Failures in Empathy

I am feeling angry today and I don’t know what to do with my anger. First, I’ve struggled for years to empathize and relate to people in the Boomer generation. Both of my parents fit into this generation so it was always destined to be the one I would have the hardest time with, but seeing multiple neighbors and community members playing games with social distancing by forming what look like extended tailgates is setting me over the edge. We shut down our entire society in large part to protect this generation, and the “thanks” I am witnessing in return is an adolescent belief of invincibility. I cannot muster a lot of grace for someone who purposefully puts themselves in danger when they would seem to be at a place where they should have had enough life experience to know better.

To top it off, I took my dog to the park and finally found a large open space where we could walk without any chance (or so I thought) of running into another person. Right as we were making our way between reservoir areas, this absolute f*ckhead got out of his car and starting hitting golf balls in our direction of travel, effectively blocking off a vast area of land from us. The park was most definitely not a golf course. I had a lot of nasty thoughts go through my head because it seemed intentionally sadistic–“hey, here’s this person trying to enjoy a walk, let me ruin it!” He got in his car and drove away after I’d walked quite a distance across the parking lot in the other direction.

I am someone who wishes bad things on those who are intentionally cruel. I want them to suffer. On an intellectual level, I know that this is where grace is supposed to enter the picture, I’m supposed to think of the times I’ve been mean on purpose and therefore empathize with that sentiment. I can think of a few, but I generally try to lighten other people’s load in life, not to add to it. I make many mistakes and react with impatience, but I do not go out of my way to mess with someone trying to, for example, enjoy their day. I want justice for those who are victimized by the sadism of the powerful; I would go further and say I lust for it.

But, stepping back, I know my desires are too concrete and too rigid. They lack the nuance of awareness of the interwoven systems within our society. For example, idiotic leaders who tell their acolytes that social distancing is impinging on their “freedom” to get sick and die in service to America’s “economy” (aka the rich and powerful) are in part to blame for the poor decisions of some Boomers to treat the shelter-in-place as a joke. The idea that the thinly-veiled threat of violence cis white men can hold towards people like me who are queer (as well as those who are PoC, poor and so forth) is not limited to one human specimen who decided his “recreation” included obstructing my freedom of movement, but is embedded in the patriarchal, heterosexist white supremacy inherent in American society. I can acknowledge those truths intellectually, but I still wanted respond aggressively to the flaunting of privilege and ignorance I witnessed. Once I calm myself after episodes like this, it usually leads me to redouble my efforts at constructive change, but, if I’m being totally honest, I do truly savor the schadenfreude that results when the powerful get what’s coming to them.

Trans Day of Visibility: Pandemic Edition

Today is the first International Transgender Day of Visibility that I am open to most people in my life, and the first one after my legal name change. It saddens me to not be able to celebrate in person with others and to wear pride colors. I decided to combine being supportive of healthcare workers and TDoV together by participating in Hearts for Healthcare Workers and hanging handmade heart cutouts in my window, with subtle shades of blue and pink included.

I think of queer art as a way to self-identify and create representation that carries a deeper meaning for those within the community. This was one of the first ways that I’ve directly connected with that tradition. So, if you are trans, Happy TDov, and, for everyone, participate in the local actions that are taking place to show support for the healthcare workers that are risking their lives for us all right now!

Trans-Androgynous, Non-Binary and More

As it’s the end of the year and I’m engaging in a lot of internal processing, I decided to spend some time reflecting on my journey thus far being out as a trans and non-binary person. I will be discussing my current way of conceptualizing my gender. I will also talk about both social and physical dysphoria and how they affect me.

Self-Understanding

It has taken me some time to find language to describe my experience of gender and I still don’t feel that I’ve quite come to a perfect phrasing. I label myself as trans and non-binary. In terms of being trans, even though I am on T, I feel that trans-androgynous fits me better than trans-masculine. I want my gender and sex to be read as non-binary, not as a man or a women. Although I connect with both masculinity and femininity, my primary experience of gender is outside of that framing. I don’t yet have a complete ability to describe what I consider this to be, I just know that it exists.

Community

I have significantly more social dysphoria than I do body dysphoria. For me, this means that I am affected by being misgendered more than I am by looking the mirror. What makes cis-centric viewpoints especially painful is that most cis people in my life try explain away the pain I feel when I’m misgendered, rather than validate my perspective.

Because of my social dysphoria, I find non-binary affirming spaces to be places where I feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, the only ones I’ve been able to find thus far are online. Many people in the queer community still divide trans people into trans-femme and trans-masc perspectives only, leaving those of us who don’t fall into this fuzzier version of the binary with limited places into which we feel we fit.

Gender is a primary way humans sort themselves, so, in interactions with people who don’t understand my gender, I tend to feel a sense of invisible alienation. Most people will place me on the binary without my consent and then react with shock or surprise when I remind them I don’t belong there. I am hoping my continued advocacy and attending pride events and such will help me connect IRL with others who can relate to my experience.

Embodiment

I’m taking both low-dose T as well as combination birth control. This isn’t a recommended HRT plan, but is necessarily for me because of the medical conditions I have. I feel quite a bit of conflict internally about being on T, as I don’t particularly want hair changes. I have gotten some but they are not yet past a point where I feel totally uncomfortable.

Even though I have issues with some of the physical changes associated with T, I absolutely love how my body feels on it. My physical stamina has dramatically increased and my chronic pain has diminished. I am quite short but have always seen myself as a bulldog; T is affirming my sense of strength and allowing my natural abilities at being handy/mechanically-minded to come through more fully. Many people describe a narrowing of their emotional range on T; mine has actually grown and I’ve been able to cry in situations where I would not have before. My viewpoint on certain situations has shifted and I feel more certain of myself.

Conclusion

On the whole, I experience a bit of ambiguity about some of the physical changes I’m undergoing. I have a decidedly stronger reaction to the social issues that affect me as a trans and non-binary person. I feel excitement about continuing my journey of self-understanding and coming to a more complete understanding of myself in terms of my gender.

Accepting My Situation (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

For today’s simple pleasure, I decided to contemplate and post about ways in which I’m coming to accept both myself and others (in different ways) as I grow into who I am as a trans and non-binary person. This involves both how I perceive myself and how I make sense of others’ (inaccurate) perceptions of me. It is encompasses my role within the queer community.

In terms of my self-perception, I find myself toggling back and forth between wanting the physical changes that come with taking T to happen more quickly, and being terrified that something will occur (mostly hair loss) over which I’ll have regrets. Again and again, I have to come back to trying to find solace rather than fear in the unknown. The mental effects of T have been amazing and have led me to want to stay on it for as long as I can.

Misgenderings abound. Whenever I try to talk about being on T with cis people, I am asking if I want to “go all the way” or “pass.” I try to explain that, no matter what my body looks like, it is very unlikely that I will be correctly gendered because of other people’s ignorance or willful denial of non-binary people’s validity and existence. I have felt drained and angered at times by the non-stop misgendering I encounter every day.

Yesterday, however, I felt a slight gentleness come over me when someone mislabeled me as my pet’s “mother,” as I realized that, with strangers, I’m finding little utility in fighting to be seen for who I am. My response is acceptance not in a “it’s okay for this to happen, nbd” kind of way but rather in a “this person’s misconception doesn’t define me in any way” sort of response. Cis people often show a reliance on childhood understandings of gender and an inattention to cis privilege that is pitiful to me; some people and situations are not worth investing in to try to persuade or educate.

I think what I am coming to understand is that I do not have to fight the gender revolution alone and I do not need to see myself as the sole bearer of responsibility for creating a safer environment for any trans and non-binary people who may come after me. I can be who I am and allow my understanding of myself to continue to evolve, and I can be selective in terms of who I engage with on topics related to gender. Accepting the realities of my current experience allows me to do. What in your life are you working to accept? What would be different in your life if you were able to take in what is actually going on?

Adopting a Rock (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

A green malachite rock.
Source: JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

I’ve decided to acquire a malachite rock for today’s simple pleasure. When I researched the associated spiritual qualities of the rock, the first statement I found described it as a stone related to transformation, which fits very well with where I am at in my life currently. I am taking low-dose T in order to medically transition to better suit who I am as a non-binary person and am adjusting much of my social life as a result of coming out as trans, so change is occurring both gradually and all at once.

Malachite also engenders protection, specifically of the heart, which I feel an increased need for because of the impact that being mis-gendered has been having on me as of late. My physical appearance has shifted slightly and I think people read me as decidedly queer, even if they can’t make out specifically what my identity is, and are sometimes unpleasant as a result. Glares and stares are not something I’ve experienced most of my life from strangers. I’m working to learn how to reflect back or bounce off the negativity in the sense of not allowing someone else’s rejection of me to influence me, but rather to see it as a manifestation of the inner hatred they’ve allowed to fester. I ordered a malachite bracelet and am excited to see the effects that the stone has in my life.*

*Personally I do not believe objects such as crystals have any intrinsic powers, but rather I use them to symbolize inner characteristics that I want to manifest.

Listening to Someone Inspiring (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

In honor of both today’s simple pleasure and National Podcast Day, I decided to listen to Gender Reveal by Molly Woodstock. The most recent episode tackles questions such as whether non-binary people can also be trans (answer is yes!) and what it means to be queer. Their podcast has been so helpful to me as a trans-masculine non-binary person, and I love that they elevate the voices of queer and trans people in each episode. What are your most inspiring podcasts?

Donate to a Cause (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

The instructions from today’s Simple Pleasure’s card draw was to spending a small amount of money, which I decided to fulfill by donating to a fundraiser for a cause about which I am passionate. Research has shown that given to charity improves the well-being of the person who is spending (as compared to spending money on ourselves). I need to remember this lesson!

In terms of causes I care about, I have felt both horrified and disillusioned by the humanitarian crisis facing migrants to America as well as the continued violence against trans women of color. I found an organization that seeks to meet the needs of the queer community of migrants near the U.S./Mexico border and donated to them. I hope you will consider doing the same and/or giving back in whichever ways you are able.

Today’s Simple Pleasure: Painting My Toenails

As a trans-masculine non-binary person, I’ve become uncomfortable with wearing makeup. Makeup falls under the “performing femininity” aspect of self for me, although I very much believe it is not tied into this for many people and that people of all genders can wear makeup and be valid in their gender without contradiction. The closer I came to acknowledging I was non-binary, the more wearing foundation, in particular, felt like applying a coat of paint in order to conceal myself. Since coming out, as an added bonus, my skincare routine has been on point now that every blemish is visible.

My toenails, however, are another story. For whatever reason, having nail polish on them feels like an aspect of hygiene to me. I’ve mostly opted for a clear coat as of late, but I did sport non-binary colors during Pride month. For today’s simple pleasure, I decided to go with the traditional six color Pride flag, covering half of my big toenail in red and half in orange so they all fit.

I experience abrupt moments at times where I realize I’ve absorbed an advanced knowledge of a topic without the history and groundwork necessary for a basic or full understanding. Most of the flags for the queer community with which I am familiar denote different aspects of the particular group which they are representing through the array of colors on the flag. The yellow on the non-binary flag, for example, represents those whose gender does not conform to the binary, while the black stands for people who do not experience a sense of gender (see more here). I foolishly made the assumption this was the case for the original Pride flag (developed by Gilbert Baker) as well, only to learn this week that the colors represent different aspects of pride and wellness, such as healing, sunshine and nature. At least I know now!

My toenails are currently a rainbow of happiness. Wearing these colors, even if most people aren’t going to see my toes, is bringing me light on this dreary, rainy day. What adding brightness to your day?