September 21, 2012
i spent time talking with my counselor today, and i realized whilst doing so that i don’t let myself think about being transsexual very much. when my kids are around, i think about all the wholesome and wonderful things i want to do with them, and how to foster their growth, and how to create a strong, healthy bond with them. none of which should be incompatible with the fact of my trans-ness.
and yet i do feel horribly split from that part of myself, so much so that often it is almost like there is Katie-the-good-mother and Katie-the-woman-who-is-also-transsexual. i carry a lot of shame that i don’t let myself feel. there are a lot of uncried tears for the daily indignities (and worse) that i or my trans sisters suffer.
i cried some of them today. that was a hard sentence for me to write. in fact all of this is. i can picture so clearly the well meaning statements mama friends of mine might make when and if they read this: “oh, i don’t think about you being trans!” or “i don’t think it makes you less of a good mother!” or a dozen or so other things when really most of them speak from a position of relative comfort as people who are not daily seen as an abomination.
when i spend time in public spaces with children, i have to worry that people will think my presence is inappropriate, or a threat, even though those who know me will speak up and say i am a “good mother.” i remember that even if no one around me consciously thinks that, they could think that and there are people who would think that legitimate. a too long stare at our co-op from a new person makes me wonder… is my very existence unsettling?
that’s just the surface manifestation. all my life i have been split apart. as a young child, before i came out at 13, there was my public face that garnered a certain level of social acceptance (i was considered a sissy though) and then there was what was going on inside: i wanted so badly to be seen as the girl i was, even as i knew that that desire made me aberrant on two levels. valuing girlhood and femininity was uncool, and being a trans girl was disgusting. once i came out, all of this was on display, and the trauma of the constant judgement and disgust and fear and hatred is something that i still touch only from a cold, withdrawn distance. the girl i was at 13 is so hurt that it feels like approaching too close is dangerous. so she stays alone. when i discovered feminism shortly after, and became a riot grrrl and later a lesbian avenger, it seemed there was hope for finding acceptance and love for the girl i was, but i quickly discovered that even there both my femininity and above all my transsexual girlhood was incredibly suspect and even sketchy/disturbing to people. i was often provisionally accepted as a “good” transsexual girl, but this always meant keeping my mouth shut while other, older, less “passable” trans women were bad mouthed… all of which hurt me, too, because if they were disgusting or “smelled like boys,” what were my “friends” not saying about me (to my face)? aren’t i guilty by association?
in adult life i have gone through so very many phases where i’ve ignored my transness. this works to a point, in that by identifying strongly with what is perceived as good and normal (in queer woman spaces or out in the straight world), i don’t have to be actively experiencing my own reviled status. but it can never be even close to perfect. not only do i have the wounds i carry inside, but there are many little things that happen that remind me of my place within any social milieu as fundamentally an outsider. i can attend shakespeare in the park with friends, and be confronted with raucous laughter at the portrayal of a female character by a man: funny because femininity itself is ridiculous to so many, but doubly funny because there is nothing more shameful and silly in this society’s eyes than someone assigned male at birth attempting to embody that femininity. i am always the only one not laughing. and i know always that i am “over-sensitive.”
and so i push the feelings away and divide myself again.
when i sit down to write, i am faced with another dichotomy: if i write about this stuff, if i write about being a trans woman, or about characters who are, i know that i should expect the reputation i earn by doing so to affect me both socially and in my writing career. i can’t imagine a world in which the writer who explores this stuff (and the much deeper things that need expression) is allowed to be the same writer who writes and publishes the things i write for my kids, and potentially for all kids. There is no intersection of Beverly Cleary and Kate Bornstein (and, yes, fellow trans women, i know kate is a controversial figure at the moment… i’m just trying to pick someone who epitomizes bravely writing openly about one’s life experiences as, for lack of a better term and in society’s eyes, a “freak”).
i usually try not to ramble so much in my blog posts (that’s what my ‘zine was for!), but i don’t have the heart for editing today. it takes a whole heart to give a shit and for too long mine has been split apart. there is no glue but a total recreation of our society to eliminate trans misogyny. since that’s not going to happen, we must be brave of heart with whatever part of our heart is left to us.
July 14, 2011
i’m forcing myself to write something, because more than a week of staring at a blank page is scaring me; writing is, to be dramatic and pretentious for a bit, what i do. not like childless writers do it, with hours and hours to devote to it and still hours left over to devote to their day jobs (if any) and then still hours to devote to their social (or non-social) drinking and their TV or Charles Dickens or Isabel Allende habits and maybe even a few hours for sleep… no, writing is yet another thing i do like a mother, and if i stay up late nine nights in a row and try to write and come away empty handed and empty minded, and have to get up in the morning and do the dishes i neglected, preferring to trust that i would write something if i sat long enough, i feel lost.
who am i when i have nothing i can manage to say? surely i am still a mother, but i want to be a mother to my children and a mother to the stories that are on the tips of my tongue and my fingers… my novel languishes, my ‘zine is a receding memory, and this blog is another page i break away from at 3 AM, leaving it unchanged.
my littlest has turned five, and he wants very much to have friends the way his now nine year old brother has friends: friends whose house we visit every other week or so, and who come here, too. i know he will find these friends; he is so sweet, polite, and kind in introducing himself to kids at the park, and in the fall our homeschooling co-op will start again and he will be old enough for a great many more classes and clubs than last year, and perhaps, too, there will be more kids his age now that he is “school age” and more parents of his peers are likely realizing they want to homeschool.
my oldest has become interested in basketball, and we’ve been watching videos of basketball games i watched as a child. i’m from chicago, so various championship games from the 90’s featuring Michael Jordan, John Paxson, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, and BJ Armstrong, but i’m also a fierce lady so we’ve also been watching WNBA games from the first two seasons, which I used to watch as a baby dyke whenever they were on TV. he and i have also been playing basketball… mostly he wins and i’m actually trying reasonably hard. I’m not a jock and I never was into sports (i think it would’ve been hard to ignore the Chicago Bulls in the 90s living in Chicago as a kid, even as a totally flaming queer trans girl), but i am very supportive, of course, of my kids exploring every bit of this life they find themselves in, so i’m excited for him to be trying out something new! i want to find him some other pals to play with, or for us to play with together.
my girlfriend and i and our five kids, as well as her kids’ dad, went to the Rainbow Gathering in rural Washington. I am not very into hippie culture for a host of reason, but i found myself surprisingly won over during our day there (although i am still not very into hippie culture;), and i think it was a really good experience for the kids. the idea is that a temporary intentional community of family is formed in a wilderness, and a week (or more) is spent sharing food and brotherly/sisterly love. there’s a Kid’s Village camp which was pretty exciting… so many charming feral and semi-feral kids (i mean that in the best sense) running around! all of our kids brought their own trading cloths and lots of stuff to lay out on them to trade at the Trading Circle, thanks to lots of help from my girlfriend. there were some good trades made, as well as some seemingly poor/regrettable trades, but that, too, is something from which to learn. the kids were all impressed that, when a fire broke out at one of the kitchens, relative calm was maintained and a bucket brigade started, averting what could have been a really big disaster.
my house is a little bit disordered but i am focusing on having great times with my family and friends and figuring i’ll catch up this weekend. i’d rather have a somewhat disordered house than be unavailable for our summertime adventures and our needed snuggly downtime post-adventure!
i am now going to see if forcing around 800 words of blog post out has freed up my writing flow for my novel.
hopefully next time i will have a post for you that reads a little more coherently and effortlessly. 😉
June 1, 2011
some things can only be said with paper + gluesticks, things that start with heavy hearts and cold hands and hopefully end with light hearts and sweaty palms, mine pressed against yours… there is safety in numbers, in person and through the postal service.
there was a time when i could scam copies from a thousand places and mail my zine for one stamp and lose so little money on it that i called it sustainable. back then you did a zine, too, and when i got it in the mail i squealed with excitement and my children, helping me get the mail at the end of our long, dusty, rural driveway, knew that mailboxes were magic, that they contained connection even when we were so far from anyone, and half the time you sent something for them: shells from the beach near your house, a little comic, a letter about playing the drums without “learning how” first in a punk band my son loved when i told you he wanted to play the drums, too, coins from around the world: there was plenty of wonder for all of us.
you taught me i could draw even though i “couldn’t.” i meant to tell you that, meant to write you a letter and send my zine, but i was always a little bashful about it, wondering if, with a zine-turned-book as popular as yours, you would still squeal with excitement out there in Ohio… that was silly, but everyone gets to be silly sometimes. maybe i’ll send you that letter now.
i read about the death of your grandfather and cried with you. you spent a whole issue bowling back home in Chicago and i wanted to visit and go bowling and listen to polka.
this moment in time is so hard, and in some ways the least of that is that we can’t afford to copy our ‘zines: we struggle for food, to make rent, to find a place to rent, to keep the water and electricity on in any given month, to keep our heads not just above water but held up with pride… but your solidarity and companionship helped with that last.
and i wonder if you walk out to your mailbox sometimes and wonder what magic it will bring, and if, like me, too many days have gone by with it empty. i would mail you this love letter if i had your address. can we pretend that i did? and, since i don’t really know how to work a scanner, let’s pretend that next there’s a little drawing of my kids and me with a bow in my hair and we are riding our bikes to the post office to mail you cookies. mwah! ❤ ❤ ❤
April 11, 2011
i can’t sleep! i know i should blame my computer (or, rather, my own tendency to take it to bed with me… darn you, laptop! if you weren’t so energy efficient, i’d have a desktop!), but lately i’ve been feeling more positively about the time i spend on the Internet (i make sure that no more than half my post-bedtime-for-the-kids reading is online, though; there’s so much good information out there, and reading the blogs of other families with similar interests is incredibly inspiring/comforting to me.
tonight i’m awake and i followed a link that led me to the blog of some old acquaintances who happen to live on a boat. they’ve dreamed about traveling the world with their kids for a long time and i’m really excited for them that they are doing it! reading their posts about their family adventure, and following the links to other traveling families (in RVs or on bikes or however;) has me feeling decidedly provincial. i’ve lived in Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and here in Portland. i’ve travelled to a small handful of other places, mostly near Chicago or near Portland.
usually this is fine with me; i value roots, a local life, long-term commitments (at least in theory… we’ve been here 2.5 years and haven’t really lived in another city for much longer before); i want my kids to have a sense of Home.
…i feel a sense of wanderlust, as i often seem to in the spring, and as i have more often since becoming a single mama…
there’s been talk of a summertime trip to Colorado with my girlfriend and her kids, and i’ve been hoping to visit San Diego when my mother does sometime also in the summer… part of me wishes, though, for the freedom to keep going, to see more places, make new acquaintances, visit old friends, feel unlimited (oh, no, i’m infected with classic American lack-of-connection-and-committment-phobia-romanticization!)…
maybe this is also a late night brain fever, brought on by those self-same roots i asked for here in Portland, OR, the weight of which, when combined with gravity and inertia and beloved friends, family, and my kids’ other parent all living here has me feeling a little cleithrophobic (that’s irrationally afraid of being locked in an enclosed space, for those keeping score at home).
i need to breathe. i need to breathe and sleep and dream. i must remember that tomorrow there will be plenty of adventure within the few miles around our house in which we are planning to wander. breathe.
April 10, 2011
i run my household on a tight, small budget, and most of the little drips of luxury money fall directly on the heads of my charming children and other people with whom i’m very close. before i was a single mother, money was (sometimes) (a bit) less of an issue, but luxuries like, oh, regular haircuts or an extra piece of my favorite fruit from the farmer’s market rarely fell into my hands, because i hadn’t yet learned, frankly, that i mattered beyond my capacity to please and care for other people.
after becoming single a few years ago, i was determined to not only love myself but to treat myself with said love. i got a cute haircut. i bought two new skirts so i wouldn’t always wear “MY skirt.” i went out to dinner with my girlfriend when my kids were with their other parent. i baked cookies for myself at night and ate every single one of them.
this was very liberating, but after moving from constantly-flooding-basement-apartment (i.e.-the first home that was just mine by virtue of a lease agreement with no other adult’s name on it) to a house with a yard for kickball and gardening and digging pits, i lost sight of the importance of taking care of myself.
recently i’ve started ending my two days a week away from my kids with a looooong bath (when i get home from adventures with my girlfriend and the other three wonderful kids in our crew) and a book. this is a message to myself that my time isn’t only for cooking and cleaning for others, breaking up fights and settling arguments, or even watching-a-movie-together or playing-an-after-dinner-boardgame. i can have a(n initially) hot bath that smells nice. i can greet my children with wet hair that might even drip on their heads and make them giggle at the sudden rain (or frown, pout, and whine at the sudden rain… this is a 50/50 proposition).
and on friday my girlfriend bought me a haircut. in a real shop where they pump up a chair with you in it and they can actually do the things you ask them with your hair. i feel like i did the summer i first became single (and had a nice haircut, i might add): invigorated, “youthful” (not in a sense having to do with chronological age, mind you), free… cute…
here’s to hoping i remember to take a few luxuries for me, and to accept the luxuries offered to me by the people who love me. i’m a person who matters… a person who can take a bath. alone. for over an hour. with a book. in relative silence.