A Random Mess of Whatnot

Posted: May 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s been a very full few weeks since last I posted, with quite a few ups and downs, and I am still integrating all the pieces of that.  I’m gonna try to talk about at least the major items in here.

Depression

I had a pretty tough week or so in which depression reared its ugly head in a way it hasn’t in some time.  This time around that featured:

  • Lethargy
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Negative self-talk (often at the semi-conscious level)
  • Futile attempts to self-medicate with food

I’m not positive what factors made the most impact as far as this episode starting.  I know stress is a part of it.  I was already on the downward slope when I lost my wallet on a bus, and had to cancel my debit card and credit cards, and if that’s not stressful I don’t know what is.  I’m still dealing with the fallout from that but have pulled out of the low at least.  At some point in there I made a conscious effort to spend any energy I could on self-care.  I made myself take walk breaks midday at work, thereby getting sunlight and fresh air… at least as fresh as the air around my office ever is.  I made sure my food intake was more nutrient-dense.  I drank lots of water.  I don’t know that these things were what pulled me out of the abyss, but I’m sure they did not hurt.  And as of this writing, I’ve been on an even keel for an extended period.  So, yay.

Body Stuff

One thing I’ve been trying to focus a lot of attention on is being present with, and fully aware of, my body.  The things it does, what it is, how it changes, and what I do with it are worthy of attention.  It may seem like an obvious statement to some, but it felt revolutionary to me just writing it since I’ve spent so much of my life trying to pretend I didn’t have a body at all.

Having said that, I’ve been thinking for years about getting a piercing somewhere, and last weekend I actually did it.

My new ear piercing!

The right side of my head is visible in this picture, displaying my new piercing, which is a titanium bar passing through the upper helix and antihelix.

The darker circle-ish line around my ear is an indentation from just having done my morning saline soak; I’ll be doing that twice a day for the next few months while this heals up.

I am really, really happy with how this experience is going so far.  This is the specific piercing I’d been wanting for quite a while.  I did research on other people’s experiences as far as the piercing itself, healing, good places to get them done, etc. before taking the plunge.

As I was on my way to the studio (Body Manipulations in San Francisco), I was a bit nervous, as I knew it was going to be painful; having a large needle put through the cartilage of your ear in two places is a significant thing.  In the studio I was also pretty keyed up, but this was still coming from a place of confronting my own tendency to hide from pain.  I had made a decision before leaving the house that I would remain fully present for the whole experience, which I was choosing to have, and that I would accept and face the painful part.

The staff at Body M were very friendly and professional, and took a careful look at both my ears to see whether the piercing I wanted was even feasible – not every ear is shaped right to do such a piercing and have it heal properly, and they wanted to make sure before forging ahead.  This, as much as anything else, made me feel I had chosen well in terms of which studio to visit.

The actual piercing was over very quickly, and not nearly as painful as I imagined it might be.  Don’t get me wrong, it hurt, but it wasn’t anything like as intense or protracted as a tattoo.  About 30 seconds after the jewelry was in, though, I got a little lightheaded.  The piercer got me some water and a glucose tablet, and let me lie down for a little bit, and then I was fine after maybe a minute.  Once I got up and went to pay, things had changed to an absolutely euphoric state.  And then… I stepped outside.  And that’s when things got weird.

I became aware of how profoundly my proprioception had changed the moment I felt a breath of wind on my ear.  It was hypersensitive to a degree no other part of my body ever is.  It felt like my ear was three feet wide and likely to be bumped by passing cars.  Breezes were pleasant, yet also slightly worrisome, as I was not in a sylvan glade but instead walking down a filthy city street complete with assorted nasties in dust (and possibly even aerosol) form.  After about three days this died down to a more or less normal level of input, but my goodness, that first few hours was a trip.

Adventures in Structural Clothiery

As I have gained weight in my life, one of the places that’s happened in a pronounced way has been my upper body.  I have a big Buddha-like belly, but I also have breasts.  The fat deposits in my breast area have distributed themselves not only over my pectoral muscles but also in my armpits.  And this has been a source of angst for a long time, for several reasons:

Shame

One of the culturally ambient messages I absorbed as a young person was that I wasn’t supposed to have breasts or enjoy any sensations in that part of my body.  The thinking went:  I have to do “boy” things, and any “girl” things I do will be subject to the severest censure; breasts are a “girl” thing, possibly one of the very most such; thus I must not experience or acknowledge them.  When I hit puberty and my nipples became hypersensitive, rather than going with that and celebrating the cool new thing my body could do, I forcibly inverted my nipples and covered them with Band-Aids, for months, until they faded back into being indistinct and ignorable things.  When I started really putting on weight in my 20s, and got more tissue in that area, my avoidance field around it grew as well, and it got to the point I didn’t even want to look in the mirror.

Taking Up Space

Having these fat deposits that spread around into my armpits means that my arms don’t hang straight down.  They push out to the sides.  It feels as though I’m going about my day, arms rudely akimbo, elbowing strangers and friends alike.  And I haaaaaaate that.  I don’t by this mean that I hate my body, but that I dislike this particular aspect of moving through the world as it’s constructed in the body I have.  Things have a characteristic width (aisles, seats, doorways, etc.) and that’s not compatible with having elbows that stick out.  Sure, I can clasp my arms in front of me, but I can only do that for so long before it becomes exhausting and causes muscle cramps.

A Solution Begins to Coalesce

So I got to thinking about what I could do mechanically to solve my space problem.  It happens that I was thinking these thoughts while also being in a period in my life when I’m defiantly accepting my gender-non-binary self, and ruthlessly weeding out old beliefs about what I am allowed in terms of the experience of my body.  When I found my old back brace, and wound it around my chest and armpits to shove my armpit fat out of the way of my arms, I couldn’t help but notice that I had just created… a lot of cleavage.  And then it hit me.  Oh yeah, I have breasts.  I mean, they’ve BEEN there, but it’s fascinating how much one can successfully ignore with enough dedication.  It’s like they say, if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything…

So the back brace was a partial success; it let my arms hang much closer to my body, but the seams and edges sort of chafed, it was really hot, and it made my silhouette look very odd.  Then a light bulb went on.  Yes… there is this concept of a foundation garment that people wear on their upper bodies, that provides structural support and sort of moves flesh around to where the wearer wants it to be… it’s been around for ages… oh, right, a bra.

So I took my measurements, and got one.  And where the back brace was maybe 70% useful, this bra is around 90-95%.  All of what it’s doing, it is doing with strategically placed elastic, and to be frank I think I actually want something with underwire and maybe even side boning to get myself to the 99%+ awesomeness range.  But it’s way more comfortable than the back brace was in every sense.

A Surprising Bonus

What I wasn’t prepared for, and was really pleasantly surprised by, was how self-affirming it felt to wear a bra in terms of how it feels on my chest.  Where in my youth I did painfully self-negating things to my breasts, this garment cradles them softly, giving a nice satiny hug, almost as if to say “it’s okay that you exist, you are valid, and deserve to feel good.”

So I think I’m gonna keep on with explorations in this vein.


I was gonna write more, but I’m really kind of out of momentum after that last bit, so watch this space for more updates soon.  Hopefully sooner than “weeks from now”.

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Leveling up!

Posted: April 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

Yesterday I got to spend some quality time with my dear friend Sheila nerding out about makeup.  Sheila’s makeup has been flawless throughout our friendship and has always been kind of a paragon of visual awesomeness in my eyes, so I was tickled beyond words when she agreed to hang out and play with face colors with me.

We started with a little woodshedding on the idea of  “daily sparkle” makeup.  Sheila had some very useful insights on blush theory that I’d never attempted before and I really like how it all came together.  The blush in particular I think adds some depth and softness to my face that is a nice effect.  The results of playing with Look #1:

dailysparkle

The lip situation there may be more than what I ultimately do on a regular basis.  I like the way a liner works to help define the lip area but that particular liner is a lot darker than the stain I used on the rest of the lip.  Also, you can’t really see the subtle sparkle that I have in my foundation all over – it’s really visible when I am moving or the lighting is changing though.

Also, with respect to eyes, I am extra happy to know some good landmarks to help define the shape of the color fields.  The use of a really light vanilla-y eyeshadow in the corners of the eyes and along the brow also helps lighten and soften the look.  I think the end state is less exaggerated overall, and much less like stage makeup.

On to Look #2: gothy goodness!

The picture I took for this is absolutely my favorite selfie I’ve ever taken.  goth night

I went with a MUCH lighter foundation on this to get that ghostly pallor; it also sets off the bolder colors more.  Sheila pointed me at an entirely new eyeshadow blending technique as well as a color palette I’d never used before, and I think the combination is just dynamite.  I have also never made this lip shade work before, but it’s booming here for two reasons: Sheila showed me a better application technique, and clued me in to dusting a bit of similar color in on the eyes to unify the look.

I am a happy happy person.

The Purge

Posted: April 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

Today I went through all my dresser drawers and pulled out all the clothes I won’t wear again.  It came out to a couple of kitchen trashbags full of clothes.  Some of it was clapped-out 10+ year old T-shirts, but I am also bidding farewell to almost all my pants.  I’m hanging on to my convertible camping pants (the legs zip off to turn them into shorts) and a pair of sport shorts that are great for swimming in, plus a couple pairs of gothy pants that I am sure I can work into a stellar ensemble at some point.  The rest of it, though?  I am so so glad to be offloading it.  Not only has it made lots of room in my drawers, I’m shedding psychological dead weight along with it.

Today is a fantastic day.

Mental Gymnastics

Posted: April 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon since starting to lead a pants-free life.  Most of the time I’m wearing this skirt in either black or burgundy:

crinkle-skirt

Crinkled tiered skirt by Ellos.  My go-to daily wear.  It is SO awesome and comfy and just everything I want in legs-covering.

This is an ankle-length garment.  I’ve now had five different people (all cisgender men) comment on the fact that I am wearing one, and the way they do so has been interesting.  Three called it a kilt (and one managed to wedge a comment about my genitals into it in the bargain, in a work setting no less), one asked if I was Scottish, and one asked if I did martial arts.  This last was interesting as I think he was interpreting my skirt as hakama pants.

Watching these social overtures take place, I am struck by how intently these people seem to want to perceive me as A Dude, and recontextualize everything else based on that core mental construct.  Given that all of them have come without my initiating conversation in a fashion-oriented direction, I also suspect that these people are trying to re-establish their own mental equilibrium in the face of confusion by asserting their core assumptions aloud.  Which, in turn, tells me that to some extent my efforts to break out of the binary rut are working, because there would be no such response without some kind of stimulus.

I’m a pretty big person.  In addition to being fat, I’m also just large-framed; my shoulders are broad, my bones are in fact big (thick fingers, broad hands, wide feet, etc. etc.), and I think if I were downright emaciated I might manage to shrink down to 175lb.  I still wear a beard, which I’m not presently interested in shaving off (though watch this space for future efforts in femme-hacking a beard).  These characteristics in concert seem to carry so much mental weight for many people that they override anything else I might do.  I am feeling echoes of the concept of masculinity-as-default-personhood.

Coping with all of this has been complex.  I had a pretty glum few days, and while this issue wasn’t the entirety of the reason it was certainly an element.  But at present I’ve found some equanimity about it all, and am even looking at these responses as an encouragement to take more femme elements into my daily presentation.

I’ve been getting a fair amount of l’esprit d’escalier around these things too.  The first time I got “kilted” was at a queer karaoke night, and I was also wearing full makeup, so it’s not as though there were no other elements of my appearance to suggest a feminine aspect was at work.  So I just bemusedly corrected the guy and went on about my evening.  On subsequent interactions though, I have generally been sufficiently flummoxed in the moment due to thinking about other things that it’s not till later my mind suggests deeply satisfying responses, such as:

Them: “Are you Scottish?”

Me: “Well as it happens, yes, but I’m wearing this because I’m transgender.  It’s a skirt, not a kilt.”

Them: “Nice kilt!”

Me: “Thank you, your bloomers are quite flattering as well.”

Them: “It’s too cold to be wearing a kilt yet!  Your boys are gonna freeze off.”

Me: “Good thing I’m wearing a skirt, and have the tact not to talk to people about their genitals in a professional setting.”

Them: “Do you… do martial arts?”

Me: “Not anymore.  I’m just suuuuuuuper queer.”

In hindsight it’s probably for the best that none of these things came to mind in the moment… I have always disliked confrontation.

This is where I’d put a satisfying coda to the post if I could think of one.  Since I can’t at this time… see you next time, Constant Reader.

Posted: April 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

In recent weeks I’ve made a concerted effort to more deliberately express my gender in terms of how I dress.  It’s been an interesting process.  Though I’ve been painting my nails for ages, and dying my hair fun colors, people have read me as a cis man very consistently.  I’m invested in an aesthetic that incorporates unquestionably femme elements, and did some thinking about what I could do in that direction.  The first major step I took was to get an ankle-length skirt.

I’ve been wearing pants pretty much exclusively for my whole life.  I have a few kilts, but in addition to them being coded as very masculine, the way they hang on my body makes them feel like pants – they constrain my waist in the same way.  When my first skirt arrived, I was somewhat nervous about putting it on with the intent to, you know, wear it.  In front of people.  Anxieties about immediate social censure buzzed around my head.  But the actual physical experience of wearing it was something I was in no way prepared for.  You know those scenes in movies and cartoons and so on where the clouds part, a beam of light falls on someone, there’s a fanfare of trumpets and singing angels, etc.?  This was like that.  It felt utterly glorious.  What’s more, the physical comfort is incomparable.  I can move!  The idea of dancing doesn’t make me want to cringe!  I feel more at home in my skin while wearing a skirt than I can remember feeling in my adult life.  It’s to the point that I am fine with never wearing pants again if I can manage it.

Another thing that came along with the whole skirt deal was pockets, or the total absence thereof.  That has taken some getting used to because I really took for granted being able to just carry small objects on my person without a lot of forethought.  I am finding though that carrying a small shoulder bag is actually a lot MORE convenient and useful than having pockets ever was, as well being substantially more comfortable.

I am also getting more familiar with how to achieve the appearance I want to have using makeup.  This is INCREDIBLY fun.  I’m enjoying looking in the mirror, spending time with myself.  Heck, I have even taken selfies just for the fun of it.  I never before conceived of wanting to do so or understood why anyone else would, and then found myself thinking “damn, I look GOOD today” and just snapped a few.

cute_pre_karaoke_20180405

I’m finally, actually doing this.  And it feels so good, so freeing.  I wish I could hand this feeling out like flyers to strangers.

On Pronouns

Posted: April 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

Early caveat: I am writing this from the perspective of being a nearly-forty-year-old white AMAB American who has lived in many states, has a stable home and job, and is fortunate enough to currently live in San Francisco.  I am under no illusions that my perspective is somehow universal.  I benefit much from a range of unearned privilege.  The following post does not address that; smashing the system is something we’ll get into in other writings.  The below is something of a cri de coeur.


My pronouns are they/them.  The extent to which I care whether or not you use them varies in direct proportion to how important you are in my worldview.  I want to spend a little bit of time and thought on what all this means to me, and why I care.

There’s a lot of writing out there on the Internet already about gender-neutral pronouns, and I am not intending to reheat that particular plate of hash; Google is free.  Some folks, like me, use they/them to connote this, while others have different pronouns they use to convey similar, adjacent, or even quite different concepts, and that’s totally fine.  One thing I think these do have in common, though, is that a person who chooses a pronoun for themselves, and then communicates that choice to others, does so as the result of a long process of self-reflection, with significant desired outcomes.

The first is personal: a wish for the requestee to engage their brain when speaking to or about the requester, and acknowledge the personal truth that’s been communicated thereby.  When I say to you “I am non-binary, and my pronouns are they/them,” you have the choice thereafter to either

a) respect what I’ve said about myself, and nourish our bond by holding to the explicit request I’ve made, or

b) ignore my statement, use gendered pronouns for me, and thereby assert that your convenience of thought is more important to you than the very fundamental assertion of selfhood I have made.

And either one of those is your right to choose.  But know that if you consistently pick b), I know where I stand in your world, and that it’s probably not worth my time to self-advocate to you specifically.

The second desired outcome is subtler, but more profound.  In using non-binary pronouns for others, we undermine a conceptual framework in which many assumptions of personhood and lived experiences lie.  This is very deep stuff – categorically speaking, we tend to think of someone’s gender as being only slightly less basic a defining category than species.  People rely on this framework quite heavily in order to inform their modes of interaction and expectations about how others behave, and how they fit in the world.  It can be very difficult to modify or even interrogate this way of thinking, especially if one has only experienced consonance between one’s internal experience of gender and that assigned to them by society.  But by using “they” to refer to a person who has not made an explicit statement about the pronouns they use, we make room both for that person’s agency, and for the enrichment of our own paucity of information about them.

Consider for a moment a beautifully played piece of solo music; perhaps a piece on guitar.  The notes, chords, and the spaces between may move you to smile, to dance, to weep.  The musician’s emotions are communicated to you, and you may feel a connection to them that goes beyond anything for which words are adequate, even if only for that moment when their notes make gooseflesh rise on your skin.

I have just described an interaction in which you made a connection with another person, perhaps one that changed your life, without you ever having any gender-based information about them, nor even needing it.  And if this is easily enough done in the abstract, it is after all only a small step to the concrete.

When I say that I do not want to be addressed or spoken of with male pronouns, it is because I reject every assumption that goes with the use of those pronouns, and refuse to have them applied to me.  In this, I do not mean to invalidate or even address anyone else’s experience of gender.  But my own experience is that the descriptors of masculinity feel inadequate at best, and like outright lies at worst, to communicate who I am.  I claim the right and the freedom to assert ownership not only of my body and its adornments, but my self-definition at its most fundamental levels.  If you will damn me, then let it be for the truths of who I am and how I authentically wish to live, rather than for cowardly lies that I am comfortingly normal and easily categorized.

Because I?  I am AMAZING.

amazing

Thanks for reading this far.  I’ll have lots more to say in the coming days.

Back to Blogging, Apparently

Posted: April 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s been a hot minute since I was on here, and a lot has evolved in my life in that time.  Among other things I’ve broken up with Facebook (it’s not me, it’s them) and thus need some other outlet for missives to the world at large.  And whoo, do I have A Lot To Say.  I don’t have a therapist anymore because Kaiser is crap at that side of things so I’m just gonna get it on ya.  Sorry, not sorry.

The upcoming content I’ll be putting together on here is going to include my process of working out what it means to me to live a non-binary life, both as a retrospective and as it evolves on a regular basis.  There will be pictures.  Of me.  If you have known me for any length of time you may have a gauge of just how unusual that is, viewed against the backdrop of how I used to do things.  But, spoiler alert: I am really, really done with a lot of how I used to do things.

So, place all loose items in the underseat storage and make sure your lap belts are securely fastened, friends, because it’s gonna get weird in here.