Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicken for Dinner?

Every morning when I get up, the first thing I do is let the chickens out – not only because I want them to be happy, but also because I care about the neighbors, and the chickens start talking very loudly when they aren't let out.

But every once in a while, Pocohantas and Chanteclaire stay on the roost, screaming (clucking) their fool heads off – until I come out and physically lift them off the roost and toss them out into the chicken yard.

What it is that gets into their heads, whether they suddenly think they just can't jump all the way from top roost to bottom to box to ground, I don't know. A death wish?

Chicken for dinner?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Followup to Childhood

Two years ago, on a trip east to attempt reconciliation with my father, I visited the old Sodergreen Ranch. It had changed. A rich construction magnate from California bought out three of the working ranches there, including that one, and lives in a fancy new house without ranching the land. He just drives around in his earth-moving vehicles, tearing things up.

The log house I lived in – a beautiful building with dovetailed joints and fourteen rooms – had burned down years ago, and was replaced with a mobile home.

The old wood bridge where we used to read in the summer sun, or fish, or play, had washed out, and was replaced with a narrow, nasty construct of concrete, as friendly as a slap in the face.

The barn was cold and empty. The old cabin we lived in before moving to the big log house had been hauled away. Most of the corrals and sheds had been destroyed.

All but one of the old ranchers and cowboys I grew up with were gone. Instead, the prairie between Laramie and the ranch was dotted with ugly prefabricated houses on tiny lots.

God knows why anyone would want to live that way. In that country, three acres is barely enough for a goat, and on the prairie, there's no shelter from the wind.

Only the land remained.

I walked across the bridge, through the hay meadow and over the beaver dam on the slough, and then across the prairie to Jelm Mountain. I climbed all the way to the top.

It was like land that man forgot, owned by God and his creatures. Deer and antelope were everywhere. Several times I approached fawns to within twenty feet. As I crossed the slough, a moose waded from the water.

I tried to recapture my connection to that land, but I have changed, and my former connection was intertwined with the rest of my childhood. I didn't have the days it would take to rebuild the connection, and left disturbed, dissatisfied, and deeply sad.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Recapturing childhood

Last night I dreamed, and woke with the taste of the Sodergreen Ranch on my tongue - the flavor of my childhood.

I grew up on the banks of the Laramie River where it slows out of the Snowy Range onto the Laramie Plain. From six to sixteen, I lived in log homes built by Swede settlers in the 1890's, uninsulated and so cold in winter that once a glass of water in my bedroom froze so hard it broke.

It is a harsh and beautiful landscape. To the northwest, the steep slope of Sheep Mountain, fringed with lodgepole pine along the top. The Snowy Range rears its peaks, shining white even in summer, west of the cottonwoods that line the river. South, gentler, wooded Jelm Mountain, with glints of gold from the aspens in fall, and beyond that the Neversummer Range and Bull Mountain in Colorado. And then the wide, flat arc of the prairie, from south to east and back to north, where the wind howls down from the mountains so hard that it blows semi-trucks off the Interstate, twenty-five miles away. Over all, the great blue bowl of the sky.

As the dreamweb broke in my mind, I traveled back in time and tried to recapture something special that I sensed in my childhood. The emotions that rose were helplessness, powerlessness, despair, and great love, and peace in the solace of nature and the large warm body of a black horse named, in a child's ignorance, Nig.

I have a deep sense of ambivalence about that time. The conflict with my father raged at its worst, and was most one-sided, from when I was about eight until we moved from there and I got big enough to defy him openly. With adolescence and puberty, my gender dysphoria became a defining reality that tortured my inner life until I started drinking and doing drugs, and buried my true self in denial. Confusion, loneliness, and ridicule filled my school days as I struggled to adjust to the role society assigned to me, even as I didn't understand it. I struggle with these feelings still; helplessness, rage, confusion, loneliness, despair.

At the same time, my childhood grips me with amazing power. The landscape etched itself into my soul. It is harsh, but beautiful beyond compare. I spent days fishing in the river and wandering across the prairie and foothills, and evenings listening to the eerie call of the coyotes and watching the nighthawks swoop overhead, or sitting on the side of a hill watching beavers mend their dam in the twilight. I rode my horse bareback across the plains, held my cheek warm against his neck. I explored the willows and cottonwoods along the river, watching for the big mule deer with their strange, bounding run. Once, on the side of Jelm Mountain, I saw a pair of bucks fight over a doe.

I long to recapture the intimate connection I had with that magical landscape; the way I fit into the palm of nature's hand, struggling only to meld myself with the mystery of river and prairie and sky. And I cannot recapture it, for it is lost in place and time, and intertwined with the social destitution I experienced, the awful confusion of being different and not knowing how or why. Even as I mourn the loss, I would be loath to surrender the self-knowledge, unity, and social connection I have now.

Yet I am grateful for my childhood, and would trade it for no other; perhaps because it feels good to have survived such suffering and overcome it, but more, I think, simply for the rare privilege of sinking roots into that thin and rocky soil.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not a good blog week...

Trip to Portland Monday to visit my doctor ate that morning. Working late to make up for the lost time ever since. Tomorrow have to be at work early to prepare a presentation for a meeting at 8:05. Then I have to track down some humor for the Toastmasters meeting at noon.

I don't feel funny, I just feel tired.

Some weeks are like that.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ambiguity

Last night the boys and I went fishing.

It's been a long time since I've been fishing, and I've never done much sport fishing. It's not like splicing gangions, or sticking a piece of squid on a giant circle hook and coiling it into a tub before throwing a couple miles' worth of 3/8" line off the boat. We were trying to catch trout with a pole, bobber, sinkers, and just one hook. Not my forte.

It showed.

After nearly an hour untangling fishing line, changing lures and bait, and fruitless casts from the shore, the boys were running out of patience. They weren't having fun any more.

That's when Kevin came to our rescue.

He'd been over on the other side of the pond, dragging one fish after another onto shore.

He showed us the right bait to use, showed us the right way to cast, and invited the kids to reel in the fish he quickly caught. Trin was thrilled, and we soon had a nice rainbow in the bag.

The evening was transformed. The boys were suddenly having a great time. I was, too.

Next fish we caught, he encouraged the boys: "Let her reel it in! Let her do it!"

I didn't have a license, and wanted to make sure the boys got a full experience, so I gave it to Sam, and he fought a bigger rainbow trout, maybe 10" or 11", to the shore.

A man walking his dog came by and started chatting with Kevin, and Kevin referred to me as "he" in their conversation. I didn't make an issue of it.

It was getting dark, and just as we were about to leave, we caught another one. Trin reeled this one in, the biggest yet. Kevin gave us some of the bait, hooks, sinkers, and leader he was using.

As we loaded it into the bag and got ready to leave, Kevin said to the boys, "Now, when szche brings you back here, you'll have all the stuff you need to catch some fish!" (The "szche" is an imprecise spelling intended to describe the way he slid the "sh" and "h" sounds together in apparent confusion whether I should be referred to as she or he.)

Ah. Ambiguity. Another sign of progress, bittersweet.

Thank you, Kevin. Thanks for giving the kids a great time. Thanks for the lesson in fishing. Thanks for the gear. And thanks for letting your confusion be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Judge not…

… lest ye be judged.

So spake Jesus, and what exactly did he mean by it, anyway?

I thought about it a bit, and talked it over with Kristin, and came to some conclusions.

It all ties back to the Garden of Eden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Does anyone still think that story is literal rather than allegory?

Judging is when you say what someone else is, a statement about the quality of their being rather than a statement of the quality of their actions. For example, "You're so intelligent!" "He's a good kid." "George Bush is evil."

When you make statements such as those – when you judge – you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and set yourself in a position of dominance over the person judged. After all, you're the one hereby qualified to make that judgment of hir!

But by accepting that paradigm – eating that fruit – you accept also that others can (and will) judge you, and thereby grant them authority and dominion over you. You accept others as your judges.

It is the heart of the domination culture in which we live and suffer, the one that says the rich deserve to keep and waste all of their immense wealth, and the mentally ill deserve to be cast out to beg on street corners and sleep under bridges.

We don't have to leave the Garden of Eden. We don't have to buy into the paradigm of judgment. We can choose.

Because if you don't believe in good and evil, if you don't make judgments about the quality of other people or animals or events, if you don't judge them – their judgments have no power over you.

This is the paradigm that NVC teaches.

I believe that this is the heart of Jesus' gospel, even more than "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or any other aspect. Certainly more than damnation and hellfire, or sin.

I'm starting to get it, but it's still too easy to judge. I have so many needs unmet when I hear of the crimes and policies that the Bush administration commits, that even though in my head I know they're just human beings doing their best to meet needs, just like me, I still feel in my heart that they're evil. And when Christians judge me so harshly because they don't like the way I live, and try to keep me from marrying who I want to or entering restrooms appropriate to my gender, I still think they are ignorant hypocrites. My own judgments that cast me out of the Garden and subject me to the power of their judgments.

I'm working on it.

I want to get back into the Garden.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best Friends

Seamus, who lives next door, turned to Sam and said, "You could be half of me, and I could be half of you. Then we'd both be half of each other!"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Changes

Five years ago, the invasion of Iraq transitioned into occupation, and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay came to light. Simultaneously, I grappled with the deepening awareness of my own gender dysphoria.

I wanted to take action, but I didn't know how. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading the news and feeling depressed. I scanned the headlines and surfed the internet daily, expecting to encounter the article announcing that impeachment proceedings had begun. I read Newsweek cover-to-cover. Gradually, the cowardice of the Democrats and the lapdog mentality of the Republicans became clear. Both groups in congress were (and are) more willing to toss justice, the rule of law, the Geneva Convention, and American freedom onto the dunghill of history than they were to take on Bush, Cheney, Rove, and the RSM (Republican Smear Machine). I felt helpless as I watched my country disgrace itself.

My depression continued to deepen until I became suicidal. By 2006, I could barely function, and still I read the news and did nothing.

When insanity, suicide, or, at minimum, a nervous breakdown loomed as certain if I didn't change course, I finally put all that I value and love at risk, and began to transition. I rang in the New Year of 2007 with my first taste of estrogen.

And magic began to happen.

I got a new job. I stopped reading the news daily. I started to focus on, as Voltaire put it so well in Candide, "tending my own garden." Things got better. My relationships with my kids began to improve.

In August, I changed my name and started presenting as female 24/7. By November, I started volunteering for a queer activist non-profit corporation. In the spring of 2008, I volunteered for a citizen's advisory committee on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. I studied NVC, and started a study group to improve my skills. Last month, I joined Toastmasters to increase my skill and confidence in public speaking.

Today, I realized that I'm no longer whining – I'm doing. My country is still disgraced, Bush and Cheney still haven't been called to account for their crimes, people are still being tortured in Guantanamo Bay, the Democrats are still spineless, and the Republicans are still amoral lapdogs. Nothing has changed, except that I feel empowered. I'm making a difference.

That is a change worth celebrating.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Is the US Losing Its Economic Dominance?

Last night I clicked on a link with the title above, only to find that they were measuring the health of respective economies by the number of billionaires produced.

What bullshit. I can think of no worse measure of economic health or dominance than the number of billionaires. (The publication promoting such ridiculous garbage was Forbes Magazine, so it's no surprise.) Perhaps if you wanted to measure the degree of economic corruption, the number of billionaires would be meaningful.

A far better measure of economic health and dominance would be the level of the median income, or average income. How are the masses faring? By that measure, yes, I believe we are falling fast.

It really is time to start taxing the crap out of the rich. Here's some reasonable suggestions: income between $300,000 and $500,000/yr gets taxed at 50%; over $500,000, 70%.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Planting a Seed…

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Am I not destroying my enemies, when I make friends of them?"

In that spirit, when I saw Jim Torrey (ultra-conservative corporate candidate for mayor) schmoozing at the Regional Transportation Planning "workshop" last night, I made sure to meet him. He wasn't too eager to meet with me at first – he's on the record stating that transpeople should have to present medical documentation to use gender appropriate public restrooms, so he knew right off I'm not one of his supporters. He saw me at one of the tables and briefly spoke, then quickly turned away.

A little later, I approached him when he was speaking with two other people, and he couldn't turn away without being rude. He was forced to meet and speak with a transwoman.

Now, I could have put him on the spot about his positions on certain issues near and dear to my heart, like discrimination against transpeople. I've been known to do things like that in the past; at the first all-city staff meeting for the new city manager, I stood up in front of several hundred people and questioned him on just that. And given the fact that I would risking my life or my health to enter a men's room, I think I'd be justified in it.

I chose not to do that to Jim Big-Bizness Torrey, however. I thought about what he needed in that moment, and he needed ease, he needed to look good. Putting him on the spot wouldn't win any goodwill, and it wouldn't do anything to change his judgment of transpeople or his views about us. Instead, I spoke about the price of gas, and how that will affect transportation trends in the city, and so on. I was as friendly and charming as I know how to be when in the presence of someone who has, by implication if not explicitly, avowed himself to be my enemy. He shook hands and said it was a pleasure to meet me.

I hope that's true. I don't expect that I changed his mind last night, but I hope I planted a seed.

Because I really believe that the better he knows me, the harder he's going to find it to discriminate against me.

No matter how much he, or his backers, want to.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Changes

I consider myself a feminist, and I agree with just about everything the feminist movement stands for. However, there is one aspect of the movement's philosophy with which I take issue. That is the idea that women are just the same as men, except for socialization.

That is not my experience, and, thanks to synthetic estradiol (estrogen) and spironolactone (an androgen suppressor), I've experienced both male and female hormone balances – though I lack the progesterone, etc., to achieve a complete spectrum of female hormone balance. Lately I've noticed some powerful changes I didn't really expect.

One of the most stark and measureable changes I've noticed is my chess game. It took about a year of hormone replacement therapy, but since then it's gone way downhill. I used to play online regularly, and the computer rated my game (against other live players) at about 1850. (Master level starts at about 2000.) I was competitive with anyone rated up to about 1900. Lately, as my drive to play the game has waned – I still enjoy it, just don't feel compelled to play – I find that my level has gone below 1700. I have trouble beating anyone over 1700, and at 1800, forget it. Which means that I've lost more ability on estrogen than I would have needed to gain master status on testosterone.

It's a loss – another loss – that I feel strongly.

One that I don't miss so much is the violent or sexual graphical fantasies that used to play out in my head. I used to daydream in fine detail the life I would live as a cisgendered woman. At other times visions of mayhem and murder would pop into my head, or I would visualize in fine detail long sexual encounters. Frequently it felt like some foreign creature had taken over my brain and was controlling my thoughts. Eeewww. I am so glad to have moved on from there! Now, my brain feels like it belongs to me, and my thoughts feel natural, though they are nowhere near as detailed or graphic. Sexual fantasies have become more holistic than visual, and violent imagery has almost completely faded away. It's weird and hard to describe, but it is also profound.

Then there is focus. Even when I'm completely focused, my attention seems wider and more encompassing – but not deeper. Multi-tasking is far easier and less frustrating than it used to be when I was on testosterone.

A relational aspect has become clear. I have a deeper need for human connection, and that connection comes easier (though sometimes it remains difficult). I feel more socially graceful and competent. Again, there are aspects of this that I find very difficult to describe, but that nevertheless are profound.

The bottom line is that men and women are biologically different. They think differently. I know, because I used to think like a man, and now I think like a woman. Thinking like a man helped my disguise, even as it tore me apart in internal conflict so bad that sometimes it felt like I was two people at war with each other; like some mild form of schitzophrenia. That difference isn't good or bad in a cisgendered person, it just is. One way is not better than the other, they're just different – and, note that there are some women who play chess at well above master level, and most men still aren't as good as me. There are female architects, engineers, and mathematicians every bit as competent as their male counterparts. The fact that male and female brains are different doesn't detract one bit from the goals and principles of feminism, nor does it necessarily mean that women have lesser spacial/mathmatical ability and men less relational ability. These are generalities, but they are still real.

And I believe that feminism would do well to embrace the difference, and not deny it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lapdogs

There's a new bestseller out, revealing yet more of the machinations of the Bush White House…

Friday, July 4, 2008

Peculiar Politics

Every once in a while you get an article that exposes the corruption of the American political process in harsh light. This one from the New York Times is the latest to disgust me.

What strikes me about this article is not the particulars so much as the assumptions that underlie them. It is completely accepted by the writer/editor team – it isn't even questioned – that the purpose of campaigning is to win at all costs by removing all substance from the discourse and creating a misleading image of the opponent. Of course George Bush was right to paint John Kerry as a weak flip-flopper and lie about his record. What's disturbing to the political establishment is not how poorly that strategy serves the body politic and the citizens of this nation. It's that John McCain hasn't found a way to copy Bush's strategic model.

It makes me want to puke.

I wish I could say it's just the Republicans doing it, but the Democrats are almost as bad in their intent, even as they are far less effective at it. (I suspect that's because the Democrats have multiple constituencies – labor, environmentalists, feminists, and multinational corporations, whereas the GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of multinational corporations and so can focus on dirty tricks easier. Besides, the GOP gets lots of practice by their habit of scapegoating relatively powerless constituencies in order to pay lip service to the peculiar issues of their evangelical base and to divide and conquer the masses.) This political process of image over substance is pervasive throughout the system, and it's the perfect philosophical base for propaganda machines such as Faux (Fox) News.

Every two years the pundits and politicians fall all over themselves to castigate the public for its reluctance to vote, and to wonder why so many people seem uninterested in politics. Perhaps it's because an awful lot of people see through all the crap they toss into the ring.

Happy birthday, America.

I know that for me, I would like to see our political discourse shift into a genuine debate over the problems our nation faces, why we have them, and what is the best way to deal with them. I don't see that happening in our current two-party, winner takes all system. Perhaps we could attain it through some system such as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), but so long as the plutocrats, fascists, and robber barons own all of the Mainstream Media (MSM) and GOP and half of the Democratic Party, we'll have the same system we have now.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Some Good Finds…

Every day, going to work and coming home, I pass a boutique that features women's clothing, much of it locally made, in pretty, simple styles and natural fibers (linen, tencel, rayon, organic cotton). No garish prints. Of course, such clothing costs a lot, so I just drool as I ride by.

Yesterday, however, there was a sidewalk sale. I did a double-take, jammed on my brakes and did a 180 on my bike to go back. They were bringing in the racks. I stopped at the last one. It was the $10 rack. I shuffled through and found almost a dozen things that looked good and <might> fit.

"Can I take all these into a dressing room?"

"Sure, the one in the corner's a good one." No one else was around, just the clerk and me.

I tried them all on. Well, not all. Some clearly wouldn't fit. I'm a big girl, after all

Found a pretty brown linen skirt, marked down from $101. Two nice tencel-rayon tanks, down from $42. They all fit perfectly.

$185 worth of clothes for $30.

I rode home, and I just felt happy.

And today, G___ said, "I don't know what you're doing, but you're really looking good these days."

Too many sales like that, and I may become addicted to shopping…


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Where Has Seda Been?

Well you might ask. I kind of wonder, myself.

I feel like I've been in a perfect storm, but in fact I've simply been home by myself. K and the boys are away, visiting her mom down in California. So, a week to my own devices. Freedom. Lots of time to do whatever. Right?

Yes and no.

I kinda didn't realize how many critters we've accumulated over the last year or so - two sets of bunnies, chickens, a rat, a fish. The fish doesn't take much, and I take care of the chickens anyway. I tried to let the bunnies out for a graze, and one of freaked out and kicked around and almost got away and made deep bloody scratches on the back of my hand. Then I tried to feed the rat some cheese, and she decided to take a bite out of me instead. I jerked my hand back, and the rat came with it. She flew through the air – Splat! On the floor. Poor thing. While she stumbled about drunkenly exploring her broken teeth (not really), I grabbed her by the tail and put her back in.

Then there's the garden. K set up all kinds of irrigation systems to make the watering easier. It's a good thing. If I had to handwater everything like last year, Kristin would come home to a desert. As it is, it feels like all I do is go from hose to hose, switching water around from here to there…

But I get to harvest it, right?

Too right. Endless strawberries, raspberries, peas, the lettuce and chard are bolting, fields of favas – I've eaten fava beans four days in a row, and it looks like I haven't touched the crop yet – and that counts the two bags I gave away. The very act of harvesting the bounty is overwhelming. There is simply no way I can keep up with it. Even the slugs are overmatched.

So tonight I made a salad for tomorrow's lunch. Three kinds of lettuce, steamed fava beans, and hard boiled eggs – every bit of it grown in our own backyard.

When I look at what Kristin has accomplished with growing food this year, I'm impressed. When I try to keep it going, I'm exhausted.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz