Field Notes In/On Transition
Curbs For Your Enthusiasm
So, if you are on my FB feed, you likely know I have been suffering a bit of Depression, partially I think seasonal (though we have been lucky yo have a nice smattering of sunny days in Vancouver this fall) affected disorder, as well as the frustration of applying for so many cool jobs, and feeling like you might as well not bother. It’s depressing and discouraging not to even get an interview for something you feel qualified for. The thing to try and hold in mind (and I’m trying I am, but I slip a lot) is that the reason, likely you aren’t getting that interview is that lots of people these days are looking, and are just as qualified. There's rarely just a few resumes to go through for many employers. Also a lot of postings don’t matter due to the hiring through networking that goes on really far more than jobs won through application only. All the good jobs I have had, I got by ‘knowing someone,’ as they say.
These days, name drops mean less and less, as there are just more qualified applicants, at least in the artsier type gigs I usually look for. Everyone is suggesting I apply at various retail places, now, I guess since I don’t seem to be able to get anything else. I feel right now, that any retail job, even the most accepting hip places would just suck dry the rest of whatever outgoingness that I have left. I’ve had to accept that I am a mostly introverted person. As much as I can be gregarious and happy to see people, I would rather withdraw, and not have to, most of the time. I just need a few little small group engagements that last a few hours at most, every week and I am very satisfied socially. If that’s all that comes up, is retail for me, (and there are no more guarantees of landing a retail job, either) then there are other types of work, by the time my EI runs out; then, I am going to have to take that retail job. My desire to do pretty much anything but retail is bigger than anything else in my life right now.
Working with the public constantly, I think is at the root of my distaste. Maybe I don’t get misgendered as much as I did a few years ago, but working with the public all day every day, the odds go up and up that I will have to go through that. When I am out on the bus, or walking around the city, misgendering is rare, these days which is a blessing I am very grateful for, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t or won’t happen. I am trying very hard to be less annoyed by it when it does happen, and either let it go, or tell the person what’s what, if they don’t like it: “ciao see ya later.” I am not here to teach you about the world. Nor will I further antagonize you, or argue about my truth with you. Nope.
I had a really rough week of rolling in the ashes last week, being sullen and uncommunicative maybe at the best of times. I closed myself off in my room, and surfed jobs, fb, and music, played games. Drank coffee. I forced myself to go to the trivia night at my favourite restaurant. I am always shocked when we don’t win.
Choir was the next night, and despite feeling pretty good about my progress learning my parts, I was having a very ‘gender dysphoric’ day. Meaning that I was very self aware of my transness, my feelings of being not quite the woman I am/want to be. Alienated from my body, my self; CIS folks, you are blessed to not have to deal with this on top of whatever other body issues we all have to deal with. It’s not only difficult on your emotions, and your ego, its tough for others who don’t know how to help you or if they should, even.
What happened was, that all week I had been feeling a real ache of being single, seeing couples, or super close friends hanging out and having what I call, an “easy public joy” that non introverts seem to be able to muster, a real letting go, like kids playing. Sometimes when I am extra happy I can get there, singing in public, hugging a friends, just to do so is a huge thing for me, and I equate it with really feeling like I am myself, no longer divided, as I was for so long being in and out of the closet, unready to Transition.
Anyway to get to the big dysphoric moment. I was very down when I got to the choir practice, I kind of sat there teary eyed as everyone (‘everyone else’, to my mind, at the time) hugged and kissed each other welcome, everyone is old pals (they aren’t all old friends, lots of newbies in choir) and instead of the joy I usually felt for others when I see this, and maybe even participate in it, in my own way, I felt a real sadness and a separation from my body, in mind, perhaps, but definitely in spirit.
Then, then the first warm up, was a dancing warm up. Yay, right? Not so much. I was instantly transported back to Junior High Sockhops, and that fear I had of dancing, of being seen to be the girl I was hiding in the boy called Joey. Once high school and beer made it’s way into the school dance equation, I got past that fear of dancing, of displaying my true self, and often initiated dancing, asking pretty much any girl to dance. Unless it was a slow dance, I always imagined myself as one of two girls dancing together, like nymphs in the woods. Slow dances were of course drenched with sex for me as someone in the midst of male puberty. This all made me very confused, but it wasn’t then, in the early 80’s, something you could share with anyone. I was a kid who feared ‘getting in trouble’ more than most and my rebelling was pretty lightweight.
Moving on, I learned as a young adult to be someone, who if you are going to participate in the whole mating dance, needs to dance sometimes. There are friends of mine who even tell me that I am a good dancer. But there in this room filled with the most joyous beautiful self proclaimed femmes I couldn’t bring myself to do more than the junior high two step many of us started with, and many still do. I wasn’t the only one who could grab hold of the dancing threads, but in my dysphoric day, I felt like I was. I had to sit down. I felt faint and weak, like I would burst into sobs at any moment.
One ( a few actually were there for me, really quickly) of the Choir members noticed my distress, got me some water, and was very gentle and understanding. They helped me get back to the actual singing practice, which was a sectional practice, where our part of the choir (we are the ‘part 3s’ or the lower scaled singers) worked on the parts that were giving us difficulty, like coming in at the exact right time and so on, can be tricky especially if you can’t read music. I was and am very thankful for my choir mates’ understanding and kindness they showed me.
I got to ask some questions that I hadn’t been able to vocalize previously, and felt better and better as the choir progressed. At the end we did a bunch of the songs, and at the very end we did Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” and it was so beautiful, so emotional. My voice was cracked with tears, and I was literally sobbing from the joy of singing with such an awesome group who obviously got the emotion of a song that I have known and hardly ever got through the end of singing without tearing up. (One of the choir leaders also had this reaction, I found out on FB later) Wow, I was pretty exhausted but feeling, maybe better than I had all week.
It wasn’t and isn’t wholly something that I have/had shaken off though. I had to come to understand that I had been very uncommunicative and pretty much ignoring my room mate and her friend who was staying with us. It wasn’t any intention to be so brusque. I just really didn’t want to chat or see anyone, most of the week. I talked to them both after it was mentioned to me, and felt good in explaining the depths of what I was going through without being over emotional about it, or defensive, which is my normal reaction.
The night after choir, there was a choir related event, a ‘Femme Friday’ mixer at a local cafe (the Heartwood Community Cafe). I had volunteered to get there early, and help set up. There was a great turnout of folks from the choir and other Femme identified folks from the area. My week was ending with the shattering of my illusion that I had somehow as an adult shed my introversion for a kind of extroversion. Really I am like most people, not ‘all anything.’ I can have my extroverted moments, but I prefer to live the life of an introvert. I don’t mind public speaking, or being on stage, at all. But all that took years of work to conquer. It still feels ‘wrong’ to me, for me, to walk about to a group of strangers, or acquaintances even, and start joining in on the conversations.
Many of the folks at this event were doing just that, there was even a femme bingo game, that encouraged you to do just that, asking questions to get positive answers for the questions on your card. I couldn’t do that. I sat in my chair, and amiably volunteered to answer any bingo players’ questions that came my way. I also had some very lovely conversations with a few of the femmes. I was especially excited that an acquaintance from the video store/neighbourhood showed up and right away wanted to catch up with me. This person is someone that I have always admired as a ‘Femme icon’ of my neighbourhood. I haven’t seen them since I had just started my transition if I recall correctly, and felt blessed to have a great chat with someone I had always thought I could have a chat about something other than TV, movies. And I felt as a peer, with these femmes, all. Which I don’t always, my own need to self efface getting in the way so much usually.
As the party got bigger and louder, I took my leave early and walked home, still a bit sad that I hadn’t been able to be more outgoing, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a good time, and didn’t feel that bad about not being a bigger schmoozer. The walk was down busy Broadway, which I enjoy. As I was about two blocks from turning the corner onto the Drive, a group of teens walked past me, one kid trailing, a suburban kid with kicks worth more than anything I own, requisite white t-shirt, gold chain, asked me very politely for a dollar.
Now, I didn’t have a dollar (still don’t), but was thinking like the old lady he presumed me to be, “What a nice boy, I should check my change purse.” I had been walking quickly, and I probably used more of a “Joe” voice than Josie as I said, “sorry I don’t have any money.”
The kid read me, his eyes widened, and his body language changed to aggressive monkey mode, “Fuck, yer a Dude!, Fuck you!” he yelled as he kept walking faster, to catch his friends, telling them what he had told me, several times. “Fuck you too” or something almost that clever, is what I said back. But I had gotten kind of furious, I silently told myself that if he, or him and his friends wanted to make something out of it, I was ready to take them down with me. I’m sure my posture was mad gorilla, which is what I felt like all of a sudden. Not all my testosterone is gone, and I am from small town Canada, I have had to defend myself before. They may have kicked my ass, but I would get some licks in. They kept walking luckily, sneaker boy still yelling fuck you back at me.
The thing that got to me, was less the actual misgendering, as much as it was that this was an excuse to demean me. When I seemed like the nice old (to him) lady, he was all sunshine, when it turned out I was someone easy to belittle, it was okay to stop being a humble person looking for money, and be an asshole. A lot of young people I meet or see actually give me hope for the future, that there won’t be so much hatred in the world, but obviously lots of them are learning to be just as ignorant as the world will let them be. It’s not the first time I have been cussed out by someone begging, and not getting anything from me. A lot of belligerence on my street in that arena, let me tell ya. I don’t see the win in screaming at someone, who if they had some change, might give you some. I have a few people who beg on my street, who I almost always do give change to, because they seem to genuinely need it, and have a pleasant demeanour whether you help them or not.
It has been pretty easy to let that particular misgendering go, especially since it’s a rare occurrence these unemployed days. But employment, over the weekend that was the section of my depression that really kept me down, and unable to go to a fourth night of socializing on Saturday. No money other than my credit card to buy something for the potluck, with the upstairs neighbour girls, so I sent my regrets with my room mate. I just needed a night in my room with the doors closed reading, and not talking to anyone. I heard most of the party, but I am used to it, having lived in many group settings, I have often been in my room with my nose in a book while others did the more social hang.
I made a few flustered FB posts, which is sort of the easier, quicker response kind of blogging. Aside from the recent body/spirit dysphoria, the other that has me down, is the knowledge that my EI runs out by February, unless I maybe get into school or a training program. I would rather get some interesting job. But I have to be prepared for that not happening. None of my artistic projects, whatever their merit are going to bring me a steady income that quickly. I’ve got to actually get moving on those. In the midst of my self pitying posts, some friends had some good creative ideas. Some of which I have mentioned in my last few blogs. I am part way through writing several novels, I have some nascent ideas about graphic novels, animation with my strawgirl character from my “ipaintings.” People really like her on my FB page.
I have had some interest in donating an art piece for an auction, which I gladly going to do. A friend, in one of my sad FB threads, proposed doing a maybe autobio- graphic novel together, and we are going to thrash that out, do some research, sketches, see how it goes. I do want to do some kind of Memoir, this might be it, or maybe something more like these blog posts but fleshed out to make some kind of narrative. I really want to put together an art/spoken word show, maybe a performance for the opening of a show, something. It’s all just impulses right now. I am open to other artist friends wanting in on some multi-media action. I want to learn to perform my poems with musicians, for example.
Everyone seems to be asking me, “Well, what do you really want to do?” Like with transitioning, I have pretty much always said, “I don’t know” to these questions, as I succumbed to the fear that my ideas would be laughed at, or that they weren’t realistic enough. I heard that a lot in my 20’s. If you don’t have a detailed master plan, some folks think you are fluff. I don’t know how much I have learned writing this, or living (barely) through the last week, but what I did learn, is that there really are some people who have my back. I don’t know why I can’t keep this as true in my heart all the time, because it is. But the gender dysphoria, and financial based depression, if it does anything to you, it makes you feel alone, As someone who has eternally been a single unit, that horrible feeling is like a ratty old blanket I won’t let anyone take from me to launder. I wish I could just toss it.
So I guess what I am getting to, in one of my longest posts ever (I know? Right?) Is that my answer to that question “What do you want to do?” is the same every damn time. It does not involve working in a store, or doing anything other than writing, drawing, painting, film making, blogging, reviewing media, all the things I actually am doing most of the time. That’s hard to remind yourself, is that while yes I do have times where I am not as productive. I make at least one piece of art every day. Sometimes I will make a film, take and edit photos, make a painting, write a poem, make music for my videos on my ipad, or like today write 3000 words (in 2.5 hours) to get to the idea that all I want to do is what I am already doing, I just want to learn how to monetize it. I don’t want to get re-trained, I want to keep training myself until I have the confidence that I have found to do new things like Transition, join a choir, and happily accept myself as an artistically busy introvert. Something like that. All I know, is that while I might not write or paint or make art every single day, I can, and do almost every day. It’s only when I forget that, that I stop for more than a day. Starting again, is the easiest thing in the world. I am never ‘blocked;’ I am dealing with other inconvenient crap.
I have always told myself that I didn’t have enough output, but in fact when I stand back, and look at what I have done; I realize that I have tons of work out there, I am a busy artist already. This is my work. What I am doing right this second. Someday it will pay my way. That said, if you know of a decent paying even vaguely creative gig in Vancouver (Vancouver, no burbs) let me know. I also gotta pay the rent until that fateful time in the hopefully near future when my alchemy starts to pay off in gold.