Sunday, December 30, 2012

biting my tongue

Another pier driven into my memory stems from a few months after encountering the heart-drum. After a lackluster summer internship in Seattle, I found myself faced with an awkward relocation. I spent a good thirty hours packing-up an apartment against the deadline of a flight departure time, flew to New York on a redeye, slept a slight handful of hours, and negotiated a convoluted sequence of transit legs (buses, a towncar, shuttles, and ultimately shotgun in a friend's car meandering deep into the Adirondacks). In the end, I found myself relaxing at last in a houseful of good friends, after about sixty hours of stress and anxiety with perhaps four hours of sleep.

The result was quite unexpected. I have some corroboration from psychiatrists and peers that my experience is not unique, but remains uncommon. As my adrenaline levels began to finally relax, and a massive adrenaline burn began to creep over me, the dopamine-regulated pathways in my fatigued CNS modulated their behavior in a curious fashion. For a period of perhaps half a day, my CNS ceased to respond to racemic amphetamine salts as therapeutic for ADD symptoms. Simply put, it responded, instead, as it might to methamphetamine. I found myself on a speed trip. Massive hyperfocus, extremely high energy, continuous social activity, and decreased impulse inhibition.

Although famished, I finished no more than a slice and a half of pizza in the course of a two hour meal, as I could not cease talking and engaging people. At one point I bit straight through my tongue while attempting without reservation to simultaneously eat, respond to a question, and initiate a new, separate conversation. After a brief pause to rinse my mouth, examine my tongue, and allow clotting to begin, I directly resumed conversation. Needless to say, I engendered a great deal of concern among my friends. The experience was quite unpleasant, especially in the immediate aftermath as it became increasingly clear to me that I had been acting well outside rational control. I was mortified. Yet I could not regain control. The evening wound to a close. Still I shifted and spoke and could not stop. I was steering, yet the accelerator was floored, the brakes gone.

In the end, I sat awake, downstairs in my pajamas in the dark, in a chilly cabin there in upstate New York. A couple of friends came downstairs to speak with me, to verify that I was well, that I'd calmed down. Later, another stopped and sat with me on her way upstairs from brushing her teeth and we talked quietly for a while of more calming things than my unhappy, unnerving state. Having been the last to arrive, the beds upstairs were all full, and I had the use of a small couch above a low bookshelf, and a pile of dusty blankets. We did our best to make it a comfortable pile. Then she went to bed and I lay there, wondering at myself, at my brain's ability to surprise and alarm. Sleep was hours in coming.

striking a drum

At the end of my second attempt at a junior year, I pulled, effectively, an "all-weeker" in order to complete a series of exams and the coding portion of a sizable independent research project (a distributed java-based webcrawler with a Swing-based GUI for network topology visualization, maybe a year and a half before such technology became part of standard open-source network analysis toolkits—yay me! I don't know where the code is, nowadays, though. Boo.) Near the very end of this period, during which I'd continued to medicate every four hours around the clock for about two and a half days, a well-meaning but misguided friend left a small bottle of "NoDoz" (like Vivarin™, a caffeine tablet) on my desk after seeing me in my groggy half-awake state.

Being a little short on lucidity, a couple hours later, I took one. Maybe 60 seconds after swallowing, the thought finished percolating-up that "oh, maybe I shouldn't take concentrated caffeine tablets with this much amphetamine already driving my CNS in high gear." This was, regrettably, followed by "Ugh … induce vomiting? No, I'm not in any mood for that! Guess I'll ride it out; it'll probably be no big deal."

My very own in vivo Kamikaze: No big deal.

Oh. Dear. God.

To those of you out there who've never experienced arrhythmias, palpitations, or any other pulse-related side-effects of dangerous overdoses of stimulant medication, I earnestly wish for your ignorance to continue indefinitely. You see, the circulatory system is a high-kinetic-energy organ group. The heart is an astonishingly powerful pump for being a soft, rubbery bulb of tissue. Every cycle it sends compression waves through the cardiovascular system—your pulse—whose intensity, even at the extremities, is not insignificant. We do not generally notice them with our haptic or tactile senses, as our nervous systems filter-out these repetitive, cyclic stimuli. In arrhythmia, however, this filter fails.

I have only my own subjective, anecdotal data, but for me the effect is not unlike the entire body suddenly becoming a soft percussion instrument. It is as if some awful, supernatural drum is beating in my flesh. And interspersed erraticly between the irregular, startling, soundless thuds are the uneasy beats of a hollow, silent non-sound. And with each hollow gap, each hole where a pulse should have been, my body fails a little. My strength ebbs, my balance vanishes; my muscles suddenly fail to support me. Stairwells become frightening obstacles. Breathing becomes an active labor. Mortality suddenly appears starkly-writ and immediate, heralded again and again by each unpredictable beat or skip in a rhythm I was not meant to feel. I grow ill, now, simply describing it.

My partner helped me down two flights of stairs and across a lawn to a large, shady archway. The mid-May sun in New Jersey was unforgiving, and the occasional pauses to regain strength seemed interminable. There, on the second step, half-sprawled on cool flagstones in the spring breeze, I rested for nearly an hour. Drinks were brought. My eyes were unmoored and floated between worlds; half their image was of a scattering of students abroad in the late morning light: seemingly-unreal, shadowless creatures of bright color, full of simple purpose, passing across the lawns, under the arch, up and down the broad steps. I may have spoken briefly with the image of a friend, once. The other half of my sight was filled with fog and memory. I relived taking each dose of stimulants, fifteen in all; I relived each struggle for focus, each piece of work done. All the while the death-drum stuttered itself out, receding, growing less frequent, and finally vanishing into a steady pulse. I slowly followed a path back to my tiny room and lay down by an open window, listening to birdsong and wind and the calls and laughter of those finished with their studies.

There is no moral, really. I never again chose to forego sleep a second night running, simply out of horror at the memory and recognition that it would do me no good. No happy ending, no tragedy, no further drama. I could not sleep until the night came, so full of stimulants as I was. My project was delivered. Emails were sent to various deans, acknowledging extensions, the everyday busywork of a struggling student. I may have been changed, suddenly and forevermore mortal, no longer an innocent. But I was still human, a student with disabilities and a great deal of hard work before her. I ate something. I slept. I finished the semester. I kept going.

The borders of me

My own particular ADHD presentation has been a significant impairment (and, of course, advantage) since early childhood. Like so many diagnoses that have landed later in my life, I can chart-out the onset of various tics and stimming practices, various odd mental states, from my earliest memories (I have reliable episodic memory from about 2½ years of age). All the same, my self-assembled coping mechanisms sufficed to get me (if only barely) through five excruciating semesters of a particularly challenging undergraduate program, at which point I spontaneously developed a panoply of seemingly arbitrary neuroses and sleep disorders. A year or so of research, experimentation, and reflection later, I settled on a stimulant treatment (Adderall, a mixture of R- and L-Amphetamine salts, and a SDRI (presently duloxetine HCl in subclinical dosage, but I've tried a few over the years) for cingulate gyrus issues) that made [mostly] everything just work again. That was over a decade ago, now.

Many things have changed in the intervening years. I take ever so much better care of myself, now, than I did then. I have a much more realistic and intimate understanding of my nervous system's capabilities and limitations, and how they degrade (both gracefully and otherwise) over time under persistent abuse. I know, now, how fundamental a healthy mind is to the maintenance of emotional wisdom and strength, and I am committed—for the sake of my self and my family—to protecting my mental health.

I have more insight, now, into certain traits that once seemed to be unusual offshoots of my existing diagnoses, if not outright inexplicable. It so happens that I am dissociation-prone. My emotional detachment and level mood stem from this rather than from a neurotransmitter-cycle mutation in the neurons of my limbic system. I am a survivor of childhood trauma, which likely led to my dissociative predilection. I am transgender, the neurological implications of which I am still unraveling. I am neurologically improbable in several other ways, with potential memory impairments having developed into unusually facile and encyclopedic mnemonic ability, dysfunction in episodic memory organization having produced a mind forever storytelling rather than a disoriented amnesiac. I have begun to complete entire sections of the puzzle, though it will likely never be done.

The time has come, I feel, to begin cataloging certain anecdotes that have become touchstones for me, that serve as markers and landmarks in my experience of daily variations in mental function. They are outliers, some strange, some horrible, some amusing. They are all a part of me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A roadblock

Oh my FUCKING GOD. I CAN'T DO this.

The tears are streaming down as I write this. I've just come back to bed from the living room where she lies sleeping. I can't do this. I'm breathing in shallow gasps, mouth-breathing, my nose a snurffly muddle of concrete mixed with excess tears. It's just too much. Too much. It's TOO MUCH I want to shout, but I don't, too many people asleep around me. I scream a little inside, then choke it back down. Get a grip, girl. Breathe. Say something. Say anything. Don't fall off the bed or anything stupid like that.

There, some levity seems to help. And then I reread what I've written and I see her sleeping there, lying on the bed she's chosen for herself, her room, her space. Lying there so still. So beautiful. So full of thought and love and life and I can't see the page anymore oh crap there we go again HOLD YOURSELF TOGETHER DAMMIT.

They say E loosens the tears. Fucking bullshit; if it's loosened anything it's my tongue, I can swear like a sailor if want, now. No, okay, that was just an excuse to cuss. They're looser. Sure. But really, who the hell wouldn't be a wreck like this? I can't do this. It's going to kill me. It's going to tear my heart out and leave me nothing to live with. What use authenticity if it's nought but authentic grief? Crazy-talk, maybe. I don't know or care, it's nearly midnight and I stop judging at 22:30. 

I can't do this.

I can "transition". Not a problem. I can face the world and be me proudly and happily. Bring on the slurs, bring on the rejection, public: see if I give a damn (I might), see if I listen (I won't). I can delay this transition. I can take it slowly, I can take it easy on the woman beside me, take it easy on the family and friends. I'm good at all that, I'm good with all that.

I can't keep hiding from her. I can't hide from my daughter.

Oh boy, absurdist interlude time. The fire alarm just now goes off in the wing of the apartment complex adjacent to ours. Fearing that whatever idiotic trash fire or burnt late-dinner set things off might spread to our wing, I hurry out to the front hall where the apartment's klaxon is mounted, pry the bloody thing loose, and disconnect it from the system. Thus is our sleep protected, thus our dreams held safe. Or, well, thus others' sleep is safeguarded. I'm sitting in the dark over here, still a wreck, but quieter now. Ah, finally, the fire department has stood-down the alarm.

Oh, right. I was a wreck. I'm exhausted, now, but I still remember the key points. My little girl, crying in the corner of the closet, telling me she's "jealous of my love". Her less-and-less veiled jabs, these past weeks, asking me why I don't speak to her, why I'm not sharing my heart with her. I've told myself it's because it's a complex thing, an adult thing, but that's really just the same half-lie I'm telling her. I'm not sharing because I've promised to wait. I've promised, despite all my instincts.

But she knows. She knows. And it hurts and scares her that there's something I won't tell her. It scares her more than any of the things I'll have to say, even the separation, even the changes to come for my body, and I can see what it's doing to her. There's never been a thing like this that clearly is affecting me but that I will not share. I'm afraid it may be breaking her little heart and that carves mine into ribbons.

The next two days, I will collect her early from school and take the afternoon off. Wednesday, i will have several multi-hour periods, mid-day, to talk with her. I have to let her back in. She is afraid that I don't love her, afraid that I'm rejecting her. I can't--I won't-- leave that fear unaddressed.

Wish me luck. And wish me hope for all this. Sometimes I have trouble seeing the way through.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ranting

So Twitter has become something of a lifeline for me. Well, that's probably not the word I'm looking for—perhaps "home forum" would be more apt. I have a number of trans women for friends, now, where before I had met perhaps one (out of 30 or so), personally, whom I could call a kindred spirit. So that's good.

The problem, though, with having a clique (in the very best sense of the word) of trans women who connect primarily via Twitter is that the medium is simply unsuitable for certain types of communication.  For instance, say I have a couple paragraphs of detailed answer (I mean, this is me after all) to some question. What if I want to deliver the answer in the form of an answer—as opposed to polishing it into a simple expository form and posting it here—and haven't access to email? What if I post it via a number of tweets? What a mess!

This happened enough times, yesterday, that I feel the need to try again. So here are a couple of rants, slightly edited and reprinted in long form, as prose.

First, during a conversation re: Jackie Green …

(the tweet to which I was replying): well I'm glad that video hasn't melted you all into seething pools of jealousy. :)
I grappled with that inevitable melt for a few years and I finally solved it. I talked about it with my partner one evening. She reflected on her own experience (as a woman and professional engineer in tech). She told me "I just think, well, I'm glad I was born in the 70s and not in the 60s or 50s."

I was so mortified. We've all heard bits of <awesometweep>'s story. And as a student of our history, I can vouch for her story being perfectly normal. The generation before us, the survivors: give them love, give them respect. They. Have. Earned It.

Oh great. Now I feel like a crotchety old granddam. GET OFFA MAH LAWN, KIDS! IN MY DAY …

But, seriously: that settled the melting bit: Today's young (teens and younger) trans girls can transition because we exist.

Of course, I apologized for that particular tweet-flood and moved on.

However, it was not much later that some troubling reflection on privilege and TWoC—and the recent, nasty, transphobic screed by C. Benvenuto (published by the Guardian, whose editorial standards are clearly nonexistent)—led me to post an abbreviated version of the following. (warning, some strong language)

So. My daughter attends a public (in the U.S. sense) elementary school; it has two "programs", a Japanese bilingual program, which draws students city-wide, and an English-only program which preferentially places students from the surrounding housing projects—predominantly children from African-American families and immigrants from the Middle East. Yes, this is so totally a San Francisco type of school.

Anyway, there's a poem written on the wall of the Kindergarten/1st-grade hallway, right by the school entrance. You may have encountered it elsewhere; it reads …

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Barack could run.
Barack ran so our children can fly.
Now. Here I am: privileged, well-educated, well-paid whitey. I feel like absolute shit appropriating anything so fundamentally bound to African-American disenfranchisement and that community's struggles for equality and Justice.

BUT.

Trans women and girls are systematically, unquestioningly stripped of every privilege but race and family (if there's even that—c.f. Trans Women of Color and the tragic population of homeless transgender youth). If we aren't among the lucky few with family support or hard-won material resources, and if we can't game the system—and without privilege, who can?—we are regularly routed into base labor and sex work. When we seek to have lives outside of the scrabble for survival, we are regularly brutalized or killed solely for presuming to be real people and the abusers and murderers walk free.

… The hell? No, wait: THE HELL? FUCK THAT.

I'm no chicken little. I do have some idea of how privileged I am. I know that with an Ivy education, a broad CV, highly-employable skills, and savings in the bank, I'm probably safe and secure, despite my earnest invective. But I know people, people I could have been, who are not so fortunate. There are people I care for deeply whose lives and hopes may yet be stripped-away by a hostile and faithless society. There are children I know and love—mine and others'—who one day may begin to queerly blossom, only to be crushed--erased, even.

And so I'm being a privileged asshole, and appropriating the sense of that poem. We have to live.

We have to live because my son and daughter may well be gender-fluid. We have to live because many children today kill themselves rather than do this, rather than try to be real.

We have to live because there's nobody else who will stop the C. Benvenutos of 2032 from having an unchallenged pulpit. We have to live so that someday, maybe, nobody will have to hurt like this, be afraid like this, be broken this way.

We have to live.

And every teen trans girl I see today, untouched by androgens, having suffered but one puberty, tells me that I'm doing what's right. Not 2nd best. Not consolation, not also-ran. The Right Thing.

We have to live so that they can thrive.

… and as I said, at the end of that rant, "Holy crap! See? I told you I'd fly off the handle after reading the Benvenuto screed. It just took half a day to precipitate."

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Loss

I have a story to tell, but I'm afraid to tell it—afraid of how I will hurt, afraid of missing the mark, afraid of finding more questions than answers. But I'm terrible at sorting these things out in my head, at least once they've aged this long and grown this tangled. What am I good at? Telling stories. So.

I have a story to tell. It's a story about a family, and about how terrible things happen to nice people. It's a story that is full of pregnancy- and mortality-related triggers, so I advise you now: read with caution. It's a piece of my story. Specifically, it is how I exited denial.

In the spring of 2005, a beautiful baby girl is born in San Francisco. The birth is not easy, and her mother struggles to recover and to endure the strain of new motherhood. A fiery little creature, she takes much attention and minding as the months pass and she begins to crawl and climb and walk and run. She tweaks people as easily as she charms them, then charms them all over again, and so the family grows together in its way, quirky, imperfect, but loving.

I am one of that little girl's mothers and also her father; this is the story of how our family grows from three to four.

Around my daughter's second birthday, we conceive our second child. It had taken some time to get over the memory of her first pregnancy, but my wife wanted the children to be relatively close together in age, and so family planning wins out over reticence. There's that first heartbeat, and then the ultrasound, where a little peanut of a person shows-up with a beating heart. [I'm freaking-out, right now as I write, desperate to understand why I'm doing this to myself, why am I re-living this? WHY? How many tears do I want? How many is enough?] Proud, anxious newly-expectant parents, all over again.

One battery of fetal-health tests pass, then another. We see a tiny human begin to form on the ultrasound, and it moves. Then we see genitalia—a little girl. A little sister. We are thrilled.

Then a test result from the second battery is reported as being borderline. Could we get more tests done? Of course we can. We have a more precise nuchal fold measure taken, and full body stats revise the date of conception later by several weeks. The numbers are insignificant by themselves -- nothing manifestly abnormal, only borderline, but there are enough of them askew that our Ob/Gyn orders more precise testing. It is too late in the pregnancy for a CVS, so an amniocentesis is performed.

We wait for the results with a horrible sort of dread; somehow our new, beautiful little girl has slid in an eyeblink from future joy to immediate fear. The nightmares that every newly-pregnant couple puts to rest as soon as possible—that WE had set aside—are all of a sudden hiding just out of sight.

I receive a summons: “The clinic called; come home, please.” I leave my half-completed voice lesson and hurry the five blocks home.

She was there on the couch.

I don't remember the precise words; I mean, I do—heaven help me, I do—but I'm incapable of the internal review to organize those particular memories to my usual precision. She was in tears:

“Triploidy. They say she's triploid; three of every chromosome. It's terminal.” “Oh god. Oh my god. How … What …” “I want this baby” “What do we do?” “What do people do?” “I love this baby” “Our baby girl …” “I really want this baby.” Not one of those fragments, handed back and forth between us, was delivered whole. Each was punctuated by sobs, gasping sobs, voices cracking, shaking. And yet I will never, ever, ever forget them.

Like the moment JFK was shot. The moment, for us both, that our second daughter began to die.

We call our parents. Mine hurry into town, collect our little girl from her day care and bring her, briefly, home. And here is another moment seared into my memory: My wife suddenly collapses, sobbing, into my mother's arms, her postponement of grief failing catastrophically, and our 2½ year-old daughter looks up at them from a few feet away, transfixed. She is in shock. Her little jaw opens slightly as her world lists, one particular pillar having just crumbled before her eyes. For almost two years afterwards, she will make a habit, throughout mornings and evenings, of regularly, repeatedly checking on our emotional condition: are we happy? are we sad? are we tired? are we okay?: Every question an aftershock.

My parents take our daughter for several nights, we take bereavement leave from our jobs, and the snarl of questions unravels into ruin. We google “triploidy”—after all, my brother has trisomy-21, and he has led a loving, if slow, life.  It is absolutely, unequivocally, fatal: miscarriage, or a few weeks of painful, failing life. One girl, the longest-lived on record, survived almost half a year, and I'm moved to tears by how hideously cruel her parents' outspoken belief in sanctity of life feels as I read of it.

We visit our clinic and meet with a genetic counselor, who gently summarizes what we already have learned: a painful, weeks-long life if she survives to term, serious danger to the mother: risk of death in delivery or sterility from molar complications. Terror grips us. We come to a conclusion.

We will terminate. We meet with a surgeon. I ask … but no, some things are inessential. [And some pain I still husband alone.]

It is a D&C. We learn what this entails and go numb. Our daughter could be born into brief and inchoate agony and threaten to end her mother's life, or … could gently enter a final sleep in utero. This is no choice. And yet, we cannot shirk our agency—we do choose. Oh, God. We choose.

We begin grief counseling. The termination happens. We continue counseling. We return to our jobs, going through what motions we can. Months pass, little more than a blur in my memories.

We grieve all through the winter. I teach myself to knit, and construct an absurdly sophisticated, crazily geeky scarf.

We get the medical okay to try again, to risk another conception, another devastation. Eventually, we achieve the courage to try, and conceive our third child immediately.

I find a route to expiate my grief and my new terror, to focus the love that found itself horribly adrift, the love that could not save my tiny, broken child. I will make a baby blanket, of course. Every stitch will be cast with this love. Every ounce of affection that what remains of her spirit might accept, will be offered there. Every stitch will catch a mother's and father's love, and as our third child grows and we discover who it is—who it might be—the new love growing will be caught as well. And when her spirit fully departs, when her time is truly past, what love is left will mingle with this new love to finish the blanket that shall warm and comfort her sibling.

What an animistic concept to spring from the heart of an agnostic, deeply apostate, permanently lapsed Catholic. But there is a gaping, bleeding hole in my psyche, now: The data strongly suggest a dyandric origin to the triploidy. Either my sperm was broken, having improperly undergone mitosis, or a second sperm also fertilized the egg. A cell from my body, that should have given my child life, took it instead. I have blood on my hands, and a gravid heart that must somehow be delivered of its unreleased longing and warmth before they sour and turn to rejection and bitterness. And so, to mend my soul before loss could cripple me, I knit.

This third pregnancy progresses. A heartbeat. Simple measurements. As soon as viable, we schedule a CVS. We wait for results.

That day, that glittering-bright and amazing day, I receive a phone call. “The results are: healthy, karyotypically normal, male!” We leave our respective offices on foot and meet midway across town to hold each other and cry tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of hope that our nightmare might be drawing to a close.

There are weeks of gladness, now, and we recenter ourselves towards a normal gestational routine. The blanket progresses, the loves now blending into sweetness as the soft, daisy-yellow stitches gradually amass.

And then a shadow grows. A nagging worry lingers, somewhere just out of sight. A little boy is coming. I've fathered a little boy. A little baby boy. I fathered a boy. A beautiful boy. A father. A boy.

I start sleeping poorly. There are dreams I cannot recall that leave me exhausted. I wake abruptly from dreams of fighting with my parents, the final shouts voiced fully in the dark of the bedroom. Once I punch my sleeping partner in the arm, struggling as a dream-child to defend my dream-family against an abusive captor/abductor. I begin to fear sleep, and the insomnia begins. Thoughts whirl about me in the dark hours, thoughts I grudgingly consider, robbed as they are of dream-expression. I start to write, and I begin to voice questions.

How can I model male for this boy? How can I be something I'm not? How can I exemplify something I've never accepted being? Who will he see when he looks at me? Will he see me, obscured as I'll be by the trappings of all the role into which he will grow? Will he know me?

Will I know my child?

Will my child see me?

Can I hope to share all my love?

There is a fear I call the isolator-fear. It is a bleakness, and a distrust. It is the panicky urge behind every camouflage defense, propping-up every shell, every mask. It is the lie that we, any of us, might truly be unlovable to anyone. It is the lie that the surety of affection to our faces could ever be preferable to even just the possibility of affection to our hearts. It is an insidious serpent that makes islands of us, stony and barren, by threatening to cast us adrift. It devours our relationships and gives us certainty—the certainty that we must always hide.

And at last, in a shifting of darkness, the isolator-fear stirs, feeding greedily on this flood of insecurity. I mustn't rock the boat. There's nothing here to consider; surely I know precisely what I am: a genderqueer man with some complex fetish and much needless angst. It's so simple, how could I let myself be conflicted? I need sleep. This has to stop.

But the powerful, aching love for two dear children, one now nine months dead, one yet unborn and curled quietly within the woman lying beside me, is now furiously ablaze. Every morning, with every stitch, I consider words to share with my son. Every night I rest in bed, sometimes for hours, fiercely brandishing my sorrow in two needles, making a thing of tenderness and nurture, calming and relaxing each twitch of tension in my hands. It is more consuming than any fear.

And as that serpent, in those late, dark pre-dawn hours, winds about my every worry, it cannot help but brush against the firestorm of emotion I have been nursing. Touched by flame, drifting askew in confusion, it catches briefly alight. And in that fleeting illumination, I see the hypocrisy. I see the life that its dusky coils chain me away from. I see the final moment of the interior of the closet all around me, as its walls disintegrate and leave me exposed in a strange new land.

And my world changes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Here. Now.

This night, I went out.  I went out as me.

Now, I didn't do full-dress (sadly, it's trigger-y).  I didn't wear makeup (also trigger-y, plus: don't know how & don't own any).  I didn't pass.  And that, that used to be trigger-y, too, but tonight?  Tonight I couldn't give a f**k because tonight rocked.

All this, of course, is not to say I went out in drab.  I wore a cami, even though it probably wasn't necessary, and my best soft black stretch top; my hair was (well, until the music kicked-in) immaculately brushed back into a long streaming ponytail, tied twice in green and pink.  What skin I showed (hands, neck, face) was free of any male traces.  I was uncommonly comfortable in my body.

I was sirred at the door, of course.  Curiously, I didn't even care.  Tall women with thinning hair, squared jaws, and deeper voices are sirred all the time.  Funny, that never seemed to comfort me before.  Perhaps it wasn't tonight, either—perhaps I'm just in a different place, now.  Either way, I was fine.

My friend met me there, as the first opener finished (a bouncy hip-hop ska-ish bunch).  We hung-out in the back patio until the second opener (a super-fun IDM crew) was done, then moved back to the stage area as the Minibosses were warming up.

It was awesome.  I had the best time.  I got on stage at one point to belt a vintage cartoon theme (long-running inside joke for them) in exchange for the 11-minute Mega Man II medley and the super-thrashy Castlevania II medley.  I even heckled (shouting requests for My Cooking Mama and Harvest Moon).  It was an awesome geeky crew.

It was my first time out, not in drab, feeling "Rachel".  I've been out before in my male-feminine best, but still consciously feeling the guy-mode.  It was … wonderful.  Sure, I didn't pass—but sometimes, sometimes that's not necessary.  What mattered was that I felt like me.  That's an amazing thing, and the best birthday present I could possibly give myself.

Because Friday is my birthday.  At thirteen minutes past noon, Pacific time, I will enter the latter half of my fourth decade of life.  At thirty-four (for yet a few more hours), I have already received the gift I promised myself four years ago: that I would begin transition in earnest (hormones, and a schedule & plan for FT) before … before today.  Here it is.  I made it.

This was the perfect event to celebrate it, to tell the truth.  The Minibosses are a rock/metal band whose fame is that they play nothing but music from games from the original NES (Nintendo Entertainment System for readers who were/are not gamers).  It's quite literally something that, had I told my 12-year-old self about tonight, I would never believe it (although I'd think it an awesome idea).  And if I were tell 12-year-old me that I would today, at last, be growing into womanhood … I'm positive I would not have believed me then, either.  And yet I am!  And, too, not only do the Minibosses exist, but they're even better than the recordings I have heard, and incredibly fun performers.

Tomorrow, I will have lunch with a friend whom I have not seen in over a decade.  I doubt I will be able to keep the topic away from my present life, and I'm very very done with hiding and dissembling.

So there's another birthday gift for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The self survives

The marvelous thing about a well-kept journal is how present it can make one's past.
The miserable thing about a well-kept journal is how present it can make one's past.
Memory is fluid so that we may be as well.

Can it really be only four years ago that this began? Reading the entries, I cannot believe how distant, how uncertain this voice sounds. I feel old. I feel weathered and bent and hardened and somber, like an old pine stooped low atop a windy ridge. Not that I don't also feel like a new bud at the break of spring, leaning gently in a breeze every time I feel my smooth hands, with every breath that stretches my tee around my nascent chest. But we are manifold creatures, we humans. And so … so I am old.

When was it that I aged? I think I might guess. I aged every time I cried, every time I sobbed at the endings that had come to stories I thought I was still writing. I aged the night I broke under her denial, broke my possessions in despair and fury, broke my promise to leave her to her choices, her silence, leaving both our hearts broken on the floor. I aged when I saw what I had done and swore myself new oaths, with bonds too tight to chafe. I aged when I surrendered our past and wept for our present. I aged when I asked for what I needed, and received it, when I decided to grow, when I impaled my thigh on 1½" of 22-gauge surgical steel and, gently, died. I am so weary. I have been and been and been: filling those terrible moments with days of worry and fear, pouring seasons of grief into minutes and hours of wailing dissolution. We are manifold beings and we live so brightly when we burn in the dark.

How is it that we can live so much in so short a time? Even with the goad of mortality, reminding us of the finality of every loss, every change, it is not fear that kindles my anger at falseness. Nor is it a looming end that ignites my need. I grow and change because I cannot do otherwise and survive. This is a new-kindled drive: until the closet disintegrated, survival—persistence—was rarely so central. Perhaps our transitions—not just our bodies and our persons, but our worlds and words, our homes and our others—are the bulk of our lives, to date. Perhaps the wonder is not that these few years grip us so but that those few decades before them held us so terribly little.

Those selves we shared—who joined and fled families, built or pursued careers, raised and lost children—how, exactly, did they grow? Where were we when they lived fiercely? Were we there, too? Did we fuse for those fiery moments, out of need and love and joy and desperation, into chimeras of presence and embodiment? Maybe we cling so resolutely to these moments of brilliance and terror in our closeted past because they are our own: lived briefly for ourselves and not for any other. I may, myself, only now be waking, but I have stirred so many times during that long, quiet fever-dream of survival.

I think that must be why the man in this journal feels so distant in his fearful and morose reflections. He was only just ceasing to be that man, and his perspective was that of a frightened yet hopeful child who knows only how little she understands. As a youth thrust forth into independence, she struggled and grew as only the survivor-child (Walker's gifted child?) can. She found children in her heart, loved them, nursed them, and grew; she found herself in a career, accepted it, built it, and grew. She found a partner in her life, loved her, held her, lost her, and grew. Four years, and a recapitulated lifetime: such a gulf separates the man I was from the woman I am becoming.

And now comes the reflective denouement where, embracing anecdotes at last, we recant our hyperbole and repent of our metaphors. Of course I am no binary man-girl chimera—and never was. I have ever been blessed with a single voice, even when I have consciously partitioned it by name (in high school, I once tried to name six! they were all boy-selves or neuter, though …). The search for authenticity could only begin once I surrendered those partitions and accepted this. But the idea of multiplicity is what coalesces most clearly when I try to paint the transitional identity in words.

Similarly, the self that lived my pre-transition life was every bit as much me as the self I am now. However, who we learn as has so sweeping an effect on what we can recall and retain that the concept rings true. And yes, I do find that I am starting a new life, and I find no issue with the idea of many fractional selves populating my past. Every role I have filled, every context I have inhabited, is a part of me—though some I may wish to deny. I do not so much change as allow a more authentic self to blossom and overcome all its peers.

For truly I am a manifold being, and today I am alive.

'anima, ex multis; inde, superstes' : from the many, a soul: thence, a survivor

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Seasons and Seasons

Another season, another change, and on we go.

I'm writing, again, and deconstructing the remainders of the temporary closets that carried us through the last few years. HRT began on August 2nd, 2012, and my world is in a quiet-yet-delightful disarray. New essays, here, soon (I've two drafts under edit at present), but diary entries look as if they'll be confined to @rmei's twitter stream these days. Or not! Time will tell.

Meanwhile, since this is linked from my twitter bio, and I'm beginning to follow around and reach out ...

Welcome, Stranger!  If you seek the voyeurism of a public diarist, feel free to just read from the beginning.  If your time is more valuable than that, and you want something to read and consider and digest, try the "Essays" links in the sidebar (I'm especially fond of "Naming..." and "Images...").