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.

April 18 22222
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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.

Long Time Coming

About 2 weeks ago I started what I thought was a temporary job that would last a few weeks at most and give me some extra money before I figured out what I wanted to do. 12 days later I’ve worked 10 days in a row and am about to have an interview for a upcoming campaign they are working on. The labor movement is finally calling me back and I can no longer resist it.

The story starts about 4 years ago. I had just finished college and had graduated with a degree in anthro… United Students Against Sweatshops. I spent my 4 years organized around sweatshop issues and considered that my real degree, since I put more time into organizing than I did my studies. I saw 3 of my friends find jobs in the labor movement and struggle with long hours and being displaced from their partners. Two of the people were in long term relationships when starting their jobs, both of which had ended before I graduated.

I was in a relationship at the time and I was burnt out. Both of these decisions led me to want to do something close to home. Eventually I settled on community organizing before fully burning out and going back to my summer job of working on bikes. Fast forward 3.5 years and I am doing EMDR treatments with my therapist and finally feel the past shedding off of me. I finally feel like me, and suddenly the opportunity I’ve been looking for pops up.

My friend Red Beard (who hasn’t had a beard for years) tells me about a temporary job door knocking for the union he works for. They have to beat out the right wingers and organize home care workers before they send out their nasty propaganda. I happily agree, especially since it’s temporary and my friend Curls, the loud mouthed artist, is doing it too.

I ended up working 10 days in a row, signing up home care workers for the union election that’s coming up. At first I want to quit but decide to see it through. I went from working 10 hours a week to over 10 hours a day and am having a hard time living. But then I find my place and realize how good at this job I am. Myself and Curls rock as this and are asked to submit our resumes.

I feel them pulling me in. Three of my friends currently work for this union and I feel myself being pulled in. But then I realize it’s not by them I’m pulling myself in. I’ve been wanting to do this for years but have told myself why I can’t do it. Now that I’m doing it I am loving every moment of it but reminding myself of the hours and fear of being sent away from home for months to live in a hotel. Every other weekend off isn’t enough, I think. But then again working a job I enjoy, where I am allowed to be autonomous and one that I’m good at is hard to resist.

My interview is this afternoon I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I won’t say no to a job offer, I would love this opportunity. I’m afraid of what my happen after I say yes, but I remind myself that this isn’t the rest of my life it’s just right now and it’s just what I was looking for.

Itchin’ on a Photograph – Mixed CD

This is mixed CD #2 I’m posting here. I felt an itch to make another one and figured I’d share it again. I’ve noticed the themes aren’t trans related (compared to my last mixed CD) but are just related to my life. It’s reassuring that I’m more cemented in my identity to focus on other issues in my life.

1. Keep on Knocking by Death

Death gets two songs on this CD. I watched the movie about them after hearing a few songs. I very much like the style and can’t help by play the air guitar to this song. Good way to start off a CD.

2. Itchin’ On A Photograph – GROUPLOVE

I just found the band GROUPLOVE in the past year and didn’t originally appreciate this song but now that I hear what they are saying it has even earned it the title of the CD. The theme of this song is a theme I’m embracing in my life right now, as I grab the past and remember who I was and try to let it go.

“I’m giving up on looking back
I’m letting go of what I had.”

“I’m letting go of all that I had
I’m living now and living loud.”

3.From Now On – Delta Spirits

This band is near and dear to me. A friend in Philly bought me a ticket to this band, the first concert I ever went to. I felt torn after realizing they seemed to be Christian Hipsters w/ their support of Invisible Children (and they even claimed to support them from the beginning at the concert I went to) and some of their lyrics. But I can’t stop liking them and I no longer have any desire to. They rock and from now on I’m gonna love them for who they are and try and extend that to everyone else.

4. Pulsewidth – Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin is my staple ambient and electronic band. Chill beats to just help you let it all float away. This helped me calm down and just ride many times.

5. Clark Gable – The Postal Service

The Postal Service also gets two songs. A week before making the CD they caught my ear and I couldn’t pick which one. This song caught my ear because of it captivating and descriptive story.

6. The Perfect Life – Moby

I can’t help but listen to this song, close my eyes and imagine the perfect life. Then I open my eyes and smile as I ride my bike along, listening to this song with a big smile on my face. I needn’t imagine the perfect life, I just have to take it in.

7. Shadow People – Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog’s falsetto crackled voice is just what I needed the past few months. That and his somber singing about being hopeful and hopeless. “Hoping these cigarettes will save us… as I cross the path of a friend of mine, I know what that look on her face was – something was gone from her eyes”.

8. Tous les memes – Stromae

The video with this song explains a lot, and don’t forget to push the CC button on the bottom of the video for translation. My friend Big S sent this to me, last time I’ve heard from her for a couple months. The video does a great job of showing both male and female perspectives of relationships as he switches which side of his face you see and the lighting changes from green to pink.

“All the same, all the same, all the same, and we’re fed up”

In my understanding of the video he is complaining and singing from both sides meaning we’re all all the same and we’re all fed up (not just men or women – as though there is a difference)

9. Uptight Downtown – La Roux

Not sure what to say about this one but she and this song has been in and out of my life for a while, this time she made it onto a CD.

10. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift

I love dancing to this song. It is sooooo good. She has such a good message. I could care less what people say about Taylor Swift, I have found so much glee in listening to her songs and often relating to them. Whoever writes them does a great job and I love listening to Taylor sing them. The playlist has something other than the music video for this song, is has Sean Stephenson dancing – I couldn’t resist plugging his awesomeness again.

“Hey, hey, hey, just think while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.”

11. Politicians in My Eyes – Death

This song so eloquently speaks of Politicians and what they do. My crazy politics seem to be getting uncovered yet again, beware :D.

“Reaching out, shaking hands
Making friends and other plans
Some will rise, some will fall
Some won’t even answer calls
Look a here, see them fight
See the twinkle in their eye
Politicians tell me why
Can’t you hear the people cry”

12. Second Hand News – Fleetwood Mac

I love this band, love this album and I felt this song. Also on an interesting note I just heard radiolab compare Fleetwood Mac to WWE Wrestling. We love watching/listening because we know there is truth in the stories we just aren’t sure what is truth and what is fiction.

I know there’s nothing to say…

I know I got nothin’ on you
I know there’s nothing to do…

When times go bad
when times go rough
Won’t you lay me down in tall grass
And let me do my stuff
I’m just second hand news

13. Take Me To Church – Hoozier

Not as good as Sinead O’Connor’s song with the same name but this also caught my ear. And the video caught my eye as it talks about gay rights in Russia.

14. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight – The Postal Service

They just tell such interesting stories, I can easily relate to the feelings the singer is singing about.

15. The Man Who Sold the World – David Bowie

This song simply caught my ear. And I love the album cover, man dresses.

Responsibility

What is your responsibility as a person? I have always felt that I was responsible for my actions and how the affected people. In time I extended this and became responsible for partners’ emotions, other’s feelings and much more. Through talking to others, reading and witnessing different events I’ve begun to realize the most important thing to be responsible for is your own well being. Without that you will struggle taking responsibility for anything else and will have a hard time caring for yourself.

This realization was cemented this weekend when my friend and roommate, Mouse, was having a very difficult time. We went to a state park to celebrate Mouse’s birthday and on the second day he found himself haunted by traumas, depression and suicidal desires. His partner Q was there and became agitated when they found out he had isolated himself when what he really needed and wanted was companionship. I tried my best effort to talk it through with him and to help him let go of the black dog’s grip. But it was to no avail, he was stuck.

I left our conversation and felt weighed down and wanting to cry, just as he was. Q felt responsible for Mouse and Mouse felt like he deserved Q’s help. I decided to let go of any obligation and sadness I felt. I put it back in the room with Mouse. I decided to be responsible for myself. I looked at Q and Mouse’s relationship and saw a codependent relationship that I had been in time and time again.

Being responsible for your own feelings is extremely important. People, even partners, cannot read your mind. They can hear your words though, especially when you say your emotions and ask for things. I’ve been taking the hard steps recently to express these to friends and have had great responses. Most people do not intend to harm others and apologize when they do. The worse response I’ve received is being told that I’m overly sensitive. To which my response was, “that’s how you made me feel.”

I spend hours out of days figuring out what to say in certain situations. How to engineer it to make it go the best as though it is a chess game that you have to plan 10 moves ahead. My most relieving responses thus far have been what I felt at the time. Not chess moves, feelings and what I feel in the present moment.

This is why I’m writing to suggest being open and honest with yourself and others and being responsible for yourself and your well being. The two go hand in hand and asking for what you need is an essential step in being able to help others with what they need. We need a world of strong, emotionally independent people if we expect to build the wonderful world we dream about.