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Tales Of The Giant Teacher and other stories

Field Notes in/On Transition

Tales Of The Giant Teacher and other stories

As I have been working so hard on my crowd funding for my memoir, I haven’t been working quite as hard on the old memoir as possible. Which I need to be doing as much as I need to be working on crowd funding publicity ideas, and getting the word out.

Definitely my team (my friend Kate MacDonald, and myself) have done pretty good so far at getting the word out, in fact. About 12 days in I guess, and so far there is over $1400 dollars in the indiegogo kitty, books and calendars chosen as perks. So about 14% funded already. we’ve had big days, and low days, and weekends seem to be plateaus, as we get less hits, less contributions. It really is true that you get more exposure in the early parts of the week, but Friday has also been a big day, because I think it’s payday for many folks. So any day of the week I think has potential to be a good day, especially if you get a lot of shares, re-tweets and so on from other folks.

Aside from the crowd funding, I have been busy catching up with folks here and there, also got involved in a political/personal scandal/scuffle in and with a local festival, that has gone through some trying times recently, to put it mildly. I am not going to rehash things on my blog, as I have already been there on facebook. Suffice to say that I was going to lead a workshop/discussion group, and now I am not, though I plan to still do the workshop under my own auspices and not this festival’s, later in the summer. It was a very rare taking of a stand by me, that had me leave. I am disappointed of course that it came to that, but I stand by my decision, and feel good about not just standing and waiting for the smoke to clear (an apt metaphor in BC right now, as the smell of forest fires chokes us all, even those in the city) or just fading out of the scene.

Trying to get a bit more involved in my community, has been part of my plan this summer. One other thing I am doing, that seems to be working out better, is helping out with this year’s ‘Trans March,’ which will be taking place at it’s now traditional time of July 31 (the Friday before the Big corporate Pride Parade) at 6pm. This event has grown all the last 3 years that I have participated. this year the organizers are trying to pass much of the work getting things ready off to others in the community, and I went to an organizing meeting on saturday, and joined the new ‘collective’, and will be helping spread the word, and doing work day of as well, helping to guide the march from Clark Park, (Commercial and 14th) to Victoria Park (Grant and Salsbury Dr).

As far as the memoir goes, something I have taken note of recently is that I have been telling a lot of my stories of my time in Japan for some reason. I obviously have some mixed feelings about my time there; like living anywhere there were challenges, joys, sorrows, and wonderment. I spent a lot of my time in Japan trying to live as a Gay, or Bi identified man. The “Man” part of that equation was continually the most difficult aspect for me. 

The lies you spend your life telling when denying being Trans, or running from it, are exhausting, and for me it was so hard meeting new folks who maybe I could have been up front with their not having a history of me already; but was unable to be honest. So ‘Joe’ lived on much as he/I had before getting to Japan, consuming all the food, alcohol, and media that he could. Diversions, all of it. Desperate for some kind of intimacy, I spent a lot of time trying to find the ‘gay area’ of Tokyo called Shinjuku Ni-Chome. It took me months to find the few bars where foreigners were welcome. Eventually I found a mostly outdoor bar called Advocates, and a dark dank dance club/pick up joint called Arty Farty. I also found some friends that continue to this day to be great friends and supporters of mine.

The first several months of work in Tokyo were for me the hardest job I ever had. I thought I was going to be fired every day. Thy were using seriously out of date text books when I first arrived, and I had a hard time, myself understanding the grammar points being made, using such weird unnatural english. But I worked hard at it, and when we got some new textbooks that were far better, more interesting for both students and teachers, the job got easier and less stressful. 

I had a stage fright as well, when I started teaching, of the kind I hadn’t endured since being a little kid. I spent so much time sweating, and fumbling books, materials, initially I drove some students out of my classes with my lack of confidence. One of my fellow teachers, Missie, and I also revamped all the crowded often useless lesson plans as we both got better at teaching, we got better at planning, weird eh? By the time I left, many of those students had returned to my classes and I was often complimented on how enjoyable my classes were.

I’m not going to do an exhaustive history of my time in Japan here (that will be in the memoir), but rather just try to get myself to the point that, when I left Japan, much like when I left Winnipeg, I left to come to Vancouver to Transition. I left Japan, not just because my contract was up, or that I was homesick for Vancouver, and Canada, not just because I had saved what I thought would be enough money to pay off my debts and live until I found a job, not just because my boyfriend/sex-friend.... really we were never able to have a conversation, neither of us being fluent enough in each other’s languages, and me unable to tell him about my really being a girl. It wouldn’t have went over well, I don’t think anyway. And of course I was leaving the country. I have zero interest in Long distance relationships.

So you know I came home hoping to transition ASAP. That took several more years, as it turned out. When I returned, my GP had left the clinic I went to, and I had to start getting my new doctor to understand and believe that I wanted to try transitioning again. I was not persistent enough for the first few years, and fell back into working at a video store, and consuming as much food, alcohol and pot as I possibly could while still paying off the last of my debts, and still being so wrapped up in my shame at being Trans, and my fear that everyone would abandon me if I came out again, and stayed out, really transitioning. Eventually I got to the point, as I have averred here many times, where it was literally do or die. I chose do.

I have a lot of lovely nostalgia from my time in Japan. I have never been a big traveller, but I really felt I was able to carve out an interesting three years in Tokyo, where I learned a lot about not just another culture, but also about myself, and what I was capable of. My path to transition may still have kept winding very slowly afterwards, finally starting in 2012, but my time there, and my health scare (hypertension) a few years after I returned, for me are the two parts of my life where I felt I was strong, resilient, and gave myself those little pushes, and baby steps towards eventually claiming the identity that I had been suppressing for so long.

Discussing Japan, with friends so much recently, I thought I would share a few pictures on facebook, throwback thursday etc... but I hadn’t actually upped any pics to FB, I was convinced that I had done so when I first got on FB way back when, before transitioning. So I went to my iphoto library and found that I still had over 1600 photos, some of which I had posted in long moribund blogs I had for sharing purposes when I was in Japan. I narrowed those down to a few hundred and have upped a bunch to facebook. 

It is a bit weird to see pictures of myself as ‘Joe,’ now. Looking at those old pictures is something I have been steeling myself to do more often as I try to jog memories and stories loose for my memoir. I don’t know that I can put a feeling to seeing myself as I was then. I am not ashamed of who I was, mostly. It’s a real dissonance, maybe a bit of a dysphoria perhaps? It’s interesting to hear from people who have only known me as Josie on seeing my pics, or even folks who have known me the whole time. I really am a different person, I am an evolution of that person is how I see it now, through the lens of time, and the rose coloured glasses of being comfortable in my own skin. The one thing I still sense seeing myself, mostly pretty smiley in pictures, too, but not so smiley as Josie is. I remember how I felt before I recall what I was doing in the photos.

Oh and the title of this blog post is also how I am titling my memoir section(s) covering Japan. The last year I was there, we started teaching children ESL, previously having only adults, mostly, and some high schoolers. The little children pretty quickly started calling me Ookii Sensei, or Big Teacher. The cliche was true, due to all my izakaya (pub) going after work, and fast food eating in the day time, I was as big as I had been in ages by the time I left Japan. 

I was though happier when I left than when I got there. And I had made friends that so far have lasted in to a new lifetime. Congratulations also to the FIFA Women’s world cup team from Japan, doing so well this tourney, know that I was cheering for the Japanese women over the Americans not just because of the usual anti-American team sentiment you get in Canada, but instead because Japan is a part of my story, and is one of the most special places in my heart. One of the few places I have been that I have called home.


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