Against Me And Myself 2018 Mixed CD

For about 8 months I primarily listened to Against Me! It was a hard time, and it’s hard to touch all of the emotions that were present in that time. Music is the easiest way for me to have a snapshot of an emotion and this is a snapshot of that time.

Against Me and Myself 2018

1. We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules) – Against Me!

This song is screamed at the top of my lungs in the car, so loud that a friend heard and saw me jamming and texted me to send me her approval.

It also inspired this line in a poem from May:

Screaming punk lyrics in the car dreaming of being homeless. Wondering what the future smells like searching for convertible tights in the kids section of target.

“Mary, there is no hope for us
If this GM van don’t make it
Across the state line
We might as well lay down and die
Because if Florida takes us
We’re taking everyone down with us
Where were coming from
Will be the death of us”

I feel those lyrics. While I can’t relate to those lyrics anymore I know I did in a way that startles and terrifies me. “Where were coming from, will be the death of us” It feels odd and scary to me that I would feel suicidal feelings in such a way. People congratulate me for leaving the situation with the kids but I have to tell them I left because I knew the other option was dying. I knew those feelings would only get larger and larger and would end in an inevitable way. I didn’t decide to leave so much as I decided I didn’t want to kill myself and the only way to prevent that was by leaving – something I had been considering for many months.

2. Walking is Still Honest – Against Me!

“Can anybody tell me why God won’t speak to me?
Why Jesus never called on me to part the fucking seas?
Why death is easier than living?”

Walking over homestead bridge, walking through squirrel hill for hours, walking for hours and hours, every time I need. Walking until 2am because I can’t fall asleep.

I relate a lot to her, with spirituality calling me the Christian concept of god felt like it was constantly rejecting me. I spent years reading the bible, I went to several bible studies and studied an Evangelical Christian group for a class. It never felt right, and now I am rejected by most of them. which is pretty alright to me. I found my spirituality in Buddhism, it’s sufficiently empty and non-judgmental.

“Dear mother
This is just survival
Cannot promise your children everything
But you would lie so they can sleep tonight”

I didn’t listen to this song at first because of these lyrics, I didn’t hear them for a while or think about them because of how they may or may not reference Clarity and the kids. I continue to not really look into it while feeling it relate to me and my life with the family.

3. Cavalier Eternal – Against Me!

This song caught my ear and made me laugh, I sung this in the car, I sung this in front of the kids. I hid this from Clarity and I told my therapist I knew why this song spoke to me – because it was about Clarity, that was probably April that I told my therapist that, wasn’t but a few weeks later I told her I couldn’t do it anymore.

4. 1-800-237-8255 – Logic

“I’ve been on the low
I been taking my time
I feel like I’m out of my mind
It feel like my life ain’t mine”

I hated the second half of this song for a while, just like I always re-winded Blink-182’s song “Adam’s song” half way through every time.

5. Because of the Shame (Black Crosses Version) – Against Me!

I found this song after reading Laura’s book, I didn’t believe her at first that she didn’t write Thrash Unreal about CC. But after rereading it and listening to both songs, I believe it. The White Crosses version reminds me of Queen’s Album Made In Heaven, the Black Crosses version will make you cry with very little to separate you from her words.

6. Searching for Former Clarity – Against Me!

The first time I really heard this song was late April and I was at home in the basement. I played it at again and cried on the floor the type of crying that is angry and hurts. I cried and flailed about kicking random things in the basement, it was the hardest I’ve cried in years.

The second memory is a 9 days after I wrote the Poem, “Today’s The Day”

The day I want to kill myself
it isn’t the day I have a crisis
it isn’t the day I cry for hours
it isn’t the day I cut myself
it isn’t the day I am angry, miserable and filled with rage and hurt
That’s the day I want to scheme
to tie a noose
to make sure it fits over my head
to find a spot
to make sure it’s hidden from sight
to find a stump
to make sure it’s easy to knock over
to write a note
to cry and scream in frustration and hurt when I realize today isn’t the day
The day I want to kill myself is
when I feel the cool breeze over my face
when I can hear the birds chirping around me
when I feel calm and present in my body
when the day has gone well and there isn’t a thing in the world making me knock over that stump
That’s the day I want to kill myself
a good day a happy day
a day where I say that was a full life
a day where I say that was a good time
a day where one tear escapes my left eye and runs all the way down my cheek until it reaches my chin and then it hops off to land on and be absorbed into my shirt
a day where that tear has to run past a smile before I knock over my stump.

I went to Schenley Park, parked the car, called my therapist and left a voicemail as I had promised myself the night before. And I put on this song. I felt calm and collected. I smiled, I smiled as tears rolled down my cheek they were happy, relieved tears. “Not yet,” I told myself – fearing that I’d get too emotional and threaten the certainness that today was the day. I played the song over and over again as I searched the park for a rope, any rope to hang myself with. After walking for 2 hours I found a tent held together with ratchet straps and as I was surveying which one would be best to remove my therapist called back. I was fucking pissed and I told her so, she made me talk about it over and over again and eventually I tired of trying to kill myself.

7. 8 Full Hours of Sleep – Against Me!

“When you sleep no one is homeless
When you sleep you can’t feel the hunger
When you sleep no one is lonely in a dream.”

This song is my first week out of the house. No where to go, uncertainty around sleeping spaces and what and how I would eat food, with my main goals being meeting basic needs. Biking around listlessly in the morning before anything opened trying to find a place I could go, trying to find a place I could sleep following a hot, miserable, sleepless night with rain, mosquitoes, trains, and a fox barking. I found myself at the Cathedral of Learning on Pitt’s campus and chatted with a new friend on text as I tried to figure out how to survive in this new world.

“The sun’s always rising in the sun somewhere.”

8. The Disco Before the Breakdown – Against Me!

This song is about dysphoria

“And if you follow the jawline down over the heart. Because of your bone and muscle that make up your head to toe. it’s just skin and threat stitches and ligaments.”

9. Creature Comfort – Arcade Fire

This song is driving fast in the silver car, faster, faster! Maybe you can outrun these feelings, vooRRRRR, vooRRR, vooRRRRR. Or if not maybe I can crash into a median and die trying.

“Assisted suicide
She dreams about dying all the time
She told me she came so close
Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record
Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless”

This is a song I put on repeat, over and over again, this is a song that I would cut myself to as soon as I heard it a nice quick slice on my almost unscarred inner forearm – shit you are supposed to cut under your underwear, on your left lower abdomen the equals sign you’ve been etching in over time. What will they think at the JCC, what will the other parents think!

“It’s not painless
She was a friend of mine, a friend of mine
And we’re not nameless, oh”

10. Tonight We’re Gonna Give it 35% – Against Me!

This is my favorite song by Against Me! right now. She wrote it in Pittsburgh while Anti-Flag was trying to court her to sign onto their record company. “On a balcony overlooking nothing”
First I caught the beginning and I laughed at the lyrics, and read how much she despised bottled water and thought of how much I did esp at that time (2002) (not that it doesn’t make me uncomfortable now).
“We drank bottled water together, and talked business, I think I played the right moves.”

“My heart is anywhere but here”

“How tired I was from the past couple of weeks from the past couple of years, but it hit me all at once.”

I relate to so many parts of this song and I relate so hard to it.
My memory associated with this song is on a sleepless night, one I knew all I could do was walk if I ever wanted to sleep. So I drove the silver car fast as a rocket through the tunnel and over the bridge, eyeing up the Jersey barriers for future spots that I could crash with our crappier car. I parked the car at the top of the Homestead Gray Bridge. And walked over to it and dreamed of jumping, instead I just walked it. With this song on repeat. Tonight I was stealing hours from my sleep time so I could live for a few minutes. But I didn’t know how to live anymore. I only knew I wanted to die. Tonight wasn’t the night, I was to frustrated. Tonight was a night I had to walk down the bridge.

These were some of the first nights I lived in so long, one of these nights I walked across a long railroad bridge while a cargo boat past underneath me. I ran the final bit worried cars would see me, no longer scared I would fall through the rickety floor, I was more worried I would die before I was able to do this crazy shit again. I finished the night by burning a small American flag on the middle of the bridge as I walked back to my car.

“I can’t believe how naive I was to think this could ever be so simple.” (how I feel about the family)

11. Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart – Against Me!

I found this song on another night I stole the same night I was walking on Bigelow Boulevard past the french fries trying to finally find out where the sidewalk along it goes Something I’d been wondering for 4 years.

Packaged between, “Problems” and “Even at Our Worst We’re Better Than Most” This is the soundtrack of that night. As I walked on the sidewalk I found where I would hang myself. A quest I had been on for over a year. In one of the parts of this sidewalk near the strip district there weren’t any businesses but instead there were trees that would hide me, hide me from anyone seeing me. I would simply tie my rope to the fence and dangle against the concrete wall attempting to scurry up it until I could no longer breathe.

12. Even at Our Worst We’re Still Better Than Most – Against Me!

“You can have it all, I ain’t got the heart to fight, no.
Total exhaustion, complete breakdown. For the asshole I am,
apologies in full, please leave me alone.
Pull over the van, let me out.”

Exactly, that is exactly what I wanted to scream every day after every conflict with Clarity for the last few months with the kids, I was just truly exhausted.

13. Problems – Against Me!

“An inventory has been taken of every belonging
An estimated value sold in event of emergency
The only back up plan in case it doesn’t work out
While losing semblance of coherence to a former self
You know I am becoming the choice’s we’re making”
This was my plan. I had a car, I had a no obligations. I was going to get my shit sorted out a little bit, sell a bunch of bikes and bike parts and then go on my road trip. Then my partner never changed the oil in my car that she drove all the time and it imploded.

14. What We Worked For – Against Me!

“May the likes of this song never make one fucking dollar, leave it for a demo tape to be played until it’s broken and be remembered for only what it was, that we gave ‘em hell”

“There is a distance beyond the freeway” was going to be the motto of my road trip

This song so much reminds me of who I was in college and what I believed and what moved me. And what is moving me once again, I understand that you give up on the idealist things that you believe, but I don’t want to, not yet. I want to live them for a bit more time, I still want to be a child, because it’s more fun that being an adult, because it’s what makes me glow.

“Sleeping under plastic stars glued to the ceiling…. But we gave ‘em hell”

15. Burn – Against Me!

“Burn burn burn, like they did to the anarchists at the stakes
Burn burn bun, like the histories they stole from us”

Laura said they never finished the lyrics of the bridge, which is why it sounds weird and she sings hurriedly, “One day patriot thugs will dance to songs of justice, and cringe and rack guns of shame.”
All I hear when I think about this is this famous picture of a Nazi book burning. This isn’t just a library this is the Library of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science. Hirschfeld was the founder of modern transgender theory, and it was his students who fled the Nazis and founded transgender advocacy in the US. This book burning was a theft of transgender history a theft of my history, a history that if played out differently could’ve easily drastically altered my life. #fuckfascism #noplatform

16. White Crosses – Against Me!

“I wake up in the morning and I drink from the fountain
I wake up in the morning with the same unanswered questions
I don’t know what’s going to cure my unsettled stomach”

This song feels like walking through Squirrel Hill, wandering around after dropping of the kids. Loud head banging music to forget my woes and softly head bang as I walk though the quiet streets of Squirrel Hill.

17. Thrash Unreal – Against Me!

“No mother ever dreams
That her daughter’s gonna grow up to be a junkie
No mother ever dreams
That her daughter’s gonna grow up to sleep alone”

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What came before

The way I process large life changes and difficulties is by looking back. As you’ve seen I’ve been processing what happened in the days around my most recent transition. I’ve found myself wanting to understand more though, understand not how it ended, but how it all happened. How I found myself drawn into being apart of this family. How I found myself isolated from everyone I knew, rarely interacting with any adult including Clarity. As I read through my journal entries for 2015 and 2016 it becomes clear. I was struggling with both who I was and who I was friends with. I had a series of short, close friendships that fell apart and I had outgrown most of my older friendships. I was trying both to run away from myself and figure out who I was. All the while being terrified of anyone shattering my fragile little trans ego.

The first major thing I did in 2015 was starting hormones after being out as a transwoman for 5 months. I didn’t work for the first few months of 2015 I was struggling with depression and how to get much of anything done. The free time did help me process what had happened and make sense of who I was and how to move forward. Through the help of a therapist I delved into this much deeper. I worked through some feelings I had around self-hatred and internalized transphobia that made/makes me loathe my body and want to change things about it. I was so anxious to have the hormones feminize my body and consequently frustrated by how slow they take to affect your body and when I found out that there is only so much effect that have taking them post-puberty.

In March I got a job working for SEIU for some time and then a city council campaign before returning to SEIU. When I was working at the city council campaign I had a dream that made me realize I was molested and proceeded to struggle a lot around that realization. It haunted potential and actual physical relationships and I realized it had been haunting and affecting my past relationships, even causing a traumatic sexual encounter I had years before. I began meditating and eventually started to go to the Shambhala Buddhist Meditation Center a place I have recently returned to. I made some new friends there and happily found myself in their friend circle.

This was the first friend circle (Spaced, Chem and Hair) I had been in while being a lady and I felt like I was living a high school fantasy. I became completely intertwined and dependent on them as soon as they let me. They became my world, my reality and I became emotionally dependent upon them. I would try to hang out with them every moment I was free, spending time with them whether I enjoyed what activity we were doing or not. I just wanted to leave the reality of my constant thoughts, I wanted to be away from glitter gardens, the house I never fit into and had recently outgrown. I told them everything, I trusted them completely, even when I didn’t. I tried to heal them, and they tried to support my healing, we became intertwined and codependent.

Myself in the back and from the left Spaced, K, Chem and T ice skating downtown.

Myself in the back and from the left Spaced, K, Chem and T ice skating downtown.

On the good days Spaced would be happy and suck me up into her reality where I was an amazing person to her. We would frolic along, maybe Hair would join, maybe Chem. On the bad days I was full of jealousy and Spaced would ignore me, be rude to me and give me “bad love,” as she called it. It all unraveled in early 2016 when my coworker and new friend, Heart, started dating Chem’s ex and Chem and Spaced turned on me. This wasn’t the first time I had been hurt or hurt people in this relationship, but it was the last one I felt like taking part in. Those 8 months were hardly blissful, though I did enjoy many moments of them. In the end I felt lonely but overall more content without them.

I now had the time once again to focus on me, fixing myself, understanding myself, loving myself. I had grown a bit from being friends with them and I had conquered some things things I was struggling with but I was having a hard time. I’d have anxiety attacks at work, on bike rides and at home. I was terrified about what others thought about me, I was terrified of being judged and stared at. I was the tall translady, I stuck out like a sore thumb. And while I knew everyone was stared at and judged I couldn’t handle the degree I was and that I was being stared at for being myself. This wasn’t something I was dealing with because I lost my friends, I just was doing it alone now. I had tried desperately to control most social situations with Spaced and Chem ensuring there weren’t any people that were transphobic or even ignorant of trans people. I was worried about every transgression that could happen. Being without friends and feeling this paranoia was was very isolating. I would go on long bike rides, longboard rides, and long walks. No matter how long I was out the feeling always caught up to me I’d run out of energy and I’d cry. Lamenting the running I had just done. I wish I had the courage to just face myself, but I was running from something I had been running from for 25 years, myself and the trauma I’d experienced over the last 25 years because of living as a boy and because of being molested. I didn’t know how to face it, I knew how to keep running from it.

Despite all of this hurt and pain I wrote in a blog post at the end of 2015, “I am reminded that 2015 was the best year I’ve lived, and 2016 is looking like it’s going to be so liberating.” And 2016 ended up being a even better year than 2015, despite how horrible it was. At the beginning of 2016 I really started to look into my pattens of running, patterns of codependency and patterns of finding refuge by losing myself in others. The same patterns that I’ve just been talking about. I finally saw them and I started working to change those patterns. With the extra space from having very few good friends I resumed working on myself and taking classes through the Shambhala Center. I worked to notice my habits and to break them. It was exhausting and rewarding work. I still remember leaving the Shambhala Center following a weekend long meditation retreat (Shambhala level one training). I went to the cool, dark Allegheny Cemetery near my house and I was just present. I took in what there was with a giddiness I don’t know if I’ve ever felt before. It’s what is known in Shambhala as “basic goodness” or the experience of reality.

My months of self work came to an end again when I met Half Elegant (previously known as Elegant Butch). She was a friend that could distract me from my constant anxiety, someone I could walk with for hours. And I did. It was nice to have a friend like that, it’d been a while. It only lasted for a day before she started making out with me. She was into me and it caught me off guard because I was sure she was straight. We dated for a week before I told her how I was struggling with my feelings about her. She had swept me off me feet and filled up all my time. She liked me, she thought I was hot, and being around someone that thought that way about me made me feel truly amazing. I had to tell her though that I didn’t like like her and that crushed her, but she didn’t give up home.

Picture of Elegant Butch

Elegant Butch

We proceeded to danced that dance between friends and lovers for 4 to 5 months. We became totally enveloped in each other, spending most moments of the day with each other. We had amazing sex, went on great adventures. She protected me like no one ever has by glaring at anyone who looked at me for too long and making sure no one gendered me wrong. Her protectiveness made me let down my guard and be free and live like the playful child I am. Our relationship was not good though, it was filled with chaos, confusion, fighting, jealousy, and hurt. She was so into me and I was not into her at all. She worked tirelessly to make me into her and I racked my brain for hours each day trying to understand why I didn’t like her like that, trying to force myself into having feelings I didn’t. As quickly as it started it ended, over and over again until I saw her through Jamie’s eyes. I saw her drunk, belligerent, careless and self-absorbed. I had only spent time with her alone and seeing her with someone else there made it clear, it wasn’t me that was problematic, it was her. I cut off all communication shortly after that and was once again alone.

About a month later I met Clarity. I liked spending time with her immediately. She was real and she would really listen and see things and people for how they were, or as she called it, she was a “knower.” I befriended her at work and only really saw her there at first. She made me look forward to going to work and the possibility of a brief interaction with her. She knew who Against Me! was and got jealous when I told her I went to see Against Me! in concert. I followed Against Me! to Philly and hung out with my friends there only to realize I had outgrown them as well. While they talked about what wine they like and their fancy jobs I felt alone and like an outcast among people I had called best friends. I came back from the trip and had dinner with coworkers and friends that I’ve had for years, an old lead organizer, Heart, Red Beard and handful of others. But there I was yet again, alone, a freak, an outcast.

I have felt like an outcast for most of my life with the exception of a few people who make me feel like I belong. I snuck out from the dinner with my coworkers and went over to Clarity’s house. I wrote of that night in my journal as, “I need to talk to Clarity right now because I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I can’t handle feeling this anxiety anymore, feeling like an outcast anymore. I just want to feel at home.” When I got there I did feel at home. I felt like it was all better, she’s a freak and an outcast too. She’s a dyke who dated transmen in a time that this got her exiled from the queer community. She fought for her kids to wear dresses whether they were a boy or a girl, or both. She fought to protect them and to live how they wanted to. That night she told me I was a knower too, and that being able to see through people’s lies and bullshit threatens people. Living your truth threatens people too.

I loved feeling at home, and when Clarity got let go from our work I was furious and stopped going there. Instead I started to work for Clarity as her nanny to care for the kids. I was good at this job and Clarity made me feel like I was home. She had the same protective attributes of Elegant Butch that I loved and saw me for who I really was. It didn’t take long before I fell in love, with both that feeling and her.

My First Few Days Alone

That first night, I felt free, I felt liberated and proud. After my phone call with Majesty I ended up wandering through a street fair in Bloomfield called Little Italy Day’s. I didn’t find anyone I knew but as I walked my bike through it I felt powerful and so few worries. My tank top was baggy and long and my tights were short, so short you could hardly see them under my tank top. I didn’t care. I was excited for what the world had for me, for days where I could live and experience my life instead of running through it too fast to even notice much less process what occurred. The first night was full of socializing as was the following day. I tried to keep up the momentum but quickly I found it impossible. Instead I was left with nothing to do and nowhere to be. The novelty of free time turned into a burden of what to do. Time went by hour by hour and the first few days felt like weeks.

When I got to Grease’s house that first night they let me spill out my whole story. I felt like I was overflowing with feelings and thoughts and trying to make sense of what had happened in the last 4 hours that had altered my entire week. My plan was to stay at the house with the family until Thursday night. Now I was suddenly free 5 days early, having not packed or prepared. The following morning Grease skipped work to hear more about my story and my life over the past couple years. We chatted about life, bikes, gender, and how to live out of a tiny home built in the forgotten woods of Pittsburgh. I had been stewing over building something in the woods to live in for weeks, they told me their partner’s friend had done just that with a wood stove for heat/cooking and all and had been living in their little house for a couple of years so far.

The fact that their friend already had built something really excited me. My original plan after leaving the family was to live out of my car for a couple of months. In those first few weeks on my own I had wanted to sell possessions to fund my road trip to Philly, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado and maybe even Vermont. I had talked to Cook about this and he referred me to several webpages on how to live out of your car. I was prepared for the trip to fail at some point, but I expected it to fail when I was on it with my car breaking down, or running out of money. Three weeks before I was supposed to leave the family my car broke down. At this time Clarity was using it as her car. It needed Power Steering Fluid, and snapped a belt because it didn’t have any, turns out there was also no oil in the car so there were metal shavings inside the engine. The engine was shot, the car was shot. I figured Clarity would fix it, but she made minimal effort to.

As that reality set in for me I realized I wasn’t going to be living out of a car I was going to be living off of my bike, and that’s not really a thing, that just called experiencing homelessness. I kept trying to wrap my brain around it and it made me feel unsettled, I’d have no space of my own, none at all. That’s when I stumbled upon something I’d viewed years ago, a post about a guy building homes for the homeless people out of garbage. I became inspired because it gave me something to do when I was free in the world, somewhere to put my things, and a possible back up plan in case I couldn’t stay at a friends house. This worried some friends I told about it but I reassured them this was temporary. After this conversation with Grease I was excited to know that someone else had already done the crazy feeling plan I had. I planned to retrieve materials for my project in the coming days.

A tiny tiny house, I wanted to emulate the basics of this and especially the rain barrel roof which lit up the interior.

I left Grease’s house at 4:30 and called some friends to check-in with them and talk more about what had just happened. No one picked up. But that was okay, I had some time to just chill before going to Librarian’s place for sleep around 9:30. I ate some food, rode around and just waited. It was Sunday so the library was already closed, and most things were about to close meaning there was nowhere for me to really go. I ended up sitting in a park most of the time. Eating and sticking my feet in the water fountain as I waited for it to be 9:30. When Librarian got home she was worn out from the day. We talked briefly, which was alright because I had to wake up early to get to the kids school so I could see the kids off for their first day of school.

When I awoke in the morning I got ready real quick. Librarian made sure I had something with me to eat before I left, I was too filled with anxiety to eat then but I took a snack bar with me. I got to the kids school building super early not sure if Clarity would be early or late and I waited outside of the school. After about 30 minutes of waiting they all arrived. The kids showed off their new shoes and first day of school outfits. The oldest hurriedly went into the building with Clarity for his first day at his new school building. I stayed outside with the other two, they go to a different building. When Clarity came out we all got in the car for the half mile drive. I sat in the back shoved in between the little two happy to be in their presence and doing my best to avoid any encounter with Clarity. After the middle one was dropped off I left Clarity and the littlest one (whose first day of Kindergarten was Wednesday) and walked back to my bike.

After hemming and hawing I decided now would be a good time to bike back to my old house in Brookline to get some things. Clarity had already said that she had to go to work so I didn’t need to worry about her being there. I talked to Amber on the phone on the way there which felt great. I ended up walking most of the hills causing it to take me 3 hours to get there. When I got there I settled in and enjoyed myself. It was nice and cool in the house. I drank some apple juice and cooked some pot stickers, I even watched a show. This ended up being the last time I was at this home when it felt like home. After eating I gathered the things I needed, extra clothes I neglected to bring, more stuff sacks to organize my things, my camera, a replacement rear wheel for my bike. And shoved in a backpack all my equipment to build my tiny little house: Screws, screwdriver, saw, hand drill. I loaded up everything and went to attach the bike trailer and realize I couldn’t find the mount to put on my bike. I searched all around and still couldn’t find it.

“Fuck!” I said under my breath. I had to go, the kids were coming home soon, I wanted to be as far away as possible. I put the trailer in the basement and shoved everything on my bike, attaching it with string. Half way through my ride the wheel got loose and started wobbling around, making the whole rest of the ride unsettling as this wheel flopped from side to side shaking the entire bike with it. I biked to the bike shop I used to work at with plans to fix up my bike including installing my new rear wheel.

The shop was in the same state of disarray as the last time I was there. My old coworker and one of the new guys talked about being understaffed. I said I’d be interested in a job. He talked in circles a little bit about having someone hire me. There was no manager so technically no one was in charge and no one was able to hire me. The new guy said something like, no one would stop you if you came in and punched in on Saturday. Eventually I just said to him, “When should I start? Saturday?” After that he tried calling the owner, who didn’t answer. I got a text later that evening from the new guy and he said I could “start anytime.” I asked if Wednesday would work, he replied, “totally.” Day 3 I’ve already got myself a job, 3 days before I was even planning on leaving! I was stoked.

Me biking over a bridge one cool summer morning

After I left I got some food, ate by a fountain in the park. I got ahold of my friend Boots from Philly and chatted with her for a while, which felt really nice. It started to drizzle a little and looking at the forecast it called for rain. I went over to Target and spent $10 of my 110 dollars on a tarp. I hadn’t found a place to sleep tonight, so this was my first night trying out the good old outdoors. I had a hammock, a sleeping bag, string and now a tarp, I was ready to go.

I set up my hammock and tarp and tried to get some sleep. The cloudy sky had made it not cool off at all from the day. Instead it was hot and humid. Too hot for a sleeping bag, but I hadn’t a choice because the mosquitoes were out with vengeance. It took me a long time to fall asleep, As I walked the line between overheating my body and being bitten by mosquitoes. When I finally fell asleep I kept being awoken, by texts from Clarity, a passenger train passing, foxes barking (which scared the shit out of me until I found out what they were) and finally a steady rain that made the loudest noise on my tarp. I slept for only a few hours until the sun came up and I was finally able to have some uninterrupted sleep.

Eventually the sun was too bright and my body was somewhat rested, I woke up. I packed up all my things and shoved them on my bike. I wandered over to Pitt’s campus and found a single occupancy bathroom that I could shave in and try and clean myself up. I felt filthy from all the sweat, and had gotten a good bit of mud on me from the trek out in that rainy morning. I vowed to buy a mosquito net so my back up plan of having somewhere to stay if no one would have me wouldn’t be as horrible as that night. I had already made plans to stay at Red Beards house the next night, something I was very happy about.

That day I had nothing to do until 3:40pm when I picked up the kids from school. I waited with anxiety for that time to come. I didn’t have anywhere to go so I hung out near a water fountain while I read about what to eat while you’re homeless. I settled on cheese and refried beans burritos. I made them myself and ate trail mix for snack/lunch and oats and brown sugar for breakfast. Food was so uninteresting to me so eating food as unpalatable as that didn’t bother me. As I waited I began to realize the most unsettling thing for me about not having a home or a space of your own is that you can never relax knowing your stuff is safe where it is. Both you and your stuff are always loitering, always unsecured. It leads to a constant anxiety a constant thought in your mind about everything you own/have access to being stolen and suddenly not having the luxury of a change of clothes, or a sleeping bag.

The days I’d experience went so slowly. There seeming to be no point or purpose, I began to just wait for the next thing to happen. Wait until 3:40pm to see the kids and then wait until my friend came home so I could talk to someone and eventually go to sleep. I didn’t feel particularly driven to do any of the things I had wanted to. I just wanted human connection, I wanted something to do some purpose. But I had very few. I picked up the kids on Tuesday and Thursday from school, and I started work on Wednesday. Life felt empty, like a wide open space with nothing in it, nowhere to go nothing to do, just wide open space.

Fear The Future

The recent anti-Semitic shooting in Pittsburgh has left me feeling rattled, sad, scared and fearful for the future. In large part it’s because it was so close to me, I know dozens of people who personally knew those killed in this hate crime and it was in a community I was on the periphery of. It’s clear once again that being in Pittsburgh doesn’t isolate anyone from hate crimes. Important to note the number of anti-black hate crimes that have happened here recently, from the stabbing on the northside, to the guy who was beaten by a group of white supremacist at a bar in Avalon. According to Southern Poverty Law Center there are 36 hate groups in Pennsylvania.

This isn’t news, it isn’t news that they are being emboldened by heinous rhetoric by Trump, and the GOP. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that this increasing hateful rhetoric is having a corresponding increase in hate crimes that have risen for 3 years straight and are at an all time high for the decade. This scares me for my friends, for Pittsburgh and our country. It also brings up a related fear that I’ve been tracking for several months that directly affects me, the government’s attempt to make America inhospitable for trans people.

This has been done on many fronts, but has reached a concentrated assault recently. The ADF has been working to undue the judicial wins by trans people for decades and the FRC has been working tirelessly to change laws to allow religious organizations to discriminate against trans and queer people. Recently with the GOP administration considering legally define both gender and sex as “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.” and within that same week the U.S. Health Department and Office of Civil Rights removed all language refering to transgender people.

I’ve been watching this for many months, mostly by reading things from someone I follow on facebook, Brynn Tannehill. She is a writer and worked as a senior defense analyst, she has a great ability to analyze situations and make prediction about different possible outcomes. I remember looking to her to see who was going to win, Hillary or Trump at 11pm on Election day. Since then I’ve read many posts by her warning of trans peoples’ possible erasure from American Society which is a process that is well under way, and there is a good chance it is a history that is already written.

The article that caught me the most that she wrote was a month Before Brett became a Supreme Court Justice entitled, “The SCOTUS Event Horizon for the LGBT Movement.” In it she clearly and systematically lays out a explanation of what will happen and how. This includes the loss of Title VII protections or protection from employment discrimination, right to discriminate laws or the ability to ignore civil rights on religious grounds, and a possible nationwide ban on trans people using bathrooms.

And in this article a lot of it is her talking about the Supreme Court, which isn’t something that is going to have a significant change in makeup for probably 15 to 20 years. So here we are, beyond the horizon, beyond the point of return. A friend described it as purgatory because these cases are inevitably going to make it to the Supreme Court and inevitably be ruled to make America increasingly inhospitable for trans people. But until that happens we just wait. Wait for the inevitable, struggling to keep our rights in the mean time. Sadly I have very little hope that our struggle will accomplish anything. I feel hopeless and yet I want to protest and go through the motions to fight back even though I see no way for this to work out I don’t want to give into the hopelessness of this situation but I look at it and only see hopelessness.

Someone else I know has been researching safe places for trans people to live. They’ve said that Canada would be a location that is decent but potentially only as a stop over spot with New Zealand being a location that is more safe in the long term for trans people. Turns out a friend of a friend lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Which is a country I only learned how to spell correctly as I was writing this article! Thinking about potentially moving there leaves me hopelessly frustrated. I love Pittsburgh, I love Pennsylvania. I don’t want to have to leave this country or this state. But I can’t in good faith not consider the possibility that I’ll be compelled to move over the next year or two and that fact terrifies me, and hurts me.

I don’t know what to do. I’m a very flexible, understanding person with few needs. Often all I need to be happy is to adjust my expectations of how certain situations might go. But recently I’ve found myself adjusting my expectations to include having my friends in the Jewish community, LGBT community and Activist community be harmed and even killed. Because if I tell myself it could happen, at least I won’t be surprised if/when it does.

How I left

I left my home on August 18th around 8:30pm. I had planned to leave, I had planned to go visit my friend Grease. They were a friend I didn’t know that well, but always felt a connection to. The plan was part of my bi weekly hangouts with friends. Most Wednesdays I’d hang out with Library and then on Saturday I would find a different friend to see. I leave around 8pm and come back around 3pm the following day. But leading up to this event Clarity crossed a boundary of mine I wasn’t okay with. My plan was to leave and return, but my plans changed and this became my first day on my own.

She had started seeing a guy on Monday, I made space for her to see him and it made her truly excited. She came back after seeing him and talked about how great everything was going to be. How despite the fact that I was moving out in 8 days that it would all work out great. That she still wanted us to be a family unit at some functions, that she didn’t want to add anyone to the family and wanted to keep raising the kids with just me, just have me living somewhere else but giving input and such. It felt great, Clarity just seemed on top of the world.

I saw Library Wednesday night, per usual. I left her house and met the family at their school’s open house. Clarity was so stoked about this guy that she was staying the night at his house on Thursday. Unbeknownst to me the night with her ended by him hanging out with the kids for an hour before they left. He wooed them, and generally frustrated me. I think it’s fucked up to have your kids meet someone you’re dating, especially someone you’ve known for such a short time. It was also uncomfortable to me because I didn’t even know this was going to happen and just two days prior Clarity had said she wanted the last week for me to be special and make it more of a celebration. I’m sure it was part jealousy, but this just felt like the opposite of how I’d like to spend my last week with the kids, hanging out with Clarity’s new boyfriend as the kids fawned over him.

On Friday she went to work and I got a text from her saying, “Jenny [boyfriend] said he will bring [me] home and also cook dinner.”

I texted her saying, “If you are saying your boyfriend is [coming] over I’m not into that.” Adding, “If [boyfriend] is coming over I’m leaving. I’m not getting involved in your dating world. I’m good. I have 6 days left. Id appreciate if you at least have the courtesy to replace me after I leave.”

She responded, “There is no replacing you.” and then pressed me about why I didn’t want to hang out with her boyfriend. Dredging up old topics she texted, “you also chose to leave. Why are you opposed to someone else joining the family?” She kept asking for further explanation, at one time saying, “I am repeatedly asking why?”

Finally I clearly stated, “I am simply stating I don’t want to have him over tonight or in the last week with the kids. I’m not talking about anything else. I’m not dredging up tentatively connected topics. Just talking about this.” I didn’t find out he wasn’t coming over until she texted me making it clear she needed a ride to get home because he wasn’t bringing her home.

Friday the youngest was sick, and I stayed home with her as Clarity took the other two to go shopping for back to school. They all got back around 6pm and by that time I’d already signed up to take the oldest’s to his friends house. As soon as Clarity came in the door she got on facetime with her boyfriend and had the youngest, who was laying sick in her bed chatting with him. Then she said something about him coming over while I was taking the oldest to his friend’s house (90 minute journey in total that she pressed me to commit to), to which I mouthed, “that’s fucked up.”

"6 days ago you told me all this warm and fuzzy stuff about how you don't wanna add anyone to the family and how you still wanna do things as a unit. Yesterday you literally texted me, "why are you opposed to someone else joining the family?" What the actual fuck is going on? Were you just high from Fucking [boyfriend] when you told me that shit? I'm glad you changed the plan but i have to ask what does it actually take for you to hear and respect my boundary? This isn't new. This is a large part of why I'm leaving.

C: He's not coming over. I am respecting your wishes.  J: Not by your choice. Barely. And only if I constantly reinforce them. There is nothing respectful about that.

I took the oldest to his friends house which was a 30 min drive there, 30 minutes of him getting to see his friend and 30 minute drive back before it was time for me to leave to go visiting my friend Grease. Everything changes on my way back.

I went home and her boyfriend was still there. Every time I’ve seen him he was super confident, well dressed and clearly in charge. Today he looked terrified. I calmed my anger when I saw him, he wasn’t the person to blame, it was Clarity. It was Clarity who continuously walked all over my boundaries, it was Clarity who didn’t listen to me. He broke the silence between us by awkwardly asked me how it was going as I walked past him. I continued and said, “alright.” then half turning my head around I said, “I’ve been better.”

I secretly gave each kid a hug and told them I’d see them on their first day of school. I didn’t want Clarity to comment or know what I was doing. I knew I had to cover my bases and do this right, even though I was being forced to do this so wrong. I loaded up my bike with slightly more things than normal and with Clarity’s boyfriend still there I biked off.

As I was biking to Grease’s house at 8:29 pm I called Majesty and talked with him for over an hour. And I think the feeling I was left with was pride. I was proud that I left finally standing my ground, finally standing up for myself. I hoped this would be a new chapter of my life, one where I stood up for me, not everyone else.

April 13th

This is a piece that I wrote on April 13th. I put pictures to it and put some of the text on pictures as well as adding some text but it is a piece that lives in a certain time and place, I can’t relate to all of it, nor do I want to. It’s a sample of where I was two weeks before I tried to off myself.

This is a picture of my room when I was living in Brookline, I lived in an unfinished attic.

Thank you, that was in the womb of my mine for 2 years before I awoke to see it on my wall. I lived with it for 3 years and then I tried to cover it up but it’s still there. I have a photograph of me trying to close it up. I have proof. You can’t see it anymore but the hurt person who lives in that room feels it every night and it watches over the horrors they see helpless to do anything.

I think if I were born elsewhere, another time or another place I would be called magic. Instead I feel like I don’t belong here like a splash of red in a black and white movie. A friend who sees me for who I am calls me witchy – they understand who I am. For there is a reason for all the things if you let there be and a way the world will take you where it wants if you just let go.

These are my middle child’s shoes tied together, something she requested while we were at the gym.

The nickle plating on the outside edges is covered up with grease and gunk so you can only see splotches of it and there is a dark brown red covering all the silver that shows. The inside is black with a tint of red. There are chunks of food in there and I know the pan is hot when it begins to smoke. The inside of the pan has a figure 8 shaped wet spot in the middle where the seasoning on it has been heated to a liquid. I turn of the burner and hover my wrist about 2 cms above the edge of the pan as I try to line it up so it is a horizontal line straight across. My hand is flexed upwards away from the pan with my fingers drawn in with the second knuckles showing.

I press it down and it is hot, I press it down harder to get a larger area a longer line. It begins to really hurt for a split second, I hold it on the pan for a short while before a jerk my hand off of it. All that I feel is pain. Searing pain for that split second and then a short time afterwards I feel the pain of the burn strong and it focuses all of my energy and all of my thoughts on my wrist.

This is the place I wanted to cut, I wanted to bleed but no on can see that, that cannot happen. So I do my best to make there be few burns and make it be hard to see. But in the end I have one on each hand, the one on my left is a 2 inch long line.

My thoughts are about being an imposter, being too much, and coming into my old self. And suicidal thoughts that left as soon as I had the time to embrace them. And it was a flooding of bad feelings that I didn’t have space to feel over the past few crazy months.

Healing is never done, but that’s how it goes. I think we’d miss it if it ended and we would prolly just look for things wrong and drive ourselves crazy.

Summer Solstice Gender Realizations (How I got here part 2)

The next part of my story follows what I realized in therapy, something I knew I had to do, I had to leave our family home. And the struggles that re-emerged regarding my gender. With an attempted attempt at suicide under my belt I realized I no longer had a choice in the matter, my body knew what I had to do and I had to leave unless I wanted to die. Hence me writing the nicest letter in the world to Clarity, a letter certainly inspired by my desire for it to be over and no arguments to come from it. I very much feel the lyrics of the Against Me! song: Even At Our Worse We’re Still Better Than Most.

You can have it all, I ain’t got the heart to fight, no,
Total exhaustion, complete breakdown. For the asshole I am
Apologies in full, please leave me alone
Pull over the van, let me out.

You all saw my letter to Clarity, she took it pretty well. We talked about how we could make this work for everyone and how this was something good, something we all needed. I pledged to stay on until the kids started school since I had been involved in the conversation about the kids not going to camp over the summer. Instead they would be with me, because, well I knew they would want that. There were only a few weeks of camp that she had booked and by the time we had this conversation and I told her I wanted to leave all the camps were full, at least all the cheap ones.

I ended up negotiating two nights off during the week, and we talked about how that number would increase over time so that the kids would see less and less of me and I would successfully transition out of the house. Those nights off became my respite and a haven for me. I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in years and restore myself more as a person. At the same time I reduced things I did in the house and stepped back from my care for our dog instead focusing on not overloading myself anymore.

This new time and freedom made me begin to feel like a real person and also opened up a space for things I hadn’t struggled with recently to come to the surface, notably the gender dysphoria that I was so terrified of. By the beginning of June I would go up to my room and feel compelled to tear of the skirts I was wearing. At this point I’d been wearing skirts 99% of the time for 3 years and that’s after not wearing skirts 99% of the time for 6 months (and really only wearing skirts and dresses occasionally for the 6 months prior to that and hardly ever before that). I didn’t have enough time to really delve into this, I was getting off one night at first and I was still spending this time with people so I never really let myself idle in a real way, I would rest for some of my day following my sleepovers when the kids were at school but you can only do that so much when you have to pick them up at 3 and be prepared for the coming night and dinner and such.

It reached it’s peak when I went to my littlest’s preschool graduation. The night before I stayed over at a my friend Library’s house and as soon as I got there I threw my skirt across the room and told her, “sorry I just can’t wear that shit anymore.” The problem was I didn’t bring a change of clothes so I had to wear this same gorgeous skirt the following day. And this skirt is just so pretty, it’s a vintage styled skirt with an beige ruffled under layer to make it poof out and the outer layer was beige, a linen type material with these gorgeous large black flowers covering the skirt. I got compliment after compliment walking around the halls of the preschool, all while being disgusted that I was wearing this truly pretty skirt. I didn’t know what to do or what to wear, I had recently been talking in therapy about gender and wanting to wear less feminine clothes while still being gendered properly, and that was exactly why I wore the skirts as a protection against misgendering.

On the summer solstice I cracked. And two memories helped me get there. The first is buying a jean jacket and trying to navigate which one to buy, a men’s jacket or a woman’s. Did I want to look like a tomboy or did that just look like a boy’s jacket. I went back and forth finally settling on this great women’s jean jacket, but not after contemplating something I’ve neglected, something I’ve refused to contemplate for years, me being a tomboy.

Here is a picture of my new jean jacket, and not wearing a skirt!

The next memory is an interaction between me and my oldest that Clarity interjected into. My oldest was talking about how he was bored and didn’t know what to do (because he wasn’t allowed to play on screens). I told him I understood I remember being bored a lot as a kid because I was only allowed to be on screen or watch screens for a short period of time each day. He said, “No, mine is different, I’m boy bored,” and explained further to assert that ‘boy bored’ meant he had energy and was bored. I told him, “I was a little boy too and I had a little brother so I know all about ‘boy bored.’”

Overhearing me Clarity interjected and said something to the effect of, you weren’t a little boy because you’re a girl, and you’ve always been a girl, so you were a little girl. I shrugged in frustration and said, “yeah, whatever.” But that felt like a mis-telling of my story. When I was a little kid I was a boy, that’s what I remember being. I felt frustrated but didn’t have the time to think about it or understand why this co-opting of my story to validate the identities of the little two (both trans girls) felt so frustrating.

A few hours later I went to see my friend Library and as I was about to leave she called to warn about the heavy rains and that there would be flooding on my route and she suggested an alternate route. She said she wouldn’t be talking to me on the phone or texting her it was very important I focus on driving. I said, “Fine but I need to tell you something real quick first… I don’t think I’m a girl and I’m pretty sure I’m not a boy.”
She calmly but clearly startled and aware of the weight of what I said told me, “We’ll that’s something we’ll definitely get to talk more about shortly.”

I began to drive in the pouring rain, with some streets turned into rivers and proceeded to call everyone who mattered, Majesty, Heart and my friend from Philly. No one answered but I roughly told all of their voice mail boxes with increasing confidence that I wasn’t a girl, that I wasn’t a boy and that I think I’m something inbetween. I told them I might change my name but I was unsure of what to, I might change my pronouns but I wasn’t sure about that either. And I told them the two stories above to explain why I had come to this conclusion. It felt freeing and nice.

When I got to Library’s house I excitedly texted Clarity and told her the news too. Library was tired and a little irritated that I was texting while I was there. But I was budding with new found energy and excitement over my gender. The excitement lasted for a little while and then fear erupted. Fear of what that meant, fear that I needed to change my name or my pronouns. It became terrifying. I talked a bunch to Library about this before she got tired and Clarity told me she would call me tomorrow to talk about it and that she was excited for me. She said it was an exciting new chapter of my life. I went to bed in more a state of panic of not knowing who I was or where I was going, calming myself down in time.

I was scared of the journey I was about to go on, scared of being misgendered and not knowing what gender I even wanted to be gendered as. I initially clung to a gender I had previously identified with in the spring of 2010, 4 years before I came out, genderfuck. Genderfuck is someone who fucks with gender in an intentional and often political way. I liked it because it made gender something political that you could fuck with people’s understanding of it, and thus originally it was more of a protest than my own identity. Now it felt like a bit of land I was on, like I was out of the murky mush and on ground that wasn’t where I wanted to be but it felt more secure and was honestly a good place to rest. When people would stare at me confused I could take that as an affirmation of who I was instead of an affront to who I was. I began counting their WTF looks with glee instead of with hurt like I had before.