Fixing My Jealousy

I recently went on a book buying spree. Having time off form my day job allows me to engage with books in a way that I do not have the mentality for usually. To my surprise among my purchases were Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness and Sissy by Jacob Tobia. Now I am sure you are asking, why would it be surprising that me, a queer identified individual, would buy books form other queer identified individuals.

Let me tell you something. I have a particular weakness for individuals who ‘look’ queer. I know. The concept of looking queer is ridiculous on its own merit, and who would want to look queer when looking queer can lead to more discrimination and violence… Yet, my femme invisibility leaves me yearning for visibility to a point where I have grown jealous of those who are able to live and be seen authentically. I so long to have others see these parts of who I am. I want to be seen as something other than a girl or a lesbian (Which I don’t even really think is how I would identify my sexuality to be honest) without having to do the things that reinforce society’s ideas of what a nonbinary AFAB individual looks like.

That is what really get me fired up with I think about reading these two books. Jonathan Van Ness gets to own his body and wear femme clothes and be seen. Jacob Tobia gets to rock earrings and glitter way better than I ever could. Their differences between their appearance and their expected appearance based on their assigned sex differs in a way that allows them to be visible in a way that my preferences don’t. Yea, I could cut my hair and don cargo shorts, but that isn’t me.

(I also think the fact that their bodies are not sexualized in the same way that mine is also adds another layer to my feelings but that is a whole different topic)

So I am left feeling shut out from the queer community. Feeling like I don’t fit. Don’t belong. Like my gender is less valid than all the other Queers out there.

So I am going to read these books and get to know these two individuals in a way that will allow me to empathize with their struggles instead of being jealous of their “success”. It is a step. Perhaps is we were more willing as a community to seek out the personal stories of those who are different from us in a way that causes conflict, the community as a whole would not be so disjointed. I don’t want my jealousy and negative feelings to ever be a reason that I would not support another Queer individual. So I have to work to move past those feelings. It won’t change my struggle but it will allow me to be more empathetic towards people whose experiences with visibility cause me to be more callused and narrow minded.

Ideally I would end this saying something like, maybe by reading their experiences, I will be able to find my own path to visibility. I am not sure that these books will do any of that. However, I am hoping to come out of these books with a new perspective that will allow me to move through my stuck jealous feelings; and that is all I can ask for.

Step Parenting Struggles

My stepdaughter stole from me. Again. This makes the second time this trip and the fourth since Thanksgiving. I am not even sure where to begin.

Her behavior is in no way typical. She struggles with impulse control and lying. She is socially and emotionally not meeting behavioral expectations for someone of her age. She can be the sweetest person, has great leadership qualities, is creative as well as has a deep desire to read and learn. On the other hand, she’s inconsistently motivated and can be very ‘self’ focused. Her impulsivity plus her wits make her a tough match sometimes.

As someone who has worked with kids who have disabilities, I have experienced it all (almost). I have been sworn at, bitten, kicked, had a shoe thrown at my head (kid had great aim!), cussed out, and even had a knife pulled on me. And yet, none of that lands the same way as when my step kid steals from me. I know this is common behavior for her, but it looks like she has found my kryptonite. I cherish my ability to make ‘big’ purchases, especially when they take careful planning and saving. I make a conscious effort to keep my nice things nice. I value what I have from clothing to electronics to books, from ten dollars to three hundred, because for me, having money to buy myself something has not always been available. Nothing I have feels replaceable, and so I treat it as such.

So for someone to take my belongings without me knowing is a punch to the gut. The biggest personal violation. On top of that, knowing that my valuables are in possession of someone who does not treat nice things with care is especially infuriating. I’d much rather break my own things than have someone else break them.

How do I navigate this behavior, as a human, as a stepparent, as someone with a background of dealing with challenging kids? It worries me that the behavior is so normed for her that she can flat out tell me that she steals from everyone as a justification for her actions.  The behaviorist in me wants to challenge that. The human who has been violated wants to say fuck this and storm off. The stepparent says there has to be something in between.

And yet, in two days I’ll be on my way back to California and both of these things will be true: It will not be my direct issue to deal with and I will not have any major influence in making changes. Part of me is thankful to be able to leave, especially and regretfully, when her mom is here dealing with her behavior day in and day out. Another part of me is frustrated that I cannot do more.

I know that I can be of great assistance dealing with school and transition planning. My position as a stepparent means that my emotional investment is different and that allows me to see things through a different lens. Those are moments when I shine. But this shit- the daily bad behavior that infuriates everyone in the house- I don’t really shine or fail; I just exist around it.

I guess all I can do is keep supporting her parents, keep doing the best I can to help find solutions or interventions, and make sure that I always hide my stuff.

Christmas Changes

Christmas gives me feelings. I am sure that I am not atypical in this way. There is this feeling that lies deep inside around the holidays and it really creeps up the day before Christmas Eve. Two years ago I didn’t think I would be spending my holiday in Colorado with three adults, three kids, and too many dogs to count (this year it’s 5). It is not the holiday I grew up with, but I am grown up now. That’s a trip.

 

I think the thing that gets me in the feels the most is not partaking in the holiday traditions with my side of the family. I have shared some of our traditions with my girlfriend’s family, but the same level of appreciation and investment isn’t there. How can anyone get excited about watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street unless you’ve been watching it since before you can remember?

 

Without my girlfriend’s family, I would likely be spending the holidays alone. I am both thankful and sad for the changes. Growing up. I have found myself keeping busy buying presents, making plans, and wrapping until I can’t bear to see another unwrapped gift. I am hoping that one day this feels less sad. It already feels like a new normal, being around the family. However, the absence of my loved ones is not something I have gotten used to yet.

 

I am thankful to have acquired three kids for whom I get to Christmas shop for. I am thankful for a tree that will be filled with presents that will bring them happiness and excitement. I am thankful to pass down the feelings that my mom made sure we had growing up.

 

And yet… sometimes… I am still sad.

I am still here, somewhere

It has been a while since I have been able to sit down and write. Its’ not for lack of desire, and on occasion, lack of trying. Life has become too full for me, and the space that I have outside of my day job has become full of emotional TLC and basic responsibilities. I can manage to take out the trash, walk the dogs, and finish laundry but the remaining time of the day I just feel like I can’t do anything. Or, maybe I can go to the store to pick up a few items. Forget about actually grocery shopping- I don’t have the energy nor the foresight to plan and I definitely don’t have the energy to carry groceries to my fourth-floor apartment. Plus, the burden of unbagging and putting away the groceries is the icing on top of the cake that I can’t bear to even think about because it is just too much.

Needless to say, writing has not happened. And even as I find myself writing this now, lurking in the back of my mind are all of the thoughts telling me that this post probably won’t even get finished. But still, I persist.

I am finding myself at a… well shit, not even at a cross roads because a cross roads implies that there are clear paths to go down. I’m just at a wall. The wall can be a lot of things (time, work, general adulting, emotions, relationships) but it boils down to not being able to do the things that are fulfilling and the impact that it has on the world around me. Work is probably my biggest issue as it affects not just what happens in my work day but also my responsibilities, time, and relationships. I am not sure what to do.

Perhaps I need to take a leap of faith- though it is hard to leap when I am staring down, or rather up, against the tallest wall I have ever seen. So instead of a leap, I need to climb. I can pick out a hand hold there that I can grab onto and a place for my foot to go over there but I cannot climb this wall without a rope, harness, and safety net. Can I be taking a leap of faith if I try to climb this wall and fall to my death? Probably not. And I am definitely being dramatic about the dying part… or am I? I mean… literal death may not befall me, but what do I have in my life that is growing, even slowly despite the inhospitable environment, that could suddenly see a sharp decline in health once I start this climb? My relationship? My financial stability? Any feeling of security for the future? I can guarantee every plant in my apartment will likely perish, but that’s because I have not been able to keep a plant alive. Ever.

So I can climb. No rope or harness, just me. Its terrifying.  The other option is to stay here, in front of this damn wall and continue to have it loom over me, representing everything that I am not doing but could be. Neither option is easy or comfortable. Sitting in front of the wall is at least more familiar than climb up it would be. But… how many great people did great things staring up from the bottom of a mountain?

Suffocating Femininity

My femininity is suffocating sometimes. I don’t really know how to be less femme or more androgynous. It isn’t something that happens naturally for me, which makes me wonder if I am trying to force myself into this nonbinary, androgynous shaped hole were I don’t fit.

I hate that being androgynous means having short hair. Looking though tags on instagram I was only able to find a very small handful of people who identified as androgynous who also had long hair.  My long hair, I often feel, holds me back from looking or feeling less femme. I am not ready to part with my hair- I love it. So how do I find my own androgynous?

Honestly, I’m probably just a wierdo when it comes down to the bottom line. I would love to wear cute pants with cuffed ankles, suspenders, and a cute t with a snap back. Androgynous goals. But I hate wearing pants; I prefer shorts always. When I do wear pant I typically like them super skinny- no way to roll the ends. I can rock a t when the weather is cool but come summer I feel most comfortable in tanks. Most tanks from the guys section are too long to tuck in and I prefer to wear my pants slightly lower than my waist- or wear high waisted pants. Suspenders become weird here. I have a small collection of snapbacks but I hate compromising a good hair day under a hat so I have to perfectly time hat wearing with hair washing. Can you see how the look falls apart?

And yet- I crave the look. It’s the balance of masculinity that still lets me look femme. It is the indicator that I am queer, even if I just come off as a lesbian. It is a way to dress that holds significantly less rules about how my body should look in the clothes. It is a freedom that can allow my body to just be instead of having to hide.

I cant ever see myself not dressing in a way that is typically more femme- but I am hopeful that I can find myself in clothing more often than I do now. Social media makes me long for what I don’t have, but it can also be a way for me to identify clothes I like that are less femme than what I would usually find. By seeing on others, I can have a better idea of what to look for when I am shopping. I can find my balance between femme and androgynous, one piece of clothing at a time.

So This is Parenting

I want to start out by saying I don’t actually know if I am a parent. I didn’t birth any children or raise them from infancy. I don’t have the daily responsibility of shuttling kids from school to soccer practice to the choir concert. I haven’t ever had a teenager slam the door in my face- though I have had one hang up on me. So am I even a parent?

My girlfriend has three kids. From the start, I have been pretty involved with her family. The kids have liked me since the day I met them and we have had many family outings and vacations spent together. I think the kids look at me as a parent figure- though I can’t ever feel too sure of that. I don’t want to inject myself into a role that other people don’t feel comfortable with me being, so I am constantly navigating the questions of who am I and how do I fit in these relationships and in this family.

I don’t know when a significant other becomes a step parent, officially. I am involved but always from a distance. The kids live in a different state so I can’t go to every orchestra concert and be there to help with homework the way their mom does. I don’t ever have to be the one who stops kids from bickering or who has to diffuse an angry child. I never have to tell anyone I need space to calm down or worry that a kid will be banging on my door when I am trying to take a few minutes to myself.

I talk to the kids’ mom regularly and I often know more about what happening with them before my girlfriend does. I have sat in on IEP meetings and helped with homework. I provide input on consequences and help guide big decisions. As far as my girlfriend and her co parent are concerned, I’m a parent, 100%. If that is true, why don’t I feel like I am? And am I a fraud for calling myself one or referring to her kids as my/our kids?

I can count the ways in which I do parent like things. I can also count the times when I sit back and let their “real” parents deal with whatever issue arises. I don’t know that I will ever feel like a parent from such a far distance. I am honestly not sure I want to. Parenting is a lot of work and it is terrifying. I have the luxury of being in a bubble where parenting cant impact my daily life. Does that make me a bad parent, enjoying the fact that I don’t have to parent every day? Does that negate any parent I may have in me already?

If I am not a parent, then I don’t know who I am in these kids’ lives. If I am actually a parent, holy shit.

Transtrender?

I can’t tell you the number of times I question if I am really trans or nonbinary. There is a constant struggle with validating my identity that swirls around within my brain. I fear that I am not really trans but just a wayward cis. How do I confirm that I really am trans?

My girlfriend made a comment that I don’t know what I want to do with my body. It wasn’t an invalidating statement, but it makes me question my transness because what trans person can’t make a decision about their transition? I can’t even commit to a legal name change let alone medical procedures.

I feel a lot of fluidity- so I think what may be perceived as not knowing what I want is a manifestation of the fluidity that I experience. I have always switched between names- sometimes inside i resonate with one more so than the others, and then it changes. So how do I make legal and permanent changes when I don’t land in the same spot every time I jump?

The world isn’t designed for fluidity. Look at people who identify as bisexual- we constantly want to pigeonhole them and their sexuality based on who they are dating at the time. There is a constant air of indecision around bisexual people that doesn’t actually exist. Being more fluid than one or the other isn’t easily understood and it isn’t super mainstream when it comes to dating, gender, or identity.

Perhaps I am indecisive. Perhaps I am fluid. I don’t know how to tell the difference between the two, honestly. It is hard giving myself space to just exist in this middle place between knowing and not knowing. I don’t think it changes much because I know my pronouns are they/them, I know I don’t like to be called a lady- those things won’t change. It’s just about finding certainty within myself, for myself; Im just not there yet.

Bodily Autonomy

In special education we work off of a principle called Least Restrictive Environment where we look at what type of environment a student with a disability is best served in. There is a continuum of options starting with keeping them in their regular classes and extending all the way to attending a special school. In a perfect world, we want all students spending as much time in their regular classroom as possible. Any time we remove a student from their regular class, we consider it to be moving them to a more restrictive environment, even if it is just for 30 minutes.

Here is the catch: not all students can function in a regular class, and by putting them there, we are limiting their ability to learn and make progress. So for a student who needs a much higher level of academic or behavioral support, an environment on the continuum that we consider to be more restrictive is actually their least restrictive environment. Though we want all students to be in regular education classes, that isn’t what is actually best for all students, and forcing that principle on everyone does some students more harm than good.

A similar, yet differently applied principle exists in the medical field: do no harm. In this, the least invasive protocol is followed to bring maximum benefit. Only after less invasive or protocols are found to be ineffective do medical practitioners allow for more intense options to occur. It is a pretty solid premise-but I have to wonder this: how do we assess harm, and does harm look the same for all?

I had a phone consult with a physician this week about my request for a hysterectomy. Part of our conversation included them saying that the practice of do no harm means we should be trying other alternatives before moving to surgery, and that because this person assumed it has been a while since I had tried other medicinal solutions, there was still more work to do before I could have a surgery, especially since my complaints of bleeding and PMS could be eliminated by medication. This sounds totally reasonable, however I am not someone who takes medications unless absolutely necessary, and as someone who is in good health, that is rare. Im sort of a hippie- I love essential oils and natural remedies. I am more than open to trying anything that isn’t chemical or pharmaceutical  based. I have tried multiple things to manage my menstrual symptoms, and even though I am in a pretty good place with what I am doing now, I still get a period. I don’t want a period, period. I don’t feel like my body should be bleeding every month- and the clear solution, to me, is to remove the parts of my body that allow it to bleed.

Given my lifestyle choices, it is significantly less invasive for me to have a surgery and deal with a year figuring out how my body reacts without a uterus than to take medication regularly for the next 20-30 years until I hit menopause, in which I will have to take a sleuth of other medications to manage that. The thought of taking medication daily, weekly, monthly, and putting chemicals into my body without a clear idea of how they will react in my body (I have some idea because I’ve been on birth control before; it wasn’t fun) sounds FUCKING MISERABLE. And yet, that is the only solution being offered to me. It is a one size fits all prescriptive plan to health care and I’m not okay with that. Medication is not my least restrictive form of health care.

At what point do I get to say I am done experimenting with drugs and exercise my bodily autonomy to make health care choices that I want?! In the health care system, bodily autonomy only extends as far as other people deem to be acceptable and permissive. In a lot of ways it is a good system, but IT DOESN’T WORK FOR ME. My students and their families get to have discussion with a team of providers both inside and outside of school who work with them to decide where the student is best serviced and what least restrictive looks like. We look at data and other factors to determine best course of action for out students. All I get out here in the real world is some doctor, ONE doctor, who gets to make decisions based on a pattern of practice within a one size fits all model.

Its hard being a transgender or nonbinary person having to navigate a world that wasn’t made to accommodate us. It is hard having opinions and desires that go against the grain of what is considered normal or reasonable. The more I seek medical treatment, the more I feel like what I want is wrong or that I am wrong for wanting it. I am not uneducated, I am not naive; I am me, and I have a much deeper understanding of what I want and need than anyone else ever could.

Part of me wants to throw a big fuck you to the medical community, and to the people who I have in my life who don’t seek to understand or accept why I want to make the changes to my body that I am seeking. I am not sure how far anger will get me, especially if it is turned in a direction that pushes people away instead of pushing me forward in proactive action. I am not sure what my next move is, but I know I am much too fired up to be able to make decisions not based on feelings. I am tired of jumping through Kaiser’s hoops for nothing but frustration. I am tired of not being heard or understood. I am tired of being judged. I am tired.

I am tired.

Not A Girl

Remember that one time I wrote about how I wasn’t a girl… here’s the shirt (And the original blog post )!

Though it looked like a more masculine cut it fit more like a feminine cut. I’m a small in men’s and a medium in women’s (because The extra room in the shirt makes me feel more comfortable vs something that’s so form fitted). I’d recommend going a size up if you’re in between like me.

Here’s where I got it.

It’s crazy because as much as I love the statement this shirt makes, I’m absolutely terrified to wear it in public for fear of any negative attention it’ll bring me. This is just another example of how I continually keep myself in the closet and hide behind my femme cispassing appearance.

One day I’ll have the guts to be more public and open about who I am and who I am not.