Field Notes In/On Transition
I Don’t Know
So I can almost see the finish line, at least for the 1st ‘readable’ draft of my memoir. I feel mostly good about it so far. But I also know that in certain areas of my life I have had a hard time going deep enough into things that have caused me grief, pain, even some of the more joyful things, I have a hard time accessing and putting them into cogent prose.
My room mate said something to me a few weeks ago, meant with good intent, I think, but sometimes, ruminating on it, I have a hard time not agreeing on a darker meaning. She said, “You know you are both brave and stupid to be writing this memoir all by yourself, with no therapy, or mental health back up.” I am paraphrasing as this was a conversation, not one sentence. But that negative gist of it is true. It may be ‘brave,’ but I really am operating without a net, so to speak. I am dealing with some issues that I haven’t really dealt with, and doing so all by myself.
I don’t have any professional guidance as a writer, or in terms of dealing with all the open wounds that I have been picking the scabs off of. I went into this memoir wanting to make sure it portrayed not only my own pain and shame of growing up, living an adult life that I never felt was mine, but being able to mostly have love and support of friends and/or family, all the times I went in and out of the closet, tried on different identities. Now I am finally comfortable in my skin, and increasingly desperate in my trying to live my life. Seems to be at odds right. I think many Trans folks have this experience though, of finally living as yourself, being whole. It is more than ‘a feeling,’ despite what cranky old creep Germaine Greer has to say. For an academic she sure is making a lot of assumptions about the lives of Trans women. (I don’t think she knows there are Trans men) We do not live the lives that Cis men do. We do not have their inner lives.
We may seem to ‘enjoy those privileges’ that come with it, but that’s only because we are trying our best not to be Trans. it is not some easy task, oh today I will wear a frock. We are just as screwed over as any Cis women, we are raped, killed and beaten more often, especially Trans women of colour, so yeah we still have that male privilege? No. No, we don’t. If I still had a copy of “The Female Eunuch,” I would be burning it. But hey that’s just my opinion, right.
The whole idea that we don’t live a ‘girl’s life,’ thus unable to be women, is disingenuous at best, and hurtful and spiteful otherwise. No woman’s existence is monolithic and the same as every woman’s life either. We sure as hell didn’t get to live a ‘boy’s’ life either. I failed at every bit of it. None of it was me. It didn’t ‘feel’ like it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t allowed to be a girl. If I had come out as a little kid in rural New Brunswick in the 70’s, I likely would have been medicated, shock treatment-ed, and whatever other horrors. Back then being trans was a disease to be cured. No one had anything but hate and evil to put on trans people. Why the heck would I come out as a girl, when the culture, and every single person, including women, told me constantly that it was the worst thing you could be? Not that it’s much better in NB now for Trans folks, no coverage, and still tons of ignorance.
There is so much joy to be found in finally transitioning, that maybe sometimes like me, you don’t notice all the things you are losing. I had to leave my retail job, because they couldn’t afford to give me enough hours to survive on, and as nice as most folks were about my very public transition, I still got enough misgendering and having to be an educator all frigging day, that it was tearing up what is left of my heart. Despite being in the same store for the first few years of my transition, in a relatively hip and understanding neighbourhood, I had to ‘come out,’ and explain what transgender meant over and over again all day. No matter how positive most of the reactions were, it still bruised me all day every day. I have burned through my savings, had to give up the only apartment I ever had that felt like a home.
I read an interesting piece on huffpo the other day, a site I am ambivalent about reading as they don’t pay their writers and bloggers. Writers and artists are the ‘interns’ of the world. No one wants to pay us, unless they are fellow writers also, because they get it, we have value, our words have value. Okay, yes, the article, was about how ‘too’ is or has become a sexist word. Women are always ‘too emotional,’ or ‘too aggressive,’ or too fat. You rarely in comparison hear of a man being called ’too’ anything. They get to just be the verb used. Why? Because despite the supposed equality of the western world, there is no equality anywhere. Zero, zilch. None. Even among men, there are always winners and losers, but more and more, mostly losers, as the oligarchy that runs things gets smaller and wealthier.
I grokked this article pretty hard, as I too have heard these ’toos’ my entire life, you know, like I was a woman or something, even when presenting and trying so hard to be a man. I was too fat, too emotional, too smart (no really, you have no idea how many times I heard that, and felt dumb, because I couldn’t understand how you could be too smart) and most of all ‘too sensitive.’ In my mind, people have been treating me like a woman most of my life, even when those same people denied that I ever could be a woman. When folks see you as a man, but with these ‘too feminine’ qualities, they don’t take you seriously. You become a less than. I have been fighting my entire life to be recognized as having value. I have rarely felt valued, if you want to talk about feelings. Every time I received praise there was always a ‘but’ how I could have done better. I can’t think of an instance, except in the arena of friendship where I have received praise that was just praise. In every professional instance people always go for that thing they think helps, to buffer praise with you could also have done ....
Now, in my life, as I use up the last of my crowdfunding money, and have to figure out how to earn money another way, what I am is too stressed. I am not as stressed though, as I was last year at this time, when I was still on my tiny EI stipend based on the year I have made the least money in the last 15 years. So that’s something, right. I have less mobility, no more life savings, less credit, more debt. But I also have more friends, my book is almost ‘done’.
Not that I haven’t been doing some small things to make bit of pocket money. I had one day of extra work last month, that paid enough to pay off my phone bill and buy some groceries. A friend set up a reading at a local bookstore, where I read bits of my memoir, and opened up the floor for discussions afterwards. the discussions were very interesting and fruitful. Not very many people showed up, but that’s how these things go. Unless you are an in vogue writer, and a really great hustler and networker, no one is coming to your reading, other than a few of your good friends, and even then. The bright side is that, the folks who did show up were very generous with the ‘pay what you can’ at the door, and I sold a couple of books, and a Strawgirl Yarn Doll. So despite the disappointing turnout, I think of it as a very successful and lovely evening.
The one beautiful thing in my life recently, was that I spent the day of the reading making Yarn dolls of my character from my paintings, Strawgirl. It was one of the perks from my Indiegogo campaign, to get a book, and a yarn doll. My mom was the only one who bought that perk, so out of the ten I made for my reading, I sent her two, one for her perk, and another for her birthday, on halloween. you never forget your mom’s birthday when it’s on Halloween, though often you, and by you I mean me, you can sometimes still forget to send a card or present.
It was a really nice change of pace from writing all day, making the dolls, crafting them, as the kids say these days. I could do that kind of work, I think, maybe not the same doll mind you, but crafting stuff, as a job, were there the opportunity to do so. It was soothing, relaxing, and I like having each of them being slightly different. The hardest part as sewing the dresses, as I haven’t sewn anything in ages, but once I got a rhythm it was fine too.
I have so many artistic things that I could be hustling, my photos, my paintings, writing. Could I make some sort of living from selling Strawgirl prints, dolls, and maybe some more finished chapters from my 7 or 8 unfinished novels as kindle singles? This is what I really want my life to be. Making whatever I can from my own art and work. I am certain a lot of folks roll their eyes at that, because all my life that’s what i have received as I joyfully tell people ‘what i want to do for a job’.
Until the last few years, I had been bludgeoned by people’s ‘you need to get a real job’ tough love, so much, that whenever someone would ask me ‘what I want to do,’ I would just say, “I don’t know.” Because I knew they would laugh at any of my artistic ideas. When I lived at that big old house by the PNE, one of my room mates made such a joke out of this ‘I don’t know,’ that I no longer want to talk to him at all. I never felt like he would take me seriously ever, I was a joke to him, and to this day, he calls, and never asks me boo about my life, just whinges on about how he did some stupid/horrible thing and somehow got away with it. The few times he has asked about my projects, if I told him, he would laugh, but mostly I continue the “I don’t knows” because he doesn’t deserve to even know, nor does he really want to know what I am doing. I am a dumping ground when no one else will talk to him. He continually misgenders me, and uses my dead name. Why do I still answer the phone? Less and less do I do so, eventually I won’t anymore, when I finally figure out how to make my dreams pay the pittance I am hopeful of. It’s hard for me to be the one to let go of people that at one time were friends, or seemed to be.
I have never had enough confidence in myself, or my art to really put it on the line. Another friend the other day, mentioned that ages ago, when I was still presenting male, but pretty out as a closet trans person, and queer individual, whatever my presentation, he had said something to another writer about me and the queer community, the third party didn’t think I was queer enough, was the gist of it. I never participated much in any scene, because the scenes were all based on people thinking of me as a queer dude. I never fit into that at all. I was too scared to try. You have no idea how many times I went to Gay bars in Winnipeg, and Vancouver in my early adulthood and was asked by the bouncer on the way in, or the bartender, “if I knew this was a gay bar?” I was never gay enough. No one ever believed me when I told them I was trans, as I wasn’t trans enough. I was never really in the writing or film scene. I was never ‘enough whatever.’
The last week or so, despite these small victories of selling a few yarn dolls and a couple of books, I have been living with constant anxiety. The only thing that I have in my life right now that I am confident in, is my gender identity. How I present myself to the world, is finally resonant with who I am on the inside. See Germaine, nothing to do with how I feel on the inside, but rather who I am, on the inside.
I had a very bad interaction with someone recently that kind of triggered this week of anxiety, sleeplessness, and self doubt. I accidentally broke something that was precious to this person, and made sure to own up to it, as I ‘knew’ they would be sad, and I wanted to reassure them that it would be okay, maybe the thing could be fixed, or I could get a (of course not nearly as precious) replacement. They were not sad, though, but furious, and screamed at me like I have never been screamed at. I thought they were going to hit me. They smashed the thing beyond repair. Things were screamed at me, (as I tried to calm it all down) that gutted me to my very core. I walked away, and did some other things elsewhere. Later the person apologized, very sincerely, I felt. I accepted the apology, and I think we have moved on very productively, and as well as possible.
But those things that gutted me, still gut me. I do have real forgiveness in my heart over this, and hope they do for me... but I also am never going to let myself forget it. For once in my life I am not going to accept being made to feel less than. I am still friends with this person, as it’s ludicrous to halt a friendship even when the other person wounds you so deeply. If it’s a real friendship we can work to both be better friends. They obviously have more issues with me than that single incident, and likely some of their own that spurred that emotional violence. Like the old friend who misgenders me, I still care for this person, but they crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed. Their fury was worse than anything they said, or did. I don’t know what I will do if it happens again, but I hope that I can handle it as well as I did this time, and that it won’t trigger all these horrible self doubts that I have been wrestling with this week since.
Maybe I should see a therapist to deal with all this sludge in my life, and the fallout from rehashing my life before transitioning in my memoir, but to be honest I don’t want to. I don’t feel comfortable with most therapists, as they seem to think they have you figured out already. As close as I am to the end of my initial draft of my memoir, I still have so much work to do. I need to make all my blog posts work better as antidotes to the pain of growing up forced to be someone I never wanted to be, someone that I really wasn’t.
What I really need to do is update my art store, and hustle more with it, sell some prints, sell some books. I can still take pre-orders on my memoir if anyone wants to get in on that. Just because my indiegogo is over, doesn’t mean I can’t still do some pre-orders. I need to find someone who is not a pal, to read, and offer some editing advice, another set of eyes. I am not confident enough yet to let my friends see it, mostly because many of them in the past have tried to take over my projects when I have shown them a sneak peak. This is so not what I am looking for. It affects our friendship when you make me feel like you need to be overly solicitous. I am actually a pretty smart person. But my ego is fragile, I have a hard time even writing that. I also don’t go into much detail about my friends, or family even, as my memoir is not about them, it is about me, and I don’t want anyone to feel like I am giving them short shrift, but really, the book is about me, and how I deal with things, so I am fairly dispassionate about many people who maybe deserve more of a shout out.
Anyway this post is running out of steam. If you see me hustling my books or my yarn dolls. Should I do an etsy store? Buy one, or share my hustling with others, please. If you know of any jobs where I can make even minimum wage without a high stress environment, maybe send them to me, but really I think there aren’t any such things as non stressful jobs anymore. Only actual art and craft is about craft anymore. Other jobs are just about money, and how to overwork people because work is somehow more important than your life. It's not. Our system is not here for you and me. We can make our own humble ways though. I am not ambitious as far as income goes. Everything I can do, and excel at are things that only have a niche market value. I am totally willing and eager to be an underpaid, working below a living wage artist/writer. Right now I am way below, as I have made only a couple of grand since the summer. but if I can do the same thing or better over the winter, I will be as happy as can be.