Friday, December 25, 2009


Spent my time on the train contemplating urban life. What drives people to and away from cities... How different my perception of mobility is than other people I know... How transient queer and youth cultures have developed over decades. Then, I designed some desktop backgrounds from copyleft and self-made imagery.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unexpected compliments

As a graduating senior, I have find myself being called upon to reflect upon the last several years of my life. One such occasion was Monday, when I had to defend my undergrad thesis. "Defend" hardly seems like an accurate adjective as it was much more of a conversation dedicated to fostering my ideas and acknowledging my accomplishments.

My examiner arrived early and we built a rapport pretty immediately. She was engaged from the beginning. I felt as though I was speaking too much, but I pushed on, reassuring myself that I felt like I was taking the spotlight because it was indeed the appropriate time to do so. After a full lunch, we headed into the academic building to squat a room for the occasion.

Much to my surprise, many of the questions they asked directly or indirectly we about myself. Partially because my work is very important to who I am and what I am about, partially because I criticized myself in my work for not talking more about where I was coming from through out the process. For whatever reason, I ended up expounding on how my understandings had been shaped over the last few years and how the shifts in my own sense of what is important changed the kind of work I wanted to focus on. I nailed most of the questions.

I left as they deliberated my grade. When I came back in, they had written it on the board. It was anti-climactic. After having thought about all the ways my education has given me the space and support to deconstruct and recreate myself, the letter felt like a hollow representation of that process. What came next was the most striking phase of the process, as my outside examiner and the two faculty I worked intensively with stepped forward to compliment me. One by one, they told me how inspirational it was to work with me, how genuine my dedication was, how interesting and thoughtful my perspective. But then they moved on to say things I never could have imagined being said about me four years ago. About my perseverance, about my willingness to take risk. And it hits me that while I was busy talking and writing and shooting and editing, I missed myself becoming who I am.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Messy Chef: Baking extravaganza

I had my first real day of freedom today as the snow froze away all my obligations and I was left with an oven, a slightly colder than I could be comfortable in living room, and a graphic novel about prison life in Japan.

Like any good geek, I decided I'd make my house warmed by baking confectioneries and f document myself in the process. Please enjoy the fruit of that labour:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I’m No Longer Outraged by Sexism (repost)

I’ve been trying and failing to write something on this for weeks, now. I guess I’m just tired of pointing my finger and yelling “sexism!” every time I see it. There’s just so much of it around me, every day, that I can’t bring myself to get pissed off any more. I keep thinking of that self-righteous bumper sticker, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!” But I’ve been “paying attention” to this shit since I was, oh, ten years old, and I find it harder and harder to become outraged by it — not because I’ve come to accept things as they are but because once you realize how institutionalized sexism is and how deeply fucked up our entire civilization is, nothing really shocks you anymore.

To get to the point, the issue at hand is an episode of “This Week in Kink”, a podcast put on by the folks that run FetLife. On this episode, which aired over two months ago, one of the guests invited on the show said the following:

I firmly and strongly believe that it is a woman’s role to be submissive to a man. . . . I think that women in the past couple of hundred years have gotten entirely too high on their own power and eventually need to be slapped in the fucking head and put in their place.

A couple of years ago, I would have crusaded against this man and against the people who run the podcast. (How dare they allow such a thing to be broadcast.) I’d have demanded an apology and a retraction. Today, my reaction is a sigh and a shake of the head. What an asshole. I browse the comments on their page and leave one of my own. And I’m done. Next.

I did a bit of link-hopping and read Maymay’s take on the issue, in a post called “Don’t You Fret, Sexism Is Alive and Well in BDSM.” His post addressed a lot of stuff I’ve also written about — basically, making the point that while anti-BDSM feminists are wrong in their assessment of “BDSM = patriarchy,” we should acknowledge that there is a lot of sexism in BDSM as a culture and in how a lot of people practice it.

He linked to a blogger named Delilah, who writes that what troubles her the most about this is not that it was said — there will always be bigoted, ignorant jerks in the world — but that “in the BDSM world, where we’re meant to be playing with power, subverting some traditional norms and amplifying others to erotic effect, there are people who still truly believe this kind of outright nonsense. Even worse, that someone with such opinions is such a strong voice in the community.”

To me, what this says is not that there is a troubling streak of misogyny or at least sexism in the BDSM scene, but that (as I’ve written before) the values of the BDSM scene are fairly mainstream. Rob may be more outspoken and brash about his sexism, and it comes coated with d/s-specific language, but I strongly sense that the root of what he’s saying here is actually what the majority of men and women think — that there are biological differences between men and women, that these differences create “natural” inequalities between the sexes in some ways, and that the feminist demand for equality goes against woman’s natural role in the world.

Of course, none of this means that I’m throwing up my hands and saying, “Well, if the rest of the world thinks I should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, I guess I’ll start taking off my shoes.” I’m still angry. I still argue. But I’m not outraged; I don’t feel like I should expect the world to not be sexist, and that this individual person has just violated that unspoken agreement. I go out into the world expecting that most people I meet will have, on some level, an understanding of gender and gender roles that I do not share and that I feel is harmful to me in some way. I expect exactly the same thing when I encounter people in the BDSM scene. (The unfortunate difference, of course, is that within the world of BDSM, “this is my kink” can be used to justify stereotypes and prejudice, and thus people like Rob can speak a little louder than they would, perhaps, on the street.)

Perhaps I’m just having a very cynical day. But perhaps not.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Consent, Consent, Consent

I've been thinking and having a whole lot of conversations about consent. I might write more, but for the moment, I will begin by posting the article that kicked it all off for me...

Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs. She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins.

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection, love, romance: there is nothing wrong with these yearnings.

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?

I don’t.

When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

Fortunately, you’re a good guy. We’ve already established that. Now that you’re aware that there’s a problem, you are going to go out of your way to fix it, and to make the women with whom you interact feel as safe as possible.

To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%. For some women, particularly women who have been victims of violent assaults, any level of risk is unacceptable. Those women do not want to be approached, no matter how nice you are or how much you’d like to date them. Okay? That’s their right. Don’t get pissy about it. Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.

The second important point: you must be aware of what signals you are sending by your appearance and the environment. We are going to be paying close attention to your appearance and behavior and matching those signs to our idea of a threat.

This means that some men should never approach strange women in public. Specifically, if you have truly unusual standards of personal cleanliness, if you are the prophet of your own religion, or if you have tattoos of gang symbols or Technicolor cockroaches all over your face and neck, you are just never going to get a good response approaching a woman cold. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of solitude, but I suggest you start with internet dating, where you can put your unusual traits out there and find a woman who will appreciate them.

Are you wearing a tee-shirt making a rape joke? NOT A GOOD CHOICE—not in general, and definitely not when approaching a strange woman.

Pay attention to the environment. Look around. Are you in a dark alley? Then probably you ought not approach a woman and try to strike up a conversation. The same applies if you are alone with a woman in most public places. If the public place is a closed area (a subway car, an elevator, a bus), even a crowded one, you may not realize that the woman’s ability to flee in case of threat is limited. Ask yourself, “If I were dangerous, would this woman be safe in this space with me?” If the answer is no, then it isn’t appropriate to approach her.

On the other hand, if you are both at church accompanied by your mothers, who are lifelong best friends, the woman is as close as it comes to safe. That is to say, still not 100% safe. But the odds are pretty good.

The third point: Women are communicating all the time. Learn to understand and respect women’s communication to you.

You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.

If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”

On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.

The fourth point: If you fail to respect what women say, you label yourself a problem.

There’s a man with whom I went out on a single date—afternoon coffee, for one hour by the clock—on July 25th. In the two days after the date, he sent me about fifteen e-mails, scolding me for non-responsiveness. I e-mailed him back, saying, “Look, this is a disproportionate response to a single date. You are making me uncomfortable. Do not contact me again.” It is now October 7th. Does he still e-mail?

Yeah. He does. About every two weeks.

This man scores higher on the threat level scale than Man with the Cockroach Tattoos. (Who, after all, is guilty of nothing more than terrifying bad taste.) You see, Mr. E-mail has made it clear that he ignores what I say when he wants something from me. Now, I don’t know if he is an actual rapist, and I sincerely hope he’s not. But he is certainly Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this particular Schrödinger’s Rapist has a probability ratio greater than one in sixty. Because a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.

So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

For women, who are watching you very closely to determine how much of a threat you are, this is an important piece of data.

The fifth and last point: Don’t rape. Nor should you commit these similar but less severe offenses: don’t assault. Don’t grope. Don’t constrain. Don’t brandish. Don’t expose yourself. Don’t threaten with physical violence. Don’t threaten with sexual violence.

Shouldn’t this go without saying? Of course it should. Sadly, that’s not the world I live in. You may be beginning to realize that it’s not the world you live in, either.

Miss LonelyHearts wishes you happiness and success in your search for romantic companionship.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Man Trapped in a Woman's Body

Why I am not a man trapped in a woman's body:

1)I am not a man
2)My body is not a woman's body. It is a genderqueer body. It is lanky and sinuous and androgynous. It flails about and crashes into things. It often moves like puppy--awkwardly, with little balance but with excitement.
3)I am not trapped within it.
4)I am in the prolonged process of making it my own
5)I have the imagination and creativity to recognize my own contradictions without being afraid of them
6)I have lovers and friends who recognize these truths

Monday, September 28, 2009

Belated Yom Kippur...

Lately I feel as though I've been reaching out a lot, trying to make connections but not getting far along the way. I've extended a couple invitations a week to my house. I've posted a craigs list ad or two and even signed up for an OK Cupid account. I sat entranced by the endless barrage of questions... How often do I keep promises? How often would I expect my ideal mate to? How important is it to me? I find myself once again stead-fast in what I demand from myself but floundering when it comes to defining what I might expect from (an)other(S).

A little less than a year after my first romantic relationship ended, I find myself calling my ex about 3 times a month. Sometimes she answers. Sometimes, I have intense dreams where we are part of one another's life at some pivotal moment (her having a baby or me coming out to my family), but most of the time I'm just glad to hear her voice and know that we still care abut each other. Most of the time I'm glad that I can love her without having to be anxious that it means I should want/need/ask anything from her.

Lately she hasn't been as good about answering when I call. I question whether or not I should continue to call her. Clearly, she is more important to me than I am to her. We talked about how this would happen before we even got together, and it has.

I contemplate whether or not I am pushing forward where I am not wanted, and I wonder if I am just being insecure. The moment feels so ironic when I think back to how aggressively she pursued me when a romantic relationship was the last thing on my mind. And then it hits me. It wasn't just her.

It was also all the other people in my life with whom I've had serious relationships. It's my best friend when I came to college and the girl that I got close to after arriving in Chicago. All people I grew to love, after the told me they loved me first. I realize that most of my relationships have been imbalanced, but I never noticed because I was always the safe one.

I am grateful to those who have taught me to love in whatever reckless or ill-fated ways they have done so. And I'm sorry for never having said that before. Gmar Chatimah Tova.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

update on me

I've been having the most intense dreams lately. They featured people who have wronged me, people I aspire to be, people who confuse me. We are never in notable settings doing notable things, but each scene has so much tension, so much history (real and imagined). I feel these scenes the way I've rarely felt real life. They move me to tears more often than not. Last Sunday I woke up so happy, I couldn't describe or understand it. The word limitless pulsated like a metronome across the inside of my scalp, and I was practically convinced that we were gods.

I day dream for hours. It's becoming something I have to build into my schedule. My imagination running laps around the bed springs. They get tighter, more dense and then push outward. Small explosions bleeding into my mind. I'm more emotional, than I can really comprehend these days.

I'm attracted to more people than ever before in my life. Sometimes a couple a week. And in my last semester at college I have my first crush on someone I don't know well. My fifth in the past three and a half years. My second in the past 4 months. That's practically girl crazy (for me).

So I dunno what any of that means or how long it will continue. It blows my mind just a little. But it's also a relief. Maybe there are things about myself that I am only beginning to explore.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Testing Our Skin

This week I moved back to VT for my final semester of college, and I've been spending a lot of time thinking about testosterone. I began making phone calls to therapists and insurance companies and naturopaths. One to my ex girlfriend who I wanted to be the first to know about my shift in plans.

It feels so strange that something I qualitatively denied only months ago feels more familiar by the day, like coming home. I've been meditating on what body modification, BDSM and Transexualism have in common. I've been thinking of all the ways we inscribe meaning onto our flesh, of all the events in my life that have marked me against my will. What drives some people to veil those markings and others to display them brazenly?

I think of a scrawny genderqueer lifting up their shirt to reveal the phrase "Faggots Kill Fascists" etched across their pelvis. They told us if they ever go to jail, they want us to raise money to get the tattoo covered up. We joke, what about if we can only raise half? Our our nods build rythms like shudders when he responds, "Let's be honest, the word "Fascist" is what matters here. The others are inscribed over and over in ways I can never erase."

I pause briefly to contemplate what happens in the space where needs converge... the need to make what is felt real, the need to make what is imagined imminent, the need to make what is marked visible. Then, I find a piece of paper as I unpack with a phrase scrawled across it--Where our imagination cannot stretch, we must test our skin--and I wonder if I ever left this place.

Hammers, Roofs, and Radios (The Podcast)

Location: Marlboro VT, 05344

This is a podcast created by a student-led group during a five-day orientation trip. Andre Perez led four college freshman on a voyage to learn about housing justice that took them from Brattleboro, VT to Northampton, MA to Boston, MA. Along the way the group learned interviewing skills, recording skills, story boarding, and editing. Not only did the group interview experts in the field of affordable housing but they also spent their time doing service learning projects that actually benefited the neighborhoods and individuals featured in this podcast.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sober and OVer It (Rant)

Party culture. I feel like I can't get away from it.

When you live on top of mountain, there ain't much you can do for fun but get wasted. At least that's what quite a few people from my college woiuld say. I know that all colleges have a hig level of alcohol-induced stupidity and in fact Marlboro culture is probably better than universityies in the sense that we don't ahve insane binge dirnking. But stuffed away in the backwoods alcoholism is nonetheless an insidious ever present problem. Our school allows students to designate money to activitie and a large portion of the budget annually goes to serving alcohol. When our licor liscence was revoked a week before what usually is one of the biggest parties of the year, the party attendence went from 300 to 30.

So I looked onward in search of a community. I spent the summer in a radical collective that didn't do much in terms of organizing, but was a strong hold of the Chicago radical scene socially. By this, I mean it was a good place to meet people who believed a lot of similar things to me, there were zines around all the time, we threw concerts to benefit political prisoners, and every activist and their brother spent a couple nights on our beat up couches. This summer I learned in a big way how radical culture can be party culture. Sex party, beer party, whiskey party. Even though the house passed a policy discouraging drug use in the house, the party was on. Five days a week the stay-up-till-3-o'clock-drinking ethos imbued the first floor traveling upstairs (where I lived) to the roof for smoke breaks.

What I learned was I am really done. I am done with people yelling outside my door for no reason. With waking up to recycling bins full of beer cans. With floors sticky from god knows what.

I've been back for a "training" which has been a thinly veiled excuse for people leading orientation trips to drink every day, get high, and bar-b-que.

I'm over it, and I don't even know how to get away.

Distance and Interest

I feel like so many of the things I have dealt with in my life have made my feel more distanced and disconnected from the people around me.

When my mother was crazy, it made me feel crazy. Apart. Estranged from notions of friendship and family that were illusory to me yet somehow implied in the existence of my peers. I needed to be away from her, and so I went to Peru. I gave myself what I needed. I was independent. Competent. Strong. But for all the good it did me in my life, it was another experience that only makes the distance seem somewhat spectacular. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve learned how to be an interesting person at the expense of being a relatable person. It’s another in an ever expanding collection… my very own cabinet of curiosities where my life is what is on display.

Now I want to transition. When I first started thinking of transitioning, I had people in my life who valued me for my gender ambiguity, people who loved and coveted my genderquuerdom, people who I related to more because of my boyish desires. Now so much has changed in my life in terms of relationships. I feel like to transition would be to transition out of community, to taking another step away from support with no foreseeable corollary on the other side.

It’s no wonder that so much of what I focus my energies on is trying to find community in struggle. I worry that dealing with rather than striving for is the only future I’m prepared for. As if I have reached a point in my life where the only kind of connection that seems authentic is the relationship between people learning how to deal with shit together. As if the only love I believe in is love among comrades.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

appologies and promises

As some have noted, its been forever since I have blogged. Mostly it's because the nature of doing video work is that I get stuck inside for 7 hours a day when it's gorgeous outside. When I"m off, I've been trying to find green space in the city, and soak in the rays before heading back to to VT.

At the moment, I am getting ready to be sequestered, but in the meantime, I will be writing and I'll post some of it.

Things I promise to reflect on soon: where I'm at with trust & play, and My changing thoughts on sexism.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Trans Oral History update

I have finally uploaded the second interview clip from bet power, entitled Legacy. It's better than the first, so I urge you to check it out.

Also, I am going on the Gay Liberation Network's Chicago Public access TV show on Friday. I composed a clip from the project to show on air, and that can be viewed on youtube if you look on the channel TransOralHistory. There is also a link on the webpage under short docs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

DIY Animation

DIY Animation

My first session was awesome. It was hands on animation. We begun by watching some pieces for inspiration. Here are some of those sweet examples:

We split into group to work on our own separate pieces. My group took some chalk outside and a still digital camera. We created a storyboard and drew out several different frames...comic style. Then we took images of each frame, uploaded them to the animation program, and pushed play. 25 minutes. 5 first time animators. 1 free program. 30 seconds.

I'll upload it before the end of the weekend. I promise.

Been a While

I have kind of dropped the ball on updating all of my blogs.

My internship at the queer youth center did not work out. But I have begun workign with a community art program that rocks my socks. I am co-teaching an intensive video production program with inner city youth until I leave Chicago. It is long and intense and the youth needs alot of direction and guidance and they are amazing and I love it!

I am wirting up notes as I go along so I will be posting some of those field notes.

At the moment I am stupid happy to be at the Allied Media Conference. It brings together everything I want most in my life right now: media education, youth empowerment, and community organizing. With workshops on trans representation in independent media, Palestinian divestment strategies, and "magical education in magical settings"I don't think there's is anywhere in the world I would rather be.

Create. Connect. transform.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Boi's Night In

I have been overall pretty pleased and excited with everything happening in Chicago. However, with the warm weather, I am definitely feeling a little tranny-boy withdrawl. Where's a boy supposed to find lazer tag partners? So I have decide to host the first BOi's Night In at the Cunt Collective. Spread the word if you know any transmasculine folk in Chi-town...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tshirt brainstorming

I'm working on a few tshirts. One will be a kink shirt, one will be a trans masculine pride shirt, and one will be an anarchist shirt. They all will be using words in order to draw out different identifiable symbols.

So I am in the process of brainstorming transmasculine gender identities. SO far I have: aggresive, stud, butch, boi, trannie boy, trannie fag, transman, genderqueer, genderfuck, Tomboy, gender variant, androdyke... you got more?

(Just a reminder that all images I create and post on this blog are property of me)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chicago youth center: A new chapter

I have begun interning at a queer youth center in Chicago that will go unnamed, and I am presuming that most of my posts will be looking at the issues the center and the youth who access the center are dealing with.

I am working with mostly African American gay men and trans women. They are largely homeless and experiencing all sorts of violence that comes with that. I've fallen in love with them already. It's so intense, but I'm in a great place personally, so I feel fortified to deal with it all.

Some of the center's attitudes towards youth are problematic. It is supposed to be dedicated to anti-oppression, but of course it fails this charge sometimes. While there are some radical elements in the center, it is overall pretty progressive in nature. You can look forward to me posting in length about those grievances as they come up.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hammers, Roofs, and Radios: A Subversive Transmission

Construction dyke and techie tranny seek 7-9 curious adventurers passionate about housing justice, manual labor, and quirky documentaries. Participants can expect to build with and interview a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. As we gather material to make a podcast about our experience, we will be talking about affordable housing issues and embarking on a day trip to Boston for a gentrification tour. Must be ready for:

-life-altering shenanigans
-mind-expanding discussions
-mind-altering connections
and heavy doses of caffeine.
*positive results guaranteed and no experience necessary

Leadership Camp

I packed up my swimming trunks and granola bars and headed out for a post-graduation leadership camp. The occasion was me having designed a 5 day trip for my school’s unique and apparently award-winning orientation program (see next entry for details on my specific trip). I was a little stressed about giving up three days out of my already tight schedule, but I was dedicated to making the trip a success, and I figured getting to know some of the other leaders could prove useful.

We arrived at a low-key place named “Neringa” without having any idea what was to befall us. The campground was actually a Lithuanian nunnery the school had rented out. We stayed in a gorgeous lodge with exposed wood everywhere. The spacious kitchen was lined around the parameter with cabinets laminated white labels no one could read. There were 22 of us in all.

We played a variety of games led by a too-cheery-to-believe woman with obvious new-agey inclinations. I’ll spare you the details of most. Suffice it to say we spent time rubbing strangers, improvising blindfolded, and no one ever won anything. I wonder what kind of person I would have grown up to be if this all were more familiar than awkward.

My main objective in being there was to get to know my co-leader. I had designed the trip on my own, but needed someone else to help make it a reality. There was A, a woman short in stature but bulky in physique. Her face was full of metal, her tongue split, her dreads ¾ inch in diameter. She exuded toughness and had most recently worked as a bouncer to boot. She was interested in the trip for the construction aspect but her father was a sustainable architect in Boston. Our energies and resources complimented each other. I was impressed by how good of a match we were, and found a lot of comfort in her unfamiliar laughter.

Half way through the trip, she sat down on an unfinished floor and got impaled in the ass. Now, I never saw said splinter, but I hear it was an inch and a half long. I was impressed by how she owned it in the middle of the meeting, I mean really, that might be the most embarrassing moment of her life. Several unsuccessful attempts with and without tweezers resulted in a trip to the hospital. After a one-on-one session with a scalpel, she spent the next two days hocked up on vicodin, which was understandable but rendered her pretty much useless. I did all the work with maybe a little resentment but it’s hard to be grumpy in a beautiful place, in one of my last moments of familiarity before I thrust myself into the unknown.

At the end of the training, I left with a desire to spend more time getting to know A, regret that I hadn’t skipped out on a few activity times to explore the land, and a quiet anxiety about whether or not I was the right kind of person to lead one of these trips.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yo Mama's So White...

Two black teenage girls linger in front of a Boys & Girls Club off of the main drag of a town that is big for Vermont but never the less minuscule. One leans lazily against a brick wall. They seem to be arguing about something interesting enough to animate them but not important enough to take seriously. The conversation soon devolves into a trickle of half-hearted teasing comments,

“You’re mama’s so stupid, she can’t find her way out of the co-op parking lot.”

“Yeah? Well, yo mama’s ass is so big, she can’t fit through the door when she gets there.“

“Yo mama’s ass is so white…” She doesn’t finish her sentence, letting the silence dictate her victory.

I inhale deeply and try not to break my stride. The word “white” sounds like the moment of impact when hammer and chisel meet. Abrasive, like flakes of stone flailing to the ground. White like lambs and judgment and God. I want to tell her that she doesn’t know what she just did. I want to say, “Once you go real, you can never come back.”

I want to talk about how I grew up convinced I wasn’t authentic enough for my own name. About how I spent three months in Peru and yet I still play Anglo when I go into Mexican restaurants. I want to tell her how disappointed in myself I am of all the times I said “she” because I was embarrassed to be asked about my pronouns. I want to say you don’t have to play that game.

You can help one another be brave. Because you’re young people. Because you’re becoming women. Because on this street in this moment, it doesn’t matter how white her mama’s ass is when passersby are thinking nuisance and street crime and holding their purses a little closer to their bodies.

I want to tell her that I fell in love with the first person who treated me like I was real. I want her to know she can be that for someone. It’s a choice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Website Finished (for now)

So,I have been cheating on this blog with my Transgender Oral History website... . After a couple months of fiddling with it, I am pretty happy at how it came out. I will be uploading content to it and posting on my TOH blog when I do, so you should subscribe to the RSS feed on the blog.

Now to catch up for lost time...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Andy for Editor

I've finally become the quintessential Malrboro student. I bitch and moan about how much I have to do, and then I wake up and over commit myself all over again.

That being said... Vote for me

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Haikus or Fragments form the narrative of my last couple days

April 28th
The smell of sweat and
Dirt gathered under her nails
Was like growing up

The disappointment
Of never having learned to
work for a living.

April 29th
Estranged initials,
Letters open, unexpected
Rounded but not worn

Fell through my inbox
Hitting a nerve on the way
Back into distance

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Productivity, thou art my master II

Endeavors I want to be pursuing:

-Writing a zine about trans issues and feminism
-Writing an article for an anthology about butch submissives
-Making a documentary about my mother
-Making up with my best friend
-Interviewing more transactivists

On Wanting II

The fact that I claim I don’t know what I want seems farcical to many people who know me. After all, I am ambitious and have the work ethic of a puritan Ox (I way want an image of that). The question that I can see in their eyes when the ask: What am I afraid of wanting? What am I unwilling or unable to admit that I want?

When it comes down to it, I want for those I care about—I want that they feel safe and cared for; I want that they feel good about who they are and what they are doing; I want that they see how strong and capable I know they are. I want many of the same things for myself.

But the question that always seems so untenable is what do I want from them. What do I want from my relationships with them? And thus I falter. I want to be a good man; I want to be a good brother; I want to be a good friend; I want to be a good parent. I want to be what they need. I want to show them they are already enough. I want to be a mirror that reflects all the things I admire about them. I want to love them in ways they can’t love themselves. I want to show them how much they have to teach me. What does any of that mean?

I know Buddhism is attractive to me because it tells me I am virtuous because I don’t want. I know that is ego. I know wanting things makes me feel vulnerable. I know that is ego too. I know that all the things I know only get me farther from what I want. So where the hell does that lead me?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Productivity, thou art my master

I'm the kind of person who likes to keep busy. I always have a few big projects and a few little projects I'm working on at the same time. I am only a little bit obsessed with productivity. About two weeks ago, I finally reached a point where I can say I am over-committed. But it wasn't until this morning that I paused to realize all the things I am actually working on at the same time (and break down how many hours per week I spend on them)...

1) I am developing a website (2-6)
2) I am continuing my oral history project (1 every other week)
3) I am editing and soliciting content for a history exhibit for this winter (2-3)
4) I am coordinating a college orientation trip for next semester (1-2)
5) I have been applying for internships and related grants (3-5)
6) I am co-teaching a photography class at a local community organization (4-6)
7) I am publishing a book (for money) (9-13)
8) I am coordinating a small-scale literacy initiative (4-6)
9) I am part of a core group of people organizing a divestment campaign on my campus (2-3)
10) I am trying to fix my health issues (which includes weekly doctor or naturopath appts) (2-3)
11) I am trying to write an undergrad thesis (included below)
12) I am posting more regularly on my blog (2-3)

That folks means 32-50 hours on top of being a more than full time student.

For the 19 credits I am taking, I have 10 hours per week in class and am supposed to do 47 hours of work outside of class.

How is this possible? I get academic credit for a couple fo the projects (like the wbepage and the photography class), I get paid for others, I colorize drawings while I wait for my doctor, I e-mail interviewees during class, and I haven't made the progress I need to on my thesis.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Certitude: A Conversation

Conversation with my therapist:

A: "So I feel like I kinda put gender on the agenda when we started meeting, but I never really find the occasion to talk about it."

T:"Because it's over whelming?"

A:"No. Because it's not that problematic. I mean I normally feel like I should talk about relationships because they have been causing me a lot of grief, especially recently. Gender's pretty comfortable to talk about."

T:"So talk about it."

A:"Well, what do you mean? I feel like I could talk forever, but I want to focus. Can you ask something specific?"

T:"Why does it come to mind now?"

A:"Well, I'm making post-graduation plans. I'm thinking about health insurance. I'm thinking about my goals for the next few years. I'd like to have a couple thousand saved up when I graduate. If I live somewhere where I don't need a car, then I'll be able to afford top surgery. I don't need a date for that, it's just inevitable, so I think about it in passing."

T:"That's the first thing you've ever talked about with that level of certainty. I mean why are you confident about this and not the other things we have talked about?"

A:"I don't see how they are analogous. Surgery is just something that is going to happen. Relationships are confusing and ambiguous and involve a high level of uncertainty. I know what I need from a surgeon. There are steps. I just have to save up the money. It's not something I need to worry about."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ophans II

My roommate is moving out in May. She is moving forward with her plan to get an apartment and adopt her teenage sister. The state approved the adoption papers, and last month's rent is in.

She got a voicemail from her brother today saying his girlfriend is pregnant. Yes--the boy whose been homeless for the last year, who didn't manage to apply for a single job the entire month he lived with us, who got a ticket last month for having sex in public in a saab, who referred to the ticket and the act he was caught during ("doing his girlfriend doggie-style") as his "rite of passage into manhood."

"They are keeping it." Her voice quivered, too exasperated to play parent again.

Oy. I hope Daniel's not straight.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Hunt is On

I've been looking for apartments for this summer to live in during my internship at a queer youth center in Chicago!

As always, Craigs list has turned up sme awesome looking opportunities and some fucking wierdos. Here are some highlights...


"we are friends with a good many spaces about the city which may be able to host your friends from alaska who play screechingly incredible noise music, we just can't really host it here. so, we are mostly looking for individuals who are, ya' know... chill, intelligent, personable, caring, engaging, and inspiring... but we'll settle for a few of those if your pretty old skool kool."

$1 Gay guy need Couch
This is a honest offer... Three social and easygoing gay guys 23-46 seek guy who needs some help starting on his own or a low cost place to stay. Perfect for bad weather, late night, visiting Chicago, internship, live in suburbs, between apartments or relocating/looking for a job...
The following is from notes sent by actual quests who stayed with us.

"I really felt like at home at your house. Really you guys make me feel like this is my home, which is hard to achieve." Alex- 3/09
"Thanks for everything. I had a great time with you guys." Matt- 3/09

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Boytown Terror

I'm feeling pretty down-to-the wire with this whole internship thing. I've gotten a few preliminary responses, but when I attempt to follow up by phone and e-mail, I haven't been very successful. I got a call today from a queer youth center in Chicago. Our conversation went well; the woman was encouraging but realistic, and the organization itself seems pretty on top its stuff. She indicated that I would have the freedom to develop the kind of project I wanted but also that I would have support of the staff if I needed it. Sounds great, right?

Here's the catch. It's in boytown. Most of the population is African American males, there are a handful of latinos, a couple of white guys, and a decent amount of transwomen mixed in. As she said this, my face fell. I realized that for all intents and purposes, I meant female-bodied when I said queer. All kinds of questions rushed thorugh my head... What if living in Vermont has handicapped me as far as dealing with people of color goes? Will young me listen to me if I try to teach them? Can I get over my discomfort with femininity enough to bonds with young transwomen? What does my life have to do with thiers? They won' t look like me. They won't talk like me. They won't listen to the same music or read the same books as me. It's exciting but in its own way, it's terrifying.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Banking on Andy

Last week I got my first check from my employer. I had worked for six weeks, but since I didn't see my boss or have any co-workers, I hadn't thought to ask about how I was going to get paid (I know, unique problem, right?). I finally figured out how to write an invoice and got a check in the mail a few days later. I luxuriated in the crisp sunlight as I walked to the bank. When I moseyed up to the teller counter, I slapped my check on the counter and glanced through the picture window.

"Who's Andy?"
"Excuse me?"
"Andy. Who is he?"
"They didn't, they didn't write it out to Andy. Damn it."
The teller squished her face into confusion, and I felt blush dart across my own.
"I'm sorry..umm..I'll fix it." I stared at the floor as I grabbed the check and stuffed it hastily into my jacket pocket. I was shaken.

I scuffled down the sidewalk towards my boss's office. I couldn't believe it had happened, and yet I fully expecetd it to. Mostly, I was upset with myself for not checking first.

As I pulled her office door open, Betsy seemed glad to see me. Her pleaseant demenor and self-consciously encouraging ptter of speech calmed me down, and I explained to her that I couldn't cash a check that was written to Andy. After an unsucesfful call tot he accountant, she told me there was no reason I shouldn't cash it. Dave chimed in that he cashes checks for Dave not David all the time. I wanted to say, but it's different. But I caught myself.

"It's the same thing. It's ridiculous. What did they say?"
"The teller just said she wouldn't." I lied. If not in fact than in intention.

Betsy gave me her card and sent me to her bank. I set off down Main St but as I neared the unfamiliar building, I felt uncertain. Why couldn't I just have another check? What if they asked me why I am called Andy? What if they wouldn't believe me? I knew I'd have to go into my bank again eventually, so I went ahead and did it then. I walked up tot he same teller, and I told her this is my nickname. She called her anager, and after endorsing the check as Andy, I walked away feeling exonerated.

With the proliferation of female Andy's (two that work for the same organization I do and two more at to co-op), my name outs me to only the people who knew anyways. It only has to be an issue if I press it. Last week was unsettleing. To feel embarassed, like I was caught doing somethign I'm not supposed to. To feel as if someone has the power to negate my claim to myself. Some days, I feel more trans than others.

Spring Break Updates

For the first time in a long time, I've been enjoying my time alone lately. This refresher course in why I believe in free schooling that has left me with greasy hands, a full fridge, and a restocked closet. What's been on the menu for break?

-Web design. I have a working template up (when I'm done, my real site name will be The "learn more," "participate," "blog updates" buttons are working. I'd love some feedback on the design and on the writing (hint, hint)!

-Work. I run a small literacy initiative in VT, which encourages kids to write for fun and money. I've gotten a handful of kids to start thier own zines/comics, and am coordinating a program for them to write movie reviews in exchange for free tickets. My second job is helpign publish this book Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, and I've colorized about half the grpahics so far. I've finally made enough so that I don't feel way stressed about ti all the time.

-Shopping. If you know me, then it will come ot no surprise to yout hat I hate shopping. I'm cheap, poor, andsuspicious of new things (basically I am a young version of your grandma). However, I went out looking for a summer wardrobe that is 1) more gender appropriate, 2) could be construed as business casual 3) low maintainance & 4) apparently somewhere between "metro" and "dykey".

-Divestment. There is a gorup of people at my school whoa re looking into our investments. We are having trouble figureing out the paper trail, but I am going to a conference on divestment that will hopefully help us figure out the next steps towards challanging the college to divest from comanies profiteering off of the gaza occupation.

-Hands-on adventure training. Which is to say, I have also fixed up my bike, gone hiking, built stuff, learned to hem, done a photo shoot (for a friend's awesome online print shop), silk-screened, and dyed clothes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Damned If I Never Learn

So I am at that time of year again, when I feel downright crazy. I’ve spent the last week or two trying to figure out why I feel alternately excited and passionate or obsessive and anxious. My summer plans are starting to fall into place, I’m making great progress at both of my jobs, people at my college are actually taking initiative on a campaign without me having to be the leader, I’m working on community projects that are interesting and fun as well as useful, and post-graduation is beginning to seem more exciting than daunting. When so much is going right, why have the things that bother me been getting at me?

In an odd way, I don’t really know how to deal with having energy. After prolonged periods of being depressed and discourage, I’ve grown unused to feeling as if I am ready and able to take on whatever challenges I my face. When I begin to feel this overwhelming energy, my heart starts to race. I can feel the adrenaline building, and I can only assume I am heading for a panic attack. Sometimes I actually stop myself mid-process, realizing that it is literally the expectation of anxiety that is bringing it to fruition. How much does interpretation justify what we are already feeling and how much does it shift the very nature of those sensations?

I’ve recognized for a long time that that crazy energy makes me more effective at almost everything I am trying to do. I depend on waves of it to sustain my all-too-ambitious lifestyle. It makes me a more dedicated activist, a livelier teacher, a more focused student. Lately, I’ve started seeing a downside to the mania (little “m,” not big). For some reason, it rarely registers to me that I can’t just take up my personal relationships with the same urgency as the rest of my life. A flurry of IM’s inspired by a sudden burst of energy isn’t going to make me closer to the people I care about. I can’t stack people like library books barricading me into my futon. I can’t chart our progress into spreadsheets, crunch some numbers, and have an output ratio. Not all too surprising granted, but damned if I never learn…

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Giving Up

So I've went through stages in my life where I gave up a lot of things: gave up collecting things I don't need, gave up my car, gave up control in unpredictable situations. They were a series of campaigns driven by this bizzare sense that deprivation was inherently strengthening to the spirit. Sure, at times it was a catalyst for personal growth, but mostly they were thinly vailed exercises in self-indulgence. I've become weary of the seduction of asceticism, I even imagine at times that I have given that up.

But it goes further than that, what about people I've given up on? I have this uncanny ability to cut my losses so-to-speak, to choose to not pursue relationships with people who I can logically evaluate are not good for me. It doesn't matter how I feel about them. Choices are about reason in my world. Sometimes I think that unyielding disposition towards the logical is my only instinct of self-preservation. Often, I'm ashamed of it. And, on at least one occasion, someone I care deeply about told me it scared her.

I'm left contemplating times I have voluntarily chosen to give things up because this past week I've finally found myself in the position to give up on something I feel like I have no say in. I've given up on a relationship that means a great deal to me, one that was formative for me, one that has caused me a great deal of pain in the recent past. I'm giving up after holding on too hard, and it feels like a first in all the worst ways--confusing, frightening, dramatic, ill-prepared. However, I can't help questioning if this is a new decision or one I've making for a long time now...

Saturday, February 14, 2009


One of my roommates is an orphan. Her parents died when she was in college with her brother at 19 and her sister at 16.

The situation beckons a consideration of the systemic arbitrariness that left her and her brother to fend for themselves (she had to drop out of college to support herself) while her sister became a foster kid. Fast forward about a year and L, the twenty one year old works full time for a grocery store so that she can pay off debts (from a bout of shopping addiction that left her thousands in the hole), and save up so she can afford to adopt her little sister. She recently found out that her brother was living in a homeless shelter, so she invited him to move in with us. Today her sister came for a rare visit. I wonder if its the first time they've been together since it happened even though they've lived with hours of one another.

The contrast of the three of them is remarkable as the sister spends breakfast sharing wild stories of drunkenness and sexual scandals. L tells her sister she's getting involved with dumb shit. But she listens. I've only talked briefly with the brother, but he comes off as a high school kid--laid back and unambitious.

I think about what it means that they're foster kids... about which statistics they'll end up proving right. I want them to have more of a chance than they do.

The similarities between her situation and mine have not been lost on me over the past couple of months. The sense of having now where to turn if things go wrong. Of not having the time or patience to deal with people our age who can't get that. Maybe I haven't talked to her about personal stuff because I don't know if she'd appreciate me comparing our situations.

I can't help myself.

I've lived with L and I've never heard her laugh as much as they do together.

I remember growing up jealous of my friends with fucked up childhoods that brought them closer to their siblings. Why did mine just make me further from everyone? Why does it still?

Last week, I went on a field trip, and I had no idea who to put on my emergency contact form.

L would never tell me, but she worries. She worries like I worry about my brother. She worries like she has a reason to...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Asexy Superlative

I was asked today if I wanted to accept the superlative (for a yearbook edition of the school magazine), "most sex positive asexual."

I'm still a little stunned.

And unsure how to respond.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Slowing Down

This year seemed to reveal some promise as it began...that I could some how become more of myself than I am in the habit of being lately...that I could find a place in my life to stop stumbling and stand firmly...that I could abandon this failed project of relationship building in order begin anew. For the moment, I feel more tired and worn than I have the right to be. I feel the slovenliness seeping into my bones. I know I can fail. And I am afraid that caffeine can't fix me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Breaking up with Bank of America

I encouraging people (especially Marlboro students) to participate in the mass day of account closings action against Bank of America. There are a couple of organizations with ongoing campaigns to get BOA to clean up its act, and with the billions of dollars pouring into it from the government, we are pushing for it to stop fucking people over. Below are more details...






This Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2009, join Rising Tide Boston (RTB) in demanding that Bank of America stop its funding of the dirty and deadly coal industry and demanding, in solidarity with City Life/Vide Urbana, stop its unjust foreclosures and evictions of working families. Closing your account with Bank of America (BOA) is an important step in bringing closure to this unhealthy relationship. In Boston, we are planning a day of coordinated bank account closures in at least two locations, and encourage people in other places to organize something similar.

It is completely within Bank of America's power to stop evicting people from their homes, and such a step wouldn't be unprecedented. Mortgage giant Fannie Mae recently announced a moratorium on evictions of tenants in foreclosed houses after facing pressure from housing justice activists. Now is [the] time to let BOA know in no uncertain terms that we won't allow them to push any of us or our neighbors out of our homes, and that we're certainly not going to trust them with our money.

Soledad Lawrence, a community organizer with City Life / Vida Urbana says that the racist foreclosure crisis is "like Katrina without the water." We will not allow Bank of America's predatory lending practices to displace poor people and people of color in our city or anywhere. The same working-class communities that are most oppressed by the economic system these greedy banks support are now facing the worst effects of the environmental devastation that it causes. While communities in Boston continue to struggle in the face of the ongoing disaster of foreclosures and evictions, communities in Appalachia are fighting back against the disaster of the coal industry, which is poisoning their water and displacing them from their homes. Climate change is a social justice issue, and we must build alliances now to confront the corporations who put profit before people and the planet.

Recently, Bank of America attempted to salvage its relationship with the movements working to end mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR) by releasing a [statement on] Coal Policy, in which the bank failed to commit to a timeline or any concrete action to halt their financing of MTR. In this "policy", BOA touts "advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage" as solutions to climate change. BOA does not seem to understand that we need is a livable planet that hasn't been turned into an overheated toxic wasteland, not token gestures or promises to support false solutions. The recent devastating coal-ash spill in Tennessee is a reminder that we already have enough ongoing and imminent disasters from the coal industry- we don't need any more. BOA's first step should be the immediate cancellation of loans to destructive corporations such as Peabody Energy, Massey Energy, Arch Coal, Dominion, and all others involved with mountaintop removal and trashing the climate.

We encourage everyone who does business with Bank of America to take time this Valentine's Day to tell them "it's over between us." In Boston, we're encouraging people to pledge ahead of time, so we can know how many people to expect and let them know which branch we will be at. Even if you don't have a bank account at Bank of America, you can still participate at a support rally. We are calling on social and environmental justice groups around the country to work together organize account closings in their communities on this day. Without our money, greedy banks cannot continue to destroy the planet and exploit marginalized communities.

For help organizing a day of mass account closings in your town, or to make a pledge to close your account in the Boston area, write to:

Stay tuned to for some suggestions or logistical support.

For information about City Life/Vida Urbana, check out

Creamy White Bean Soup

I've been getting back into cooking these days since I have the time to spare. I always forget how relaxing it is to me, and how much i enjoy the challenge of trying new fancy things. Tonight I pulled off an original recipes on my first try: Creamy White Bean Soup in a sourdough bread bowl.

Creamy White Bean Soup
Serves 2

1 can of White Northern Beans
1 small potato
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 Basil leaves
1/2 cup of unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup of veggie broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic (less if you don't love it as much as I do)
Green onions

-dice potato and steam
-empty beans and veggie broth into pot and simmer
-sautee the onions and garlic until almost translucent
-add onions, garlic, potatoes, and herbs
-add soy milk
-simmer for 20 minutes or longer
-salt and pepper to taste
-serve in hollowed out sourdough roll
-garnish with green onions

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Almost my first coming out

I was tempted to say the account below was my first coming out but then I remembered a friend who always catches me making these sweeping statements that aren't really credible. He's actually the first one I came out to.

In an event, this entry is about how I just came out to my Aunt. Oddly enough, I'm pretty virginal at this whole coming out thing (maybe I'll write an article about how I think coming out plays a really different role in the lives of tans people than in the lives of GLB people).

Anyways, here's the interaction (My aunt's responses are italicized):

Are you going by Andy?


Do you remember when you said I looked like a boy in the picture I took of myself at the bus stop? That
probably had to do with the fact that I've been using a binder instead of a
bra for the past six months to flatten my chest. I like how it makes me look and
makes me feel. I was finding that people responded to me with confusion when I
introduced myself as Chlirissa. I was also feeling more and more uneasy with how
girly the name was. I felt like it shaped people's expectations of me in
ways that made me uncomfortable. When I introduce myself to new people as ANDy,
I feel more confident and honest. I've been gradually asking more and more
people in my life to do so as well. I would appreciate if you coudl try to call
me Andy too.

Thanks for asking,


HI Chlirissa ( Andy, I am trying, it will take awhile):
I dont recall saying that you looked like a boy, but evidebtally I did. I checked my sent emails and I'm not finding the conversation in there. Reguardless it really doesnt matter. I will try my best to call you Andy (no guarantees, but I will try).
Andy, the discissions that you make in your life are totally up to you and no one else. For me to say that you need to live differently, would really be none my business or anyone elses. I did think that you were waring some type of binder on your chest, not that I could see anything, but one thing I do know is that your not flat chested (so for me that was a given) and again if thats what you want to do, than thats what you should do.
I feel rediculas in asking this.. but you dont know unless you ask,,, right ! Are you gay?
My guess would be yes, but different people do different things, and it doesnt mean that their gay.
I will say that for the past 2 years I have thought that you were... my innerself telling me. Now if I am wrong, please dont be upset.(at least you know if you ever were gay that I would be willing to accept it) It would not matter to me if you were straight, gay, blue, green, short, tall, rich, poor. Really when it comes down to it, your sexuality would have no bearing on how I feel about you,,,, that will never change. You find out how people really are when their "out of their comfort zone (family)". The LOVE I have for you is uncondituional and will always be.
Nothing would change, I may have a few tear drops, but would it be possible for you to still keep my middle name as one of yours (Alana). If your not comfortable with that I'll understand, it's just always meant a lot to me. But again that would be your decission.
Thank you for emailing me back, I have to go...I'm starving or at least I think I am.
Be safe and take care.
I'm very proud of you ackcomplishment, and determination "in Making it" in this world.


The comment about looking like a boy was something you said in passing
when I came for a visit and showed you a picture on my computer. I
mostly remember it because I had already stopped wearing bras but I
decided to buy a sports bra expressly for the visit because I didn't
want anyone to notice and ask about it.

As for the gay thing. I'm not sure how to answer. In general I don't
really have sexual attractions or desires. I've only had about two
crushes ever, and even then, they weren't really strong enough to act
on them. Then, about eight months ago I met someone named D. We fell
in love pretty quickly, and then started dating. She graduated from
Smith College and then moved back to where she was from. We dated
long distance for about six months. I spent Thanksgiving and some of
Hanaukah with her family. I mentioned it to Mother but she didn't
inquire any further about it. We actually just broke up over New Years.
It was mutual, and we agreed that we wanted to be friends. However,
she's asked me to not call her for a couple of weeks to give her time
to process, so that's been pretty hard. I mentioned all of that because
I didn't want to avoid the question of sexuality, however binding my
chest and changing my name are about gender, not sexuality.

I do not identify as a lesbian, although I understand if that is how
you see me. One of the things I loved about being with Dane was that
she was really supportive of me in terms of my gender identity. She
encouraged me to go to support groups and talk to people who I might be
able to identify with and she helped me test out some other names
before I decided on this one.

But it's important to say that my decisions weren't because of her by
any stretch of the imagination. We actually started talking at the
Transgender Pride rally, something I was involved in organizing. I
identify as transgender. That word probably calls to mind the pregnant
guy who went on Oprah a while ago. It can mean a lot of different
things, but for me it means I don?t? feel like a typical woman. I don?t
feel like a man or a woman most of the time (the word for that is
genderqueer), but I do tend to prefer being treated like a guy over
being treated like a girl. For the moment I do NOT plan on starting
hormone therapy or having surgeries. More important than altering my
body is altering the way people perceive and treat me. For the moment,
I am in a place where I can ask people to call me Andy or make other
requests in order to be treated how I would like to.

I have attached some excerpts of an article from the New York Times
that I really related to. It was originally about transmen at women's
colleges, but I trimmed it down to the most relevant parts.

I understand that this is probably confusing and surprising to you.
Many times when family members learn about it they are uncomfortable
because they are uncertain how to react. You may be scared or relieved,
skeptical but wanting to be supportive. It will probably take time for
you to sort out those feelings. What I want you to know is that I am
safe and happy. I have a supportive community near by, and I feel great
about the changes I am making in my life.

Let me know if you have questions or concerns I can address.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cooking or Break Up II

We went to bed unconscionably early only to find out that neither of us were tired. Somehow we fell into a nighttime rhythm. Teeth brushing then PT exercises, and it wasn’t until we laid awake in the dark that I leaned over to question what we had done. “Aren’t you tired?” she responded.

“Not really,” I wondered what cues we had each given each other and misread so automatically that neither of us noticed. It was 9:30pm for Chirst’s sake.

At least it was an opportunity to talk though. “I want us to cook together. For two people who claim to love to cook, we’ve spent so little time in kitchens, so much time in restaurants.” She was a little defensive about the restaurants. It had been a source of contention for some time (originally due to class issues then because of our differing tastes). I pressed her on it, hoping to reverse what was rapidly becoming clear: we were boring together. Surely there were things we could love together besides one another.

“Why don’t we cook for New Years, at your friend’s house?”

“Because he’s my best friend, but we eat because we have to. I want to cook like two people who enjoy it.” All but one of my adult friendships have evolved over cutting boards and immersion blenders. Make-your-own calzone parties. Excited whispers of vegan recipes. Name dropping Indian dishes. Exchanging produce tips.

After a week solid of doubts (on my part), I wanted us to get excited about something. I wanted us to cry over the caramelizing onions, and bounce along as we shook on the bread-crumb coating. I wanted latin music and the smell of garlic to linger late into the night. I wanted us to giggle about how obsessively I arranged the sushi. I wanted to watch her eyes light up to the lathering of butter as I nestled layers of filo dough one-by-one. I wanted us to pull a golden nutty sheet out of the oven, and marvel at how good of a team we were.

“You don’t even like to eat. It’s not fun if by time we get to the good part, you’re already done… Why do you even like cooking?”

“It’s making something you didn’t know you could. It’s taking flavors that entice you and finding ways to mix and match, to infuse them with creativity. It’s taking something old and making it new.” What I didn’t tell her was that I used to have a whole shtick about how cooking was creativity. It’s the essence of functional art. It’s giving yourself permission to take longer than you have to just because you want to. It’s indulging in the process instead of the product. I like to cook because I like to make things that feel extravagant. Cooking lets me lavish my focus and attention into creating something others enjoy. It’s been a long time since I felt like I had something worth sharing.

But I didn’t get that far, before she called me analytic. My heart sank, and I rolled over. It didn’t matter what she said after that.

In the morning I woke up first, hoping to find the new thing-we-could-both-be-excited-about. I made us eggs florentine. It was my first time. Half way through the meal, she started apologizing about insulting my kitchen the night before. I had a hard time swallowing with all the words caught in my throat.

At least we had other firsts.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ritual and Softening

We were in the youth center alone, printing flyers for an open mic night. She had been flirting hard all evening but not getting very far. I was tolerating her over-polished soliloquies because she was good, because I liked not giving her what she wanted. But then she slipped a prayer between poetry recitations. She rocked as she explained to me what the melody meant to her. She closed her eyes when she spoke Hebrew, and told me Jews are nothing without books. I began to soften. Her hands cradled the air when she described the netted cloths that stretch across men’s shoulders during the ceremonies. She told me she always wanted one with little disks of gold.

I thought of old ladies hunched in moo-moos and Sunday pearls, clapping as they shifted their weight to the beat. The way their heads quaked when their hands shot up mid-sermon quickly followed by thundering tongues drawing out the syllables—“praise to the LORD!” I remembered how my heart clenched during these eruptions that scared and enthralled my thirteen year old longing to believe. I remembered how I admired those feeble-legged women, petering as if they were ready to topple over. They stood for hours in white tents, sweat rolling down their faces because the only bursts of wind were the agreeing moans and breathy “Preach it” of other parishioners.

For years I had idolized those dramatic scenes, jealous that sheer breathlessness could feel like truth. But I was never moved like those wavering, gasping Southern Baptists. I was hot under those revival tents. I enjoyed the orchestral music and impressive AV displays of the Mega churches. I smiled at the austerity of the silver crosses hung on sparse trailer-thin walls.

I woke every morning at five. In those caffeine-free days, the yoga teacher’s dry sense of humor was enough to sustain me. We had three meditations a day: morning chant, group meditation at lunch, and evening chants.

Monotone voices kept pace with the drum. My own tried desperately to resonate, carrying away my breath with my thoughts. Each morning I stared at the Tonka painting as I plucked few dozen Sanskrit words out of my throat. To me they were representations not of the stories they told but of my own willingness to give myself over to this practice that it might feel meaningful.

My eyes watered when they burned the inscents. My heart carried the beat of the drum when there was one. My ass fell asleep during lunch. Eyes-lowered, I sat with a stubborn pride, and I waited.

She could tell I was scared. We were laying in bed, and all I could feel was my heart beating. I had never had someone so close before. She wanted to know about my shelf, about the thin black Buddha surrounded by slim candles. I tried so hard not to be pretentious about it, and we were talking ritual again. I explained that I had grown-up loathing the symbols of a church that condemned me for what I could not feel. I explained how being at Shambhala helped me understand formalism as the safe spaces we create to feel what we need to. I conceded that the sacred still captivated but eluded me. She offered to meditate with me. And I softened.

I told her I was asexual, and yet it had happened. I asked her for it. She was grateful at the time, but afterwards confusion lingered in her face. My eyes traced the curves of the ohm symbol on the wall, “Do you know what a container is? It is a way to describe a space that is sacred. In Shambhala there are a group of people who patrol the land, who sit in doorways of ceremonies. They are warriors of sorts. When they mark the entrance into something that is to be protected, they are said to hold the space.” She nodded, and we held each other.

She lay on the bed, book in hand as I wrote and rewrote a cover letter. Her giggle made me smile as she read out passages from a novel about a woman at an ashram. The witty and ironic account made me remember those days spent hoping and sitting. I should have asked her to sit with me. I at least could have learned more about the book. But I didn’t.

She told me not to talk to her for three weeks, and I pleaded with my eyes for more time. She spoke resolutely, asking for a “closing ritual.” I poked fun at her partly in a flirtatious tone that had to be all-too-wrong for the situation at hand, partly in an attempt to indulge her escapism for a fleeting moment, partly because I wanted to belittle her (I resented that she had made the argument that her experience is what was guiding her to choose to not contact me, which I took as a condescending slight at my age and lack of prior relationships). I said yes because I was glad she was willing to occupy the same space as me for a little bit before she left.

A day passed, and I was waiting for her to come take her car. It didn’t feel final. I was ready for my goodbye but it felt like the time had passed. I told myself that two people who love each other can say a better farewell. I wanted funny stories and singing. I wanted candlelight casting shadows on our faces. I wanted to sit with her and make something that we could burn together. I wanted that ritual I had taken a shot at her for asking for. I wanted that ritual I had never been able to connect with. I was pleased she had come in, if only to the entry. A few white matches gave way to swirls of smoke rising from the small black bowl. My eyes watered. She bowed to me, and I softened, "namaste."

That night, as I fell asleep to burning sage and candlelight, the New Year seemed oddly awake with possibility.