Field Notes In/On Transition
Autumn Is A Time Of Renewal, I Hope
You know, my best posts on this blog I think are the ones where I detail the events of my days, good or bad in terms of how events affect, or don’t affect my transition. My post about my trip to Victoria, last spring I think is a good example of my better work. As well as a lot of my early posts about weird encounters, or small triumphs in getting correctly gendered. This isn’t really one of those posts.
These days I have less weird encounters, though, I still get a lot of micro-aggression here and there, mostly consisting of ‘dirty looks,’ or like the guy the other day; while crossing Grandview Highway, says to his buddy, nudging him my direction: “Is that for real?” Meaning, of course, me. Thanks dude. Made my day. Not. These little things usually happen in my case exactly when I am feeling pretty good about my presentation, and ability to “pass” though I hate that term and the duplicitous nature of it. I am not trying to fool anyone, that was me before transition, not after. It is definitely a bit of a relief to be not working and dealing with customers, strangers all day.
For the most part these days though 2 and a half years into transition, I do pass. I get gendered correctly almost all the time, and many of the misgendering is sheepish and corrected by right away “oops, sorry Ma’am.” Yes, I still don’t mind hearing Ma’am. The balance has swung, due to many factors, including of course the cumulative effect of being on Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT for so long, with gradual increases in Estrogen balance, and decreases in Testosterone, I am coming into a balance of mind body emotions where I feel much more peace and confidence in myself as far as presenting myself to friends and strangers. A lot of folks I meet are surprised I have been only doing this a few years.
The few months of not working has been a trying, but I think, important time for me. I am trying very hard to dwell only on the positive aspects of losing my job, and having to move. My new place really is nicer, despite the mice, than my old one. I lived there so long though, that I have, or had a very sentimental attachment to the place where I finally really started my transition. But ultimately, that was Joe’s place, the video store was Joe’s “dream job”. And by dream job I mean job you do while creating your art, that doesn’t sap your strength to do your art.
By the time I left, this is pretty much how I felt. The uncertainty of the store’s future, and my ability to do the same job with less hours and feel sane made me accept a lay off after it was offered a few times. The store may or may not be doing better without me. But I am healing without it, so on my side, it’s all good.
I made a hell of a lot of art in that apartment/during that era, as well. But I also did so in every previous place I lived also. And, I am/will continue to do so as long as I am living here. Which I think I most will be a few years due to the city/developers plan for this area: filling it with high rise condos priced so that only off shore millionaires will be able to afford them.
Over the summer I saw my family in person for the first time since starting Transition, and I think allayed most of their doubts, or fears about what I am doing. I have spent, as usual a lot of time fussing over what the heck I am going to do earn money to pay my rent, bills etc. I have dwindled my expenditures (and halted doing any savings like my rrsp, sadly) down to hopefully liveable on EI until I can find something suitable.
To do this, I moved, saving almost 200 bucks on rent, no RRSP, saves 150 a month. I have stoppered my knick knack/clothes/book/movie impulse shopping to a near all time low, as well as cut my food budget by a third. I am shooting to get it down a bit more. Less bread, more fruit and veg, Josie! I have been trying to eat more fish and fowl as opposed to my lifetime preference for pork and beef. Some days I even go Vegan with my meals. My hypertension probably appreciates less beer and pork.
Is it weird that I have less of a compulsion to snack in my new place, while unemployed and stressed out a lot of the time? Responding to stress by not eating, is a very new thing for me. I have lost a few pounds (sorry too old to grok kilos, despite the smaller number being more attractive) and my face is not as puffy as it was in July when, while travelling, and later moving house when I returned, I let my self drink beer almost every day. Maybe it’s just the hormone change, or it’s age, likely a combo of both factors, but my old crutches of food and booze aren’t quite as appealing to me as ways to soothe my far too open heart. I think I have gorging nostalgia.
In my usual long winded way I am trying to get to some good news I got today. But I want to talk about what I want to do to get off the pogey eventually and make some kind of living either from my art (by art I mean writing, painting, film, photography, and whatever else I get into) or from my art and some kind of very low stress part time gig.
I have been trying to prioritize what it is I want to do. People keep telling me to go back to school, but I don’t want to learn a new trade. Some new skills, sure, but I am 48 years old, in a couple of weeks, and I already have a trade, the aforementioned: writing, painting, film,photography, and whatever else I get into.
I am an artist. Am I a professional? Well, I have been paid for my work. I made tiny profits on two of my three self published books, I have sold two prints of my ‘ipaintings,’ and been occasionally paid by magazines for articles, reviews, back in the day. I also know how to talk about art, pretty much any art. Even if it’s something I am not up on, I can keep up, because I know how to have a conversation. It might even be my super power. I think in my brief bit of magazine, and newspaper work, I was a terrible editor, but a really good writer to work with editors. My response to well laid out critique is very positive.
Thing is, I don’t know that I want to work with anyone, other than maybe to collaborate. I could (so so so) easily be a “Stan Lee” to some comic artist’s “Jack Kirby,” for example. But for the most part I am wanting to work on getting my slew of half written novels into shape for publishing. I want to learn how to create more art, other kinds of art and somehow sell some of it and maybe pay the odd bill.
Most ‘working artists’ I know (which is most of my facebook friends, actually) are just that: artists who work to support doing their art. I think too part of doing art is sharing your knowledge, so teaching, well that is part of being an artist, for many folks I know. Some of them are eking it out, or even thriving though by being persistent, and ambitious enough to find a niche for themselves, and what they create.
My biggest hurdle right now is not being able to create something worthy of mass consumption, but figuring out which of my many pursuits to focus on. My gut tells me to focus on all of them and to learn more, do more. I want to make not just my paintings, stories, comics, I want to learn new things and add that to myself and my other endeavours. I constantly see parallels in each art project I work on. My process is always the same: I sculpt my poems from dozens of drafts into the thing it was meant to be. I do the same thing editing film, photos, or prose. All art is multidisciplinary, to my way of thinking. Painters, poets influence film makers, as do novelists, and vice versa.
What I have discovered, or at least come to at this moment in my own process is that I am really good at working on any given thing for a few months at a time, every day, sometimes all day. Eventually though, I get exasperated by my novel writing, or my painting, whatever, and switch gears to do one of the other endeavours. Last fall I worked just a couple of hours every morning on this idea I had for a novel. By new year, I had a first draft. I wanted to have a second draft by now, but I have only been pecking at it, here and there, doing more research online into practical things, like is it possible that Yeti only reproduce as twins? Turns out, the day I was looking this up, there was a species of monkey discovered to apparently do just that. The article had just enough science for me to do some good bio-technobabble.
But mostly the book is waiting for me to get back to it. Over the winter I drifted into more photography and film, writing reviews for my movie review blog, then I discovered painting apps on my ipad, and now almost every day (and at one point it was 60 odd days in a row of at least one of my outsider art paintings, naif, as the french call it.) That has trickled a bit, but I feel more confident every time I pick up the virtual pastels and paints. And of course I have ended up starting to create comics out of these paintings as well, mostly because there’s an app to do that also.
Which sort of brings me back to the question; what the hell am I doing with my life? I still have so much fear of success that it is getting kind of annoying. I’m tired of stifling myself with cynicism of the ‘nobody is going to pay me to...’ variety. My ‘Transition’ is not simply about being seen as a woman, but rather as a woman who happens to be some sort of multi talented writer/artist/filmmaker/photographer. The latter part might be the harder of the two goals, by a country mile.
Someone asked me about lotto fantasies the other day, and aside from stating that I would get myself a nice little east van bungalow (if the lotto win was big enough! :p) and start self publishing more regularly. I would find/buy a venue for readings, open mic gigs in the hood somewhere, maybe some movie nights, and without having to worry so much about rent and bills, I would make and foster art.
Right now though, that is not a reality, so I am trying to think outside my comfort zone. I am for example joining a local choir ( I mentioned applying in my last post) and will have one night a week at least where I get to learn another artistic endeavour, how to carry, or at least harmonize a tune. This is that ‘good news’ that I talked about above, getting accepted into the choir.
My singing voice has never been anything to write home about, but as I have softened my speaking voice, through transition, I have found a slightly higher singing voice, that is easier for me to stay in harmony with. I want to build on this, not just to be able to sing better, but also to help me transition my ‘reading voice’ from my ‘Joe the Poet voice.’ One of the few things I took real pride in as Joe, aside from the poems, was my reading voice. I feel like I am a very good reader, but as Josie, I don’t have the confidence to sell it as much as I did.
Also it’s a very structured activity, which I pretty much have avoided my whole life except for ‘working.’ It is also a social activity, the choir is called “The Femme City Choir,” and is very inclusive of anyone who identifies as femme, which would be me. I get to meet some new people and build my peer group in a way that I haven’t had an opportunity to, since being in school, last. Women, too, are the folk (sorry dudes, I love you, but....) I want to be spending more time with.
I put it to a friend the other day, in a cliche I like; that I was kicked/kept out of the kitchen for decades, while presenting male. I hated having to go into the garage. One of the things that made me so sure of my need to ID as a woman, was my need for female groups of friends over male groups.
And right now, the majority of my close women friends live out of town. I have one or two left in the city, that I feel close to. Recently too, this need has been brought home to me, as some of my male friends are trying to be closer friends with me, and I am chafing at it, as I have been forced (I felt) to be ‘buddies’ with so many men, whose girlfriends/wives/partners were the people I really wanted to be hanging out with (it’s true, again, sorry dudes.) I am not one of the guys anymore. I am sorry if it seems harsh, and I really do have some great male friends, but I am hoping people understand my need to be part of more hen parties than cockfights, I aver, to grind that cliche into the ground.
I will close out this post knowing I haven’t really figured out how I am going to pull all these things I want to do, into some kind of structure, which I think I need, in order to figure out how to monetize what I will be doing regardless of money or not. My art, the majority of which, these days you need to be my facebook friend to see. I think as soon as I figure out my next step, I will have more direction, focus. I know that I need to start reading a bit more, to finish my novel. I write more when I read more. I am also mulling over doing a memoir using this blog as the template, but filling in more of my life, interviewing others and so on. What about crowd funding or grants? Maybe. scared to death of failing at both of those.
I see all these Trans* folk funding their transition through indie gogo or whatever. My old store had a moderately successful indie gogo (they got about half their goal) but I feel like if I had the moxie to do crowd funding, I’d have the moxie to succeed without it, as well. School? It seems like the things that are funded as far as retraining goes are really not what I want. I have maybe 20 years of life left. I feel I have wasted so much of my life already. Do I really have to be a wage slave the last 20-25 years? Nope, but I am trying to be honest in saying I have no idea, really what’s next for me.
Maybe because of being in school half my life, or that my birthday is in the fall, I always feel like for me, it’s the real “New Year” - A time of change, renewal. I am hoping I can figure out how to make that happen this year. To that end, I am doing a bit of ‘work,’ doing some box office at the Vancouver international Film Festival. It’s a temporary gig, and will help me not keep building debt as I am unemployed. I am forever standing at the crossroads. where is that Devil with his Violin? I’m waiting.
My Paintings for sale. Framing makes it expensive to ship, get a print! frame it yourself!