How to Change Your Name Part 2

So now you’ve got a court order saying your name has changed, congratulations! (if you haven’t visit here for how to do this part if you live in PA) This is the first big hurdle to changing everything else. But I must warn you: you have just begun the process of changing your name.

There is a long list ahead, but don’t fret just trudge along one at a time and in no times you’ll look back excitedly at your results, I’m half way through!

-Drivers License (this needs to be done first, you can’t change most documents without this changed)
-Social Security Card (this is the second step, while it isn’t needed for all documents it is needed for most)
-Health Insurance Card (you need to do this to change medical records, doctors office, etc.)
-Doctors Office
-Medical Records
-Birth Certificate
-Passport
-Vehicle Title/Registration
-Insurance provider(s)
-Car Towing Company (i.e. AAA)
-School Records/Transcripts
-Degree (ie college diploma)
-Voter Registration
-Credit Unions/Banks
-Credit Cards
-Paypal (This one is super easy! and you get to upload your documents)
-Credit Bureaus (click here on a link to a page that explains how to do this)
-Utilities
–Gas
–Electric
–Water/Sewage
–Internet/Cable
-Library
-Selective Service
-Legal Documents (wills, power of attorney, living trusts, contracts)
-Landlord or Deed to House
-Loans
-Retirement accounts
-Professional Licenses
-Employment Records
-Sperm Bank (if you froze sperm)

12/30 completed! Wooh! since some of them don’t apply to me I am half way through the process. Every place is an exciting new challenge (that’s what I tell myself). In addition to the court order a note from your doctor saying “you have transitioned” is super helpful. This is essential at changing your gender marker with the Social Security Administration and also files about you that companies have. I would suggest sending it to everyone you never know when it might be applicable. While SSA needs one with the wording “have” most other companies will probably be flexible with other wording. Make sure to always send both documents even if they don’t ask for them. I had some businesses not process mine because I didn’t attach the necessary documents that weren’t even asked for.

This process is going to take a long time. I have been actively working on it for months. Just take your time and be patient. You will soon realizing that you have to also call back this places to ensure they got the documents you mailed to them. They often will then realize you did in fact send everything to them and begin processing your claim. Be vigilant, be patient.

The first step is to change your drivers license, just go down to the DMV for that with your appropriate form printed out and a blank check. Once you have that you can go to the SSA, and once you have that you can change all your bank accounts and, well everything. And for some instant gratification you get that same day. I would suggest getting this immediately after getting the court order, gotta keep up the momentum somehow.

Here is a link to the Mazzonni Center which explains these in more detail as well as the passport process.

In the coming months you will slowly conquer the name change process and be a master at paperwork and jumping through hoops. And remember knowing how to do this is a good thing in the states, you’ll learn all the buttons to push and all the forms to find. And if you’re having trouble figuring out what to do phone a friend… err their hot-line.

Quitting, Cold Turkey: Sarcasm

Day one: Rough day, sad day. I came to the realization that I need to stop sarcasm. It’s harming me and my relationships. So I quit, cold turkey. Well at least I tried. I can’t break out of the habit and ended up using sarcasm three times. The second time was the most painful to experience. I realized how much I rely upon sarcasm, how it is my alternative to expressing myself, especially my frustration. Instead of expressing frustration a witty sarcastic comment comes out, it hurts them it hurts me.

But wait, what got me to this point? I’ve been sarcastic for years. I think I first realized the awesomeness of sarcasm from Guaca in 2007. It was my freshman year and we were in USAS together. She didn’t say much but when she did it was funny, witty and sarcastic. I loved it, humor is my favorite, especially when you are in a (unnecessarily) serious conversation and there is that one person just throwing out witty, often sarcastic, comments. I took it upon myself to master it and 8 years later that is where I am.

I can say anything sarcastic and no one knows when I’m being sarcastic, at least not consistently. Instead I’m free to make jokes about others and myself and feel out the crowd without revealing myself. I can mask myself so well, too well. Suddenly friends don’t believe me when I’m being completely frank with them. When I admit secrets of other unexpected things to friends I often get a sarcastic “ha ha ha” followed by an disinterested, “you’re just joking.” I then have to repeatedly let them know I am in fact telling the truth.

But this isn’t what got me to give it up, though it is a big reason for following through on it. What happened was I was playing pool with some friends and began realizing that my sarcasm wasn’t being understood and therefore it was truly pointless, in fact worse. I was spreading disinformation about myself. People began believing things about me that I was trying to say the opposite of. And finally what hurt me the most when I was doing really good at pool against Red Beard and I stopped sarcastically making fun of his moves and tried to sincerely compliment him. He thought I was still being sarcastic and got angry at me. I tried to defend my sincerity and thought he was just being sensitive over his game.

Our walk home was awkward. I was trying to be real and he was annoyed at me for being a jerk. The next morning I felt very sad. Frustrated at myself and realizing I the thing I got in trouble for wasn’t mean it was the fact that I’m always sarcastic and my sincere comments were taken as sarcastic too. I cried a little and realized a lot about sarcasm. Why I use it and why it hurts. I use sarcasm to distance myself from people, to lie to them, to hurt them and to allow me to express my feelings (especially anger) by saying witty sarcastic comments. So I decided to quit.

Day one went well. I have begun understanding how much sarcasm has helped me avoid big problems, like my fear of expressing anger. It’s helped me tell myself I’m an open book while I spew sarcastic lies about myself so no one knows who I am or how I truly feel. It’s hurt people and made people angry at me when we actually agreed. It’s made me feel better than others and let me be controlling. I’m letting go of sarcasm, I’m noticing it every time it happens and realizing why I do it. Instead I’m going to express how I actually feel. I’m not going to hide behind sarcasm, I’m going to try to be myself, express myself.

Goodbye sarcasm, hello authenticity.

Shambhala Meditation, Nihilism. Two apples on the same tree

In searching to find meaning, purpose and the answer to the question why I have quested all over the place, nihilism to transcendentalism to bible studies to meditation. The goal was to find out an explanation for the world, this led me to the answer of nihilism and later a realization of this being the wrong question. Now I’m in between nihilism and meditation. It’s a nice place for me right now, one that acknowledges most of my understanding and lets me let go.

At first Shamabhala meditation felt like it was not compatible with nihilism, which led me to not truly embrace it, still holding onto my nihilism at a distance. Shambhala meditation is about being present in the moment and obviously meditating by focusing on your breathe and with your eyes open. I go to a center every Monday and have started reading Shambhala books, including a Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron (started before I knew what Shambhala was) and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa (one of the founders of Shambhala). I more or less embraced it while holding my disbelief at a distance, neither choosing to believe it or disbelieve in what I was doing.

After participating in the Monday meditations for a a couple months there was the most engaging discussion post-meditation ever. The director of the center was there and one of the participants asked him about feelings of darkness, emptiness and fear when he was meditating, he decided to let it overcome him and envelop him. The director started talking about emptiness, how the only moment that exists is now and nothingness in my head I laughed and thought to myself jokingly, “he’s talking about nihilism!” Then suddenly the director clarified, “This emptiness and nothingness we are talking about isn’t the western philosophy of nihilism.”

“Woah!” was all I could think. The similarity was so great that he clarified the difference. I mentioned this to my therapist and she reiterated the similarity by saying, “They aren’t apples and oranges, they are apples and apples, like Granny Smith and Pink Lady.” Suddenly I began realizing the similarities and how they seem to be tackling the same problem in similar ways.

To me nihilism is a way of stripping yourself clean, you destroy everything you believed by not believing it anymore and often defying it. It’s an aggressive destruction of what you believed to get to you.

Shambhala’s understanding of enlightenment is to remove all of the junk you have put on top of yourself, because you are an enlightened being.

The similarities of how to reach “enlightenment” are so close. They both focus on freeing oneself, living in the moment and embrace a belief that nothing is sacred. But the big difference is what and how you get there. Nihilism in my experiences is a bomb that destroys all of the conditioning that is forced upon us. Once it explodes there is nothing but a crater, and more bombing runs. It destroys to no end, and leave you empty of anything, not giving you an understanding to stand upon once the towers are gone. Meanwhile Shambhala has practices that you practice over and over again that slowly bring you into a practice that is a lifestyle.

I want to break for a second to emphasize that this is only my experience with nihilism, I had no teachers of nihilism and read sparingly nihilist literature. But my experience with it was amazing, devastating and unforgettable.

After thinking over nihilism again and again I realized the core problem, ego. My experience of nihilism never addressed ego. Instead it was reinforced by believing that nothing can be known or communicated which simply reinforces the idea of the ego. Meanwhile Shambhala’s goal is to loose the ego, it is a frequent subject of books and conversations and one of the main goals. While nihilist seem to be cast onto a unreachable island, people who follow Shambhala are questing to be truly present.

The other scary thing to me about nihilism is that it creates an extremely powerful and dangerous thought pattern that reinforces itself. Once nihilism is in someone no other religious or spiritual thought can be held and not much else that is found outside of the individual. Instead nihilism unleashes a destructive force on the individual where they attempt to destroy ever piece of knowledge and belief they hold.

This experience is quite cathartic. It dispels many harmful beliefs and many limiting beliefs. This is very helpful but in it’s place it puts nothing but a void and doesn’t suggest anything fill this void. This leaves ego to fill the void. While I wouldn’t say nihilism is inherently bad (ha ha inherently) it creates voids that is filled with ego and only leaves the person more detached from their surroundings.

In writing this and in my current experience I am stuck, I love nihilism and I hate it. I cannot leave it and I cannot stay there. I still identify with it and think it has helped me, I also know that it has hurt me. I’m not sure to tell people to stay away or embrace nihilism. I think I’m going to leave you with the feeling I have about nihilism instead of the thoughts. I feel bound to nihilism and a great appreciation for it. I know my experience with it but it is tied up with so many other things going on that it is hard to pin it all on nihilism. Instead nihilism still inspires and moves me forward today, and I am truly glad to have embraced nihilism, and to still hold onto it today.

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.