Will You Still Love Me

So a few months ago I made all my posts private and essentially shuttered this blog. I was worried about the possibility of being “doxxed” as an anti-fascist, or as trans woman, or whatever. I realized my blog was this sprawling ramble of my life for a good two years, and it made me feel vulnerable and open, so I closed it up. Having spent the last twenty minutes resetting everything from “private” to “public,” I can say with authority that it still makes me feel vulnerable and open, but I’m not really that worried about it anymore, I guess.

Things have been weird. I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life or what’s going on. I feel like I’m just kind of reacting to stuff and being pushed onward by the currents of life. E thinks I am regressing, and having spent Tuesday night at a Denver punk show which culminated with me getting stoned in a parking lot with friends I can’t exactly say that she is wrong.

By outward appearances I have nothing to complain about, really. I’m still teaching, and I actually got Teacher of the Year last year. I’m still doing activist stuff. I’m still writing for the paper. I’ve become a pretty decent amateur stand-up comedienne and I am slowly getting back into making and performing music. My kids are doing well and my interpersonal relationships are all pretty stable.

I’m the Evel Knievel of high-functioning mental illness. I was seeing a therapist for the better part of a year, but I quit. Or she fired me. She pointed out that I wasn’t actually making any progress on anything so I took it as a personal attack and just quit going. Her reasoning was that I wasn’t ready to actually deal with my issues. So I guess I’m trying to make myself “ready” or whatever.

So I guess I’m trying to see how far I can go with my bullshit. Things are just kind of this ridiculous spirally race to the bottom. To what ridiculous limits can I push myself and everyone else in my life before I am ready to make changes?

We’ll find out.

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Will You Still Love Me

When the World Bears Down on Me

This morning I took part in the #iresistbecause project. It’s a feminist art project put together by Camille Loftin, a photographer, yoga instructor, and all around cool person. You can check out her work on instagram at “@iresistbecause”. The idea behind the project is pretty simple. Camille has done one I resist photo shoot in Los Angeles, and it basically consists of women holding cardboard signs that finish the sentence “I resist because,” on the steps of their respective city halls. Naked. Today E and I, and a bunch of other Colorado Springs women, stood on the steps of city hall semi-naked with signs. It was fun and empowering and nerve-wracking. I’ve been stressing about it all week, and I can’t believe I actually did it.

My sign said “Trans women are women.” I wanted to do something trans-specific, and feminist twitter has been in an uproar this week over comments by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Here is a good response to her claims. Here is another one. I’m not going to wade into her claims. I like Adichie. Her book Americanah is on my list of ones to get around to. She is a much needed voice in feminist discourse. Her ideas on trans women are disappointing, but that’s kind of how it goes when you’re trans. You’re always ready for the cis people in your life to disappoint you, and they usually do. I hope Adichie comes around.

Her comments come as the fear-mongering around trans people, at home and abroad, is reaching a fever pitch. The anti-trans sentiment takes a heavy toll. The hatred and antipathy is palpable. Newspapers and media outlets are giving space to “feminists” defending Adichie and further demonizing trans women. I wrote an article for the paper here about how stupid bathroom bills are, but the bills continue to be introduced across the country.  So far this year, and it is only March, 7 trans women of color have been murdered. Protections for trans students have been rescinded. The backlash against the “trans tipping point” is in full effect, and it is more important than ever for cis allies to stand up for trans women.

I’m incredibly lucky. I’m white, I’m passable, I’m middle-class, I have a supportive partner and community and things aren’t that bad for me. I honestly don’t face that much hardship in my daily life, but it’s impossible for me to ignore those who do. Having a “successful” transition, whatever that might mean, is a complicated, difficult process. As a trans woman who transitioned at the age of 30, I had a lot of lost time to make up. I had to learn a whole new set of social skills and I had to learn how to navigate an entirely new set of social cues. It is daunting and rife with embarrassing, awkward missteps as you deal with the learning curve. I was lucky in that I had a lot of other women take me under their wings and show me the ropes. I was lucky in that I’m a pretty quick learner and I was able to pick things up, assimilate, and find acceptance. Trans women who don’t have those kinds of social circles, who are not as socially adept, or who may be neurodivergent, disabled, or simply unable to pass have a much, much harder time of things.

Trans support groups are often a safe space for trans women who can’t quite assimilate into cis society. I went to a local group a few times early in my transition, but I didn’t have a lot in common with the women there, largely because of the age difference (they were generally much older than me), and because of my own internalized transphobia. I didn’t want to be associated with the “weird” trans women, I wanted to be one of the good ones (yes, I am a terrible, shallow, self-centered piece of shit). One of the women there was around my age. She had been in the Navy, so we had military service in common, and she was a writer. She self-published stuff on amazon, which I thought was cool. She had a cool goth style going on, and frequented the Zodiac, a cool, LGBT-friendly, punk/goth bar in town. She didn’t have a job and was living with her mom, but was happy to be finally transitioning and coming into her own. At the time I hoped I could be as comfortable in my decision to transition as she was. I was still presenting as male at work, and went to the support group in skinny jeans and a band T-shirt. Boy-mode lite. I never went back to the support group, but I helped the group out during Pride events and trans-specific stuff like Trans Day of Remembrance.

A month ago the facilitator of the support group posted on the facebook page that the goth girl had been missing and her family was worried about her. Apparently she had decided to detransition and was presenting as male. Last week they pulled her body out of a lake. I don’t know why she did it, but I imagine the persistent cultural narrative that trans women are failed men, moral deviants, sexual predators, and general weirdos, probably didn’t help.

 

 

 

When the World Bears Down on Me

There’s nothing to Fear Here

 

[Trigger Warning: some Eating Disorder stuff]

I am seeing a therapist again. I have been super depressed and I’ve been having panic attacks and a lot of anxiety. E made me go see someone.

I hate therapy. I hate mental health professionals. I hate talking about my stupid feelings. I hate being vulnerable and emotional and all that stuff. It’s really uncomfortable, and it’s kind of a blow to the ego. Like, I’ve spent all my life viewing myself as this cool, quirky, kind of eccentric heroine of the grand romance that is my life, but after a 1-hour session with my therapist I learn that really I just have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, and issues with Codependency. Also I have low self-esteem. And a case of burnout.

I’m seeing a different therapist than the one I spoke to for all my gender troubles. This one deals with people who have had past or childhood trauma. I’ve written briefly here about my parents and my family. I was in the Army for 8 years, 3 of those years in Iraq. I almost died in a motorcycle accident. I’ve done a bunch of weird, fucked up stuff in my 32 years of existence. I’ve never really considered it particularly traumatic. My family was screwed up and abnormal, but it wasn’t that bad. I was never beaten or raped or anything. I was in the Army, but again, it wasn’t that bad, compared to what other people in Iraq went through, and to what people who went to Afghanistan experienced. It was just a bunch of stuff that happened and I didn’t die and now it’s over and I don’t have to worry about it any more. Right?

Well, no. The “it’s not that bad” response is apparently a common response from trauma survivors. It’s called minimization. So apparently the first 26 years of my life were kind of traumatic, and I never really learned to cope with that trauma in any sort of healthy way.  That isn’t really news to me. I spent much of my 20s blackout drunk. I still smoke a lot of pot. I am bad at coping with things. Fair enough.

But aside from being bad at coping with things, I wasn’t super sure about the other diagnoses. I had been thinking about all this stuff since my appointment last Friday, trying to make sense of it. Yesterday in class I was moving the projector, which I keep on a desk so moving it around the room involves lifting the whole thing and awkwardly shuffling it to the other side of the room where it rests when not in use, and one of my students asked why I didn’t just ask him to move it.

Well.

I was socialized male. Growing up everyone thought I was a boy. My dad made sure I learned all those boy things. Men do things for themselves. Asking for help in any context is a sign of weakness. Men have to be self sufficient. Their successes or failures are entirely their own responsibility. Deflecting responsibility is a sign of weakness. Whenever anything goes wrong it’s your fault and you need to own it. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Suck it up and drive on. What are you, a girl?

Yes, but of course I can’t say that. So I join the Army, and for 8 years it is just more of my dad, but on steroids. Also I am really bad at the Army, and failure at things is clearly indicative of some kind of personal moral failing. I equate being bad at things to being bad intrinsically as a person. Hence the self-esteem issues.

One of my terrible coping mechanisms for dealing with things, including my self-esteem issues, is to just stay really busy. For example: I’m a full-time teacher, and I sponsor the GSTA and the Glee Club, also I volunteered to do Saturday school, which is every other Saturday from 8-11. Also I volunteer for whatever random things come up (back to school night, 8th grade night, etc. etc.). I play bass in a band. I also started volunteering for the LGBT youth group here in town. Also I’m going to grad school. Also I’m working as a freelance writer for the local paper. Sometimes I do stand-up for random events. Apparently because of my low-self esteem I seek a lot of external validation, and looking at it now in paragraph form, I guess it is *a little* excessive.

I realized all of this kind of at once, and it was kind of an epiphany, I guess. It also gave me a low-key panic attack in the middle of the work day, so that wasn’t great.

I wasn’t sure about the therapist’s claims about codependency, either. I found this weird web series called “Binge,” which is about bulimia. It’s pretty fucked up, but it’s also pretty funny in that dark, sad way. It’s heavy on realism. It’s also, obviously, seriously triggering for anyone with food/eating issues, so if that happens to be you don’t watch the video I’m linking:

This episode is kind of a textbook example of codependent relationships, and of how people get stuck maladaptive cycles. In the above episode, this woman and her boyfriend are in a relationship with this weird savior/victim dynamic. He tries to help her with her eating disorder but fails, of course. She accuses him of having a “sad girl fetish.”

I realized that this is the same dynamic I’ve had in my last two serious relationships. When I was trying to be a dude I totally had a sad girl fetish. My high school girlfriend had an eating disorder. My first wife had issues with depression and bi-polar disorder. I wanted to help, and tried to help in that kind of shallow, superficial way that dudes try to be helpful, and when I failed (and failing at things means I’m failing as a person) I bailed. I didn’t end the relationship, of course, because that would have been mature and responsible and healthy, but I bailed emotionally. I checked out (oh yeah, apparently dissociating is also one of my unhealthy coping mechanisms), and then I bailed physically (joining the Army, getting deployed, etc.), but again without ending the relationship like an adult, so when they inevitably broke up with me, I got to play the victim and be the injured party.

I am the worst.

I mean obviously things are more complicated than that, and I was young and stupid, and obviously I have a lot of my own issues and should probably be easier on myself, but… fuck, dude.

E was the first person I’ve ever been with who actually had their shit together. She was an actual grown-up, and I didn’t have to be the savior, which is good, because these days I am totally the fucked up one in the relationship.

Why doesn’t anyone tell you that trying to be a mentally and emotionally healthy human being is so much work?

 

There’s nothing to Fear Here

Every time I try to get out of the way

I should be working on a short story for my grad school class. It’s this post-apocalyptic speculative fiction thing about the last two trans women in the world. I want to address ideas about the generational divide between trans people and maternal desires and internalized transphobia and all that cool stuff. I hate creative writing classes. I hate work-shopping things I’ve written. I hate getting feedback. I hate have to write creative pieces on a deadline. I want to just drop the class and quit, but I can’t because grad school is the only way I can get paid more as a teacher, and my finances are the numerical equivalent of the Hindenburg explosion. I should also be grading the giant pile of student work I’ve had since before fall break. I am really bad about grading. I should have gone to yoga class this morning, or I should have gone running or something. There are a lot of productive things I should be doing right now.

Instead I’m binge-eating shitty pizza and writing a blog post. The story of my life.

I’ve been getting misgendered a lot lately. It is frustrating. It would be one thing if it were people I didn’t know or give a shit about, like the barista at Starbucks who calls me “sir” because my voice is all weird, or whatever, but it’s not. It’s friends and family and people who I’ve been out to for over a fucking year now. It’s not bigots or religious folks or angry radical feminists, but friends and allies, which sucks.

I don’t think people who don’t experience it (cis people) realize exactly how much it sucks to be misgendered. Maybe I’m just more sensitive about it because I am an English teacher and I’ve spent most of my academic and professional life geeking out over linguistic functions. Pronouns replace nouns, right? They serve as a kind of linguistic stand-in for things. When those things are proper nouns – persons, places, or things – the pronouns become that much more important. Like a Freudian slip, the use of pronouns says a lot about how the person using them views their subject. When people want to dehumanize their subject, like Ralph in Lord of the Flies or perhaps more topically Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, they use “it.” It’s a psychological device used to distance a person in power from a subject to whom they are about to do horrible things to. I tell my students whenever a character refers to another character with the pronoun “it” something bad is going to happen to that character.

In much the same way that the use of “it” shows how people dehumanize others, the use of gender specific pronouns reveal how people see their particular subject. So when people refer to me using “he,” “him,” or “his” it reveals, irrefutably in that minor slip-up, that they don’t really view me as a woman, that they’ve just been playing nice this whole fucking time but in their heart of hearts and behind closed doors and wherever else they just see me as a dude. This weird, pretty, feminized dude, maybe, but a dude nonetheless. Even though I pass through all these women’s spaces and move in all these female circles, I’m still the other. I’m not really a part of anything, I’m just a tolerated interloper. I’m like the embedded journalist who gets to share a few moments of action with the soldiers but never really experiences what it truly means to a part of the unit.

So it goes.

Kate Bornstein, the author of Gender Outlaw, has made the comment that “I don’t call myself a woman, and I know I’m not a man” and has kind of embraced this idea identifying in this kind of third gender space. I’ve never really felt comfortable with that idea, personally. I don’t mean that in a way that erases non-binary identities or anything, it’s just not an idea that I felt comfortable applying to myself. I’ve always seen myself as a woman. A tall, fat, awkward, weird-looking woman, but a woman. I’ve finally reached a place in my life where I felt comfortable acknowledging that, and I’ve made a lot of changes to try to make other people see that. Obvious physical changes, aesthetic changes, and mental/emotional changes. I feel like I’ve spent the last two years doing a lot of work on myself. I spent most of my life trying to fit into this category that everyone felt I belonged in, and I became this weird person that I hated, and felt trapped in this stupid role that I had assumed. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into reversing and undoing that, into making amends and trying to fix things and to finally be myself, so it’s really frustrating when I get misgendered. It throws all of those efforts out the window. It says “Nope.” to everything I’ve tried to do with my life since I started transitioning. It is shitty and terrible and makes me question everything I’ve done with my life so far.

So what do I do about it? With strangers and randos it’s easy to say “Actually it’s ‘she.'” But how can I unpack all this shit in casual conversation when my cis friends misgender me? How can I do it in a way that doesn’t make me seem like some unhinged, over-sensitive, crazy trans person? Can I?

Would it just be easier to cut ties with everyone who knew me pre-transition? Would it be better to try to build a social network of people who have only known me as the real me and leave all the people who tolerate me as Heidi but still think of me as a dude behind?

I’m doing this project before winter break with my students using literary criticism, and I had them listen to this podcast which analyzed the character of Magneto, from X-Men. Not to sound like some kind of radical queer separatist, but sometimes I think maybe Magneto was right.

Every time I try to get out of the way

Laura Jane Grace’s book

I borrowed a copy of Laura Jane Grace’s book from the guitarist in my band, Scar Talk. She’s a long time Against Me! fan, and a big fan of Laura’s. I was pretty ambivalent about the title, but I figured I should give it a chance. I’m not a big fan of slurs, and I find the idea of “reclaiming” words kind of silly. I mean, I get it. I also get that Laura is coming from this kind of punk rock place, and shock value can be important. However, the timing is pretty shitty. Trump’s election and subsequent cabinet picks are proving to be the most anti-LGBTQ group of people I’ve seen collected together in public office in my lifetime, and seeing “Tranny” bandied about throughout my various social media feeds isn’t my favorite thing right now.

Also, the last thing the world needs right now is another trans memoir (she types in her personal blog, unironically). If you’re a trans person and you happen to be writerly-inclined, please avoid the memoir. Write a novel. A play. Some shitty poems, a series of investigative creative non-fiction pieces, just leave memoir alone. Please. I think we’re all tempted at some point by the memoir. It appeals to our sense of hubris. As trans people, our lives are fucking weird, and wouldn’t that make a great story? I’m sure it makes a great story for cis people. It’s a kind of voyeuristic thrill for them, maybe? I suppose maybe memoirs are a good tool for closeted trans people, as well. I’ve certainly spent a lot of time reading transition narratives, and watching youtube videos, and all sorts of other things, but at the end of the day it’s all kind of the same thing. Laura’s novel doesn’t really tread any new ground that I am Cait or I am Jazz or She’s Not There or Gender Outlaw or whatever hasn’t already trod. As a trans person it was affirming to read about Grace’s struggles in that I experienced a lot of what she was writing about, and I could relate to it, but there is no real epiphany there, no analysis or explication of trans experience, just: yep, she’s trans. Like me, and maybe you, and the millions (and there are millions of us) of other trans people out there, and all the trans people who have come before and all of us who will come after. If you’re reading Laura’s book for trans stuff, it might be better to look elsewhere.

Luckily, her book is really more a rock n’ roll memoir than a trans memoir, and I found all the punk scene and music industry stuff way more interesting and engaging than the trans stuff. I’ve been listening to Against Me! since I was in high school, so I found all the behind-the-scenes stories really interesting. It also reveals a side of Laura that maybe I could have done without knowing. She’s not very nice some of the former members of the band, particularly their drummer Warren. I’ve been in a lot of bands. I’ve worked with a lot of people I wasn’t thrilled about, and have had a lot of strong feelings about the art I’ve made with others and their part in it, but I would never publicly put them on blast like that. It just seemed kind of petty. She also comes off as kind of self-absorbed and narcissistic, but 1) it is a memoir, so that’s kind of to be expected, and 2) maybe that is sort of a trans thing?

I’m certainly not trying to make a blanket claim about trans people, but I saw a lot of myself in Laura’s book, and it wasn’t just the cool trans punk stuff. Being trans sucks, and, especially if you stay closeted for a long time, you spend a lot of time thinking about yourself. After you come out you spend a lot of time thinking about how people perceive you. It’s easy to spend a lot of time self-analyzing, self-criticizing, and overthinking everything. It’s easy to become very self-absorbed. You go through this massive social, personal upheaval, and you have to overcome so much stuff. It’s easy to forget that you’re not the only one in the universe dealing with adversity. That comes across a lot in Laura’s book. She’s this anxious, neurotic, messy person. I am too. I imagine a lot of the trans people I know can probably to relate to that as well.

I’m working on it. I’m trying to become more confident. I’m trying to feel good about myself, but it’s hard. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not planning on writing a memoir any time soon, right?

It’s a good read for hardcore fans of Against Me! or the early 00’s punk scene. 3/5 stars.

Laura Jane Grace’s book

Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe

It’s been really hard to make myself write lately. Things are not good, but I doubt I’m the first person to point that out. I tried really hard to be optimistic after the election. It can’t be as bad as that. We have checks and balances. This is America.

We’re a week into the presidency and the list of bad things keeps growing. Repealing the affordable care act. Immigration policies and border walls. An expansion of private prisons to detain illegal immigrants. A ban on Muslim immigrants, and a complete denial of entry for refugees, signed ironically on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. A crackdown on reproductive rights at home and abroad. The muzzling of scientists within government agencies. Threats to send federal law enforcement to Chicago. Promises of voter suppression. The list goes on, and will continue to grow.

I feel scared and powerless. I’ve found some refuge and solace in the exercise of my First Amendment rights, while I’ve still got them. I wrote a column about it for the local paper. I went to the Women’s March, and despite the criticism of biology-based signage was impressed by the number of signs advocating intersectionality and the inclusion of trans women. E and I took the kids. It was nice, and there was a record turnout for a place like Colorado Springs.

I also went out this week to protest Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ event at my alma mater, UCCS. For those of you unaware, Milo is a pretty repugnant character. The kind of shallow, sophomoric troll Sartre tried to warn us about. I felt compelled to protest him for his attitudes towards trans people, but he’s perpetuated hate speech against cis women, people of color, and generally anyone who is in the right’s crosshairs.

His speech was sold out, and the primary goal of our protest was to try to shut him down. Following violence at UC Davis and the University of Washington, the University of Colorado ramped up security. Three people were arrested the night before in Boulder, and the event at UCCS was packed with cops and barricades. We weren’t able to get close enough to the building to affect a closure.


Our secondary goal was then to just be loud, vocal, and show the Milo attendees that his shit is not acceptable to the community. I think we were successful there. In addition to the 20+ anarchists, there were about 30 people from the Colorado Springs chapter of Standing Up for Racial Justice protesting as well. There were signs and chants and when we left the designated holding area and marched through the Milo attendee’s ranks they marched with us. It was pretty obvious we were outnumbered, but we were there. Hate isn’t going to go unanswered.


People often criticize the Anti-fascists for what they perceive as their attempts at shutting down free speech. I guess it comes down to what you define as free speech. Hate speech is not free speech. Advocating for the denial of rights to marginalized groups is not free speech. Doxxing and encouraging the harassment of trans people is hate speech. Presenting outdated, discredited “scientific evidence” from quacks like Paul McHugh and Ray Blanchard for the express rhetorical purpose of generating enmity against trans people is hate speech, and it needs to be fought tooth and nail. As long as I can I will fight it.

As a kid I grew up reading a lot of dystopian science fiction. I always wondered what I would do if I found myself in a terrifying authoritarian state. Unfortunately I am about to find out. Last week I received a warning from my principal about a lesson in which I was discussing arguments of analogy, and I pointed out that comparisons of Trump to Hitler were a kind of argument of analogy. I mentioned Godwin’s Law and how it generally is not an effective rhetorical strategy to use hyperbolic comparisons to Nazis, even though everything the current administration is doing is almost a complete copy of the Third Reich’s playbook. A parent complained, accusing me of spreading liberal propaganda. I got a warning letter for it.

I can see now why people in Germany didn’t speak up. However, I have the luxury of historicity, and I know the consequences of silent acquiescence to the authoritarian right. As a teacher, our district’s policy is to aim for objectivity, to present both sides of things. But that policy assumes both sides are morally equivalent. For all the criticism levelled at the left, the right is actively trying to destroy any kind of objective morality. How can you as an educator in good conscience present both sides when one side refuses to recognize the humanity and rights of marginalized people? In the context of the Milo/trans people debate, here are the two sides:

Left: Trans people exist and should be allowed to live free of discrimination.

Right: You are delusional and should be medicated or electrocuted until you stop being trans.

How do you present two sides of an issue when the president is literally taking the same actions against Muslims that Hitler took against the Jews?

Of course the answer is you can’t. You skip it. You talk about Wordsworth and daffodils and hope this whole thing blows over. You worry endlessly about the brown and queer kids you see in your classroom everyday and you go home and call yourself a coward for not fighting back harder and louder. You feel the humiliation of not doing your duty as a human being.

So I go to protests. I scream inclusive chants into the void and gaze across the police lines into the abyss, which also states into me. I started reading 1984 today, and I was struck by this passage and how much it reminded me of the angry white people who stood in line to hear Milo’s hate speech:


There will be more protests in the future, and if you feel the way I do, my advice is to get involved. Mask up and fight the Nazis, or you’ll have to explain to your grandchildren why you didn’t.

Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe

Hold on to what you got

To celebrate “Transgender Awareness Month” I let a student borrow a copy of Nevada. I don’t even have this student in any of my classes, but they’re a friend of one of my students. Apparently I’ve got the reputation as the cool teacher at my school, and, of course, as the trans teacher, so some of the kids seek me out. This student is one of the punks, so we talked about Against Me!, which of course everyone knows, and they mentioned some Denver punk bands with trans people in them(oh, btw, I am in a new band called Scartalk), so that was cool. They stopped by a few days later, and talked about G.L.O.S.S., which isn’t super unusual. G.L.O.S.S. has received a lot of press and hype, and they’re not completely unknown outside of trans-punk circles. The next day this kid stops by and talks about Alyssa Kai, who is a trans woman who played in the folk-punk group Ramshackle Glory, but who now does solo stuff and plays drums in rad trans-woman band Loone, and bass in Paper Bee. The Alyssa Kai reference was kind of an obscure one. Like, this kid has done a lot of looking into trans punk stuff. Maybe they’re just really into folk-punk, but they seem to be skewing pretty hard towards trans media, in a way that seemed kind of unusual for an ostensibly cis, male person.

I’m not entirely sure letting them borrow Nevada was the best judgement call. It’s got a lot of adult stuff. The novel starts off with a kinky sex scene, albeit completely desexualized due the trans protagonist’s dissociation and body issues. After the brief sex scene it gets into queer politics, feminism, and the mundane realities of existing as a trans woman, so it’s not like I’m being the creepy teacher suggestively giving a student a copy of Lolita. I’d like to think I’m like the understanding teacher giving a student a copy of Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. Hopefully that’s how it comes across. Also, there is a lot of drug stuff in there, too, but whatever. I read Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Palahniuk in high school, which featured Benzedrine, anuses, and plenty of other problematic stuff, so who knows? It’s tricky finding queer lit that can be deemed “socially acceptable,” but maybe that’s just because queer people in general still aren’t deemed “socially acceptable,” so whatever. It’s also hard to find queer lit that is worthwhile, that isn’t just some cliché love story with same sex protagonists. The only trans stuff I could find in high school was Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil and Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters (which totally fucked me up), neither of which were particularly insightful.

My assistant principal observed me giving a lesson where I compared Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 20” to The Smiths’ “William It Was Really Nothing,” so I guess it’s just been a banner week for corrupting the youth of Colorado. Socrates would be proud.

I think Nevada is such a great novel because it works on a lot of different levels. The first time I read it I was just blown away by the fact that there was a protagonist I could identify with. Trans! Punk! Yea! But each time I read it I find other stuff that is kind of pertinent to my life and transitioning and being a trans woman. Maria, the protagonist, is at a point in her life where she is kind of like, “I’m trans. I transitioned. Now what do I do with myself?” and I think in a lot of ways I am kind of at that point. Maria deals with this by making a series of irresponsible decisions involving the theft of her ex-girlfriend’s car and a sock full of heroin. She essentially runs away from all of her problems in New York, but does it in this way in which she rationalizes all of her bad decisions as a kind of “figuring out my shit,” which she does not. Instead, she finds a kid in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Nevada, who reminds her of herself as a depressed, trying-not-to-be-trans teenage boy, and attempts to share her wealth of trans-knowledge with this kid, and the results are not exactly what she expected.

Maybe that’s where I am. I haven’t updated this thing in a while. Life has been happening. School, work, family, all of the things. I’m settling in to my life now. I go to a weekly girl’s night with my cis friends. I play in a rad band with cool trans women. I go to yoga classes with yuppie moms. I am the cool English teacher in an urban, low-SES high school. I’m also personally kind of a wreck. My finances are horrific, and I am stressed about debt. I have a lot of anxiety about being a kind-of-passing-for-cis woman. I have a lot of anxiety about my body and all kinds of other things. I have this whole stupid past which, when I look back on it objectively, is full of all kinds of crazy trauma that I never really dealt with because of stoic masculinity or whatever. Also, lots of alcohol and drugs. I’m starting to realize that maybe transitioning didn’t fix all my problems. Maybe it just opened the door to a place where I can start working on those things, and that’s good. At least I’m at a place where I know that blowing town for a romantic road trip with a bunch of heroin is a bad idea.

Instead I give kids copies of Nevada.

 

Hold on to what you got