Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the State of Health

The state of healthcare for trans people is atrocious. Allow me to give an example of the hypocrisy inherent in the system.

Scenario 1:
A woman learns that she has the gene which may cause breast cancer. Despite showing no cancer, and her being perfectly healthy, she asks her doctor for a double mastectomy. This is covered by insurance as preventative surgery.

Scenario 2:
A trans woman is diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, and treated with hormone therapy. This includes testosterone blockers (usually Spironolactone in the U.S.) and they are very hard on the liver. [Please note that Spiro also reacts badly with NSAID over the counter drugs like ibuprofen, and can lead to complete renal failure.] She decides to have an orchiectomy, removing her testicles so she can stop taking the dangerous testosterone blockers. This is considered elective surgery and is not covered by insurance.

Can you see the problem here?

The woman in Scenario 1 has no diagnosed condition, and gets preventive surgery covered by insurance. The woman in Scenario 2 has a diagnosed condition, and is being treated for it. However the treatment can cause more serious health issues. But when she wants surgery to prevent liver damage / renal failure, it's considered an elective procedure, and hence not covered by insurance.

The main problem is the woman in Scenario 2 is transgender. Trans people are often misunderstood. People think we choose to be trans. Fact is, we don't. We only make the choice to stop lying about who we are. It moderates a lot of the depression Gender Dysphoria is responsible for. But that opens trans people up to discrimination in housing, employment, and healthcare. It also increases our chances for being harassed, beaten, raped, or murdered.

I'm sorry, but if I could choose to not be trans, I would. It's a difficult life to lead. But I just couldn't lie to the ones I love - I couldn't keep trying to live up to their expectations and trying to play a role that was mis-cast since birth. Over all, I am much happier now. But I require preventive surgery, which is not covered under insurance and it's just frustrating as all bloody hell.

So if you can, please donate to my surgery fund - I need about $6400. No donation is too small. If you can't donate, please share the link.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Trans Rights Now!

Note: This is going to be the most heavily linked post I have ever written. It also comes with a massive trigger-warning for transmisogynist/transphobic language in this article, as well as the many of the links so brace yourself.

As a trans woman, I'm more than a little pissed about the 'T' being last in 'LGBT'. It's like trans people are an afterthought in the current struggle for Equal Civil Rights. In fact, simply says "LGBT people" when describing the Stonewall Riots (which heralded the Gay Rights Movement) and even Wikipedia lumps trans women and "drag queens" together as if there is no difference. And both main-stream sites ignore the role that trans women of color played in the historic Stonewall Riots.

After Stonewall, cisgender men and women quickly latched on to promote a "Gay is Okay" mentality. Much later, Bisexual people were considered part of the "gay community". Bisexuals were largely shunned by both gay and straight people as being "on the fence" and inherently belonging nowhere. Trans women were basically erased, except for "drag culture" which is to this day largely dominated by cis gay men, the most famous today being RuPaul.

Let me be clear: RuPaul is not –repeat NOT– a trans woman. He does drag. Period. Hence the title of his show on the Logo Network: "RuPaul's Drag Race". He openly uses the word "tranny" (a word considered by most trans women to be a hateful slur) to describe himself. That's fine for him, being a cis gay man who does drag shows. But for trans people (trans women in particular) the controversy does not end there. RuPaul has stated he's trying to reclaim the hateful slur. A lot of trans women, including Carmen Carrera are opposed to this. RuPaul is not transgender and hence, cannot reclaim a word which trans women have shouted at them from passing cars, during assaults, and before brutal murders. I am  not going to link to examples those heinous acts, but trans advocate Sabine has tweeted that she has been called a "tranny faggot" by people on the street just for walking to her home. 

All this said, the fact that the T is at the end of the seemingly inclusive acronym of LGBT is insulting. Trans Women of Color STARTED the Stonewall Riots and thus, began the Gay Rights Movement. This year in Los Angeles, the annual Gay Pride is trying to set things right by putting the T first but some wonder if that is enough.

Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual all have to do with sexuality. Trans people are inherently different. Being a trans woman, I can honestly say that whom I choose to sleep with has nothing to do with the fact that I have a disconnect between the gender stapled to me at birth and the woman I am in mind, heart, and soul. I'm pansexual, and have had sex with people across the gender spectrum, but I AM A WOMAN who was incorrectly labeled as a boy at birth, all because I had descended ovaries and a distended clitoris. (For more on what it's like to grow up as a trans girl, please read this post by Little Light.) The T has nothing to do with LGB. At all. Period. 

Some are wondering if there should be a split between Trans and LGB people, even as Laverne Cox is on the cover of Time Magazine this week, stating that the Trans Rights is 'America's next civil rights frontier'. 

The question I'm asking is: What the hell took so long for trans people to be recognized, especially considering the origin of the Stonewall Riots? Without Trans Women of Color, there would have been no Stonewall, and therefore no Gay Rights Movement. Janet Mock (yet another Trans Woman of Color) also expressed some frustration with this disconnect between LGB and Trans people, albeit in a less direct way in her book Redefining Realness

It's time for Trans People to stand on their own. It was time in 1969.

Trans people lack protections afforded to cis people, and in many States trans people cannot even go to the bathroom which correlates with their gender. Trans rights are often used as bargaining chips by LGB people ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell", Equal Marriage, etc…) and it's time for Folks Like Us to stop being marginalized by those we helped liberate.  It's time for #TransRightsNow.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Oh look… Mars is going backwards!

"What the hell does that mean?" you may be asking right now. "Why should I care?"

I'll tell you.

In Ancient times devoid of artificial lights, humans would watch and chart the skies. One of the first things they noted was that the movement of some of the stars were not constant, but moved around the sky. The Ancients deified them and we now call them planets. They noticed at times these planets would move backwards in the sky. From here, Astrology was born.

"Bullshit hippie pseudo-science" I once called this thing known as astrology. How the fuck could planets millions of miles away from me influence me as a person? Really what the fuck? It's just a fucking laim-ass excuse to behave irrationally. It's not logical – this is what I thought in 1994. I would soon learn I was mistaken.

I'm a Virgo – the most logical of signs – born with Mars going backwards in the sky (which astrologers now refer to as a "retrograde" cycle). The main reason I didn't trust astrology was I hated my birth sign. It always seemed to be the butt of some sexual joke, and that pissed me off. Things would soon change. But there was nothing in 1994 that would change my mind about astrology.

It just so happened that just after New Year's in 1995, (a Mars retrograde period, I'd later learned) I began to question my faith. I had been raised as a Christian, and I'd always had serious questions about it. I studied religion intensely as a teenager, because I was seeking something more. I knew Christianity wasn't right for me, but neither were Islam, Judaism, Mormonism – NONE of them felt right. But the Bible had been beaten over my head so much that "One True God" was what I thought one had to believe in.

Additionally, all the polytheistic beliefs had been so heavily demonized by the monotheistic faiths I could not make my juvenile mind go there. But in in the wee hours of 1995, certain events began to unfold. I went through a period of serious deconstruction of my old belief systems. This rippled through every facet of my life, and by the end of the 1995 Mars retrograde cycle (March 24th) I had discovered my true faith: I realized I am, have been, and always will be Wiccan. This piqued my interest in astrology. So I started to track Mars' retrograde cycles from that point, and document how those were effecting me.

The next Mars retrograde cycle hit it 1997. I was at art school in San Fransisco and inadvertently became hooked on crystal meth to handle the workload. The next Cycle hit in 1999 and I kicked the shit.

During the next one in 2001, I was seriously (and quietly) considering asking my girlfriend to marry me. She was having similiar thoughts, but we never brought it up to each other until after our romance ended, and she became one of my closest and dearest friends. She still is to this day. (Hi Kimmy!)

The next time Mars went backwards at me was in the Summer of 2003. During this time I was moving on the average of once every 6 weeks. By the time it ended, I'd settled in as a roommate of an acquaintance and his co-worker. I lived there for just over 3 years.

During the next Cycle in 2005, I met my (now ex-) wife and we got engaged. When Mars misbehaved again, our financial situation began to destabilize and we moved in with her mom. This destabilized our marriage.

Mars got dyslexic again in late 2009. This is when I began exploring polyamory. The day that retrograde cycle ended in March of 2010, I was fired from my job and was no longer seeing any of my lovers. I was unemployed until Mars decided to go backwards again in January of 2012. I became employed that month, and by the time that Cycle ended in April I had come out as transgender at work. (I was already out to my friends and family, and had been for nearly a year.)

What will the 2014 Cycle have in store for me? I don't know. Maybe you are as I was: skeptical about astrology. I mean… it's just a planet, right? It's millions of miles from us right? What influence could it possibly have?

Space is unfathomably big. Given our size in comparison to the cosmos, the Planets are pretty damned close to us. They have to have some influence, even if it's just gravitational. Maybe it's the gravitational variables that legitimize Astrology as a science. It's certainly not a "bullshit hippie thing" to me anymore.

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013: Zebra Stripes

What a strange year!

It's like looking at zebra stripes. White, Black, Good, Bad, Sweet, Sour -- almost too much for a girl like me to process, much less write about. This post has been in the making for the past eight months. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the inevitable shit-storm this will no doubt inspire, but also for the wrenching emotions to come to me upon reflection. This year is bound to be known as The Year of Broken Hearts.

Not only did my heart get shattered, but many of my friends' hearts were broken too. Many people I know, love, and care about saw at least temporary breakups, if not divorce this year. Many long-term relationships ended. And amongst all this, even
I -- shudder to think -- broke a heart or two.

And yet, this year has been filled with so much love, so much passion, so much kindness, it's very difficult to believe this is the same year. Acts of kindness, some solicited, some not, seem to flow between my friends. Every need was met, every question answered, every joyous hug joyfully returned. Somehow, it makes sense that these opposing elements both ripple this year like zebra stripes.

Originally I intended to document events of this year - changing dates, names, etc. But I simply can't. I don't know where or how to begin. All I can really say is that when someone says "Hey… don't take it so hard… it's just Twitter…" they are quite simply, spraying bullshit.

The people I've connected with this year on Twitter have been the most incredible people I have ever met. Kind, loving, generous souls who sit behind their keyboards and make others actually feel emotions, feel connected to one another. A few have even pulled themselves physically into my life.

That's when things went awry, I suppose: The day someone pulled themselves out of my computer and into flesh and blood life. It was the beginning of a very blissful Spring, followed by a very turbulent Summer. Plans were made.
Life-changing plans. Then it all went to hell, and I attempted suicide.

That wasn't the low point of the year, however. It was only the mouth of the pit I was about to spiral into. I did just enough to keep myself alive, not because I actually wanted to live, but because I promised my friends I would not try to kill myself again. I didn't want to be remembered as someone who could not keep her word.

I even created a Twitter account for when I needed to express my darkness, which I call "The Nemesis". From there, I sent out my hatred. I attacked myself. I attacked my friends. The darkness took hold and Summer was Winter for me. Predictably, my friends weren't ready to let me go. The Nemesis said (and did) some very spiteful, very hurtful things, all designed to drive a blade between me and the ones keeping me alive. The Nemesis existed for only one purpose: To cut ties. So I (and It) could finally die.

I know my friends well. I knew how they would respond to certain things I did and said. The Nemesis was like a master chess player, thinking hundreds of moves, and thousands of possibilities ahead of everyone. I'd been dwelling on my loss, letting the Nemesis have its way with me when the most unlikely event occurred.

A friend of mine, another transwoman, started chatting on-line with me. The Nemesis was having no effect on her. She knew exactly what to say, exactly how to say it, at exactly the right moment. She found her way to the center of the deadly maze I'd conjured to protect my very debilitated, terribly exhausted heart. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was so desperately praying that someone would find that path.

Even then, I wouldn't believe it. I kept my guard up. I was not going to fall for this person. Period. This led, naturally, to a point where I could actually be surprised. This is an extremely rare event for me, I assure you. Being psychic, I tend to prepare myself for all possibilities. And that's when the impossible happened.

She told me that she loves me.

Not in the friend kind of love I'd expect. But the deep, intimate kind. I was scared because I felt it for her too. I wasn't going to say it first to anyone, ever again. That's how I'd always gotten my heart put trough a Veg-O-Matic®.

No one has ever professed that they are in love with me, without me saying it first… coaxing it from them… making them fall for me because I was in love with them.

But she did. On October 16th, 2013 at 9:45 pm Pacific Standard Time, time stopped for both of us.

She surprised me. She defeated all the traps, snares, pits, poison, knives, and razors… and then she surprised me by declaring her love for me. All the things she did for me proved that she meant it. And it fulfilled one more secret desire… one I had kept tightly to my breast: I wanted to be the one chased after. I had always been the chaser. Checkmate.

I heard my heart cry out: "Surprise, girl! It might be real!" That's when she tried to change the subject.

I could only say "Wait… is this real?" and I pasted her words her words back into the chat and asked again, "Is this real?"

She replied "Yes… I love you."

This was amazing for more reasons than I'm capable of expressing. She had always been the one chased after. She was always the one replying to those three little words which can mean everything, or nothing at all… words that can change someone's very existence. And in this moment, everything was inverted. (Of course, I didn't know that when I was living that moment.)

I could only confess my love for her. The feelings for her had been growing inside me for some time - the more she disabled the Nemesis, the more my love for her grew. And she had loved me all along. Within a month, she pulled herself out of the internet and into my world. My entire life had been building to that moment when we held each other for the first time. Two transwomen clinging to each other, wrapped up in the best hug of their lives, standing in the middle of Spokane International Airport, telling each other "It's real." That's when things righted themselves.

So I can't claim that 2013 was the "Year of Broken Hearts". I'm aware of many people coupling up that Autumn. So it's the "Year of the Zebra", where black meets white with perfect harmony and purpose.

Always follow your heart.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

More Than a Dream. Maybe?

This was not a dream. This was not a nightmare. This was not real in the sense of what most of us agree "reality" is. But whatever it was, it was real to me. I have never awoken so terrified in all my life, and I enjoy curling up with Clive Barker novels at bed time. If this could be expressed in the third person, I'd write it that way -detach from it. Alas, as much as I'd prefer to do exactly that, this is simply not possible. Not now. Not ever.

(As with all dreams, some parts are inconsistent with my actual life, things I've never done, and would never do. I considered placing these in italics, or underline them, but that would be a pointless exercise.)

I walked out of my studio apartment into the storm, and hopped onto my scooter, sans helmet. It was calm around me, save a little wind. But the sky was as dark as daytime would allow it to get. I could smell the rain in the air. Thunder boomed not so far away. I decided to go on my errand anyway, despite the weather… despite the possibility of returning dripping wet. 

I rode up the street and the sight of a funnel cloud quickly changed my mind. The trembles wracking my body not withstanding, I could not return the few blocks to my meager home, a studio in a brick building which was built in the 1930s. There was an object inside the funnel -a vehicle of some kind. I could not resist the curious urge to ride up the street and chase it. I had to see what it was. 

Then I noticed the funnel-cloud was *below* the vehicle. It seemed to be on an out-of-control course for… my home. I don't have much, but it is still all I have. I high-tail it back, watching the obviously artificial attempt to create a natural disaster while attempting to keep my eyes on an increasingly treacherous roadway.

I weave through the suburban streets, taking a round-about route. I must find out what the hell is going on. The "conspiracy theorist" part of my blood is tingling and will not let this go, while the remaining fabric of my being is terrified and wants only to go home and hide under something more solid.

A just off-duty cop somehow flashes me down. He was on foot, his patrol cruiser in his driveway. I comply, trembling now because I have no helmet *and* no insurance. Fuck, why did I stop. He was on his property, I was not. For some unfathomable reason, I pull into his driveway. Now I could be considered to be trespassing as well. Thunder booms after a flash in the sky close to the funnel. Curiously, he just gives me a warning about being on such a vehicle in such threatening weather. Ignoring even the marks I put in his cruiser's fender trying to back my way out of his driveway, he lets me go.

I take off in a hurry, following the funnel. The vehicle generating it, an oddly shaped semi truck is lower now, about to succumb to gravity in the large lot of a Chevron station behind and below my building. As it hits the ground, the funnel cloud disperses. The rig itself is quite normal. The trailer is a sequence of large transparent spheres, stained with something green and toxic. The sky lightens some and the driver (no…pilot?) falls from the door into a puddle which begins to sizzle with heat.

Concerned coworkers come out of the station. MY coworkers from MY job at the call center - about 12 of them, or so. They are not in any kind of uniform, simply dressed the way I see them every day when I'm at work. I am a lot closer to these people in the dream than in actual life, yet I cannot recall a single name.

The driver-pilot is going on about a lightning strike through the windshield, which was not supposed to be able to happen. A few are helping aid the driver-pilot, and the rest start to circle me… distracting me… urging me to come to a movie with them. They'll even pay. As curious as I am, I decide I'd really rather not know what the hell is going on. We go to the theater, sitting down just in time for the power to fail. Emergency lights guide us to the exits. I suggest we go back to my place (WAY too small for this group) and watch something which is not news about the storm. About six come with me.

I'm being the gracious hostess, but getting all their names wrong. They seem annoyed, but are letting it slide. I pop a DVD in the player when there's a knock on my door. More friends? No. Someone beginning to prattle off confidential information: Birth name; parents' names; blood types; prior addresses; social security numbers; assigned gender at birth. All my friends know I'm trans* and proud of it, but who are these strangers? An African-American man and a Mexican-American woman - neither I've seen before.

While the man prattles off information, including the job I had in Nevada in 2002 (one where my life was in actual danger) I catch the woman trying to sneak in my door behind us. I grab her arm. "Who the FUCK are you people? Are you from the government?" I scream. They say nothing. I owe the government tens of thousands of dollars, and their silence seems to confirm they are agents of some kind, trying to ascertain why I have not made any attempts to pay my debt.

Keeping the woman by the arm, I grab a steak knife from the kitchen drawer. Tears in my eyes, I start pointing out the modesty of my meager existence. 

"I owe almost three times what I make in a year to you people." I let go of her arm, pointing at my computer desk with the knife's tip. "My so-called education was supposed to enable me to pay back that money in three years! That was 10 years ago!

"Every cent I make goes to pay for THIS connection to the world at large." The knife points to my cracked ceiling "THIS ROOF over my head…" I open the door to my half empty fridge with too many generics to count. "It goes to THIS food…" I fly to the cupboards and open them, one brimming with generic ramen noodle packages "…in my stomach!"

My friends are watching as I weep and enter the main room, still using the steak knife to point at things. "It pays for my hormones, ONE THIRD of an entire check monthly. THIS spring-bare bed was GIVEN to me by a dead friend. THIS art on the walls was all created by ME!" I point out the door at my scooter. "And that is how I get every day to a job I can barely remain sane at. EVERY CENT I MAKE GOES TO THIS EXISTENCE I CAN BARELY STAND!!!"

I look at my friends, my face soaked in tears, and gesture in an arc -knife still in hand- "These people…" the sobbing starts, but I must finish my sentence. "These people, my friends, are THE REASON I have not used a knife like this on myself. And I think of doing that EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY! I should have had a different life by now." I grab her arm, nearly throwing her out the still-open door. Her companion is gone. "Every cent I have goes to this. I cannot repay the money I owe. And knowing what you're up to, I do not want any money going to projects like the one I just saw. Now, even if I could pay it back, I wouldn't."

I slam the door, set down the knife, quietly apologizing to my friends for my outburst. I fake a smile, and one stands up to leave. I stand in her way. 

She speaks coldly, calmly. "After what I saw, I can't be your friend. Quit. Transfer to another team. I don't care. Just don't speak to or about me again. Ever." I feebly try to state that she is important to me… to my life… to my sanity… but as she pushes past me, I do not resist. I turn to the rest of my friends, and start to say that I hope they don't feel the same, when they get up -one by one- and go out the open door in silence. None even offering to comfort me.

My closest friends just wordlessly told me that my life isn't worth living, and the importance I place on them and their friendship is either too much of a burden to carry, or I'm too insignificant to warrant caring about.

I don't want to die. But life seems no longer worth living.

(And I awaken with this vision stuck in my head. It is the single most disturbing thing I have ever experienced.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Question for Alice…

(Other transwomen can answer in the comments, if you like…)

Two part question: (1) What do you think of the following idea:
"The Trans-women's Triathlon"

• Contestants must be pre-HRT, begin presenting as male at the start of the contest, and -just like transition- a letter from a therapist certifying them as trans*.
• Contestants must not have ever had laser treatments/electrolysis, and must not have shaved any part of their body for 6 weeks. 

EVENT 1 - Shaving: (Different classes based on BHI -or Body Hair Index- and petite, average, and plus size.)
This event includes all body and facial/neck hair.
Points given for completeness and speed (pubic areas not required).
Points lost for nicks, missed patches, and losing balance/falling.

EVENT 2 - Makeup:
Points given for speed, overall femininity, and passability.
Bonus points for less makeup used to obtain goal.
Points lost for 5-o'clock shadow, errors (even if corrected) and use of any non-approved makeup.

EVENT 3 - Fashion: 
Points given for poise, ability to walk in heels color coordination, hair/wig style, accessories, overall femininity, style originality, and passability.
Points lost for stumbling/breaking a heel/lumbering, clashing colors, use of more than 2 padded items (no waist cinchers - breast forms considered padding.)

Gold: Fully paid Complete Transition (includes HRT for life), supervised by the best team of trans-friendly physicians.
Silver: Fully paid HRT for life, supervised by physician of choice.
Bronze: 2 years fully paid HRT,  supervised by physician of choice.

(2) Do you consider the above event to be misogynistic?