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Last Night a Choir changed my life.

Field Notes In/On Transition

Last Night (Every Night) a Choir changed my life.

Seriously, last time I posted in January, I chose the one day that month when I was feeling  up against it, and kind of lost, despite all the positive things I had started doing for myself, and the great support I was getting from my friends.

(Photography by RDM Photography And Art)

What I really wanted to post about, was the great community I feel like I have become a part of with my choir that I joined in the fall, and the quiet determination that I was able to muster as my EI was running out with no job prospects on the horizon. Each week going to choir and learning to sing with others has given me focus and the joy of meeting and getting to know so many diverse, yet like minded folks who are in the choir.

My choir is The Femme City Choir, and wow, we kick a lot of choral butt. It’s also the most proactive group of folks I have ever been involved with in an organized group like this. Problems arise, sure, but they are talked about, worked out, with such a positive attitude, that everyone learns how to deal, and how to feel listened to, and understand that they are a part of something. At least this is my experience.  I have never been ‘a natural singer’ in that when I warble along with songs I love, I never know if I am in tune or not. 

(Photography by RDM Photography And Art)

For me as a kid there were no music classes, not ever. For school concerts I either was scenery or didn’t really sing along. I was often told by people (usually grown ups) that I shouldn’t/couldn’t sing. I wasn’t good at it naturally, so why try? This was easy for me to take to heart as there were lots of things I was good at, that came more naturally to me. I did those things instead, writing, drawing, talking. So it was the same old same old. But over the years I did sing along anyway to records (I’m old) tapes, cds, mp3s. 

Very rarely did I ever sing in public until I moved to Japan in 2002, where I went to Karaoke (which btw is pronounced Kah-Rah-Oh-Kay, not Carry-Oh-Key, but I have stopped correcting folks, as it’s pointless when no one listens) fairly regularly. I had a stock few songs I could do okay versions of, almost any Bob Dylan, Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, and several Sex Pistols songs, but especially God Save the Queen. My training group for example really bonded when we all sang “We are The World” together that one time. Almost a choral experience.

For me though, why I really joined the choir was that yes I wanted to sing, but also I wanted to find more community than I already had/have. I wanted to help build community, and I really feel like I have done so. It is a special group of folks, diverse, with the only real thing connecting most of us being not the music, as much as it is our commitment to being strong and proud to be Femme, to self identify as something beyond a stereotype that is too often dismissed as superfluous or not a serious identity, like being masculine or butch. Not just in the straight white male dominated world, but in the culture at large, masculine is the ‘strong’ norm, femme is seen as weak. (see that recent “throw like a girl” video making the rounds of social media)Obviously, that is ridiculous, strength has little to do with how you look, or present yourself (except in this context actually, where something is seen as negative, but made a positive) it is how you act, how you interact with the world, not how it sees you on the surface.

A very good example of how cheese-ball the world sees “Femmes;” one need look no further than the average word processor. Mine is a little indie app, (Bean) no longer even supported, but not so bloated as a whole office suite. But every single time I type “femme” it gets green underlined and the suggestion, only suggestion the grammar part of the app makes is “Femme Fatale.” Sigh. Yes, that’s the only time the word femme is appropriate, when writing a film noir? Again I say, Le Sigh. Its simple misogyny is what it is: femme is bad, masc is strong. blergh. welcome to the 21st century people. Can we not get past these silly generalizations?

(Photo by Sailor)

We can: is what I learned when we put on our two shows recently at the VCC auditorium, just a few blocks from my house. We had two sold out shows, and on the second night we got a standing ovation. Not only did we sing a lot of great “Diva” songs, there was some great Femme positive talk between songs as members of the choir explained how Femme empowers them, how being a Diva is not necessarily a put down. We reclaimed both words through our own words, and our singing. Several audience members posted on our FB event page about how much they appreciated and learned from what was said, and the power of our songs. 

I have never felt so much a part of something as I do my choir. 

Anyhoo, before I get off on a teary eyed rant, I want to get back to the fact that being in the choir makes me feel so empowered, gives me so much more confidence in my transition, in myself as a person that it really has saved, or changed my entire outlook. Without the choir, I think I would have sunk into a big(ger) depression over my lack of work, and the fact that my EI has now been depleted, without finding work.

In fact, I have found a little bit of work. Starting tomorrow, I will be doing some clerical work for a local small business, just one day a week (or 6-8 hours as needed). It’s not going to pay the rent. But it’s going to help, and it’s a positive bit of momentum that I feel proud to have been able to find by being open and honest with my friends and community about what kind of work I have been looking for. 

I had an interview on Monday for the job (a Dog walking company that is growing, and needs some bit of book work done) which is mere blocks from my house. Of course I was a bit nervous, but if I have confidence in anything, it’s my ability to have a conversation. First off, the dog of the house came over and inspected me, giving me kisses right away, then wandering off for a nap. I felt chosen, and put at ease. 

The interview was really a great chat about the business, it’s needs, and a getting to know you talk with the owner. I feel we got along splendidly, and I found out that I had a second nice referral, from someone I really enjoyed working with at VIFF in the fall. When you do things in a very interconnected community, people remember you. 

I start tomorrow, and am not exactly sure how it will go, but I feel very positive about it, and that maybe doing this kind of thing (proofreading, writing, some bookwork) could turn into a few part time gigs leaving me room for my own creative projects that have been on the back burner a bit since I have had to amp up my job search.

Also, on Monday I had a meeting with my case manager at workbc, and I was finally confident enough to make myself clear that why I am using them in the first place is that I want to get into a course to help upgrade my computer/business skills, so that I can do more with my own projects than I am now. I feel overwhelmed by self marketing, and I have so little interest in conventional 9-5 jobs. 

We changed up my action plan, as I explained that my usual pattern, that I am trying to escape, is letting other people tell me what I should do, and just always taking their advice and not doing what I want, sometimes not even being able to articulate my wants as I feel they are obviously more ‘right’ about what I ‘should’ do. I feel like I might get whatever work I do, on my own, anyway and not through workbc as their ideas of work are too conventional for me.

So far 2015 is a marked improvement for me over 2014, despite the loss of income (EI) and depletion of my savings just to be able to live. I feel stronger, more positive, and like my decisions are actually my own to make. This is all pretty new for me. I have avoided being a ‘joiner’ most of my life because of my internalized transphobia, knowing that eventually someone would find out I was really a girl (and ‘what could be worse’ is the cultural norm), and they would hate me, or some other horrible fate was there because my own transphobia made me feel worthless. 

I know have had so much positive energy spun in my direction in recent months, from friends and family. I finally feel like I am figuring out that I am worth it. I feel bad still even saying that, like it’s some horrible bragging to feel worthy of love. That’s how deep my own transphobia runs even now. But I am pushing past the fear, the self loathing every day. I have no guru, no religion behind it, other than the obvious glaring divinity involved in the art of singing together and expressing love and community in song. We may sing pop songs, but every one is also a psalm of indelible love and commitment as far as I am concerned. 

Thanks to Kate & Lau and everyone in the choir for just being there. I joined as a lark, as a push yourself out of your comfort zone exercise. Wow. I was wrong about comfort. I am where I belong, in my Community, it’s as comfortable as a down comforter, hot chocolate, your favourite book and cat nestled up with you.


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