Mid-Year Check In

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about my love of new beginnings and my resolutions for 2016. I was not too lofty in my goals; I attempted to make them as attainable as possible. As regular readers of this blog know, my year didn’t exactly turn out the way I had expected. My fiancée died very suddenly in January, and my life took some very interesting twists and turns in the months since. I began writing this on July first, the exact midpoint of the year. Here’s how my resolutions have held up against the scourge of real life.

  1. Gender Stuff. My first resolution was to figure out my gender, to choose a name, and to be more adamant about enforcing my pronouns. This is one of the resolutions that I deviated the most from in the wake of my partner’s death. I have come to terms with the fact that I have no gender and that that fact is okay. I have been using my birth name in most situations recently. I am, for the most part, okay with this. I have not been enforcing my pronouns, but taking a more laissez-faire attitude toward them. I allow people to switch between he, she, and ze pronouns as they see fit. It’s been working for me. Perhaps these things are less important to me than I once thought they were. I’m not certain yet, and the year is still fairly young. We’ll see what happens come December.
  2. The death of my partner also harbored the death of my ability to write full time without worry for financial stability. I have been searching for a job for the greater part of the past six months. I have not had much success. The immediate aftermath of my partner’s death was a heavy weight on my soul, and I did not feel much like writing or being creative at all. My work stymied severely. It’s starting to pick back up now, and I’m taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, and I hope that it will be something that rekindles my writing habits and makes them more consistent. I also applied, sort of on a lark, to become a writing intern for one of my favorite pop culture blogs, Film School Rejects. I got the internship and I’m flexing my writing muscles in ways that they really have not been forced to flex before. You can find my work on that front at filmschoolrejects.com.
  3. Health/Weight Loss The death of my fiancé has really affected me globally. For the longest time after he died, I couldn’t bring myself to eat. Food tasted like ashes and felt like rubber. I would eat one meal a day, maximum. I lost a significant amount of body fat. I started exercising because the endorphins really did help me feel better. The shape of my body has changed so much over the past few months. I have never, ever felt more confident about my body and my own attractiveness and fitness. It’s incredible.
  4. Sociality Grief really puts a damper on the desire to be social. I spent a lot of time by myself. I alienated most of my friends because I just didn’t have the energy to spend time with anyone. My best friend sort of nudged me toward being around more often. We became very close again, even though we’d drifted apart during my relationship with my fiancé. She’s been encouraging me to spend more time with other people. She’s encouraged me to meet new people. She encouraged me to make an OkCupid profile, just to remember how to meet people. I still feel sort of guilty about it, maintaining a profile on a dating website. I feel guilty for the fact that I’ve met someone that I enjoy being around even though it is not super serious and is very new. Sociality is something I forgot I was very good at. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it. I never know the right time to tell people that I’m a widow/er. I’m still learning, but I’m getting better all the time.
  5. Spirituality I, of course, went through some intense spiritual soul-searching in the wake of my fiance’s death. I have gotten back into witchcraft on a regular basis. I spend more time praying, both to my pagan gods and in a Catholic Church, than I have in years. I wouldn’t say I’m where I want to be, but I have made progress there as well.

I’d say that despite the horrible beginning that this year brought me, things are starting to look up. I’m still making progress toward my goals. Grit and determination can heal all wounds.

Terrorism and the Violence of Otherness: Response to the Orlando Pulse Massacre

TW: Orlando Massacre, violence

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In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, just after last call, a gunman entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The rest, now, is history. Media coverage of this massacre has been unrelenting and unreliable, treading often in intellectual territory that made the Pulse massacre possible in the first place. This was the act of one man, but discourse of violence against the Other propagated all over our society is just as much to blame.

The racism, sexism, classism, religious bias, and queerphobia of American society is well-documented and has been inextricably linked Her history and fabric. The same news outlets that only last week covered the multi-state battle on restroom usage for the transgender community with vitriol while fondly remembering unapologetic Muslim Mohammed Ali, diverted all of their energy and hatred toward American Muslims, another marginalized group, supposedly on behalf of queer people.

There are so many intersecting issues in the Orlando massacre that the vast majority of people are going to take pieces of analysis that fit their pre-established narratives. Many people only mock the concept of intersectionality, or that there is more than one major social influence affecting a particular person or event. This case is as intersectional as anything can be. To ignore even one element of the issue is to create a false narrative.

The shooter was born in New Hyde Park, New York, a municipality on the border between Northeastern Queens and Northwestern Nassau County, Long Island. He lived in Queens and Nassau most of his life. He was an American citizen. His parents were Afghani immigrants. The media would have you believe that the single best way to understand this tragedy is only to understand that the shooter was of foreign origins, that the shooter was brown, and that the shooter was Muslim. This is a gross oversimplification.

The shooter was unstable and violent. His ex-wife accused him of domestic violence, and described a scenario in which her family had to literally pull her from his arms as he was choking her. She describes him as having bipolar with bouts of psychotic rage. She described his as extremely secular.

He was fascinated to the point of obsession with both guns and the profession of law enforcement. The guns he used to carry out this grievous attack were purchased legally.

Many were quick to brand this attack “radical Islamist terrorism,” as if Islamist terrorism is somehow indicative of Islam as a total faith. Minimal research into the faith would yield their incompatibility, especially now during the Holy Month of Ramadan, during which it is forbidden to commit acts of violence. The shooter’s family has apologized on behalf of the family and the faith—a burden we do not require for members of other faiths.

It has been reported that the shooter pledged allegiance to Daesh in his 911 call. Another report claimed that he told one of the victims that he was committing the crime in retaliation for the U.S.’s ongoing drone war in Afghanistan. Do I believe this information was fabricated by the media to add to the easy, Muslim-as-terrorist narrative? No. He probably did do either or both of these things, but our common media narrative about the motives of those who join these groups is fundamentally flawed. The shooter, like most 18-39 year old men from Western cultures who join Islamist terror groups do not join for religious purity. They join for power, a sense of belonging, and egotistically narcissism that comes from believing to be on the brutish “moral high ground” over a world superpower. They join because they feel invisible and hypervisible at the same time in the West. They feel powerless and use the Western modality to create their own power: easy biases like racism, misogyny, and homophobia. These ideologies, as well as the promise of “real” power, both in this world and the next is what brings them there.

There is speculation that the primary motive of this atrocity was actually homophobia. The shooter’s father said that his son became enraged seeing two men kiss when the family visited Miami. He grew up in the New York City region, are we to believe that he had never seen two men kiss prior to this incident? That hardly seems feasible. There are many theories swirling about this.

It has been reported that the shooter visited his target location many times and maintained a profile on the gay hookup app, Grindr. One theory about the motivation behind this crime is that the shooter was closeted. This is among the most controversial of theories. Many see it as media narrative-building to make the attack even more one of the Other attacking the Other, as a way to absolve the media and the larger heterosexual community of any contributing homophobia. Many see the shooter’s behavior as little more than scoping out a target of violence.

If the shooter truly was closeted, the motivation may be more complex than just homophobia. Miami is a city with a very large Latinx community. The shooter deliberately chose Latin Night at the Pulse Nightclub as his target. In many minority communities in the West, there is a common theory that homosexuality is a “white” thing. It could be possible that the shooter was jealous of the Latinx LGBT folks for being so free while he was so repressed.

In the end, however, it serves no real purpose understanding why this tragedy happened. Nothing will bring back the forty-nine people he murdered in cold blood during Pride month. They are the newest victims in an ongoing war against queerness. Trans women of color are murdered at an exponentially higher rate in proportion to the rest of society. Hate crimes still occur in the most liberal of cities, including my own. This war was started long before the shooter purchased an AR-15 and created terror in Orlando. This war will continue beyond him, no matter how much our elected officials posture and claim to support the LGBT community. We are still considered Other. The Other is always a threat to the status quo. That is the American way. That has been the American way for centuries.

My fellow queer people: protect yourselves at all costs. If it is not safe for you to come out, don’t. Get self-defense training. If you are able, shout your queerness from the rooftops. If you are able, join groups like Black Lives Matter. Create coalitions with other marginalized groups. There are more of us than there are of them. We can keep ourselves safe if we protect each other.

Do not allow the nastiness of American culture to taint us. We are not bound by the biases of our nation. We will not play into the hand of Islamophobia. We will stand against homophobia, which is, of course, far bigger than one religion.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and their friends.

Rest In Peace: Eulogies For Strangers

Grief is such a personal emotion. It is one that we feel when we lose something that is precious to us: a person, a relationship, a home, a job, etc. On its first face, it seems strange that we collectively feel very deep, very real grief at the death of a beloved celebrity. The vast majority of mourners have never seen these people in the flesh, let alone met them. Let alone gotten to know them. Still, the feelings remain intensely palpable.

Actors, musicians, sports stars, TV personalities, and celebrities of all stripes evoke these feelings in us. There is something about how these people chose to share their lives with the general public so freely. I think with artists, the connection between artist and stranger is strengthened because that artist has allowed us to peer, if only for a second, into their soul.

This year has been particularly hard on artists. It’s only April, but the world has been in mourning more times this year than any year I can remember. I have lost three of my heroes. The world has lost two queer-of-center artists, for whom my heart aches the most: David Bowie and Prince. The world has lost one of my favorite actors of all time as well in Alan Rickman.

I have always been a very self-isolating person. I’m an introvert. I’m a writer. I enjoy many of the things I enjoy in solitude. When I listen to music or watch a film, I dedicate my full attention to it. I allow the art to envelop and seep into me. I allow art to find empty corners in my heart, my soul, and my personality. I allow the art to live in those nooks and crannies. I carry those artists  with me for the rest of my life.

When an artist dies, their fan base mourns as if they were close, personal friends. We celebrate their lives and work. We mourn them in any way that we can. We struggle to do something positive in their memory, just as we would for a recently deceased friend.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince passed away on April 21, 2016. His formal cause of death is not yet known, but sources indicate that an acute overdose on the painkiller Percocet.

Prince was a revolutionary performer. He was prolific. He played several instruments and wrote music not only for himself but several other performers. He allegedly possessed a vault in his Minnesota estate containing enough unreleased music to quench the thirst of his fans for years to come. His musical style was all his own. A smooth combination of soul, funk, rhythm and blues, and pop, there was something for everyone in his repertoire. He was also a fashion icon, embodying an androgyny once reserved only for women and David Bowie.

Prince redefined what it was to be a black man in the United States. He found a way to strip away the layers of machismo forced into the black psyche by the brute force of colonialism and slavery. As he sang in “I Would Die 4 U,” “I’m not a woman/I’m not a man/I’m something you will never understand.”

Prince was considered something of a diva. He had a very particular way of looking at things and incredibly high standards for himself and those around him. This too was a testament to his integrity to his art and against those who would attempt to dim his starfire. He fought against the exploitation of record labels and refused projects that could have made money for personal discomfort.

Prince was one of my great role models. He effectively decoupled gender and sexuality in a way that made sense to me. He was one of the most talented musicians and composers of his generation, maybe ever. He was spiritual in a carnal way, one not tied down to the constraints of virginality. He took shit from nobody and largely kept his private life private.

It would be disingenuous to say that Prince did not grow in relevance to me after his death. He died from nearly the same ailment that killed my fiancé just three months before Prince died. Painkillers, both abused and taken as directed, are scourges on this planet. As someone who broke the hold of opiates on myself, losing two of my heroes in a matter of weeks to these drugs put things into perspective for me. As much as it hurts to live with both my fiancé and Prince. It could have just as easily been me.

Listen to some music. Make some art. Have sex. Go feel something. It’s the best and only way to honor Prince’s memory.

2016 Sucks

If you’ll recall, I wrote an incredibly optimistic post about the New Year. I outlined all of my resolutions. I talked about how much I loved the symbolism of a brand spanking new year that’s just ready for one to shove themselves through the various doors of opportunity. It would appear that 2016 does not have my interests in mind. Not so far, anyway.

I’ve been gone from this blog for a considerable amount of time—admittedly, as I am wont to do from time to time—but this time there is a very clear reason. I very unexpectedly lost my fiancé, my partner, the love of my life. That has thrown my equilibrium into absolute chaos.

I had high hopes and possibly unrealistic dreams. My fiancé was medically unlucky. He endured multiple surgeries and exponential complications from those surgeries. Through all of his ill health, though, he was the eternal optimist. He always believed that there would come a day that he wouldn’t need his cane, that he wouldn’t be in pain anymore, and that he would live to a ripe old age. He was brilliant. He had the softest heart and the most generous spirit of any person I have ever or am likely to ever meet. We had such dreams. He had applied for Italian citizenship through his grandmother’s having been born there. We were the godparents of three really amazing kids. We were planning on having a munchkin or two of our own. We were supposed to move to Sicily in 2017. We were supposed to get married at the hotel of his adoptive family. We were going to have a dual-citizen child. For the first time in my life, I was happy. I had found a queer activist and intellectual who understood and accepted my layered and nuanced queer identity. For the first time in my life, I was considering very normative life paths like marriage and parenthood. I was considering completely uprooting my life and moving to another continent. But, perhaps most surprisingly, I was happy about it.

My partner and I spent almost all of our time together. We talked about everything. We spoke about politics, queer theory, life, space, science fiction, raunchy sex dreams, fears, aspirations, cats, and the mysteries of the universe with more or less equal vigor. Our relationship was very intense intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. As an introvert, it overwhelmed me sometimes, but I was happy and that was all that mattered to me.

Jamie changed my life. He cultivated and brought out my best self. Without him, I would never have had the courage to come out. I probably would not have graduated from college with such high marks. Hell, there’s a high likelihood that I wouldn’t even be alive if Jamie hadn’t entered my life. My life is never going to be the same without him.

His family, from whom he was estranged, tried to cause problems with me at his wake and funeral, which took three weeks to even plan. They accused me of being complicit in his death. I resent that. I love him more than anything this world has ever offered. I was supposed to grow old with him.

One particular member of his family showed up at my house a few days after the funeral, which spooked me. I had to move with some lightning speed. I’m now living ten minutes away, in one of my best friend’s basement.

Things have been very chaotic over the past several weeks. They will probably continue to be chaotic for the near future. I am grieving. I am a twenty-two-year-old widow(er). My grief is bizarre. It is confusing. It is causing me to feel things that make me feel other, conflicting things. It comes in waves and flashes. The smallest memory can have me in tears. Or feeling nothing. Or feeling very inappropriate sexual tension with one of my partner’s friends. My grief makes me horny, it makes me numb, it makes me very sad, it makes me dysphoric. It is quite possible that, as I found him dead next to me one morning with one of his arms still wrapped around my body, as I was the only person who tried to revive him, that I have PTSD. I won’t know until I finish grieving. I’m afraid I never will.

I am doing my best to move forward. I am doing my best to create a new routine for myself. I am doing a bad job of it. I moved into my friends’ house. There’s a lot of chaos. I’m running low on patience and I often feel as if I am drowning in the weight of the world’s problems. Things have been a struggle, but I am doing my best to put the pieces of my life, my heart, and my world back together in some semblance of a way that might suit me.

I applied for a fellowship that will, if I’m accepted, pay for me to get my Masters in Education and place me in an in-need New York City public school. I view this as a rather positive first step. Everything in my life right now warrants reevaluation. This blog will undoubtedly become an outlet for those reevaluations and frustrating internal conflicts. I hope not to impose on you for too long. I hope to return to my queer and politicking blogging as soon as I can. Until then, please bear with me.

I love you all, carpe diem, c’est la vie, and let’s do this.

Charlie Sheen and the Rise of Poz Phobia

It seems the 1980s are back, and I don’t mean in a fun, big hair and heavy metal kind of way. I mean in a vitriolic, public outing, shame on you sort of way. After a “shocking” expose published by the infamous grocery store checkout line tabloid The National Enquirer recently made headlines, Charlie Sheen—the actor known best for his role in Two and a Half Men as well as his very public, drug-induced meltdown involving tiger blood and ‘winning’—was forced to come out about his HIV status. After the Enquirer’s article, Sheen was terrorized by everyone, constantly asked deeply personal, medical questions by paparazzi. He came out about his status on an exclusive interview with NBC’s TODAY Show.

As someone who works often in the HIV space, I know first-hand how much ignorance, misinformation, and downright stupidity that exists around HIV. I have not seen it this bad in my entire tenure as a queer advocate and activist.

So I, your friendly neighborhood queer, am here to clear the air and explain a little bit about HIV and why Charlie Sheen, as the Caitlyn Jenner of the poz community, should be critiqued and supported, but never ever mocked or ridiculed for his status. A lot of what I’ll be saying, you’ve probably heard before—from me, if you’re a longtime reader. A lot of what I’ll be saying bears repeating until more people understand.

Charlie Sheen is probably the worst poster boy for an HIV-positive person. He is not exactly what anyone would call a perfect victim. That is okay. As a matter of fact, that he does not fit the stereotype is a good thing. He, just by being who and what he is for better or worse, stands as a foil to the traditional model of the HIV-positive person, and thereby begins to dismantle it in the minds of those who are paying attention.

You may be wondering which stereotypes I’m referring to. There are a couple different ones. Each distinct social group has a different stereotype of who is and who is not HIV-positive. To the vast majority of the straight world, only gay men can have HIV. Even many queer people ascribe to that stereotype. This stereotype is wrong, manufactured by the government when they originally referred to HIV as GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency, which was considered a cancer.) It is harmful. There are thousands of young women in this country who don’t know their status because they think they can’t get HIV. Young men, young women, children, everyone dies of HIV’s effects. Africa is ravaged with the disease.

Since the National Enquirer broke the story about Sheen’s sero-status, the grocery store tabloids have gone hog wild trying to “break” the “truth” about how he could have seroconverted. It’s 2015, HIV has been part of our collective consciousness for nearly forty years, and people still have no idea how the disease works. I’ve seen tabloids suggest that Sheen had an affair with a man, with “transsexuals,” that he’d done too many drugs and seroconverted due to a dirty syringe. No one wants to know anything about HIV when it doesn’t affect one’s own life and can’t be spoken of in the dark, dank comment sections of the internet. As an educator, this crawling-out-of-the-woodwork is extremely frustrating.

If you’ve got your fingers poised over your keyboards ready to scream about all the pseudoscience you think you know about HIV to try to scream me down, stop while you’re ahead.

Our knowledge and understanding of HIV has matured over the past forty years. There is not, and cannot be, room for medical and academic discourse for the bigoted, biased information that has been repeated on the internet. That there are those who still see HIV as a “gay disease” is, at best, morally troubling. It is as worst a willful rejection of fact to maintain an incorrect worldview. The demographic with the most new HIV cases in modernity are not gay men. They are not transgender women. They are heterosexual, cisgender women. The story that’s been told a million times about how a woman can’t get HIV is wrong. Women in sub-Saharan Africa have seroconverted with the highest incidence of all demographics on Earth.

Does gay sex transmit the virus? Yes, it can if unsafe sex is practiced. Do all gay men have HIV? Absolutely not. Does all drug use transmit the virus? No Only drug use in which blood could be present. I cannot and will not speculate as to how Mr. Sheen seroconverted. It’s none of my business. It’s none of anybody’s business. If he identifies as straight, we should, of course, take him at his word. After all, in the twenty-first century, there are worse things to be than a cis, white, rich gay man. For an increasingly irrelevant Hollywood fixture, it would probably help his career if he came out as gay. Conversely, if the rumor is true that he slept with a trans woman, his heterosexuality is all but proven. Trans women are women, regardless what the comment sections and TERFs of the world say. The further into this line of thought we go, the more intrusive it becomes. If we would not want our personal, romantic, sexual, or medical information in the papers, we should not, by our own demands, put anyone else’s there.

Another highly contested side of Charlie Sheen’s sero-status outing has been largely perpetrated by his past partners, wives, and girlfriends. Many have come out, very angry for the cameras to claim that he never told them that he was HIV-positive. This controversy throws into the spotlight an issue that has been roiling in the activist community for years: disclosure.

The disclosure issue has been raging since the time that the current treatment cocktail was perfected. Reeling from the stigma of HIV/AIDS, newly treated and no longer infectious with an undetectable viral load, many wanted the freedom of not being associated with HIV—to be an individual before a disease. Unfortunately, many, no matter how safe they are, are unable to escape from the scarlet letter of their sero-status due to HIV-criminalization laws.

Many of these laws are, as you would expect, products of a bygone era, informed by a lack of understanding and blinding fear. They remain law because lawmakers are too fearful and political to pass an already existing bill that would do just that. The REPEAL Act, a bill that has been flailing in Congress for years. This bill would repeal many laws that make the act of having HIV a crime, save for the malicious and intentional transmission of the disease.

This may seem very theoretical, but HIV criminalization laws have very real, very concrete consequences for those who get hit with them. The primary element of these laws are to do with non-disclosure. Perhaps the most famous example of these laws in action in recent years is that of Michael Johnson, known online as Tiger Mandingo. He operated profiles on a variety of hookup apps. He was receiving treatment for his HIV. He did not tell his partners about his sero-status. He did not transmit the virus to anyone else. He was arrested by University Police at his school in St. Louis, Missouri. His trial was a very public spectacle. He was ultimately sentenced to thirty and a half years in prison. HIV-criminalization laws played a very large part in the man’s ruining. He had not, after all, harmed anyone. As a black man, systemic racism undoubtedly played a very large part in his conviction, but that discussion is for another post.

I struggle with my own position on the disclosure debate. Just as it is wholly possible and immutably human to forget safety during the heat of a sexual moment, so too would it be for disclosure. I believe that, by and large, one should be open about his/her/their sero-status at some point during a sexual encounter or relationship. I do see all sides of the argument, of course. I believe that stigmatizing those who are HIV+ and refusing their sexual companionship on only the grounds of their status is wrong, especially when they have undetectable viral loads. I also understand that we cannot take everyone at their word. I also recognize that finding out that a partner who didn’t disclose was poz after the fact can be psychologically traumatic.

Charlie Sheen’s recent interview with Dr. Oz has also brought up another very fracturing debate within the HIV space, albeit on a much more positive note. HIV drugs are not particularly fun. They do not give one euphoria by any stretch of the imagination. They often are accompanied by crippling side effects that directly interfere with one’s quality of life. Sheen, who lives in Malibu or some such ‘burb of LA, was faced with pressure by other members of the HIV+ community to try alternative medicine. They are all the rage among the very wealthy. Sheen tried them, apparently, as a way to escape the side effects. He had been undetectable for years before trying them. He is detectable now. He promised Dr. Oz he would return to the tried-and-true cocktail of drugs that kept him well. This is a very positive message to send to the HIV+ community, especially to the young men and women who may be facing similar pressure to forego proven medical interventions.

Charlie Sheen has many problems. He is in no way a “perfect victim.” He is a wild child (although he recently revealed that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so I may be out of line with my previous statement). He has engaged in a lot of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and transphobia over his long career and in his humor. It is probably not something to be particularly proud of to aspire to be Charlie Sheen. He does not identify as queer. He has not, as far as a cursory Google search would reveal, done anything particularly spectacular in the way of being an LGBT ally. However, he is poz. He is part of our community, whether he identifies as such or not. We must support him. We must shut down the assholes in our lives who crack jokes about how there must be a Charlie Sheen gay sex tape. We must shut down the uninformed people we encounter who do not understand the complexities of HIV. We must not allow the climate of our society to become toxic for those with HIV who are not famous and who are struggling. We must show our support publicly for Sheen so that we may make a difference in the life of a young poz person who needs someone to understand.

(We Wish You…) And A Sappy New Year

I know intellectually that the difference between December 31st of one year to January 1st of the next is so miniscule as to be useless. There really isn’t anything profound about the beginning of a new year. Years themselves are the creation of humans. Time is meaningless. I know this.

As much as I know this, I still believe in the magic of a New Year. I can’t help but to feel drawn to the illusion of the tabula rasa that ripping open a new calendar creates. I look for any excuse to make a wish, be it 11:11 or my birthday or a bit of rogue space junk streaking through our sky. Am I a hopeless sentimental sap? Yes. I have no shame.

Every New Year, I spend a lot of time, both before and after that shiny crystal ball drops from the top of One Times Square thinking introspectively about my life. I think about the things I have done that I do not particularly like. I think about the things I wish I could be doing. I’m a big fan and a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I usually don’t see them to their fruition, but sometimes I do. Much like gifts in the season we’ve just completed, it’s the thought that counts. Probably.

I think that writing down and sharing New Year’s Resolutions helps to keep me true to the path. I think I just have so much pride that I feel almost ashamed if I don’t accomplish something that I’ve told other people that I would do. The jury is still out on whether or not it actually makes me more likely to succeed, as shame is something I’m dealing with pretty much constantly. But anyway.

I think the biggest and most complicated resolution I’ve made for myself this year is the strengthening and solidifying of my gender. Over the past several years, I have experienced a near-crippling dysphoria and social anxiety about my gender and presentation. When I first came out as transgender in February of 2014, my knowledge of issues and rhetoric pertaining to gender was quite limited. I was only aware of one way that someone like me (read: AFAB) could be transgender. I knew that I was not a woman. I knew that the bodily discomfort I had experienced since my early days of puberty was gender dysphoria. I threw myself body and soul into the trans man experience. I changed the way I dressed. I shaved off all of my hair. I changed the name I used on a day to day basis. I changed my pronouns. I read all of the trans man blog posts, magazine articles, and memoirs as I could get my hands on. I used the men’s restroom. I bought and wore a binder every day, even as my back ached and my dysphoria persisted.

The deeper into the trans man community that I trekked, the more self-conscious I felt. The trans men in my life are among the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The struggle that trans men face on a daily basis is one that goes far too often unnoticed, but it is not my struggle. I could not see myself in the narratives painted by trans men. I could see similar veins among our life stories, especially among those who shared with me multiple demographic markers, but the actual, visceral gender narrative was somehow different.

It would be quite an egregious understatement to say that I am a little more knowledgeable about gender issues these days. I began studying queer theory and gender theory with a vigor that can only be produced by academics trying to understand themselves. I am intimately familiar with the various theories about the nature and experience of gender. I could give lectures on the gender spectrum theories, the social constructionist theories, and the innate theories. I now know that the “truth” about gender, whatever that may be exactly is essentially irrelevant, as the lived experience of gender does not care about what I say of its origins.

That understanding of gender has made me very intellectually comfortable identifying as genderqueer. I like the ambiguity that the identity brings, especially in such a binary world that relies on hollow stereotypes to understand individuals. Ambiguity is the space in which I am comfortable. Intellectually.

As I mentioned before, intellectualism can only get us so far in any discussion of gender. Lived experience is something else entirely. This world, especially here in the West, refuses to accept or acknowledge the existence of genders beyond the male/female binary. As is the case with most presentation and exhibition of gender, there are no stereotypes that can be drawn from to ensure that one will be read by others as genderqueer.

I have struggled with this. Knowing that no stranger on the street will ever read me as genderqueer has caused me a great deal of anxiety about being in public. I am tired of being uncomfortable in the world around me. So what if there is no stereotypes for me to play with? That is not limiting. That is freeing. I am free to be whom and what I am.

I have resolved that in 2016, I will discover ways to be myself and make my gender known. I have resolved to finally settle on a name (contenders still in the running are: Ezri, Cameron, Tesla, and Rowan). I have resolved to use my chosen pronouns, ze/zir/zem regularly and without shame.

 

My second most important resolution is to write more. I have been given to opportunity to write as much as I can, to publish and not worry about my financial health. I have resolved to write as much as I can, aiming for at least 800 written words per day. I am hoping that I can, in the next twelve months, really find my voice. I have a voice, but I am not sure that this voice is my final form. Sometimes, especially on this blog, I feel that my writing style is just as awkward as I am in real life. Perhaps that’s endearing. I don’t know.

 

Another resolution involves my health. I know that I am a little bit overweight. I know that keeping extra pounds on me makes me look more feminine (I’ve got DDs and birthing hips, extra weight just accentuates it). Seeing as I have struggled with eating disorders at various times throughout my life, I know what the warning signs and trigger points are for me and my illness. I know that balance and moderation is the key to many things in this life. I have resolved to be more moderate and more careful about what I put into my body to nourish me and to try every day to practice yoga and do Pilates to build my own strength and hopefully lose a couple of pounds.

 

A fourth resolution I have made for myself is to become more social. The social anxiety I described earlier in this post is something that has been holding me back for quite some time. I hope to remove that rather unsavory element from my heart and to become more comfortable interacting with others. I know that more sociality will improve my mental health. I know that it will help me to become a more effective activist and advocate for the causes and communities I hold most dear.

 

My fifth and final resolution for 2016 is to engage and enrich my spiritual experience. I was born and raised Catholic. I was confirmed, taking the name of Genesius, in 2011, but I only did so to appease my devout mother and grandmother. I lost my faith in the Catholic dogma around age ten. Ever since then, I have been searching for a spiritual path that would lead me to some level of spiritual fulfilment. I have done research on many, many religions in my life. I have yet to find the one in which my own fulfilment lies. I am a witch, albeit a secular one right now, but I have been erratic in my practice. I have resolved to throw myself into study of various pagan faiths as well as Hinduism and the yogic teachings.

 

Like I mentioned before, I have no way of knowing whether or not I will be able to achieve all of these things, but I will try my damndest. I am not willing to settle for a life of mediocrity. What about all of you? Are you making New Year’s Resolutions? Why or why not? Have you ever completed a Resolution before? If you are working toward one (or many) I wish you the best of luck. Leave your thoughts, dissents, or words of encouragement in the comments below.

Thanksgiving 2015

I hate Thanksgiving. I always have. It’s a lot of work with cooking, cleaning, and entertaining people you don’t particularly like. It’s a holiday based in genocide and co-opted by consumerism. Someone always gets out of hand and causes some kind of drama.

My partner and I hosted Thanksgiving the other night for some of our friends. It went pretty well, but the unwritten rules of Thanksgiving always apply. I was so busy cooking, serving, and shampooing wine out of the carpet that I almost forgot to take literally the very name of the holiday.

I am grateful for a great many things. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for my partner, that he is mine, that he exists, and that he has continued to cheat death. I am grateful that I have a place to live, and I am grateful that it is lovely. I am grateful that I have food to eat, not least of which was the feast we served. I am grateful that I have clothing. I am grateful for my freedom and my democracy. I am grateful for my family and my friends. I am grateful for good books, good sci-fi, good wine, and academic discourse on gender. There are a great many other things to be sure, but that is a list too long for the purposes of this blog.

Remember during this holiday season, full of pretty lights, expensive toys, judgmental families, and so much stress, that you have a lot to be grateful for. This life is by no means easy, and it sucks a lot of the time, but be grateful for those parts, however many or few there may be—that don’t.