Minimalism

After throwing all my stuff on the floor, putting it away, and downsizing my possessions I felt somewhat at odds with the flowy, pretty clothing I kept. Suddenly I wasn’t sure anymore. I like the clothing but just didn’t want to wear it. I settled on a tank top and shorts for a couple days, and have yet been able to go back. I went from colorful dresses every other day to browns, greys and blacks everyday.

I had been told I was pretty dozens of times, and those people were right. This was what I was trying to achieve, to be gendered female and to look pretty. Suddenly that was over. I was a lady I felt it in me and the clothing I was wearing was a total lie. I haven’t worn it since and I feel great about my new wardrobe of camis, tank tops, short shorts, Browns, greys and blacks. It’s actually to the point that I can’t wear any other colors most days because I just feel wrong doing it. It’s just not me. I finally understand now why so many of my lady friends wear blacks, I can’t explain it but I do understand it.

Recently I started taking even that up a notch. I was at Occupy Harrisburg fighting for a fair budget and felt my time and energy being drained by someone who just kept following me around. Red Beard commented that I was “generous” to entertain her as I did but in reality I couldn’t say no and was getting worn out from being around her so much. I told him this and he told me I should think about wearing all black.

I looked at him and saw that he was wearing all black. He continued by saying that wearing all black sets a certain tone. He said that he had similar problems with people sucking up too much of his energy and then he started wearing all black and it helped give of a less compassionate vibe. Myself and Red Beard are both compassionate people, too compassionate, this was the edge we needed to not have all of our energy drained.

I thought about this and decided to go for it. I bought myself some black shorts and have 5 black tank tops/camis. I feel too dark at times but I feel like I am better able to push people away if they are sucking up too much energy. Call me a minimalist (because I have been for years); I wear the same thing every day. You’ll look at me and see legs for days, you’ll see black, grey and brown. And hopefully you’ll keep walking. It feels nice not being pretty, it feels nice being me and looking as sexy as I do in my mind (just so long as I can avoid the energy suckers).

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Also a much needed throwback. This isn’t new somewhere I’ve been before as you can see me wearing all black and a shirt that says, “Can’t get enough minimalism” in dark grey on black.

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The Pile of Shit in My Room

I’ve lost my mind many times. The number of times I’ve felt like I’ve gone crazy is innumerable. I tried to let out my crazy to show it, but inevitably policed it a bit. No need to have lasting damaging effects on my life from loosing my shit, right? Wrong I was freaking out because something was wrong and not letting myself act insane didn’t let myself acknowledge of fix this problems. What seemed to be just an impulsive crazy desire was more. I still regret not following through on some of my impulses.

I’ll give an example to elaborate upon this. When I was in Philadelphia I was obsessed with St. Vincent. One of the notable songs was The Stranger with it’s epic lyrics, “paint the black hole blacker.” I was so tempted for weeks to paint a large black hole over my bed, wanting to paint it darker and darker, larger and larger each day. I didn’t though. I was going to move out in a few months so why paint your room when you are planning to move out? In fact I didn’t even hang up the Ralph Steadman posters I bought for the same reason.

I was holding in my insanity, keeping up my facade of having it together. About two weeks ago I decided what is the point in holding it in? I’ve felt these impulses thousands of times before and resisted them each time. No more resisting. I am letting the crazy out fully for all to see. My first urge was after being haunted by the song Watermark by The Weakerthans, in the last post. I was driving home from backpacking for a couple of days and felt the urge paint one of my walls purple, “We sit and watch the wall, you painted purple.” It was an insatiable urge and I knew I had to do it, I had to this time.

The following day night after not buying purple paint I realized I had to act. I took most of my possessions and dumped them in a few piles in my room. I then went back to my closet and dresser and pulled out everything. I dumped everything on the floor in my room. Then I talked to my roommate about how crazy things are and how you just need to let it out and not care. I told him the phrase myself and other nihilist or post-nihilist friends say, “don’t care,” over and over again (the phrase is even the new cool thing to say in my house). I started acting very impulsive and self-concerned. It felt good I have always cared far to much about others and what they are thinking or feeling.

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I went to sleep with my closets empty and nearly everything I owned in piles making the floor impossible to see; and I felt good about it. It took me the next 4 days to clean up this pile of shit and I realized I needed to do this. I need to stop pretending I’m someone I’m not. I have always been a facade. I had to be before because I was living as a boy when actually I was a girl. But now I don’t I need to let go of all of the things I carry around out of habit. These aren’t things I like, they are things I thought I liked.

To make sure I didn’t keep those things I tried on every piece of clothing and made sure it was mine. I made sure I wanted it. It felt good. In the end I got rid of 3 large tubs of stuff, 2 of clothes and one of book and things. I decided to paint a wall in my room to finally make this room I’ve lived in for 2 years mine. I also am getting rid of some of the things on the walls and putting up stuff that is me. This is going to be my room and I’m going to stop being the person I’m supposed to be. Instead I’m going to be and look crazy just like I am.

#onemoreepiphany

Your Body Still Remembers Things You Told It To Forget

I’ve been doing EDMR with my therapist for a few months. This is an amazing therapy technique that lets you bring up and shed off past traumas. My last going to therapy it I felt like I was going to throw up. My therapist said that something is coming up and we will get it to come up next time, which was 3 weeks away. Half way through that time and 5 days before election day it came up in the form of a dream:

My therapist was between offices. She was deciding to stop working in the one office and move to another one and I was there as she was gathering up her things. She was somewhat preoccupied so I began busying my mind, something I am very skilled at. There was this huge watermelon rind, only half of it was in the room but it was about 10 feet long and 4 feet tall and wide. I was cutting slices off of it with a large bread knife.

My therapist noticed what I was doing and told me to stop busying my mind to be present. Suddenly I woke up. I felt myself whimpering and a tingling sensation over my neck and then over my genitals. I rip of the covers and suddenly I know. I know something that I don’t want to have happened I don’t believe did happen, something that can’t be true.

I jump to thinking about the consequences of this, about having to go to court, about ruining this persons life, about how this could happen to someone else by this person. Then I think how can I know it is her. My memory isn’t there it’s just a feeling, only my body remembers. I want to forget that this happened, I want to go back to sleep. I can’t. I can’t even stop crying. I reluctantly write it down in my journal and it becomes a little more real.

The next day I get to work and tell my coworker and friend I had a weird dream, she asks, “do you want to talk about it?”
I respond, “I don’t think I’m ready to have had that dream.”

Then I go to the bathroom and cry uncontrollably. I curl up and sit in the corner of the bathroom and cry. That’s when the synchronicity starts happening, I begin seeing watermelons different places. Watermelons in a dream refer to sexual energy. And they keep reminding me so I don’t forget. It feels like they are taunting me, but I realize they are just reminding me, just helping me to believe.

Walking home that night from work I was overwhelmed with a feeling of vulnerability. I was terrified of being attacked. I walked as fast as I could and had my computer open as I listened to music on my computers speakers to comfort me. When I got home I found Jamie and was able to finally confide with someone. Finally admit what I thought happened, finally share my fear. My reality that I was molested by my babysitter when I was young.

It took forever for me to say the words, I stumbled and cried. I refused to believe it and worried about what I would do. I worried about what my mom would think. She knows this lady, she also (quite literally) wrote the manual on how to deal with child sex abuse in the school district (post-Sandusky). I’m worried about unanswerable questions: Did she touch anyone else? Would she touch someone else? Did she touch my brother? My friends?

She just friended me on facebook about a month earlier and I thought that was why I thought of her. But that may just be why it came up. I cannot believe that she didn’t do it. I cannot believe it didn’t happen. I had some doubts the first day. But when I went into work the second day and started uncontrollably crying once more I knew. I was touched to my inner core, damaged by what she did. She affected apart of me I could never imagine. I was suddenly viewing my childhood through a different lens. Through the lens of someone who has been sexually abused. It all started to make more sense.

I told my therapist a week later. It couldn’t be any more real a that point, and she only further confirmed my belief. She said that traumas like these the person will leave their body making for no true memory of the event. Instead in it’s place is the body’s memory. My body remembered what happened and what I felt despite my minds best attempts to protect itself.

The last bit of synchronicity showed itself when I got home. I felt validated. It all started to make sense and I felt very assured. I turned on the radio and heard the song below and these lyrics: “How your body still remembers things you told it to forget, how those furious affections follow you.”

I wrote this post about two weeks ago. Since them it has come up for me a bunch of times, but I’m starting to accept it. In fact even better I’m starting to let that go, let go of my facade and be real me.

Mayes for District 7

Sorry y’all. I’ve been working on La’Tasha Mayes campaign for District 7 the past 16 days and have had little time for much else. To catch you up to speed, I finished my union organizing gig on May 1st, two days later I was the field director for La’Tasha Mayes campaign for city council. And 16 days later was election day. Now it is a few days after election day and I’m finally taking it easy.

The union organizing of home care workers went terrific. I was promoted to a lead fairly quickly which was a cool privilege and fun to do. Being lead entailed briefing and training folks in the morning, checking in with folks and debriefing folks at the end of the night. The job ended up turning from a 9:30am to 8:30pm gig to a 8:30am to 9:30pm gig. We were in blitz mode and can’t say I breathed much. I did even have time to think about my demons and feel uncomfortable with myself and now I’m a much happier person for that.

We ended up winning the union, with 89% of home care workers voting in favor of having a union. The whole thing was a pleasure to be apart of, taught me so much and re-entered me into the world of activism and propelled me into my next job, field director.

And after my glorious 2 days off that included sun bathing in my back yard and a going to a parade I began my next job, field director of La’Tasha Mayes campaign for city council (who if elected would’ve been the first openly black queer woman who is a city council member and the first time 3 out of 9 city council positions were filled with people of color). This job entailed being the main person that deals with volunteers in every respect. I reached out to them, I trained them, I wrote the phone banking and door knocking scripts they wrote, I was their everything.

This job was hard to figure out at first as I reworked phone banking scripts, tried to hire paid door knockers and figured out my candidates positions on different issues and how to best explain them to volunteers. After a week I fell into the job and embraced the role. I talked to a few different organizers, who were volunteering, about my work and was happy to get their approval of my work and happy to talk organizer with them. I’ve organized for 5 years of my life and I didn’t realize I learned a whole other language. The way you communicate with people and run things is much different. It’s a world where small differences are huge where saying “please” makes you sound pitiful and saying “thank you” makes people you say it to feel they are helping you instead of feeling ownership over the movement.

In the end I kicked butt. I and must say I owe it all to the volunteers and door knockers, I contacted only a few voters, they did all the work. This is how I know I did my job right. My job is to inspire, educate and open the floor so other can do the real work. The job is essential for making the campaign work, but without so many passionate volunteers inspired by La’Tasha there wouldn’t be anything.

At the end of the campaign I knew I had done just about my best, I was proud for turning that campaign up! The vote came in election night and it was what I expected, but actually, no, it was much better. She got 35% of the vote, 1,400 votes. I have 537 confirmed “yes” votes for of our contacted folks, our goal was 2,000. She started late, hired me super late and still got a good grab of votes.

At the celebration party she was happy and so where all of the volunteers. Probably happier than the “winner’s” party. She was cheered in as though she was victorious and gave her victory speech. Thanking everyone and what I didn’t realize until this point, was how important I was. She got to me and just kept going on about how essential I was and how she had wished she had hired me earlier. Then the bar started chanting my name. I had rocked that campaign, in a really good way. And everyone wanted to know what was next for me.

One of the organizers I respected and confided with to told me she couldn’t wait to see what campaign I worked on next and wanted to work with me in the future. I realized that this, this is what I am good at, this is my passion and this is my career track. I love campaigns and I cannot wait to see what I’ll do next but it will probably be a policy campaign, world I’m not going away. I have just found my passion. And when La’Tasha Mayes runs again, because she certainly will, I will probably find her by my side organizing volunteers and working my tail off to get her in office. Can’t wait to see where the world is going to take me but it’s going to be awesome.

How to File Petition for Name Change in Allegheny County Pennsylvania

I had some confusion about how to go about this at first and I figured I’d post my walk through of it. This is how to change your name specifically for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It should be just about the same as most other counties in Pennsylvania. If once reading through this you don’t feel comfortable you can get pro bono help from TLDEF, though they have a pretty long waiting list. Otherwise feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll do my best

First step is to go to your local prothonotary, which for me was in the family and civil service room of the Allegheny Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh. Once there I asked for a name change packet. They will give you a packet and explain what you need to fill out and do from there.

First step is to fill out the first 3 pages of the packet they give you (not including cover page). Makes copies of these first 3 pages (ideally before going back to the courthouse as there copy machines cost $.50 a page). You also have to get your 3 stamped envelopes ready. One to the Courthouse records, one to you, and one 9×11 envelope (for your fingerprint card) for the State Police (I put 4 stamps on this to be safe).

Next step is to get your fingerprints completed. You can do this at the State Police Barracks for free. The place closest to me was on 449 McCormick Road, Moon Twp, Pa (call first because they only do fingerprinting certain times of certain days). You can also call John Godlewski 412-three three seven-6004, he can do them at your place, but it will cost you $40. Make sure you have your ID with you when you get this done.

After all that fun is done you get to go back to the courthouse with $155.50, your filled in packet with 3 copies and envelopes. Your money cannot be in credit/debit or check, so I gave them cash. They take all your papers and money and give you a small receipt with your case number on it. Now you have to wait, mostly on the State Police in Harrisburg who have to make sure you are not secretly another person/deviant/criminal/etc. This can take from 3 months to 1 month.

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Just over one month after submitting it I happily got my self addressed letter in the mail containing the letter below:

March 23rd

I went to the courthouse back to the family and civil services room at the desk where I got the name change form from the first time I was there. I showed them the letter, more specifically my case number, the thing that looks something like GD ##-######. She then gave me my case file and told me to go to room 703 (on the 7th floor) to schedule my hearing. There wasn’t a judge in but the secretary/clerk/whoever that person’s title was kept my file up there and told me to come back Monday just after 9am.

I did just that. He remembered me and around 9:30am the judge came in signed some of my papers and then I had a hearing day, one month from that day I was there. He copied the paper saying when and what my hearing was about and sent me downstairs to the Wills room where I needed to talk out my ads.

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The ad people aren’t in until 10:30 so I came back later to find one of them there. You have to place two ads, one in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal and one in the Tribune or the Post Gazette. The Tribune is at least $20 cheaper and she was the only one there so I paid $103.91 in cash for the Pittsburgh Legal Journal and $104 via check for the Tribune. I would highly recommend bringing lots of cash, checks and plastic if possible. Some places only accept cash or money order, some places only accept check or plastic. It’s all very confusing and they don’t really like giving you change – in fact sometimes you just plain don’t get your change, so bring coins and ones.

April 6th555

The lady at the ad counter was very helpful and explained the next step, judgement searches, and how to get one. After walking through a maze I won’t explain I end up setting up a judgement search which is going to occur the day before my hearing and it costs $25 when I pick it up (the morning of the hearing). I also have lived in two previous counties and have to have judgement searches in those as well. Apparently some counties don’t know what that is, but all counties do in fact do judgement searches.

I lucked out and both of the counties I lived in know what judgement searches are. The first judgement search in Centre County is $7 and I need to send it in a money order to them just over a week before my hearing. The other county is Philadelphia County and after numerous transfers on the phone I found out that I can in fact do it via snail mail but it costs $100.10. They both have similar requirements which includes a self addressed stamped envelope, and copy of heading date with case number on it. And for good measure I would put your phone number and write on their that you need a judgement search.

A couple days after setting up my hearing date I received a photo copy of the paper telling me my hearing date. This was all the letter contained. I’m assuming this is some sort of reminder but either way, one less copy to make for the counties I’m getting my judgement searches from.

Just over a week was when I was told to put the judgement search requests in the mail. They want them processed as close to the hearing as possible. I did just that and mailed them out.

A week before my hearing date I had received one proof but not the other. I called into the Tribune and at no additional charge they sent me out another one. I received the other one a few days later.

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I waited eagerly for my judgement searches. I got my one from Centre County. Then I got mail from Philadelphia. Turns out Philadelphia took all of my stuff stamped it for no good reason and mailed it back… I got this on Monday. I called them immediately and struggled on the phone with them. Diamond transferred me to her boss, who never picked up. I started getting worried. The next day Diamond called me back and I emailed her the papers she needed and my address. She responded back an hour later with “THIS SHOULD BE FINE….” I had already given up on that judgement search and told myself that I didn’t tell them I lived in Philadelphia.

May 2nd

On May 6th I gathered all my papers and went down to the court house. My hearing was scheduled at 9:45 but I got there just after 9. First I needed to go to visit Beth and Mike and get my judgement search. Beth had it ready for me. Then I went down stairs and paid for the judgement search, $25. Next I went upstairs and went to court room 703. I handed the clerk all of my paperwork he looked it over and handed me a couple of things back he didn’t need. He looked at the judgement search for Centre County and said, “and it looks like you lived in centre county at one time.” He told me it should be long.

This is what they look for in a judgement search. Here is the technical info of my paper from the judgement search in Allegheny County

This is what they look for in a judgement search. Here is the technical info of my paper from the judgement search in Allegheny County

About 15 minutes later, just shy of 9:30 and just after the judge arrived. He told me that It was all done, handed me my file and told me to get stamped copies downstairs back in the Family and Civil Services room. I stood in line waiting for the floor clerks and one called me over. He explained that most people get either 2 or 3 stamped copies. One for your social security, one for your state ID or drivers license and one for your birth certificate. Each copy is $10. I bought 3 copies and he gave me 3 unstamped copies and 3 stamped copies. They look like this. The one copy has an ink stamp, signature and a stamp to the paper making it raised.

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The process was much easier than I imagined, just long, slow and expensive. In the end it cost $430 with stamps (not including the judgement search from Philly that I didn’t end up getting). Now I am on my way to filling out all the information on my drivers license, social security card and eventually birth certificate. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Book Review: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

I just finished Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, a book my roommate Cha bought for me to thank me for being so flexible and helping her out. I figured it would be nice to read about someone else’s transition but it was much more than that. I found myself deeply relating to what Janet went through at times and crying because I knew I felt the same way she did. She talked a lot about self acceptance and vividly takes you through her journey to find it from childhood to coming out after “passing.”

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Reading about her transition was so often a glimpse at someone else who is going through the same thing as me. She talked about her lack of self worth and how she sought it from other, something I still feel today. When she came out to her friend in NYC her friend responded, “You act as if you murdered someone!” I couldn’t help but cry knowing I would’ve said it the same way she did.

She left me with so many quotables that I relate to and hold dear to remind me of who I am, where I’m going and how amazing I truly am.

“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.
-bell hooks

“Mary! Life is uncomfortable. You have to get used to it or you’re going to live your life trying to make people comfortable. I don’t care what people say ab and she humbles herself by reminding us about the number of other trans folks who felt suicidal and were kicked on the streets by her parentsout me because they don’t have to live as me. You gotta own who you are and keep it moving.”
-Her best friend Wendi (who is also trans)

She also talks about a topic many wouldn’t say it but I would argue is very contentious, “passing.” She is envied by her looks and ability to “pass” but talks about the complications of this idea. In her own words she says, “If a trans woman who knows herself and operates in the world as a woman is seen, perceived, treated and viewed as a woman, isn’t she being herself? She isn’t passing she is merely being.” Instead realness needs to be redefined as the book’s title asserts. One of the best ways of doing this is the same way the gay rights movement achieved it, by coming out. This makes the world an easier place for all of us to live, LGBT or otherwise. To free people of the restrictive gender binary we all have to live under. We need to use or visibility to show our power, or to requote a quote from Janet’s book:

That visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.
-Audrey Lorde

Finally Janet tells us about something I didn’t expect to read about, her struggle beyond her gender. Her struggle through molestation, sex work and homelessness. She opened my eyes up even more to the horrible reality that exists throughout this “developed” country. She struggled with homelessness and constant moving for most of her childhood. Being swapped from one parent to the other and moving in with one family member to another. Her mom and dad both clung to their ever-changing partners and often left their children ignored.

Janet learned to go it alone and became a strong-willed little kid that pushed forward to her true self despite never ending barriers. She was defiant and strong, managing to save enough money by herself to fly to Thailand and pay for GCR (Genital Confirmation Surgery). When she did her sex work she had the constant reminder of who she was in her sex work bag. On the bottom of the bag filled with condoms, lube, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and lip gloss was a piece of paper with a quote from Maya Angelou on it saying,” I didn’t come to stay.” And she certainly didn’t.

I personally felt privileged to read her story and amazed at her c and she humbles herself by reminding us about the number of other trans folks who felt suicidal and were kicked on the streets by her parentsourage to tell it fully. She did an excellent job throughout and even humbled herself by pock marking the book with statistics and facts to remind everyone that not one transition story is alike. This book is an excellent read and I would highly suggest it to anyone wanting to hear more about the trans experience as well as the experience of marginalized, minority populations struggling to live their true life.

Man or Woman?

This is the questions strangers ask themselves when they see me. Sometimes I see the struggle in their face as they stare me down. They just don’t know and they can’t be too sure. But they do know they have to pick one. Sometimes they switch once I talk, or once I get closer. Other times they are used to saying gender neutral terms and can hide their confusion by calling me “honey” or avoiding pronouns until they slip.

I stand in their presence and think little about how they gender me. I’m there for another reason, whether it be to talk to them about the home care work they do or to buy groceries. I am living in my own world and I know where I am. They understandably don’t, my voice is still deep and my beard is probably already showing. Maybe it’s my shoulders or my hands, but I can’t say I really care.

Don’t get me wrong I like being ma’am-ed it feels nice and validating. It tells me I’m getting closer to who I am. But I also know that I’ve been on hormones for 3 months and I haven’t had nearly enough voice training or electrolysis appointments.

I’m just trying to view the ma’am-ing and sir-ing differently. To view it as people struggling with being respectful. People are trying with all their might to correctly gender me, they just haven’t figured out that gender and sex are two different things. Not to mention the separation of gender identity and gender presentation. They aren’t being disrespectful, that is exactly what they are trying not to do, misgender me.

So I watch the ensuing chaos that I create. Especially as me and my trans friend/roommate who is going the opposite way, Jamie, and I go for a bike ride. A guy with thick glasses stops us by saying, “hey ladies!”
We turn around.
He then corrects himself by saying, “I mean lady and man.”
Jamie responds, “don’t worry about it,” in a voice that is getting deeper by the second.
He corrects himself again, “No wait I was right the first time.”
We try our best to hold off laughter until we are far enough away.

A lot of trans people seem to want others to acknowledge their identity (possibly even before they acknowledge it themselves – I know because I felt this way just recently). But what is more important is to be sure of yourself and sure of who you are. The same way that cis-people will say, “I’m not offended when someone misgenders me.” While that isn’t the same, it isn’t a blow to them because this isn’t offensive and it doesn’t challenge their identity because they know who they are.

I had to begin to empower myself, there is nothing wrong with being trans there is nothing wrong with being recognized as being trans, because being trans is beautiful.
Laverne Cox on being misgendered

I know who I am in a world that has no idea what to call me, a world that just found out I exist. That’s fine with me, as I said, I know who I am – that is way more important to me than what anyone calls me.