty-dollar boots and twenty-dollar boots. I have worn steel toe boots and waterproof boots and insulated boots and oil resistant boots and men’s boots and women’s boots and farm boots and leather boots and hiking boots and boots that fit a couple of pairs of insulated socks.

Still, on a good year, I completely wear out six pairs of boots. On a bad year, up to ten pairs. There is only a modest difference in wear time between the forty dollar boot and the one hundred forty dollar boot.

waterproof boot

I have been around and around about this before.

I always buy at least two pair of boots at once. Today, I bought two pairs of non-steel-toed hiking boots. They look sturdy, and comfortable. I am always optimistic about the prospect of my new pair of pair of boots.

I try to care for my boots. I waterproof them occasionally. They dry out on most nights.

Still, the soles peel off. The seams split. The leather cracks. The steel toe detaches. The shoe-lace threaders bend. The waterproofing wears out. I wear holes in the soles. Frequently, the big rubber lugs are actually hollow. Once you break through, the soles are finished.

I take a kind of pleasure in how many pairs of boots that I wear out. My co-workers do not demolish nearly so many pairs of boots as I do. I am proud to be a working person. Proud to be a female in a “man’s” job. Proud that I can work circles around my co-workers, with only half of their physical strength. (When I started this job twelve years ago, I realized that I would need to make up for my lack of brute strength by using organization, and my mind.)

I did not ever imagine that I would be in the position of doing physical work. I had always dreamed of being an entertainer, which is what I did through most of my 20’s and 30’s. When that was done, I didn’t know what to do, and just kind of fell into something.

But on many days, I arrive at work, and I love my job. I love being really good at my job. I have thousands of little pieces of knowledge gained by experience, and experimentation. On many days, my job is like a pleasant walk through the park, and my mind is free to do whatever it will.

boot sole

Show and Tell

It is an important part of my life to communicate with other trans* identified people here in blogspace, but I find that I have used this blog a “show-and-tell” platform for topics that have nothing to do with living as trans* or queer. My life is scattered into many segments. I like for writing to be part of my creative life, but my creative life also consists of drawing and painting and sculpting and knitting and computer programming and mathematics. And gardening. And canning.  And other things.

Scattered is the word.

(that reminds me, there is a website devoted to being scattered like I am, it is called Puttylike, a home for multipotentiates)

Just two weeks ago, we found that my boss’s kid is having a baby. Most years, I start knitting in August. That way, I can finish complex projects by the time that the holidays come around. This year, my first knit projects are baby items for my boss’s impending new grandchild. (I really like my boss’s son, and his wife. I have watched him grow up through high school and college now out on his own. When he was in college, his band played in our cafe. So I really like him, and am very happy for him)

So, H. and I spent the week clacking needles. scarfOne of my favorite things ever is mittens with a cord that goes through the coat.

Baby MittensAnd a hat to top it off:

Baby hatWe would have done booties, but we only had one week.  We made labels for each item, and wrapped them nicely.

My camera isn’t working, so I just placed the knitwear on my scanner.

I hope that they like everything, and that it helps to keep their baby warm this winter.

Fonzi Gets Chomped

September 5, 2015, Avonia Beach Pennsylvania, Lake Erie.  We spend an hour or so picking up beach glass while trying to coax Fonzi into learning the joys of water.  He does not mind getting his feet wet, at least.
Nearby, a group of people has five Labradors frolicking in the surf.  Further down, a couple plays with an exotic looking Australian cattle herding dog.
Back, closer to the parking lot again, where Avonia creek scribbles sideways through the sand, another young couple plays in the water with a large, tan, pointy eared dog (This is probably a 100 pound dog.  Fonzi, by comparison, is about 25 pounds). As we wade across the stream with Fonzi, suddenly the dog is on top of Fonzi in the knee deep water, jaws locked on Fonzi’s body, then neck.  The big dog’s owner jumps in, and wrestles her dog away from our dog.  I pull frantically at the tail end of her dog.
In thirty seconds, the chaos is over.  The girl’s boyfriend leads the dog, who is still lunging aggressively, back to their car.  The girl is balling, upset by her dog’s behavior, and clearly worried about Fonzi.  Fonzi, meanwhile is wiggling all over as if he just had the time of his life.  His collar falls to the ground, severed, as he shakes the water and sand from his coat, then rubs back and forth against me as if to ask what fun comes next.
I am still shaking, after imagining the disaster of the injury of my dog, and my spouse.

If I were Jamie, this is where I would relate my dog’s behavior to some aspect of my own condition in life.  If I were Ellen, a gull with the queen’s accent would swoop down and carry Fonzi off.  If I were AnExactingLife, I would use this event as inspiration to inventory my dog snacks.

Instead, I will continue my story.
I am in Erie for the weekend to visit my parents.  This means a certain amount of stress.  But I have seen a lot of my parents this year, and that is good, because it allows us all to get through the surface pleasantries, and to spend some varied time with each other.  My parents still use the name for me that they gave me at birth, and the gender words too.  Possibly, they always will.
There are many aspects to this.  Although they still use these words, they undoubtedly know and accept me as female now.  They hear my friends, and even strangers in public referring to me this way.  Last winter, when I visited them, their neighbor stopped over, and said to my mother when she saw me “I thought that you said your son was visiting.”  So, in private, I am not hurt too badly by their words.  Especially since my mother occasionally lets a “she” slip out accidentally.  These accidental accuracies are even more significant than forced ones.
What I really anticipated with dread is to be mis-named or mis-gendered in public.  But, happily, we spent the weekend amongst ourselves, and the situation never arose. (I have to admit that I am partly to blame for the situation with my parents.  I have never been good at asserting myself with them.)
The other reason that I am thinking about all of this is that I am finally reading Stone Butch Blues.  Leslie Feinburg’s widow has made the book free for download in honor of the late Feinburg (thank you TheFlannelFiles for making me aware of this).  I have seen people reading this book, and heard them speak of it, for years.  Somehow, I avoided reading it.  Despite the fact that my own life is radically different from Feinburg’s, and Jess’s (her protagonist), I find that the book speaks giantly to my own life, and I would suspect to the lives of many other people.  While the specifics of her life are so different, she yet captures specifics of my lived experience on every page.
Here are two great quotes that make me step back and re-evaluate the way that I am viewing my life:

I care which pronoun is used, but people have been respectful to me with the wrong pronoun and disrespectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.
Leslie Feinberg – A Communist Who Revolutionized Transgender Rights, By Minnie Bruce Pratt posted on November 18, 2014, Worker’s World,

For me, pronouns are always placed within context. I am female-bodied, I am a butch lesbian, a transgender lesbian – referring to me as “she/her” is appropriate, particularly in a non-trans setting in which referring to me as “he” would appear to resolve the social contradiction between my birth sex and gender expression and render my transgender expression invisible. I like the gender neutral pronoun “ze/hir”? because it makes it impossible to hold on to gender/sex/sexuality assumptions about a person you’re about to meet or you’ve just met. And in an all trans setting, referring to me as “he/him”? honors my gender expression in the same way that referring to my sister drag queens as “she/her”? does.
Transmissions – Interview with Leslie Feinberg, July 28, 2006, by Jamie Tyroler ,

I got both of these quotes from Feinburg’s Wikipedia page, but I then went and tracked down the original sources.

Both quotes speak to me, and will help me to get my head on straight the next time that I am squirming because someone has called me “he”.  I live boldly out and loud as “other”.  I have for all of my life, even when I was trying not to (there is no more backing down now).  Although I am uncomfortable being interpreted as male, I cannot deny my femininely manerismed gay and straight male brothers with whom I share so many experiences of growing up, nor my transgender sisters.  When I am seen as “she”, yet labeled as “he”, I am at my greatest strength in breaking the barriers of gender.
Still, my identity is confidently female.  If I need to earn the right to that, I think that I have by now.  And, I have earned the legal right to it as well.
Yet, I still identify most closely with butchy females, with trans males.  Adopting too many stereo-typically female traits goes against everything I believe about feminism.
In short, I am making a political statement every time that I walk out my door.  This statement is more important than my own discomfort that people sometimes interpret me as male.

The bad parents are right to steer their staring kids away from me in the supermarket.  But it is already too late, the kids are already corrupted: they have already glimpsed me, and now they now that there is something other than boy or girl or man or woman in the range of possibilities of life.
( The good parents satisfy their kids curiosity with a reasonable explanation of the wide variety of people in the world. )
(Sorry this post is still a little disorganized.  Conceptually, some of the stuff in the last few paragraphs is complicated, and I am still trying to get it just right.)

Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts ( Vacation, Part 2 )

Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts

Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts

On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, I finally toured the new Lehigh Valley Charter High School For The Arts (Charter Arts), in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.  The old school was in a rented old industrial site (no windows in the whole school!) but it still blew me away.  Art, dance, and music was happening everywhere: in the classrooms, in the hallways, on the ceilings. The new school puts all of that in the most beautiful building: a building constructed especially for creating art, situated in a vibrant arts community, and positioned with dozens of unique and inspiring views.

Charter Arts pulls the students from 46 different school districts in eastern Pennsylvania.  Each student auditions to get into the school.  At the school, the kids do academics for half of the day, and their art (dance, figure skating, music, visual arts, theater, vocal arts) for the other half.  I have seen some of the art that these students are creating, and it is very impressive.

But here is the most wonderful thing, and the point of me writing about this school.  My friend who gave me a tour of the school made a point of telling me what a safe haven the school has become for students who are LGBT, trans, gender variant, or have just otherwise not fit in, in the places where they come from.  Charter Arts is like a college experience for these kids.  They are able to be welcomed as themselves, in a new school where nobody knows them, and where they are judged solely as artists.  The school is a place that works to transcend boundaries of socioeconomic background, class, race, and gender.  These are lofty ideals, but my friend is believes that this has really happened in her school.

My friend is super wonderful anyways, but I know that our decades long friendship has caused her to give extra thought to the students of her school who are outside of the gender norms.  I am so happy that our long friendship has led her to take a special interest in the well-being of these kids.

The school impressed me so much that I drove back up to Bethlehem twice to draw and paint the school.  My friend hasn’t seen the drawing yet, but I hope that she likes it enough to hang it in her office.

Mind Purge

Typical Trans* Column Outline

  1. I went to the {bank, restaurant, work, store}.
  2. Where a person that I {know, d0 not know, am married to}.
  3. Called me {she, he, her, his, they, yo, dude, babe, sweety, sir, ma’am, man, honey, hey baby, hey lady, girl, bitch, brother, bro, cxxt, fxxxxt}.
  4. Which caused me to feel {happy, sad, elated, confused, angered, amused, delighted, accepted, defensive, angered, mad, defensive, acknowledged, recognized, invisible, thoughtful}.
  5. But now I am feeling much better.

My intent is to stick to transition related topics here. Recently, though, everything that I think of writing seems to follow the above formula. Being a naturally scattered person, this week I am going to write about a bunch of unrelated topics, so that next week I can return with the regularly scheduled programing:

1. Everyone is getting married. Hooray for Marriage Equality.
Two of our best friends were married in New Years Eve.  Last week, in the same day, I ran into a couple of gal friends who got married in November, and a couple of guy friends who are getting married next weekend.
2. I have been making art. I go through periods when my creativity is diverted to other things, but I always return to visual art.

Mr. Imagination Shrine

Shrine To Mr. Imagination

This is my shrine to my friend Mr. Imagination, who died almost three years ago.  We spent some valuable time together, over many years, and I still feel much sadness over his parting.  There is so much in my life to remind me of him.  We traded a lot of art, so I have his work in every room of my house.  Glancing at his art usually stirs off a string of memories.

It is hard  to see in the above photo, but the shrine has a throne room on the left, and a bedroom on the right.

Here is a close up of the bedroom:


Bedroom in Shrine

The whole shrine is made out of a horrendous built-in spice cabinet which I ripped down when I bought the house that I live in now.  There are ritual activities associated with the shrine.  You may have tea with his dolls, or you may flatten bottle caps, for instance (I still find bags of bottle caps that friends had saved for Mr. I).

If you want to see Mr. Imaginations art, the Intuit gallery in Chicago is having a retrospective of his work right now.

More scattered topics soon until we return to trans* related topics!

I Must Be Doing Something Right

I am in my Woman Rivetingwork truck, at the bank, holding a check which bears a feminine name (my spouse’s) and an androgynous name (mine). Well, not my work truck, but my boss’s truck, and it is even way worse than my truck, except that some of the equipment in it works better, sometimes. Diesel and chemicals leak out through the holes through which I can see the macadam below. Soot blankets the inside of the cab, because the chimney in the back of the truck is clogged. Yes, there is a chimney in the back of my truck. I mean my boss’s truck.

I couldn’t be any less of a girl as I insert the payment stub and check into the pneumatic canister. My hair is cropped short. I smell like the diesel, bleach, and sulfuric acid which saturate my worn out Dickies work clothes and wet boots. Probably I have grease smudges on my face from crawling around inside the diesel engine in the back of my truck making repairs, before giving up and calling for a new truck. The “girls” are tucked safely into a tight sports bra. I have no feminine accoutrements to rely on.

As the can whizzes through the tube, I think, that is all right. I learned from my mother (I know that I was hard on her last week) that the measure of a woman is not in whether she has a “woman’s” job, follows orders from a man, has on heels or jewelry, wears make-up or feminine clothing, or goes to the hair dresser (my mother has always gone to the barber). These lessons have stuck with me. I am no less woman because I don’t submit to most of the “rules” of what women are supposed to be. As a transgender female, that makes it even tougher on me. Fortunately, I also inherited stubbornness from my mother.

But still, I am pleasantly surprised when the cashier looks at the names on the check, and calls me by the feminine name (my spouses). Some chatter ensues. She calls me “Ms. D.” She makes an attempt at selling me a new checking account. She calls me by my spouse’s name again, and I drive off with a big smile on my face.

Chalk up a big point for the cashier, and for the bank. And knock off one big chunk of insecurity that I sometimes feel about how people see me.

(the image is Rosie the Riveter, library of congress, 1943, significantly altered by me)


Sorry, Mom

Sorry, Mom

My folks are coming down for a couple of days. That means depression era coffee (one scoop per pot), and a few stressful moments.

H. really loves my parents, and they really love her. They are the parents that she never had (that is her story to tell ). My father just turned 80, and I am fortunate to still have my parents on this Earth. We have lost 5 close friends this summer, and most of our friend’s parents are gone already.

I hate to be the ungrateful, self-centered, petulant, selfish child, but here goes.

You see, it has been decreed (by my mother) that my father is not to know the entire extent of my transition. In practice, that means that H. reverts to male pronouns for the weekend. She can’t stand the idea of hurting my parents.

My parents are very social, so we will probably do things with friends. So, when we meet friends, H. will blurt out a few big obvious “he’s” so that everyone gets the idea. My fear concerns the friends with whom I have worked very hard to establish that I am female. Some friends know how complicated that the whole situation is, and will play along with it for the day. I don’t worry about them. Other friends are newer to the fold, and have never really gotten a full explanation. Some of them, I like and respect as people. I worry that they will witness this, and never really accept me as a woman again. Still other friends are my stalwart supporters. They are the people who explain my situation to others, and defend me. I worry that if we ran into any of them, they would be surprised to hear anyone referring to me as male, and disappointed to see me putting up with it.

To further clarify how complicated the situation is I will tell you about the last time that my parents visited. We went out to eat twice when they were down. At one restaurant I was referred to as “Ma’am” and at the other “Missy”. This is all right with my parents, and completely within the realm of what they choose to ignore.

As the dirty secret of the family, nothing can be acknowledged.

My deep down point of view is that this is really my mother’s problem in accepting me that we are dealing with and not my father’s. She is reading her own negative feelings onto him. He is the one who puzzled out some understanding of this thing in me, years ago, and is more capable of handling it than she thinks he is.

For now, we will obey mother.

I Have No Idea

So I ran some errands with my wife on this rainy morning.

First, we had some paperwork to fill out at the bank. The interaction was all very pleasant and businesslike, yet there was not a single title, ma’am, sir, Mr., Ms, or Mrs. There were no pronouns used of any kind.

Second, we stopped at the supermarket next door to the bank. As I approached the checkout, the cashier loudly exclaimed “And how are you today, sir?”

Last, we visited our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. We lingered over lunch and looked out on the puddled parking. When the server picked the check up at the table, she confidently said “Thank you, ladies.”

Three different experiences in three hours. Add the experience of being aggressively stared at and sometimes stalked, and you get the story of my life.

A few days ago, Jamie asked, “Is there a universal difference in being in the middle depending on which end you started at. What are the similarities?”

To which, my answer is a confident, emphatic, “I have no idea.”

I have been thinking on this question all week. The more that I think about it, the more that I realize that all that I know is my own personal experience (which I know to be heavily distorted by my own unrealistic self-image), and my own philosophy (which probably has no basis in the empirical world).

My own experience is that I started somewhere in the middle, and 46 years later I am still somewhere in the middle. At home, I experienced an upbringing largely free of gendered expectations. My mother was thwarted by the limitations of growing up as a girl in the 1940’s and 50’s. She let us know it. (I am glad for those lessons in homespun feminism. ) The 1970’s were full of anticipations that things would be different now. Equality of the races and sexes was here at last. Helen Reddy sang “I am Woman.” Ziggy Stardust sat in a tin can. The Jeffersons were movin’ on up, and Archie Bunker was a soon to be extinct Jurassic species. The naivety was almost comic, with 40 years of hindsight.

In school, I was labeled “boy.” I resisted this label, as much as I could, and spent most of the next many years of my life fleeing all things male. By 4th or 5th grade, I was sure that I was actually “girl.” To others, I was “different”, “artistic”, or “gay guy”. “Gay Guy” became a comfort zone for me. All things considered, it is a fairly socially acceptable version of “middle” (perhaps the social equivalent of “butch lesbian”? ). It took a long time for me to realize that “gay guy” was holding me back. ( I am not primarily romantically attracted to males. But others saw me as a gay male, and I was comfortable with that. )

Now, I am more middle than ever. Because of my “butch” attributes, I think that people are as likely to think that I started as female, than that I started as male. But I really don’t know, and I really don’t know how others see me. But, that shouldn’t matter. None of us can ever really know how others see us, or even control how others see us. It is really just a matter of our own lived experience.

(My neighbor calls me “David Bowie” when he is drunk.)

Jamie’s question perplexed me, the more that I thought about it. Maybe we can hammer out some better answers in the comment section.

Every Time I Come Out, It Comes Out Different

So, my regular post is still coming on Friday.  This one is just for fun.

A year or so after I started on hormones, I started a transition note-book, and kept a list where I would write down the ways in which I would come out to people.  The list spans lots of years, and are not in any particular order.  I think that I will soon turn these into a song.

  • I haven’t been male for a long time.
  • I have been on estrogen for a couple of years.
  • I’m not male any more.
  • I never identified as male.
  • I never expected that I would become male as I grew up.
  • I always believed that I would grow up to be a girl.
  • I am female now.
  • I am having surgery soon.
  • I had surgery last year.
  • I have been on estrogen for many years.
  • I am transsexual.
  • I am transgender.
  • Mom, I’m not male.
  • By the time that I met H., I knew this was first date stuff.
  • When I started to get muscles, I became extremely distressed.  That is when I knew it was time to find a doctor.
  • Dogs think that I am a girl.
  • My body chemistry is a females.
  • I had the last of my male parts removed last week.
  • H. as always accepted me as a girl from the time that we met, 22 years ago.
  • I am a woman now.
  • Not Mr.,  Ms.
  • That’s ma’am.
  • I will be starting my next job as female.
  • Dr. K. saw about 25 other patients who are trans.
  • I had surgery years ago, the year we moved into this house.
  • I stopped seeing the CIA spying outside my window, after I started on estrogen.  (this is true … estrogen had a very positive mental effect on me)

You might notice that I like to be obliquely blunt.  Of course, my actual gender identity is way more complicated than these one-liners indicate.  I am confidently yet not stereotypically female.  I am trans.  Depending on many factors, people usually peg me as either butchy woman or gay guy.  I am not Mr., Sir, he, or him.  More about all of that in later posts.

The Purpose of this Blog.

Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out.

Each time that I engage in conversations with others on the trans* spectrum, I think: I have something to say on this topic. I should be blogging about this. Blogging about what it is to live in the world as transgender, as neither male nor female, as both male and female, as non-binary. Writing about medical transition, hormones and doctors. Scribbling about threats of aggression and violence in public, the experience of having ones gender correctly or incorrectly read, acceptance from others, complications of relationships, gender stereotypes, and of the power of clothing. Talking of being a survivor of sexual violence. Speaking of feminism. Writing of the commonalities and non-commonalities of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experiences. Complaining about public restrooms. Writing about existing as visibly “other”.

I will not be afraid to ask big questions like: how does the experience of being transgender speak to the universal experience of all humans, and of all sentient beings? What parts of the human experience are amplified by being transgender? What does it mean to be other, to be othered, to be in between?

I will be neither moping and griping, nor bragging and whooping about my experiences. I will try to illustrate myself at my weakest, and at my most vulnerable. I will attempt to be honest, and to not be a poser.

Previous Older Entries

Into the Nitty Gritty of a Male of Transgender Experience

 “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”

Gender Diversity at WSU Vancouver

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non-binary bound

a journey of top surgery for a non-binary body

The Recompiler

a magazine about building better technology, together

recess | city

move toward what moves you.

the ghosts journey

A transparent look in to the (no longer) closeted life of a transgender woman


arts journalism, ficiton, content writing.

Butch and Brat

The life and times of a butch woman and her offspring.