Boots

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.

boot

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, worker.org

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 , kampkc.com

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

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)

Folks

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.

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