Sunday, August 28, 2016

So, I should probably sit down and write something. My therapist is reading this blog and she wanted me to post something. She gave me some questions, but I'm going to talk about more than that.

What do I do when I feel stuck at my house?
Once recently I went on a bike ride, but mostly I just talk to people on the internet. It feels like socializing and I tend to say more than I do when I hang out in person. Plus everyone I talk to online knows I'm a girl. There are people I've met who I don't correct when they misgender me, because it scares me to confront them.

The experience of riding your bike through a small town?
Honestly, it's been positive so far. When I nod to people, they mostly nod back. The part I really don't liek is that I'm so out of shape that biking has become hard for me.

What gets in my way?
I think fear? And a lack of motivation. When I last applied for a job, anxiety attacks stopped me from scheduling an interview. I think out these elaborate issues with each thing I want to attempt to do and it stops me. Also, not having energy to do things. Not having the desire to do them.

Other things: I recently broke it off with all my partners. All five of them. I don't have a lot of regrets about this, other than that I regret I stopped being into those relationships. Now I've developed a somewhat shitty crush on another girl I met online.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Something I submitted for a zine but never heard back about

So, I don't cry. Not easily at least. Usually I go months without crying. Not for lack of wanting or trying. There are so many things that make me /want/ to cry, too many to list here, but chief among them the hopelessness of my own life. I have spent nights with my face buried in a pillow, shouting into it, "Cry, damn you," but I just can't seem to. The only things that really make me cry are happy things, like when a partner does something that makes joy bloom in my heart. This is pretty rare, I can go days without even smiling.

Crying is an emotional release, one I desperately wish I had more access to. I'm sullenly envious of the girls who say they cried all day. I wish I could do that, to release this heavy burden on my heart. I can't, though. My face remains slack and my eyes remain dry. I can't cry. I can tell you what makes me hurt, but I can't tell my face that.

Maybe it's the childhood of isolation, maybe it's all the time I spent denying my own feelings, but whatever it is, my ability to cry is broken. Even writing this, I want to cry, but it brings me no tears. I remain stolid, stoic, seemingly-unfeeling. I am so jealous of your tears. So don't curse them, hold them to be something sacred. Because they are. You can feel and you can cry and that, to me, is a wonder. If you can cry, cry for me. Thank you.

Short story I was working on, but have since abandoned

“Ours is a story not told.” (too dramatic, but lampshade it?) I surveyed the room as I said this.

Meeting in the laundry room of the same apartment building. Awkward fumblings and getting to know yous.

If we had sex, would I still be a lesbian?
I think so -I turn and look away- but some people don’t think so, they think I’m a man
Shh shh shh, I don’t think you’re a man.
Do you think I’m a woman?
Of course I do, I always have. Ever since I first saw you, I thought you were the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
I’m not beautiful
Don’t say that
Well, I’m not
Don’t say that to me
Why not
Because that’s really how I see you
How could you? I’m so hideous.
-she traces a finger along my cheekbone- No
I am
-she grabs my hand away from where they’re twisting knots into my hair and holds them together- No. Listen to me
-I look away-
Listen to me. You’re not ugly. I do like you. Here, let me kiss you again
-she guides my face back to hers with her hand. tears are streaming down my face, but my lips meet hers and it’s like drinking the nectar from a thousand blossoms-

They start fooling around again

Can I touch it?
You can, I hope you don’t get grossed out.
No, I wouldn’t -she puts her hand down my pants-
It’s just different, I haven’t touched one of these before.
It’s gross, I’m sorry
-she takes her hand out of my pants and rests it on my jawline. I look back at her-
No, it’s just different. Something new. That isn’t bad.

I want to do it
You do?
Just take off your clothes
-I take everything off but leave my panties on-

Friday, March 6, 2015

Here’s something I wrote awhile ago in response to Dear 15 Year Old Me - Letters of Hope for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Teens project.


Let’s get to the point. Right now, you’re 15-years old. About to start your sophomore year of High School. You end up quitting band and joining the swim team in an attempt to be less of a nerdy loser (you’re not a nerd, but a geek amirite?) and get back in shape. This was after a summer where you probably spent more time hiding inside and feeling like shit than anything. Right now? It’s probably one of the best chances to turn things around. I know it’s when you became deeply ashamed of your own body while simultaneously becoming fascinating (maybe even obsessed) with intersex and transsexual people. I know you’re excited enough about the very idea that, despite not understanding the proper context, you’ll listen when I promise to tell you how it relates to you. Because it does relate to you. And it’s vitally important - it’s the key to so much of the misery you’re suffering through.

The people whose idea it was to write a letter want it to be a letter of hope, but that’s something I’m short on, so I’m going to give you context. And I’m going to give you advice.  I’m going to warn you. And that’s what you need - not hope, but understanding. Because I believe in you. I believe in you so much more than I believe in myself. Because no one knows you better than I do… no one knows the challenges you’ve faced and how much hope you’ve already lost. I know you’re confused and becoming increasingly bitter. I know you’re thinking about killing yourself more and more often. I know that so many people have tried to fix you. But I also know what they don’t know, what they’d never  realize in a million years: you’re a girl. And a lesbian.

Please bear with me when I say that, even though you probably want to rip this up right now! It might seem like I’m trying to insult you like all the people that have teased you, but they’re trying to find a way to hurt you through your insecurities and single you for all the ways you never fit in. You like to dress weird, you like to keep to yourself, you like to read, you generally like your hair long or if it’s short, to be nice looking (oh yeah, and forget about bleaching your hair with racing stripes - you’re gonna get called a skunk, but more to the point it just doesn’t turn out the way you want… in fact, now would be a good time to stop letting your mom cut your hair - if you can get into the cosmetology program at the Jacobetti Center, years of avoiding shitty haircuts and having an employable skill will be worth it), you like to use your imagination, you’re a vegetarian, you don’t like cruel people, you don’t ditch class, and you’re committed to remaining sober. You like to write a lot and other kids are scared of how smart you are and how unwilling you are to back down, but they always out-number you or out-muscle you.

So… I know you. It’s taken me until I’m nearly twice your age to realize this, even though there were earlier chances. We’re both stubborn people. That can be our best quality at times or it can be our most self-injurious. In this case the stubbornness of our denial is the latter. And I know it doesn’t feel good to admit who you are, because on some level it makes the bullies seem right, doesn’t it? But they’re not right… they’re assholes. That they call you girly has nothing to do with you a girl, trust me… it has to do with them trying to attack your identity in a way that society has taught you devalues it. If you retorted to them that you were a girl, they’d eat their words and call you ‘gay’ (or some undeniably pejorative synonym), implying you’re a boy who likes boys. They don’t care what garbage they say, as long as it hurt you. Remember, these are the same people who call you stupid and speculate on your race, they’re really not perceptive or insightful. And you’re not weak for finding what they say hurt - stick and stones may break bones, but only words can make you slit your wrists. Which I know is tempting at times, but promise me that you at least consider what I have to say here and give it more weight than their words.

It’s okay to feel ashamed - society taught you that. Mom, specifically, has always tried to mold you into her little prince - not just to be a boy, but to be a very specific boy. And people in schools have always reinforced that. Remember when we first moved to Marquette and we were in that stupid play? When you put on the shirt with the ruffled sleeves or whatever and got teased mercilessly for it? While red is gauche, there’s nothing else wrong with you having worn that, regardless of what was said. And yet from that point on you were very careful. Remember when you told your best friend about how you thought you should have big boobs? He scoffed, but you just thought that would be the most proportional for your already broadening shoulders. But you remembered that and internalized it, never realizing that your thoughts of breasts were informed not just by lustful desire, but the desire for your body to be different. Yeah, I know the things you’re ashamed of and… I don’t care. I know you wonder what people would think, how you’d be judged for the thoughts you have, but there’s nothing wrong with your thoughts.

In fact I want to encourage you! I’d like to be able to be your guide on this, but I know that just telling you what I’ve told you so far, your future will be so much better than my past. I want you to encourage you to stay interested in being fit and strong - but don’t just swim or bike. There’s something called Cuong Nhu taught locally, you should look into that, as well as Tai Chi, Yoga, and meditation - they’ll eventually help you manage your thinking better as well as other more obvious benefits. You might also want to try coding in Java again, getting into the school’s video-journalism program (ignore the jackasses), sticking to free-swimming (ugh, locker room, I know), and backing up your computer more often (not on floppy disks! trust me), and getting a better summer job than just delivering newspapers (again, cosmetology is worth looking into - even if you don’t stick with it, it’s a good back-up), and working harder on your science homework (I know biology is way too focused on dissecting things and chemistry is hard, but you’re going to want to know those things, even if you’re encouraged to be an artist instead).

I also want to tell you - staying sober is a good call. I know what you’re going to have to do to live life in a way that is actually satisfying and I know it’s not easy, so you might want to cope somehow. If you do… try to stick to pot. And if you drink, try not to drink more than a few beers. It might sound silly, but when you go someplace while people are doing that, focus on dancing and moving. I know you’re more interested in writing, art, ideas, and escapism such as role-play, but you have to be prepared to cope with what other people think is normal, especially since you’re not going to want to embrace it (nor should you, much of it is bollocks - stick to working hard, learn to think more critical - as in formal logical not just doubt, broadening your perspective on race/class/gender/language/art/science/feminism, and above all - getting the hell out of that town)!

And I want to tell you, just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you have to be a certain type of girl. I want you to know that the two places you want to go to college (and yes, take that year of school off after you graduate, don’t let mom bully you into going directly to NMU, make sure you try to get good grades so Northland and MSU accept you, but if you can get out to California to live with Aunt Amy - despite her being hippy dippy and married to a total jerk - do it) as well as many other places will accept you no matter how you live. If you don’t want to shave your legs or get surgery downstairs, you don’t have to. Right now it’s mostly important that you pursue options that will allow you to become more independent, so you can have more choices in life.

I also suggest reading more authors like Joan Slonczewski, doing more research into what ‘transition’ is (and if anyone tells you absolutely have to do it a certain way, you don’t have to listen, you don’t need the burden of their insecurities). I know that to some degree you don’t trust doctors and anyone in the psych field, but if you look there are already people (albeit far away) that can help you (and no, you don’t need antidepressants - of all the drugs you could take, these will cause you the most trouble, because it’s your life that makes you miserable, not your misery that makes your life) with a) understanding what it is to be a girl (feminists, as well as the women you already idolize, are a good starting place), b) with the actual medical aspects of transition c) and finding a community of somewhat like-minded individuals.

This is probably a lot for you to take in, but I also know it’s stuff you need to know right now. Take some time, let the thesis of this letter sink in: you a girl, you’re a transsexual, and you’re a lesbian. And all that is not just okay, but awesome. Why is it awesome? Because knowing yourself to that degree will make you happy and it’s that context, that missing piece that you keep looking for in life. I know it’s hard to believe you’ll ever be the person I describe, but you are that person. When you deny it, it’s by putting on that mask and armor that I know weighs you down every day, that hurts you, that becomes the jar filled with inky hate. Yes. That. That is what that weight is, that is what that feeling of isolation is, that feeling of being trapped, that constant frustration. I know it’s hard to believe, but I also know you’ve always wanted guidance from your future self… so here it is. I love you more than I could possibly love myself (and you know, due to differences in timelines, that that’s not a paradoxical statement) and I want you to someday be able to love yourself again, too. So please just trust me on this? Because someday I hope to meet you, looking the mirror.

With love,
Panther Variable

reposted from:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Depression and Dysphoria can become a feedback loop.

It's pretty easy to call into a feedback loop between depression and dysphoria. First, there are many overlapping symptoms, not limited to : feeling bad about oneself, feeling futureless, losing motivation, etc.

To help stem off dysphoria, it's often important to do things to regulate one's appearance. For me, shaving, having decent nails, being clean, and wearing clean clothes help. However, when one is depressed, it's often very hard to do these things.

In turn, that leads to more dysphoric feelings, which tend to also be depressing. In turn, one's self-care lapses further, or becomes harder to keep up with, until you're a mess who can barely get out of bed, if at all. It's not complicated, but breaking out of it is hard.

You have to find the motivation (how? where?) to begin that selfcare and bring it to a level where dysphoria weighs on you minimally. That itself can be exhausting and lead to more depression and a return to intensified dysphoria.

And this is why transition is often so important - if I complete permanent hair removal on my face, I will never have the sinking feeling of seeing stubble or the frustration of having a beard-shadow despite shaving that stubble off. That seemingly minor change gives me back some time and effort and it also keeps me from starting off on the wrong foot when I go to the bathroom in the morning and glance at the mirror.

This is a vast oversimplification, not taking into account how other people's loos and comments can trigger dyphoria, how observing cultural norms can trigger it, or how the world being fucked can make us depressed. But you begin to get the idea.

On #ThisTweetCalledMyBack and #KnowYourHistory and why I find it so upsetting

These are some thought stemming from reading:

Being me, I'm not nearly as conciliatory as its anonymous author. Why should I be when I've publicly flipped out in rage over this topic? And have different grievances, vague grievances unlike those specific grievance in the above link.

Months ago, I block Lauren Chief Elk on Twitter. I'm not the most tolerant person, but I felt my identity as a mixed-Potawatomi trans woman was being erased by her. It's so long ago that I don't what she said. And I thought she was a trivial enough asshole so as not to screencap.

Well, recently a rather problematic hashtag called #ThisTweetCalledMyBack started. On the one hand, it's great to call out activists who denigrate online activism. On the other hand, there was a lot of irony in that, as LCE and many cosigners had acted similarly towards other online activists.

Several of those people made ignorant claims about appropriation or being looped out of the narrative. Ironic, as those claims on appropriation relied on weak arguments that failed to examine the evidence, instead relying on an appeal to their authority. Further ironic, because they themselves were acting appropriatively and looping people out of the conversation.

For example, it's admirable to talk about how black people are systemically and violently oppressed by colonial anti-blackness (including in countries where colonies originated, it's worth noting). What's troubling is there's often an erasure and appropriation of the systemic oppression that Native Americans have suffered for years preceding black slavery (the first slaves in America were Native Americans, the first people raped in America were Native Americans, the first people killed for not being of enough use to their masters were native Americans). Nor did the oppression and genocide of Natives end when that of Black people began. It has continued to this day in which if we examine the proportions of how police violence affects people by race, Native Americans rank up there with black people - making it inaccurate to claim that all non-black people of colour do not understand. Yes, Native have a different understanding, true - but an equally valid one as well.

And I've found many mixed voices silenced, especially trans women. It's a lot to unpack, but the mixed experience amount to more than such simplifications as 'passing privilege' or 'colourism'. Many of us do not pass and our racial ambiguity results in strange treatment, very little of it positive, much of it sexualized, degraded, and subject to violence. And there are often privileges we do not have - like that of community. Everyone is lucky to have a community who does. Many of us don't fit in the communities of either of our parents and thus we have only our direct family.

Look, I don't blame them. I have made plenty of insular, shitty, offensive judgements in the past. I will continue to. And I understand how emotions can make it hard to approach things rationally, so I have some sympathy for LCE and cohort. But please keep in mind, they're about as flawed as the rest of us. And aggrandizement of anyone, including them, is no answer.


As you may no, I recently received notification that one of my short stories had won an indigenous writing contest with a rather large prize. That LCE and friends are willing to doxx their critics makes me understandably more nervous about the notification email that asked for my Social Security Number (I have not yet provided it). Even if it's not LCE etc, it's clear that they've contributed to an unfortunate climate of fear.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

In support of Chelsea Poe's call to stop using stigmatizing language in porn

Recently Chelsea Poe wrote a call to stop using the term 'shemale' and other slurs against transwomen in porn. She touched on many reasons to do this, but one reminded me of something that still hurts today. Many people can choose to ignore porn or not look at it critically, but as she says,
"For trans people, we don't have that same disconnect from porn.

For most of us it's our first exposure to what trans-ness is. The terms that accompany our first exposure to trans women’s bodies are terms like “Shemale,” “Tranny” or “TS,” terms to pointedly shame those who have these bodies and those who are attracted to these bodies."
The language and stereotyping portrayals of trans women in porn made it impossible for me to truly relate when I was first questioning my gender in my early teens. The dehumanizing nature of these portrayals made trans women a taboo, a secret shame. There was something so important about seeing them, but I could never let myself relate. How could I be like these women when they were portrayed as not being women or men, but exotic creatures that existed only for male lust (because they did not portray Lesbian trans women like myself, that's for sure)?

The idea that trans women were 'traps', out to trick men into having sex relies on the trope of trans people as being deceptive, implying we are not genuinely the gender we identify as. How could my adolescent thoughts understand transition when the only way it was presented to me (in porn) was as some kind of tricky, a falseness. How could I ever transition? All there ever was was boob-jobs and anal or oral sex with men. That didn't into what I wanted for myself. I could never be them. And even if I could, why try when that's the only possibility for a life as a trans woman that was presented to me? And so it grew into a secret shame, instead of a path to transition.

A decade and a half passed before I let myself revisit those feelings. This time I had learned that trans people are like anyone else. Finally I could understand myself in the context of womanhood. With the advent of cam shows (live video broadcasts by porn model), trans women were granted a greater degree of autonomy of their self-expression. While it was still often problematic (between how websites categorized us and how some of us retransmitted the tropes we had learned), some of it served as that gateway of rehumanization. For the first time transition became a relatable thing, something I could do. Living as a trans lesbian became something I could do. Reading and learning more? Became something I had to do.

And so I began transitioning. It has been both the hardest and most rewarding thing in my life. But I can't help but wonder - if my first exposure to trans women had been more positive, maybe I would have waited so long. Those are years I regret losing, the secret shame of my feelings about myself something I never should have had to bear.

And even now, I have seen another shame that comes from this. Because of the fetishization of trans women, trans women who are attracted to trans women of feel some shame. Many of us were those silent yearners, looking for a mirror in porn. When we learned about fetishizers (often what we call chasers, people who tend to pursue trans women solely, often spouting cliches and stereotypes at us, but also often paying the bills when we go on cam or do a porn shoot), some of us felt like we were implicated as well, even though our motivations and interests are different.

So please read Chelsea's post (linked to above) and sign her petition (linked to here). It could change the life of a young woman for the better. And given the rate of suicide trans people endure, it might even save some lives.