Trans Medical Care / Anxiety

I really do wish people understood the deep anxiety trans people & their families go through with medical care. I’m sitting here waiting for Rache to have a procedure done that they have to put her under for, & I’m sitting out here wondering why we don’t get to talk to any specialist about trans bodies and whether they’ve seen or worked with any before.

And this is ME, people. Empowered trans advocate and educator for 20 years and I feel absolutely powerless and have to hope & have faith. And I know my wife well enough to know that she brought it up in the most charming way possible as they prepped her. We asked ahead of time & were reassured it’s in her chart. Great, sure. But do most specialists know what that means, what trans bodies can look like?

Love to all the trans people, their partners and parents & care givers. It’s a fuck of a thing to have to worry about inexperience and/or transphobia during what should be a routine procedure.

I’m sure she’ll be fine and I’m going to take some deep breaths right now.

It is hard to love someone who you know others hate just because of who they are and how their bodies are.

& Fuck all of you who voted for Trump & these monsters who would encourage any medical personnel to not treat my beautiful wife with dignity & respect.

Black and Queer: Orgs and Individuals

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about queerness and de centering whiteness this month — someday I’ll have the energy to write more about it.

But what I have been doing is trying to focus on fundraising for some cool organizations and individuals who I personally know are doing great work. So here’s my short list. Donate if you can.

  1. The Okra Project, a grassroots collective that combats food insecurity in the black transgender community, has launched two mental health recovery funds to provide black trans men and women sessions with a licensed black therapist, free of cost. Donate via their PayPal to either the Tony McDade fund (for black trans men) or the Nina Pop fund.
  2. Monica Roberts is the Trans Griot, and she has been reporting on issues of black trans identity for decades. Here is a direct link to her blog. On the right is her tip jar. Use it often and generously.
  3. The Audre Lorde Project is a community organizing center focused on the needs of LGBT, GNC, Two Spirit POC. Donate here.
  4. Brown Girl Recovery is a peer support, trauma focused organization “dedicated to community healing for femmes and folks of color” in the Bronx and uptown NYC.
  5. SHEBA (Sisters Helping Each other Battle Adversity) is a group of 20 African American trans women that meets biweekly for leadership development, health promotion activities, and social support. They are supported by Diverse & Resilient, and you can donate through them.

100,000.

100,000.

The New York Times has their front page ready for tomorrow, when we hit that number: six columns of names, places, some brief phrase culled from the person’s obituary. There are no images, just names. It’s powerful and provocative and is the first thing I’ve seen that tries to present to us what we’re living through.

I wish they had given their entire Sunday paper over to the whole of it, to print every single one of these 100,000 names, with the sparest of details – name, place, phrase – and if they had, the Sunday edition of The New York Times would be 100 pages long  — and have nothing in it but them. 

I wish they had because I think we need to understand, to try to understand, to try to grapple with what we are living through. 

This is the equivalent of one person dying every minute of every day for 70 days straight. 

This is the equivalent of a person dying every second of every hour of every day for a month. 

When do we get to mourn as a nation?

When will people stop arguing about wearing masks?

When will people take a minute to realize what has happened, how many families are grieving, how many lives are lost?

When do we stop caring about how bored we are?

For 20 years we have recited the names of the nearly 4000 who died that Tuesday in NY & PA. It takes nearly 4 hours.

 This list would take nearly 100 hours to read, or 4 days, reading non stop.

How will we grieve this? What is even possible? Since our minds can’t make sense of it, there is no ritual that would satisfy the requirements of loss at so great a scale. We can’t make sure every family, every person who was lost, finally gets their memorial, their moment in time, their celebration of life. No, the reality is that they have died watery deaths – no body, no memorial, no gathering, no last rites.

And that is not the beginning of what is horrible about any of this.

Today I will not murk the loss and sadness and grief with finger pointing or mockery of our leadership. I will do that on another day, at another time, and I sure as fuck will do that in November.

Right now I just want to contemplate what it means to live in a culture where a hundred thousand families can’t grieve with each other and instead we’re arguing about masks and so called freedom, where healthcare workers are being accused of villainy or conspiracy. 

Right now I just want to say: turn it off. Turn off all the social media. Forget the sarcasm, and the clever “coronavirus likes this” image, the innumerable clever gifs, the everything. But my god, especially the funny. This is no time for scoring a point or having the right emoticon.

This is only a time for grief: collective, wailing, keening, uncategorizable, overwhelming grief.

Sit with it. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Pet a cat. Throw a ball. But remember, with the whole of you, how many people are missing that person they said the prayer for, the pet they loved together, the games they saw together.

We will, I predict, become 80x more callous than we are today if we don’t. 

So sit with it. Let your humanity light up a minute of your life. For once in your life, be uncomfortable. Try to reconcile the irreconcilable and fail. Imagine the one loss, or two, or twelve that you’ve experienced. Remember in your guts how it felt, in your head. 

There is no way for us to reconcile this loss, to respect it, to grieve it. We could be silent for a month, not talk for a month, maybe. We could light 100,000 candles and still not understand, because every grief, every loss, is inconsolable. Anyone who has lost someone important knows this; everyone who has cried and not slept or slept too much or drank too much or not eaten or eaten too much knows this. 

We all know what this loss means, what it is, why it hurts, or we all could, if we stopped, stopped everything, stopped arguing, stopped posting, stopped worrying.

Grieve with me. 

Take those four days – the days it would take to read their names out loud – and just grieve. 

I don’t know when my four days will happen, but that’s what I’m going to do: no talking, only fasting, only prayer. I think I’ll start the morning after we officially hit 100,000 so that I can tie up loose ends and put up an automatic reply to my email and a note on Facebook because those are the concessions the living demand. 

Join me. Let the world go dark for a minute for these, our one hundred thousand dead.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/100-000-37460266  

Introducing: Tenterhooks

As many of you veterans of the mHB boards know, they flatlined a while back and Rachel and I decided we just couldn’t bring them back. We’ve both given so many hours moderating them over the years; I did, especially, — since 2003! — and I needed instead to focus on my own career, other projects, etc. I do a lot of writing now at Patreon, if you want to come follow me over there.

Perhaps one day I’ll write up a piece about what they were and have been in a way that does them justice.

But for now, some awesome folks from the mHB boards who especially missed them as a result of Covid-19 have created their own.

Tenterhooks: an online community for trans people, gender non conforming people, & their partners. I think their comment policy really does explain the gist of the place, too.

I’ve become a member (though I’ve yet to post) and a few of us also get together for a zoom chat weekly if that’s something you might like.

Heartsick in Wisco

i don’t know if i can explain how heartsick i am today. having watched italy and new york, having cried so many times, the one good thing was that Evers helped Wisconsin do the right thing.

and you know, it worked. it really fucking worked.

and yet here we are, about to undo all of that good. healthcare workers be damned. everyone’s grandma, diabetic friend, the kids, black people, workers…. everyone be damned because the wisconsin supreme court is bought & paid for, heartless, arguing the letter (badly) & not the spirit of the law.

the comments on Appeton’s city hall paged are horrific. my dear friend Vered was just called an “it” for supporting the city & county’s interim ruling.

i can take stupid. i can’t take heartless. between the people sermonzing about drinking and the tavern league throwing bartenders into the fire, i’m exhausted. hell & the deep blue sea.

this is all going to take longer and be so much worse than it needed to be and it is very hard to be a big hearted person today.

honestly, being a sane person in wisconsin is like being the loved one of an alcoholic.you can’t save them, you can’t help them, & all you can do is remind yourself of that over & over again. the sad thing is, you can put a cap back on a bottle, but you can’t put a lid on a virus.

i really just don’t understand why people are full of rage at being told not to cough on people. or why they don’t understand being a carrier while well. or. or. or. hateful & stupid are a wicked combination.

i know, i know: look for the helpers. but holy shit we are all exhausted.

i know so many good people will continue to stay home, wear masks. i know a lot of business owners will continue only curbside. i know many of us will keep doing what we can.

& that’s that. we are two countries.

Spring in the Time of Pandemic

(you can join me on Patreon here.)

I dreamed last night that I’d said something snappy/snarky/cutting to someone I was debating about some point or another, and Robin Williams, sitting there, smiled with crinkly eyes. It was a smile of compassion, disappointment, love. He’s a muse, or a familiar, or an animus, or a spirit guide, but for whatever reason, my subconscious has decided to send me a message from him when I don’t know how to feel.

I’m always grateful. My dreams have directed me for as long as I can remember but mostly they help me shut down the thinking and lodge me back into feeling and being. It’s a blessing.

But it was that smile that told me that I won’t be distracted by the tiger show or any of the numerous questionnaires on Facebook, that told me that now is the time for thinking, reading.

I want to hold the world’s grief in my heart, as much of it as I can stand, just to hold it, just to take it every bit of it into every cell and really feel this loss, this chaos, and all the goodness and beauty of it too. There is so much to reckon, and what strikes me is that the reckoning is not about death – that is always with us – or disease – that is always with us too – but in the too numerous tragedies of it – how many could have been spared if we listened to scientists, how many could have been spared if we lived in a world based on humanity and not greed, how many wouldn’t be mourning the loss of a person whose funeral they can’t even attend. It’s not death that’s hard, it’s how badly we manage it, how fucked up a culture is that doesn’t acknowledge grief at all.

I remember my mom thinking my brother Joe would be the one to give the eulogy for my grandma because he was, no doubt, her favorite, but also for the same reason she was: he was always the one to make the joke at just the right time, to distract everyone from what was pressing and serious. He was great at it, and still can be. And she worried, as she would, about me being too much of a mess to manage even a reading. I wasn’t. He was.

Goth kid, you know? Gloomy and emo and deep and way too damn serious all the time. And I write that as a kind of defensive gesture, and to say: if the tiger show or whatever distraction helps you, I am so glad for that. But so much just falls away for me and I wish those things didn’t. I wish I could be distracting, and funny, and sarcastic or cutting.

But mostly I’m just sad. I cry a couple of times a day as I suspect a lot of you do. I’m yearning for wisdom and flipping through Thucydides and Mann and Dos Passos and Woolf and Salinger – anyone whose words have brought me comfort in the past. Writers are the best friends you can have, except if you know them in person.

Just about everyone I know and love is still in the New York area and I feel both relieved not to be there now – because a house and a yard are much better than a one bedroom apartment for quarantine, and we have few enough people here that taking walks is possible and easy, and because Wisconsin feels like fucking Disney compared to what’s happening in New York right now. But I also feel guilty for feeling relieved, I feel guilty for not being there, and mostly, I feel all the grief of 9/11 all over again.

The ER doctors then, waiting for anyone to work on.

Now the ER doctors overwhelmed with people to work on.

I don’t know how my friends with children are managing; I don’t know you explain anything to children much less something like this. An entire generation is going to grow up with weeping parents and friends on facetime instead of in person. And maybe they’ll joke about it, as the millennials did about 9/11: that was the day that changed everything, one said to me sarcastically once, and I think he apologized about a million times when he saw the blood drain from my face.

I don’t know why it’s always New York. I know, too, that it’s not. So many people I know – friends from India and Indonesia and Puerto Rico and Haiti – have watched tragedies unfold where the places, the sounds, the people they love are. New York takes up a lot of the air in the room, and I know folks don’t think it’s fair. You don’t know New York if you think that’s unfair, I’ve often said, it’s the best dream this country ever had. It’s not easy to do at a distance because you don’t know what to do and there’s very little you can do.

An artist named Renee French made an image I named Wish after 9/11 that has sustained me more than once since then: it’s two flowers growing to meet the sun, about as far apart as the Towers were. As if. As if this wish might be true, as if things grow where things have been destroyed, as if you can imagine weeds growing in the cracks of the rubble.

I stand outside in the dark in the middle of the night when things are normal, but lately I’m doing it more, at midnight, at 1, at 2, at 3. It’s my nightwatchman syndrome, the way my PTSD manifests; I got woken by the bad news on that Tuesday and something in my brain never wanted to be woken up by that kind of news again so now I stay awake overnight, sometimes doping myself to sleep with Benadryl or whiskey or Ativan, but now, with no job to go to, with nowhere to go and no schedule, I’m just staying up to keep watch on the world while everyone sleeps. (This is when, of course, the writing has always gotten done too, at least.)

And tonight I watched the bunnies munching grass in my yard, visible only when their white puffy tails turned to me, and I listened to the City Park owl hoot twice; I smoked a cigarette because it’s the wrong week to quit sniffing glue and looked at that big dark beautiful Wisconsin sky and the gorgeous home next to mine and at my own and felt that surreal mental trickery telling me that everything was okay. The robins are back. The tulips are coming. There are very few and only very tiny patches of snow left. And my allergies tell me, too, that spring is a minute away.

Spring in Wisconsin almost always involves a lot of unexpected snow – and it’s only March. We will no doubt get dumped on again, more or less; we will groan and complain, more or less; we will roll or eyes or complain or, depending on who we are, we will squeal with joy one more time but quietly because snow is a miracle. I love the stuff.

But spring is on its way. I will sneeze and cough and itch my way through it, and grumble when people ask me why I don’t like nature more – because it’s out to get me – and take Benadryl to sleep so that I don’t worry that every cough is a sign I am infected with Covid-19. I don’t worry too much about dying anymore but I really, really, really hate suffering.

Despite my love of winter, spring will come, and self isolating will be harder; quarantine will be harder. The eternal human need to hug and fuck and kiss and socialize and wear whatever will be difficult to manage. This northern soul, this winter, is so much easier, when everyone and everything is quiet, when the birds are gone, when the lawn is dead and not in need of mowing.

But spring is coming. And despite everything, those tulips are ready to break through the ground, as are the dandelions and the quince and the magnolia and all of those eager, over achieving first flowers of the place.

And they are a wish: that from death and stillness and calm come beauty and chaos and life.

It’s a blessing, not a curse. Life will go on.

Hey NYC

(i wrote this after i saw the news that a nyc hospital is setting up a temporary morgue in its parking lot. so many flashbacks. too many.)

Hey NYC, I hear the feds won’t help again & it’s like the 1970s all over again but with a pandemic

I moved away a while back because – because I couldn’t afford you anymore & because I was too jumpy to take the train & wasn’t rich enough to take cabs

But I love you, & my heart is in you, & I try very much to represent the best of what you are everywhere I go

It’s been sad watching the old places close and those new terrible people move in but I know you’ve got it & you’ll manage change like you manage a million subway rats

So here’s my love to you, you overeducated overly talkative upfront and confrontational people full of love, all of whom are a little bit irish a little bit jewish a little Italian and a little Puerto Rican, yah:

You all have done all the things before and you will do them again

Only in nyc do they ask doctors to come out of retirement and 1000 people show up overnight

Only in nyc do you have hurricanes and tornados and 9/11 and blackouts and people throw peaceful block parties and people dance in the street – to klezmer, salsa, whatever.

Only you guys understand what it’s like to not know anyone who lives on your block but who will do anything & everything for the bodega guy down the block from Bangladesh

Only you guys know what it means to live in too small a small space for too long a time and have nowhere to hoard motherfucking tp

Only you guys know why you look good even if you’re broke or depressed or feeling fabulous

Only in nyc do straight girls fall in love with gay men and become their best men or best ladies or their surrogates or their beards

Only in nyc are the people who die tony award winners and Oscar nominees and nobel prize mentions because holy shit y’all are talented

In nyc, where even bigots know the differences between the too numerous to mention versions of scarves worn on heads for religious/non religious reasons

You live cheek by jowl, asscheek to asscheek on the train, psychological space miles apart but always right there together

And I don’t know what went wrong but here’s what I know: everything you’re doing, everything you are, is what we all should be: tolerant of everyone but assholes.

I see Fauci and Cuomo trying to do the right thing but seriously and probably failing but still trying.

That is what you do best, nyc: try like nobody ever has before. That city is full of impossible things – just look at it.

I don’t know why it’s always you but it always is: over and over again you come back

But burn that shitty gold building in midtown to the ground already, wouldja? Fuck him.

#weseeyou (a note to trans land during quarantine)

I worry about young people a lot these days because I’ve worked with so many talented, awesome students at Lawrence where I work, and I’ve gotten a couple of notes from younger folks who were worried about going home to families who don’t accept them as they are. At LU, we allowed them to stay put, but it got me thinking about all the young people who are quarantined with families who don’t accept or acknowledge their genders.

So we made a video.

We’d love to see other people in transland borrow the #weseeyou hashtag and make their own video or send out their own message to those young folks, or to anyone, really, who needs to see and hear this.

Love to all you beautiful people.

Making This Up As We Go

A short piece I wrote for Facebook seems to have struck a chord so I thought I’d share it for a larger audience:

here’s a quick note just to say: you’ve got this.

i’ve lived through the AIDS crisis and 9/11, blackouts and hurricanes and a kidnapping and none of those things prepared me for this.

so this is just to say, to the younger people who are freaking out: no one is prepared for this. it’s not because you’re young. it’s because there is and was no plan in place.

be thankful, if you’re not, that you’re not carrying around trauma from other events. pay attention to your responses, to your body, to how you’re sleeping. give yourself room to be panicked at one moment and euphoric or calm in another. if you are post traumatic, go back to the beginnings of how you first got yourself through.

i pretty much drop any sense of humor, the hardcore introvert kicks in hard, & i tend to be up all night & sleep all day. i call it my nightwatchman response, and it’s all too familiar.

i am not the one who can lighten the mood by any means but i am here if you don’t want to freak other people out about how gloomy and despondent you are. you will not freak me out with your pessimism or fear. these are my normals.

a new normal will emerge, but these first days are a period of adjustment to change none of us wanted.

we’re all making this up as we go. your core of self reliance, your ability to appreciate beauty, your love of the small things – all of these are muscles and this will strengthen those. lean into the growth, even into the fear. you are more than you know.