Saturday, March 23, 2013

I've been Saved!!

This blog is retired.  Catch up to me at my new blog:  or look me up on facebook! Thanks!

Friday, November 23, 2012

But I won't be blue always...

So my gig has ended.  It was a powerful learning experience, particularly the awful way it ended.  It taught me many things tho.

I don't have to behave "as if" I'm competent and skilled.  I actually really am!  And when people comment on that, it's not them just being "nice."

When my perfectionism gets in the way of my judgment, catastrophic mistakes ensue!  Not all mistakes are borne of carelessness. Some are from caring too much, at least when it comes to the details vs. the big picture.

Not only would I be much happier working in a system designed with the likes of me in mind (which I already knew), but it may in fact be essential  for both my personal and professional growth.  Seems  common sense enough, but truly I didn't realize I was working from a flawed premise.  I thought  my only job  was to adapt myself to the way things were done around me,  then try to compensate for my weaknesses by hyper-focusing on my strengths. This, rather than make it a priority to find an environment that is already compatible with my strengths and weaknesses.  I assumed no such places exist. I also assumed I had no power to create such a place. But they do.  And I do.

I learned I was selling myself short on just about all fronts.

That said, it's crucial for me not to get high on all this new found self-confidence. With no permanent gig lined up, I'm still at the mercy of the temp market.  For the time being, I appear to be in demand. However, I've been temping since February and I'm tired.  And I'm pushing 40.  And I want freaking health insurance!

But more than that.. I want to find a career path where I don't have to choose between being myself and being good at my job. 

So whatever I may have gained and then suddenly lost during this last gig, these things I learned I wouldn't have learned in any other way, and for that I give Thanks. 

Happy Belated Thanksgiving, to ME!

In other news, I am struggling with my own deadline of publishing by my next birthday.  This Summer I finally started writing The Book. Turns out it's two different books.  And the two books have nothing to do with each other!  And they both want me to write them NOW NOW NOW.  All this and still scrambling to support my family somehow. Oy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Misanthrope for Hire!

I've been working a temp job for one of my former employers.  Completely different department, different campus. Night and day experience.  I've only ever loved two jobs before (Being a Bouncer was fun! Being a corporate mole even moreso!), but never as much as all this. Whereas the former assignment with this employer had me in tears at the end of the day, what with the stress of trying to do my job while livid people scream and accuse me of treason, this post couldn't be better dovetailed for my personality.

For insties:   I spend 100% of my day off the phones, in my own office, with a door that closes and LOCKS. I have minimal to zero supervision on most days and am still expected to get all the work done on time.  And guess what...I DO!!

The magic ingredient?  Solitude! Sweet sweet nobody but ME to deal with all day!!  No Customer Service involved!  No surly staff to cajole, no micromanaging supervisors to hover, no angry escalations to resolve. Just work work work and plenty of it!  There are the occasional committee meetings but I'm there in a service capacity only, sitting quietly and invisibly in the back of the room until some exec  needs a last minute copy of such and such or presentation lighting for whatnot.  I only have to speak when spoken to.  I don't have to make direct eye contact with anyone.  I don't even have to be particularly friendly as long as I can still manage to seem pleasant and submissive supportive.

Such is the life of a nameless administrative assistant!

I wish I could go into detail about this job without revealing too much about the highly confidential stuff I do;  it's probably not even wise to be bragging about it here to all the cyberworld under a thinly disguised pseudonym. Still, the experience has been a revelation. For once I am getting a true sense of what my real strengths and weaknesses are as a worker.  I've only ever been in situations where I am forced to make the gig work, no matter how awkward a fit I happened to be for it.  A job is a job and you should thank your lucky stars someone was willing to take you on, right?

WRONG!  Who knew that some people get to spend 40 hours a week doing things they actually find interesting and are good at! This is an option??  Why wasn't I told!?

The ironically anti-social appeal of a high stakes people pleasing job like assisting top level execs isn't the revelation. Rather it's the fact that I have never really operated within my comfort zone in any job. And this in turn has blinded me from my actual career options.

So why has it taken me til I'm damn near 40 to figure out that I need to be doing what I like to do?  Why had I assumed my life would be one long marathon of Survivor, making do with what little I have available to somehow make it to the next day, the next hurdle, the next life changing crisis until one day I collapsed from the exhaustion of it all.  But hey, I lasted this long that's gotta count for something??

I realize also that this is a hyper privileged first world epiphany to be having in the first place.  I don't know how to feel about that.  I don't intend to contribute to the oppression of others less fortunate by acting as if my situation is somehow universally meaningful.   It's not.  In fact it's clear that this specific proletariat struggle is meaningful only to me in the ways I've lived my own life. But right now it means everything to me that I finally understand that my life doesn't have to be endured. It can also be enjoyed.

And for this I am truly thankful.  I'm going to miss this gig when it ends in September.  I'm looking into some permanent opportunities where I'm at now, but there are no guarantees.  Except that I have me, and that I am a good enough reason to do the things I love to do and make a living at it to boot. :p

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Derail ain't just a train to Egypt.... Er... or something.

I am so sick of us light-skinned black folks refusing to acknowledge our privilege.  I am sick of us light-skinned black folks derailing every discussion of how colorism bestows social advantages upon lighter skinned folks  with "Black People always tell me I'm not Black enough! Dark skinned folks have always bullied me cuz I'm light! How is that privilege??"

Here's how:  Light-skinned privilege ain't about how The Darkies treat you. It's about how Whitey does!

When anti-racist folks discuss colorism and the reality of light skinned privilege, we are talking about the relative social advantages lighter skinned minorities and individuals have over darker skinned ones in the white supremacist superstructure (ie. society).  Individual experiences of discrimination and prejudice from members of one's own community are indeed painful, damaging, alienating and deserving of censure.  But they are NOT the result of a wider system of dark-skinned superiority, rather they are a reaction to the larger oppression of White Supremacy and its ranking of  bodies.  Quite frankly, the lighter your skin, the more valuable you are/your body is in a given white supremacist framework.  The closer your phenotype to caucasian, the more privilege you are bestowed (by the same White Supremacist framework). This means you have relative amounts of privilege whether you feel you use it or not.  And it means if you have not been bestowed light skinned privilege, you are wide open for dark skinned punishment.   

This is not to say that these privileges are absolute or universally applied.  Lightness of skin is relative.  You may find yourself considered light skinned in one social context and dark in another.  But the point is that it's ultimately the conventions of White Supremacy that determine your status.  

Again this does  not mean that you don't ALSO experience racism or that the agents of White Supremacy do not draw a bright line of dermarcation between you and themselves.  But the social advantages of having fairer skin at the mainstream level are practically indisputable.

Now let's get personal.  I am pretty widely considered fair-skinned for an African-American in most social contexts.  While I have recognizably african features ("typical" sub-saharan hair, nose, and lips) for the most part, my skin fairness sets me apart from most other african-americans with similar features.  Because of this I grew up hearing from other african-americans in my community how "pretty" my skin was, how "lucky" I was to be light-skinned, and constantly being asked what I was "mixed" with.  

I found it creepy and fetishizing (although it took me well into my adulthood to learn what fetishizing meant). I found it uncomfortable and alienating for people who were otherwise my social and racial peers to be so congratulatory and protective over me, based on something I had absolutely nothing to do with, was merely born with.

I also, secretly, found it flattering and pleasant to have so many people be so congratulatory and protective over me, based on something I had absolutely nothing to do with, was merely born with.  As much as I may have disagreed or failed to understand why my fairness was such a big deal, I clearly understood that having skin like mine was considered favorable. That it gave me some sort of minor status over other darker black folks that they clearly coveted.  And, as shameful as it is to say, it made me feel good.

However, I soon learned firsthand that light skinnedness was both ranked and relative.  My father's second wife was a white woman.  They produced two daughters together who to this day can easily pass for white (although they are adamant about choosing not to do so) and are regularly taken for white (until they speak up!).  Next to them I am the dark one in the family.  And whereas my fellow black peeps were  curious about my racial admixture, I soon found they were downright starstruck as to my sisters' blond and redhaired (respectively) existence.  I had never experienced so many ooo's and aaaa's as when I was finally old enough to take the girls along with me to the grocery store (I am quite a bit older than my sisters).  People stopped and openly stared at us. Staring at the little white girls playing in my grocery cart and then at me, puzzling and pointing. White customers pretended not to notice the tall, skinny clearly black BOY pushing them around the store.  So much Side eye!!  (Alas Gender and Race and Cissexism all conspiring to ruin my day).  I mean I knew they looked white, and I had often marvelled myself that two such clearly white bodies could come from anything black like my family. But daaaamn. This was some intense scrutiny.  I could see the shock and alarm gears turning in the whitefolks minds... (What is this black boy to these little white girls? Should we be calling the police?) 

I began to feel really unsafe.  I tried not to make eye contact with anyone while also trying to stay aware of the number of people following us and where the exits were.   Black customers were a bit more demonstrative.  "Are they mixed?  Are they mixed??  No they've got to be white!"  Asking me but not really waiting for my answer so much as making an excuse to to touch their hair, perhaps to figure it out for themselves somehow.   "Excuse me, child. Are you babysitting or is these your cousins or somethin?" one older black woman said, reaching into the cart to touch/examine their long braids. Never looking at me nor asking permission to touch. "These my sisters," I explained meekly, intimidated by the growing crowd of onlookers and the brazenness of the touchy feely types.  I'd already had plenty of experience with harassment at this point, but this time, my gender presentation wasn't the star of the show. 

The lady snapped her focus to me, accusingly. "Your sisters?" She harrumphed, like I had told an obvious lie. " Then how do they got blonde hair?"  She demanded, still running her fingers over their long flaxen braids like an appraising jeweler.  The girls giggled and pushed each other and seemed not to notice the extra attention.  The strange woman's hostility emboldened me to take control over the growing spectacle.  "Because THEIR MAMA got blond hair, that's why! Excuse me."  I pushed the cart forward, forcing her to step aside.  I heard her mumble something under her breath about white women and "it figures" and whatnot but I was determined to book and run. I searched for a quieter corner of the store to get my bearings.

Every awkward creepy racial thing I'd ever thought I'd been thru with my cafe au lait complexion I had just seen multiplied tenfold with them.  Suddenly I understood that there was an inevitable difference between the space I occupied in the world and the space my sisters would occupy as they grew up.  For I had never felt so black as that day; the fanfare of their perceived littlewhitegirlness against the social "threat" of my perceived blackteenagedboyness had ripped open a new reality for me altogether.

Perhaps not surprisingly this particular incident increased my gender dysphoria astronomically (and I didn't even think it was possible to be more miserable than I was).  Usually when I was out alone in public the emphasis was always on my gender presentation. Look at that faggot! Is that a boy or a girl? I think it's a boy, but it walks like a girl...etc...  I refused to "butch" things up even for my own safety. I didn't wish to contribute to the mass delusion that I was willingly or naturally male whatsoever.  I was determined to be visible to be seen.  Up until that point I had mistakenly believed I had control over how I was seen to some extent, even tho I clearly lacked the power to be seen as a girl.  But I could least make them deal with the girl in me.  But for the first time that day I wasn't just some boy acting like a girl to people.  In truth, the way I acted didn't seem to factor in to the equation at all.  For once I was being seen as a potentially dangerous BLACK TEENAGED MALE who had no business hanging around two little white girls.  MAN did that hurt!  That I might be considered a danger to my own sisters??  That they couldn't possibly be my blood because look at me and look at them?  Because my race combined with my (assigned) gender somehow marked me as a threat to their innocence.. and that's ALL it took to transform me into a criminal!!??

Wow. I hadn't realized how deep the intersections of my race and gender status ran there til I wrote all this out.  But I'm in danger of digressing from my original point.

My point is and was:  colorism and light skinned privilege are REAL, folks.  And tho it may be relative to the social context,  and tho it may bring us just as many personal heartaches as it does professional hands up, even tho it does NOT spare us from the savageries of Racism, it is foolish not to acknowledge this dynamic in a society that blatantly values ever lighter skin.

 Now let me end this post and go back and reflect on everything I just said, because even still, I frequently forget my privilege and conveniently ignore my own advice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Devils You Know

Wow. I've been gone so long blogspot has a completely new interface!  I think I like it.  I'm one of those people who can't stand a crappy interface and will actually stare for hours at the blank compose field because the interface is so distracting. Maybe this will finally make me post more. I'm not going to hold my breath tho.

I've been in a bad head space the last couple of months.  What seems like a rash of attacks on black people's right to defend ourselves or even exist has had me extra paranoid and triggery.  (And I had been doing so well on the trigger front :/ ).    I've taken to heart the Trayvon Martin shooting, Marissa Alexander getting 20 years for firing a warning shot deliberately away from her attacking husband, Cece McDonald being strongarmed into a plea deal for a nakedly obvious case of self-defense, Policeman Howard Morgan being sentenced to 40 years for attempted murder after being shot 28 times by four fellow officers (all white) under extremely suspiciously self defending sounding circumstances, and most recently a 75 year old White Man shoots dead a 13 year old black boy in front of his mother....  All of these attacks on black and brown citizenship keep happening in rapid succession and seem to be escalating in levels of sheer brazenness over the last year -  and there are so many more examples that have happened which I haven't mentioned.  But the message is loud and clear:  1) White people have the right to do whatever they wish to black people.  2) Black people have NO right to defend ourselves.  3) If you're black and you DO defend yourself, expect either to die or else go to prison for your trouble.

In short, I'm starting to panic.  Ending up in a situation where I'm forced to defend myself and then subsequently forced to enter the U.S. Judicial System is one of my greatest personal fears, if not THE greatest.  From my own family history dealings with police and the court system, I have zero faith in being treated as anything other than just another black criminal in a court of law, much less being respected as a woman. I have never been arrested; when my only income was sex work I was maniacal in my client screening process, not just screening for psychopaths and sociopaths for personal safety reasons, but also weeding out any potential police officers or vigilante troublemakers who might bring the police to my door. (Even so it only took one game-changing lapse in judgment to nearly end my life).  Today I live a deliberately low profile, painstakingly law-abiding lifestyle. I have very few friends, also law-abiding, whom I hardly ever see because I just don't like to go out anymore, as it's like asking for trouble somehow. In short, I do everything I can to improve my chances against accidentally ending up in some silly public or private situation that gets me rounded up by the police.

But lately that doesn't seem to matter. The general tone of discourse in this country (the U.S.) concerning any minority rights or experiences is becoming ever more belligerent.  For the first time in my life White People in general are actively starting to scare me.  Not just the always vocal extremist conservatives who demand to take back their country.  But also the ever wishy-washy white middle class liberals who don't seem to be rising to the anti-racist occasion.  On one side I see a people quite literally amassing an army. On the other I see a bunch of cultural critics rolling their eyes and clucking their tongues while they busy themselves with their Occupy Insert-City-Here Movements and their professional outrage online commentary.  I feel I am being literally and politically targeted.  I do NOT feel like I can count on anyone to defend me but me. And to add insult to injury, even if I do have to defend me, I'm almost certain to be punished for it.

Matt Kailey's latest post touched a nerve with me, so much so that I blurted out in comments some really personal and painful details about my multiple experiences with being raped and physically attacked but not reporting the incidents to the police for fear of making my life even more unliveable.  I regret the hurried tone and the overshare.  I hate sounding desperate and angry, especially about things that happened so long ago.  It makes me sound like I'm still broken after all this time.  And of course, I am. But worse it makes me sound like I'm trying to win some sort of victim trophy, and all that does is make people tune you out even more.  I hate using my own life as an anecdote because people always say that anecdotes are not proof of any "argument," because every conversation about current events in white american mainstream culture is a fucking debate.  And pointless as they refuse to take your story in context anyway, because everything in white american mainstream culture is a fucking isolated incident.  But if I don't tell my story then I feel silent, erased, and even more vulnerable for the next time.  And in my silence people unlike me start to theorize that people like me are merely... theoretical.  So I blurt it all out, on their terms, wanting them to SEE to KNOW this is what happens this is what we've been talking about, THIS is why we ask for what we ask for and ... nothin.   I invariably walk away feeling embarrassed for having said anything. Like I'd just let out a loud belch at a dinner party and  nowI'm sitting there hoping that the room is well mannered enough to  change the subject instead of simply staring at me in all this awkward silence.  I imagine I hear them thinking: Who is this creature? How did she even get in here? When is she leaving? Please leave.

Oh if only I had that option. If only I could leave and know I'd be any safer.

The devils you know.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Calgon! Took me away!!

Well it's been an obnoxiously long time since my last update.  Much has transpired in the interim.  For starters, I was forced to quit my cushy new job due to sudden and very scary health reasons.  These reasons have stabilized and am only now beginning to fathom getting my life back on track. 

But I'm starting to think that that track is no longer an option.  I've been frantically trying to find work in the last couple of months, even before I was physically ready to go back because, yanno, dwindling savings, threat of poverty and fear of homelessness and all that.  But so far my effots have been to no avail.  It's like my resume is radioactive or something.  I email it, hand deliver it, social network it, fax it and upload it to every job opportunity I find in my field online and off, to no avail. Just deafening silence.  Not even rejection letters come.  I find this... discouraging.

In the meantime, Mr. Laplain has stepped up and he may be starting a new job with someone he knows very soon.  We're crossing our fingers on that.

You would think I'd be writing up a storm, with little else to do these days. But I've been unable to put anything into words since January.  This year has been so inexplicably and unnecessarily harsh in most every respect.  Even my mother and I have started falling back on our old pattern of barely-polite hostility, which i thought we'd finally overcome years ago.  *sigh*.

So in the spirit of joining them because I couldn't beat them, I decided to just sit back and let things happen around me and say nothing much.  I'm a willow in a windstorm, i will bend and never break. The mighty oak is overrated.

But wait.  There is one little thing I long to say about the recent media nonsense.  I might as well get it out of my system now.

George Zimmerman FINALLY arrested for Trayvon Martin's death.  That's ALL we ever wanted, yo!!!    I don't claim to know exactly what happened that night, but it is indisputable that if you initiate an armed confrontation and the person you confronted ends up dead... an ARREST is non-negotiable.   Now GZ is in custody and the chips will fall where they may... but the fact that this very nearly almost went nowhere and he would have gone on to live happily ever after without any authority ever having questioned why he was patrolling the neighborhood with a gun following people.... um... NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Jenna Tackalova.  I refuse to follow the media on her story. At first I couldn't help respond to a couple of online comments here and there, but honestly I just don't care what cis people have to say about trans people anymore.  It's NEVER going to be any good, is it??   I mean, their conversation will ALWAYS follow one of three paths:

  • Trans people should not exist and we shouldn't let them do anything ever.

  • Hey everybody we just realized suddenly (again)  that trans people exist, and isn't that weird??? But but but why do they want to do the weird things they do?  I mean when we do it it's not weird, but it's weird of them to want to do it too, right?  Let's ask them (over and over again while not listening).

  • Trans people exist but we should never allow them to do anything until AFTER they've had "The Surgery" and then only if they are goodlooking.
It doesn't matter what the topic is.  Pageants or Public Restrooms.  It's all about cis people and their comfort with the reality of trans people.  No thanks.

These two media phenomena, however, have caused me to do a great deal of thinking about my own life and the intersection of my blackness and transness and how surprisingly similar I am starting to find the two experiences and the so called identities they have manifested within me.  I am hoping to have enough mojo to blog my thoughts on this later this week. 

Let's see.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011


  • Received a $10K promotion at my job that enabled me to do some badly needed saving and buying for my family.

  • Quit my job for another that pays slightly more than the one I just left, allowing me to do more badly needing saving and buying for my family.

  • Managed to work thru and completely extinguish (i hope!) 3 triggers that had been dogging me.  (a) I am no longer freaked out when I see people running across the street. (b) I can finally sleep thru the night with the windows slightly open. (c) I can wear skirts and dresses again without feeling like I'm about to be molested. 

  • My chronic pain levels are being much better managed by a simple change in wardrobe--the aforementioned skirts and dresses.

  • The husband-unit bought us a car -- which has cut down on transportation costs for ME tremendously, even as it has increased his own expenses enormously. 

  • Did I mention the extra money and savings??? For meeee?


  • My sex drive has plummeted from nearly nonexistent to negative -0.   Honestly with all the upheaval this year, both positive and negative, I feel out of control, I feel constantly vulnerable, I feel like I'm 5 years old ALL THE TIME and so anything beyond cheek kissing and hand holding makes my body scream "What are you doing??  What is that???  Stop it I'm telling!"

  • My somehow even lower sex drive has begun to affect the husband-unit's self esteem now. And yet I am powerless to change my own response.

  • The stress of this years upheavals made it easier for me to gain yet another 20 lbs.  Which seems to go in equal parts to my boobs, butt and gut.  Mind you I have nothing against LOOKING fat, I find that I much more comfortable with my looks when I am thick rather than thin, but the physical discomfort of BEING fat is really starting to wear me down.  For reals, I'd like to make it to work the kitchen without getting winded.

  • My continued loathing of being around people when I'm not working discourages me from meaningful exercise.  Even something as simple as taking a walk around the block is a turn off when I think of having to look at another person I don't have to or worse, having them see me.  Plus my usual paranoia that I'm too fat and slow to run or fight now if somebody tries anything. 

  • I am slowly getting the idea that, in spite of the obviously large number of gay people who work there,  the homophobic/heterosexist culture at my new job is not changeable given the harsh restrictions on employee time and ability to socialize beyond our immediate cubicle neighbors.  The transphobic/cissexist culture, you can't even fathom, but let's just say, there isn't so much even a speculation that trans people exist.  Which is great for stealth, but really bad for providing any meaningful services for the trans people we encounter as part of our jobs. 


  • My hair in the morning. 

Seriously. You can't begin to imagine.  While I have no desire to return to relaxers and long laborious hours each morning trying to get my 'do right, there is clearly alot more i SHOULD be doing to take care of what I've got. 

You think I'm kidding?  One night I gave my face RUGBURN from sleeping on my own hair!! 

Fortunately this sort of thing is fixable.  And in 2012 I've vowed to do exactly that.

Goodbye 2011!  You were a kind benefactor and a worthy foe!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To be out or not to be out- not even a question!

So I just completed the 4th week of my new employment with my new employer and I must say, I am astounded by new discoveries I've made about myself in such a short time.   For example, did you know I was socially inept?? Like a huge honking bore?? I had no idea!  In my life I've spent at least a solid decade schmoozing and seducing persons for a living, most of the time for my own survival.  I had thought myself very charming!  But somehow I failed to notice that the Alias Jane Laplain who is no longer terrified of losing cis male approval or the sympathies of whitefolk, has no idea how else to talk to people!!

The last few years of introspection and careful examination of all my -isms, traumas, and triggers has brought about lifesaving changes for me.  Whereas I existed in a perpetual mode of survival and self-protection, I can say without reservation I am actually growing as a person now. 

And yes, it scares the shit out of me.

To wit: my new employer is Huge with a capital H.  As in thousands of employees huge and 100's of locations thru out the country.  My particular campus features many (perhaps mostly?) black women in positions of authority. 

Now I've been a black woman all on my own for quite a while. In the circles I've travelled, I'd gotten used to being the only one, or one of the few in the room.   I'd gotten used to having to suppress a large amount of my own cultural self expression in order to "fit in" with my (usually white) peers.  However, my only prior personal experiences with being around this many black women was in college, back when I was openly and 'infamously' transitioning to female to nearly everyone's horror and LOUDLY expressed disapproval.  And then years later, while escorting in Houston, I began to hang out with a number of other escorts and other sex workers, most of us black most of them cis, and as sympatico as we felt with each other, none of us could really risk acting like our actual selves for too long, for fear of alienating our key client base (ie. rich white guys).

All of this is a long way of saying I've never had a job where I could be openly black before!!  Where my cultural blackness and womanhood were a common ground with my peers!!

Add to this that I spotted at least two other trans women (one of them also black!).   I know we are working stealth tho, and I know they know about me because we've all eyeballed each other in that "yes, I know, me too" way that only trans people who are living/working stealth would know.   It happens in a glance.  But oddly enough,   there wasn't the usual anxiety of"please please please stay away from me lest you out me" vibe that usually accompanies the glance.  Just a mutual understanding that "yes, this is a safer space for us in particular, and we intend to keep it that way."

Of course I could be delusional and making up all sorts of shared experiences in my mind.  But I don't think so.  What I do think is that this job is going to be a huge growth experience for me and there will be growing pains to accompany them.  I still feel  awkward hanging around a bunch of people, especially cis people, trying not to be too obviously different and yet not completely suppressing my actual personality for their benefit.  

Scratch that, I am learning that I have no idea what my actual personality is like in public terms (as opposed to the carefully constructed masks I usually wear to get along); I am struggling to express myself in ways that are authentic while still preserving my privacy around being trans.

I hadn't intended to write a post about this but I tried to explain all of this to an old friend of mine, a militant activist type who is openly queer (but NOT trans). He doesn't really understand why anybody LGBT would want to work in a place where they could't be openly LGBT.

There are many people like my friend and I certainly share alot of his concerns. But there are too many   who say that every queer person should be out to everyone as a living example of the queers who live amongst the normals, and if you aren't out then you are a coward, a selfish co-conspirator with an oppressive state yadda yadda...  Or maybe they say nothing so extreme but deep down you can tell they pity all us poor closeted fools....

These folks tend to fall under a few types.

1. The Professional Queer:  one of the shockingly few queer persons in the world who have been able to make a living directly from their queerness.  They do lots of public speaking, get paid to show up and talk about being L, or G or T (I've honestly never seen a professional B before!  Suggestions?). Perhaps they write a column or a famous blog, sold a few books about being LGBT.  Not every professional queer believes in being 100% out  and not every professional queer  is militant (in fact most professional queers are pretty pro status quo, for the most part, hrmmm)  but the ones who DO insist It Gets Better are usually fairly high profile, culturally white middle class,  having long ago lost touch (if they ever had it to begin with) with what people who are not all these things actually go thru everyday.

2. The Hypocrite:  The person who thinks that because they are so vocal about the importance of being out in their blog or in their support group or their social circle that it gives them the right to badmouth people who aren't out for any reasons other than they live in a small conservative town where they would be lynched on sight (the only "acceptable" reason to be closeted about one's queerness, natch).  They even show their real pictures online!! See how out they are??  Meanwhile they aren't all that out themselves  at large beyond one or both of their parents and a few friends.  They "don't try to hide it" tho!  And that's what counts!

3. The Queer Theorist:  This is someone who has other re$ources and thus no real fear of  ever having to support  themselves financially as an openly non-cis person.   They are often partners of Professional Queers. These people usually possess a great deal of passing privilege (either passing for cis, and/or passing for straight) and aren't all that readable as queer to begin with.   However they are passionately involved in all movements queer except the ones that actually affect them most, and are constantly complaining about how invisible they feel and how they wish they didn't have to constantly out themselves to other queers in order to be seen.  You can almost hear them saying  "Don't you visible freaks know how LUCKY you are?  Don't you know how much I suffer seeing what you go thru??"

4. The Youthful Idealist:  the militant queer youth who thinks zie knows the right answer to ending all oppression already (and zie might even be right),  is soooooooo fed up with the "status quo" (and who could blame zir) and  is (rightfully) disgusted by the constant and unending suffering zie's already witnessed in zir short life. And yet zie hasn't yet had the life experience one needs to be able to empathize with others real life choices, especially not with persons with whom they disagree politically.  Zie hasn't yet seen the limits of what their own outrage can do for them or for anyone else.  But they will, honey.. they will. 

These of course are gross generalizations I've observed in my time, composites if you will of various character types.  And please don't think I stand in sneering judgment of them.  In fact I'm probably best considered a Hypocrite type myself. But trust me I have been nearly all of the types mentioned above at some point, and in combinations... I meant well, and I tried.. but I didn't know, I just didn't know.

I didn't know the price of being out as young and unprepared as I was, would mean years (YEARS) of  homelessness, abject unemployability, humiliating compromise for my own survival, and constant public harassment or fear of it.   I didn't know the choice limits, the legally sanctioned harassments, that would force me into circumstances where I'd be left wide open for horrors both physical and psychological from which I am still struggling to recover years (YEARS) later.  

Do I regret my life?  No.  Would I change anything if I could go back?  I don't know but probably, YES and a hell of alot.   I think alot about the course my life has taken over the last 20 years, and I always come back to this:   My peers at the time may or may have not learned deep life lessons from meeting their very first real life tranny.. but I DID NOT BENEFIT FROM BEING THEIR TEACHABLE MOMENT IN THE SLIGHTEST.

You got that?  I am saying I don't yet see what was in it for ME.  And what's in it for ME is a damn good question for anybody to ask themselves, ESPECIALLY for someone facing any oppression.

So I will never apologize for intending to directly benefit from my own existence. Sorreh!!

None of this is to say I will never be out again.  Or that I won't eventually at some point be outed and have to face those consequences.  It's not as if I am knocking myself out to hide being trans anymore.  But that's part of my social adjustment.. learning to not hide without being a hypocrite who thinks they aren't hiding even as they go out of their way, consciously or unconsciously, to appear to be someone who has nothing to hide.  (So far I'm still very much a Hypocrite.  *sigh*...)

 If it should turn out I had a real opportunity to become one of those Professional Queers I was talking about, I'd seriously consider it.  I have always thought I'd be able to help others with a higher profile life than I've led, I do wish to be able to speak openly about ALL the issues that concern my life eventually.  But then again the longer I live, the more enamored I become of living an unremarkable life that meant everything to me and nothing much to the world.   At any rate, I will never again live my life at the expense of my own ability to survive in an oppressive system I have no option of leaving.

So, where do I go from here?  I haven't a clue but I guess I'm about to find out and I get the feeling this new gig is starting me down that road.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Trans-on-Trans Relationships: Perks and Bennies Galore!

I think it's high time I posted something positive on this blog.  And I can't think of anything more positive going on in my life than my relationship with Mr. Laplain. 

A huge part of what makes me feel so satisfied in our relationship is the fact that we are both trans.  Funny how cissexism works; I honestly had never considered this kind of relationship for myself until I met him... I had scarcely even heard of such a thing, except in an "urban legend" sort of way... as in: "OMG wouldn't it be like so weeeeeeeeird/cool/strange if an MTF and FTM hooked up!  Like... that would be all kinds of reality tv LOL!"

I knew intellectually that this sort of union must have happened before, but in my personal experience trans women and trans men hung out on a strictly platonic basis... that is if  they were even speaking to each other at all.

So I came to the relationship with Mr. Laplain with alot of boneheaded transphobic ideas about trans men's bodies and lives at first (OMG what do you guys look like down there? I mean... does it work? Can i see it? etc...) .  He didn't seem to have nearly as many hang ups as I did, but I wasn't his first trans woman either.

But I got over my transphobic discomfort PDQ.  If nothing else in life I attempt to practice what I preach, and I am always preaching how obnoxious  it is for people to obsess over my trans-gendered body as if it is sooooo very different from Basic Human Physiology.   (No it's not thanks. It's not anything that couldn't happen to you if you were willing to take the appropriate hormonal and surgical regimen.  If you're really that curious.... get your own!!)

So after purging all the WOW ITS A REAL LIVE TRANNIE DUDE cooties of  internalized cissexism,  all that was left over was ....relief.  Relief that here was somebody who i didn't have to explain the whole trans thing to.  Somebody who would respect my physical boundaries and triggers without question, without having to explain or negotiate why I wasn't ready to go further without having to hear some obnoxious affirmation of how "nothing will make me think less of you as a woman" blah blah, as if that is the only reason I'm ever shy about anything.  

And he automatically knows not to do these things not because he knows so many trans people and learned from trial and error, not because he prefers the company of trans women because they are so much more xyz than real women, not because his sibling/cousin/bestfriend/parent used to be a __fill in the blank here__ so he feels especially sensitive to all things trans, but because he already understands being trans from the jump, thanks!! 

Meaning, he understands transness from his own personal experience rather than from his observing my life  and/or others' lives from some sympathetic but cis-privileged pedastal on high. 

For the first time in my life I felt like I could stand on equal footing with a man in a romantic relationship and not feel shame, self-consciousness, the crushing weight of my trans history as baggage.  I no longer felt the tug of anxiety that he would eventually get tired of the "whole trans thing" and leave.  (Well of course he can leave me, but he can't leave trans.  Oh what a concept!  To be vulnerable purely on the merits and faults of one's own personality, rather than on one's being a stigmatized freak!!!)

So over the last few years of our relationship here are some things I've observed from a trans on trans perspective.

Equal Footing : I can't emphasize the importance of this one enough.   Mr Laplain is white, I am black.  We both struggle with physical and neurological disabilities that at times seem to compete with each other's limitations in a spiteful way.  He grew up very poor, I grew up middle class and our arguments about money especially reflect that.  But all of these areas of experiential disconnect pale in comparison to our shared understanding of what it's like to grow up in this country as trans, what it's like navigating an openly and viciously cissexist society. 

We had both dated primarily cis partners beforehand (I had exclusively dated cis) and together we often  say how much easier it is to talk to each other about things, to just BE around each other, without feeling like we have to apologize for or otherwise explain ourselves around the whole trans aspect of our lives.  It is a remarkable relief.

For me, this is the first time I've ever felt I was in a relationship where I was not at a significant social and legal disadvantage to my partner. 

Meeting Each Other's Family:  The idea of having to tell or if to tell or how to tell my partner's family and close friends was always a huge obstacle for me in relationships.  There seemed to be no way to "protect" my partner and thus not expose him to potential ridicule, ostracism, rejection... all those lovely things that go hand in hand with being trans or being near somebody who is.   There is no OMG would his parents freak if they knew about me?  There is no The folks at his job can never find out!!  There is no worry that he'll be forced to choose between his best friends and me once they know the truth... the horrible horrible truth.

The funny thing is, we haven't evem officially told each other's families about each other's being trans yet!!   Specifically because the dire implications aren't a factor in this relationship, we've been able to approach it on a "needs to know" basis.  And so far, very few people have needed to know.   It's amazing to have this level of mutual respect for privacy as well as for openness in regards to being trans.

For me, I know my mother will know immediately upon meeting Mr. Laplain (she hasn't met him in person yet).  She has out of this world gaydar and T-dar, she claims from having worked in radiology for 30 years, whatever that means.  She is already suspicious of his voice ("he sounds like a short guy, Janie... how tall is he??")  But she is much too proper and ladylike to ask him outright.   One of these days when I finally take him back home with me, she will look him up and down, shake his hand politely and then discreetly summon me into another room to ask the question.  I'll say, yes of course he's trans, and she'll blush and stammer "oh, I see" and that will be the end of it.

I have no idea what his mother will say about me.  But considering she raised him as an ardent feminist and anti-racist PFLAG mom who demands respect for all people, I'm sure I can manage whatever well meaning stumbles may happen along the way.   After all she eventually accepted him as her son... Why not me as a daughter in law?

Dealing with Doctors/Hospitals/Administrators:  Having a partner who understands the documentary pitfalls of being trans, knows how to anticipate when to speak up about being trans and when to keep quiet about it, having that person on your team to serve as proactive backup for when some schmuck inevitably tries to out you on some form or to some department in a thoughtless way....  I can't tell you how much it helps.   Whenever things like this would happen in front of my cis friends or partners all I could feel is embarrassment, shame, exposure...  Even when my friends were 100000% sympathetic and ready to advocate for me whenever some asshat demanded to see proof of ID or a letter from my surgeon or shrink for something completely unrelated to my gender, I couldn't help but rather they weren't around to witness my humiliation .    But having Mr. Laplain on my side, and me on his... I know we're together in this.  I know he is fighting the system for his own protection every bit as much as mine, and vice versa.

Legal Marriage:  This is the freakiest thing of all.  We are eligible to be married under any circumstances, whether or not the laws of whatever state we live in respect our trans status.  I mean seriously, what could they say.  We were eligible from birth but not now?  On what basis could they legally object?  We would be very interested to see if they'd even try to stop us.

This one is especially close to my heart because my first marriage to a cis man was not legal.  The end of that relationship found me on the street and homeless with nothing but what I could carry, and no matter how often he had claimed me as his wife on his taxes, no matter how many places we were known as a married couple, no matter after six years of cohabitation, forcing me out of our home with nothing was perfectly legal when it suited him.  I had vowed never even to consider marrying anyone else ever again... why in the world would I ever enter into a situation where my partner had ALL the legal rights and I had none of them?

Of course I never considered marrying a trans man.

The reason Mr. Laplain and I  haven't  legally married however is tied to his disability. Right now he is the middle of switching from State Disability to Federal Disability.  Our getting married would not only have disrupted this long arduous process, it would likely have rendered him unable to receive medical coverage whatsoever, if  these agencies were allowed to consider my income.  He has, unfortunately, a very expensive and chronic illness that requires spendy medications and frequent visits with specialists and hospital stays.  There is no way I could afford to pay for his treatment AND support us both in a gainful way, even with the best insurance.  There is also the question of my own chronic medical needs and how I'd like one day to address them.  Not being married has been the only way for us to afford being together... ironically.

But the point is.. we could do it.  At any time.  And no state or federal law would  dare stop us!  (mind you this only applies because we were assigned as legal "opposites" from birth.. this isn't an advantage of us both being trans so much as taking advantage of a cissexist loophole).

I'm sure theres alot more here and I may come back later and fill in more.  It was important for me to at least get this out there in print. It's something I've been saying offline for quite some time, and certainly something I've yet to see online.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Born As" is Cissexist BS, Rant 2

If you missed my first Rant please click here

Rant 2:  Legal Names and Former Legal Names.

Just a bit of background before I begin.   Ive been looking for new employment ever since a few weeks after getting a huge promotion at my old job; I had realized that I had been promoted under sketchy circumstances.  As the months wore on I became more and more convinced that my working relationship with my boss was toxic, abusive, and flat out unbearable.

In August  I gave 4 weeks notice on a wing and a prayer. The gamble paid off as  I was only recently offered a position with another company I had applied  with much earlier in the summer.   This new job begins next week.

(An aside, this is why I've been so long in posting.  My energies have been nearly completely consumed in securing gainful new employment!)

Part of the "final preparations" for coming on board with the new company includes a background check.  Specifically, this check require new hires to list any and all former legal names we were ever known by.

This is almost ALWAYS a risky proposition for all us post-transition trans women.  It is particularly vexing for those of us who are DECADES post transition.  At one point does one finally get to STOP answering to the identity our well-meaning but totally ill-informed parents chose for us at birth?

The individual risk of real consequence to me here is minimal.  I live in Seattle, a city which explicitly protects gender identity in EEOC laws.  I've already been offered the position and if it were suddenly rescinded my new employers would have to prove to me they did so for reasons other than my legally changed gender status.  No employer, large or small, wants to incur the legal costs of defending themselves against EEOC violations if they can avoid it, not even in employment-at-will states such as Washington.

This new employer is HUGE... mind you.  So huge that the HR department conducting this check is nowhere near the actual location where I will be working.  The chances of "overlap" between persons who will learn my full legal history into my office is minimal and this is a small comfort.

That said, that's not the frigging point!! I just don't understand why I must be continuously associated with, and consequently OUTED by, a name I haven't used legally for nearly 15 years now? At one point does it finally end.

In spite of all the indicators that this won't amount to much in the longrun, I still feel I need to be ready to play the same games I had to play back when I was teenager growing up in the early 90's.  The "Oh I'm sorry did you think I was a boy? How weird of you!"  Game.   
I had to play this game alot in situations where my legal name preceded me or was unavoidable.  For instance at the DMV.   Saddled then with my father's name, an obviously masculine name with the definitely masculine Jr attached.... I had been forced to accept a Male designation on my first license.  Even getting the license in the first place was a study in institutionalized homophobia and transphobia.  But that's another story. A couple of years later and fully in transition, I had worked up the courage to try and change that M to an F, even if I had to keep that awful Jr. name.
One day I walked right up to the doddery old white man working the DMV branch and the farthest end of town where nobody would ever know me I could find and I gave an oscar worthy performance for all its subtlety and nonchalance: 

"Excuse me, Sir... I need to fix something on my license.  I realize I was named after my Dad and all, but..."  pointing to the Sex: M on my license, my eyes batting for all they were worth.

I was so RELIEVED that he didn't miss a beat.  " OH nooooo.  I'm so sorry about that Young Lady... I can imagine how that happened tho.  Junior, eh?"

"Yep... They reeeeeally wanted a boy! LOL  I think it took them a few years to finally give up on that one..."

"You poor thing.  Not a big deal, darlin', mistakes happen."

"Oh good. I brought my birth certificate with me just in case."  I really had. And I was bluffing my ass off since it listed me as Male in all fucking caps, not exactly persuasive evidence.

"That won't be necessary, hon, I can see you really are a girl."
And that was that!  I had broken State Law perhaps,  but in doing so I had made my life ALOT easier.

But Oh that fucking NAME still worked to undo every scrap of progress I made.

Keep in mind even at this time my so-called "passability" was far from a given.  My youth, feminine voice, and lack of significant facial hair made it so I passed most of the time, but by no means 100 percent of the time.   It appears I just happened to find and "fool" (gawd how I hate that phrase) the right person in that DMV on that particular day.  Any other day it was pretty much hit and miss; it was another few years before people completely stopped staring and pointing and wondering at me in public. Until this point I was constantly braced for the possibility of confrontation, especially when mention of my birth name was unavoidable.

I wasn't able to change my name legally for years after this point, but I began to build an official gender history of "F" from that point on.  About half the time I could get away with saying "I was named after my dad, long story" as if there were nothing more to the story.  But eventually the seeds of doubt were planted and would begin to flower... leading to my inevitable being outed.

This means that in dealing with potential employers, bank workers, loan officers who might otherwise have taken me for just another female were it not for the huge fucking hint my former legal name gave them up front I was (and sometimes still am) constantly dancing around "the question."  

An example:  Getting my very first bank account was an unnecessary ordeal what with the bank teller calling me Sir the entire time.  He did this clearly out of spite because up until the point I had to show him my ID he had been extremely courteous and even flirtatious.   While filling out the necessary forms at his desk, he flat out refused to consider my using anything except my FULL legal name on all fields, including the cursed Jr. title.... as if to spite me.  

"I'm sorry SIR, but we are legally obligated to go by what's on your driver's license. I'm sure you understand..." the sneer in his voice was almost visible.

Then when filling out the Sex in his ID I was finally able to call his bluff.  "If you insist, SIR, on going faithfully by what's on  my license then you will notice that there is an F in the Sex field.  Please change it.  NOW."

The look on his face was of outrage and total surprise, as if I had just pulled some master chess move he couldn't counter.  He VERY bitchily complied at this point and typed F into the field.  But you could see the wheels turning in his head the whole time, trying desperately to figure out how to challenge this, how to expose me to the world.  ALL FOR DARING TO OPEN A CHECKING ACCOUNT!

Keep also in mind this exchange happened in full view of all patrons of the bank, who appeared to be very amused by the show.

Keep also in mind that because of my legal name, even after I finally legally changed it, I was all but unemployable in my home state thanks to the almighty background check.  It wasn't until I was 30 fucking years old, when I first moved to Seattle, that I was able to find and KEEP my first real life day job.   In an actual office. With *gasp* normal everyday people for an actual living wage!!  I had triple majored in college, graduated with two separate BA degrees, and dropped out of my Master's program a few credits shy of completion.  I was more than qualified to work, is my point.  But the hostility I found in the job market was overwhelming....  the gender incongruity of my former legal name being a HUGE factor in attracting said hositlity.

So yeah... I have a HUGE effing problem with being forced to list my former name under any circumstance. It has never served me except as an obstacle.  I mean why bother changing it legally when its always going to show up as an alias anyway?   While I am very grateful that Seattle happens not to care one way or another.. I am very angry that I feel confined to living and working here.  

Dont' get me wrong I love Seattle, it's home, I don't wish to leave it.  But I shouldn't feel I have little choice in the matter just because I prefer to keep my past in the past while the world and it's institutions demand I remain accountable to legal and social decisions made for me, about me,  but never BY me. 

How is this acceptable in a free country I ask thee?