So begins a series I have had bouncing around in my mind for some time now– a summary of the last few years: life lessons learned the hard way. Here I present to you Lesson 1: Better is Not the Same as Good.
Wow. It’s hard to believe it’s really the first day of 2015.
I can’t say that I’m sad to see 2014 go; while it was better than my terrible 2013, it was a far cry from “good”. 2014 was largely a year of picking up the pieces of myself that 2013 left me in, and trying to slowly put myself back together.
I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn over the last few years, but especially this year, is this: better is not the same as good.
I feel like this is a lesson that I have had to learn over and over and over again, but this year definitely drove it home for me. I kept finding myself feeling frustrated this year, thinking “I’m in such a better place than I was last time this year, why am I not happy? What’s wrong with me? Am I just someone who can’t be satisfied?”. And I’ve fretted over those last two questions enough to last me a lifetime. I often worry that I am asking for more than the world can give, more than any reasonable person can expect. It’s incredibly frustrating to do have done so much healing and self-work over the course of a year, but to still feel deeply dissatisfied with how my life is. It’s just very disheartening, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that things will ever actually get better-than-completely-shitty, that things could actually feel good or that I could simply feel content on something of a regular basis. I know that life has its downs, and it always will, but the “downs” of the last 5 years have been frequent and various levels of devastating, and I’m just desperately ready for a positive change. Sometimes I worry that it’s no longer possible.
And then… then I remember how I felt during the summer of 2013, at Butch Voices, a brief high point in a very hard year. I remember how different the Bay Area was than the bible belt. I remember how much safer I felt. I remember not feeling constantly on guard, and not getting harassed in restrooms, and not being scowled at or stared down in public. I remember the enormous weight that that took off of my shoulders; the weight of more than a decade of the constant homophobic microaggressions (and outright aggressions) of the bible belt. I remember what it was like to meet so many other butch and trans-identified people (many of whom were local residents), and what it felt like to have a rare moment of not being surrounded by cisgender people nearly 24/7.
Granted, I know some of those feelings are directly related to the life-changing experience that was attending the Butch Voices conference, but I spent enough time outside of the conference to know that the Bay Area had a radically different feel than what I have grown up with. I’ve spent most of the last year and a half trying very hard to hold onto that feeling, to remember and believe that a place exists where I can feel safe, where I can begin my healing work in earnest (i.e. without ongoing trauma).
Here’s to getting there in 2015.
Happy New Year, everyone.
P.S. Writing about this subject is pretty hard for me and I’m feeling pretty vulnerable, so please be gentle with any comments. Thank you.
“I didn’t want to be different. I longed to be everything the grownups wanted, so they would love me. I followed all their rules, tried my best to please. But there was something about me that made them knit their eyebrows and frown. No one ever offered a name for what was wrong with me. That’s what made me afraid it was really bad. I only came to recognize its melody through this constant refrain: ‘Is that a boy or a girl?'”
-Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues
With that single paragraph, my entire world cracked open. I remember reading it over and over again, so in awe of seeing my feelings, my hurts, reflected back to me for the first time. I knew from that moment that that book would change my life.
And it did. It was as though I had been wandering in the darkness for years, and suddenly there was a pinpoint of light. And as I read, the pinpoint became bigger and bigger and bigger until it finally encompassed me. Until I knew, for the first time, that I had a home, a history, a people.
Leslie, I will never have the words to properly thank you for showing me the way home. I am so sorry that this world took so much from you, so often. That you had to suffer as much as you did. May you rest in peace.
All of my love,
You know, it’s funny that I was so surprised to find that I had used the term “female-identified butch” in my About page on this blog. I’m not sure why it caught me so off guard; I guess it’s because I had sort of forgotten about that term, as recently I’ve tended to use terms like “non-binary” and other related terms.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week about the term female-identfied, and my relationship to it. I don’t feel female-identified at all in a general way, but something about that adjective placed in front of the word “butch” resonates with me.
I think this experience is tied in with other feelings I’ve had lately about some small level of discord with the words I generally use to convey my identity to others. Over the last year I’ve felt a small but increasing sense of incongruity with terms like “genderqueer”, and I’ve had a very difficult time figuring out why I’m feeling that way.
I think, perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that being vocal about not being male-identified has become more important to me over the years. I think this has to do with a lot of different factors. I am guessing a big part of it is just being tired of non-binary erasure, and being tired of having people from within the GLBT community assume that I am a trans guy. Unfortunately the few trans/trans-friendly resources and people I’ve been able to find here still often have a strictly binary view of gender, and that has been really frustrating.
I’ve also felt a stronger and stronger disconnect from maleness as time has passed. That is, when I was first questioning my gender identity, I felt a lot of connection with the idea of being a guy, because a lot of things I associated with being male (having a flat chest, being expected to have more mechanical/mathematical/etc interests, etc) were things that resonated strongly with me. But now that I’ve had top surgery and gained a degree in Doing Cool Shit With Stuff, that feeling has waned considerably. I am not a guy, and I don’t want to be. The things that felt most congruent to me in terms of my body and my innate interests just happened to be things that are strongly associated with men/being male. Figuring out that distinction has been a really big part of my journey.
However, even all of that does not explain my nagging preoccupation with the term “female-identified butch”. After all, not being male-identified is certainly not inherently the same thing as being female-identified. That’s pretty much non-binary gender 101, right? So why do I keep feeling all these swirling, vague, difficult-to-pinpoint feelings about that term?
I don’t identify with the word “woman” at all, so why does “female” evoke such a different set of feelings?
I wish I had answers to these questions that have been prodding my psyche as of late, but I just don’t. I guess I just need to sit with this a bit longer and see if something becomes clearer to me with more time.
Have any of you ever experienced feelings like this? If so, what did it mean for you?
I’ve been planning to make my way out to California for a long time now. My urge to go there was even more solidified after visiting for the 2013 Butch Voices Conference. I fell in love with the Bay Area, and I have been missing it ever since.
And so I plan to move there. My goal is to make it out there some time between July and August of 2015, depending on how the job search goes.
I am very excited, but also incredibly nervous. The prospect of moving halfway across the country to one of the most expensive areas in the United States– by myself– is nerve-wracking as hell. I’m worried about getting a job. I’m worried about securing housing. And worst of all, I’m worried that even if I get those things figured out, I am just going to fall flat on my face. I am nervous that I won’t fit in, that people won’t like me, etc etc. I am just *nervous*.
But I am going to make it happen. Because I have to.
The last few years have made it abundantly clear that I cannot stay here. Growing up in the bible belt has been a largely miserable experience for me, and I am desperate to be immersed in a different, more gay-and-trans-friendly culture.
That is not to say that I think homophobia does not exist in the Bay Area, of course. And by no means do I expect moving there to be some kind of magical cure-all/happily-ever-after kind of experience. But I do expect it to be a place where I can breathe, and finally start the hard work of healing in earnest.
The next eight to twelve months are going to be one hell of a ride, and I have no idea how things are going to turn out. But I am keeping my head down and working and saving money and building my skill set. And I am going to make it happen.
Wow. It is hard to believe that it has been two years since my last post here. Over two years.
I want to start off by apologizing to my readers (if I have any left!) for my long, unannounced, unintended hiatus from this blog. And I am especially sorry for all of the unanswered emails I have sitting in my inbox right now.
The last several years have been… rough. A lot has happened. Not all of it bad, of course, but a fair amount of it was. And I just kind of checked out in a lot of ways. I stopped doing a lot of things I enjoyed. I withdrew a lot from my online presence on a variety of platforms.
I just… had to take some time to sort myself out. And I’m not quite there yet, but I’ve made a lot of progress, especially over the last six months.
Anyhow, I just wanted to say sorry for disappearing out of the blue. And that I hope to start posting again in the next month, though I can’t say for sure if that will happen, because my schedule is alllll over the place these days. I will get there, it just might take me more time than I would like. My appreciation goes to anyone who is still sticking with this blog.
Hope you’re all doing well.
My apologies for my unexpectedly long absence!
Things have only barely slowed down since my spring semester ended.
I just want to let you all know that I’m still alive, as is this blog. I hope to put some new posts up in the next couple of days.
Thank you for your patience.
So, I’m thinking of making some password protected entries in the future to talk about my developing interest in BDSM and things of that ilk. If you’d like the password, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you. (:
Alternatively, you can comment here with your email address and I will send it to you.
That’s all for now!
Someone posed this question on Tumblr a while back, and it got me thinking.
What do I stand for?
I’ve been mulling it over and have come up with a working list of things that I feel are at the core of my being.
I stand for solidarity with all oppressed people–women, people of color, trans people, gay people, disabled people, and so on. I stand for reaching out with love and strength to those who struggle alongside me against the kyriarchy. I acknowledge that all oppressions are inextricably linked to each other, and to be willing to dismantle the oppression I struggle with means being willing to dismantle the forms of oppression that I do not experience as a white, able-bodied, middle-class person in America. Accordingly, it is my responsibility to educate myself on various forms of oppression that I do not directly experience (racism, ableism, transmisogyny etc), and it is my responsibility to remain mindful, at all times, of intersectionality.
As far as I’m concerned, accountability goes hand in with solidarity. For me, a commitment to accountability, in this respect, is a commitment to being accountable for my privileges. It is to be accountable for my white privilege, my class privilege, and my able-bodied privilege. It is to be open to being called out on any of these privileges (or others I’m less aware of) by members of oppressed groups. I cannot promise that I will be perfect when called out, but I can say that I am fully committed to reacting with love and listening rather than defensiveness and denial.
In an interpersonal context, I am also committed to being accountable for my actions. Whether with friends or lovers, I am committed to listening to their concerns and evaluating my words and actions and apologizing for them when necessary.
However, this is also a commitment to be accountable to myself. And while I am making a commitment to be open to listening to others’ critiques of my actions and my words, I am also making a commitment to being aware of this form of critique being used as a form of manipulation (such as when my father chastises me for having short hair/presenting butch because it’s “extremely off-putting). In being accountable to myself, I am committed to reminding myself that I have no responsibility to continue conversations or relationships with people who are being manipulative. I have the right to disengage for my own mental health, and I will exercise it.
Practicing Consent and Respecting Boundaries
This is, and always will be, paramount in my sex life and in other parts of my life. I am committed to always, always, always putting consent first when it comes to sexual experiences, regardless of who they are with. If someone seems uncomfortable when I initiate something sexual, it is my responsibility to step back and check in and make sure that everything’s alright. And if my prospective lover changes their mind or expresses discomfort, it is my responsibility to back the fuck off right then and there.
Pursuit of Knowledge
I never want to stop learning, academically and otherwise.
I know that there are plenty of other things I stand for, but those are the most prominent in my mind right now. I imagine I will add to this list as I think of other things.
What do you stand for?
So, I know that many of my posts have had a rather serious tone about them, especially as I have started down this road of digging into my mountain of Self Work. I wanted to take a quick break from that and make a more light-hearted post. I found myself unsure of what to post about, though, so I figured I would just open the field for questions from you, dear readers.
So, do you have any questions for me? Anything you just have a burning desire to know about me? Now is the time to ask!
The last month has been pretty transformative.
I’ve started chipping away at the mountain of Self Work that has been present in my life for much too long now. One of the great blessings of top surgery has been the fact that I now have the time and the energy to devote to this process; before top surgery I was mired in an exhausting and unrelenting cycle of depression, dysphoria, and anxiety.
I still don’t love myself the way I want and need to. That’s okay, though; I know that I will get there. A huge part of this process has been learning how to be more patient and compassionate with myself. I have a long-standing habit of holding myself to impossibly high standards and then loathing myself when I fail to meet them.
Learning how to truly love myself is hard. There is so much to unlearn, so much internalized transphobia and homophobia to dismantle. There are so many deep-seated issues to deal with. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed; how do I know what to tackle first? The internalized transphobia? My dysfunctional relationship with my father? My body image? My other insecurities?
I am committed to this, though. I am committed to myself. I am committed to dismantling this house of old wounds, one brick at a time. I’m committed to building something new and powerful, with my love for myself as the foundation.
As I’ve started this journey, I’ve been surprised to find that my love for others has expanded in step with my love for myself. The more I cherish myself, the more I cherish the friendships in my life. The more I appreciate myself and my abilities, the more I appreciate others and the things they have done for me. I think that I feel more full of love now than I ever have before, and that’s a beautiful feeling.
It’s not all easy, by any means. I’ve had some really rough days in the last month. I’ve had days where my frustration makes me want to throw everything to the ground and walk away. I have days where I just don’t care, days where I don’t want to do the work because I don’t want to do anything, period. I try to just let myself have those days, to value them as part of the process instead of seeing them as a backslide and feeling guilty and angry at myself. It’s on these days that I am able to practice the art of forgiving myself and being compassionate with myself.
It’s on these days that I am reminded of what it means to truly be committed to myself. That I will see myself through the hard times and be a better person for it on the other side. That in my darkest hours, I can trust myself to pull through.
I am committed.