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.