Winter Solstice 2017

The first time I missed winter solstice in 7 years was December 21st 2016. Here I am sitting cross legged on a crushed Domino’s pizza box on a cement-floored, covered porch pressed in the corner against two cold brick walls of a house. Becca, my platonic partner, is standing feet from me taking puffs from her cigarette and occasionally turning to blow them outside of the covered porch area we are in. She’s waiting for me to be present again, to talk to her. I’m absorbed in my phone frantically typing into the search bar of my web browser, “winter solstice 2016 time and date.” I press enter and the page promptly loads displaying a page that clearly says at the top of it, “Winter Solstice is on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 At 5:44 am EST.” It is currently Wednesday, December 21st at 12:18 pm EST.

I should be sleeping right now after staying up all night. I should have covered my windows with blinds, curtains and sheets to keep out the sun. The sun that came up because I stayed up all night with only candles to light my surrounding. My hands should be finally warm after a long brisk journey adventuring outside to see the sun rise from the top of a tree covered hill in the cemetery near my house.

But here I am sitting on a pizza box cursing, “fuck, fuck, fuck!” I didn’t stay up all night. I didn’t wish my friends “happy winter solstice.” I didn’t even know the date or time of Winter Solstice. Why, why, why, why, why!?

Because I am a mom now. Because I suddenly and abruptly have 3 small children. Because I have a house that needs cleaned, clothes that needs washed, dishes that need done, food that needs cooked, mouths that need fed, voices that need to be listened to. I may sometimes call myself their theraputic support staff, other times Becca’s platonic femme dyke partner, but what I really am is a mom.

I am a mom to 3 kids, I am a partner to Becca. They drove across this country and the country north of here to be in this city, my city, her city, our city, a place where she hopes to finally feel safe, a place where they are all finally free of his abuse. A first stopping spot where she will raise her kids in a safe environment where they can be who they are and not be mentally or physically abused any more.

And here they are starting to feel safe, starting to explore themselves more, starting to tell us that some of them are girls. Starting to get enough attention and not having to worry about words and fists being thrown. Instead we all are growing into the magical beings we are. And I am here as an essential part of this, part of them all processing what has happened to them. Giving them all the attention and support they need to overcome and finally cure generations of abuse that has happened to these 3 native kids and their amazing mother who has been through more than I can grasp.

Two of the three kids I care for

Two of the three kids I care for

So here I am on winter solstice thinking about how this is a time for reflecting, for staring into the darkness and seeing the sun rise out after 14 hours of darkness. I didn’t reflect on winter solstice, I didn’t even realize it was winter solstice. But here I am watching a family emerge from the darkness, watching myself emerge from the darkness. I may have watched the sun fall or rise, but over the past 3 months and more I have been watching 5 magical beings including myself emerge from darkness. We all been emerging whether it be from an abusive home, a male identity that isn’t ours, a controlling an abusive relationship, a shitty job, shitty friendships, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks and self harm.

We are all emerging from darkness to become powerful beings. And as I stand back and take time to reflect I can feel my chest filling up with strength, puffing out and taking up space in a way I never have before. I can feel my power bubbling up. I can feel my emotions and see others feelings with a new clarity, I can even grasp emotions that I don’t yet have words for. As I lift my arm I feel energy shoot out of it across sidewalk moving the leaves on the ground and shaking the trees. Energy flows from my head to my feet and into the earth as I ground myself on command. I am not just a person anymore, I am a being filled with magic, compassion, anger and love. And on this winter solstice I can’t say I saw the sunrise, or that I stayed up all night by candlelight, I can’t even say I knew when the solstice was. But I can say I am growing, I am reflecting. I am becoming Jenny, I’m not a flighty spaced out tranny who is insecure and unsure of herself. I am a magical being who has powers that few can grasp, call me awakened, call me an indigo child, or call me crazy. But I am Jenny and I move worlds, hear me roar.

MarShawn and the Activist that Burnout

On the night of Monday, February 8th Black Lives Matter activist MarShawn McCarrel blew his brains out on the Ohio State House steps. He organized actions around Michael Brown’s killing in 2014 in Ohio, founded a youth mentorship program Pursuing Our Dreams for Ohio’s homeless and was honored for his commitment to activism by the NAACP and Radio One’s “Hometown Champions Award”. But I’m not writing an obituary for this great activist I’m writing to lamenting the trend for activist to burnout and suffer from mental health problems they are not addressing. I’m writing this to lament activist who waste so much time not loving themselves.

"We waste so much time not loving eachother." a quote form MarShawn written hundreds of time in black. In red, where the bullet sits in the gun the quote is altered, "We wast so much time not loving OURSELVES"

“We waste so much time not loving eachother.” a quote form MarShawn written hundreds of time in black.
In red, where the bullet sits in the gun the quote is altered, “We wast so much time not loving OURSELVES”

The suicide of MarShawn touches close to home, too close. Activism was my life for 4 years in college. I worked tirelessly as a student activist and readied myself for the world of “professional” activism when I graduated. I haven’t really gotten there, instead I burned out. I considered killing myself, suffered depression, and took over 3 years almost completely off from activism. It wasn’t until spring of 2015 that I reentered the world of activism and have been hesitant about my commitment to it in fear of burning out again. I want to do more than data entry for a union, but I’m not sure if I’m ready. I look around and am worried for myself as I see non-profits burn through and burn out activist by overworking them and underpaying them. That’s because activist don’t work a job for the pay or the hours, they work it because of there passion to better the world and non-profits exploit that.

Non-profits intentions aren’t necessarily malicious but the results are the same, burnout. Some organizations are especially bad like Clean Water Action and Grass Roots Campaigns, which both find well intentioned young people who want to change the world and with little training have them knocking doors fundraising, a truly exhausting job with long hours and with quotas for them to meet. This minimal direction and high expectations leads many youth to believe they aren’t cut out for activism. Some organizations act like the fact that people are driven to their work because of passion they should be exempt from paying their worker a minimum wage. Non-profit advocacy group, U.S. PIRG recently came out against a law that will have salaried employees paid overtime for the work they do over 40 hour a week, READ: workers will get paid for all the hours they work even if they are salaried. When arguing against it they even to the extent of arguing they should be exempt because they are “mission-driven” work.

The problem is activists by their very nature are often selfless people driven by the work and are willing to overextend themselves for the work (passion). They are committed to their cause (work) and tend to forget about themselves. Organizations only encourage such habits and encourage working long hours, meaning no one is concerned about activists’ mental health.

It truly hurts me to see activist being so selfless and having so much of themselves taken by their work. We are such devoted people but we aren’t devoted to what matters: sustainability.

I have had conversations and arguments with friends about sustainability in the paid-activist world, it has led us to be hesitant to getting involved. You can’t have a life and work for most organizations committed to change. It seems like you have two choices: make real change and being apart of something that matters or try to live a life that’s sustainable and healthy.

Of my friends that work in activism most have or do struggle with depression, and for some this wasn’t something they had before being a paid-activist. One coworker confided in me that she used to cut herself, another talked about her time at a Intensive Out-Patient facility, and another eluded that her isolation and overwork has caused her and countless fellow coworkers to become depressed. I know for a fact that a majority of my coworkers have suffered from depression (the rest I haven’t heard either-way from them)

These are the people who are working to change the world for the better! How? How can you expect people to change the world they are in when they can’t even be happy and healthy themselves? As an activist and an anarchist I believe that you have to live the revolution everyday. What sort of revolution is it when you don’t have time to enjoy yourself? to love yourself? to take care of your own mental health? That’s no revolution I want to be a part of, to paraphrase Emma Goldman, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”

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.

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.

Employ-ability

After 7 months of unemployment (vacation) I have decided to return to the job world. Excited to be truly ready to be who I am and work a job that I find much more satisfying. I also am assure enough of who I am and am prepared to deal with misgendering and transphobic people. I started applying in the social services field specifically mental challenged adults. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few but hope to be employed soon.

Applying as a transperson confused me at first. I wasn’t sure how or who to apply as. At first I applied as my legal name, then I had second thoughts. I talked to a translady who suggested doing the same thing that I was thinking of: apply with your legal name and once you get hired tell them your taken name. Something about that left a bad taste in my mouth. I decided to be upfront and apply as me, the person I am all the time, a person transitioning to be the woman she is.

While it’s impossible for me to say how this has affected my employ-ability, I would say it hasn’t much. I’ve been upfront and brought up my transition to every employer applying with my legal and taken name in quotes. To my surprise I had responses that were so nice and truly respectful. One person even said it was nice to meet me a second time this time saying my taken name instead of my legal name. The best part for me has been feeling very comfortable and alright with myself.

I am amazed at how okay people are with me. Too much reading made me feel like I was a freak I’m happy to say actually going out in the world makes me feel like myself. I also can’t help but be reminded what my roommate always says, people are a reflection of yourself. I am frank with myself and other about who I am and am shameless of that fact. I’m a woman but my body is still catching up (as is my mind too!). Once can expect as much after 25 years of living as a man. I understand confusion by people, I understand slip ups and misgendering. I wouldn’t say I’m entirely a man or a woman right now. Simply put, I’m transitioning.

To my amazement and despite dress wearing, bra wearing and extra femme bangs, I have hardly had any bad encounters. I don’t use beard cover, have yet to put much effort into changing my voice pitch and am clearly not a “woman” under a not-so-close inspection. Yet I have only been harassed, unsuccessfully, once. Which was by a creepy old guy trying to hit on me. After being frank with him about transitioning and correcting him that my parents were in fact proud of me for being who I am, he became frustrated. He seemed to be questioning his sexuality because of me and unsuccessfully put this awkwardness on me as he walked away muttering, “you’ll always be a man.” To which I responded plainly, “I tried that, didn’t work out.”

The power of positive thinking is amazing. It makes you feel great and that feeling is quite contagious. I am waiting back on hearing back from a few jobs this coming week. If not I’ve got myself another round of applications to put in. Hopefully employment will start soon and health insurance after that. I’m ready job world, so employment world get ready for this little lady!

Winter Solstice 2014

Happy winter solstice friends, family and readers,

I hope everyone had as heartwarming of a year as I did. My friends and my family has gone above and beyond and helped me more than I ever expected. I feel truly humbled and extremely happy to write this. The last two years can best be summed up by two tarot cards I drew last new years. One was for 2013 one was for 2014. My card for 2013 was the 8 of arrows, struggle. My card for 2014 was the 9 of arrows, dedication.

Tarot Reading 2013

Over the last year I went from slowly dying and saving money to buy a house in Pittsburgh to quitting my job and working on being happy now. I vowed to spend my savings on things that made me happy and in becoming who I truly am – a woman. In August I went on a bike trip to remind myself of who I was and to start telling other about who I am.

Along my trip I had great responses and lots of support. I don’t know where I’d be without all my friends and family. The people near and dear to me stood by me and offered more support than ever. They picked me up when I fell and urged me to keep moving forward. Thinking of them and their unwavering love and support makes me feel free to do and be who I am no matter how scary that seems.

This past year was hard, but rewarding. I struggled but I found myself. I kicked depression and started meditating and being more mindful and present. I haven’t given up on anything but fake me. I left the bike shop world for good and am about to try to get a job working with mentally challenged adults. After that I plan on going to grad school to become a counsellor. My life is coming together and next year is setting itself up to be an even better year than this one.

Planned for next year is a solo backpacking trip to kick it off. After that I have an appointment to get hormones on the 9th of January. Second puberty here I come! I can’t wait to have my body fit my view of it. The next two years will be an exciting long awaited feminizing of myself. All the while I’ll be continuing to find my trueself and find love and happiness within myself instead of in others. As Arcade Fire says, “it’s never over” but that doesn’t mean that everyday it isn’t getting better and better.

Current Summer Plans

I’ve been frustrated and over worked at my job at the bike shop, and now I’m doing something about it. I’m currently saving $3000 for travelling and life expenses after I quit bike world for good! Plans are going well so far and I should be quitting in the end of July. Then I can work on finding myself and being myself and seeing so many great friends all over the country!

Right now my plan is to ride the Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) on my bicycle down to D.C. and then up to Philly. There is a USAS Alumni event so I’ll go back down to D.C. for that and then I suppose I’ll shoot up to State College and back to Pittsburgh before my longer distance car trip. I’m guessing this trip should take me most of August to complete.

The car trip is much more tentative. I may or may not being going with Captain Andiris. And the trip will first go to Ann Arbor, Michigan where a friend recently moved, then to visit Majesty on an Iowa farm. Next stop is Colorado where Beer and Malibu live as well as the Intern. I’m hoping to borrow one of these people for a short side trip somewhere. After that I have no plans.

I don’t need to look for a job until at least November. And I hope to use that time to transition into a job that fits me more and a job that I enjoy quite a bit more. I’m currently thinking about doing working in the LGBT community. That would also encourage me to truly embrace and learn more about my trans self. But that’s not at all what I’m thinking about.

Instead I’m thinking about biking down to D.C. and thinking about visiting friends, exploring pittsburgh and lolly gagging around. I’ve had responsibilities for over two years now time to have none for a few months. Just pure unadulterated freedom.