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.

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Suicide is it Just a Coping Mechanism?

Suicidal thoughts, I’ve been plagued by them for years. I first felt them in 2008, my sophomore year of college, since then they have become a regular part of my life. The idea of not having suicidal thoughts is unfathomable, I mean what thoughts do you have when you’re really stressed? But after staring them down via art I’ve realized how hollow they are, how they are just decoys to distract me from the real fears I have. This had left me feeling relieved and light but with the knowledge that now I have the real boss ahead to fight.

The piece that helped me explore suicide is called, “Suicide Note.” It’s text in the shape of a building, on the right side it says, “Jump to freedom.” and the left side has a story about the time I got closest to actually jumping off. Finishing the piece was very difficult, I got half way through my first attempt with the help of whiskey and then didn’t touch it for a month before starting over. During the second attempt I took my time, I carefully drew the outline, I slowly wrote the text, taking breaks to distract myself from the theme I was staring at. The story I wrote is an embellished version of a flashback I wrote in my journal in 2012 to a time I realized I actually wanted to jump off a parking garage. Prior to that I would simply go to the top of parking garages and look down and everything would become real, this time the idea of jumping is what became the most real.

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If you click on the picture and then on the next page click again it again you should be able to actually read the story.

The story at first argues that my suicidal thoughts were just a coping mechanism, but then it ends with the time I scared myself by actually wanting to jump. I showed it to Spaced and she liked it a lot, though she disagreed with my conclusion. She pointed out that my fear of jumping made it clear that I didn’t want to do it, that from her vantage point this was also coping. I had just needed a even more real coping mechanism than simply staring over the edge and having my fear of heights kick in. I needed to actually hold my life in my hands because when you are feeling completely powerless what act is more powerful than saying to yourself, “I have control over something, I can take my life.” I wasn’t ready to delve into these thoughts at the time, I was crying out the reality that I just stared suicide in the face and I think I won.

Since then I have started having self-harm thoughts, when I get overwhelmed my mind goes to cutting myself and how scary that is. It was really not good after I watched the Perks of Being a Wallflower. I loved the book in freshman year of college and read it at least 6 times. I related a lot to Charlie and being a wallflower, but I forgot the major theme of the book he is realizing he was molested as a kid. This was very triggering and I spent the whole movie crying and then immersed myself in the movie culture afterwards: driving through the tunnel he drove through (it’s filmed in Pittsburgh), rereading the book, listening to the music from the movie on repeat (namely Asleep by the Smiths), and thinking about cutting myself. I talked to Spaced that night and she said I give this stuff too much power, suicide, cutting, n’at.

She’s right, I do. I do it because my mind finds those things and freaks out about me possibly cutting myself or jumping off a building instead of what I’m really worried about, essentially it’s misplaced fear. So I looked straight at thoughts of cutting myself and realized how hollow they are, suicidal thoughts held weight, I’ve had those for years and needed to work through them but cutting myself was completely hollow, it was a substitute for suicide but without the personal connection. Then I looked and it was glaringly obvious what I was afraid of. I sighed and admitted that I still haven’t accepted that I was molested by Diane, it fucks with me too much, it wrecks my history and takes away too much from me. I know it happened I know it’s true I believe it, but I haven’t accepted what that means.

That’s my current journey, no more distractions, no more getting caught up in worrying about killing myself or cutting myself. I’m not actually scared of doing either and I have a support network that is fucking amazing, both in Pittsburgh and beyond to support me in actually dealing with my shit. Knowing and embracing the fact that I was molested, possibly for several years, that’s scary, but it’s something I can handle. Remembering that I just got past suicidal thoughts that have haunted me for years, that’s a good feeling. That’s just the momentum I need to take on my next challenge.

So happy to have grown so far and to be strong and ready to grow more. I must pause and be humbled by my support network and by my progress. Looking back I am reminded that 2015 was the best year I’ve lived, and 2016 is looking like it’s going to be so liberating.

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!

(Edit)

I am half way through the process of how to change everything and wrote a list of what to change. I’ll update it once I figure out any weird loopholes one might have to jump through. https://casbalog.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/how-to-change-your-name-part-2/

Informed Consent Hormones Pennsylvania: Second Puberty

Hey all! I’m writing this post for two reasons to list the resources I know about for Informed Consent Hormones in Pennsylvania and to tell y’all about my experiences thus far. If you don’t need those resources skip below, if you do enjoy.

So far I know of a few places that have informed consent hormones and a list more that may or may not be specifically informed consent in Pittsburgh in Garden of Peace’s website.
The ones that are informed consent in Pittsburgh are:
Metro Family Practice (which in my experience take most if not all insurances despite facts otherwise. I go here and have felt utmost respect as has my non-binary roommate Jamie who is going there too [they are super cool about the non-binary stuff])
Stacy Lane at West End Health Center(I heard from one person that a questioner they filled out had questions that felt like Dr. Lane may be gender policing a bit, asking whether my friend wore dresses or not.)
East End Community Health Center, which I have heard nothing bad about from the person that I know who goes there.

In Philadelphia I only know of the Mazzoni Center. They are an excellent resource which includes great resources online about name change etc here and I have heard great things about them.

In Harrisburg and Lancaster there are the Alder Health Services which provide informed consent hormones.

I feel that it is very important to better share information in the trans community, especially when this information is essential to new comers. I will be attempting to share information I am finding and cataloguing all the details of my name change for people who are excited about that lengthy exciting process in the coming months. This is also meant to motivate people to not give up hope because I almost drove to Philly before realizing there are 3 informed consent clinics in the city I lived in.

Now to the exciting stuff, changes I’ve felt on my two weeks on estrogen!!! Well first off I’d like to say how validating and exciting this has been for me. I felt torn about taking hormones for a while and was scared of possible side effects. I weighted positives v. negatives and found that there were hardly any negatives and a lot of positives and was compelled to take them and right my body.

The first thing I felt was headaches the first few days. I also got really somber and felt very lonely one day. I ended up going on a long walk and going to a friends house. This feeling passed quickly, though it ended up feeling validating, especially when my roommates just told me I was having my period for the first time (ha).

I have been taking NatureDay supplements for 10 months now and will continue to. They have caused a small amount of breast growth – significantly more after I started using the soap and moisturizer. The introduction of estrogen on top of that has caused noticeable breast growth, even by friends who can feel it in hugs and visibly see a small change in only two weeks!

But the most noticeable thing for me is an increased energy level. Before I struggled to feel a desire to do much of anything now I feel happier and more productive. I don’t know if this is estrogen specifically or simply my body/mind response to it. Either way it feels nice to be even further from the weight of depression.

I also recently talked to a translady who had been on hormones for just shy of a year and she showed me her results at a dance party we were at. Woah. Her breasts, and hips were much much larger. And her face feminized more than I expected not to mention her super soft skin. A week ago I got nervous not being able to pass but after seeing her changes I’m sure I’ll look a lot more effeminate and voice training will certainly help the disconnect I feel with my body. I’m really excited for the year for so many reasons. Haven’t felt that a while so I’m pumped for 2015!

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.

Why I Dumpster Dive

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the dilemma of whether to keep my Dumpster Diving Map of Pennsylvania online or to take it down. I found the answer by asking a more important question – Why do I dumpster dive?

I started dumpster diving in college as a form of protest against consumerism and how wasteful our society is (40% of food grown in this country is wasted). My protest was the act of not buying food for 3 years in college, and I publicized it by sharing dumpster food with everyone and being interviewed for articles and class projects.

Since then I have moved from State College to dumpster dived Philly and now Pittsburgh. I dumpster dive to survive, I dumpster dive to create awareness and to show people the waste our society has, I dumpster dive to fight consumption and waste. I am disgusted by the amount of food in the trash and I think everyone else should be too.

In the past I have been angrily told things like, “Keep it secret keep it safe.” And occasionally condemned by other divers who dislike the publicity. But I have found my response to those concerns:
I don’t want to live in a country that wastes 40% of it’s food when 1 out of 6 Americans lack a stable food supply.
I don’t want to exploit a system that wastes this much – I want to destroy it.
I want as many people as possible to know how much food is wasted and how good that food is.
I want more people to dive – too much food gets wasted.

I am concerned about dumpsters being shut down and police harassing divers, but I’m more concerned that this wastefulness will continue unimpeded. That our country will continue throwing away so much perfectly edible food and goods. I believe the best way to fight that is to let people see for themselves how wasteful our society is.

So I say – go out and dive! And share with others your finds and your disgust. Be courteous and clean and only dive after close and ideally after midnight. Always leave it cleaner than you found it and be quiet when you’re out there keep it good for all of us.

https://www.zeemaps.com/map?group=461701
http://dumpstermap.com/