I’ve spent much of my life having “big feelings”; being told directly and taught indirectly that I shouldn’t.
There has been the underlying message that some feelings are “good” and others are “bad” and that I need to somehow minimize, ignore or underplay the “bad” ones.

Starting testosterone some 4 ish years ago enabled me to learn how to curb my feelings. Not only that; it helped me feel less intensely and gave me an ease in ability when I needed to show up as logical and rational as opposed to emotional which can often be interpreted as irrational.
These two things: logical / emotional, are often pitted as opposites with one holding more value that the other…can you guess which is the more valued?
When I learned to put my emotions in the passenger seat so to speak, I learned that people (family, friends, colleagues) provided me with what I’m sure was unintentional positive reinforcement. It’s challenging trying to put into words, the shift in peoples mannerisms and behaviors, which are so incredibly subtle.

Recently, I made the conscious choice to stop taking testosterone. With this, I have definitely noticed that the waves of emotion are returning and feel more intense than they have in the past few years.
I’ve developed an awareness and analysis of how the logic versus emotion arguments play out, and recognizing that dominant society favors ration over emotion, I’ve decided to say “fuck it” for a while and allow myself to accept whatever emotions I might feel, no matter how big.
Not only that, but I’m allowing myself to express these feelings to people. The last few years, if something upset or bother me, I found myself able to detach from those emotions and go to the rational place of unabashed acceptance to every person exactly where they are at; to not let it impact me, to not let my feelings matter.
Now with anything, there are pros and cons.
The pro? I’ve been able to shower people with unconditional acceptance, which I believe is something that many of us need, deserve and often lack…
The con is that I’ve compromised my self-respect and neglected my own needs and desires on more than one occasion. Unintentionally of course…but I’ve held spaces in my heart and body, waiting for people to show up in certain ways, believe that they would given enough time. Is 4 years enough time? How long must I wait until I acknowledge a hurt and learn to let go of that wanting and waiting?

Allowing myself to be with emotion, and express my feelings takes a whole lot of self-compassion and reframing of what emotions look like. It means removing “good” and “bad” from the things that I’m feeling.
It means accepting that at times, people will perceive me as selfish for honoring my own process, and not always showing up in the ways that look the most appealing.

I find it funny that my family worries about the long term physical health implications of taking testosterone, which are widely unknown…but without them knowing, it seems they prefer the version of me which shows up to please them. This means keeping my feelings to myself and out of family dynamics. It means showing up even when it doesn’t feel right to me, or having to give an excuse/justify why I can or can’t show up in any given moment/specific way.

I have always been a people pleaser; I thrive off the praise of others when I show up in ways that are desirable to them…
Taking a step back from this means that people will be hurt, offended, upset and potentially disappointed because it means I am disrupting a pattern, which benefits them while unbeknownst ends up hurting me.

I am tired of carrying this hurt quietly.

I think there is merit to a balance, for sure. After all, I am a Libra, and I am in search of what that balance could look like…
For now though, it is important to me to explore all these concepts and better understand how I can continue to be true to myself, while showing up in the lives of others; what it means to lead people by the hand and when to walk away, when to please and when to hold fast; what looks like a pendulum swing to find the centre point.

Dear Local East Van Establishments, Eateries and Servers,

 

It has come to my attention on a number of occasions (both through personal experiences as well as the second hand stories that inevitably cross my ears) that many of you may not be familiar with how to best engage with members of the community you are working so diligently to serve.

 

I hope that the following provides some helpful information on how to be more welcoming, inclusive and mindful so as to provide premium service which will increase your ratings AND your tips! Hopefully, this will be a win-win for all involved.

First, let’s talk language.
Outdated greetings such as “Welcome ladies” or “Hey guys” often feel stifling to many individuals. Not just queer or transgender patrons, but perhaps also folks who just aren’t down with the whole gender binary thing.

Here are some simple and effective ways of being more inclusive/mindful of your language choices:

“Welcome!”
“Welcome! How is everyone doing today?”
“Can I get you folks* anything?”

 

Does “folks” feel to “American” for y’all? That’s okay! Try jazzing it up or playing it down, depending on the context and your personality! Be playful and genuine in your work whenever possible and trust that you will reap the benefits.
“Hey there lovely/wonderful/awesome (insert adjective here) humans, what can I get for you today?” is another way you might greet someone.

It’s time to hang up those stuffy gendered greetings, as it’s 2016 and we should all be catching up to the fact that one can’t tell another’s gender identity just by looking at them. Let’s challenge our assumptions!

Personally, I know that my day can be a make-it or break-it kind of day depending on the language that is used to reference me. Wouldn’t you rather make my day AWESOME? It’s more likely that I will return to your establishment, tell my friends, AND tip you well!!!

Second, and this should come as a no brainer, if someone tells you that they are not a “girl” or not a “boy” and they’d appreciate if you didn’t refer to them using certain gendered terms, it is by NO MEANS in your best interest to correct them or argue with them. This will most definitely result in the opposite of all the wonderful things I described above.

Third and finally for the moment, I’d like to address the restroom situation.
If you aren’t familiar with what is commonly referred to as BATHROOM WARS in the USA, let me give you a brief filling in:
Bathrooms are for releasing bodily fluids. We all want to do so safely and in peace. By placing signs of stick figures on doors, or using words like “gentlemen/ladies/men/women”, you are doing something called gender policing.

 

If your establishment has the means to reconsider what restroom spaces look like, or what signage appears on the door, I by all means encourage this.
By simply changing your signage, you are making your establishment safer and more inclusive for everyone.
A reminder that not only women walk through the world with children, so also being aware of baby change devices in spaces to accommodate your patrons would be a great. See the images below for some ideas—the possibilities are truly endless!

toilet1toilet2toilet3toilet4

Together, I believe we can make every day, a better day.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Sincerely,

 

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Queer.

A good human passed away recently, and in one of our last conversations he asked me;

what are you putting off?

If i knew that time was running out, what is it that I would be doing? What have I not yet done? What am I putting off and why?
I knew the answer before he asked, and this is it.

GIRLBOY: InBetween, is a piece I’ve been working on in the background of my life for almost 3 years. It started when I inherited my mother’s journals. I came across the entry in which she first discovered she was pregnant with me. She learns from an ultrasound that there is a 98% likelihood that I will come into this world with the designation “female”.

Throughout my life, my mother has always expressed to me how much she wanted a daughter. I came out to her as genderqueer/genderfucked almost a decade ago now, and have since taken steps to medically transition to find a better balance within myself. Being transgender has been a journey, and this work in progress is snippets of that journey.

This piece weaves together music, and storytelling, to unpack experiences of gender and gendered expectations.

It is a work in progress, as are most of the things in my life, and at this point, it feels like time to share it.

3 nights of performance; a variety of sliding scale options. Each night will feature 2 guest artists who will share their art with you. Come and be a part of the magic that happens when communities come together to witness each other’s journeys.

GIRLBOY: InBetween

28 Years.
28 years – I write it on my shoulder and wear it as a badge.
I. Am. Here.
These 28 years
And for the first time in my life
I find myself hoping to live
At least 28 more.
Add another 28 to that
because People Like Me
rarely live that long. i’m reminded as the names ring out.
To the young folks, who never want to grow up
Because they can’t imagine what they
haven’t yet seen
I say this;
Believe.
Dare to dream and imagine into existence
The best you that you can be
Love;
Yourself and others
With as much as you can muster.
I seek the hands of elders to hold
So that they can tell me stories
Of how they got to live
To see lines of age etched
In their skin.
Beauty comes in smiles
and sadness
For we are the ones still here.
28 Years
Written on my cheek
Because my arms were cold and I had to cover my shoulders
to keep warm…
Come, keep us warm together as we stand strong
side by side.

The end of summer is coming all too quick, and I cannot begin to find the words to express the gratitude for everything in my life these past few months.

All I can really say, is that a tidal wave is coming, has come, and it sure is a long slow one full of force.

New songs, new people, performances, photo projects just as a few things building.

Conversations in our communities about expanding our gendered identities, the roles we play and understandings of one another…

GenderHeroes2015

Photo Courtesy of RDM Photography and Art – Spectrum Documentary & YVR Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The seasons pass so fast, and change is happening. Seasons are circular and while new things are coming, simultaneously I find things ending and rearranging.

Mid May kicked into gear with first full band show in about a year and a half—that followed by a solo performance for the Open Spectrum Fundraiser, raising money to support LGBTQ+ youth from all across BC getting to camp and meeting one another, followed by another upcoming band performance…music seems to be seeping back into the seams holding me together. The ongoing dialogue through the making of a documentary keeps me full up.

Pieces pulling together, trying new things, and coming together in light of summer to come.
Here’s something Lost Boy Found pulled out of storage to greet the changing of the seasons

I wasn’t going to write about this. Writing about this is hard, because I’m still figuring out what I want for me. Please know, this is an honest account of sharing, not an invitation for advice on what I should or shouldn’t do with my chest ❤ I say this with love.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone, except for my lovely living-mates and heart-homos, but now I feel I need to speak out. Why? Because I just realized that by citing #freeingthenipple on Facebook, and including my own thoughtfully crafted response, my voice could and would be silenced. The post was deleted—perpetuating the cycle of discrimination and oppression against female* and trans* bodies.

Tomorrow, I have an assessment for Reconstructive Chest Surgery—to discuss the reshaping of my chest from one that is “female” to one that is more aesthetically “male”.

Much like my decision to start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) almost 3 years ago, I needed this decision to be my own—free from the judgement or perceptions of those around me, something that felt like mine so I could know that in all of it’s permanence, it would be the right thing for me.

I got the call from Dr Cameron Bowman’s office a little over 3 weeks ago, to finally book an appointment for my assessment to have reconstructive chest surgery, and have been unpacking my incredibly complicated feelings about this long thought out possibility being one step closer. Paperwork and being on a wait list for funding began more than a year ago, with the approval coming through some time this past summer. The assessment I’d put out of my head, knowing that it could be impossibly long so I didn’t really want to think about it in the mean time.

I struggle with my chest. The shape of it under a shirt when I don’t bind or the pain and discomfort that comes when I do. Binding is something I’ve done pretty consistently for the last 8 years of my life, and the physical ramifications are many.

Let me try and recapture what I wrote just a few days ago…

RE: #freeingthenipple

I remember just last year, I was getting ready to take a group of young folks to a weekend long camp. It was a hot, sticky Friday, and one of the young (cis) male youth had taken off his shirt while loudly proclaiming how hot it was. This caused a bit of commotion with some of the other youth, particularly the androgynous/genderqueer and trans* youth—they prodded at me and pushed, if he can take off his shirt, why can’t we take off ours?
I responded to the best of my ability, bringing up that it is technically legal in the city of Vancouver for anyone to walk around without a shirt on, but this brings up so much more. Just because there are laws in place that are suppose to protect our safety and our dignity, this is rarely the case.
A woman or person assumed to have breasts can not walk down the street without a shirt in safety; without fear of harassment or being sexually assaulted no matter how hot it is outside. Rape culture confirms this as truth.
Trans* individuals are also at risk of being targeted, with the added bonus of these violent acts being explicit hate crimes.
*
When I was 23, I lay in the Langara College courtyard, head resting in my then partner’s lap. A hot day in June, before my journey of starting HRT, though well into playing with my gender identity, I lay with my bare chest exposed to the sun.
A campus security guard came by and ordered me to put my shirt back on.
I told him that I wasn’t breaking any rules, that other young men were walking around campus with their chests bared, and that it was fully legal for any person of any gender talk walk around without a shirt in the city of Vancouver should they choose.
He ordered me to put my shirt back on or he would escort me off campus.
I felt shame, I felt anger, I felt resentment.
*
From my late teens until now, I’ve taken it on as a continued act of resistance to bare my chest.
It began as simply not understanding why I had to wear a shirt when the other boys didn’t. I hated the feel of fabric against my skin, even when my hair was long and I went by Girl.
This gained me unwanted attention and I would move through years of roller coaster feelings, some of which I mentioned above.

There is no justice here, just the policing of bodies coupled with senseless acts of violence and oppression all while claiming that “men and women are equal”.

When I think about my chest, and how I wish it could be, I get so mad at how things are right now. There is a stubbornness in me that is so prevalent…there is a voice in my head and it tells me that I shouldn’t go under the knife–it tells me that if I do, I’m selling out my values and politics for a body of privilege and comfort, and leaving so many who I care about to continue to face this oppression and injustice.

Photo on 2015-03-29 at 8.51 PM

There is a war inside of me, and it rages through my chest. In my anger, I don’t know what to do. I wish to live my life through acts of love instead.