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One of my best friends died seven months ago.
I am still struggling to find the right words to even barely approximate what I’ve been feeling. Grief is a long journey.
I can’t seem to stand referring to her death as “passing away”. Passing away sounds so peaceful, like something that was naturally bound to happen. And there was nothing natural about her loss. She was 25.
And she was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.
The last few years have been hard. Really hard. As were the years before them, if I’m being entirely honest. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get to a place in my life where it doesn’t feel like everything (or almost everything) is a struggle.
In 2015 I moved halfway across the country, to the Bay Area. A lot of great things came with that move, but a lot of hardships came with it, too. It’s an extraordinarily difficult place to make a living.
I also suffered a work-induced repetitive stress injury in both of my hands towards the end of that year, which still plagues me now, more than 2 years later. It’s hard enough to lose one’s able-bodied-ness to begin with, but losing it in a brand new city (i.e. one without a substantial support network) while hustling to scrape by financially has been a pretty miserable and exhausting experience. My hands are very very very slowly getting better, but it’s been a struggle.
And then, of course, there was the election and its continuing aftermath. I am constantly torn between wanting to know everything that is happening so I can be prepared/try to help/etc and having to disconnect myself from all media/social media because it is just too horrifying/devastating/infuriating/appalling to handle in addition to everything else.
It’s funny, I kept telling myself that my first blog post from being “officially back” was going to be something interesting and engaging and hopefully funny. And I think that those things will come in time, too, but right now I need to make space for grief, in all its shapes and sizes.
Hang in there, y’all. Keep pushing through. Just make it one day at a time.
[Content Note: Discussion of the Dump Presidency, general discussion of mental health struggles]
Sometimes I wonder if I was a fool to think I could make it out here in the Bay Area, one of the most exorbitantly expensive places to live in the U.S. It has been a long, rocky road since day one, and as I approach the 2.5 year mark I find myself wondering how much longer I can stick it out.
And I wonder how much differently I would feel if these events in my life weren’t occurring against the backdrop of the Trump presidency. Would these things in my life feel more manageable if I weren’t also seeing news and policy changes that make me scared, shocked, furious, and horrified on a near-daily basis? It seems like the mental health of every single person I know has suffered immensely since his election.
I admire and, if I’m being entirely honest, somewhat envy people who are fueled into action by their anger. I just feel drained and like I don’t have any fight left in me. And then I feel ashamed, because I feel like I’m not doing enough. And then, of course, that in turn makes me feel more drained and the vicious cycle just continues onward.
I’m trying to remember that it is okay that my abilities may not be the same as other people’s. Trying to remind myself that the chronic pain and stress I’ve endured over the last few years– not to mention the PTSD– are inherently draining, and it’s just going to take me a while to be able to recover.
Patience with others is easy; patience with myself is consistently a challenge. I can’t yet loosen my grasp on my “sink or swim” survivor mentality– there is a constant feeling in my bones of being on the edge of having everything fall apart if I’m not constantly moving forward, forward, forward. But sometimes forward isn’t always a viable option. Sometimes treading water is necessary, too. As is just resting. These are all things I struggle with on a daily basis, and I guess I’m hoping that by voicing them here it will be easier to put those feelings in perspective, and perhaps offer an opportunity to connect with others who struggle with similar things.
Well. I didn’t intend for my first actual post since my return to be quite so somber, but I’m trying to just get myself back into the habit of blogging/writing, so here it is. Granted, I’m also recovering from the flu and am not in the best of moods due to that, so I suppose a somber post is not too surprising given that. Hope you’re all doing well out there.
Damn, it’s been a long time. And a hell of a lot has happened in the years since my last post. A hell of a lot.
It seems that I always find myself gravitating back to writing. And not writing, really, so much as blogging. When I was the most alone, it was blogging and vlogging that kept me connected to other people, that gave me a release valve from the suffocating isolation of growing up in the bible belt. It was blogging that first connected me with people with similar experiences.
It might sound funny for a blogger to say this, but I’m actually really abysmal at reaching out and talking about my experiences when I’m having a hard time. It’s funny that blogging to an unknown audience somehow feels easier and more accessible than reaching out to a friend or even my therapist. Maybe it’s something about the indirect nature of blogging, in the sense that I’m sort of sending all these posts out onto a platform rather than to a specific person. Something has been pulling me back to this method of sharing my feelings. And I suppose it’s about high time I listened and made something of it rather than just thinking about it.
So, anyhow, all of this is just to say that I’m back, and I hope to return to engaging with other bloggers and readers on a regular basis. I really miss that. It is what has gotten me through many of my darkest times. Please know that even if I do not respond to a comment that you leave on my blog, it means something to me. They always mean something to me. Feeling heard and understood always makes a difference, always.
I hope you’ve all been doing okay over these last few years. Especially since the last U.S. election — I know it has been a relentlessly devastating, painful, heartbreaking year for so many of us. Resist if you are able to— and if not— please just do what you can to hunker down and survive. Your survival is meaningful, even if you feel like you should be “doing more”. Sometimes that’s just not where we are in our lives. Survive, survive, survive.
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!