america

Know What I Hate About Being Transgender?

Absolutely nothing.

Being trans is a gem of an experience.

What sucks is how needlessly bloated full of shame the experience is.

Society currently seems willing to interact with trans people only on society’s demoralizing terms. We’ll be halfheartedly tolerated as long as we perform as penitents. There’s always a creeping threat, even behind a lot of the help we get: “Show us your pain, or we’ll drop you back in the deep end”.

As long as we suffer, and center our suffering in our narrative. As long as we accept that suffering as inevitable, so cis people can feel magnanimous in helping us a little and forgetting again.

And we’re supposed to forget, too. We’re supposed to quietly get transition over with, get it behind us, hide any essential differentness that we’ve discovered, and go back to hiding in plain sight as soon as we can–just in another box. We’re supposed to be embarrassed.

Anybody mind if I laugh at this and reject it? To stand there and say, I’m right between genders, and I like it here. I like my chest hair and glitter nail polish. I like doing my shot, because I’m a kinky motherfucker, and with music and incense it’s a sweet little ceremony.

Societal acceptance that hinges on shame, self-minimization, and humble crumb-scraping is blackmail, and it’s abusive. Trans people have the right to love this process, and bring its unique joys to the table as well as their grievances.

This isn’t about being stealth if you want to be. It’s about silence and meekness as a prerequisite for safety, and about having what could be an inner revolution hijacked and steered back towards self-hatred.

What sort of sick system holds “passing” as the only real goal, demanding the eradication of all traces of the “wrong” gender, even if they’re part of who you truly are?

Imagine if being trans didn’t equal suffering or strain. If there were balms for the pain people already felt, but no obligation to keep hurting just to be taken seriously, or to carve off parts of your soul to fit a dying narrative.

Imagine a world where trans people are understood, accepted, and valued as precious perspective-checks against social rigidity and hierarchical thinking. Imagine if trans people were seen as what they are, the embodiments of possibility and authenticity.

Imagine if hormones were readily available, surgery was respected and well-subsidized, and trans people who didn’t want either were just as welcomed to the table.

Imagine if being transgender were a pleasure, or an adventure, or an insightful social role.

And lifelong experimentation were every person’s right, not just trans folks.

I’m not asking for a debate on how “likely” this is to ever come to pass. I’m just stating what I see as the options–either we hold out for better terms now, or we shrug our shoulders, submit to bigots, and kick the problem down the road for the next generation of transgender people to pick up.

Pride 2017

I’ve managed once again to fall through just about every crack in something I want to be a part of.

Not only am I transgender, I’m also older, an alt guy, and gay. I feel like I absolutely don’t fit in anywhere.

For the longest time, especially pre-transition, I searched from place to place thinking I’d belong somewhere–in different cities, at different schools, in different relationships. And it sucks, because not only did I not fit in anywhere, and sometimes get ruthlessly rejected, but the baggage of all that instability hangs off my neck now and makes it hard to be taken seriously as an adult.

Now that I know the score with myself, I feel like I’ve spent the past six months in a dual headspace–staring like a deer in headlights at the very real prospect of never finding an emotional home, and simultaneously learning that I really like myself and always have, and that I only want to become more like myself as time goes on.

And a kind of dumbass faith that eventually someone will see what I am and like it, if I can only keep steady.

Pride this month was a jungle of bad feelings. It hurt like a bitch to be confronted with what feels like an especially passive-aggressive gay cis male energy this year (reacting against the new administration?), but also being told over and over how nice it must be to live in such a permissive and accepting city.

No it isn’t.

There’s a certain way you’ve got to be gay or queer here, and I’m just not part of it. And there’s a humongous difference between permissiveness and progressiveness.

I skipped every last Pride event in New Orleans this year, because I didn’t feel like getting the knife of the last 8 months of social isolation twisted by a bunch of people who would just look at me and see a fucking out-of-place woman anyway.

Not only that, but the organizer of the Pride parade threw political queer protest under the bus in the newspaper, in such disingenuous language that Frank Luntz would have been proud. I think the cis gay community needs to take an honest look in the mirror about how far they’ve fallen from real social justice, and eradicate the proto-fascism before they dominate any more Pride parades.

So yeah. I’m pretty pissed off. Maybe I’m just in the wrong place, and I need to be in a city where there’s more opportunity for both support and genuine activism.

I could have done with some actual Pride this year, though. It hurts especially bad because Pride last year felt particularly inclusive and loving.

Happy 50th Birthday, NASA!

Fifty years ago today, in response to the Sputnik crisis, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.

For a kid like me, growing up in Florida in the final days of the Cold War, NASA stood as a mixed symbol. On one hand, what a heritage! Stern men in white lab coats, beeping displays, cold readiness, and firey, brain-rattling launches: NASA was a secular monastery devoted wholly to the god Science. Its doings were at once utterly trustworthy, and tinged with deep unease.

Overhead View of Atlantis Stack Rollover

And on the other hand–what a tidal shift. In the decade between 1985 and 1995, the bipolar political alignment of the planet, in place for forty years, unraveled. We lost a shuttle and launched a telescope. The first pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, in all their blurry wonder, were beamed back to a world fresh out from under the heavy blanket of history. The universe expanded in scope and magnificence, while the planet itself seemed so much smaller and more available than it had ever been.

Ed White First American Spacewalker

Is it any wonder our concept of “enemy” weakened? Indeed, we went from threatening Russians with “Star Wars” strategic missile defense, to docking at their space station, Mir.

Children my age, born in the seventies, weren’t around for the run-up of the Cold War that resulted in NASA’s existence. We missed most of the fear, and barely understood it. We knew only Brezhnev, only Gorbachev–a disintegrating threat. Science was an institutional authority to be questioned: Why the militarization? Why did anyone ever think Mutually Assured Destruction was a good idea? We’d missed the opening moves of the Cold War, and so felt compelled to hasten the endgame.

We would use science to clean up the messes that had been made with it. We would join with our former enemies, and save the environment of the only habitable planet science had ever found. And maybe that’s a good thing: as the decades roll on, and government money gets tighter, it’s harder and harder to imagine that space colonization is close.

South Pole of Jupiter as seen by Juno Spacecraft

But part of me is sad, especially to think that Shuttle launches may end in a few years. We may become better stewards of this planet, but will we ever be able to leave it? Was the end of the “Us and Them” political attitude also the end of our deep motivation to master space?

My consolation is the knowledge that those secular monasteries are still there, in Florida, in Texas, in California. They’re still filled with beeping dials, and lab-coated men and women who want to reach the stars far more than most of us will ever know.

Thank you, NASA.