I love Ivan

So I am reading Rebent Sinner, by Ivan Coyote, and having a “thank God for you!” moment. So many familiar experiences, expressed potently and with flair.

Word choices are crucial, and fun, even with small vignettes. Ivan’s an expert, an artist.

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I left my psychologist’s office feeling odd, yesterday. It’s taken me a lot of late night writing, and now reading, to get the gist of why.

It’s hard for cis people to get the gist of what I say, even if they’re open to it, or gay. I’m a little ahead of them with my years of research, questioning and lived experience, and I express myself better in writing than verbally. So missing the gist is to be expected when I’m confused, even when they’re “aware” or trained. But by crikey where do I even go for therapy if I don’t want to educate them or have taken all year to psych myself up to talk about something and need them to get it, like now? I don’t know any trans psychologists in my town.

My ex would say it is what it is, and it is probably ok now that I have read me some Ivan. Thank you, Ivan.

* * *

If you’re not trans and want to read more trans content, there are numerous great bloggers. Just pop trans in the search bar. If you want books, maybe start with Ivan. Distilled observation, heart and wisdom.

No idea what to call this

Tonight, ABC TV broadcasted an episode of Four Corners that focussed on four Australian non-binary young people – Dakota, Riley, Audrey and Olivia. I ended up crying because I was so happy for them. They had supportive families and so early in their lives had figured out who they were and what they needed, in terms of gender. Suddenly I felt like writing again.

I get sick to death of talking about gender. The more I say, the more I notice, and the more fed up I grow. Occasionally someone will intimate that trans people are obsessed about gender. I’d say that it’s society in general that’s obsessed and we’re the messengers being shot at (or the coal-mine-dwelling canaries, if you’d like a less violent metaphor). My own discomfort with the status quo just sucked up all the air in the room, man. Once I received the medical care I needed, life improved so drastically that I considered everything else to be gravy. I’d much rather talk about the critters I saw at the river, or the latest book I devoured in one sitting. Or, quite frankly, not talk at all.

I started this blog as a way to confront my own anxiety around being seen. For most of my life I’ve known who I was but lacked the ability to get my needs met. At different points in my life I didn’t have the words, the confidence in others’ listening capacities, or the confidence in the existing social systems to support me. (Or, let’s face it, the cash.) Now I finally have those words and have received support. The wider community’s willingness to listen has increased somewhat, along with the predictable pushback. Social change takes time, we know, and I’m so happy to see and hear these kids talk about their lives.

From time to time I wonder why the heck I’m still blogging at all, given that I’m now less anxious and would prefer to stop banging on about gender. When I revisit earlier posts, I see that I intended to help both myself and others. I intended to be the person I needed to read about when I had felt alone and interminably weird. So although I deviate into book reviews and nature observations, I keep trying to share my life in a way that may be useful to others. 

Lately I’ve been quiet because my head’s full of static. There’s nothing useful there, for now. I’m doing some things that are constructively challenging, shall we say. It’s good, it’s growth and there’s nothing I wish to share about that now, so moving on…

My first love recently told me that I’m still very much the person they knew, all those years ago. “Thank God!” I said, laughing. The point of all this gender transition palaver was to make my outside match my inside, not to become someone new. 

Sanding off each others’ edges

I’ve just finished reading a wonderful book about the therapeutic qualities of intentional community, and want to accomplish two things – to recommend this book to you and to reflect upon my own experiences in such communities.

Tobias Jones writes with such genuine affection and insight that I kept finding myself smiling. This book made me happy. Even the most challenging behaviours of his family’s guests are approached with curiosity and compassion. Even when he admits that he is run down, resentful and irritable, the writing is leavened with humour.

I should have started with a brief explantation of characters and plot, but my brain’s still sifting. Sorry! Francesca and Tobias Jones and their two small daughters opened up their home to become A Place of Refuge (the book’s title) for those who might need one. In effect, their house and woodland property in Somerset, England, became a commune called Windsor Hill Wood.

Over the years it evolved as they learned what worked and more importantly perhaps, what didn’t. The aim was to provide a place where people could step outside situations that weren’t working for them, and figure out their next steps. Among them were unwanted offspring, the divorced, addicted, lost, and, naturally, the grifters. All were welcomed (with conditions) and included in the daily routines and projects around the place. And everyone involved was challenged in one way or another. As my own father used to say, in large families you get your edges rubbed off. As Tobias says, everyone in community is forced to confront their own demons and flaws. There’s nowhere to hide.

I borrowed this book from the library on the recommendation of an old organic gardening friend who has long worked in community groups. She’s a founding member of a community garden and speaks often of managing conflicts, successfully or otherwise. She’s a wise elder to me and many others, and her recommendations always yield fruit of some sort. So I knew I’d benefit in some way. I just wasn’t prepared to enjoy the book quite so much.

As I read I kept being reminded of communities I’d been part of, long term and short, and of the dynamics and behaviours. I winced at memories of some of my own behaviours and laughed aloud in recognition of others. Even the place where I currently reside could be described as a small community, although not entirely intentional, nor commune-like. But some social dynamics and social benefits remain recognisable. It’s probably why I’ve not moved on, along with reasons of location and affordability.

In the past I enjoyed the Camphill-inspired ‘curative homes’ for people with disabilities. I appreciated the stabilising daily and seasonal rhythms, the wholesome food, and the odd mix of conservative and bohemian staff. Then there were the hippy communes that were utterly unlike those I’d been led to expect. Clothes optional yes, slacking and drugging, no. They were disciplined, creative and ahead of the curve in terms of tiny homes and eco living; super smart people who felt confined elsewhere. Some of my highest natural highs and most cringeworthy behaviours happened there. And then there were the share houses, the urban cult, the community gardens, mental health support groups and even the youth hostel in northern NSW where everyone was welcomed, had chores, and felt appreciated for their own special brand of humanity.

All of these experiences were watered by observations made in the book. Values and ideals that I rarely hear these days were outlined and examined and held up against his own experiences. I didn’t even know that I’d needed that. And blimey, he can write!

If it had been written by Francesca or a female participant, well, it would have that added perspective. In some ways it was a very white male book. He skipped over some crucial aspects that someone else might have elaborated on. That said, there was nothing that made me think, “oh dude, no.” And yes, I do say that often, lol.

So I now recommend A Place of Refuge by Tobias Jones, (2015) to you. I would love to hear what you think.

The changing texture of feelings

The Lego blocks of my feelings have increased in size. They’re easier to deal with in these big hands of mine, however I’ve lost the ability to easily notice and articulate the finer details.

That’s the summary of my much longer ramble, now deleted. (Whew!)

Today I was reading things from my Transition File. It’s a jumbled mess, like the shoe box a disorganised person might hand to their accountant. All the shame and confusion and excitement were in mediation and this mess was the compromise. Shame wanted me to throw things out, confusion wanted me to sort things out, and excitement just wanted to start living my new life now, man! No looking back!

In the protracted, pre-transition therapy period, we discussed testosterone’s magic powers. I was given a list of the usual permanent and semi-permanent bodily changes, such as body fat redistribution and facial hair growth. We talked about emotional changes that usually happen during puberty, which would be my second puberty – moodiness, for instance. I was told that some people experience an inability to cry, or a blunting of emotion.

It’s hard to know which side effects you’ll get in some cases – receding hairlines depend on your maternal gene pool, for instance, and it’s hard to tell just how you’ll cope if/when it happens. I’m doing ok with that side of things, as it happens, thanks for asking. I never cared much for haircuts.

Emotional changes are more tricky. My culture doesn’t promote emotional literacy anyway, but my family of origin tended to ridicule any emotion that didn’t fit narrow parameters, so I have a fair amount of shame around feeling any sort of feelings. Add that to the newly minted male conditioning I’m encountering around emotions and the expression of such, and I’m finding it tricky. I want to talk, I don’t want to talk. I grunt instead. I understand what’s happening and I’m confused.

On the plus side my feelings are now impressionist versions of their prior selves, all misty watercolour blur, as though my mind took off its specs and squinted through steam in a busy kitchen. So although this explains my difficulty with identification and interpretation, it means their impact is less. If I can’t see you mate, you can’t be that scary.

If, to labour another metaphor/analogy/whatever, my mind is now wearing thick gloves when it comes to identifying and interpreting feelings, fortunately the Lego blocks of emotion are now larger and easier to handle. I get stuff done more quickly, unencumbered by the fine print of nuance.

Sometimes feelings sneak up on me. My early warning system is broken.

This is a mixed bag I can live with.

I enjoyed noting all this today, while perusing the mess. With luck it made sense to you too.

One year of blogging

In two weeks it will be a year since I started this blog. I didn’t know what to expect, beyond putting my words out here and coping with the resulting panic attacks. I didn’t know who would respond, or why, or how.

People have been way more kind than expected, and that’s blown me away. It’s become easier to respond to others’ comments, although I was deer-in-the-headlights freaked out at first. I can even press ‘publish’ on posts without obsessively checking for mistakes. Some may groan at the resulting typos and grammar offences, but for me it’s progress. It’s been a fun year.

So what’s next? This blogging adventure was to help overcome my fear of publishing (a book). The book still isn’t finished, and blogging sometimes distracts me from working on it. My self discipline isn’t what it used to be. Does that mean I should shelve the blog? No. Something needs to shift, though. Still figuring that out.

NaNo wrings surprises

Writing every day is my own choice. Nobody is forcing me to sit and await inspiration-strikes or dig for previously unexplored relics. I can’t even blame NaNoWriMo because nobody made me sign up. I thought it would be fun. I wanted to be surprised.

I’m surprised all right. I’m surprised by how wrung out I am by twenty-two consecutive days of writing. It’s not as though my whole day is spent here, but it’s a commitment. It’s one that does not come naturally to me. I had relied on the irrepressible urges to write – if I don’t write I talk to myself, and I know which one is more socially embarrassing. A flare erupts up top and I sit on the cat, or scooch her away, and a flurry of activity results, almost effortlessly. Then I sit back, astonished that my day has been thus interrupted.

But NaNo. No. No flares, lately. Flares have departed. Flurries diminished. I feel underfed, wrung out like a toothpaste tube. It’s not pretty. I’m… well, I was going to say I’m pustular. Nobody needs that mental image. But I feel like a leftover Halloween prop that a horse sat on. At the end of the month, I’m counting on my body’s healing instinct to restore my pre-NaNo dimensions and patina.

Fingers crossed. Too stubborn to stop now. There have to be more words left in the old fart.

PS: I don’t really sit on the cat. That was a lie for dramatic effect, in case you worried. She’s spoiled rotten and I didn’t want to admit that part. If she steals my desk chair, I use the exercise ball. And the top photo was taken at a public garden, where I like to walk my old camera.

Reasons I follow bloggers

Because they make me snort with laughter.

They surprise me with each click.

They intrigue me, and I want to watch the unfurling.

Because of the warmth in my heart as I read.

Because I admire the way they think.

Because I respect the work involved in each post.

Because they seem like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with, if I/we were sociable.

Because their world is vastly different from mine.

Because I can learn from them.

Because

So many blogs, so little time. I have to narrow the field of daily reading options somehow.

Thank you all. May your weekend be nourishing. 🙂